In 1956 I was asked manage a local NCU team on the “Tour of Ireland” I was able to accept as now - with business prospering - we had set on a salesman, Roy Pidcock, he was a trial and grass rider and we had helped in a few events. (Roy would stay with us until July 1971 when he left to start up on his own at Friary Autos on The Spot in Derby, he worked very hard eventually becoming Roy Pidcock Motorcycles which now have shops in Nottingham, Derby and Long Eaton, he unfortunately suffered a serious heart attack and died in 1999. Roy’s son now runs the three shops).
The team was
- Stuart McWhirter,
- Pete Edgehill, (Beeston R.C.)
- Bren Thorpe and
- a lad from Mansfield whose name alludes me,
Dave Shaw came as mechanic. I cannot remember much about this tour except I was on a 500cc Triumph with alloy engine and rear sprung hub, but I do remember that a few days into the race, there was an all mighty “tip up” which resulted in Stuart McWhirter breaking his arm and Frank Garvey of Manchester Velo breaking a leg. We made arrangements to get Stuart back to Dublin and then we had to leave him in Athlone hospital. We also assisted Frank - his team manager had left him to his own devices.
Also on the Cork stage, the NCU rang the Irish Cycle Union to say that Brian Haskell of Huddersfield R.C. had not got a NCU Overseas racing licence, and would have to be disqualified. The race had only two days to go and Brian was leading from the Cork rider Karl McCarthy. After dinner in Cork there was a meeting regarding this matter, Brian had a BLRC licence and as far as he and the Irish Cycle Union was concerned this was valid. But much to my disgust Brian was disqualified, 2nd place Karl McCarthy and several highly placed riders withdrew in protest. A noble but useless gesture.
We carried on but had lost all interest. There was one amusing or rather a serious incident. Dave and I were going up to a breakaway group to find out what lead they had, just before Sligo we saw John Lackey go straight on through Sligo whereas the race route was to bypass the town, John would be about 30secs behind the leaders, the next time we saw him was when he was coming towards this group, turning round in the road and joining in. He finished 1st.
Many other riders protested and in the Team Managers meeting after the meal, Dave and I gave our report, it appeared that John Lackey came from Sligo and the route he took cut about 3mile from the main route! The Irish officials got together and after loud protests from the Irish team manager, John Lackey was able to keep his first prize but was quite rightly disqualified from the Tour. The Irish team withdrew from the event, the whole thing had gone sour I was glad to get on the boat and get home.
My own racing had almost drawn a close, my future seemingly mapped out looking after a successful business and going on various tours with the England team. In hindsight I can see I was away to often which did not do the business much good, International cycling is like a disease – or an addiction - you cannot leave it alone, and I was to be on various tours for the next 20 years.