The story of the
bicycle was the subject of an address to the Chorley Rotary Club by Mr.
W. M. Gillibrand, on Monday. The weekly meeting was held at the Royal
oak Hotel, and Mr W. G. Berry was in the chair.
Mr Gillibrand described the various types of bicycles which precede the
modern “safety”. He had had 50 years of cycling, and is still and
enthusiast. He stated that he had not had the pleasure of riding what
was know as the “Hobby Horse,” but that was the parent of the present
day Bicycle. In 1790 a Frenchman named de Sivrac, invented a bicycle on
the lines of the hobby horse, but with two fixed wheels. Twenty-eight
years later Baron Von Drais, a German, constructed one which could be
steered, which became very popular on the Continent and in England and
This was the forerunner of the “boneshaker,” which was the first bicycle
he (Mr Gillibrand) learned to ride. The boneshaker was rightly so named,
for with its wooden wheels with iron tyres and no springs, it was the
best shaker of bones that had been devised. The first boneshaker was
made by a Frenchman in 1867, and machines were shown at the French
Exhibition of that year, where several were bought by Englishmen and
then manufactured in this country. They immediately became fashionable,
and were made all over the country, mostly by wheelwrights. That was why
so many of them were still in existence.
In 1839 Kirkpatrick MacMillan, a Scotch blacksmith, was the first to fix
pedals to a bicycle, but he worked his machine by levers fixed to the
LEARNING TO RIDE THE BONESHAKER.
The boneshaker which Mr. Gillibrand learned to ride belonged to Tom
Alker, a watchmaker in Market Street. “I tried to buy it years
afterwards,” the speaker said, “but it had disappeared. In those days we
used to practice on the Cattle Market before breakfast, and to that
place I proudly trundled my boneshaker. I was so keen to ride that,
after a few attempts, held up by two friends, I rode it round myself.
Then one of my friends who had a tall bicycle was so pleased at his
efforts in teaching me to ride that he mounted me on his machine, and
after running with me for some distance allowed me to go alone. Thus I
learned to ride two types of bicycle the same morning. I was not allowed
to practice mounting and dismounting, however; that was too risky to the
machine so I had to wait until I had one of my own, about twelve months
There followed the tall bicycle called ‘The Ordinary,’ continued Mr
Gillibrand. The name ‘Penny Farthing’ has only come into use since the
Ordinary disappeared off the roads. This was the first type of bicycle I
could call my very own. It had a 48 inch front wheel and 16 inch back
wheel, ¾ inch solid rubber tyres and was of all bright steel, with gun
metal hubs. I was advised not to have one enamelled as the paint could
cover up defects. Consequently, whilst it was new, I carefully vaselined
it after every ride, and the Vaseline was transferred to my trousers
when I took it out next time.
“I don’t know what kind of steel this bicycle was made of, but I do know
that every time I took a header I either broke off a handlebar or a
pedal, and then had the pleasure of walking home.
The saddle of this and many similar machines was stamped out of sheet
metal, padded with a little horse-hair, and covered with thin leather.
So you can imagine that after a ride of several hours it was often more
comfortable to stand up than to sit down.”