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Rory O'Brien

Author Brian Clarke


Rory O’Brien Ephgraves – a Personal View

We welcome any more information on Rory O'Brien.

It is known that Les Ephgrave built a number of frames for other bike shops but most remain largely unidentified. However, that he built the top ‘Championship’ model for Rory O’Brien is unassailable.

Rory O’Brien established a bike shop at 787 Romford Road, Manor Park, London E. 12 in the late 1940s with the first small ad I have found in ‘Cycling’ dating from May 1950. In the latter part of 1956 he acquired a second shop further east at 134 North Street, Romford, Essex. These ran concurrently for many years with the latter becoming the main shop that survived beyond Rory’s retirement which from memory was in the late 1980s.

A decade ago it struck me that I had no clear idea what the top model looked like but I knew someone who had acquired a number of ‘Rory’s’ over the years including two bikes that were once owned by BBAR champion Vic Gibbons. So I went along to study them and took a number of photos (below)

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I formed an opinion that the Ephgrave built models all seemed to share the same hand-cut spear point lugs of great beauty and the sweeping curves a complete contrast to the more intricate No1 and No2 lug styles whose designs are well known. It is obviously a subjective view but I think this lug design is more attractive than the Italia or No2 patterns for instance. I waited many years to own one and was eventually offered an example from the mid 1950s with original paint and transfers shown here that I built up using period components.

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It seems to me that the less expensive models I have seen made using Nervex Legere lugs that are not without merit, were probably made by Wally Green. Rory also developed a long association with Vic Edwards who had a workshop in Crow Lane Romford and built some top models for him as well as their one time rival, Kenistons.
I have speculated how long Ephgrave may have built the ‘Championship’ model with this lug pattern for Rory – perhaps not beyond the early 1960s partly I suspect because tastes had changed. I once owned a beautiful frame with modified Nervex Pro lugs which I dated to the early 1960s but despite its quality I was not convinced that it was built by Les Ephgrave and assigned the work to Vic Edwards who was himself a master of the frame building craft.  There will be those with other views I’m sure.

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Vic Gibbons on his Rory O'Brien

Bryan Clarke January 2016