‘It made me feel incredibly proud of him’

DISCOVERY David Neale, who has found out about his father's life as a motorbike racer. ''Picture: Steve Reid (122494-900)

DISCOVERY David Neale, who has found out about his father's life as a motorbike racer. ''Picture: Steve Reid (122494-900)

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All it took was a click of the mouse for David Neale to find the father he never knew.

He was aware his dad had been an amateur international road racing motorcyclist, but that was about it.

MEAN MACHINE John Bacon in action

MEAN MACHINE John Bacon in action

What he never knew was the high level at which he raced, the esteem in which he was held by the biking community and the man behind the leathers and helmet.

It was a frustration which meant the life of the 47-year-old was never really complete.

But that ended earlier this year when an aunt and cousin Googled his dad’s name and up popped a picture and information about him.

‘It was the first time I’d ever had any concrete details about him. I’d searched the internet before, trying to find out about him, but never had any luck,’ says David.

And that random search has now led to David and his sister Linda being invited as guests of honour to a moving ceremony at the spot where their father died.

John Bacon was just 31 when he died in a crash during a road race at Tubbergen in the Netherlands in 1965. His sister Linda was two and their mother, Jean, was six months pregnant with David.

That post on the vintagebike.co.uk website was compiled by Arthur West, an old racing friend and it enabled David to start piecing together details of his father’s life.

His discovered that, riding a Norton, he finished 12th out of 41 in the lightweight bike class of the 1960 Isle of Man TT. He even beat the legendary Mike Hailwood who went on to become one of the few men to compete at Grand Prix level on motorcycles and in cars.

‘It was his first and only Isle of Man TT and the record shows that over the two hours and 38 minutes it took him to complete the course, his average speed was 76.19mph,’ says David, who took the name of his mother’s second husband when she remarried after his father’s death.

‘As a result of that website posting, Linda asked for anyone who knew our father to contact us. We were anxious to find out at much as we could about him because my sister was only two and I was three months off being born when he died.

‘And out of the blue a chap called Richard Morley replied. He was my dad’s best friend. They’d grown up together in Woking. They both started on cycle speedway for the Old Woking Jets before eventually taking up club, national and international motorcycle racing.’ Richard went on to become the managing director of Lotus Europe.

That contact with Richard led to an invitation from Holland. It came from the Tubbergen Motorcycle Racing Club which wanted David, his sister and Richard to be their guests in May at the unveiling of a memorial to the three riders and two spectators who died during the annual Tubbergen road race.

And one of the names on that memorial belongs to their father.

David, who lives with his wife Emma and their two children at Zeus Lane, Crookhorn, and is a long-distance lorry driver, adds: ‘We’d never met them before but they made us feel so welcome. We were treated like royalty.

‘The new track is only about 1.5km long and racing now takes place around what is really an industrial estate.

‘But when my father raced in 1965 the circuit was 10km long. The race went through three towns and in its heyday 60,000 spectators would watch the race.

‘It was the second most-watched motorcycling event behind Assen where the Dutch TT is held. The road racing stopped in the 1980s because of the traffic gridlock caused in surrounding town.’

All the family and friends of those killed at the circuit between 1954 and 1972 were taken on a coach tour of the circuit and shown the exact spot where the five died.

‘It was hugely emotional,’ says David. ‘About 100 vintage motorcycles and their riders became guards of honour for the coach which stopped for a minute’s silence as we passed the spot where each of the five died.

‘When it stopped where my dad died, my sister and I got off the coach and looked at the two roses we had planted there earlier – one orange, one white – that had been intertwined to represent our mother and father being at one again.

‘At that point the guard of honour bikes went past with some riders nodding, some saluting. It was an extremely poignant moment for both of us.’

But the links with his dashing father did not end there.

At the end of the day one of the Dutch organisers of the event asked David if there was anything else he would like to do.

David adds with a gleam in his eye: ‘I told him what it was and he said he would get it arranged.’ The following day was one David will never forget.

‘He came back, passed me a helmet and leather jacket and I was taken as a pillion passenger on a Suzuki 1000cc bike around the old Tubbergen road race circuit.

‘We got up to some incredible speeds and I felt the thrill my father would have experienced.

‘I had walked in my father’s footsteps and it made me feel incredibly proud of him.’

‘It was going to be his last race’

John Bacon had retired from competitive riding when he died on the Tubbergen road circuit in Holland.

David says: ‘He wanted to ride one last time. It was going to be his last race. He had a two-year-old daughter and I was on the way. It turned out to be his very last ride, but not in the way he wanted.’

John, who did his national service in the RAF, was a dental technician who moved to work in Switzerland to fund his motorcycling exploits.

David says boyhood friend Richard Morley told him his father was always inventing things.

‘Apparently he even came up with the forerunner of Steradent to clean dentures.’

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