During the 1970's Tom Herron and his wife Andrea ran one of the most successful privateer teams of that era.
In the winter of 1973, Andrea gave a first hand account of the Herron's season as it had really happened that year.
"This time last year we sold our three-horse stable - my own 250 along with Tom's 250 and 350 - to make way for two brand new Yamaha's, a 250 from an English dealer and a 350 from the States. We just prayed that they would arrive on time but as a precaution we bought a brand new air-cooled 350 which was to go 'on the market' just as soon as the correct machinery arrived. As you can imagine the money situation was a very complex case of juggling our finances, but with the help of two friends, our bank manager was one, we scraped through. One thing we hadn't reckoned on was the fantastic price of bikes for '73. Once we had paid for the 350 there was no way to pay for the 250 until Fred Wadsworth of Wadsworth's Fashions, Newcastle, realised the predicament we had got ourselves into. Without him we wouldn't have been able to have a 250 - thanks Fred!!
Other generous support came from Colin Cunningham of Lurgan who supplied all our racing tyres. Nothing seemed to be too much trouble for Colin. We also owe a debt of gratitude to Bass-Charrington and Irlandais Sports and Accessory Centre in Lisburn. The brothers Alec and the late Johnny Williamson had a definite 'goal' for the '73 season - this was to see that Tom finished in as many races as possible. Their meticulous machine preparation transformed the Yams into reliable units.
Our own aim was to compete in as many events as was financially possible and for Tom to achieve his personal ambition, that of an Irish champion. The season started badly on March 4.
Abruptly we were awakened from our winter hibernation by the long journey from Stranraer to Mallory Park - it's a journey which we can do almost blindfolded now. To add to this, the weather was far from pleasant, Tom had slow lap times and there was still no news of the new machinery.
However, the next week brought a change of mind.
A phone call told us that the new 250 had arrived in England. I flew over immediately and brought it home by boat that same night. A fortnight later we were back in England for Oulton Park where Tom finished 14th in the 350 race. At this time Mickey Laverty was really 'flying' just as everyone had prophesised he would and we thought he was in for a fantastic season. The home season commenced with Maghaberry followed by Kirkistown. Tandragee was of course the first real road race.
On a soaking wet track, Tom finished second to Gerry Mateer in the 350 class and third behind Ray McCullough and our Uncle Wilf in the 250. By this time we were very worried about the non-arrival of the water-cooled 350 because we felt it was essential for the North-West 200 which was now only a fortnight away. Following numerous phone calls to the States the 350 finally arrived - just a week prior to the North-West.
Tom, Johnny and Alec, together with 'Big John' and Neil (they kept the bikes gleaming all season) worked non-stop to get the 350 into proper shape. After the North-West practice we all thought that Tom was about to hang up his leathers for, unbelievably both bikes seized - understandably he wasn't in good humour.
Jim Scott and Tom stripped and rebuilt the 350 four times that evening. It seized every time they started it up. At last a faulty thermostat was diagnosed. The 250 was also pulled down and rebuilt - they thought that a chip of paint in the carb was the cause. However, as soon as it was started in the paddock on race morning it seized again. At times we thought that a jinx was descending on us!!
However the race proved our thoughts to be totally wrong for Tom had found not only his old form but a bit extra.
Despite his confidence in the bikes being a little shaky, Tom was fourth in the 350 and third to Tony Rutter and John Williams in the 250cc class. Our luck was now at last beginning to change.
But Tom had to work hard, because from the North-West 200 in May to the end of September Mallory Park Race of the Year, we had only two weekends without a meeting!
In between times Tom had to try to keep up appearances at his very understanding firm, Williames Transport.
However back to racing and the Cookstown 100 where Tom won the 350 class, was second to Ray McCullough in the 250 plus a 500 fastest lap. The Isle of Man practice week brought more 350 seizures but Wednesday's Junior Race turned into a champagne affair in that Tom, after a great duel with Phil Carpenter, finished ninth in the Lightweight and Peter had his long awaited TT win in the Formula 750.
We came back home for the Kilinchy and even allowing for the fact that Tom isn't keen on the circuit, he won the 250 and 500 classes. After Skerries, we dashed up to Co. Down to catch the fishing boat which took several riders and bikes to the Isle of Man Southern 100 meeting. Tom achieved a memorable win here. He got away in 17th place and in ten laps caught the leaders - Roger Sutcliffe, Phil Haslam and John Newbold. At the end of the 12 laps Tom had 1.5 seconds to spare - this was indeed a financially worthwhile trip.
Back to England for Aintree where, despite terrible starts, Tom managed fourth and fifth places from the back of the grid.
The Temple 100 followed and with a win in the Junior class that ambition which I talked about earlier was fulfilled, Tom was now the 350 Champion!!
Our next stop was the two-day Brands Hatch Hutchinson 100, the wrong way round. In practice Tom went very quick until his 350 with experimental barrels seized at Clearways which is a very fast left hander. After landing on his head, Tom spent the remainder of the evening in hospital. On the Sunday it poured and Brands is notorious for its skating rink like surface in the wet. Feeling a little detuned, Tom started in the 350 race and began to mix it with some of the best riders in the world. He finished a very satisfying sixth.
The next race was the Mid Antrim and this was the only one I wasn't able to go to as on the previous Wednesday I was rushed into hospital with appendicitis. Unfortunately Tom didn't feel on song at Rathkenny, and after sliding off the 350 he decided not to ride in the other events - he must have missed the team manager!
At last the big weekend arrived, we had around 28 for breakfast on the Thursday before the Ulster Grand Prix. Many of our neighbouring friends offered the English riders accomodation - it was genuine Irish hospitality, really fantastic. Endless hours of machine preparation and lots of hard riding to follow made this one of our most enjoyable racing weekends.
Having just recovered from the endless 'Ulster' festivities, we were soon back in Liverpool for the August Bank Holiday Oulton Park meeting.
However, this occasion was overshadowed by Johnny Williamson's heart attack from which he never recovered. At Oulton, Tom's 250 was really eating up the opposition. He held fourth until one of the main bearings broke up.
Our next venue was Scarborough which is one of Tom's favourite circuits. The bumps had all been ironed out and the performances, ninth in the 250 and sixth in the 350, were more than reasonable. From the east coast we took a leisurely trip down through England to arrive at Tom's bogey circuit Mallory Park, scene for the Race of the Year. It was the worst meeting for us this season, that is apart from practice in which Tom reduced his lap times from 61-62 seconds to 56.5 seconds - a five seconds improvement can't be bad.
Race day is best forgotten.
In the 350 event, another rider brought Tom off going into Gerrards which is a long sweeping right hander. With friction back burns and a gash on his ankle, Tom had no interest in the 250 race.
So it was back home to wait for the final Irish meeting, the Embassy Championship at Kirkistown. Campbell Gorman rode like a demon to win this big purse while Tom was lucky to take second place, for on lap five a piston began to disintegrate. However we did end up on a winning note with a 250 victory.
Well, the season is now long since ended and the new one is just three months away. Between now and then we must get down to earning some cash. If the '74 season turns out to be as successful and enjoyable as the last, then it'll be a good one.
We're looking forward to it...."
1973 Isle of Man TT
The John McCullough Collection
By Kind Permission.
Photo Courtesy: Eddie Mateer
By Kind Permission
Photo Courtesy: Eddie Mateer
By Kind Permission
1973 Tandragee 100
Courtesy: Jim McCullagh.
The John McCullagh Collection
By Kind Permission