Letter from Eddie Cook

David Miller kindly provided the following letter from Eddie Cook to Roland Bright, dated 7 Oct 1991.

Dear Roland,

Thank you for sending me the Frank Patterson Exhibition Booklet, which I found very interesting. I have long been an admirer of his scenic and landscape drawings, but I'm a bit apprehensive of the picture on the front cover--presumably him(?)--with a riding whip. With one of those on a club run perhaps he should be in the Hainault!
I was further interested to assume from the booklet and the Insert that Hetchins has been sold out to Jackson's of Leeds. [see the subsequent history page for exact details.]

That's by the bye. Of course I remember dear old Jack Denny. I rode up to London with him off and on (depending on timing we met two or three times a week) for many years--when I was regularly commuting on the bike to central and west end of London.

I can also add a bit more, and I think of quite significant interest to the Hetchins saga: A short history. Firstly I had no idea he was ever associated with a music shop and I wonder where that information came from. You may not know, but for a brief period in my career (whilst deciding whether I was going to try and be a professional musician or a professional bike rider (!)), I was recruited to the newly-formed bicycle and accessory importer Felmans, along with Ted Jones, Bob Thom, Les Scales, Ray Gosman, and a few others, mostly BLRC riders, as a sales representative [latest continental equipment etc.]. I could tell many a tale of my experiences of those days in 1951, which is when I first became acquainted with Monty Young of Condor incidentally, but the point of this story is that not only Hetchins, but also Macleans Featherweight Cycles of the Angel, Islington, and a couple of other 'real' bike shops in Tottenham--one of which became Pat Hanlon but wasn't then--also Holdsworth of Higbury, Lyons and another one of Holloway, Bates of London who were then in Holloway Road, and a few others in the vicinity, were ALL my customers, and I called on them regularly. It was common knowledge in the trade at the time, and amusing to retell, that Hetchins (the old man, Hyman, that is) was originally in his shop in West Green Road (near the Seven Sisters Station that is today) as a tailor! When a bike shop a short way up the road began to sell clothing, albeit cycle clothing, Mr. Hetchin took umbrage and said "if he persists in selling clothing, then I shall start selling bicycles." And that is how Hetchins cycles actually got started in the early 30s--although I cannot remember the exact date now, but it could have been in the late 20s of course.

In due course they invented the curly stays, but they also sponsored the winning six-day team of Strom and Arnold before and just after the war, and they also semi-sponsored the Romford RC (BLRC) Club in the 50s. I don't know the exact deal, but Stan Broom would know, anyway all the Romford RC rode Hetchins. I called on all the north and east London bike shops in 1951 but I don't remember any with the name of Denny as the proprietor, so I guess Jack's father went out of business a long time ago.

The other significant point of history is that all the other London builders began to copy Hetchin's idea of ornate fancy lugwork, the art of which I think reached its peak in the 1950s.

You might not think this of much interest, if so just bin it, but perhaps Jackson Cycles might be interested in a bit more history of what they have bought--if they don't know already.

Best wishes, sincerely, Eddie Cook

Reprinted unabridged. A number of the points raised by Mr. Cook are either corroborated or clarified by John Liffen's article. The BLRC was the British League of Racing Cyclists and was formed by, amongst other like-minded racing cyclists, Percy Stallard. He organised the first massed start road race in the UK in 1942. --Editor.