Wednesday, June 06, 2012

History Corner: Leslie Large of Lewisham & The Vegetarian Cyclists (1880s)

Some notes on the SE London origins of the still existing Vegetarian Cycling & Athletic Club:

'The Vegetarian Cycling & Athletic Club can trace its origins back to 1887, the year of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. In September of that year, Leslie Large of Lewisham, an enthusiastic worker in the Vegetarian movement and a keen cyclist, placed notices in a number of periodicals inviting other Vegetarian cyclists to contact him with a view to forming a Vegetarian Cyclist's Club.

Their objective was to provide a means of contact between Vegetarian cycling enthusiasts and to seek to prove, by the yardstick of athletic competition that Vegetarians could easily hold their own against their meat eating counterparts.Through the Spring and Summer of 1888 a series of Club runs and social events were held and the membership built up steadily until over 100 names were on the roll.

The first formal meeting was held on October 9th, 1888 at the Central Vegetarian Restaurant, St. Bride Street, London and this was followed by a meeting on February 9th, 1889 at the Appletree Vegetarian Restaurant, 34 London Wall, when Leslie Large was elected as the first Secretary and Arnold F. Hills, a wealthy industrialist became the first President. The name of the Club was confirmed as the Vegetarian Cycling Club. Reports from those early days are few but it is evident that VCC racing cyclists performed competently if not outstandingly.

Henry Light, a founder member who was elected Captain in 1890 soon became the main driving force behind the Club and under his direction standards of performance of the VCC men improved steadily. 1896 saw the VCC achieve its first outstanding success when Jim Parsley of Peckham won the prestigious Catford Hill Climb, the country's top event, in record time. The VCC were cock-a-hoop at this major breakthrough and held a dinner in Parsley's honour... In 1896 the green and gold triangular badge was introduced. Sadly, the same year, Leslie Large while on a visit to Edinburgh died of diptheria just as his dreams were becoming a reality'.

More at the VCAC website. The Catford Hill Climb is an event that Catford Cycling Club have been organising since the 1880s (see their history). It is held at Yorks Hill in Kent.

(image reproduced from Classic Lightweights)

Leslie Large placed an advert in the Vegetarian Messenger, August 1888 which provides some details, including his address in Hither Green:

'Cycling. - It is proposed to from a London Vegetarian Cyclist's Club. Qualifications: Abstinence from flesh-food and riding a machine. Objects: To collect (and diffuse) information concerning the number and doings of akreophagist cyclists in all parts of the country, and to arrange runs in congenial society for local members (London. S.E.). Badge: Small silver letters, "V.C.C." It will be ready shortly; device, cost about 3d. per set. No subscription will be necessary if the editor of V.M. and other kindred journals will kindly insert notices as required. Any necessary trifling expenses are to be borne by the hon. sec. or any who voluntarily help. It is suggested to hold runs monthly on Saturday afternoons, alternately with shorter trips by moonlight on some other evening monthly. Picnicing in suitable places is recommended, with, if necessary, a tea party at some inn. The hon. sec. intends to forward on Saturday a parcel of meal bread and biscuits to some convenient station, in readiness. Fruit, &c., to be obtained in the neighbourhood as wanted. To facilitate the formation of the lists, which, if all join, will prove most valuable, all who are qualified (ladies as well as gentlemen) are requested to send without delay their addresses and any useful particulars of the kind of machine they use, the favourite distances, achievements, &c., to Leslie Large, 1 Cambridge Terrace, Hither Green, Lewisham' (this and other adverts reproduced at International Vegetarian Union website).

I love the idea of sending a parcel of vegetarian snacks ahead to make sure the cyclists can eat! Also note the word 'akreophagist' as an alternative to vegetarian - that never caught on, not sure it's even in the dictionary.

1 comment:

Alan Burkitt-Gray said...

'akreophagist' isn't even in the online OED, the internet version of the giant Oxford English Dictionary.