Tag Archives: John Kennedy

When wheel changes were not allowed

Found on the blog of former BLRC track and road rider Alf Buttler comes this story from the 1954 Tour of Ireland.

I was on the motorcycle and had with me a new pair of wheels that I had built complete with freewheel and tyres, we fitted these on the rear carrier with only three toe straps (very like Mavic do now for mountain stages and/or time trials in the big tours on the continent). Outside the headquarters we found the Scottish team in deep conversation near our Ariel… their manager, who we took an instant dislike to, said ‘you cannot carry them wheels its against the rules’. Where are these rules? we asked, he could not produce any. But the next day before the start of the race he got the commissionaires to get us to remove the tyres as it gave us an unfair advantage. This silly way of going on went on for at least 2 years because in the Peace Race the following year no team was able to fit a wheel complete. If a rider punctured he had to change his own tyres. This rule was changed by U.C.I for 1956

A recap of the race by Jock Wadley for The Bicycle is recorded for posterity on the excellent historical website Tour-Racing.co.uk.

Scotsman John Kennedy, riding for the Scotland team, was second on the first stage, which was won solo by Bernard Pusey, riding for the England “A” team. Kennedy kept his place on GC after stage 2, where breakaway men Shay Elliott and Stan Brittain were caught a mile from the line.

He disappears from the top 10 in the stage 3 results and given that only 15 of 108 riders finished, you can assume that if a crash or a mechanical had not ruled him out on this stage, he would have been one of the 59 abandons on a snowstorm-hit stage 6.

An R. Mackay of the Scotland was 14th on the final GC, but he wasn’t the only Scot to finish – John Burrowes of the VC Stella rounded out the classification in 15th (and last). His teammate, Ron Park was 6th, albeit 30 minutes down.

Tour-racing’s recap is a good read, including such drama as a runaway horse and cart which led to the death of a rider, the snowstorms and mass abandons, and a neutralised final stage.

Racing in Ayrshire, 1953

These images, courtesy of William Holden, show Scottish domestic racing in 1953 in Ayrshire.

There are several of John Kennedy, a rider that regular readers of this blog will know I have developed an interest. is there racing for Velo Club Stella in a few of them.

The Velo Club Stella has been described by a few people to me as ‘the first elite cycle racing team in Scotland’ and below we see what I guess to be the leaders of the respective races depicted, with John Kennedy in the mix.

John Kennedy Ayrshire 1953

Above, Kennedy in the foreground, racing for Velo Club Stella with Harry Fairbairn (Ayr Roads CC), left, and Cathcart McCurdie Hay (New Cumnock Cycling Club), middle tackling a climb in Ayrshire.

William’s father, Thomas Moss Holden was connected to the NCCC.

Harry Fairbairn is a name riders from today should recognise, as his BMW dealership still graces the jersey of the Ayr Roads CC. One blog reader recalls that he may have started with a bike shop before diversified into cars, and that he is the brother-in-law of Ian Steel .

John Kennedy Ayrshire Road Race, Dalmellington, 1953

Ayrshire Road Race, Dalmellington, 1953. L-R Harry Fairbairn (Ayr Rds CC) John Kennedy (VCS) Curdie Hay (NCCC). Curdie punctured at Dalleagles.
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Memories of Belgium, summer 1960

A recent interview on Veloveritas with Craig Wallace highlighted how important the Belgian scene is for serious riders who may be looking for a career in bike racing and need to push themselves on. Although Jim Robinson, whose shares memories of the 1960 season below, wasn’t necessarily looking to go pro, there were plenty at that time who were.

1955 Oats Scotland 016

It was spring of 1960 and we were sitting in an early-morning commuter train heading from Ostend to Kortrijk. I sat listening to the chatter around us thinking how much it reminded me of the blue trains going into Queen St. Low-level every morning full of Glasgow office-workers. Flemish shares a lot of vocabulary with old Scots and as my ears got a little more attuned to the accent I almost felt at home. Also, I had spent my National Service with the RAF in Schleswig-Holstein, a part of Germany where Plattdeutsch was still commonly spoken. Plattdeutsch, Frisian and Flemish, all Low Germanic languages, are still spoken up and down the North Sea coast from Denmark to northern France.
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The Velo Club Stella and John Kennedy

In part 1 of this historical research project I looked into the Belleisle Road Club, based in the East end of Glasgow.

The story continues with the establishment of the Velo Club Stella in 1953, as a team concentrating on road racing, as opposed to the touring and time trialling that clubs tended to focus on.

Jimmy Rae recalled: The Stella Maris was around when I was a lad and was one of the first Road Racing clubs with the old SCU/BLRC, it had Hugo Koblet as its Patron. It changed its name to the VC Stella in ’53, amongst its members were John Burrows, John Kennedy, Bobby Dykes, Ronnie Park, Joe Linden, Archie Fitzgerald, Brenden Roberts, John McLaren, John Fraser, the Downes brothers. They were among the trail blazers for road racing at that time who faced a ban by the NCU/RTTC for taking part.

1955 Isle of Man018
“Velo Club Stella L to R: John Fraser, John Burrowes, Ronnie Park, Archie Fitsgerald, David Ross, James Kelly (all founder members) and Gordon Watson of Belleisle R.C.”

The Stella Maris was formed as a road racing club from the St Christopher’s CC, which itself was a Catholic club, former member Joe Linden told me. While the Stella Maris wasn’t deliberately closed to non-Catholics, the membership was predominantly Catholic, and he remembered some dubiety about the acceptance of non-Catholics. The VC Stella seems to have been established as a club that was specifically available to all, with it’s main objective being competitive road racing in the continental style.

VC Stella

John Burrowes, one of the founder members, wrote to Swiss rider Hugo Koblet, winner of the Tour de France in 1951 and the Giro d’Italia in 1950, to ask him to be honorary president of the new Velo Club Stella, and he agreed.

La Perle - Hugo Koblet - Le Pedaleur de Charme - lui-meme 1951

The background to this is the restrictive ethos of the NCU/RTTC federation, who were against racing on the open roads and wanted to keep the status quo of the past 50 years, where only time trialling took place. The BLRC was a breakaway federation which, since 1942, held controversial road races and wished to emulate and ultimately compete against their continental heroes of the Spring Classics and the Grand Tours.

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The Belleisle Road Club, 1950s

I was given scans of some old Scottish cycling photos, which have led me down a trail of discovery. After investigation, I found that two of them are of the Belleisle Road Club.

I have had some trouble finding out when the club started. The photograph below was not dated but is from the early Fifties, definitely pre 1955 and probably pre 1953. A notable rider, John Kennedy, is sixth from the right, with a chimney pot behind him. He went on to ride the Tour de France, of which I will write more later.

Click on the image to see an annotated copy with the names of most of the people pictured. I spoke to David Ross, who was briefly a member of the Belleisle CC, as well as Joe Linden who also knew some of the members. Between them, and their friends and contemporaries, we been able to identify many of the faces in this image.

Back row, L-R: older man with hand on saddle, unidentified; hand on saddle, Angus Cameron; standing behind, unidentified; hand on saddle, Frank Wiggins; standing behind, Jackie Mullen (aka “Chossie”); hands on top tube and handlebars, Jackie Todd; standing behind, hand on shoulder, John Kennedy; behind, Martin Bonnar(sp?); hand on handlebar, Alex Campbell; behind, unidentified; Jim Crawford; unidentified.

Front row, L-R: kneeling, hand on top tube, Roger Wallacott; kneeling, arm round shoulder, John McNee; kneeling, Charlie Fleming.

Cycling club life at this time revolved around the social side of things- group rides, drum-ups and evenings in the club house. The Belleisle RC met in the East End of Glasgow, with a clubhouse in a converted tenement on or near the London Road and Fielden Street. Celtic Park is just a stone’s throw away. As the SpokeyDoke Blog discussed, rides were often a way to get out of church of a Sunday, but some clubs were not free of religion – the St Christophers CC was one Catholic organisation. With a club hut in this part of Glasgow you might assume that the Belleisle was a Catholic group, but it was non-denominational and there were an equal number of Catholic and non-Catholic members.

The picture above may be a meeting in the clubhouse of the Belleisle Road Club, likely in the early 1950s, and possibly in the London Road club house.

Many of the guys pictured above are sadly no longer with us. Joe Linden, who was a member for a short while, recalled that like many riders, National Service got in the way. John Kennedy was stationed with the RAF at Ballykelly in Northern Ireland around 1952-3. Joe himself spent two years in Pakistan from ’53 to ’55. David Ross was another who was a member briefly, but who told me his racing career took a downturn after his stint in the army.

The club was still going into the 1960s and their colours at this time were a copy of the Italian National Championship jersey: green, white and red. At this time, the Belleisle RC won the Scottish 25 mile team time trial championship in 1960 and broke the team record. The 50 mile team time trial record also fell that year, according to Steven McGinty.

Fraser Connell (who is more associated with the Johnstone Wheelers) was part of those teams and also won the National Road Race and 100 mile time trial championships in 1963 when he also broke 100 mile record. The championship team also incuded ome UCI Commissaire-to-be, Gerry McDaid.

Ian Sharp recalls that this team may have actually been specifically put together to win the team time trial championships, with Fraser Connell reverting to the Johnstone Wheelers and Gerry to the Glasgow Nightingale after. Another memorable member was Willie Anderson, described by one as a ‘firebrand that was the scourge of Centre meetings’.

As I drift in to the 1960s, some readers may recall that the Belleisle Road Club was revived in the 1980s. However, I wish to stay in the 1950s to pursue the next chapter of this story: the emergence of Scotland’s first elite road racing team.

[12 Feb 2012, edit paragraph 5, to reduce emphasis on idea that clubs were formed on religious grounds]