The Story of the 69 Motorcycle Club

It all started in the Summer of 69……

It was the first week in June 1969 and Dick Pascoe and his new wife Daphne had just returned from honeymoon. They were sitting with their best man, Mick Ray, and his girlfriend, Rosemary Mills, in the coffee bar in the Market Square discussing life and bikes over a cup of coffee.

News arrived that day that would change their lives ; a stranger had arrived in town and he rode a motorcycle! The Rev. Bill Shergold, the famous motorcycling vicar who had founded the 59 Club in London that was frequented by people such as Cliff Richard and the Shadows, had taken up residence in Dover at St. Andrews Church.

The news that Rev. Bill had arrived caused quite a stir – he was after all a biker that wore a ‘dog collar’ and someone we should meet. It didn’t take long for Dick and Mick to arrive at the vicarage to meet with this new Triumph owner and ask if he would start a new club in Dover called the “69 Club”. At that time Dick was riding a 3TA and Mick was on a 5TA, both Bathtub versions.

After several days of touring the local area pushing leaflets into the handlebars of bikes we had the very first meeting of the 69 motorcycle club, at the home of newly-weds Dick and Daphne . Present were those who were the founder members: Dick and Daphne Pascoe, Mick Ray, Rose Mills, Harold Brown, Eddy Edwards and Roy Sewell. At this meeting it was agreed that Father Bill Shergold (‘Farv`) would hold membership number one.

Early meetings took place at the café next to the Royal Oak pub at Capel le Ferne, near Dover. (It was here that the club members first met Jean Blankeart, the founder of the Steel Horse Rally when he spotted a bunch of bikes on his way back to the docks).

Dick is delighted that something he was heavily involved in initiating some 50 years ago is still going strong. He no longer rides but is now a life member of the club he founded.

A signed copy of Giles cartoon of 69 members leaving church sent to Farv by Giles. A service was held by Farv to bless the bikes and riders.

The Clubhouse

Dick had been involved with the local 365 Youth Club and its Social Services organiser Ken Miles. It was through him that we found a home. The stables (now demolished) at the Western Heights were empty and needed some care. Negotiations with Dover Council took place and were soon completed. We arrived en masse and quickly saw that they were perfect for our needs. A peppercorn rent was agreed (Dick seems to remember £1 per week) provided that the buildings were maintained.

The now fifty or so members soon got into the redecoration of our new HQ and when the water company wanted a hundred pounds or so to dig a trench to the building to connect a water supply we said no – we dig the trench – you connect the water. The same for the electricity supply – we did the work and they made the connections.

The grand opening saw the parking lot in front of the building packed with bikes with just a small slot remaining for the Mayor’s car. As he approached the front door, he was greeted by a young man in tatty bike leathers who said “Welcome to my club, can I show you around?” This polite young man had been labelled as a “problem” by the local constabulary but as a club member, had found his home. This what was Father Bill was all about; seeing the potential in people who didn’t fit.

The club progressed, installing a coffee bar, dance floor, bike storage, and a workshop with lots of tools. BUT unfortunately there was one thing missing from this wonderful clubhouse and that was beer. We did not want a licence and all the problems that go with it.

It took another year or so, but the stables closed and the club moved away to place that at least had beer,(but in Dick’s view had no club spirit) the Old Endeavour pub on London Road, Dover. Since then the club met for a time in the crypt at St. Andrews but has not had its own clubhouse again.

The Royal Oak, River
The Royal Oak, River

Membership of the club was at its highest in the 1970s when it was a very busy social club. In the 1980s and 90s though membership was lower in numbers it was made up for in miles travelled, as the club was very busy touring with many members attending the international D.I.Y. rallies all over Europe as well as rallies throughout the UK, often gaining attendance awards for numbers of club members visiting a rally. Members have moved away and returned, married each other, and we now have second generation 69 members rallying with their parents! When Dick stood down Dave Hawes, affectionately known as Flash, became the club’s Chairman. Those who could afford it also went to a number of continental rallies each year, with a core group attending the FIM rally, which visits a different nation each year. There was a deliberate drive to attract young riders into the club and put on runs which learners could join in with, cheap social events such as beach parties, and for experienced riders to take newcomers under their wing, often offering a pillion seat to further away destinations. Rounders matches and Treasure Hunts were held, some with a scooter club in Margate (as at the time the press sought to renew 60s antagonisms), and great fun was had with our join act of unity on two wheels. Fireworks were let off each year from beer crates set in the river behind the pub (someone had to don the waders each year to let them off). In latter years (then) member John Faiers gave the use of his paddock. Following Flash, Barry Miller, then Clive Luckett and David Bartholemew have been chairs of the club.

The Old Endeavour pub changed considerably over the years, with many different landlords and nearly as many refits by the brewery. Our Landlords at The Royal Oak were temporary landlords at ‘The E’, so when lack of parking and a very smoky meeting room finally became too annoying, the club moved to join them at their new venture in River.

Leaving an eighties rally
Lenny King , Charlie Ford and Dick Green:
Tug of war team 69

69MCC Rallies

Early White Cliffs Rallies were held near the Western Heights Clubhouse then at The Danes Recreation Ground. Young and new members earned the respect of older club members by working hard at the rally – everyone was expected to do their bit as the hosts. The fun was to be had when you went to other clubs’ events.

In more recent years the rally has been held at Tilmanstone Sports and Welfare Club, near Dover which has a field for camping, and the club as been fortunate enough to have had Dave Bartholemew as our rally chef – aided by his family. Live music and a Disco have become part of the event with changing tastes in rally activities. The silly games remain!

The Charity Fund

During the 1980s there was a well publicised appeal for monies to be raised for children’s wheelchairs. The club decided to help and began fund-raising, however, once we had a sum of money, we found it impossible to find a reputable body to receive it for the purpose for which it was raised. A youngster with mobility problems, however, needed a hand powered trike, so we bought that instead – but no-one wanted to stop fund raising – we’d had such fun. The annual charity give-away was born. The committee soon set up a separate charity fund with its own rules and trustees. Since then we have marshalled public events, had heads shaved, sold excess bike gear and held many more events.

Our President passes away

At 2am on 17th May 2009 Father Bill Shergold passed peacefully away after a long illness at the nursing home in which he was a resident in Wells. “Farv” had remained interested in the club’s affairs up until his last days, having just sent us a card with good wishes for the forthcoming 40th Anniversary church service and celebration. Those who knew him well will miss his wry humour and deep understanding of and empathy for people from all walks of life. In addition to his achievements in the motorcycling world, Farv was involved with helping the Terrance Higgins Trust whilst in London on his first attempt to “retire”. He famously donated the jeans he modelled for a famous manufacturer during this time to the homeless, as he thought they had more need than him of them. He will be much missed.

The Rev William Shergold opened up the 59 Club to rockers in the East End of London, where it became a famous venue for bikers during the 1960s.
In its heyday it was claimed to be the largest motorcycle club in the world with more than 20,000 members.
Ordained in Poplar, east London, in 1942 during the Blitz, Father Bill, as he was known to everyone, rode motorcycles around his parish as a cheap and efficient mode of transport. The 59 Club was set up at the Eton Mission youth club based at Hackney Wick as a church-run youth club but under his auspices it turned into a refuge for bikers to share their passion.