Tuesday, 11 March 2008

#036 - 1953 - Tour of Ireland - Part 1

March 1953 saw me early morning training with Les Thompson, we would start at 7am going to Borrowash –Shardlow –Sawley x-roads and then home. I rode the early season events to get fit for the two Track Leagues. Later that month we received an invitation from the Eire Cycle Federation to ride in their “Tour of Eire 4 day”. Tom Crowther received the invite and after a meeting of various riders he decided to pick a team representing Derby National Cyclists Union, the riders picked where Reg Morton Derby Ivanhoe, Eric Thompson Derby Mercury, Bill Henshaw, Bren Thorpe and myself (luckily) all of Long Eaton C.C. We trained fairly hard for this event but I don’t remember us training together. Reg Morton did fetch me out for “sprint” training - mostly in the dark - on the A52 from Risley down to finish at Borrowash 30 sign. Each one leading out in turn. We did manage a weekend training run to Stratford on Avon starting on a Saturday morning, I came home on Sunday. The rest went down to Chipping Norton on the A44 then back through Banbury and Coventry. The time soon came round for us to leave for the Tour it was at the end of April 1953.

You may wonder why I am singling this Tour from the many I was to go on in the future, but everyone who rode this and the 1954 Tour holds them in their memory. We left Derby on the Monday; I drove our 1938 Bedford Van with Bill Henshaw, taking the bikes and luggage. Tom took Reg, Eric and Bryn and Lew Barker who had entered solo, Tom had bought an ex-Army Humber. It was O.k. but it drank petrol - only doing about 15 mile per gallon whereas the Bedford did well in excess of 40 m.p.g. We had an uneventful drive to Holyhead, apart from Tom running down an escape road on one of the many bends between Uttoxeter and Stone. We unpacked the bikes etc, had a word with the harbour Master, he knew us well by now, and as usual he allowed us on the boat before the London Mail train came. We had a meal and retired in to pre-booked cabins to sleep before the mailmen dropped their bags in the cabin above, although the ship we were in was brand new i.e. the “Cambrian” we had the same trouble with the mailbag and newspaper drops as on the old “Princess Maud”

We had managed to leave the transport at the bus garage in Holyhead (no charge) they were much safer there, the head man there also left me a bottle of petrol in the van so I could start the model on our return later that week. The reason for the petrol was that on this long stroke pre-war van the petrol pipe ran close to then engine and after stopping the petrol evaporated from the pipe. We had to remove the top of the carb, pour in the petrol and so prime the pump, what a palaver. The van also had a nasty habit of sticking in top gear, which necessitated removing the top of the gearbox and then pushing the sliders in to a square, and then refitting, it would be O.K. for miles then.

We arrived in Dun Laoghaire at 7.30am first having to be sprayed with anti foot and mouth disease deterrent (there was an outbreak in England at the time). We had again booked accommodation at Mrs Ryan’s and breakfast was all ready for us, what a fabulous place Mrs Ryan’s was and how she looked after us and a family of seven we will never know. (I was to visit her some thirty years later with my step- son David)

As well as the boarding house they also ran a pub or at that time a “drinking shop”. Mr Ryan looked after this establishment; it was from him I learnt the reason why our name had two “T”s. He reached above the bar and brought down a huge dusty black book, this listed all people who where inside the pale fence built by the English years ago, and those people beyond the pale, i.e. Butler with one T inside and with two Ts “beyond the pale” - we learned different things every day. In an outhouse at the rear of the pub there was a bike, which six riders could ride on, it was used for pacing on the track - or had been in the early 1920,s. (This model was to be the subject of much laughter some 45 years later at a Golf dinner.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey can you email me back , if this Tom Crowther also owned the Odeon Cinema in Blackpool..and if he married Norah Wilkinson..

email me at


Norah is my great-grandma's sister..died round the late 80's.