In life's journey, we sometime's encounter individuals that leave a lasting impression - one such person was Neil Hamilton-Wood.
So when a potential member fills out his application form by answering as follows……..
• Name called by: “Neil……or Hey you!”
• Marital status: “Widowed, divorced, divorced, still in the market”
……you know that this is no run-of-the-mill “Joe Soap” – but someone with spirit and character!
At the tender age of 74 and as a non–Yamaha bike owner, retired Naval Officer Neil Hamilton-Wood joined David V Davy's Yamaha XV Owner’s Club along with his son V-Max Michael - on the 7th of February 2006.
Being a Yamaha-only association at the time, his Suzuki Marauder VZ800 qualified him to be part of the Big Vee Owner’s wing – including all Vee-engined motorcycles that weren’t Yamaha’s.
His membership number BVO15 was converted to VO15 when XVO and the BVO branch united to become the Vee Owners Group.
That same year that Neil joined the Yamaha family, he traded in his Marauder for a more-youthful and vibrant 1200cc V-Max – the same as his son Michael Wood.
With father and son now both owning the rocket ship of all cruisers – they also joined the V-Max Owner’s Group, under the leadership of Hans J P Knop-Bamminger – also a member of our Social Page.
Below are some photographs taken at the VMax Odyssey Rally in October 2006.
The V-Max experience lasted a few years, with father and son having become familiar figures as riding partners on both breakfast runs with VOG and on longer trips.
By the time that Neil completed a member update form in April 2011 – he listed the following as his motorcycles at that time:
• Aprilia Mana 850cc Automatic “The Lady”
• Aprilia Shiver 750cc “The Tramp”
• Kawasaki ZX14 1400cc “Little Boy Blue”
A gentleman by nature, Neil was never outspoken or tried to take centre stage. But when he opened his mouth, people listened. He would switch over from a technical or political discussion at a moment’s notice to tell an amusing tale.
Often put on the spot to say something, Neil would take the microphone and ask: “Have you heard the one about …….......?” and you would have a crowd of people stop what they were doing to listen to the latest (or repeated) tale about what the local priest and nun were up to!
Admired by all, he would however seem most comfortable surrounded by lady company and would often be photographed with a bevy of beauties at his side.
Rumour has it that Hugh Hefner had Neil on speed dial for advice on the fairer sex?
When I grow up one day, I want to have had just a touch of the charm and charisma that Uncle Neil had!
With a high attendance rate for breakfast runs, Neil would also take an active part in the long ride adventures, having participated in many rallies, VOG weekenders and longer excursions.
It was at the Wolf Rally in 2007, where we first took notice of Neil’s admiration for the fairer sex.
But to backtrack a little, the events leading up to this are worth mentioning first.
The following VOG owners and friends attended the 2nd Wolf Rally, held at the beautiful Emanzini lake-side resort in Vrede (Free State) over the weekend of 23rd to 25th March 2007.
Chris Thiart (Kawa Vulcan 1500)
Crystal Meise (Virago 750)
Derek Meise (Royal Star 1300)
Jose Cardona and Debbie Christie (Virago 1100)
Llewellyn and Sharon Nelson (Virago 1100)
Michelle Meise (Virago 1100)
Neil Wood (V-Max)
Piet van der Westhuizen (Kawa Vulcan 1500)
Most of us had left as a group from a darkening and wet Johannesburg on the Friday afternoon and battled our way along the old road running parallel to the N3 highway, dodging waterlogged potholes in the late afternoon low-light rainy conditions.
For some reason, Neil had left later and only met up with us that evening in Vrede. When we questioned him about arriving so late, he described how he had ridden around a town called Cornelia, looking to find the rally. Needless to say, he had to ask around the one-horse town until some kind soul instructed him to ride another 50km further south to the rally site in the next town!
Saturday evening was special:
My Royal Star “Red Baron” won the prize for the best cruiser at the concours d'elegance and my daughter Crystal became the stand-in Miss Wolf Rally 2007 – as the young lady that was crowned earlier was not old enough to be at the Saturday evening event.
The highlight of the evening was at the strip show – but I am not just referring to the superb performance of the double-jointed stripper lady, but rather the moment that Uncle Neil deserted his golden circle front row seat to take up a more paternal role at centre stage.
Leaning up against the elevated platform to get a closer view of what he described later as a “bath plug tied to silver chain at the bottom end and the other end disappearing into a bodily orifice” - he told us later that he was entirely concerned about the young lady’s
Now, normally you would have had heavily build men escorting heavy breathers away from the stage – but how do you handle a harmless 80-something year old? You show respect and let him be!
The 2008 Swazi Rally – 29th to 31st August 2008
Representing VOG at the rally:
Chris Thiart (Vulcan)
Derek Meise (Royal Star)
Michael Wood (V-Max)
Neil Wood (Vulcan)
Renier Erasmus (V-Max)
Like many other rallies attended, Neil end up being the oldest participant. His presence was again rewarded and he was given the prize for the oldest attendee of the Swazi Rally 2008, including cash, a jacket and bike cover.
Once again, as an amateur gynaecologist - he showed an active interest in the poor girl that lost all her clothes as he took up his favourite position against the stage.
“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in one pretty and well preserved piece, but to skid across the line broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out, leaking oil, shouting GERONIMO!”
Neil lived life to the fullest and made many friends along the way. I was glad to be counted amongst them.
During 2018, he attended fewer runs and eventually gave up motorcycle riding - due to ill health.
We last saw Neil at the 15th March 2019 Birthday Bash held in Boksburg. Charming and spritely as usual, one could see that he had become more frail since the last time we had seen him.
On the 11th April 2019, Michael informed me that his father at age 86 had passed away peacefully and in no pain - after having been admitted to hospital with organ failure.
A legend - it was great to know you Neil Hamilton-Wood!