When I learned of the death of Bob Brodie, who I interviewed seven years ago about his cycling life, my reaction was the same I am sure as many of his friends: sadness at his passing but pleasure at recalling a tough, determined man who was still riding his bike aged 92.
He was 96 when he died, and had declined since he lost his wife Helen a few years earlier: when I last saw him, I think about a year after she died, he told me he how badly he missed her. Almost 70 years of marriage will do that, I suppose.
Bob, 5ft 2in and eight stone wet through, was known affectionately as Bottom Bracket to his pals, for his love of discussing the mechanics of cycling, and he was not a perfect interviewee. While I looked for anecdotes of days on the road and campfire stories, Bob was keener on the facts and figures of his competitive cycling career.
But he did tell me about his honeymoon, when he and Helen went on a straightlaced trip to some hotel or other, and he was expected to wear a jacket and tie. Three days in they came home, got their tandem out and cycled from Glasgow to Whitby instead.
And a holiday trip with their baby daughter was the stuff of legends. They attached a sidecar to the tandem and cycled with the baby to the Lake District from Glasgow, then pedalled around the mountains for a week before Bob, over-ambitiously, tried to ride home in a oner. I believe they had to sleep in a barn that night.
I was moved to tears and laughter when this 88-year-old man told me how excited he was every Tuesday night, almost unable to sleep, because he knew he would be on his bike the next day heading out to meet the other veteran cyclists – the Wednesday Wobblers – at their drum-up spot south of Glasgow.
The sight of him slowly but surely making his way up a hill on a machine that seemed too big for him is the image of determination for me.
It was not long after hearing Bob had passed away that we heard of the death of Rhona Weir, Tom Weir’s widow, at the age of 97. I only met her once, and she was both charming and impressive. We were at the unveiling of the memorial to the Craigallian Fire, the place near Carbeth that in the late 1920s and 1930s was at the heart of the birth of the outdoor movement among ordinary working people in Scotland.
Bob, Rhona Weir, Lawrie Travers of the Lomond Mountaineering Club who lived to 92 and told me about his experiences in the hills in the 1930s, gave us a link to those days between the wars when people found hope and peace of mind in hard exercise and fine countryside, showing the way to all of us who enjoy climbing, hill-walking, cycling and all the other outdoor activities we take for granted now.
There can be precious few of them left now, and we should guard their memory and the privilege of having known them. I doubt we’ll see their like again.