FoTTofinders Bikesport Archives

"It was my intention to catalogue all the TT / MGP photo collections here on the Island - that is still my aim if I live long enough to complete it all". That was the start of my conversation with Bill Snelling, who runs FoTTofinders form his Laxey base. Starting with the Steve Colvin and Keig Archives, Bill has been steadily working to catalogue in excess of half a million images for the past 6 years, and there are still many more to be filed.

The information is stored in database, from which he can access riders' details - machine, race, race number and location, within seconds. From the first 2 riders pushing off in 1907, through to Joey Dunlop's last plunge down Bray Hill in the 2000 Senior TT, Bill can supply images of a high percentage of riders from the TT and MGP, plus some Southern 100 and Andreas race meetings.

To aid the cataloguing process, he uses a Fotofix, a device looking like a microscope, which converts a negative image to a positive and displays the image on a TV monitor. "Try telling the difference between a 1960s faded blue and green number backgrounds and you can see why this piece of kit is a godsend"

Bill has also been cataloguing the Island Photographics' collection for some time. "They take 300 films per TT and MGP; you multiply that by 36 exposures per reel and I have a long way to go before I finish this collection". The collection of the late Dennis Reed from Manx Technical Press is next on the list.

"I like the contact with riders, many of whom were not able to afford pictures during their racing days and are looking for photographic memories of their racing career. I get many requests from owners of machines with a TT history. Recently I was asked to provide pictures of an International Norton which finished last in the 1953 Senior Clubmans' TT; I had one of the rider pushing it out of Governors Bridge, a valid reason for finishing last! The current owner of the machine has made contact with its Manx born rider, and is hopeful of bringing the machine back to the Island to reunite them after nearly 50 years.

Another enquiry was to find pictures of a German rider who failed even to complete a lap of practice. George Braun came to the TT in 1955 with a German Horex, a single cylinder production racer in the Manx Norton, Gilera Saturno mode. He crashed at Brandish Corner on his very first lap, sustaining injuries, which were to keep him from racing again. I have one picture of him pushing off at the start of that lap, plus a second on the Mountain. In addition the TT Special had a reporter sitting on the bank at Brandish when he crashed, so I was able to provide his son with far more information than he ever expected".

*Bob Mawson [Norton] 1953 Senior Clubmans TT [courtesy FoTTofinders Archives] [pushing bike at Gov Bridge]

* George Braun [Horex] 1955 Senior TT [courtesy FoTTofinders Archives] [starting]

Bill rode a Velocette in MCC long distance trials for many years, gaining many awards before trying the 'hardstuff', still Velocette mounted. His MGP claim is, "I was first to start in a Newcomers MGP [1978] but not the first to finish" From 3 MGP starts, he had 3 finishes; not bad for someone who is "built for comfort, not for speed" - his quote, not mine!

Working with Elwyn Roberts, Peter Kneale, Larry Devlin and others, Bill provides a majority of pictures used on the "If anyone has a particular TT memory they wish to share over the Internet, please let me know and I can probably illustrate it from our collections"

Bill has produced many books on Island racing: Honda the TT Winning Years; The History of the Manx Grand Prix 1923-98 [both available at bargain rates, he assures me!], TT Heroes; Vincents HRDs and the Isle of Man; The Velocette Saga, amongst others.

In addition to Fottofinders, Bill has a day job , which is why, just occasionally, he appears a bit tardy answering requests. He can provide proofs for the 35mm pictures in the collection, either by mail or e-mail … 
Contact Bill at or by post at Lossan y Twoaie, Glen Road, Laxey, IOM, British Isles, IM4 7AN.

Graham Bean