Emails and Letters

This one from a lady in England.

What a surprise to see this web page. I have just finished watching the 100 Greatest Moments of the TT on TV and for some reason came and keyed in Kenny Blake to discover your website.

Kenny was a good friend of mine and I was at the meeting he was killed at. He was one of the kindest gentlest honest men I have had the privilege to know. He stayed several times at my house and we had fun times together – he used to make me laugh.

I think of him often and it is good to see that his memory is preserved. I believe he was an only child and I have thought often about his mother. My brothers both raced in the TT and my older was subsequently killed at Alton (Oulton Ed) Park. Sometimes things are just not fair. I think Kenny’s death was about the end of my love of motorbike racing.

I’m sorry I don’t have any particularly racing memories to impart. My time spent with Kenny was purely social when we would while the time away with idle friendly laughter. I know I have some photos of Kenny somewhere but they may be back at my home in New Zealand. I will try and dig them out and email them to you but it may be some time.

Thank you again for reminding me of him.

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This from one of the real greats of two stroke racing, South Africa’s Jon Ekerold.

Dear Phil,

I recently came across your website paying tribute to Skippy. I thought you might be interested to hear a tale or two from his time in Europe, so I thought I would drop you a line.

I first met Ken in Misano in 1977 if my old memory serves me correctly.(could have been ´78 though). Anyway, he was travelling around with Chas Mortimer at the time as he didn´t have his own van. Like me, he had a start in an Austrian international the following weekend, and as Chas was returning to Britian after the Italian meeting, he asked me if he could come along with us. I had no idea who he was, but Chas said he was a good guy, so I agreed to his request. How glad I am that I did. It gave me the opportunity to get to know a really unique character. Kenny fitted in with us perfectly, and my two kids thought he was just the greatest. I have a pic somewhere of him helping us wash the van in the paddock in Salzburg, and if I can find it I will scan it and send it to you.

We became firm friends and really enjoyed meeting up with each other when our paths crossed. Ken´s biggest problem was a lack of money, not talent, and had he found the sort of sponsor his talent deserved, he would have reached great heights in Europe.

I shared a garage with Ken and Chas in the IOM in 1981. As you know the Senior (500cc) was stopped due to the weather, and rerun the following day. The weather was very patchy, with bright sunshine on the Ramsey side of the mountain, and rain showers on the southern side. I hated those sort of conditions as it was so easy to be caught out. On the run from Quarter bridge to Ballacraine, I kept glancing at a big black cloud above us, expecting the road to change from dry to wet at any moment. The corner where Ken crashed is a right hander (can´t remember the name) and the approach is blind (it follows a blind rise) so it wasn´t possible to see what conditions were like until you had actually crested the rise. In the dry on a TZ 350, the bend could just be taken flat out in 6th, if you were perfectly on line. Being a rather cautious type, I rolled off, just in case the road was wet on the otherside of the rise, and it was lucky I did, because that was indeed the case. Ken had crashed just a few moments before and was still lying on the roadside and it was very obvious he hadn´t survived. He was leading at the time I believe, and had he not crashed there was an excellent chance he would have won the race. I recall he had set the fastest ever lap by a 350 earlier in the week and was very confident before the race. Such a sad sad day.

It is rather coincidental that I was witness to another Australian racers death on the IOM, namely Les Kenny, an account of which appears in my book, The Privateer.

Chas and I often discussed our times with Ken after his death, and he is still remembered with a great deal of warmth by those of us lucky enough to have known him. He was a great fellow.

Thank you for keeping his memory alive.

Kindest regards,

Jon Ekerold.

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Hi Phil,

I was present when Kenny won at Bathurst on the green ‘Kwaka’, as well as, during practice when the long ‘Cowboy’ Handlebars were fitted to the bike instead of the standard short ones, so he could try and control the bike a bit better!!. I’m not sure of the year..

Fortunately, I have a vivid photographic memory of Kenny in this race and would love to relate this amazing, fearless man’s achievements both during practice and the Race, through McPhillamy Park, along Skyline and down into the Esses from just under and in front of Shell Tower where I stood every Easter with my parents and friends from the age of 3 until I was 13, I’m now 53.

At this stage, I will just say, everyone who was at McPillamy Park or on the Skyline that Easter watching Kenny’s exploits all knew he would die racing a motorbike one day!!!

Regards,

Dave

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A long and detailed memory from Colin Morris.

“Dear Phil,
Not sure how or why I’ve stumbled on this site but I feel I have to write.
Have been listening to the TT this year (yesterday) and was reminded of events when Kenny was killed.
This week a rider called Paul Dobbs was killed at Ballagarey and Guy Martin crashed and somehow excaped serious injury.
In 1981 I was spectating at Ballagarey with my Father and Sister; I would have been 18 at the time (it seems like yesterday) We used to regularly spectate there behind a metre high stone wall on the outside of the corner, but on that day we were forced to move a few metres further on towards Glen Vine. We were on our own behind a small low grass bank with a good clear view of the corner.
I’m sure the race has started in the dry hence Kenny being on slicks but in any case it had rained and the road was saturated. I’m not sure what position Kenny had got to but being a time trial he had not really overtaken many riders but was simply one of the top six fastest at that stage of the race. As the race went on the commentators were becoming more aware of how fast and how far up the order Kenny was getting.
At the now saturated Ballagarey corner there were several near misses as other riders had big slides. It appeared thet any rider who took a wide line hit a very slippy patch just on the exit of the corner.
Notably Keith Heuwen who now does a lot of commentary on sky sports in the Uk was one rider who had a massive slide and very nearly came off and literally brushed past the banking in front of us. Another was either Mick or Derek Chatterton and others whom I have long forgotten.
Those moments however are so clear in my mind that I can still see the shock in those riders faces as they had their near miss (no black visors then). There were probably only a few other spectators and a few marshalls but it seemed obvious to us to get an oil flag or something out because we could see what was going to happen. We continued to watch, too far away to shout to the marshalls to put a flag out and to be honest having to take cover behind the bank on several occasions when riders had big slides. Kenny came round the corner probably as wide as anybody and I can remember going up in the air, we all dived behind the bank and listened to the metallic scraping sound of the bike going down the road past us. Kenny lay just by the bus stop on the other side of the road about 30metres away and he was subsequently taken away I think by helicopter.
We only found out he had been killed when we had to give a statement to the police officer at the scene after the race. Whilst I would not want to lay blame on the marshalls that day I think it’s fair to say that Kenny didn’t stand a chance. There was something on the road or a very shiny patch that was catching everybody out and it could so easily have been any one of six others.
We weren’t asked to go to the inquest and I’m not sure of the verdict.
I hope you don’t mind me sharing my memories.
Colin  ”

I replied to Colin’s email and he answered back.

“Dear Phil,

Many thanks for your reply.

Yes of course include it on the site.  As you can tell it’s still a very clear memory and it was extremely tragic.

I have continued to go to the Isle of Man over the past 29 years (only missing a few) and for anyone keen on motorcycle racing it is a very special place. It is also a very dangerous circuit and it has claimed the lives of a lot of riders.  I ride a bike on the road but I’ve never raced, however I’m told that the TT circuit is an amazing place to race and this makes the risks worthwhile.

In Kenny’s case you can be sure that he was enjoying that lap and that moment right to the end.

I haven’t really explored all of the site but the race at Laverton must have been pretty special. I first went to the TT in 1967 (I was 4!!) and grew up watching Ago and listening to the MV.

However I have a similar memory of when Ago was beaten at Mallory park by John (moon eyes) Cooper. It was early 70’s and was a flag to flag tussle with the whole crowd willing Moon Eyes on!

I will take a keen interest in the memorial site and your personal site.

All the best

Colin”

Thanks so much for your vivid memories of that day, Colin. I’m sure it must have been quite hard for you to recall them and put it down on paper.