"However old I get, I never enter the month of January without thoughts of my first bicycle. At the time the weather was too bad to start learning to ride it, and it being second hand and in much need of repair to make it roadworthy, I accepted that spring would come before I could have my first lesson.
I can still remember every detail of that first bicycle my father bought me. It was second-hand and came in rusty black and was without mudguards; the frame was black, the wheels spokes were rusty and about a third of them bent. It was bought from Cleckheaton Market Place late one Saturday morning in the cold month of January for the princely sum of ten bob. This represented a significant knockdown from the original twelve and sixpence asking price because it was punctured both back and front, had no front brake and the pedals were damaged. Hence, until my dad got it back home and fully stripped down, there was simply no way of knowing whether the inner tubes were of decent quality or ressembled a patch-work quilt. I was 10 years old at the time, the year was 1953, the number one hit was 'How much is that doggie in the window' and although the Second World War had been ended over six years, I'd never experienced the luxury of eating a bannana.
It was spring before I got that bicycle back on the road. Over the next six months, I learned to ride on this trusty charger and rode it everywhere I could; often without the benefit of workable brakes. One of our more popular games of the time was to arm oneself with mum's sweeping brush and with the brush end wedged firmly beneath one's preferred armpit and the narrow handle pointing outwards, ride headlong towards another armed bicycle-rider charging in the opposite direction with the sole purpose of dismounting him.
Then, during my 11th year of life, I incurred a bad traffic accident when a wagon ran over me and mangled my body and legs around its drive shaft. I was on the hospital danger list for over two months and received the Last Sacraments many times. When the doctors told my parents that I wouldn't live, my father promised to buy me a brand new bicycle if I did. I did live, but then was told that I wouldn't walk again.
I didn't walk for three years, but being a man of his word, my father nevertheless kept his promise and still bought me a brand new Raleigh bicycle with a three-speed Sturmey-Archer gear-shift cable that enabled one to change gears. This was 'state of the art' for its time and certainly not the type of bicycle that a child from a poor household ever owned brand new.
The bicycle was bought on the 'never never' and cost dad a total of £16, including interest. This amount that was duely paid off in seven and sixpence per-week instalments from dad's £11 per week wage, from which he received ten-bob-per-week spending allowance. No wonder he never drank or smoked!
I loved that Raleigh bike and rode it daily once I got feelings back below the waist in my thirteenth year. I remember only being able to bend one knee at the time during the years I couldn't walk, due to over fifty operations I had in straightening the most damaged leg. However, I still rode my bicycle daily without fail. I needed to be lifted on the bicycle to start with and if I had to stop peddling for any reason, I fell off and just used to lay there on the road until a stranger came along and lifted me back on the bicycle. Because I could only bend one knee, my father turned the bicycle into a fixed-gear riding model and that device enabled me to turn both pedals with one good leg only.
I have no doubt that in today's health and safety world of 'dos and don'ts', that our bicycle tournaments armed with mum's long-handled brush would have been deemed a criminal act under some obscure duelling law and that my parents would have been arrested for negligence and I would have been taken into care. Thank God that I lived in different times and had parents who loved me more than they feared the law or the consequences of me falling off a bicycle, breaking a leg again or being poked by a brush! Oh, how I loved riding my bicycles, both old and new!" William Forde: January 16th, 2015.