An article in a local publication prompted resident Mark Pidgeon to get in touch with Doncaster’s Cycling Stories. He spoke to Heritage Doncaster’s Assistant Museums Officer Nicola about his fond memories of growing up in the borough.
Mark Pidgeon was born in Edlington in 1937. His father was a miner at Yorkshire Main Colliery and he was the youngest of seven siblings. When he was still in his infancy, Mark’s father passed away. His mother married again when Mark was four, by which time his eldest sister and brother were already married with homes of their own. One of his earliest memories is of his grandfather calling into the house on a Sunday morning to borrow a ‘bob’ for a pint! He also recalls playing with friends at the age of eight around Sprotbrough Flash, and jumping from the bridge into the canal, as the horse-drawn barges passed by.
In 1948 Mark passed his 11-plus exam and was awarded a place at Maltby Grammar School. He was amongst the first generation to benefit from the 1944 Education Act, which widened educational opportunities for children from working class backgrounds. To celebrate this achievement, his mother and step-father offered to buy Mark a special gift. He chose a Raleigh Record Ace from Halfords at a cost of £34 13s 4d. He knew that the famous track cyclist Reg Harris rode a bicycle like this one, and he was determined to have the same.
Once he was in possession of this new machine, Mark’s life was transformed. Together with a group of friends he rode all over the county each weekend. They would ride to anywhere they could get to in a day, some of their favourite haunts being Harrogate, Cleethorpes, Bridlington, Knaresborough, Buxton and Bakewell. They would usually take a picnic and disappear for the entire day.
Mark also joined Edlington Cycling Club and once took part in a 50-mile time trial, which ran between Bawtry and Keadby Bridge. The only mishap he can recall from these adventures is from one trip to Sheffield, when his friend ‘Tiger’ Millward got his front wheel stuck in a tram track and went over the handlebars, but he managed to get back on his bike and continue the journey.
When Mark was 15, he decided to leave Maltby Grammar School. He started work as Assistant Stores Manager at the Wagon Repairs shop at Balby and would cycle to and from work each day, from his home in Edlington. His cycling adventures would continue each weekend, however, until he reached the age of 18 and was called up for National Service. While he was serving in the armed forces, he was parachuted into Suez and suffered damaged to his hearing as a result of this campaign.
National Service effectively brought Mark’s time as a cyclist to an end. He returned to his former place of work as Wages Clerk and soon after that, met his future wife Selina. Following their marriage in 1959, he started work at Kenning Tyres in Bentley, then after two years he relocated to Bedford. Mark’s later career saw him travel all over the world, so he never really found the time or the opportunity to take up cycling as an adult.
Mark and Selina returned to Doncaster following his retirement, but even 60 years after his cycling adventures came to an end he still retains fond memories of this period of this life. Thank you to Mark for sharing his memories with Doncaster’s Cycling Stories.