Search This Blog

Friday, 30 March 2012

7. A Passion for Cycling

Bert on his racing bike, 1910
Bert had won his first cycling medal at the age of 12, cycling for the Heston and Isleworth United District Cycling Club. In some years Hounslow had its own Harriers and Cycling or Wheelers Club and when it didn't there were locals lobbying for one.
Cycle racing was banned on public roads from 1880, so timed trials developed as a way of beating the ban.

The local newspaper followed both the fortunes of local riders and the disagreements about how the clubs should operate.Letters to the editor of the Hounslow Advertiser and Gazette in 1910 and 1911 express the grievances. Bert kept some of these letters, carefully pasted on cardboard and kept with his medals, along with an article from the same newspaper, dated July 31 1910, which places him at the centre of one controversy.

Bert had raced at a meeting of the Feltham Club and won the quarter, half and one mile races with handicaps of 35 yards, 100 yards and 200 yards respectively. While the report from the Hounslow Advertiser indicates it is 'satisfactory' that 'a Hounslow lad' won three races, it goes on to suggest no-one should be allowed to win more than two prizes in handicap events.

The enigmatic comment that 'It is better to be born lucky than rich' seems to reinforce the argument of Dave Moulton's cycle racing blog that cycling was a class-based sport in England in the early twentieth century. In any case, by 1910 Bert is clearly viewed as 'lucky' rather than rich.

The sport of cycling as we know it today was just beginning, and there were plenty of opinions about how it should be organised and operated.

Bert kept letters to the editor about the reinstatement of a Hounslow Club. It seems likely that Bert, and his mother, agreed with the view expressed that:

You hear them complain about the quietness and slowness of Hounslow. Whose fault is it but their own? Where will they find more life than in a well attended club run, or where more sport than in excelent club fellowship among healthy young fellows?

He also kept clippings about a disagreement over whether a 'scratch race' organised by the cyclist section of the Hounslow Cycling and Harriers Club in 1911 should have been a sealed handicap. Members were suspended and dubbed "North Pole Swankers" by the Club Secretary Mr Pizzey.

We do not know which side Bert was on in this dispute. By 1911, he and his family had moved from Hounslow. The clippings for that year were sent to him by family or friend, at their new home in Cheshunt.

Bert's last cycling medal was won in 1910, when he was 19, for the 'Old Bird Average'.

No comments:

Post a Comment