‘JK’ - the GP & race ace Fifer

Dr JK Swanston (centre) pictured at the Manx race in 1932.
Dr JK Swanston (centre) pictured at the Manx race in 1932.

THe motorcycling fraternity lost one of its oldest and most accomplished racing competitors recently with the passing of Kirkcaldy born Dr James Kelly Swanston at the age of 104.

Dr Swanston, known as JK, was born in the Lang Toun in 1908 and was a former pupil of Kirkcaldy High School.

His father, John Daniel Swanston, was a well known architect and a founding member of the Kirkcaldy and District Motorcycle Club - and both JK and his elder brother Doc (John Lawson Swanston) were keen racers.

Dr Swanston was a devoted family man and is survived by his son and twin daughters.

A prominent competitor at all of the Scottish motorcycle events, JK soon became a very successful Isle of Man Manx Grand Prix rider from 1931 onwards, and along with Jack Blyth and Tommy McEwan was one of the Club riders who won the Manx Grand Prix Team Prize on three occasions.

Riding 350cc and 500cc Nortons in 1935 he had his best results when he ‘warmed up’ his season with a win in the Southport 100 mile sand race before heading for the Isle of Man to finish third in the Manx Grand Prix Junior race.

Fellow KDMC riders also scored well on the Island; bespectacled Jack Blyth - whose father owned a linen mill in the town and donated a large art collection to the local museum - wasourth and sixth, and Kinglassie publican’s son Tommy McEwan sixth in the Junior and a 16th in the Senor race.

JK retired from what he called “serious racing” in 1935 - his father insisting that the Norton factory “left him alone to continue his medical training in peace.”

In his time he raced against all the big names, and was a close companion of the top stars of the time, but he never regretted leaving the racing to follow what was to be an illustrious career in medicine.

His brother John ‘was also a well known GP and medical officer at the motorcycle racing held in Beveridge Park.