Monday, 23 May 2011

A birthday and an anniversary ride....

It's Sunday, the sun is shining, the rain that came during the night has now subsided, everything looks and smells fresh and sparkly. Gary has called me this morning to say he won't be able to make it on our planned excursion with Mercia Cycling Club to visit the cyclist's war memorial at Meriden, Warwickshire and take part in their 90th memorial service. He seems to have picked up a cold - best that he stays in and rests, certainly I don't want to catch it! - Oh, and it's my birthday as well!

Okay, the Cyclist's Memorial - let me explain. Meriden has historically been recognised as 'the centre of England' geographically. As such it was chosen, in 1919, to be the site of a lasting memorial to those cyclists who gave their lives in the Great War of 1914-1918. £1200 was raised from cyclists throughout the UK and on May 21st 1921 the memorial was unveiled by the Lord Chancellor. The Green was packed for as far as the eye could see, some 20,000 cyclists had assembled and the throng overflowed on both sides of the highway, all traffic ceased and the adjoing meadows were packed with thousands of machines parked by their owners. Buglers sounded the 'last post' and a simple dedicatory prayer was read by the Reverend B.G. Bourchier who had been a most generous patron of the memorial fund. There followed an informal laying of wreaths at the foot of the memorial, including a decorated racing wheel from the cycle of one of the unnamed heroes who had fallen. The key-note of the whole memorial was: simplicity and strength without ornament. The obelisk was built on a concrete base with a concrete column which is 30 feet high and faced with Cornish Granite. On 14th June 1923 His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales visited the memorial. A service has been held every year since the unveiling, with the highest attendances in the 1920's and 1930's, yet Meridan today is still one of the largest gatherings of cyclists in the country. A bronze plaque was affixed to the memorial in 1963 to commemorate those cyclists who had died during World War Two.

Fast forward to 2011 - the 90th Anniversary of the unveiling. There may not be the swelling crowds of yesteryear but nevertheless this event still has a certain attraction for many cyclists. For me this was my first visit, we arrived at around 11.00am and the Green was covered with bikes and cyclists. The Bulkington Silver Band were playing and the Atherstone Chorale were leading the singing. The welcome was by Mr Peter Wright of St Laurence Church in the Parish of Meriden and Packington and the reading was by Lewis Hall of British Cycling. The address was by The Reverend Canon John Eardley. Hymns were sang and wreaths were placed. A bugler played the last post followed by a one minute silence whereupon the bugle played 'reveille'. Blessings and further prayer were followed by a rousing rendition of the National Anthem and then it was a short ride to the Village Hall for refreshments of tea and home-made cakes.

Here's a video clip to give you an idea....

video 

It was a moving service and it is perhaps worth reflecting that on the 90th anniversary of the unveiling of a memorial to those who lost their lives fighting in the 'Great War', Gary and I will be riding to help raise funds for servicemen and women who are still involved in conflict almost 100 years later.

We rode home through some pretty countryside. The Forest of Arden - absolutely beautiful, simple and peaceful. We managed, somehow to lose our leader - hope you got back okay Norman?.  Total mileage for the day 75

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