It's always of interest to read about how the club was formed? who were its former members? and how did they perform? The article attached below was written by a founder member of Maryland Wheelers, a Mr Ernie Miskelly. Davy McCall had found reason to write to Mr Miskelly in 1996 and included in his letter was a report on how the club had grown and established itself within cycling, through its successful promotion of events and development of many successful cyclists. Mr Miskelly was then aged 84 yrs.

                                                                                              

 

Dear Dave,

                 Thank you for your letter and '96 review, I was delighted to read of your many successes and the clubs all round performances during recent years, it is pleasing to know that the ' Wheelers ' have kept going all these years and getting more successful year by year, long may it last.

 

I have been looking back into my distant youth, I am now in my 84th year, I recall selling programmes at the sports meeting held in a field beside Maryland Corner and ran by an officially registered club by the name of Moneyreagh & Crossnacreevy Cycling and Athletic club, the committee were all locals, they ran the meetings from 1924 until 1928, one of the members, Jimmy White, won the Irish one mile cycling championship at Celtic Park, it was from those days that I wanted to compete.

 

Country life then was very quiet, the young ones would gather at the crossroads and play football, quoits etc., in 1929 a few of the former members of the extinct Moneyreagh club arranged a few 15 mile road races around a three mile course starting at Maryland crossroads, I won two or three of them, they then decided to form a new club, after a lot of discussion it was called Maryland Wheelers after Manchester Wheelers, the club was registered in 1930, I joined that year and would venture to say I am the only original member still alive and enjoying life, not cycling any but playing bowls three or four times weekly.

 

When I read about and see the present day outfits and the prices, I think of my first racing bike, knowing that the club was being formed I had to save up to buy a second hand F.H. Grubb road frame which I heard about, I took the frame to Geordie Stones cycle shop in Cromac Square to complete the then somewhat new 27'' lightweight wheels, I had it in time for the first event and the total cost for the frame and all parts, including mudguards, brakes, toe-clips, pump saddle-bag and cycle lamp was just over £ 6.

 

There were no massed start races in those early days and the compulsory dress for road events was, long black tights, similar to modern ladies tights and long sleeved black jackets. The clubs first race was a ten-mile event from the top of the Castlereagh hills to Ballygowan and back, I won it in just twenty four minutes, a time which stood for quite a few years and Tommy Givan, I believe,  was the first to beat it.

 

All the club races were in the Castlereagh, Ballygowan, Comber, Crossgar and Downpatrick area, all very hilly courses and not conducive to fast times, I had quite a few club successes and was champion for three years but surprised myself and the Northern Ireland cycling fraternity by doing the fastest time, a short 1:04 and winning the handicap in an open 25 on the Antrim Road, run by Ivy c.c. in about 1933. I failed by only a few seconds to beat the record held by W. Nelson of Northern c.c.

 

Sports meetings were held practically every afternoon in some farmers field, we enjoyed them despite they fact that many prizes were not up to standard and changing accommodation did not exist, if it was a muddy track you washed in a stream or pond in the middle of the field, Ballycastle always gave very good prizes together with free entry and dinner in a local hotel, day excursion fare was 2 shillings and sixpence and 2 shillings for your cycle. On my only visit I won my heat and final in the 1 mile and 2 mile events, won my heat in the 3 mile championship but was beaten by three of the existing champions into fourth place, i.e. Sammy Sergeant, Banbridge, Billy Livingstone, Banbridge and Ned Partridge of Ivy c.c., a total of 96 laps round a grass field.

 

Owing to working away from home a lot I was not competing for some years but during the war I took up racing again and won a massed start in Falls Park, a one mile h/cap on cinders in Castlereagh Park and a few minor placings at other meetings.

 

There is no doubt that Tommy Givan was a worthy champion in his day and I was pleased to read of the Givan Memorial race that the club now runs, Jack Rose who lived near Tommy's shop, joined in the first year and could still be around like myself, then Ernie Neill, who took a great interest in the club and cycling generally, and his two daughters joined about 1931 / 32, they brought along a lad of about 15 yrs of age called Billy Campbell now the present treasurer. Irene Neill and her husband Isacc Mateer I believe both held the Mizen Head to Fair Head records in the late 40's.

 

Training to most of us was a matter of covering fifteen to twenty miles at most each evening, dieting wasn't even thought about, competing was just something you did because you enjoyed cycling.

Having jotted down a few of my memories I trust that some of them may be of use to you in compiling a history of the club.

 

Yours Sincerely

Ernie Miskelly.

 

The time highlighted in red is only a best guess at the moment.