NINETEEN-TWENTY-NINE came in with a hard frost and as in the previous year this lasted all Spring and proved to be one of the longest frosts of the century. It was ideal for training and suited the many enthusiasts who were developing their plans for the coming racing season. Some members played truant from club runs and were seen on Sunday mornings leaving Cheadle Green for Lindow Common with ice-skates dangling from their saddle bags.
There was no dearth of catering houses in those days and occasionally we discovered the " perfect tea place ". Such a place was the Trap Inn (The Black Swan) at Trap Street, near Lower Withington. Discovered by accident this was the cyclist's paradise if ever there was one. Kept by a retired member of the Cheshire Constabulary food was served by three charming teen-age daughters who obviously were glad to see us. Two poached eggs on toast, bread and butter and jam, fruit and cake cost 1/3d.; served in the best room by the aforesaid charmers each meal was a delight. After tea a cabinet gramophone (something special in those days) with all the latest records by Jack Hylton, Jack Payne, and the Savoy Orpheans was at our disposal and no wonder we used to reach home after midnight. There were other reasons than skating for playing truant! Of course it was too good to last. Our good friend, the licensee died, his family moved away, and the inn was never the same again.
A change of venue and a change of day (to Saturday) for the Annual Dinner were rewarded by an increased attendance, eighty members and friends having an excellent time. A feature of the entertainment was Jimmy Royle's solo dancing turn on the dining table! The venue was Parker's Restaurant in St. Ann's Square. This was the only dinner we had there and we will never have another - the place was " blitzed " in 1940.
On the day following the Dinner the club run was to Chester. Here, Bert Bracewell (holder of a Veg. C. and A.C. gold standard) publicly renounced vegetarianism. A writer in the Club News described it thus: " At the Bars Bert Bracewell awaited us and judge our surprise when he ordered a real meal. (By this is meant one with roast beef attached). Seemingly, after the club dinner on the previous evening Bert had 'marshalled' the pros and cons of vegetarianism, seen 'light' and finally 'caved' in ". This was, of course, clever play on the names of Marshall and Cave, the famous Veg. C. and A.C. stayers, and Henry Light, their enthusiastic mentor. If the club thus lost a vegetarian we gained another in the person of Charlie Smith who joined us this year. Unlike some vegetarian racing men who obviously joined the Veg. C. and A.C. for the excellence of Light's wonderful feeding organisation in races, Charlie had been a "veg " from birth. He did some useful rides in club races and is still with us and still a " veg ". Bracewell also renounced racing and sold his "sprints" and tubulars. I bought them for 30/4d. Constrictor 'woods', 26" by 14 mm, with a couple of Constrictor No. 3's in fair condition and two Merlins in a very doubtful state. That's how most youngsters of the day commenced racing and that was the accepted second hand price for sprints and tubs.
The Buffalo at Clun was the centre for the Easter Tour. Dinner bed and breakfast cost 7/0d. per night. Bill Leonard, Bert Bracewell, Bill Bailey, Arthur Wood, Harold (" Andy ") Wilson, Chris Price, Art Jones and Harold Chantler were the participants. They had a splendid time exploring the pretty Herefordshire villages and also reached the eminence of Kerry Pole in the heart of the Kerry Hills. Andy was the official photographer (Arthur Wood was just a Kodak novice in 1929). Andy had an unfortunate experience in negotiating the bridge at Eardisland - he crashed and broke all his photographic plates!
As far as racing was concerned there was great activity. Fred Turner was quietly determined to make progress and he was ably supported by Ted Rigby, Eric Tweedale and Joe Green. Each member of the last mentioned trio had invested in a cream-finished super Allin and they looked the last word in speed. Fred was to do great things, but, good riders though they were, disappointment lay in store for the others.
Racing in 1929
The first race of the season was a pre-Easter Low Gear "25 ", all gears under 60 inches, run on a scratch basis. There were a dozen entries including Arthur Wood and Bill Waring on a tandem. Woody and Waring surprisingly returned fastest time of the day with 1-10-9 (on a 59-inch gear) but this did not detract from Fred Turner's excellent piece of twiddling to win the event in 1-14-8 (on a 57-inch gear). The tandem pair's ride was so good, however, that the Committee later awarded each of them a silver medal. Ted Rigby did 1-18-27 and the third if the singles was Harold Chantler in 1-19-5. Parker, who might have been suited to this type of event entered but did not start. This must be one of the hardest forms of racing ever devised. At Easter Fred Turner and Tony Power rode in the Leicestershire Road Club " 25 " on the Fosse Way. It was a hard day on a hard course and Turner was far from satisfied with 1-12-54 and Tony downright disappointed with 1-17-2. Stan Livingston (Dukinfield) was the winner in 1-7-40.
Just after Easter Eric Tweedale and Ted Rigby, products of the Manchester C.T.C. General Section, owners of one of the first Grubb tandems in the district, and affectionately known as "the Dukinfield Lads ", attacked the Club tandem " 50 " record in a private trial on the Broken Cross course. Private trials, according to club rule, had to be run on authenticated courses, properly marshalled, and timed by an official club timekeeper, so it was by a good ride that their 2-4-54 displaced Wood and Brewer's 2-5-53.
In the Dukinfield "50" held on the last Sunday in April under hard and wet conditions our eight entries did little of note. Rigby, 2-32-34; Turner, 2-34-15; Power, 2-41-32; Green, 2-41-54; Stan Partington, 2-44-33 (with a puncture); Tweedale (riding for the Manchester Wednesday), 2-38-33. Chantler and Parker retired. Stan Livingston won his own club's promotion with a splendid ride of 2-20-0, beating Sid Harris (Ashton Road Club) by six seconds.
The Clifton "50", a week later, saw our men showing better form. Fred Turner, 2-24-14; Joe Green, 2-31-50; Ted Rigby (riding for the Clifton C.C.), 2-26-42; and Eric Tweedale (riding for the Manchester Wednesday), 2-27-55.
The first Club "50" on May 12th attracted 20 entries including A. C. Wood and W. Waring on a tandem, and Parker. During the winter Parker's mother had moved to a public house near Bury which meant Syd riding over a dozen sett-paved miles to reach Cheadle and the smooth roads of Cheshire, and in consequence we had not seen him for some time. We were all interested in the next phase of the Turner-Parker duel, but there is no doubt that on this occasion Parker had done no training at all, very little riding, and was far from racing fit. The day was wet and miserable, and Turner, on one minute from Parker, who was on the scratch mark, won handsomely in 2-23-59; Tony Power was second fastest and second in the handicap with 2-27-40, and Parker proved his class by finishing whacked but third fastest in 2-29-25. Chris Price, with 2-34-46 took the premier handicap award, and Woody and Waring with 2-7-40 (owing the scratch man 13 minutes) won the third handicap prize.
Our only finisher in the Anfield "100" (won by Alf West, Bath Road Club in 4-51-18) was Tony Power who returned a creditable 5-22-0 on a sticky day. Parker and Turner retired.
At the end of Whitsun, Fred Turner was very pleased with a ride of 1-7-16 in the Warrington Road Club "25". Albert Livingston (Dukinfield) won in 1-4-56, and other riders' times were Stan Wild, 1-10-27; Ted Rigby, 1-11-l; Eric Tweedale, 1-13-0; and Stan Partington, 1-13-38.
The second Club "50" on June 9th posed the questions - was Parker fit again and could he beat Turner? Alas! these questions were not answered. At 29 miles Parker was doing 1-18 to Turner's 1-19 and they were riding level at 40 miles, but here (at Church Lawton) Parker was struck by a car and so badly cut about the head that he had to retire (he did not race again this season). Turner won convincingly in 2-19-57, Tony Power was second fastest in 2-23-39, and Stan Partington, a promising first year man, third fastest with 2-25-5 which gave him the first handicap prize. Chris Price (2-28-18) and John Houchin (2-42-44) were second and third respectively in the handicap.
The Manchester Wheelers' Invitation "50" was once more held on a Saturday in mid-June. Turner did well with 2-23-12, but our other riders were disappointing: Green, 2-41-3; Tweedale, 2-36-32; and Power, 2-44-15. D. W. Morgan (Walsall Roads) won in 2-15-2. The Sunday morning after the event was a lazy one for the competitors, but this year the Committee had arranged a lunch run to Shawbury. Woody and Waring on the tandem, Stan Partington and the writer essayed the 60 miles run to lunch and fought a terrific southerly gale all the way to Shawbury where we literally staggered into the post office to join the racing lads. After lunch we dallied on the lawn, trying out trikes, and so on and then at 3-30 left to cover the 40-odd miles to Holmes Chapel. With the tandem fighting neck and neck with the racing men on their sprints and tubulars we achieved the distance well inside " even " time and reached the Swan with ten minutes to spare before the 5-30 tea. But how we perspired! And no wonder, for apart from the exertions of speed we each wore a plus-four suit with collar and tie! Although a clubman would wear shorts on tour, they were not generally worn. Only a comparatively short time before a man who wore a bifurcated nether garment was regarded as a crank and described as a " shortist ". During a summer tour in 1925 whilst cycling along the promenade at Colwyn Bay my shorts caused considerable amusement amongst holiday makers. Yet tradition died so hard that we still wore " plusses " for most of the summer !
June 23rd saw the introduction of another Open "50" in Cheshire - by the Apollo Wheelers in which Turner did 2-27-9, Rigby and Green retiring.
The Manchester Grosvenor Wheelers' Open "100" was run on a Sunday for the first time - first man off 4-30 a.m. ! Bren Orrell (Anfield) won in the remarkable time (for northern roads) of 4-45-28. Cliff Stead (Yorkshire Road Club) also beat " evens " with 4-51-0. The Club was well represented. Turner did 5-10-36 (Club record); Power, 5-12-10; Atherton, 5-34-37; Rigby, 5-33-33; Price, 5-33-32; Chantler, 5-38-48; Wild, 5-39-25; Partington, 5-40-44; C. L. Smith, 5-52-53, whilst MacQueen, Brewer and Tweedale retired. Quite a lot of riders indulged in more than one " sit-down feed "! An interesting feature of the event which caused a lot of comment was the use of a Sturmey-Archer 3-speed gear by one Tattersall of the Rochdale Clarion - he did 5-12-0. Later in the month Rossiter was to break the End to End using a similar gear.
Turner was fourth fastest in the Altrincham Ravens' "25" on July 7th with 1-7-7, Houchin riding in support doing 1-12-25. Then followed the third Club "50" on July l4th in which Turner was again triumphant in 2-19-15, which placed him third in the handicap from scratch. Power with a splendid ride of 2-20-9 was second fastest and first in the handicap, whilst John Houchin (riding a new bike and sprints and tubs for the first time) showed great improvement with 2-33-52 to win the second handicap prize. Arthur Wood was third fastest with 2-29-38 and Stan Partington, 2-29-41 fourth fastest, the only other riders to beat " evens " out of a field of 20. Parker did not enter as he had not recovered from injuries sustained in the previous Club "50".
The Anfield Invitation "24" was run off on the l9th/20th July. Seventeen names appeared on the card, representing 11 clubs, our riders being Tony Power and Ron MacQueen (the latter retired). The field was dispatched under perfect conditions by H. Poole, R.R.A. N.R.R.A., but the day proved to be very hot and the cause of many retirements, including Fred Hancock, a fancied winner, who had ridden 207 3/4 miles in the first 12 hours. The second half developed into a terrific duel between Tony Power and Norman Heath (Anfield) for the first place and at the end of the 24 hours Tony ran out time with 371 1/2 miles to Heath's 371 miles. E. W. Robinson (Palatine) was third with 364 1/4 miles. A close but great win by Tony and the Club's first Open win for three years. Tony proved to be a fine all round racing man from 25 miles to 24 hours - he was a great cyclist, too. A keen cycle-camper (he camped out all winter) he carried out, with Roland Ball, a cycle-camping tour in Corsica in the mid twenties, when the stories of brigands were no myth. He also revelled in all night rides, and when, some years later, his business took him to Newport, Mon., he joined the Club several times at mid-Shropshire venues by riding through the night. Yes, 'Tony was as tough as the toughest. Tony's 371 1/2 miles was, of course, a new Club record.
On the Sunday of the " 24 " week-end, July 2lst, Fred Turner returned 2-24-8 in the Stretford Wheeler's "50", being supported by Jimmy Atherton with a nice inside "evens" ride of 2-29-11; Partington, 2-31-29; Houchin, 2-33-49; Fretwell, 2-40-17; and Dinsdale, 2-40-50. A week later Arthur Wood and Bill Waring attacked the Tweedale and Rigby tandem "50" Club record, and set up a new record with 2-4-48.
Then came the Bath Road "100" on August Bank Holiday. F. W. Southall broke competition record with 4-34-26 and to our delight Fred Turner beat " evens " for the first time with 4-51-56 and a new Club record. This ride filled the hearts of all Cheshire Roaders with joy, and it may be difficult for present-day readers to appreciate what this meant. It was, of course, the 1929 mark of quality. Tony Power returned 5-3-44.
During the Bank Holiday week-end Harold Chantler did 2-30-31 in the East Liverpool Wheelers "50", and on August l8th Fred Turner was second fastest in the Potteries " 25 " with 1-5-41 (a new Club record).
On August l7th the Club "12" was held on a Saturday for the last time. Only seven entries were received and once again Reg Danby, the Racing Sec., was beset with difficulties in finding checkers and helpers. In fact, he had nobody for the distant part of the course and it was touch and go whether the event could be run as arranged. Harry Wilson, who had joined us a month or two before, made a great gesture. Said he, give me a man who knows the course and in my car we'll do the lot! The writer was the man who was supposed to know the course, and although Harry offered to take me out in his car I preferred to cycle out and in mid-morning I joined Harry (and Dave McGregor, of the Wheelers) at the Ancient Briton, near Whitchurch. The first feed was at this " pub " (yes, a sit-down feed ! ) then after the last man had left we piled into Harry's Rover, which Harry drove like Jehu, son of Nimshi, until we had caught the first man on the road. This we did well before Christleton, where the course crossed a particularly roughly cobbled canal bridge, and we reached the vital check at Vicars Cross in good time. Here we turned the riders towards Tarvin. After them again to assist in feeding them at the Star at Acton, near Nantwich. Once more we chased the field, checked at Vicars Cross, and reached the Ancient Briton to feed them for the last time. A great job well done and all thanks due to Harry. No wonder he became known as the Prince of Checkers. The 12-hour itself developed into a fierce fight between Chris Price and Jimmy Atherton for farthest distance. Jimmy caught Chris napping by going through the Acton feed without stopping (unprecedented behaviour!), but when Chris found out his eyes flashed and the fur flew and he beat Jimmy by one mile and a quarter 202 1/4 miles to 201 miles, both excellent rides. Harold Chantler was third with 200 1/2 miles but so stylishly and effortlessly did he ride that no-one realised until near the end how close he must have been to the winner all day. Albert Fretwell covered 198 1/2 miles and Harold (Andy) Wilson (no relation to Harry Wilson), now a veteran, achieved 190 1/4 miles. Tony Power, feeling the after effects of his " 24 " retired as did J. Houchin.
Fifteen tandem pairs entered for the C.R.C. versus Manchester Wheelers inter-club tandem "50" on August 25th. W. P. (Billy) Cole and his son S. F. Cole, of the Wheelers, took fastest time honours with 2-7-30; Ted Rigby and Eric Tweedale, of the Chesh, were second with 2-7-39; Harold Chantler and Joe Green third in 2-8-21, whilst Woody with Bill Waring was fourth in 2-9-14. Fred Turner partnered of all fellows, Art Jones, a well-known practical joker. At one point in the race, Art said to Fred, "Are you pushing, Fred?" When Fred, with some force, said that he was, Art replied, " Well, I'm not, you daft b-" Yet this strange combination did 2-17-7.
Fred Turner again proved his form by returning 2-15-53 in the Palatine "50", winning the second handicap prize. Power returned 2-27-39; Price, 2-30-53; Green, 2-34-26; and Atherton, 2-39-19.
The Manchester Wheelers have always given unstinted support to the road game in spite of their great track commitments. For several years in addition to their Invitation Open "50" run in Shropshire they had promoted an Open Novices' "50" for unattached riders. Many of us had tasted "acid" for the first time in this latter event, but this year it had been dropped and an Open "12" run in its stead. The Wheelers' "12" has been promoted every year since (war years excepted) and it is a delight to record that the first event in this famous series was won by a Cheshire Roader, namely, Fred Turner, and his name heads a long list of outstanding racing men who won in subsequent years. The 12-hour this year was run on Saturday, September 7th, and there was a fine entry of 46 with 15 clubs represented. At 100 miles Fred was leading in 5-10, second came R. S. Harris (Ashton Road Club) in 5-23, with F. Hart (Horwich Road Club) and E. Howarth (Ashton Road Club) doing 5-23 and 5-25 respectively. At 200 miles Howarth had moved up to second place, the times being Turner 11-2, Howarth 11-19, Hart ll-25, and Harris 11-37. Turner ran out time with 217 miles to his credit against Howarth's 2111 miles. Hart's 210 miles, and Harris's 206 miles. Jimmy Atherton covered 193 miles and Tony Power 192 miles, and, of course, Fred's great ride established a new Club record.
The last event of the season was a Club "25" on September 22nd, won by Fred Turner in 1-6-54. Tony Power came second in 1-8-27 and Stan Partington third in 1-9-50. Geoff Laurie won the handicap with 1-11-0, second handicap going to Bill Waring (1-10-9) and third handicap to Harold Horrocks (1-12-36). These week-ends of Club races are among my happiest memories of the Club. A few days before the event we would replace our "steels" with " sprints and tubs " and have a trial " blind " to Cheadle Green and back: Some men, including Woody, removed everything possible from their machines, brake as well as mudguards. Just imagine blinding down the old High Street in Knutsford and negotiating the double rightangle bend at the northern end without a brake! Most of us had our own special headquarters for racing week-ends. Some stayed at "London House", a thatched cottage on the main road just north of Holmes Chapel - it was surprising how much room these old cottages possessed; others at Miss Crosby's Oak Cottage at Allostock; or the Swan at Holmes Chapel or the Crown at Goostrey. My personal quarters were with Mrs. Shannon, in Byley village. Supper and two breakfasts cost between four and five shillings (the Swan running a little higher), but each of us thought we had the best "digs" in Cheshire. Certainly the best part of the week-end was the well earned second breakfast after the event, followed by a leisurely ride to lunch at Holmes Chapel, or Tan House Farm, Buglawton. Then of all things strenuous, football after lunch. This took more out of us than all the exertions of the race. Great days!
Among the members who joined the Club this year should be mentioned firstly Dick Gerrard, who, during the next decade was to enthusiastically serve us as Editor and Secretary, and secondly, Stan McConville, a contributor of excellent verse and prose to the Club News for many years.
The ending of the nineteen-twenties comes with a few idle memories. Main roads, on the whole, were pretty good, but not as "fast" as today, but who could forget the "stoney mile" between Brereton Green and Brickhouses? For years it was a rocky stretch of river bed characteristics which immediately reduced the fiercest " blind " to a crawl. There was also a marked deterioration in the quality of road surfaces on crossing from Cheshire into Shropshire, although the roads of the latter county on the whole were not too bad. But most of the lanes in Cheshire and Shropshire were pretty rough. For example, the Ash (Ash Magna and Ash Parva) lane route which avoided Whitchurch and saved the traveller several miles, was so rough that most cyclists avoided it and preferred the longer route. On one occasion I punctured seven times within a couple of miles. My tyres were in good condition and each deflation was caused by a sharp flint. Nowadays these lanes have a surface like a billiard table. And remember the limestone highways and byways of Derbyshire? On a dry day one's cycle was covered in a thick white dust - on a wet day a thick white mud! No-one asked you where you had been - your machine was clearly labelled. The favourite cycle lamps were the Lucas Silver King oil lamp and any make of gas lamp but most clubmen who rode every Saturday and Sunday (as we did) quickly eschewed these quality fitments in favour of the Lucas 2/0d. "bobby-dodger'''. They had a fixed bull's eye lens in front and one metal opening side window for lighting the wick, the other side being blind so that the only light emitted went forward. We found Price's cycle lamp oil too expensive in spite of its excellent quality and used a mixture of paraffin and colza oil, one filling of which would easily last the two moderate to long evening rides we did most weekends. But members of the Cheshire County Constabulary and the Manchester City Police were human in their understanding. Once I damaged my lamp near Sandbach and rode all the way home (shielded by my companions) without a light. I happened to live near a police station, and when I was only a hundred yards from home I saw a cycling policeman approaching. Quickly dismounting I pretended to fiddle with my lamp, but the "cop" only grinned as he passed, and said " My b---'s out too ! " Very soon ,the electric battery lamp and dynamo set were to oust oil and acetylene. Nowadays I find the modern battery lamp most unreliable, and although I sometimes yearn for the gas lamps I threw away on marriage, I think the present-day dynamo set the last word in cycle lighting. And with these random thoughts comes the end of another chapter.