Celebrity Biker - Eric Richard

Those not involved with motorcycling will probably just know Eric Richard as Sergeant Bob Cryer from ITV's long-running police drama, the Bill. Those of us "in the know", however, are very much aware of the actor's enthusiasm for our sport, of his collection of exotic machines and of his involvement in the Lap of Honour, held, annually, on the Monday of TT Race week.

Eric was due to take his place on the starting grid for the Parade of 2001, but unlike many other two-wheeled enthusiasts, he did end up having a role to play in the "TT Festival without racing". As a high profile celebrity, he was commissioned to make a five-minute public information film, shown on IOM Steam Packet vessels travelling to the Island during TT fortnight, highlighting the no go areas put in place as a result of foot and mouth restrictions.

So, when was Eric bitten by the two-wheeled bug? "I bought my first bike, a Zundapp Bella motor-scooter in 1959 to go to work on because I couldn't afford a car. Almost immediately I fell in love with two wheels and have only spent six months, during the winter of 1964, without a bike parked outside the house or in the garage". It wasn't too long before Eric became interested in the competitive element of motorcycling … "in 1961 I was taken to Crystal Palace and fell in love with racing; it has never left me. I made it to the Island for the first time in 1964 and have been going back on and off ever since. 

Did Eric have any desire to take to the track himself? ….. "I was tempted to have a go at racing in the early 60s, but it never happened, and to this day I don't know why". Probably becoming an actor in 1969 put paid to such thoughts. Eric's first gainful employment was not as a thespian …. "I worked in a factory to earn enough to buy the next Elvis Presley record. At 18 I got a job in retail, then, in my 20s, I moved into importing and exporting car accessories with a north London firm. The bookkeeper, George, was into amateur dramatics. I went along with him, played some roles and after two months convinced myself I could make a living on the stage". Eric was soon 'in the money' …. "in repertory in 1969 I received £10 a week for rehearsals and £16 a week during performances. I had made £40 a week, plus expenses in my previous job". From there, of course, Eric has become an often-seen face on television, but his thirty or so years in the acting profession have been quite varied, including work on stage in USA and Europe and even a mini TV series in Japan in 1969. 

Despite having such a busy work schedule, Eric still finds time for his "motor-cycle fix", visiting, for example, Assen for last year's WSB Round …. "I hope to return to the Island for the 2002 TT. To be allowed on to that most famous of circuits in the company of Jim Redman, Tommy Robb and Phil Read et al is probably the most exciting and privileged thing that has ever happened to me. If only my all time hero, not just in the motorcycling world, Mike Hailwood, could still be circulating with us! To have been in the stands for the '67 Senior at the end of that fabulous week remains among the greatest highlights of my sporting life. Being at Union Mills to see Mike go through on the 'small' Honda six cylinder machine in the Junior to smash the lap record from a standing start is added to the memories".

Sergeant Cryer is no longer seen beating the streets of Sunhill, but that doesn't mean Eric is sitting at home with his feet up …. "I now run my own television production company, but am still waiting for the acting part that would let me use a motor-cycle". There wasn't much chance of wheels in his recent role of Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol" at London's Bloomsbury Theatre. However, there are plenty of "wheels" at home - exotic ones as well …. Eric explains, "currently the garage has quite a mix - a 1951 Triumph T100C, 1956 Gilera 150S, 1957 Featherbed, 1970 Triumph T150 Special, 1976 MV 750 America, 1983 Moto Guzzi Spada/Longhi sidecar, 1994 Ducati 916, Bimota YB11 from 1996 and a Moto Guzzi Cali of the same year. My wife, Tina and children, Jack and Sophie are a very active motorcycling family, with Tina having her own Honda CG 125".

My thanks to Eric for taking time out from a very busy work schedule to help me write this article …. I am sure we all look forward to seeing him, together with all those other motorcycling celebrities on the Lap of Honour at this year's TT.

Graham Bean