The January ‘Frank O’Neill’ Club Virtual 3k
Taking our cue from John and Helen’s initiative in commemorating great race walkers within the Virtual 2k Series I thought it would be fitting if each of our monthly races drew attention to stalwarts from the past.
The first of these is Frank O’Neill, for years the club’s meticulously organised Secretary, in keeping with someone who was the bursar of the Padgate Teacher Training College. Given the tragic loss of many of our club records the first mention of Frank is to be found in the July 1942 Race Walking Record, unearthed by Ron Wallwork. He was 19th in the 40th Bradford and County Walk on May 29th. I suspect my first encounter with Frank was on October 6th, 1953 at the Hindley Green Labour Club, where a 6 miles club race was won by Joe Barraclough in 46:50. In addition my dad, Alf Taylor organised a couple of races for aspiring youngsters. At the age of 6 I was 3rd in the 3/4 mile event for 6-8 year olds and amazingly still have the medal to prove it!
By the early 1960’s Frank was undoubtedly for me a key figure, particularly as his wonderful Edwardian terraced house in Worsley was a second club headquarters, the enormous bay-windowed front room on the third floor being our changing facility. Every year the club’s 6 miles in the Hour Badge event was held from the house on an out and back course, followed by tea and luscious scones baked by Mary, Frank’s gentle wife. More significantly, especially across the winter, a Tuesday evening training session was held in the dark[!] on the very same roads. Today the halfway point on the way there and back is a frantic roundabout access to and exit from a spaghetti junction of motorways. Nowadays you could be stuck there for longer than it took to complete the 6 miles race1
By chance I could get to Frank’s from Leigh on the Number 26 service to Manchester so when possible I seized the chance. This said I must admit that my motivation was not altogether athletic. I was infatuated with Frank’s two beautiful daughters. Hence I only left the house, its warm, cosy dining kitchen and its two adorable occupants as the last bus home drew up outside!
Frank was never an outstanding athlete but his contribution to the club was enormous. He went about his business unassumingly yet ‘professionally’, especially in his role as timekeeper and recorder in the later years. All of us owe a deep debt of gratitude to Frank for his unsung contribution across the decades to the health and vitality of our great club.
Ron Wallwork writes:
This piece rekindled many happy memories. We didn’t realise at the time just how much Frank and so many others put into the club. I’ve come across some of them in results from 1913 (Sam Morgan), and early 1920’s (Joe Lambert).
Frank’s home was also an easy trip for me too, because it was on the No 12 Bolton / Manchester route and stopped almost opposite his house.
My first visit to Worsley Road was 6th December 1958 for a 10 miles handicap which was won by Matt Clarke 71.22 (in his 70’s I think) off 42.20 from Jack Sankey 74.10 off 5.00 and Bob Turnbull 74.47 off 20.00.
It must have been a short course because Jack and I went under 80 mins and we weren’t that good at that time.
Also of note: Frank qualified as Centurion 136 in the 1947 London – Brighton race the 7th Club member to do so.
Roy Gunnett writes:
Drawing on Harold Ogden’s file the address of the Edwardian terraced was 294 Worsley Road. Evidently Frank had a distinguished war record, serving as a Quarter Master Sergeant with the Intelligence Corps in Holland and Belgium. Apparently he was known for giving away whatever rations he could to the poor children of those countries. There were three daughters, Irene, Kathryn and Wynne.
Any other memories of Frank gratefully received and will be added.
THE FRANK O’NEILL 3 KILOMETRES VIRTUAL RACE
- Tony Taylor 16:36
- Marco Bernatzki 18:59 [G]
- Graham Jackson 19:00 [G]
- Tony Bell 19:43
- Greg Smith 19:49
- Denis Jackson 19:52 [G]
- Dave Evans 19:56
- Martin Payne 19:57
- Roy Gunnett 20:00
- Ian Hilditch 20:08
- Pat Evans 20:15
- Joe Hardy 20:50
- Glyn Jones 22:04 [G]
- Andrea Lennon 25:52
- Roy Gunnett 20:00 ; 4:30 ; 15:30
- Ian Hilditch 20:08; 4:35; 15:33
- Marco Bernatzki 18:59; 3:25; 15:34 [G]
- Martin Payne 19:57; 4:10; 15:47
- Graham Jackson 19:00; 3:10; 15:50 [G]
- Pat Evans 20:15; 4:05; 16:10
- Andrea Lennon 25:52; 9:35; 16:17
- Tony Bell 19:43; 3;25; 16:18
- Joe Hardy 20:50; 4:15; 16:35
- Tony Taylor 16:36; 0;00; 16:36
- Denis Jackson 19:52; 3:15; 16:37 [G]
- Glyn Jones 22:04; 5:05; 16:59 [G]
- Dave Evans 19;56; 2:10; 17;46
- Greg Smith 19:49; 1:00; 18:49