Thursday, June 19, 2008

DON O'DONOVAN



More Grandson Stories...
I wrote about Don O'Donovan in my post on fast sidevalves, as he is one name, like Tom Sifton from Harley, who is associated with making flatheads go streets faster than was expected. His test hack 'Old Miracle' (see bottom photo) drew lots of press attention in the 60's thru 80's, as it had been restored to original spec and 'made the rounds' of shows and featured in many books from the period.

The top photo shows a racing Norton lineup at Brooklands, with the banking looming at the rear. It looks like a pair of racing ohv Model 18s, ca 1924, given the high exhaust pipes, the bend of the handlebars, and the tiny front brakes (5" diameter Webb items). O'Donovan is standing in the middle of the group, wearing his racing gear (collarless double-breasted leather jacket, wool jodhpurs, high lace-up boots, and of course a shirt and tie). Bert Denly on the far left, Brooklands timekeeper 'Ebby' Ebblewhite is on the far right. Can someone ID the rest?



Simon O'Donovan, Don's grandson, contacted me after the post, with these two photos, the second one taken when he was a 'guest' at the recent Brooklands Centenary, which shows the Members Banking and Members Bridge as it stands today... a little less brush visible than a few years ago, but the concrete is crumbling nonetheless.
He sends this note along with the pix:
"Just one I found when I was playing with my camera at Brooklands at the centenary. More interested in the circuit (what's left of it), as it was interesting to feel that I may have stood on a area of the circuit The Don had ridden, whilst I was taking a little tour. It was a surprise when I met with a man who had taken interest in what appeared to be a bunker on the inside of the circuit, so I asked if he was into the old stuff & he pointed to his T-Shirt, so I opened a Bin-Liner with one of Dons Helmets he may be interested in & he burst into life, where he immediately said "The Wizard"? I was Gobsmacked that someone would just know, but he really didn't believe me until I got some I.D. out to confirm my name. With that, he asked if it would be alright to get a picture of the two of us with the helmet to display in his garage. I thought he was having a laugh, but he was deadly serious & it was nice bumping into him again & getting a shot of him."

I think we'd like to see photos of the helmet, too!
Bottom photo shows world champion racer Geoff Duke riding 'Old Miracle' in 1954. I do believe he found it a challenge! The bike gets a regular workout on Vintage Club runs; motorcycles don't come much simpler - no clutch, no gears, just a throttle, magneto control, and valve lifter.

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