Ian Allaway and Freya – Adult guide dogs service

Wallace and Gromit go side car racing…

Ian Allaway, from Farnham, has always been a keen motorcycle enthusiast, having competitively ridden trials bikes from the age of 14. When tragedy struck at the tender age of 20, Ian dug deep and demonstrated that with real grit and determination, anything is possible.

Ian Allaway sidecar racingIn 1978, Ian was involved in a horrific car accident in which he was propelled from the passenger seat through the car windscreen, leaving him completely blind.

“At that point in my life, I was a young single man and I was stuck at home all day on my own. I’d lost my job due to losing my sight. I’d lost all my independence, I’d lost everything.”

At Christmas time in 1979, Ian arrived at the former Wokingham Guide Dogs site for class. Ian recalls spending New Year’s Eve at Folly Court, propping up the bar, with his very first guide dog, ‘Paula’, as his only companion. Paula was a German Shepherd and was Ian’s partner for nine years. Ian commented:

“Getting a guide dog opened everything back up for me. I wasn’t dependent on others any more. I could get out on my own again. I’d walk for hours. We were inseparable. We went everywhere together.”

With regained confidence, Ian was determined to get back into employment doing a job that he was interested in, rather than settling for anything less. It had to be something that involved wheels! Ian wrote over 80 letters to car garages, asking for them to give him a chance as a car mechanic. He was given that opportunity he so desperately wanted at a local garage, where he serviced cars right up until 1989, when his father sadly died and he took over the family motorcycle business, JAM Sport.

It was whilst working as a mechanic that Ian met Helen, a cashier at a local garage. Ian used all of his (and Paula’s) charm to win her over and Helen and Ian got married in 1982. Paula was a very fetching bridesmaid, complete with her very own corsage tucked in her harness!

On a rainy day in the 1980s, Ian and his brother-in-law attempted to build a side car in the garage out of odd bits and pieces. They fitted the side car to Ian’s old Triumph motorcycle, entered a couple of trials together and Ian reawakened his passion for motorcycle trials racing, this time hanging on for dear life in the side car!

“Even Paula would jump into the side car sometimes if I rode on the back of the bike. She just loved it! It was like a scene from Wallace and Gromit!”

Ian has never looked back. He has travelled all over the British Isles competing in professional motorcycle side car trials at local and national events and four years ago, came second in the country.  

Ian, aged 54, at time of writing, has had a total of six guide dogs since his accident - five German Shepherds and one Labrador Retriever cross. Currently with Freya, he reflects: “Paula was my first dog. She came to me at a critical time in my life. My other guide dogs have all been brilliant. It’s difficult for them to live up to her, but they have all been different characters that have supported me through different times of my life”.

To find out more about Guide Dogs’ mobility services, visit: www.guidedogs.org.uk/services .