Adrian and Wally have attracted many star names to the TT |

Adrian Earnshaw had a great passion for the TT, so he was immensely proud to be the island’s Head of Tourism at the time of the event’s centenary.

He spent most of his working life at the Isle of Man Bank until he successfully won a seat in the Keys in the 2001 general election.

His interest in road racing began as a child when he first experienced the thrill of watching in the mid-1950s.

Luckily for Adrian, he was just about old enough to watch bike races on the 10.79-mile Clypse course that ran through his home village of Onchan.

The course was used for a six-year period between 1954 and 1959, initially for 125cc solos and sidecars, but from 1955 included 250cc solos as well.

The three-wheelers were returning to the TT for the first time in nearly 30 years, having last been seen on the Mountain Course in 1925.

All three classes on the Clypse were full Grand Prix events, completing the Senior (500cc) and Junior (350cc) on the mountain in the same week.

Although the Clypse used the same start and finish area on Glencrutchery Road, the course then turned right at St Ninian’s, heading along Ballanard Road, past the soon to be built housing estate in Willaston, continuing along Johnny Watterson’s Lane to Cronk. -ny-Mona then goes up the current ‘TT Course’ to Creg-ny-Baa.

Turning right at the Mountain Course’s most famous public house, it then followed the winding side roads of Begoade and Whitebridge, before plunging deep into Onchan, turning right at the Manx Arms Hotel and left at Signpost Corner. before completing the last mile of the Mountain Course, except for the Governor’s Dip.

Young master Earnshaw was obsessed with Continentla solo stars like Carlo Ubbiali, Tarquino Provini and Luigi Taveri, and later a certain Mike Hailwood.

In his later years, Adrian gave several illustrated lectures to Onchan residents and others on the history of the Clypse course.

His interest in the TT never waned, but when the event lost its GP status after the 1976 event, he and a few other like-minded locals decided to put all their effort into attracting new blood to the event when it seemed the Auto-Cycle Union had lost interest in the Isle of Man.

He and Ramsey’s Wally Radcliffe, with the support of a fellow enthusiast or two – notably a friend of Wally d’Andreas’s named Harry Butler – set up the International TT Riders Fund. They wasted no time approaching the top runners to visit the island to check out the Mountain Course in hopes they would come back to race in the TT.

The list is almost a who’s who of 1970s GP stars, led by Wil Hartog, Steve Baker, Jon Ekerold, Graeme Crosby, Rolf Biland, Keith Huewen, Boet van Dulmen, Dave Potter and Wayne Gardner, as well as aces of the sidecar. Jock Taylor and Egbert Streuer.

“It was all done with little money,” admitted Wally, “like Adrian, a long-time TT fan.

“We were originally in the TT Supporters Club, but we didn’t think that was enough to attract new riders to the TT, so we started on our own.

“We had a really generous group of people behind us and we managed to keep the whole thing running for several years on a minimal budget.

“It sounds unbelievable now, but we got cheap flights and boat trips, and free accommodation at various guesthouses and hotels around the island.

“Those were exciting times. Above all, we had a common desire to see the TT survive in a period when it was very close to falling into the water.

“The ACU seemed to lack interest in the event and when World GP status was lost in 1976 many people feared the worst.”

Adrian and Wally agreed that had it not been for Mike Hailwood’s still much talked about 1978 return, the TT might well have come to an end, but both said it would be good to think they played their part in encouraging other big names on the island to give him the lifeline. no doubt it was necessary.

Success stories most certainly included the likes of South African tough man Ekerold and other Southern Hemisphere GP stars such as Crosby, Graeme McGregor, Kenny Blake, John Woodley, Dennis Ireland and Dave Hiscock.

Among dozens of others were Sweden’s Lennart Backstrom, Peter Linden, Peter Skold, Anders Andersson and sidecar veteran Lars Schwartz who notched an incredible 30 finishes from 53 starts in 24 TTs from 1980 to 2005.

Swiss sidecar world champion Rolf Biland, Belgian Renée Delaby, German Walter Hoffman and Italian ace Davide Tardozzi were all on the list of the best Europeans to race the TT thanks to the intervention and support of the International TT Riders Fund.

The Fund didn’t just cater to the needs of overseas competitors, as many top British riders showed up at the invitation of the hard-working instigators.

Most stuck with the TT for several years, like Roger Marshall, Chris Guy, Keith Huewen, Steve Henshaw, Barry Woodland, Roger Burnett, Ian Bell and the aforementioned Jock Taylor.

John Newbold made a stunning debut in 1981 with two quarters and a third on factory Suzukis, but sadly lost his life in the following year’s North West 200 before he had the opportunity to really aim. first place in the TT.

In total, the International TT Riders Fund brought together nearly 100 riders to view the Mountain Course from nearly every corner of the road racing world.

“We did pretty well, I guess,” Wally added modestly.

Were it not for the efforts of Adrian, Wally and the fund’s loyal supporters, it is debatable whether the TT would have reached the centenary of its inauguration in 2007, let alone the re-emergence from a pandemic-induced two-year hiatus to preparing for its actual 101st edition in four months.

“Adrian and I were good friends for a very long time,” concluded Wally, now 81.

“I’m so sorry to lose him, he was a true gentleman, and so was everyone he met.”

The Onchan Methodist Hall and Church were packed yesterday for a celebratory service, where Eddie Teare, a longtime friend and former Isle of Man Bank and House of Keys colleague, paid a fitting tribute.

Honoring Adrian’s wishes, the hearse then took him on a final lap of the Snaefell Mountain Course, passing family and friends gathered at the Creg-ny-Baa Hotel to bid him a final goodbye.

Adrian has spent most of his adult life on the course, including many years at the old Brandish Corner.

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