Bonnie | Steve May

Guess who came to the factory this morning…Steve McQueen. To pick up his new Bonnie. He had this girl, Maureen, from the office, sitting on the back for some photos. You should have seen her face. What a sight. Steve McQueen and our Maureen!

Me dad made motorbikes at Triumph Engineering in Meriden. He had a hand in the Bonnie from the word go. He’d come home knackered but buzzing from the factory and talk like a kid about this great new bike. He felt he had a stake in it even though he was only on the shop floor.

The original Bonneville, a thing of beauty, a classic. A work of art in tangerine and blue separated by a single hand-painted gold pinstripe. Stripped down fenders; 115 mph; a real hot rod for for the US market. “The Best Motorcycle in the World” said the blurb. Who could disagree?

I was never a biker, me, but in 1974 I bought an ancient Honda 50 that managed 50 miles from Stockport to Leeds in just under 8 hours then clapped out, kaput.

It was Honda that eventually killed off Triumph; too heavy, too expensive. Though the Bonnie lived on, it was never the same as in those early days, when me dad raved about its sculpted tank and sturdy frame.

The Triumph Bonneville, a mythical machine, famed for jumping that barbed wire fence in The Great Escape. McQueen on top and a little bit of me dad in its battered frame.

 The Triumph Bonneville was first produced at the Meriden works in 1959. Steve McQueen visited the factory to pick up his new bike in 1964.


Born in Coventry, UK,  Steve May has worked extensively in the field of drama-in-education, including winning  an Edinburgh Fringe First with Wigan Young People’s Theatre and leading a Performing Arts Department at Sunderland College. More recently, living in Sunderland, he has worked as an acupuncturist and returned to his original passion of poetry. He regularly performs his work around the NE of England and further afield. He has had poems published in The Writers’ Café and the anthology Mixed Emotions and won the 2019 Shelter Poems for Home Competition, judged by John Hegley. He is a Poetry Society (UK) member.

He is on Twitter at @s_may_uk

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