Macclesfield in the rain – Lol Allen triumphs in the 1951 National 10 miles

As we bemoan the unfortunate cancellation of our recent race at Macclesfield it’s fascinating to recollect the staging of the National 10 miles championships over seventy years ago in the very same town. Roy Gunnett has unearthed this Pathe News gem, which records Lol Allen’s hat-trick of wins, the third achieved in soaking Cheshire weather.

A few observations you might find of interest.

  • The folk in the cinema must have chuckled at the presenter’s comment, ‘there’s only one rule – one foot must be at all times in contact with the ground. Of course, if it’s the same foot you won’t get very far!’
  • Jim Hackwood’s report on the race in the Race Walking Record is so faded it wouldn’t copy but he pays tribute to the organisational prowess of the Sutton Walking Club. So too in those times, it must have been quite difficult to travel to Macclesfield from the Midlands and South on the day of the race.
  • Jim’s report reveals also that Roland Hardy, Lol Allen’s great rival was disqualified at the 6 miles point.
  • On the film, I think the walker at the turning point is Keith French of Sheffield but he does not appear in the results.
  • Twenty years later George Chaplin [Coventry Godiva], who finished 55th. was still stylishly contesting the lead in major races.

From a Lancashire point of view Harold Harwood and George Lamb were our first counters with the wonderfully eccentric Matt Clarke bringing up the rear. in June Matt finished next to last in the Blackpool clocking a time of 11:18:19. This was Matt’s usual position, whatever the distance but it never put him off. To the best of my memory, he raced always in a formal collared shirt! Not to forget that the starting pistol for the championship was in Jack Tempest’s hand.

Chris Bolton gets in touch with this lovely anecdote.

Thanks for the memories, particularly of Matt Clarke.  You and I remember Matt at the back of the field but I believe that as a young man he was quite handy. He once told me of a medley track race he took part in. It was a one-mile run, a one-mile walk and a one-mile bike ride.

After the run, he was very well placed and after the walk he was a long way in the lead. He told me he jumped on the bike for his ride to glory and the pedal fell off. In those days there was a lot of illegal betting at the tracks and Matt had been nobbled!

From a Sutton perspective the stalwart Albert Rigby finished third from last, whilst Don Warren [49th] was at the beginning of his career. His progress was remarkable and in July of the same year he won the Lancashire 2 miles track championship in an excellent 14:27.

Don Warren is the tall handsome figure on the right with his Sutton vest clearly showing.

In the late 1960s Don was very supportive to me, guiding me round my first National 50 kilometres championship in 1968. I repaid him unexpectedly in an emotional National 20 kilometres championships the very next year. Inspired by Ron Wallwork I’d made something of a breakthrough, 2nd to Jake Warhurst in the Northern 10 miles at Sutton of all places, Sadly my dad died in late April just before the National 20 kilometres to be held at Gomersal in Yorkshire. My head was all over the place but it went without saying that the club needed me to toe the starting line. I struggled throughout on a hilly one lap course, dragged along by Guy Goodair for much of the race. As I crossed the line I burst into tears and fell into the arms of Joe Lambert, who was understandably perplexed. Joe, a picture of reserve, desisted from telling me ‘to pull myself together’. An hour later though all seemed worthwhile as it was announced that we had finished second team [Wallwork, Vickers, Taylor, Warren] and now it was Don, who could hardly hold back his tears. He was to be presented with his first ever national medal.

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1 Response to Macclesfield in the rain – Lol Allen triumphs in the 1951 National 10 miles

  1. Greg Smith says:

    Terrific report Tony, thanks. Who is the bespectacled competitor on the left of the still with Don Warren? Phil Everard of Essex Beagles perhaps? And does anyone recognise any other figures in that shot?

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