“On Yer Bikes”

An account of the careers of two Irthlingborough cyclists who competed at the highest level: Ralph Horne & Leonard Parsons

In the twenty or so years leading up to the outbreak of war in 1914, cycle racing was hugely popular and venues such as Fallowfield in Manchester, Crystal Palace in London and Home Park in Plymouth drew crowds equal to those attending professional football matches today. In the East Midlands likewise, large crowds were drawn to attend events comprising of both athletics and cycle racing, many promoted by established football, rugby, cricket and athletic clubs. Many included handicap events which were scrupulously undertaken by experienced officials. Wellingborough, Raunds, Rushden, Earls Barton, Northampton, Thrapston, Bedford, Leicester, Stamford, Wolverton and Biggleswade were all venues within reach of local riders, many of whom appeared to enter competitions at almost all the venues. At that time there was a differential between professional and amateur competitors and it is interesting to note that some winners were rewarded in cash, whilst others received ‘in kind’ with a cash value being put on the awarded prize. Cycle Clubs abounded with some being formed as an adjunct to an already established sports club as at Wolverton or in its own right as at Irthlingborough.

Details of Irthlingborough Cycling Club are scarce but on 6th November, 1891 the Northampton Mercury reported that upwards of thirty people had attended a supper held by the club at the Coffee Tavern. After an excellent repast a capital programme of entertainment was rendered consisting of songs, recitations, stump speeches and sleight-of-hand tricks. Dancing was indulged in at intervals during the evening with Mr H.G.Bayes on the piano, and Messrs. A.Houghton and E.Pettit on violin.

On Tuesday, 3rd July, 1900 about 25 members of the Temperance Cycle Club met for a picnic in the open-air at the back of the Wesleyan Chapel. After tea they adjourned to John Spencer’s cherry orchard where games of cricket were then indulged in.

24th August, 1901 – Possibly of a more sedate nature was the Good Templars’ picnic and cycle gymkhana held in Thompson’s field in Addington Road attended by about sixty members, but one cannot help wondering what type of bizarre races the competitors were expected to take part in!

An event of a far more serious nature took place on 28th July, 1906 when the Northampton Mercury recorded that the streets had an animated appearance for the 4th Annual Cycle Parade & Sports in aid of the hospital to which Irthlingborough people were to contribute freely until the advent of the National Health Service in 1948. The long parade was headed by a Drum Major leading the Town Silver Band. Firemen turned out wearing their new uniforms whilst many decorated vehicles, cycles and perambulators delighted the huge crowds lining the route. Such parades in aid of a multitude of hospitals were held throughout the United Kingdom at this time. Advertisements for the parade in Irthlingborough on 25th July, 1908 stated that a silver cup, value five guineas with one guinea added would be competed for, doing exactly what was not specified, and if won for a third time would become the outright property of the winner. Entrance fee was half a crown. Two well-known names appeared as joint-secretaries those of Edward Vorse and A.E.Groome.

In 1909 the programme for the Irthlingborough Male Voice Choir Contest held on the Rookery Lawn carried an advert for the Irthlingborough Cycle Parade & Sports to be held on Saturday, 17th July for the benefit of Northampton Hospital.

Bicycling was certainly becoming very popular but reports in the Northampton Mercury certainly illustrated the dangers of riding the machines of the day, on the roads available at that time, in clothes that were fashionable in those days.

1st August – at about 10pm Mrs Needles, a young widow and a lady friend arrived home from a cycle ride. She was not really familiar with the workings of ‘free-wheel’ and as she approached the Cross from Finedon Road lost control and crashed into an iron gate, fracturing her jaw, receiving two black eyes and several cuts to her forehead. A metal spike pierced through her face and four teeth wedged in her lower lip. She was taken to Northampton Hospital where she was detained.

21st November, 1901 – what was described as ‘A Shocking Accident’ happened at the bottom of Addington Road. At about 6.20am cyclist Edgar Sharpe was approaching Irthlingborough from Great Addington when 71 year old George Butler, coming the opposite way, suddenly walked in front of him. He was knocked unconscious and later died.

Some relief from the heavy skirts and multiple layers of petticoats for lady cyclists was afforded by Phillips’ Drapery of Kettering & Northampton who in 1900 offered Ladies Cycling Knickers in fancy tweed or cotton material at 1s 11½d (9½p) up to 4s 11d (24½p) in stockinet with fleecy back and all colours available. Such knickers having been made popular by Amelia Bloomer they rapidly became known as bloomers, a term for a certain style of ladies’ underwear still in fairly common use one hundred and twenty years later.

Another cycling club was formed in Irthlingborough after the Second World War. Pat Houghton was a member of the club and he recorded these memories.
“As far as I can remember the club was formed in about 1949. We used to meet on Friday evenings at the old Salvation Army Hall at the bottom of Army Hill. Those in the club I can remember were Don Stevenson, Barry and Christine Tirrell, Alan and Joy Sinclair from Wellingborough Road, Ernie King from Kettering, Mr & Mrs Lee from Wellingborough, also Mr Tilley, Bob Cowper, Billy Cowper, Len Cope, Henry Tattersdale, Greville (Ting-a-ling) Sandall, Doris Scrivener and Janet Childs of Rushden, John (Spongy) Morris of Finedon and myself.

We started by meeting on Saturday afternoons and riding to Northampton. When we got properly organised we would meet on Friday nights and arrange what we would do at the weekend. The first such excursion was to Hunstanton over the weekend 24th and 25th September, 1949. On arrival at the resort members visited the theatre in the evening and returned home the following afternoon via Kings Lynn, Ely and Huntingdon. Alan Sinclair was ‘run captain’ and arrangements made by club secretary Don Stevenson. Sometimes we would start at night and ride to Lowestoft, stay over Saturday and ride back on Sunday. Clacton was also a destination. I remember a group of us going to Coventry on Easter Monday in 1950 to watch Reg Harris ride at the Butts Stadium Trials and it rained all the way there.

We organised 10 mile time trials on Wednesday evenings, starting just outside Finedon on the Thrapston Road and turning at the Gate-Keeper’s Lodge near Islip. Also arranged was a Place-to-Place Time Trial from Irthlingborough Post Office to the Post Office at Huntingdon. We liaised with other local clubs for special events and races. The local Carnival Committee organised some Grass Track Racing in the Recreation Ground in which I crashed into the hedge and broke the frame of my bike! I am not too sure as to why the club folded but National Service may have had something to do with it. Some of us then joined other clubs, notably Wellingborough Cycling Club.”

Cyclists of note
One Irthlingborough man who certainly made his name competing in the sport of cycle racing was Len Parsons. Leonard Parsons was born in Irthlingborough in 1879, the son of George (aged 35 and born in Irchester) and Charlotte (29 from Higham Ferrers). The 1881 census records them living at Mere House on the corner of High Street and Church Street. Jane Pareberry, a 15 year old general servant and Lydia Betts an 18 year old nursemaid completed the household. George & Charlotte Parsons were still living at Mere House in 1931 but not in 1936.

In 1901 Leonard was recorded as aged 22 and Cycle Agent/Bricklayer. Also present in the house was Mary Townsend, a 16 year old general domestic servant. It is interesting to note that the Horticultural Shows and football contests took place on Mr Parsons’ commodious field.

Another local lad who was to certainly make his mark in the same sport was Ralph Horne, frequently spelt Horn. As a 15 year old butcher he lived with his widowed mother Charlotte at the Royal Oak, otherwise known as the Drum & Monkey in Meadow Lane, later known as Gosham Road and now as St. Peter’s Way. The 1901 census records that Charlotte and Ralph had moved to live in Finedon Road. The first reference to Ralph Horne in the local papers is that late in the evening of 12th March, 1894 when in the employ of butcher George Groome, the trap he was driving was in collision with another from Stanwick. Both drivers were shaken but otherwise unharmed.

Ralph appears to have made his debut on the cycle racing circuit on 21st July, 1894 at the first event promoted by the Rushden Football and Cricket Clubs. He was 18 years of age and riding in front of over 3,000 spectators he was unplaced in the two mile handicap. The annual pony races, athletic sports and bicycle handicaps at Bedford on 8th August offered prizes of £100 but how much of that went home with Ralph for his third place in the one mile handicap is not recorded. Another all-embracing event was at Thrapston a week later where athletic sports, cycle racing, horse and pony show as well as Galloway racing attracted upwards of 5,000 to mark the town’s Feast. No prize money for Ralph who was unplaced in both the one and two mile handicap races. Wet and dreary weather persuaded the committee of the Rushden Sports to call off racing at the town’s new cricket ground on 25th August, 1894 but when the sun tried to make an appearance a little later on they changed their minds! Unfortunately few spectators shared their enthusiasm for spending several hours in the inclement weather with the result that the expenses of the meeting were barely recouped. Ralph Horne did manage to win his heat in the one mile handicap but was unplaced in the final. Another unsuccessful competitor in that event was C.Sanders, also of Irthlingborough.

The first meeting of 1895 took place at Oundle on 15th April when in spite of it being a bitterly cold day 2,000 spectators turned up to watch the events. Ralph Horne did participate but was unplaced in both the one, and two mile events. The meeting on the Town Cricket Ground at Wellingborough to decide the N.C.U. 10 mile Championship on 6th July was, in contrast to Oundle, blessed with glorious weather. Unfortunately Ralph Horne was once again unplaced. N.C.U. Championships were restricted to licensed riders from Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, North Buckinghamshire, Huntingdonshire and Rutland.

A placing at last for Ralph, who by finishing third in the one mile race at the meeting promoted by Rushden Town Football and Cricket Clubs on 20th July won himself a guinea. He was unfortunate in falling soon after the start of the two mile race, but picking himself up and restarting he just failed to qualify for the final, whilst in the three mile race he finished fourth.

7th August, 1895 was the Thursday of the August holiday week and the meeting at Earls Barton drew a large number of entries. Although he had been unplaced in the one mile handicap Ralph Horne started the two mile event as favourite to win the first prize of a hall regulator and barometer valued at £5. In the event he was outclassed by Arthur Gell of Bedford and had to be content with the electro-plated and oak butter cooler valued at ten shillings and six pence for finishing third. We shall come across Arthur Gell quite a bit in this work! Three days later riders from the locality and even from as far away as Blackpool and London gathered for the second event of the year to be staged at Rushden. Horne was to get his revenge over Gell by winning the half-mile handicap and taking home a five guinea massive gold albert in a case whilst his adversary had to be content with a case of Queen Anne salts and spoons valued at two guineas. Horne was unplaced in the one mile event which followed. A further prize of one guinea for finishing second in the two mile handicap, a described in the Press as ‘…..a good race’ followed at Thrapston on 12th August. Comedy followed in the five mile race when several competitors started the race wearing the wrong number. They were immediately summoned back to the start to replace their numbers before setting off to catch those already well on their way!

Kettering’s North Park was the venue for the N.C.U. 25 mile Championship on 24th August, 1895. Ralph Horne, described as ‘……a rider showing promising form’, took the lead after three miles and by the ten mile marker was leading the ten riders left out of the starting line-up of fourteen. He was unable to keep up the pace however and retired after 22½ miles, but as a consolation he did win a lap prize.

In the final recorded meeting of 1895, the 7th Annual Sports at Wellingborough Town Ground, Ralph Horne won the five guineas prize for finishing first in the two mile race. Also competing in that event was E.Groome representing Irthlingborough Working Men’s Club.

The 1896 athletic and cycling season in this locality began once again at Oundle on 6th April where an Easter Monday crowd of over 2,000 at the cricket ground witnessed competition for total prize money of £50. The ‘point-to-point’ event over two miles was described as painfully slow and Ralph Horne’s third place failed to bring him a slice of the prize money on offer with just the first and second places receiving £2 and £1 respectively.

No success either at the Rushden meeting on 20th June with Horne being out of the leading positions but the main talk of the day centred around events which had taken place the day before at Easton Neston, near Towcester where a demonstration of a French built motor-cycle had taken place. Those present had seen the machine reach an amazing 25 m.p.h. and been informed that it was fuelled by petroleum stored in its hollow mudguards. Naturally, there were those who doubted whether the invention would ‘take off’ at all and even those who were of the opinion that a good cyclist who put his mind to it could outpace the machine anyway – a theory which would soon be put to the test!

Horne’s fortunes did not improve either at the Biggleswade meet on 3rd August where good weather brought out a crowd of over 8,000. He was unplaced in the several events he entered but was declared ‘lap’ winner in the one mile open scratch race.

Things did take a turn for the better on 29th August at the meeting promoted by the Wellingborough Amateur Athletic Club on the Town Ground in favourable weather but before a rather poor attendance of spectators. The first event was the 10 mile N.C.U. Championship, this having to be re-run in consequence of the serious spill which occurred about two months previously when the race was brought off on the same ground. G.S.Ramshay of Oundle, the winner on that occasion did not compete and neither did A.E.Strickland of Oakham, holder of the Championship for 1895. There were nine competitors and the four who did complete the distance were H.A.Palmer of Kettering, 1st; Ralph Horne of Irthlingborough, 2nd; J.Morris of Northampton, 3rd and W.Sharpe of Rushden, 4th. There had been a fine struggle in the last lap between Palmer and Horne with the first-named winning by just half a wheel in a time of 30 minutes and 39.4 seconds. The Club Cycling Championship was then won by Ralph Horne with A.Gell second and E.Shepherd in third place. The prize for the sealed handicap in connection with the race was awarded to W.Marriott with E.Shepherd runner-up and J.Glenn third.

Saturday, September 5th brought the inaugural meeting promoted by the L&NW Football & Mazeppa Cycling Club but unseasonable weather restricted the attendance to just about one thousand. Those who did brave the inclement conditions were intrigued to witness a one mile competition between foot and cycle. As a condition of the race C.Pearce, the runner was given a two minute and five seconds start so by the time J.Faux set of on his bicycle Pearce was already on his third lap. Such a lead was invincible and he was able to hold on to win by some 50 to 60 yards in a time of 4 minutes and 40 seconds. The prospect of anyone running a four minute mile must have seemed totally unbelievable to athletes of those days! Getting back to the main purpose of the meeting, Ralph Horne became the proud processor of a six pillar marble timepiece with bronze ornaments valued at four guineas for winning both his heat and the final of the one mile handicap. Having been given an 80 yard start he came home with about six yards to spare.

A fearsome duo
Ralph Horne had certainly made quite a name for himself in cycle racing circles and had occasionally been joined in competitions by other Irthlingborough Cycling Club members, but in 1897 he was joined by Leonard Parsons, a young man four years his junior. Parsons too was to make quite a name for himself in local competitions but before long was riding in events all over the country and finally reached the highest possible level by being selected to ride in the National team.

Easter Monday, 19th April heralded the start of the 1897 cycling season when between two and three thousand spectators turned up to watch the Oundle Athletic Club Sports. Rather an inauspicious start for Len Parsons who was unplaced in the two mile handicap and was likewise disappointing in the one mile team event having teamed up with W.G.Bird and R.T.Valentine.

Dull and showery weather welcomed almost 3,000 spectators to the 2nd Annual Leicester C & A.C. Sports held on the County Cricket Ground on Saturday, 8th May. An extensive programme of events had attracted the support of many competitors including Ralph Horne who was unplaced in the final of the half mile handicap having won his heat.

Putting the disappointment of the Oundle meeting behind him Len Parsons pulled out all the stops at Bedford Fete on the 7th June and after winning his heat in both the one mile open and two mile open handicaps, kept up the momentum by storming home in the lead in the final of both events. The win undoubtedly caught the eye of the official handicapper who would surely never again doubt his potential by giving him a 175 yard start in the one mile race and 330 yards in the two mile! Ralph Horne was competing that day at the Leicester Rugby Football Club Sports where over 7.000 spectators saw him finish third in the final of the half mile handicap, missing out on second place by just a few inches.

Cold and cheerless weather the following day made conditions for the Wellingborough Amateur Athletic Sports very difficult indeed. The rather tight grass track with five laps to the mile had been made very slippery by overnight rain and it came as no surprise that there were many spills. In the half mile race Len Parsons fell whilst leading, bringing down A.Judge of the home club who was thrown onto the wire fence but fortunately not seriously hurt. This incident did allow F.Wood to come through and finish an easy winner by 12 yards from E.Groome of Irthlingborough. Wood’s prize for winning was an electro-plated tea & coffee service valued at 7 guineas whilst 22 year old Groome was presented with a combination case bread knife and fork with crumb-scoop worth 3 guineas. Parsons later competed in the 5 mile scratch race but was unplaced most probably still suffering the effects of the earlier fall.

Any fund-raising event for a local hospital, be it charity football match, cycle cavalcade or carnival was always very well supported and the Kettering Hospital Sports on North Park on 22nd June were no exception with a record crowd of 7,000 sitting in glorious sunshine, but almost to a man (or woman!) they were unanimous that Mr Walker, the official handicapper from Leicester had been far too generous to H.Murkitt of Huntingdon who certainly took advantage of his good fortune to win both the half mile and one mile races. Len Parsons competed in the five mile event but was unplaced.

The meeting at Wisbech on 30th June was certainly a prestigious affair with many of the large crowd being quite prepared to pay an extra charge to sit in the specially erected grandstand and mingle and socialise in the commodious marquee. Some of the most prominent wheelers and bicyclists, as they were often quaintly described, were attracted to participate, including Horne and Parsons from Irthlingborough, and what success they were rewarded with. In the one mile handicap Horne came second and Parsons third; the two mile handicap was won by Horne in a time of 5 minutes 1.6 seconds, and the same man finished an excellent days competition by winning the three mile handicap as well! As well as exciting events on the track the crowd were later treated to something really rather special by Professor Charles Baldwin who made a successful balloon ascent from the field before descending back to terra firma in a parachute, alighting on the railway line close to the Great Eastern Station! Ralph Horne and Len Parsons would certainly have had a lot to talk about on the way home that evening – one wonders whether they rode back to Irthlingborough or caught a train.

Another event marred by nasty spills was the 5th Annual Rushden Athletic Sports on the Newton Road ground where Parsons again came into contention with F.Wood of Wellingborough. Not doing quite enough to win the one mile handicap Parsons did have the satisfaction of edging out Wood by three inches, according to the judge, to take the runner-up position. Another close event was the half mile scratch race in which Ralph Horne squeezed home by barely a yard in 1 minute 11.6 seconds, a win which apparently was very popular with the crowd.

2nd August, 1897
Bank Holiday Monday
Traditionally August Bank Holiday Monday was an important day in the sporting calendar and 1897 was no exception with Irthlingborough cyclists being involved in three major meetings.

Biggleswade in Bedfordshire presented a festive holiday appearance to visitors and competitors alike arriving for the annual sports. Flags and bunting adorned the houses and streets and no effort had been spared to accommodate the dozens of horses and riders, athletes, cycles and cyclists. Special trains had been laid on by the railway companies to bring people in from a wide area although it was noted that the special train from Bedford did set out one hour after its advertised departure time. The organising committee denied any responsibility whatsoever and thereafter took great care as to the punctuality of the many events on the programme, their actions not going unnoticed by the newspaper reporters covering the day.

Over 11,000 Bank Holiday spectators poured onto Fairfield Grounds and what an occasion it was for B.Thorpe of Huntingdon who in the one mile scratch race for the Challenge Cup valued at £50 and gold medal valued at £2, finished first for the third time which under the rules allowed him to win the cup outright. At the finish the delighted crowd surged forward and carried him shoulder-high to the competitor’s tent. His time of 2 minutes and 39.2 seconds was just too fast for Ralph Horne, who after qualifying by winning his heat, finished a creditable third with a prize of £2.

At Spalding the sensation of the day came at the conclusion of the Sports at 5.15pm when Professor Charles Baldwin once again amazed the crowd with his daring ascent in a balloon. The balloon had been inflated in a nearby field and carried into the arena by volunteers who at the command, “Let go!” did just that and watched as the Professor soared gracefully to 500 feet before slipping the noose which held the parachute and descended to a field near to the station, the balloon itself falling to the ground a short distance away. In the cycle racing R.T.Valentine of Irthlingborough ended the days competition gaining second place in three events; the three mile handicap in which he was given a 400 yard start winning him £4, the two mile handicap brought him £5 with a further £5 in the three mile scratch race.

The most prestigious event of the day however was surely at Stamford in the magnificent setting of Burghley Park. Meticulous arrangements had been made as with £130 prize money on offer athletes and cyclists of the very top quality were expected to compete. Unfortunately not all went to plan with the supporting Brass Band Contest for which the prize money of £44 had attracted nine entries including Rushden Temperance, Rotherham Temperance, Gainsborough Britannia, Linthwaite and Batley Old Bands. On arrival at the Park all of the bands discovered that they had been disqualified, the competition cancelled and the whole of the prize money withheld. Those who questioned the decision were informed that according to the rules the bands were required to assemble in Red Lion Square at one o’clock and parade to the Park where the draw would be made. Rushden Temperance Band was the first to arrive, at the Park at 3.30pm followed at intervals by the rest. It would appear that they had decided to ‘kill two birds with one stone’ as they had already attended the contest at Peterborough before travelling on to Stamford! As it was, it was left to Stamford Town Band to enliven the proceedings with music and one can only hope that they did enliven an afternoon when on the whole foot racing was described as fairly good. The finals of some cycling events apparently proved exciting but the times recorded were rather slow! One attendee with no complaints would have been Len Parsons who netted five guineas for winning the one mile handicap and ten guineas for doing likewise in the two mile event.

Thursday, 5th August saw Ralph Horne presented with the gold medal for winning the ten mile N.C.U. Championship Race at the County Championships held at Bedford.

On Monday, 9th August several thousands made their way to the meadow close by Bridge Street Station for the Annual Thrapston Sports with many being quite prepared to pay an extra charge for sitting in one of the two commodious stands erected for the occasion. They were not to be disappointed with the arrangements for an attractive programme of events being described as excellent. Disappointment for Len Parson who was leading the one mile scratch race at half way before fading but R.T.Valentine did go home with fifteen shillings (75p) in his pocket, the reward for finishing third in the two mile handicap.

A bit of a breather for competitors before the Annual Ten Mile Race and Sealed Handicap for cup and medals staged by Wellingborough Amateur Athletic Club on 21st August on the Town Ground. Ralph Horne, a previous winner and Len Parsons were in the field of nine competitors. Parsons was in the lead until the final lap when Horne, with a magnificent sprint got half a wheel ahead, by which distance he succeeded in passing the winning post in 31 minutes and 46 seconds. The Committee, having worked out the sealed handicap placed Parsons first and Horne second and then for some inexplicable reason, refused to supply the Press with the handicap details and net times of the competitors.

Kennington Oval was the next venue on Saturday, 4th September, 1897 for the ten mile amateur scratch race for the Surrey Challenge Cup. Ralph Horne had a good race and was leading at the bell but was closed out to finish fourth in a fever pitch finish.

Following all the sporting activities presumably associated with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year things appeared to be a little more sedate in 1898. As usual the season ‘kicked off’ with the 27th Annual Festival held on the Oundle Cricket Field on Easter Monday. A total of £55 was realised from the ‘gate’ of over 2,000 spectators who then had to endure a stiff breeze blowing across the ground, followed by a heavy shower halfway through the afternoon which made riding conditions rather treacherous. Competing in the hope of winning a case of knives and forks in the one mile race and a marble clock in the two mile event Len Parsons won his heat in both but finished unplaced in the finals. Further rain spoiled the firework display in the evening with just £7 being paid for admission by the few spectators who attended.

The building of a new cricket pavilion at the Kennington Oval meant that cycling events had to be transferred to the track at Crystal Palace and on Saturday, 30th April a wet, cheerless morning and strong gusting wind saw spectators huddled in the stands for protection whilst Ralph Horne was unplaced in the 10 mile scratch race.

Another event spoiled by heavy rain was the Bedford Grand Fete on Whit Monday, 3rd June, 1898. Yet again Len Parsons won his heats in both the half mile and one mile races but was unplaced in the finals but even competing at all must have been a nightmare when heavy rain swept across the ground at four o’clock. With the grass soaking wet accidents on a sharp curve on an undulating part of the track in Cardington Road became inevitable. The organisers were intent on concluding the whole programme and according to the Ampthill & District News ‘….. the rest of the evening was wet so the lassies and lads danced up to their ankles in mud to the strains of the Wollaston Excelsior and Finedon Old Prize Bands.’ At this time many factories and schools closed at Whitsun, consequently many sporting events were organised and these were generally very well supported by a workforce which had been totally incarcerated within factory walls for up to ten hours every day.

No success for Len Parsons in the 17th Annual Town Sports at Burghley Park in Stamford on 1st August as once again he was unplaced in the final of the one mile handicap having won his heat. The event was graced with very good weather which brought out a crowd in excess of 4,000 and the largest entry of athletes and riders on record. No contretemps between the Committee and brass bands this year as the event was omitted from the programme.

In the ten mile N.C.U. Championship at Bedford County Championship Sports on 11th August great expectations were held of Ralph Horne again taking the title but he had to settle for third place in a race won in exactly 28 minutes. One competitor who amazed everyone by his appearance to defend his five mile title was Arthur Gell who when racing at Wellingborough two days previously had swerved to avoid some children who had wandered onto the track. Losing control he had been pitched onto some fencing and scored his left side and arm so badly that following the advice of his doctor he stayed in bed all the following day in order to be fit for the Championship meeting. Not only did he successfully defend his title but recorded a record time of 13 minutes and 49 seconds. His well-merited victory won the admiration of all his opponents.

Rather strangely Press coverage of athletic sports and cycling meets was very much curtailed during 1899 with very few events being reported. The Rushden Amateur Athletic Sports organised by the Town Football Club on 17th June were run off in what were described as tropical conditions. No joy for Len Parsons who competed but who was unplaced. The following week the action moved to Wolverton where dismay was expressed at the small attendance of just 2,000 at the Mazeppa Cycling Club Sports. Parsons was unplaced when competing for the gold medal in the One Mile Championship and again in the one mile handicap but did secure a second place in the five mile scratch race.

In the Bank Holiday Monday meeting at Thrapston on 7th August, 1899 Parsons was again unable to return to winning ways coming second in the half mile handicap won easily by H.Wright of Leicester and second in the one mile scratch race, a race ruined by a dramatic fall. One of the riders fell and brought down the whole field with the exception of Wright who rode on unchallenged to win. All of the fallers were injured to various degrees but Parsons and Marriott were able to remount and complete the course.

Coverage of athletic and cycling events continued to be dismally poor in 1900 with just a token number of meetings being reported.

Gloomy and overcast weather failed to prevent a good attendance of spectators at Newton Road for the 8th Annual Rushden Athletic Club & Institute sports on Saturday, 28th July, 1900. The event became remembered for a number of bad spills on the fast and slippery conditions on the grass cycle track. The detachment from the Local Ambulance Corps was praised for the valuable aid rendered to injured cyclists. Len Parsons of Irthlingborough won his heat easily in 2 minutes 27½ seconds but was not placed in the final which was won in the slower time of 2 minutes 38 seconds.

On 1st August, 1900 Thomas Angier of no fixed abode approached cycle dealer Leonard Parsons and asked to hire a bicycle for an hour or two to go to Finedon. The machine he was loaned was valued at £11. He may well have set off in the direction of Finedon but didn’t remain there for very long as by the next morning was actually in Huntingdon. There he approached a cycle maker telling him that the machine required a repair but that he had no money to pay for it. Retaining the cycle as security the man loaned Angier £2 but suspecting that something was wrong he then handed it over to the police. Angier was soon arrested in Cambridge and for the theft of the bicycle was given 3 months at Wellingborough Petty Sessions.

The Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph of 14th August, 1900 reported that Len Parsons competed at Thrapston Athletic Sports & Races in the one mile race once again winning his heat but not placed in the final which offered prizes of 6 guineas, 2 guineas and one guinea for the first three finishers.

On 8th September, 1900 Ralph Horne finished first in the 10 Mile Championship staged by Leicester Cycling Club, winning the Challenge Cup valued at 20 guineas.

13th September, 1900 – one cannot even imagine the hallowed turf of a Cambridge College cricket ground being desecrated by the wheels of speeding bicycles but that is exactly what was allowed to happen, and on a regular basis, at Trinity College at events staged by Cambridge Cycle Racing Union events. In the 2 mile race staged this day Len Parsons finished won his heat but came 2nd to I.Stroud by just 1½ lengths in the final. In the one mile scratch race Ralph Horne finished second in his heat but the race was declared void having failed to finish within the time allowed.

Saturday, 25th May, 1901 Leicester Cycling & Athletic Club Sports at the County Ground.
One mile scratch race for the Lonsdale Cup – 1st Ralph Horn, 2nd Len Parsons by a wheel.
Half mile open handicap – 1st Len Parsons
Open one mile handicap – 1st Len Parsons by a foot.
The Lancashire Athletic News declared that Parsons had ‘….won the honour of the meeting’.

Two days later on Whit Monday, 27th May at the Bedford Athletic Sports & Fete on the new cycle track in Kimbolton Road a very large crowd saw Len Parsons win the 2 mile open bicycle race in 5 minutes 8 seconds and finish 3rd in the five mile scratch. His prizes were a quarter chiming clock and aneroid barometer to the value of £5 and a cruet valued at one pound.

Meanwhile at the Wolverton Sports the same day Ralph Horne came second in both the half mile scratch and one mile handicap races, the former resulting in a prize of a 9 carat gold chain valued at £3 with the latter bringing him a prize of a bread knife and fork, cheese scoop and a silver chain valued at £3. A charming report of the proceedings appeared in the Buckingham Express – ‘Splendid weather favoured the proceedings which really began with the arrival of the famous Wednesbury Brass Band under the leadership of Mr A.E.Barnsley, by the 9.28am train. A large crowd had assembled at the railway station to greet their arrival, from whence they played a spirited march to the Institute, where, after partaking of breakfast some of the streets were perambulated, and the band played some capital marches. At one o’clock a large company assembled at the Institute at the invitation of the Institute Committee to the annual luncheon.’

The Wolverton Sports had been a well-organised and well-supported event but remembered by many for the dangerous corner at one end of the track which persuaded several riders to withdraw their entries. In all probability they recalled the number of injuries caused by the bad spills on the fast and slippery grass track at Rushden earlier in the season.

Further success for Len Parsons followed the next day in the Whit Tuesday meeting on the Dog & Duck in Wellingborough. Although he was unplaced in the half mile event and thereby missed the first prize of a dining room suite valued at five guineas Len Parsons won what was described as the ‘tit-bit of the afternoon’ the five mile scratch race by 2 lengths resulting in a prize of a gold, keyless watch valued at five guineas. The course was regarded as being in excellent condition with the promoting club proudly announcing that there had been just one mishap and that was simply the fall of just a single rider when no other competitor was near him.

A programme of sports in aid of the Infirmary was held on 1st June, 1901 at the County Ground in Northampton. In spite of exceedingly dull weather between eight and eleven thousand people attended. Those who had travelled from Irthlingborough were rewarded with witnessing the success of two local participants. W.Brightwell, representing Irthlingborough Football Club was one of 37 who entered the 120 yard handicap. Six heats were required before the final, in which the local runner, with a start of 8¼ yards won in a time of 12¼ seconds, slightly slower than his time in the heats. The other local representative was cyclist Len Parsons who won the half mile scratch race having been given 55 yards start, beating Ralph Horne of Irthlingborough into second place. Parsons then won the one mile having been given 100 yards. The value of the trophies he won over the Whitsun period exceeded £50, the equivalent of almost £6,200 today. Without doubt Len Parsons was becoming a rider to take notice of, and that is exactly what did happen.

15th June and at the Rushden Football Club Sports on the Newton Road ground Parsons L.A. & C.C. won the half mile scratch race by 3 lengths over the favourite W.Cummins of Manchester winning £5.

22nd June brought an event on the Northamptonshire Cricket Ground organised by the Working Men’s Club & Institute Union to raise funds for the Pegwell Bay Convalescent Home. In spite of wet weather over 3,000 attended to see Ralph Horne win the two mile handicap having been given a 190 yard start. In the one mile scratch race he fell on the slippery surface bringing down another rider.

Meanwhile Parsons was competing in the annual Rudge-Whitworth Cycling Club event at Coventry easily winning the half mile open scratch race for the Rudge-Whitworth Challenge Cup in 1 minute 5.4 seconds. He then went on to win the 10 mile scratch by a wheel from Arthur Gell. Amongst others competing was Harry Chinn.

With very little time to rest between competitions Len Parsons then moved on to Yorkshire to compete in the Mexborough Cricket Club Sports on Monday, 24th June. The Athletic News reported ‘….On the opening day of the Mexborough C.C. Sports some good class racing men figured in the three important races. Local man B.S.Ledger, fresh from his honours at Bristol, won the Half Mile Invitation Race from Len Parsons of Irthlingborough and A.E.Sissons in a magnificent race. In the Two Mile Handicap Ledger gave Parsons 60 yards and a good beating in 5 minutes 16.6 seconds. Parsons however won easily the One Mile Handicap off 80 in 2 minutes 34 seconds.’

Oundle Sports on St. Peter’s Day, 29th June, 1901 were held in a field conveniently close to the railway station. Ralph Horne won the one mile race by a length and came 2nd in the half mile. No serious accident occurred but competitors were critical of the dry grass on the hard and bumpy course, the result of a period of very dry weather.

The Raunds Feast Monday meeting had previously been a very local affair but on 1st July, 1901 the event was declared open to visiting competitors resulting in 350 entries. To the chagrin of the organisers heavy rain spoilt the day and made the track dangerous for racing. The events went ahead however but Ralph Horne was unplaced in the one mile. It certainly seemed as though the vagaries of the weather caused the organising committees many headaches that year, what with heavy downpours of rain intermingled with prolonged periods of hot, sunny days causing havoc with the state of the course.

The author’s prediction of greater things for Len Parsons is supported in the following comment;

Wednesday, 10th July, 1901
Peterborough Advertiser
Although Northamptonshire has for several years past had the reputation of supplying a good proposition of the best handicap men in the country, it is a long time since the county could boast of a man as good as Parsons and everything goes to show that he is still improving and consequently his future performances will be looked forward to with a great amount of interest. The Irthlingborough representative is a fine specimen of an athlete, being tall, standing perhaps 5ft 10ins, nicely proportioned – indeed, a finely built man for a champion cyclist. He is a thorough sportsman of whom Irthlingborough is justly proud.

In the same issue the Advertiser drew attention to the West Riding Coroner’s remarks when summing up after the inquest into the death of a pedestrian at Matlock. He urged that anyone riding a brake-less cycling machine and involved in a fatal accident should be convicted of manslaughter and face imprisonment. It also commented on the fact that in Peterborough Mr Julyan’s chainless machine was something of a rarity.

On 13th July, 1901 the Manchester Evening News carried a lengthy report of the Manchester Wheelers’ Sports held at Fallowfield, the home of Manchester Athletic Club which attracted in excess of 16,000 spectators. Parsons was a heat winner in the one lap (502 yards) handicap having benefitted from a 5 yard start. He was not recorded as winning the final. In the 10 mile scratch race for the Muratti Cup, valued at 100 guineas Parsons was placed third. A unique event, soon to hasten the demise of the pedal bicycling events was the two mile motor cycle match between Cecil Edge and George Hunt. Both men rode 5 horse power tricycles with the winning time being 3 minutes, 45 and one fifth seconds.

A week later on 20th July Len Parsons entered the 5 & 25 mile events in the English Cycling Championships on the track with concrete banking at Aston Lower Grounds, (later to become Villa Park) Birmingham but was unplaced in both. However in the Leicester Charity Sports Ralph Horne came second to A.J.Howell of Oundle in the one mile handicap but the placings were reversed when Horne won the one mile scratch event by a single foot.

At Wisbech on Wednesday, 24th July Arthur Gill beat his old rival Len Parsons by just three-quarters of a length in what was described as the best and fastest half mile scratch race ever seen on the circuit. The winner’s prize being a silver tea service and cabinet. Perhaps another indication of things to come was the inclusion on the programme of a performance given by the boy trick-cyclist Master Keech of Peterborough!

There was further success for Parsons at the Biggleswade Bank Holiday Fete on 5th August when he won gold medals in both the half mile and one mile N.C.U. Championship events although in the latter his fierce rival, Arthur Gell of Bedford fell when leading.

The Luton Times & Advertiser reported that at the Bedford Athletic Championships at the Grammar School on 8th August Arthur Gell, the well-known Bedford cyclist had won the one mile championship for the Duke of Bedford’s Cup for the 5th year in 2 minutes 41 seconds. He also won the 10 mile N.C.U. Championship after a sensational finish in 28mins 39.4 secs with Len Parsons just a few inches behind in second place, thus gaining revenge for the mishap at Biggleswade three days earlier.

Another visit to Trinity College cricket ground at Cambridge on 22nd August was covered by the Northampton Mercury which reported that Len Parsons carried off a pair of entree dishes valued at 4 guineas for winning the half mile scratch race.

Two days later brought a long trip to Somerset where competing in the 5 mile scratch race at Bath Parsons won the City Challenge Vase, a handsome solid silver vase valued at 100 guineas and a solid silver breakfast dish worth 10 guineas. He also won the Diamond Jubilee Trophy, this being the 22nd first prize he had won that year on his Imperial Rover and the value of his prizes amounted to £425.

In the Premier League
By the start of the 1902 season Leonard Parsons’ name had become synonymous with cycling success with him competing in major events at Northampton, Leicester and Coventry but also as far afield as Crystal Palace in London, in the south-west at Bristol, Bath and Plymouth and further north at Manchester and even Ayr in Scotland. On advertising posters in these far flung venues it was still quite sufficient to list him as – Parsons (Irthlingborough). It also became common to describe him as ‘The Midlands Flier’ whilst in London he was known as the ‘Provincial Flier’. There was, however a subtle change as regards his club loyalty as he was soon representing the clubs at Leicester (Leicester Cycling and Athletic Club or L.C. & A.A.) and Birmingham (Midland Cycling and Athletic Club or M.C. & A.A.)

It was rather an inauspicious start to the season for Parsons at Leicester C & A.A. meeting which included the mile scratch race for the Lonsdale Cup. The crowd was delighted to see Cooper, their local man hold off Parsons by just half a yard but as neither man managed to come home in the allotted time of three minutes no prizes were awarded. Len Parsons did, however assure his club victory in the inter-club challenge with Heanor Cycling Club when his riding with exceptional judgement was described as pivotal for Leicester’s win.

Leamington Spa Courier – 16th May, 1902
‘A match has been arranged to be contested at the Whit Monday Sports of the Bath Cycling Club between Rowland Janson of Polytechnic Cycling Club, London and Len Parsons of Irthlingborough. These riders are at present two of England’s fastest sprinters. The terms of the match are that three 500 yard sprint races are to be ridden and that the winner of the match shall receive a valuable silver cup from the Bath Cycling Club.’

Len Parsons did, in fact, emerge victorious over Rowland Jansen (yes, there are varying spellings of his name) in the Amateur Bicycle Match for 5 guineas and silver cup at Bath on Whit Monday. He won the first heat by a length, and the second by something less. Heavy rain earlier in the day had made conditions difficult for riding and several riders withdrew their entries but later in the afternoon Parsons did compete in the 5 mile scratch race. Being the holder of the trophy he was unexpectedly beaten into second place by Appleton of Bristol Wheelers who by virtue of his having also won in 1897 and 1898 claimed the valuable silver trophy outright. The general feeling in the Press tent was that the Bath Club had abundant funds with which to provide a replacement of equal value!

Moving on to the County Ground at Bristol the following day Jansen and Parsons teamed up to compete in what was described as ‘….the Great One Mile Tandem Race’ and intended to be the highlight of the Bristol Wheelers’ Meeting. Jansen’s original partner had pulled out following an accident at Plymouth and to the surprise of over 10.00 spectators present he persuaded Parsons to take his place. In the event, the race provided one of the best finals seen at the ground. Both teams sprinted at the bell and the last lap saw a magnificent struggle. Passing the Football Pavilion Jansen and Parsons, representing London looked winners but they were caught just before the line by the Bristol pairing of H.Appleton and J.Stokes who won by less than a length in a time of 2 minutes 18 seconds. Parsons later competed in the 5 Mile Scratch Race but was unplaced.

Manchester Guardian – 26th May, 1902
‘Most likely candidates to represent Rest of England against the Polytechnic Cycling Club at Crystal Palace next Saturday will include Len Parsons (Irthlingborough). Parsons is pretty sure of a place after the way in which he beat Janson in a match at Bath on Bank Holiday. Parsons, it will be remembered, was one of the most promising competitors for the Muratti Cup race at the Manchester Wheelers meeting last year.’

Len Parsons did ride as one of four riders representing England against London Polytechnic Cycling Club at Crystal Palace on 31st May, the other members of the national team being A.E.Wills (Putney), S.Holloway (Birmingham) and W.A.Edmonds (B.B. & T.C.)

Rain could easily have spoilt what turned out to be an excellent afternoon for Len Parsons at the Rudge -Whitworth meet in Coventry on 14th June. Having qualified after winning his heat he won the final of the half mile scratch race easily before competing in the main event of the day, the 10 mile scratch race for the Rudge-Whitworth Challenge Cup. After 8 miles he was in fifth position behind old adversaries Roland Janson and Arthur Gell but with half a lap remaining he took the lead and came home twenty yards clear in a time of 30 min 31 seconds to take the cup for the second time.

Thoughts amongst the cycling fraternity then turned to the National Cyclists’ Union Championships to be held at Home Park in Plymouth on 21st June but an ominous warning for local enthusiasts appeared in the Peterborough Advertiser on 18th June, 1902. ‘Len Parsons, known in London as the Provincial Flier is unable to get fully fit and although he displays good class form on occasions he is not in last year’s form owing to dyspeptic troubles. He has been sojourning in Brighton in hopes of getting round for the Championships at Plymouth next week but is far from satisfied with himself and does not anticipate doing any great things unless he alters very much during the next few days’. Parsons did compete at Plymouth with victory in a couple of heats being his only solace.

Len Parsons had clearly not returned to full fitness and things were not to improve the following Friday when he returned to Coventry Cricket Club to ride in the New Centaur Cycling Club event on a gloriously fine afternoon. The local club was buoyed after receiving a good entry of top riders but in the first final three strong competitors, including Parsons were disabled after a serious accident caused by one of them skidding out of control. Parsons was left shaking and bruised, with a cut to his hand but his two rivals were more seriously injured with one in agony with a shoulder injury. With no Ambulance Brigade coverage of the meeting being arranged, he was half carried and half led from the track and taken to hospital by untrained volunteers. Following a further serious fall and one or two minor ones the promoting club duly received much adverse criticism for its failure to have trained medical assistance ready at hand. Needless to say, the absence of three top riders was to have a material effect on subsequent racing.

The Coronation of Edward V11 and his wife Alexandra was planned to take place in Westminster Abbey on 26th June, 1902 but owing to the King being taken ill with an abdominal abscess which required immediate surgery the service was postponed at very short notice and rescheduled for 9th August. To coincide with the celebrations due to take place in London, Manchester Athletic Club had organised a Coronation Sports to be held on the Fallowfied track which promised to be one of the chief racing fixtures of the year, the main attraction being a Challenge Match between Polytechnic C.C. and The Rest of England. With three English champions in its ranks as well as Muratti winner Janson the Polytechnic side was considered to be nigh-invincible but on the day reputations counted for nothing and the Rest of England team, which included Len Parsons won the day by 22 to 18 points in front of a crowd in excess of 7,000.

In its issue of 7th July, 1902 the Manchester Courier & Lancashire General Advertiser considered the prospects of those likely to receive an invitation to compete in the 10 mile Invitation Scratch Race for the famous Muratti Cup. Roland Janson of London Polytechnic Cycling Club was warned to be on the look-out for Len Parsons whom he had beaten into second place by inches the previous year. To the surprise of many Parsons was unplaced in the 1902 event which drew an attendance of over 20,000 people.

From Manchester it was on to Scotland for the two day Ayr Sports on 19th & 21st July. It is hardly surprising that 11,000 spectators paid £289-14s-9d at the gate they having been exhorted to ‘come and see famous champions including Len Parsons of Irthlingborough’ by the advertising posters! The meeting did, indeed prove to be a great gathering of champions but the champion from Irthlingborough had to be content with a second place in the half mile handicap.

From Ayr it was back to Coventry for the following week’s meeting arranged by Demon C. & A.C. Len Parsons, having made a good recovery from the injuries he had received on the same track a month earlier, was fully justifying his being regarded as favourite in the 10 mile scratch race when in a position to pounce and take the title he punctured a tyre when coming into the final lap. Coventry Cricket Ground had certainly provided him with some lasting memories of his visits there in 1902!

The 36th annual sports of the Northampton & County Amateur Athletic Club, one of the oldest in the Midlands was held on 5th August and Len Parsons, the holder finished 2nd in the 5 mile championship. This loss was a great surprise as entering the final straight he was in hot pursuit of Arthur Gell who was a length and a half ahead. Good judges could see that Parsons could not possibly fill the gap but with an almost super-human effort he literally jumped at Gell but the effort was to no avail as he lost by just twelve inches. A novel event received with enthusiasm by the spectators was a bicycle polo match.

Len Parsons finished the season on 13th September by winning the 20 mile Championship for the MacDonald Cup staged by his home club, Leicester Athletic and Cycling Club. Such was his dominance that he finished three laps ahead of his nearest rival in a time of 58 mins 17 secs. 1902 was a season of ups and downs for Len Parsons and certainly one to remember.

A long trip to Cumberland on Saturday, 23rd May, 1903 to compete in the Workington Sports for which the West Cumberland Times enthused ‘….Entries beyond expectation – a galaxy of 23 cycle ‘cracks’ including Len Parsons of Birmingham Rover C.C. & J.S.Benton of Chester, the fastest amateur sprinter in England.’ Parsons had a poor return for travelling such a long way. He won his heat in the half mile handicap but was unplaced in the final.

Whit Monday, 1st June, 1903 brought the Bedford Fete on the Kimbolton Road track for which large crowds arrived by train, motor & cycle. To the immense disappointment of local enthusiasts their own Arthur Gell was unable to compete as he was engaged in a competition elsewhere but great interest was generated by his partner, A.W.Smith who demonstrated a motor cycle at speed by completing just over a mile in 1 min 43.6 secs.

Parsons, representing the Midland C. & A.C. in his heat of the half mile handicap was fouled when lying second and looking likely to win. He finished third, but was commended for his discretion in avoiding an accident and given a place in the final which he duly won in a time of 1 min 3.2 secs in what was declared a very fine race which was almost a dead-heat – his prize being £6. He was not quite so fortunate in the 5 mile scratch race in which he won his heat but had to be content with coming second in the final by a wheel to W.M.Light. Parsons had to be satisfied with £2 rather than that of £5 more awarded to the winner.

The following day, Tuesday, 2nd June, saw him travelling to the familiar Coventry Cricket Grounds for the Annual Rudge-Whitworth C.C.Sports which again attracted a huge crowd. Sadly it was considered by those ‘in the know’ that Parsons, again riding in the colours of the Midland C & A.C. was reckoned to be out of training and being unplaced in the final of the half mile scratch race after winning his heat appeared to confirm their fears. But good fortune seemed to smile on him in the 10 mile scratch race for the Rudge-Whitworth Challenge Cup of which he was the holder. With just 120 yards to go to the line T.Childs of Jarrow was leading when he suffered a punctured tyre. This allowed Len Parson to sweep ahead and claim victory for the third time in this event, thus winning the trophy outright – a popular win with the crowd. There was controversy, however with six of the twenty riders in the race being involved in a crash. The opinion of the Coventry Evening Telegraph was that the purchase of a new trophy should bring with it a limit on the number of riders in each race as the public wanted to see racing, and not crashes on the track which all too frequently had such a damaging effect on the quality of the race.
Those intending to cycle home after the meeting were advised by the Coventry Evening Telgraph that lighting-up time was precisely seven minutes past nine.

Was this the final race for Leonard Parsons? He had become one of the best half dozen cyclists in England but this is the last reference to him which the author has been able to find in the Newspaper Archives. On 5th May, 1904 the Rudge-Whitworth Cycling Club proudly announced that the directors of the Company had generously donated a new cup to replace that won outright by Parsons the previous year. ‘The trophy is a magnificent specimen of the silver workers’ art and is already eliciting entries from the cream of racing cyclists both in London and the Provinces.’ Len Parsons’ name does not appear to have been on that list of entries.

It has already been noted that the Press did sometimes go into hibernation and for a period cease reporting on events. This may have been the case here, or simply that cycling suddenly lost its appeal and the many events which were once so popular were consigned to the history books. One does, however feel that this account of the successes of both Leonard Parsons and Ralph Horne could have been more extensively researched had the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph, Wellingborough News and other local publications been made available for inclusion in the British Newspaper Archives!

After his successes on the cycle track Leonard Parson farmed under his father at Broadholme Farm and then on his own at Rushden Lodge Farm before moving to Irchester in 1917 by which time his love of cycling had been replaced by a love of shooting. At Manor Farm he became recognised as a prominent agriculturalist and sat on the Committee of the Northamptonshire Agricultural Society and was also associated with the National Farmers’ Union. A leading member of the village community, he was elected unopposed onto Northamptonshire County Council in 1937. The following year he was made a Justice of the Peace, sitting on the Wellingborough Bench. In 1939 he was appointed Chairman of Irchester Parish Council for the 12th successive year but ill-health was already beginning to take its toll and forced him to resign his seat in May, 1942.

Leonard Parsons died on the night of Friday, 4th December, 1942 after 2½ years of illness aged 64 years.