South West London DA: Sou' Wester Archive
Profile of Ray Harrison

Profile: Ray Harrison - (Jan/Feb 2005)

When Ray Harrison responded to Brian Starey's request to members to provide him with information for the Wayfarers' Profile Book he did this believing that the request was intended for the Sou'wester profile. The result was sufficiently interesting to qualify Ray for the profile treatment in this issue. It reveals a lot more about Ray's touring experiences than most of us will know. For example, in 1999 he did his highest annual mileage, a very respectable figure of 10,617 miles. He has confessed that his total for 2004 will not be comparable. So will he be submitting a figure to Pete Mitchell for publication in the DA Mileage listings?

Ray started his cycling in Shropshire as a youngster in the 1940s on a second-hand Hercules runabout. When the family came to London (he currently lives in Tooting), he acquired a brand new bike, a Raleigh Lenton with drop handlebars (which some of us will remember as a popular bicycle in the 40s and 50s.) This opened up wonderful opportunities to explore, with a friend at the Grammar School, new horizons in the City, the suburbs and the Home Counties. Their cycles enabled them to pursue their hobby of collecting London Transport bus numbers, cycling to bus garages in London and to the Country Area Network garages such as Tring, Luton, Hitchin, High Wycombe, Tunbridge Wells, East Grinstead, Crawley and Guildford.

Joining the YHA opened up further opportunities for tours to new regions starting with Dover and then to Somerset, Devon, Cornwall where they stayed at hostels in Exeter, Plymouth, Lostwithiel, Truro, Bampton and Martock. The following year, it was to be a first visit to Scotland staying en route at Carlisle Etterby to reach Cormiston, Glasgow, Edinburgh (Hailes) then returning via York, Holmfirth, Delamere Forest and the original Chester hostel.

Cycling had to stop during his time of conscription for military service in the RAF in Cyprus. When he was demobbed, he returned to cycling. In 1962 he bought a pristine Claud Butler.

"It cost me £22 and I am still using it. I don't have accurate mileage records but the CB has given good service all these years, taking me across vast swathes of Great Britain, out to the peripheral isles, Wight, the Orkneys, the Outer Hebrides plus the Isles of Skye, Mull, Raasay, Isla and Arran."

In 1973 he linked up with the then Family Section. He treasures advice he received in that period from the late lamented member Ted Storey. Ted advised him always to check his tyres after every ride for fragments of glass, flint and thorns etc. This has avoided endless punctures and Ray testifies with feeling "my gratitude to Ted knows no bounds".

Ray has done most of the classic big tours. He rode from John O'Groats to Lands End in eight and a half days. 11 years later he rode from Dover to Cape Wrath. In 1994 he cycled from the most easterly point in mainland Britain, Lowestoft Ness across to the most westerly one at Ardnamurchan Point.

Two years ago he purchased a new custom built bicycle from the receipts from a matured insurance policy. It was based on a frame derived from a Dawes Galaxy design and was built up by AW Cycles in Merton High Street.

"It has enabled me to pursue an interest of my later years - finding and visiting genuine and unspoilt pubs. They do provide the important benefit of the enjoyment of drinking real ales, but it's really the buildings I adore - they are so quintessentially British."

He looks forward to this special enjoyment on annual holidays. His nine day tour visiting selected hostelries in the Marches and North Wales also provided an opportunity to call in on Pat and Steve Bott. Ray is also looking out for similar hostelries on his rides with the Midweek Wayfarers and Cheam and Morden Sections.

He says that his visits to these unspoilt pubs are made even more enjoyable by the company of fellow cyclists. "The camaraderie is quite unequalled. That's the way of the cycling fraternity. So we can continue to enjoy the finest exercise known to man" claims Ray.