One of the best wheel builders around: Memories of Jack Rollitt

Jack Rollitt working at Uppadine
Jack at work repairing an Uppadine cycle in 1961

Doncaster resident Ginny Rollitt-Smith got in touch with Doncaster’s Cycling Stories to share her memories of her dad ‘Jack’. John Andrew Rollitt was born on 23rd September 1924. He developed an interest in cycling in his youth, and from the age of 16 began repairing many different types of cycles. His passion in life was everything to do with cycles and cycling.

Following his marriage to Betty Finch in 1951 he and his new wife cycled everywhere together. His daughter Ginny remembers family cycling trips with her mother and father. Jack’s hobby eventually became his profession when he started work at Harry Uppadine’s cycle shop on Balby Road. He worked there for many years and soon developed a significant reputation amongst cycling enthusiasts as one of the best wheel-builders around.

Uppadine Cycle Shop
Uppadine’s cycle shop at 127 Balby Road, Doncaster, where Jack worked until the shop closed in 1973

When Uppadine’s closed in 1973 Jack began work for John Turton, bringing with him much of the trade that he had personally built up from his work at Uppadine’s. Jack’s daughter Ginny recalls visiting him at work at Turton’s in the 1970s, and being taken for a biscuit by a lady whom she thinks was called Jenny downstairs in the staff kitchen. She vividly remembers seeing all the different types of cycles on display and hanging up in the shop.

Jack also had his own cycle workshop in his garage at home, and cycling enthusiasts would travel for miles to persuade him to build their wheels for him. His daughter Ginny remembers that the workshop was like a professional establishment with wheels of every description hanging from the roof! He was also a keen photographer with his own dark room at home, where he would develop his images of local cyclists and cycling events.

Jack Rollitt on Uppadine Bicycle
Jack riding an Uppadine bike in a time trial on 23rd May 1961. He completed in a time of 1 hour 9 minutes 35 seconds

Jack was a keen member of the Doncaster Wheelers and the Cyclists’ Touring Club (CTC) and was possibly the chairman of the Wheelers sometime during the 1950s and 1960s. He enjoyed the cycling trips organised by the club, particularly journeys to Auckley for fish and chips! Although he enjoyed cycling with the club, and would sometimes take part in the time trials, he loved taking charge of the timing of the events.

3. Jack Rollitt Racing
Jack taking part in the ‘Notts Arrow 50’ on 11th August 1968 with a time of 2 hours 17 mins 34 seconds

Jack would cycle to work every day. One day in the spring of 1985 he cycled to work at John Turton’s as usual but suffered a massive heart attack. Very sadly he died the same day. He was 60 years old. The local cycling community were deeply shocked and saddened at his sudden death, but his wife Betty commented that he would have died happy surrounded by the cycles that he loved.

All images kindly reproduced with permission of Ginny Rollitt-Smith

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