Saturday, March 20, 2010

'TITCH' ALLEN REMEMBERED

From the VMCC Website:

"The VMCC is saddened to report the death of Club Founder Charles Edmund “Titch” Allen OBE, BEM on Thursday.

Where ‘Historic Motorcycles are discussed, the Vintage Motor Cycle Club and the name of Charles Edmund ‘Titch’ Allen are sure to be drawn into the conversation. This extraordinary man has been a strong influence on the growth and the development of the ‘old ‘bike’ movement – not only in this country – but also throughout the world.

Born in May 1915 in rural Nottinghamshire, Titch claimed to have been born with oily fingers and that his favourite plaything at the age of two was a hammer. Totally negative experiences with father’s milk float horse sparked off an interest in two-wheeled transport that soon transferred to his first motorcycle when he was twelve years old, a two-stroke ‘Clyno’ in the form of a box of bits.

Despite a grammar school education at Loughborough, he left school at 16 with no real qualifications other than a ‘gift for the written word’ an attribute that has never deserted him – along with his ‘gift for the spoken word’. His ambitious and forceful Mother secured a position for him as a trainee reporter on the local paper.

(Above, at the VMCC AGM, 1956; John Griffith on the right)


His experiences and the contacts made during those years included a succession of thoroughly dreadful cars and motorcycles and which lead indirectly to his meeting and marrying Jess in November 1937 and becoming deeply involved with the resurrection of the Loughborough Motor Cycle Club. As did many other motorcyclists, Titch responded to the appeals for dispatch riders in the motorcycling magazines the ‘Blue’un and the ‘Green ‘un and signed up to the “Motor Cyclist’s Army Register” and after many trials and tribulations actually served as a DR concluding the war as a sergeant and with the BEM.

His obsession with motorcycles never left him in these tempestuous times and he claimed that the acquisition of a 1930 Scott in 1942 was the catalyst for the formation of a ‘Vintage Motor Cycle Club’ –the great stimulus being the series of articles on the adventures of tracking down and acquiring ‘old bikes’ written by Captain Jim Hall in the magazine“The Motor Cycle” The idea was Jim’s but it was the work of Titch and Jess that got the club off the ground with the historic inaugural meeting on the Hog’s Back on April 28th 1946. The ideals Titch envisaged were those of a sporting club where sporting, historic motorcycles would be used in competition – an ideal that came to be frustrated.

(above: 'Titch' with the 'Dreadnought')


It was at this time that Titch began his life-long love affair with the Brough Superior marque and when he made a complete career change, moving into the world of motorcycling as a sales representative for Jim Ferriday, the irrepressible owner of the ‘Feridax’ motorcycle accessories company, which led to all kinds of adventures and experiences –and many opportunities to enlarge and enrichen his collection of motorcycles. His involvement with the emerging and developing Vintage Motor Cycle Club was, at times, a tempestuous affair, with numerous confrontations with equally strong-minded individuals at various stages of the Club’s development. Titch admitted that his singular devotion to old motorcycles and motorcycling lead to the breakdown of his marriage and subsequent separation from Jess.

There was tragedy in the loss of Roger, his eldest son, in a freak road-racing incident in the Isle of Man in 1992 and then to lose Barbara, his eldest daughter, to cancer in 2005. Over the years Titch had lost many close friends and associates through motorcycle related accidents, but to many who were close to him, it seemed as if the death of Roger left a permanent scar from which he never really recovered.

Titch’s relationship with his wife was back on friendly terms for the latter period of her life before she succumbed to terminal cancer in 2002.

Recognition of his contribution to Motor Cycle Heritage came in the form of an OBE in 2004. The presentation ceremony took place, most appropriately, at Donington Park - a racing venue he had been associated with for 75 years. Reluctant to give up ‘competitive’ motorcycling, nevertheless, Titch retired, first from road racing and finally from sidecar racing on ‘the grass’. His interest and enthusiasm never dimmed, however and a ‘posing’ sidecar outfit was prepared for special occasions – of which the most celebrated must have been his appearance in the Past Masters’ Parade at the revival of the Festival of 1000 ‘bikes in 2006 at the age of 91.
(above:  'Titch: A Founder's Tale', his autobiography.  Recommended reading!)

Never afraid to voice his opinions on Vintage motorcycles and motorcycling anywhere and at any time, he was frequently controversial both within the Vintage Motor Cycle Club and elsewhere. Sometimes he was proved to be wrong, on other occasions to have been correct. But his dedication could never be questioned. There can have been very few people who have been able to indulge a life-long obsession to the full whilst earning a living and raising a family and leaving behind a remarkable legacy to remember him by."

While I only met 'Titch' a couple of times, the man is legendary and I have the highest respect for his efforts at keeping old motorcycles out of the dustbin of history; truly, our Movement would not be the same without him.  Ave Titch!

4 comments:

David Blasco said...

Once again, reading this blog, I learn things of which I knew nothing. Thank you for an excellent obituary. What a history, beginning with the "resurrecting" of a motorcycle club -- in 1937! Motorcycling did not begin with Honda, apparently.

occhiolungo said...

Hiya Paul.

The VMCC's obit for Titch is excellent. But it is easy for people who enjoy old bikes today to inadvertently undervalue the contributions of Titch and the VMCC these past 64 years. Remember folks: the general public (and even former riders!) used to commonly toss old bikes into the tip before the VMCC helped to raise the awareness of the virtues of early bikes.

There won't ever be another guy like Titch in this hobby.

ciao,
Pete Young

Anonymous said...

This will be my first time contacting you and I wish it were under cheerier circumstances, but I want to pass my condolences on to anyone who knew Titch Allen. He sounds like a remarkable figure in motorcycling history and I`m certain he will be well remembered.

Wonderful site. I`m devoted now.

Dave Down
Calgary, Alberta

Alan M Preston said...

A pleasure to read this tribute to my old friend 'Titch'.
For many years I was the Chairman of the Donington Park Pre War Racers Association - organising regular monthly outings and lunches for the pre war Doningon Park racers ('Titch' had passengered with Bob Gerrard in his Riley at both Donington Park and Brooklands) had founded, and was a regular member of our Association.
I helped him with his illness in his later years, and got him back into his racing leathers - to parade his old Triumph outfit (which was the outfit famously 'raced in suit and tie with young Steve Allen as passenger' by retired Eric Oliver (World (and Loughborough MCC) Sidecar Champion with 'Jenks')at the Mallory Park 'Festival 1000 Bikes'
I was honoured to have initiated and helped with his OBE Investiture at Donington Park, his autobiography,'Titch' and his biography of George Brough (Superior) and Lawrence of Arabia 'Legends in their lifetime .....'
Both available from the Vintage Motorcycle Club at 'Allen House'
It was an honour to have known you, 'Titch' RIP