Founders Story

The following text appeared in the Johnstone & Linwood Gazette for Wednesday, April 25th 2001.

In Memory of Walter "Wattie" Buchanan

"Legend" Dies At 96

A Johnstone Legend, who set up one of the best-known Cycling Clubs in Scotland has died.  Walter "Wattie" Buchanan, who was loved and respected as the Founder and Honorary Life President of the Johnstone Wheelers Cycling Club, passed away last Monday, aged 96.

Wattie was a well-known and well-loved face in the town; when a youngster he worked as a cabin boy for British Rail but was probably best known as the cheery character who helped capture treasured memories of weddings, christenings, and other important events for generations of townsfolk through his photographic studio in the High Street, but it will be his love of cycling for which Wattie will be best remembered.

As a young man, in 1926 he founded Johnstone Wheelers with friends and although he emigrated to New Zealand in 1964 he still kept up with the activities of his beloved Wheelers through letters and phone calls home.

In 1976, he travelled around the globe, as a sprightly 70-year-old, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Club.  Cycling remained close to his heart for the rest of his life and he continued to cycle right up to the age of 94, when he had to give up due to ill-health.

On his most recent trip back to the town in 1993, Wattie told the Gazette of how the Wheelers came about, saying "I studied at the Thorn Public School and Johnstone Higher Grade School in the town but it wasn't until I was about 20 years old that I considered starting a biking club.  My friend John Craig was a keen cyclist too and he and some of his friends were happy to get involved.  There were about 15 of us at first and we met in my pal Alfie Gordon's dad's garage.  Our first trip as a Club was to Barassie Shore and the following week was to Luss.  I didn't dream at that time what I had started."

Johnstone Wheelers went on to become one of the biggest Clubs in Scotland, winning countless competitions and even boasting one-time Scottish track champion Rita Jones as a member.

Wattie's kindness and great sense of humour soon established him as a character in Johnstone history.  He was a friend to everyone, regardless of age, helping them with their cycling and faithfully writing a comical Club Newsletter "Connecting Link" to send to the boys in the trenches to keep their spirits up in World War II.

The elderly, too, benefited from his warmth, with Wattie transporting them the length and breadth of Scotland through his slide shows of his adventures on his bicycle.
Friends across the town were left saddened by the news of his death and paid tribute to the kind old gentleman who brought cycling to generations of Johnstonians.

Friend and fellow-Wheeler Tom Spiers summed up the thoughts of many, saying "There is a spoke missing in our wheels now because of what he meant to the Johnstone Wheelers.  There have been a lot of good Wheelers in the past, and there still are, but nobody can match up to Wattie.  He gave everything and was so generous to everyone he met.  We will never fill his shoes."

Although he settled across the world, Wattie's heart never strayed from Scotland and led him to pen the poem I Dream of Home in which he recalled his days of cycling over heather-clad hills and glens.  Fittingly, his ashes will be brought home to his beloved Scotland.

Tragically, Wattie's first wife, Teen (short for Christina), died soon after the pair had settled in New Zealand, but he found love again with Kiwi bride June, and the couple shared many happy years together.

Wattie is survived by June, sons John and Walter, and daughter-in-law Gay, and their families.  He leaves as his legacy a Cycling Club which continues to prosper and entertain generations of Johnstone people 90 years after it was formed - a lasting tribute to a man who gave so much to others in his lifetime. 


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