When artisan designer Ashley Watson decided to go it alone in the cut-throat world of fashion he not unnaturally sought inspiration from the things he loves.
Combining a love of design heritage with practical and technically useful objects of desire, he was surprised to find himself leaning towards the motorcycle world.
Surprised because despite a long-held yearning to ride, he’d never sat on a bike in anger… or any other emotion for that matter.
His website’s mission statement that his urban clothing range is inspired by “the belief that a fundamental part of city-living is getting away” gives the nod to a menswear creative in touch with his inner rider.
So when he cleared out his loft and found sepia-toned pictures of his great grandfather Fred Watson alongside a cluster of Motor Cycling Club medals, it all made perfect sense.
“I was absolutely amazed because no one in the family had ever mentioned that he rode a motorcycle. Suddenly some of my designs started to make sense. It must be in the blood,” he said.
The find has prompted London-based Ashley to begin a search for the bike in the picture, which Fred raced almost non-stop from Highgate Gatehouse in the capital to Edinburgh in Scotland in 1911.
He believes the single cylinder Triumph, with a Bosch magneto ignition, was one of the first models ever made by Triumph in Meriden. Checks with the National Motorcycle Museum and the UK’s Licensing Authority have drawn a blank, but Ashley believes someone somewhere must have information about the bike.
He said: “I’ve been told that it’s either in a garage somewhere or that it might have been scrapped and melted down for metal during the Second World War. You never know though.”
His great grandfather’s bike, bearing the registration number AR 1655, left London at 9.47pm and arrived in the Scottish capital to a gold medal-winning welcome at 7.33am next morning… an average speed of around 40mph.
Ashley, 30, is due to take his licence this month and plans to retrace his ancestor’s tyre tracks whatever the outcome of his quest for the original 3.5 bhp bike.
Other fascinating pieces of memorabilia found in the dusty loft boxes included:
- An immaculate programme from the June 1911 race.
- A newspaper cutting of his victorious arrival at the finishing line.
- A medal bearing the legend ‘Motor Cycling Gipsies – Burford Bridge’.
- A Hertfordshire Count Motor Cycling Club medal.
Ashley said: “The whole discovery thing is really weird because I’ve been working on lots of designs for motorcyclists, including an abrasive resistant Kevlar jumper that I will be launching with help from crowd funding in the coming months.
“Once I’ve passed my test I’m looking to do the run myself but this time make a film of it. It would be a fitting tribute to my great grandfather and would mean a lot.”
Ashley is also collaborating with Bolt London on a riding shirt specifically designed for motorcyclists.
Check out his website at www.ashleywatson.co.uk