There were cycling clubs in the Abertillery District for most of the twentieth century. The track at Abertillery Park was laid in 1906 and was in continuous use until 1980, when it became in poor state of repair. By that time Maindy Track in Cardiff and Carmarthen Track had become the centres for that side of the sport, and the fun days of grass track racing were over to the detriment of cycle racing. Our own club was formed at the end of the war as a replacement for the Abertillery Road Club which had been forced to disband in 1939. The following article was written by Cliff Page for our 50th anniversary magazine. He was a vice-president of our club until his death, and with his wife Joyce were the proprietors of Landons' Newsagents and Toys in Somerset Street, Abertillery. He was also secretary of the local branch of the Burma Star Association, having served in that difficult campaign.
The Last Club Run
Five Years Before The Beginning
The Runs List in George Herbert's (Colliers) cycle shop window read - September 3rd, 1939, "Brecon Beacons" Dinner - "The Bull" Brecon. Tea - "Llangorse Lake" Will all members meet at the War Memorial, Abertillery, 9.00 am.
The morning of Sunday, Sept 3rd, 1939 was
a wonderful one; one of those mornings when one feels
good to be alive. It had that nip of Autumn in the air;
you could feel it around your knees - a marvellous
morning that only cyclists and hikers know.
In Gilwern at about five minute to
eleven, all the cars were pulling up outside the
Navigation. The air was suddenly very silent; people
were all talking in whispers.
I don't know whether if we were feeling faint or
relieved. Some of the bikers went home, some of us were
trying to think of the nearest pub. After a bit of a
pow-wow, we decided there was a pub in Longtown which
would be open. Longtown it was.
I don't suppose we had fifteen bob between us - somehow it did not matter any more. Comradeship came back to Britain that morning, or were the old timers looking at us - the cream of the country? Little did we think that in a few weeks time instead of cycling around the Beacons and swimming in Llangorse lake, we would be marching around the Beacons and swimming in the North Sea - How I cursed the Beacons some weeks later! I suppose it was three o'clock when we left Longtown. We were thrown out - it was closing time. We didn't leave empty handed though - our saddlebags were full of flagons!
In those days, the nearest place to have a quiet sit down or to make merry was at Abergavenny Castle. It was as easy as that - or so we thought - but it wasn't. The next thing I remember was zig zagging down the road and landing up on my back in a hedge. It didn't matter, the beer was safe! I don't know what time we got to Abergavenny Castle - I only know we did, because when I got home there was no beer left.
We never went out again; soon the little brown envelopes with OHMS on the top came, so we never had the chance. The next time I went to the War Memorial was seven years later, and for a different reason - to remember. One was shot up badly in Kohima, another was picked up in the North Sea. What happened to the others I do not know. What I do know is that after cycling with some of these characters, the other people of the world held no terrors for me.