Account of the Inaugural Meeting of the RSF by Bob Harrison
It seems like only yesterday, yet nearly 40 years have gone by since that Saturday of Whitsun 1955; how well I remember that day, a day that dawned fine, with the promise of many good things, in more ways than one.
By lunchtime I was in Shrewsbury, ready to be ‘Going to the Meet’. This was the title penned by Sir Hugh Rankin, almost the first of many routes that have appeared in this Journal of ours over the years.
By 2.30pm I was traversing the tops of the Long Mynd, this being after a visit to Condover to see the Elizabethan Hall and Leebotwood, to see the old drovers’ Inn of 1600 A.D. Hereabouts two cyclists - then unknown to each other - passed in opposite directions, but each going to the same place. Arthur Matthews and Harry Parkinson are now popular members of the Lancashire Section. Harry, by the way, unable to obtain bed that night, slept on pile of gravel at the roadside.
Dropping down from the Long Mynd, the scence changes from one of open moor to delightful wooded pastures, quite a change from my native Lancashire of hedge-linked meadows vast bleak moors and a bit (with tongue in cheek) of industry. Asterton was soon left behind for Eyton and nearby Red House Elizabethan Farm for a visit to the site of an Old cock fighting pit.
Riding directly south now, passing Walcot Hall - once the home of Clive of India - nothing the lake where every kind of coloured water fowl is breeding. Through Kempton, Clunbury, Twitchen, Hopton Castle and Bedstone to Brampton Bryan, where I had the pleasure of getting mixed up with a party of six from North Wales. I heard a remark that tea could be obtained in another mile, so I stuck my front wheel behind the last of the group and, if my memory serves me correctly, he became our second President, yes the late Vic Ginger, eventually reaching Lingen after four miles (a mile indeed), with its CTC sign.
It was grand to sit back and listen to these ‘foreigners’ telling of wanderings in their native land, and it was also grand to be told that tea had paid for by a certain Mr Emrys Jones.
After tea our ways divided, they were bound for Radnor whilst I wanted to continue with Sir Hugh’s route, which I joined at Wigmore for the Norman and Mortimer stonghold, then on through Aymestry to the B4362, where stands a link with my home county - Mortimer’s Cross - commemorating the Wars of the Roses.
Time was running out on that Whit Saturday of 1955 and I had a date with dinner at 8.30pm at the ‘Blue Boar’ in Leominster, so I folded my map and followed the sign-posts by why of a change.
Whit Sunday was much the same kind of day as Saturday, blue sky and scorching sun. I made the most of it, remembering that tea was arranged for 5.30pm at the ‘Black Swam’ back in Leominster. I rode through glorious black and white villages, having lunch with a cyclist from Bolton at New Radnor. I well remember having two helpings of home-made black-currant pie and how disappointed I was that after walking to see ‘Water-Break-Its-Neck’ there was nothing but a mere trickle after the dry spell.
I was impatient to get back to Leominster to see what sort of group this Rough-Stuff Fellowship was, so I returned by the A44 via Kington, Lyonshall and Pembridge - and very nice it was too for a main road. On arriving at the ‘Black Swan’ at 5 pm, I was surprised to find the hotel yard already full with a greater variety of cyclists than I had ever before seen - tall ones, short ones, thin ones and some dressed as if for a road race, whilst others sported army regulation length shorts, heavy shoes, etc.- mostly all dusty and all had a look in their eyes wondering if I was the expected Bill Paul, the one who had organised this meeting.
I soon found out all their thoughts and hearts were as one. Two names that stand out in my memory at that first meeting are Mr Chater and Mr Seymour. It was a couple of years before I discovered that ‘Chater’ was a pen-name of that late, great ‘Chater’ Willis, and that Mr Seymour was Les, and like his surname, he missed nothing. Les too, has passed on, and the Fellowship is the poorer, for no AGM was complete unless both of them put in an appearance. The Fellowship owes a lot to these two members in guiding us through early years.
Bill Paul Had still not arrived by 6 o’clock. However, a phone call put our minds at rest … he would be with us within the next hour. He had intended coming part way by train from Liverpool, but a rail strike that day forced him to do the journey all the way by cycle - some 110 miles. Arriving as promised, he soon made friends all around, then a quick tea (rather too quick for my liking) and so on to the - Inaugural meeting of The Rough-Stuff Fellowship.
The cyclist I had dined with at lunchtime on that Whit Sunday of 1955 was voted in as Chairman - Charlie Chadwick from Bolton - a name that was to become so well known around the north of England.
Sir Hugh Rhys-Rankin, Bt, was confirmed as our first President, a personality second to none where rough-stuff was concerned, especially in his native land of Scotland. Bill Paul was a popular choice and was confirmed in the position of Honorary Secretary, was given a great ovation by the gathering.
Bert Williams was also confirmed into the position of Editor of Publications, which job he had been doing unofficially from the first mention of the Fellowship in the cycling press. No one could have done a better job with the material he had during the eight years he held the post.
On Bill Paul’s recommendation, Joe Fell was given the task of seeing that we never ran short of cash. Joe had come down with Bill Paul to within ten miles of Leominster, then his legs just would not carry him any further, you see Joe was in his mid-sixties and had only taken up cycling on his retiring.
At this Meeting two Vice Presidents elect were confirmed, namely H.G. (Glen) Robson from the north-east corner of England and E.J.(Fash) Fasham who, though domiciled in Devon, was a man of ‘Brum’, and whose knowledge of Central Wales was tremendous.
We now had a working Committee so what about our Rules ? The Rules that had been put together and produced at this Inaugural Meeting were more or less adopted with slight alterations, and were subject of a re writing later in the history of the Fellowship. One Rule that caused much discussion was age limit. It was ended when D. Langhome proposed that 16 be lowest age non-Family members. This was carried, much to Dave’s obvious satisfaction and joy … you see Dave was just … 16 !!!
The Meeting closed at 9 pm and after last minute chats there were handshakes all round, then back to the ‘Blue Boar’ to find that our Chairman had booked in for the night. It was well past midnight when we departed from the lounge, thus started a friendship that only ended with Charlie’s so early death.
The above account, was first publish in issue 2 of Volume 10 of Rough-Stuff Journal and then in The Rough-Stuff Fellowship The Early Years.
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