All Content Copyright emyvale.net
Geordie Wilson R.I.P.
In 2008 I conducted an interview with Geordie Wilson and it was published in the Dungannon Observer. There was a great reaction to the article as Geordie was well known in every cycling Club in Ireland and the Emyvale club in particular as he attended in one guise or another, most of the events organised by Emyvale CC. I can remember my time spent with him and can recall the warmth and friendliness of his humble presence. He passed away recently at the age of 91 and we offer our sincere sympathies to his family at this time. I reproduce that interview here: Face to Face with Geordie Wilson in 2008. Though born outside Moneymore, Geordie Wilson is a Cookstown man as he has lived there from a very early age. He is now a retired business man and so can indulge in his passion for cycling when and where he likes. His life has been centred on bicycles and, though he claims to have won no major award, he has competed and cycled with the best. It is the freedom, the fresh air and the open country that gives him that love of cycling and he has passed that on to many with whom he has been in contact over the years. Father’s Shop Geordie’s father, Billy Wilson, fought in the First World War in the 36th Ulster Division and when he came home after the war he bought premises and set up a bicycle shop in Cookstown. Bicycles were big business in those days, as they were the common mode of travel. They were in great demand and they needed repairs and it was the intuitive mind of Billy Wilson to see and seize the opportunity. He had gained some knowledge of the mechanics and workings of the machine during the war and soon his shop was a well-known place. Indeed Geordie remembers that on Saturdays there would be over 50 bicycles parked outside the shop, as people left them there, while they went down the town to do their shopping. He also remembers that they were totally safe there as not a one was ever stolen. All bicycles were painted black then and they were made mainly from steel. Billy made a few of his own design. They were called’ The Star of Tyrone’ and there is sure to be one lying in a shed somewhere around the town. Family The young Geordie went to the local Primary School followed by Cookstown High School. He then went to work and was employed in the Dairy in Cookstown, which is gone now and there is a housing estate there instead. He was involved in the bottling of the milk, which came in from the farms all around the country-side. It was glass bottles then and they were difficult to work with in that they had to be very clean and they broke easily. It was all done by machinery and wasn’t heavy work. It also had the advantage that Geordie could have his work completed by two or three o’clock each day, which meant that he had time for the bicycles as he had a great interest in working on them and in using them. His father asked him to take over the shop in 1975, which he did. His father died at the age of 87 in 1980. His mother had died suddenly in 1971. On that particular morning she had made the breakfast as usual at 7.30am and at 11.30 was cleaning and sweeping. She was outside dusting down a mat when she felt unwell and went into the house and died when she sat down on the settee. It was a terrible shock to the whole family. Of his two brothers and three sisters only one brother and one sister survive – his brother Norman, and sister, Jean. She lives in England but comes home regularly to visit him and see that he is OK. Norma’s wife, Margaret, also ‘keeps an eye’ on Geordie and helps out with the housework. Norman was a teacher but retired early to go back to studies and last year was awarded an Honours Degree in Law from Queen’s University. He is now going to Oxford University to follow studies for a Bachelor in Civil Law and become a Barrister. Early Days Growing up on Cookstown was good. There was plenty to do. There was the Fair Hill Picture House to see all the latest films and dances every Saturday night in the Town Hall, which is gone now with a Theatre in its place. There was little traffic on the street and roads and the Main Street was regarded as the widest in Ireland. There were no trees, island, traffic lights or any other obstruction, except the Cenotaph, on the entire Main Street. There were very few parked cars there either, and all this made it an ideal place for holding bicycle road races. The centre of the town was boggy and that is why the remedial works were necessary on the street. The heavy lorries, and traffic generally, was too great for the existing roadway and one with a greater depth of foundation was needed. It will be a great job when it is finished. Cycling In 1947 a cycling club was set up in Cookstown called the |East Tyrone Cycling Club. Naturally Geordie became involved and began competitive cycling in 1950. He has cycled now for 58 years, as he still rides the bicycle, though it is mostly Touring with the odd competition. The club organised Road Races round the town. These were called Criteriums. They also held Time Trials on the Main Street. They then moved the Time Trials to the Dungannon Road, but that has also become a very busy road and now they hold them on the Omagh road. it was about ten years before Geordie made his first breakthrough at club level but there were great cyclists in the club at the time and they were very hard to beat. There were boys like Tommy Talbot, who was an Irish International, and Jim Slane and Tommy Allingham among a host of great riders. Tommy Allingham was a fantastic long distance cyclist. Many of these also held office in the club and Geordie himself was Press Secretary and on the handicap committee, among other jobs. However, on the road, the major prize eluded him. He remembers one race in Cookcown and he was in the lead bunch as they approached the finish and it was going to be a sprint but he could not get the bike into the proper gear for the sprint and ended up in second place. There was a beautiful Mantle Clock for 1st prize and he would dearly have loved to win it. Big Names Looking back at some of the great names in local cycling he calls to mind the magnificent Jim McQuaid and his five sons. Jim, from Dungannon, was a mighty rider on track and road. His sons followed him and were at the top of the list where cycling is concerned. Three of his sons – Ciaran, Oliver and Pat – all took part in the same year in the Milk Race in England. Pat was a professional rider and went on to become the president of UCI and one of the top men in cycling officialdom. There were other great names and people that Geordie knew well. Boys like Chris McGorry, who is now in America; Gary Scott, a nephew of Tommy Talbot and a crack rider from Moygashel; the great Bobby Talbot and his son, Gareth. Further afield there were boys like Shay O’Hanlon, Jim Johnston, Peter Doyle, Seamus O’Hanlon, Tony Murphy, and more recently Tony’s son, Connor, and Paul Brady. There were also many many men who were involved as officials and supporters, without whom the sport could never have continued. He knows that the East Tyrone Club is indebted to so many for their contribution to the sport. There are also others like Mickey McKenna, Seamus Cadden, Francie McQuaid and the great John Colton, who have given so much to the sport. Geordie would claim that cycling is one of the most friendly of all sports. His shop was a mecca for them all and he made so many good friends through the bikes – friendship, which have lasted the test of time. A good cyclist is a good sportsman and during the race there is friendly rivalry but at the end you take your beating and shake the winner’s hand and train harder to be the winner next time. Many cyclists got their first bicycle from the Cookstown shop and many called, even when they wanted nothing more than a cup of tea and a chat. People like John Colton and Tony Murphy used to cycle the whole way from Monaghan and back again just for the chat. Irish Team It was through his friendship with Jim McQuaid that Geordie was appointed team mechanic for the Irish team during the Milk Race in England in 1975 and 1976. That was not as easy as it sounds as it was the mechanic’s responsibility to check every bicycle after every race, service and repair if necessary, then clean and have it ready for the next day’s stage. With six bikes to attend to, it meant working till after 1.00am each night. A young cyclist was a member of the Irish team and he won his first major stage going into Stoke in England during the 1975 Milk Race. That young man became the world famous cyclist – Sean Kelly. Geordie was with him again the following year when he won another stage into Sheffield and a life-long friendship developed between the two. In November 2007 the East Tyrone Cycling Club celebrated its 60th anniversary and the officers organised a big night in Hanover House. Sean attended and made the presentations. He stayed over for the night and next morning he accompanied members of the club on a cycle spin, giving them all encouragement and inspiration. Geordie describes him as a real gentleman and a real super-star and says that there is no one like Sean Kelly, or as Geordie would say – ‘he’s some man, Kelly’. Tours As already stated, Geordie goes on Touring runs. He cycles about 100 miles each week, going about 15 mph. It is difficult to pace oneself, when on your own, but in a group you have to watch out or an inexperienced rider could pull you down. When Geordie was young, he loved heading off to Donegal. It was his favourite place. He and six others did a tour of Ireland, cycling about 100 mile per day. They went down the West coast, across through Kerry, Cork and Waterford and home along the East coast. It was a great way to see Ireland. On weekends during the year, rain or sun, the group would head off to Letterkenny on Saturday morning and them on to Dunfannaghy. There they stayed in a B & B for fifteen shillings each. The owner was a lovely lady and looked after them well. She had three brothers, who went off to fight in the World War, but she never saw or heard of them again. The group would then head home on Sunday. It was a tough cycle as they had a good load of spare clothes and gear on the back of the bicycle. There was little traffic in Donegal at the time and the roads were quite good and their bikes were top class. Once they went a different route and were wanting to get to Fintown, but they could not find it. Eventually they stopped with a man on the roadside and asked where it was. He said – ‘you passed through it a milers back’. It only had a Pub and a Post Office. They just laughed, which showed their carefree attitude and as he says – ‘it did not matter whether it was raining or not, it was freedom and free to be out on the roads on a bicycle’ Changes There have been many changes over the years. Today’s bike is made from carbon fibre and is much lighter. Its design is aerodynamic and it is capable of faster speeds. Of course the cost has also risen and they can now cost thousands of pounds. However if one wants to compete at the highest level then the best machinery is necessary. The roads today are very dangerous for cyclists. There is so much traffic and it is travelling so fast that there are added dangers for the cyclist. Indeed some of the large trucks could blow a cyclist into the hedge as it goes past. In towns there is always the danger of a driver or back seat passenger opening the door of the car just as you come to pass. Geordie uses all the wee back roads and he knows them all like the back of his hand. He has never been injured while touring but did get a few minor injuries in competition. However, any cyclist can show scars on his elbows, arms and knees due to falls. The sport itself may be in danger as it is difficult to get roads that are safe to run competitions and the requirements of insurance is making things difficult to organise. In England, for example, the club has to pay a big price for the use of police and this is beyond the means of many clubs. Some alternative method of holding competitions will have to be found. There is a big number of youngsters taking up and getting involved in the sport in Cookstown and many other clubs and we have got to provide them with the means to continue. The Veledrome, like they have in Manchester, is one method but it would cost millions to set one up as the special flooring is very expensive. As well, this would remove one of the attractions - the fresh air and the freedom of the countryside. Entertainer It was almost impossible to get Geordie to talk about anything other than cycling and, just as another topic was raised, we suddenly found ourselves back on two wheels again. It shows his passion for the sport and the joy he derives, not just from cycling itself, but from chatting about it and recalling great memories. We did succeed in discovering that Geordie was a singer in a showband called the ‘Snowdrifters’. There were six of them in the band and it was not a great paying proposition. He would claim he was the singer, manager and driver, as he did not drink!. This was back in the 60’ ad 70’s. They only played the odd date locally and usually as the warm-up group prior to the big band coming on stage. Then the showband phenomenon collapsed due to late bar extensions. He recalled when you asked a girl for a ‘mineral’ during the dance. Now you would have to buy a ‘double Vodka’!!
All Content Copyright emyvale.net
Geordie Wilson R.I.P.
In 2008 I conducted an interview with Geordie Wilson and it was published in the Dungannon Observer. There was a great reaction to the article as Geordie was well known in every cycling Club in Ireland and the Emyvale club in particular as he attended in one guise or another, most of the events organised by Emyvale CC. I can remember my time spent with him and can recall the warmth and friendliness of his humble presence. He passed away recently at the age of 91 and we offer our sincere sympathies to his family at this time. I reproduce that interview here: Face to Face with Geordie Wilson in 2008. Though born outside Moneymore, Geordie Wilson is a Cookstown man as he has lived there from a very early age. He is now a retired business man and so can indulge in his passion for cycling when and where he likes. His life has been centred on bicycles and, though he claims to have won no major award, he has competed and cycled with the best. It is the freedom, the fresh air and the open country that gives him that love of cycling and he has passed that on to many with whom he has been in contact over the years. Father’s Shop Geordie’s father, Billy Wilson, fought in the First World War in the 36th Ulster Division and when he came home after the war he bought premises and set up a bicycle shop in Cookstown. Bicycles were big business in those days, as they were the common mode of travel. They were in great demand and they needed repairs and it was the intuitive mind of Billy Wilson to see and seize the opportunity. He had gained some knowledge of the mechanics and workings of the machine during the war and soon his shop was a well- known place. Indeed Geordie remembers that on Saturdays there would be over 50 bicycles parked outside the shop, as people left them there, while they went down the town to do their shopping. He also remembers that they were totally safe there as not a one was ever stolen. All bicycles were painted black then and they were made mainly from steel. Billy made a few of his own design. They were called’ The Star of Tyrone’ and there is sure to be one lying in a shed somewhere around the town. Family The young Geordie went to the local Primary School followed by Cookstown High School. He then went to work and was employed in the Dairy in Cookstown, which is gone now and there is a housing estate there instead. He was involved in the bottling of the milk, which came in from the farms all around the country-side. It was glass bottles then and they were difficult to work with in that they had to be very clean and they broke easily. It was all done by machinery and wasn’t heavy work. It also had the advantage that Geordie could have his work completed by two or three o’clock each day, which meant that he had time for the bicycles as he had a great interest in working on them and in using them. His father asked him to take over the shop in 1975, which he did. His father died at the age of 87 in 1980. His mother had died suddenly in 1971. On that particular morning she had made the breakfast as usual at 7.30am and at 11.30 was cleaning and sweeping. She was outside dusting down a mat when she felt unwell and went into the house and died when she sat down on the settee. It was a terrible shock to the whole family. Of his two brothers and three sisters only one brother and one sister survive – his brother Norman, and sister, Jean. She lives in England but comes home regularly to visit him and see that he is OK. Norma’s wife, Margaret, also ‘keeps an eye’ on Geordie and helps out with the housework. Norman was a teacher but retired early to go back to studies and last year was awarded an Honours Degree in Law from Queen’s University. He is now going to Oxford University to follow studies for a Bachelor in Civil Law and become a Barrister. Early Days Growing up on Cookstown was good. There was plenty to do. There was the Fair Hill Picture House to see all the latest films and dances every Saturday night in the Town Hall, which is gone now with a Theatre in its place. There was little traffic on the street and roads and the Main Street was regarded as the widest in Ireland. There were no trees, island, traffic lights or any other obstruction, except the Cenotaph, on the entire Main Street. There were very few parked cars there either, and all this made it an ideal place for holding bicycle road races. The centre of the town was boggy and that is why the remedial works were necessary on the street. The heavy lorries, and traffic generally, was too great for the existing roadway and one with a greater depth of foundation was needed. It will be a great job when it is finished. Cycling In 1947 a cycling club was set up in Cookstown called the |East Tyrone Cycling Club. Naturally Geordie became involved and began competitive cycling in 1950. He has cycled now for 58 years, as he still rides the bicycle, though it is mostly Touring with the odd competition. The club organised Road Races round the town. These were called Criteriums. They also held Time Trials on the Main Street. They then moved the Time Trials to the Dungannon Road, but that has also become a very busy road and now they hold them on the Omagh road. it was about ten years before Geordie made his first breakthrough at club level but there were great cyclists in the club at the time and they were very hard to beat. There were boys like Tommy Talbot, who was an Irish International, and Jim Slane and Tommy Allingham among a host of great riders. Tommy Allingham was a fantastic long distance cyclist. Many of these also held office in the club and Geordie himself was Press Secretary and on the handicap committee, among other jobs. However, on the road, the major prize eluded him. He remembers one race in Cookcown and he was in the lead bunch as they approached the finish and it was going to be a sprint but he could not get the bike into the proper gear for the sprint and ended up in second place. There was a beautiful Mantle Clock for 1st prize and he would dearly have loved to win it. Big Names Looking back at some of the great names in local cycling he calls to mind the magnificent Jim McQuaid and his five sons. Jim, from Dungannon, was a mighty rider on track and road. His sons followed him and were at the top of the list where cycling is concerned. Three of his sons – Ciaran, Oliver and Pat – all took part in the same year in the Milk Race in England. Pat was a professional rider and went on to become the president of UCI and one of the top men in cycling officialdom. There were other great names and people that Geordie knew well. Boys like Chris McGorry, who is now in America; Gary Scott, a nephew of Tommy Talbot and a crack rider from Moygashel; the great Bobby Talbot and his son, Gareth. Further afield there were boys like Shay O’Hanlon, Jim Johnston, Peter Doyle, Seamus O’Hanlon, Tony Murphy, and more recently Tony’s son, Connor, and Paul Brady. There were also many many men who were involved as officials and supporters, without whom the sport could never have continued. He knows that the East Tyrone Club is indebted to so many for their contribution to the sport. There are also others like Mickey McKenna, Seamus Cadden, Francie McQuaid and the great John Colton, who have given so much to the sport. Geordie would claim that cycling is one of the most friendly of all sports. His shop was a mecca for them all and he made so many good friends through the bikes – friendship, which have lasted the test of time. A good cyclist is a good sportsman and during the race there is friendly rivalry but at the end you take your beating and shake the winner’s hand and train harder to be the winner next time. Many cyclists got their first bicycle from the Cookstown shop and many called, even when they wanted nothing more than a cup of tea and a chat. People like John Colton and Tony Murphy used to cycle the whole way from Monaghan and back again just for the chat. Irish Team It was through his friendship with Jim McQuaid that Geordie was appointed team mechanic for the Irish team during the Milk Race in England in 1975 and 1976. That was not as easy as it sounds as it was the mechanic’s responsibility to check every bicycle after every race, service and repair if necessary, then clean and have it ready for the next day’s stage. With six bikes to attend to, it meant working till after 1.00am each night. A young cyclist was a member of the Irish team and he won his first major stage going into Stoke in England during the 1975 Milk Race. That young man became the world famous cyclist – Sean Kelly. Geordie was with him again the following year when he won another stage into Sheffield and a life-long friendship developed between the two. In November 2007 the East Tyrone Cycling Club celebrated its 60th anniversary and the officers organised a big night in Hanover House. Sean attended and made the presentations. He stayed over for the night and next morning he accompanied members of the club on a cycle spin, giving them all encouragement and inspiration. Geordie describes him as a real gentleman and a real super-star and says that there is no one like Sean Kelly, or as Geordie would say – ‘he’s some man, Kelly’. Tours As already stated, Geordie goes on Touring runs. He cycles about 100 miles each week, going about 15 mph. It is difficult to pace oneself, when on your own, but in a group you have to watch out or an inexperienced rider could pull you down. When Geordie was young, he loved heading off to Donegal. It was his favourite place. He and six others did a tour of Ireland, cycling about 100 mile per day. They went down the West coast, across through Kerry, Cork and Waterford and home along the East coast. It was a great way to see Ireland. On weekends during the year, rain or sun, the group would head off to Letterkenny on Saturday morning and them on to Dunfannaghy. There they stayed in a B & B for fifteen shillings each. The owner was a lovely lady and looked after them well. She had three brothers, who went off to fight in the World War, but she never saw or heard of them again. The group would then head home on Sunday. It was a tough cycle as they had a good load of spare clothes and gear on the back of the bicycle. There was little traffic in Donegal at the time and the roads were quite good and their bikes were top class. Once they went a different route and were wanting to get to Fintown, but they could not find it. Eventually they stopped with a man on the roadside and asked where it was. He said – ‘you passed through it a milers back’. It only had a Pub and a Post Office. They just laughed, which showed their carefree attitude and as he says – ‘it did not matter whether it was raining or not, it was freedom and free to be out on the roads on a bicycle’ Changes There have been many changes over the years. Today’s bike is made from carbon fibre and is much lighter. Its design is aerodynamic and it is capable of faster speeds. Of course the cost has also risen and they can now cost thousands of pounds. However if one wants to compete at the highest level then the best machinery is necessary. The roads today are very dangerous for cyclists. There is so much traffic and it is travelling so fast that there are added dangers for the cyclist. Indeed some of the large trucks could blow a cyclist into the hedge as it goes past. In towns there is always the danger of a driver or back seat passenger opening the door of the car just as you come to pass. Geordie uses all the wee back roads and he knows them all like the back of his hand. He has never been injured while touring but did get a few minor injuries in competition. However, any cyclist can show scars on his elbows, arms and knees due to falls. The sport itself may be in danger as it is difficult to get roads that are safe to run competitions and the requirements of insurance is making things difficult to organise. In England, for example, the club has to pay a big price for the use of police and this is beyond the means of many clubs. Some alternative method of holding competitions will have to be found. There is a big number of youngsters taking up and getting involved in the sport in Cookstown and many other clubs and we have got to provide them with the means to continue. The Veledrome, like they have in Manchester, is one method but it would cost millions to set one up as the special flooring is very expensive. As well, this would remove one of the attractions - the fresh air and the freedom of the countryside. Entertainer It was almost impossible to get Geordie to talk about anything other than cycling and, just as another topic was raised, we suddenly found ourselves back on two wheels again. It shows his passion for the sport and the joy he derives, not just from cycling itself, but from chatting about it and recalling great memories. We did succeed in discovering that Geordie was a singer in a showband called the ‘Snowdrifters’. There were six of them in the band and it was not a great paying proposition. He would claim he was the singer, manager and driver, as he did not drink!. This was back in the 60’ ad 70’s. They only played the odd date locally and usually as the warm-up group prior to the big band coming on stage. Then the showband phenomenon collapsed due to late bar extensions. He recalled when you asked a girl for a ‘mineral’ during the dance. Now you would have to buy a ‘double Vodka’!!