Hog and Bog – 20th Anniversary – 2/3/4 August 2019
The Chapters gathered in the glorious setting of the luxurious Burrendale Hotel in Newcastle, County Down. Service there is second to none. The Spa and Country Hotel, the camping, the food – the wine, of course – it is the perfect location for a great weekend out. The boys and girls came from far and wide, from Scotland, from Manchester, from Holland and Germany, though this year we were not graced by the presence of the delightful David Grimbert from France. There were Harley followers who do not even ride those lovely big shiny machines but just come along for the craic and hospitality afforded by the Belfast Chapter. Director Colin McLearnon and his glamorous partner, Agnes, certainly know how to put on a party, backed up by the handsome twosome of Robin McMinn and Gary Kidd, Treasurer and Secretary respectively. The members are true gentlemen to a fault, the ladies charming, some of them glamour personified in their leathers. Jane Logan, for example, and Amanda who was kind enough to take my friend “Barry” as she rode pillion with her husband Bill. Bill had probably never had two pillion riders on his bike before, but “Barry” sat quietly in the side box, enjoying the noise and sensation of Bill’s magnificent machine. There are members who are stalwarts of the Chapter, people who yours truly does not know well, but are known to hold the Chapter together and support their illustrious Director. Gary Miller, who recently had an appalling accident, and is now recovering well, Stephen Coulter and his lovely wife Paula. Stephen is one of the most helpful people I know, Elvin, Norman, Eunan… the list goes on. The Ladies of Harley, led by Wonderwoman Judith Ringland, ensures that the ladies are not excluded from the effectively male domain, not that the committee would dream of leaving the ladies out. The calendar girls a few years ago, including Grania and Jackie was a great success, as was the Game of Thrones “Sparkle” Tour a couple of years ago.
It is 20 years since the first “HogandBog” Harley Owners Group – and the Bog? Well, yours truly was told it was because the first rally took place in Enniskillen which is known for its bogs. Quite an achievement. Everything was perfect, the signage, the campsite the venue for great alternative party, the boys and girls enjoyed a well prepared barbecue on the Friday evening, followed by music by the fantastic rock band, Cold Comfort. Robin McMinn is well known for his discerning taste in music, and perhaps chose the band. Good choice. We wriggled, jived, danced, twisted to music far into the Friday night. Alison Hood and yours truly didn’t win the dancing competition, but hey ho. Yours truly slept in the car park as she couldn’t have found her way to her bed and breakfast and shouldn’t have driven anyway, having imbibed rather too much wine. The hotel was full of course. Good thing she had a camp bed and sleeping bag in the car as a result of her recent trip to Scotland. She was watched over by two members and their ladies in a nearby campervan. A lovely spa and swim in the morning ironed out the aches and pains of too much dancing, and, in the end, sleeping in the car as it was pretty cold outside, as she found out at 4am.
On Saturday morning, there were a few sore heads, but it did not deter the boys and girls from getting on their Softails, Fat Boys, CVOs, and riding off into the Mournes, up the Silent Valley, and to Spelga Dam. It was a shame about the weather, putting the damper on things. It was misty and raining. The spectacular show of the parade of bikes leaving the hotel at 11am sharp was phenomenal. The noise – some say like “putting the bins out” – the growling of the engine of a Harley Davidson is something instantly recognisable, even to a “newbie” like yours truly. Some of the gang turned back early on. It was too dangerous on the wet roads. Safety is always priority. The Road Captains ensure that everyone is accounted for – well organised ensuring that the members are protected from traffic, “sweeping” in case anyone has a mishap, as happened to myself and my driver a couple of years ago.
It was Terry’s 70th birthday and Terry and Anne’s 45th wedding anniversary, and what better way to spend it than at such a gathering. Anne took the family sight seeing while Terry rode his trike on the ride out. There was a distinctly family atmosphere in the afternoon. Another band for the gang, the sight of the Director and Agnes dressed up as Superman and Superwoman was a spectacle in itself. There were other sights never to be forgotten, and no doubt Chapter photographer Stephen Bassett has captured some great images and videos. The Fire Engine brought in for the kids to admire and learn about. So typical of Colly to think of something like that. The Chapter are great supporters of the Air Ambulance and raise money all year to maintain that important service. We were missing the staunch Helen Heron who always organised the raffle. Sadly Helen can no longer ride her trike and is no longer a member. She is sorely missed by all. Other ladies took up the mantle, but Helen leaves a wide canyon in the social element of the Chapter. There were other ladies though, Judith, of course, Kirsty Barratt from Scotland, Roberta, Carol Ann… brave ladies on their lovely machines.
After an amazing pillion ride around the local area, through Downpatrick with its spectacular cathedral, through Clough, and other lovely Irish villages, views from the back of Bill’s bike, yours truly headed for home, not able to stand the pace any longer. It was just amazing to be riding pillion again. Yours truly has always been a fan of bikes, riding on the back of her brother’s Kawasaki in her younger days, and on the back of the illustrious Steve Cullen, also sadly missed by some as he is no longer a member. Yours truly never learned to ride a motor bike, but instead rode horses, she continued eventing well into her fifties and was amused by Kirsty’s badge “Save a Horse, Ride a biker”. There was another band that night “Raised on Rock”, on the Sunday a Custom Bike show, another ride out and live music by the “Ingram Brothers” in the evening.
The best thing about the Harley Davidson riders is that they do not get drunk and disgrace themselves, they are welcoming and respectful to guests such as yours truly, the men are gentlemen, the ladies welcoming, even if you don’t have any connection with the Chapter at all.
This is a “taster” article for what we hope will be a regular write up. Tina Irving is setting up a syndicate of Freelance Journalists which will be officially launched in October. Members of the syndicate should not be in full time employment, nor attached to any particular media outlet. This should encourage newly graduated media studies students to join as they build their career once they lose the right to be a student member of each organisation.
It was suggested by Stephen Coulter that yours truly becomes an honorary member of the Belfast Chapter. Watch this space!
Tina Irving has a Diploma in Freelance Journalism from Aberdeen College.
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