Sheffield FridayNightRide

we have nothing to lose but our chains

2017/10/23 Sheffield USA

Ride report: Brief, because its a while since we did it! A good crowd approx 35 gathered at The Tap. Again many who had never been before and so the SFNR propagates. Cycling as sauntering; touring in your own backyard.

The weather was benign: clear sky, a sliver of a moon, cool air. Ideal for cycling. The ride was expertly led by Simon past works where Sheffield steel was made that found its way to the US (eg the Bowie knife, a Sheffield design that Jim Bowie popularised), venues where Yanks had played, sites where folks like General Grant had visited and Malcolm X had spoken, the Endcliffe Park site where a USAAF bomber had crashlanded in 1944 (killing the crew of 10), the Carnegie library established by the Scottish-American steel magnate Andrew Carnegie’s Foundation, through Philadelphia (a Sheffield district name linked to the US), the Brooklyn Works on Ball St/Green Lane where before the 2007 Sheffield Flood there were plans to build a to-scale replica of the Brooklyn Bridge to connect Green Lane to the end of Kelham Island as a footbridge and finally stopping at the Kelham Island Museum by the Bessemer Converter, invented in Sheffield, which enabled mass production of good quality steel, and was exported all over the world especially Pittsburgh.
Then we all cycled to The Dorothy Pax for beer and pizza! and had a lovely chat.

All good!
Next Sheffield FridayNightRide
Sheffield USA
​27 Oct 2017
Start Sheffield Tap 6.30pm prompt

Late? follow the map.

Ride led by Simon, posing as WildNorthlands

We Brits have a love-hate relationship with the USA. We love their music – so many US artists have come over here to make their names before becoming popular in their home countries and the great pop bands of the 60’s shamelessly exploited American styles and made them their . We love the American “yes we can!” attitude and the fact that they bailed us out in two world wars, the wide open spaces, the friendliness of the ordinary people (except in LA of course) the food, the sports and even the beer’s got better (still cold and fizzy but at least it tastes of something now. And of course we love American movies and TV series.

But…we hate the gun laws, the occasional propensity of the their electoral system to throw out a complete curveball, the arrogance and ability to talk in VERY LOUD VOICES in public spaces that you sometimes find, capital punishment,  bratty kids, and a general brashness that goes against the British public demeanour.

So what are the links between a small (tiny by US standards – well it would be except that the US has a different definition of a city, the smallest  city having 840  inhabitants) British City  and the mighty USA? For me its a very personal link, as my wife is US-born, although she can trace her roots back to Italy and before that Albania. And that indeed gives you a clue – I think the key lies in immigration and the movement of the huddled masses westwards following the great upheavals of the 19th and 20th centuries. If you go further back though, you reach the days of the US colony, the establishment of New England, then the Boston Tea Party, the Madness of King George and the War of Independence. But we know that many Sheffield’ers set off to make their fortune in the States and we will visit the birthplaces of some of these.

We know of two towns called Sheffield in the US   – one in Massachusetts (pop 3,257) and one in Vermont (pop 703)

Another big link, of course is steel. Pittsburgh (named after William Pitt the Elder has many of the attributes of Sheffield – access to water, wood, coal and iron ore although the convergence of the Allegheny River and Monongahela Rivers is a somewhat more impressive sight than the Sheaf meeting the Don. A Bessemer converter sits in Bessemer Square, so we will be visiting the Kelham Island museum to contrast and compare. Pittsburgh like Sheffield has in the main moved on from its industrial past although the current president doesn’t seem to understand that. We will explore these links.

There is also the memorial stone marking the crash site of the USAAF B-17 Flying Fortress “Mi Amigo”. On 22 February 1944 the aircraft was returning, heavily damaged by defending Me-109 fighters, from a bombing mission over Aalborg, Denmark. Around 5pm it crashed in the park with the loss of all 10 crew. An annual memorial service organised by the Royal Air Forces Association is held at the site on the Sunday closest to 22 February.[1]

The full story of the brave crew of the ‘Mi-Amigo’ is told in a book published in June 2014 on Amazon Kindle by local military historian Paul Allonby, called Courage Above the Clouds. This book uses military documents from the USA, Denmark and Germany to piece together the mission, and the fateful combat with the Me109s of 11/JG11 who were among the Luftwaffe fighters vectored to take on the 64-strong diversionary formation of B17s, whose mission was to draw fighters away from a larger US 8th Air Force bomber stream heading towards targets in Germany.

The pilot of the ‘Mi-Amigo’, from the 364th Bomber Squadron, based at Chelveston, Northamptonshire, was Lt John Kriegshauser who received a posthumous US Distinguished Flying Cross for his courage in sacrificing the crew rather than hit children playing in the park.

When viewed from Rustlings Road/Ecclesall Road the crash site can still be seen, marked by a noticeable drop in the height of the trees on the hillside behind the cafe. This was because a dozen trees were uprooted, or needed felling, due to the devastating impact of the crash. A grove of American oaks was planted in 1969 as replacement trees to honour the crew. Access to the memorial site is via a path signposted Woodland Walk, or across the stepping stones next to the cafe.
Sheffield has benefitted from its links with the US and we will visit an example of this in the Carnegie Library in Walkley.  

Musically, Sheffield’ers have enjoyed the music of many US born artists. To name but a few, Jimi Hendrix, Blondie and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have played at Sheffield City Hall.

The Plug has seen Lucinda Williams and Patti Smith (who also gave a talk at the Library Theatre). Neil Young has played at the Arena. Frank Sinatra came to dine at Ryecroft, an impressive detached house on Whirlow Park Road, Whirlow owned by socialite Inge Sugden, who owned a cutlery firm.

Ulysses Grant, the commander of the Union forces who won the American Civil War, and two-term US president, arrived in Sheffield on the afternoon of Wednesday, September 26th, 1877. You can read about his visit here (3rd party software required)

There are many places in Sheffield that reflect our relationship with the US, whether special or not, and the ride will seek these out. Finally, we will find a good ol’ American bar where we can enjoy Beer’n’Pizza!