Sincere thanks to Ron Wallwork for his latest historical offering
LANCASHIRE WALKING CLUB: OUR TEAM SUCCESS ON THE NATIONAL STAGE
On the club Website in mid August Tony Taylor made reference to 1970 and how successful that year was for the Club which could boast the colllecting of team medals in all six national championships, two of them being gold.
The years either side were also fairly successful; Two runner-up medals in 1959 which served notice of Lancashire’s potential and three in 1971 as the club past its zenith.
With the help of “The Sport of Race Walking”, Race Walking Record and the NUTS booklet No16 “WALKS” I discovered that the Club’s first national team medal (which was three to score) may well have been in the 1936 national 50km at Derby which was also the Olympic trial race. LWC took the bronze team medals behind Belgrave H and Surrey WC, whilst Joe Hopkins 4.31.01 took the individual silver behind Harold Whitlock 4.30.28. Harold went on to a great victory in Berlin, but Joe had the misfortune to be ill in the days leading up to the race.
Lancashire WC gained another bronze in the 1938 50km championship staged at Bradford which probably accounted for the considerably slower times than those registered in 1936. Harold Whitlock 4.43.01 won again with Joe Hopkins 5th 4.45.51 on this occasion. Belgrave H were the winners again and it was Leicester WC who finished second.
So far I’ve been unable to discover who the scorers were in these two pre-war championships, but results from the early 1940’s show that the likes of the O’Neill brothers Jim and Frank, John McCormick and Dick Smith were prominent in club and open events, so could well have been Joe’s back-up men.
It was a thirty year wait before the Juniors made their first contribution to the tally, with a third place performance behind Belgrave H and Steyning AC. In 1958 with a number of yougsters turning out on a regular basis, the club entered and met the travel costs to the national Junior 5 championship at Vauxhall Motors, Luton. A year later they returned from the same championship held at Wembley with the runner-up medals. Charlie Norton (58), Alan Hall (59) along with Fred Pearce and myself were the scorers.
In 1960 the Juniors went close to making it three national medal collections in consecutive years, finishing fourth in their championship, and although fielding senior teams in the national 10 and 20 miles, the sixties started with a blank year.
1961 Silver medals in the 10 miles at Leicester and the 50km at Sheffield was the haul . In alphabetical order the scorers were: Charlie Colman (50k), Mike Jeffreys (10m/50k) Jack Sankey (10m/50k) John Todd (10m/50k) and myself (10m).
The club had individual representation at nationals in the ensuing five years; 34 different walkers, but its record of fielding teams in the championships was patchy to say the least. Only nine out of seventeen senior and one out of ten junior/youth championships were contested.
Contrast that with the next five years when 55 walkers turned out in nineteen of 20 senior and nine out of ten junior/youth championships and collected a 14 medal haul, including two national senior wins and a junior 5 victory, along with nine top six finishes.
1967 Following a fourth place in the national 10 at Bolton, it was down to East Ewell, Surrey where in an over-distance 20km championship Julian Hopkins, John Todd and Mike Hatton backed up my individual winning performance and secured the team silver medal behind Trowbridge AC. The same four repeated another silver medal collection in the national 20 miles staged at Redditch.
1968 The club’s first ever medal in the national youth 3 mile championship. A silver medal was secured at Manchester by Steve Crowe who was also the individual runner-up, David Ward and D.Platt. Although the seniors didn’t manage a podium finish, in their four championships, they were there or thereabouts closing in the top six in three of them.
1969 Four finishes in the top six by the seniors, one of them being second place in the 20km held at Gomersall where myself, Dave Vickers, Tony Taylor and Don Warren were the scorers and another silver in the junior 5 miles at Bromsgrove by Chris Eyre, Steve Crowe and Mick Entwistle.
1970 The big year! Six championships contested – six team medals won, two of them for victories! Twelve walkers constituted the six teams. In alphabetical order they were K.Brewster (J) Steve Crowe (J), R.Edwards (J), Mick Entwistle (J/S), Chris Eyre (J/S), Julian Hopkins, Tony Malone (J/S), B.Sephton (J), Tony Taylor, Dave Vickers, Don Warren and myself. Significant statistics are that nineteen other walkers competed in the nationals that year, and in the 10 miles and 20km the club had closed in “B” teams.
1971 Early successes by the seniors with silver and bronze in the national 10 miles and 20km, the scorers being Tony Taylor, Dave Vickers, David Ward and myself, whilst Tony Malone in third place led Mike Fishwick and Steve Crowe to victory in the national Junior 5 miles.
1972 The junior championship was held in Birmingham and a Boys 2 miles was added to the programme. It was well supported with 56 starters making up 12 teams. Chris Bolton’s son Warren in fifth place supported by P.Percival and R.Allison finished third team behind Bromsgrove & Redditch and Leicester WC.
Thereafter it was a long forty-year wait during which time massive societal change had taken place and with it the sporting world. Amateurism bowed out, the Olympic 50km had been dropped and reinstated. A succession of rule changes tampering with the ‘definition’ only served to support the anti-walking lobby’s view that the discipline was unjudgable. The final definition agreed upon had a devastating effect on numbers participating domestically in the event. Ironically, globally there had been a huge increase in the number of countries and competitors.
The result was that a century after two Lancashire WC members Bobby Bridge and Thomas Dumbill were competing in the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games, the championship the domestic programme was unrecognisable. The oldest championship the 20 miles first raced in 1912 and which from the late 70’s fluctuated between 30 and 35 km was eventually put to rest in 2004. The 10 miles having been discarded for a decade and resurected was finally terminated in 2014, thus leaving only the 20 and 50km’s which were attracting woefully small fields. Team composition rules changed to accommodate the new circumstances.
Clubs with great race walking traditions have disappeared or are now unrecognisable ie. Sheffield United Harriers who dominated northern walking and was a national force in the 1950’s and 1960’s. It is therefore quite an achievement that Lancashire Walking Club still operates, promoting club races, supporting open races and have fairly recently won the RWA National 50km titles; in 2014 and 2015, the scorers being Dave Crompton 2014/15), Greg Smith (2014), Roy Gunnett (2015) and Adrian Edwards (2015). Adrian also had the satisfaction of an individual win and Dave an individual bronze in 2014.
In summary, since 1938 Lancashire walking Club has won a total 22 RWA national team medals:
Five Gold: 3 senior / 2 junior – Eleven Silver: 8 senior / 3 Junior – Six Bronze: 3 senior / 3 Junior
This is a snapshot of performances in the RWA national team championships and though the 32 scorers have been named in this piece, I have a list of names that show that this was only a third of the number that carried the Red Rose club colours all over the country throughout the eight decades.
This composition is about the club’s national team performances which is only a fraction of Lancashire Walking Club’s history. What about Northern championships, the classic Opens, the weekly club races and the individuals, not forgetting the officials who have ensured that the club exists today? . . . . Well! that’s several more stories
Ron Wallwork, email@example.com – November 2020
Ron would be delighted to be made aware of any errors, receive relevant information ie. Christian names or the loan of photographs.