An Unexpected Unfolding of Events

(Continued from yesterday.) Shaun’s timing was nothing if not impeccable. In fact, I had the Hobbs up on the bike stand the very afternoon I received his email enquiring if I’d learned anything else about the bike, the original owner, or the cycling club painted on the top tube. A quick response on my part led to an equally quick retort from Shaun:

Hello Mark,

Nice to meet so to speak.

I’m often surprised where these bikes can turn up so I guess there must be a story behind your frame travelling so far across the world.

I will pass an email around the older members of the club and see if anyone can help with memories of this former member.  Dick Poole was a near contemporary of Mal Rees and our president Mike Crane has been with the club since the early 1950’s, not bad going compared to my mere 6 years.  As soon as I hear anything that may be useful to you I will pass it on.

Older bikes are a passion of mine though I’ve never owned a Hobbs.  A couple of years back I was lucky to acquire a lovely 1956 Major Brothers of Thornton Heath which is in South London.  The frame had a person’s name and club painted on the top tube much like yours and I was lucky to trace the former owner who is elderly but happily alive and well.  The information he gave me regarding the frame was priceless so it is possible.  I will see what I can do for you. Something of interest for you Mark, I’ve just had a brief email from Mike,  Alistair Burnet is the full name pertaining to your frame and I’ll get more facts tomorrow when he’s free.

Kind regards,

Shaun

Dick Poole? I recognized that name. Wasn’t he a record holder in the Land’s End to John o’Groats route? Before I even had a chance to Google it, Shaun had followed up:

Hello Mark,

This is proving to be a fascinating subject.

First of all Mike apologises, the name should be Andy Burnet and not Alistair.  Andy Burnet was no less a founder member of the Middlesex RC in 1937.  He lived in St Albans, Hertfordshire which is a few miles north of London.  In 1949 he became a vice president of the club – there were 8 of these which gives you an idea of the large size of the Middlesex RC in those days.  Mike suggests that Hobbs bikes were rarely seen in the area of West London which is where the club drew most of its members from.

Dick Poole has also replied to me and has asked me for your email address so he can contact you directly, I have forwarded it to him.  I would add that Dick Poole is something of a living legend in the Middlesex having been a record breaking 24 hr racer and holder of the Lands End to John O’ Groats record, just two of his many and varied feats.  He says that Andy Burnet used to assist him on the 24 hr events.

I think it is remarkable that a bike which has a connection with our club and above all, a founder member still exists and it’s fortunate that it is owned by someone like you who appreciates this sort of thing.  Hobbs bikes may not command great sums of money but what you have I think is priceless.  Do you know how it came to be in the States?

Hope this all helps.

Best wishes

Shaun

As for how the bike came to be here, I’m at a loss. At one time there was a website dedicated to the Hobbs name, and by happenstance the webmaster mentioned a completely intact bike with a serial number that matches mine exactly. At the time I came across that mention it appeared the site had not been updated in several years. Despite sending messages to the email address on that site, my queries went unanswered. Clicking on the saved link for the site shows that it has disappeared entirely. That is frustrating because unless the serial number was typed incorrectly, there was a good chance of a direct connection. Somewhere along the way the various parts were pirated. When I found the bike, it had been in the hands of a dealer in the American South for several years (of all places) and then sold as a complete warehouse to a fellow in St. Louis, Missouri. He, in turn, sold the frame, fork, bottom bracket, and partial headset to me.

Our correspondence was taking off and it wasn’t much longer before my phone chimed again, letting me know I had mail. But this new message wasn’t from Shaun:

Hello Mark,

I saw the mails concerning Andy Burnet and as one of his closest friends felt I had to reply. I think it must have been in 1947 when I first met Andy, and it was he that in fact introduced me to the Middx R.C. who that year won the team National Best All Rounder time-trial competition. I was 15 then and very impressed with the presentation of the national prizes which was then held at the Albert Hall. I believe Andy was then riding 24 hour time trials and I remember riding about 50 miles out to Bedfordshire to hand him up a drink in the famous North Road C.C. event – I shall never forget what he said to me at the time “ one of these days I shall be doing this for you “. A very prophetic few words because in 1959 I rode my first of 13 24 hour events and Andy helped in at least half of those – he was utterly dependable and would always be where I wanted him to be.

Perhaps I should at this stage tell you that in 1965 I tackled the Land’s End to John O’Groats record a distance of 868 miles and was the first rider to complete the distance in under two days, and of course Andy was one of the helping team. Later that year I rode the National 24 hour Championship and finished third with a distance of 480 miles. It was Andy that first suggested that I should go for this record, but unfortunately due to business problems he was unable to organise it. I shall never forget Andy – he was truly my mentor early on and guided me into riding distance events. A perfect gentleman – I never ever heard him swear ! As I said before he was completely dependable and a great clubman, a man I was privileged to know. I was away on holiday when he died and was unable to attend his funeral – I was completely devastated when I heard the news- even now writing about him brins tears to my eyes – he was such a great mate.

Well Mark there’s not a lot more I can add, but I’m attaching a photo of Andy (at the top of this post) that one of his daughters kindly sent me – I don’t know if it’s the Hobbs he’s riding, but I suppose it could be. I’m 85 in February but still managing a few miles now and then but a lot slower than I was !

With all Best Wishes,

Dick Poole

This was certainly an unexpected unfolding of events. (To be continued.)

 

 

 

 

 

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