Wakefield MAG February 2008 Newsletter

Dear Wakefield MAG member,

Welcome to the Wakefield MAG e-newsletter. If you canít attend our Wednesday meetings regularly, itís the next best thing to keep you up to date with what we are up to.

***** Wakefield MAG meetings now start at 8:30pm every Wednesday *****


1) Wakefield AGM
2) Post Christmas Auction IV
3) Fred Hill Run - Sunday 10th Feb
4) Programme of Events 2008
5) Rally Tickets
6) Wakefield Hospice 10K Race Marshalling
Fred Hill Obituary

1) Wakefield AGM

The branch held itís fifth Annual General Meeting on Wednesday 16th January 2008 at the Grey Horse. This was our best attended AGM to date so a huge Thank You to everyone who attended. We had a review of 2007, which has been yet another highly successful year for the branch. Wakefield MAG just continues to go from strength to strength !!!!. Our new branch committee for 2008 was voted in and this is:

Our branch heroes for 2007 were: Finance wise we voted to donate £500 to the MAG fighting fund from our branch funds.

We also took a vote on the meeting start time for our Wednesday meetings and the unanimous vote was to bring forward the start time by 30 minutes. Wakefield MAG meetings now start at 8:30pm every Wednesday.

If you want the full AGM minutes, drop me an email and i'll send them on to you.

2) Post Christmas Auction IV

We held our 4th Post Christmas Auction on Wednesday 30th January at the Grey Horse. We had a most impressive attendance and were particularly pleased to welcome along members of Leeds, York & Barnsley MAG branches. We had some superb items donated to the auction, including jackets, T Shirts, bike gloves & boots, a paddock stand, numerous books, CDís, videos & DVDís, X-Box games, kitchenware, electricals, household goods, clothing, you name it, we pretty much had it in the auction. Special thanks have to go to Squires Cafť (Newthorpe), Speedstyle, P&D Honda (Wakefield), Padgetts (Batley), Jumbos M/C's (Wakefield) and many many others for donating such quality items to the auction.

There was frenzied bidding activity for a number of items and we managed to clear the lot, which really was impressive, as the items for sale wouldnít all fit on the full size table tennis table we had them displayed on. Well done to our auctioneers (Ian & Phil), who both had lost their voices by the end, and their glamourous assistants (Lorna & Corinne).

The auction this year raised £280, which, bearing in mind the bidding on a lot of items started at 50p (or less), is a staggering and truly impressive result !!!!

We will take a vote at this Wednesday's meeting on which charitable cause (1/3) we donate this to, with 2/3 being donated to the MAG Fighting Fund. More news on this in next months newsletter.

We will be holding another Post Christmas Auction in January next year so, hope to see you there.

3) Fred Hill Memorial Run - Sunday 10th February

This is the first of the Yorkshire Region events for 2008 and will also be our first rideout of the year. The Annual Fred Hill run is always very well attended (despite whatever the weather throws at us) and is an event not to be missed. The run assembles at Squires at 11:00, and leaves at 11:30 for a marshalled ride to the Sun Inn at Norwood near Otley. Wakefield MAG will meet at our usual point (Stork Lodge Tea Rooms, Thornes Park, Thornes Road, Wakefield) where we will have a mass ride-in to Squires. Meet at Stork Lodge at 09:30, leaving at 10:00 for Squires where we will meet up with other Yorkshire MAG branches and MCCís for the Fred Hill memorial run.

As this run counts as a MAG Demo run, attendance at this event will earn you 75 branch points (as opposed to 10 for a normal ride-out) Ė as points really do mean prizes, what more incentive could you possibly want to attend !!! Hope to see you on Sunday 10th Feb

(If you don't know who Fred Hill was, check out the Obituary at the end of the newsletter)

4) Programme of events for 2008

We have just published our programme of events for 2008, which are listed on the Events page on our web site (http://wakefield.mag-uk.org). There will be many more events appearing on this list (including our monthly rideouts), but for now, we have all our major Wakefield MAG events scheduled for the year, together with the MAG rallies we will be attending. Key dates for Wakefield MAG events include:

I will let you know what we have coming up in these monthly newsletters so watch this space for details of more forthcoming Branch & Yorkshire MAG activities. We will again be holding evening ride-outs over late Spring, Summer and early Autumn to other MAG branch meetings, events, and places of interest. So, plenty to keep us all busy throughout 2008 !!!

5) Rally Tickets

Tickets for the Into The Valley & Farmyard Party Rallies are currently at the printers. Wakefield MAG will again be getting an allocation for Sale at the branch meetings and we should have these in the next few weeks. Let me know if you want some. Prices for this year are: ITV - £15 Pre-Book & FYP - £25 Pre-Book. We will also be getting Ganton Gathering Rally & YPR tickets for sale in the next few months (both £15 Pre-Book).

6) Wakefield Hospice 10K Race - Sunday 25th March

As you will be aware, Wakefield MAG will again be marshalling the Wakefield Hospice 10K Road Race. Marshalling this charity event involves providing an escort for the races wheelchair competitors (1 bike per wheelchair competitor), plus a back marker. The bikes provide protection to the wheelchair competitors from traffic, as the race is held on normal open public roads. This charity event is very well attended, and attracts some seriously good atheletes (Dame Tanni Grey Thompson (the British 10K wheelchair champion) will be competing again and has agreed to endorse the race). Please help marshal this prestigious local event. Let me know if you plan to attend.

That's all for this month and I hope to see you all soon.

Ride Safe
Steve Travis
Wakefield MAG
0772 078 4734

Wakefield MAG meet at the Grey Horse, Kirkgate, Wakefield at 8:30pm every Wednesday. New (and Old) faces are always welcome.


Fred Hill Obituary

Fred Hill died in prison on the 10th February 1984 while fighting against bureaucratic interference with his choice to ride a motorcycle without wearing a crash helmet. Many people may have heard of Fred Hill but not actually know who he was and why he is remembered with such respect by the Motorcycle Action Group. Fred Hill was not a natural rebel, let alone a candidate for public enemy status. Born in Yorkshire, he spent the war as a despatch rider, after which he pursued a peacetime career as a teacher of mathematics.

Fredís involvement with MAG and the anti helmet law campaign began in 1976 after the Sikhs gained an exemption from the law. There were those at the time who were uncertain about Fredís motivation, fearing that it might be racist, born of the resentment that an immigrant minority were enjoying preferential treatment. Those who met Fred, heard his speeches, and got to know him a little, were re-assured that this was not the case. If Sikhs did not have to wear helmets then nobody should have to, although he rarely ever made any reference to the Sikhs' preferential treatment.

While Fredís personal campaign was passive, it was absolute, in that Fred never wore a helmet and never paid a fine. In consequence, huge number of summonses began falling through his letter box, when a journalist from the motorcycle press went to interview him in his home in Hayes, Middlesex, Fred produced a sizeable suitcase packed with summonses that he kept as souvenirs, all unpaid. It was his refusal to pay the fines, rather than the helmetless riding offence, that led the courts to imprison Fred, the charge being the more serious one of "Contempt of Court". Although he was always polite to the authorities that pursued and imprisoned him, Fred was totally unimpressed by people in high positions, and was never intimidated by them. On one occasion a woman magistrate was endeavouring to chastise Fred for breaking the law, to which criticism, Fred, implicitly referring to Emily Pankhurst and the female emancipation movement, replied, "if it hadnít been for a woman breaking the law, you wouldnít be sitting there now madam".

Fred was sentenced to a total of 31 prison sentences over the eight year course of his campaign, sometimes for as little as twenty-four hours, rising to a maximum of two months, his final spell which he half completed in Londonís Notorious Pentonville prison. On one occasion, when his one day sentence was to be served in a police cell, the desk sergeant who hadnít bothered to lock the cell door, told Fred, "stick around until no-ones looking Fred and then bugger off". He didnít always get off so lightly however. Once during spell inside in the winter time, some tools went missing from the prison work shop, and Fred, along with all the other prisoners implicated, was strip searched outdoors in the freezing cold. Fred wrote to his friend Brian Nicholas at the time, expressing doubts about how much more of this kind of treatment he could take. Fredís attitude to prison life was not cavalier; he hated being locked up, particularly when he had to share cells with unsavoury people which, inevitable, he often had to do.

Besides enduring many prison sentences, Fred boosted the anti helmet law campaign by attending many MAG demos, at which he made speeches. Despite his age, Fred would ride considerable distances for which purpose he traded in his moped for a 250 Honda. No matter how far he had travelled or how bad the weather conditions were he always rode home the same day after a demo for his wifeís sake, and declined offers from MAG to provide him with bed and breakfast accommodation.

Fred was invariably booked for riding helmetless on demos, and on more than one occasion arrested. In 1978 a run was held in Eltham, south East London, without police permission. It was only a small affair but the SPG were sent in to break it up, and Fred was arrested for assaulting a police officer. The charge was bizarre and caused the police considerable embarrassment as Fred pursued the case through the courts until his name was cleared. In his own neighbourhood however, the police usually turned a blind eye to Fredís legal indiscretions as he rode around in his characteristic brown beret. Fred risked more serious charges by often pointing out, to the crowds he addressed and in the presence of police officers, that if everyone followed his example, the helmet law would be repealed. He could arguably have been charged with inciting others to break the law and it is to the credit of the officers present that they never chose to pursue this line.

It was during Fredís 31st prison sentence that he suffered a heart attack and subsequently died while still in custody. An enquiry, held to establish whether Fredís treatment had contributed to his death, found no evidence for this. Clearly the stress of being incarcerated in a hostile and uncomfortable environment, particularly for a man aged 74, can hardly have been an irrelevant factor.

Surprisingly the national media never latched on to Fredís campaign, as one might expect they would, although as a human interest story his was a very powerful one. A significant exception to this blanket of silence was provided by the journalist Auberon Waugh, who not only wrote about it at the time in the Daily Telegraph, but made a point of honouring Fred each year on the anniversary of his death as long as he held the Telegraph column. The MP Matthew Parish also wrote a splendid piece charging the political contemporaries with hypocrisy in promoting freedom when such liberality cleared obstructions to making money, but inhibiting personal liberty where individual freedoms are concerned.

MAG owes Fred Hill a colossal debt for the example he set us. I hope that this article will make people realise why MAG continues to argue for voluntary helmet use. The best way that we can attempt to repay the dept we owe Fred Hill is to keep alive the issue that he believed so strongly in. Please note that MAG is not against the wearing of helmets, merely the infringement of personal choice in being forced to. The helmet law marked the start of the long series of laws imposed upon bikers and scooterists by misguided politicians, who think we need protecting from ourselves, which have culminated today in flawed proposals for legislation including leg protectors, air bags, day-glo clothing and design restrictions, most of which have been proved to do more harm than good while destroying the concept of the motorcycle as a cheap, economical, environmentally friendly and fun form of transport.

Source: Ian Mutch, Chairman, Motorcycle Action Group (UK)