Kirkcaldy motor club pioneer’s riding gear brought back for centenary celebrations Leave a comment

John Swanston, who visited the club’s memorial in the town’s Beveridge Park, brought along the leathers and helmet used by his father, James Kelly (‘JK’) Swanston, during his racing career in the 1930s, when he won the senior race in the 1935 Manx Grand Prix.

Along with team mates Tommy McEwan and Jack Blyth, James put the Kirkcaldy club on the map in road racing circles by taking the junior and the senior team awards in 1933 and 1935.

Mr Swanston met up with some members of Kirkcaldy & District Motor Club at its memorial which bears the names of his father and his uncle John Lawson (JL) Swanston.

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Pictured from left are: Gary Mercer holding JK’s racing jacket from 1935, Doctor John Swanston holding his dad’s racing helmet; Jake Drummond, club secretary, and his wife Christine Drummond, who is Kirkcaldy & District Motor Club’s archives assistant. The Yellow race bibs with the numbers are from JK’s races on the Isle of Man in the 1930’s where he won the Senior Manx Grand Prix in 1935.
The club members pictured are Neil Mackie, Club president Hugh Ward, chairman Fred McIntosh, Norrie Pattie and vice president Alan Campbell. Pic: Derek Young.

James and John were sons of one of the town’s most famous architects – John Daniel Swanstono was responsible for designing many well known buildings in Kirkcaldy including those at Beveridge Park and many residential and public buildings.

Jake Drummond, club secretary, said: “John Daniel Swanston became a founder member of the club, as did his sons who both became physicians.

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“JL Swanston, who was better known as Jack, had a practice in Kirkcaldy where he served the community for many years in medical practice and in his involvement in the Kirkcaldy Cine Club and the Kirkcaldy & District Motor Club where he was medical officer at their events, particularly at the Beveridge Park Motorcycle Road Races after WW2, where the first road race for motorcycles was held – the ‘1948 Kirkcaldy Grand Prix’.

From left: JK Swanston and Kirkcaldy team mate Jack Blyth pictured at Cunningham’s Camp on the Isle of Man in 1935. Pic: Kirkcaldy & District Motor Club.

Meanwhile, Jake said James Kelly ‘JK’ Swanston gained fame both as a GP and surgeon, but only after he honed his skills in sand racing and on the roads of the Isle of Man, where he led the Kirkcaldy Club trio to wins in the Manx Grand Prix Team Awards on three occasions, partnered by Kinglassie publicans’ son Tommy McEwan and Jack Blyth, son of the Hawkiesmuir Mill owner.

Jake continued: “‘JK’ had been second in the senior in 1932, and could have won the senior event a year later, but pulled over and waved past Harold Daniel into first place, knowing his friend was on the verge of turning professional and wanted to help him.

“In the junior event in 1935 he was third, with fellow KDMC team mates Jack Blyth on his tail and Tommy McEwan sixth, and in the senior he beat the soon to be world champion Freddie Frith to win.

JK retired from racing to concentrate on his medical career. He did however stage a ‘one off’ comeback on Southport Sands where he won the grueling 200 mile race.

The bibs pictured on the memorial in Beveridge Park, Kirkcaldy. Pic: Derek Young.

Jake added: “The purpose of John Swanston’s visit was to bring back his father’s racing leathers, crash helmet and race number bibs from his 1931 to 1935 Manx Grand Prix events to be displayed during the Kirkcaldy Club’s centenary celebrations in 2022, which the club members are busy working on.

“We are hoping a display of memorabilia and machines might be shown in summer 2022, 100 years after the club held its first committee meeting.”

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