I am writing this in the middle of what should have been the TT Races. Seeing the threat of Coronavirus emerging, IOM Government cancelled TT about 3 months ago. In the first few days after the announcement there was debate about this, but it soon became apparent it was the right thing to do. Apart from the two World Wars, TT Races have only been cancelled once before. In 2001 Foot and Mouth Disease (affecting cattle) was widespread in GB and there was a fear that visitors could bring it over with a devastating impact on the island’s beef and milk herds. Not only is TT cancelled but the Island has closed its borders to non-Manx residents so we do not even have bikers coming over to visit.
Most residents here miss the TT. It is a time when the Island comes to life with lots of interesting and entertaining events both on and off the race course. People are trying to recreate some TT atmosphere. For instance, Manx Radio are running a series of historic race commentaries and new interviews with racers, and the official TT Facebook page streams an evening ‘live’ show (last night there was a great interview with Peter Hickman). On Saturday there will be charity fundraising cycle ride round the TT Course – Manx TT racer Conor Cummins will be taking part.
TT Grandstand is very quiet and you can see in the photograph that, sadly, grass is growing in pit-lane. However, the Scrutineering Bay at the top of pit-lane is being put to good use – it is where the tests for Covid 19 are being carried out. But, as we have not had anyone test positive for the virus in the last three weeks, even this area is very quiet!
TT 2021 promises to be the best ever – I hope that you can make it over to the Isle of Man next year.
For more than a century the Isle of Man TT scoreboard has witnessed some of the most thrilling moments on two wheels including, in recent years, John McGuinness’ 130mph lap speed record in the Centenary TT (2007) and Peter Hickman’s 2018 Senior TT victory with the first 135mph lap.
But it’s not just its age that makes the scoreboard remarkable - it’s the fact that, despite living in a digital era, the scoreboard is still operated by hand. On race days it is operated by 70 Isle of Man Scouts, making it the oldest manually operated scoreboard of its kind in the world.
Each rider has a column dedicated to them with their number on. There is a paper tear off to indicate which lap the rider is on (with ‘R’ for retired). Above this is a clock face with four letters that correspond to the section of the course that the rider is on at that moment: Grandstand, Glen Helen, Ramsey Hairpin and Bungalow. Above that is a light which comes on when a rider passes Cronk ny Mona, indicating that they are due in within a minute.
The most idiosyncratic feature aspect is the slates on which lap times are written. This involves a team of decorators sat along a huge table painting the lap times onto the slates and handing them to the scouts for display on the scoreboard.
This year the scoreboard will be 109 years old, however, it could soon be replaced with modern technology. As significant works need to be done to preserve the old scoreboard, the Manx government has run a public consultation outlining possible options including mobile digital screens. The consultation finished at end the end of January 2020, so results are expected soon.
Although up-to-the-second race information is available on radio and online, I think it would be a shame to lose such an historic and charming way of communicating information about the TT Races.
I am busy with Open Top Car Tours from mid-March to mid-October. This year in the quieter months I have been planning, researching, walking and writing my next guide book of the Isle of Man. I have three sightseeing guide books published already: they are for both Isle of Man residents and visitors to help them explore this wonderful Island on foot.
My new book will be ‘Countryside, Coast and Churches – new ways to explore the Isle of Man on foot’. It comprises numerous detailed guided walks taking in great scenery and places of interest as well as churches and chapels. Exploring churches allows one to appreciate the Island’s history and it showcases some fascinating buildings that you may not realise are there. And many churches have interesting art and monuments that you might only expect to find in museums.
I have been fortunate that many of my sightseeing car tours do visit churches. There is one delightful little church in a remote corner of the Island that features in both the half-day and full-day car tours. And bespoke tours where we visit old churches so that my passengers can visit places where their ancestors are buried.
The walks are both full-day trips and shorter half-day ventures. And the book will be illustrated with lots of photographs of landscapes, coastlines, historic buildings and pre-historic sites.
In all it will take me the best part of three months from the start of planning the walking routes to finishing the manuscript. Then it’s over to the publisher to produce the finished book in all its glory.
My first Open Top Car Tour was a party of three on a sightseeing tour of the Isle of Man TT Course. There were three generations - a lady in her late 60’s, her son and her 7 year old grandson. The tour was a present to the mother from her son. Her late husband had been a competitor and had ridden TT Course many times, but she had never experienced the TT Course herself.
We set off from the TT Grandstand which was undergoing the final preparations before the fortnight TT Festival, so the place was very lively. I was explaining the rich history of the TT Races, held since 1907, as well as lots of stories of the amazing feats and speeds achieved by modern racers. The lady was particularly interested as we drove through places on the TT track that her husband must have tried to describe to her from his racer’s perspective.
One thing that is often neglected about the Course is how amazingly picturesque it is. It passes through white-washed villages, weaves its way in and out of woodlands, crosses extensive areas of farmland and climbs up the side of mountains. It is a scenic tour in its own right, which is why the appeal of the Total TT Tour spans all levels of interest in TT Races – of which my passengers represented a fair spread.
However, it was apparent that the 7 year old needed another interest as we toured. Those who have experienced the TT Course will know that there is a marker board after each mile and in between many sections of the track have a name. Either named after the places the course passes through or famous TT riders. So I asked him to read out the names as we passed (to keep him involved) and I would mention a relevant story or historical nugget about that place (to give my commentary an interesting twist).