Maurice Ireland RIP – yet another wonderful daft beggar

Maurice relaxing after the Marbella Four Days Walk with Chris Bolton

Let the first word be Maurice’s.

My membership of the club goes back to about 1960. 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. 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 was indeed right about the weather conditions. The Race Walking 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 underwater, 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 indeed 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.

Maurice continues,

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 I 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. The year 1961. 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.

In fact, Maurice with Chris at his side beat the Hour by only 5 seconds!
In the same year, Maurice finished 3rs in the famous Star Walk

Maurice is remembered with great affection by those of us, who knew him back in the 60s and 70s.

Ron Wallwork – I happened to be working on club results for 1964 when the sad news arrived and have noted that he finished in that year’s Club AGM handicap. It was always a funny distance twice around a lap that took in Princess Parkway. He clocked 39.24 with Tony Taylor 21 seconds behind him. This fits in with my memory of him appearing in the early to mid-sixties. I remember him instigating (with Chris Bolton) Club Dinners at the Midland Hotel of which there were perhaps three. I think he tended not to travel to national races, probably due to his work commitments but was a regular leading finisher in club events.

On the theme of the club dinners, Mike Entwistle recalls one in particular, for which Maurice being the great organiser was responsible. During the musical chairs game, Maurice and I were the last two standing or sitting. I ghosted right up his back and we ended up on the floor! Funny the things you recall! He became a good friend who spent a lot of time encouraging me. I recall my very first 6-mile club race at Bolton. Maurice spent most of the event coaching me and improving my action – in particular my habit of leaning my head to one side. I felt bad as his advice allowed me to leave him towards the end.

Probably 1969 – a club race at a cold Leverhulme Park, Bolton. From the left Dave Vickers, Tony Taylor, Maurice still in his tracksuit, Mick Entwistle, Dave Ward and Ron Wallwork

Dave Vickers – Tony, very sad news about Maurice. I’ve got some fond memories of walking with you and Maurice in the Harwood area, back in the early seventies. When Ronnie introduced me to great people like Maurice and yourself, I knew I had to give race walking a try, giving myself a rest from steeplechasing. Reliving some great memories Tony, from that great Wallwork era, we had some fantastic club gatherings at championship meetings. I’ll never forget those great training sessions we had around the Wayo and Entwistle reservoirs. Give my sincere regards to Maurice’s family

David Lamb – I remember Maurice with great affection, always willing to pass the time of day with you and offer advice at all times.

Tony Malone – Big M was one of the 3 amigos [Maurice, Fred Pearce and Chris Bolton] who got me walking. Forever grateful.

Chris Harvey – He was one of my heroes. RIP Maurice. It took me a while to beat him – just couldn’t get past him. He was a great cyclist and should have gone to the Olympics way back. He had a crash and turned to walking. He was a stalwart in every sense of the word.

Maurice off to a fast start in the group chasing from the left Dave Vickers, Shaun Lightman, Jake Warhurst and George Chaplin. He is in the second group – from the right Brian Adams, Mal Tolley, Alec Banyard, Maurice in the white vest and Charlie Fogg. Some uncertainty about the event and year.

Tony Taylor – As with Ron and Mike, I remember Maurice as the Social Secretary Supreme, along with Fred and Chris, part of the forward-looking Mancunian caucus, encouraging the club to look outwards and upwards. On the road, it was clear that Maurice never fulfilled his potential. He was well-known for his fluent, fast starts. There is no doubt that his management responsibilities at work prevented him from training as he would have liked. As for what might have been I met him last at the 2012 Masters Horwich 5 kilometres. We shared a nostalgic conversation. He seemed in good nick and just getting back into the swing of things. He had finished first in the Over 75 years category, clocking 33:21, 80.16% age-graded. Impressive.

And, let the last word be left to Chris Bolton. Maurice’s dear friend.

Chris with Maurice on one of their long-distance exploits

I am still devastated by Maurice’s death, we shared so much over 65 years of friendship.

We first met in 1957 when we worked together in what was then GPO telephones.
Of course, I persuaded Maurice, who had been a very good track cyclist before crashing at the Fallowfield track, to try race walking.

His results must speak for themselves but they were impressive.

Maurice, showing excellent technique, winning the 1978 NW GPO Champs in 74:12

My close relationship with Maurice was through our work. He got promoted but as soon as I got promoted he went one higher and so it went on throughout all our working life. However, so close did he rely on my support that when he was offered the position of Project Director for a large contract in Nigeria he would only accept if I would go as his deputy. During that time we did try to teach the Nigerians Race Walking but since they thought it was hilarious we failed miserably

Beyond race walking we shared many adventures walking together in many non-competitive events such as the Coast to Coast, Offas Dyke and Skipton to Penrith walks. Each year we would choose a different event.

[Dave Hoben, Surrey WC – I spent a day with Maurice, and Chris Bolton too, at the RAF Cosford Marches a number of years ago, it was part of their prep for that year’s Nijmegen Marches.Great company, the miles went quickly. He will be remembered.}

After a friendship of 65 years, I’m sure you will understand the loss I feel. However, my thoughts are now with his extended family. He was a father, grandfather and great grandfather and his influence will long be felt.

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