The Eileen Sheridan Archive– new in the V-CC Online Library

by | Dec 4, 2023

The Veteran-Cycle Club’s librarian has been busy updating the Online Library with over 400 items about the great Eileen Sheridan which is part of an archive provided by Louise Sheridan, her daughter.   We expect more items to be added in 2024 following the scanning of three more boxes of material.  Watch this space for more information!

For a taster here is an article by its then Editor, published in ‘Cycling’ dated 22 July, 1954, entitled ‘Thoughts from Groats’:

“This was my fourth whole, or part, coverage of an End-to-End record performance.  I was with Hubert Opperman (whose ‘1000’ Mrs Sheridan has now beaten), Sid Ferris, Lilian Dredge and now Mrs. Sheridan.  And with each experience the fascination increases.  The day and night adventure of it all is romantic in the extreme.  In the night hours Eileen’s path was lighted by the following headlights and the weird effect on a bend of seeing a shadow of the little rider perhaps 10 or 15 ft tall pedalling away ahead of her along hedge and wall and grass bank, sometime upright and sometimes falling to road level was a sensation of the macabre that no film director in his most imaginative moments could conceive or produce by any trick photography.

This afterthoughts story could go on to book length.  Faithfull Monty Southall driving the official following car was at the wheel for over 40 hours buoyed by the inspiration that ‘what she can do I can do’.  But when he started seeing things that were not there, he had to have half an hour’s sleep.

For myself I shall recall those three nights as one of rain, one of cold and one of unreality.  As we emerged after nearly 24 hours in the damp dawn of Saturday, John Ballantyne, who was one of my companions, recalled the phrase of F T Bidlake describing the end of a night on the Rossiter record, “He emerged undaunted into a damp and dismal dawn.”

The mounted caravan accompanied Mrs Sheridan from Penrith to the end. In it she slept for brief periods, had massage and took sit-down meals. It was intended to feed the helpers from it too, in relays, but the springing did not allow cooking etc., to proceed on the move. Frank Southall’s sister, a trained nurse, was in charge of this caravan and did a fine job of work.

The second night was bitterly cold, a hard sort of cold, on the roof of the Grampians climbed through the forests of the Blair Atholl area.  The dawn was open in colour – not pinky with promise but detached, unsympathetic;  pearly without sheen or reflection.  I looked back from the sky to the automaton in front.  An unbelievable girl of under five feet who probably didn’t see the sky at all but rode on relentlessly  The miracle was that she smiled at every helper and spectator and thus said thank you.  Even the cold could not kill that smile.

The third night I have called one of unreality.  The sun, just below the northern horizon all the time, lighted the scene with an uncanny glow.  I had lost the power to go to sleep myself even in cat dozes.  Eileen Sheridan had become a tiny ship passing in the night, those that passed in a parallel sea.  I fancy it was all as unreal to her has to me.  And when the sun shone at last on her fourth day of riding as she travelled eastward from the detour back towards John o’Groats I felt for her as she automatically turned left at every lane leading seawards until the right one finally came that led to the proper end of a stupendous performance.

The last surprise was that she did not then go to bed for a long and well-earned sleep.  No, after a clean up and a change to feminine attire she was at lunch with us all, and was the first out to meet Crimes and Arnold, belying in her chic appearance any such thought that 21/2 hours earlier she had herself completed 1,000 miles of cycling.

Eileen with Alan Gordon, the timekeeper, and Frank (or possibly his brother, Monty) Southall posing by the supporting vehicle laden with spare machines