Around 500 people have celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Simmer Dim Rally, making this year’s premier motorcycle get-together the most successful yet.
And while the weekend’s weather conditions have hardly been appropriate for mid-summer, there was no doubt the record numbers who braved the rain and drizzle in Vidlin enjoyed a healthy dose of good humour and memorable motoring tours.
The rally proved popular with visitors to the isles as well as local motorbike fans. This year visitors came from as far afield as Denmark, Norway, Germany and even Australia.
One person who has been here since the beginning is Caithness-man Stuart Tod.
The Dounreay worker decided to come for the first rally all those years ago after spotting an advert in a motorcycle magazine. He said he had never looked back since.
“It’s got busier. The last few years have been really quite busy. It’s a pleasure to come to,” he said.
“There was an advert in Motorcycle News, and I remember the words, ‘how do you fancy a rally in Shetland?’ And I’ve never looked back. It was a good chance to come up and meet people.
“I just come up for the craic. That was the biggest difference with the first one. You got the feeling there was something really special about this. There were a lot of people going back on the boat who were really touched. It was just so special. Everybody has been so friendly.”
The 52-year-old has even tried to ensure a new generation will come to appreciate the Simmer Dim. Joining him and his Honda Pan European with sidecar this year was his eight-year-old son, Jamie.
Although young, Jamie has already attended three Simmer Dims, and has 11 rallies under his belt in total. Stuart’s daughter, five-year-old Louise, has also been at the Simmer Dim.
Another who was there at the start was Stanley Hughson. Originally from Vidlin, Stanley saw as a keen 16-year-old the rally take shape during its first year. Now living in Australia, the 46-year-old is convinced the appeal is as strong as ever.
“It’s every bit as good as I can remember it. The committee is a bit bigger now. It’s been going for so long everything runs a bit smoother than before. It’s fantastic – there’s no trouble at all.
“Everybody’s in the same frame of mind – to have a good time and lots of beer and good humour.”
Asked about his involvement in the event 30 years ago, he said: “I was only 16 at the time. Other boys had been to rallies on the mainland, and they came up with the idea, and the simmer dim is the perfect time to have it.
“On the whole we’ve been pretty lucky throughout the years. We’ve had a couple of wash-outs, but the weather doesn’t matter. Rain, snow or shine, we have a good time.”
Also having a good time was Laurel Sinclair, who came from his home in Inverurie with his 1989 Harley Davidson. Aged 52, this was Laurel’s 26th Simmer Dim. For him, the early years stood out when he and his biking friends were led away from the tents to be fed “pie” by his grandmother. The feeding frenzies invariably led to impromptu jamming sessions with fiddles and accordions. The tradition has continued until this day, with legendary big breakfasts being made at his family’s West Side holiday home.
He described the rally as a “no-miss situation”. Asked what made it so special, he said: “The people. It’s easy-going, and I’ve never seen any trouble at all. Everybody seems to get on and mucks in.”
But the ultimate nostalgia-trip was in store for 75-year-old Harold Johnson, of Brae, who was re-united with the very motorbike he sat his test on, 59 years ago. While the BSA 350 he first rode in 1953 may have seen better days, there was no doubting it made the latest Simmer Dim a very special event.
The reunion between man and machine was arranged between Harold’s son, David, and the bike’s current owner, Kenny Pearson.
Harold said: “I was a baker and I had to go for my driving test. I was 16, it was 59 years ago. I got a loan of this bike to go for my test on, and I passed first time.
“My son, David arranged with the owner, Kenny Pearson, to bring her up.
“It’s a surprise and it’s very nostalgic. I’m just happy to have seen her again. I’ve had a peerie run on her, but I’ve not been on a bike for lots of years.”