The Belleisle Road Club, 1950s

I was given scans of some old Scottish cycling photos, which have led me down a trail of discovery. After investigation, I found that two of them are of the Belleisle Road Club.

I have had some trouble finding out when the club started. The photograph below was not dated but is from the early Fifties, definitely pre 1955 and probably pre 1953. A notable rider, John Kennedy, is sixth from the right, with a chimney pot behind him. He went on to ride the Tour de France, of which I will write more later.

Click on the image to see an annotated copy with the names of most of the people pictured. I spoke to David Ross, who was briefly a member of the Belleisle CC, as well as Joe Linden who also knew some of the members. Between them, and their friends and contemporaries, we been able to identify many of the faces in this image.

Back row, L-R: older man with hand on saddle, unidentified; hand on saddle, Angus Cameron; standing behind, unidentified; hand on saddle, Frank Wiggins; standing behind, Jackie Mullen (aka “Chossie”); hands on top tube and handlebars, Jackie Todd; standing behind, hand on shoulder, John Kennedy; behind, Martin Bonnar(sp?); hand on handlebar, Alex Campbell; behind, unidentified; Jim Crawford; unidentified.

Front row, L-R: kneeling, hand on top tube, Roger Wallacott; kneeling, arm round shoulder, John McNee; kneeling, Charlie Fleming.

Cycling club life at this time revolved around the social side of things- group rides, drum-ups and evenings in the club house. The Belleisle RC met in the East End of Glasgow, with a clubhouse in a converted tenement on or near the London Road and Fielden Street. Celtic Park is just a stone’s throw away. As the SpokeyDoke Blog discussed, rides were often a way to get out of church of a Sunday, but some clubs were not free of religion – the St Christophers CC was one Catholic organisation. With a club hut in this part of Glasgow you might assume that the Belleisle was a Catholic group, but it was non-denominational and there were an equal number of Catholic and non-Catholic members.

The picture above may be a meeting in the clubhouse of the Belleisle Road Club, likely in the early 1950s, and possibly in the London Road club house.

Many of the guys pictured above are sadly no longer with us. Joe Linden, who was a member for a short while, recalled that like many riders, National Service got in the way. John Kennedy was stationed with the RAF at Ballykelly in Northern Ireland around 1952-3. Joe himself spent two years in Pakistan from ’53 to ’55. David Ross was another who was a member briefly, but who told me his racing career took a downturn after his stint in the army.

The club was still going into the 1960s and their colours at this time were a copy of the Italian National Championship jersey: green, white and red. At this time, the Belleisle RC won the Scottish 25 mile team time trial championship in 1960 and broke the team record. The 50 mile team time trial record also fell that year, according to Steven McGinty.

Fraser Connell (who is more associated with the Johnstone Wheelers) was part of those teams and also won the National Road Race and 100 mile time trial championships in 1963 when he also broke 100 mile record. The championship team also incuded ome UCI Commissaire-to-be, Gerry McDaid.

Ian Sharp recalls that this team may have actually been specifically put together to win the team time trial championships, with Fraser Connell reverting to the Johnstone Wheelers and Gerry to the Glasgow Nightingale after. Another memorable member was Willie Anderson, described by one as a ‘firebrand that was the scourge of Centre meetings’.

As I drift in to the 1960s, some readers may recall that the Belleisle Road Club was revived in the 1980s. However, I wish to stay in the 1950s to pursue the next chapter of this story: the emergence of Scotland’s first elite road racing team.

[12 Feb 2012, edit paragraph 5, to reduce emphasis on idea that clubs were formed on religious grounds]