Wheelers Dine and Recall 120 Years of History

Twenty-nine members and friends of the Rye & District Wheelers enjoyed their Annual Dinner at the Riverside Restaurant on Thursday 20 November. Guest of Honour, Sue Spice of the Tenterden Club, presented the awards to Barry Goodsell, Club “10” & “25” Champion and “Hilly 8” points competition winner and to Mark Nash the Points “10” winner. 133Both riders also got awards for their efforts in the E.S.C.A. “100”, where Barry set a Club Record. Mike and John Ashdown, two of the great 1960’s Wheelers track team were present along with National Record Breaker Esther Carpenter (now the K.C.A 12 Hour Race Organiser) and brilliant veteran Time Trialist Maurice Carpenter of the Southborough Wheelers. Dave Spice, Tenterden also attended. Chairman Jim Hollands welcomed the guests and went on to recall some of the events, history and legends of the Rye Club and of members, past and present. He looked forward to expanding membership in the months ahead and thanked Martin Carter and Peter Holland for the efforts they had put into making the Summer Barbecue such a success. He paid a special tribute to Gary Booth (another member of the 1960’s Track Team) for his enormous contribution as Racing Secretary. Jim recalled that the club had lost the Treasurer Harry Walker a couple of months ago. “He was a grand old man who everyone liked and who had done such a good job looking after the Club’s money and promoting their image. He is sadly missed.” Souvenir booklets, recording the history of the Club from 1883 to the present day, were presented to the diners. The Riverside Restaurant did the Club proud, the food was excellent and the waitresses superb. They did not complain even though Martin’s smuggled in peashooters and exploding starbursts showered enough silver paper around the dining room to fill a small lorry. – Needless to say – a good time was had by all. The Potted History of The Rye Cycling Club 1883 Rye Cycling Club formed 1885 Clark and Adams represented Rye Cycling Club at Hastings in a Grass Track Meeting and won two races. Riders of the same names were still racing for the Club in 1899 when the first Rye Sports took place. J. H. Gasson raced for Rye in this year. 1889-1913 Rye riders took part in Rye Sports grass races up to August 1913. 1914. The Rye Football team volunteered for the army at the outbreak of World War One and went off to war together, as did several other groups from Rye sporting clubs. Ken Gasson, son of J. H. Gasson reported many years later that he believed the Rye Cycling Club was one of those other groups. 1918. Those that survived the Great War were too distressed by the horrors they had seen, or disabled and had no interest at that time to return to cycling. 1925. The Rye Cycling Club was reformed at the Wesleyan Club on a cold damp January evening. J.H. Gasson was the only old member present and he was elected President. 1928 Women members were first welcomed to the Club 1932. Members of the club from out-lying villages thought that the name of the club should be changed to Rye & District Wheelers. There was a great internal upheaval the upshot being that the name was changed. J. H. Gasson resigned. 1933-39 The club went on from strength to strength, racing by now not only on the Grass but in Road Time Trials. The social side was good with all kinds of money raising events being held. A touring section roamed all over England and many local dignitaries were members. Leapold Amon Vidler, Twice Mayor of Rye and respected local historian was President. This was indeed a Halcyon period in the Club’s history. 1939. Then came the war. The Club continued to hold club runs but as more and more members were drafted into the forces and fighting began the remaining members met and decided that it was not right to carry on with their enjoyable pastime while other members were risking their lives. The trophies were put into the safe keeping of Barclays Bank, remaining funds were given to the war effort, all members signed the minute book and the club was closed for the duration. 1946. Six members came together at a meeting in April and Club Captain Ken Padgham made a speech in which he recorded that the Club was one of the oldest in the Country and despite the depletion of the members during the war years they would carry on. 1946-52. These were great years for the Club which became a founder member of the East Sussex Cycling Association and had many good riders competing in Road Time Trials and at Grass Track meetings. 1953. For some inexplicable reason the Club lost its popularity and numbers dropped to such a degree that the Wheelers were in danger of becoming inactive. 1954. Several youngsters, including Mervyn Robbins and Jim Hollands became members, at this time Jim Catt and Jim Sargent were both still very active, but such was the overall state of membership the club had become completely inactive by the end of that year. 1956. A chance meeting between Mervyn Robbins and Jim Hollands, now members of the Hastings Club and Fred ‘Curly’ Price a ex Wheeler of some note resulted in the old club being reborn in 1956 and going on to strengths it had not known since the prewar days. 1956-69 The Rye & District Wheelers became a force to be reckoned with at Grass and Hard Track meetings and, in Mike Ashdown, produced one of the best sprinters this country has ever seen. It was unfortunate that his potential was not realised by the national selectors, he would no doubt have been National Champion material. As it was, on a prewar racing bike owned by his uncle he won the Sussex Sprint Championship on the hard track and out sprinted the National half Mile Champion easily at several Grass Meetings. All the old club records were beaten many times during this great period in the Club’s history, then suddenly, in 1969, it was all over. 1969. Once again interest in cycling seemed to drop away and the Wheelers became inactive. 2000. The years have passed, but suddenly, out of nowhere, the Wheelers were about again. Robbins and Hollands had dragged out their old bones with those of Stuart Pope, who kept the club running though a period in the early sixties when several members were doing their National Service. Another old member, Gary Booth was back, along with several new faces including cycling fanatics Ben Sharp and Tony Cosgrave.

2001. The Rye & District Wheelers Dined and look ahead to another period of success. 2002. Racing started again. Roy Fritchley created new records for “10” and “25” Miles. He also became the Club’s first “25 Mile Champion for over thirty years.

“Rye’s Own “December 2003

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