A biography by Geoff ( Jaffa) Orange
Jack Hearne spent his childhood in the village of Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, some 25 miles to the west of the City of London . After Army National Service, Jack started work in his Uncle’s village garage in Stoke Poges, driving a taxi. He was also introduced to cycle repairs, as most garages after World War II sold bicycles . Jack then attended evening classes at the London Polytechnic to learn Cycle Frame Building.
His first shop, again in Stoke Poges, was in a converted barn next-door to one of the village’s public houses. The ” forge” for brazing the frame tubes, was outside the shop in a canvas covered metal framed extension. This also housed at first an electric oven for stove-enamelling, the painting of finished frames. Later a larger oven, fuelled by bottled gas, was installed. This was large enough for tandem frames or several normal size frames.
The frame build started off indoors in the loft area above the shop. A flat table-top board with frame angles and sizes etc was used to prepare and cut the tubes to length, and to file lugs and tube ends prior to setting to the angles required. The board was also used to pin the tubes before brazing took place. Jigs were not used by the smaller frame builders at this time. Jack always did his own paint spraying, transfers and lacquering which meant many times in and out of the oven. Transfer quality was not so good in the early days and it often meant another respray had to be done to achieve the best finish.
One of the London Builders, Les “The Filer” Sylvester, often came to Stoke Poges for a day’s work with Jack as did Len Hart who worked with Gillott before joining the management at Dawes Cycles. I started work in Jack’s shop at the age of 11 years old. The first skill I acquired was mending punctures, allowed only to use tyre leavers to remove the tyre and fingers to refit it! After a while I was shown how to polish the tubes of the newly built frame with a piece of emery cloth. Jack insisted that the grain of the polish had to run in the same direction. After the frame was painted I had a great feeling of job satisfaction.
Jack later had a custom built shop 3 miles to the south of the village in the town of Slough. This shop had a large showroom for around 120 cycles, a workshop in the basement and further work areas at the rear. He built his own “shot blast room” for removing old paint, and he installed a larger paint spray unit with air extractors. The unit enabled him to give the frames a finish second to none.
During the 1960s many smaller frame builder shops sponsored riders for road racing. Then they were called “Independents” or Semi Pros”, and usually involved just one rider. Bigger Shops may have had 3 or 4 riders, with team names such as “Wally Green Cycles”, “Condor-Mackeson”, “Quinn-Everyman”, ” Ryall-Raxar” and ” Witcombe’s”. They would be seen racing along with the bigger teams of “Viking Cycles”, ” Falcon Cycles” ” Dawes”, “Raleigh” and others.
Jack was a race mechanic to the England Team on several occasions with the Tour of Britain. The team leader was Bill Bradley, a winner. Jack was awarded one of the yellow jerseys for his work on the team. He also went with a team to the Tour of Sweden and the European Tour of Youth. Jack’s village, Stoke Poges, produced a future champion cyclist. He was Eddie Adkins, son of the village policemen, who went on to win the National 25 Mile Championships of 1977, 1978 and 1979. Eddie was riding a Jack Hearne frame for many years of his racing career, and Jack was very proud of Eddie’s numerous race wins.
I offer my sincerest thanks to Jack for teaching me so much over the past 45 years, not least for giving me my nick-name of ” Jaffa “
Thanks, Geoff ( Jaffa) Orange
Former Secretary of Chiltern Road Club.