A Tribute to Sam

Words: John Hulme with Mick Andrews and Sam Brownlee Pictures: John Shirt Sr, The Brownlee Family, Yoomee Archive and Barry Robinson 1 Dec 2018

Sam Brownlee

Trials and motorcycles have been my life if I am honest, and some of my fondest early memories always go back to Mick Andrews and his father, Tom. My father, Ron, had come into contact with Tom at local trials around the Buxton area and had witnessed a very young Mick turning up on the back of his father’s machine.

The world was a much better place when Sam was born, on December 3rd 1962 in the quiet village of Elton, Derbyshire. In his earlier years, he would attend Elton Church of England School. Many readers will be thinking Elton, that’s where Mick Andrews is from; yes, you are correct. It is where the story of the apprentice begins as we join the adventure of one young man in the world of motorcycle trials. Just for the record, his name is Stephen Brownlee, ‘Sam’ came along a little later as you will find out.

Life for Sam in his younger days was very much made up of schooldays, education and family life with the entertainment found, as in many small villages, just knocking about with your friends. All this would change one day as, when walking back home from school in 1969, he heard a noise which was a motor- cycle with the engine running and he peered inquisitively into a workshop on the main street of Elton and saw Mick Andrews working on his Ossa. After a few weeks of passing by, he gently knocked on the door as he went into the workshop and was enthralled to see Mick working on his trials machines. After several weeks of calling in after school and
becoming more interested, the friendship grew between them. Mick enjoyed the enthusiasm of young Sam, and in turn, he was engaged in Mick’s development work on the early Ossa on his now regular trips into the

A few small tasks were given to Sam, and his relationship with the mechanical side of motorcycles had begun. At this point Mick gave him the nickname ‘Sam’; maybe Mick thought we had another Sammy Miller in the making, who knows, but the name has stuck
with him ever since.

Over the next few years, the relationship matured to such an extent that Sam was helping Mick with the preparation of his factory supplied Ossa machines for high -profile events including the European rounds and, of course, the Scottish Six Days Trial. Mick would be victorious in the European Cham- pionship in 1971 and 1972, and the Scottish Six Days Trial which he won for the Spanish
manufacturer from 1970-1972.

The Ossa years were very much learning ones for Sam as he watched and listen to Mick, taking notes on the changes that were made as they turned into the successful Mick Andrews Replicas.

With the well-documented move when Mick left Ossa and joined Yamaha in 1973 Sam embraced the new challenge, as he knew that a Japanese move was a very positive one. Mick had his own vision of a trials motorcycle of the future, and with Yamaha, he would start to develop the TY range. As part of the contract with Yamaha Mick was presented with two of the new Yamaha TY80 models, which would become legendary, to introduce
young riders into the sport of trials.

Soon Mick had the children of Elton riding the new TY 80s. For Sam, it was an opportunity to emulate Mick and of course, share the TY model relationship. Many happy hours were spent with the children of Elton putting the TY 80 through its paces under the masterful guidance of Mick. With the ongoing work and the arrival of the Japanese Yamaha mechanics Sam’s education was very forward, shall we say!

When Mick won the 1974 Scottish Six Days Trial on the single- shock cantilever Yamaha, the first for a Japanese machine, he can remember just how happy they were. It was now time to enter his first trial on the now well-used Yamaha TY 80. Under the supervision of Tom and Joan Andrews, Mick’s mother and father, he took part in his first event at ‘The Butts’ in Ashover. Sam was in his element, and the trials bug had bitten

Dear Father Christmas

When he was 14 years old, Mick asked him what he was having for Christmas, to which he replied, “I would like a new Yamaha
TY175, but I am not sure this will happen”.

To this Mick replied, “In my workshop, there are approximately five Yamaha TY motorcy- cles in engines and parts, all dismantled, and if you can construct one under my supervision that will be your Christmas present”. Sam will tell you that this was one of the best Christmas presents he ever had, and the family’s festive celebrations in 1975 centred on the ‘New’ machine.

Now an official Mick Andrews Trials Team rider he had many outings on the new machine as the family Sundays were now engulfed in trials. Mick would take Sam on his many outings to develop the Yamaha and to visit his many valued sponsors, which included Renthal Handlebars at Bollington, near Macclesfield in Cheshire. On the journey home, he called in with Sam to drop some handlebars at John Shirt’s workshop at Stable Lane, Buxton. John was a lifelong friend of Mick from their scrambling days. John Shirt Sr used to polish the Renthal handlebars, and he asked Mick what Sam would be doing when he left school.

After some short discussion, Sam was informed that when he left school in late May 1978, he had a job if he wanted one. He knew that ‘Shirty’ and Mick had talked about starting work on a new trials machine, which would involve converting many new unsold Yamaha TY machines incorporating their many new ideas. With this in mind, the new Majesty Yamaha project would come to life with Mick passing on his knowledge from his Yamaha development years to John, who would turn the dream into a reality.

Sam would now become a regular ‘Road Runner’ as he started on many 32-mile round trips from his home and family in Elton to John’s workshop at Stable Lane in Buxton on his purple Yamaha FSIE. The winter months were the hardest, with the exposed A515 Ashbourne-to-Buxton road offering all the extreme elements we are sure
you can imagine.

With the spring months came some welcome good news. With John and Mick’s influence, he started competing in the British School- boy Championship Trials on the very early 200cc Majesty. This smaller capacity came about as John Shirt lay in bed one night and explained to his wife, Margaret, that he had an idea about a new Majesty model. The problem was it was one o’clock in the morn- ing, but he was in the car and over to the workshop! As night turned into day the new Majesty 200 prototype was delivered, at nine o’clock. This machine was once again a pro- duction Yamaha TY 175 converted into a Majesty. Sam arrived at work to see a very excited ‘Shirty’ explain about the new machine! The conversion was achieved using a new Hepolite piston, and the good news got even better when he told him he would be riding it in the Schoolboy British Championship.

One of the most memorable rides on the new 200 Majesty was at the championship round in Yorkshire at Pateley Bridge. During the event, the machine started to lose power, but second position was held on to, and valuable points scored. With the machine, in the workshop, the cylinder head and barrel were removed to find a broken piston ring

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