Lot 505: 1947 Norton 490cc International Model 30
Lancashire comedian George Formby OBE, who died in 1961, is still a legend. During a career spanning 40 years, he made 22 hit films, cut hundreds of records and progressed successfully from music hall to theatre, from theatre to screen and from screen to television. From 1938 to 1944 he was Britain�s biggest star at the box office. Among the films he made was No Limit, a spoof on the 1935 TT races (shown for years after his death during TT week on the Isle of Man), and one of his most successful songs - sung to the accompaniment of his ukelele - was Riding in the TT Races.
George was, in fact, an enthusiastic biker, and between 1946 and 1951 alone he owned examples of Scott, Matchless G3LC, James Captain, Royal Enfield Model G and Vincent Rapide Series-C, all supplied by Kings of Oxford�s Manchester branch. After George and his wife Beryl had been to the Norton factory in Bracebridge Street to take part in the lunchtime radio show Worker�s Playtime, he was presented with the 1947 Norton International now offered here. That too had been supplied by Kings� Manchester branch, although George had actually owned it for some weeks!
The ex-Formby International was purchased by the current owner at Brooks� Sale at the International Classic Bike Show, Stafford on 28th April 1996 (Lot 440) and for the past 12 years has been on display at the National Motorcycle Museum. At that time (1996) the machine was owned by Alan Whitehead, the Show�s organiser. Meticulously researched, it came with its original old log book signed by George Formby of �Beryldene� (named after his wife) in Mere, Cheshire; the photograph showing George and Beryl �taking delivery� at Bracebridge Street; letters from previous owners; and many other photographs taken during the life of the bike. The engine had been fully reconditioned by Ivan Rhodes and the machine was presented in totally restored condition. Affectionately known as �Old George�, it had been exhibited at the International Classic Bike Show at Belle Vue in 1984, and Warrington Museum�s George Formby Exhibition in 1991.
The ex-Formby International has been featured in numerous magazines, including The Classic MotorCycle, Classic Bike, Motorcycle Sport and the 1981 TT Special, and has also appeared on BBC television. Copies of all these magazines are offered with the machine, together with an original copy of The Motor Cycle (the �Blue �Un�) reporting the original presentation by Norton to George back in July 1947. There are also many newspaper cuttings from the 1980s and copies of The Vellum, the journal of The George Formby Society. Like many stage and screen people, George was superstitious and insisted that all his vehicles should have registration numbers ending in double or, if possible, triple numerals. For that reason, Kings obtained for him the Lancashire registration �HVU 111�, which the bike still carries. Salesman C M �Hoppy� Hopwood of Kings delivered the bike to Mere some weeks before the �presentation� and had enjoyed a meal with George and Beryl at Beryldene. �HVU 111� is reputedly the first post-war production International, as recounted by the late Bob Currie in The Classic MotorCycle in a full-length feature in the September 1985 issue. Bob, incidentally, was also an enthusiastic exponent of the ukelele!
During Alan Whitehead�s ownership the Inter was returned to its original specification, although when acquired it still had many correct and original features, and as offered now is virtually as it was when George Formby took delivery 60 years ago. Alan�s mother and father were personal friends of George, Mr Whitehead Senior having been resident drummer at the Palace Theatre, Manchester where George played two or three times a year. George always gave Alan�s father a lift home to Bolton after the show, on his way home to Blackpool where he lived in the years before WW2. Described as �the most oil-tight- Inter you ever saw�, it is still fitted with Beryl�s original pillion seat (although she actually hated bikes!). The motorcycle once owned by one of Britain�s most famous folk heroes comes with Swansea V5 and a mountainous history file containing all of the above-mentioned documentation.
Collectors' Motor Cars and Motorcycles|
Bonhams, Olympia, London,
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