Charlie Chadwick was an amazing man. Born in Bolton on 20 July 1904, he joined the Cyclists’ Touring Club in his late teens, and by the time he was 17 he had already started to record his travels. Within a year his talents were beginning to develop and we see him starting to illustrate his journals as well as writing about his exploits. His writing is widely regarded to be of a very high standard indeed.
Much of those earlier years were spent with an elite group of like minded souls, nicknamed the ‘We are 7’ (We.R.7), to a man all hard riders. The distances covered, the hours they spent in the saddle, their commitment to cycling, every ride was an endurance test, especially given the state of their equipment in those early times. Their bizarre – and for those days – exciting escapades fill many pages, with often a poem to complete some unfortunates comeuppance.
Later he was very fortunate to meet Margaret, another keen cyclist. Charlie doesn’t make it clear when they met and this is further confused by the fact that in all of his writings he always refers to her as Jo. (Even more confusing is that she was introduced to me in the 1950’s, and always known by me, as Peggy.) Eventually they were to marry on 25 July 1936 at Bamber Bridge The wedding ceremony was held at 8 o’clock in the morning which even in those times was rather early! However, it was necessary because after the service they boarded the train for Glasgow and rode via the Campsie fells and the Trossachs to camp at Loch Achray on their wedding night. The pair of them were never off their bikes, the keenest cycle campers you could ever wish to meet.
Charlie spent all of his working life as a foundry man, starting as an apprentice at the age of 14, working in many foundries as employment opportunities arose, (including the new foundry at Ford’s in Dagenham in 1933) and travelling daily to AEI (Associated Electrical Industries) in Trafford Park, Manchester for his last 30 years.
With his love of the high and lonely places, his knowledge of the countryside and all that grew in it, his expert photography, his knowledge of the byways and remote tracks it is little wonder that he was a founder member of the Rough Stuff Fellowship and indeed their first Chairman.
Sadly Charlie died in 1968 at the age of 64. He was found collapsed in the Leyland Motors Sports and Social Club toilets and subsequently died. A very sad and lonely end for a truly outstanding man. (Take heed all ye smokers, for Charlie was a 40 a day man all his life).
Fortunately for us he left behind his secret treasure of stories and illustrations, painstakingly written in pen and ink, many of the drawings in the style of Frank Patterson, who seems to have been his role model, to the extent that it is sometimes difficult to tell them apart. Everything that Charlie did was diligently recorded for our benefit.