The man who astonished the Duke of Cambridge.

Martin Diederick RUCKER


Martin Rucker was baptised on the 3rd of May 1855 at West Hackney, the son of Martin Diederich Rucker and Mary Wilton[3]. His grandfather also bore the same name, the middle name being spelt Diederich or Diederick (Diederich on the marriage certificates), and sometimes as Dietrich/k.
He married at Blackfriars – Martin Diederick Rucker only son of Martin Diederich Rucker of Croydon to Emmie Lottie the eldest surviving daughter of Allen Page Nicholls.[2]

Martin was with the 26th Middlesex Regt., the forerunner to the 25th London.

  • 26th Middlesex (Cyclist) Volunteer Corps-Captain Percy Hughes Hewitt, Reserve of Officers, late Captain 6th Dragoon Guards, to be Major, F. P. Fletcher Vane, Esq., late Lieut. Scots Guards, to be Captain. The undermentioned gents to be Lieutenants, Tom de Bruno Holmes, Martin Diedrich Rucker, Robert Edward Phillips, to date April 1st, 1888.”
    [London Gazette – 24th February, 1888]
  • A story, however, may be told which will show that there was a time when our Commander-in-Chief had his doubts of the efficacy of cycles being adapted for military purposes this happened in 1887, the first appearance of military wheelmen at Dover. Some two or three miles from the seaport town there is a picturesque little village called Keursney, and amongst its sights is a particularly steep hill leading to St. Radigund’s Abbey. The Duke chanced to pass where the military cyclists were congregated together, and approaching the officer in command, good-humouredly looking up at the hill, his Royal Highness said, Well, I’ve no doubt your men are a capable body, but I question Whether any cyclist could possibly mount that hill-.” Now it so happened that there was a very fast rider present, an exceptionally powerful man on wheels, Mr. M. D. Rucker. This little fact the commanding officer knew, and asked the Duke for permission to put his remarks to the test; this was readily granted, and away Mr. Rucker went on his machine, the Duke himself watching him for a considerable distance until at last he rode away himself. Some time passed by, when again the cyclist body found itself near to the Duke: once more riding up, he asked, “Is that man back yet?” when our smart cyclist immediately stepped up with a salute, and said, “Yes; sir, here I am.” We are probably right in saying that this was the foundation of the Duke’s faith in utilising cyclists for military purposes, as having sent a horseman with him, at the first six-barred gate, which was locked, the cyclist lifted his machine over, leaving the unfortunate “galloper ” behind, his horse refusing to take the gate.
    [The Strand Magazine – Vol. 2, No.7, July – Dec 1891, pgs 31-38.]
  • Rucker was an amateur trick rider, besides being an ex-champion, and he it was who astonished the Duke of Cambridge, subsequently, by his success in riding across country on a cycle.
    [‘The London Cyclist Battalion‘ by the Old Comrades Assoc. 1932]

Rucker was also involved in the early  manufacture of bicycles :-

  • 1882 – BSA made 65 tricycles for Messrs. M. D. Rucker and Co. of London; the tricycle was known as “The Rucker”.[1]
  • 1884 The Company introduced possibly the first tandem cycle that bears resemblance to todays tandem bicycles, be that the two wheels were much larger, being 56” in diameter.”One of the strangest looking machines, both wheels are large and of the same size and support a stout bar, at the extremities of which the two riding saddles are placed. Each rider has a separate steering apparatus, and thus the hindermost rider is not obliged to run in the track of the leader.
    [Leeds Mercury Friday 07 March 1888]
    It is this machine that todays early bicycle enthusiasts relate to in connection with the Rucker Company although they offered for sale Ordinaries and Tricycles as well.

John Player cigarette card No.13 from their 1939 set shows a Rucker Tandem, a painting or painted photograph of the large photo above. The following is written on the reverse of the card . . . ‘The earliest effort at tandem bicycle construction was made by M. D. Rucker about 1884. It consisted of two Ordinary driving wheels with the backbone of the front wheel joined to the steering head of the rear wheel As is apparent from the design, it was unsatisfactory and called for an acrobatic degree of skill to balance the machine. Only a few were made but it lingered longer as a type in America and Germany than in this country.’ [1]

Rucker made another tandem, probably the first practical machine of this type. In a paper on “Construction of Cycles” read before the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1885, Mr. R. E. Phillips says, “This tandem bicycle … eclipses the earlier, and bids fair to prove the fastest cycle yet produced. The weight is only 55lbs, and it is, therefore, the lightest machine yet mad to carry two riders.”
[‘Bicycles & Tricycles: A Classic Treatise on Their Design and Construction’ by Archibald Sharp 1977]

Other sources :-
[1] Grace’s Guide is the leading source of information about industry and manufacturing in Britain from the start of the Industrial Revolution to the present time.
[2] London Standard – Wednesday 26 May 1880.
[3] Parish Register [Ancestry.co.uk]

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