The magic of vintage motorbike parade - tribute to an amazing Bexhill character

Ixion - looking back jan 31 2014 ENGSUS00120140127112505
Ixion - looking back jan 31 2014 ENGSUS00120140127112505

The unmistakeable sound of vintage motorcycles will resonate through the streets next Sunday morning when the Ixion Cavalcade sets off from Sea Road.

Its an annual event in honour of Bexhill’s extraordinary Canon Basil H Davies - an incredible man who publicly was a much loved parish vicar but in private was a pioneering motorbike journalist called Ixion. His secret was not discovered until he died in 1961.

The parade is organised by bike fanatic and historian Dave Masters who said: “At a casual glance Bexhill on Sea seems a bit short on famous personalities or blue plaques. Of the latter we have one to Logie Baird on a building next to the station, another to the Bexhill Speed Trials of 1902 on the old Sackville Hotel, and a third on the wall of St Barnabas Church in Sea Road.

The St Barnabas blue plaque celebrates the life of one of its incumbents ‘Ixion’ known in his parish as Canon Basil H Davies; Basil was the vicar from 1926 – 1940 and was held in high regard by all who knew him.

As Ixion, the Rev Davies wrote under his pseudonym for over 58 years, his subject? Motor cycles, from 1903 when he first presented an article in ‘The Motor Cycle’ magazine, he then wrote weekly until 1961 in his column ‘Occasional Comments’, (often pages long), in which he answered reader’s letters, made motor cycle related observations and looked at trends in the industry.

On top of this he visited TT races in the Isle of Man each year to write in the magazine, visited and wrote about all the other motor cycle sports, speedway, trials, Grand Prixs, and took part and commented by road testing and reporting on any new motor cycles on the market.

In his early years he competed at national level in motor cycle sporting events popular at the time, often winning gold medals.

Ixion became a byword on motor cycle commentary and yet in his devotion to his day time job as a Church of England vicar he never wavered.

When he retired from the church in 1940 it was reported that the congregation at St Barnabas dropped to minimal numbers. For a while the Church only remained as an entity under the guardianship of the wardens.

Ron, a chorister at St Barnabas during the 1930’s, and now living in Somerset, was a keen young motor cyclist at the time and he read Ixion’s ‘Occasional Comments’ every week, but it was only this year that he discovered his vicar was Ixion, the secret was kept all the time he sang for the church.”

This year the Sunbeam Motor Cycle Club and St Barnabas Church celebrates the fourth Ixion Cavalcade on May 11, and visitors are welcome to come along and see nearly 60 vintage bikes on parade from 9am.

They take to the road at 10.30am, arriving back at the church around midday to go on display, and Bexhill Town Mayor Cllr Frances Winterborn will present awards at 2pm.

The event is free to visitors and riders will be pleased to talk about Ixion and their own particular machine.

Dave has written an Ixion biography which will be on sale inside the church. The book follows the life of this extraordinary vicar and his growing family of six children during their development in an Edwardian setting of an England now mostly forgotten, and with plenty of fascinating pictures and amusing anecdotes, as well as stunning photgraphs and facts of early motorcycle history.