An occasional column of notable people from, or connected to, Ipswich who don’t quite qualify (yet) for an Ipswich Society Blue Plaque.

The popularity of cycling has increased considerably following the success of British cycling teams at the Olympic and Paralympic games held in Tokyo last year. Members may be surprised to learn that Ipswich has its own cycling champion: Ray Booty, known in the cycling world as ‘The Boot’.

Ray was born on the 3rd September 1932 and lived with his parents in Benacre Road. His father was a Ministry of Transport vehicle examiner. The family moved to Peterborough and then on to Stapleford, a suburb of Nottingham, when Ray was 15. He left school in 1948, aged 16, and went to work for Ericsson’s Electronics Company based in Nottingham as a trainee, where he studied for, and gained, his Higher National Diploma becoming a qualified electronics engineer.

He was introduced to competitive cycling by a neighbour and he joined Ericsson’s Wheelers Cycling Club. During his National Service in the Army, he also rode for the Army Cycling Union. He was ideally suited to competitive cycling, being powerfully built, standing 6 foot 3 inches tall and weighing 14 stone. His preferred form of racing was the time trial where competitors raced against the clock over a set distance, rather than against each other.  On race days, competing riders set off at one minute intervals. He also took part in twelve-hour competitions where riders tried to achieve the highest mileage in the set time. Ray raced as an amateur throughout his successful competitive cycling career.

He was the national twelve-hour champion from 1954 to 1958 and won the national 100-mile championship every year from 1955 to 1959, breaking the national record in 1956. In the same year he took part in the Bath Road 100-mile Classic. Riding his fixed wheel Raleigh Record Ace, he became the first rider to complete the 100 mile course in under 4 hours with a time of 3 hours, 58 minutes, 27 seconds. Bicycle technology was changing rapidly and in September of the same year, riding a Raleigh cycle with a three-speed hub, he broke his own record for 100 miles with a time of 3 hours, 28 minutes, 40 seconds. This record was to stand for 34 years.

In 1958, while doing his National Service, he won a gold medal in the Empire and Commonwealth Games Road Race in Cardiff.

1959 proved to be the watershed for his racing career although Ray continued to ride in club events. Some held the view that Ray lacked the dedication to make a career of full time cycling.  Perhaps he felt that it was time to concentrate on his partner and his career in electronics which saw him working for Westinghouse and then Rolls-Royce until his retirement in 1992.

Ray Booty was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died in Derby, aged 79, on the 25th 

August, 2012.

Tony Robson


Sources: Keith Bingham, Cycling Weekly, 29/08/2012; Richard Williams, The Guardian, 17/09/2012; Wikipedia

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