John Healey

12 August 1935 – 4 November 2019

We are very sad to report that club member John Healey passed away suddenly on November 4, as a result of a heart problem.

John was a life-long cyclist who grew up in Fawkham.  He joined his first cycling club, the Medway Wheelers, in 1952.  John also took up tricycle riding and joined the Tricycle Association in that same year.  While primarily known to many as a tricyclist, John was a complete allrounder who took part in nearly every facet of our sport over the many years he was involved. 

I first met John at an inter-club grass track meeting in 1969, by which time his club had become the Medway Velo.  In a field of mainly junior riders John was clearly the most experienced, and this showed in his riding, he had raced on the grass many times and had excellent bike-handling skills.  John was a very accomplished tricyclist, and a 1968 Cycling report describing one of his many wins in tricycle kermesses on the Isle of Man included his picture with the caption ‘Kent’s top tricyclist’.  This summed John up perfectly.  He actually won 17 of these events on the Isle of Man between 1962 and 1976, and was without doubt the finest exponent of tricycle kermess racing our sport has seen.

John always said his successes in these events stemmed from his experience in road racing; he was also an accomplished roadman who had spent a summer living and racing in Belgium in the 1960s. John also rode very successfully in time trials at all distances, on both two and three wheels, he was a very strong hill climber, a cyclo-cross rider, and a place to place record holder – we think that he and Geoff Wiles still hold the Kent CA Gillingham to Canterbury and back tandem tricycle record.  They set this in a winter snowstorm, and on a steep descent Geoff putting his head inside the back of John’s jersey to keep warm!  Outside of racing John did much club riding and as he did not drive a car cycling was usually his means of getting about.  He also went on many cycle tours – one of the first being to Lands End and back as a junior.

Around 15 years ago, after a less active period in his cycling, John joined the CC Bexley and resumed riding TA events in Kent and occasionally further afield.  I caught him in one of these in 2006, only to break my chain a short distance further down the road.  John insisted I should take his machine and carry on as I had a chance of winning, which I then proceeded to do.  This was a great act of generosity on his part and something he had done for others on at least one previous occasion.  John continued to race up to 2009, when a few health problems forced him to reduce his rides to shorter slower ones with friends to the café, but he always helped with marshalling or other jobs at the TA events. 

Having attended Gravesend Grammar School and completed an apprenticeship, John spent the early part of his working life as a boilermaker at the BP Refinery on the Isle of Grain.  Eventually he began to work extra hours there over the winter, enabling him to take the summers off completely, partly to allow himself more time for cycling.  In later life John worked for himself, which again gave him more time for cycling.

John never married, but his funeral was well attended by his many friends, as well as his family.  At the end of the service his great sense of humour shone through with the playing of the Ying Tong Song; he had always been a Goons fan.  John was a great character, very much a one-off, and he will be sadly missed by all who knew him.  We offer our deepest condolences to John’s sister Sylvia, and to the other members of his family.

Mark Vowells