It’s that time of the month yet again when we pick a motorcyclist for our Hall of Fame, and we’re pleased to feature Geoff Duke for our March edition.
The We Buy Any Bike team love learning about the lives of famous motorcyclists who were admired around the world. If you have someone that you’d like us to feature, don’t forget to drop us a comment below!
A tricky start to racing
Mr Geoffrey Ernest Duke was born on March 29th, 1923, in St Helens. Little is known about his family, but he enjoyed his childhood with his parents, father Thomas and his brother, Eric.
Before he died, Geoff would often partake in various interviews. Some of these would suggest that his parents were rather strictly against the idea of being on to wheels. This all came from their reaction to Eric’s serious accident he had on his motorcycle when he was struck by a car. They gave in shortly though, when at the age of just 10 in 1933, Geoff and his friends brought together 10 shillings to buy a motorbike. Yes, that’s right! I’m not sure of the standard price of bikes back then; can’t say I was around in those days, but this would be the equivalent to £25.66 today.
Geoff Duke – Making History Since the Beginning
Geoff Duke didn’t start his racing career until 1950, at the age of 27. You may be thinking that this is quite a late age to start, and it is. However, unfortunately when he dreamed of starting, the war hit. Like the majority of men in the UK, he was forced to join the army.
When the war ended, he started his career as a motorcycle instructor, which he probably continued until he earned enough for his racing career to fund the family home life.
Geoff Duke had a racing career that spanned over 9 years. He was notably recognised for racing Norton, replacing this with Gilera. He later raced for British brands, Royal Enfield and Triumph. Throughout his career, Duke had 33 GP wins and 6 TT wins.
He is very well known for introducing the one-piece motorcycle racing suit to the world, which is widely and mainly used amongst racers today.
Shortly after his first race, he married Pat Reid in 1951. The marriage lasted 19 years before they divorced in 1971. Pat passed away in 1975. Together they had 2 boys, Peter, and Michael, and he has since had 5 grandchildren.
Geoff then remarried in 1976 to Dorothy, this swiftly ended in divorce before he tied the knot again in 1978, this time to Daisy Hollins, later Daisy Duke who became a widow after his passing.
Post-Racing Career of Geoff Duke
After he hung up his leathers for the final time, The Dukes decided to settle in the Isle of Man. This is where Geoff fell in love with the shipping industry and decided that this was where he wanted to invest a business. Manx Line was established in 1978. For many years before this it is understood that he had a stint as a motor trader. Manx Line was the Steam Packet’s main competitor before it was defunct in 1985.
Duke also dabbled in other industries. As well as running a hotel, and the IOMTT Travel Company, Geoff also established Duke Marketing, which is now run by his son Peter. This company is responsible for running the IOMTT Website.
His career awarded him with many achievements. In 1951, not only did he get married but he was also awarded ‘Sportsman of the Year’. 2 years later would welcome a very big title. In this year Duke was awarded an OBE.
Geoff Duke sadly passed away in May 2015 at the age of 92 at a nursing home on his beloved island of the Isle of Man.