Cyclists taking on Northern Ireland to Kettering challenge in memory of rugby stalwart John

They've already raised thousands of pounds

By Sam Wildman
Wednesday, 7th July 2021, 6:00 am
The cyclists are preparing to take on the challenge.

A group of cyclists will ride from Northern Ireland to Kettering in just five days in memory of a rugby stalwart who died from lung cancer.

John Chapman, who coached the sport and was involved in Kettering Rugby Club's social side, died aged 72 in April last year.

He was supported by Age UK Northamptonshire's end-of-life team and now his sons Chris and Aidan, as well as their cousins and friends, will be cycling hundreds of miles to raise money for them to say thank you.

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John Chapman

They're setting off from Portrush on Monday (July 12) and will cycle about 100 miles a day, finishing at Kettering's Waverley Road rugby ground on Saturday (July 17) afternoon.

A fundraising page has already raised more than £6,000 and Chris, 35, said: "The support we've had has been incredible and words can't really do it justice.

"We really appreciate everyone's generosity and I'm sure the charity will be just as appreciative."

Hard-working John, known as JC by many, enjoyed a pint and riding motorbikes and was known for smoking a pipe.

In his memory his relatives will take on a route with places of significance to them, starting in Northern Ireland where their mum's family hail from. They visited a lot as youngsters and made more recent trips to watch motorbike races. They'll also be taking in The Harbour Bar - John's favourite place for a drop of Guinness.

The group were originally planning to ride to Dublin before going over to Holyhead and through Snowdonia, but had to change their route because of Covid restrictions.

Now they're going around the coast to Belfast and over to Liverpool, before heading to the Yorkshire Dales.

Then they're riding down to Holmfirth where Last of the Summer Wine was filmed - a show John loved.

Chris, who lives in Desborough, said: "He always had it on the TV. We always used to joke that him and his two mates were Compo, Cleggy and Foggy."

The group will then be riding through the Peak District and spending their last night near Sudbury before heading to the finish line at Kettering Rugby Club, a fitting end.

Chris, a Weetabix engineer, said: "Me and my brother started rugby at the age of six and four and the club has been our second home.

"I'm still part of the vets' team and coach my son in the under sevens.

"It's always been a family affair for us and my dad was a huge part of that."

The cyclists have been training hard and Chris has covered more than 3,000 miles on his bike this, with 177,000 ft of climbing - the equivalent of 40 climbs of Ben Nevis.

Money raised will go towards the Northamptonshire charity branch, with a small amount going towards a memorial bench.

And Chris said he will always be grateful to the charity for the care they gave to his dad.

He said: "They made it as comfortable for my dad as they could and they were just incredible really, especially given we were in the early stages of the pandemic.

"The care they put in place was second to none."

To donate to the cause, visit the fundraising page at