Bob Chicken, a past president of the club, has missed just three dinners in his time with the Pickwick.
With two posh dinners a year (the Christmas one is known as the President’s Garden Party), that’s 97 functions he’s attended.
As well as being the oldest bicycle club in the world – founded in 1870, in the week that Charles Dickens died – the Pickwick is the world’s oldest extant Dickensian association.
The members of the all-male club take sobriquets from characters in Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers. Bob Chicken is Angelo Cyrus Bantam.
The club has 200 members and is a who’s who of bike trade bigwigs. There’s a seven year waiting list for membership. Thirty percent of the members are upstanding City types such as bankers, solicitors, and accountants.
The club may be best known as a luncheon society but it also organises cycle rides, such as Mr. Pickwick Goes To France, the Benson Rally and a cycle ride in conjunction with the Golf Day.
To keep true to its roots the President’s Garden Party starts with a speech by the ‘original member’, an actor who dresses in Victorian garb, and wheels in an Ordinary. Today, however the ‘original member’, hanging up his top hat after 22 years in the post, was dressed as a Pearly King.
Robert Chicken, one of Bob Chicken’s two sons, surprised his father at lunch by revealing Chicken Snr’s 50 years of club membership.
Naturally, there was then a rousing chorus of Why was he born so beautiful, one of the traditional songs belted out at the Christmas lunch.
All together now…
Why was he born so beautiful, why was he born at all?
Why was he born so beautiful, why was he born at all? (Repeat). We thank you for those few kind words. We thank you for those few kind words.