Friday, October 7, 2011

Jack Hearne cycles

Jack pictured on the right.
Being a two-wheeler fanatic and growing up in a small market town the local cycle shop was an obvious mecca. Sometime around the age of twelve I plucked up the courage to walk in and ask for a job. Catching Jack in the right mood and at the right time there began a friendship that lasted many years. When I asked for that Saturday job I hadn't known what a priviledge it was to be taken under the wing of a man who was once a mechanic for his country's team and in the premier league of frame builders.

Jack was a great teacher of cycle mechanics and, though it didn't always seem so at the time (short cuts were never encouraged - tyres were to be inflated by hand despite the compressor under the bench and power tools were a strict no no!), he took a great deal of effort in passing on the intricacies of the trade. With hindsight I think he also took pride in the fact that working for him could be seen to be character building. Furthermore a rich education in the full expressiveness of the Anglo Saxon language was part of the package and it seemed Jack's sincere wish that I should exit the shop slightly less of a soft **** than when I entered it.

As a teenager I worked in the shop Saturdays and school holidays, slightly older I came back and helped out in the college holidays and later on I mucked in when I could at the Christmas rush. 
Hearne frame headstock detail.
It's a regret in my life that I pretty much fell out of touch with Jack when the shop closed just over ten years ago. And it was a sadness that despite intentions to get in touch I failed to do so before hearing about his funeral on the 8th September. There was no doubt though that paying last respects was the right thing to do and it seemed a fitting tribute to ride along on my Hearne framed bike that he gave me when he finally retired from the bike trade.

So here's to you Jack. Thank you for mentoring me through the cycle trade and my teenage years. Thank you for your friendship and generosity.

Geoff 'Jaffa' Orange has written up about his time as Jack's assistant during the Stoke Poges and Slough years:

I'd like to add some memories of his time at Blandford Forum.

Jack came down to Blandford Forum with his wife Peggy in the early eighties. They took over a guest house in the nearby village of Cashmoor. Though it was supposed to be a retirement it wasn't long before Blandford's cycle shop, then known as 'Lucas Cycles' came up for sale and, with cycles in his blood, Jack couldn't stop himself.

I started working for Jack just shortly after he had bought Lucas Cycles; immediately changed to Jack Hearne cycles and the shopfront signwritten in Jack's trademark black writing on yellow background. The story Jack gave me behind the trademark colours was that he had been told by a knowledgable biologist customer that black on yellow was the most instantly recognisable and stand-out colour combination to the human eye due to the danger association with stinging insects.
My Jack Hearne fixed wheeler.
The shop consisted of an original early victorian shopfront and showroom that had been slowly extended rearwards. Originally the property had consisted of a shop with a passageway connecting the street to the rear of the plot that contained a cottage and garden. Over the years the rear of the shop had been knocked through and a long wooden structure had been tacked on the back. Beyond this a corrugated plastic roof connected it to the cottage at the rear. The workshop area was in the corrugated roof lean to and I can remember checking inner tubes for punctures in a large old tin bucket. In the middle of winter the bucket would ice over and the ice had to be broken before checking where the tubes were holed. Like Jaffa I can recall Jack's complete prohibition on using levers to refit tyres - good practice but hard work for young hands!

Before too long Jack had decided that the shop's configuration wasn't up to scratch and with his brother he set about levelling the floor space (previously several sets of steps connected the shop front to the cottage) from front to rear and doing a proper job on creating a selling space for cycles. Being a listed building the shop front couldn't be altered at all and some 200 tones of rubble had to be wheelbarrowed out through the side entrance to the shop.

As the shop became established trade picked up and, if Jack warmed to you, his willingness for a chat in his semi-retirement job the shop became a magnet for local characters.
Jack became a well known and liked figure in Blandford and the village he and Peggy moved to after Cashmoor, Pimperne. And it was in Pimperne that the well attended and fitting memorial service was held.

The cycle I rode along is one of Jack's track frames that I have refurbed with as many period Campagnolo parts as possible in homage to his preference for the brand.

1 comment:

  1. Used to enjoy my chats with Jack, also he would always point out how Raleigh destroyed the British cycle industry !