Richard Blackmore writes…
I recently came across the attached article which was an interview with our past President, Mick Robinson, in November 1991 by Tony Preston (EGCC Press Secretary) and submitted to the EG Courier. I’m not sure if it was actually printed by the paper but I thought it might be of interest, historically speaking, to some of the current members. I scanned the original as typed on an ancient typewriter which was what we did 30 years ago!….
The recent AGM saw one or two changes in the composition of the committee. Some simply to make better use of the available man power, others to replace those who are no longer available to serve the club. Certain names recur year after year, none more so than that of Mick Robinson who was quite rightly re-elected as President.
Mick has been a member since the club was founded in 1950 and maintains a knowledgeable interest in the sport which also manifests itself in his other hobby of philately where he has a corner of his collection reserved for stamps featuring cycling. Most of the younger members will know him as the pusher-off in the evening 10s. He is the guy who is always there in the pouring rain even if they aren’t.
The origins of the club lie in a meeting between Jack Hooker, who ran the Clubman’s Cycle Shop in Forge Road, A.F. Lock, Joe Meadmore and Cliff Tutt, which took place at The Sussex pub. Having discussed the idea they put an announcement in the local press and held the official first meeting in Curtiss’s Tea Rooms. Club meetings subsequently took place on Tuesday evenings in a room at the back of The Swan Hotel. Inevitably informal gatherings also took place on Saturdays at Jack’s shop.
Mick’s original membership number was the magic number seven which seems to have brought him good luck throughout a long racing career on the road and track, at home and abroad. For the privilege of being a member he paid the Junior Fee of 3 shillings with a further 4 shillings for NCU affiliation. (For the benefit of those fortunate enough to be too young to remember, a shilling became 5p when we lost proper money too many years ago. The National Cyclists Union was one of the fore-runners of the BCF and fought for control of road racing with the British League of Racing Cyclists). Incidentally a made to measure racing frame at that time would have cost in the region of 15 pounds, sounds cheap but what was the average wage ?
The first membership card shows a programme of races and club runs. The destination of the club runs was pre-determined and varied from coastal resorts, to Kew Gardens, to Chislehurst Caves (lights required for that one ?). Some were planned for all day, others afternoons only. October 8th was the hill climb, up (Captain) Kidd’s Hill and then a ride to Crowborough Beacon. November 5th was a paper chase (what no conservationists ?) and November 12th was the Three Counties Tour – could have been a very short ride if you think about it and take a look at the map ! All Club Runs started at – yes you’ve guessed it – King Street car park. Mick recalls a certain amount of drama on the first run to Nuthurst when a crash put three people in hospital at Horsham, such an encouraging start !
Photographs of the first club run on May 5th 1950 show Mick clearly in evidence (at the front second right). It’s fascinating to be reminded not only of the assortment of machinery in use but also the lack of what we would now consider to be proper clothing. Mind you there wasn’t a lot of casual/training clothing available and even in the summer heat nobody would be seen out training in racing kit – it just wasn’t done.
The first Club 10 took place on June 11th and was won by a rider named Gibbs. Mick recorded 31:04. He went on to become the Club’s first real star, rating 1955 as his best year when he became Sussex League Track Champion, with the Club team finishing second. He was Club 25 Champion for 8 or 9 years in succession and first or second in the ESCA Hill Climb from 1954 to 1964. His 25 mile times were good enough to give the great Ken Craven a run for his money – Ken Craven was the Chris Boardman of his day.
His overall racing preference was for grass track, which the club promoted at East court, with other clubs holding meetings in association with town sports days all over the country. This branch of the sport seems virtually to have died out these days, mind you even Preston Park isn’t very well supported. What a pity.
As a result of a good performance in a Madison at Herne Hill in 1957 he was invited to ride a number of races at the Hill in 1958 amongst a very high class field. Perhaps the most prominent names on the programme were the Altig brothers from Germany. Rudi Altig later became a very dominant performer in the professional 6 day circus. In the same year Mick went to Belgium with another EG rider and two from Hastings Spartan. His abiding memory of the style of racing is that it started slowly in low gears progressing to higher gears and a totally frenetic pace towards the end.
The Club flavour of the times was much less totally devoted to racing as it is today, nevertheless Mick has a cabinet full of medals to show for his efforts and a stack of good memories to go with them. For me the real image of the times is conjured up by a picture of Mick about to set off for an event, racing iron attached to bike rack, on the back of his Vespa motor scooter. Must have been a real luxury compared with riding out to distant events carrying the racing wheels over the front forks ! Times really have changed.
Nice to reminisce with you Mick, and nice to have you with us.