Some might see them as unorthodox but the Devils Henchmen say they’re maturing as the Timaru club revs up to celebrate 40 years.
They will mark the milestone this long weekend and say there’s plenty of life left in the club – despite an ageing membership.
The club has gained notoriety over the years – specifically in the early 90s – when gang tensions intensified in South Canterbury, capturing national attention.
On the eve of their birthday, club members maintain there have been misconceptions over the years.
“Everyone is getting older and wiser; no one is getting any younger,” club member Bryn Cox said.
Things have changed and he acknowledges periods of violence.
He said the club still can’t get past the stigma of past problems.
Some agencies are “still portraying that we are dirty bikie scum and drug dealers”, he said.
“We are not gang members, we are motorcycle club members.”
The celebrations kick off on Friday with a ride around South Canterbury on Saturday, and live entertainment in the evening.
The club is expecting 300 to 400 people from around the country for the weekend, he said.
Cox has been a member for 19 years and started hanging around the club in 1981 – aged 19.
“It’s my family.
“These are my brothers, their wives and children are my family too.”
At 40, the club is maturing and more savvy, he says.
“We are tax paying members of the Timaru public.”
The club still has a healthy membership, he said.
While protesters took to the streets of Timaru to drive the destructive and highly addictive drug methamphetamine out of the district last month, the Devils Henchmen banned the drug “very early”, he said.
“We seen what it was doing to other clubs.”
Founding member John (Woody) Woodhams says the motorcycle club scene has changed a lot in the past 40 years.
“It’s a lot more streamlined and polished now. We used to sleep on the sides of roads, now it’s the motel or camping ground.”
Woodhams, 68, said he is one of the lucky ones.
“I don’t drink, smoke or take drugs.”
Woodhams was introduced to motorcycle clubs in 1970 when he met a member of the Antarctic Angels in Invercargill and rode to Timaru where there were about five motorcycle clubs.
“It’s all about motorcycles at the end of the day.
“A motorcycle club is an organisation. In large the police would like to see all motorcycle clubs and street gangs gone; it’s not going to happen.”
Woodhams acknowledges the club’s ageing membership.
“Some of us are getting so old now we are drawing a pension.
“We are getting long in the tooth but we are still quite fit.
“If you can survive all the trouble of when you are young then you develop more tolerance at the end of the day.”
Tolerance is a virtue, he said.
“Instead of smacking someone in the head you tend to give them a warning.
“All we can do is try to present a good image but you are fighting a tide.”
Co-founding member Smiley said club membership is about trust and honesty.
“The biggest one is respecting each other.
“The whole scene has changed, we haven’t changed as people.
“We all stand for camaraderie and respect each other.”
Sergeant Grant Lord, of Timaru, said police are aware of the anniversary celebrations and had attempted to contact the club.
“We have attempted to contact the Devils Henchmen and they have not responded in relation to what their celebrations entail,” Lord said.
“It’s not unusual for police to maintain contact with gangs or clubs when they have activities including celebrations and funerals. The Devils Henchmen have always had an event over Labour Weekend and we have always policed them.”