The vintage machine, a 500cc single cylinder Vincent Comet, was purchased by Thomas Horne for £267.19s. 2d, no small sum in those days. It now has an estimated value of £20,000.
It was one of the last 100 such models manufactured by the Vincent Company in Stevenage – all Vincent bikes, of which there are only around 2,000 left in the UK – are extremely collectable.
Tom, also a keen golfer and veteran member and long time treasurer of the Morpeth Harriers, had five happy years with his motorcycle. This included riding to London for law courses and exams and Aldershot for his National Service, as well as exploring Northumberland.
He sold his beloved machine in 1959 to buy his first car. But he never forgot the Comet.
Then, out of the blue about two years ago, a letter was forwarded to him from the owners of his old firm, Brumell and Sample.
It was from Chris Roche of Carshalton in Surrey, who had bought Tom’s old Comet from a now defunct motorcycle museum in Bedfordshire a few years ago in order to restore it to its former glory and working order.
Through the machine’s old log book, Chris had discovered that Tom Horne of Morpeth had been its first owner.
When Chris first wrote to Tom, he was busy restoring the Comet with occasional help from a few vintage motorcycle friends, but he promised that when it was roadworthy, he would ride it up to Morpeth so that Tom could see his old treasure again.
Despite the intervention of Covid-19 and after two years of painstaking work, renewing various parts and updating the electrics, the restoration was complete.
The visit took place on a recent weekend, although it took a bit longer for Chris to get to Morpeth due to unfavourable weather conditions. He eventually rode into the Northumberland town on the Saturday afternoon.
The Vincent powered up Curly Kews and roared to Tom’s home on Kirkhill, where he had left a window open to listen out for the sound of the vintage bike’s arrival. The Comet had finally come home to its first owner.
On the Sunday afternoon, the two vintage bikers – with Tom on pillion wearing his old Barbour suit jacket, and his newly bought crash helmet – rode to Rothbury, where a fascinated crowd at the ‘Bikers’ Cafe’ gathered to admire the venerable machine.
Chris, 75, is not only a Vincent aficionado, but also a member of the prestigious Cape Horners’ Society, having crewed on square rigged sailing ships three times round the notorious South American cape.
Thanks to his dedicated restoration work and his determination to ride the Comet almost the length of England to reunite the bike with its first owner, the whole journey went without a mechanical hitch.
Tom said that to hear again the unmistakable crisp roar of the Vincent’s exhaust and to see his old bike restored to its former glory was an enormous thrill. But to ride the Comet again, albeit as a pillion passenger, was “a dream come true”.