Tommy Barker: 1926 - 2018

A national scrambles winner and expert engineer who competed successfully at the very highest level will be much missed by the off-road community in Gloucestershire and beyond.

Tom (Tommy) Barker, a life member of Stroud Valley MC and also a former member of Dursley MC&LCC, died on 9th March. He was a successful scrambles and trials rider from the late 1940s to the 1960s winning many events in the Western Centre and nationally. He was an expert engineer and constantly modified and improved his bikes enabling to compete with 'works' riders on equal terms.

An extensive record of his achievements can be found in the late Bob Light's book 'First Rich Mixture', excerpts of which are reproduced here: Born on May 3, 1926 with twin brother Jack in Wrotham, Kent, the family moved to Dursley in the 1930s and after Army National Service he worked at the town's Lister factory.

Having ridden Army Matchless's in Basra, Iraq where he repaired refridgerators, he had earned enough to buy a new 500 BSA on his return and competed in the Western Centre on that machine, a 350 BSA and a 150 Bantam which he later converted to 125 to great effect. In 1953 he won 76 races and after a bad collarbone break in 1955 he switched to a 250cc Velocette. He stopped racing in 1962 aged 36 and switched to trials.

In 1949 he won the Cotswold Grand National 150 race on a Bantam which his friend Bill Nicholson rode from Dursley to Battlescombe in Bisley. He'd converted the bike's gearbox from hand change to foot change and ditched the steel mudguard for alloy ones and beat Bill Nicholson, one of the great riders of the day.

In 1950 the Western Centre changed the rules for the small bike class and he extensively developed the bike as a 125 "so much so that he called it the Tommy Barker Special because he'd changed it so much. He believed it went better as a 125 too. In 1953 he rode the Coronation Scramble on a 350 BSA at Hawkstone Park" where he made the sports pages of a national newspaper.

"I needed some air filtering and asked if they could ask over the public address system if there was a lady who could let me have a stocking. They were pretty expensive and hard to get in those days but I got 34 stockings!". A less successful period on works 125 and 197 DOTs followed, he left one dead DOT where it stopped during the Gloucestershjire Grand National, which didn't impress the factory much!

He finished in the top ten in the British round of the European at Beenham Park just after his 32nd birthday on a Velocette. He tuned Velo' motors for Ron and Ray Carter, with some advice from the factory. He raced a very special 350 Velo at Red Marley Hillclimb near the end of his career, beating a Gold Star running on dope and reached the final, won by Alf Hagon.

The late Ron Brislin told Bob Light a story which sums up the era well "he set off for mid Wales for a Saturday meeting with his 350 BSA scrambler on the sidecar chassis of a pre-war BSA outfit but suffered two punctures. Having repaired one, he rode from Hereford on a flat and while winning his races some local lads sourced an inner tube for him. Having repaired it, he set off for Ross-on-Wye where he missed the opening race but still had some good rides, before the BSA gave up the ghost at a Drapers Farm hillclimb the next day".

Our thoughts are with Tommy's family at this sad time.

Bob Miles tells us that Tommy's funeral will be at Gloucester Crem' on Friday, April 6 at 11.30am.

Compiled thanks to SVMC Chairman Phil Marsh, and First Rich Mixture - pictures by Bill Cole, words by Bob Light, published by Ariel Publishing.