This letter was written to Les Hayman from Bill Underhill in about 1976
As promised a few odds and ends regarding the Southborough & Dist Wheelers. They were formed by a group of dedicated cyclists who I understand broke away from the Tunbridge Wells Albion, owing to the rather autocratic attitude of TW Albion “Upper Crust”, an attitude not uncommon in Club Circles. (Actually this attitude on the part of the Chatham CC was a major factor in the formation of the Med Road Club in 1930).
Among the early members of the Southboro were the Hoad brothers Pete and Bob who went to South America after a few years to learn the “On the hoof” side of the Meat Trade. When the war broke out, they were flown home and I believe both joined the R.A.F. They did not take up the pastime afterwards, and if still around, are in their very late 60s. There were two other brothers, Goodsell, also a good tandem pair. Last I heard of them, they were living at Cousley Wood. One of the Clubs finest riders was A. Shepherd known as “Shaker”. He was an excellent pedaller. I remember him doing fastest time in a KCA 50 2.14 odd., on the old Headcorn, Ashford, Chilham and retrace. The remarkable thing about the ride was that he rode with neither clips or straps. His gear 68. He may have used blocks on his shoes certainly not the modern type. He joined the Gravesend Borough Police Force and became lost to the game. He did not stay many years and the last I heard, he was working at a garage at Springhead on A2 at the bottom of Swanscombe Cutting, part of the controversial dragstrip. He must have seen hundreds of Time Trialists pass by.
I remember being invited to the Clubs 21st Anniversary Tea, held at Mrs Chambers. You were probably there. Bill Seath became 1st claim Southboro just before the war. Of course these were pre-war. John Fuller who was National Record Holder at 200 miles, an event put on by the Kent C.A at the insistence of the Association President. This was only done twice, and the Association returned to the 12 hours.
The second one was won by Phil Lewis of SFA. A comical incident occurred. The finish was in the lane between West Hoy Crossroads and Shenley House (Bletchenden) about halfway along. Riders turned right at Sterling Crossroads and left at West Hoy. Phil Lewis came down at a terrific speed, and the timekeeper stepped back as the road was rather narrow, and fell in a ditch. Fortunately, he pressed the “Spider” button, reflex action I reckon and all was well. He did not appreciate the laughter which followed his rescue.
Pre-war, I attended a Dinner held in Tunbridge Wells, near the Railway Station. I had been asked to propose the Toast to the Club. The number at the meal was 37. Three carloads came from the Medway Towns, 18 in all, and Frank Ford from S.F.A. I mentioned that quantity was missing, but quality was there in full force. The reply came from the then President in which he referred to “rabble of low degree”, obviously a dig at the rather boisterous conduct of some of the lads during the meal. I summed him up as an unmitigated snob, an opinion shared by almost everyone at the “do”. He was Ruffell, a Colonel in the First War. He was not elected President in the next year 1939.
Norman Wicklin came into the Club from Margate, where he had been in the Club. He was in banking and eventually moved on to Bournemouth, where he retired. He was a capable TT Secretary of the Kent C.A for 2 seasons. A good rider, I remember after one event seeing him riding backwards for about 40 yards. He had a pair of sprints on carriers and a well packed bag on the saddle. Quite a feat. Doubtless Lou Bathurst was one of the finest officials that the Kent Area ever had, but he was first and foremost a Clubman. When he took over many of the jobs that I had done or done at, he shook one committee out of its dreams by telling them straight out that the annual subscription was too low. Now I had been saying this for years, but every time that I had put if forward as a motion, I could find no seconder. Lou gave it to them straight, and the result was progress.
In recent years, the Southboro have been a big asset to the County Associations, both Kent and East Sussex and the work done by Barbara Leyland as Social Secretary and 12 hours has been a major contribution to the successful running of the Kent C.A.
The Club to my certain knowledge did not run any open events before the War.
They did run a “Tour de Sussex, a Time Trial on about 3 occasions. I believe the event was discontinued in view of the emergence of Road Racing massed start.
I hope this rather sketchy info will be of some use.