A  History of Classic Racing  50cc Motorcycles


Name: Harold Cosgrove
Birth date: June 8th 1933 
Birth Place: Manchester, England 
Date of Death : Not Yet! 
Place of Death : Not Yet! 
Nationality: Canadian 1957 - British National 
Gender: Male


With Harold living in Canada the interviews and his statements were obtained through some dictation, email chats, notes on Messenger and telephone conversations. I hope you find the story interesting - Jeep. 

"I have always ben interested in mechanical things and enjoyed taking them to bits, mending if necessary and putting them back together, mostly in working order" said Harold when I asked him about himself. "This led me into my first motorbike which was a 1934 250cc P&M Panther. This was hand change but I decided to convert it to foot pedal control. this worked reasonably well most of the time and improved my control of the bike."

I had been in the Isle of man a couple of times, I think the once was for the Manx Grand Prix and then again for a different meeting, but not for the TT. However from the moment I experienced the sight and sound of the racing I was hooked and wanted to see it again. But I never thought I would ever ride in a TT.   

Did you have other bikes I asked. "Yes, the next on was a 350cc MAC Velocette which was a great bike. and finally, before I went in for my National Service, I had a James 197cc two-stroke". I went into the Royal Air Force at the age of 21 and did my 2 years from 1954 until 1956.

"Anyway, when I came out of the Royal Air Force, I had already met Mary and we decided to get married in 1956. We also decided to look abroad to find somewhere to live.  We had a good look at Australia and Canada and an advertisement came in the paper from a company in Niagara Falls, Canada who were looking for a mechanical draughtsman. I applied for and got the job. That's how we come to be here in Niagara Falls now I guess. For most of our time in Canada we have spent most of it in Niagara Falls but we did spend one year in Vancouver in 1970 but we always seem to fit back here"

Anyway, as I say I got the job as a mechanical draughtsman, in the company in Niagara Falls and worked there for a little while when I was offered a job by another company, The Dominion Safe & Vault Company.  The money was better and so I obviously quit the company I was with and went to this one". Harold explained to me the difficulties that companies had in staying afloat and this company got into financial difficulties. "I was laid off as this companies situation and the difficulties got worse until it became bankrupt".

"Jeep, if you can understand this area, it is not an engineering one, it is an area based mainly on 'Tourism'. So at that time it was pretty difficult to find work and I was unemployed for almost a year. Mary was working as a 'Bank Teller' in a local branch - anyway we decided to come back to England for a little while and that was in 1960".

This place is a must for avid walkers who can venture through Clifton Hill onto Dufferin Islands, plus if you go at the right time of year, be prepared to witness the bloom of 500,000 daffodils. There are not many places in Canada that you could see such a display of nature, even the winter months have something beautiful to offer with stark, sweeping trees and branches gracing Queen Victoria Park.

When Harold and Mary got back to England he was interested in motorcycles and racing again, although he had never raced himself. Eventually he met up with Bert Foster; Bert had a small engineering company, just a small one man outfit where he did work for small businesses making parts. He was a gifted engineer and could turn his hand to almost anything including Frames, motorcycle modification and engine tuning. 

Harold continued "Bert carried out work for DOT motorcycles and I know that he was involved in the development work of some models including the 'leading-link' front suspension design that DOT used and I guess that's where he had the connection for being able to get the DOT Vivi engine (this was made by the Avanti company of Germany).  

"1960! I believe that was when I was first introduced to Bert, being taken round to to see him in the workshop, he was working on a Vivi engine at a time when 50cc racing was coming fairly popular; so we finished up going to his place almost every night as it was where other motorcycle enthusiasts congregated and talked about Bikes, Racing and so forth".

"Anyway eventually one day Bert said to me" "would you like a ride on one of the 50cc Vivi bikes?" "I said Yes! Sure! I said that I had never raced before and so we decided to enter a race meeting. The first was at Silverstone and the weather was terrible, it wasn't and introduction to racing - I was just launched into the sport. From what I remember it rained incessantly and the winds were high. Due to the bad weather I did not check the results of the race but I think I finished". (See 'Some of my Other Racing in the UK' below: Harold was a reserve but he did make the line and finished the race.)

The next day, 8th October 1960 we went straight to Brands Hatch but the weather was as bad as the previous day at Silverstone, or perhaps more so and the little Vivi got waterlogged and we could not get the thing to start and so my race day was over.

I asked Harold if he only raced 50s and he replied: “I raced in the lightweight and ultra-lightweight classes at the usual circuits".  I had  acquired a racing BSA Bantam during 1961 for a second class to race in, but I can't remember where I got it from. Someone recommended it to me as it had raced well before and so I then had the Vivi and a Bantam in my stable. I did a few races during 1961 and visited the tracks of Cadwell Park, Oulton Park  Mallory and Prees Heath. As you see I stayed mainly in the North of England. 

Then, in 1961 came the chance to ride in the Isle of Man 50cc Tourist Trophy Race, a new class for 1962. "A dream come true" said Harold. " I had a chat with Bert and told him that I did not think the ViVi was up to the job of carrying me around a course like the T.T. and would not be reliable. and that I had decided to buy a brand new Itom for the job they were reliable and a popular bike for racing". The bike was duly delivered along with a race kit and gave Harold a 19th place in the 1962 IoM 50cc T.T.

"For me it was a dream, formed around 1952, come true. I had raced the T.T. circuit and mastered the mountain of the Isle of Man". For me, that of 1962 period was the most successful year of my racing career.

During a phone interview with Harold across in Canada he said "Our life, Mary and mine shortly after the T.T. race, changed as we decided to come back to Canada as we found it so good for us and we moved in 1963. I did not make the racing in 1963 and 1964 and so I planned to go back in 1965 for the Isle of man T.T.  

"I thought I had entered for the 50cc and 125cc classes but on the return of my documents I found that only the 125cc request had been accepted. The problem for me coming back was a lack of money and Mary and I had to save like crazy to be able to afford it. Also I had been told the Bultaco would not be available. 

Anyway we came over to England in spite of that and I contacted Bill Copson". Harold said " I don't know if you remember Bill, he had a sidecar outfit that he raced on the Island quite a few times and he had a motorcycle shop in Ashton-under-Lyne, a market town in Tameside, Greater Manchester. I lived in a place called Droylsden not far from Ashton-under-Lyne. Picture below: Bill Copson and Harvey Sunderland in their BSA outfit leave Ramsey 1965 Sidecar TT 

So I spoke with Bill and went to see him. In the chat we had he said the he had a little Italian 125cc Capriolo that I could use as I had already entered the class. He said "You can give it a run and I will take it over for you as I have a sidecar outfit to transport as well".   

Harold continued, "a couple of days later, I went down with chronic tummy pains and I finished up in hospital in Aston under Lyne. It turned out to be Kidney Stones. The problem was not in having the kidney stones but it was race week. I managed to pass the stones out. We went over to the island late in the evening on the Wednesday and from when we arrived I only had a couple of days practice left to ride a bike I had never been on before. On the Thursday morning I started the practice and the bike stopped at Cronk-y-Voddy. I could not get the bike to start and therefore did not qualify without which there was no way I could ride in the 125 Ultra-Lightweight race for 1965".

In 1966 we had the Seamans Strike and the Isle of Man T.T. races were called off.

"We now move to the 1967 T.T.", said Harold "and I have entered for the two Ultra-Lightweight races. The 125cc and the 50cc classes. I got in touch with Bert Foster again and put in a begging request, lo and behold Bert's 125 Honda and 50cc Itom were offered and received with many thanks. Unfortunately my racing career in he Island was not good. I always had a very good practice week and had no problem in qualifying on any of the bikes but come race day all was well at the start but they did not finish well". 

"In the 50cc race I was never certain what happened as I had a good ride on the Itom and In went over the line at the end but I was only given a two lap time on the score card and did not get a finishes trophy. I know in that year they posted all finishers trophy medals to the rides and I know I lived in Canada, but I never received one. Perhaps it got lost or they just did not post one.

Rounding off the rather unfortunate races, I did not finish in the 125cc race on the Honda.

So to 1968 and I am always looking for the next bike that might give me the edge. I had seen the little German bikes at the previous TT and thought 'well maybe on of them'. Anyway I kept looking and sourced and purchased an air cooled Kreidler motor and had it sent to Bert Foster and he put a frame around it for the 1968 meeting and actually there is a story behind that. 

During practice I did not actually qualify on that bike, I qualified on Bert's Itom. I had never raced the Kreidler, in fact I had never had my leg over that bike in anger except for the runs up and down the runway at Jurby. It was on the start line that I first used the bike in a race.

We had a mass start and as I push off, I was in the middle of the pack, the thing would not fire, I thought it was the plug. I decide not stop but to keep on pushing and I paddled on and on, I think I was near St Ninian's Church before the thing picked up and I got onto Bray Hill. Going down Bray Hill she cleared and I was away.

I had lost about 5 minutes, well a good 5 minutes and may be more, so the other riders  were well ahead and probably down by Union Mills by the time I got going. I reckoned the my first lap was a good 5 minutes slower that my second or third and I figured that if number 24, my Kreidler had fired right away, then I would be lapping about the same speed as my second and third then I would have been about 6th or 7th in the standing, all other problems excepted. Still, things don't always work out as expected and that was my 1968 Isle of Man TT and the last time the 'Wasps' raced in an Island T.T.

As we know the '50s' controlled by the FIM ruling, had now finished, to the disappointment of many riders and spectators. Harold loved the Island and the racing and decided to continue his love affair and ride in the Ultra-Lightweight 125cc class.

"In 1969 the 50cc class had finished and so I just entered the 125cc class. I think that most of the Yamaha road bikes in England and Europe, at that time, were 100cc machines” (The YL1 was a beautiful bike with a capacity of 98cc and had very good power available) “but in America they were 125cc, why the difference I do not know and I managed to pick up, from a local dealer in town over here, a 125cc Yamaha AS1 engine and I shipped it over to Bert in the UK. Later I helped him get another 125cc engine”.

Bert agreed to build a frame around my engine and around the other. We named them both ‘Foster Yamaha’s and so that was my bike for the 1969 season. 

This AS1 is not the Bert Foster bike but it does demonstrate a road machine converted to race spec. The Yamaha AS1 racer GYT kitted, is firing up for the first time in 40 years.

Yamaha AS1 racer engine start-up

There were only 7 Yamaha twins on the start line for the race out of 66 listed riders; 

5 Yamaha 125cc and 2 YL1 100cc bikes. The 125cc were ridden by Phil Read (Works), P. E. Platt (Foster Yamaha, Barry Dickenson (125 Yamaha), J. Cooper 125cc Yamaha-Canada) and Harold on the other 125cc Foster Yamaha. 

The 100cc YL1 models were ridden by E. J. McHenry (Ireland) and D. McDaniels (USA).

Yamaha YL1 GYT Kit racer engine start-up

Harold did not finish in this race. He started well and the bike ran well until just approaching the Gooseneck she twitched and he crashed. Apart from the first frame, these shots are taken from a video on YouTube created  by Guy Cooper and posted by his son Alistair. More of this video later.

Now for 1970, I decided that I was going to buy a new machine and I suppose I had a choice really between a used CR93 Honda or a new Maico. Unfortunately I decided on the Maico and it turned out to be not too reliable. I did finish on the Maico, coming home in 25th place at a time of and an average speed of 66.51 mph. 

In 1971, I retired from the race, I don’t know how but I had oil coming into the ignition system of the Maico and that put me out of the running.  

In 1972 I did not finish but why has slipped from my mind.

In 1973, ‘73 was my last race in the Isle of Man, I had been given number 34 and practice had gone really well everything was working really fine and so I decided not to go out on the Maico for the last practice on Friday. Everything was working so well and so I wanted to save it for the race. The start of the race was at 11.00hrs and riders went off at 10 second intervals in pairs. I went off at 11.02,30 along with Dick Pipes on his Bultaco and the Maico started from the off and ran away well down Bray Hill dowsing my anxiety. 

I approached the 13th mile stone and started up Barregarrow, nearing the top the ‘thing’ suddenly died, I looked down and there was petrol all over the place. What happened was that the banjo joint between the float chamber and the carburettor had cracked and the float bowl just broke off and all the petrol was rushing out. I was very lucky that the bike and I had not caught fire.

I pushed away from the petrol spot and into a churchyard (Barregarrow Wesleyan Methodist Chapel) that was on the side of the road. This was on the top of Barregarrow and I watched the rest of the race from here. I saw Tommy Robb go through: in fact it was Tommy’s first win after 17 years of trying.

So that was the total of my career in the Island. Let me recap, my first race in the Isle of Man in 1962 was on my 29th birthday and I had gone on until I was 39 and I decided on consideration that I could not afford to race anymore and so that was the end of my racing in the Isle of Man. 

Harold continued: “Although 1973 was my last race in the Isle of Man, we kept visiting each year from ’73 on until 2008. So this period from 1967 to 2007 equated to 40 years on the run except when the Foot and Mouth disease was on".

I asked Harold about the machines he raced and did he ship them over each visit. "What about machines for the TT; surely you didn’t bring them with you from Canada each time"? … chuckling, Harold replied, “in the 60’s and 70’s competitors from overseas received the princely sum of £25.00 start money! Bert Foster, a Manchester engineer, helped out with Honda and Yamaha machines and Bill Rae, a fellow rider and motorcycle dealer from Yorkshire kept my Maico in good condition for me to ride when we arrived from Canada each year from 1070 to 1973, which was my last race in the Island”.

Anyway there are one or two things or stories that you might be interested in that Harold told me about which I think you will find interested. 

Harold started with this one and remember this is just a little story; "it was when I was riding the Honda I think about 1967, I had started in the Race and as I approached Union Mills the thing started to miss-fire like crazy and so I pulled in on the forecourt of a Pub".

"This is the pub just before you get to Union Mills on the left hand side and it's called the Railway Inn. There was a policeman standing there and as I stopped and was going to change a plug, a spectator ran out from the crowd to give me a hand and I said to him “no don’t help me! and please don’t touch me or the bike or I will get disqualified. The policeman was close enough to hear this and said, in a rather loud voice "you only get disqualified if anybody see you and reports you" and then he turned to the crowd and in a louder voice said “and nobody’s looking are they”? 

"So I got the help of the guy and he gave me a push and I got going again and carried on from there". "I thought you might find that humorous".

Another small anecdote that you might find interesting is of the three unusual coincidences that have happened to me in or as a result of the Isle of Man and one of them was, and I think, Jeep I told you some of the before but I will go over it again in full and it was in 1965 when I had failed to qualify. 

"In one of the early practice sessions when I was riding the little Capriolo, I had just got to Glen Helen on the Cronk-y-Voddy straight and the bl**dy thing decided to quit the race. Looing around I noticed that there was another rider up ahead who had also retired and so I pushed along to the Cronk-y-Voddy cross roads and when I got there it, that person was Mike Duff". 

"So there’s a coincidence that two Canadians, should be practising in the same race class and should break down at the same spot". Harold reminded me that he had mentioned this situation in our earlier talks "I think I told you", he said, "that when the practice session was over the marshal there said to both me and Mike “Would you like to come over for a cup of tea or something as my house is just across the road over there?”

"The building was quite large and I can’t remember if it was a church or a school that had been converted into a house. Anyway that’s where we went and we sat there and had a cup of tea and waited for the van to come and pick us up". 

After the T.T. Event a few days later we went home to Canada and I was still working at H.G. Acres, and when I left for my break to the Isle of Man the drawing board in front of me was empty, but when I returned they had hired a new draftsman called Peter Quinn.

"I didn't know Peter, I had never met him before and of course we got talking and he said “I believe you have been away on holiday, where did you go?” I said ”Yes, I have been racing in the Isle of Man” and he said “My brother in law lives in the Isle of Man” and I said “Where did he live?”. He came back with ”Oh it’s a funny name like Onky Konky”. “Do you mean Cronk-y-Voddy” and he said “yes that’s right” and I said “What’s his name?” “Sam Casambas” he came back with and I said that I was in his house last week and he was the marshal. So here we are 3000 mile away and a marshal I had never met before and his brother in law who is now working in Canada are all connected. I thought that it was quite an unusual coincidence.                                                                          Picture: Sam's house and the Bus Shelter. 

Still in the same vein is another coincidence which Harold told to me. "A few weeks ago, as I said I do some work for a camera store in a town called St Catharine, next door and I had gone in to pick a job up, the guy who owns the store is called Tim and while I was there Tim said “Hey! Have a look at this” and on his computer screen he brought up a picture of a 1930s race in the Isle of Man, I commented that “yes it was the 1930s and that the picture was of the 33rd milestone”.

He said, "there is a caption underneath so hold on and I will bring it up. The caption read: Freddy Frith first man to make a 80 mph average in the T.T. I said “I don’t know him, but I know of him and I know his name 'Freddy Frith' is well known in Motorcycle circles and he showed another screen of the grandstand and I said that I recognised that as the Old T.T. Grandstand. 

Harold asked Tim, "who gave them to you and where did these shots come from" and he said “Well I had a customer who came in recently and he brought some newspaper cuttings and wanted me to photograph them and mount them using the picture in the frame, not the cutting. I asked if he was an old guy or what. Tim said that he was middle aged guy, and I said “What would anyone in Canada, which is not normally the motorcycle country, be interested in this area particularly the old stuff so I’ll tell you what, when he comes in next time for the job, give him my phone number and tell him to phone me because obviously I would like to have a chat with him, and so he said OK”. Anyway that particular weekend I had picked up the stuff and was going through a lot of my old motorcycle stuff, you know and I was throwing some stuff away and I came across another newspaper with a picture of Freddy Frith and it said Frith wins the 350cc race in 1949 I think it was I thought well I am not going to throw that away, I’ll keep it and take it back to the camera store and give it to the guy who obviously was an enthusiast. 

So I had finished the job for Tim and I was taking it back along with the newspaper cutting and I walked through the door and it was Covid, so there was only one other guy in the store and he sort of moved apart and I gave the cutting to Tim along with the Job and said to him "why don’t you give this to the guy who came in to have the photographs done". 

Tim said "why don’t you give it to him yourself he is right over there". I went over and spoke to him and talked about the Isle of Man for a bit and I asked him if he had ever been to the Isle of Man and he said “Yes we went in 2017”. I asked him if he stayed in Douglas as most people new to the Island do. 

“He said no, I am interested in the old racing and so I stayed in the country at a place called Cronk-y-Voddy. So as far as I know he may have stayed in that same house, with the marshal as I did 50 odd years ago. Ridiculous, a double coincidence isn’t it? and quite crazy.

The next one was, I guess in 1969 and Bert Foster had organised a garage in the Island and three of us were sharing the garage. There was Peter Platt, Don Rider and me, I don’t know if you knew Don Rider but he became an ACU official and was a Blue Coat for a number of years and all three of us stopped at the same spot in the same race. 

We had all entered the 125cc race and all three of us retired at the Gooseneck. I can say that I retired the fastest as I crashed at the Gooseneck. So that was a hell of a coincidence for three people, sharing the same garage stopping at the same spot in the same race. That was amazing. 

“A problem for me on this coincidence” said Harold "was the I have no recollection of what actually happened. I'd had no visual indication of a problem, I thought the engine had seized but, no. All I remember is flying down the road”. 

In those days there were not many photographers around and there were fewer spectators who took pictures at all in those days. In fact there were not many people who took movies at all apart from the professionals for film or business.       

So move on fifty years or so and suddenly on Facebook a photograph appeared with a pair of legs sticking up from the bottom of the frame and it was posted by Tony Haywood, who posts a lot of stuff on Facebook and he put on the caption ‘I wonder if this is Harold Cosgrove?’. 

He was actually taking a picture of the guy who had just passed me, Martin Carny and as he snapped the photograph I crashed right at his feet, he was on the wall on the left hand side of the Gooseneck and both my feet are sticking up in the bottom of the picture. I saw the comment on the post and got in touch with him. 

I did not know Tony but I am in touch with him now. I said to him that it had to be me as I was the only one to crash, in 1969 at the Gooseneck in the 125cc race. So now I have a visual indication, even If I can not see my face. 

"If we move on another six months, another guy Alistair Cooper, who is a Facebook member created a post of a movie in his dad's collection. His father Guy Cooper had been taking movies at the Gooseneck in 1969 and he posted a number of clips of riders coming through the Gooseneck in various races and one of those clips is a movie of my crash and so there is another coincidence of things happening years and years later and of thing appearing on Facebook. So now I have not only a photograph but a video of the actual crash. 

This is a list of the riders in the video:

The 1969 Isle of Man Ultra-Lightweight 125cc Race (in order of appearance) 1 – Dave Simmonds, 4 – Tommy Robb, 2 – Kel Carruthers, 28 – J Ringwood, 26 – Martin Carney, 48 – Harold Cosgrove (Rider who has the Spill), 27 – Jim Pearson, 58 – C Garner, 41 - Barrie Dickinson and 54 – R Ware  

The last anecdote Harold relayed to me involves Scotland and Steve Hislop. 

"So that video was very  interesting" said Harold "but to continue to another coincidence that happened to us, Mary and me, and again connected with the Island: it was sometime in the 1980s, could have been in the early 90. When we had finished the racing on the Island, we stayed with friends in Manchester and in fact stayed with them every year." 

On this particular year we were with Brian and Elsie, our friends and Brian said that they fancied going away for a few days as I have some time off work and he said “would you like to come with us?” I replied “Sure where are we going?” they had not decided where they wanted to go and so Brian came up with a copy of the Manchester Evening News and we looked at their holiday lets. Brian pointed the an Ad, and said this one is in Hawick, Scotland. He said do you fancy going there, 

I said I didn’t mind anywhere for a couple of days. Anyway we phoned up and they did have a vacancy so we booked in to leave the next day. Morning arrived and we jumped into Brian’s car, Brian Elsie, Mary and me to go to Scotland. When we got to Hawick we stopped and asked someone for directions to find this place and the guy we spoke to said that the address is way outside the city and in the countryside.

He gave us instructions on how to get there and when we arrived it was an old mansion that had been converted into a hotel a beautiful place. So we settled in there and everything was great and I said to Mary that I still had one roll of film left that I had not processed, I nearly always got my stills processed in the Isle of Man before we left. For some reason I had not done it this year. Brian was a motorcycle enthusiast and I thought that if I get them done I can show them to him before we go back. 

I went down to the Hotel desk to ask if there was somewhere in Hawick I could go to get the film process and he said “Don’t bother going to the town, you can go a short distance into the next village call Denham and on the far side of that there is a little corner shop and if you take them in there they will have them done by the next day”. So we took them into the shop and they said we could collect the next day.

The next morning we drove to Denham and go into the shop and pick up my photographs, I can’t wait to look at them and so while I am standing there near the counter I open the envelope and pull them out and the lady behind the counter looking over said “Oh motorbike pictures”, I said “yes we have just come back from the Isle of Man where we have been racing” and she said “Do you know Steve Hislop?”

Well, I said “yes I do know the name and I know of Steve Hislop definitely”. “She said that he lived just round the corner, then there was a pause and she said ” “Why don’t you go and knock on his door, I am sure he would be pleased to see you, I know he is home as he was in the shop less than half an hour ago.

"So around the corner we go, knocked on the door and Steve comes to the door and he invited us in and we spent the next half hour talking to him there. He had the Senior Trophy and other trophies standing on the living room floor. So that was another great crazy coincidence".

Editor: Motorcycle racer Steve Hislop enjoyed eleven victories in the Isle of Man TT race between 1984 and 1994. Hislop was born into a close, Scottish Borders family. He grew up in the village of Chesters near the town of Hawick with his father Sandy, mother Margaret and younger brother Garry [his best friend]. Hizzy won at the Isle of Man TT eleven times, won the British 250cc Championship (1990) and British Superbike championship (1995 and 2002). The Scot died in a helicopter crash in 2004 near Teviothead in the Scottish Borders, the part of the world where he had his upbringing. His Isle of man racing record and that he lived in Onchan in the latter part of his life, is how a statue came to be erected to his memory on the Isle of Man and in Hawick, Scotland too.

 Stevie Hislop

Commemorative Plaque at Onchan

Statue at Onchan 

Statue in Scotland


Some of my 'Other Racing' in the UK 

Racing in 1960

Currently I have limited information on the 1960 races but that may come from readers at a later date. Going from the sublime in 1953 and the larger engine sizes of the Manx G. P., we come to the far from ridiculous in a racing  machine, which started life as a moped.  

The diminutive 50 c.c. Dot Vivi was owned by Harold and he had it converted by a local motorcycle engineer (Bert Foster, of Newton Heath, Manchester), and although  the machine was only raced once during 1961 at Silverstone, it reached a top  speed of 65 m.p.h. and was placed half way in a field of 40 riders.  

During this coming season Harold  hopes that with a new frame, built by Bert Foster and very similar to the one to be used for the DOT, the addition  of a dolphin fairing, a five speed gear-box, coil ignition and some refined  tuning of the engine, this converted  moped will attain 75 m.p.h.



Racing in 1961

Harold continues our conversation, "One of the meetings I attended in 1961 was at a small circuit in Wales, Rhydymwyn. It is a village in Flintshire, located in the upper Alyn valley, a beautiful part of the country. . I have a cutting of the meeting and also from memory I remember it was “triers day” on the Saturday and it was a Wirral 100 Club's organised road race meeting". 

Although the  record entry included no rider of outstanding national merit, there were no less than 132 solos from all over the country, 15 sidecars, nine 50cc and one lady rider (Margo Pearson) all trying their paces on this  grand little half-mile twisting  circuit, giving of their best in  an afternoon of fine sport.  

The 50 cc was quite an innovation for Rhydymwyn. The  last time such a 50cc class was run  was in 1956 as an experiment which ended in a bit of a laugh.  In last Saturdays event of ten runners, two failed to fire and with mechanical problems there were three finishers only, with H. Cosgrove (DOT-Vivi)  leading B. Wells, (Atala) and D. F, Carter (Fruin) all the way in 7 minutes, 37 seconds and 300  yards distance between each  finisher.

Harold's comment: "That was the only race I won outright, and I got a cup for it. It is also the only race where I was far enough ahead to throw it down the road, get back on again and still be first over the line!!!

The 1961 Snetterton Enduro

Sunday 2nd May 1961. This is Harold Cosgrove with his Victoria/ DOT 50cc race bike at the Snetterton Enduro, with his co-rider Dave Clarke. Harold had a mid-Field Start and with a good pit crew, consisting of Mary (his wife), Bert Foster and a couple of other friends. 

The little bike ran well with Harold and Dave taking 45 minute slots for rest and re-fuelling. and and finished the Enduro, even managing the inclines of the circuit with its limited 2 gears, that gave problems to some of the other bikes with three gears.

8th August 1961 and the Hutchinson 100 at Silverstone

The 'Regs' arrived for the meeting and I really wanted to ride at Silverstone, duly filled in and posted. Now the wait to see if I will be accepted. A Few weeks later and I received my documents for the meeting. Oh! I had been put in as a reserve. Never mind, reserves often get a ride and so into the preparation. 

50cc Race Entrants List

Harold is No. 45 heading away from the line on the DOT-Vivi at the Silverstone 50cc meeting

125cc Race Entrants List

Racing in 1962

On Good Friday, 20th April 1962. Harold rode at the Prees Heath meeting in the 50cc and 125cc classes. He rode the Dot-Vivi in the 50cc race and a BSA Bantam in the 125 race. He was mid field in the 125cc but gained a third place in the 50cc.

The Prees Heath Meeting

Prees Heath Circuit 1.125 miles

Harold in the Entrants List

The 125 Heats

The 50cc Heat

Friday 8th June 1962 - The 1962 Isle of Man Ultra Lightweight 50cc TT.

When chatting about the accommodation for the T.T. and places to work on the bike, Harold offered this: "Well, if you are going to the Isle of Man to race motorcycles, you need a place to stay and somewhere for the bike. Many bed and breakfast houses cater for the people but not all for the bikes". When Harold Cosgrove went over to race in the first 50cc class of the T.T. he was lucky to enough to fall upon the benevolence of Olive Hickey of 24 Victoria Rd, The Braeside Hotel. According to Harold "she was the best Manx landlady we, Mary and I ever had". "This was our Isle of Man home for over 30 years until Olive passed away in 1993". In the early 1960's just a Quid a day each for bed breakfast and evening meal plus snacks when needed. Those were the days"!! 

Olive Hickey

A sign of Quality

Mary sunning at Brae Side

Harold's Itom

Still being used into the next centaury

This was the first time the 50cc class had been included in the program of events and throughout the week of practice one of the nicest things that seems self-engendered was the comradery and light hearted fun in the Wasp's camp. There was always a feeling of belonging and an attitude of being there for each other that existed among the riders, this was not so evident in the other classes.   Picture: Harold and Mary's two greatest friends Bryan & Elsie Hulse getting the bike ready for his first TT ride in the first 1962 TT.

 Having fun in the Paddock "can't seen to get a drink anywhere these day" 


A statement after the race by a media journalist: The 'Wasps' are new to the island: so are most of the competitors. But if the race lives up to the practice promise, they'll be back, and the experience gained will produce even more interesting machines next year Racing Does Improve the Breed.

This was Harold's first TT and Harold changed his machine from the DOT Vivi to an Itom. “The Itom will be in perfect standard racing trim except for the fitting of a four-speed gearbox --- if one arrives from Italy in time" said Harold when asked about the tuning of the bike.  "I will be riding against Dave Simmonds on a Tohatsu, Howard German on the Sheene Special ITOM and Charlie Mates (on a Dick Chalaye tuned ITOM) to name a few". 


Harold (40) on the Mass Start line for the Isle of Man 1962 50cc TT. (Harold is down behind the Itom making adjustments, The spanner man on the bike is Brian Hulse, a great friend of Harold's.
32. J W Waller               Itom
31. C C Mates                 Itom
36. H L Fruin                Fruin Dartela
40. H Cosgrove            Itom
35. D P Clarke               DOT Vivi
42. S G W Lawley        Itom
44. M J Simmonds     Tohatsu


Number 35 Dave Clarke is riding Harold's much modified DOT machine (picture left) which began life as a Dot-Vivi moped that Trevor Burgess (another road racer) used to ride. 

Generally this bike has a reliable engine which burst into full song as soon as it is paddled off, and has proved utterly reliable since it was converted to a racer. The frame was built by Bert Foster and is very similar to the one to be used for the Dot Vivi race bike. A journalist who track tested it thought it was a grand little job and thought that the new Dot racers, similar to Harold's would be too.

"The race was gruelling, thrilling and I felt really good after finishing in 19th place at a time of 1hr 27min 50.4secs and an average speed of 51.55mph" said Harold when I asked him "How tough did you find the circuit". It was perhaps the greatest test of Harold's riding skills and level of endurance that he had experienced. This was a comment in the AVRO internal news letter after the race.

Also, Harold mentioned that great praise should go to the Marshals both mounted and pedestrian who cover the circuit, police the racing and control the crowds (yes there are police constables on duty to cover any civilian problems) but the racing is in their job remit. Without them we would have no racing.   

A comment from 'Jeep'  The Isle of Man TT Marshals’ Association Limited (IOMTTMA) is supported by twelve Chief Sector Marshals, more than 100 Deputy Sector Marshals and over one thousand dedicated individuals who all volunteer their time to ensure racing can take place around the TT course for each and every event.  The Directors extend their grateful thanks to each and every one of them for their help. If you want to be considered for a marshal position please click and go to the web page. https://www.iomttmarshals.com/

Oulton Park 6th August 1962


A race over 6 laps (16| miles), open to Solo motorcycles having engines up to 50 c.c.  


As you read from above Harold had decided that the DOT-Vivi was not competitive enough to move him up the 50cc ladder and so decided to move to an Itom as his mount. This meeting was the next one on his calendar and the Itom was fettled and ready to go.

Harold drew centre front row on the grid and although the 50cc TT was the first time he had ridden the Itom in anger, he was looking forward to a good race. Harold came in mid field and believes it was 11th place. A wonderful experience. Hugh Anderson won the race on his works Suzuki with Dave Simmonds second on his Itom and Charlie Mates third on the Itom

The only sad and unfortunate aspect of the day was that Bob McIntyre was very seriously injured in an accident on the circuit. After starting in wet conditions, he managed to fight his way to 2nd place, He had been trying to catch the race leader Derek Minter in the 500cc event. According to his engine specialist Pim Fleming, “At Clay Hill corner, the bike went straight into the bank with Bob still on it. The front wheel went into a hole, catapulting Bob into a tree.” Mac died nine days later in hospital, his condition having steadily deteriorated. RIP Bob.


The '50s' at Oulton Park (This video is for the German speaking population. Thanks to Dieter Rink) 

The '50s' at Oulton Park (This copy is with Music sound only. Thanks to Harold Cosgrove)

The following pictures are of a poor quality having been taken from the cine film of the Oulton Park meeting when converting to video.

No.5 Harold Cosgrove to the Assembly Area-With his wife Mary

No.5 Harold Cosgrove's Itom

No.5 Harold Cosgrove's Itom-Engine

No.5 Harold Cosgrove Itom-Oil Breather

Harold Cosgrove Itom-Gearchange and Chain

Mary Cosgrove Black outfit - Harold's Itom

 Harold Cosgrove - Itom Behind the Screen

Harold Cosgrove Itom

Rene and Charlie Mates with the Itom

Charlie Mates - Itom

Charlie Mates - How low can you go!

J D Lawley Itom

Oulton Park Dave Simmonds - Itom

Dave Simmonds next to Jim Pink

Hugh Anderson No9 Oulton park

Hugh Anderson waiting to go Suzuki 50

Anderson into the corner

How does he keep beating me?  The Suzuki 50

Hugh Anderson Flat behind the Screen

Jim Pink Oulton Park

Jim Pink No4 Oulton Park

Roy Bacon on BITS. This Itom engined bike had Girder Forks

Brian Braders Itom with main bearing oiler

Brian Brader No2 Oulton park

Racing in 1963

No racing visits to the island in ’63 and ’64, but Harold’s name was to be found in the race programme for the 1965 event. 

Racing in 1965

Harold's comments for  the races “I entered The Ultra Lightweight 125cc event on a Bultaco but as the bike was not forthcoming I had to change the machine to Bert Foster's 125cc Honda. Unfortunately, I was hospitalised with a kidney stone during practice week and failed to qualify.”

Racing in 1966

The TT Meeting for 1966 had to be rearranged because of the National Seamans Strike, sadly Harold was not able to make the new August start date and missed the whole of the T.T. Festival. 

Racing in 1967

In 1967 I entered the 50cc class on an Itom finishing 12th.

From 1967 to 1973 I also raced in the 125cc Ultra-lightweight class on Honda, Yamaha and Maico machines; reliability dictated that I would only gain one Finishers Award in these three years”. 

This was also the first year I entered for the 125cc Ultra-Lightweight class on a 125cc Honda. The first pair in the race pushed off the line at 11.00 hrs and the a wait until 11. 03 40hrs. when Harold, who was riding the Foster Honda, started pushing along side Don Ryder. Don was also a competitor in the 50cc race riding a Derbi.

From this year to 1973 I also raced in the 125cc Ultra-lightweight class on Honda, Yamaha and Maico machines; reliability dictated that I would only gain one Finishers Award in these three years – coming home in 25th position in 1970”. 

1967 Rider Listing for the 50cc Race

The 1967 50cc Mass Start

A close-up off the line

Harold on the Itom at Quarter Bridge

 Don Ryder - Derbi

Harold Cosgrove 1967 Itom-Governors Bridge

The Opening Parade Canada 

1967 125cc Rider Listing

1967 125cc Rider Listing- Continued

1967 125cc Rider DNF Listing

Racing in 1968

IN glorious sunshine, tempered by a cooling westerly breeze, the 33 starters line  up for what could well be the last 50cc T.T. For although, at 39, entries are 11 more  than last year’s, showing an increased interest by riders, the quality is  down.  

The race began with a mass start and Harold commented "as I push off I was in the middle of the pack and the 'thing', my Foster Kreidler, would not fire up properly and kept hunting, I thought it was the plug but I decide not to stop and to keep on pushing/ paddling. I paddled on and on for what seemed an eternity, I think I was near St Ninian's Church before the thing picked up and as I got onto Bray Hill I thought I might have to pull in. As we started down Bray Hill she cleared and I was away.

The commentator of the day, Murray Walker, said later "We now have an official report of weather condition. We are told they are perfect, fine and sunny with temperatures in the mid-70's. But there is a possibility of tar showing as the morning goes on". Harold Cosgrove, who made a slow start, stopped at Union Mills to make adjustments and has gone on". 

Harold came 12th in the race on the Foster Kreidler at a speed of 53.29mph and a time of 2hrs 7min 28secs.

Harold was riding No.46, the Foster Honda in the 125cc race but did not finish. (No photograph of this bike)


Paddling of the Start Harold Highlighted

Harold- Down Bray Hill

Harold Second lap 50cc Kreidler

Harold on the 50cc Foster Kreidler

Finishers Listing 50cc T.T.

Racing in 1969

Harold on the AS1 125cc based Foster Yamaha

Ahead of the legs is Martin Carney on the 125cc Shepherd

Martin Carney: (July 2, 1946) Competed in  Motorcycle GPs from 1965 to 1971. His best result was a podium in the 1970 500cc East German Grand Prix. He was a test mechanic for technology services in motorcycling

Racing in 1970

Coming home in 25th position in 1970

Racing in 1971

Racing in 1972

Racing in 1973

This was the last time Harold raced in the Isle of Man and on any other circuit in Great Britain. If more information arrives on the Editors desk it will be added to the page. If you have anything that might add to this motorcycle biography of Harold Cosgrove, please send it in. -- Thank You.

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