What was Marguerite like to know? ‘Very much like my wife, very reserved, yes, I would say she was a bit on the reserved side, but not a snob or any thing like that, and there was nothing coarse or crude about her, she had a class, sort of, I don’t know, you can’t quit put your finger on it… I don’t know if anybody else has said that but she was a smart girl and I think I wasn’t the only one…
I think it must have been 1941, I had a bike frame. I scraped it all off, painted it, went down to Bill Harvel’s shop in Portsmouth, bought some wheels and bits and pieces. I was working damned long hours, but I could finish work say at seven, go home, put my shorts on and go out. It reminded me of Marguerite because I used to love to ride all round Braishfield, Romsey, Stockbridge and back to the Braishfield Arms. I used to just thoroughly enjoy that and from reading your book Marguerite was precisely the same, she used to just like riding.
One day a week we were allowed off, I forget what day it was, but I was going out along Hursley and, low-and-behold but who comes towards me but Marguerite! I was over the moon because I hadn’t seen her for a couple of years. I looked round and she was stopping, so I whipped round, and of course there was no cars, you could turn round easy then and I rode with her. She was going up to some place, I think it was to see her fiancee or boyfriend up near Alton, so I rode with her I think it was 20 odd miles up to near Four Marks. We said cheerio, I had to get back to Eastleigh, that was about 20 odd miles.
Oh Marguerite, we’d ride together, she said I can’t understand why your fastest time is only 1 hr 7 min, no, 1 hr 9 min it was then. She said ‘I can’t understand it, you’re killing me! ha,ha ha, I can’t keep up’, but I lacked the concentration on time trialling.
BIO- Jim Ayley was raised in Hampshire and was apprenticed to become a precision fitter in the aeronautical industry. His was in a reserved occupation during the war. Jim with his colleagues would often work night and day to prepare or modify fighter aircraft. He married in 1942. He and his wife Margaret raised a son and two daughters in Southampton. Jim's passion for cycling was passed on to his children,
his son Colin became a very accomplished Chamnipoinship winning cyclist. Valerie's childhood was equally steeped in the sport, she continued to be heavily involved in cycling in Canada. A true cycling family.
Among his varied career, he ran a bicycle shop, designing and building his own frames. In 1965 Jim was seconded to work in Detroit for the Ford Motor Company. Jim's skills were highly valued in the USA, where he worked both in the aerospace and automotive industries taking up American citizenship.
In his youth Jim raced against many of the leading cyclists of the era. He promoted track meetings and races. He was involved in some of the very first road races to emerge when breakaway groups from the NCU were formed. Jim was a founder member of the Southern Paragon Cycling club. After cycling Jim's interest moved on to other interests including fly-fishing.
Now widowed, Jim lives back in the UK. In common with many of his generation cycling laid the foundation for excellent health. He lives independently, doing his own shopping and cooking, also taking on new projects. When I visited in the summer of 2016 Jim had been busy designing and making a dolly with casters for his plasm screen tv. I really enjoyed meeting Jim and spending the day with him.. We had a pub lunch together, Jim enjoying a pint of bitter. What a rare opportunity, to speak to a contemporary of Marguerite and someone who was at the heart of the cycling in the 1930s and 40's.
Quite frankly William, I found I used to get more fun riding round like that on my own than I did from the club runs and all that. It got, well in ’37, ’38, it got bitchy and the pleasure was gone and I do feel that it's a shame when it's all money and sponsorship. But having said that I joined the Clarion. I wanted to ride a 25, it was at Barnstable, north Devon, the firm give me the time off and I caught a train on the Friday and a manager of Alfred’s arranged some digs for me, they were good too, cockles and cream, mussels and I had a nice long weekend and won 1st handicap in the 25. But to be able to do that I had to join a club, I joined the Clarion and I didn’t really know their political line, they were out and out, I don’t like to use the word, ‘commies’ really, and although they were on one hand like that, they were grabbing with the other. I stuck that for about a year, then we formed the Southern Paragon and I was in touch with Marguerite through dinners at Elford bridge and the annual club dinner. We made her president of the new Southern Paragon which went on to enjoy success .
I remember the Bournemouth 25. Marguerite had a private trial, she often done that, she wasn’t allowed to enter, (As a profesional cyclist she was barred from all amateur cycling Ed). I don’t known what time she did, but she often done that, she wasn’t allowed to enter them, and that was about the period when we got the racing tights abolished, we could wear shorts down to the knee, and stockings up to the knee -rubbish! - I was in the event, I was just staging a bit of a comeback, I watched her finish. After the race we went down to Burt’s cafe. A little group, we sat down out on the grass verge, the sun was shining, a lot of the club people, the racers and Marguerite our President was there. We all done pretty well, oh we won the team prize. And those wonderful legs!, they always seemed to be brown, I don’t know if she had some special paint ha ha ha, but I think a lot of it was cycling in shorts so much and yeh, we stopped there for quite a while just joking and talking, they were great days. And when it came to breaking it up I had to push the boy’s eyes in to get them to see to go home! Yeh she was some girl!'
What a gent! Lovely memories, thank you for sharing them. I was on a VCC ride at the weekend and was chatting to older members about club cycling in the 30's, 40's and 50's, and how this generation are very thin on the ground now. It made me pop in on my uncle on the way home, now 91, and a keen cyclist in the 40's, time trialing with the Stonebridge Couriers, social rides with the Erdington Cycling and Social Club. Oh for a time machine!
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