Wednesday, 12 March 2008

#046 - 1954 - Tour of Ireland - Part 5

On arrival at the finish in Waterford we heard that out of the 140 starters who had left Cork earlier that day only 18 had finished, one Irish lad had thrown his bike over a cliff, we saw riders huddled together with sack bags around them to keep warm whilst waiting for the “Sag” wagon or any other transport that would pick them up.

After the evening meal and a truly appalling day, I got drunk on Irish whiskey, came the next morning and I was very ill - in fact I came to Dublin in the race ambulance. The race was now down to 15 starters, the weather turned to snow and icy cold rain. The race officials decided to neutralise the event until a few miles from the centre of Dublin, whereupon the riders could remove all their waterproof gear and then put on a spectacle for the very large crowd to see the finish. There was a picture in “Cycling” the following Wednesday depicting the “sag” wagon festooned with dozens of bikes hanging from everywhere. (I was to go on a race in Algeria in the future which had similar weather conditions). My trusty Ariel had been driven back to Dublin by an Irishman who I never met, I knew it was on the race because I had heard the lovely engine note of its 498cc motor.

The result of the first 5 of this Tour Eire was:

1st - Bernard Pusey whose ride in this gave him an entry to the new Hercules team to ride in the Tour de France, under Syd Couzins as manager,

2nd - Shay Eliott who won as his prize a stay at the famous Simplex training camp which lead to a place in a French team and which subsequently also lead him to a ride in the Tour de France,

3rd - Karl McCarthy of Cork C.C. a real stylist

4th - Irishman Paddy Boyd of Dublin.

5th - Tony Hoar who was to be in the 1955 “Tour de France.

A tearful reception was seen at Mrs Ryan’s, our second home, she looked after us as good as her own family. Bren’s future wife Janet had come over to placate him and us. Bill, Bren and Janet left on the night boat. Fred and I stayed a further day to pull our shattered nerves together.

The shops were very busy that year, motorcycles were becoming a little easier to buy as were scooters. We were still having a “Birmingham-Coventry” and “London” van days increasingly selling more parts. Staff also had to be adjusted, we lost our Polish motor cycle mechanic Ted, and also our veteran cycle mechanic and wheel builder Les Senesall. In their place we had electrician Les Thompson in the shop, he was with us some years before he acquired a “pub” on Cockpit Hill, Derby. On the demolition of all the Cockpit Hill area Les returned to us and was sent to our College Street shop with Ruben Hutchings. We also set on twin brothers Robert & Roger Sanford. Robert being at Tamworth Road and Roger at College Street, I took over cycle wheel building eventually going on to alloy motorcycle and M.G. wheels.

As regards cycle racing I did manage to win three of our club track events, these were the last events I would take part in. We did a storming trade in cycles for Christmas that year, having a great time delivering these, playing Santa Claus, no drink driving laws then so we had a drink at most houses where we were delivering to – not surprisingly we were almost drunk when eventually reaching home.

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