The Cyclists War Memorial

Although the Pilgrimage to Meriden has been up on the site since we launched it seems I omitted to include Charlie’s drawing of the memorial itself. I came across it by accident this evening whilst I was preparing some of the material scheduled for publication later in April (see Publishing Schedule for April and Additions for April).

Anyway, I have now rectified this omission, and found an excuse to introduce you to this piece too.

The Dry Hill

Over Moel Sych comes from 1932 which is towards the latter end of Charlie’s written output. But clearly he has not lost any of his enthusiasm for cycling, or writing.

Interestingly he says it is 12 years since he first rode this route to North Wales when he would have been 15-16, perhaps some 18 months before his first diary entry.

It seems to have been an eventful trip on this occasion. Eventful weather and a heart-stopping moment for Jo near the 2,700 ft summit and on the edge of the great cliff face. However, it seems that it was to be put down as just another normal incident for this trio of adventuresome cyclists cum climbers.

Regardless of the fact that Moel Sych may mean Dry Hill it seems that it was anything but on this particular outing!

Publishing Schedule for April

I recently noticed that the dates and days of the week for 1923 coincide with 2012! So, armed with this information I thought that it might be quite nice to follow Charlie’s journal entries for the month of April in “real-time” – by which I mean that I will publish each of his diary entries for April on the corresponding days of April 2012.

Charlie made diary entries for the following days

Birth of a Cyclist

It is only a few days since I introduced you to Charlie’s first words. I thought that this was the earliest recollections of Charlie’s cycling exploits but now in “A Long Memory” David has turned up this charming vignette of some much earlier excursions.

As someone who was brought up in a place from which you could actually see the moors above Belmont village then I suspect that I appreciate probably more than most just what an adventure it must have been for a seven year old to go out on such a journey – and in the dark too. I know that the roads must have been very quiet in 1911 but even without modern traffic I don’t think that I would have seriously contemplated that journey at the tender age of just 7 years.

In this piece Charlie tells us that he is now fifty four suggesting that he wrote this in 1958.

The Gatekeepers

Although we are all familiar with the concept of gates I think it is fair to say that none of us really has to deal with them on anything but an extremely rare occasion. The idea that gates could have supported a whole micro-economy is something that I can only marvel at!

But such is the nature of opportunity and as we can see in this piece from Charlie the window which is available to capitalise upon it can be all too short. In “The Gates” Charlie tells us just how quickly, as motoring became both an enjoyable pastime and a business imperative that, there was a class of people who were only too willing to grasp the commercial challenge that it presented.

Not only were these gatekeepers quick to latch on to the income potential that these gates represented but they also seem to have been quick to grasp the capacity to regard these same gates as a marketable commodity. Very enterprising.

Yet it seems that the speed at which the gatekeepers were able to become commonplace was outmatched by the speed of their demise with the onset of the second world war.

Youth Unemployment

Upon completing his apprenticeship Charlie was unable to find work. Much later (unfortunately this piece is undated) he wrote about his period on The Dole and the hardships that he endured at that time. It is difficult, whilst reading this, not to draw some parallels with the present situation in Britain where so many young people are currently experiencing difficulties in finding work.

It is rather difficult to unravel the dates in this piece. Charlie says that upon completing his apprenticeship at the age of 21 (1926?) he was out of work for 2.5 years. The way the piece is written it seems that this period of unemployment came to end when he finally found work at the new Ford’s factory in Dagenham. Yet we know that he started work there in May 1933 – some 7 years later. Maybe as we read more of his writing from those intervening years he will shed some more light onto what he was doing during this period.

I found this rather marvellous painting by Terence Cuneo of the Dagenham works on the Bonhams website. As yet I haven’t tracked down whether I am permitted to use this image (still working on it) so I may have to take it down. But in the meantime it is such a great picture that I simply couldn’t resist using it for now.

Charlie’s first words

Charlie’s first diary entry – like those of many other people – is dated 1 January, in his case 1922.

In it you will see the early makings of someone who was to become a fine author. His enthusiam for cycling is clear from the start and he sets out a pretty clear vision of how he intends to develop this pastime that we are – through the pages of this site – going to come to know quite intimately as his story unfolds.

Clearly he was already an established cyclist – having owned a cycle for 8 years prior to his 17th birthday – although he seems only to have taken it up seriously in the previous year in which he says he covered 1760 miles. He says he has already taken many holidays on a bicycle, though it is also clear that in these cases it was merely for transport to get there and back. He also expresses a love of the sea and boating and it will be interesting to see whether he returns to this in future years.

He also says that he did take a couple of rides out with Farnworth Wheelers during 1921, but that seemed to be enough to convince him that they were too slow so he is clearly planning to break out. The other comment that we should note is how Charlie already seems to have developed a strong aversion to “petrolised demons“.

Finally, this page also includes the earliest known picture of Charlie. This picture was actually taken in 1925 – some 3.5 years later than these initial jottings, by which time he would have been approaching his 21st birthday.

Website is launched today

Welcome to the Charlie Chadwick website.

My Son, Alistair (Joe) and I are pleased to launch this website in conjunction with the publication by the Veteran Cycle Club of a book containing excerpts from the pre-war diaries of Charlie Chadwick, a Bolton cyclist.

Born in 1904 Charlie started to record all his cycling trips in 1922 at the age of 17 and over the next decade his literary and artistic skills developed to a very high standard.  His illustrated Journals are an absolute pleasure to read, interlaced with personal and humorous interludes awheel on his bicycle.

Hidden away in his loft these journals only came to light in comparatively recent times and it is our pleasure to share this small selection of them with you.  I first met Charlie in the 1950’s, but never a word did he say about his Journals from before the war.  Charlie died in 1968, his secret still safe.

The Book, No 2, published under the Cycling History label of the Veteran Cycle Club contains many of Charlie’s wonderfully executed drawings and the accompanying narrative is a joy to read.

We have now produced a detailed plan to publish much more of Charlie’s archive through regular weekly updates on this site so stop by regularly or better still follow @CharlieChadwick on Twitter to keep up to date with all of the developments happening on the site.

Launch countdown begins

It is increasingly clear that people are starting to find their way to this site – so I can’t really put off confirming a launch date for any longer! We have already had visitors from a fairly broad expanse of the UK and even some international visitors from Ireland, the Netherlands and the United States.

So, I am pleased to announce that the official launch date for this site will be two weeks from tomorrow – Wednesday 21 March 2012.

In the meantime work continues frantically in the background. I am finally learning my way around – what seems to me – David’s arcane filing system and slowly I am knocking it (or him, he’s not quite sure which) into some sort of shape. We now have something of the order of 400 or so stories of Charlie’s to publish – and there could be many more! My original plan was to push out one a week, but with that much material I think that we will be able to do much better than that – I am currently aiming for 2 a week.

So, I crave your patience for a little while longer. I’m very pleased that so many of you are keen to get started on the incredible journey that we are about to embark on together. I trust that you find the wait to have been worth your while. In the meantime I can’t make any guarantees for what you will be able to see on the site prior to launch date – but I will endeavour to leave enough for everyone to look at to whet your appetites.

Also, if anyone wants to make contact then we’d love to hear from you – just enter a reply to this post. Whilst it is great to see that so many people are visiting the site you are, for the most part, anonymous to us at this stage. I’m sure that, as we come to know our audience better, we can adapt what we are planning, to improve the site and your experiences of it.