July was a busy month for us (no August 1st rush then) Tom rang me to say we had a invitation to ride in Ireland in the Dublin-Galway-Dublin coast to coast race to be held that August Bank Holiday, although I was not fit I elected to go. Although accepting Tom’s invitation was a bit rash on my part I still hoped to train for the event. Owing to business being hectic I only managed a ride to Tamworth and back - 6o miles - no good for a 268 mile event. However I did manage to get Thursday to Tuesday off work. The ride to Holyhead did me the world of good, we again carried our best wheels and had mudguards and saddle bags, quite a weight to carry. Tom had given me a new frame of his own make i.e. Mercian, he was trying to sell frames in Dublin to the Rutland Cycle Co and Jack Hannan’s shop - both near St Stephens Green. Bill Henshaw bought a Stronglight Chainset and a Campag front and rear gear from Jack Hannan at a very good price, he also bought some Super Vittoria tyres from Jack’s shop, these were unobtainable in England. We also bought nylon stockings from a “posh “ shop in O’Connell St, I hit a model and knocked it over pushing at least twenty more down domino style, I caught the first model whilst leaning over the counter to see the assistant pull her skirt up to her mid thigh to show off the 50 denier nylons, nothing was rationed in Ireland whereas everything in England still was.
We collected our numbers and programmes etc from the race headquarters then had lunch at Fortes on O’Connell Street, in there we met Alan Salt and some mates of his from Rolls Royce who were Youth Hostelling in Ireland, when they heard I was riding in the Dublin-Galway-Dublin event they roared with laughter - a Track man in a two day road race and with very little training to boot. Undeterred by their banter, we returned to our Irish mum Mrs Ryan and got the bikes ready, I removed my mudguards and as the enamel was still in the fork ends I left the mudguard bolt in situation (I was to suffer dire consequents for this error).
We should have been in bed early the night before the event, but Mrs Ryan had family about our age i.e. Jimmy, Jack, Joseph and Noel and two girls Mona and Trixie, we started playing Pontoon after dinner and at 2am in the morning we were still at it. Every time we stayed at Mrs Ryan’s we played cards. On one evening later in the decade I was losing so much money I had only my boat ticket for the journey home, on the last hand I turned up the “Bank” and in a hour I won enough to stay three more days and buy some very sorely needed sun glasses.
We rode down to Dublin, I felt in fine form until realising I had only one bottle for the event, this was to prove fatal as the first day was very hot. The race started at 11am, going via the big Catholic college at Maynooth, then turning right at Kinegad to Mullingar, left on a minor road to Athlone, I was still there at Athlone and the “bunch” was toute assemble. After Athlone I took a “packet” and at Ballanisloe where we turned right on another by-road towards Athenry I lost contact. Meanwhile the other three were doing very well finishing in the leading group on the first day being won by “Tiny” Thomas of Yorkshire R.C. with the Robinson brothers and Bob Maitland not far behind; also up there was Peter Proctor of Bradford R.C.C. (later to be a star rally driver with Sunbeam Talbot, winning the Monte Carlo Rally, he also rode the Tour de France in 1955 with the B.S.A. team) At Athenry I espied the village pump and promptly filled my bottle with water, and in so doing collapsed with cramp, I was helped on my bike by two young women, (more about these two some years later in Long Eaton). I struggled on to Galway now so far behind that all the officials had gone, I found my saddlebag and Ethel Crowther had come looking for me and took me to the “digs”. We had a big meal and I felt much better. Still felt O.K the next morning and was rearing to start the next stage. At the pre stage meeting in our bedroom we decided to go from the “gun”. We set off at a great pace our four together with a couple of Irish lads, it is slightly up hill out of Galway for some miles, I felt great. Then on a long downhill stretch thro Athenry I changed in to top gear and the big ring, when to my horror the chain jammed on one of the mudguard bolts I had left in. Later, on reflection by Tom, before the start he had gone round all the bikes checking them over and had tightened these mudguard bolts up a notch, still it was my own fault for leaving them in. I struggled on in about 82” gear cursing myself, then at Athlone it started raining and I punctured. I changed tyres but I was on my own with the “Sag” wagon right up my backside, wet through and completely demoralised I “packed” climbed in to the “broom wagon” and there found my saddle bag, the van being used as the luggage van as well, I felt a little better after putting on dry clothes.
The stage was won by Bill Henshaw with Peter Proctor second. Peter won the event and Long Eaton C.C. the team award. The dejection of “packing” cannot be described - you don’t belong; you have done nothing towards the team, the others being ecstatic. To sum up the race, Des Robinson said it had been a good even race, same for everybody but harder for some than others. Managed to ride home without mishap from Holyhead, and apart from occasional track meetings I can’t recall any major events that year. I lost the Hillclimb at Monsal Head to Ron Minton who broke our club record with 1m36secs - I did a hopeless 1min55secs !