Maindy Centre, Crown Way, Cardiff, CF14 3AJ

Eric Hodge – The Man Who Saved Maindy Track

Eric Hodge – The Man Who Saved Maindy Track

The Ajax committee are very sorry that Eric has lost his battle with cancer and died on 1st December.

Eric was a founder member of the Ajax some sixty years ago and with his wife Sylvia was always involved over all those years in supporting cycling. My earliest memory of him was at the City Hall in Cardiff in the summer of 1959 organising beginner’s rides. Hundreds of us turned up and were greeted by Eric, Reg. Pharoah (yes!), and other Ajax stalwarts.

Another memory of that time was to see various small Hodges being taken on club-runs in a cycle sidecar – fitted like a motorbike sidecar – a tiny fragile Zeppelin alongside the bike.

Eric was not from memory a great racer but still holds a Welsh Road Record ride (Cardiff – Abergavenny – Brecon – Abergavenny – Cardiff) from the early 50s in the days of four speed derailleurs, heavy tyres, tram lines, etc..

Eric and Sylvia ran the annual Ajax club dinner for literally decades when it was the best attended and organised dinner in South Wales. They accepted some help in recent years but it was always seen as Eric and Sylvia’s project. Woe betide any hotel manager who failed to come up to scratch; Eric would despatch a six-page letter detailing the hotel’s failures as against the Ajax’s always perfect behaviour.

Eric and Sylvia promoted every sort of event and helped and marshalled right up to earlier this year. Very much a man of independent mind he ran into occasional problems with officialdom and we’ll draw a veil over the “sine die” suspension!

Eric and Sylvia were enthusiasts for women’s racing in the very early days and their daughter Sally won the women’s world points championship in 1988 as well as many British road and track titles. Eric was well-known around the tracks of Britain and the Continent in those days not just in Wales. Two of their sons were successful racers both in France and for Welsh teams.

Eric’s greatest achievement was the saving of Maindy Track from redevelopment in the 1980/90s.. The Council wanted to destroy the track (“not being used enough”) and build a super leisure centre and pool on the whole site. Eric enlisted the press and television on his side but his master-stroke was to burrow through the records of the estate of the Marquess of Bute in the Central Library and discover that that Scottish nobleman had given the land for, I think, parkland as he gave all the Castle Grounds, etc.. After a while, the council retired defeated and we have the great facility that we continue to enjoy today.

Eric’s last big ride was Land’s End to John O’ Groats in 2009 in two weeks with very little support. This was done to raise welfare funds for the Welsh Guards with whom he had served in the 50s. He rode his fifty year old steel Baines on this ride and was well into his seventies at that time.

These are purely my own personal memories of Eric and his family. Undoubtedly he was one of the most memorable characters I have known, kind, always willing to help, reliable, and when I had my own battle with cancer a few years ago, a regular visitor to me. Thanks, Eric, it was a privilege to know you for so many years.

Roger Pratt.