Brestward Ho - Main Page

BC Randonneurs Cycling Club

Introduction to this Electronic Edition

"Brestward Ho!" is chapter 2 (of 4) in J. B. Wadley's collection Old Roads and New published in 1972. It occupies pages 16-56 and then 64-71. There are 19 photos, one chart, and a reproduction of part of the author's control card. This electronic version was posted on the BC Randonneurs web site in February 2005.

I have taken a passive approach to editing the text. Wadley's often sparse punctuation made the addition of commas tempting, but I have added only two, both in cases to avoid ambiguity. There were a number of periods missing as well, which I have added. I have left alternate spellings of some words, and inconsistencies that we see from time to time in the story. For example, Wadley uses four different versions of "pavé", though the context is the same: pavé - pave - pave - pavé. There were a number of typographical errors in the original text. Only when I was absolutely certain of error, did I amend the text. In several cases where I was uncertain, I left suspected errors unchanged. And no doubt I have introduced errors of my own in transcribing the text - hopefully not too many. I have not put the photos in exactly the same places relative to the text, but the placement approximates the original publication. Wadley credits Marcel Besson's for the "fine atmosphere shots of Paris-Brest-Paris", and so I have credited Besson with all of the uncredited photos, but there is some suggestion that Wadley may have taken some of the photos himself. I debated whether I should preserve the print format (indented paragraphs, no space between paragraphs), but in the end opted to present the work in the more common electronic text format with no indent, and a space between paragraphs. The biggest format change was to split the story into four sections, which I did to make moving through the story more convenient for readers. The headings we see within the text might have been places to make the divisions, but as you will see, these are intended to highlight a local train of thought and not meant as story dividing points.


J.B. ("Jock") Wadley (1914-1981) [-1983?] was a respected cycling journalist publishing in "Sporting Cyclist", "International Cycle Sport" (which he co-founded), and ultimately "The Daily Telegraph." "Brestward Ho!" chronicles his own participation, at the age of 57, in the 1971 Randonneur version of Paris-Brest-Paris. It also has the secondary aim of shedding light on the intriguing world of French cyclo-tourism, and on road cycling culture more broadly. Wadley's story likely had a profound effect in the internationalization of Paris-Brest-Paris and randonneur cycling, certainly in Britain, but equally in the colonies. Indeed Old Roads and New seems aimed as much at a North American audience as at les Anglais.

Closer to home, here in British Columbia, Brestward Ho did indeed make its mark. After reading the story, local cycling legend John Hathaway committed to ride the audax version of PBP in 1976. While in France, he met the randonneur PBP organizer Robert Lepertel and was persuaded to come back for the next randonneur PBP in 1979. Three years later Hathaway returned to France with fellow randonneur pioneers Dan McGuire, Gerry Pareja, and Wayne Phillips to participate in (and complete!) PBP '79 marking the birth of randonneur cycling in British Columbia, and indeed, in Canada.

There was a celebration marking the 25th anniversary of BC Randonneurs at the club's Annual General Meeting (/ride/brunch) in September of 2003. At this event Gerry Pareja stood up and said a few words about the early days... He also held up a copy of Old Roads and New. With the "Brestward Ho!" chapter in mind Gerry suggested that: "this book probably had more to do with getting English-speaking cyclists to become interested in PBP than anything else written about it." In speaking with Gerry later we puzzled over how to make this wonderful story locked in the poorly bound book more available to club members. A web version was suggested but the prospect of transcribing such a lengthy text seemed overwhelming, and my OCR software was so hit-and-miss that typing it out might actually be more practical than editing the results of an OCR rendered version. But a little later I borrowed Gerry's copy of Old Roads and New anyway, and let it collect dust on my bookshelf instead of his.

Meanwhile I had been contacted by Jean Richard. Monsieur Richard was among the contenders from PBP 1966 and 1971, and had committed to help with my efforts to tell the story of PBP on the BC Randonneurs web site. Among his contributions has been the transcription of Maurice Macaudière's lengthy ride account of PBP 1966: "44 heures d'un marathon extraordinaire". What the hell, I thought, if Jean can type out this long story, I can type out "Brestward Ho!" So I did. (But that is not the end of Jean Richard's place in all this - Jean was a friend of "Jock" Wadley and indeed a character in "Brestward Ho!" In fact, through a twist of fate Jean and Jock rode as teammates on the powerful U.S. Creteil squad - powerful, except for Wadley that is - under the guiding hand of PBP legend Roger Beaumann.)

The reproduction of this text is done without the permission of the author or his heirs. I wish this was not so but I don't quite know how to go about finding someone to grant permission. The book was self published originally and is virtually unavailable - it doesn't show up on e-bay, or in on-line book seller's catalogues, and is in only five library catalogues in the US (none found in the UK.) This edition is strictly a not-for-profit enterprise. My goal here is to preserve and entertain - to preserve historical content that runs the risk of being lost and forgotten over time, and to entertain distance cycling enthusiasts with what remains the most informed and engaging English language account of the world's premier distance cycling event.

Eric Fergusson
February 2005

Update from July 2008: Mr Wadley's niece Mari read the last paragraph above, and with her assistance I was able to contact Mr Wadley's widow Mary Wadley. I am happy to report that Mrs. Wadley has given her permission and blessing for me to reproduce Brestward Ho in this electronic edition.


Other Essays and Articles by J.B. Wadley:

From the Pen of J.B. Wadley
Selected and edited by Adrian Bell
Forward by John Wilcockson
Mousehold Press, 2002
ISBN 1 874739 22 6
£12.95 (~ 30 Can$)

Available through a number of internet venders including

Sadly this collection does not Include "Brestward Ho!" but Wadley's association with French cyclo-tourisme is not forgotten. The final chapter - " 27th Brevet de Randonneur des Alpes" - is an account of Wadley's participation in this event in 1973. And the rest of the book looks pretty interesting also. (I'll let you know when I've a chance to look at it more closely.) - EF