Driving about Preston it’s hard not to notice groups of burly men riding in convoy on diminutive scooters. Megan Titley meets some of them and finds out why scooter clubs still hold such sway today.
Three blokes are sitting around a butty van on a frosty morning at Preston docks, warming their hands over a brew.
The Winter sun makes the members of Tin Town Scooter club squint at each other as they catch up.
To their side three scooters are parked up, a Lambretta and two Vespas. One has Preston’s Coat of Arms, the Lamb of St. Wilfrid on it and all are embellished a Tin Town Scooter Club sticker. Helmets with proud British flags wait in foot wells.
“In Winter time we don’t go out as much,” says Paddy O’Rourke, who is wearing three or four layers to keep warm.
“In the Summer we are out all the time at every opportunity. We go all over the place - to Blackpool, Morecambe. If there’s other riders going we’ll head out with them.
“We just meet up here first to have a cuppa or something to eat.”
Paddy is fresh from a Bad Manners concert in Blackpool the night before.
Talking about the scooter subculture when he started out riding as a young man Paddy says: “It’s all connected, the music, how we dress, the scooters. It’s a style.
“Bad Manners is a two-tone and ska band. I started as a skin head. Then there were scooter boys and mods who ran around with ties. I like ska music and two-tone.”
Sean McInwine cuts in. “We used to ride up the road chasing cars,” he says.
Paddy says: “We were scally wags. You just love feeling young again when you get past 50. It’s just something for yourself to get out again. You meet lots of like-minded people.”
Tommy Martin, Paddy and Sean have known each other since their schools days. They’ve just recently started up their own scooter club which meets at the Green Frog at Preston Marina before they head out on their rides.
Tommy says: “All scooter clubs are different. Some go on trips to Belguim to see the war memorials. Our club Tin Town is in its infancy. We’re the newest club in Preston.”
Over the last two years Tommy has begun tinkering with his Vespa, adapting it to his preference.
“I sprayed it and added the crome work,” he said. “It’s trial and error. They are not complicated things. Once you take the side panels off it’s basically four bits and the engines are a lot easier to maintain because they are air cooled.”
The three men are joined by Tracey Crowther and Tony Welsby who are dressed in Mrs Santa and snowman outfits respectively. They are in their best threads, ready for a charity scooter run to Royal Preston Hospital.
Tracey is wearing a ‘target’ scooter helmet. She says she took up scooter ride outs because of how friendly everyone is and for the fun of it.
“Everyone’s really friendly. All the clubs are welcoming to each other. We are going to go to Brighton this next year. Brighton is a traditional place for scooters. They all gather there every year for a festival weekend.
“We did a ride to Clitheroe recently and all the streets were lined with people. We all rolled in to the mayor ringing a bell. It was fantastic.”
Tony, who got into the scene a few years back, echoes Tracey. “Everyone help each other out and everyone gets involved,” he says. “It’s just fantastic.
“I’ve got two Vespas. I’m always tinkering in the garage.
“It’s like being 16 again. It’s the nostalgia. It’s all about the music as well.
“Some people are into the scooters, some people are into the mod scene. We’ve got Parkers.
“People wear the three piece suits and shoes. It goes back to the 80s.
“It’s like another revival. Everyone should get a scooter.”
Buying a scooter means spending upwards of £1,000 and according to all accounts “you’re always spending”.
Later, down at the Yew Tree where scores of riders are gathering ahead of a selection box run to Preston Hospital Nigel and Rachel Godwin say: “The resurgence has been going on for about five or six years.
“We do it because there’s a great community. Everyone just gets on really well.”
Paul, who returned to Bamber Bridge about three years ago after a career as a chef in the Royal Navy, says he’s caught up with old friends he hasn’t seen in years.
“It’s so good when you see people and you say do you remember this, do you remember that,” he says.
“I came back to Preston three or so years ago and I got back into it and I wound up with all my old pals.
“It’s such a laugh.”