This account of the opening period in the life of our club appeared in the 1967/68 Year Book, price one shilling!
THE FIRST THIRTY YEARS [PART ONE]
Shortly after the turn of the century there was a great surge of interest in Race Walking throughout the country, and the county of Lancashire was proving to be quite a ‘hot-bed’ for the sport. there were several races promoted in the area during this period, and eventually, after some three years or so, a small group of Lancashire business men decided to form a walking club. It was in fact in the early days of 1904 that these men held a meeting at the Peak Hotel, Manchester, and formed the LANCASHIRE AMATEUR WALKING CLUB.
The newly formed club wasted no time in getting to work and on 16th April, 1904, promoted a 50 miles open scratch and sealed handicap race around north Cheshire. There were thirty entries for the race and among the stars it attracted was the national champion, Jack Butler. The refreshments provided for the contestants are worthy of note. the programme stated that “Oxo provided gratis, refreshments without waiting: Oxo athletes’ flasks containing: Oxo ready for consumption while walking, Oxo hot and cold, Oxo and soda, Oxo and champagne, rice pudding made of eggs and milk and rice, cheese, butter, biscuits, bananas, apples, brandy, whisky, champagne, eau-de-cologne and sponges” . . . . . . . . what more could a walker want!
The succeeding three and a half years saw several more successful events staged by the club. However, a meeting which took place at the Sherwood Hotel, Fallowfield, Manchester, on the 7th November, 1907, the club was reconstituted and the LANCASHIRE WALKING CLUB was born. “Inaugurated for the encouragement and pastime of walking”, and the motto chosen was “Health the first wealth”.
The very first President the club had was a local M.P., Mr. A.A. Howarth, who was later to become Sir A.A. Howarth. Two of the most consistent performers of that time, A.R. Edwards and W.J. Jackson were elected as Honorary Secretary and Treasurer respectively. The latter who became known to everyone as Bill was to remain a prominent figure in northern athletic circles until his death in 1965.
With typical Lancashire industry the club was quick of the mark, organising a thirteen and a half miles open handicap race. The scratch man for this event, which took place on Wednesday the 1st January, 1908, was J.W.E. Bennett the club champion, who was also at the time the reigning Northern Counties 2 miles champion. Since then, in organisation and promotion of events the Lancashire Walking Club has a very proud record indeed. The most famous promotion of the club is of course the Manchester to Blackpool Walk.
This race was first held in 1908, when there were 14 entries. The winner on that occasion was the “mighty atom”, Tom Payne, a truly wonderful walker. He went on to win the event on six other occasions: 1908-09-10-11, and 1919 and 1920. great as this feat was, it was equalled, if not surpassed by T.W. Green, who won the race six times in succession: 1929-34. In his triumph over a course of fifty miles, he set the remarkable time of 7 hours 39 minutes 30 seconds. Since then this race has attracted over the years many illustrious performers, and this testifies to the esteem with which walkers themselves hold the event.
The 1914-18 war caused havoc with everything, and walking was no exception, but strenuous efforts were made during this time to keep the sport alive. Numerous races were organised with special prizes for servicemen stationed or living in the area, and thanks to the wonderful efforts of the club officials at that time, it was not until May 1916 that activities had to be suspended. [To be continued.]
Thanks to Ron Wallwork for digging out the original and Marilyn Taylor for typing up this version for the site.