When it came to motorbikes, George Jarvis really knew his stuff.
One of the founder members of the Crawley Motorcycle Club in 1952, he was usually to be found repairing or just tinkering with motorcycle engines. That’s when he wasn’t racing them.
George ran a motorcycle repair and electrical engineering workshop in Three Bridges Road. Later, when the road was widened, his business moved to a unit behind Langley Green shops, in Martyrs Avenue – and one of the vehicles he repaired can be found in Crawley Museum.
The vehicle in question, a 1903 Rex Forcar, looked more like a car than a bike but was actually a tricycle.
It belonged to fellow mechanic Ron Shaw, who found it on a junk pile at a shop near Sittingbourne. The spokes of the wheels were gone, it was covered in rust and had been sitting on the junk pile since 1937.
In 1950, Ron and George got it going.
In 1954 they entered it in the Pioneer Motor-Cycle run from London to Brighton – where everything went wrong.
It sustained a punctured oil pipe, a locked rear wheel which took an hour to release, dirt in the carburettor and faulty ignition.
Ron and George were doing 12mph when they left Westminster and were so far behind when they reached Pease Pottage they pushed the old trike to 35mph.
Things were so desperate, by the time they reached Tushmore roundabout, George was on his knees on the front seat attempting to repair the oil pipe as they drove along.
Driving at 12mph must have felt like walking speed to George, who later drove an EMC Puch road racer bike at 80mph round Brands Hatch before trying his luck at Crystal Palace and Silverstone.
When it came to the Crawley Motorcycle Club, it was born after George penned a letter to the Crawley & District Observer in 1952 suggesting the growing town did not cater for motorcyclists.
Some 25 men met at the White Hart to discuss the matter and the club was formed. George was named chairman. By 1955, the membership stood at 80.
Originally from Dorset, George served as an electrical inspector of tanks for the Central Ordinance Department, in Nottingham, during much of World War Two.
He was transferred to Crawley in 1943 where he carried on his electrical work at the REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) depot in London Road.
When the war finished and his job came to an end, George decided he loved the area too much to leave.
With modest capital, he set up his workshop in Three Bridges Road and soon became a town legend.
Donald Carman, of Langley Green, grew up admiring George and developed a love of motorcycles thanks to his influence.
Donald, 57, said: “He was a friend of the family and my mum, and I grew up with him there and used to go round to the motorcycle races with him when I was younger.
“He got me into motorcycle and he helped me with my first motorcycle.”
Does anyone else remember George Jarvis?
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