Born in Rochdale, June 1879 the son of Henry and Mary. Henry was the Curate of St Albans, Lancashire. The census of 1881, 1891 and 1901 all show Basil living with his mother and father in a Rochdale vicarage.
Basil was educated at Manchester Grammar School, Clifton College, Bristol and Lincoln College, Oxford, receiving a BA in 1901, then an Honours in Theology the same year. He was ordained in 1903.
Whilst he was at Oxford, he became very interested in motorcycles and by 1904 he was on the committee of The Motor Cycling Club and honorary editor of its gazette.
At the beginning of his career, Basil was a deacon at St Mary’s Church, Newington, Surrey from 1903 to 1909 (now London). It was at this time that he started writing for The Motor Cycle under the pseudonym of “ Ixion”.
Ixion in Greek mythology was a Thessalonian king and father of the centaurs who was punished by Zeus for his love for Hera by being tied to a perpetually revolving fiery wheel in Hades.
In 1906, Triumph made their first motor cycle engine and to get publicity they approached Basil (Ixion), as a well respected amateur journalist to ride the machine. Their road test claimed to have completed 1279 miles in 6 days without major breakdowns, quite an accomplishment at that time, especially as motor cycles were seen as notoriously unreliable.
After a brief spell as a curate to his father who was now vicar to a wide spread mining community in Co. Durham at St Mary’s,Esh, Basil moved to St Sepulcres Church, Northampton in 1907 as curate and later vicar where he married Frances Helen Hodgkinson, an American in 1908.
Basil and Frances had 6 children, 3 girls and 3 boys. Whilst in Northampton, Basil became president of the Northamptonshire Motorcycle Club.
In 1916 pressures of work and ill health brought him to a quieter parish of St Wenn in Cornwall. Basil replaced the Rev. John Addenbrooke who had lost his son in the closing weeks of the Somme Offensive, November 1916.
Surprisingly, Basil joined the Royal Flying Corps in May 1917. He spent 3 weeks at the machine gun training centre and then further technical training. Eventually Basil settled into the job of teaching recruits how to fire machine guns. On joining the RFC he was appointed as a 2nd Lieutenant but for a probationary period. His rank was confirmed in August 1917. He was a technical officer rather than a pilot or observer and spent most of his service in this country.
Whilst he was away, the clergy from St Columb and other parishes stepped up to the mark and provided services in St Wenn. This, however, became more and more difficult as time went on. Basil wrote several times to St Wenn church, his letters were published in the church magazine. Basil made several requests to be discharged from the RFC which eventually happened in June 1919 in time for St Wenn’s welcome home celebrations on 22nd November that year.
Basil helped found the Scottish Six Days Trial and was a gold medallist in this event and its equivalent in England. Basil remained the Vicar of St Wenn until 1921 when he moved to Lodsworth, Sussex ministering there until 1926 when he again moved to St Barnabas, Bexhill where he remained until 1940. The 1939 Register shows him resident in the vicarage with Frances and his 2 sons.
Basil retired from active clergy life in 1940 but continued writing for the next 20 years from his home in Bournemouth. His column “Occasional Comments” appeared weekly in the Motor Cycle magazine for nearly 60 years. He also wrote books and articles on bridge and cricket. Basil made the first radio broadcast of a speedway meeting from Stamford Bridge in 1926. In 1927 he made the first TT broadcast and for the next 30 years he wrote articles for almost every International TT. He wrote 3 books on motorcycling, 2 Motor Cycle “Reminiscences” and “ Motor Cycle Cavalcade”.
Basil had always suffered from a heart condition and eventually succumbed to it dying peacefully on 23 March 1961. His final column appeared in the magazine The Motor Cycle that very day.
In 2014 Dave Masters wrote and published a book “Ixion of the Motor Cycle” on the life and times of Basil H Davies. The book’s cover is shown here. Dave Masters is a rider of veteran and vintage machines and an organiser of the now annual Ixion Cavalcade which takes place in Bexhill, a fitting tribute to this interesting man.
My sincere thanks to Dave Masters, author of Ixion of the Motor Cycle, for his insight into this extraordinary character and permission to use the photographs. It is much appreciated and I hope I have done Basil justice!