The Fettler

Issue No. 4

The Official Newsletter of the Hurley-Pugh Owners & Enthusiasts Club


Fettler index

The 1938 Allegations Against Steerforth

A Discredited Eye-Witness Account from Lady Gwendoline Bacon-Buttyworth Comes to Light

Gwendoline 1Gwendoline 2

Contemporary illustrations of Capt Eric "Killer" Steerforth MC demonstrating his novel technique for re-invigorating posterior circulation after a long day in the Hurley-Pugh saddle on Lady Gwendoline Bacon-Buttyworth (left) and Capt Steerforth's housekeeper, Frau Ürmgarde Stürmbahnführer, providing the same service for Her Ladyship during a later visit to Valhalla Hall (right). Pictures courtesy of the Bacon-Buttyworth Archive.

The Hon Edwin Bacon-Buttyworth writes: Apropos reference to Hurley-Pugh's 1938 TT participation (The Fettler Vol XXXVII Issue III ibid), I feel it incumbent to relate the following details from the private journal of my Aunt, the Lady Gwendoline Bacon-Buttyworth - a leading Hurley-Pugh enthusiast and proponent of Sterilisation for the Poor. I quote verbatim:

"Egbert and I had a divine time on our Gentleman's Weatherman Double Combination, attending the 1938 T.T. races - Hurley-Pugh's first outing for its Manxman Clubman SS equipped with 'Pughride' suspension. and with its wonderful, throbbing, single-cylinder engine bored out to 1820cc. Moreover, the 199cc Wally Whippet-derived two-stroke auxiliary starter motor was retained but, once the machine had fired up, its drive could be redirected to power a supercharger. Of course, it took lots of practice to synchronise the main throttle with operation of the small thumb-lever controlling the Whippet engine to provide the right boost. But with a skilful rider such as 'Killer' with his double-jointed thumbs (Oh! What Those Thumbs Could Do!), the Manxman Clubman SS was expected to perform well, despite an average fuel consumption of no more than 3 mpg. This entailed an enlarged petrol tank to complete the distance but, as 'Killer' was a good 6' 8" (Oh! And An Even Better 15 Inches Elsewhere!), he could just see over the top of it.

"We held out great hopes for a win for this machine, given that H-P had failed to win any previous T.T. races. (Sadly, "Did Not Finish", "Did Not Start" and "Excluded From Results" always typified the H-P T.T. Roll of Honour.) The closest to victory had been in the 1934 Heavyweight where, after a blow-back through the 23/32" Super Venturi Imperial RR carb, the resulting detonation of the methanol-nitro-gylcerine race mix resulted in an explosive machine disintegration. Of course, it took more than a minor setback like this to put "Killer" off. Indeed, the H-P Wildebeeste Imperial's wheel crossed the line ahead of the works Mikanos-Lesbos. Sadly, the Auto Bicycle Union deemed that, as everything aft of the headstock was absent, the fact that it beat the alien was irrelevant due to it only achieving this by virtue of Steerforth's spectacular physical condition (Oh! Those Thrusting Thighs!) allowing him to push the remaining Patent Pugh Friction Damped Fork Assembly along at a cracking pace all the way from Black Hut. "Killer" took disqualification badly and, in the resulting melée, half-a-dozen Race Committee dignitaries sustained injuries, although reports of fatalities were exaggerated. After all, the Chairman was in his 60s, and the fact that Steerforth performed an act of "Greek Love" upon him with the large-diameter Fork Assembly was, surely, incidental to his heart attack.

"However, I digress. As I said, the 1938 Manxman Clubman SS was the first H-P racer to feature Pughride. Although this had been used to graet effect on H-P road machines, the weight of the cast-iron pneumatic spheres meant that it was unsuitable for sporting use. Then H-P came up with an ingenious system of inflatable latex bellows that weighed much less and worked nearly as well.

"We had taken up station on Gobbag Corner, where the fog had disagreed with our Patent Pugh All-Weather Magneto, causing the outfit to come to a halt in a handy hedge. After unpacking the optional chaise longue from the other sidecar, we settled down and, although Sir Egbert and I were some eight miles from Douglas, we still heard the raucous clanking of the Manxman Clubman SS leaving the start, and hurried onto the "short strokes" so we would be ready to watch. A few minutes later, there came the unmistakable deep-throated jabber of a graet Hurley-Pugh on song. Now, that particular stretch of the course was remote and deserted, and we were reasonably well-concealed in the shrubbery. But as the H-P got close, we were perturbed to hear the engine die. Peering through a gap in the foliage while Egbert pulled up his breeches, I was quite amazed to see Steerforth dismount and produce a ball of twine. With this, he tightly bound the latex pneumatic reservoirs (Oh! Lucky Pughride!), squashing them and causing the rear of the machine to rise, providing substantial extra ground clearance. He then got back on and set off up the adjacent hillside in an easterly direction. I told Egbert that I believed the naughty chap was cheating, and suggested that we should inform the authorities."

Although there is no further reference to this incident in my late Aunt Gwendoline's "memoire privé", just what should we loyal Hurley-Pughsters make of such an account?

Yours most sincerely,

The Hon Edwin Bacon-Buttyworth.


As History records, "Killer"Steerforth finished a graet First in the Heavyweight TT that year. But, outrageously, held his Silver Replica for only 42 minutes - the amount of time it took for the rest of the field - mostly despicable foreigners - to cross the line and make insinuations about how they never saw him go past. There were also unsubstantiated reports of a trail of oil - as if from a H-P Total-Loss Lubrication System - across the fields from the west, emerging near Governor's Bridge. But "Killer" was, of course, totally exonerated from any suggestion of course-cutting and his Laurels withdrawn instead on the grounds of "a lap-scoring anomaly". He himself faced his accusers at the Race Committee Inquiry, fingering his trusty Mauser Model 1892 in a remarkably restrained manner, given the circumstances. But from that day on, Hurley-Pughs were no longer welcome at the T.T. As for Lady Gwendoline, the Clerk of the Course's Minutes recorded her request to make a statement, but this was retracted after "Killer" had a "word" with her around the back of the scrutineering bay, from which she returned "dishevelled but completely satisfied as to his conduct". As Steerforth's autobiography explains, the Bacon-Buttyworths subsequently became his close friends and frequent weekend guests at his house, Valhalla Hall, where he took every opportunity to demonstrate "three-up riding technique" to them. As for her journal, it bears false witness and is best burnt immediately!

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