Tragically Pat Kenny was killed, whilst out on his bike on Friday 21st January, 2011.
PAT KENNY 1939 – 2011 : An Extraordinary Man
Pat was born in Poona, India in 1939, where his father was serving in the British Army. On returning to England Pat spent the formative part of his life at the family home in Kingstanding, North Birmingham. In 1957 he spotted an invitation to join St Christopher’s Catholic Cycling Club on his church notice-board, and he jumped at the chance to pursue his love of cycling along with fellow Catholics from the area.
I first met Pat in 1958 and he was already showing promise at time-trialling and road racing, whilst still playing an active role in club activities such as Sunday club runs and touring holidays, sometimes as far away as Switzerland.
In his younger years he had a crop of sandy red hair and occasionally a stubborn streak to go with it that drove him on. Pat was probably the first in the club to have a ‘go-faster’ crew-cut and it certainly seemed to work for soon he was beating the hour for 25 miles on local Midland courses. Pete Swinden and John Withers, in the early 1960’s, took to riding 24 hour races and soon got Pat and myself involved. They also discovered road record breaking at Regional and National level, and Pat threw himself into any form of long distance racing from then onwards. He also gained his Civil Engineering qualifications at Technical College around that time and worked with those skills in the construction industry until taking retirement in his late 60’s.
Pat was a strong Catholic all of his life but never forced his views on others. In his cycling life he was a member of many organisations such as The National Road Records Association, Midland Road Records Association, The Tricycle Association, The 24 Hour Fellowship, Audax UK and The 300,000 mile club, being just some of them, but Birmingham St Christopher’s CCC remained his lifelong club. Pats membership of these organisations greatly enhanced the quality of them for the advice and support he gave, either as an Event Organiser, Timekeeper, Observer, Committee member, rider or helper.
By the mid 1960’s Pat had already organised and driven the support vehicle on Pete Swinden and John Withers’ tandem 1,000 mile Record, and a year later Pat set off from Edinburgh on his trike to break his first major National Road Record by reaching London some 20 hours 48 minutes later. Pat carried on towards the South coast and at the 24 hour point he’d covered 431.5 miles, enough to beat the great John Arnold’s record by 3 miles. This was the start of Pat’s prolific record breaking career that spanned over 20 years.
In that same 20 year period Pat met and married Hazel in 1969 and set up home in Whittington, near Lichfield, and helped bring three daughters into the world. Alison, Helen and Jane. Pat’s job as a Civil Engineer took him to various locations all over the Midlands and whenever possible he rode to his job no matter how far it was, sometimes a round trip of 100 miles a day.
In the mid 1970’s Pat purchased a racing tandem-trike and that was the start of another episode of his record-breaking days. I was lucky enough to be invited along to ride as his ‘stoker’ and share the punishment whilst staring at his back pockets for up to two days, and with Pat’s inspiration, advice, encouragement and indoctrination of self-belief instilled in me, we went on to break more road records at both levels. By the late 1970’s Pat’s main aim in cycling was to break the Land’s End to John o’Groats record, possibly on the tandem trike with me, and then maybe follow it up with an attempt on Dave Duffield’s solo trike record, not forgetting that the legendary Albert Crimes had previously held the record before Duffield.
Pat was 40 by this time and knew that his ‘End to End’ years were limited. We tried three times in 1979 to break the classic Crimes and Arnold tandem trike ‘End to End’ record, but didn’t quite have the luck with the wind and weather required, to break such an iconic record, which still stands to this day over 55 years later.
By 1980 I could see the look of determination and sometimes desperation on Pat’s face to tackle that long journey north again and as most of you are probably aware, Pat achieved his dreams and broke the trike ‘End to End’ record by 21 minutes with a new time of 2 days 10 hours 36 minutes for the 870 mile journey. I am so glad I helped Pat on that journey as it brought ‘closure’ to use a modern word, not only for Pat and Hazel, but also for me. Pat’s victory was also the result of a culmination of support over those last few attempts from Alan Richards, Tony Shardlow, Graham Dayman and Pete Swinden.
In the space of twenty-eight years, Pat broke no less that nine National RRA records from 25 miles to the Land’s End to John o’Groat’s record and he still holds the Birmingham to London tandem record with Les Lowe. Out of a total of 30 Midland Road Records ranging from 25 miles to 24 hours that Pat broke, he still holds 13 of them and his tandem partners at both levels included Kath Akoslovski, John Gills, John Read, Harold Harvey and myself.
He was a regular RTTC timekeeper and also kept very busy for the RRA, and amongst his many successes were Mick Coupe’s and John Woodburn’s End to Ends in 1982, Jim Hopper’s Pembroke to Great Yarmouth in 1996, my daughter Lynne Taylor’s tandem End to End with Andy Wilkinson in 2000, plus her solo record in 2001, to name but a few.
By the mid 90’s Pat had accrued a vast mileage somewhere in the region of 600,000 miles and was vying on a weekly basis with Les Lowe as to who had got the highest total, but when Les’s health deteriorated Pat was left to ‘plough the lonely furrow’ with only Chris Davies down in the south to catch and overhaul. This eventually became Pat’s lifelong goal (although he wouldn’t admit to it) to be the first cyclist to reach a million miles.
Over the last few years he has been a great help to me by allowing me to plunder his record archives for research whilst writing my cycling history books, and his source of knowledge and inspiration has been invaluable. I last saw Pat just after New Year 2011, he had got a bike packed in a bag ready for a flight and holiday in Tunisia with Hazel. I asked Pat whether he had managed to reach his goal of 910,000 miles by the New Year and he said yes but by just a whisker, and he was looking forward to riding in warm sunshine in North Africa. I bade him farewell and wished him a good holiday but wasn’t surprised to find a few days later that the trip had been cancelled due to the political unrest in the Country. I’d worked it out that if he kept on riding at roughly the same rate of 20,000 miles a year as he had done almost every year I had known him, then he would probably be the first cyclist to reach the million by the time he was 78. It still sounded an impossible task for a normal fit 72 year old man to keep turning out over 60 miles a day, 365 days a year, but of course Pat wasn’t just an ordinary man.
Sadly just before 2pm on Friday 21st January the hand of fate intervened, and Pat was involved in a fatal collision with a motor vehicle in broad daylight. Words cannot describe how we all felt when we received the tragic news of Pat’s death within hours of it happening.
Our thoughts go his brother John, his wife Hazel, daughters, Alison, Helen and Jane, their husbands Lee, Drew and John, and grandsons, Jack, Scott and James in their very sad loss.
God Bless you Pat, and thanks for all you have done for trike riders, Road Record Breakers, time triallists and cyclists everywhere.