Beezumph History

By Peter Nicholson


As this is my first Beezumph as Chairman, despite being in the position for 3 years or so – thanks Covid – I decided to take the opportunity to look back at the birth of Beezumph.

So what is a Beezumph, many things to many people, to me it is an opportunity to meet old friends, make new friends all helped along by triples and lashings of Ginger Beer.

But how did it all start, what is this odd name all about, there are a great number of you who know the story of both this odd name and this brilliant event, but not everyone has been a member of the club for a long time so I thought I would have a look myself and try to put the story together.

The name Beezumph was coined by journalist and photographer Jim Greening and is a portmanteau word (a blend of words making a new word, I looked it up), the blend being Beeza for BSA and umph for Triumph, in celebration of the joint racing efforts of the BSA and Triumph racing triples.

Why don’t we rent a racetrack

So where does the story start, well as I wasn’t there at the time I have used the written word as my reference, so off into the Triple Echo Archives we go. I have referenced all of the editions of Triple Echo so that, should you wish, you can have a more in depth look at what was happening.  Careful though as I guarantee you will end up going down more rabbit holes than Alice whether you are 10 feet tall or not.

As someone who has been involved in several Beezumphs and having organized one, I know the work that goes into it, I can only guess at the work done to arrange the first one from a standing start, (and I am certain that there were discussions and planning going on in the background that were never recorded). So if I have missed things please forgive me but please let me have any anecdotes and I will get Les to publish them.

Having scoured the archives, the first mention of an event was at the AGM on 29 July 1990, when John Piggott (TE 68 p1) told the meeting that the Goodwood Circuit was available for hire, the matter was discussed with the decision being ‘that we could spend some of the money in the Building Society on a one off day event – which would either work or would not’  Now how about that for a brilliant idea, and hats off to Tim Smithells, the committee at the time, and all those who voted for it, brave or what.

Interestingly Kerrin Gautrey, in a letter to the editor (TE 68 p4), presumably written after the AGM, discusses how the event should be set up, something he had been discussing with others at the ‘Who cares if it rains, I’m sitting in a pub’ Rally held between 17th and 18th August 1990.  You can just hear the conversation can’t you?

So then all is ready, the idea has met with great approval, then disaster, the original quote of £300 for the day has now become £600 for half a day and that is for a Sunday morning (TE 68 p2). £600 doesn’t seem like a lot of money today but the club only had £2,891.81 in the bank at the time (TE 68 p18) though this figure doesn’t represent the surplus funds I am sure, so the financial risk would have been huge.

Sadly this is a recurrent theme that continues to this day, we are and always will be at the mercy of the track operators, with costs and dates in a state of flux until we finally pay the deposit and sign the contract.

Is this the end, can it be? We all know it isn’t but humour me for the sake of the story.  Well like the old Batman programmes, no it wasn’t. Tim Smithells in his ‘Rabbiting’ piece (TE 69 p1), asks for input into the idea of hiring a track, having ‘been overwhelmed with one phone call and two letters’. I know how that feels.

One of those letters was from Richard Darby (TE 69 pp2-3). In his letter Richard lays out the methodology, suggests suitable circuits and a pricing structure to cover the event’s costs. (N.B.The precis above does the letter no justice, please have a read, it’s interesting stuff).

The idea to ‘rentaracetrack’, as both Tony Page and Chris Protheroe (TE 70 p7) suggest in their letters, is gaining some traction. As Tony Page says in his letter ‘I wanna rent a race track with some friends to go play with’.

Six months go by till the next mention of an event at a race track re-appears in the June/July 1991 issue of Triple Echo, where a plea for people to attend that years AGM where the matter will be discussed is posted by Tony Page (TE 72 p16).

There seems to have been some heated debate about the viability of the event, Chris Judkins in his letter (TE 73 p20) expresses concern that the event might end up in Tim’s ‘cobweb covered pending tray’. From what I have read I think it is fair to say that Tim wasn’t altogether in favour of the idea, although he did get behind it when it was pitched by John Piggott at the 1990 AGM. Tim’s response (TE 73 p20) to Chris’ letter is, as one would expect, somewhat curt, however he does move things on by issuing a questionnaire (TE73 p21) seeking the opinion of the membership on the subject.

Sunday 1st September 1991, the AGM held at Filmer Hall Kent, a bright sunny day I believe. In her article (TE 74 pp3-5) Niki Payne describes the proposals for a ‘race track meeting’, the first coming from Gary Hall, Gary’s proposal was:

‘hiring slots from the Norton Owners Club who hire Goodwood circuit on the first Bank Holiday in May. You do not need to be a member of the Norton Owners Club, but it will cost £11 each ride, they are at 15 minute intervals’.

The second proposal came from Neil Payne, as Niki says:

‘it is a very ambitious event, and will be a one off spectacular for the Club (and Neil too I should think). He has provisionally booked Cadwell Park race circuit for the 15 August 1992. It will include a ‘gathering of stars’ with names such as Les Williams, Ray Pickrell, Mel Farrar, John Cooper, to name a few who have already agreed to come with their respective works racers, if the club stages the event’.

Neil’s pitch for the event must have been exceptional, I can only surmise that the event would have gone ahead with or without the backing of the AGM.

Niki points us to Neil’s letter later in the same issue of Triple Echo and rather than writing about it I have reproduced it in full.

There can be no doubt that without Neil’s brave move the event we have today would not exist, though to be fair to Neil’s partner Elaine, her support in this cannot be underestimated. I can only imagine the response I and probably most of us would have received from our other halves if we pitched them the idea.

The story doesn’t end here of course, Cadwell Park change the dates from the 15th August to the 7th, from the outset nailing the date has been challenging, there is however another issue, Neil says in his piece on the Race Track Rally (TE76 p12) that Les Williams attendance is vital to encourage others to attend, Les had recently announced his intention to retire and Neil was rightly concerned that if Les was unable to attend for any reason the event could be a financial disaster. Neil’s concerns at this time shouldn’t be taken lightly as according to Tim’s note on finances (TE 74 p16) ‘the true figure is our surplus for the year, and this is £363.29’, from this we can see just how important Les’ attendance at the event was. Much has been written about Les and his standing, not just in our narrow world of triples, in the wider motorcycle world was immense, everyone who owned or had ever owned a Triumph motorcycle knew who he was and what he had achieved.

I Name this event Beezumph

For the first time we see the name Beezumph appear (TE77 p5). As I mentioned earlier in this piece the name was coined by Jim Greening, Tony Page contacted him seeking permission to use the name, this he graciously agreed, and the Race Track Rally became the Beezumph Rally.

The articles in Triple Echo suggest that Les Williams was able to commit to attending the event as by April/May 1992 things are moving forward.

Reading Neil’s article (TE77 p5) there is obviously great anxiety over the financial viability of the event with the at that time unprecedented announcement that trailered bikes will be allowed to attend, interestingly the event was also opened up to all, and anyone could take their bike on track as long as it was British, something that remained in place, all be it expanded to include European and American machines, until fairly recently when the financial viability of the event was again an issue.

The list of special guests and machines reads like a who’s who of British motorcycling design, manufacture, production and racing, but I am going to leave it to you to look that up.

For the first time, but by no means the last, the idea of combining Beezumph with the AGM was suggested by Peter Tate (TE77 p16).  A debate that is set to run and run.

Interestingly a Rally Ticket was £17, Beezumph 29’s Rally ticket price s £35, not much of a rise really all things considered.

So after all the hard work and discussion that started way back in October 1990 Beezumph is ready to go ahead on the 7th and 8th August 1992, just under 2 years from initial idea to the actual event.

The decision was made to record the event for posterity with a professional video of the event, other owners clubs were contacted along with press coverage etc, (TE78 p8) a mammoth task for those arranging it and credit to all involved, sadly Triple Echo does not give any clue as to the names or roles of those involved. Despite all the excitement of the build up to Beezumph, one can detect a hint of concern as ‘[only] if financial receipts allow, a marquee will be erected and a band booked’ (TE78 p9).

August 7th and 8th 1992, Beezumph

So to the event itself, according to those who were there it rained, now theres a surprise. There are a great many glowing reports of the event starting with Tim’s Rabbiting piece, ‘I mean, how do you describe the sight of around 200 triples in one place, and the circuit in use for the best part of the day?’  Not surprisingly Tim also says in his piece ‘’Thanks’ (rather an inadequate word really) go to Neil Payne and Elaine for getting the whole thing together’ (TE80 p3).

The records in Triple Echo suggest that the rally was a success with a good attendance as shown below coupled with a profit of £666.10 (TE 81 p37 and TE 83 p17 respectively).

Track and Rally Tickets:           125

Rally Tickets:                          238

Day Tickets:                           253

With the following out on track:

Touring:                                  23

Fast Touring:                           40

Quick:                                    40

Racing:                                   22

Triple Echo 80 is full of praise for the event, I have chosen some to try and give a flavour of the event:

‘the rally was a great success and for me should become the main focal point for following years’. Steve Bamford.

‘I would like to let the Lincolnshire Agricultural Society know that the rain dance enacted over the weekend of the Beezumph Rally was totally unfair and full of malice’. Gary Sylvester.

‘I know that some people were a little cynical about whether the Beezumph Rally would work, well I thought it was bloody marvellous and am looking forward to the next one’. Peter Tait.

Roy Allen in his Beezumph piece (TE80 pp32-33) succinctly sums up the excitement of taking your triple on track for the first time while describing the pleasure of simply attending the rally. ‘this was without doubt the most exciting most interesting rally I have ever had the fortune and pleasure to attend’. The whole article is worth a read.

A final word from Neil Payne on page 37 of Triple Echo 81:

‘PS What are you doing on 12 June 1993 Beezumph 2’.

The rest as they say is history.