'For he's a jolly good fellow' rang out at 8pm last night as Bob Chicken Snr was shepherded into the upstairs private dining room of Frederick's, one of Islington's best restaurants. Thirty fellow diners witnessed the 81-year old instigator of a cycle show at the Business Design Centre wipe away tears. The dinner in his honour was hosted by the management of the BDC in recognition of Bob's "legendary tenacity", evident during his ten-year fight to get the cycle industry to back a London trade/consumer show.

Bob Chicken celebrated at emotionally-charged, surprise slap-up dinner

And Bob wasn’t the only one in tears. IBD Monty Young of Condor Cycles was also seen to be moved by the occasion, as were other industry eminents.

Bob knew nothing of the tribute dinner, weeks in the planning.

He thought he was going out for a quiet meal with Dominic Jones, MD of the Business Design Centre, and Michael Bennett, exhibition director. Those in the private dining room were alerted to Bob’s imminent arrival thanks to Cellnet and once the doors were swung open the diners erupted in the time-honoured fashion at such tribute dinners.

The photograph above captures the exact moment when Bob was confronted in song by his peers, colleagues, friends and associates.

He was shocked by the surprise, but soon regained his composure, saying "I’m extremely touched. I’m also humbled, I don’t deserve this."

Jack Morris, chairman of the Business Design Centre, was having none of this and in a speech later said Bob was a "one-off", fully deserving every accolade.

Impromptu speeches celebrating Bob’s long contribution to the British bicycle trade were given by the likes of Tour de France commentator and family friend Phil Liggett; luminaries of the Pedal Club and the Pickwick Club; one of his sons, Robert; and the editor of Bikebiz.co.uk, who reminded Bob of a ‘Cycle Industry’ headline he had written at the launch of Bob’s big idea in 1993: ‘Saddam Chicken on the warpath’.

The longest speech was by the person picking up the tab, Jack Morris.

He described the first meeting with Bob in 1993:

"He had this hare-brained idea of running an international bicycle exhibition, or IBEX as he called it. Being great visionaries, we listened politely, thought it’ll never get off the ground, and got back to our business. But we didn’t bargain for Bob. His tenacity and love for the industry is legendary.

"He spent years convincing us and the industry that his vision should become a reality. I think it’s fair to say Cycle 2002 wouldn’t have happened without him. He saw dealers, manufacturers, trade associations, and journalists, and whipped up support. He never gave up, until, as all his friends in this room will understand, his infectious enthusiasm caught on and we all go on board with him.

Turning to Bob, Morris said:

"You are a very special man, a one-off, and tonight we honour and thank you for the contribution you have made to the industry and to us as your friends and colleagues. Everybody in this room has been enriched by knowing you. You have a lot to be proud of and I hope your vim and vigour will continue to inspire us for many years to come."

In the November issue of BicycleBusiness there will be an extended version of this article including a run-through of Bob’s many achievements in the British bicycle trade, a trade he has served since 1947.

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