I think it’s well known that I have been a TT fan all my life.
When my mum and dad divorced when I was a baby the divorce settlement included access to my dad on Senior race day for the TT and MGP.
That is nearly 70 years ago.
But there are so many dedicated TT fans who have remained loyal to the races and all that goes on for even longer.
One such is Ian Huntly who first travelled to the races with his cousin Lee and his father Harry in 1947.
However, his first visit was as a passenger inside his mum’s tummy!
He is now known as ‘IanTTfanHuntly’ and he has done much to share his passion and experiences with others around the world over the years.
He has a significant collection of film, slides, press releases, photographs, information, souvenirs and hand written notes.
He has kindly loaned some special memorabilia to the great TT presentation currently promoted by Manx National Heritage.
Again I too have a passion for collecting everything to do with the races since my lifelong interest began as a young boy collecting badges, hats, transfers, numbers and more from the works teams in the 1960s.
Little boys like myself adapted our pushbikes into replica racing bikes with lollipop sticks or folded cardboard cigarette packets to produce engine sound!
I have been in contact with Ian over the years and on Thursday evening last week I was able to sit down with him and his son Simon to talk TT and much more.
For a long time Ian stayed near my house with the Wallace family for TT and has accumulated many friends over the years in the island.
He was born in County Durham in September 1939.
His early years had seen challenging health issues and in 1947 his family doctor advised that he would benefit from sea air.
His father asked about the Isle of Man as this tonic and the GP replied ‘perfect!’ and the story began!
He remembers the rough crossing, walking around the deck seemed to prevent sea sickness which has worked ever since.
He wasn’t impressed with the ‘music’ from the open megaphones of the Norton machines and remembers watching with a large group at Creg-ny-Baa from Kennish’s Regal Hotel where he stayed and also meeting riders of the day and getting up early for morning practice(who remembers the very welcome soup tent?).
The visit was certainly a tonic for his health, returning home feeling fitter and healthier.
The TT seed was planted which today has flourished over 76 years.
In the late 40s and 50s he and a large group would return each year to the Regal where Ian’s dad who had been visiting since the 1920s would advise best vantage points and they would take coach tours to the Creg, Ramsey and other places including a regular rowing boat trip to the Tower of Refuge to be refreshed with Vimto.
At the races, like so many, a packed lunch consisting sandwiches, an apple, orange, fruit cake and a bottle of pop was a vital ingredient.
Ian got to meet a number of the star riders, including Jack Brett and Geoff Duke.
This I can attest is a real thrill for a young TT fan, however Geoff went one step further and actually posted his Junior back number (79) to Ian which arrived in the post when he got home.
Over the years Ian has written articles for many publications including the TT programme and has written two books available online full of stories and photographic memories. He also regularly updates via social media about his ongoing passion for the TT and everything to do with it.
He has stayed at several places including the Douglas Bay Hotel with its famous Texas Bar which he described as the meeting point for the oil barons, riders, sponsors and fans!
As a boy I remember going up there with my dad, who supplied groceries to Mr Raineri, and seeing some of the works riders working on and starting up their machines.
Ian became great friends with many riders, supporting them in their TT efforts including Margret Lingen, Doug Randall, Denis Parkinson and lots of others.
He also supported Geoff Johnson on a round the TT course cycle ride.
He published articles after working closely with the Rotary Norton team whose riders were Robert Dunlop and Trevor Nation.
He was good friends with Steve Hislop, whom he met many times not only at the TT but at motorcycle shows.
The last time they met was when Steve was launching his book ‘Hizzy’.
He became great friends with technical experts. One such was Ken Sprayson, whom I also had the pleasure to call a friend and whose name was synonymous with the provision of expert welding services adjacent to the Grandstand.
A particular thrill for Ian in 1979 was when he was asked to pick up Eric Oliver, four-times world sidecar champion from Ronaldsway Airport as he was participating in the Millennium Lap of Honour.
He had been ‘volunteered’ the next day to take Eric to Jurby to test the machine towed around the course in reverse direction with rider on board the outfit. The rope snapped at the Bungalow and had to be joined together again.
Testing completed, Eric started in the Millennium lap the next day but encountered engine problems on the mountain and coasted back.
Who remembers CB radio?
A big craze at one time but Ian and other friends in the motorcycle racing community used it for practical purposes, reporting back on lap times for Doug Randall from various points and keeping in touch.
Ian like many others has fond memories of the ‘very’ early morning practices.
Firstly fingers crossed that the alarm clocks (plural) would fulfil their function, arriving in the dark at the Grandstand, the tempting smell of bacon being cooked, setting up in the Press Centre and then the machines firing into life in the still of the dawn with the aroma of Castrol R.
Ending up in the soup tent where stories would be exchanged.
He has many favourite spots around the TT course to watch and be refreshed including Creg-ny-Baa, Sulby Glen Hotel, Glen Helen, Ginger Hall and The Mitre at Kirk Michael.
But a real favourite over the years has been the Crosby Hotel, where he sets up his two computers in the bay window with live commentary and showing live tracking of every machine and of course after the action he enjoys the most beautiful queenies and evening meal washed down with wine or coffee!
This is Ian’s 76th TT.
Over the decades he has stayed at top-class hotels or in his car behind the Grandstand.
He has homestayed or slept in a draughty van in the Paddock, tried to sleep in a waterlogged tent, on the beach in Port Erin, a large drain pipe near Laxey or a church vestry in Sulby.
He has slept in a beautiful farmhouse near Ballaugh Bridge and other unusual places.
He says: ‘I have enjoyed every minute of every occasion!’
Ian ‘TT fan’ Huntly really has established his own niche on TT history, that of Superfan!