Memories of cycling in Huddersfield in the 1950's
Posted: Friday 21st August 2020
If you lived in Huddersfield in the 1950’s you belonged to either the “Fartown” supporters brigade (Huddersfield Rugby League Club) or “Town” supporters (Huddersfield F.C.). Similarly, if you were a cyclist, you were with either “the Road Club” or the “Star Wheelers”
Huddersfield was a hotbed of cycling in those days, largely thanks to the exploits of Brian and Des Robinson, leading international roadmen, one of whom, Brian, was to go on and gain fame and glory in Europe and especially in the Tour de France.
There were in fact at least five clubs in Huddersfield:
- Huddersfield Road Club
- Huddersfield Star Wheelers
- Nunbrook Wheelers
- Holme Valley Wheelers
- Colne Valley Cycling Club
Huddersfield Road Club’s membership was around 100 and included the aforementioned Robinson Bros and their wives, Brian Haskell, Ted Penvose, Tom Oldfield, Bob Eastwood, and Granville Hayley, who were all prominent in NCU and later in BLRC events. The League was at the forefront of road racing in the 1950’s and was instrumental in helping form the Independent Racing Category for semi-pros. This was a revolutionary move as prior to this most events were strictly amateur with derisory prize money. Having gone as far as they could in the amateur ranks, Brian, Ted, Tommy and Bob went on to form the nucleus of the Viking Trade Team and continued to sweep all before them until a certain rider from Barnsley, named Ron Coe, arrived on the scene (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Coe).
Des Robinson had won the BLRC National Road Race Championship in 1955 (he also placed second to Bernard King in the NCU version). 1955 was indeed a great year for Des as he also won the Tour of Britain, sponsored by Kellogs and known as “The Oats Tour”. The 1955 event was extended to 9 days, and started from Manchester, going into Scotland and finishing again in Southall. Once again the mileage was high, 1066 miles, and the route had only one comparatively flat stage.
The war between the two governing bodies (the “League” and the “Union”) was to have dire consequences for Brian Haskell. In 1956 on the Cork stage, the NCU rang the Irish Cycle Union to say that Brian Haskell of Huddersfield R.C. had not got a NCU Overseas racing licence, and would have to be disqualified. The race had only two days to go and Brian was leading from the Cork rider Karl McCarthy. After dinner in Cork there was a meeting regarding this matter, Brian had a BLRC licence and as far as he and the Irish Cycle Union was concerned this was valid. But much to everyone’s disgust, Brian was disqualified, 2nd place Karl McCarthy and several highly placed riders withdrew in protest. A noble but useless gesture.
Haskell was a great climber and won the BLRC National Championship for several years running in the 1950’s. Run over the Snake climb out of Glossop – a distance of around 3 miles, Brian rode a high fixed gear to win by a large margin each year. I remember him climbing Holme Moss from the Woodhead side with a kiddy trailer attached (complete with infant) – easily.
Brian Robinson usually returned from his base in Europe to spend the winter in England – bringing with him loads of track mitts, racing caps, tubs, jerseys, shorts etc – all of which were snapped up by club members who were used to racing in woollen gear, which got very heavy in the rain.
Winter club runs round the Yorkshire Dales with the Robinson Bros, Haskell and his mates, plus aspiring 1st and 2nd cat riders were a great basis for the upcoming season. Haskell was very free with criticism and good advice. One such pearl of wisdom which has stuck with me was “the basis of a good season is to do 1000 miles in February”. Bearing in mind that February is a short month – this often proved difficult to achieve, especially for me.
There was a great but friendly rivalry between all clubs in the area – this was often resolved around the Honley – Holmfirth – Newmill circuit each Tuesday and Thursday evening.