Travellers' tales: A genealogical journey

Richard's Great-grandfather and grandfather in 1910.

Travellers' tales: A genealogical journey

A cycling great-grandfather inspired Richard Blackshaw.

Bicycle ownership came within reach of the ordinary working man or women in the late 19th century. My great-grandfather, a postman in Torquay, purchased one and raced around the Devon lanes at every opportunity. In 1889 he discovered that postmen in Manchester received one shilling per week more, so he applied for a transfer to the north.

In February 1890 he set off on his much-prized bicycle to cycle the 260 miles to Manchester, leaving his wife and child behind until he had sourced suitable lodgings. In the interim, he would regularly cycle the 520 miles round trip to visit his wife and child in Torquay!

My great grandfather decided to repeat this adventure in 1904, and convinced his son, my 14-year-old grandfather, to join him. There was much rough sleeping in farmer’s barns, but there was always plenty of food and his father seemed to be popular at the farms along the way. After the trip, my grandfather vowed not ride a bicycle again! However, the picture shows him camping with his father in 1910.

In 2013, I tried to find cycling maps from the period to follow my great-grandfather’s route, but I got carried away and rode LEJOG instead. It must be in the genes!

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