The Reverend Canon John Oates, who lived from May 14th 1930 to May 25th 2023, was the Founder of the 59 Club.
A remembrance service was held on June 23rd 2023 at St Bride’s Church in London’s Fleet Street. Canon Oates was the Rector of St Bride’s from 1984 to 2000. As the St Bride’s management notes in the introduction to the film of the service — click on the link below — Canon Oates had an “instinctive enthusiasm to do the right thing”.
Setting up the 59 Club in 1959 was an example of doing the right thing for the disadvantaged boys and girls who lived around St Mary of Eton Church. The 59 Club was just one of many church-sponsored youth clubs. The ‘Nine had various sections catering to different interests. In 1962, the Club set up its Motorcycle Section, which was first run by Father Wiliam Shergold and then by Graham Hullett.
Father Graham welcomed tough Ton-Up Boys and Girls and would later welcome the so-called outlaw bikers of the Road Rats MC and the first English Hells Angels. Fr Hullett’s inclusive policy respected the ethos imposed by Canon Oates but led to Father Graham’s departure from the 59 Club.
The 59 Club would also airbrush Canon John Oates out of club history after Oates distanced himself from the management. Most of the obituaries honouring Oates made no mention of his part in the history of the 59 Club, whose motorcycle section was revived in the late 1980s as The 59 Club Classic Section,
This initiative was inspired by the Rocker revival, which owed much to ex-Chelsea Bridge Boy Lenny Patterson’s Rockers’ Reunion Runs from Chelsea Bridge to Brighton.