The following extract is from a 1975 interview with Chris Carter, in which Tom and his wife Andrea provide a unique taste of
'Life on the Road'.................

You think racing on the continent is one long holiday? 
Don't let the average privateer hear you say that!
Ulsterman Tom Herron and his pretty wife Andrea haven't had a holiday for two years and it doesn't seem likely they will have one in the next two either.

After a race in Europe, it's time to pack up the tent and caravan, and travel anything up to 1000 miles to the next meeting. Unpack the tent and caravan, strip and rebuild the bikes, ready for practice on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. 
Then it's the race once more, and the whole pattern is repeated. 

Tom's season, like most riders', stretches from March to October. 
Then it's back home to Ulster to start preparations for the next season!
In winter 1974-5, Tom had just six nights off from the workshop: three at Christmas and the New Year and three more for Charlie Williams' wedding!
In the daytime he works, and so does Andrea, to build up the savings for the following year, and to live during the winter. When the racing stops, so does Tom's earnings. 

Tom's first season in Europe was 1974. Money, as ever, was scarce so instead of a caravan it was sleeping, eating and living in the back of a Transit van.

'If you don't mind crankshafts in the saucepans it's not a bad way to live,' says Tom with a smile.

The truth is it's an abysmal way to live but, once you decide you want to race in Europe as part of the Continental Circus, then, for the first season at least, it's the only thing most riders can afford. For the 1975 season Tom and Andrea live in a caravan. It's comparative luxury, but remember it's their permanent home for eight months, with the temperature ranging from freezing cold to stifling hot.Cooking is done on a couple of gas rings and in the smallest of ovens.

'But please, don't let people think we're complaining. It's our choice of course, says Andrea, 'and there are so many other people's caravans we share in the paddock that it's almost like a 12-roomed mansion.'

In 1974, Tom's Transit covered 18000 miles in the season, but in 1975 he has totalled almost half as many miles again! Andrea reckons to spend 60 pounds on tinned foods back home as a basis to start the year's cooking, but fresh foods have to be bought. And once a week, as a rest for Mrs. Herron and a treat for Tom, they eat out. On average, the Herron's spend 20 pounds a week on food - including the meal out.

For Tom and Andrea it's usually a question of feeding themselves, but for others like Chas and Marianne Mortimer there are two mechanics as well as their little daughter Tanya to cater for.
With cooking and cleaning in the caravan there's plenty of work for a rider's wife. But like most wives in the paddock, Andrea is the organiser of the Herron racing team. There's letters to write, entry forms to fill in, spares to order, ferries to book, and the rest. 
Thirty letters are written by Andrea every week of the year, winter and summer alike. Add to that the innumerable telephone calls, costing about a fiver a week, and you see that it's no holiday at all for the ladies.
Most riders can give you a graphic description of the main roads, motorways and service stations throughout Europe, but they are pretty hazy about the architecture and buildings in the surrounding towns and cities. They just do not have any time for sightseeing. 

The first job is to get to the next meeting and service the bikes. With luck that might just give them half a day or so to relax before practice starts. With a mechanic, life is just that little bit easier. But mechanics cost money, particularly good ones. 
There are not many top class mechanics prepared to give up a good, secure job at home to travel in rather primitive fashion around Europe. With carburation and gearing critical, and practice sessions crammed close together, Tom finds life very, very hectic. Without a mechanic too, a whole extra load of responsibility is put on the shoulders of a wife for pit signals during a race. 

Tom is luckier than most in that Andrea, sister of former Norton rider Peter Williams, has been a road racer herself. Her family background gave her a great deal of knowledge of the sport before she even met Tom. 
Money of course is the biggest problem a privateer has, and unfortunately the moves towards improving the lot of road racers haven't always had the desired effect.  Before the racing even starts, Tom and Andrea havea great deal of money to find. A decent caravan costs at least 500 pounds. A good reliable van can set you back another 1000 pounds and new bikes and spares another 5000 pounds.

Insurance for the van, the caravan, accidents and illness can take another 200 pounds away from the winter's piggy bank. 
Also a season's racing can also see an extra 500 pounds paid out on spares and there's 500 pounds at least on ferry charges, for example. 

Tyres for the bike, the van and the caravan would be another big financial headache for Tom, but for the sponsorship of Cunningham Tyres from Ulster. The enthusiastic boss of the company pays for all Tom's tyre needs. It's sponsorship that Tom appreciates. Fuel costs about 15 pounds a week over the year for the van and the racing machines use 5 pounds of fuel a meeting. 

But not everything is depressing or expensive. 
If you shop where the locals go, things such as local fruit, dairy produce, vegetables and of course wine, can be cheap and delicious. That's one of the perks of continental racing. The other is the unique atmosphere both on the race track and in the paddock. Riders, officials, mechanics, journalists and enthusiasts from all over the world make the racing something special. 

'When I first came here in '74 I was very unhappy about my riding', says Tom. 'It wasn't until I went back for the Isle of Man TT that year that I began to believe again that I actually could still ride a bike. But once I was over that hurdle then things were grand. Racing in Europe is such a very different technique to that used back home; it's almost like learning to race again. 

Despite all the problems and troubles I wouldn't change it.'  





Photo Courtesy: Herron Family Archive
By Kind Permission


Tom and Andrea relax at their Lisburn home during a rare period of free time away from the racing.
Photo Courtesy: Eddie Mateer
By Kind Permission

Photo Courtesy: Herron Family Archive
By Kind Permission

Main Photo
Tom and Andrea pictured in the paddock.
Salzburgring 1975.
Photo:  The Jan Burgers Collection
By Kind Permission