Old Ned wrote:
Right, get your pigeons out because I may well be throwing a very large cat amongst them.
A cycling friend of mine of long standing and who has a genuine interest in the history of the sport and bikes related this to me on our Saturday ride. He works as an HGV driver and last week he was delivering to a factory in Barton-on-Humber and got talking to a guy, mentioning that he hoped he would get home early enough to get out on the bike. This guy then said that although he wasn't a cyclist himself, he worked as a 'bike builder' for many years - 'for a bloke called Ernie Clements, have you heard of him?' Friend obviously says 'Yes!' and then he got the full story.
Seems he started with Ernie at the old Elswick-Hopper works in Barton as a lug filer and gradually worked his way up to being a very proficient frame builder. When EC bought Coventry Eagle and moved Falcon production to the Brigg site he went with him and said that he built frames for guys called 'Lambert' (obviously Keith), 'Woodburn' (John), 'Hitchen' (Albert) amongst others so he must have been pretty good at his craft.
Now for the 'cat' part. He reckons that EC (as can be expected) was good mates with other people 'in the trade' (such as Gerald O'Donovan) and they built frames for many other companies - including Viking, Carlton and Raleigh. This ties in with comments I have seen that Carlton also built for other people and it would appear from that spare production capacity was moved around between them all as and when necessary. I think he said that he could tell where a frame was built from the serial number.
Now comes the killler bit. One day they had to send a van to Humberside Airport to collect a French guy who was coming over for measuring up for frames. When he arrived he was very arrogant and refused to ride in a van so a taxi was ordered. He could speak English (but wouldn't) and knew exactly what he required in the frames - which were built by the guy in question.
Oh, I forgot to say - he wore glasses and had a pigtail. Remind you of anyone?
So, true or false, what do you think?