Chapter 3 – Progress

In view of our continued success on the road, it was not surprising that a demand for a full racing programme found its way on to the agenda for the 1921 A.G.M. This ‘threat’ resulted in the batch of resignations already referred to and which was increased to 27 when the meeting authorised the proposed racing programme. The committee accepted the depleted membership figures without even an anxious moment. We were left with a membership of one hundred per cent C.R.Cites, of a quality far more important than numbers, and we were perfectly happy that the shadow which had cast itself over our family sort of club life had now faded out. In that attitude let us not be misunderstood. Many of the men who had now left us were admirable company on the road and, in that connection, we should miss them.

Now to the A.G.M. which was held at the Angel Hotel, Knutsford on the 11th December, 1921. About 50 members were present. The Hon. Secretary’s Report, the eighth in the life of the club and the last by the original Secretary, A. Warburton, disclosed a very satisfactory state of affairs. We had commenced the year with a membership of 97. During the year we lost 32 and enrolled 13 giving a current figure of 78, all enthusiasts. That figure of 32 could have shaken many an organisation. On paper it looks severe – one third of the total ! In fact, however, it represented what might perhaps be described as marginal members who had given little or no support to the year’s fixtures. Despite that position, the average attendance on club runs was 26, compared with 24 in 1920 and 17 in 1919. On thirteen occasions we had 30 or more out and on seven occasions only, had we less than 20. Average attendances for the four quarters of the year were 26, 27, 26 and 24. Surely a consistency which permitted us to claim, without a blush, to be real cyclists. The distinction of having attended the full number of fixtures fell, unshared, to J. Knight with W. Bailey and A. Warburton only one mark behind. Committee Meetings had been equally well attended. Yes, it was undoubtedly a very happy state of affairs. On the Time Trials side our achievements had been outstanding or even, for such a young club, amazing.

The Report suggested that we had reached a stage at which the combined office of Hon. Secretary, Racing Secretary and Editor was a well-nigh impossible job if the respective functions were to be satisfactorily carried out. The present holder had experienced a really hectic year and the meeting was urged to split the post into three. He himself felt the necessity of a rest and did not, therefore, wish to be nominated. This was agreed, W. Bailey, A. V. Morgan and H. Morrell, respectively, being appointed. Let it here be recorded that W. Bailey carried out with distinction the arduous duties of Hon. Secretary for a period of 19 years. In that connection, the club owes much to his untiring labours on our behalf and it is, indeed, fitting that he should have the honour of heading the Panel of Service. It is given to few of us in our first year of club life to be able to take on and carry with outstanding success an appointment of such importance.

In due course Standard Medal distances were fixed, the gold at 190 miles which was ten miles above that of any other Northern club. This called forth outside criticism from one wiseacre who suggested that we did not intend to be caned for any ‘golds’. Once again the prophet was off the rails and the novices still appeared to be moving along the right lines. We experienced no difficulty in providing two gold medals in connection with the first 12 hours club event. To present day readers even 190 miles will seem ridiculously low but one has to remember that in the 1921 period there were no mahogany topped roads. Generally speaking, roughish macadam and an abundance of puncture material formed the surface of even the main roads. The joys of tarmac were still to come and one of the first stretches of road so treated was, as accurately as I can recall, the Manchester road out of Northenden. It was referred to by clubmen as ‘the flying mile’.

During the year just ended the Presidential Chair had been adorned by that most genial of personalities, Arthur Newsholme, whose lovely disposition endeared him to young and old alike. He decided not to stand for re-election on account of his frequent and lengthy absences abroad and although his decision was received with much regret it did accord with club policy of letting the honour of the Presidency go the round of all who had served us well. On this occasion we were extremely fortunate in the one nomination for the post. It was none other than Edwin Buckley, that great record breaker and bulwark of cycling in all its aspects. A man of independent means who devoted the whole of his life to the pastime, with a little fishing thrown in, he was very highly respected for his forthrightness and his lifelong service to the N.R.R.A. He was not a first claim member and one could have forgiven him had he declined to stand for nomination but that was not Buckley’s way of looking at things. His forthrightness really amounted to bluntness but one always knew where one stood with him. I recall that when Teddy Sproston improved on Buckley’s figures for the Northern 12 hours bicycle record he chose a measured course of his own, which of course he was perfectly entitled to do. He started at a point near to his home at Lydbury North which gave him an advantage of height for a few miles. After his successful ride Buckley recovered the Record and having done so he observed that Teddy would have to find a bigger B***** hill next time ! Don’t gather from that incident that he was not a great sportsman. On the contrary, there is perhaps no greater proof of his sportsmanship than the fact that he loyally occupied the Chair during the period when we were fighting the N.R.R.A. on the Sunday question although he was thoroughly opposed to Sunday Record attempts and was at the same time Hon. Secretary of the N.R.R.A. His period as President of the club covered some of our most difficult years and he earned the admiration and thanks of us all. In the late evening of his life Buckley, unhappily, lost his sight. It was an awful blow to a man whose whole life had been spent on the road. I looked him up from time to time during the last year or two of his life. We talked cycling and club life of course and in the course of one such chat when I suggested that he had experienced more than a fair share of bad weather on record attempts which must have brought disappointments he told me that his biggest disappointment in a lifetime of cycling was that he had never held the post of president in his first claim club. I felt sad to think that a man who had rendered outstanding service to his club should have to carry such a disappointment.

Once again to brighter things. The second Annual Dinner, held , at the Exchange Hotel, Manchester, was a most enjoyable affair. The spread was good, the company all that could be desired and the entertainers, en bloc from the previous Annual Dinner, were simply excellent. Moreover, this function provided an ideal opportunity for members to bring along their ladies, many of whom were pillars of support to the club. This event, it was abundantly clear, had come to stay.

About this time there was an insistent and growing demand from motoring, etc., organisations for legislation requiring all cyclists to carry a live rear light, the more moderate section of the agitators would be satisfied with the fitting of a reflex lens. Naturally, we became involved in the press battle on this question. A live light could provide danger as well as the security claimed for it by the advocates. An earlier experience of rear lamps under D.O.R.A. had not been a happy one by reason of the fact that on poor roads, and they were mostly in that category, one could not be sure that the lamp was always alight and, in case of being run down from the rear, it could have always been out. It became reasonably clear that compulsion would not be long delayed. We, therefore, advocated the reflex lens as a trouble free and safe compromise. How we were criticised! These young lads selling the fort again. Soon afterwards both the C.T.C. and the N.C.U. Centres came out in support of the lens but they were not subjected to criticism from the same quarter. We could afford to be amused.

In another direction a further shock awaited the die-hards. On Easter Sunday morn, 1922, it happened. Poor old Salopia, the sanctity of its charming lanes was violated by a Sunday Time Trial. The checking, marshalling, etc., arrangements were lamentable and competitors were running off the course in all directions. Such bad management could only be condemned and regretted. The prophets must have slept very uneasily that night because, according to them, Time Trials in that fair county would now be a thing of the past. For our part we remained full of good cheer, which is perhaps as well since Shropshire roads may still be used for the purpose and it’s a far cry back to 1922.

We suffered a disappointment about this time when Pryor succumbed to the lure of the track. Regrettable indeed in view of the fact that on the road he had gone right to the top in a very brief period of years. Anyhow, it was his choice and as we could not dissuade him it only remained to give him support. I set foot on a track for the first time at New Brighton on Easter Monday to push him off in the three events for which he had entered. He won the quarter mile in 292 seconds and in the half mile he finished several lengths ahead of the second man. In the ten miles scratch race it was a joy, even to a road man, to see him secure the lap prize by winning 21 of the 30 laps whilst his challenger had only five laps to his credit. Down the finishing straight he was conveniently locked in, otherwise, well, who knows ? He could probably have produced that extra speed which he invariably turned on as required in road events. He was told by other competitors in the dressing room before the event that it was time someone else had a look in ! Despite his successes on the track it was a sad thought for many of us that Pryor was drifting away from the road. We could only hope that other lads capable of emulating his brilliant example would come along, and in that hope, as the unfolding years will show, we were not disappointed.

Our racing programme was now well under way and although there were no startling times the events were well supported in every way. In the ’25’ Harry Williamson made fastest time, 1-13-29, and in the ’50’ J. A. Grimshaw was fastest with 2-42-12. In the twelve hours Standard Medal ride nine of the eleven starters completed the journey and many good rides were accomplished. F. L. Edwards and W. Bailey beat 190 miles and thereby qualified for those gold medals which, fortunately, we were able to produce. The Silver Standard, 180 miles, was beaten by three competitors and the remaining four qualified for the Bronze Standard. A really worthwhile event and a happy day out for riders and helpers alike. In the last club Time Trial of the year, 50 miles, F. L. Edwards made the fastest time, 2-39-20.

The Castle Hotel, Wem, ever an attractive rendezvous, was again chosen as Headquarters for the Easter Tour. Once again a thoroughly good time was had by all and the heavy rain of the previous few days had compensations when we gazed upon the fall at Llanrhaiadr-yn-Mochnant. One could subscribe to the view held by many that it is probably the least known yet the finest of the Welsh waterfalls. A full account of the tour is recorded in the C.R.C. News for May, 1922.

About this time it was quite refreshing to find a club other than the C.R.C. being criticised in the Cycling press and at least one club journal. Our good friends the Manchester Wheelers were the victims. They published the prize list for their Open ’50’ which included a first prize value £10. The protest from ‘Cycling’ said that their views were shared by many prominent road authorities, in Manchester as well as in other centres. The Wheelers always had the courage of their convictions and they held to the view that the value offered was only equal to that of pre-war days for the same event and that no one was likely to attain financial independence by winning it. We gave them support because although we advocated low prize values for club events in connexion with which competitors were more or less on the spot and their expenses were low whereas for an ‘Open’ the position is usually the reverse. We took the view that a man who travels up and down the country to compete is invariably the financial loser. His sporting qualities enable him to regard such loss, in moderation, with perfect sang froid, but there must be a limit. Anyhow, don’t let us be too serious. Rather better, perhaps, to switch over once again to the lighter side, in the same field of sport.

These ‘Open’ fiends by capering about the country sometimes provide problems, other than financial, for their supporters. As an example, the following may be worth relating. On one of Pryor’s rides in the North Road Memorial ’50’ the four of us who made the journey had an interesting and, in my case at least, strenuous weekend. I had worked through the Friday night and with Herbert Jackson as tandem partner, joined George and Frank Mundell on the morning train into Bedfordshire. It had been my hope to get a couple of hours’ sleep on the journey yet I feared that in the company of George sleep might be quite out of the question – and it was. I might have known! We had a grand afternoon watching those twelve picked ’50’ men doing all they knew. That was most enjoyably exciting and quite sufficient to keep anyone awake. After the event we had tea and then saw Pryor off by the Sheffield train. The thrills of the afternoon had driven away the desire to sleep and so, very unwisely as it transpired, I suggested that we rode through the night and joined the club for lunch at Malpas. It was agreed, and after some food shopping in Bedford we took to the road. As night fell I became uncomfortably aware that my suggestion had not been a wise one. Kerbstones and grass verges got in the way whenever I dozed off. After a few such incidents my stoker thought that a rail journey was indicated. I readily agreed, it would be lovely to sit back and fade out. Several of us thought that there was a midnight train from Northampton which would transport us to Crewe. From there, Malpas would be a joy ride. A mile or two from Northampton we could see the station lights but it was now only minutes off midnight – could we make it? We put all we had left into the effort and reached the station only to find all entrances locked for the night. Our midnight train was a myth. Anyhow, we had visions of shelter for the night. The booking office on the front of the building was occupied, so we enquired about trains for Crewe and were informed that the next departure was at 11 a.m. That would meet our needs so we asked for tickets and the use of the waiting room. Not on your life, we had no tickets and would not, therefore, be allowed on the premises. We produced money but the railway authority declined to issue tickets until they were due to open for business, some hours ahead. In the circumstances the obvious thing was to try the night bell, if any, at some of the hotels. Again we drew a blank, they were all very sound sleepers. Now there was only the Police Station for it so we presented ourselves to a couple of sergeants who adorned the counter in ‘the office’. In my youth I’d spent quite a lot of time at such places. Don’t misunderstand me, it was merely incidental to my friendship with the sons of representatives of the law. I had, however, gleaned, amongst other things, that in circumstances such as those in which we found ourselves the police were expected to find shelter for the travellers. We related our experience at the railway station and were informed that we were entitled to admission to the premises so long as we intended to take trains from there. We had already been refused, would the kind sergeant send an officer with us to demand admission? No, he would not, neither would he do his bit towards waking up one of the hoteliers. We then requested overnight accommodation, on payment, at the Police Station, and were told in quite a nasty tone of voice that there was no accommodation available. Things began to look somewhat hopeless, and at least one of the quartet really was in need of sleep . Our last query to that great hulking limb of the law was “what happens if we go out into the street and create a disturbance”. He replied “we shall bring you inside”. We decided to act on that gentleman’s agreement and were trooping out of the courtyard when we met the Superintendent who, perhaps fortunately for us, happened to be coming in. He eyed us suspiciously, yet kindly, and asked if he could do anything for us. We told him the sad story of our search for shelter (not mentioning the reactions of his awful sergeants) and he asked us to go with him to the office to see if anything could be done to help us. The two big lads behind the counter sprang to attention in the approved style and in reply to the Super’s query “How many have you”. One of them, presumably the senior, replied “Four, Sir”, whereupon the Super asked if we would be prepared to share a couple of cells for the night. He could not offer us one each as there were only four vacant and it would mean disturbing us if they picked up any genuine cases during the night. We clutched at the offer and were treated really well. What nice men those sergeants were! I was soon asleep on the wooden bed, which Herbert Jackson didn’t fully appreciate, and was not really too pleased when, in only a few minutes or so it seemed, the junior sergeant woke me to offer a jug of cocoa. This was repeated at 6-30 a.m. when we were provided with towels and soap and advised that breakfast would be ready for us at a cafe across the street at 7-30 a.m. Special dispensation to the C.R.C. at that hour on a Sunday morn. Those two sergeants were really fine chaps, and yet I wonder what the outcome would have been had we not met the Super because we were determined to ‘get inside’. That is rather a long story, illustrating what Cheshire Roaders will suffer in an effort to help a fellow member. Whether or not it is relevant is questionable, and whether it will interest readers is doubtful. It remains only to add that the 11-0 a.m. train did not enable us to reach Malpas for lunch, which was perhaps fortunate as 34 members had their feet in the trough at the Crown on that occasion. We headed for Oak Cottage, Allostock, and partook of tea before the arrival of the crowd.

Still on ‘Opens’, our riders retained the Sharrow Shield for another year. It was Pryor’s first appearance on the road this year and his 2-26 for the ’50’ was somewhat disappointing although it was the fastest time by seven minutes. Our other riders, F. Thorley, W. Bailey and F. Mundell clocked 2-39, 2-40 and 2-48 respectively.

In due course the A.G.M. of the R.R.A. came along once again. The motion re Sunday Record Attempts was on the agenda and our delegates, with instructions to support, made the journey to Fleet St. A goodly crowd of delegates assembled and a look round the room gave one the impression that the opposition had been busy during the year. They were all smiles. We, too, had spilt some ink in a good cause since the last meeting and had improved our position, but not sufficiently to obtain the necessary two-thirds majority. The opposition was still without any logical arguments, which was not surprising since in our friendliest moments we could not have offered them one. They listened, I hope, to the case which we put forward (an impartial observer described it as a sound one) and then fell back on their prejudices for the vote. They were still very nervous about the Squires, etc. Although the vote had again gone against us, we had strengthened our position considerably and had good reason to keep smiling. After the meeting we went into a huddle with some of our fellow-conspirators and it was agreed, after a scrutiny of the R.R.A. Handbook, that the die-hards had rallied something approaching the maximum support available for this meeting. We were satisfied that if we could even approach our maximum strength in representation the fight could readily be won because the vast majority of affiliated clubs were already running club events on Sundays. A full scale effort was, therefore, decided upon. The sponsors, the Highgate C.C. would shake up the apathy of London and Southern clubs during the year and the C.R.C. undertook to function similarly in respect of clubs in the North and Midlands. It was agreed also that at the next meeting the Highgate would table a motion seeking to cut the Private Members’ voting power from one in four to one in sixteen. If we could get the first motion through, the passage of the other was assured. The progressives were thoroughly disgusted with such unfair and unsporting representation. The Highgate club, or perhaps I should say Sanford, their delegate, had put in a lot of work for the good of the cause and success was now clearly in sight. We journeyed home, or rather to the office, by the night train feeling almost as happy as though the battle had been won. What a grand, sustaining thing confidence is! No time was lost in commencing to contact the clubs which, so far, had been interested in a somewhat lazy way. It was a long job but there were early indications that the work entailed should pay dividends.

During 1922 we were represented in the following, among other, ‘Open’ events : Grosvenor Wheelers ’50’, W. Bailey 2-40-31, T. D. Worthington 2-52. In a Yorkshire Championship ’50’ F. Thorley’s 2-33-16 missed fastest time by only 40 seconds. The Cheadle Hulme ’50’ provided an opportunity for Jack Hodges to secure a fastest time of 2-36, closely followed by G. B. Orrell, F. L. Edwards and Harry Williamson whose times were, respectively, 2-37, 2-37 and 2-38.

The C.R.C. News, under the splendid editorship of H. Morrell, made good reading and was obviously appreciated by the membership in general, and in particular by those who were not invariably in a position to attend the fixtures. Even those fortunates who were able to spend every Sunday awheel and were thereby, au fait with happenings on the club runs found much to look forward to, and argue about, in the contributions on cycling topics of the day which appeared from time to time.

The Angel Hotel, Knutsford, was again selected for the A.G.M. An attendance of 30-odd was not up to the usual standard. Was this due to a very modest agenda or to confidence in the Executive? I don’t know. We learned from the Hon. Secretary’s report that there had been a steady influx of new members during the year and that resignations were very few. The Racing Secretary’s Report confirmed that our first season’s racing programme was an unqualified success. The events had been well supported, admirably arranged and well ridden. In ‘Opens’ and on the track our members had given a good account of themselves. There was, therefore, every encouragement for a continuance of the racing programme. The Hon. Treasurer reported that the annual subscription could remain at 12/-, subject to continued adequate support for the prize fund. One member directed attention to the absence of successes on the track in the Racing Secretary’s Report. The latter suggested that such details were not required as the club had never encouraged participation in track events. That didn’t suit the lads and the Racing Scribe was given his instructions for the following year ! It was resolved that the 1922 programme of races be repeated in 1923. An amendment which sought to substitute a five miles Time Trial for one of the ’50’s’ found only two supporters, the proposer and seconder. Shades of the track! Included in the re-elected officers were E. Buckley, President; E. Sproston, VicePresident; W. Bailey, Hon. Secretary, and P. Williamson, Hon. Treasurer. They could not be bettered, and we looked forward to 1923 with unabated confidence.

  • New Club Captain

  • We have a new club captain! Terry Crosswell has agreed to take over the post from Phil! Thank you Terry.
    Terry would appreciate suggestions for destinations and offers to lead rides. He can be contacted through the Contact form.