Reg Harris

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the North Carolina politician, see Reginald L. Harris. For the baseball player, see Reggie Harris.
Reg Harris
Reg Harris wins quarter final of 1000m cycle race, Olympic Games, London, 1948 (cropped).jpg
Harris at the 1948 Olympic Games
Personal information
Full name Reginald Hargreaves Harris[1]
Nickname Reg
Born (1920-03-01)1 March 1920
Birtle, near Bury, Lancashire, England, United Kingdom
Died 22 June 1992(1992-06-22) (aged 72)
Macclesfield, Cheshire, England, UK
Team information
Discipline Track
Role Rider
Amateur team(s)
1934 Cyclists' Touring Club
? Lancashire Road Club
? Manchester Wheelers' Club
Professional team(s)
1952–1955 Raleigh Cycles-Dunlop
1957 Raleigh Cycles-Dunlop
1971 TI-Carlton
1972 Falcon-Tighe
1975 Draka Foam

Reginald Hargreaves Harris OBE (1 March 1920 – 22 June 1992) was a British track racing cyclist in the 1940s and 1950s. He won the world amateur sprint title in 1947, two Olympic silver medals in 1948, and the professional title in 1949, 1950, 1951 and 1954. His ferocious will to win made him a household name in the 1950s, but he also surprised many with a comeback more than 20 years later, winning a British title in 1974 at the age of 54.

Early life[edit]

Reginald Hargreaves was born in the hamlet of Birtle, near Bury, Lancashire, the son of a musician who died when he was six. His mother remarried and Reginald took the name of his stepfather, a textile worker called Harris.

Reg Harris left school without qualifications and his first job was as an apprentice motor mechanic in Bury. During this period, at the age of 14, he bought his first bicycle, and entered a roller-racing competition organised by the Hercules bicycle manufacturing company.

Amateur career and military service[edit]

J. Jackson's Reg Harris memorial at Manchester Velodrome

His ability attracted the attention of other cyclists and Harris joined the Cyclists' Touring Club and then its racing offshoot, the Lancashire Road Club. In 1935, he won his first race, a half-mile handicap event held on a grass track in Bury, and also started competing in individual time trials.

Harris moved from the motor mechanics job to a slipper factory, then, in early 1936, found a position in a paper mill that he felt would pay him enough in the winter to spend the summer training and competing. During 1936, he competed in and won his first events in a proper at Fallowfield Stadium in Fallowfield, Manchester.

In early 1937, he was confident he could support himself as an athlete and left the paper mill to focus on the summer cycle racing season, returning to the mill the following winter (repeating the process the following year). He continued to win races and attract attention, and by the summer of 1938 was able to beat the existing British sprint champion. At the end of that season, he joined Manchester Wheelers' Club, and in 1939 won a major race in Coventry, leading to his selection for the world championship in Milan, Italy. He travelled to Milan and had familiarised himself with the Velodromo Vigorelli when World War II broke out and the British team was recalled to the UK.

Harris joined the 10th Hussars in the North Africa Campaign as a tank driver but was wounded and invalided out of the services as medically unfit in 1943. Despite the judgment of the army medics, in 1944, he won the 1,000 yards (910 m), quarter-mile and five-mile (8 km) national cycling championships. He retained the two shorter titles in 1945 and added the half-mile on grass. He was invited to race in Paris in 1945 and again impressed the crowds, and he was expected to do well in the 1946 world championships in Zurich, Switzerland, only to have his chances ruined by an over-enthusiastic pre-race massage. Harris's amateur world championship achievements were celebrated in 1947 when Cycling Weekly awarded him his own page in the Golden Book of Cycling.[2]

By the time Harris won the world amateur sprint title in Paris in 1947, he was already employed and equipped by bicycle manufacturer Claud Butler and was testing the boundaries of amateurism. The cycling world expected that Harris would take three titles in the 1948 Summer Olympics: the sprint, the tandem sprint and the kilometre time trial, but three months before the London Games, he fractured two vertebrae in a road accident. After hospitalisation, with a few weeks remaining to the games, training, competing and winning, he fell in a ten-mile (16 km) race at Fallowfield and fractured his (?). Completing the rest of his preparation in a plaster cast, he had to be satisfied with two silvers, being beaten by Italy's Mario Ghella in the final of the sprint, and partnering Alan Bannister to second place in the tandem sprint (timetable constraints meant Harris's place in the kilometre was taken by another rider, Tommy Godwin, who won a bronze medal). Two weeks later, he claimed a bronze medal in the 1948 world championships sprint in Amsterdam. He was named sportsman of the year by a poll in in 1949, winning by 7,000 votes over the soccer player, Billy Liddell.[3]

Professional career[edit]

On his return from Amsterdam, Harris turned professional under sponsorship of the Raleigh bicycle company and in 1949 won the world professional sprint championship in Copenhagen - a victory he repeated the following two years in Belgium and Milan. He then won a fourth and final world professional title in Cologne in 1954. He was soon earning £12,000 a year as one of the nation's most recognised sportsmen. He won the Sports Journalists' Association's accolade of Sportsman of the Year in 1950, and was runner-up in 1949 and 1951.

He retired in 1957 to devote himself to business interests, none of which suited his tastes or abilities. He managed Fallowfield Stadium, renamed the Harris Stadium; he was involved in various abortive ventures associated with Raleigh; and he started a 'Reg Harris' bicycle manufacturing business in Macclesfield which lasted three years before folding. He then worked in sales promotion for the 'Gannex' raincoat company, before working for two plastic foam producers. In the 1960s he owned and managed the Reg Harris Petrol & Motor Service Station on Wilmslow Road in Didsbury, Manchester which is now the site of the Shell Petrol Station on the corner of Grange Road.

In 1971, he returned to racing, winning a bronze medal in the British championship in Birmingham after hardly any preparation. With more training behind him, he approached the British championship in Leicester in 1974 in more confident mood, and beat Trevor Bull to win the title at the age of 54. In 1975, he returned to Leicester, but was narrowly beaten by Bull in the final and had to settle for the silver medal. He continued to cycle almost to his death.


A memorial to his achievements can be found in the National Cycling Centre in Manchester.

Harris's achievements are marked annually with the Reg Harris Sportive, organised by his family and friends. The inaugural event on 25 August 2013 raised money for charities.[4]

Personal life[edit]

He was married three times. The first two marriages (in 1944 to Florence Stage (daughter of the former Bury F.C. captain Billy Stage),[5] then to Dorothy Hadfield) ended in divorce. He married Jennifer Anne Geary in 1970. He died in Macclesfield, Cheshire, of a stroke, survived by his third wife, and was buried at St John's Church in the north Cheshire village of Chelford.

Career achievements[edit]

Major results[edit]

National championships - 1,000 yards (910 m)
National championships — quarter-mile
National championships — five-mile (8 km)
National championships - 1,000 yards (910 m)
National championships — quarter-mile
National championships — half-mile (8 km)
World amateur sprint
Olympic Sprint — silver medal
Olympic Tandem Sprint — silver medal
World Professional sprint championship in Copenhagen
World Professional sprint championship in Belgium
World Professional sprint championship in Milan
World Professional sprint championship in Cologne
British title

Awards and honours[edit]

See also[edit]



Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]