Club History

For a brief history of the club in pictures

Some old Pictures

Some More Old Pictures

History – up to 1918

From a Bury Times article at the time of our 50 years celebrations in 1951 we learned the following: On a January day in 1901 seven determined ladies mounted bicycles, adjusted their flowing skirts and straw boaters and rode slowly through Bury’s streets.  They ignored cries of ‘shame’ and ‘hussies’ from outraged pedestrians and the boos of children running alongside.  Following the ladies at a respectable distance came 20 men, also riding bicycles. Those 27 had a mission, besides founding the Bury section of the National Clarion Cycling Club that day, they were intent on preaching Socialism as soon as they reached Tottington and Greenmount villages.  Our archives are incomplete but we do have the original cashbook in our possession.  Alas half the first page is missing but the beautiful copper plate writing reveals the following were in membership – A and W Smith, J H Jackson, C E Hill, J H Hammer, A Wolfenden, J Yates, W Rothwell and A Hill.  We know nothing of these people except that they were probably as focussed on socialism as they were on cycling.  They would ride bicycles that we would probably find uncomfortable; through the towns they would have to cope with both setts and tramlines; in the countryside not all roads would be metalled.  Those that were, were constructed by scattering pebbles onto hot tar resulting in a surface hazardous at the edges and not a joy to ride on until the pebbles were compressed into the tar.  For those of the generation that had experience of these roads, this was how resurfacing was carried out into the 1940s (and until the 1960s in Scotland).  Our founders would not be experiencing the joys of cycling on the cheap as cycles were expensive and pneumatic tyres were a relatively new concept.  By 1905 we had 27 members and the annual fee was one shilling about a twentieth of the weekly wage.  In 1908 we bought a whistle for the sub-captain – someone, no doubt, will know the different commands that blowing the whistle communicated.  In those days we were providing some kind of insurance which apparently also included accidents – this lasted until the early 1960s.  We kept going through the 1914-1918 war although membership not surprisingly fell.

Between the Wars

By 1918 things were picking up we bought another whistle and a Primus stove.  In 1919 we bought another stove and a kettle.  We also paid ten shillings for a kettle to be ‘altered’ and a box to put these assets in.  This year we really pushed the boat out by buying a football.  In 1921 our expenditure included one pound for an international Clarion football match.  By this time our membership had increased to 45 and we had 87 attendees at a social and potato pie supper.  Our archives show that Sam Derby was secretary in 1923. Sam Derby joined the forces and saw action in the Dardanelles, an experience that influenced his political views for the rest of his life.  We do not know when he first became secretary but he held the position interspersed with periods as chairman for many years up to 1953.  In 1955 we honoured him with electing him our first life president.  Sam was a dedicated socialist but did not allow his belief to override his fellowship with his fellow cyclist – people of a different political persuasion were made equally welcome in our club.

Against the background of the international power struggle of the first world war and the hardships of the working classes it is worth looking at the aspirations of those who became socialists:

From the National Clarion handbook 1926

  1. The organisation of society upon the basis of a Co-operative Commonwealth.
  2. To socialise the means and instruments for the production and distribution of wealth, everyone to give useful service, and in return to receive an equitable share of the wealth produced,
  3. To prevent domination of class over mass.
  4. Not to rob anyone, but to check robbery.
  5. Not to deprive anybody, but to provide decent food, shelter, clothing and education for all.
  6. Not to ‘share out’ wealth but to prevent usurpation of the Commonwealth.
  7. Not to create strife, but to set up Co-operation.
  8. Not to feed the shirker at the cost of the worker but to order that ‘he who will not work shall not eat’ whether he be tramp or duke.

Gaps will be perceived in this agenda but the reference to the Co-operative Commonwealth will probably cover these.  It is noted that the monarchy would remain!  Ideals are commendable and there must have been satisfaction in having an aim to work for.  However, for many years now we have been one hundred per cent devoted to cycling – many of us regard the advancement of all matters cycling is a commendable aim in itself and some of us work towards this end.  Even so the few of us whose membership goes back to the life and times of Sam Derby and his contemporaries are honoured to have known people who believed it was possible to have a more just world.

Our membership had declined to 33 in 1926 and we paid one pound nineteen shillings to the miners relief fund.  We affiliated to the CTC in 1928.  At that time we were still very much a club with an accent on socialism.  It is then very surprising that we had so much opposition from other sections when in 1999 we proposed that the national club should affiliate to the CTC – this organisation being portrayed as having its roots in the world of toffs and not the working class like the Clarion.  Up to the early 1960s when we enjoyed club runs of between 20 and 40 people things would from time to time get out of hand – a minute dated April 1928 resolves that ‘We pay more attention to orderly riding i.e. ride in twos’.  To this effect it was further resolved that the whistle be reintroduced to be blown at the discretion of the captain and sub captain.  Always democratic we also resolved in 1928 that a vote should be taken whether or not swimming should be indulged in on any particular club run.

It appears that our track team of Ellis Barlow, I Taylor and E Clarke won the team pursuit championship at the 1929 National Clarion Sports – a minute records that ‘if possible we should exhibit the Prague Statuette in the Co-op Furnishing Department for one week’.

In 1930 our membership had risen to 56, we played two football matches and we rescinded a ruling that there should be no gambling on club runs.  The following year we joined a football league and in 1932 we had to buy a new football.  We waited until 1933 to buy the football shirts, which cost us one pound twelve shillings.  Cycling, of course, was our main activity and we lost ten shillings and seven pence on a novices 25.  Our non-cycling activities were broadened in 1935 when we joined the billiards league.  We bought an attaché case in 1938 for one shilling – this is still a club asset!  In this year our socialist ideals were still relevant – we made a grant of two shillings and six pence to a Spanish food ship.  This, of course, would be related to the Spanish Civil War.

The War Years

The first meeting after the outbreak of war was on the 4 October 1939.  The only reference in the minutes to this threat to society as we knew it is ‘That when normal times are again reached the club revert to the old run book instead of diaries’.  The attendees would not have been aware of full impact of the shattering events that were to follow.  At that time our membership was 35 and this, not surprisingly, fell to 26 in 1941 and 1942.  In those darkest days of the war we continued our activities but much of members’ spare time would be taken up with service to the nation – air raid wardens, fire watching activities and other auxiliary services.  Monthly meetings were discontinued and we made do with an AGM.  We did, though, manage to find time to arrange comforts for those in the armed services. Apparently Wilf Partington who many of us knew served along with G Yates, T Baines and W Holland.  Members also resolved to comfort themselves by organising a Christmas ‘house social’ in 1941.  In 1943 our membership increased to 33 – this may have been the result of the CTC suspending its activities for the duration of the war.  We know that Charlie Westlake joined us at this time and stayed with us forty years before returning to the CTC.  A point appreciated only by those who cycled throughout the war was that they had to use some of their clothing coupons for capes and shoes.

The Post-War Years

Ordinary meetings resumed in April 1945 just before the end of the war.  No reference was made to the war in these minutes but a return to normality is seen in the resumption of an annual programme of club runs.  Our culture of working with other local cycling clubs is seen in a positive response to a request from the West Pennine Road Club for help with marshalling their mountain time trial on the Holcombe circuit.  In 1948 our membership had risen to 61, this would not reflect the full extent of the post war boom in cycling activity as the CTC had resumed its activities. This year we ran our first public dance at the Derby Hall and made a profit of twenty five pounds seven shillings and sixpence.  Dances became a special feature of our activities right through until the 1960s.  Not only were they good for the social side of our club they were also a very good fundraiser.  All kinds of other social activities were organised – Blackpool weekends, potato pie suppers and the annual attendance at the Easter Meet of the National Clarion.

The Boom Years

Our memberships had increased to 83 in 1953.  We got rid of our football shirts but bought a new bladder for the football.  Arthur Martin became the first winner of the club’s best all rounder Championship.  The following year our membership including six associates rose to 100. This was not maintained but it did remain around the 80/90 mark for a number of years.  For many years our runs list comprised of both an ‘A’ section (ordinary club riding) and a ‘B’ section (hard riders).  Charlie Westlake will be long remembered as the driving force behind the latter.  The hardy few will remember rides to Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales, Manifold Valley in Staffordshire, the seven mile trek over Salter Fell in North Lancashire and West Riding of Yorkshire and the rides to Pately Bridge in mid winter.  It is known that Charlie would have wanted a reference to one of his epic rides in particular.  This involved riding from Bury up to the Yorkshire Dales to complete the ascents of Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-Y-Ghent before returning to Bury in one day.  This ride had been talked about for some time before it was tried but only Bill Jobson took up Charlie’s challenge. By the time they reached Pen-Y-Ghent Bill had had enough and left his bike in Stainforth to take the easier option of walking up the mountain. Charlie, of course, had his bike with him throughout.  Weekends away were very popular including Blackpool in digs, Youth Hostels and annual Easter Meets of the National Clarion at various towns throughout England and Wales.  Evelyn Derby deserves a mention at this point for the years she did so much to publicise our club with her weekly cycling notes in the Bury Times.

The club, then, was at the height of its activities, Sunday runs, social activities and racing (see Racing).  In 1961 we made a special effort to celebrate 60 years of our existence and marked the occasion every ten years thereafter. The late 1960s though were the start of a decline with membership falling to 23 in 1969.  This would have fallen even further but for an initiative that saw five members from the CTC join us for racing purposes.

The Lean Years

More CTC members joined us in the 1970s but for a number of reasons we were unable to sustain the interest and by 1975 our membership had fallen to six.  In the first half of the seventies though we did have some successful annual reunions and our club competitions continued – Geoff MacGann in particular did exceptionally well as a racing cyclist (see Racing).

Only Joe Baldwin and Charlie Westlake were regularly out on club runs.  In 1985 Joe Baldwin was tragically killed whilst riding his bike. Joe by this time was in his eighties.  For several years in the 1970s he had been club secretary.  No new members were coming forward to ride club runs and in 1986 Charlie reverted to CTC for his cycling activities.

However Frank Jefferson and Donald Lever started a long association of going out on Sunday rides and this lasted to the middle of the 2000s, although Donald was out of action for a while in 1999 due to a cycling accident on the return leg of a joint club run with Bolton Clarion.  From time to time others would join this duo but we did not re-establish the club as one with regular Sunday runs that would attract potential cyclists.

Donald Lever took on the secretary’s job in 1981 and held the position for 16 years.  At the end of this long period he was duly presented with an illuminated address for ensuring the continued existence of the club for such a long period.

Geoff was one of those members who demonstrated extraordinary loyalty to our club. The decline of our club saw some young members losing interest and others going to Lancashire Road Club. Geoff also in his mid teens was one who stopped racing as did members in their 30’s. In 1968 as a 20 year old he still had the urge to race. Peter Roscoe, secretary at the time, recalls Geoff visiting to talk about his ambitious plans – such as beating the hour. A milestone in any racing mans career in those days.

In his come back years he completely outclassed all those racing, Between 1968 and 1972 he was a club champion on 12 occasions – including 10, 25, 50 miles as well as Best All Rounder 5 times and hill climb once. He also broke club records seven times and these are listed with all records over the last 70 years or so. A milestone achievement for our club was that in 1969 Geoff became the first Bury Clarion member to beat 2 hours for a 50-mile time trial when he posted 1 hour 58 minutes 42 seconds in the Clifton CC event.

Other of his outstanding records are:

1969 12-hour Lancashire Road Club 253miles 251 yards. (Remains unbeaten)
1969 100 miles York Cycling Club 4hrs 13min 26 secs
1970 10 miles Stone CC 22min 45 secs
1970 25 miles Spartan CC 55min 36secs
1972 100 miles Goodmayes CC 4hrs 4min 20sec

In 1971 he was pleased to win the National Clarion/Kenneth Humphries Memorial 25 with a time of 1hr 2min 31 secs on a very hard day.

Peter Roscoe recalls in 1971 talking to Geoff on a training ride with an influx of young members and saying that the racing activity in Bury Clarion was not matched to his ability and he should think about joining a club that would better fit his talent. He went on to choose the West Pennine Road Club and enjoyed a number of years racing successfully with his new club. At this point it is notable that other former members have started cycling again but have joined other clubs. At least Geoff came back to Bury Clarion as a first choice – alas no other members could match his class.

It was much better for Geoff in the West Pennine RC as he was able to enjoy having fellow members racing the events he rode. His best performances were as follows:

In those days the BBAR or British Best All-rounder championship was more popular than these days when longer distance events are shunned. To be it the top 12 was recognised as being amongst the elite time triallists in the country. Geoff achieved this in 1974 with the following times:

50 miles TT Pennine CC 1hr 55min 03secs
100 miles Yorkshire Road Club 4hrs 5min 26secs
12 hour Otley Cycling Club 266.832 miles.

The Revival from 1990

Increasing contact between former members occurred from 1990 onwards. Peter Roscoe joined Gordon Rigby and his wife Joan on leisure rides.  This led to the revival of annual reunions – the first in 1991 to celebrate 90 years of our existence was very successful with former members joining us from far and wide.  However, so far we have not been able to re-establish ourselves as a club with a regular programme of Sunday runs.  This could well have led to the proposal from two of the longest standing members of the club that having achieved 100 years we should wind up the section.  No other member was in favour of the proposal and a vote of confidence can be seen in that twelve members bought the new club racing vests.

Bob Duckworth, a member from the 1960s who rejoined in 1999 is worthy of a mention as it is through his efforts that this initiative has been taken – no one else showed any willingness to take on the task which proved to be extremely hard work.  At this point in time it appears that our future depends on our commitment to racing activities.

The Centenary Year

One hundred years of continuous existence was an achievement worth celebrating.  The foremost event was a centenary reunion when sixty current and former members came together for a reunion at Bolton Road Sports Club. The Leg Platters Ceilidh Band entertained and former member Barbara Gunshon took the initiative in organising a super buffet with the help of her husband.  Joe Rowley ‘put the icing on the cake’ by making and donating a splendid birthday cake.  Everyone enjoyed a great evening – meeting old friends and enjoying the entertainment.  Inevitably for some it was for the last time but we must all be pleased that Charlie Westlake, who died three months later, was there to collect a certificate for an age group record he established in our annual hill climb.  The following morning fifteen of us were out on a celebratory ride that included Tottington and Greenmount as this was on the route of those who rode the first run in January 1901. The mayor, Councillor Bill Johnson, despatched us and, to our surprise, he knew the Clarion clubhouse in Tottington.

In June 2001 we organised a celebratory 100 kilometres reliability trial over a demanding course around the Pennines and West Lancashire Moors.  Alas, only four of our members rode and completed the event but we did have 16 other successful participants on a fortuitously sunny day.

Launch of new club colours in June 2001, our centenary year

Old kit