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book recalls a golden era of motorcycling

Back in the 1920s the roads were empty, there were more motorcyclists than car drivers, records were being broken every month at the Brooklands race track in Surrey, and motorbikes constantly broke down.

Arthur Bourne, who used the pseudonym “Torrens” for readers of the best-selling weekly The Motor Cycle, was in the thick of the game. He had the good luck to be engineer to the Auto-Cycle Union and the then, not yet 26, editor of a famous motorcycling journal.

Now Bourne’s son, Richard, has edited an account of Arthur’s story … a tail of what it was like to ride hundreds of miles round Britain on reliability trials – essential for manufacturers to claim that their bikes were worth buying – and how Arthur provided weekly guidance for thousands of youngsters on two wheels. The book tells of Brooklands, and of TT races on the Isle of Man; of Arthur’s encouragement to young engineers such as Edward Turner and Phil Vincent; and of how, in the Second World War, Torrens enabled the airborne forces at Arnhem to be equipped with lightweight motorcycles that could be dropped by parachute or flown in by glider.

According to the book’s publisher, for anyone interested in motorbikes and the people who rode them, when British manufacturing was at its apogee, this is a unique testimony. Motorcycles were fashionable. The Duke of York, later to be George VI, and his wife Elizabeth, later known as Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, were among the enthusiasts. It was an exciting era, recalled by Torrens near the end of his life in a good journalist’s prose.

Behind the Scenes in the Vintage Years is a unique and fascinating record of an unrepeatable era in British motorcycling and engineering history. It contains many black and white pictures which bring this area of the past to life.

Richard Bourne, is the eldest son of Torrens/Arthur Bourne and editor of his father’s memoir, was a journalist for 20 years and, after working for The Guardian, was later deputy editor and London columnist for the London Evening Standard. From 1982-89 he was deputy director of the former Commonwealth Institute, Kensington, and then held a succession of posts connected with the Commonwealth. He was awarded the OBE in 2002. He sits on the Torrens Awards Committee for the Royal Automobile Club, of which he has been a life member since 1962. He has written or edited 10 books, the latest being his Nigeria – a new history of a turbulent century, 2015.

Behind the Scenes in the Vintage Years Memoir of Torrens is available from

RRP: £24.99, Paperback, ISBN: 9781785898525, 336pp


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