Escort to crematorium ...
2002 profile from the Sou'wester ...|
A profile on Peter Mitchell is a celebration of a lifetime of devotion to the bicycle. With the exception of two years when he was conscripted into the Army, Pete has cycled throughout the 54 years since he started in 1948. His cycling has been the subject of an earlier 'profile' when in 1979 his local newspaper the Epsom & Ewell Advertiser did a feature on this "cycling fanatic who has cycled enough miles to lap the world 15 times". The journalist was given proof for this statistic when Pete showed him the diligent charting of his mileage which he started at age 15 in 1950. In 1986 those charts reached 300,000 miles and three years ago they provided evidence for his membership of the exclusive 300,000 Miles Club.
This devotion was first fired when he went on a cycling holiday in Belgium with the 2nd Ewell Scouts. This holiday and his avid reading of a series of cycle touring articles by F.J. Camm in Practical Mechanics inspired Pete to suggest to his 14 year old friends that they should start a cycling club. So he formed the Ewell Touring Club. The writer of this profile, your Editor, was one of those keen 14 year olds. We met in our clubroom, created in the garage at the bottom of Mr and Mrs Mitchell's home in Eastcroft Road, West Ewell. Club meetings were conducted with great efficiency by Peter with decorations on the walls and attendances and subscription payments neatly recorded. Perhaps that attendance book was an indication of the work Peter would be doing when he left school to be apprenticed to a Craft Bookbinder. He worked in this highly skilled craft and rose to work in the highest level as a Gold Finisher. This was very different from the work of his grandfather, William Mitchell, who came from East Sussex to work as a Powderman in the gunpowder mills at Ewell Court. This was in a period in the 1870s when hazards from serious explosions became the subject of a new Parliamentary Bill.
Peter worked in Bermondsey and later in Mitcham. He commuted every day by bicycle. Despite the hazards of commuting in London traffic, sometimes in poor icy weather conditions, he suffered only two serious accidents on the bike over all those years. His commuting did help however in the amassing of that huge mileage.
He joined the CTC in 1949 and rode with the Wayfarers and Wanderers Sections of the SW London DA. His bicycle was the mass produced Humber seen in the photograph with its youthful owner. He graduated in 1951 from this mass produced machine to purchase a very elegant custom built Carpenter. It was an outstanding blue with chrome forks and rear ends of a high quality. "I came a cropper at Ranmore in my first week of use". But despite that fall, it continues to be in good use today by his son, Simon. It was the first of four Carpenters. The total number of bikes he has owned is ten. "I like bikes," says Pete, "my favourite out of those ten is the green Carpenter which I continue to ride today."
He started racing and joined the Kingston Phoenix Road Club in 1952 in which year he rode his first Time Trial, the Kentish Wheelers Novices 25. Fifty years later Peter Mitchell's name continues to appear on start sheets, but not so frequently nowadays at the age of 68 years. Peter has however played a key part in ensuring the KPRC continues to be a live club, "I'm a sort of backbone to the Club, providing important links and influencing others to race." He prefers this as getting elected to formal roles is not a role he enjoys. Peter's comments and attitudes can be recognised in the 'End of Service Report' received when he was demobbed from the RASC as a Sergeant. It said: "Pleasant, modest but diffident manner, reliable and punctilious approach". It is also in line with his attitude to cycling competition: "I've won a few things but I would sooner compete and come last than not compete at all." Despite this, he generally succeeds in collecting a sizeable number of very good trophies at the prize giving held at the KPRC Annual Dinner.
His attitude to getting the most out of his cycling activities was evident when he commented: "You need an almost child-like sense of adventure. You've got to be prepared to rough it and to enjoy being out of doors." This has been evident in his long history of club riding and touring in the British Isles and abroad. He has done over 20 major tours abroad which includes his many training camps in Majorca. The ones he describes as being his most memorable were certainly high adventure: 1976 in the Scottish highlands with Barry Arnison, over Mam Ratagan and through the Glen Afric Pass; 1995 the Tour of the French Alps. Touring based on Youth Hostels has been a regular custom since 1956 for, as with his mileage records, Peter has kept neat charts which record that in almost fifty years he has stayed at over 215 hostels. The tours and rides are on record as charts but more attractively are in the huge collection of photographic slides, prints and films which Peter has taken over the years. Many of them have won awards and have been appreciated by audiences at Peter's unique shows given at his home and on other suitable occasions. They have again been possible as a result of methodical collection, storage and cataloguing by Peter as a result of which we can look forward to many future sessions of nostalgic viewing. These skills and attitude have been passed on to son, Simon and daughter, Jake.
Peter's remarkable fitness allows him to race, ride, tour, take photos and serve up some very good meals! Pete is determined to do what he vowed publicly in that newspaper interview of December 1979: "I just want to cycle for as long as possible and I advise anyone to take to the road because it's a great way to enjoy yourself".
(When Pete sat down to be interviewed in my home he said, "You know Clive that I'm honoured to be profiled; this is an alternative to Knighthood". Arise Sir Peter and enjoy another good year of cycling in 2003! Ed)