The Flowering Fifties

The 1950’s were the years when the country, as a whole, started to come out of the grey days of both the war and post-war years. This was also true of the Redmon. The foundations now firmly re-laid saw a continuing growth in membership. More than that, the racing side of the Club profited from the experience gained in the grey years. In his magazine article detailing the Club history from 1951-54 George Hall, the then General Secretary entitled it: ‘The Consolidation’. A re-reading and a check through other sources have lead me to the title of section of our story ‘The Flowering Fifties…’ The Club started to fulfil the promise its members had been showing. John Finnigan became the first member to get under the then ‘Magic Hour’ when he did 59.39 in an inter-club event with the Kingston RC a 1 minute beating of Ron Allen’s previous 25 record. Also in 1951 we ran a Club 100 with the Kingston, the Sydenham and the Rodney. Pat Wright rode the Catford 24 which was the National 24 hour Championship. In his first try at the distance he recorded an excellent 435 1/4 miles for 6th place. Jack Wise who had pioneered our 24 hour rides also rode. We fed our riders every 15-20 miles all over the South and we did it all on bikes or tandems!

A tour of Northern France by George Hall, Geoff Wright and Jim Walsh in 1950 took them to Abbeville where they were befriended by the local club.  In ’51 a group of the Club made Abbeville the centre for the Easter Tour.  We were the first club to be flown as a group to France (by Silver City Airways) on the ferry service to Le Touquet. Both Cycling and The Bicycle covered the flight. Jock Wadley wrote a 2pp spread with photos for The Bicycle entitled ‘Roadmen Are Bashing in Picardy’.  Jock was so intrigued by the trip that he rode all the week end with us – forfeiting his real assignment, reporting the Easter Road Races in Belgium!  Very much, another first for the Club, indeed any club.

On the track we won the Surrey NCU Team Pursuit Championship at a time when every club in the county competed.  We also won the Redhill Grass Track season-long Championships. Another notable cycling happening was that Jimmy Burrow became the first Club member to get a trike! This confirmed our view that Jim was a bit odd – still is, think some. Like so many good things in the Club, Jimmy set the pattern for several other members to follow him into trikes, beards and deer-stalker hats (de rigeur for trikies then) and many happy hours in, their own peculiar way with the Club.
On the Social side our ’51 Annual Dinner at the St Helier Arms attracted 198 diners.  1952 saw us go to the Old Crown Inn at Morden when the Arms stopped doing dinners. Only 150 could be fitted in and we had a long waiting list for tickets then and over the years to come. Redmon do’s were very popular as Jimmy knew plenty of ‘old mates’ and was the Social Secretary. The Club runs continued apace and in spite of the busy racing programme we had anything up to 60 when all the sections met up at the club teaplace.
1952 saw John Finnigan lower the 25 record doing 59.21 and also the 30 with 1.12.23.

Pat Wright improved the distance records with 4.36.08 for the 100 and 238 miles for the 12. In our last Club 25 of 1952 on the old Cherry Tree course, Bob Oldridge was marked DNF.  He ran into a milk float and broke his neck, back, breastbone and four ribs.  He was in grave danger for sometime in Redhill Hospital and yet on 16th January ’53 he walked into the Club Dinner encased in plaster from chin to waist. By the Easter Bob rode a bike again – gently until he had a full season in 1954. Club members had visited Bob almost every day in Redhill.  As a certain character remarked pity in a way he’s out I’ll miss the miles! (Hard men in those days!)

1952 saw some changes on the admin side. Bert Lowe took over once more as Club Captain, whilst George Hall became General Secretary. Jim Walsh returned to do a job as Mag Editor assisted by Jean who that year had married Jim thus restarting the pre-war tradition of Redmon members meeting and marrying as Club members.

1953 proved to be another very busy Club year. Pat Wright, by contrast decided to take it easy which left the Club BAR title up for grabs.  Two riders battled right up to the last event of the season with Ron Shiret taking the honours by a mere fraction of a mile per hour from Bill Hens.  Both beat 22.000 mph for the first time by Club members.  Bill became the first to break evens for a 12 recording 240 miles 1320 yds. and lowered the 100 to 4.31.17, some 4 1/2 mins better than his old record. John Finnigan led the way in the shorter distances with a new 25 record in 59.03 and 1.11.42 for the 30.  In the Veg C.& AC 50 his 2.1.42 was a very fine ride and a new record for us. Connie Sibley, a new member set a new Ladies 25 record with 1.8.12. (Connie who married Club Captain John Tapper is still racing very successfully on the Eastern Counties roads).  Again taking advantage of Pat Wright’s absence Ron Shiret took 4.21 minutes off his Rosehill-Brighton and Back in 3.51.35.  We also had a new Junior Track rider, Tony Benham. He won the Tooting Sash Race at Herne Hill; only just missed the final of the National Junior Sprint Championship. Needless to say, he was the Club Track Champion after a real fight with Don Jemmett our excellent senior sprinter. We celebrated their success and that of others on the track by acquiring a cabin at Herne Hill – the Redmon trackies were in full bloom!

On the Massed Start side we affiliated to the BLRC whilst remaining in the NCU.  It wasn’t popular with the authorities but it gave our riders more events to ride -and on the open road. Another Club wedding was that of short distance riders Roy Watts and Betty Songi who both held Club records.  To finish the year the Club were featured in The Bicycle feature ‘Clubnight Rendezvous’.  The photograph used (the only one they dared use!) showed Jean selling our magazine to The Bicycle editor Frank Backhouse.  It included an interview with Frank, which he found very strange. The last months of 1954 saw the formation of the Southern Cyclo-Cross League. It proved very popular and gave plenty of rides to our younger riders in this new discipline.

1954 saw 5 riders enter the Catford 24, although Pat Wright had to pull out at the last minute.  To feed our riders throughout the event called for a great deal of organisation and over 50 members helping on the day (and night). Jim Beard (404miles), George Gall (401m), Ben Delarge (382m) became the first Club team to finish a 24 with 1,187 miles 1565 yds.  We were a proud lot drinking beer on the Sunday lunchtime after that event.  ’54 saw our first attempt at a Road Record. Ron Shiret and Pat Wright broke the SRRA London-Southampton-and-Back with 6h. 54m. 10 a 3m.29s improvement. On the social side we maintained strong links with our Welsh cousins and the Royal Dean Forest. The first inter-club 25 was held at Sutton Benger, an event that carried on for almost another 50 years.  Bob Oldridge came back in a Club 25 and did a 1.10 – now there was a hardman. Schoolboy Mike Barry won the Kentish Wheelers Novices 25 in a record time for the event of 1.2.40 and led the winning team to a new record.  In those days a novice must not have ridden any competitive event before the K.W.’S and clubs ‘saved’ their youngsters just for this event.  Mike’s son also Mike, now rides with Lance Armstrong in the Discovery Team.  The Track continued well but in Massed-start things were quiet except for the row over being in the BLRC and NCU at the same time. We carried on being in both.



This month’s section of the Club history is based mainly on articles written in Club Magazines during the mid-fifties by the then General Secretary, George Hall. George was killed at Colliers Wood when riding home from his work in the City. Apart from our loss of an excellent official and long-distance racing man George left June, whom he had met and married in the Redmon and two children one only a few months old. The 24-hour Trophy is a memorial trophy in George’s name.  We need someone to compete for it again. Our thanks to Alec for keeping… the magazines safely – couldn’t have done without them. TA Mate!

Previously Printed in the Redmon Review for June 2005.