In Memory of
This information was added on 04/07/2021
A pioneering computer man ahead of his time
In May 2019, time-trialling and RRA road record breaking lost a hard working stalwart at the age of 80.
I first knew John as a Mersey Roads clubman and official, who checked and collated everyone’s mileage in the annual 24 hour time trial. On becoming involved with RRA records in the late 1970’s I realised his input at meetings and AGM’s especially in support of record breakers north of London and the north west of the UK, along with other members of his family. Andy Wilkinson’s 1996 record End to End, on a faired enclosed recumbent tricycle, prompted John to write a detailed account in a booklet, of Andy’s 1 day 17hrs 4mins. In 2009 John was made a Vice President of the RRA.
He took a big part in the running of the Mersey Roads 24 hour and could be found at Prees during the night putting riders positions on computer as the hours wore on, then back at the HQ as finishing circuit timekeepers registered rider’s locations. He played a similar role at the 12hr which his sister in law Ruth organised annually at Prees for the West Cheshire CA in September. Lynne had just finished the 12 hour when John asked her to sign the RRA form for her 2001 solo Lands End to John o’Groats attempt and this was John’s next job. He was a busy man in terms of helping racing cyclists.
John was the essential back-room organiser every sporting association needs; we relied on his liaison with the RRA . He composed schedules and helped to recruit a timekeeper in Scotland at short notice as well as observers and helpers. John worked tirelessly to get the all important weather forecast, and Lynne, Liz and I will be forever grateful for his help during those nail-biting times in 2001. He was the one who kept a cool head when calculating existing mileage against time remaining, ultimately giving the support team and Lynne more confidence during very bad weather. Later when compiling my book ‘The 24 Hour Story’ John gave me a great insight to Mersey Roads clubman, Tommy Melia, the first man in the |North to achieve a record 400 miles in the Anfield 24 hour of 1933. “Don’t forget our Tommy” were Johns words. He and I also discussed illnesses as time went on, and he told me he was taking medication for arrhythmia which prevented him from enjoying his bike rides.
Liz and Lynne were speaking to John at the 2018 Mersey Roads dinner not realising it would be for the last time and it will be sad not seeing him marshalling on the finishing circuit or chatting at the HQ. During the afternoon of the 2019 Mersey 24hr John’s brother Bob informed Liz and I that the family had scattered John’s ashes on Prees Island just hours before the event. A very fitting time and place.
This information was added 03/03/2021
Peter M Swinden 24/11/1935-13/11/2020
A Sporting Tribute by John Taylor
Pete loved poems and could recite dozens to my knowledge, mainly by famous poets, Shelley, Byron, Wordsworth etc, so I wasn’t surprised to see ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling on the Order of Service. Pete lived with parents Florence and Francis in Edgbaston, B’ham along with his sister Mary, two years older. Pete’s father was a tool setter and it’s thought that the zest, talent and capabilities for engineering came from him. Early memories of spending nights with neighbours in an Anderson shelter as Birmingham was being bombed had a lasting effect on Pete. The family moved to Cannock to run a grocery shop in 1944, and I have memories of staying there before Oldbury & District 12hr events, with Pete’s Mom insisting I filled my back pockets with Mars Bars and Kit Kats in the late 1950s-early 60s, how could I refuse? Pete was a staunch Catholic all his life, and after attending St Chads Grammar School Wolverhampton, he was apprenticed at Accurate Screw Threads in Hednesford. After day release and evening classes at Cannock Technical College he qualified in both mechanical and electrical engineering, and was a member of the Chartered Engineers Institute for over 50 years.
Pete then spent the majority of his career at GEC Stafford, allowing him the luxury of riding his bike to work most days. He met Barbara at the cycling club, who was impressed by him riding 15-miles out of his way to escort her home from club, and they married in 1965. Daughter Judy arrived in 1968, and Phil in 1970, the same years as our own children Lynne and Mike were born, though a fact I’m not so proud of was Pete riding over to see how I was coping without Liz, who was due to bring a new born Lynne home, and I had a sink full of washing up plus pots and pans to do, so he rolled his sleeves up and began making the place look tidy for their homecoming. A friend with endless talents, car repairs another of them; Pete knew no limits, and many of his skills were self-taught, especially plastering, plumbing and bricklaying.
I mentioned the Oldbury 12hr, and on that day at 6am you would find Pete with Judy and Phil creating a ‘U’ turn for riders in a lane near Rodbaston, Wolverhampton, and later that afternoon Judy, Phil, Lynne and Mike were opposite Orgreaves Farm, either retrieving bottles the riders had thrown down, or knocking conkers off trees. They were only young at that time, and Lynne would often ask how many miles the riders had done, little knowing she would ride the ‘12’ one day. Apart from a love of poems, Pete was also an amazing photographer using 35mm coloured Kodak slides. On club-runs he often sprinted away to the top of a hill to get a group photo at the summit. He also kept a daily diary to log his miles, but that wasn’t all, if ever there was doubt about where St Christophers CCC had been that day, or who rode with us, out came the diary, and if that didn’t jog memories, then a club night at Pete’s house was called for, with a projector and screen set up. Cakes sandwiches and cups of tea made it a good night to remember. A few photos were of races, but often they were of magnificent views, some under 2ft of snow, and if our ‘rough-stuff’ riders were with the club that day, the snow didn’t deter them. You were expected to follow them blindly, and if you asked whether you would ever see civilisation again, it was taken as a sign of weakness; ‘character-building’ I was told, -that’s if I ever dared to ask!
‘Rough-stuff’ was part of Pete’s training; 24hr time-trials and RRA road records soon became his passion after he’d raced at every opportunity, mainly on a tandem with John Withers. Reliability trials such as the B’ham-Weston & back, Llangollen & back, Montgomery & back, and ‘The Matlock’ were also winter activities before the racing season started, and whereas most riders would drive to and from the start and finish points, Pete and John rode from home and back on the tandem, often making it a cold, windy 200-mile round trip, sometimes a lot more. Club-runs were conducted the same way for this pair of mile-eaters, and road records with the Midland RRA a good introduction to the sport, also the long trips needed to check routes and roads they would use. Their ultimate aim was the RRA 1,000-miles on a large start and finishing circuit in the Midlands that then went east to cover hundreds of miles in the Fen District in 1964, before an End to End in 1966, but they had a lot of preliminary riding to complete first. This is a tribute to Pete, but John was inextricably linked when it comes to describing Pete’s success at long distance riding. Pete’s wife Barbara died with cancer in 1988, and John Withers aged 52, from a massive heart attack while on tour in France with Pete and ‘the lads’ in 1990. Pete was then tasked with repatriating John and his family in the UK, -so in death as in life they were linked. After WW2 another famous tandem pair formed a friendship this same way, Crimes & Arnold were rivals in races and friends on a tandem, Albert dying young with cancer in 1984.
Pete was very patriotic and whenever he travelled to the continent he arranged visits to a WW1 or WW2 cemetery. On my only tour* through Spain and France with the lads, we visited a village kept as a shrine -Oradour Sur Glane, untouched to this day where all the inhabitants were murdered by the Gestapo; a very chilling memorial! We had to be back at the ferry in seven days, but still we managed to visit Mont St Michel and the USA Omaha beach. That tour* felt more like a never-ending training bash from Bilbao to Cherbourg, with Pete leading on the front! John & Pete rode time-trials on bikes, John a trike sometimes, and I often heard Pete say “it’s not worth taking my saddlebag off for anything less than 100 miles!” With little access to time trial results, I had to prioritise their 24hr performances, John riding his first North Road event in 1958 with 403.64m. At 15yrs-of age I recall his bubbling enthusiasm in the clubroom later that week as he reeled off names of famous riders like Dave Keeler, Jim Hanning and Cliff Smith. In 1960 Pete did 410m to John’s 399m in the Mersey, and John retaliated 5 weeks later with 423m in the North Road 24. In 1961 they broke the MRRA tandem 24hr record with 449.25m, and the Birmingham-Holyhead and back in 15hrs-33m-07s. Following their MRRA records John rode 403.5m, and Pete 419.7m in a 1962 Mersey 24hr, and in 1963 Pete did a personal best 438.64m in the Mersey. Eager to ride more tandem miles before the 1,000, they attacked their own MRRA Holyhead and back in 1964, taking 45mins off this ‘mountainous’ 304mile record with a time of 14hrs-48m-14s. They took the MRRA B’ham-Manchester and back in 7-09-02, and the York and back in 12-09-33.
Now for the 1,000-miles the longest ride of their lives! As a helper I recall that they didn’t get the forecasted calm weather they’d hoped for, in fact the amount of North in the wind prevented them breaking Bailey & Forrest’s 492m* put up in 1958, but it took a lot out of them trying to do it (a current record)*. Their 1000m record was a nightmare of pain that seemed to last forever, in and out of the darkness of three nights from 8am the 17th July. The first 24hrs amassed 448 miles through a freezing dawn, but worse was yet to come as later, John climbed off with terrible saddle sores caused by hours of rain on a collapsed leather saddle. Being an Ultra Short Wheel Base tandem also exacerbated the problem as a stoker sits directly over the rear wheel. Dry shorts, lots of lanolin and foam rubber proved useful, but their medical advisor Doc Hambley at Loughborough Uni suggested dousing with surgical spirit; it sounded barbaric, but it worked! With 695-miles ridden in 40.5 hours they were 4.5hrs behind schedule, but 11.5 hours ahead of the record as they rode towards the dawn of a second cold day. With a rising northerly wind, East Anglian roads were used on the way south, to North Road CC 24hr circuits of Baldock and Royston. Before returning from Grantham to the home finishing circuit, Doc Hambley checked John’s wounds, and the tandem pair’s resilience amazed him, having expected them to be in a state of collapse. Nottingham had to be well marshalled after they complained that their minds were blank, having ridden 945m in 2.5 days. I also recall hearing loud cheers from the family and helpers at 980m as the lads rode past John’s home in Alrewas around midnight. In darkness again at 2.09am, -time finally ran out at 2days-18hrs-9mins.
It is hard to believe that 6 weeks later, Pete rode 419.25m in the North Road 24hr, but John didn’t ride for many months while his saddle area healed. Ever a glutton for punishment I helped on Pat Kenny’s 1965 RRA Edinburgh-London trike and 24hr, and learned a lot more about record breaking as well as meeting the great John Arnold. John Withers did however test himself with a 418.6-mile North Road 24hr in 1965, but having to work nights I missed all the action in 1966 and wasn’t available for Pete & John’s tandem End to End, so information for the report in my book came jointly from Pat Kenny and MRRA president Mick De Moulpied who organised it all. Many of the helpers were Pete’s GEC work colleagues giving up some of their annual break. Eric Wilkinson started them on the 6th June at 10am, the record to beat was Bailey & Forrest’s 2days-4hrs-48mins, and with Dick Poole’s sub-2day ride in 1965 Pete and John hoped to get close to 2 days. Without dual carriageways or bypasses in the West Country, holiday traffic caused delays where they had to dismount and run through adjoining fields, but still they reached Exeter in 5hrs-36mins, Bristol in 7hrs-15mins, and Worcester 257m in 12hrs, equalling Crimes & Arnold’s speed of 1954.
Dawn was breaking as they left Wigan, and roadside help in Lancashire came from John Arnold, Bailey & Forrest and many riders from the Midlands. Shap was a tough climb to the summit in heavy mist, making the decent very tricky. At 24hrs Carlisle 470m was reached by the fastest riders ever to here; still up on schedule they carried on into Lanarkshire where Pete’s knee troubled him again. Barbara had been treating him on and off for nearly 15hrs, so a visit to Perth Royal Infirmary at 6.30am was called for and a doctor diagnosed a cartilage problem saying, “only time will tell.” This stop cost all of their 50-minute gain on schedule as they rode into a cool but dry night in the Grampians. It was also notable that at Perth they were exactly 30-mins faster than Dick Poole in 1965. After a 14-mins sleep at Aviemore, another injection at Inverness was arranged; the Clachnacuddin CC providing a guide to the hospital at 2.10am, the riders having regained a 70-mins lead to here. As they piled into a hot clinic, Pete fell asleep due to a lack of oxygen. The injection was a fiasco as the medic tried to syringe through an Algipan encrusted knee; the syringe broke, and was left dangling in bits from his knee; Pete woke to find this scene, and promptly passed out. He woke again to hear the doctor say they shouldn’t continue in such a state, and Barbara arguing -“I’m his wife, they always look that way at the end of long distance road records - how would you expect to look after riding 700-miles?”
After leaving Inverness they had lost 25-mins, but by forfeiting a scheduled sleep here they were soon 1.5-hrs up on time, and despite feeling fragile they covered the last 140-miles in 8.5 hours. Thick mist at dawn on the summit of Aultnamain gave Pete problems as they descended, a large ram appeared just a few yards ahead; their speed was 40mph and on a wet road he didn’t dare brake, but he did close his eyes, and to his surprise the ram moved away! From Bonar Bridge they had a wind against them on the way to the coast road, Golspie and over the Ord of Caithness where they battled a crosswind off the sea when climbing Helmsdale. With a dodgy knee, Pete said he might have to walk Berriedale and John told him it was the second hill that he’d just climbed; he then asked Pete to keep him awake, or talk, as he didn’t want to stop and lose more time. John promptly fell asleep, so Pete started singing to him and still he succumbed to sleep. Curiously it didn’t slow them down as he kept pedalling. After 30-mins John came round, saying he’d been in a tunnel -all echo’ey, he was also hallucinating and talking all sorts of nonsense. They passed through Wick, and on the finish line at John o’Groats the back tyre exploded with a loud bang as Eric Wilkinson gave them a time of 2days-2hrs-14mins, the second fastest ever ride after Dick Poole.
A few weeks later Pete, John and Pat Kenny rode the Mersey Roads 24hr. Pete came 4th with 420.78m, John 414.4m, and Pat 408.37 for a team win of 1,243.56m. Liz my wife-to-be in 1968 remembers it well, she had just turned 21, and her father let her stay out all night for the first time, but it wasn’t quite what she’d imagined as we looked after John who suffered sickness in the night. I said there would be time for a rest, or a short sleep, but that never happened as we spent all night trying to keep up with him. Liz made hot coffee or tea on the primus stove as well as opening tins of rice pudding and tomato soup, so it was good that she was casually dressed for her first weekend away! At 23, I was used to this regime, I’d ridden at least four 24s and had lost many nights sleep helping on record attempts or long training rides to the coast and back and hoped it didn’t put her off in any way. Being the oldest of eight children, Liz coped well at helping in the 24hr, a ‘baptism of fire,’ which proved very useful during the next 40 years, looking after either Lynne or myself during races.
One of Pete’s last Merseys in 1968 was a second best mileage of 430.57. Pete & John teamed up for their last MRRA tandem record by taking 34-mins off their own York and back with a time of 11-35-24 in 1968. These records were the last that Pete & John rode; Pete came 4th in the 1970 Mersey with 416m, and a 1973 Mersey of 411m was his last, he was also shot in the arm with an air gun in this event, and Pat rode 403m. Pat Kenny carried on record-breaking, and we spent a lot of time in the 1970s attacking MRRA & RRA tandem trike records, the solo trike End to End in 1980 he rated his best achievement. I rode my last 24hr in 2000, and by then Pat was riding Audax events on his way to one million miles! Pete & John still took an interest in all End to Ends, Observing riders through the Midlands etc, and they still came out to see the 24hr at Prees. John’s death in 1998 left a big hole in our lives, but Pete kept himself busy as a travelling RRA Observer, mainly on End to Ends, Pat was still a busy timekeeper and both gave many hours as RRA officials on Lynne’s records in 2000, 2001 and 2002. Pat was killed by a callous driver in 2011, another tragic loss. I’m proud to have known these tough men; they took me on character building YHA week-ends aged 14, and after a few spills John taught me how to ride a trike! Pete taught me how to swim, read a map, and believe that anything in life was possible, and Pat made me realise that even I could break records; sadly they’ve all gone now.
Judy and Phil hope to arrange a celebration of Pete’s life on Sunday June 6th 2021
I’ve only known of Jim’s lengthy involvement in long-distance racing from riding the Anfield 100 in the 1980s, when he promoted the 24hr with entry forms, then as a Marshal, Roving Checker and ast-man Marshal with Paul Histon while organising and being event secretary with his wife Anne during the Mersey 24hr. Jim was present when Christine Roberts broke competition record in 1993, prompting his donation of £200 in 1994 to any woman breaking the record and also the Turner Cup, awarded every year to the fastest woman in the 24hr. Jim’s first involvement with RRA record breaking over the End to End route came in 1990, when with cycling reporter Ken Matthews he helped cajole and nurse Andy Wilkinson in the latter stages of his ride over the Ord of Caithness. Jim’s cajoling certainly worked as Andy struggled with hypothermia and sleep deprivation in the last few hours to beat John Woodburn’s record by 58-secs. In 1996 with Paul Histon, Jim helped on Andy’s faired recumbent tricycle End to End, taking 1day-17hrs-4mins. This non-RRA* record took place just two months prior to Andy’s RTTC Comp. Records at 50, 100, 12hrs and BBAR win at a record average 28.236mph when Jim & Paul took Andy to events and helped him. * timed, helped and observed by RRA personnel.
When Andy broke the 24hr comp record in 1997 Jim was the Mersey Event Organiser, and travelling Marshal, so when reports came from Paul about Andy’s position on the road compared to other riders, Jim realised Andy would break Roy Cromack’s comp record, and drove the timekeeper to follow Andy for an accurate road position at 24hrs. When Jim retired and handed the organising and event sec job to Doug Clarke for the year 2000, I wondered what he would do with the spare time, maybe a return to his love of gardening. It wasn’t long before plans were made for Lynne & Andy to set a mixed tandem record from Liverpool to Edinburgh in March 2000, and I was obviously involved in all of this, as well as their End to End that followed in May. Jim and Paul were instrumental in helping and organising this, and so was the late John Williams in a back-room role, and as RRA adviser.
John was an uncle to our current Mersey Roads 24hr organiser and event sec Jonathan Williams, who was in the support crew with his father Bob as an RRA observer. Jim organised Gethin Butler’s End to End & 1000m a year later in 2001, as well as being involved in Lynne’s End to End, when John Williams played a huge role, along with the Williams family. Our history describes them both breaking their records on consecutive days with Andy Wilkinson being Lynne’s Ride Director, but rain made a terrific difference to Lynne’s attempt. End to Ends are very stressful at the best of times, but that stress is even more prolonged during a 1000-mile attempt with sleep-loss and logistics other huge factors, and after Gethin’s 24hr, End to End & 1000 records in 2001, I wasn’t surprised to find that Jim had been affected by it all.
When Lynne decided she had to make another End to End & 1000m attempt in 2002 she asked Jim his advice and whether he could help in any way; he said he was happy to man the telephone HQ at home with Anne, but not much more due to his poor health, and that is when Lynne’s brother Mike came on board with many of Lynne’s favourite supporters and back-up crew. They all knew what she was capable of with better weather and a wind, and Jim was so proud when she broke the End to End again, and the 1000miles. Jim was so relieved after her lengthy record successes and pleased at the level of support she was getting from other women long distance riders, he offered to help form a women’s team within the Walsall RCC for some more groundbreaking moments. The year 2002 ended in celebration at the club dinner with many of Lynne’s helpers present as well as women wanting to be in the team. Jim spoke about her achievements, and so did Tour de France commentator Phil Liggett as guest of honour, John Arnold adding to the occasion after helping in 2001. I met up with Jim & Anne a year or so later as they checked riders in the Anfield 100 and saw a big change in him, he seemed shaky, unsteady, and tearful, though we both had many tearful eye to eye moments at the start of the millennium, our stresses and emotional strains showed at that time.
When writing the ’24 Hour Story’ my first page of dedications thanked Jim for all his hard work, generosity and vision over many years; his guidance also brought Ann Wooldridge, Tracy Maund, Marina Bloom and Lynne Taylor together where they took Championship team wins, broke Comp. Records at 100m, 12hrs and 24hrs, as well as many individual awards; he made them all realise how good they were and helped them extend their racing careers by gaining top honours, Marina was also breaking RRA records. After reading this page, Jim said he would like those words as his epitaph. Jim saw the potential in so many top long distance riders from 1990 onwards, inspiring them with his words of support; not all of them took notice though, but I’m glad Christine Roberts, Marina Andy, Gethin and Lynne took his words seriously.
Thanks for all you did for us Jim.
This information was added 16/6/2020
Keith Robins R.I.P.
Keith Geoffrey Robins died peacefully at his home in Spalding, Lincolnshire on 21st May, 2020 aged 91, surrounded by his family. He is survived by Brenda, his wife, and two of their three children, Nichola, and Kevin with Adrian passing away in 1991.
It was always clear from talking to Keith that his marriage was a very strong and happy one, from the day he met Brenda, a few days after he turned 21, until their 65th wedding anniversary this year.
But whilst his family was his greatest love, he was also devoted to cycling and was generous in dedicating himself to its success as a sport.
But whilst his family was his greatest love, he was also devoted to cycling and was generous in dedicating himself to its success as a sport.
He got his start by accident. His father had intended Keith to become an architect and secured a grant for him to travel by bus to art school every day. But Keith had other ideas, and decided to save the money and buy a bike instead. It was the start of a lifelong enthusiasm. Keith started with local cycling clubs in Kettering, where he was born, and through them learned many aspects of the sport and recreation. As a result he had a very busy life covering all facets of cycling and reached high office in a great many British cycling organisations.
He was a long term member joining in 1980 and a former President (2010) of the world’s oldest cycling club, the Pickwick Bicycle Club, as well as the Pedal Club and the Road Records Association. When he was posted to Palestine and Egypt during his national service, he joined the Forces club The Buckshee Wheelers. He was also a Trustee of the Bidlake Memorial Trust, a life Vice President of the Veteran Time Trials Association and received the Gold badge of Honour presented by Cycling Time Trials. He assisted on many Road Records Association record attempts including the Land’s End to John O’Groats challenge for Roy Cromack, Paul Carbutt and twice, John Woodburn. He was also a life member of the Cyclist’s Touring Club, British Cycling and Veterans Cycle Club.
In addition, Keith was a Freemason of long standing belonging to The Lodge of the Open Road, Chapter of the Open Road, the Pickwick Bicycle Lodge and Welland Lodge.
Keith and Brenda together established Beekay Products in 1962, offering screen-printing services which they taught themselves from books. Beekay became a major supplier of screen printed signs, numbers and memorabilia for cycling events all over Britain as well as The Skol 6 Day race at Wembley, The Grand National, the FA Cup, World Athletics Championships and, for 27 years, the London Marathon.
Keith also managed the Herne Hill Stadium for a period and in 1958 he co-organised the famous “Coppi Meeting” which was the only appearance in Britain of the major Italian cycling superstar, Fausto Coppi. Some 12,000 people packed Herne Hill track that day and the event has been talked about for years since. It was also the first example of what might just be possible for the popularity of cycling in the UK. He proved it so.
Rest in peace Keith
Sport for Television
This information was added 18/7/2020
A Generous Man, and a great Visionary for our Long Distance Stars.
A Sporting Tribute by John Taylor
After suffering Parkinson’s Disease for many years, a fall at the nursing home broke a bone in his neck, and Jim was admitted unconscious to Warrington Hospital on June 4th. Sadly, Jim never recovered consciousness, and died on July 9th 2020.
With Jim’s passing I realised we’d lost a respected, enthusiastic support for many long distance riders who’d known him during those years. From the 1980s Jim was the Course Marshal for the Mersey Roads 24hr and first noticed Christine Roberts, Lynne Biddulph nee Taylor, Gethin Butler and Andy Wilkinson. There are many more, of course, but in all four riders he also saw a potential Land’s End to John o’Groats record breaker. I often rode the Anfield 100, originally on Whit Monday, and Jim would be there at the HQ promoting the Mersey 24hr by handing out entry forms, accompanied by the words “A day on your bike and eat as much as you like for a fiver!” Gethin Butler was also drawn in by Jim’s words as he remembered a big smiling man in a large jacket producing a handful of entry forms from deep pockets, “if Jim caught your eye you just couldn’t refuse, -he’d gotcha!” The same happened to Lynne, despite prompting from me and being unsure, Jim gave her a Championship entry form that changed her life forever.