Founded in 1883 as Manchester Athletic Bicycle Club (the name was changed to Manchester Wheelers' Club in 1889), Manchester Wheelers have a long history marked by its fair share of ups and downs.
If you just want a brief history of the club, then you can download the 130th Anniversary Brochure, which has a short article bringing the history right up to date, as well as articles on Women in the Wheelers and on Reg Harris.
For a detailed history of the club's first one hundred years, Jack Fletcher's book, downloadable below, should be your first port of call.
A History of Manchester Wheelers' Club 1883-1983 by Jack Fletcher
The documents below represent a complete transcription of the book "A History of Manchester Wheelers' Club 1883-1983". The book was first published in 1983 on the occasion of the Centenary Dinner, marking the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Club. It charts the rise of Manchester Wheelers' from its beginnings in Hulme, through the war years and the Reg Harris era, to the heady days of success during the 1980's. It is a valuable piece of local history and a fascinating read.
Jubilee '50', 1943. Nine Past Presidents:
Left to right (back row): Monty Brierley, Harold Crye, Tom MacDonald, Jimmy Taylor.
Left to right (front row): Bill Hodgins, Fred Leeming, Fred Currie, Tommy Barlow, Freddie Harrison.
T. M. Barlow (1891 - 1981)
With the passing of Tommy Barlow the Club lost one of its greatest and longest serving members.
T.M.B. joined the Club in 1913 and was elected to Committee in 1915. That Committee included some outstanding administrators and officials who had guided the Club from its infancy and there is little doubt that Tommy learned much from them and he in turn as Racing Secretary and Editor set standards for many other of our officials to follow. He was small in stature but a giant in ability and certainly, during the later years of his life, was a cartoonist's dream, with his slight stooping figure, usually garbed in "plusses", and with a hand-rolled cigarette somehow affixed to his upper lip. "Cycling" described him as a human chronometer, but this description sadly underrated the man. He was a member of a number of Cycling Clubs and indeed a founder member of several.
His vision was bounded by the cycling scene, otherwise he would have achieved greater eminence on a wider stage. Highly efficient as a Road Racing Secretary, he was the innovator of the Midnight '12' (starting at 9.30 p.m. on Saturday evening to avoid the traffic problems of the late 1930's) and was the first to use stationary time-keepers on the finishing circuits of 12 hours and 24 hour events. Although somewhat aloof by nature he nevertheless attracted a warm affection and respect from others.
He was one of nature's gentlemen of the old school and was probably against any form of commercialism. He nevertheless derived genuine satisfaction in the standing and success of the Manchester Wheelers' Club.
The "History of the Manchester Wheelers' Club 1883-1933" was compiled and produced by Tommy and will remain as a permanent testimonial to his ability and contribution to this Club.
His duties as Competitions Secretary to the R.T.T.C. from 1945 to 1977, which involved all the B.B.A.R. Tables and Competition Records required a tremendous amount of time and work and were worthy of national recognition.
He was a raconteur with a dry sense of humour, time-keeper for all types of cycling competition, time trials, track racing, road records and cycling historian.
Norman Grattage (1919 - 2009)
Norman, who died on Wednesday 4th March 2009 was the track racing promoter at the Fallowfield Track, in the 1950’s through to when Reg Harris bought the track and it was re named “Harris Stadium” shortly after he became grounds manager, when the track was sold to Manchester University he continued in that capacity till he retired in 1983.
He promoted for the Manchester Track Racing League, two nights a week and also was a promoter of Open Easter and Whit-sun International meetings and also of then famous Manchester Wheelers’ Club “Muratti” Gold Cup meetings he also was Chairman of the World Championship Committee at two World Championships at the Leicester Track, with his friends Benny Foster and Derek Bowyer they also promoted a number of National Championship meetings at the Leicester Track.
He instigated the bringing of Top Professional riders with the help of his great friend Reg Harris to whatever meeting he could when they became available. Much to the delight of the very large crowd support that Fallowfield track had, not that he neglected the amateur riders he put on programs with a great deal of thought to try and encourage up and coming and established stars to improve for which many stars had Norman to thank for his great help and understanding.
Although Flo and I were a great help to Norman he also was a great help to me when I was the Centre Massed Start Secretary for the old National Cyclist Union. Then he help with the first massed start circuit races we held at Heaton Park which were a great success, we with the great help from Tommy Barlow and lots of help from Jack Fletcher, mapped and sorted out the course and promoted the successful Manchester Wheelers’ Club, Manchester to Birmingham Road race.
Also he was chief commissaire driving his car or on the back of a motor cycle on the open road circuit races we promoted around the Siddington area.
He also sat on the National Racing Committee's, also he was the holder of the National Gold Badge of Honour, he promoted courses to train Commissaire and Judges to a very high standard and a lot of present day people are indebted to his early help and advice.
He helped in the promotion of the first track races at the new Manchester Velodrome and promoted the very successful track meeting The “Jack Fletcher” memorial meeting in respect of his good friend Jack.
All this is to honour what cyclists think is a great track manager and yet apart from being a modest time trialist, he first started racing as a novice with the Ashton Road Club and was to fast in his first time trials to be able to compete in the next years Withington Wheelers Novice event, he rode after the war with the amalgamated Abbotsford Park Road Club and I suppose his best performance was to win a medal in the Manchester Wheeler’s Open 100.
He joined the Manchester Wheeler’s Club in 1950 and soon was a member of the committee and always checked in the Wheelers’ 100’s and 12 hour events.
His first love though was Continental Road racing and he travelled to France before the war to see the Tour de France.
After his service in the R.A.F. in Rhodesia and back into cycling he used to take two daily continental papers: La Gazzetta dello Sport and L’Equipe; also 3 weekly sports magazines Mirror sprint etc. to satisfy his continental cycling knowledge.
His favourite continental road rider was Fausto Coppi, still a legend after all these years and we were witness to his World Road Race Championship win at Lugano.
He was an enthusiastic viewer of continental road races on the satellite T.V.
I will finish, saying goodbye to a very dear friend who we first met on an Easter training weekend to Lichfield in 1946, a truly lifetime friendship.
Reg Harris (1920 - 1992)
Reg Harris was born in Bury on March 1, 1920. He joined Manchester Wheelers as a teenager in 1939. He won five world sprint championships, one as an amateur and four as a professional, and broke world records. He became the hero of British sprint cycling and made a comeback 30 years after his first national amateur championship, winning the professional title at Leicester in 1974 at 54.
Reg Harris, World Professional Sprint Champion, 1950, held up by Tom MacDonald, Rocourt Track, Liege, Belgium.