George Dance in 1919, after gaining first
place in two of the Weston-Super-Mare Speed Trials.
|I remember George Dance, he came from working on
farm engines to Marston's as a tester. He was a tester with
Ernie Smith on the ground floor at the front of the factory in
those days. Tommy de la Hay, he was a tester and a T.T. rider
with George Dance. Alec Bennett, he was a tester and a T.T.
rider as a kid, and another one, a big fella, Graham Walker.
They were very well in with Sydney Bowers . In the later years
George Dance became involved in development work. Freddy Jenkins
was another tester but Ernie Smith did ride in a lot of races,
he used to ride in foreign countries every year in the Grand
Prix and got second in the Dutch T. T. The testers used to meet
at Wombourne Common and have fun there.
They used to meet the
A.J.S. testers at a cafe by the canal at Wombourne, and leave
the engines running outside. George Dance was an expert at
tuning carburettors and he used to tune the other tester's
machines. He had an exceptional skill for this and would never
tell anyone how he did it.
Whilst on the common, some of the
testers used to catch rabbits by gassing them with a rubber
pipe. One end of the pipe was inserted into a rabbit hole and
the other end was attached to the motorcycle exhaust. Some of
them also used to deliberately run over chickens, and gave the
dead birds away at the works.
|In 1928, that was the last days of the tank
nesting in between the frames at the top, the square tank.
Charlie Dodson won the T. T. and then we made the first saddle
tank that was to fit over the top rail.
In 1929 he won it again.
We had his bike on show in front of the Town Hall for about a
month. There was a big celebration in the works. For about an
hour, or an hour and a half, everybody went berserk and then the
works manager came through and everybody went back to their job.
Sunbeamland from the junction of Paul
Street and Jeddo Street.
|I saw Howard Davies, he used to ride for us at one time. I saw him
quite a lot at Marston's, especially when he used to build his HRD
machines at the bottom of Fryer Street. He used to come in and out a
lot. I suppose he was getting one or two ideas. I remember Howard he was
a robust sort of a chap originally, his first bike was a saddle tank, he
used to be a good rider. I don't know what happened to him when his
company closed, when we finished in 1936, I don't know where he petered
In the early days the antiquated machines used to mill one gear tooth
at a time, indexed around. They used special cutters because each tooth
was not just square but made up of many different radii. When I was
involved with the testers I used to cut and fit cams. When you turned
the back wheel by hand, and turned the engine over, there should be no
click, so that there was no shake in the rocker. The centres varied
slightly so there was a bigger cut cam, or something like that. You
couldn't have it too tight. If it was too tight you got a whirring sound
when you revved it up. Tommy de la Hay would come and say "That's
acceptable". He was a funny guy, a Frenchman who was full of his own
self-importance, because he was in with Sidney Bowers. I remember my
early days, although I didn't know him too well when he won the T.T. in
the 1920's. Bennett won it in 1922, they were at daggers drawn. I
remember them having a row and they had to go to Bowers to get it sorted
out. Tommy de la Hay won the day and became head of the the Testing
Department, and poor old Alec left.
The testing department was originally situated in the main works in
Pool Street. When St. Paul's church built a new church hall, Sunbeam
purchased the old one, which was convenient as it was opposite the
works, on the other side of Paul Street. The testing and development
department then moved from Pool Street the the old church hall. The
department eventually ended up in the new Elms Works, when it opened in
1928. It was situated at the rear of the repairs department and included
Bert Tetsall, George Dance and Albert Collins.
the Enamelling Shop