September 6, 2013 at 4:52 pm #26306Sweaty EdsMember
Fellow Dynamos, I wonder how many of us whilst on the internet, after updating our Wiggle wishlist and reminding ourselves of some of Mat G’s more radical changes to Huw’s carefully planned routes, have found ourselves accidentally connected to a slightly risqué website. And then, after the initial revulsion, I wonder how many of us have let our curiosity get the better of us and have actually immersed ourselves in the content of the firewall-dodging site. It was during such an immersion that I stumbled across an arcane, rarely visited website called ‘Tenby Aces Cycling Club’. Much of the site is taken up with the antics of an eccentric cycle shop owner and a couple of hard-drinking triathletes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all very readable, but my attention was drawn to the fine history of the club. Now if this obscure little club can have such an extensive backstory surely our own Dynamos must be soaked in stories of yesteryear. So what a stroke of good fortune it was when the following happened.
I was in the library, Valleyman had asked me to pop in to see if the copy of ‘Chains – the Great Unknowns’ that he had ordered had arrived, when I dropped my library card down between two sets of shelves. As I peered down into the murky depths I spied a book that had become wedged just out of reach. I have explained in a previous post that I have the arms of a baboon and so it was a simple job to pluck the forgotten tome from its dusty tomb. Imagine my surprise when I read its title, ‘Narberth Dynamos Cycling Club – A History’.
Well, as it is quite a substantial piece of work that documents a good deal of our club’s history, there isn’t really enough space here to do justice to all that I discovered so I’ll just write about the founder of the club. If anyone is interested in finding out more the book is available for loan from the library in St James Street.
1914 is a significant year in history for many reasons, in Serejavo, Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated with worldwide consequence. In Hollywood, Charlie Chaplin played his hugely popular little tramp character on the silver screen for the first time. In India, the bespectacled Mahatma Ghandi was arrested campaigning for Indian rights and in Narberth, Jerzy Slupski, a local derring doer and keen sportsman of Polish descent, founded the Narberth Dynamos Safety Bicycle Association.
You may be aware, that in the years leading up to the outbreak of the Great War, Narberth had a permanent circus stationed on the town Moor. As well as the regular circus attractions of the day, you know the sort of thing, bearded ladies, tattooed Grandmothers, a man who could eat twenty four pickled eggs in a minute (very similar to The Ivy today, in fact) the circus also had a unique attraction that drew visitors from far and wide and from across the whole class spectrum. There is a rumour that even the wealthy landowners of Ludchurch attended one performance of ‘Cantona, the World Famous Penalty Shootout Elephant’.
Now Cantona was an African Elephant (the ones with the large ears) that was captured as a baby after his mother was killed for her tusks. In quite a touching coincidence the white keys in the circus piano were made from his mother’s ivory so at least he wasn’t completely alone in a strange country. Anyway, as a small elephant, Cantona regularly used to disappear from his cage. One such time, after much searching, the owners found him, hours later, playing centre-mid in a scratch football game with some local youths in the Bloomfield dome. Like many natural athletes Cantona was not only the best centre-mid locally but also the best goalkeeper and finisher. After a little thought the circus owners devised an act that played to Cantona’s strengths, an elephant penalty shootout with a prize of five groats to anyone who could score more than the big-eared beast.
Basically, the act format was a three penalty shootout between the elephant and a budding footballer from the audience. Night after night Cantona took on all comers, night after night Cantona used his incredible bulk to save every single penalty he faced and night and night Cantona used his awesome power to hammer home every penalty he took. He was a huge success, in fact he was unbeaten for three years…. it all changed the night Jerzy went to the circus.
Until that day Jerzy’s most notable achievements had been being the first man to go over Cenarth Falls in a barrel and, on another occasion, forcing thirteen hairy caterpillars up a single nostril. Worthy enough accomplishments but what happened in the circus that night gave him a launchpad to great things. When Jerzy arrived in the ring nobody gave him a chance, Cantona was unbeaten, massive, agile and immensely powerful. Jerzy took the first penalty, unbelievably he beat Cantona with the eyebrows and coolly slotted the ball to the elephant’s left. The crowd were stunned, no one had scored against the elephant before. Cantona took the next and blasted his usual rifle shot right down the middle, Jerzy managed to parry the ball but it ended up in the back of the net. For his next effort Jerzy feigned left again, Cantona lifted his back leg and Jerzy, as before, coolly slotted the ball home, this time to the right under the massive mammal’s elevated boot. A murmur from the crowd, was this history in the making? For his second penalty Cantona again crashed it down the middle. Jerzy got a bit more on it but the ball sneaked home off the foot of the post. Two all but the elephant’s confidence had taken a hit. Nobody had come as close as Jerzy to saving one of his piledrivers before. Jerzy’s third penalty was a Ronaldo-like arrow into the top corner, Cantona got one of his enormous ears to the ball but his belief had gone. The ball trickled home. Three-two. A lone voice in the crowd shouted Jerzy’s name. Visibly shaken, Cantona stepped up to take his third penalty. He had to score to take the contest to sudden death. A frown played on his huge forehead, was he in two minds as he began his run up? The crowd held its breath. Everyone, including Jerzy, was expecting another crashing shot. No-one could believe the subtlety and the sheer audacious brilliance of the Pirloesque dink that Cantona conjured with his umbrella-stand of a right foot. Jerzy dived hard to his right, the ball, backspinning gently, lobbed towards the net. Jerzy lay helpless on the floor as…. the ball clipped the bar and bounced over. Cantona had missed! The crowd went wild, Jerzy won the five groats prize money, bought his first bike, founded the Dynamos and the rest, as they say, is history.
Poor Cantona never recovered from the incident, he could not face the crowds again after his humiliation and he died later that year. Interestingly, the year 1914 also marks the first year of trading of a local award winning butchers who for the first couple of months sold only jumbo sausages.
And what of Jerzy? Well, despite the fact that he obviously had nothing left to prove in the sporting field, he was the first chairman of his newly formed Narberth Dynamos and, with good humour, he tolerated both the competitive excesses of several of the founding members and the route tampering by the Colby Gardens Appreciation Section of the club as well the extreme tardiness of the hippy commune known to all as the Valley Road Crew. At the outbreak of war, he joined the Narberth Guards and fought in the trenches of Flanders during the Winter of 1914. In fact, rumour has it that the ball used in the famous Christmas Day kickabout was the very same one that had been used in his finest hour in the Big Top with Cantona earlier that year. At the end of the war it is said that Jerzy sailed to the USA to seek his fortune and ended up as a raisin farmer in California. To fit in with his new American friends, he changed his name to Clark Gable and sought work as an extra in the fledgling film studios in Hollywood. It is here that information about him becomes quite scarce, the important thing for us is that the Dynamos now has a history, as for what happened to Jerzy (or Clark) frankly, I don’t give a damn.
So, the eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted that next year, 2014, is actually our centenary year and I think we should commemorate this historic milestone. T-shirts, obviously, commemorative tea-towels, perhaps, a hundred mile club ride to celebrate 100 years, maybe, 100 times up and down Colby? Join with me, club mates, and help celebrate 100 years of Narberth Dynamos, the oldest cycling club in Pembrokeshire.September 6, 2013 at 9:33 pm #26307The Slinky OtterMember
Can someone read this and give me the highlights on Sunday. ta.September 7, 2013 at 1:07 pm #26309ValleyManMember
I’ll wait for the movie….September 8, 2013 at 5:22 am #26311RogerMember
I didn’t think i was was going to be reading historical non fiction on holiday ..thanks SweatySeptember 8, 2013 at 8:04 pm #26312mikeyfMember
looking forward to the next episode now…September 8, 2013 at 8:56 pm #26314MatGMember
… see if you submit it to Wikipedia!
so when anyone looks it up it is there for the world 2c
targets for our centinary should be 100 miler weekend – something special not just narcar carten maybe go up north or do the the two stages in yorkshire for the tourSeptember 9, 2013 at 2:03 pm #26320ValleyManMember
Cantona the African Elephant, Town Moor, Narberth Circa. 1912.
The records appear to stop around 1914 corroborating Sweaty’s extensive research. One can only assume that he did indeed succumb to the attentions of the local butcher.
The eagle eyed amongst you may well notice that Cantona’s ears are not consitent with that of an African Elephant. However, the ragged apearance suggest that perhaps the purveyor of fine handbags that at the time traded a few doors up from the butchers may have been experimenting with a different source of hide.September 9, 2013 at 2:45 pm #26321Sweaty EdsMember
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