1909 - The Very Beginning
The first event normally recognised as the forerunner of the SSDT was the 1909 Scottish Five Days’ Open Reliability Trial. At the time it was universally felt to be the most severe trial of motorcycle reliability ever held. It comprised of a tour of five days duration on roads of varying surfaces and stringent gradients. The competitors vehicles would be examined for roadworthiness on two occasions each day, once during the morning run and the other in the afternoon, as well as further checks at meal breaks. The event was run in July.
Thirty-one entries were received, of which six did not manage to reach the Start at Murrayfield car terminus in Edinburgh.
The routes for the very first Scottish were:
First Day - 186.5 miles
Stirling, Crieff, Sma’ Glen, Amulree Hill, Aberfeldy, Pitlochry, Newtonmore and Carrbridge to Inverness.
Second Day - 177 miles
Inverness, Dingwall, Tain, Bonar Bridge, Evelix, Mound, Brora, Berriedale, Wick, John o Groats and Thurso.
Third Day - 141 miles
Thurso, Bettyhill, Lairg, Bonar Bridge, Alness, Dingwall and Inverness.
Fourth Day - 105 miles
Inverness, Nairn, Forres, Elgin, Huntly and Aberdeen.
Fifth Day - 149 miles
Aberdeen, Laurencekirk, Brechin, Perth, Stirling, Murrayfield car terminus.
The finishers were:
H H Salvesen, (3.5hp Triumph)
S J K Thomson, (3.5hp 1907 Triumph)
Both these competitors secured full marks.
G L Fletcher (2.75 Douglas)
C McGregor (5 hp 1909 TT Matchless)
R S Morrison (4 hp twin Werner)
J M Dobson (5 hp 1908 Vindec)
M Pratt (3.5 hp 1908 Brown)
G Wilson (3.5 hp 1908 Triumph)
D H Gainsford (3 hp Advance)
A Downie (3.5 hp 1909 Ariel)
W Niven (5-6 hp 1909 four cylinder FN)
W W Douglas (2.75 hp Douglas)
A Pearson (3.5 hp 1908 Triumph)
A H Hay (3.5 hp 1909 Rex)
A G Bostock (1909 TT Triumph)
G Muirhead (4 hp Matchless/JAP)
Also finishing the trial but outside the scheduled time were:
G Alexander (3 hp Midget Bicar)
B P McRae (3.5 hp 1908 Triumph)
J P Donaldson (3.5 hp Matchless/JAP)
The remaining six competitors retired at various points around the week.
NB: The Official Car (Gordon Gibson’s 8 hp Humber) also completed the whole week
Note also that in those days there was not a universally agreed method of attributing the size of an engine. As a very rough guide it is usual to allow 100cc of swept volume to equate to 1 hp, thus a 3.5 hp Matchless would today more likely be noted as a 350cc Matchless.
Information compiled and provided by Deryk Wylde.