Many thanks to Ken McDonald who has sent the following obituary:
Renny’s unusual name came from a character in a novel that his mother had been reading when she was expecting him.
He grew up in South Woodford, on the border of London and Essex. At the age of 17 he joined the local Glade Cycling Club, teaming up with several other promising youngsters who benefited from the coaching guidance of Bill Bridge. After Beryl Burton teased the club by calling it Gladys, they adopted the unofficial title “Gladys All Stars”.
It was a club that enjoyed all forms of cycling and Renny never missed anything – youth hostel weekends, touring holidays, straight-out record attempts, racing on road and track – bicycles, tricycles and tandems. The Glade was one of the last southern cycling clubs to ride out en masse to events carrying their racing wheels. Renny’s mother was a keen seamstress and Renny rarely rode in official club strip, but in all kinds of colours and patterns. But his mum’s most noted creation was a large “Gladys All Stars” banner that would be strapped to someone’s bike and taken to the event before being unfurled.
Renny soon established himself as a key member and frequently leader of the Glade’s successful timetrial squad. As a junior he set a club place-to-place record from London to Southend and back. He was club senior best all-rounder champion six times between 1971 and 1977
In 1974, Renny was one of four ‘All Stars’ who embarked on a two week cycling holiday from Inverness to Cape Wrath and back, rarely using a road. They produced a slide show of their adventure, “The Cape Wrath Saga”, which was shown at the Eastern Counties Cycling Association dinner. All four went on to set competition records.
Like so many of the Glade, Renny acquired a tricycle and a tandem. He achieved national prominence in 1975 with both tandem and tricycle competition records. His 59:28 to win the Tricycle Association championship not only set a new individual record, but led a team whose time has since been improved by less than a minute in the ensuing 38 years. Further tandem and tricycle team competition records followed in 1976.
Renny always thrived in good teams. In 1977 he moved from the Glade to the Unity CC where he rode alongside Pete Wells and Dave Cunningham to form the BBAR-winning team in 1978. Renny’s BBAR average speed was 24.513 mph.
Renny rode for a couple of years with the Edgware RC and in 1980 he joined with Paul Bennett, Ian Cammish and Pete Wells to come third in the national championship 100km team time trial.
Renny had some relatively quiet seasons with the Redbridge CC before moving in 1986 to a rejuvenated Leo Road Club where he was instrumental in their choice of racing strip with plenty of stars ! Here, he achieved most of his personal bests, especially in 1987 when he finished 7th in the BBAR recording an average speed of 25.085 mph from times for 50 miles: 1:50:16, 100 miles: 3:52:01 and 12hrs: 266.241 miles. That year, the Leo squad of Renny, Ian Silvester and Shay Giles won medals for second BBAR team.
In 1988, the Leo team of Renny, Ian Browning, Shay Giles and Antony Stapleton came third in the national championship 100km team time trial.
In 1989, Renny and Antony Stapleton set a new Road Records Association straight out tandem record of 41.04. This national record still stands.
After ‘retiring’ from racing and a move of home to Suffolk in 1996 he subsequently joined the Stowmarket & District CC and enjoyed taking part in the occasional time trial until he was 50 years old. However, Renny was generally the ‘powerhouse’ of the Sunday Club run, ensuring the pace was high, along with Gary Buckle, Jason Everett and Alan Rouse and this formed a reliable nucleus / ‘magnet’ attracting many new members that has enabled the tremendous growth of the Club. Alan Rouse (Autostrasse Porsche Engineers) and President of the Club, alongside Renny as Chairman of the Club (until recent years) and his business interests with Orbea Bicycles, combined to create the club kit design. On the Saturday and Sunday before Renny died he rode by himself covering 62 miles and 43 miles respectively. Anyone will tell you that a ride with Renny was tough – ‘easy’ just wasn’t in his vocabulary.
In 1976 Renny married Christine Goddard, herself a budding time triallist whose athletic sporting background had been influenced and stimulated by her uncle, Sir Alf Ramsey, who successful managed Ipswich Town Football Club and the England football team that won the World Cup in 1966 at Wembley. In the beginning Renny and Christine used their commute bike ride to work as basic training and fitted in time trial events where possible. Subsequently Renny and Christine bought a couple of almost derelict farmworkers cottages near Chelmsford and spent 16 years turning them into a comfortable home. Christine did much of the planning and Renny developed all manner of construction skills in carrying out their plans. When Frogs Hall was complete they moved to Suffolk and embarked on an even more challenging project, not realizing the scale of the task to restore a 16th century farmhouse and barn. This construction project was also lovingly executed, although after 18 years it was still work-in-progress at the time of Renny’s death.
Renny’s passion for cycling took him into the cycle trade in 1983, firstly as a representative then National Sales Manager for Dawes Cycles. He subsequently served as sales manager at Saracen Cycles, Schwinn/GT and East Coast Distribution before working with Spanish manufacturer Orbea. He and Christine were responsible for successfully developing their presence in the UK market. They have both always been competitive and conscientious. They worked incredibly hard as a team, both in the business and, in their spare time, on their Suffolk home.
Renny was at home, working on the computer, when he suffered a heart attack on Monday, 31st March 2014. Christine found him shortly afterwards. She and the paramedics that soon attended were unable to resuscitate him. They expressed the possibility that Renny’s death may have been instantaneous.
Renny Stirling (1953 to 2014)
Renny’s funeral service and burial will take place on Thursday 17th April at his local church, All Saints, Crowfield, Suffolk, IP6 9TH commencing at 11am. There is limited capacity in the church and parking is available only on grass verges of nearby lanes.
Afterwards, family and friends are invited to a gathering to reflect on and celebrate Renny’s life. This will be held at Easton Grange, Easton, IP13 0EL, commencing at 12:30 and scheduled to finish by 5pm.
If you are considering attending one or both of the events, please advise Ken McDonald as early as possible on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01279 813226. This will greatly help with planning and will enable him to send you more details.
If you would like to send a floral tribute or make a donation in Renny’s memory, these can be sent to the funeral directors: Farthing Singleton & Hastings, Deben House, 650 Woodbridge Road, Ipswich IP4 4PW. Christine has requested that any donations be made to Suffolk Preservation Society or Suffolk Animal Rescue.
The Whiteoaks of Jalna was a series of 16 novels, written in the 1920s and 1930s by Canadian authoress Mazo de la Roche. One of the characters was Renny Whiteoak.