of FELLOWSHIP NEWS 213, quarterly magazine of the Fellowship of Cycling.
The authors are all members, who write on any subject which
catches their eye, not just cycling.
Humour is ever-present when gangs of cycling enthusiasts gather and so it is in this spring edition of Fellowship News, magazine of the Fellowship of Cyclists. Sometimes it is unintended, as with the hints for cyclists, circa 1910, published in the Portsmouth area and quoted by Bob Damper. “Should a runaway horse be on your trail keep close to the kerb until it has passed. Then put on a spurt, grab its tail and put the brake on”, is the advice. What today would a no win, no fee, lawyer make of that? Bob asks.
More fun from Wally Happy who recalls the time when he was serving with British forces in Europe and was in charge of cycle racing events for servicemen in France and Germany. He publicised an RAF time trial, making it clear that the airmen would be contre le monde. In the Cold War atmosphere of the day a heated senior officer demanded to know why the RAF was said to be taking on the world. Wally had to explain that he had little French and in conversation had misheard the phrase, which correctly was contre le montre (against the clock). Some good came of this, because Wally persuaded the officer to provide lessons in French for servicemen who wanted to learn.
Recollections about prominent cyclists of the past era recur in the magazine. A prime example this issue is those about Dick Swann, an exotic figure who, having been a competent but unremarkable track racer, dabbled in many aspects of the game as well as – unexpectedly – religion. Unexpected? Well, he did claim his first name initials were R.E.V. Bob Damper described him as “a man of many exploits, not all of them as he would have had us believe.” Dick’s birth certificate has turned up and his initials were genuinely recorded as R.E.V. and he claimed to have been a clergyman and to have been employed in various clerical roles in cathedrals and churches in the UK and the USA. One of the other claims of Dick Swann was to have been founder of the Cycle Engineers’ Institute, in the records of which he describes himself as Dr Richard Edward Victor Swann. Doctor? “Austin Powers, international man of mystery, could not hold a candle to our Dick”, Bob writes.
A glimpse into the precarious life of British professional cyclists decades ago is outlined by both Mick Coward and Harry Reynolds. Harry had a stock of postcards ready for when he was successful in any of his races. These were stamped and addressed and posted to his sponsors to claim bonuses of £3, £2 and £1 for placings and an extra £3 for a team win.
One of the fellowship’s overseas members, Les Woodland contributes an erudite explanation of why some supposed Americanisms today were originally English anyway. The discussion began with the word “clincher” to describe a wired-on bicycle tyre. Apparently clincher (after all, a useful single word to describe a tyre) he writes, was first used by us in the 19th century when such tyres were invented. Similarly gotten for got. Such as in ill-begotten gains. Many of these transfers and alterations came because the original settlers from our shores took with them what was later regarded as old fashioned by lexicographers, who chose different versions by which we now abide. “Far from Americans mucking about with our language it was the English what did it”, Les asserts.