Tribute to a Borders racing legend

25th July 1997 at 01:00
JIMMIE GUTHRIE CENTENARY EXHIBITION

Hawick Museum

Until September 30

Vroom! Vroom! echoes an exhibition running at Hawick Museum. The current show is celebrating the centenary of the birth of the Borders burgh's motorcycle racing legend, Jimmie Guthrie.

The dashing Guthrie bought his first motorcycle in 1919 and went on to win 26 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy and European Grand Prix events before his premature death in 1937 at the age of 40.

The Borders area seems to have bred more than its fair share of racing champions: the equally legendary Jim Clark was from nearby Duns, where there is a permanent exhibition devoted to his memory; and in Dumfries the prototype for the modern bicycle was invented.

A booklet published to coincide with the exhibition points out that, when Guthrie was making a name for himself, motorcycle racing in Scotland was confined to hills, grass and sand. "There were no hard surface speed events here until after the Second World War, when disused airfields became available. The biggest crowds turned up at the sand meetings, when cornering was done in lurid high-speed drifts and there were spills aplenty."

Guthrie had his first big win in England in 1926 on a beach in Northumberland, where a crowd of 30,000 saw him scoop the trophy and 50 guineas in prize money - when the average workman's wage was Pounds 2 a week.

He rode for several British motorcycle manufacturers, including New Hudson and, most famously, Norton's, whose team travelled in style when it went abroad, going first class and staying in the best hotels. On an Imperial Airways flight from Paris to London in 1935, Guthrie and a team mate had roast duck, "the first time a hot meal had been served on that route", according to Guthrie's biographers.

In 1936, Guthrie won the European Grand Prix in Germany, and was presented with a three-foot-long bronze trophy of three men racing on BMWs, with an inscription that read: "The Grand Prix of Europe. The Leader and Chancellor of the German Reich, Adolf Hitler, 1936."

Hawick's racing legend was set to win again in Germany the following year and had gone into the last lap with two minutes to spare, when, in circumstances which are still argued about today, he crashed and was fatally injured.

The bronze trophy and another which Hitler presented to Guthrie's mechanic after the accident feature in the exhibition, along with prizes, medals, photographs and several beautifully restored motorbikes.

Hawick Museum is open seven days a week. Admission to the show is free to Hawick residents; Pounds 1.2575p to others. Further information on 01450 373457

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