Angus racing hero Eck Phillip was on top of the world when he claimed victory in the Isle of Man TT races in 1950 and set a new record.
On the way home, with his new wife Annie on the passenger, the joy turned into tragedy when they were boarded by a milk truck in Ormskirk in West Lancashire.
Eck and Annie were both run over by the bike, suffering from life-changing injuries, and each then walked with the same lameness in their left leg.
Seventy years ago, in 1951, Eck was released from Bridge of Earn Hospital nine months after the accident, almost penniless.
Story worthy of a Hollywood script
They moved to an old house with no electricity, water, and toilet, but fought back on the brink in a ragged tale of wealth worthy of its own Hollywood script.
Eck continued his racing career, becoming a Scottish Sprint Champion, and then set up one of Scotland’s most successful engine and engineering companies.
Eck’s legacy is remembered by members of the Kirkcaldy and District Motorcycle Club whose top riders of the day raced against him.
KDMC archivist Jake Drummond said that such success in the face of adversity that Eck showed in his darkest days should be an inspiration to everyone.
“Almost a year without work and with low wages will ring true for many workers who were put on leave during the ‘dark days’ of the Covid pandemic,” Jake said.
“Eck’s situation was grim; with a woman still suffering from her injuries and a partly furnished rented house to keep, the government payment of 26 shillings per week did not even cover the rent.
“But the determination to win that Eck had shown in the Isle of Man TT races – where his Vincent at 120 mph led him to success on his first outing in the 1000cc class – prevailed and they moved on. in an old house with no electricity, no water, no toilet, but which costs only £ 25 a year.
“By resuming work as a mechanic, along with his wife who worked part-time, they not only made the house livable, but also created a vehicle and set up a repair business in a damp, leaky building. Eck was proud to say that he had never let a customer down.
“SThis ethic quickly saw the company prosper; from a two-pump gas station to the Ford and Iveco AM Phillips Trucktech and Agritech multi-depot business that it is today.
Eck grew up with motorcycles in his blood
Eck grew up on Wellbank Farm, Broughty Ferry.
His father had bikes and rode them until his last years.
Eck left school at age 13 and apprenticed as an automotive engineer with Lamb’s of Dundee and at the same time developed his interest in motorcycles.
He saved £ 9 to buy a used Ariel 500cc from a local dealership near Kirriemuir before volunteering to join the military in 1941 at the age of 17.
He served in the Royal Artillery during World War II, becoming a bomber, and remained in service after the war, serving in the British Army of the Rhine, learning general engineering and maintaining commercial vehicles.
He joined his local motorcycle club after being demobilized and his very first race was at Balado Airfield near Kinross where he won a sprint.
He continued to participate in local events with some success before receiving a telegraph from the HRD Owners Club asking if he could replace one of their riders and compete in Clubman’s TT on the Isle of Man in 1949.
He was only given a few days’ notice but managed to take time off from work and drove to Liverpool in the rain where he arrived drenched to join the overnight ferry to Douglas.
Eck was sleeping on the deck in his soaked clothes.
He arrived in Douglas in the early hours of the morning and managed to get a shower and dry clothes at his hotel before arriving at the famous “Highlander” just before the roads closed.
The first workout was in the evening and Eck walked past the Highlander and his nearby jump before getting off his bike and banging straw bales around the corner of Waterworks.
Eck suffered a broken pinky finger in the accident.
He made a hole in his glove to let out his broken finger and rode the rest of the training week before entering the Clubman’s TT race.
The race lasted three laps with no refueling stops and Eck ran out of gas near Signpost Corner on the last lap, but the experience determined him to participate the following year.
Eck crossed the West Sands to St Andrews
Eck returned from Douglas and competed in the 1949 Scottish Sprint Championship on the West Sands at St Andrews, which became famous for Chariots of Fire.
He faced multiple Manx Grand Prix winners Dennis Parkinson and won the 40-second kilometer sprint at an average speed of 90 mph, which was an all-time record.
Eck won the 20-lap main event at nearly 100 mph and at the flag was the proverbial mile ahead of him, although he had never competed on the sand again.
He continued to race in most events in Scotland until the end of the season with quite a bit of success.
Eck married Annie before the 1950 TT and set out for Liverpool on his HRD 1000cc Big Twin with his wife on the passenger.
Practice went well and Eck was fastest at 120 mph on Wednesday afternoon when the riders were timed on the famous Sulby Straight section of the TT course.
Alan Jeffries commented on the practice and described Eck as “roaring towards the Highlander like a gigantic flying saucer” with “a performance that is simply astounding”.
Eck has long had the nickname of the flying saucer and even had a saucer painted on his helmet.
On race day everything went well and Eck won the five minute TT at 78.5mph in poor conditions and managed to record the fastest lap.
Before leaving the island, HRD Motors gave him a factory-prepared 500cc Gray Flash to compete in the Manx Grand Prix later in the year, which he accepted.
The couple were involved in a serious accident at a five-road junction in Ormskirk in Lancashire on their way back to Scotland.
Eck said leaving his young wife with a disability was the biggest regret of his life, but luckily they survived after spending nine months in hospital.
After almost a year of unpaid work stoppage, they moved to an old house in the middle of a field that had not been inhabited for three years.
The place had no water, no electricity and no toilet, but the farmer didn’t want to take rent and all he had to pay was £ 25 a year for tariffs.
Eck returned to work and was able to descend to Stevenage to collect his restored bicycle which was sent for repairs following the accident.
He liked to be back on board but was forced to sell it.
Eck will return to competition in the summer of 1951
By mid-1951 he was back on his feet and borrowed his older brother’s pre-war International Norton to get back into competition.
Eck’s very first race after the accident took place in July 1951 at Kinnell Airfield near Friockheim.
Organizers allowed him a push start from behind as his leg was still weak and he won the 500cc race after his great friend Jimmy Blair fell from his machine.
Eck went on to set a record lap time in his next race at Crimond in Aberdeenshire which also won him a £ 50 prize from a well-known transport company.
He competed in the 1952 Manx Grand Prix after securing a loan of a Norton 500cc double knocker engine from Joe Potts which grabbed the last day of training.
The main chain snapped and cut Eck’s riding boots and left him with nine stitches.
He managed to rebuild the engine in time for the senior race where he finished 12th after colliding with two slower drivers and being in a shallow ditch.
In 1953 he competed in the 500 Manx again and during the race his gas tank cracked, but he held the seam and finished the race with one hand on the bars.
He spat across the line in 12th place.
In 1954, after saving hard, he bought his very first real racing car, a new Norton Featherbed 350cc which was fitted with a double-jaw front brake.
The bike arrived shortly before the Scottish Championship meeting at Beveridge Park and Eck rode as many miles as possible on the country roads to get the engine running.
He finished second in the 350 race and decided to use the new bike in the 500cc race he won after a battle to the finish line with Alistair King.
The event turned out to be Eck’s last Scottish race and more or less the end of his racing career.
Later in 1954 he competed in the Manx Grand Prix, winning two more silver replicas, finishing fifth in the senior event and sixth in the junior class.
Eck took over the operation of a gas station
In 1955 Eck took over a small service station in Muiryfaulds on the Dundee to Forfar road and set up his company AM Phillip Ltd as a small rural garage.
He would take care of any job – from fixing a flat tire on a wheelbarrow to replacing a gearbox on a heavy truck.
Eck installed the first automatic transmission in a Range Rover in the 1970s at the behest of a customer with multiple sclerosis.
He was instructed to take the adapted vehicle to the Range Rover factory in Solihull where it was tested and examined by company engineers.
He received a number of other orders for Range Rovers with automatic transmissions, including from Count Von Prudo, who was close to the King of Spain.
Eck has grown into one of an elite dealer group across Europe consulted by manufacturers in their quest for quality improvement and model upgrades.
His business flourished to become a multi-depot Iveco and Ford commercial and agricultural vehicle dealership with locations in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glenrothes and Forfar.
It also had branches in Fraserburgh and Huntly specializing in agricultural machinery.
In 1997 it received a Lifetime Achievement Award by Scottish Transport News and in 2005 the company celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Eck continued to visit the Isle of Man TT after his retirement from racing and was invited to participate in the Classic Parade in the 1980s.
He died in 2010 at the age of 86.
Eck’s full story is told in volume five from the club’s archival book.
Jock Porter: Scotland’s forgotten Isle of Man TT champion and Grand Prix star