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Alan’s Story – How it all began

Alan Kerr


Jeff Glen and I were asked for our recollections of events which led to the formation of EDAM as a Motorcycle Group in its own right. Some of the events which I have found out about I was not aware and I must thank Jeff for his recollections going back to the 1970s.  


The motorcycle section formed a relatively small part of the Edinburgh & District Car Group and it was only in the early 1990s when motorcycle sales started increasing with buyers being called “born again bikers” that there was an upturn in interest in further training.  People who had motorcycles in the 60s and 70s found that they now had the funds and time on their hands to take up motorcycling again. However, it was a shock to many of them to find that the gear change was on the left hand side of the bike, there was no kick start, brakes actually worked, they did not mark their territory at every stop and, most significantly, there was a huge increase in power available from the newer machines.  Accident rates increased throughout the UK and many blamed the born again bikers as one of the main reasons.  Some sensible riders acknowledged their need to enhance their skills and many turned to organisations such as the IAM, RoSPA etc.

Looking at our early membership records show that when EDAM was formed in 1995 we had a few members  who actually passed their IAM test in the late 1970s (Jeff Glen, Keith Downton, Jim Hutchison, and John Ranger). In the late 1980s and very early 1990s an increasing number of riders approached the Edinburgh Car Group to enquire about enhancing their riding skills. Jeff Glen was at that time a Car Group Observer but he willingly took on the task of working with these new associate members by reviewing and adapting the car techniques.  As more and more riders became interested in enhancing their skills and passing the IAM motorcycle test some were invited to train to become an Observer. Jeff Glen continued to lead the motorcycle team and developed how they operated. In early 1994 it was clear that our biking membership numbers were continuing to rise, Jeff was again at the forefront of making plans to create our own Motorcycle Group (EDAM). 

It was absolutely right that the man who had done most to further advanced riding and the creation of  EDAM should be at the helm as Chairman and Jeff Glen was elected to the post. Jeff then went on for a number of years holding both the Chairman and Chief Observer roles. We were the first Motorcycle Group in Scotland and also one of the first in the UK. We wanted to offer more than just providing guidance to enable Associate members to pass the IAM Motorcycle test but also continually refresh the Observer pool to bring in new ideas but we also wanted to retain the membership of those who were not interested in Observing so we tried to copy some of the earlier ideas with regular fun runs and even weekend trips away to Kilmelford near Oban and also the Yorkshire Dales – those ideas are still operating today thanks  to the efforts of Bill Fulton and others.  We were lucky to have examiners (Jim Pryde, Willie Wills and Andrew Bright) who gave us advice and support as required. Much work was undertaken in 1994 by people like Allan Dunnett to get everything in order before the Group was formed, things like agreeing that our aims and objectives, income  sources and accounts etc were acceptable to the Inland Revenue so that we qualified to be called a Registered Scottish Charity and were allocated our own number.

We were extremely fortunate to receive a substantial legacy from a Miss Alison Laidlaw who was very appreciative of the help and advice provided by Bill Fulton in connection with her own car driving. When she mentioned to Bill about wanting to help the Group Bill told her about EDAM being a newly formed Motorcycle section of the car group and she readily agreed. She was especially keen to learn that we wanted to encourage young riders to become better and safer riders so the Young Riders scheme was initially aimed at under 21s then subsequently increased to 25 years old. Having a very healthy bank balance did ensure that we did not suffer the problems which later groups faced regarding a lack of funds. For example it enabled us to trial and buy radios for Observer to Associates rides plus many other purchases. Many other Motorcycle groups over the first few years were envious of our financial position and even IAM HQ made several attempts to get us to move the funds to their care! All such attempts were robustly declined!  The Miss Laidlaw annual slow manoeuvring competition was established for both full members and Associate members and that event continues to the current day. Another business which has supported EDAM since its early days was Two Wheels and they have always provided us with two bikes for the Miss Laidlaw competition. Andy Winton who was the MD of Two Wheels was (and still is) a full member of EDAM and he set up a discount scheme and any member who purchased clothing or servicing qualified for a discount. As far as I know that scheme is still available although Andy has since retired.

My IAM pass certificate is dated April 1994 although I think that I probably joined as an Associate in 1992.  I recall that I had to wait some time before being called up to join the programme and when it finally happened it was 1993. I had to attend on a Sunday morning at the Fairmile Inn car park.   My first few outings I just followed an Observer who was following an Associate. Associates were not allocated to a specific Observer until as was established later under the EDAM group. You turned up on the Sunday morning and were allocated to an Observer depending on the number who turned up! Frequently an Observer could have two or three Associates.  I joined up with another Associate who joined around the same time as me and we would meet up on an evening midweek where we would practise slow manoeuvring with one of us acting as an “observer” whilst the other was the “associate”.  The Observers who helped me were John Kerr (no relation to me), Gordon Low, Jim Hutcheson and John Fraser. Eventually I was told that it would be 6 -8 weeks before the local Examiner contacted me for my test but within 10 days I received a telephone call from Willie Wills and he was free to test me on the following Saturday. The day of the proposed test was also the day that I was collecting my new bike (Triumph Trident 900) and the bike I had done all my training on (Suzuki 500E) was being part exchanged. I met Willie at Musselburgh Services car park and he quickly made me feel at ease by showing great interest in  my new bike ( not many Hinckley Triumphs were around at that time) which I had collected earlier that day. Willie was riding a fairly old boxer and one of my main memories was  seeing the massive lean angles of that boxer as we made our way around the back roads of East Lothian!  After my test I was asked as to whether I was interested in doing my Observer training and was delighted to accept as I wanted to put something back into the group. Interest in EDAM continued to grow and very soon afterwards it was decided that we had the membership, interest and the structure to prosper as a Motorcycle Group in our own right. Three key positions as the office holders of the Group saw Jeff Glen (who had been instrumental in setting up the bike section from its earliest days became Chairman and Chief Observer), Allan Dunnett who had done much of the administration work is setting up new Group was appointed Secretary and I became Treasurer. 

  • I have some old membership records from a very early spreadsheet circa 1996 and it shows some very interesting facts:-

  • In 1997 we had 43 associate members either undergoing guidance or waiting to start. We also had 19 Observers at that time.

  • By the time EDAM was formed in 1995 the vast majority of the membership were from Edinburgh & the Lothians but we also had a growing number of Associate members from the Borders, Fife, Central Scotland plus Lanarkshire and Dumfriesshire. 

  • When the role of Senior Observer was introduced the concept of Senior Observers leading teams of four to six Observers with the Senior Observer being responsible for training of their Observers and for conducting mock tests within their teams. Senior Observers had to pass a Senior Observers Test which Rennie Ritchie as the lead Examiner devised. Rennie went on to develop close links with EDAM particularly in clarification of the guidance and techniques. He was regularly invited to be a speaker at our AGMs .

  • Once a year we held the EDAM annual dinner at the Beehive pub/ restaurant in the Grassmarket as a “thank you” to them allowing us to use their committee room free  of charge and Gordon Low  who was at that time one of Senior Observers and also the Head Chef at the Beehive ensured that the menu and food was of a high standard. Members, Associate members and their partners could attend and we always invited our President Jim Pryde (former Examiner) plus our examiners to the dinner.


Alan Kerr

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