THE Treasurer's job is never really an enviable one yet our "Moneybags" had a comparatively easy task. This was doubtless due to some extent to the genial personality of Percy Williamson whose friendly way of exacting tolls was good to behold. There was of course the occasional hard boiled case, such as the following. In reply to one appeal from the Treasury which concluded in heavy type NO EXCUSES, PLEASE, the following was received from the odd man out.
For the reasons stated below I am unable at present to send the subscription for which you ask. I have been held up, held down, sandbagged, walked on, sat on, flattened and squeezed. First by the Income Tax, then the Red Cross, St. Dunstan's, The Children's Homes, Y.M.C.A., Y.W.C.A., N.C.U., C.T.C., R.R.A., N.R.R.A., C.R.C., and every other society and organisation which the mind of man can invent to extract what I may or may not have in my possession.
The government has governed my business so that I don't know who owns it. I am inspected, suspected, examined and re-examined, informed and commanded until I don't know who I am, where I am or why I am here at all. All I do know is that I am supposed to be an inexhaustible supply of money for every known need, desire or hope of the human race, and because I will not sell all that I have and go out to beg, borrow or steal money to give away I am cussed, discussed, boycotted, talked to, talked at, talked about, lied to, lied about, held up, hung up, robbed and damn near ruined. The only reason why I cling to life is to see what the H*** will happen to me next.
Yours sincerely, (name withheld).
Whether or not the subscription was eventually paid is not recorded.
For the Easter Tour we deserted the Castle Hotel, Wem, but still clung to the Griffiths family by headquartering at the Buffalo Hotel, Clun, which was kept by one of the daughters from the Castle. We knew, therefore, that we were on good ground, and we were not disappointed. Friday evening saw the gathering of the clans and a hearty supper got us off to a good start. One of our stalwarts, Cy Anderson, was en route to Tal-y-Llyn and we joined him as far as Newtown on the following morning. On then via the Kerry Hills led by our V.P. from Lydbury North. Over a friendly drink at the Anchor Inn, the landlord advised that the road ahead was well-nigh impassable owing to timber felling operations and so, acting upon his advice, we struck off along a doubtful looking track which led us past the "Pole", the highest point of the Kerry Hills, and eventually deposited us on the aforesaid bad road at a point beyond its worst stretch. It was still unrideable, however. Our arrival at Newtown was somewhat behind schedule but the quality of the excellent lunch which we found at the Red Lion had not suffered. A pleasant ride along the Severn Valley, then by Montgomery and Bishop's Castle to Clun filled in the afternoon and we were happy to discover that the man of money, P. Williamson, had taken up residence. Now we could ignore costs.
Sunday morning saw us off over the hills in a southerly direction to New Radnor where we partook of an excellent lunch. This was followed by a run down the valley via Kington, Pembridge and Eardisland to Kingsland for tea. A very satisfying afternoon, full of o1d world black and white villages, then by Mortimers Cross and so to Clun. Monday's lunch had been ordered at Wem but, due to a late start, some of the party could not make the club's Shropshire headquarters before hunger overtook them. It was a happy tour on which the weather treated us very kindly.
With the approach of the R.R.A. Annual Meeting - the 35th - we checked up on our organising schedule and dropped reminders where it was thought advisable to do so. Results were satisfactory and we felt that the meeting could prove to be "our day". It was again at Anderton's Hotel. The room was by now very familiar to us and we had seen the number of delegates grow with the years. On this occasion it was the biggest muster ever and the opposition was obviously somewhat uneasy. The meeting opened at 7-0 p.m. and closed at 11-0 p.m. - quite a long session. What an evening it was, full of excitement and thrills with a few shocks thrown in. There were numerous items on the agenda most of which was disposed of quickly, not being in the contentious class. That hardy annual "deletion of rule 29" was of course the highlight. Sanford, Highgate C.C., moved, and we seconded formally. Then the real business began.
Speakers were slow to rise but, ultimately, things warmed up. One delegate, tired perhaps of reiterating the danger of the squires, vicars and police opposition, began to tell the meeting that Sunday Record Attempts were not wanted by the clubs in the North. We could hardly be expected to sit down to that. He was quickly reminded on a point of order that he was there to put the views of his club and that the Northern clubs were present in force to speak for themselves. He was subdued and resumed his feet. We became somewhat tired of listening to speakers who took the floor and when they sat down one wondered why they had ever got up. Anyhow, after a rather wearisome period things livened up and we were treated to shock number one. The delegate of one of the leading clubs in his concluding remarks informed the meeting that his club had decided to withdraw from the Association in the event of the motion meeting with success.
This was a very appropriate point for one of our delegates to exercise his right to speak and he was fortunate in catching the eye of the Chairman. He told the meeting that he had always been taught to look up to the club of which the previous speaker was a delegate but in view of their threat in connexion with the resolution under discussion he had surely been ill-advised. The C.R.C. had accepted defeat loyally over the years and if the club represented by the previous speaker was not prepared to do likewise the sooner they quit the Association the better; it would be a healthier organisation in their absence. This brought the now unhappy Chairman to his feet. We felt sorry for him because he was President of the club concerned, and a highly respected man. He told the meeting that the attitude of his club had been misconstrued. It had only been decided that in the event of the motion succeeding a general meeting would be called to consider the position. Even that attitude did not escape the criticism of some of our supporters.
It should here be recorded that, in desperation no doubt, the opposition was now responsible for a discreetly organised press campaign for a compromise in the shape of a motion that all Sunday Record Attempts must be completed by 10-30 a.m. It was accorded the treatment which, coming forward at this late stage in the fight, it deserved. Had the people concerned mooted such an offer at the outset it might have been acceptable as a stepping stone. As things stood, it was their last, forlorn, hope.
Everyone who so desired having blown off his steam, it was decided to take the vote and at this point shock number two was administered. It was only a mild one by comparison. The would-be "View of the North" rose to question the voting right of one of the delegates present. He was, of course, entitled to do so. The matter was thrashed out and the Chairman ruled that the delegate in question was eligible to vote on behalf of his club. That decision was accepted without question and the taking of the vote then proceeded.
Seldom, I should imagine, has there been such an exciting vote. After several shows of hands there was still something wrong with the count and a division was taken. The Chairman then announced that one of the scrutineers still failed to fall in line but the other two were in agreement and the result seemed to be 60 for and 30 against, exactly a two-thirds majority. Then came THE shock of the evening, which caused a very bad impression. Having become apparent that one vote off the majority figure would cause the motion to be lost, the Northern delegate who had previously raised the matter, and had accepted the Chairman's ruling, re-opened the question of whether or not Mr. **** was eligible to vote. We were shocked when the Chairman allowed the query to be resurrected after the vote had been taken but were simply staggered when he reversed his earlier decision and ruled that the man was not entitled to vote. What was one to think of such Chairmanship? Was there connivance? We should hate to think it of such a man even though we knew that his views on the Sunday question were utterly opposed to ours. Yet he had long experience of Chairmanship and must have known that his action was highly irregular. There were mutterings of "move him from the Chair", but we felt that there was no need to do so. The incident had caused such consternation that the vote might well be influenced, as indeed it was.
A paper ballot was taken and the result, 64 for and 30 against was received with tremendous applause. So the obnoxious rule 29 was at last eradicated and ye gods, what joy there had been in the fight. Once again those who claimed a monopoly of the brains of the movement had slipped up and the ordinary folks had steered policy into the right channel. For many years past an attempt on a record had been quite an occasion, and a study of the Handbook will disclose that this success had put new life into the Association. Records which were thought in some quarters to be unassailable went by the board in rapid succession and in the course of ten years 144 Records were broken. Moreover, another rule had soon to be deleted, that which forbid the use of motor vehicles for following out, etc., on the twelve and twenty-four hours attempts. Up to now the Timekeeper had occupied the rear seat of a tandem for that purpose but that would no longer meet the case, the new record aspirants moved too quickly! Ah well, as I said in an earlier chapter, there was doubtless a case in 1888 for debarring Sunday record attempts but 1923 was a very different age, an age in which from my own experience the Police often lent a hand at feeding points. It was also a period when the charabanc was being popularised and competitors in Saturday afternoon time trials frequently found themselves in the midst of heavy motor traffic. It was a position which had caused the majority of clubs to seek the safety of Sunday mornings for their road events. Yes, the time for the elimination of the infamous rule 29 was overdue and I for one have still a feeling of intense pride in that the C.R.C. played such a prominent part in forcing its deletion.
I mentioned earlier that the matter of unfair representation on the R.R.A. called for action. We reviewed the position as it stood, private members - one delegate for every four, Clubs - two delegates per hundred members. At this time there were 132 private members, which gave them a representation of 33 delegates. My readers will, therefore, realise the necessity of rallying all our forces for the success which had been achieved. This unequal representation was a disgrace to any association and we wondered how such a state of affairs ever came about and why, over the years, no one had awakened to the absurdity of it. Well, at last, it was on the agenda, a proposition which sought to reduce their voting power from one in four to one in sixteen. Some of the delegates affected charitably admitted the existing position to be unfair but could not agree to such a drastic cut. Their amendments were defeated and the original resolution carried. Another step in the direction of fair play. We were all in favour of the private member idea which gave a man a personal stake in the Association and its finances, and many of us took the view that it was an honour to be in that class. Our grievance was in regard to representation only and we felt that the scale now laid down was quite generous.
Now from R.R.A. to N.R.R.A. We figured on the agenda for the 1923 A.G.M. of that Association. Our first resolution sought to wipe out the rule which required only two black balls to turn down an application for membership made by an individual or a club. In its place we advocated the majority vote. There was surprisingly little discussion and the result was fourteen for and eight against, not quite the necessary two-thirds majority but certainly sufficient to show that there was a case for a review of the position. It seemed to many of us to be quite wrong that an application could be thrown out by what we regarded, rightly or wrongly, as a somewhat underhand method.
Our next resolution was for the deletion of rule 20, which forbade Sunday Record attempts. This received the support of only eight of the twenty-three voters. Many who had promised their support failed to attend the meeting. Then came our effort to remove the useless and obnoxious watch ownership clause in connection with the appointment of Timekeepers. This carried by the useful majority of 16 to 7. A suggestion that deletion of the clause would result in laxity in timekeeping left the meeting cold. Disappearance of the clause gave us an immediate addition of two very valuable names to the list of Timekeepers. Messrs. Phillips and Buckley readily agreed to act in that capacity. We were fortunate in obtaining the further services of these two men who for many years had filled the offices of President and Hon. Secretary respectively with conspicuous ability and to the admiration of everyone whose pleasure and privilege it was to be in touch with them. We opposed a resolution which had the object of excluding visitors from the A.G.M. Only the four delegates of the sponsoring club voted for it, and the only case which they could put forward in support was that visitors caused a crush. Having regard to the fact that records over the years showed a maximum of four visitors at any one A.G.M. and that a larger room was available, we were given to wondering what was really behind the resolution. Any how, that one was unlikely to come up again. Enough of Records Associations.
The first racing event of interest was the Cheadle Hulme "25" and on a miserably cold March day, G. B. Orrell recorded 1-13-47, which proved to be second fastest. R. Thomas clocked 1-16-12 and W. Bailey and H. Walton both finished in 1-17-48. Times generally were slow in the Spring of this year. In a club "50" in April G. B. Orrell was fastest with 2-43-21, followed by H. Wilson 2-45-20, and W. Bailey 2-45-48. In the Mansfield Victoria Open "25" F. Thorley recorded fastest time of 1-9-45, and in an Anfield "50" about the same time J. A. Grimshaw secured a first and fastest with a 2-35-7 ride. The Manchester Wheelers Open "50" found W. Bailey doing 2-38-15 and R. Thomas 2-49-2.
Some good rides were witnessed in the club Twelve Hours Standard Medal Ride on the 30th June, despite a somewhat poor day for the journey. A tandem pair, Bracewell and Dearden, provided an additional interest. It was unfortunate that their first class performance was marred by a lot of chain troubles which cost them the loss of Gold Standards. In all the circumstances, 212 miles was a good ride. T. D. Worthington., 194 miles including a puncture and W. Bailey. 194 1/4 miles, secured Gold Standards. H. Wilson, 185 miles; Percy Williamson, 182 1/4 miles plus a puncture, R. J. Austin. 182 miles, and G. E. Kennerley 180 miles qualified for silver standards. The latter was on steel rims and also suffered a puncture. Bronze standards were won by I. Astles, a veteran who punctured twice, 173 miles, and E. Henry 160 miles. It was a happy day out for all of us in spite of mixed weather.
In the Cheadle Hulme Championship "50" Harry Williamson made fastest time, 2-34-29, with J. A. Grimshaw five minutes behind. The absence of Pryor was felt in the Sharrow Open "50". Our fastest man, F. Thorley, did a 2-37-52 ride and W. Bailey and T. D. Worthington each recorded 2-44-0, the former with a puncture. Worthington rode second fastest in the Grosvenor Wheelers "50", clocking 2-44-47 and Thorley was riding well in various events. He had to his credit 1-10-12 and 1-10-46 in two "25's" plus 2-27-22 and 2-35-0 in two "50's".
The second club "50" of the season, on the l5th September, gave Harry Williamson a fastest time award, 2-33-34. W. Bailey, four minutes slower, was second fastest, and our veteran, Ike Astles, to everyone's delight secured the premier handicap award with a time of 2-53-48 less an allowance of 27 minutes. Of the eleven starters eight finished, two had grievous tyre deflations and one felt the need of a rest before the ordeal was very far advanced. During the same month we were able to convey our congratulations to F. Thorley who, in company with F. Tobin, of the Rotherham Wheelers, succeeded in lowering the N.R.R.A. Tandem "50" figures to 2-5-44. A much better day than that on which he partnered Pryor on the same adventure, reported Thorley.
About this time we suffered a sad blow by the resignation of H. Pryor. We owed him a big debt for his brilliant riding which had brought and kept the spotlight on the club. No longer should we witness him defying all competition. He joined the Manchester Wheelers and for some years was one of the leading track men of the country. Ultimately, in the early 1930's, he withdrew from the arena and took up residence in the Midlands. We said jolly good luck, Horace, whatever you may be doing - you certainly did us proud. The question now was, who would wear his mantle? At the moment we had many good average racing men, but must look for more than that. We did so hopefully for a few years, and were well rewarded. We had had our vicissitudes, ridden out many storms, smiled difficulties away and now began to feel that we could sit up and take stock. The picture was quite pleasing in spite of such a loss.
The last club event of the season, the "25", was well supported. N. Hannaford from the one minute mark took fastest time and third handicap with a 1-13-3 ride. G. E. Kennerley with a 7 1/2 minutes allowance secured first handicap with 1-14-5, and W. Bailey's 1-15-49 was good enough for second place. The scratch man, Harry Williamson, who had been doing fastest times with almost monotonous regularity, missed it on this occasion by the narrow margin of three seconds.
It had been an interesting year this 1923 with plenty of work in various connections, and on the whole a very satisfying one. However busy one had to be during the week there was always the joy of Sunday on the road to look forward to. How W. Bailey managed to give such a good account of himself in so many Opens and Time Trials and at the same time carry the onerous post of Hon. Secretary, was rather puzzling. We had some very enjoyable musical evenings on the Winter runs, especially when Harry Walshaw was out. He could make a piano do anything. Mention of his name reminds me of one beastly foggy night when we discovered a motorist in the middle of the cross roads at Mere Corner. In the dense fog we didn't see the vehicle until one of the lads made contact with it. Naturally, that was the signal for a spate of advice about what to do with motor cars on a foggy night. We could not see the driver but doubtless he had heard what was said because the voices guided him back to the car. He had gone to look for the side of the road but could not find it, then he lost also the location of the car. It was Harry Walshaw ! We had no love for motorists but we piloted him home, maybe out of gratitude for his essential contributions to our "sing-songs".
Good feeding was a necessary feature of all club runs. We clung to a score or so of houses where every meal was a banquet, and amongst these was our birthplace, The Roebuck. It was included in the fixtures every month. When occasionally we broke new ground, if the spread fell below our normal standard the Scribe was warned that if he patronised the place again he would feed alone. After all, the really good places could be reached by numerous routes either long or short. For instances, a certain tandem pair were known to have reached the Stanley Arms, Macclesfield Forest, for lunch by way of Chester and Whitchurch. They partook of an interim lunch at Macclesfield! It is rather nice so many years later to recall how welcome we invariably were at the catering establishments. Was it that we were a quiet crowd? On the contrary, George Mundell's title "Captain of the Roughs" would suggest that we were hardly that. To our credit, it should be stated that most of the rough stuff was displayed on quiet roads. George's show piece was to crash into a bunch of riders from the rear to see how many he could bring down. If the road surface was icy the greater was his success. The casual observer would not have credited him with the really sound business head which we knew him to possess. His irresponsibility was confined to the Sabbath, and the sufferers were his good friends.
Many of those who originally catered for us had been compelled through limited accommodation and, in case of lunch, cooking facilities to drop out of our schedule. I remember one delightful old lady, or so she seemed to me in my youth, at Combermere almost fainting when more than a score of us rolled up for lunch. We could have made do with what she had prepared but it would have been a poor show, and the old lady was so agitated that we put her mind at ease by splitting the crowd. One half went on to the Swan, Whitchurch, where we were always sure of a good lunch.
A change of venue for the A.G.M. found us at the Swan with Two Necks, Bollington, Altrincham, where the lunch provided was all that could be desired in both quality and quantity. The meeting which followed was devoid of anything really controversial and the thirty odd members in attendance had dined so well that they were at peace
with everyone and everything. In connexion with the Annual Dinner the Hon. Secretary suggested that the catering at the Exchange Hotel had become less satisfactory than it had hitherto been. This was agreed and the desirability of a change was indicated. The food business seemed to dominate the outlook, and why not? Eating is surely one of the most pleasurable of occupations. The Easter Tour came in for mild criticism regarding the number of members participating and it was suggested, with some truth no doubt, that the deplorable industrial situation had a considerable bearing on the matter. Many of our members were badly hit by the trade depression of the post war years and although we had always boasted a good complement of active tourists, their activities had undoubtedly been restricted. The Club finances were still sound and the "anxiety" professed by the wags during the year in connexion with Moneybags' new bicycle, or bicycles, and his frequent holiday tours was, therefore, dispelled. Appointment of officers for the coming year brought a little change. E. Buckley, after a little speech on the desirability of honours going round, was, with acclamation, re-elected President, an office which he filled so admirably. How Teddy Sproston escaped re-election to the Vice-Presidency will never be known. Consensus of opinion was that he must have bribed the electorate. Whatever the reason, we all appreciated his desire to be just one of the boys and were happy that in Herbert Jackson we had a successor whose work for the club over the years, both in and out of committee, had been most valuable. W. Bailey and P. Williamson, to our great satisfaction, retained the posts of Hon. Secretary and Hon. Treasurer, respectively. Filling of the Editorial Chair on a long term basis provided quite a problem. F. Payne had given up the ghost after nine months and our good friend, H. Morrell, who had carried the post so successfully throughout 1922, came to the rescue by taking over until the A.G.M. Now we had a volunteer, I repeat, a volunteer, in the person of R. E. Heseltine. He discovered that the job involved something more than sitting in the office waiting for "copy" to roll in and he stayed the course for only a few months. One day we should be as fortunate in that appointment as we were in all others. Hasten the Day !