Chapter 5 – Reminiscing and Taking Stock

Yes I fear that our volunteer Editor was indeed a super-optimist but his hopes of wielding the blue pencil were not being realised to the extent anticipated. He did, however, break tradition by begging for ‘copy’ and at the same time admitting that on the date of a Chester-Knutsford fixture he spent the day at Bug1awton, and in the same month a Macclesfield Forest-Birtles run found him spending the day at home engrossed in a book on gardening. No wonder that the lads failed to rise to his appeals! Before the end of a month, the poor Editor had turned a somersault, involuntarily, over the handlebars and even Buglawton, his country residence, was beyond reach for a brief period. This Editorship must have been a worrying business! Mention of the Macclesfield district calls to mind one of our old members who had been in the original C.R.C. It was Billy Brown, a great character and a cycling historian whose yarns were ever entertaining. He had the biggest personal collection of bicycles I’ve ever seen, and they all had their turn on the road. Nothing modern about them, and drop handlebars were never in evidence. His advocacy of low gears was said to be due to his youthful activities which included challenging all comers, on bicycles of course, to race him up any of the steep back streets of Macclesfield for a half-crown stake. He was reputed to have purchased more than one of his bicycles with the proceeds. At a time of life when most folk have given up serious cycling, he was run down by a motorist on the Chester road and sustained severe injuries which the hospital authorities said would prevent him from ever riding a bicycle again. They were wrong, you know. Billy was tough stuff. As he lay pinned under the car he had issued all necessary instructions for the lifting of the vehicle. Never thought of fainting any more than he did of giving up cycling, to which pastime he returned after a long spell in hospital.

The Falstaff Hotel, Manchester, was chosen for the Annual Dinner, 1924, and once again a good time was had by all. Our numbers on this festive occasion were inclined to dwindle and one school of thought had felt that a change of hotel would provide the remedy. Well, a change had been effected but the attendance was only sixty. The dinner was first-class and the entertainers put on a splendid show. Many of them had delighted us with their renderings every year since the function was inaugurated. Even so, some members thought that a Social Evening in the form of a concert did not give sufficient scope for inter-mixing. It began to look as though a Dinner Dance was indicated. Doubtless the feeling of the membership on this point would manifest itself in due course. Meantime, the function was a happy affair which appeared to meet the wishes of the majority and, at 4/6d. a head, was a very moderate evening out.

The racing season, so far as the C.R.C. was concerned, opened with the Cheadle Hulme ’25’ on the 5th April. In this event G. E. Kennerley made fastest time, 1-12-51 , which gave him also second in the handicap. Our other finishers were F. L. Edwards, F. Hancock, R. L. Ogden, G. B. Orrell, H. Williamson, H. Bracewell, R. Ball and A. Dearden. Their times were between 1-14-46 and 1-19-13.

Our first club event of the season, the ’25’, attracted eighteen riders four of whom punctured and retired. The scratch man Kennerley was among these unfortunates. G. B. Orrell pulled off a first and fastest with 1-14-50, closely followed by F. L. Edwards. The third man, R. Ball, was a further four minutes behind. The first club “50” produced a field of thirteen and G. B. Orrell, from scratch, made fastest time, 2-32-17, which placed him second in the handicap. G. E. Kennerley, with a seven minutes allowance and a ride of 2-34-20 took first handicap. In the Stretford Wheelers ’25’ J. Owen recorded 1-18-5 which, surprisingly, was fastest time. The following week in an Anfield ’50’ G. B, Orrell and F. L. Edwards made the two fastest times, 2-34-21 and 2-34-34, respectively. Both were displaying steadily improved form which gave promise of some really fast rides later on. I am reminded of a somewhat unofficial and misguided club run by a family, Payne by name. Several members of this large family, father included, were members of the club and one served for a short period as Editor. On an April Sunday morning father and an un-specified number of sons decided to join the club for lunch at Macclesfield Forest. Mother and several of the girls had other ideas – it was a lovely morning for a run out in the large family car. Whilst the suggestion was under discussion the two youngest sons, whose cycles had recently been overhauled, came bursting in with a request that father should take them for a ride, as a kind of celebration. Now here was a real problem for a much married man, but Syd Payne rose to the occasion. Why not let those who wished to do so go in the car, the remainder cycle and all meet at the Stanley Arms Macclesfield Forest, for lunch? It would be a great surprise for C.R.C. members attending the fixture. The plan was agreed and the cavalcade moved off at intervals. The occupants of the car, having reached Kerridge, thought it strange that they had seen no sign of the remainder of the family. Passing the ‘Setter Dog’ father expressed surprise that there were no speed irons parked outside the hostelry – most unusual when the C.R.C. were in the vicinity. He just could not understand it. His observations got one of the boys thinking. “It is the 13th today isn’t it?” To which father replied, “Come, come, wake up, it’s only the 6th.” “Ah well,” said the lad, “the Macclesfield Forest run is on the 13th.” They carried on, all ten of them to the Stanley Arms and needless to say, Stanley produced all the food required.

The month of May witnessed some good riding by our speedmen. In the Grosvenor Wheelers ’50’ L. Johnson was fastest with 2-34-31 and F. Hancock second fastest and second handicap, only two minutes slower. Orrell and Edwards continued to improve and an Anfield ’50’ found them doing 2-26-35 and 2-28-25, respectively. In the Cheadle Hulme ’50’ F. L. Edwards won a well deserved fastest of 2-27-50 followed by G. E. Kennerley 2-30-5, and G. B. Orrell 2-31-10. The makings of a good team! Our men were not placed in the Manchester Wheelers Open ’50’ but G. E. Kennerley returned a splendid 2-29-22 which placed him fourth fastest, five minutes behind Scott of the Walsall Road Club. In the Grosvenor Wheelers Open ’50’ a fortnight later Kennerley repeated his brilliant riding by recording a fastest time of 2-29-38, and in the Oak Tandem ‘100’ H. Bracewell and A. Dearden did a very creditable ride of 4-37-44. It was our first appearance in the latter event.

The Twelve Hours’ Standard Medal Ride was now also a handicap event. Run off on the 30th August, it produced some good rides despite a day of considerable drizzle. F. Hancock narrowly missed achieving the coveted 200 miles. His 199 3/4 miles, the greatest distance, with an allowance of two miles placed him second in the handicap. First handicap went to N. Hannaford with 197 1/4 miles plus an allowance of five miles, and G. E. Kennerley’s 194 1/2 miles from the scratch mark took third handicap. W. Bailey covered 190 miles, his usual twelve hours distance; H. Wilson 178 3/4, E. Henry 160 1/2 and R. E. Heseltine 153. Our tandemists, Bracewell and Dearden, who had ridden so well in the Oak Tandem ‘100’, covered 116 1/2 miles in 6-29-0 but soon afterwards they both encountered a bad time from which recovery was not readily forthcoming and they decided to pack up. At this distance referred to a great struggle was taking place between the four leading men. Hannaford held the lead in 6-49 but Hancock was rapidly coming up to him and was now only one minute slower. Bailey’s time was 6-50 and that of Kennerley 6-52. These two who had started next to each other were never separated by more than two minutes over a period of ten hours.

Times in the Cheadle Hulme Championship ’50’ were not fast. Our best effort was by G. B. Orrell who recorded 2-36-0. F. Hancock rode an unplaced Grosvenor Wheelers ’25’ In 1-13-46. On the same day N. Hannaford, riding privately in a Manchester Wednesday C.C. ’50’ recorded a first-class performance by completing the course in 2-30-30. This included about one and a half miles off the course and a nasty fall at Toft Corner.

Our second ’50’ of the season was marred by a nasty accident. One of the competitors collided with a motor car near Chelford. His machine was completely wrecked and he himself was badly cut and bruised about the head. We were still running our events on Saturdays, although we realised more and more with the passing of time that the hazardous conditions on the roads made Time Trials both unsafe and unfair to the competitors. The vast majority of Southern clubs had long since gone over to Sunday mornings for their events and had reported fully in favour of the change. A bit stubborn, we Northerners! The time for a change over could not be delayed much longer. The unfortunate accident referred to certainly swayed some who were apt to think that the Saturday afternoon dangers were perhaps overrated. Needless to say, they were not competitors. But back to the ’50’. G. B. Orrell, scratch, finished in 2-29-25, fastest and second handicap. F. Hancock off the four minute mark secured first handicap with a 2-31-53 ride. R. Ball was third, off a generous fourteen minutes’ allowance.

It was in February, 1924, that H. V. Vaughan joined the club. He gets this special mention because, only four months later, he took over the post of Editor and rescued the ‘News’ from the somewhat hopeless state into which it had fallen. We were inclined to be apprehensive. A man with so little experience of the club and its members had certainly taken something on. To our relief and delight, it soon became evident that he was right on top of the job and for the following two and a half years he gave us a publication which made first-class reading.

The 1924 A.G.M., held at the Swan Hotel, Bollington, attracted forty members and under the guidance of the President who, by the way, did not seek re-election a very interesting afternoon was spent. We saw a return to an agenda containing items affecting policy and these were naturally, in a greater or lesser degree contentious. The more or less formal business of the meeting, the Reports of the Hon. Secretary and his counterpart the Racing Secretary, gave great satisfaction and the officers concerned were warmly congratulated upon the year’s work. The latter directed attention to the very satisfactory times and distances standing to the credit of competitors and the meeting was obviously full of appreciation.

In connexion with the racing programme for the coming year, we broke new ground. A resolution that in addition to running the now usual Time Trials, one ’25’ and two ’50’s’, the Twelve Hours’ Standard Medal Ride should be converted to an Open Scratch Race. This gave rise to quite an animated discussion the burden of which was, would the proposed change discourage our own men from entering? That should not be so since every finisher, except the prize winners, would be eligible for a certificate. Many members pointed out that there was an undoubted demand in the North for such an event and that adequate support would, therefore, be forthcoming. The proposition carried and we, thereby, stepped in where other clubs had feared to tread. May our audacity be rewarded! A motion that nominations for officers and committee be printed on the notice convening the meeting brought out all the arguments against and it was defeated by a big majority. Another motion which did not find favour sought to impose an attendance on at least ten club runs, exclusive of races, before any member became eligible to receive a prize. An amendment that the qualifying attendance should be twenty-five per cent of the club runs suffered a similar fate.

The most contentious item was still to come. Moved by W. Bailey, it was to the effect that the Handicap Time Trials for the coming year be held on Sundays, the events to be completed before 9-0 a.m. We did not seem to be able to escape the Sunday question for long! Opinion within the club was divided – it was bound to be. I doubt if the desire for Sunday Time Trials was unanimous in any club. Many members had never ridden in competition, even in the days when Saturday afternoon was a satisfactory time for the purpose. They certainly had little appreciation of the hazards to which competitors were exposed at this period, or of the difficulties of riding unpaced throughout in accordance with the relative rules. Danger was not the only undesirable feature. Traffic on the roads was such that, unless competitors were prepared to take unwise risks, their actual performance in terms of time was affected. The resolution produced a long and interesting debate.

It was, of course, known that the majority of clubs in the South had abandoned Saturday afternoon Time Trials, many of them years ago, and that the utilisation of Sunday morning had proved to be fully successful. So far as the North was concerned, the advocates pointed out that many clubs were running their events on Sundays. In some cases the arrangements were disgraceful and it may well be a good thing if the C.R.C. went into the field with an example of considerate and efficient organising on which the clubs referred to might model their future events. We were, indeed, vain! A few of our best members were against the proposal. One by reason of his view that accommodation difficulties could not be overcome. Another averred that it would mean the end of Northern Time Trials for ever. Ah well, everyone to his view. Everyone except the actual racing men appeared to be doing the talking until A. Warburton suggested that it would be useful to have the views of the members directly affected. What a polite crowd racing men of 1924 must have been! Waiting for an invitation to say their bit on such a personal question !! Anyhow, having spoken, the meeting was left in no doubt as to where the speedmen stood. The vote resulted in nineteen for and thirteen against, there were a few abstentions, and the club was now committed to a Sunday morning programme of Time Trials. Could we live up to our vanity? In view of our sincere concern for the sport, I for one had no doubt in the matter.

The election of officers saw little change excepting that of the Presidency. Our good friend E. Buckley, who had graced the Chair so admirably during the past three years, had already intimated that in accordance with club policy the honour should go round and he did not stand for re-election. There was only one nomination for the post and all were delighted to see Percy Williamson installed. He had been a truly splendid ‘Moneybags’ over the years and some of us felt doubtful whether we could find a successor of equal calibre. Of course we could. George Mundell was made for the job, and so it proved to be. The new President, in his address, reminded us that the decision taken to run our Time Trials on Sunday mornings was one that would be severely criticised, both fairly and unfairly. He asked those who believed that we had taken a wise step to give their full support to the programme. Those who felt that we had stepped in a wrong direction would do the club a service by withholding judgement until the scheme had been given a trial.

In common with all other clubs and organisations of various kinds, the sands of time brought losses and gains. Occasionally, we were called upon to bid adieu to members whose friendship was valued and whose company would be missed even though they were, perhaps, not regular attenders: Reasons were numerous and natural. Marriage, inability to propel a bicycle without undue suffering and in some cases petrol was the villain of the piece. On the other hand, our gains were valuable and substantial. I have already referred to H. V. Vaughan who was accorded our blessing for putting the ‘News’ squarely on its feet again following a serious relapse and I cannot refrain from mentioning that it was in March, 1925, that A. C. Wood, the number one Hon. Treasurer in any company, joined us. We shall refer to him again later, when he has won his spurs. During the year we were fortunate also in attracting J. B. Atherton, who throughout the years contributed so actively to all our activities and Reg Danby who was destined later on to occupy the Presidential Chair and, incidentally, to play a big part in ensuring the publication of this book.

For the Annual Dinner, we returned to the Exchange Hotel where a splendid repast was provided. It looked as though our absence the previous year had been duly noted. The President, in his reply to the toast, described the C.R.C. as the foremost club in the district. The vanity to which earlier reference has been made seemed to have got a hold! Doubtless, where liveliness and progress were the qualities, the observation was not without foundation. A happy crowd of sixty were delightfully entertained by the usual galaxy of first-class artistes. Some of our members, seen for the first time in a lounge suit and all the etceteras, were not readily recognisable but gradually one found it possible to give them a name. According to one Press Report, the predominant colour scheme of the ladies was willow green and the majority of the gentlemen present wore collars. Anyhow, a good time was had by all.

In the field of racing we were happy to renew our congratulations to our vegetarian members, Bracewell and Dearden who had created a Vegetarian C. & A.C. Record with their 4-37-44 ride in the Oak Tandem ‘100’. Although ridden under C.R.C. colours, the Vegetarian C.C. recognised the achievement by presenting them with Gold Medals.

No time had been lost in exploring the possibilities of finding overnight accommodation for the Sunday morning Time Trials competitors, and success was met with at the Red Cow Hotel, Knutsford, where supper, bed and breakfast was offered at 8/6d. per head. This news brought cheers from those who loved to be out and about at the crack of dawn.

Our efforts to improve the N.R.R.A. were only partly successful. At this year’s A.G.M. a proposition bearing on the rules which barred the use of following motor cars for purposes of timing a Record Attempt was carried. More progress! The attack on the rule which prohibited Sunday Record Attempts was, however, defeated. I can only conclude that we must have been too pre-occupied to organise the job properly. At the same time, it seemed incongruous that while National Records were going by the board the N.R.R.A. remained stuck in the mud. The figures for the Bicycle ’50’ had stood at 2-21-45 since 1908, those for the ‘100’ at 5-11-55 since 1909 the Twelve Hours at 2082 miles since 1910 and the Twenty-four Hours at 350 3/4 since 1911. The officials must have been well content waiting for something to turn up. For our part we must intensify the effort. A luke-warm attitude would not bring the desired success and, after all, common sense was on our side – or so we thought.

At this period, the North-west was not producing any really spectacular riders. At the same time, we had same quite hot stuff in the persons of G. B. Orrell, N. Hannaford, L. Johnson etc. They had recorded figures around 2-25-0 for a ’50’ and C. Danby had sprung a 2-26-21 on us. We certainly had some up-and-coming lads but at the moment keenness was centred on competition riding rather than the Record field.

Shall we go into print on a spot of more or less friendly discord, if only to show that even within the Club we could have our little differences? You may recall that very early in the life of the club it was thought desirable to impress upon all caterers that, in addition to good feeding, we should expect reliable service. In other words, our requirements must not be subordinated to those of casual callers – not even to those of that comparatively new class of traveller, the motorist. Well, the good providers had lived up to our needs but now, in 1925, we were creating difficulties for them by reason of the tendency of a few members to be habitually late for meals. And so it happened that one member, full of good intentions, wrote the Editor as follows :-

“Sir ,

I do think it would be to the good of all if members would only endeavour to be on the spot at the hour appointed for meals. Slackness on their part means slackness on the part of the caterers, and that often results in the club being regarded as less important than casual callers. That is not as things should be, and although the late for lunch or tea business is perhaps regarded as a joke I do think that it can be carried too far. I would like to urge upon the HABITUAL late arrivals that they might seek notoriety in a more desirable direction.

Observer.”

One of the guilty bit it, and reaction was readily forthcoming.

“Sir,

I beg to differ with ‘Observer’ as regards the late arrivals. There are some of us who have to cross Manchester in order to be present at our runs and, speaking personally, it hardly seems fair that they should have to leave home at an hour when their luckier fellow-members are still in bed. We get far too few on the club runs as it is and it seems to me that for some of us at any rate the better-late-than-never rule should apply.

Observed.”

This was not sound enough for a founder member, who wrote :-

“Sir,

May I join in the discussion on habitual late arrivals? Thanks ! I’m on the side of `Observer’, whoever he is, if only because his remarks are prompted by consideration and concern for the good of the club as a whole. Of course I like to have the other chap’s views and am supposed to have an unblushing liking for argument though mind you, Sir, up to now I cannot accuse ‘Observed’ of arguing. Let me assure him that I’m really sorry that Manchester is in his way on a Sunday morning and I’m even more sorry that we cannot have it moved out of his way at weekends. The unfortunate chap finds it necessary to leave home at an hour when some of us are still in bed. Can’t quite make that out, since the runs are rarely very far from Manchester. He is either pulling our legs or else we are blessed with some really bed-ridden members. If he pleads guilty to being one of the ‘habituals’, can he explain how it is that he and his confreres are as late for lunch when the venue is at the nearest point to Manchester as when it is at the most distant point from that City? Perhaps he can say also why the same men are just as frequently late for tea when they have been out to lunch? Do they find Manchester in the way again between, say, Macclesfield Forest and Bollington? The better-late-than-never rule does apply but, with the moderate distances to be covered, I shall need a lot of convincing that there is any hardship in reaching the trough to time.

Warburton.”

The pace was warming up and the heat increased with the following :-

“Sir,

Replying to Mr. Warburton I would respectfully point out that as he is conveniently situated in regard to the direction of our runs he cannot properly realise the obstacle that the City presents to those unfortunates who live to the North of it. If our lunch places were in this direction a different view might result. As to leaving home when others are in bed, if our positions were reversed and I could enjoy an hour’s longer sleep on the day of rest I should have to have a very guilty conscience before I failed to take advantage of it. I differ with him about those who are habitually late for lunch being also late for tea. If they are, it is almost invariably mechanical trouble which has delayed them and even the greatest concern for the good of the club will not prevent a puncture or a broken chain. Personally, I have always prided myself on belonging to a go-as-you-please club, bound down by no code of Prussian regulations, but Mr. Warburton seems to relish the idea of the mailed fist or the armour-plated stop watch. I would suggest the introduction of a register, and we might also arrange a system of whistle signals and who knows in time we should be able to run to a regular time table, when we could advise the hotel proprietors in whose good graces we are so anxious to keep of our arrival or departure. In those happy days a two-valve set will be sufficient sport for

Observed.”

Well, here was something which called for a reply.

“Sir,

I fear that ‘Observed’ has struck a very bad patch. Where he does adhere to the subject under discussion he is hopelessly wrong in his assumptions. He says that I cannot properly realise the obstacle which the City presents. Let me assure him that such a view is entirely erroneous because for several years I journeyed frequently per cycle from my present address to Ramsbottom.

The next para says, in effect, that every possible hour of Sunday morning should be spent in bed. Such nonsense won’t bear sane discussion. It is easy to say that he differs from my opinion that the habitual late arrivals for tea are often those who have also been out to lunch. For his information, let me say that the habitually late for meals business originated with a few enthusiasts self styled ‘The Roughs’. Manchester was not in their way during the afternoon, neither were they the type of men who rode machines of the endless trouble variety. The trouble was with them, personally.

Regarding his statement that I seem to relish the idea of the mailed fist or the armour-plated stop watch (surely something quite new) perhaps he is unaware that one of my proudest boasts is that of being requested to resign from a very exclusive club because I objected to the mailed fist on matters affecting road sport.

I feel sure that discussion on matters affecting the club would be welcome to the general membership but jumping to conclusions ignoring the salient points, introducing a lot of extraneous nonsense or trying to reply to something which has not been written is merely a waste of time.

Warburton.”

The correspondence then ceased. Maybe the Editor stepped in. Did it do any good? I doubt it. Reading the accounts of runs many years later, one found plenty of evidence that the position had deteriorated to a lamentable degree, yet everyone seemed to be happy. Perhaps after all the subject had not been worth raising and now, so many years after, the Editor-in-Chief may decide that the matter is certainly not worth reprinting. I could agree.

Clun was again favoured for the Easter Tour and the ten members who enjoyed the hospitality and comfort of the White Horse Hotel had quite a happy time. The outings were much in the directions taken in previous years so I will not indulge in repetition. The weather appears to have been below the usual standard for Easter, to judge by the appearance of some of the lads in the evenings. Where they borrowed the clothing from was kept rather secret. Surely the good proprietor could not have found all the spares! Even the ill-fitting garments could not have robbed the visitors of their natural attractions if the following letter, which came to hand very mysteriously, was really authentic :-

“Dear Mabel,

Thanks for the pattern. It makes up into a perfectly dinky jumper. Heaps of love.

A.”

P.S. I had such an experience here yesterday afternoon. We have had a cycling club over for the weekend – the Cheshire Rogues I think they are called. Well, they invited me to have tea with them. I was so excited but just a teeny bit disappointed when I got there because I found that the nicest boys had gone to Montgomery for tea (you see, I had seen them the previous night). Still, there was one who was a top-hole violinist, and another who sat at the side of the piano all afternoon had such a sweet little face. Of the other two who were there, one had tragic eyes and the other no voice but I wasn’t particularly interested in either of them. I do wish that the tall boy hadn’t gone to Montgomery, he was so well mannered and seemed quite out of place.

Again, love,

A.”

What better ending to a chapter?

  • 2017 Open 50

    The 2017 Open 50 was held on Saturday 22nd July at 2pm.

    The start sheet can be viewed or downloaded here.

    The result sheet can be viewed or downloaded here.

    Charles Taylor of Team Bottrill/HSS Hire made it 5 wins in a row with a time of 1:43:19 – another Event Record.

    Matt Bottrill was second with 1:43:50, Mark Turnbull 3rd with 1:44:04 and Mark Nulty 4th with 1:44:12. Jill Wilkinson was fastest lady with 2:03:41.