Authors: Iain Parke
Heavy Duty People
/ Martin Robertson
To my parents for what they put up with and their support,
P for the same,
and to NM for first inspiring me to write.
The only reason for doing this is to tell people what I’ve learnt over the years. So keep it simple, don’t exaggerate it with the sort of crap that people always write about us.
I want it told straight, just the way I
’ve told you.
People can either take it for what it is and like it, or they won
’t, in which case they can fuck off.
Monday 25 April 1994
It’s like old Nick says right at the start, a
ll clubs that have ever existed are either dictatorships; run by a top guy until someone comes along and knocks them off their perch, or democracies; run on the basis of consensus.
They always have been
, and always will be.
I killed the engine and instinctively let the big machine sink
underneath me, the long side stand sliding across the cobbles of the courtyard until it found its stable resting place. Still sitting I pushed my goggles up onto the brow of my lid, pulled off my leather riding gloves and reached under my chin to release the strap of my helmet and pull my faded chequered scarf from across my nose and mouth. Then I swung the handlebars hard to the left, feeling the bike settle again in a sort of aftershock as its centre of gravity shifted, and turned the key in the ignition to lock the steering.
Only then dismounting, I turned to face
the club house, squinting against the harsh light of the security lamp above the door which threw the bikes filling the yard into a jumbled network of black shadows.
Gloves stuffed into my lid,
I pulled my scarf loose around my neck as I walked across the yard towards the warmer yellow light spilling out from where the steel security door was ajar, semi- silhouetting in a cloud of cigarette smoke Spud the striker
, who was on yard duty tonight. He stood aside as I walked up and nodded a greeting as I reached him that I didn’t bother to return. He was wrapped in a thick fleece jacket under his cut off. He would need it, he would be there all night until the meeting broke up, keeping an eye on the bikes outside and acting as security.
always had to work their passage, demonstrate their commitment to the club by taking on all the crap jobs that came their way until after a year or sometimes two, they had a chance to be voted up to full patch status, if they ever made it.
As I pushed the door shut again behind me I nodded to Wibble,
one of the other current strikers who was relaxed, feet up on the desk inside the door beside the CCTV monitor, and headed on into the warmth and noise of the bar.
The third striker,
Fat Mick, was nowhere to be seen. I guess he was out on patrol as part of the security detail.
You never normally saw a striker sitting at all. It was all fetch and carry. Some of the guys just
used them like personal slaves. They were deliberately treated like shit but they all knew what was coming, what they’d signed up for in taking a bottom rocker. As a tagalong they’d have seen how it worked.
It was also fun to watch. You could tell the smarter ones, they quickly developed a skill
of just melting into the background when a particularly crap job was in prospect, being around and doing what they needed to, to serve their time and prove themselves, while leaving the dumber ones to catch the dumber shit. You could respect that, the nous to work the system. It was all part of the game, although it wasn’t just a game. This was deadly serious. It was a test.
We wanted to make sure they had what it took, the total commitment needed to join the club.
So we would run them ragged, work ’em from pillar to post, fetching beer, cleaning the clubhouse, stomping round outside in the cold, night after night on guard duty, doing whatever the shit a member told them to do. It was a time of working like a dog and just sucking it up to show what they’d got, what they were made of. That they had the self-discipline and dedication we were looking for.
Would they pass the test?
To do so the club came in front of family, work, friends, everything. A striker had no friends outside the club any more.
But once they
’d got patched, then they’d got that knowledge, that self-assurance that they had made it, that they had won their way through to a place in the elite; that from then on they weren’t going to take any shit, any more, from anyone, ever again. Then that was what made it all worthwhile.
ing Wibble sitting with his boots up on the desk was a rarity. But then Wibble was nearly there, he’d done almost a year, he’d shown what he could do, what he could put up with, what dedication he could put in to making the grade. It was almost time to vote on him and I guessed Tiny, his sponsor, would be putting him up soon.
’d also shown he’d got the smarts. After all, he was the one sitting down. I liked that.
’t sorry to see that Spud had drawn the short straw tonight again. He was an arsey little wanker, too cocky for a striker I thought, and that Butcher was his sponsor was the final straw as far as I was concerned. I’d be voting against him when the time came. It wasn’t just that I disliked him. It was more than that. When you were deciding on whether a guy could become a full patch you were making a judgement call. You had to be sure that he would be there for you, to get your back whenever and whatever the circumstances. And if you weren’t sure you shouldn’t be saying yes.
ven though I was a well respected member, that on its own wouldn’t be enough to keep him out, I’d have to explain my objections. But one more dissenter, one more black ball and that would be it. Two votes against and he would be out automatically and it would be another six months as a striker before he could reapply.
lub house was out in the wilds, right on top of the Pennines about five miles up into the hills above Enderdale, and as everyone said, it was a fucking good club house. We had bought it out of club subs as a half derelict ruin about five years ago just after the merger, and then we had all worked on it to get it right. Set back in a dip in the ground high up a track across a field from the road and screened by a thick belt of trees, the old farm house offered privacy, with the space in the fields below and above for partying when we hosted other clubs. The club house itself faced onto a cobbled yard that offered secure parking for the bikes, flanked along either side with barns that gave room to take them inside and work on them if needs be, together with the kennel for Wolf the guard dog.
Buying our own club house
and the land around it had been a great move.
Whenever we were out in a bar or somewhere there always some tension.
Not that we went looking for trouble when we were out. But not that we backed down from it either. If you acted with respect, you got treated with respect. But there would always be some wariness, someone with a potential attitude in the crowd, some dickhead, somebody who fancied themselves, someone who made a comment, someone who provoked and who had to be answered.
Because if you acted like an arsehole, you would get treated like an arsehole.
In our own club house, there was none of that. In the club house we could relax, josh, play fight with each other with no one calling the plod. In our out of the way old farmhouse with its bit of land in the hills we knew we could go and get wasted, party, and host other clubs without getting any hassle.
We got on OK with the locals normally. We were about two or three miles from the
nearest village so there were only a few isolated farms around about us. We kept ourselves to ourselves and they didn’t interfere so there wasn’t any issue really. After all, a lot of us were brought up round here, Billy Whizz and I used to play in the woods below the road when we were kids for example, we’d been to school with the other local kids so he and I knew most of the local farmers and sorted out any problems that might crop up. They were used to the fact that on a couple of weekend evenings over the summer we would be hosting a bash and there’d be music and noise but otherwise we didn’t cause any problems locally.
It had been a traditional uplands farm, with a small square two stor
ey farmhouse and adjoining byre. Inside on the ground floor of the house there was a bar and a kitchen-cum-canteen while the byre had become a pool room with its visitors’ wall decorated with plaques and badges presented by clubs we had hosted. Upstairs the bedrooms offered space for any member who needed to crash, while we had made the first floor of the byre into a meeting room big enough for club business. Which was why tonight we were all going to be here.
Beer in hand
, I settled in to chat to some of the guys and wait.
Over the next twenty minutes the
occasional roar of bikes pulling up outside in the courtyard announced the arrival of other members as the clubhouse filled up with patches. But tonight there were no tagalongs. This was billed as a serious meeting about club business so tonight it would be insiders only. Other than full patches the only people who would be here would be the three strikers, and they wouldn’t be in the meeting, they would stay out of it, handling security.
half past seven the bar was pretty full and I guessed we would need to get started soon. Billy Whizz said he thought Tiny was through in the pool room, so together we threaded our way across the crush around the bar and, bottles in hand, pushed our way through the adjoining door into the stairwell and then through the second door into the old byre.
Standing just inside the door, we could see that on
the far side of the room Tiny, the President, and Butcher, Sergeant at Arms, were deep in conversation; with the one outsider who I had seen would be here tonight.
Most of the bikes outside were in
variations on the Imperial colours of purple and gold, but I had seen the one parked up by the door suggesting that its owner had arrived early, its red and black paintwork harsh in the glare of the halogen. I knew the bike and its owner. It belonged to Dazza, President of The Brethren MC’s north east charter
for the last six or seven years although thanks to Gyppo I’d known him on and off for more like ten or twelve.
What’s Dazza doing here?’ Billy asked quietly as we looked across.
Beats me,’ I shrugged. ‘Not a clue. Thought you would know if anyone did?’
Not me mate. Way above my level. In fact the whisper I hear is that he’s moving up in the world. About to transfer over to The Freemen.’
, otherwise known from their black and red colours as the ‘Menaces’, were one of the big six international clubs, up there with the Angels, Bandidos, Outlaws, Pagans and Rebels. Each country where there was a Brethren club had a national charter from the mother club in the US and so here their members wore a national bottom rocker saying Great Britain. Within the country they then had a dozen or so regional charters, but most were spread across London, the South, and the West Midlands, with Dazza’s charter as a northern outpost.
Over and above these local charters were
The Freemen, an independent charter in each country, not tied to any single locality. Each country was broadly left to run its own affairs but generally The Freemen charter’s members were the national management of the club, they were The Brethren’s elite, a club within the club and very much the top of the tree. They were also generally a self-selecting group, membership by invitation only and rumoured in many countries tending to be those within each national club who were into serious business.
Somebody had obviously said something or noticed that we were there as, looking up,
Tiny raised his beer bottle and beckoned me over.
See ya later,’ I nodded to Billy, as I acknowledged the invitation and headed round the table.
Yeah, watch yourself,’ he answered, turning back towards the bar.
And you know our Road Captain, Damage here,’ Tiny said, as I joined them.
Sure!’ said Dazza, smiling and sticking out his huge hand for a surprisingly formal handshake that then opened up into a proffered hug that gave full sight of the leering blood red dyed
badge on the left breast of his cut off just underneath his President title, ‘Yeah, I know Mr Clean and Organised here.’
I smiled at th
e familiar jibe. It was a long standing joke between us. As I say, I had history with Dazza, we went way back. We embraced, slapping backs.
He was right
though. You have to be organised to be the club’s road captain, sorting out the runs and all the hassle. The job also went to me because I had a relatively clean record since the road captain usually ended up dealing with any plod issues on a run.
Not seen you since our last party back in the summer.’
Hey I’m good. Busy planning next weekend.’ The May Day bank holiday weekend would be our first full club run of the year.
Good to know, always good to have tight people around you.’
atches and rockers of course were club property and the back of your cut off had always been strictly regimented as the club’s uniform, proclaiming your membership and your charter. But in the early days there was a lot of individualism otherwise. Club officers would have their President or Sergeant at Arms tabs, and members might have some other club specific badges, but guys across all the clubs wore all sorts of other stuff on the front of their cut offs; bike logos, weed, swastikas, whatever they wanted.