Memories of Portrush

The Ballad of the North West 200

Come all ye brave bikers and listen to me
A legend I have for to tell
‘Bout Norton and Matchless, Gilera, MV
And men like our own Artie Bell.

The North West began in the year twenty-nine
(One thousand nine hundred that be),
And the course? Well it took in three neat little towns
And a beautiful stretch by the sea.

Magher’buoy was the start in those earliest days
With a straight run to old Metropole
Then a left up to Church and a right to Black Hill –
A bend which can still take its toll.

Past Juniper, Primrose then past York Hotel,
‘Round Henry’s and up to Town Hall,
Mill Road, Agherton, Drumslade and Millburn
Then right/left at Shell Hill’s stone wall.

Ballysally townland now well left behind
Mather’s Cross was a fast sweeping right,
Then a left just above the Carnalridge school
And once more Magh’rabuoy is in sight.

On the Triangle’s roads, the beach at Benone,
One man cut a figure of fame.
He rode Wall of Death while we all held our breath
And George Brockerton was his name.

In a green hut of wood two schoolboys oft’ stood
Equipped with black Bakelite phone.
They’d call up HQ when riders came through:
“Juniper: Bell’s out on his own!”

Norton’s “Kneeler” appeared in the year fifty-three,
Its rider the brave Raymond Amm
Who set fastest lap but had a mishap
Despite double overhead cam.

The era of fierce, red Gileras then came,
Four cylinders spread ‘cross the frame.
With Geoff Duke and Reg Armstrong a-scream round the course,
But Norton the red beasts could tame.

This wasn’t to last I’m so sorry to say
For the singles just had to give way
And soon did the four strokes when “two-smokers” arrived.
This sure didn’t brighten my day.

Many features, of course, have changed o’er the years –
Start and Finish now on the coast road, ….
Chicanery, we feel, has become the new deal
Justified by today’s safety code.

Those were the days, remembered so well,
But the story is far from complete.
An author is needed – a poet indeed.
Until then we will just have to wait.

“Ah, a blattering four-stroke single could set senses all a-tingle
And the fragrant Castrol R hung in the air.
That’s all we bikers need – sights and sounds and smells and – speed
And I’m very pleased to say that – I was there!” 

By John Logan (March 2016)

NW200 - Ian Hutchinson leads round Metropole Corner
NW200 - Superbikes race round Primrose Corner
North West 200 Circuit