First Lady Cyclist in Port Elizabeth



A while ago friend Grizel Hart the Curator at No 7 Castle Hill Museum gave me a copy of a piece written on Mr. J.J. Storey.

I am not sure as the when this was written or where published but a date on the one page refers to the South African Museums Association, Annual General Meeting 1967. There is an Editors note that Mrs. Lochhead brought in a newspaper cutting which is unfortunately undated, but which they felt was worth reprinting.

My references to the present-time popularity of cycling among the young grown-ups has brought me a most interesting letter relating to cycling in the earlier solid-tyre days. The writer, Mr. J.J. Storey, figured in many a desperate cycle-race finish as far back as when the ‘penny-farthing’ held pride of place.

Mr. Storey naturally acclaims this new comradeship of the singing wheels and open road. “I have” he writes “been cycling since the closing days of the Penny-farthing and I still begrudge the occasions when I am forced to travel in a bus or car.”

Of cycling’s heyday in the Nineties, he says: “It is true we had solid tyres, fixed wheels, spoon brakes (quite useless) and shocking roads; but we did not realise the disabilities; all was perfect bliss”.

Mr. Storey then reminisces about Port Elizabeth’s first lady cyclist and the severe shocks she administered to her whale-boned sisters. He says: “Our first lady cyclist was a Mrs. Browne. In those days no one had ever seen a lady on a bicycle. She first started riding a tandem, with Mr. Brown – ‘Daisy Bells’ we used to call them”.

“She then adopted a single cycle, to the great consternation of the female population of the City. As Mr. Reeves, a keen cyclist of those days remarked, “When Mrs, Browne cycles up our street, the woman hastily pull down the blinds and gasp ‘Surely the world is going mad. Something terrible is bound to happen’!

But Mrs. Browne carried on, and in the course of time was accompanied on her trips by three pretty daughters, all on bicycles. Finally, victory was hers. Silly prejudice died and eventually we always had 15 to 20 ladies at our Club runs to Hunters’ Retreat, kept by the inimitable Irishman, Alick Humphries. “What a host! I still remember the spreads we used to sit down to. The rafters rang to our songs, and Alicks’s laugh drowned all other sounds.”

“Then we had Bob Grundy and his wife. I have met them as far afield as Jeffrey Bay and Humansdorp. Bob had lost one arm, but had an iron hook in its place. He managed to hold his handle-bar with it quite all right over the worst roads”.

“I think Mrs. Browne’s memory should be perpetuated by the cyclists of Port Elizabeth in some way. Say by a plaque in a permanent position at the Westbourne Oval”.

While typing these memories of Mr. Storey a descendant of George and Maria Storey that once owned Trinity Cottage, I couldn’t help but wonder what he would his thoughts would have been on the female cyclists of today and their participation in the Ironman competition held yearly in Port Elizabeth.

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