Sunday, March 21, 2010

My Early Cycling Mementos


Track Racing, Pietermaritzburg, 1952.

Ladysmith To Pietermaritzburg Cycle Race 1948.See comments for details of this race.

Me on my tricycle 1932.

My Friend Tommy at Victoria Falls Bridge. 1953. This is the same tandem Mike Leppan and I won a silver medal with at the South African Championships in 1955.It was a most unsuitble tandem for track racing. We were beaten in the final by Bobby Fowler and Jimmy Swift, both Olympic Silver medalists at the Helsinki Games in 1954.

Bobby Fowler racing at the Malvern Stadium, Johannesburg in 1951, and Jimmy Swift a Commonwealth Games Gold Medalist, and Tommy Shardelou also Olympic games Silver Medalist.
Reg Harris, one of Britain's greatest sprint cyclists was unexpectedly beaten into second place in the 1948 London Olympics by Italian Mario Ghella.He also won silver in the tandem 2000m sprint partnered by Alan Bannister.Harris won the World Professional Championship five times, the first in 1949. Incredibly he won his fifth British sprint championship at the age of 54 and continued to race most of his life. He died at the age of 72.

In 1949 Walter Jowett brought Mario Ghella out to South Africa to race against the locals

(bottom)Fausto Coppi, one of the worlds greatest cyclists.
Even though he wasn’t able to compete for the majority of World War II, Coppi still won a total of seven Grand Tours.

Coppi shares the record of five victories in the Giro d’Italia with Alfredo Binda and Eddy Merckx.
Coppi won the Tour de France twice, in 1949 and 1952, dominating the competition and easily winning the overall title and mountains jersey competitions.
Coppi was the first rider to win the Tour de France - Giro d'Italia double. He did so in 1949 and 1952.
Coppi also won the the the Giro d'Italia - World Championship Road Race double in 1953.

At the Helsinki Olympics in 1952, South Africa won several medals on the track, with a Silver in the team pursuit, where Bobby Fowler, Jimmy Swift, George Estman and Tommy Shardelow excelled.Tommy Shardelow and Ray Robinson won Silver in the 2000M tandem sprint and Ray also won Bronze in the 1000M time trial. Jimmy Swift again won Bronze at Melbourne Olympics in 1956 in the 1000M time trial.He was the last South African to win a medal in cycling. I have a picture of Jimmy who beat Bobby (above) in the individual pursuit at Paarl in the trials, in what was a most exciting race. In the evening after the team for the games had been anounced,Jimmy our team captain sat at the head of the table in the hotel, bubbling with joy. I have never ever seen anyone so happy in all my life. My memory is getting poor but I think the Natal team consisted of Jimmy Swift, John Ramsey, Rudy Voster, Chips Rafferty,my tandem team mate, Chris Olivier our junior and myself.There may have been one other.Wally Jowett was our manager.

In the London Olympics in 1948 South Africa sent George Estman, Wally Rivers and Dirk Jacobus "Dirkie" Binneman, who unfortunately came back empty handed, but they sure gained a great deal of experience and told us how important cycling was in Europe. So South Africa gained a great deal from the knowledge gained.I think it was the great George Estman who unoficially broke the 1000m world time trial record. Unforunately there were insufficient time keepers.The time was as I remember 1 minute 10.1 secs.There were also many 1000m match sprint duels between George and Tommy Schardelow, and also between Tommy and and a young junior Denis Keyser at the new Malvern Stadium.
Alfred James Swift (25 June 1931–13 April 2009 was one of only 3 Athletes (of all types) to win South Africa’s highest honour, the Shield of Jove.Picture of Jimmy at medal presentation 1956 olympics. Below.Bottom. Ghella beating Harris in the Olympics 1948


At May 25, 2010 at 5:09 PM , Blogger . said...

"It is 60 years since I did my first cycle race which was from Ladysmith to Maritzburg a distance of 170ks.organized by the Speedwell Cycling Club.I was only nineteen years old and it was for the Cohen Trophy, not that I was ever aware of it. I still have the silver medal I was presented with for doing it in under 6 hrs. and have it here on my desk to inspire me. My new road bike was a Dayton, purchased from Wally Jowett of Hall's Cycle Works(I don't expect anyone remembers it as it was later changed to Jowett's Cycles) constructed of Reynolds 531 tubing, and was a three speed with 1 1/8 in tyres on 26in wheels which I 'm sure were not pumped very hard. What seemed to be an innovation was that it had cotterless cranks which are of course all that you can have now a days I left Maritzburg with Ted Arundel, a Maritzburg Wheelers Club official and Mr. A.W Sanders in his old pre-war Ford.. It took us about three hours, huffing and puffing to get to Ladysmith.
The September day dawned warm and sunny with little wind to worry us. My cycle attire was a T shirt rugby pants and a tennis cap. As I lined up I was filled with apprehension and wondered nervously as to how they would start having never experienced a cycle race before. In fact I had never seen the beginning of a massed start race. Would they begin slowly or sprint off?. There were many cyclists from the Transvaal in the line up but none that I recognised. I spoke to no one. Well I was soon to find out how they were to start.. They took off like a rocket. This was not a good beginning as I had not warmed up and do not know whether others had done so. Perhaps they had. I was dropped right away and watched the main bunch move away from me up the hill out of Ladysmith, and I never caught them till the narrow bridge over the Tugela at Colenso, by which time I was a bit exhausted from riding on my own. Of course I got dropped again soon afterwards and rode on my own or perhaps with one or two others. I remember getting to the top of Griffins Hill where I was handed an inedible dry ham sandwich. I never had a thing to eat the whole race and I knew no better. It must have been quite a climb as in those days cars often had to stop because they had overheated. There were also other long hills to climb like the one out of Mooiriver but I don't remember having any difficulty with them. One fellow I remember was Clapham, the son of the Comrades Marathon founder. We were riding along around Nottingham Road or Balgowan when he suddenly stopped and went back. When he caught up with me I asked what was wrong and he told me that he had dropped his false teeth .Maybe he was having me on! Another reason to have remembered him was that he was riding a strange bike A Paris Galibier. Soon after I purchased a standard Paris and kept it for six years. He must have got renewed energy from somewhere as he left me soon after that. I don't remember much till I got to the top of the hill at Hilton Road when I looked behind and saw a two or three cyclists a couple of hundred yards behind and in front lay ten or so kilometers of winding road through gum plantations past Monzali's Castle to Maritzburg. This road of course no longer exists in its entirety. I decided there was no way they would catch me so I just screamed down the hill pedaling as fast as I could leaving them standing. There is a beautiful view of Maritzburg and beyond with table mountain in the distance. Then I remember the seemingly never ending final climb up Commercial Road to the finish outside the Grand Theatre. My recollection is that I came about twentieth. There was a marquee on the parking lot next to the Theatre where tea was being given to the survivors. I was so dehydrated that I drank about six cups laced with sugar.
Trying to remember the details is difficult, but its funny how a few things stick in the mind.

I suppose someone losing his false teeth is something one would remember"

At November 18, 2010 at 2:05 AM , Blogger Howling Basset said...

Good day, this might seem like a strange request but I happened upon your blog while doing some research into my family history, specifically the grandfather I never knew - Walter Jowett.
My father, Richard Jowett, recently gave me an early inheritance in Wally's Springbok blazer for cycling and I have been trying to learn more about him ever since.

If it isn't too much of a bother and you find the time to put pen to paper, or rather 'finger to keyboard' as it is these days, I would hugely appreciate a brief account of your memories and experiences with him.

I will keep watching your blog if you are more comfortable posting it here or alternatively feel free to drop me an email at duncan(dot)jowett(at)gmail(dot)com

Please don't feel obliged to do anything if you find my request out of bounds.
Thank you very much.

At November 18, 2010 at 8:55 PM , Blogger . said...

If I think about anything else I will add it later.
I first met Walter Jowett in about the beginning of 1948 when I became interested in cycling racing. Walter together with his two brothers Albert and Patrick owned a cycle shop at the upper end of Church Street in Pietermaitzburg called Hall's Cycle Works.He must have been about ten years older than me though he was still racing which would have made him about 29 or thirty. I never knew him socially as we moved in very different circles. He was I think a Christian Scientist and I a very strong Methodist much against Sunday sport. As most race meetings were on Sunday my participation was very limited and I used to hint to him that more Saturday meetings should be held. Eventually the brothers changed the name of the cycle shop to Jowett Bros.but it must have been after 1952 as there is an advertisement in a programme for 'Hall's cycling Specialists'.

Think that Walter was a big influence in Maritzburg and South African cycling as he eventually was awarded his Springbok Colours for cycling administration as a referee and timekeeper He was a South African selector. I actually remember him in his Springbok Blazer.He also obtained is Natal colours for meritous riding in the South African Cycling Championships though I have no idea o what places he won. He would have had to be placed in the first three in one of the championship races.In his last years of racing he introduced motor paced racing to the track as a novelty
He managed our Natal Cycle Team to the Olympic Games Trials in Paarl in 1952 and we all travelled down in a very slow train that wandered all over the OFS.In the year previous in 1951 he helped me at the SA Championships in Malvern and I remember him bringing up from Marizburg some very light tubulers for me to race on the new very fast track. I had been at the army Camp at Potch.When I think back he helped me quite a lot over the years organising transport to Ladysmith and Durban for meetings.

Cycling obviously was Walter's life. He published a magazine probably called South African Cycling or something like that. It wasn't a very prestigious mag,no colour pictures or glossy paper,but this was just after the war,He reported on all the cycling meetings with results and I'm sure he financed it himselfas it wouldn't have made much profit if any. I still have a copy iof it somewhere but I haven't seen it for some time.

Often during my lnch from work in the Reserve Bank where I worked I would wander up to his shop and spend time talking to him when ie wasn't too busy serving customers but I don't expect I spoke to him about anything other than cycling.I just liked to be in the cycle shop amongst his bicycles. He imported many makes from Dayton, Viking and Claude Butler, but eventually he had his own brand there 'Jowett'

I last saw him after he sold the business and was a working part time for Borain's Cycles in Commercial Road. I think it was owned by his son in law. Borain's was a very old firm as it was in existence in the 1930's as my father bought a car from it. Continued below

At November 22, 2010 at 12:52 PM , Blogger . said...

continued from above
I do think he was a controversial figure but actually never took much interest in the administration of cycling as I am a bit of a loner. He more than once broke way from a club he had started or was involved with to start a new club.The one he was' in charge of' was Maritzburg Wheelers and that was the only one I was a member of but I think the starting of a new club was long after I had given up racing,He was involved in an incident with Bobby Fowler. During a championship meeting on the Malvern Stadium Bobby raised his hand after winning a race and Wally disqualified him. That was not allowed in those days. I was also reprimanded for doing the same thing.Walter was involved in bringing out a few champions to race in South Africa. There was Mario Ghella and a British team, many of whom represented the UK at the Olympics. Keith Reynolds an Australian and Jackie Hide who came third in the World Sprint Championships.

Walter was very short sighted. He wore very thick horn rimmed glasses and I remember travelling from Maritzburg to Durban one night for a meeting on the old Maritzburd Durban route (Comrades Route) that every time a a car approached he had to slow right down.It was quite hair raising.

He died quite suddenly. I was told that he was feeling unwell one evening and died soon afterwards. I attended the funeral at the mountain Rise Cemetery in Maritzburg. It was an unusual service for me being a Christian Science one.It must have been in the 1980's.

Much of this happened up to sixty years ago so my memory may be playing tricks.

At November 24, 2010 at 3:14 AM , Blogger Howling Basset said...

Thank you so much, you have no idea how special this is to me. I've heard all the stories from my family but your perspective is quite refreshing.
You're recollections reminded me of so many things I was told 10 to 20 years ago, and some I have never even heard, for example I never knew he had his own branded bike and I always assumed his involvement was purely as a team manager for some reason.
I do seem to share many of his traits as well, one of which would be the short sightedness, my father also has the same problem, seems the bloodline is doomed to wear thick glasses forever :)

I love the flyers you have added to your post as well by the way, such a typical photo of Wally on the one - brought on a good chuckle for me.

Good luck with your cycling and thank you again for taking the time to write down those memories for me.

At July 25, 2014 at 10:30 AM , Blogger Jean Collen said...

I am doing research into the life of singer, Garda Hall. Her father owned Hall's Cycles in Pietermaritzburg in the early part of the twentieth century until the family moved to the UK where Garda pursued her singing career, so I was most interested to read your blog. My husband is also a cyclist, so I shall draw his attention to your interesting posts.


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