Thursday, 13 December 2012

Obituary: Reverend Graham Hullett

It is with great sadness that The Thruxtonian has learned of the passing of Father Graham Hullett on 5th December. He was 80 years old.

Reverend Frederick Graham Hullett is notably famous for having been the charismatic leader of the renowned 59 Club during its golden era in the 1960s.

Father Graham - the Ton-up Vicar

His love of motorcycling took off during his National Service, most of which he spent aboard a Matchless G3 in Germany. Once he had returned to Civvy Street, the young priest volunteered to collaborate with the legendary youth club, since this would combine his religious duties with his enthusiasm for bikes. The Church hierarchy readily accepted, not least because the previous Club leader, Rev. William Shergold (affectionately known as “Father Bill”) wished to move on to other things.

The 59 Club prospered under Father Graham’s leadership and went from being a youth club that welcomed Rockers and ton-up boys to becoming a fully-fledged motorcycle club. Rev. Hullett would rarely miss a club ride and regularly led club outings to the TT races on the Isle of Man, but also took members several times to the Dragon Rally in Wales and the Elefantentreffen rally in what was then West Germany. Thanks to these runs, the 59 Club gained its international fame. [...]

Despite being a man of the cloth, Father Graham was no shrinking violet. He felt a kinship with the club’s Rocker members despite their sometimes well-earned reputation for being a bit rowdy. He even gained the grudging respect of the feared London Road Rats MC; in one memorable incident he broke the finger of one of the Rats – the concepts of “love thy neighbour” and “turn the other cheek” were undoubtedly on leave that day!

Indeed, Reverend Hullett was not one to go around flaunting his religion or trying to force-feed it to the young Rockers who flocked to the club – most of the time he looked like one of them, his dog collar hidden away behind his black Lewis Leathers jacket, and sporting Rocker-esque sideburns. At a time when being young, wearing a leather jacket and riding a loud, fast bike was something that society frowned upon, Father Graham spoke up for these young lads, speaking on their behalf in court, or to concerned parents. He was wont to defend the young lads by reminding the general public that just two decades earlier, similarly feisty young men were hailed as heroes as they defended the skies of Britain at the controls of Spitfires. The fact that he was soon seen and respected as “one of us” by ton-up boys (he rode the crotch rockets of the day – powerful 650cc BSAs and 750cc Nortons) meant that many heeded his words and avoided getting into serious trouble with the law. He married many club members and even christened their children; on a more sombre note, he visited them in prison and also buried a fair few when rides had gone tragically pear-shaped.

Although he too ended up moving on to other duties within the church, Father Graham Hullett continued to ride bikes until he was in his late 70s, when ill health forced him to hang up the leather jacket for good. The Thruxtonian would like to extend its sincere condolences to Rev. Hullett’s family, friends and to the members of the 59 Club who knew him well.

A full requiem in Father Graham Hullett’s memory will be held at Lincoln Cathedral on 17th December.

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