A Tale of Friends, Florins and Rudges.

This is an amusing story about what motorcyclists got up to, even in the 1930s. It was originally published in the New Zealand Classic Motorcycle Racing Registers newsletter Megaphone in 2002 and is reprinted here with the kind permission of the original author Peter Beazley. Thanks Peter.

Some twenty five years ago whilst living in Auckland I was very fortunate to work with and befriend the late Bill Curtis. Bill possessed a great personality and underneath a sometimes gruff exterior was a heart of gold.

Motorcycles often became the topic of conversation and one day Bill produced the photograph accompanying  this article, and so the story began. The photo was taken on Waiheke Island in 1935. The 168 mile, 1935 Senior T.T. was won by Arthur Bradley on the 500cc Rudge in 3 hrs 7 minutes and 38 secs. From left to right in the picture are Bill Curtis (mechanic), Arthur Bradley and Mr William Gill the owner who at that time was the New Zealand Importer for Rudge motorcycles.

Bill Curtis, who worked for Mr Gill for some time was actually a cycle mechanic by trade and being both intelligent and practical he quickly picked up motor engineering and it was Bill who did a lot of work with Mr Gill’s Rudges. If ever a man could solve a problem – Bill could.

After setting up the Rudge for Syd Moses trip to the I.O.M T.T. in 1933 the motor was then dismantled to the crankcases, which were then sealed off with a rag. Once the barrel was refitted minus the piston, it was filled with English florins. I cannot remember the minted year of the florins that had been saved and placed in the barrel, but one particular earlier minting was pure silver and worth considerably more than face value in the U.K. The piston went into Syd Moses suitcase as a “spare”. This particular Rudge is the black bike now owned by Norm and Lynda Maddock.

Of Arthur Bradley, Bill informed me that he was a very fast rider, almost always on the limit and sometimes with disastrous results.

Bill himself never raced although he could travel quickly. He was asked on one occassion by Mr Gill to travel on the firms hack to Hamilton to deliver a part and “to be quick and not waste any time”. Bill was off and stopped by a Patrolman on the way. Again on the way back the same Patrolman, who was hiding and waiting stopped Bill who was fined considerably, for on each occassion he was travelling in excess of 70 mph. Mr Gill loaned Bill the money to pay the fines, deducting one shilling per week from his pay to cover the debt which took months to pay back.

Every so often a special person comes along – Bill Curtis was one of those people and I was privileged to be able to call him a friend.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Peter Beazley.




Waiheke Island 1935 Senior T.T. From left are Bill Curtis (mechanic), Arthur Bradley and Mr William Gill (owner).