TO those keen members, all for progress, who favoured gradual development the agenda for the 1919 A.G.M. came as a rather pleasurable relief. Only two contentious items had been submitted. The first, a resolution proposing the inauguration of a club leaflet to be published monthly, received considerable support but was defeated by the vote. One gained the impression that had a specimen been circulated to the membership in advance of the meeting the result might well have been different. That must be kept in mind as a possibility before the matter was again raised. On the other hand cost in the form of a substantially increased annual subscription, may have influenced the vote. At all events, the sponsors felt that the set-back was purely temporary and both they and the opposition were, therefore, quite happy. The second proposition, that one 50 miles unpaced club handicap be promoted during 1920 was carried, only a small minority voting against. One member, who shall be nameless, was so shocked at the C.R.C. indulging in a time trial that he asked if a postal vote of the full membership on the question could be taken. The correct reply was readily forthcoming. Maybe he then had a better idea of the functions of a general meeting. Another item of interest was the raising of the annual subscription to 6/- and the introduction of a half crown entrance fee.
The flow of new members during 1920 included more N.R.R.A. Record Holders and ex-Holders. H. Roskell, Trike "50" and a share in the Tandem "50"; The great E. Buckley who had in the bag the 12 and 24 hours Bicycle, 12 and 24 hours Tricycle and the Edinburgh to Liverpool R.R.A. record. The year saw, for the first time, a C.R.C. team competing in an Open event. It was the Etna "50". Pryor put up the fastest time (2.31) and second handicap to his credit. The times of our other men, Daubney and Wilkinson, failed by four minutes to give us the team award but the effort of these three Sheffield lads caused quite a flutter up and down the country where, hitherto, the C.R.C. was almost unknown. There were more surprises to come from this club with no racing programme of its own, but more of that later. Meanwhile, invitations to Open events rolled in. They included the Manchester Wheelers "50", Sharrow "50", East Liverpool Wheelers "50", Polytechnic 12 hours, etc. Many of us felt that the position was not without embarrassment.
By the end of March all our surviving members with the forces had returned home and this was celebrated by a re-union at the Sale Hotel. It was a really happy evening at which all the warriors were the guests of the club. It's amazing what can be accomplished off a 6/- subscription - or is it?
Club fixtures continued to be well supported both by the old hands and the new entrants. This was very gratifying but it did, gradually, cost us the loss of some really good luncheon houses where those responsible for ministering to our "beef steak" appetites found it too difficult to cope with the ever-increasing numbers.
Sunday the l2th December, 1920, was quite a red letter day in the life of the club. It was the A.G.M., held at the Angel Hotel, Knutsford, and the attendance of 50 members may be taken as an indication of the growth of the club and also that the agenda was of more than usual interest. It certainly was. At this meeting the question of inaugurating a monthly club journal, defeated at the previous A.G.M. was again raised. During the year a specimen copy had been circulated to all members and the proposition, moved and seconded at same length by A. Warburton and P. Williamson, respectively, was carried unanimously. In view of the previous failure and the fact that it was made clear to the meeting that if the proposition carried it would entail doubling the annual subscription even the sponsors must have felt some surprise, pleasant enough, at the result. Anyhow, the Cheshire Roads News was born and publication came into effect the following month under the Editorship of the Hon. Secretary, A. Warburton. A proposition to repeat the one 50 miles Time Trial was carried unanimously and a member, E. L. Thompson, offered a gold medal, value three guineas, as first prize for the event, an offer which was accepted with thanks. Although somewhat irrelevant, it may be mentioned as a matter of interest that Thompson, a keen tourist, was cycling in the Black Forest along with a friend in the summer of 1914 when the danger of war became very real. They decided to terminate the tour and were fortunate in reaching England the day before war was declared. A well-timed effort! Another proposition affecting policy "That this meeting consider the desirability of holding an Annual Dinner and Social Evening to which friends of either sex may be invited" found only one dissentient voice - that of a confirmed bachelor who was totally opposed to any mixing of the sexes. And so on to1921, a most interesting and progressive year.
The first Annual Dinner and Social Evening, held at the Exchange Hotel, Manchester, on the 9th of March was voted a great success in every respect, including finance. Ninety members and friends sat down to a very satisfying dinner and then sat back to be entertained by a bunch of first class artistes. With one exception they were amateurs, club members and friends. It was a big surprise to find that there was so much talent in the club and also to learn that the one "pro" had enjoyed himself so thoroughly that he declined to accept his fee. Business claims had taken our President, A. Newsholme, (and a more deservedly popular man one is never likely to meet) across the Atlantic for a period and it was, therefore, necessary to install the V.P. in the Chair. Now it happened that at the recent A.G.M. Teddy Sproston's election to that post had been carried with acclamation. He would never allow himself to be nominated for President. Getting him into the Chair for the evening provided us with a problem. Always a pillar of support and full of those natural qualities which appeal to both old and young he did not find it easy to suffer the limelight. By various means we, ultimately, got him into position and once the ice was broken he enjoyed himself to such an extent that some difficulty was experienced in getting him to announce the closure as 11-0 p.m. approached.
To a club still in its infancy growth is a matter of quite absorbing interest and it is worthy of note that at this period the membership had doubled in eighteen months and that a lively interest was being taken in all phases of cycling. Our first proposition for consideration at a N.R.R.A. General Meeting, one which affected several rules, met with success. At the same meeting we supported the Leeds Road Club effort to wipe out the rule which forebade record attempts taking place on a Sunday. ' The motion was defeated but most of the interested people felt that success could not be long delayed. Whilst on the subject of records, it was in 1921 that the club became affiliated to the R.R.A. and the same year we led the fight for the North against rule 29 which forebade National Record Attempts taking place on a Sunday, but more of this later.
What were the lads doing in this progressive year? They were making good times in "Opens". W. Bailey in the University "100" and H. Williamson in the Anfield "100". For the second year in succession Pryor accepted an invitation to compete in the Scratch Tricycle "50" for the Tricycle Trophy, to be run in conjunction with the North London "50" on a Bedfordshire course, and for the second time he was fastest. His time of 2.36.51 beat the next man, the redoubtable Batcock of the Century Road Club by 12 minutes. The writer had his anxious moments in the later stages of the event. I was at the 40 mile point on the course keeping a sponge warm for Pryor (that was his only requirement in a "50") and close by were a couple of Century Road Club men. In due course Batcock went by and he was moving beautifully. Said one Century man to the other, "Phew! I'd like Pryor to see him moving". Said I to myself, "Cheer up, he probably will". To be out of hearing I moved further along the road and in handing the sponge to Pryor told him that friend Batcock had nearly two minutes on him. He automatically piled on more speed, it always seemed to be in reserve, with the result already mentioned. Frank Thorley made fastest time, 1.9.1, in a Rotherham Wheelers "25" and Wilkinson annexed the Sheffield to Bridlington Record by taking ten minutes of the old figures. Before the racing season was very far advanced, Pryor had five first and fastest rides to his credit and "Cycling" spoke of "the amazing Pryor, brilliant rider at all distances" and again "Pryor has flashed on to the firmament of road sport like a brilliant meteor". He certainly had caused a flutter and, as his brilliance was echoed in cycling circles throughout the country, I make no apology for the numerous references to him throughout these pages. Unhappily, the post war industrial slump which created widespread unemployment, got Pryor in its net. Industrial conditions in his native Sheffield were particularly bad. It was these circumstances which, to the regret of us all, compelled him to decline invitations to ride in the North Road Memorial Scratch 50 and to travel as first reserve with the World's Championship Road Team. He had competed in the former event the previous year and was beaten only by seconds for fastest time despite the fact that he was completely strange to the course. In the club "50" Pryor clocked 2.22.4, beating the second man, H. Williamson, by twelve minutes. It was the fastest "50" by 11 minutes ever ridden on a Cheshire course - A staggering performance for one so young in the game. It will be seen, as the pages turn, that in subsequent years many other members kept the club on the map when speed and stamina were called for.
The festive side of the club was developing side by side with the more strenuous programme and one can find by random reference to the luncheon attendances entries such as, thirty at the Stanley Arms, Wildboarclough, 25 at the Swan Hotel, Tarporley, etc. Attendances at the tea fixtures were fully in line. Mention of the Stanley Arms reminds me that we fed there for more years than I care to recall and the original modest charge remained constant throughout the years although the cost at other houses was gradually stepped up. Mine hostess, Mrs. Bullock, and her son, Stanley, had a very warm regard for the C.R.C. but that feeling was perhaps not so pronounced in the heart of the elder son who took over after the death of Mrs. Bullock. So, some few years later, the house disappeared from our list of fixtures. Other houses at which the festive board was ever a joy to behold included Tan House Farm, Buglawton, where outsize steamed puddings were said to be hogged up (there was certainly no end to the number which could be produced); Wright's Mottram St.Andrews; Lamb Hotel, Nantwich; Cliffe's, Somerford; Russell's, Overton; Higher Mainwood Farm, Ringway; Oak Cottage, Allostock; Angel Hotel, Knutsford; Wood's, Siddington; Bars Hotel, Chester; Castle Hotel, Wem; Crown Hotel, Malpas, etc. The list could be extended at some length but printing has to be paid for.
Our first Easter Tour, with headquarters at the Castle Hotel, Wem, was a great success despite the fact that only nine members were able to participate. This was attributable in part to the short notice given and also on account of the considerable number of members who were touring with their first claim clubs. The outings included Much Wenlock and Church Stretton on the Friday, Llangollen, via Ellesmere and Chirk, for lunch on Saturday, then over the hills into the Glyn Valley and on to Whittington for tea. Shrewsbury and Welshpool were favoured on Sunday. Choice of the Castle as headquarters was applauded by all who shared its warm hospitality. Our worthy V.P., Teddy Sproston, distinguished himself in true Sprostonian style by entraining at Holmes Chapel to escape a strong head wind, booking to Whitchurch and then deciding to continue the rail journey to Wem. The idea of his bicycle being put out at Whitchurch didn't dawn until he presented himself at the guard's van on arrival at Wem. Ah well, popularity pays dividends and Teddy experienced no difficulty in persuading half a tandem to accompany him to Whitchurch the following morn. Morrell was the victim and off they went at 7-0 a.m., arriving back with the lost mount in time for breakfast. Once again to speedwork. The Sharrow Open "50" was a day out for us. Pryor with a magnificent first and fastest time of 2.21.46 was over ten minutes faster than the next man. W. Bailey rode his fastest "50" to date, 2.37.55, which gave him third handicap and although 2.46 was not Frank Mundell's best time for the distance it was good enough to give us the team race. Our lads had, thereby, returned from Yorkshire with everything except second handicap to their credit. In the Grosvenor Wheelers "25" Frank Mundell was first and fastest with 1.12.34.
In the midst of all our successes one somewhat disquieting factor became more and more obvious. We were slowly but surely becoming a very happy hunting ground for clubs which provided a full range of racing fixtures for their members. Our membership included a considerable number of men who were first claim members of other clubs and the hunters were, therefore, right in the desirable preserve and we were already losing, if only as first claim members, many of our fastest men. Our C.R.C. first and foremost enthusiasts could hardly be expected to appreciate the poaching business, neither could we be surprised at a rapidly growing demand for a full racing programme of our own. Apart from any other reason, the outstanding performances of our men, it was claimed, demanded it. The advocates of such a programme came out into the open and the idea gained rapid support. It needed, of course, the blessing of a General Meeting and it became quite clear that a suitable proposition would be submitted to the membership at the next A.G.M. At this stage we were urged from one quarter to remain just a nice social club!
On the 8th October, 1921, Pryor made his first attempt on Record, his objective being the N.R.R.A. Unpaced Trike "50" which had stood to the credit of that great Anfielder, R. A. Fulton, since 1910. Starting at Broken Cross, Macclesfield, at 7-0 a.m., Pryor soon gave indications of a successful trip and, despite a heavy Novemberish atmosphere, he finished strongly in 2.36.10 thereby taking 8 minutes off the old record and recording an improvement of 41 seconds on his Bedfordshire Trike Trophy ride which was the fastest out and home Trike "50" ever ridden. At this point it should be mentioned that this date had originally been decided upon for an attempt by Pryor and Thorley on the N.R.R.A. Tandem "50". Unfortunately whilst the necessary preliminaries were in hand Thorley was involved in a spill on a Midlands track and received a nasty leg injury which was likely to keep him off a bicycle for some weeks. This caused keen disappointment which was, however, soon allayed by Pryor who in his naturally quiet way suggested that the date may not perhaps be wasted. The Trike "50" was suggested, and that is how it came about. How grand it must be to be so fit and so versatile!
In due course Thorley reported that he would be sufliciently fit for the tandem effort by the 22nd of October and the arrangements were put in hand for that date. What a day it was, weather conditions were deplorable. Rain had fallen heavily throughout the night and the deluge continued unabated during the morning. Main roads were awash and the lanes more resembled rivers whilst the wind approached a fury. Many of the checkers and marshals anticipated cancellation of the attempt and were undecided about turning out. Few of them had been out, from choice on such a day and surely never to witness an attempt upon a record which in this case, 2.8.41 was regarded as one of the best performances of that excellent tandem pair, Lowcock and Taylor, of the Manchester Wheelers. Fortunately, all the labourers turned out and the aspirants set about their task at 10-0 a.m. using the same course as for the Trike "50" and despatched by the same timekeeper, Lonsdale of Sheffield, who on both occasions declined both fee and expenses. A thoroughly Yorkshire outfit. Riding in superhuman style they floated past successive checking points with one or two minutes in hand. Those whose privilege it was to witness the event are not likely ever to forget the first Tandem Record attempt by lads of the C.R.C. As the ride progressed it became obvious that the odd minutes, which in the early stages were in the bag, were inclined to disappear. This, it transpired was due to Thorley's injured leg giving trouble under the strain. With only one minute left, if success was to be achieved, they were not in sight from the finishing point, then a signal from the bend and they were in view. The timekeeper announced that they had 20 seconds to go. In response to anxious calls for more speed these tandemons swept their craft past the finishing point six seconds inside existing Record time. What a relief it was! Teddy Sproston was anxious to know what type of machine Pryor would next bring over from Sheffield. Lonsdale said that he had never before officiated on such a hopeless day. Here are the observations of some of the great men of the cycling world who were present. The Secretary, N.R.R.A. (E. Buckley, who probably took more punishment from bad weather on Record attempts than any other man), "My heartiest congratulations on a splendid ride under almost impossible conditions". Before the start Buckley, who had a well merited reputation for saying what he thought in any company said no one but damn fools would attempt it in such weather. The President, N.R.R.A., observed: "A splendid ride equal to beating record by at least six minutes on a good day". The President, Manchester Wheelers, wrote : "A most exhilarating conclusion to the finest display of grit, skill and' stamina that it has been my privilege to be associated with. Few of us thought that you would even make a start in such adverse circumstances. We certainly thought that success was quite out of the question. I feel glad now that the weather was so atrocious for if, under favourable conditions, you had lowered the figures for two hours even that achievement would not have been so memorable, so meritorious, or have put your qualities to so severe a test as the gruelling which you suffered yesterday. It should prove a great inspiration to every true road rider in the North. The C.R.C. have every reason to be very proud of you and I can assure you that the Manchester Wheelers, in no less degree, appreciate your sterling qualities as racing men". That was just one of the many indications of the Manchester Wheelers friendly feelings towards a young club. Their co-operation and friendship has remained with us throughout the whole life of the club and we have ever been deeply appreciative of it.
Well, here we were, a club without a racing programme whilst fastest times in Opens were falling into our lap, team races and handicaps being won and, the crowning glory of it all, Record Honours were ours in quick succession. Surely a Gilbertian situation which called aloud for adjustment and which would no doubt receive attention at the next A.G.M. At present the annual subscription did not provide funds for Record Medals but the Hon. Secretary reported to committee that an anonymous member had expressed a wish to provide three gold medals, two for Pryor and one for Thorley. The offer was accepted with warm thanks and, by arrangement with the donor, several members of committee were permitted to share the cost.
I referred earlier to our R.R.A. affiliation and to the objection which was felt to the Association's rule which forbade Sunday Record attempts. Whilst conceding that when the Association was formed there was doubtless a case for such a rule, we felt very strongly, however, that it had long since outlived its usefulness, or necessity, and that the present day existence of the rule was wholly responsible for stagnation in the Record field. Moreover, we were definitely of the opinion that the privilege of going for Record should no longer be restricted to the fortunate few whose circumstances permitted them to devote any day of the week to the purpose. Accomplishments in Time Trials provided abundant evidence that there was a considerable pool of men who, given the chance, were capable of bringing up-to-date Records which had stood for many years at figures which, to put it charitably, one could hardly feel proud of. For these main reasons we decided to encourage and support the fight for the rescinding of the relative rule. Our two delegates journeyed to Andertons Hotel, Fleet Street, E.C., for the Association's A.G.M. The relative proposition stood in the name of the Highgate C.C. and we had the privilege of seconding it. Sanford of the Highgate put up a good case and we gave him strong support. We did not get even near to the two-thirds majority required for success but we certainly got the feeling of the opposition and learned quite a lot which would stand us in good stead for future efforts. Our reasoned case met with no logical opposition, we could sense only prejudice throughout the debate. The only argument offered was that Record Attempts on a Sunday would bring out the local Squires, Vicars and Police and would thereby place the sport in jeopardy or even kill it outright. This, at a period when we gave statistics to prove that more than half the Time Trials, etc., were run off on Sunday mornings. These included numerous "Opens" with a hundred competitors on the card. Still, the diehards maintained that Record Attempts by one man on a bicycle or tricycle or two men on a tandem on the Sabbath would spell the end of the game. We journeyed home by the all-night train feeling that the opposition was pathetically dim regarding developments on the road during the previous, say, ten years or more. It was, by the way, learned that their voting strength came from Private Members rather than from club delegates. Why the former should have one delegate for every four members whilst a club had only two delegates even though its membership ran into hundreds was, to us, really incomprehensible. That had to be looked into. At the moment we realised that we had joined in a tough fight but one that we should, nevertheless, win in course of time. We never sought an easy fight and so were quite happy in that connexion.
During the year the demand for a racing programme became very pronounced, yet there was obviously to be strong opposition from those who preferred us to remain in the primary stage. There was every prospect of a most interesting and lively A.G.M., but a surprise was in store. At the October and November committee meetings the resignations of eighteen members were accepted. They had withdrawn gracefully on the grounds of "a change of club policy". This, of course, had reference to the proposed promotion of a full racing programme. There had, however, been no change of policy. It had never been laid down, or even intended, that we should avoid such a step. It was a weak excuse since all concerned were well aware that a change of policy could be determined only by a General Meeting.
The true position, I fear, was that a good hunting ground was going to be lost forever if the proposed motion carried. Why they quit in advance instead of first testing the strength of their case at the meeting is best known to themselves.
Publication of the C.R.C. News at the commencement of the year had stimulated interest throughout the Club. It had served to keep in better touch with club matters those members who were not able invariably to attend the fixtures. It had enabled us to convey appreciation, congratulations, thanks, etc., in the most desirable way - that which acquaints every member. It had served as an unfailing medium for advertising all club matters and the "copy" provided much material for discussion on club runs. Last but not least, it did much even in its first year to consolidate our position as a go-ahead club. Those who have preserved their copies of the journal may, like myself, find that as the years pass by its pages increase with interest. In connexion with our Club journal there is a tribute due to be paid to a member who at this period had not joined the club and, temporarily, I skip the next few years in order to ensure that the matter is not over looked. It was in 1929 that Stan Wild joined us and from December, 1932 to December, 1953, he occupied the Editorial Chair, with distinction. His services in that connexion were outstanding and I'm sure it will be readily agreed that the most readable volumes of the "News" are those which were produced under his stewardship. Ever a keen tourist, his descriptive contributions of holiday travel both in these islands and on the continent make happy winter fireside reading, more especially if one happens to have traversed the route described. Twenty-one years in the Editor's chair, surely a record for any cycling club journal. Thank you, Stan, but why, oh why did you vacate the chair?