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The flying Canberran turned fly-fishing extraordinaire

You’ll most likely find 1970s racer Murray Ogilvie standing in a chilly mountain stream or running his shop in Jindabyne. Three or four months a year he fly fishes in New Zealand and is a registered casting instructor.

He’s still racing, riding his pristine Yamaha last month at Winton Raceway. He has two racers, a TZ350B and the ex-Lee Roebuck Bakker-Yamaha 250, as well as a road-going Norton Commando and Bultaco Sherpa for his property.

Murray Ogilvie first rode on a BSA Bantam bought for $5 in the dirt areas of Canberra’s Red Hill.

“I met Doug and Wayne Bryant, and once I had my learner’s permit I bought a Ducati Desmo 250, which came with a megaphone exhaust and nose fairing,” he says. “My friend Craig Robertson had a race-kitted Bultaco Metralla, so we’d ride those on Sunday mornings on the Cotter Dam Road.

“My first race was at Bathurst on the Ducati. There were 140 starters, with the grid stretching back around Murrays Corner.

“Friends told Wayne Bryant I had some ability, so he built a racer from a wrecked Yamaha DS7, with an alloy fuel tank, seat and fairing.

“I had a lot of fun with that and started winning C-grade races. After that I had a 250cc Yamaha TD2 with some good gear on it from the Isle of Man and got into B-grade quite quickly. At Bathurst I finished second to Dave Burgess in the Unlimited B-grade. He was on a factory Suzuki TR750 and had trouble starting it. I led until the last time down Conrod, when he flew past me at what seemed like double the speed. I was pretty chuffed with that.

“Next was a Bultaco TSS350, which in hindsight was a mistake. It was a long bike and fantastic through the faster corners, but very hard to push start. A Yamaha would have been better, but Doug Bryant was into Bultacos. It probably made me push harder along the way.

“I was still quite young and

already in B-grade, which meant you could ride in A- grade races, gain experience racing in the same class as Ron Toombs and win some prizemoney. Then I got married and didn’t race again until I was 23. It was a great era, when Gregg Hansford and Warren Willing were coming through.”

Ogilvie progressed to a Yamaha TZ350C and later a TZ350E. He rode in the 1977-78 New Zealand International 350 Series, which he says was a great experience.

“I was meant to go to England after that with the Sayle brothers and Graeme McGregor, but my father sold the family bakery and part of the deal was I had to stay on for 12 months as sales manager.”   

Production racing offers came too, on a Yamaha XS11 with Dave Robbins in 1978 and a Dunlop-entered Honda CB900 with America’s Wes Cooley in 1979.

“The Six-Hour call-ups were good. The front wheel folded while we were holding second place in 1978. There were only scratches on the bike, but you had to have it checked by scrutineers. I couldn’t pull the clutch lever in because I’d broken a bone in my hand. We finished sixth.”

Ogilvie raced in his home town from 1978, when the Canberra Road-Racing Club held road meetings on the roads of the future suburb of MacArthur. “They were terrific meetings. I went pretty well, the crowds were great and it was good for the sport. I was leading a race when it was stopped due kangaroos on the circuit. Only in Australia. By the last meeting I had sold my bike and was a travelling marshal.

“I was a bit disgruntled by then. My biggest problem was my build. I was similar in size to Gregg Hansford, so I had to take risks to make up time and I didn’t have bikes that were up to the latest spec. I had a few prangs that were not my fault and they knocked me around a bit.

“I put ‘WOFTAM’ on the seat. Vaughan Coburn’s father Roy saw that at Lakeside and laughed all afternoon when I told him it stood for ‘waste of f…ing time and money’. That said, I had some great times. In the 1970s you could race all the time. The Bryants and my mechanic Neil Stuart were a great help.”

Post-racing, Murray moved to a farm outside Cooma and re-married, to Kate. He discovered fly fishing on the Numeralla River. In 1983 they opened High Country Outfitters in Cooma and in 1988 launched a second shop in Jindabyne. Kate now has a pop-up shop in Cooma. Their property is between the two towns. They have a son Jimmy (20) and daughter Winsome (17).

Murray says during the season fishing gear now accounts for one-third of the Jindabyne shop. In the quiet months he goes to NZ.

And he’s back racing. “Neil’s son is racing too, so we do a fair few meetings.”