Honda XRV Forum banner

1 - 5 of 5 Posts

·
Xi dwejjaq member
Joined
·
921 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Fred Hill died in prison on the 10th February 1984, while fighting against bureaucratic interference with his choice to ride a motorcycle without wearing a crash helmet.
FredHill.jpg

Many people may have heard of Fred Hill but not actually know who he was and why he is remembered with such respect by the Motorcycle Action Group.
Fred Hill was not a natural rebel, let alone a candidate for public enemy status. Born in Yorkshire, he spent the war as a despatch rider, after which he pursued a peacetime career as a teacher of mathematics.
Fred’s involvement with MAG and the anti helmet law campaign began in 1976 after the Sikhs gained and exemption from the law. There were those at the time who were uncertain about Fred’s motivation, fearing that it might be racist, born of the resentment that an immigrant minority were enjoying preferential treatment. Those who met Fred, heard his speeches, and got to know him a little, were re-assured that this was not the case. If Sikhs did not have to wear helmets then nobody should have to although he rarely ever made any reference to the Sikhs' preferential treatment.
While Fred’s personal campaign was passive, it was absolute, in that Fred never wore a helmet and never paid a fine. In consequence, huge number of summonses began falling through his letter box, when a journalist from the motorcycle press went to interview him in his home in Hayes, Middlesex, Fred produced a sizeable suitcase packed with summonses that he kept as souvenirs, all unpaid. It was his refusal to pay the fines, rather than the helmetless riding offence, that led the courts to imprison Fred, the charge being the more serious one of "Contempt of Court". Although he was always polite to the authorities that pursued and imprisoned him, Fred was totally unimpressed by people in high positions, and was never intimidated by them. On one occasion a woman magistrate was endeavouring to chastise Fred for breaking the law, to which criticism, Fred, implicitly referring to Emily Pankhurst and the female emancipation movement, replied, "if it hadn’t been for a woman breaking the law, you wouldn’t be sitting there now madam".
Fred was sentenced to a total of 31 prison sentences over the eight year coursed of his campaign, sometimes for as little as twenty-four hours, rising to a maximum of two months, his final spell which he half completed in London’s Notorious Pentonville prison. On one occasion, when his one day sentence was to be served in a police cell, the desk sergeant who hadn’t bothered to lock the cell door, told Fred, "stick around until no-ones looking Fred and then bugger off". He didn’t always get off so lightly however. Once during spell inside in the winter time, some tools went missing from the prison work shop, and Fred, along with all the other prisoners implicated, was strip searched outdoors in the freezing cold. Fred wrote to his friend Brian Nicholas at the time, expressing doubts about how much more of this kind of treatment he could take. Fred’s attitude to prison life was not cavalier; he hated being locked up, particularly when he had to share cells with unsavoury people which, inevitable, he often had to do.
Besides enduring many prison sentences, the anti helmet law campaign by attending many MAG demos, at which he made speeches. Despite his age, Fred would ride considerable distances for which purpose he traded in his moped for a 250 Honda. No matter how far he had travelled or how bad the weather conditions were he always rode home the same day after a demo for his wife’s sake, and declined offers from MAG to provide him with bed and breakfast accommodation.
Fred was invariably booked for riding helmetless on demos, and on more than one occasion arrested. In 1978 a run was held in Eltham, south East London, without police permission. It was only a small affair but the SPG were sent in to break it up, and Fred was arrested for assaulting a police officer. The charge was bizarre and caused the police considerable embarrassment as Fred pursued the case through the courts until his name was cleared. In his own neighbourhood however, the police usually turned a blind eye to Fred’s legal indiscretions as he rode around in his characteristic brown beret. Fred risked more serious charges by often pointing out, to the crowds he addressed and in the presence of police officers, that if everyone followed his example, the helmet law would be repealed. He could arguably have been charged with inciting others to break the law and it is to the credit of the officers present that they never chose to pursue this line.
It was during Fred’s 31st prison sentence that he suffered a heart attack and subsequently died while still in custody. An enquiry, held to establish whether Fred’s treatment had contributed to his death, found no evidence for this. Clearly the stress of being incarcerated in a hostile and uncomfortable environment, particularly for a man aged 74, can hardly have been a irrelevant factor.
Surprisingly the national media never latched on to Fred’s campaign, as one might expect they would, although as a human interest story his was a very powerful one. A significant exception to this blanket of silence was provided by the journalist Auberon Waugh, who not only wrote about it at the time in the Daily Telegraph, but made a point of honouring Fred each year on the anniversary of his death as long as he held the Telegraph column. The MP Matthew Parish also wrote a splendid piece charging the political contemporaries with hypocrisy in promoting freedom when such liberality cleared obstructions to making money, but inhibiting personal liberty where individual freedoms are concerned.
MAG owes Fred Hill a colossal debt for the example he set us. I hope that this article will make people realise why MAG continues to argue for voluntary helmet use. The best way that we can attempt to repay the dept we owe Fred Hill is to keep alive the issue that he believed so strongly in. Please note that MAG is not against the wearing of helmets, merely the infringement of personal choice in being forced to. The helmet law marked the start of the long series of laws imposed upon bikers and scooterists by misguided politicians, who think we need protecting from ourselves, which have culminated today in flawed proposals for legislation including leg protectors, air bags, day-glo clothing and design restrictions, most of which have been proved to do more harm than good while destroying the concept of the motorcycle as a cheap, economical, environmentally friendly and fun form of transport.
(This article, written by Ian Mutch, was taken from MAG NEWS)
 

·
Commuter Extraordinaire
Joined
·
468 Posts
I remember Fred Hill quite well from the late 70's/early 80's when his activities made fairly regular news in MCN & Motorcycle Weekly. I agreed with his sentiments then, but not now. I've only ridden once properly without a lid.....that was in Corsica in 1985 when someone nicked them from our tent porch. We had to ride 80 miles or so from Bonifacio to Ajaccio to buy replacements. I thoroughly enjoyed riding lidless in the hot July temperatures. We did get stopped by the Gendarmes but that was only so they could look at the bike, a then-quite-radical K100 :)
 

·
Ridden for years
Joined
·
2,805 Posts
Excellent article.
There is no law against obesity and cigarettes, yet the NHS is overrun; freedom of choice in this matter I say.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,007 Posts
I seem to remember a bit of a twist to the helmet exemption for turban wearers. They claimed that they couldn't fit a turban inside a lid, so they shouldn't be forced to wear one. But at the time, safety helmets on building sites became mandatory, so they found a thin silk turban allowed them to be worn under a helmet. But the DoT ignored this and brought in the exemption for bike lids.

I'm firmly with Fred on the 'one rule for all' bit. If you choose a religion or belief that is incompatible with national laws, tough. That's your choice, no-one is forcing you in your beliefs, or criticising them. But you have to accept the limitations your belief imposes, not the rest of society.

However, I do think that bike helmets should be compulsory. The bikes that were around when no-one wore helmets were so much more limited than today's bikes, that comparison is almost pointless. Same goes for traffic levels. And while I'm sure this could come over as a, 'wasn't like this in my day' whinge of an old git, I'm not concerned with the experienced rider having an occasional lidless Sunday ride for the hell of it. I'm more concerned with the 21-year old, newly licensed kid, with a new bike to show off and not enough experience to know when to back off. Think about what you were like at that age; I know for sure I wouldn't be here now if helmets hadn't been compulsory. If you make an exemption for the more experienced rider, then you know damn well that the 21-year old will say 'if he can do it, why can't I?'; and that's only fair.

I had bike crashes in my teens and twenties where my helmet saved my life (I still have that lid, scars and all) and I've been a passenger in a car where the seatbelt definitely saved me (and I still have the neck damage to remind me); I wouldn't drive or ride without them. I don't like being compelled to, but if that compulsion keeps a young rider alive until he/she is old enough to have seen the difference they make, then I'll accept it. But only if it applies to everyone. Fred's campaign wasn't primarily about helmets, it was about fairness.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,539 Posts
I remember seeing a Seikh bloke riding around on his Harley-Davidson years ago in east London with the standard genuine Harley-Davidson rider mean angry facial expression leather chaps big scull rings a cut off denim jacket with a big Eagle stood on the bar and shield iron crosses skulls and other bad ass regalia a long beard wrap around shades and a black turban with little black sew on patches on it with white script on them that said things like " the helmet law sucks and so does your sister " " loud pipes make a lot of noise " and other such flogged to death old bollocks . :clown:
 
1 - 5 of 5 Posts
Top