You will find below a few photos from Eric Crompton’s bottom drawer. Simply receiving them from Dave, his son, poses the question of whether the title of our web site ought to be ‘Race Walking in Lancashire’? Whilst the Lancashire Walking Club has been the dominant name in the county a number of other clubs have been significant, notably the Leyland Motors Athletic Club, Leigh Harriers, Bolton United Harriers and albeit briefly Blackburn Athletic Club. Over the coming months it will be interesting to tease out the relationship between these clubs.
For the moment these images hint at the independent role played by the Leyland Club in the decades after the Second World War. Any materials pertaining to the history of the club, a child of the philanthropic period when major employers such as Leyland Motors provided a range of social, cultural and sporting facilities for their workers, would be greatly appreciated. For example the Leyland Motors Brass Band was in its time justly famous. I wonder when the walking club was formed. Are there any records of its history?
Apologies re the amount of space around the photos. Need to sort this out.
In the Leyland Five photo Dave Vickers leads out with Eric on his left. Note the big turnout from Sheffield with Jake Warhurst on the extreme right and a young Peter Ryan, still competing, on the extreme left.
Leyland Motors Athletic Club was formed in 1926 as one of the sections of LMSAC which was founded in 1919. The instigator and first secretary was former 1924 Olympian Jack Higginson who was a triple jumper competing for Preston Harriers. The athletic club did not have a walking section at this time but at the annual Leyland Motors a Sports exhibition and Lancashire Championship walking races were held on a grass track. In the 1940’s the Sports included a one mile walking race and the regular winner was George Lamb who became a member of Lancashirewalking Club in the early 50’s and made his mark in the Manchester -Blackpool Walk.George had ceased working for the Motors and therefore was not allowed to compete . In the early 50’s. The athletic section was in abeyance on the leaving of Jack Higginson to form Preston AC. Jack took with him several of the former Leyland Motors members whilst others joined Preston Harriers. Among these were Joe Billington and Dick Ditchfield who decided to try out race walking. Then in 1955 John Burns revived the athletic club at Leyland Motors and set up a walking section with Lamb, Ditchfield, Billington and Teddy Sharp who had completed several Manchester -Blackpool walks between them. Then in 1957 the club which had already hosted several Lancashire Walking Club fixtures were asked to hold the National 50Km championships which was won by the great Don Thompson on a very hilly course. Although Leyland Motors was a huge employee there were few who were interested in athletics. At this time the club had fewer than 20 members at any one time. Several athletes like Billington, Derrick, Brian Howarth, Kenny Clark, Dave Adams, Rodney Flanagan and myself Edward Almond competed in cross country, road races and track and field events. However the major successes in walking came in the Manchester-Blackpool walk between 1957 and 1964. Due to a variety of circumstances the club declined so by 1969 it had virtually ceased to exist. The annual Sports Day had fallen by the wayside and there was no interest from the apprentices or older sister employees. Of the team that walked in the 1960’s five were associate members and not employed at the Motor Works as the club had relaxed its closed shop policy. The club needed a saviour and that came in the form of Ivor Percival who had left the Police Force and was now working at Leyland Motors. This was in 1970 and the club was revived as a purely Walking Club. I took part in two races in that year but had give up to family and work commitments plus I had developed a “knackered” back. The story from 1970 can be better told by the star performer of the club in the early 1970’s Eric Crompton. A more detailed history of the athletic section and the Sports Days can be found in the ‘Lailand Chronicle” the magazine of Leyland Historical Society.
Edward – Many thanks for your historical notes posted here as a comment – enormously appreciated. If it’s ok with you I’d like to put them up as a new post so hopefully more folk will see them.
Have you by chance any photos of Leyland walkers?
Hoping you’re in good fettle,
Tony at email@example.com
Tony please accept my apologies for not replying sooner but my technological skills are poor and I was surprised when my info on Leyland Motors was received. I have no problems with you using the data as you feel appropriate. I do have a few photos but am unable to scan them but if I have your address I can forward photocopies.
With best regards Edward