By Geoff Read, in conversation with Barry’s daughter Mandy Bishop, World Road Race Champion 1982 (as Mandy Jones) and life Centreville member
I rode with Barry a few times in the 1980’s and had the benefit of his ever-ready primus stove for brewing up at the side of the road in old-school fashion, so it was nice to learn more about his life in cycling through chatting with Mandy. He had grown up a cyclist, she told me.”Everyone cycled then, and his parents were both cyclists. Some of his earliest memories were of being in the kiddy seat on the back of their tandem.”
He would tell stories of his teenage years touring with his friend Gilly (Gil Roberts). “Once when he was 15 he and Gilly were cycling round Wales and they ran out of money – Dad had stupidly left his wallet on a park bench or something. They were stuck, but then he remembered that his mum was staying in a village somewhere in another part of Wales. They cycled there and found the village, but had no idea where she was actually staying, so they went round knocking on doors asking ‘Where is Mrs Jones?’ It being Wales the answer was usually ‘Well I am Mrs Jones, but there is another one round the corner.’ Eventually they found the right Mrs Jones!”
During his national service Barry was sent to Germany. Uniforms and the barrack rooms had to be spot on, and there was a competition to see which room had the most perfect kit. “One day some of the other lads chucked a bucket of water on their floor. Seeing it as a challenge, they cleaned it until it gleamed, and after that they always won. The others couldn’t understand how they won every time. Their secret lay in, amongst other things, each having a second uniform which was kept only for inspections. This was stitched together into perfect folds and brought out at a suitable moment. Cups on the bedside tables were kept in perfect alignment all down the room by threading a string through the handles and two blokes tugging it tight to jerk them into line. It made the others mad, they couldn’t understand it.” This makes sense, as I can attest that Barry’s primus stove, saddlebag and cycling kit was also kept in top order.
After the army he became an insurance broker doing the rounds for the Co-opertive’s CIS company. He was a smoker and a laid back trainer. His diary for 1959 includes entries like “Cycled 20 miles, smoked 20 cigs.” He worked his way up to 60 a day and after racing would be wracked with coughing. A young Mandy always made it clear she hated him smoking, so he often tried to give up. “When I was growing up I would sometimes wake up to find on the bedside table an envelope with a cigarette in it and a note saying ‘This is my last cigarette, I am really giving up this time.'” He actually did give up in 1982 after Mandy had won the World’s.
Barry loved racing time trials, and liked to do the BBAR, requiring 25’s, 50’s, 100’s and 12 hours, encouraging others to do the same. His best time for 25 was just over the hour, but he had very good stamina and in 1963 was 8th in the National 12 Hour Time Trial, riding 256 miles to winner Ron Spencer’s 267 miles in the Manchester Wheelers event in Cheshire, riding for Exodus. Mandy was born in 1962, and her sister Carol in 1967. In 1963 he co-founded Exodus Road Club which split off in time-honoured fashion from East Manchester Clarion, but after the trailer they used to tow Mandy as a baby broke, cycling took more of a back seat for a while.
The family moved from Manchester to Rochdale in 1972 and Barry got back to cycling a year later, Joining West Pennine. Mandy got her first bike at 11, a Raleigh folding shopper with a Sturmey Archer 3 speed hub. After the first big ride on it she can remember, it was named “The pig” as it took all day to get to the hostel at Earby and the ride back over Crown Point was murderous, although it was inevitably rewarded with firing up the primus for a brew. Later when she was fit she would chuckle to be passing Earby at 11am on the way out on long training rides.
In the unusually hot summers of the late 70’s the family holidays were cycle camping trips: two weeks round the Lake District in 76, and Wales in 77, using what were then ‘The Rochdale Holidays’ at the end of August. Barry started time-trialling again, with West pennine until the early ’80s, when he became Secretary of the then recently formed ABC Centreville club.
Barry took Mandy to Manchester, to Cyril Bardlsey’s shop for her first ‘real’ bike, a Wes Mason frame and the parts to build it up, which they did together at home. “He’d say, here put some grease in this cup – everyone did their own mechanics in those days. It was a single speed, they were cheaper and less wear and tear, and money was tight.”
Barry began taking his kids on club rides; others did the same and the club grew and the racing scene increased. When questioned about why he was buying tickets for them to attend the annual do, he said “We are a family, they are club members, why wouldn’t they come?”
This reflects his relaxed but enthusiastic and supportive attitude to the sport which was the foundation from which Mandy’s achievements grew. She remembers “He was gently persuasive – I was reluctant to start racing and a bit shy. He suggested I might like to do the club 10, but I wasn’t confident, so I did the course–not on race night–and he timed me. He encouraged me to do some ladies races – he wasn’t pushy, he wasn’t like that. We just enjoyed doing things with me mum and dad, they were good, fun and good company.” He didn’t coach Mandy as such, but his advice to her and all young riders was “If you go out and ride your bike you will improve year on year.”
She describes him as “A good team manager for me Carol and Judith. He’d make sure we changed our wheels, get us to start at the right time, and shout ‘You’re up!’ or ‘Down,’ or whatever. Unlike other dads who might get annoyed, he’d never get annoyed, he was never judgemental. He’d just give you a look, but he knew that you knew if you’d done a bad ride, that you didn’t need telling.”
Mandy remembers a ‘Medium Gear” time trial he rode with them in Cheshire. The media were in attendance, and one reporter walked up to Barry and asked him how much training he did every day. “Sixty,” was his answer. “What, miles?” asked the reporter. “No fags,” Barry deadpanned back.
He encouraged other young riders in the club, and when it became apparent that talented young racers like Nigel Bishop (who became an international rider and is now married to Mandy), were struggling financially, to get them to the races that would qualify them for international selection, he started the ’25 Club’. This was where everyone who attended the weekly club socials would put 25p in a pot. The money would then be used to help get young riders to Star Trophy events and national championships. Riders supported in this way included Nigel, Ian Perry, Neil Swithenbank, Steve Whittington, Steve Calland, and Jason Shackleton.
“But no-one was excluded,” recalls Mandy. “He took pride in the club and all its riders, and at club nights everyone’s results from the weekend would be given in and read out. There were 150 members in Centreville then and he was proud of all of them.”
After a lifetime of cycling Barry wasn’t about to let cancer stop him riding. “When he was on chemo he would ride on rollers in the kitchen. That’s what he wanted to do. He just wanted to go out on his bike.”
Do have any memories of Barry you would like to share? If so, add a comment or send it to Geoff via the contact page.