BSA’s A10 ‘Golden Flash’ … anything but

March 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

When I was  kid growing up in Lockerbie there were a few guys trying desperately to be bikers. One of them even tried to create the aura of a local Peter Fonda as Captain America, only Captain Dryfesdale and Annandale didn’t quite have the same ring, especially when the bike which said Commander in Chief sat astride was nothing better than a horrible, chopped (badly) 350 Triumph twin which spewed oil everywhere it was thrashed. Another, though, was the Real McCoy and is still to be found in the town, over 40 years later, on a beast of a black Harley which has been well tweaked, but hides its abilities beneath a facade of grimy indifference that the owner, a mechanic to trade all his life, has carefully nurtured over the years. I last saw this guy outside the pristine Harley dealership in Glasgow a couple of years ago where his aura had all the trendy Harley owners, out for a quick latte and a look at the overpriced kit, in something of a froth. For here was the dude they all wanted to be when the weekend came and the ledgers and legal briefs were all safely left behind in the office. Clad in ancient black leathers that had lasted a lifetime, he emitted a ‘no go’ zone into which city slickers ventured at their peril. That was my cue. I walked towards him past the bewildered pastry munchers as the coffee cups began to rattle nervously. After a moment’s incredulity when I told him who I was (the ‘son of my father’ routine usually works when you recognise someone from your hometown after decades of being away) we were soon chatting about life back in the town and bikes, of course. When it was time to go, we shook hands and he put on a bravura performance as he took off with the racket from the Harley stripping away any pretensions that were left from the bystanders outside the shop. You could almost sense the longing … ‘Who was that guy?’ they were all thinking. It would have been no use telling them. None of them would ever make the grade.

That’s the thing about bikes. On the one hand they simply offer you an alternative to a car, but on the other they offer you an alternative life, but only if you go all the way. Few do and buying back into an overpriced American brand when you have hit 45 won’t make you a biker either, but that won’t stop you doing it. And the manufacturers know that …

Once bikes really were only bought as alternatives to cars back in the 50s and 60s. It was then that BSA moved into twin-cylinder models after the perfunctory singles like my hedgerow-busting B31 and then the clever marketing men decided to give them names as well as model numbers. And so the era of the DBD34 Gold Star, the A7 Shooting Star and the A10 Rocket Gold Star was born … oh, and the A10 Golden Flash. Yup, you’ve guessed it, that’s the one I bought … and I bought it from another of Lockerbie’s bikers, although this guy did not fit the mould I have previously described. Oh no … our story begins much earlier, when I was but a wee lad not yet 10 years old.

‘Do you fancy goin’ tae see Davy’s daggers?’ Andrew asked me. ‘Daggers? You mean knives?, I said.

‘Aye, real knives. They say he’s got loads.’

‘Aye, OK.’ And off we sauntered down one of Lockerbie’s better streets and knocked on the back door of one of Lockerbie’s better houses. We knew fine well where we were going and who we were going to see, it’s just that we were bored stupid and this jaunt seemed as good as going to gawp at the bypass that was being constructed around the town at the time. Davy’s mum answered. Andy did the talking.

‘Is Davy in? We’ve come to see his knives.’

‘Oh right, I’ll just go and get him. Come in boys, come in.’ We found ourselves standing in what appeared to be the rear store of a shoe shop.

Davy duly appeared. He looked 16 or thereabouts and there was something about him facially that reminded me of a large dormouse. ‘Hi. Right which ones first? There’s pocket knives, dirks, Swiss Army, flick knives, Davy Crocketts, double siders and a machete I think.’

Stunned, I remained silent. ‘Em, can we just see the pocket knives please Davy,’ Andy ventured.

‘Oh … right … just the pocket knives then. Right, let’s see … up here I think,’ and he proceeded to bring down from a high shelf one of the shoe boxes  and opened it. Inside there must have been two dozen pristine pocket knives of all shapes and sizes. I was in awe, in the improper sense of the word. Andy was similarly struck.

I whispered in his ear, ‘Let’s get the hell out of here.’

‘Gosh, they’re really great Davy. Thanks … we’ve got to go now,’ Andy said.

‘Really? What a pity. Well, do come again.’

We walked slowly away from the house, turned onto the street and fled.

Seven years later, soon after the B31 episode, I found myself standing in front of Davy again. He did not recognise me and if his garage was anything to go by, it appeared that he had swapped knives for motorbikes. Thank God. At any rate, I decided not to mention my previous visit to his parent’s house.

I was there because I had answered an advert in the local paper and was now looking at his BSA A10 Golden Flash. And it wasn’t golden and it wasn’t flash. It was another big, black, greasy BSA with some chrome panels on the tank to lighten the unremitting gloom of what it was supposed to represent to the aspirational bike buyer in 1959 when it was built. But it was a big bastard that sounded good, and that was good enough for me. I stayed focused and did the deal. £130 if I remember rightly. I was well pleased and although the bike proved typically British over the next couple of years (the clutch was always breaking) it took me and my mate Spock (don’t ask) around Scotland during the trades holiday in 1973 although we only got as far as Fort William before the clutch gave out again. The International Six Day Trials was on at the time so I asked around some of the mechanics for parts, but the era of the British motorcycle in this event was gone and now Spanish 2-strokes like Montesa and Bultaco were the norm. So we patched it up and headed back to Edinburgh and picked up a new clutch casing and plates at West Port Motorcycles. Some trip.

The 'Golden Flash' somewhere in Perthshire, July 1973. Before the clutch packed in again ...

But to be fair, the Beeza did take me to and from work all summer, up and down the bewitching Sibbaldbie to Lockerbie road, before I headed off to St Andrews to start my degree. Before I left I made a trip into Dumfries and was negotiating the notorious off-camber ‘Stoop’ corner which used to be the town limit on the Lockerbie side when I felt the front end break away at low speed. Down we went. I jumped up to check things over and noticed a bike coming towards me and as it slowed to a stop I clocked that it was a brand-new Honda CB750, the first of the new-era Japanese Superbikes whose clutches did not give up on Bank Holidays and whose oil remained forever inside the engine. I was in awe (proper awe this time). Then I saw who was sitting on this piece of futurama. It was none other than Davy. He recognised me immediately and I knew I was in for a hard time.

To his credit he helped me up with the bike, and we got the handlebars and footrest back in shape. Then I received a sermon on road conditions and riding ability before he started the Honda BY PRESSING A BUTTON and rode off into the town. I felt my right hand compressing around the hilt of something that was not there. Fortunately …


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