John Kavanagh

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Updated 8 January 2001

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John Walker Kavanagh - always known as 'Kav' - was born on the 22nd September 1934 and joined De Laune CC on the 16th December 1954.

These days 'Kav' lives in gentle retirement with his pet Koi fish, his GPS tracking device, his satellite dish and his delightful wife, Pat. It wasn't always like that.

'Kav' hailed from Newcastle and had a very interesting life from an early age, 'treading the boards'. Not a lot of people know that! His father was Johnny Kavanagh, the comedian, and young 'Kav', from the age of 10 until he was 15 years old, was part of the double act. The two Johnny's performed at all of the popular northern Music Hall venues, to some acclaim. Our 'Kav' eventually went solo and later joined a travelling Juvenile show, which took him down to Bognor Regis in Sussex. It was while he was lodging in Bognor that he joined the local cycling club, the aptly named Bognor Regis CC. National Service was beckoning and at the age of 18, forsaking his theatrical calling, he was called up into the Army where he ended up as a driver and squandered many hours in Egypt. He spent a relatively quiet time defending King Farouk from his bad habits, got a few miles in and quickly became the leading light of the St George's Cycling Club (based in Cairo) - there were only three of them!

Following his de-mob, he stayed down south and, as the Musical business was in steep decline, he started to look for 'proper work' and ended up in the motoring section at Pride and Clark's. It was at that time that he transferred his cycling allegiance to the De Laune, never to look back. Numerous jobs followed which included working in the Tool Section of Gamages in Holborn; he then turned to selling Fire Extinguishers and later to selling 3-in-1 Oil - some of you may remember the Christmas Stockings that magiced their way to Club bun-fights. John eventually settled down in that stock-in-trade job of cyclist's - Life insurance. Yes, rather than buy a policy from Roy Savery he joined the same Company and made sure that 'if Roy didn't get you, he would'.

John progressed through the ranks, and changed job descriptions with the same speed that the Company, Imperial Life of Canada, changed its name. His robust personality and quick wit must have stood him in good stead for he ended up as top dog in the Training and Compliance department. After 20 years service, John has now retired on a healthy pension (by taking his own advice). His long-suffering wife Pat was also in the Insurance line, working for Commercial Union, at their Maidstone office. John and Pat are very proud grandparents. Nancy, their only child, now has three children, Jasmine, Calum and baby.

As stated, John joined the De Laune in the winter of 1954/5 and very quickly got into the Time Trial scene. In his first year he competed at all distances including partnering Arthur How on the tandem and competing in a 12-hour race, in which he achieved 237 miles. Over the coming years John won many events including the Club Challenge Bowl nine times, and set several Club Records - both solo and tandem. He first broke the hour in 1957 with 58:56 and became the fifth De Laune man to achieve a sub-hour ride. For the record, the first was Alan Jackson, whose best, in 1953, was 58:16. Two years later Geoff Sinnett rode 59:55. The 3rd person was Tony Purser, 59:45 in '56; Dennis Tarr was 4th, also in '56 with a 59:22.

'Kav' had a come back year in 1974 and reduced his '25' time to 55:01. Arguably, one of his best rides was in the Viking Medium Gear event where he went very close to going under on a 72" fixed in the 1959 season. In the late fifties and early sixties 'Kav's' Lambretta scooter, with racing bike attached, was a regular sight at events; most people still rode out to the events with their racing wheels tied to their handlebars. John quickly progressed to a bubble car, which transported him all over Europe on camping trips, before moving up to big cars and becoming a life long Citroen devotee.

Like his contemporaries, Savery, Saxton and Peel, he joined Blackheath Harriers and completed in many road and cross-country races. His dogged determination achieved a best marathon time of 2hours 54mins in the 1989 London Marathon. In recent years he has had a few problems with his knees and, these days, does more walking than either cycling or running. Lots of his walking cronies are from the cycling world, especially from his adopted club, San Fairy Ann. John has also organised skiing trips for the same cycling-based crowd; they mainly go to the French Alps, although the other year a few went to Banff in Canada.

John was/is one of the best speakers that we have ever had in the Club -having been honed from an early age, his timing and delivery are quite superb. These days he is getting more reluctant to speak (getting old or shy?), which is a great shame for all concerned. One of his most memorable turns was when he was acting as an impromptu interpreter for our good friend Ramon Saiz. The occasion was a supper held at Blackheath Harriers HQ; John had everyone rolling in the aisles as he spontaneously translated Ramon's impeccable English back into pigeon Spanish.

One of John's hobbies these days is his carp. Pat's garden, which is her pride and joy (she keeps it immaculately), contains a large pond, of swimming pool status, which is full of Koi. The current inhabitants are not as old or big as their forebears - as unfortunately a neighbour, looking after the fish during one off the 'Kav's' summer camping holidays failed to do just that - resulting in several thousand pounds worth of exhibition Koi passing on!

In case you haven't worked out what a GPS tracking device is (see first paragraph) it stands for Global Positioning Satellite. This is a hand held device that locates your position within a few metres - often used by boats and ships. You can also enter the location of where-you-want-to-go and it will guide you there. On one of his recent walks 'Kav' was seen to be having trouble setting the thing up and a little old lady offered him advice, but not before his party had set off and disappeared into the distance, never to be seen again!

He loves his gadgets and has now embarked on a new hobby, surfing the World Wide Web - so look out for super fast e-mails from a super fast old member.

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