About the OPCC

OPCC racerOld Portlians Cycling Club has been active in all branches of cycling sport and leisure continuously since 25th April 1921, originating as an athletic club for the Old Boys of Portland Road School, South Norwood, offering cricket, athletics and football as well as cycling. In the years before the Second World War the non-cycling activities dwindled and by 1940 the club became purely devoted to cycling.

The Old Ports have, over the years, become well-respected and can boast many champions and record holders both at National and at Regional level.

We currently have many active racing members who train throughout the season and actively race in crits and on track.

The club is also active in time trials, with riders testing every weekend. A few of our members have managed to break the hour for 25 miles, two hours for 50 and close to the magic four hours for the 100 miles.

The history of our club was written by Eddie Cook a past Club Secretary in the 1970/80s. Then told by Dave Hickman from the 1980's onwards.


History of the OPCC by Eddie Cook


The 1920's

The Old Portlians was founded April 25th 1921 as the Old Portlians Athletic Association, which was formed by old members of the Portland Road School in South Norwood. The Athletics in the Association included Football, Cricket, Athletics and Cycling (Touring).

At the start in 1921 the Headmaster of Portland School was President C Watson 1921-1925 when H Chester took over. The first cycling name was Jimmy Steer 1927/8/9.

The cycling section was affiliated to the C.T.C. (Cyclist Touring Club). When some members wanted to go racing, there was a split and two members; Stan Harvey and Bill Wells went to see Charlie Davey of the Vegetarian CCAC who was in business as a cycle dealer. He had re-formed the Addiscombe C.C. A Club that was under this name and had been operational for some years (since about 1895) but had ceased activities. Davey reformed the Club, which is the present outfit this was about 1926/27.

The Old Ports was still mainly touring and camping, but did start racing in the very late 1920's and used a course near Hayes Common for Club events. The Club used to weekend at B & B's on the coast. There is a photo in the Club album of a group outside a house at Brighton. The story is told of skylarking and banisters being broken with a £20 cost involved!

The Old Portlians Annual Dinner started at the Greyhound Hotel, Croydon High Street in 1926. They later went on to the Cafe Royal in North End, Croydon and due to the 1926 start, instead of 1921; the Dinner was always quoted as the fifth or so, when it should have been the tenth. This was put right after the war and the Dinner became the number of years the Club had been going, not the actual number of Dinners promoted.

The 1930's

By the early 1930's the Cub was into racing and the first Club Champion was Bertie Dadson in 1933. Frank White took over in 1934/5/6. Frank was a useful rider and did have the occasional win in Open events. His proudest day was when he won the K.C.A. 50 at Headcorn on a very bad morning. Hi did his usual ride of 2 hours 16 minutes when everyone else went backwards.

1920brightonThe next rider of note was Charlie Rockhill. He could get in the first three in Open events and was Club Champion in 1938 and 39. Frank White rode after the war.

It was not all racing. The Old Ports ran a Bicycle Polo team before the war and the ground at the top of Westerham hill was a favourite venue. Stars of the team were Len Adams, Archie Allin (of Allins Cycles) and Len Butler. Tommy Kingshott (also of Allins Cycle shop) was referee.

Bicycle Polo was played during the War, as most cyclists left in Croydon joined George Brake (Captain) in the Home Guard forming a Cyclist Unit mounted on Polo bikes. The Old Ports had quite a few members in this outfit and the stories are many and varied. One story is told of George Brake leading the unit over a very steep bank at Beddington, on their bikes, to get behind the opposition on an exercise. The opposing officer did not think that cycles could ride down such a gradient, but then he did not know of such things as very low gears and fixed wheels.

Bicycle Polo was held at Duppas hill during the summer. It continued after the War at a recreation ground in Addiscombe (Ashburton Park) but did not attract enough support from the younger riders and when George Brake (Wren Wheelers) died, it lost a lot of its drive.

The Old Ports used to run a series of dances, pre-war, during the winter months at Unique Hall (Leathwoods) and Stanley Halls, alternating. All sorts of stunts were introduced Dance contests (which George and Win Deller, Howard's parents, used to stand a good chance of winning, and Win still has the cups to clean to prove it!) A two-band effort was another gag, a dance group at one end and a jazz group at the other end of the hall. One Band, name forgotten, made its debut as a jazz group at the Unique Hall and went on to become quite well known.

Just prior to the war years around 1936/37, the Old Ports promoted a Tandem 50 on Southern Roads and World Record holders Mills and Paul of the Addiscombe CC were amongst the winners.

Around the late 1930's there was another good rider, John Blakeney, who came up with the Welsh movement to London (The Lord Mayor's of London scheme for the unemployed) He was capable of a fast 25 and broke Club records.

The 1940's

During the War, George Dent and Jack Evans kept the name of the Club to the fore and worked very hard both for the R.T.T.C. and the S.C.C.U.

Just after the War, the Club returned to the Greyhound, and the Old Port's Dinner also had the best band (semi-professional) in England (The Melody Maker Champions) Bert Johnson's Croydon Metro Band complete with conductor!

In 1946 the Tandem 50 was again promoted and attracted 15 entrants. George Dent and Jack Evans rode and hoped to win and save the Club from a great loss, as they would not have taken the award. They were leading the field but got stopped at Crawley level crossing and had to dive under the underpass. They lost time and failed in their efforts to take first prize.

The event was dropped to a 30 and attracted a 100 entry on the Southern Roads around 1948, but the S.L.D.C. of the R.T.T.C. did not support us and we had to apply to West London for a date finishing up on the Altom course. Eventually, it finished in the 1950's with only 9 entries and that was it. Tandems had fallen out of favour; it was every man for himself.

Jack was Road Manager of the S.C.C.U. and he and Stan Butler (Norwood Paragon) used to promote events on a rota basis. Jack was a very good organiser and one of his efforts was, just after the War, a S.C.C.U. Dance at Seymour Hall, London with Victor Sylvester and his band. He also promoted the Croydon Empire Roller contest for some years. This was a roller contest put on at the Croydon Empire, North End, Croydon, after the pantomime season. It was a great show.

Around the late 1940's the Athletic Association was abandoned with the cycling section keeping its trophies.

Football did not survive the War, Cricket started again after the War years for a few seasons but the closed and nothing is known of Athletics. Cycling continued throughout the War years with Jack Evans and George Dent in charge.

The very late 40's and early 50's saw one or two promising youngsters come into the Club and we even had two, Eddie Gowers and Ron Smith, riding Tandem at the S.C.C.U. Good Friday meeting at Herne Hill against the best in the land.

The 1950's

Names in the news for the Old Ports were John Farrow, Peter White, Eddie Gowers, Ron Smith, Bill Heletine and Ron Borer in the late 40's, early 50's.

About 1952/53, a new intake of youngsters was started in order to try and raise the standard of the club, which was in a bit of a decline. This did not meet with everyone's approval and a letter was published in Cycling in later years decrying the youngsters in the clubroom, but they used to be sent home by 9pm.

The Old Ports were one of the first Clubs to take on schoolboys and they had to be 13 years old. This was later reduced for a certain Kevin Richards to 10 (He became Schoolboy Champion).

The first intake of schoolboys was Brian Potter, Tony Potter, Mike Borer, Keith Adams, Roger Parish and Howard Deller (Howard is still with us today).

Many of these youngsters did progress to become champions at schoolboy and junior level and eventually senior level as well as represent England.

The numbers grew and attracted many and varied boys. It took a long time for the first girl to join. The first group used to brew up at the side of the road; each had to bring some water to go into the Kettle. Eddie Cook used to bring the primus, kettle, milk and tea, also a football or cricket bat, depending on the season. The day arrived when the group now about a dozen or more strong each week, decided they had grown up and wanted to go in the cafe a certain Mick Forbes was the spokesman.

The 1960's & Onwards

Others included Leo Murley, Paul Burgess, Barry Jones, Richard Mulberry, Bunny Stemp, then later Ken Cotman and Bob Percy. Many of these became international riders and then turned Pro.

Amongst the youngsters still coming in was a certain Ian Jewell who in his first race won the Kentish Wheelers Novices 25, open to first time riders only (1961). He went on to ride in our National Team Pursuit that took gold (Dave Bonner, Ian Jewell, Paul Burgess and Leo Murley). Ian also shone at Cyclo Cross and eventually left us to join the S. Western R.C. and then turned Pro.

By taking the youngsters, we also attracted other young riders; a certain Eddie Stagg was 16 when he joined. Two members from Whyteleafe C.T.C. joined up, Dave Bonner and Derek Wigley. Dave Bonner started racing at 14, but retired when he was 15. He started again at 16 with a certain amount of success and went on the become National Champion at 25 miles in 1963 with a 55.52, beating Hugh Porter on the day. Old Ports also won the team race. Dave had previously broken the competition record for 25 miles in 1962 with a 54.28. His other honours include leading the Club to the National Team Pursuit title at Fallowfield, beating S.R.R.A. 25 record with a 56 something on the Crawley Course. He also won the Golden Wheel trophy on the track at Manchester. His exploits are too many to list but his first road race was interesting. It was, I think, the Dulwich Paragon event, which finished at the top of Ide Hill. Going down to watch it a marshal was asked near the finish how the race was going. He said some bloke had broken away and was miles in front of the pack. Soon the figure of Dave appeared and he rode up Ide Hill and was changed into his riding down kit before the next man crossed the line.

Bonner later turned Pro and rode for Condor-Mackeson. With Dave's success, the Old Ports attracted many names, including Alan and Anne Sturgess. (Alan went on to become an International with the GB team whilst with the Old Ports, but later went back to Norwood Paragon). Anne could Win Ladies events on her day.

On the road, some of our other youngsters started to show good form and Eddie Stagg, Bill Lindsay were good enough to win long distance time trial. John Emery joined them from the Belle Vue and we had a very good distance squad. In one year, Eddie Stagg won 3 twelve-hour events, the S.W.R.C. on the Bath Road and the S.E.R.C. and the S.C.C.U. events held on Southern roads. Eddie also won the Catford 24 Hour event in 1960 with 461.294 miles. Bill Lindsay won the W.L.C.A. 50 and the Eastern Counties 100 and won a third place in the S.W.R.C. 12 amongst other wins.

Gillean Proctor won the National Schoolboy Road Race Championship, when it was run by the Kentish Wheelers at the Crystal Palace.

Eddie Stagg attacked the S.R.R.A. 12 record and took this with a distance of 257¼ miles. He still holds this record.

Ed Donegan was a bit of a character and one year he rode the Irish Tour. It was about a week’s racing in those days. He only had one Club jersey and his Sister rang up to ask for help. He was lent about another three or four but returned them as unused as he had to wash them himself after each day's stage. He just kept to one for the duration of the tour. Ed also has a season in Europe, as a junior, and when he came home the Proctor twins got him to ride the Junior 25, and we won the team award.

Here is a list of Riders that did well for the Club, in no particular order, but as I remember them. Derek Parish was a good Schoolboy, being placed the local heat of the G.F.S.10. He was also capable of winning schoolboy cyclo cross events and carried this onto junior level. With Brian Tidey they got through to the Schoolboy Road Race final at Liverpool one year.

The following Old Port's turned Pro- Dave Bonner, Bob Percy (he was #1 on the B.C.F. list), Barry Jones, Ian Jewell, Roger Parish.

Kevin Richards won gold as a schoolboy with the O.P's on the track, but then V.C.D'Or poached him and he cleaned up everything one year, except the 25, he was 5th I think. He was as a junior by then, but we had him from when he was 10 years old.

The Easter Ralley on the Isle of Wight was an Old Portlian favourite. There used to be racing around the island, a Coventry pair were the stars in those days and the Club used to cycle down on the Good Friday and come back on the Monday. This went on for many years, until the yob' element in some Clubs helped to kill this off.

A certain lady in the O.P. can tell a story of riding a stray horse along the front at Ryde at midnight before taking the horse to the police station. Then she found her digs doors bolted and had to bed down for the night with the lads in their house.

Camping was another interest in the Club and many tales can be told of camps in Guernsey at Theale for the Bath Road 100 the Club Open 25 when it was held under W.L.R.T.T.C. Sussex Coast and earlier still, the Open Tandem 30.

Roller racing was another interest that resulted in another good Club effort.

The Clubroom winter programme was also big in its day. At darts in the London South Cyclist Dart League, we were tops winning the League and Belle Vue Cup many times.

The Clubroom winter programme meant a speaker every month and these included Vin Denson and our own Dave Bonner as well as England coaches. A certain Don Wake gave a two-hour show once, a slide show of his motoring down to Australia across Europe and Asia. I expect he could still do this if you asked him and provide a projector!

History of the OPCC by Dave Hickman


This is a brief overview of the club history over the past 40 years, picking up from the work done by the late Eddie Cook covering the first 60 years since the club was formed in 1921. Eddie was a former club secretary and president, a much respected figure in the club and in the wider cycling world.

I joined the club in the summer of 1979, aged 26, after a random meeting with George Ward who was a fellow commuter, cycling to work from Biggin Hill (where I then lived) to the West End of London.

It is worth noting that back in the late 70s and indeed into the 80s, we cycling commuters were a fairly rare breed and we would often recognise each other as we rode up the Old Kent Road or Creek Road Deptford.

One odd chap I remember used to ride up to London from Bromley wearing Wellington boots and a windcheater even in the summer. Used to take him all day I think!

 I had returned to cycling as a way of getting fit again after a long layoff, having been in the Catford CC in the late 60s as a junior along with a few schoolmates including Clive Jeffery and Paul Barrington-King who later both joined the Old Ports. George lived locally and we often rode together and my first race with the club was the season closer time 10 mile time trial at Crowhurst which has been our traditional base for the club TTs  for a long time.  I managed a short 27 to dead heat with Don Wake (who would have been around 50 at the time). I was a guest rider in the so called ‘Dad’s 10’ which was duly won by Don. I wasn’t a Dad and half his age but was very happy with my time, it being my first race since I was 15!

The course at that time had 2 dead turns which were a common feature in those days. You turned around a marshal standing in the middle of the road! Very dangerous and of course since banned as a practice in TT racing.

The club I joined was quite family orientated with a number of families involved in the club; racing, club runs and social. The Cominetti, Parker, Richards, Tidey and Watkins families were all very involved with the running of the club as well as prominent in  racing with Pete Cominetti, Phil Watkins , Mark Parker and Kevin Richards having made names for themselves.

In 1979, Kevin Richards won 4 gold medals in the schoolboy category at the National Track and Road race, and when I joined , he had just joined VC D’or as he moved up to the junior ranks where he also won medals in the National Track.  He retired from racing not long after that as other life commitments came to the fore.

The 1980's

In the early 80s the club was run effectively by Eddie Cook who was  then Secretary with Jack Elfred as President.  Both ‘old school’ and who raced in the 30s. Don Glover was another key figure who led club runs and also got involved in time trials as timekeeper, both for the club and more widely in the Southern Counties, a role he enjoyed performing for many years.

Prominent racing names in the early 80s were Pete Cominetti, who had won the club BAR as a junior in 78 and who was a strong and aggressive rider on the road and also a strong time triallist. He won a number of road races and one year got 4th Place in the South East Divisional road race. Likewise, Phil Watkins was a talented all- rounder on the track, road and also time trials. He later had a lot of success with Wembley RC and won on the road and time trials on Southern roads.

Chris Sherwood won a bronze medal in the National track championships in the early 80s as a junior and his father Laurie was club secretary for a few years. Chris joined the police like his father and his career took over.

In the 80s and into the 90s, the club had a good number of riders involved in road racing with the Surrey League and Kent league as well as other key races such as the Brighton- London road race organised by the Catford CC. This was a tough race with elite riders as well as us as ‘cannon fodder’ that did a circuit of the Ashdown forest , taking in the deep joy of Kidd’s Hill (aka ‘The Wall’).

One year we had 11 riders finish that event (it finished up Star Hill , Knockholt so ‘London’ was a bit of a stretch!) we finished with 11 riders from 10th place to 20th place. However, out of 60 odd starters in Brighton only 30 or so actually finished! We were fortunate to have as our road coach Ken Hargrave who along with his wife Doreen provided us with a huge amount of support for a number of years. Ken had been a top road rider in the late 50s and had been a top veteran cyclo cross rider when he joined us. Our main road racers in this period included , Pete Cominetti, Mark Parker, Mike James, Mike Curtis , Paul Barrington-King, Kevin Lock, Neil Gillespie to name but a few.

On the time trial front, myself and John Mulvaney had a great rivalry during the 80s. Once, in a 50 mile TT ( up and down the A12 in Essex) , the organiser cruelly put John in front of me as my minute man and we had a great battle over the next 2 hours with John eventually getting the better of me by half a minute as I recall!

Pete Cominetti, Phil Watkins, Mark Parker and Derek Parrish were all accomplished time triallists as well road racing. Derek Parrish  was also a leading cyclo cross rider in the London League and regularly got top 10 placings in this discipline as well as picking up points with his road results.

Clive Jeffery joined us from the Catford CC in the mid 80s with his family and both Ian and Karen went on to make a big impression when they started racing in the 1990s.

Dave Osborn joined us in 1989 and was another great all- rounder on road and time trials as our records bear testimony. 

The 1990's

As previously noted, Ian and Karen Jeffery had brilliant results in 1994 to 1997. Both were ESCA (English Schools) champions in a number of disciplines: track, road TT and hill climb.

In 1996 Ian was BCF London Junior Champion at Crystal Palace. In 1997 he won the Junior Olympic Selection race but the blazer brigade decided not to select him for reasons unknown! He had numerous wins in the Surrey League and rode at GB level regularly in Belgium.

Karen was ESCA champion at multiple disciplines in this period and also rode at GB level at the Tour of Ireland and other events in Belgium. In 1997 she was Southern Circuit race champion and also Southeast Mountain Bike Champion. Both Ian and Karen had numerous wins and placings during this period.

Colin Smith joined the club in the early 90s as a work colleague of John Mulvaney.  Colin quickly learned how to race at a high level and in 1994 went from being a good club rider to winning open time trial events.

In 1996 he was the Southern Counties Best All Rounder leading the Old Portlians CC to the team BAR and establishing new records for the Southern Counties for 50 miles and 100 miles. In that year he set new club records across 10, 25, 50 and 100 miles which still stand today.

 10 miles 20.26; 25 miles 53.50; 50 miles 1.48.42; 100 miles 3.51.59. These have stood the test of time and seem unlikely to be challenged any time soon. Colin was also a good road racer and won our club’s promotion in the Surrey League in the same year.

Colin moved down to the New Forest the following year and was with the Bournemouth Jubilee Wheelers for a few years before he retired from racing when he and Lynn started a family. It is worth noting that in 1997 he rode a 12 hour race with his new club and recorded a very impressive 268 miles which had he been with us would have been another club record!

Another club legend who joined us in the 1990s was the late great Ian Bashford and from the late 90s until his untimely passing in 2016 he dominated time trialling in the club and his name appears on the club trophies probably more than any other individual in the club’s history.  He was an excellent time triallist and was still producing personal bests in his late 50s. His nemesis was ultimately the 100 mile distance as his back could not take it any more!

The 2000's

In the early 2000s , we were fortunate to have a group of riders join us from the White Oak Triathlon Club and this gave us fresh impetus particularly on the road racing and Cyclo Cross side. Prominent among them were  Matt and Colette Swift , Guy Little, the late Gary Bryant and Nigel Ling all of whom were strong road racers. Colette also rode for the Irish National team and was 4th in the Irish National Championships one year. Gary was a strong triathlete and won several local events in Kent at his best as well as winning the club’s 50 mile TT in 2003 with an excellent time of 2.00.30  in only his first attempt at the distance! Gary was active in cyclo cross and he won the club tankard for a number of years.

 Work took Matt and Colette to France around 2005 and Guy Little also moved to the French Alps to start a new business offering cycling holidays.

Iain Hawthorn and Andy Green both joined the club in the mid 2000s and were both keen riders and committee members with Iain as Treasurer and Andy as Club Secretary for a number of years.  Other leading riders in that period included Stuart Hourigan and Phil Watkins and their names appear on a number of our trophies.

 Andy has shown a talent for endurance events having won the club BAR a number of times as well winning the club 12 hour trophy in 2011 , a feat bravely repeated by Gary Blunt in 2012 and 2013.  The 12 hour time trial is not for the faint hearted and it has not been competed for since.

Andy has more recently been doing Audax events with Say Leddington and have completed some massive distances  in recent years to prepare for the  Paris Brest Paris event completing a number of  200,  , 300, 400 and 600 km events to build up and qualify. In 2021 they both became Super Randonneurs!

Iain has competed in various disciplines and enjoys racing Veteran Road racing events (LVRC) along with Kevin Wolff and, more recently, Rowan Foggitt.

Kevin is also a strong time triallist and has won the eventing TT series a number of times. Like Gary Bryant, he won the club 25 mile championship at his first attempt at the distance with an excellent 59.55.

Overseas trips

Since I have been in the club, over the years we have made regular trips on the continent to take in the Tour as well as taking part in sportive events in Belgium, France, Holland and Italy. These include the Tour of Flanders, Amstel Gold, Paris Roubaix and Liege Bastogne Liege. A number of us have also completed the Raid Pyrenean in recent years as well as The Maratona in the  Dolomites.

 In recent years, the driving force behind these efforts has been Iain Hawthorn and has led our adventures in Belgium, France and Holland.  Likewise Kevin Wolff at the Maratona.

Long may this continue!

Looking ahead

We are fortunate to have an active and enthusiastic committee led by our current Club Secretary, Julian Hutchings.

Looking ahead to the future of the club, I am confident it is in good hands and will continue to thrive as we begin our second Century!