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Bill Duffin - A Tribute to a Cycling Legend


A Tribute to Bill Duffin

















William Gilford Duffin, known to everyone as Bill, was born in Humberstone, Leicester on 15 August 1923. He took up cycling seriously in his middle teens, having exchanged his new ‘sit-up and beg’ bike for a second hand racing machine from a colleague at the British United Shoe Machinery Company, where he was an engineering apprentice. He joined the East Midlands Clarion Cycling Club at the age of twenty and became the top track rider in the East Midlands. He performed successfully at the highest level of competition around the country, even beating Tommy Godwin on a couple of occasions! Those that knew him during this period reckoned that Bill was so good at grass track riding, and winning the ubiquitous canteen of cutlery for the first to cross the line, that he would review the prizes on offer and then ride for the place to which his preferred item had been allocated.



During the Second World War Bill, as an apprentice was not called up, however, when his apprenticeship ended, towards the end of the war, he did his National Service as a Bevin Boy, working down the pits in Coalville. Around 1953, Bill and his late wife Sheila, decided to emigrate to Canada. Here they enjoyed a very high standard of living not available in war ravaged Great Britain and led a hectic social life. It was, maybe, this easy life that made Bill and Sheila reflect on what was really important and led to their becoming very committed Christians. They returned to Britain around 1956, partly to share their new found faith with others, with the intention of returning to Canada after a few years. They never did. Instead they became involved in promoting evangelical Christianity in their native Leicestershire, where they brought up their children. Bill joined the Ratae Road Club and made a valuable contribution as the club coach, helping many young cyclists learn their craft.


Bill’s career as an engineer ended at the age of 59 when he and Sheila put their life’s savings into a fruit and vegetable business in Market Harborough, which they ran successfully. When they gave up running the business Bill came out of retirement as a racing cyclist. He still had a keen eye for the prize money, with his time trialling success in the ‘vets on standard’ category almost making him a professional! It was also in this period that he rejoined the Ratae RC following a spell with the Leicester Forest and 2011, at the age of 87, Bill recorded a 28:36 for 10 mile time trial on the A10/20 at Tuxford; a new UK age related record!


Bill also enjoyed social riding and was a staunch member of the Wednesday run to Margaret’s ‘café’ at Redmile in the Vale of Belvoir. One ‘emigrant cyclist’ from East Anglia recalls his first encounter with Bill. This occurred at Redmile when he lent Bill £5 because he had forgotten his wallet! However, in more recent years Bill preferred to ride out alone to the watering holes used by the various social rides that take place on different the days of the week; although he never rode on a Sunday. Members of the Ratae Wednesday run would often be greeted with "Oh, Bill was in yesterday" at cafes such as Sweet Hedges, Rockingham Village Store and Catthorpe Farm Shop. On his 85th birthday he did a solo ‘birthday ride’ to Kenilworth, overshooting by 5 miles, and so clocking up the round 90 miles, which would have been his target for 2013!


Unfortunately, Bill was knocked off his bike in 2011, and never recovered full fitness, although it was Bill’s cancer that eventually led to his demise. He died on 7 December 2012 at the Harley Grange Nursing Home following a short period in the Oncology Department at the Leicester Royal Infirmary. A number of cyclists from the Ratae RC and other clubs joined his family and friends on 18 December for the interment at Wigston’s Welford Road Cemetery and the Service of Thanksgiving for his life at the Glencroft Church.


Bill was truly a cycling legend and will be missed by many in the cycling world.









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