I’ve been remiss in not using immediately a number of recollections from Ron Wallwork, who was the key figure in the transformation of the club’s fortunes in the 1960s and 70s. To set the ball rolling here is a collage of images and a report with additional comments from myself.
1, The picture of Jack Tempest, of which I still have a copy, throws up the fascinating contradiction posed by Ron. I first met Jack in 1953. I was six and he was a handsome and engaging seventy-three, an age I have now reached. He was seen as remarkable. And I suspect Jack saw himself as remarkable – hence the signed photograph. Today the club is composed of stalwarts many older than Jack, who clock times beyond his dreams.
2. And, yet, neither Jack in his time nor today’s veterans could ever be the basis of a prosperous future. The other three images reveal that the club prospered with the infusion of new blood, symbolised by Ron’s arrival in 1958. The fresh-faced trio in the bottom right hand corner, Bob Towell, Mike Hatton and Ron were putting the club on the national map.
3. By 1966, Ron’s Commonwealth Gold had enhanced further our reputation and the makeup of the club’s membership was changing. This shift is reflected in the report on the Leigh Harriers Open Five Miles held in that year. The piece pays tribute to veterans such as 76 year old Matt Clark, fourth on two occasions in the Blackpool walk and Dick Rattigan, recently retired from the pit at the age of 65. At the same time it hails my victory as a local 19 year old in 39:36 chased home 42 seconds later by Mick Entwistle, a mere 17 years of age. In passing the reporter reveals that I raced against a doctor’s advice following a midweek car crash. For the life of me I can’t remember the incident at all. A tall story, perchance!
4. 1970 witnessed us winning the McSweeney Trophy as the best overall club in the country, a success impossible without the flowering of a talented group of youngsters. Thus we finished teams in all the relevant championships.
National Youths 3 miles – 7th [Coombs, Fagg and Platt]
Nationa Junior 5 miles – 2nd [Eyre, Crow, Entwistle and Malone]
National 10 miles – 2nd [Wallwork, Taylor, Vickers and Hopkins]
National 20 kilometres – 1st [Wallwork, Eyre, Taylor and Hopkins]
National 20 miles – 2nd [Wallwork, Hopkins, Taylor and Warren]
National 50 kilometres – 3rd [Wallwork, Taylor, Hopkins and Entwistle]
In terms of the impact of youth it’s worth noting that in the Youth and Junior Championships held later in 1970, which contributed to the 1971 overall competition, we did even better,
National Youth 3 miles – 3rd [Sephton, Brewster and Edwards]
National Junior 5 miles – 1st [Malone, Entwistle and Crow]
Tony Malone finished 3rd behind Olly Flynn and Mick Holmes, earning this praise from the legendary ‘Tebbs’ Lloyd Johnson in his regular column in the Race Walkng Record.
The lad who took my eye above all others as indeed he did earlier in the year at Leicester was Tony Malone from Lancashire. He is a real stylist and a treat to watch.