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Jack Marshall (c1879- ) of Coventry
1947 TT Memories.
WHEN the speed kings of the motor cycle world pit their prowess against each other in next week's T.T. Races in the Isle of Man. they will be watched by a Coventry man who 40 years ago finished second in the first T.T. race ever held, and who, a year later, finished first to be acclaimed Britain's finest ride.
Today, Jack Marshall, 68 years old mine host at the Royal Oak, Whitley, is as keen on motor cycle racing as he ever was. He has seen more T.T. races than most people, and intends seeing a whole lot more. Motor cycling has been in his blood right from the very early days when, along with another old Coventry motoring worthy, Sam Wright, he became a motor cycle tester.
It was in 1902 he joined Triumphs as their chief tester. In those days you didn't get your petrol from a pump at the factory, you had to ride your machine to a grocer's shop in Gosford Street, which was the only place in town you could buy your petrol and paraffin.
Previously, young Jack Marshall had done a lot of cycling, and had started work with the old Coventry cycle firm of Hotchkiss, Mayo and Meek in Lincoln Street. When the firm later fitted a small 1 h.p. engine to the handlebars of their cycles it was something more than Just itching fingers which caused Jack Marshall to steal away in the dinner hour and start tinkering about with the engines.
By the time 1907 came along and the decision to hold the first T.T. had been taken, there wasn't much he didn't know about tuning motor cycles. There were 25 starters - 18 singles and seven twins - and along with Frank Hulbert on another Triumph, Marshall shares the honour of being the first starters in a T.T. race. A puncture when he was lying second, but gaining steadily on the leader, Harry Collier, on a Matchless, delayed Marshall nearly 12 minutes, and he had to be content with second place at the finish.
Next year, however, Jack Marshall reversed the placings, winning at an average speed of 42.48 m.p.h., and with an average petrol consumption of 117.61 m.p.g.! That is just about 100 m.p.g. better than the figures of the B.M.W. on which G. Meier won the last Senior T.T.I in l939.
You had to average 100 m.p.g. in 1908, or else push your machine home to the finishing post! They knew about rationing even in those days. and when the race started just enough petrol was poured into your tank to get you to the finish.
Average speeds have gone up a whole lot since then, but don't imagine it was an easy matter to win a race at over 40 m.p.h. way back in the "good old days."
"I suppose we must have touched close on 80 in many parts of the course, particularly when you come to think we sometimes had to push our bikes up Creg Willys, or if we were fortunate and had pedals on, do a little bit of overtime on the pedals." It was no unusual sight either to see the supporters of some of the riders ready at the bottom of the hill with Jugs of cold water, which were thrown somewhat unceremoniously on the overheated cylinders....