I first came across the name Lal White about fifteen years ago whilst doing some research at the library and was surprised how little was written about one of Scunthorpes’ cycling greats. Over the years any mention of him has been hard to find, that changed a couple of years ago when ideas of an Olympic cultural celebration in the form of an opera commemorating the life Lal White was first being mooted. Since then more information has come to light about the cyclist who worked at a local steelworks.
Albert White had once lived on Home Street before moving to Cole Street and also worked at Lysaght’s steelworks. He was the first sportsman from the Scunthorpe area to make his mark at national level, he dominated English amateur cycling from 1913 to 1926 winning no fewer than 15 national titles on both grass and cinders.
It all started for him as a 12 year old boy when he won his first ever race at the Elsham Flower Show 1902. The Great War of 1914 to 1918 interrupted his competitive career, but he was back in 1920 when he monopolised the British title races winning four events ranging from 440 yards to 25 miles. He also represented Britain in the Olympic Games in 1920 at Antwerp and Paris in 1924. It was at the Antwerp games, where he entered three different events, in which he won his silver medal.
He also rode in word championships all over Europe in countries such as Germany, Belgium, France and Switzerland.
Lal White on the left
Whilst living on Home Street he concocted a device which enabled him to train indoors if the weather was bad, he put together three mangles, one at the front and two at the back to create a static roller, the rear roller drove the front roller by means of a belt. In the days before gears he was advised about cog ratios by Mr. Lingard from the nearby cycle shop.
Lal was not part of any of the local cycling groups, instead becoming one of the world’s top cyclists as part of the Manchester Wheelers.
He also excelled in the annual race for the Muratti Vase, an ornate trophy made of solid gold which was named after an Italian cigarette company. It was an invitation event for the top 10 riders in the country and Lal won it outright with three successive victories.
His last national title was in 1926 but his career went on until 1938, he died in 1965 aged 75.
The Scunthorpe Co-operative Junior Choir and Proper Job Theatre Company are organising the Cycle Opera project, which will involve as many as 2,000 people and is set to take place in July. Lal is also set to be commemorated in a portrait bench which is due to be installed on the Sustrans Connect 2 Ridgeway cycle route later this year.
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