Cycling in Ireland has always generated immense interest with clubs over the decades dotted around the province – indeed, in the 1940s and ‘50s, it was estimated there were 300,000 cycle owners.
They were people who used it as a mode of transport, while countless others were competitive members of clubs – all devoted to the sport with a passionate love for it. It may not be the opiate of the masses, but it possesses an amazing appeal to those who participate.
The enjoyment and camaraderie experienced by them are brilliantly captured in “Memories Recycled” – a magnificent 456-page tome lavishly illustrated with a plethora of photographs.
Edited by Isabel Woods, May Farrar, Rab Collins and Billy Kirk, it is a fascinating read and a history told in the words of many personalities.
What appealed to me, however, was the joy contributors gained from the sport during their days with Kings Moss, Maryland Wheelers, Cyprus, Windsor, Banbridge, The Ulster Ladies Cycling Club and others too numerous to mention.
A special tribute is paid to the late Stanley Martin, for many years the Belfast Telegraph and Ireland’s Saturday Night acclaimed cycling correspondent, who played a major role, along with Jim Gore of The Newsletter in keeping the sport in the public eye.
Stanley, who for a period was secretary of Crusaders FC, lived for cycling and, on a personal note, was a loyal colleague and a valued servant to the Sports Department of this newspaper.
Every story pinpoints the competitiveness or, even more significant, how cyclists relish the healthy environment of their sport. The pages exude fresh air and this is aptly underlined in the opening verse of a 1945 poem The Kingdom of Mourne by Billy Murray, a cycling legend:
“I must be up and away again to where heather clad hills abound,
“Where the silvery Shimna gently flows and the golden gorse is found.
“I will wend my way at the break of day with never a backward turn,
“Till I’m riding along with the lark’s clear song away in The Kingdom of Mourne.”
The seeds for this epic publication were sown in February last year when Ards CC staged a highly successful Night of Nostalgia in the Marine Hotel, Bangor at which a suggestion was made to ask those in attendance and others to submit memories and photographs. The response proved incredible, resulting in a vintage publication made possible through financial contributions donated by sponsors, including some in the United States and other parts of the world where Ulster cycling exiles are now resident.
I quote the cover notes: “The editors have compiled an evocative anthology describing the people and events over many years. Consequently we have a freewheeling view of golden days in Ireland captured through short stories, photographs, mini-biographies and poetry. Here we have nostalgia spiced with humour and drama, all recorded for posterity.”
The editors and contributors have certainly done a service to sport. As Harry McCartney, the cycling historian, now over 80, said in his introduction: “Throughout my life cycling has brought me fulfilment. I sincerely hope many good memories of those cycling days will be stirred up in your heart while you read this book.”
Recycled Memories compiled by Isabel Woods, May Farrar, Rab Collins and Billy Kirk (Shanway Press, £19.99).