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Remembering Tommy Godwin

British cyclist Tommy Godwin died last Saturday just two days short of his 92nd birthday. He was a track cyclist who won two Olympic Bronze Medals in the Team Pursuit and the 1,000 meter (The Kilo.) Time Trial.

This was in the 1948 Olympics; the first Olympics after WWII and held in London. This Olympics was run on a shoe-string budget of around 700,000 British Pounds. Some of the athletes were housed in old army camps; others were taken into people's homes.  

When the Olympics returned to London this year Tommy was an Ambassador for the Games, and also at the age of 91, carried the Olympic Torch as it passed through his home town of Solihull, a district of Birmingham.

Tommy Godwin was born in Connecticut, USA in 1920; his British parents had emigrated there a few years earlier, but were forced to return to the UK in 1932 due to the Great Depression that hit the US at that time.

The family settled in the Birmingham area where Tommy remained for the rest of his life. At that time Birmingham was the center of the bicycle manufacturing industry in England, if not the world. When Tommy left school he went to work for the BSA Company; one of the larger bicycle factories.

In 1950 Tommy Godwin opened a retail bicycle shop in Kings Heath, Birmingham. A successful business that he would run for the next 36 years. It was a visit to this bike shop that I would first meet Tommy Godwin in 1952.

I was 16 years old and racing my first season; I rode my bike 70 plus miles from my home town of Luton, (About 30 miles north of London.) to Birmingham. I rode with two more experienced riders who were in their mid 20s.

On the ride there my two companions filled me in as to who Tommy Godwin was, so when I arrived I was somewhat impressed to be in the presence of an Olympic Medalist; but I think what intrigued me most was his Birmingham, or “Brummie” accent.

I had spent my childhood in London then moved to Luton in 1949; the deference between the two regions was not that marked.  But traveling over 70 miles to the West Midlands the dialect was completely different and strange to my ear.

I remember I bought a couple of very nice tubular tires and we rode back to Luton the same day. Years later as an adult I moved to the West Midlands area myself in 1969. I settled in Worcester, just 25 miles south of Birmingham.

In the years that followed I would meet up with Tommy Godwin again several times.

He was always present at various track events and BCF meetings in the Birmingham area.

Tommy had moved on from competitive cycling, to bike business entrepreneur, to the administrative side of the sport of cycling.

He was the first paid British Cycling Coach in 1964 and managed the British Olympic Cycling Team at the Tokyo Summer Games. He was also President of the British Cycling Federation for a period. I think it is safe to say that the success of British cyclists in recent years, especially on the track, was due in part to the initial coaching started by Tommy Godwin.

Tommy was not a close friend, but was someone that was always approachable and a pleasure to meet. I admired him as a teen, and when I met him again in the 1970s. I admire his memory today for all that he has given to the sport of cycling.


Footnote: This Tommy Godwin is not to be confused with another great cyclist with the exact same name. The other Tommy Godwin was a long distance legend who lived from 1912 to 1975 and holds the world record for miles covered in one year; over 75,000 miles, which is over 200 miles a day for a year


Reader Comments (18)

What a great story Dave. Cycling keeps you young; no argument. Quite a guy.
Was an acquaintance, in the 70s, with a Brit who was a language teacher at UNSW here in Sydney. Claimed he could narrow down, to a radius of something like 12 miles, where people hailed form in the UK. I doubt that would be a party trick now. Assume things are much more mobile/fluid now, with subsequent blurring of accents.
It's said that Brummies talk from the backs of their throats. (-:

November 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaul (Australia)

Not sure Dave that you welcome my comments but here goes! I also met Tommy Godwin several times, Our club the Midland C&AC would visit his shop in King Heath, The main thing I remember was he was a VERY pleasent chap alway smiling and called us "Young ens" I,like Tommy had and STILL have a TRUE Brummie accent and even to day I find it hard to understand. In Sept we did visit a wedding in London, One of the blokes there said to me, (Now I ave been gone from Brum almost 60years!)he said " Well John what part of Brum are you from?" So I guess once a Brummie always a BRUMMIE! But it turned out his Mom was from Sheldon near Yardley Brum so his ears where tuned to the accent. Tommy was a top rider in HIS day and a credit to the soprt of Cycling, I have NEVER heard anything bad about him

November 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Crump

So Dave you lived in WUCSTER or as the Yanks call it WORcester! A beautilfull town with one of the best catherdals in the country, We went on many club rides up the Malvern Hills, Quite a climb, then on into Wales. I have Google mapped the route and driven on the PC, up the roads that we rode in the 50s and looks live nothing much has changed, Happy days, lots of sprints for the speed limit signs all on a single fixed gear .Of course for you car buffs MOGGIES (Morgans) are still built in Malvern, still with the wood frames, My Dad at one time had a Morgan three wheeler wish I did NOW

November 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Crump

A very informative article thanks. I was born in Sheldon, which borders Solihull and I think Silhillians would not thank you for describing Solihull as a district of Birmingham. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solihull
92 is a good age, cycling and longevity is there a link?

November 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpeter

I did not mean to offend the people of Sollihul, but it seemed to me when riding my bike from Worcester somewhere around Redditch the farmland ended and suburbia started, so as an outsider it was all Birmingham to me. And yes 92 is a good age, but when you get to be 76 like me, 99 or 100 is a better one.

November 7, 2012 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

An example of a “Brummie” accent. Jasper Carrott talking about “Virgin Voters,” appropriate at this time.

November 7, 2012 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

I know it looks like that and I'm not complaining, but some people are a bit parochial. As a side note (and you probably know this) assuming you used A5 / A45 there and back Thomas Stevens describes the same stretch of road when he was the first person to ride round the world on a bicycle starting in 1884, meeting Mr Sturmey, remarking on the stocks at Dunchurch and having a pint at the barracks at Weedon (I moved from Sheldon to Towcester (also on the A5) in 1984). http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/5136.
The Solihull Wikipedia page for Solihull above lists Tommy Godwin and links to his page on Wikipedia which has been updated but I wouldn't have looked without your article.

November 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpeter

Exactly right, we took the A5 (Watling Street.) from Dunstable just outside Luton, then north to the A45 through Dunchurch and Coventry. In 1952 it was wonderful, very little traffic and we could ride two-abreast just about anywhere with no problems; even on main trunk roads like the A5. There were no Motorways; the M1 was built in 1959.

November 7, 2012 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

To Peter Please Email me Crumpy6204@aol.com Love to talk to you about Sheldon. John Crump only 79yrs old. By the way Solihull was where the toffy nosed people lived! Some of my best mates rode with the Solihull CC Stan Bray was a good chap I think he lived in Moseley did you ride or race?

November 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Crump

Nice to hear how a dedicated cyclist keeps the spirit alive and spreads it to others.

Also nice to see In the first picture that the group of cyclists are in everyday clothes and obviously have many years of experience. Thanks Dave.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack

Peter. I lived on Moat lane in Yardley till 1957 when I moved to the USA I use to riide my bike down Moat Lane to Barrows lane past the Armoury to the Cov Rd the south to the Cov road on the corner where there was a pub on the right corner that goes to Lode lane, the past a Pub then the Rover works where my Dad worked for a short time then Into Solihull, Use to hang out at the Wheatsheaf (I THINK) Also went to the movies at the Sheldon,Good chipie shop near there.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Crump

Thanks for the clarification regarding two Tommy Godwins. I was initially confused...! Great post.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTim J

I will pass this article on Tommy Godwin along to my father-in-law, who was also at the 1948 Olympics in London as a member of the US Wrestling Team. He is now 86 years old and still works out 4 times a week at the local gym. I have heard him talk about the 1948 Olympics on many occasions and about how war-ravaged most of Europe still remained at that time. Despite the hardships, he has many fond memories of the '48 Olympics and has revisited London several times since then.
Like Godwin, he got into coaching after his athletic career was over (he was the Wrestling Coach at the University of Arizona for many years) and has lived to a ripe old age.

November 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRandy England

John, sent email but returned because email address unapproved, I guess your spam filter is on overdrive after posting your full address here. I will resend if you allow it. Peter

November 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpeter

Peter. Re send it Thanks John

November 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Crump

Tommy Godwin will be cremated in a VERY private ceromony at Knowe Parish Church 20th November 2012 3pm will be a public celebration of his life. Ahmen

November 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Crump

Tommy Godwin service is at KNOWLE Parish church. This near Brum, Google if you are interested.

November 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Crump

Good write up in the www.birminghammail.com.news for Tommy funeral in Knowle

November 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Crump
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