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AMONG PETER HARRY WOOD’S PASSIONS were vintage British cars and Sherlock Holmes. Peter was invested into The Baker Street Irregulars in 1985 with the BSI sobriquet “The Second Stain” and combined passions in 1995 writing The Winged Wheel, a Holmes adventure taking place on the Isle of Man, home of the famous Tourist Trophy Motorcycle Races.
Here are tidbits about this non-canonical but still entertaining Holmes adventure, together with Isle of Man details gleaned from Ward, Lock & Co’s The Isle of Man IIlustrated Guidebook.
The Game is Afoot. It’s 1915 and Holmes resides in a retirement cottage on the Downs near Beachy Head, some 75 miles south/southeast of London. Watson rides down on his motorcycle to visit his old friend.
Shortly after Watson’s arrival, a chauffeured motor-car deposits Mycroft Holmes, elder brother of the consulting detective and who, as Holmes has explained, at times “is the British government.”
Mycroft describes a conspiracy involving ferment in Ireland, the Children of Arianrhod, and three deaths of government agents in two years.
“All fully explained and accounted for,” Mycroft says. However….
One agent is ostensibly drowned at the Isle of Man, yet a doctor noted, “if it hadn’t been impossible, he’d had sworn the man died of snakebite…. But, of course, there aren’t any snakes in the Island.”
“Like Ireland?” Watson asks.
Mycroft nods, “Apparently St. Patrick went there as well….”
Douglas, the Isle of Man. Mycroft describes the town of Douglas as “the capital of the Isle of Man, whose inhabitants mainly subsist either by catching fish to sell to the Lancashire holiday-maker, or by accommodating him and his family in seaside boarding-houses.”
“Not your sort of place, Doctor,” Mycroft says, “nor even yours, Sherlock.”
Watson’s Motorcycle Enthusiasms. Holmes and Watson agree to conduct inquiries in Douglas, the Isle of Man. And Watson comes up with an excellent cover story: He’ll run his motorcycle in the upcoming Tourist Trophy motorcycle race.
This decision leads to excitement galore for both Watson and Holmes. Reading about it encouraged me to dig out my Ward, Lock Isle of Man Guidebook and see what it had to say about the locale’s motorsport.
Highly Popular. Ward, Lock says, “The Tourist Trophy, organized by the Auto-Cycle Union in the Isle of Man in June each year, has always been, since their inception in 1907, the most important motor-cycling events in the world. Not only are they of interest to motor-cycling enthusiasts, but also to ordinary holiday-makers, who flock over to the island for the occasion.”
“Huge crowds,” the Guidebook says, “gather at the many thrilling points on the course to see the riders negotiate at high speed such corners as Quarter Bridge, on the outskirts of Douglas—an acute bend on an awkward camber—or to watch the prodigious leaps made by the machines at Ballig Bridge near Ballacraine, itself a good vantage point to witness wonderful cornering.”
It continues, “Picnic parties by the roadside abound on the ‘mountain’ section where tremendous speeds are reached, while probably the greatest crowd, other than at the Grand Stand (almost in Douglas), gathers at Governor’s Bridge, a terrifying hairpin, which requires the greatest skill to negotiate.”
Ward, Lock concludes, “Super men on super machines ride in these races as will be realized from the fact that this intricate course can be covered at a speed of 81.04 m.p.h.”
In The Winged Wheel, this time around the super man watched as his faithful chronicler displayed the skills. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022.