In the latest in a series of occasional articles during the run-up to the Tour de France Grand Depart, Keighley cycling enthusiast Frank O’Dwyer reflects on another local hero – Arthur Durham
As I mentioned in my last article, Pat Kelly was dominant in local time trials.
However, on the road racing scene a young rider was emerging – Arthur Durham.
Over the next few years Arthur would pull on the national jersey and represent his country on the international calendar.
Arthur, like all of us, drifted into cycling because it was a means of escape from the drab world of post-war Britain. When I first met Arthur he was riding with ‘Keighley Velo’, a club that copied the fashion and style of the continental riders.
Led by the “Foxes” Roy and John, the leaders of a hard- riding bunch of lads, riding stripped down racing bikes, wearing pullovers, berets and sunglasses. You could tell at a glance that they were massed start fans.
Arthur was born in Keighley in 1943, started cycling in 1955 and began racing in 1959. His first club was Keighley Clarion in 1956.
This was the club that introduced him to “club runs”, the backbone of cycling. Older riders with lots of experience taught young riders how to conduct themselves on the road and passed on the “knowledge” where all the best cafes could be found.
After serving his apprenticeship with the Clarion, Arthur moved on to the ‘Velo’ riding with the “foxes”, Tom Mcdonald, Dave Smith, Geoff Marshall, Pete Thomson, to mention a few. The rides with the ‘Velo’ crew were much harder, and Arthur started to build the stamina that would make him respected later in his racing career.
When the ‘Velo’ crew started to break up, due to girls and dances, Arthur moved on to another club, Bradford Olympic, in 1960. This was a wise move as Arthur was now riding with committed racing men and started to gain experience at a higher level and he realised that to compete at this level he had to work harder.
He got his first win in March in the Keighley St Christopher Mountain Trial, beating Pat Kelly, a notable scalp to take. Riding with a more committed set of riders was paying dividends and the results started to come in the latter half of the season, when he was rarely out of the first six places.
Having formed a friendship with Keith Lambert, who rode with Pennine CC, he began the 1962 season with Pennine. Arthur didn’t have any more wins that year but had 19 places against the “Creme de la Creme” of British cycling, such as Pete Chisman and Arthur Metcalfe, both Milk Race winners, and he was head- hunted by Leeds Couriers.
After a bad start due to the severe winter, Arthur found the results coming thick and fast – three wins and good places in the season.
He was now one of the top amateurs in the country.
He represented Britain in Germany, France, Holland and the UK, including the Milk Race twice, Tour de l’Avenir (amateur Tour de France) and other honours too numerous to mention.
In was in May 1964 that Arthur met the girl who was to be his wife, Chris. They would marry in 1966.
At the end of 1964 Arthur moved to a sponsored club, Bradford Wheelers/Ellis Briggs, and carried on his international career. The wins and placings continued to come and Wheelers enjoyed a spell as one of the dominant teams in the North. The first team consisted of Arthur, Ken Wilson, John (Flight) Brooks, Dave Cockcroft, with Danny Horton. Danny would go on to be British Pro Champion.
Arthur rode with Wheelers until 1971 and then made his final move to Club Velo Cruz.
But his story doesn’t end there. He carried on riding as a “veteran” and was part of the team who won the season-long Pete Fryer trophy from 1983-1989.
Perhaps one of his most memorable rides was finishing second to Bill Painter in the National Vets Championship in Hull. His lack of a sprint cost him the race but he had the satisfaction of beating many old pros including Barry Hoban, winner of eight stages in the Tour de France.
When he retired from the sport I would see him pounding the roads and exchange greetings with him. Sadly he was involved in a crash with a farm vehicle in the Dales and died a few weeks later.