We’ve received the following message from Maurice Ireland, which reveals two touching and humorous stories related to his entry into the ranks of the Lancashire Walking Club.
As a past Chairman & President of LWC I join with all who have congratulated Fred on his elevation to RWA President; he has worked tirelessly for many years both for our club and the sport, it is a well deserved honour and I am sure Fred Senior is looking down with great pride and joy.
My membership of the club goes back to about 1960 and I have many photographs etc. so if I can help them please let me know. My initial involvement with the sport and LWC is from 1954; at that time we lived on Bolton Road, Pendlebury and my father had regaled me with stories of his involvement with the Club and how he competed in such races as the Manchester to Blackpool in the late 1920s; unfortunately he was diagnosed with silicosis when he was 33 years of age which brought an end to his athletic career. However, on a particular night in 1954 I was “dragged” from my bed by my most excited father who had spotted race walkers going past our shop and found that the Manchester to Blackpool and back (100 miles) race was in progress. He had set up a feed station and I was directed to assist by running to meet approaching walkers, determine their “needs”, run back then deliver as he prepared them, this continued for some hours. The weather was atrocious, it rained continuously and needless to say it did not attract me to the sport but, I did admire the fortitude and competitive spirit along with the camaraderie of the many people I met throughout the night. Also, from the records I think you will find that Joe Lambert qualified as a centurion in this event. As far as I was concerned, this was my first and last involvement with the “daft beggars” who wished to inflict such agonies on themselves.
[ Maurice is indeed right about the weather conditions. The Record reported that ‘ the first few miles were along the sea-front. In normal conditions this would have been very pleasant, especially as vast crowds of holiday-makers would have cheered the walkers on their way. On the occasion of the race the sea-front was deserted, the roads were under water, there was heavy rain and great winds shoreward blew. As a result the competitors were drenched and chilled to the bone before they had covered the first few miles. The rain continued for thirteen hours and resulted in the 42 starters being gradually reduced to 20.’ Joe Lambert did become Centurion No. 223, finishing in 21:44:00, just behind Albert Rigby, the stalwart of Sutton Macclesfield, walking in that club’s colours , Centurion No. 222. Further up the field the club welcomed two other new Centurions, George J.Birchall, No. 220, dead-heating incredibly with his father [?], George P. Birchall in 19:32:27 and T.M.L. Dally, No. 221 in 20:37:19. To complete the picture the last man was E.E.Riddell of Lancashire, yet another new Centurion, No. 228 in 23:20:27. The race was won by Vic Stone [Polytechnic Harriers] in an impressive 17:22:26, well over an hour ahead of the second-placed John Hartley [Sheffield U.H.]. Lancashire dominated the team race. All of the finishers were clearly daft, but indomitable beggars.]
However, and as if predestined, my fate was sealed; in 1960 whilst returning from an engineering training course (old GPO) a person by the name of Chris Bolton, travelling in the same car, was prattling on about how he had raced in the Manchester to Blackpool event. I joined the conversation by stating that my father had also done that event and on how I had assisted in the “100”; I think Chris was a little taken aback by finding that I was aware of the sport and such events. Shortly after this meeting Chris and me were sent to work in the same telecoms centre and I frequently heard stories about his recent races; this gave me the opportunity to pull his leg about race walking and how anybody could walk at the speed of 6 miles in an hour. However, and as you would expect, Chris planned his revenge, one particular day he set me up in front of our colleagues to the point where he said that I could not walk 6 miles in the hour as I was boasting, obviously I laughed at him until he said that he had entered me on the next Saturday afternoon to compete at Worsley with LWC; I was trapped. Needless to say I had to turn out, but I am very proud of the fact that I did manage to beat the hour (by 30 seconds) and was awarded the 6 Miles in the Hour badge from the RWA; this was the start of my race walking career and thanks to Chris, many, many hours of superb sports involvement.