The London-Edinburgh was run continuously, with the exception of war periods and 1948 and 1950, every year since 1904. Therefore, the organising committee decided to stage the 1954 event along the lines as closely as possible to the original 1904 running.
That first year had seen 70 entries for the endeavour, which meant cramming 400 miles into 24 hours; contemporary experts reckoned that if 10 to a dozen finished the course within the time schedules, it would be a miracle. Indeed, there were only 46 starters at the London startline in the end, but these performed better than prophesised, with 22 reaching Edinburgh – though one was subsequently disqualified, meaning 21 gold medals were handed out.
The 1954 start was from the GPO (General Post Office) building in London – as it had been in 1904 – and there were a number of familiar names among the contingent. Best known was undoubtedly George Brough, riding a Matchless-engined SS100 which his own firm had made in 1936. Despite the loaned machine having a sidecar attached – occupied by Eric Adlington, a director of Temple Press and a Brough man of old – George showed all his old verve, reckoning on hitting ‘...75mph and sometimes 80 on the open stretches.’ Brough had ridden his first London-Edinburgh in 1908, aboard a machine built by his father, William Brough.
Another familiar name with Brough Superior connections was Harold ‘Oily’ Karslake, who had actually attended the first running of the event, but not ridden in it. In 1954, the 74-year-old had forsaken his famous Dreadnought (a machine still in possession of the VMCC) for a 200cc Velo LE.
Bradford club president Oliver Langton took the honours for oldest machine, arriving with a well-turned out 1903 311cc Rex, a model featuring direct belt drive, a ‘period’ sparking plus and surface carburettor. Bob Lowe, chairman of the ACU competitions committee and chairman of the South Midland centre, appeared with his 1926 (1927 season) Model 90 ohv Sunbeam (featured in TCM, November 1985, incidentally), while the rest of the entry was aboard postwar machines – though G M Denton had given himself some task, choosing to undertake the action on a 49cc Mini-Motor powered cycle.
Though the weather progressively worsened, with ‘monotonous rain’ steadily falling, the motorcycling contingent of 1954 achieved a 100% finishing strength, with the biggest cheer at the evening’s dinner at the Caledonian Hotel reserved for those two stalwarts Langton and Denton who arrived late – but arrive they did.
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