Butterfly find scuppers Kilmartin motocross race

The protected Fritillary butterfly
The protected Fritillary butterfly
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Plans to re-enact the only World Motocross Grand Prix race ever held in Scotland have been foiled – by a rare butterfly.

More than 7,000 people flocked to Kilmartin in rural Argyll in 1978 to watch riders from around the world compete in the exhilarating challenge.

But there will be no thrills and spills on the race track at a reunion being held on 23 June, to celebrate the centenary of motorcycle sport in Scotland.

The farmland route is now home to the protected Marsh Fritillary butterfly. Racing could destroy its favourite terrain and the devil’s-bit scabious plant, on which is relies for nectar.

Reunion organisers Robbie and Margaret Allan found out about the butterfly when they asked landowner Gordon 
Brechin about holding the reunion at the original race site at Castle Park, below Carnasserie Castle, Kilmartin.

Mrs Allan, 70, said that while Mr Brechin was happy to help them stage the reunion, a race was a non-starter because he is contracted, by a Department of Agriculture grant, to protect the butterfly’s habitat.

They now plan to mark out the original race route and to organise limited-number walks around it.

Mrs Allan said: “We will not be running any bikes now, so the butterfly will be absolutely fine, there will be no problem for the poor old butterfly.”

Mr Allan, president of the Scottish Auto Cycle Union, added: “It’s just one of those things. It would have been lovely if we could have had a complete re-enactment race, everybody would have been wanting to enter. But it will still be nice to meet up with people you haven’t seen for 20 or 30 years.”

The couple, from Boghead, near Lesmahagow, organised the 1978 event when they lived at Lochgilphead, in Argyll.

Mr Allan, 71, a renowned motorcycle competitor who owned and ran the Scottish Motorcycle Show for 25 years and promoted road races and Supermoto at 
Ingliston, Edinburgh, said of the 1978 Motocross Grand Prix: “It was the most unbelievable event I have ever seen, there were riders there from all over the world. It was voted the best Grand Prix event that year, it brings back very happy memories.”

He does not know what turnout there will be for the reunion but it is hoped that some of the racers who competed in the 1978 event will be able to attend.

Mr Allan said: “I know the interest is there, especially in the younger ones because they have all heard about this Grand Prix, it is a part of history because it was the only time a Grand Prix has been held in Scotland. You can still walk round the course.”

Tom Prescott, species conservation officer for Butterfly Conservation Scotland, said the main problem was that racing may destroy the ground where the devil’s-bit scabious plant grows.

He said: “Some of Gordon Brechin’s land has Marsh Fritillaries, a species which is declining in Europe, which are fully protected in Scottish terms because they only occur in Argyll on the coast, and on the islands.”

“It is reliant on controlled grazing by farmers. It is one of those butterflies that is really fussy, it needs areas where there is devil’s-bit scabious, a plant with a blue pom pom flower, in slightly damp ground, in areas of nice flowers and grass, which are only there because there is light grazing from cattle and sheep.