Ronnie Morrison: The glory days of Rest and Be Thankful

Mercedes 1906 Rest and Be thankful

Ronnie Morrison’s motor racing days began in the company of Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart.  He says: ‘In this company I was consistently asking myself how these other guys in similar cars could always shave off that important split second from my best efforts.  Later I appreciated that the competition was of quite a high standard….

‘Once they moved on to greater things I seemed to become more successful in the Scottish Club scene and won the Scottish Saloon Car Championship in 1966 – that was in a 1250cc Mini which was really a racing car in disguise.

‘During a year abroad in 1974 and against more modest competition, I  drove an Audi 80 to win the Cyprus Hill Climb Championship.’

Ronnie still holds the class record for the run up Rest and be Thankful. The photograph below shows his E-type Jaguar negotiating the famous Hairpin in 1969 during the final event held at this unique and prestigious location .It took just 69.73 seconds to complete the 1 ½ kilometre course.

E-type at Rest and Be thankful

Just think – by December this year, it could be an Eddie Stobart truck doing a ten point turn to get round this same vertiginous hairpin.

Ronnie Morrison has written the following article for us on the ‘glory days’ of the old road to Rest and Be Thankful in the annals of British Hill Climbs.

Once upon a Rest that wasn’t

The old military road which runs along the valley floor of Glen Croe was built by General Wade in 1753 as part of the Hanoverians strategy to suppress the Highlands. Now it may be finding a new role.

The prospect of reinstating this old road at the Rest and be Thankful has excited interest well beyond Argyll and indeed Scotland.

There are still many of us about who remember its glory days as a major event in the British hill climb championship.

The first recorded timed climb was in 1906, top photograph, when Broome White ascended the hill in 2 minutes 19 seconds in his 60hp Mercedes.

At the hairpin on Rest and Be ThankfulHowever ‘The Rest’ became an annual event in the National Calendar only in 1949 and continued regularly until it was abandoned in 1969 because of the deteriorating state of the road.

The venue was also used by several Scottish car clubs as part of a Scottish Hillclimb Championship and in several major rallies.  As a teenager in those early days and later as a regular competitor in the late 50’sand 60s I well remember the natural amphitheatre providing many enthusiastic spectators with a splendid view of the proceedings as the roar of open exhausts reverberated through the hills.

In 1961, local hero Jackie Stewart drove a Ford 105E-engined Marcos at an event here. He said: ‘it’s a special place for me, the cradle of my life in motor racing.’

Hill climbs are timed in split seconds so there is no room for error.  Wheelspin at the Start should be minimal and at ‘The Rest’ you can count the seconds ticking away if you lose traction at the Hairpin.

At the hump before Stone Bridge the faster cars approached at 100mph and ‘took off’ for about twenty feet. The car had to be positioned well to avoid missing the road and landing on a dry stane dyke…  not unknown and very expensive…..

Great sport and cameradie – if you participate in motor sport like this you keep the adrenalin highs where they belong – off the public roads.

If this road were to be rebuilt it would be a major contribution to Scottish motor sport and provide a worthwhile and spectacular tourist attraction.  I cannot however see it as practical for 38 tonne artics but I guess it would do the business for modern vehicles up to seven tonnes.

Ronnie Morrison

The National Parks postcard of the Argyll Classic Car Run is untitled but Ronnie says that it probably shows a mid fifties Frazer Nash approaching the notorious Hairpin at the top of the hill.

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4 Responses to Ronnie Morrison: The glory days of Rest and Be Thankful

  1. Thanks for the memories, remember the race on the old road, and relatives who lived and still live in Inveraray telling me they had to go up that road before the new road was built, and coming home on McBraynes bus and passing Dumbuck and being told that was Jackie Stewarts Dads garage. Happy days.

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  2. There’ll be no ‘Eddie Stobart truck doing a ten point turn’, apparently, as – according to Scotland Transerv’s report on the options and recommended plan – the hairpin will be much like the A9 at Berriedale Braes. Time will tell, but interesting to contemplate the revival of hillclimb events on the old road once it’s been resurfaced.

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    • I drive the A9 through the Berriedale Braes quite often and have seen trucks stuck – in both directions, on the chicane on the northern side. Experienced drivers may be able to handle it but there are other grades of experience and ability behind the wheel.
      Some have come unstuck in icy conditions but I have seen them stuck more often in rain or quite dry conditions where the combined demand of the bend and gradient is greater than the drivers can manage.
      Watching them get out of the pickle they’re in certainly feels like a ten pointer but may well be less.

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  3. Pingback: Ronnie Morrison: The glory days of Rest and Be Thankful – For Argyll » Speedys

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