The 1950’s could be called the golden age of cycling. Car ownership was a luxury few people could afford, and petrol was rationed.
Young people were attracted to cycling and there was a proliferation of cycling clubs, many of which are, unfortunately, no longer in existence. It was not unusual to see club-runs with 30 or 40 participants and, on any Sunday in summer, one would see a procession of youngsters, who were not regular cyclists and riding all kinds of machines, light-heartedly making for the seaside resorts of Southport and Blackpool, only to suffer untold misery on the way home.
Time trialling was a very popular sport, with four 25 mile courses in North Lancs. The ‘A’ course started at Brock on the A6 with the turn at Scotforth, The ‘B’ course started at Bilsborrow and took in Great Eccleston, Thistleton and Wesham, The Blackpool Road course went from Preston to Blackpool and back and finally there was the Copster course. To receive over 300 entries for an open 25 was not unusual, and for the N.L.T.T.A. Combined Clubs 25 three courses were often needed to accommodate all the riders. Reg Harris became a national hero and was twice voted the winner of the BBC Sportsman of the Year Competition, hard to believe in these days of the over-exposed soccer, athletics and motor racing.
Cliff Baxter writing in a club circular dated May 1950 reported: “Last weekend we had five riders in the Merseyside Mountain Trial, Stan finished third in 3.03.12, Roy did 3.11 and yours truly 3.13. Frank Cowsill did 3.14 and D.C.Hall, who ‘died a horrible death’ over the last 23 miles into the wind, finished with 3.31. Third team was our reward, the hardest 5/- (25p) I have ever earned. Still we had fun, and the Anfield 100 should feel easier”!!!
It was shortly after this that Stan Haslam retired from competitive cycling, a great loss to the Club and to the sport.
In 1950 Roland Greenwood was the Club 50 mile Champion, Roy Coleman won both the Club 100 and 12 Hour and was once again the Club Champion, finishing 54th in the B.B.A.R. He also turned his attention to ‘massed start’ racing and gained second place in a Heaton Park 50 mile event. Frank Cowsill finished third in the Mersey Roads’ 24 Hour with a fine ride of 413 ¼ miles, a new Club Record and a most creditable performance, as 16 of the 24 hours were ridden in continuous and heavy rain, and Cliff Baxter repeated his win of the previous year in the North West Veterans’ Best All Rounder Competition.
In the closing Club 25 two of the Club’s younger members stole a march on the established members by finishing in first and second places. Phil Ambler with 1.04.19 was the winner and Bob Seel, with the first of his many awards, was second in 1.04.49. These two were also first and second for the Club Novice Award. Other members turning in good performances were D.C.Hall, Alan Barker and Harry Callaghan.
The Club Dinner that year on December 6th was at the Empress Hall, Bolton, tickets were 7/6 (37 ½p) and the Guest of Honour presenting the prizes was World Professional Sprint Champion and ex-member of the club, Reg Harris.
The Club was noted for the abilities of its members over the longer distances, where they shone in hundred mile and twelve hour events. In the 1950’s it was not unusual for some members to ride three or four twelve hour events in a season, indeed, if Cliff Baxter’s claim to have ridden a hundred twelve hour events is accepted, and if it is assumed that his career lasted for 40 years, then he must have ridden three or four such events in some seasons. On the local Brock course, as well as the Lancashire Road Club 12 Hour there was also the N.L.T.T.A. 12 and, in addition the Manchester T.T.A. and the Yorkshire Cycling Federation’s 12’s were favourite events. Some riders, notably Frank Cowsill and Alec Denton, would also ride the Mersey Roads 24 hour event.
Whilst racing was tough, even tougher were the long distance training rides for which the Club became famous.
One of these, led by the indefatigable Frank Cowsill, was to Pentrefoelas in North Wales. The ride started at 7.00am at Four Lane Ends, Bolton and went via Warrington and Chester to the first stop of the day on the Welsh side of Mold. From here the ride went via Denbigh, over the moors and past the Sportsman’s Inn at 1700 feet to drop down to Pentrefoelas for lunch. After a short break the route continued along the A5 to Corwen, then on to the climb at Llandegla with its view of the Cheshire Plain from the summit.
The ride then went through Hawarden to Chester and Frodsham, where tea was taken. From here it was a straight run home via Warrington, Culcheth and Leigh to arrive home sometime in the evening after a ride of some 180+ miles.
The 24 hour ride in the Yorkshire Dales went via Walton le Dale, Whalley, Worston, and Sawley to Gisburn for a tea stop. From there the route went through Gargrave, Hetton, Threshfield, Kilnsey, across the River Wharfe at Kettlewell, through Starbotton and Buckden and over Kidstones Pass to West Burton where a meal was taken at the C.T.C. house. Refreshed, the riders went through Aysgarth, Leyburn, Catterick, Richmond, Grinton and Reeth. They thern carried on into Swaledale and through Gunnerside, Muker and Keld to Kirkby Stephen where breakfast was taken. From Kirkby Stephen it was via Sedbergh, Kirkby Lonsdale and the Lune Valley to Lancaster and on to Galgate for lunch. By now they were on familiar roads and it was home through Garstang, Preston, Hoghton and Belmont after covering over 200 miles.
Another training run, using similar roads, went via Tockholes, Blackburn, Whalley, Gisburn, Skipton, Blubberhouses, Harrogate, Knaresborough, Boroughbridge, Dishforth, Bedale, Leyburn, Hawes, Garsdale, Sedburgh, Dent, Thornton in Lonsdale, Burton, Hornby, Quernmore, Forton, Preston and back to Bolton via Belmont. 210 miles.
Example of other destinations for club training runs were York, Ullswater, Hawes, Scotland (meet 6.00pm. Supper at Fell End, Breakfast at Gretna Green, return via Teasdale) and Llangollen.
The great Fausto Coppi said, “Ride a bike, ride a bike, ride a bike”. They did – and all on 66 – 69 inch fixed gears!
In 1951 it was reported “The run to Hawes was brightened by an encounter with Bradford Velo (B.L.R.C.)*, and from Settle a battle royal ensued against a solid headwind. We were treated to an exposition of massed start tactics and finally, at Newby Head, the B.L.R.C., all except one, were dropped in fine style. We finished with five L.R.C. riders. Welcome to two new young members who showed their paces on Sunday to the discomfiture of the B.L.R.C. – John Senior and Gerald Kay. They were in at the kill, good luck to them in 1951. Apologies to Ed Green and Arthur Crook, I stopped at Newby and made a large arrow in the snow to show we had turned down Dentdale”.
It must have been quite a ride in the snow!
The poor weather at the beginning of 1951 lasted for some time and the riders in the Nelson Wheelers Circuit of the Dales were badly affected. There were 81 entries for the event including seven L.R.C. riders, Roy Coleman, Frank Cowsill, Cliff Baxter, Bill Parkinson, Don Parkinson, Stan Dearden and a new member, 20 year-old Harold Robey. It was raining at the start but this soon changed to sleet and snow and this, combined with a very strong wind, created havoc among the riders. Of the 81 entries, only 42 finished, but had there been a short cut to Ingleton there would have been even fewer. Cliff Baxter walked up Newby Head into the full force of the blizzard and, upon arriving at the top, he discovered he had lost a shoe, but his feet were so cold that he didn’t know. He had to retrace his steps to the bottom of the hill to find it. Riders were knocking at farm doors seeking shelter, and telephone calls had to be made for cars and taxis to pick up stranded riders. The hard training runs stood the L.R.C. riders in good stead as five members finished the punishing course, Frank Cowsill in sixth place in 2.41.46, Cliff Baxter 2.45.43, Harold Robey 2.53.21, Roy Coleman 2.53.31 and Bill Parkinson 2.55.58. The Spartan Road Club had five entrants none of whom figured on the result sheet – a most inappropriately named club!
The 1950’s were a time of expansion for the club and competition was fierce. Gerald Kay, Harold Robey, Rowland Yates, Jim Hall, Vince Fitzgerald, Peter Graham and John Senior were all in contention for the Club Novices’ Award in 1951 and the Committee had a very difficult task in deciding the winner. In spite of the fact that Harold Robey was well in the running for the Club Championship, Gerald Kay who had, in his first season, times of 1.1.58 for 25 miles and 2.12.28 for 50 miles to his credit, was given the award.
Harold, whose season was interrupted by his call up for National Service, was in the lead for the Club Championship as late as August, but a late surge by Frank Cowsill, who had a fine ride in the National Championship Twelve Hour when he covered 244½ miles, took him to the well deserved and long overdue title.
* The B.L.R.C. (British League of Racing Cyclists) was a rebel organisation set up to promote road racing on the open road. The official body, The National Cyclists’ Union, promoted “massed start” racing only on closed circuits.
In the Bath Road Hundred a new Club Team Record of 13.28.19 was set by D.C.Hall, 4.28.12, Coleman, 4.28.37 and Cowsill 4.31.30, and the 24 Hour Record fell to Alec Denton, who amassed 427.48 miles, in the Mersey Roads’ event.
Cliff Baxter once again headed the North West Veterans table.
1952 was another very good year for the Club. By the end of the season Bob Seel had taken 16 awards, which included eight team prizes. Gerald Kay had five wins and was under the hour on three occasions, the fastest of which was a new Club Record of 59.07 in the Cleveleys R.C. event. In the Chorley 25 a new Club Team Record of 3.00.32 was set by John Senior, 1.00.00, Bob Seel, 1.00.08 and Gerald Kay 1.00.24. These three also pulled off a great team win in the Sherwood C.C. 50 “on a foul morning in heavy rain with trees bending” with times of 2.08.16 by Gerald, 2.11.00 by Bob and 2.11.12 by John, defeating the Leicester Forest team, who at that time were the Competition Record holders, to take the team award.
In July, Gerald Kay set up figures for the newly instituted Bolton to Southport and back record with a time of 2 hrs. 10 mins. 38 secs. Harry Callaghan, on holiday in Ireland, took part in the Irish cycling week and, riding on the track, was second in the “Devil Take The Hindmost”, and was also placed in the hill climb.
At the age of 47, Cliff Baxter set a new Veterans’ Twelve Hour Record of 239¾ miles. That year, as well as being North West Veterans’ Champion for the fourth successive year, he gained top honours in the National Veterans’ Competition with rides of 1.05.17, 2.11.52, 4.39.53 and 239¾ miles.
The ladies were also making their marks with Enid Birch, Elsie Lever and Jean Hutchinson doing good rides. Jean took the Ladies Championship with times for 25 and 50 miles of 1.10 and 2.28.
New members included Frank Kerry and Duncan Mort, but some members were temporarily called away into the armed forces including John Senior who had steadily improved throughout the season. Harold Robey, in spite of being unable to ride regularly because of his R.A.F. service, won the Club 100 and 12 Hour, and became the Club Champion with the first of his three successive wins.
The highlight of the year was, however, the tandem ride in July from Lands’ End to John O’ Groats by Frank Cowsill and Alec Denton when they broke the record by 6 hours 1 minute.
FRANK COWSILL AND ALEC DENTON
Frank and Alec were renowned long distance riders, and in 1952, with the incentive of the Baxter-Coleman record, they teamed up to attack the Blue Riband R.R.A. record, The “End to End”, Land’s End to John O’ Groats.
They used the same tandem that Baxter and Coleman had used, a short wheelbase Claude Butler with a curved rear seat tube. The machine was one that Claude Butler had built for use in the 1948 Olympic Games in London. For the ride the machine was equipped with wired-on tyres and a three-speed derailleur gear with gears of 68, 81 and 92. To tune up for the ride, the pair did a 400 miles overnight run to Bristol and back, and at Easter they covered 600 miles to Perth and back. Both riders had also taken part in the Mersey Roads 24 Hour time trial as part of their preparation for the attack, and to become accustomed to night riding.
Frank and Alec wrote to many clubs along the route asking for help and assistance along the way. The clubfolk rallied round, as cyclists always do, and handed up food and drink and sponges to sustain them on their long and lonely ride.
At 7.00am on the morning of Monday, 28th July 1952, the pair set off from Land’s End with a schedule made out to beat the Innes-Thompson figures by 5 hours.
The ride did not go smoothly. At Bristol, a fifteen-minute gain on schedule was wiped out when the traversing of the city took twice as long as had been anticipated. A meal at Patchway freshened the pair and at Kidderminster (272 miles) they were back on schedule. At Bridgnorth they had trouble with a tyre, which cost them 29 minutes, and during the calm but cold night of Monday, there were six enforced stops to replace burned-out lamps.
At Acton Bridge, Cheshire (345 miles) they were forty minutes down but, by cutting down the pre-arranged stop by the same amount, they were able to leave on time. At Euxton, Lancs, there was a big turnout of friends and supporters, and the riders enjoyed a mild orgy of beef broth, grilled mushrooms and peaches and jelly.
On the familiar roads through Preston and Lancaster good progress was made, despite a nagging wind on the beam and, after breakfast at Milnthorpe, Kendal was reached exactly on schedule. There was more food at Penrith and, after Carlisle the climb over the barren wastes of Beatock was tackled against a fairly strong headwind.
The second night, spent in crossing the Grampians, took its usual toll and, in unpleasant conditions of wind and rain, the pair were struggling hard against the desire for sleep. The strain on the man at the helm on the winding descents, with rain affecting the brakes, was immense, and at one time there was a one-hour deficit on schedule.
However, with the dawn, the speed began to increase and, at Inverness, the members of the Clachnacuddin C.C. further boosted the riders’ morale with food, drink and warmth in the club hut. At Bonar Bridge, fifty miles further on, the deficit was down to fifteen minutes, and at Helmsdale (817 miles) it had been turned into a gain of seven minutes. The one in four pitch at Berriedale was walked, this being the only stretch that was not ridden, and from there it was steady gain all the way to the welcome and welcoming John O’ Groats Hotel, 2days 8 hours and 47 minutes after leaving Land’s End.
After a well-earned sleep they remounted the tandem and carried on to become the first holders of the 1000 miles tandem record with a time of 3 days 7 hours 51 minutes. A great achievement.
All those club members who did a tremendous job of organisation, and all the others who helped in so many ways shared the honours. Accompanying them on their ride were Mark Haslam, Frank Hart, John Dearden, Cliff Baxter, Austin Bridge, Les Brown and Tommy Barlow. The control headquarters throughout the ride was the home of Cliff and Ethel Baxter, 1 Oaks Avenue, where Ethel had Jack Mullineux as chief assistant.
Frank was asked to give an account of his memories of the record-breaking ride:
“See if you can fill a sheet of foolscap with your version of the End to End”, said the Boss, “I’m getting out a bumper circular”.
“ ‘bout time too” said I.
One sheet of foolscap though! Well I might fill it with the preparations, or the machine particulars, or the food angle, or even the journey down – the worst ordeal of the whole trip! But what about the circus – the followers, helpers, whippers-in, call them what you like. Personally, I always contemplate raising my hat when I think of them. Who were they? The guiding hand of Cliff was always in evidence, making contacts and scribbling letters – the hub of the organisation. Austin Bridge rode his bicycle over the whole route previous to the attempt – smoothing out the bumps (metaphorically speaking of course) and booking digs – just ask Jack Dearden. Yes, Jack was there with his Bradford van, complete with spare tandem, enough food to feed a regiment, suitcases, bathroom, bedroom, name what you will, it was there in the van .By way of variation from the unromantic traditional manner of driving, it is told that a Bradford van was seen making its way along the bleak north east coast of Scotland, its 6 foot something driver steering with his feet and working the accelerator with his hands.
No record attempt is complete without Mark Haslam. On this occasion his Rover truly roved. He carried chicken from Bolton to Land’s End, and from Land’s End to John O’ Groats, and just as we were about to tear it apart, 20 miles short of the 1000 miles, it leapt from the tin and disappeared over the nearest hedge. Tommy Barlow was there too – the genius behind BAR tables amongst other things. He kept us alive with a multitude of little anecdotes – comment on the housing shortage: “a lustful fairy looking for a (gn)ome”. “Purely routine to Perth”, was his password. Les Brown of snowy Ilmington shook the soil of his septic tank from his feet, shut down his school in Stratford-on-Avon, hared north at something a little over 30’s and joined the assembly at 1 Oaks Avenue. I hear that a Horwich cyclist who went to Frank Hart’s shop during record week, was told “Ee there’s nowt 'ere lad, Frank’s tekken all his stock with 'im on this ‘ere tandem do”. That may or may not be so, but wherever the tandem was en route, so too was Frank, his pockets bulging with spanners, tyres and tubes round his neck, bells on his fingers, rims on his toes.
How did people know what was happening during the ride, how did everyone keep in touch? Ask Eagley telephone exchange. I believe the operators needed a weeks holiday afterwards for shock treatment. It has been calculated that Ethel and her merry gang dealt with more telephone calls than Alec reached into his back pocket for grub – and that’s some! If anybody wants information about nylon nighties ask Jack Mullineux – he almost forgot the text of the message.
What do I remember about the ride? Well I seem to remember forcing a sickly grin for the benefit of the camera brigade outside Land’s End Hotel, and the next thing I knew I was crawling upstairs to a peat water bath at John O’ Groats Hotel. If you were to ask me how many familiar faces I saw en route, I should not be able to tell you, there were so many. D.C.Hall holidaying in Cornwall gave us a song to cheer us on our way, notwithstanding the fact that he had spent the previous night sleeping(?) in a hedge bottom. I’ve neither seen nor heard of him since. Frank and Betty Crook had left their cosy bed in Newquay to wish us luck as we approached the stern heights of Bodmin Moor. Mark and Austin in one car and Jack, Frank and Les in another, followed all the way through. We picked up Cliff and Tommy Barlow at Whitchurch at something well after midnight. Mark and Austin were to stop there for a night’s sleep. Cliff was as hoarse as a bull frog – he’d been keeping a non-stop coversation with the hotel keeper whose attitude was “B----- Mr Haslam, I’m going to bed”. We all stopped at Alan Littlemore’s for a couple of hours – “to sleep”. Well, Cliff spent 20 minutes on a Lilo on the lawn, pedalling all the time – he’d ridden a 240 mile twelve the previous day! Johnny Mac was there too, massaging the old miles away and rubbing in a fresh supply. He even fixed the ‘Bobby’ to fix the traffic lights for us at Warrington. Good show Mac.
What a welcome sight to see the gang at Euxton, and what willpower was needed to leave their cheery company, but there was more anon. Ed Green got a honeymoon couple out of bed to accompany him on the onerous task of “feeding the boys”. He joined us at Bela Café, Milnthorpe and didn’t give us a minute’s peace – God bless him – until Abingdon, where he was forced at the point of a gun by his companions to turn around - something about being back by bedtime.
The Scottish story is a tale in itself. Suffice it to say, “We made it”. A final 30 mile dash enabled us to beat the record by over 6 hours. And the 1000? Well, what’s another 130 miles when there’s a day and 8 hours to do it in?
An extremely generous report from a very modest man, a man of steel, truly one of the greats of the Lancashire Road Club. Their time has been bettered since on two occasions, and the present record, set in 1966, stands at 2 days 2 hours 14 minutes 25 seconds, an improvement of only 6 ½ hours. Ready for another attempt?
Top. Into Scotland
Below. "The Team", Mark Haslam, Frank Hart, Alec Denton,
Austin Bridge, Frank Cowsill, John Dearden, Cliff Baxter.
Road Club membership continued to grow and, in 1953, new members included Dave Coffey, Gordon Holt and Jack Farrimond, all of whom would be prominent in the next few years, and from the now defunct Walkden C.C. Erek Dooley, Tom Grimshaw, Peter Hodson, John Partington, Dennis (Danny) Lees, Marian Partington and Margaret Morton. In addition to these, Jack Roughley and Jim Pollard were recruited from the Wingates C.C.
In 1953 Harold Robey continued to ride well and completed twelve hour events of 247.75 and 248.87 miles and, for the second year he was the Club Champion. Barbara Leather won the Ladies’ Championship with some excellent rides over 25 and 50 miles.
In other spheres Erek Dooley had an exceedingly good year and won the Leigh Track Championship. Gerald Kay, whilst serving in the R.A.F. in the Far East, won the keenly contested Tour of Singapore.
For the fifth consecutive year, Cliff Baxter became the North West Veterans’ Champion and thereby established almost a proprietorship over the honour. It was also the fifth occasion on which he had been placed in the first four of the National Competition and, with Alec Denton as the second counter, the Team Championship also came to the club.
1953 was a great year for consistent 24 Hour rider and President of the Tricycle Association, Charles Edmund (Ed) Green when, in September he achieved a life–long ambition by setting up new figures for a R.R.A. record.
The Edinburgh to York was the record chosen and he completed the ride on his tricycle in 10 hours 28 minutes, bettering the old record by 42 minutes.
Today, almost 50 years later, Ed still holds the Club Tricycle Records for 100 miles and 12 and 24 Hours.
On December 14th, Cliff Baxter was involved in a serious car accident. The crash occurred in the evening at Egerton, when the car Cliff was driving came into collision with a large lorry. The car was completely wrecked and Cliff was fortunate to be alive when the wreckage was cleared. He suffered a very badly shattered right hip, which necessitated a complicated and serious operation. He also had facial injuries.
Two weeks later, Frank Cowsill reported, “Latest reports show good progress, and it is obvious that an iron constitution and top physical fitness are already surprising the hospital staff by the manner in which recovery is being made”
It was feared that it would be Easter before Cliff would be out and about again.
At the A.G.M. in January the following year, Frank Hart, who had been the Club President for seven years, suggested that there might be others on whom the honour of Presidency could be conferred. It was proposed by Les Walker that Cliff Baxter should be asked to accept the position. This proposal was carried unanimously and Cliff became the sixth member to hold the post of President since the club was formed.
Jim Hall, newly elected Club Secretary, wrote in a club circular, “The club-runs since the A.G.M., have been both a big success and very entertaining, with a dozen or more turning out each week. There is no need to worry if your cycle is not in first class running order, bring your troubles with you they can be fixed on the morning, as we appear to have the most experienced and efficient mechanics in the game. If you pull your back ends round on Belmont, Rubbles (Dave Coffey), with brick in hand, will be only too pleased to fit a new set of Hetchins curly stays in double quick time; or, if it’s only a small trouble, such as a buckle in your wheel on the Horseshoe Pass, Frank Kerry, with the aid of a five-barred gate and Duncan Mort’s big feet, will soon produce a scruffy looking ‘duck’s egg’ shaped object, which will eliminate the discomfort of potholes on the way home”.
On the racing front, Dave Coffey, as a change from time trialling, won a road race promoted by the Irwell C.C. at Lancaster and Bob Seel completed a hat trick of wins in the Club 50.
Jack Farrimond turned in a fine performance in finishing in second place, only one minute behind the winner, in the N.L.T.T.A. 100, when he clocked 4.29.56 on a hard morning when no other riders could better their previous times. Harold Robey completed hat tricks in the Club 100 and Club 12 Hour and these helped him to his third successive win in the Club Championship. He finished in 43rd place in the B.B.A.R. with an average speed of 22.341mph. Barbara Leather repeated her Ladies’ Championship win of the previous year with excellent rides of 27.31 for 10 miles, 1.9.31 for 25 miles and 2.24.15 for 50 miles.
The Club Team, led by Harold Robey, repeated the win of 1949 in the N.L.T.T.A. team Championship, but apart from Stan Haslam’s win in that year, individual honours were still elusive.
It was perhaps fitting, that exactly 30 years after the club had promoted its first events, six new club records were established:
25 Miles (ladies) - Jean White - 1.08.26
50 Miles - John Senior - 2.03.32
50 Miles (Ladies) - Barbara Leather - 2.24.15
12 Hours - Harold Robey - 251.76 Miles
24 Hours - Alec Denton - 441.76 Miles
Bolton to Southport and Back (Revised Course)
Frank Kerry - 2.39.28
Gerald Kay, still serving in the R.A.F., set a new Forces Far East Record for 25 miles with 1.00.22.
A welcome was extended to Ken Marsden who, joining the club from Manchester Wheelers, promptly made his mark by finishing in second place in the closing 25 with 1.01.48, only 19 seconds behind Bob Seel’s winning time. Other new members included Len Kay and two 15 year olds, Len Kerry and Bob Dawson. The latter, in his first year of racing had clocked the excellent time of 1.03.59.
Undoubtedly, however, the best ride of the year was that done by Club President Cliff Baxter. Only a few months after his serious accident, he rode in the Cleveleys Road Club 100 and clocked 4.55.28, an incredible performance for a man who, so shortly before, had been given little chance of being seen astride a cycle again. This “come-back” was, however, only the fore-runner of greater things for, in the following year, 1955, the Club was proud to record that, in the Cleveleys Road Club event, Baxter rode his fastest 100 of all time 4.32.06. In the Lancaster C.C. 50 he returned 2.14.14 and then created a new Veterans’ 12 Hour Age Record of 238 miles, for which he was awarded, by the V.T.T.A., the Jim Painter Memorial Trophy. He finished third in the National V.T.T.A. Championship and, with Jack Mullineux, took the National and North West Team awards.
That year the club had nine riders who averaged over 21 mph in the B.B.A.R. Competition, making three complete teams. Gerald Kay, (16th 22.957mph), Ken Marsden, (60th 22.447mph) and Harold Robey (91st 22.130mph) were the three leaders, with Cliff Baxter, Frank Cowsill, Jim Hall, Jack Farrimond, John Senior and Frank Kerry the other riders.
Gerald Kay, now demobilised from the R.A.F., had an outstanding year. With times of 59.32, 2.03.22, 4.21.13 and 259 miles, he brought Harold Robey’s run of Club Championships to an end, and finished in 16th place in the B.B.A.R. Competition. This was Kay’s first season at distances over 50 miles and his 259 miles in the N.L.T.T.A. Twelve Hour was a new Course, Event and Club record. He also rode with success in a number of ‘massed start’ events winning the 56 mile Wye Valley Grand Prix in 2.31.50.
Other outstanding performances came from Ken Marsden, Harold Robey, Jack Farrimond and Frank Kerry who all figured prominently with many individual places and team wins, including the classic Anfield 100 and the Manchester Wheelers 100. Frank Kerry’s rides of 1.01.12, 2.10.29 4.30.50 and 244.125 miles were only good enough to gain him fourth place in the Club Championship. New member Keith Tattersall, in his first season of racing and after only five events, had times of 1.01.38 and 2.08.59 to his credit and was the winner of the Club Novice Competition. Len Kerry, at the age of 15, had ridden a 1.05.17 and Ron Tidy at 17 at ridden a 1.02.16.
Interest was again shown in R.R.A. records and, in July, Denton set off from Land’s End in an attempt at the solo bicycle End to End record. Regretfully, an amateur cannot afford to wait for the right conditions and, after riding gallantly against a powerful North East wind for 200 miles, the project had to be abandoned.
Earlier in the year Heald and Tyson of the South Lancashire Road Club had set a new R.R.A. tandem time for Liverpool to Edinburgh, taking the record from Baxter and Coleman by the narrowest of margins, one minute. Kay and Marsden decided to try to regain the record for the club, and set out in October with that intention. With 50 miles to go, and 30 minutes inside the record, a blow-out on the front wheel brought the tandem down and this necessitated hospital treatment for the riders.
As in most organisations, there comes a time when the flag does not fly quite so high as is customary, and 1956 was such a year for the club. Good rides were accomplished, but there was no overall run of success. Gerald Kay was again the Club Champion but with a reduced average speed with Jack Farrimond as the runner-up. Jack had improved his 100 time to 4.28.02 and other rides of note were accomplished by Tattersall, Leigh, Tidy, Cookson and Dooley. Of these, the two outstanding rides were to the credit of Jack Leigh who, in his first time trial of more than 25 miles, covered 245.875 miles in winning the Club Twelve Hour, and Frank Cookson who won the Club 100 at his first attempt in 4.46.21.
Some names were beginning to disappear from the list of club members about this time. The young men and women were beginning to look elsewhere for something to occupy their spare time, and top of the list was that which a young man’s fancy turns to in spring. Weddings were becoming more frequent among members and, as families grew, so cycling was put on the back burner, to be replaced by such exciting things as house buying, decorating, gardening and pram pushing instead of pedal pushing. Many members left the club but others retained their membership if only in the form of paying the annual subscription, although, on perusing old documents, it was not uncommon for many members still to be in arrears with their subs. as late as October and November. Shame on them!
1957 saw the return to form of many riders. Ken Marsden achieved the first of his nine Club Championships with an average speed of 22.590mph. Johnny Green made a return to the sport and, in his first attempt at twelve hours, and despite 20 minutes lost in the early stages with punctures, finished with a distance of 245.625 miles. This, together with good rides at the other distances, gave him second place in the Club Championship. Keith Tattersall improved his 25 time to 59.44, set a new Club Record of 2.02.50 for 50 miles and rode a personal best 100 of 4.31.30. Jim Hall won the Club 100 in 4.37.47 Frank Kerry, who had been married to Barbara Leather in the previous September, started the season well getting down to 1.01 for 25 miles, but was unable to follow up with a full programme. Performances by Len Kay, Ian Marshall and Jeff Foster of Foster Shoes, the company from which the international firm of Reebok grew, gave indications of their future potential, Jeff winning the Club Novice award for that year.
The club veterans too were back in the headlines. Denton rode his fastest ever 25 in 1.02.38 and, with Cliff Baxter, took the veterans’ Team Championship once again. Baxter, at the age of 53, also won the Northern veterans’ 100 in 4.39.42.
The end of the season saw the return from the forces of Gordon Holt and Dave Coffey. Gordon, who had been stationed in the Far East, had some outstanding performances to his credit. In addition to many wins in road races, he had set up a new record time for the forces Far East 25 mile distance.
In 1958 Gerald Kay won the Club Championship once again with some outstanding rides. He set a new event record for the Club’s Open Twelve Hour with a ride of 258.5 miles, and repeated his win in the N.L.T.T.A. Twelve with a similar distance. He was well backed up by Gordon Holt, Keith Tattersall, Alec Denton, John Partington and Dave Coffey, all of whom improved their times over most distances. Gordon Holt won the Club 50 in 2.04.16, the fastest winning time for that club event up to that time, and Dave Coffey was the winner of the Club Twelve Hour Novices award. The Club Ladies Champion, with the first of her five wins, was Shirley Marsden, her excellent rides promising much for the future.
In the following year, 1959, some new names appeared on club trophies. Dave Coffey became the Club Champion with some fast, consistent riding: 59.56, 2.03.51, 4.28.52 and 240.5 miles. Gordon Holt repeated his win in the Club 50, John Partington scored a double in winning both the Club 100 in 4.26.39 and Club Twelve Hour with 238.25 miles, and Cliff Baxter and Alec Denton were successful in their defence of the Veterans’ National Team Title.
Shirley Marsden had an outstanding season, setting three Club Records: 25 miles in 1.06.14, 50 miles 2.20.04, 100 miles in 4.43.28, and was the N.L.T.T.A. Ladies’ B.A.R. Champion and the Club Ladies’ Champion again. Gerald Kay turned his attention to 24 hour riding and set a new Club Record of 458.1 miles in winning the Mersey Roads event, an outstanding achievement. The Club won the N.L.T.T.A. Team Championship in 1958, 1959 and 1960, but in spite of the excellent times being recorded by the members named above, still could not produce the winner of the individual title.
JOHN PARTINGTON AND DAVE COFFEY
It would seem that the club looks upon the R.R.A. Liverpool to Edinburgh Tandem record as its own property, and so it was, that when Les Heald and Alan Tyson of the South Lancashire Road Club took the record away from Baxter and Coleman by the slim margin of one minute, Cliff Baxter was keen for a pair from the club to try to regain it.
In 1959 John and Dave decided that they would make the attempt to set a new record, so during the September holidays the duo rode over the course. It took two days and made Dave a little dubious as to whether they would have a chance of beating the existing record.
All they had to do was train and ride, as several willing club members offered to be responsible for organising the attempt. They did train hard for the attempt with John riding two 12 hour events and Dave riding one, and in October they were ready.
The ride went smoothly, except for a jammed chain, with no hold-ups along the way, even at traffic lights, as club-folk made sure that the lights were on green as the pair approached.
They reached Edinburgh in 8 hours 50 minutes, bettering the record by the handsome margin of 31 minutes. John and Dave’s record still stands today more than 40 years later.
The machine used was the same one as used by the other two pairs on their record-breaking rides. Unfortunately, the tandem, which belonged to Cliff Baxter, was sold some years later so an important piece of Lancashire Road Club history was lost.