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HomeNEWSCharlie Harris – a talented friend

Charlie Harris – a talented friend

It was with a heavy heart that I learned of the recent death of Charlie Harris from pneumonia after a short spell in hospital; he was 78. As he was affectionately known, CH was one of my longest surviving two-wheel chums, for it was at a muddy trial near Guildford during winter 1960 that I first encountered this talented Greeves-mounted 16-year-old, who was riding for the Reigate Redhill and North Downs Club. I’d been competing for six years by then, and I noticed this young nipper because he pipped me for a particular award I coveted that day!

When I spoke with his father, Harry, who was helping the youngster, I was delighted to discover he was a fellow car racing enthusiast. We spent ten minutes talking about Brooklands, Rob Walker, and Stirling Moss, whilst Charlie listened politely, before reminding his father that he had to ride his bike to London early next morning [he was working at the Evening Standard], and that his commuter transport was still covered in mud!

Local dealer Don Barratt was quick to spot the Harris prowess, and I know that Charlie was eternally grateful for Don’s help in his early days. That memorable first meeting was often repeated when CH began riding in scrambles a few months later.

Astride a 250 Greeves he swiftly became healthy opposition, leading to many enjoyable battles … not necessarily for the lead, of course, but whichever of us came out ahead secured a slightly thicker ‘brown envelope’ from the treasurer of the club involved.

Fast forward to my time flogging Triumphs and Nortons, circa 1970, by when CH was an energetic figure in the motorcycle advertising world, despite at one point having done a stint with Antique Dealer & Collector Guide. Our paths frequently crossed at shows and product launches; we would talk shop, and I recall asking Charlie for the latest news concerning Bunch Books or Emap, or who he was working for: Keith McGee, or Andy Foulkes, or Mark Williams, or Peter Strong. CH always knew the score, for the personnel under discussion were inevitably either his contemporary colleagues, or had been. Over the same period in the sporting world CH had by now earned himself a place in the Montesa factory trials team, a relationship that continued through the 1980s.

CH was consistently modest concerning his competition achievements; for years I tried to elicit a list of his major results, but he always changed the subject. At his peak he won countless prestigious events, including the Southern Experts and National Cotswold Trials, heading Sammy Miller in the process! He rode the Scottish Six Days, too, commendably winning several Special First-Class Awards, as well as competing in enduros and the Circuit de Pyrenees, in south-west France, near where he had bought a house. His love of France was confirmed when, aged sixty-five, he joined with Gordon Adsett to ride in a series of French MX classic events, a partnership that endured until 2018, whereupon CH suffered a sufficiently serious injury to curtail his half-century riding career.

Charlie appreciated a different sort of day out. Over the past 20 years I managed to involve him with a handful of fringe events which weren’t perhaps on his planned itinerary; these included the Goodwood Revival Scramble, a handful of high-end concours gatherings hosted by Louis Vuitton and Salon Prive; the Race Retro Show, the classic auction scene, and the Perce Simon Reunion in the New Forest, at each of which his eager participation was a joy to behold.

I feel sure that a great many kindred spirits will agree that our dear friend’s sad passing creates yet another vacuum in the two-wheel community.

Mike Jackson, Romsey, Hampshire

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