Scottish Motor Sport Initiative, Duns: a feasibility study

5 Apr 1998 | blog, motor sport, tourism, working with communities

A study for Scottish Borders Enterprise in association with Mackay Consultants of Inverness. This work examined the feasibility of proposals for a visitor attraction based on the heritage of Scottish motor sport in and around Duns. The principal part of the proposal was for a new museum based around the Jim Clark Room but other proposals included the re-use of Charterhall Circuit the expansion of the Jim Clark Trail and other interpretive work.

Section from the Report (August 1997)
EXISTING MOTOR SPORT FACILITIES IN THE DUNS AREA

We have undertaken an evaluation of existing motor sport facilities, events and venues in the area with a view to assessing their strength and the potential contribution they could make to the Duns proposal.

THE JIM CLARK ROOM

Jim Clark Room, DunsOur first impression of the Jim Clark Room was that it was an entirely appropriate, well housed, dignified way of remembering Jim Clark. It occupies a single room in a small council building on the A6105 through Duns and is conveniently and prominently located with adequate car parking at the present time.

It has trophies, photographs, paintings, racing overalls, small model cars and a video display (Admission £1.00). The size of the room restricts the numbers of visitors who can comfortably see the exhibition at any one time and this is particularly inconvenient when clubs or other parties visit. There are 122 catalogued trophies and awards displayed in the Jim Clark Room, this being the extent of what was gifted to the former Duns Town Council by the Clark family. There is little or nothing by way of a reserve collection or other items and personal effects held by Scottish Borders Council Museums Service although it is assumed that other items do exist.

In a report in 1982 for the Council for Museums and Galleries in Scotland (now the Scottish Museums Council), it was said that, ‘….the memory of this famous man is still fresh in the minds of many local people. Nevertheless, as the present generation grows up other motor sport heroes come to the fore’. The report went on to say that although this was a fine display, it was rather static and in need of a new approach.

It was noted at the time that visitor numbers had fallen from 7307 in 1979 to 4761 in 1981 and that audio-visual material could be assembled to help enliven the display. The Room was eventually refurbished in 1993 with assistance from Jackie Stewart, Tom Walkinshaw, Peter Windsor and others. Duke Video also assisted with the provision of a video playback machine. The facility attracted 5921 visitors in 1996 and 4974 in 1995. During a visitor survey carried out in April 1997, 3% of the visitors were from Duns, 6% from the Borders, 9% from Edinburgh and 27% from overseas, the remainder being from other parts of the UK. The shop sold £5860 of goods in 1996 and there are plans to increase the range of items available.

The curatorial and conservation requirements of the Room are not particularly demanding although due care has to be taken with metal trophies and with the fabric of racing overalls. The content of one of the display cases is changed fairly regularly to include references to more recent events in motor racing such as the visit of Ayrton Senna..

If the Jim Clark Room lacks anything, it would probably be a sense of context, real cars and a clear story about the man himself. As it is, it perhaps deals with the gloss of motor sport and Clark’s achievements rather than with the person and that is something which could be developed, given more space. In some ways, the room has the character of a shrine and although that may be the way some wish it to be, others may wish to see beyond that to the man himself and the personal qualities which made him so popular. However we are aware that this is a sensitive issue and that the Room has good qualities which should not necessarily be altered for the sake of it.

THE JIM CLARK TRAIL

Jim Clark Trail GuideThe Trail takes the visitor to a variety of places linked to the life and career of Jim Clark. It is a 40 mile journey starting at and returning to the Jim Clark Room and a Trail leaflet is available as a guide.

The principal features along the Trail are Charterhall and Winfield Airfields where Clark competed early in his career, Bluestane Ford where Clark played as a child, Edington Mains Farm which was the family home, Chirnside Parish Church where Clark is buried and the Jim Clark Memorial Clock in Chirnside designed by Ian Scott Watson.

The Trail is unmarked and informal and we were struck by the character of the landscape in which it is set. There is isolation, a lack of tourist infrastructure, hotels, cafes and shops: but there is also great beauty, atmosphere and a sense of anticipation throughout the journey.

The experience of visiting the airfield circuits relies to a great extent on the imagination or knowledge of the visitor. They are inaccessible, difficult to view from the public roads and there is a certain sense of frustration at what little there is to see. There is no interpretive text or signage and in the case of Charterhall, the trail could direct visitors to a more interesting view point (Lodge Corner at the eastern end of the airfield) or describe which parts of the airfield were actually used for motor racing.

Lodge Corner, Charterhall

The Trail is a fascinating journey not only through the history of Borders motor sport but also an excursion through a beautiful landscape. It is indeed an ‘undiscovered country’ and we are aware of the dangers of exploiting not only that but also the Jim Clark legend itself. We were also left with the impression that there must be more of interest along the route which could supplement the existing points of interest. Statistics on the use of the Trail are not available, and would be difficult to obtain.

THE JIM CLARK MEMORIAL RALLY

The Jim Clark Memorial Rally has been running since 1970. This year, the Rally was significantly different in that the organisers obtained an Act of Parliament to enable the closure of public roads for the event. The process of obtaining this legislation has taken over six years.
Jim Clark Memorial Rally Regulations
The Rally was based in Duns over the weekend of 4-6 July. The organisers produced a format that was intended to, ‘…excite the competitor, media and spectator alike. Newtown Street, the traditional start of the event will buzz with excitement for the duration of the event with the cloverleaf pattern of the Rally visiting the podium on seven occasions throughout the weekend.’

The significance of the Rally for Duns and the surrounding area is undoubtedly great. Estimates of visitor numbers ranged from 25,000 – 50,000 or more over the three day event. Newtown Street was the centre of activities with the field immediately to the north of the Jim Clark Room used as the showground and parc ferme, accessed through Gourlay Wynd. Scrutineering took place at Jim Clark’s farm at Edington Mains. The Rally seems set to take over the centre of Duns for the weekend with the resultant benefit for shops, cafes and other local businesses being reminiscent of the days of the classic European road races such as the Mille Miglia and the atmosphere it created for decades in the centre of Brescia.

The Rally was a round of the Scottish Rally Championship and the Peugeot Rally Challenge and was organised by Berwick and District Motor Club and Border Ecosse Car Club. The event was supported by Scottish Borders Enterprise, Scottish Borders Council and Scottish Borders Tourist Board. The event has the potential to grow in stature and become part of a British or European Championship.

Start of the Mille Miglia in Brescia, Italy circa 1955

It is estimated that around 10,000 people visited the area as a result of the Rally. This is substantially less than was expected. We understand that the Rally was a considerable success as a motor sport event but that as a means of attracting visitors to the area, it fell short of expectations. Although there was a reasonable amount of press coverage before and after the event this was confined to the sport pages of most newspapers. It is suggested that if the event is to have a higher profile, it has to move from the sport sections of the press to more general news. It may also be the case that a clash of dates with the Duns Festival had a negative impact and that a more helpful programme issued at the right time would be beneficial. We have no reason to doubt that this event can live up to expectations in the future. However, the organisers might make efforts to broaden the publicity associated with the event so that it is more of an occasion which can be enjoyed by a wider public.

CHARTERHALL AIRFIELD

Charterhall International Race Meeting ProgrammeCharterhall was the longest lasting of the early circuits in Scotland and was in operation from 1952 to the early 1960s. With its wide three-quarter mile straight, Charterhall easily accommodated the most powerful cars of the day. An entry list for the International meeting held at Charterhall Airfield on 6 August 1955 reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of motor racing at that time: the venue saw Moss, Hawthorn, Farina, Abecassis and Parnell competing there and the Daily Record ran buses from Killermont Street in Glasgow to its Trophy races. BRM V16s, Ferrari Thin Wall Specials and Ecurie Ecosse Jaguars were all raced there and of course Jim Clark competed at Charterhall early in his career. After its closure as a circuit in the 1960s, a shorter kart circuit was used for a while and Charterhall still features as a rally special stage in various Scottish championships (see under OTHER EVENTS below).

Today, Charterhall is still used as an airfield and for agricultural purposes. Unlike Rheims or Piccolo Madonie, there is little evidence of the site’s former use as a circuit although the faded paint of the starting grid can still be seen together with the main straight and perimeter roads which made up the circuit. The race control building has disappeared and the grandstands were temporary structures. Nevertheless, like many former motor racing circuits, Charterhall is an evocative and historic place with stories to tell and it has an important place in Borders and Scottish motor sport.

Charterhall Circuit Layout

We understand that discussions have taken place in the past regarding its re-use as a circuit and certainly the potential exists to achieve that. However at the present time, no progress has been made. It is not accessible to the general public.

WINFIELD AIRFIELD

Winfield Circuit in 1997

Winfield Airfield was first used as a motor racing circuit in October 1950. The race winners on that day included some significant figures in the history of Borders and Scottish motor sport. David Murray in a Maserati won the feature race and went on to establish Ecurie Ecosse. Alec Calder, winner of one of the sports car races in a Riley, was Jim Clark’s brother-in-law and Jock McBain of Chirnside, whose MG won the opening race later helped Clark with international class machinery through the Border Reivers team.

Winfield was only used for a few full scale race meetings before it was superseded by Charterhall and eventually closed as a race track in 1952. It was also used for manoeuvring tests and the finish of the Monte Carlo Rally on the seafront at Monaco was simulated there in the 1950s. Local names such as Horndean, Hilton, Copse and Fishwick were given to the circuit’s corners.

After its closure. it continued to be used as a sprint track and a small part of it is still used for autotests today. It is currently owned by a local farmer and used intensively for agricultural purposes. It is also still an airfield, in more regular use than Charterhall, and operated by the local flying club.
Winfield Circuit
By any measure, Winfield is a significant and historic site in the story of Borders and Scottish motor sport and should be treated as such. However it is not accessible to the general public and it is difficult to see how it could best be used.

OTHER FACILITIES AND AREAS OF INTEREST

We are aware that other former venues and facilities exist and are occasionally still used throughout the Borders area for motor sport. Stobs Camp (single venue rallies and sprint track), Ashkirk (autocross venue) and Crichness Farm (consistency hill climb) are the most familiar and have interesting histories as have various forest stages. We have not been able to evaluate these in any detail but they undoubtedly contribute to the richness of the area’s motor sport heritage and have the potential to be incorporated in future proposals.

OTHER EVENTS

We are aware of 33 motor sport events taking place in the Borders area during 1997. These are organised by Berwick and District Motor Club, Border Ecosse Car Club and Hawick and Border Car Club. Of these events there are 14 road rallies, 13 autotests, 3 stage rallies and an autocross, classic trial and historic rally. Although some of these are relatively minor, they do represent the continuing interest and commitment to motor sport in the Borders.

It is understood that a number of the autotest events are held at Winfield. Two of the stage rallies are held at Stobs Camp and Charterhall respectively. The Charterhall Stages Rally held on 14 June 1997 attracted up to 600 spectators. It is considered that these stage rallies have the potential to make a greater contribution to the picture of Borders motor sport but it is acknowledged that road rallies are very much club affairs with no potential for attracting spectator interest.

We are also aware that national events use the Jim Clark Room and Newtown Street as a stopping point. Recent visits have included the FIVA Historic Rally, LE JOG, and the Ecosse Tour. The RAC Centenary Historic Rally will visit in September. At the present time, there does not appear to be an appropriate and effective mechanism for publicising or promoting these visits.

SUMMARY

The combination of the Jim Clark Room, the Trail, historic sites and present day motor sport events represents a considerable resource for the Borders and for the Duns area in particular and is the basis of the Scottish Motor Sport Initiative. There is no doubt that improvements could be made to individual facilities, venues and events but the real potential lies in the totality and uniqueness of what is there and how it can best be developed.