Richard Holmes Tribute
I'd like to place on record a small tribute to my good mate Richard Holmes.
He worked as a Storeman in the spares department at the back of the Fareham
branch of Rafferty Newman way back in the early days of the shop.
He was a smashing guy, always quick with a smile and a pleasant quip.
In his spare time he raced a 250cc Greeves motocross machine in what was in those days called 'scrambling'.
'Rich' as he liked to be called was a particularly gifted rider, and was very successful in his outings on the bike. I would often tag along with his Sister and Brother in Law (Jan & Vic) to spectate at a local event, and got to know his entire family well. (His younger brother Martin became a close friend of mine for many years)
When it became fashionable for the shops mechanics to ride the 'Works Wildcat' scooters at race events back in the late 60's Richard fancied a go at it, but all of the official works bikes were spoken for. There was nothing for it but to make one up himself. It was cobbled up from an old discarded LI Series One, and became a bit of a laughing stock in the workshop because of its 'thrown together' appearance, but it went like Sh*t off a shovel owing to the clinical attention paid to the over bored ’Wildcat Dykes' 200cc engine by his toolmaker Brother in Law Vic.
Les Rafferty disowned it because he'd had no part in its construction or tuning, and loudly protested calling it a 'Wildcat' even though it sported many of Les's 'Wildcat Equipe' parts.
Opinions changed however when it started achieving some significant results at Race meetings.
What it may have lacked in absolute top speed, it more than made up for in brutal acceleration. Richards’s brilliant riding skills in wet and slippery conditions (acquired at many winter Scramble events) also contributed magnificently. It was nothing to see him hurtling around the corners of Lydden, flat out with his feet down in huge power slides long before the days of 'sticky' tyres.
One damp and miserable day I was hanging around Raffs workshops with nothing much to do, when Richard asked me if I'd follow him on his race machine for a few miles around the back of Fareham since he'd just rebuilt his engine, and wanted to put a few miles on the piston before the next race. We duly set off at a slow pace, not wanting to seize the engine up. When we arrived at the back of Fareham he signalled to me he would open it up a bit, and duly set off in front. After only half a mile or so to my horror I saw his bike suddenly lurch violently sideways on a long sweeping bend, and he was catapulted off his machine and into the path of an oncoming car. The poor woman driver managed to bring her car to an almost complete stop before the collision, but the impact as he slid along the road was sufficient to drive him under the vehicle. I immediately stopped, and rushed over to assist in extricating him from under the car. Several people had witnessed the crash, and helped to try and free him. I realised very soon that the situation looked hopeless. His helmet had parted company with him before the impact, and his head had been forced underneath the gearbox of the car. The 'surprised' look on his face as he lay there still haunts me now, since it was blatantly obvious from his horrendous head injuries he had been killed in the crash.
A subsequent post mortem revealed he'd died from multiple head and chest injuries.
His poor mother never really recovered from the shock of losing her eldest
son, and all of his friends within the shop and local biking fraternity deeply
mourned the loss of a smashing bloke.
For the rest of my 'wildcat' racing career I always carried the number '90' as a tribute to my dear lost friend 'Rich'
May he rest in peace.