South West London DA: Sou' Wester Archive
Profile of Colin Quemby

Profile: Colin Quemby - (Nov/Dec 2002)

Having been born into a cycling family, I was brought up in a sidecar and on the back of a tandem. An early photo shows me entertaining the crowds in the 1938 Lord Mayor's Show. My first solo, a roadster with three speed hub gear, came just before my 10th birthday. Later, a second hand Royal Enfield frame was built up for me, mainly from parts hanging in the shed. The Sturmey K series hub gear came from my grandfather's machine which he had bought for transport during the General Strike of 1926. On this machine, I started cycling to school on Wimbledon Common, a 4½ mile ride each way.

I soon converted the bike to fixed wheel but was not allowed toe clips until I could demonstrate that I could keep my feet on the pedals at any speed! At 17, I started training to become an accountant which involved working at many different places in London. Commuting was often by tube but on the bike when practical. I found I was continually breaking steel toe clips, so abandoned them using a wider piece of leather held by a pair of straps, a system I still use to this day.

My parents had helped to form the North Cheam (now Cheam & Morden) Section but as I grew up our riding was more with the Family Section. In the fifties, the DA decided to form a new Section in the Wimbledon area and a few of us were asked to join it to provide a nucleus. Unfortunately, this Section did not survive for very long and most of us joined the nearby Mitcham & Tooting Section. Prominent at the time were 'Pete' Peters, Syd and Ernie Richardson, Tom Powell, Jimmy Cross, Ron Parminter, not forgetting Ken Clark, Ralph Gommon and Jack Parham who are still active today.

My cycling followed the usual pattern of Sunday rides, regular weekends to youth hostels or B&B and touring holidays. These were often with Section members but occasionally alone. One year's holiday was a CTC tour to Austria.

To encourage youngsters, the Mitoots formed the Variety CC for juniors holding regular rides and a clubroom in Balham. This was the brainchild of Keith Brookfield and resulted in an influx of members (and several weddings!). Those who started with the Variety CC and still come to Mitoot reunions include Len and Heather Johnson, Dave Metcalf, Graham and Liz Mitchell-Gears. Dave Cann also first rode with us about this time.

By 1960 I had bought a Lambretta scooter for commuting purposes but in 1963 a Land Rover destroyed it and put me into hospital with a fractured arm. I was still living at home but as my parents were about to go away on holiday, I was given a convalescent place in Wandle Valley (now a housing estate). Whilst there, I was told that David Silverton did not wish to continue as a CTC Councillor for Surrey and would I consider being nominated. I am still not sure if I was in a fit condition to make a decision but my long association with the CTC nationally started at that point.

As an accountant, I naturally became involved on the financial side - a headache at the time when membership was falling continuously and the motor car was an affordable purchase for most people. This was also the time of the move from Craven Hill to Godalming. The Club had to make economies and I began to do some of the routine work such as preparing the annual accounts and overseeing the production of management figures, continuing to do these until a financial accountant was appointed in the recent past.

I had married in 1967 - to a cyclist - and by 1980 with three young children and growing pressures at work announced that I would not be seeking re-election to the Council. I was thereupon made a Vice President of the Club, a position I held until the reorganisation of the Council in 2000. I was retained as Financial Adviser until I retired from the Council at the end of last year. As you all know, I was presented with an engraved decanter at the National Dinner in Orpington last May (photo left).

Until the mid 1980s, the Club ran a British Cycle Tourist Competition. Len Steel, Shirley and I joined the organising committee in 1966 and spent many happy weekends exploring different parts of the country planning the annual finals. We learnt a lot about each area and were brought into contact with many active CTC members, starting friendships which we still enjoy.

The pressures of work, both professional and Club, and a growing family restricted actual cycling. During this time, outings were often just short trips with the children, using a sidecar, then tandem and triplet and eventually with the girls on solos. Besides day trips, we had several weekends and holidays away together, sometimes with train or car assistance.

Today, my cycling consists of utility rides to the bank or for shopping, Saturday afternoons with the Beginners and Sundays, generally on my own. Long holidays do not fit in with work commitments so Shirley and I take long weekends as often as we can - adding extra days before or after a meeting or event somewhere away from the home area. For these, I use a touring machine built by Southern Cycles in 1964 and a fixed wheel machine from Allins from 1971. More recently, we bought a secondhand Brompton which sees much use on trips into Central London and beyond when a 'normal' machine is not convenient. I hope soon to have more time to use all three.

Picture of Colin Quemby