Tuesday, May 31, 2011


PART 2 of our exploration of the Indian 'invasion' of the 1911 Isle of Man TT, in anticipation of Dave Roper's lap of the Island.  brought to you by the authors of 'Franklin's Indians' and Chris Smith of Motorsport.

"Arthur J Moorhouse, who finished 3rd in the 1911 TT on his Indian, hailed from Prestwich, Lancashire and died April 20, 1912 at Brooklands Racing Track. Unforunately we know a lot more about his death than we do about his life, for his death was tragic, spectacular and very public.

Moorhouse had entered every TT race since the second event held in 1908 when he rode a Rex twin-cylinder machine and came 7th. In 1909 he was 9th, again on a Rex, but in 1910 he became one of several converts to the Indian cause after witnessing the brilliant ride of Guy Lee Evans in 1909. The Indian twin that Moorhouse rode in 1910 was his personal machine, entered at his own expense, though Billy Wells (the Indian UK concessionaire) did help every Indian in one way or another, including, sadly, providing a faulty batch of innertubes, and this was the undoing of all the Indian entrants in 1910. Consequently his result was “DNF” (Did Not Finish) after being forced to retire in the 5th lap with terminal tyre trouble.

By 1911, Moorhouse was one of England’s most prominent amateur riders, recognized as an expert at difficult corner work on rough road courses. His fine performances are remarkable as he was a big man, fully 60lbs heavier than Oliver Godfrey, whose physique was typical of the slightly-built “horse-jockeys” that comprised most of the top motorcycle racers.

In the 1911 TT, Moorhouse had a relatively trouble-free race, and was the first private owner to finish. He had a spill when another rider fell right in front of him, but got up very quickly and was soon underway again. Were it not for this incident, he would have finished higher up the leader board than 4th place. Yet, to his delight, he was elevated to 3rd place when Charlie Collier was disqualified for an unauthorized fuel stop.

On Saturday 20th April 1912, during a BMCRC [Brooklands Motor Cycle Racing Club] one-hour race, Moorhouse was in the lead on his Indian twin and lapping at about 70mph in front of G. E. Stanley (499cc Singer), Harry Collier (741cc Matchless-JAP) and Sidney Tessier (741cc BAT-JAP). Moorhouse was seen leaning down to fiddle with various adjustments on his engine, while steering with one hand - typical behaviour of his to get the most out of his engine, yet extremely hazardous at high speed on the notoriously bumpy Brooklands circuit. Competitor Harry Bashall noticed (while being lapped by Moorhouse) that the Indian's rear axle appeared to be loose, and the wheel was canted over in the frame, being held only by drive-chain tension. Moorhouse lost control of the machine when diving down off the Members Banking and onto the Railway Straight, the fastest part of the circuit, veering suddenly left, straight into a trackside telegraph pole.

Spectators and officials saw a pall of smoke rising from Moorhouses’s burning machine, and the race was immediately stopped. Billy Wells and Charles Franklin were among the first to reach the scene, where they found Moorhouse had been killed instantly by a fractured skull. The imprint of his goggles could be seen in the wood of the telegraph pole. After Moorhouse’s body had been removed from the scene, his distraught friends and team mates reputedly grabbed shovels and started digging a big hole trackside where his Indian racer lay smouldering. They put it inside, and buried it.
Moorhouse in a studio shot with his personal Indian racer
It’s possible that Moorhouse’s Indian racer is still there, entombed at the edge of the former Railway Straight at Brooklands."

'Franklin's Indians' is now available in the US at Motorsport Publications and the rest of the world at Panther Publishing Ltd.


Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,

I just recently discovered your site and really enjoy it.

bBest regards,

Anonymous said...

Cool picture of Billy Wells,...I have two 1909 Race medals and photo's of Billy Wells. I am involved in a research project regarding early days of Motordrome Racing

Michael Taylor said...

Recently I picked up a book 'Reminiscences of 70 Years in the Lift Industry' by Henry C. Walker of Richard Waygood & Co later Waygood-Otis Ltd written in 1934. In it was the following:
"Moorhouse, who was at that time attached to the London Sales Staff, followed to Manchester, which he carried on most successfully for some years. Moorhouse was a keen motorist and spent much of his leisure time in that direction. Whilst breaking a long series of records at Brooklands, by some never-to-be-explained mischance, his motor bicycle crashed into a fence, and he was instantaneously killed. The sad news of his death, in the prime of manhood, was a great shock to all. He was a good salesman, clever engineer, a man of charming personality, and will always awake happy memories in those who knew him."
The above brought me to find out more about Moorhouse and hence I found your site. I hope that this information will add to your information about him. The period this information covers was the mid-1880's.

Waygood-Otis supplied lifts to royalty, shipping lines and in many buildings across the world. They also supplied escalators to London Underground as well as other engines.