A lovely article on Roland Hardy, Derbyshire Living Legend, rescued from the archives by Trevor and Linda McDermott brought back to mind a significant moment in the history of the Northern Ten and the Lancashire Walking Club. The Ten Miles Senior Championship had been inaugurated in 1949 and throughout the fifties and into the sixties Sheffield ruled the roost. The first race held in Derby had seen Johnny Proctor victorious in 76 :14, beating surprisingly the mercurial Lol Allen, who himself a fortnight later became national champion in 75 :09 at Leicester. Sheffield United Harriers supplied the first ten men home in the northern championship with their ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams taking first and second with the Derbyshire WC third. Lancashire could only manage fourth. Moving forward to 1966, whilst Ron Wallwork won by a street in 75:29, Sheffield still placed 7 walkers in the first ten, the other two individuals being Guy Goodair and John Paterson from Wakefield, who finished 3rd team behind the red and white hooped ‘A’ and ‘B’ squads. Sheffield’s domination seemed set in stone.
Thus Sheffield were stunned to lose their title in 1967 on a hilly course at Matlock. Indeed such was the surprise that Peter Keeling, the Guardian’s athletic correspondent of the time, wrote a special piece headlined ‘The longest winning streak in any sport comes to an end!’. Led by a rampant Ron Wallwork, who was to become national champion on his home turf a fortnight later and future national coach, Julian Hopkins, Lancashire packed well to pip Sheffield. Our cause was helped by the impressive performances of Guy Goodair, George Barrass, both of Wakefield and the young Phil Bannan from the Isle of Man, which pushed the first Sheffield counter back into sixth place. And in truth, if Roy Thorpe had not been disqualified, it might well have been Wakefield’s quartet bringing Sheffield’s winning sequence to a close! As it was Wakefield wreaked sweet revenge in the National 10 at Bolton beating Lancashire by one point to take the third team, the club’s first championship medals. More were to follow in ensuing years at the longer distances.
1. R. Wallwork [LWC] 75:00 2. Guy Goodair [Wake] 77:43 3. George Barras [Wake] 77:57 4. Julian Hopkins [LWC] 78:15 5. Phil Bannan [Boundary] 78:31 6. Jim Stancer [Sheff] 79:43 7. Arthur Etches [Sheff] 80:16 8. Mick Barker [Sheff] 80:24 9. John Todd [LWC] 10. Jake Warhurst [Sheff] 81:53 11. John Hampshire [Wake] 81:58 12. Mick Greasley [Sheff] 82:45 13. Johnny Proctor [Sheff] 82:59 14. Tony Taylor [LWC] 83:12 15. Harry Wheeler [YWC] 83:44.
Teams 1. LWC 25 2. Sheff UH 29 3. Wakefield 47 46 started 4DQ.
Obviously Sheffield were not going to take this rebuff to their prestige lightly, which is where Roland Hardy returned to centre stage. As you might have gleaned from the 1967 result Sheffield had already persuaded the 1949 winner, Johnny Proctor to return to the fold. Roland was soon to follow. In 1968 once more in the picturesque village of Holloway, near Matlock the Sheffield ‘old guard’ led by the rising star Jake Warhurst hit back with a vengeance. From somewhere Roland Hardy produced a sub-75 minute performance to finish second. Although Lancashire placed 4 in the top ten their inspirational leader Ron Wallwork endured a disappointing race in what was to be a frustrating and traumatic Olympic year. With Mick Greasley and Proctor dipping under 80 minutes Sheffield regained their trophy by a single point. Normal service had been resumed.
1. Jake Warhurst [Sheff] 73:51 2. Roland Hardy [Sheff] 74:44 3. Phil Bannan [Boundary] 75:58 4. Roy Thorpe [Wake] 76:35 5. Ron Wallwork [LWC] 77:24 6. Don Warren [LWC] 78:23 7. George Barras [Wake] 78:39 8. Tony Taylor [LWC] 78 :49 9. Mike Hatton [LWC] 78:55 10. Mick Greasley [Sheff] 79:26 11. Guy Goodair [Wake] 79:30 12. Johnny Proctor [Sheff] 79:37 13. John Eddershaw [Sheff] 79:57 14. Arthur Etches [Sheff] 79:59 15. Julian Hopkins [LWC] 80:14
Teams 1 Sheffield UH 23 2. LWC 24 3. Wakefield 47 54 finishers
However the tables were to be turned again in 1969 at Sutton Macclesfield on what was described in the Race Walking Record as ‘a rather stiff course’. Jake Warhurst continued to cement his reputation with a clear victory over the chasing Lancastrian duo of Tony Taylor and Ron Wallwork, the former recording one of his few successes over his illustrious team-mate. As it was this race signaled Ron’s emergence from the post-Mexico doldrums on the way to a remarkable season in 1971 – but that’s a story for another day. And for the Lancashire team itself this win pointed to one of its finest moments, a national team title – and again that’s another tale to tell. What was telling on the day was the absence of Sheffield’s stalwarts of perhaps its golden age. The Yorkshire club was never to achieve such heights of dominance again.
1. Jake Warhurst [Sheff] 74:20 2. Tony Taylor [LWC] 76:10 3. Ron Wallwork [LWC] 76:34 4. Roy Thorpe [Wake] 76:47 5. Phil Bannan [Boundary] 76:52 6. Guy Goodair [Wake] 77:47 7. Phil Etches [Sheff] 78:15 8. Dave Vickers [LWC] 79:10 9. Don Warren [LWC] 79:31 10. Mick Barker [Sheff] 80:39 11. George Barras [Wake] 81:05 12. Jeff Ford [Sheff] 81:22 13. Arthur Etches [Sheff] 81:31 14. Mick Holmes [Yorks WC] 81:49 15. John Grayson [Wake] 82:17.
Teams 1.LWC ‘A’ 20 2. Sheffield UH ‘A’ 27 3. Wakefield 33. 46 Finishers
As I pen these reminiscences it is upsetting to hear that the Northern Senior 10, a classic race in its time, might be withdrawn from the calendar. Only five walkers started the race a few weeks ago.