The Classic Motorcycle Rally

The article below written by Cranley Jarman was published in the The Outspan, 3 July, 1936

In writing this article for "The Outs pun," I would like to say at the outset that I have no glamorous tales to tell of previous successes in motor cycle races, no adventures of an exciting nature. My story is a simple one. This year, after two unsuccessful attempts I won South Africa's premier motor cycle event on a machine that originally cost me £4 10s. That is a very plain story, you will agree.

As a young hoy I lived on a farm a few miles out of Nigel in the Far East Rand. For family reasons it was necessary that I should assist my mother, and I stuck it until such time as I could be allowed to go the way
That appealed to me very much. I was brought up on that little farm, and, in fact, I still reside there.

But I was always very keen on motor cycles. You can imagine my delight when subsequently I got work in a garage in Delmas, in the Eastern Transvaal, a few miles from Springs. The proprietor was a keen racing motor cyclist, and he used to compete fairly successfully in races at Motordrome, Auckland Park, Johannesburg, the old Rand racing track, that has now gone out of existence. His successes helped to fire my imagination, and I often pictured myself emulating his feats on a motor cycle. The opportunity did present itself until some years later however.

My first motor cycle race was the 1932 Durban-Rand marathon. In that event I rode a 500 c.c. A.J.S. I had tyre trouble four miles from the start, but I repaired it and went on to finish twentieth, being the only D class rider of a 500 c.c. machine to clock in at the City Deep.

The next year I tried again, but I had trouble with the oiling system of my machine. I had to retire from the race at the Mooi River bridge and complete the course by car. I had a 350 c.c. side valve A.J.S. machine in those days. It gave me splendid service. In a weak moment I was silly enough to sell it.

One day, a young man came into my shop in Nigel and offered to sell me a machine similar to the old one. He wanted £5 for it. After a little bargaining I got it for £4 10s. Straight away I set to work on the machine and, on dismantling it, found it to be just what it looked - a proper wreck. Practically every moving part was worn out. I decided to build it up for my private use, but a friend persuaded me to make a racing machine out of it and suggested that he should ride it in the 1935 Durban-Rand race. I had the cylinder rebored and fitted a new piston, new big end bearing, new valves and guides, and a complete set of new sprockets and chains. New tyres and tubes were also fitted. What little else of the machine was left was not so bad. It performed well in the 1935 race, and when I went for a spin on it after that, I decided to prepare it for the event this year. And as you all know now, it carried me into first place.

Since I have had that machine it has done over 10,000 miles. That is in a period of eighteen months and, let me say, it is not finished yet, not by a long way. It gave me every satisfaction in the race this year. Once I got it on the way I knew I had a chance winning. It was running very sweetly and I felt certain that barring accidents and with the aid of good old Mr Luck, that I should be in at the death.

Well, I was fortunate in respects. I did not know the road too well, and several times I had to slow down to catch a 'glimpse of the signposts in passing. This, of course lost me much valuable ground, for you can't afford to waste too much time with the bigger machines hot on your trail at more than 80 miles an hour, every minute making up hundreds of yards on the start they conceded. I had a spill between Ladysmith and Newcastle. I was going too fast to take a sharp turn in the toad and crashed. That lost me a few minutes but I was soon on my way again and arrived third at Newcastle. When the bigger machines got in and I saw the times posted up, I knew that, barring engine trouble- -if any - that my motor cycle would get me a long way before being overtaken. And that is just as it turned out. I hope to take part in more Durban-Rand races, and I hope to ride the same machine again.

Before having the opportunity of riding a motor cycle, I used to be a very keen cyclist. At the age of seventeen I actually set out on a "push bike" for Port Elizabeth in the hope of obtaining employment as a mechanic down there. I started the journey with ten shillings in my pocket and spent Christmas Day on the veld - a miserable enough experience you will agree, with a good home miles away. On the way, my hopes were dashed by the station master of a small station, a kindly man offering the advice that I would not get very far in my desire down there.

My enthusiasm was straight away dampened, and I promptly turned back to cycle to my home on the Rand. It was a hard ride, and I completed the greater part of the journey home with a few peanuts between me and starvation.

The Editor has asked me to tell of my first ride on a motor cycle. Well, that came about in a peculiar way. It was while I was still on that little farm outside Nigel. A friend and I went over to visit a neighbour one bright moonlight night. We found on our arrival that a motor cycle was standing outside. The temptation proved too great. While the owner of the machine was chatting indoors we quietly stole away on his motor cycle. For a quarter of a mile we pushed the machine, but could not get it to start. Then we discovered the secret - for neither of us knew too much about motor cycles in those days - and away we went. Anyway, the escapade ended without any trouble. It was just a little jaunt that helped to make us envy the owner and wish all the more for machines of our own.

The first motor cycle that I owned was purchased for me by my mother. It was a second-hand one and did not go too well, again, I am afraid, because I knew so little about motor cycles. Eventually, I exchanged it for a bicycle, and on a privately constructed track on the farm we used to make those bicycles do everything except speak.

In regard to the Durban-Rand race: I am convinced that the limit, so far as times are concerned, has by no means been reached, and I venture the opinion that the new records set up this year will be improved upon within the next year or two. There has been a great deal of talk about the race being run in one day. Most people do not see why there should be an overnight stop at Newcastle. The majority of these critics, I think, are people who have not ridden a motor cycle and know very little about the conditions of the race. I, personally, think it will be a long time yet before the race is run off in one day. There are so many things to be taken into account, the most important being the setting sun. With the riders reaching Newcastle and City Deep controls round about mid-day, the position of the sun has not affected them, as yet. But if the race were run in one day, the machines would be ridden into the sun for the greater part of the afternoon, and the great amount of traffic there is on the road and the consequent dust would necessarily constitute a very grave danger to the cyclists.

I quite- agree that it is possible for many of the bigger machines to make the journey in one day. I feel, too, that I am voicing the opinion of the majority of the riders, that they are quite able to stand up to the strain that will be imposed upon them physically. But I do not think it is desirable for the reasons that I have given, and I am sure that most of the riders would prefer that the present conditions, so far as the duration of the race is concerned, be maintained.

Next year we can look forward to even faster times being set up. I expect the fastest man to reach the Rand in something like five hours, 50 minutes, which will mean a quarter of an hour being knocked off the record. Improved conditions must make for improved times. The road is getting better yearly, the arrangements are better - as they should be through continued experience - and machines are getting faster with the many improvements yearly effected to them. It is only natural, then, that new times should be a probability rather than a possibility.

Some people, of course, will shake their heads at this rather ambitious forecast. It is not so very long ago that we thought it almost impossible to break seven hours for the journey. How people marvelled at the times in those days, and when seven hours was beaten they thought the limit had been reached. One has only to glance at this year's results to confirm my opinion.

Before I close I would like to say that I think more motor cycle road racing is necessary in the Transvaal. We have far too little of it up here, and we riders do not get the opportunities that we would like for competition.

I know we motor cyclists are considered to be madmen. How often have I been told that myself and yet as a racer, I am still a junior. May I take this opportunity of replying to those critics? The latest statistics from overseas - I am a student where statistics relating to motorcycles are concerned - reveal that there are less motor cycle accidents, in proportion to the number on the road, than there are motor car accidents.

When a motor cycle comes into a collision with something bigger it naturally comes off second best, but it is far easier to manoeuvre and easier to handle in traffic. I have had several narrow squeaks, where, had I been in a car, I would have had quite a lot to explain. But give me a motor cycle every time. I intend to take part in many more motor cycle races and if nothing unforeseen happens, I shall be one of the first to enter for the Durban-Rand race next year.
I Was Always Keen On Motor Cycles

"I am convinced that the limit so far as times are concerned has by no means been reached"


(Winner of the 1936 Durban-Rand Motor Cycle Marathon)
“I know we motor cyclists are considered to be madmen. How often have I been told that myself and yet as a racer, I am still a junior. May I take this opportunity of replying to those critics?”
"At the age of seventeen I actually set out on a “push bike” for Port Elizabeth in the hope of obtaining employment as a mechanic down there".
Left to right: Cranley Jarman, 350 s.v. A.J.S., Roy Hesketh, 350 Excelsior Manxman, H. Lesar, 250 James.
Certificate of Merit presented by the Rand Motor Cycling Club to Cranley Jarman upon winning the 1936 DJ Race.
Click image for larger view.

Newspaper article circa 1969

Staff Reporter

THE MAN WHO won the last of the classic Durban-Johannesburg motorcycle races in 1936 still lives surrounded by machinery from an era in which he was considered one of the greats of South African road racing.

In the corner of a room in his house stands the almost delicate 350-c.c. A.J.S. on which he crossed the finishing line first at City Deep more than 33 years ago. It still has the original number bolted to the side and, with various bits and pieces of two-wheeler machinery, shares the room with other famous machines of the time.

Even the grounds surrounding the home of Mr. Cranley Jarman in Laversburg, near Nigel, are littered with famous machines of the past - Sunbeam, Rudge, Harley and Indian.


To Mr. Jarman motorcycles have for almost 50 years been the source of work, fun, transport and, above all, deadly serious road racing. He had his first attempt at the Durban-Johannesburg race in 1932 and finished 20th. The next year he dropped out with mechanical trouble.

Then in 1936 he entered the A.J.S., which was already 10 years old, and pounded it to City Deep and motorcycling immortality. That was the last of the great races and the 1926 A.J.S. has been stored ever since.

In the 1950's he made a comeback to racing, but this time as mechanic to his friend, the great Borro Castellani, who was virtually unbeatable on his Norton Manx.

At 61 he is still a bachelor and has been living in the same house since 1912.
Cranley Jarman holds the certificate of merit on which he is officially named as the winner of the last Durban-Johannesburg motorcycle race in 1936.



Newspaper article 1936

J. M. Leishman whose tragic death in the Durban-Rand race is reported elsewhere on this page, was 25 years of age and employed by Messrs. Sayle and Rossaak (Pty.) Limited, Durban.

For the past two years Leishman has been living: in Durban but before coming to this city was in Johannesburg. It was on the Rand that he first became interested in motorcycle racing. He rode seven times in the Durban-Rand Race and his improved performances each year led many to consider that he would win the race in 1934. He might have done so had not engine trouble been .experienced during the second day's racing.

Leishman started a strong favourite this year. He was considered to be one of the finest local riders and one of the most able speedmen in the country. He was never lurid in the spectacular sense of the word. He was a fast rider, quite fearless but never reckless. This he has demonstrated many times in the past - in hill climbs, on the grass track and in big road races. Last year he won the Durban Grand Prix which was rum over the Bluff circuit. This was his biggest success.

Leishman was a reinforced concrete engineer and raced for the love of racing. He was Jin no way connected with the motor trade. His enthusiasm made him a popular member of the Parkhill Motorcycle Club, while his riding ability made him their able representative in any speed event. There are many who will regret the death of this outstanding man.



When the final control closes at City Deep to-day South Africa will have seen its last Durban-Johannesburg motorcycle race. That is the opinion held by a number of leading riders and officials in this year's event, following the death of the popular young Durban rider, Jock Leishman.

It is believed that the race has long; since ceased to serve any useful purpose and that Saturday's fatality will definitely put art end to all hopes of another event. Although this is the first fatality in the event itself since 1913, the feeling in official quarters is that machines have progressed faster than the roads, and with the ever-increasing amount of traffic between Durban and the Rand the roads are becoming unsafe. However, the fate of the event will probably remain in the balance until early next year, when official application for the event will be made to the Provincial authorities, as has been the in the past.
J. M. LEISHMAN, who shortly after this photograph was taken, was killed near Ladysmith, following C. H. Young at the start of the Durban-Rand race on Saturday.

The start of the 1936 DJ Race at Mayville in Durban. On the left wearing a hat and looking towards the camera is Bill King who held a number of positions in the Natal Motorcycle and Car Club (NMCC) in Durban, and maybe the most important of which was the running of the Snell Parade races. However, he was also keen motorcyclist and was involved in the Durban start of the DJ.

No. 3 B J Barnett 196cc Francis Barnett
No. 4 L Taylor 225cc Royal Enfield

Photograph: Dawn Compton (Bill's daughter)