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Friday, October 9, 2009

Marty Scott brought Enfield back to the U.S.

Martin Scott, the man who brought Royal Enfield back to the United States, gave a party last weekend under a lattice-work structure he built with his own hands. It was a harvest party, with good food, good drink, poetry readings and many toasts. I had the very good fortune to be invited.

Naturally, I risked spoiling the gentle, moonlit mood with questions about motorcycles, for the sake of this blog. But mostly I attended for the chance to meet and observe Marty Scott, someone I've heard stories about since I bought my Royal Enfield Bullet.

As the stories go, Martin Scott first thought of representing the made-in-India Royal Enfield in his native New Zealand, but found the firm already had a distributor there. Why not import them to the United States, the factory suggested. Royal Enfield motorcycles hadn't been actively marketed in the U.S. since the British factory closed in 1969.

Somehow, swimming upstream against regulatory agencies, quality problems and even a strike at the Royal Enfield factory, Martin Scott and his then wife Debbie managed to do exactly that.

Both Marty and Debbie insist that others were instrumental and that, in any case, someone else would eventually have done the same thing. Hearing their stories, you wonder who else would have had the optimism to attempt it. In any case, the modern Royal Enfield story in the U.S. has to start somewhere, and it starts with them.

They're the reason I have a Royal Enfield to ride today.

To get to Martin Scott's home, you start at the Capitol of the United States in Washington, D.C. and drive southeast on Pennsylvania Avenue. Shops give way to row houses that give way to big brick houses and then you are in the woods of Maryland. You pass a big equestrian center and, inevitably, the Walmart.

Make a right, then a left. Pass a big, tumbling down barn preciously preserved in half-collapsed condition on a sea of perfectly mowed lawn. Round a curve and over a hill and you are there.

Slim and energetic, with a neat goatee, Marty welcomes his guests personally, giving each the impression that their coming has absolutely guaranteed that the evening will be unforgettable.

Behind him looms the Gourd House, so called because the igloo-shaped lattice work has been planted with vines that neatly hang their immense gourds into the structure, like living decorations.

Down the center of the interior runs a long table, laid with more gourds and lit by candles. Through the leaves and the lattice, the setting sun produces a fairy-like atmosphere.

Outside on picnic tables is a buffet of drinks and food ("offerings greedily accepted" the invitation had specified).

Neighbors and friends and two delighted dogs mill about the large yard. Marty lives in a silver trailer on the property. He says he plans to go to New Zealand for our winter (it's summer there), but hasn't set a departure date yet.

The invitation promises an appearance by "the esteemed story teller G.A. Greeves." Before the party I Googled Greeves and come up with nothing.

"It's Marty's pen name," another guest advises.

And, sure enough, after all had been fed, Marty announced that Greeves had been "detained" (arrested, it sounded more like) and would not be able to attend. He, Marty, would stand in by reading Greeves' work, The Women of Dunkirk.

This he proceeded to do, his New Zealand accent sounding rakish to American ears. The Women of Dunkirk turns out to be a gallant ode to the beauty, wisdom and general desirability of the wives of his best friends. I thought it excellent, my own beautiful and desirable wife being safely 1,000 miles away.

Friends and neighbors stood to deliver readings and toasts of their own. A poem by a friend named Tracy praised Marty for coming to the rescue of damsels. "As long as you are a damsel, you need never fear," she said.

The impression you got was that Martin Scott is exactly the sort of pirate captain you would choose to be captured by, assuming you had a choice. His friend John called him "a man of tremendous gestures."

A roaring bonfire soon competed with the full moon and Marty came over to talk motorcycles. But more on that later.

First, he made an announcement: anyone who wanted the use of the Gourd House for a party of their own should do so quickly. It might not be standing much longer.

"Seeing how people have a tendency, whenever I move on, to burn down what I made," he said.

The Gourd House harvest party was, all in all, a romantic notion, somehow more meaningful because it was temporary.

Was this a tradition, someone asked, something Marty does every year?

"Oh, no," he answered. "This is the first time."

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6 comments:

  1. I wish I had been there!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow the evening sounds like it was awesome. Wish I could have been there. Seems Marty and Royal Enfield have a lot in common. A quaint charm for a want of a better phrase. Who better to be flying the flag for Enfield in the US.

    Great Blog

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ok, now I understand a lot better why you flew all the way to DC for this! What a blast. A story well told.

    - Erin

    ReplyDelete
  4. I would like to know more about his pioneering effort in bringing the Indiam RE to the U.S.

    Al in Philadelphia

    ReplyDelete
  5. Coming right up, Al! Thank you for asking.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hey Martin,
    Welcome back in the US. I tried to send you an email but it did not go thru (old one for sure).
    Mine has not changed, so send me a line if you feel like to. Best, Brigitte

    ReplyDelete

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