|Full name||Albert Walter Allen Harris|
Birmingham, England, United Kingdom
|Died||April 21, 1897|
|1894–1897||London Polytechnic Cycle Club|
|Infobox last updated on
7 December 2007
Albert Bert Walter Allen Harris (1873, Birmingham - 21 April 1897, Birmingham General Hospital) was a professional racing cyclist. He was raised in Leicester and attended Holy Trinity School. He started cycling competitively at the age of 14 and came second in the 'Infirmary Sports' at Aylestone Road Sports Ground (now the Grace Road Cricket Ground) two years later.
Harris gained his first major win at Bristol in 1889, completing the Five Mile race in 18 minutes and 25 seconds. Harris lived with his father, Walter James Harris, at 4 Portsmouth Road, Leicester and there is documentary evidence of this still held by the family. This address is also on his death certificate and coroner's report. Harris broke the records for the mile and three-quarter mile events in 1893 before turning professional in 1894 and joined the London Polytechnic Cycle Club. Bert was coached by Sam Mussabini to his first professional cycling championship victory in 1894. During a race in Cardiff in April 1895, he came off his bicycle and was knocked unconscious for 48 hours. However, by September he was well enough to break the English professional record at Herne Hill Velodrome, completing the half-mile in 57.3 seconds and the mile in 118.3 seconds.
Bert competed alongside the big names in cycling in the Antipodes in 1895 and 1896, receiving £400 for winning one race alone. On average he earned £15 a week. He was so successful that people began to refer to 1896 as Harris Year.
Bert's last event was a ten mile race on Easter Monday in 1897, about four miles into the race he came off his bicycle and struck his head on the hard surface. He died two days later without recovering consciousness.
"This memorial stone is erected by the cyclists of England
Dick Swann wrote a book titled Bert Harris of the Poly: A Cycling Legend which was published by V Harvey in January 1974. ISBN 978-0-85544-010-7
Roger Lovell, a Leicester businessman is hoping to raise £30,000 in order to erect a public statue to commemorate Harris. Lovell also approached the BBC to film a drama documentary, which was subsequently made by Victorian reconstructionists on location in Leicester. In a bizarre coincidence, the actor who played Bert turned out to be his descendant.
- England & Wales BDM Index, Births: Albert Walter A Harris, Apr-May-Jun quarter 1873, Aston registration district, Volume: 6d Page: 331 (Registration required to view for free)
- England & Wales BDM Index, Deaths: Albert Walter A Harris, Apr-May-Jun quarter 1897, Aged 24, Birmingham registration district, Volume: 6d Page: 65 (Registration required to view for free)
- Transcript of memorial, photographs and brief biography
- BBC Inside Out, East Midlands
- Note: This age on the memorial seems to be in error as from his birth date information it appear that the man was 23 years of age.
- TRIBUTE TO A SPORTING HERO, Alison Curtis, thisisleicestershire.co.uk