80 YEARS OLD
In response to Denis Mitchell's invitation, contributions from members and ex-members have been received. Here are the first few. Remember, you don't have to have joined the Club eighty years ago to contribute. Even if you only joined the Club a couple of years ago or were never a member but associated in some way with the Club, let's hear from you.
1. Jimmy Thomson has pride of place as the oldest member yet to contribute. Now 83 and living in Vancouver.
2. Jimmy Nolan who, with his brother George, was a stalwart of the Club in the '50's and 60's.
3. Denis Mitchell. Who he?
4. Jim Robinson. Survivor of the Fighting Fifties and the Swinging Sixties.
Many thanks, Denis, for your invitation to attend the 80th anniversary of the Gale. It makes me feel real old to think that I was 3 years of age when the Club was founded.
How did I get involved with the Gale?
I had two nasty accidents while playing fitba’.
I lost the sight of my right eye after challenging a goalpost at the age of 15. One year later I had the misfortune to break my leg.
I set off to join the Maryhill Harriers as I thought that it would be a safer sport to take up.
I set of for their clubrooms only to find that I had gone their on the wrong evening.
On my way home, cycling, I was spoken to by an old man on a bike. No he did not pass me. He invited me to join the Nightingale Cycling Club, me and my old Rudge Whitworth, used later as a tank in World War 2. He was an nice old man, his name, Malky Smith.
Sam Robinson looked after me like a dad on the following club runs. I was hooked and felt that I had grown up when Sam invited me to join the committee.
Somebody gave a pair of old sprints and a form to take part in the Glasgow Rangers Sports. I was young and kind of daft and duly entered same. Fixed wheel, nae brakes and nae experience.
I remember going up the straight after a hefty push of by a 20 stone Glasgow polisman. I could not turn the bike round the first bend and hit the wall, vanishing into the crowd. Going out of the stadium , heavily plastered, I received some nice comments from members of the crowd, you were awfy unlucky son, best o’ luck tae ye.
From then on I was hooked.
I had many funny stories of my years in the Gale.
My good friend Willie Smith and I decided to enter the two day event at the Cowal Games one year. The target was to win the Cowal track cycling event.
Points were awarded on both days for best performance. On the Friday Willie and I won our heats to get into the final of the Half Mile. There was a cloudburst and it was announced that the games would be suspended. In those days we used to rub our legs with olive oil and wintergreen. I had bought a bottle of olive oil in order to make up a rub.
I said tae Willie, ‘Whit a waste’, Willie replied, ‘Let’s drink it’. I took a hefty swig at the bottle, but Willie declined, so I finished same.
We were on our way out of the stadium, when it was announced that the games would commence with the final of the Half Mile cycle event.
At this time the rain had gone off. I made it round the first lap when I was as sick as a dog. So much for the olive oil. Willie got a second placing in the event.
We had a good laugh on the way home. Willie commented that he did not think that I was crazy enough to partake of the olive oil.
It was the start of a good friendship between Willie and I.
On another occasion, Jock Patrick, an old member of the Gale, had taken on the job as a handicapper for the N.C.U. Track events. Willie and I had a great day at the Dunblane Highland Games. We won 7 prizes between us, as we were heading of for the weekend after the Games we asked Jock, who had travelled by bus, if he would be good enough to look after our prizes. That was the last that we saw of them. The officials were treated to a meal and a drink at the end of the games and I guess that Jock kind of got a wee bit too many drams.
I forward my sincere best wishes to the club for their 80th celebration.
Keep those wheels rolling,
Yours in sport,
Jimmy Thomson - Part 2
After some 21 years of non competitive activity, I got the urge to have a go at a Denny Road Club 25 and under the threat of a divorce if I even attempted same, I duly sent off an entry.
I was up at 4.45am and headed for my garage some 30 minutes later. Fixed a bicycle rack on top of my car, bike and all and set of for Stirling.
I was doing some 70 m.p.h. when I saw something bouncing on the road. I stopped my car only to see that my bike had fallen off my car. I thought only of my Vitus frame that I had purchased a short time before from Jim Taylor. The bike was fine except for a small dent on the fork. I got lucky.
It was a beautiful morning, warm, sunny and virtually no wind. I set off full of beans, and a short distance from the finish I took my dentures in order to pull in some air, getting ready for a sprint finish. At the finish I went to put my teeth back in before going back for my time, as there was a very pretty young lady doing the recording for George Turner who was time keeper.
I found, to my horror, that the top dentures were not in my race jersey pocket. Went back to the car, no sign of the missing dentures.
On returning home I told my wife that I was out assisting some our young lads who were taking part in the event. Suddenly she turned to me.
‘And are your teeth bothering you?’.
‘Aye’, I replied.
‘Jim I am fed up telling you that is high time that you listened to me and get yourself a decent set of dentures’.
Monday morning, I went along to see a dentist in Falkirk. I told him I needed dentures in a hurry. He informed me that the Falkirk people were on holiday the first two weeks of July. I told him that I would pay for them privately and duly told him the story of what happened. He laughed his head off and told me that he would make sure that he would have them ready within a few days and that he would have them covered under the NHS.
The following Sunday I went up to Stirling to ride a 50. A young lad was enquiring if anyone knew Jim Thomson. I duly called out.. He gave me an envelope. On opening same there was my teeth. His father owned the farm on the road closed to the finish. The young lad had told his mother the story of one of the boys losing his teeth and, of course, she must have told her husband.
The father, whilst walking along the edge of his farm, saw his young collie dog with something in its mouth ,grabbed it from the dog, only to find dentures in his hand. At the time he put them in his pocket, kind of remembering something the wife had said to him.
I am still wearing the new dentures today, some 20-odd years later.
Hi, to all my cycling friends of the Glasgow Nightingale CC, particularly those of the late ‘50s, early ‘60s. That part of my life was truly wonderful with fond memories of good guys, and the “habbles” coming down the Loch side (Loch Lomond) to our drum-up spot just next to what is now Culag Guest House. The tea in a billy can was so good that when I gave up cycling I never enjoyed tea at home so switched to coffee! Where I live now, in Strachur, cyclists from the Greenock area don’t have drum-ups but prefer to dine in style at our local tearoom with all their bikes around the walls. They certainly have changed since my day. Both the cyclists and the bikes!
My cycling friends are truly unforgettable, from my heroes, the older guys like Bertie Waugh, Jim Hay, Jim Robinson, all smashing cyclists and decent blokes, keen to help the youngsters train and try harder to succeed. Then there were the others, like myself, good club cyclists, and having a “ball.” Who can forget that wonderfully funny man, Billy Bilsland, so generous, and the first to have transport, carrying far too many bikes on his van’s roof rack to events. I am sure he will never forget the day they all came off when he was screaming round a bend!
My uncle, Andy Nolan, who persuaded me to join his club, was one of those who, after the Second World War, following a cycling trip to the Continent, persuaded their club “elders” to change the Club jersey from a typical British time-trialling, dull jersey of, I believe, dark wine, to the striking modern jersey of the Belgian colours, blue, with Red, Yellow and Black circles. I was so proud to race in the best-looking jersey in Scotland. Andy is now in his 80s and keeps in touch.
We attracted members from all over the West of Scotland, from all backgrounds and we all had a great time. In those days winter training usually meant 120 miles or so around the Crianlarich Circuit, Glasgow-Callendar-Crianlarich-Culag Drum-up, then a habble home, usually started by some young upstart who had been doing secret training, with a sprint at Anniesland.
The photograph of the Serpentine Hill, Rothesay, was taken when I was 3rd, sometime in the late ‘50s. The Rothesay weekend was fabulous, Wine, Women, and therefore, poor results for yours truly. A highlight for me one year, was the Road Race when together with all the real stars I got away in the crucial break with Bertie Waugh, who was so encouraging, perhaps knowing that as I was a good climber and useful in sprints, I could lead him out. Sadly my climbing ability was absent that day and I went off on the last big climb. Another highlight in Rothesay was in the promenade sprints when my heat comprised Scotland’s Champion Track Sprinter and great road racer, Hector McKenzie, and George Black, one of our club’s best-ever sprinters, and a big name from Larkhall, whose name I forget, and expecting to be last I was just pipped by the great Hector. But that’s what he did every time.
My life after cycling was spent in the Glasgow Herald, where eventually I became Manager of the Caseroom, a department of around 80 men that decreased thanks to computers. God bless computers! I escaped in 1995 and became a Kennel Boy in my wife’s Boarding Kennel for 5 years, finally retiring to Strachur 5 years ago where I have a boat, fish, and garden, and publish and produce the local Strachur and District Newsletter. You’ll often find me on Loch Awe flyfishing for trout. I got the “Scot” rebuilt (with rather cheap stuff) a few years ago and still get a few miles in when the weather is decent. That meant I was hardly out last summer!
Having failed miserably to become a top cyclist (although my younger brother, George, who “stole” all my good stuff off my bike, was an internationalist road racer, and now lives in Australia where he sails for pleasure) my wife and I reached the top in Labrador Retrievers, showing, breeding, and judging. Next year I judge Crufts, the pinnacle of my judging career, having judged in 19 countries all over the world.
I hope to attend the 80th anniversary celebration with my wife. We were judging in the Philippines and Australia when the emails started to arrive from Jim Hay, bringing me up to date with the Club that played such an important part in my life.
Climbing to 3rd on the Serpentine, Rothesay.
Rothesay late ‘50s/early ‘60s, with Nightingale and Glasgow Courier friends. In front, Bobby Sweeney, my best friend, who, with his family, play a big part in our life, and the irrepressible Billy Bilsland. At the rear, Davie Swan, me, Alex Smith, and ? but whose voice I remember so clearly.
As I am today with a yellow Labrador we sent to the Philippines where he is the top stud dog, all breeds.
Life without the Bike is Unthinkable
After reading Jimmy Thomson's account of how he became interested in cycling, I realised that we had something in common. I was involved with Bearsden Amateur football team. I was in my middle teens, 5 feet 4 inches tall and 9 stones soaking wet, playing against men who used football to vent their week's frustration. It was then that I knew football was not for me. To stop boredom, I would borrow my brother's bike, which was about 3 inches too big for me, and cycle out into the country. Two of my friends decided it would be a good idea if we spent our holidays touring the Youth Hostels up North. After that holiday I was HOOKED on cycling.
I was serving my engineering apprenticeship in Drumoyne in the southside of Glasgow and had to travel from Drumchapel by public transport, which was as unreliable then as it is now. Out came the bike and no more 10 minutes late for work. This is where I got to know George McBean, who at that time was a big name in racing. George was serving his apprenticeship and he too would cycle to work. Also serving his apprenticeship in the same company, was Ian Bilsland of the Glasgow Wheelers, brother of the other famous Billy Bilsland, so there was plenty of cycle talk. George encouraged me to go out on the Sunday Club run with the Gale, which met at Cathedral Square. So I trooped along with my bike, which was too big for me, and a pair of corduroy trousers tucked into a pair of football stockings. Although I probably looked ridiculous, I was made to feel welcome and was shown how to ride in a bunch. One of the favourite Nightingale runs at that time was out to Boquhan Glen, an idyllic spot looking on to the Fintry hills. This was to be my favourite drum-up spot as it was complete with plenty of wood and a pool for swimming.
The Glasgow Nightingale appears to have always been a sociable Club, mixing racing with leisure. Come the Glasgow Fair, most of the members would saddle up and head up North to the Youth Hostels. For me this has been an everlasting memory. The scenery, mechanical trouble, sheep ending a certain Club member's tour, the dog that ended another member's vacation and nearly his good looks, the pranks, the kitty members and the sprints for the 30 mph signs at the end of the day are all fond memories for me.
Before long, I was introduced to the Friday night socialising at the Horseshoe Bar, where, after refreshment, the Band of Brothers would move on to the dancing. Some of us would go on to meet the girl of our dreams who would eventually understand what wheeling about, getting the knock and taking a spell meant, but were not too sure about shaving our legs. Before long it was time to retire the old racing jersey washer, who had been a good and faithful servant for a younger racing jersey washer. Like so many others, married life took its priority over cycling. After a spell away from the Club, it was good to come back and see some old and new faces keeping up the good work started by Malcolm Smith.
I had no chance of escaping cycling really. My father had been a member of the Club since at least six years before I was born and had submitted my application for membership when I was ten. The application was accepted at the Committee meeting held on Jan 13th, 1944. I’m not sure that I was even aware of it at the time.
Fellow Oldie, Jim Hay, lived only a few hundred yards away. His parents had also been members of the Club so I was surrounded!
My first few excursions were on my father’s tandem, to local Youth Hostels, and , later , with him but without the tandem, on tours of the Highlands, Galloway and elsewhere.
In the late 1940’s the Club had a large Junior Section which I was never really part of for reasons which are, almost sixty years later, a bit hazy. Nevertheless, by 1950 I was going out with the big boys.
One memory I have of that period is meeting John Kennedy in the summer of 1952 on the Princess Victoria, sailing from Stranraer to Larne, at the start of a touring holiday in Ireland. Six months later the Princess Victoria sank in a storm on the same crossing with the loss of 130 passengers and crew. So I do remember that trip.
John was a member of the Club for a short time in the late 40’s before becoming better known as a member of the VC Stella and as an international rider and the only member of the Club ever to have ridden the Tour de France.
My first race was in 1953 in the Club Confined ‘10’ on the Cumbernauld Road. My time was 28-03 which I’m sure that I could have bettered if I hadn’t been riding wheels fitted with John Bull ‘sookers’, tyres which many Oldies will remember.
Tony Franchi on the left, Peter McDade on the right and a very young Bert Waugh in the right background.
Thing got a little better in 1954 and 1955 when I had a few wins and some international selections but I was fast heading towards the dreaded National Service. However, doing two years in the RAF in Germany wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened to me and when I came out in 1959 I was raring to go. Unfortunately, my legs weren’t of the same opinion and the necessity of earning a living was getting in the way.
I went out with a bang, taking the opportunity to spend my last racing season riding the kermesse circuit in Belgium with a party of other work-shy compatriots. The summer of 1960 was spent in Kortrijk with Bobbie Finnie (he of the bike shop), George Connell of the Ivy, Hector Thomson and Rab Dewar of the Wheelers, Jimmy Rae (now TLI) and the afore-mentioned John Kennedy. John was then riding for the Belgian Flandria team and disappeared for a few weeks to ride the TDF.
The highlight of my last year actually turning the pedals, in 1967, was a week’s hostelling up North with a party of the guys. We were accompanied by Alistair McDonald and Gordon MacDonald in Gordon’s car. They spent their week gnashing their teeth in frustration at not being able to be out there with us.
One interesting aspect of these hostelling holidays, and this may seem strange to current members, is the amount of porridge consumed. Every morning vast amounts of it disappeared down hungry thrapples and the porridge-making rota was rigidly observed. My own best memory of this was one year up North with Jim Hay when we stopped to buy oatmeal at an isolated store-cum-crofthouse on the road between Thurso and Bettyhill, in the far North. The lady of the shop listened when we asked for a half-stone of meal and disappeared out the back. There arose a great storm of clucking and she re-appeared with what we wanted. That meal made the best porridge I’ve ever tasted. No wonder the hens were annoyed when she raided their supplies.
Thereafter, from the late Sixties until the early Eighties I organised the ‘Glasgow Grand Prix’ in Glasgow Green on behalf of the West Centre, an event which, I believe, has been resuscitated from time to time. This event required a lot of co-ordination with the local police, the Parks Dept and Glasgow City Councillors and provided an education in the ways of the world which money couldn’t buy. But that’s another story.
The world of cycling faded into the background after that until, one night in 2002, I had a call, out of the blue, from Ian Russell and the ‘Oldies’ sprang into existence. That, also, is another story.