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Features / A long ride to the Classic Motor Show

Jackie Edwardson with his old BSA A7 outside his Heylor home. Photo Shetnews

IT’S taken a long and circuitous route to get there, but a 62 year old motorbike is finally making its debut as one of 150 motorbikes on display at the Shetland Classic Motor Show at Clickimin this weekend.

The 1952 BSA A7 500cc machine first arrived in Shetland back in 1960, when motorbikes were the favoured form of transport for young men unable to afford a car.

Its owner was young Jackie Edwardson, then a 27 year old motorbike enthusiast living in Heylor, beside Ronas Voe, in Northmavine and working for Ertie Irvine in the weaving shed at The Booth in Hillswick.

“It was cheap at £35 and had a twin cylinder, which was an added enticement for me, all my previous bikes having been single-cylinder models,” he recalled.

This was Edwardson’s sixth bike and after a few years it followed the way of his previous machines, being sold locally at a profit – it went to Jack Williamson on Muckle Roe for £65.

“I was trying to make a bob or two even then!” he joked.

By now he had become a father and while it was fine to ride two wheels with his wife Ruby on pillion, the arrival of his son Leslie meant the family now had to shift to four wheel transport.

Meanwhile the bike continued its own journey into the hands of Tom Balfour from Sullom, who took it with him when he moved to Orkney.

Edwardson forgot about the vehicle until the early 1980s when he was sitting at his post on Collafirth Hill, where he worked as a Ministry of Defence policeman.

He was reading the Aberdeen Press & Journal when he spied an advert for the very same motorbike with its distinctive HMH 333 registration for sale near Wick, in Caithness.

The asking price had now risen to £450, but Edwardson was well enough off by this time to have it shipped back to the isles, where he stripped it down and put it back together ready for the road.

However by now his enthusiasm for motorbiking had waned and the A7 stood idle in his shed for more than a decade until he decided to put it up for sale in the late ‘90s.

One man offered him £1,200 and took it away having left a deposit and a promise to pay the rest when he could, a promise that failed to materialise and two years later the bike returned to the garage in Heylor it knew so well.

Now retired, Edwardson made the brave decision to have his faithful machine professionally restored and sent it down to the Midlands in March 2010, hoping to see it again before the end of that summer.

Months turned into years, the restorer closed his business and another took over project, but still progress was slower than snail pace.

Edwardson entered her into the June 2012 Shetland Classic Motor Show in a bid to encourage the new restorer, John Mossey of JMC Classics, to speed up the job, but had to cancel his entry at the last moment.

Finally the gleaming A7 completed its return to Shetland on 27 August 2012, two and half years after it had left the isles.

“It was a long wait, but I really can’t fault John Mossey’s workmanship. The 62 year old bike is looking as good, if not better, than it would have done when it left BSA’s Birmingham factory in 1952.

“It has had a complete mechanical restoration as well and with care it should run for many more years.”

Meanwhile its value continues to rise with its age – an offer of £3,750 has been made for the registration plates alone!

“It’s very tempting, but as the bike still retains the same frame, engine and registration numbers that it had when it was first registered by a London dealer in 1952 it would be a pity to separate them now.”

Edwardson has only ridden his old BSA once since it returned to Shetland, and even that was touch and go when it proved impossible to kick start the old girl.

It turned out that John Mossey had used the original type of heavy oil in her gearbox and the drop in temperature between the Midlands and Shetland had thickened it too much to allow the engine to be turned over.

A quick oil change to a lighter lubricant sorted the problem out and Edwardson took her for a quick spin up the Heylor road.

“I always liked riding motorbikes, but now I don’t have the strength to do anything with them,” the 81 year old said.

“I did have one peerie ride on it after I got it back two years ago; it felt fine, but I didn’t want to risk anything. I don’t want to fall over with it.”

Edwardson’s BSA is far from the oldest at the Clickimin show, with an unrestored 1913 model making it up as part of the World War 1 display.

Other local bikes include a recently restored 1943 Norton 16H, a 1952 CWS Villiers, a modernised 1967 Norton (now called an Islander), a 1961 Ariel Arrow and a 1974 Honda SS50ZE, when 16 year olds were only allowed to ride mopeds.

From south attractions include a 1938 Velocette MAC, an IFA 350cc, a 1948 Nimbus arriving from Devon, the only AJS in the show (a model 20 from Orkney) and an interesting 1955 swinging arm Ariel Square Four from Kent.

There will be a group of Triumph Terrier and Tiger Cub enthusiasts including the bikes that recently completed the re-run of the 1953 Gaffer Gallop covering the length of the country.

A couple of Ducati single cylinder racers will add a touch of glamour to the proceedings. Slowing things down is a 1972 Moto Guzzi Nuovo Falcone, perhaps the last of the real singles.

Some of the more modern ‘Classics’ include every ’70’s learners dream bike, a 1979 Yamaha RD 250 and, when you passed your test a year later, the faster 1980 Yamaha 400 RD.

The show attracts exhibitors from all over Britain; however there will be one international visitor from Norway- look out for his 1970 BMW R60/5.