75 years of Croydon Harriers
75 YEARS OF CROYDON HARRIERS
Evolution Of Athletics In Croydon 4
Croydon Harriers In The 1920’s & 1930’s 6
Club Bases 7
Early Coaching 8
From the Committee Minutes 10
After The Second World War 11
Modern Times 12
International Representation 13
International Links 15
Overseas Contacts 16
Coaching features 16
Club Promotions 18
A Clubhouse 19
A New Track 19
1995 and Beyond 19
Athletes Tales 21
Twenty five years ago we celebrated half a century of Croydon Harriers with a small commemorative booklet which included brief notes of the history of the Club, photographs of major contributors to the development of the Club and substantial ranking lists.
A quarter of a century later the same ‘team’ is offering a slightly different recipe or possibly it may seem more a difference of blend. The notes on the history of Croydon Harriers have been upgraded and extended and there are statistics as before, but, on this occasion you are being offered an entirely different feature, in the form of some athletics tales. These are being blended into the booklet to illustrate that Croydon Harriers is a thriving, lively community in its own right, as much as it is an athletic club. It is this humour and vitality that characterise it, and it is these qualities that sustain it through the difficult times as well as the exhilarating moments. Croydon Harriers are not unique in having this sense of community and group consciousness, but it is these that have kept people in touch with the Club, sharing its achievements, in some cases for more than half a century.
For the 100th Anniversary we shall try to produce something different again!
It is thanks to the initiative and effort of Trevor James that this 75th publication has developed from the theme of the 1970 (50th year) offering.
As a fellow ‘conspirator’ I can report that he chequered history of Croydon Harriers, as well as taking us along many fruitful branches of research, has also taken us down countless intriguing cul-de-sacs. It has been a difficult job to summarise and retain the true flavour of our first 75 years, but we hope that you will feel an affinity with the story even if you or your memories are not specifically mentioned.
Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the contents. Should you be aware of any errors or omissions, we will be pleased to record them for posterity.
I would particularly like to draw your attention to two features. First, the acknowledgements, which hardly do justice to the hours of patient work involved in the preparation of the book – our special thanks to the very good friends named there for there inestimable contributions. Secondly, we are very grateful to our advertisers, without whose backing we could not have published such a prestigious volume – please support them whenever possible.
Enjoy the book and keep making history for Croydon Harriers!
Athletics did not begin in the town of Croydon with the formation of Croydon Harriers. This event occurred at a later stage in a much longer story. The first known athletics activity that is recorded in Croydon was reported by the newspaper Bell’s Life in London, which reported the results of a sports day at the Addiscombe Military Academy on 22nd October 1851. At these sports, the students contested 150 yards, 200 yards, 300 yards, 1 mile, Hurling the Shell, Throwing the Cricket Ball, Running High Jump, Vaulting, Running Wide Jump and Hurdles (15 flights, 15 yards apart).
These sports continued to be reported until 1858 when the winning performances included – High Jump (5’6”), Long Jump (17’6”), 880 yards (2:25.0 sec) and 1 mile (5.45.0 sec). This was the last time these sports were held, because the India Mutiny in 1857 caused the Government to close the College. Nevertheless, these results, by 16 year olds, are the first conventional athletics performances recorded in our town.
Another early athletics meeting took place in 1867 in conjunction with a fete. The venue was somewhere in the Pitlake area, and the events were the 120 yards Hurdles, 100 yards Flat, Throwing the Cricket Ball, 880 yards Flat, 300 yards Hurdles (20 flights), High Jump, 1 mile Flat, Sack race (80 yards), 200 yards Flat and ‘Gymnastics Exercises on a Horizontal Bar’. The mood of athletics meetings in this period can possibly be best illustrated by this advertisement from the Croydon Chronicle of 23rd February 1867:
“HURDLES RACE. The hurdles race announced to come off on Monday next between George Cross and John Smith is attracting considerable attention amongst the “cognoscenti” in such matters and we are informed that an exciting match may be expected. Of the two competitors, Cross has youth in his favour, but his staying power will be severely tested in jumping as well as running the distance and the general opinion appears to be that it will be a neck-and-neck race. Several handicap races are announced to take place in the afternoon, for watches, cups etc., and as an additional attraction, Mons. Pierrott, the renowned one-legged dancer, will walk a mile against time for a purse. The race will come off in Mr. Grantham’s meadow, Addiscombe Road”.
This extract suggests that athletics in the 1860’s was very much a spectacular rather than a sport. This is confirmed by Whitgift School Sports Day programmes of the era.
Moving on to about 1900, South London Harriers and Herne Hill Harriers were already well established clubs in the vicinity. The local sports celebrity in the columns of the Croydon Advertiser in 1904/5 appears to have been the well known runner Alfred Shrubb of South London Harriers. Herne Hill had a ’branch’ at the Leslie Arms Public House until 1910. Our interest in these two clubs arises, however, only in passing.
As early as 1905, however, the General Committee of the A.A.A. had accepted the affiliation of Croydon Adult School Athletic Club. The Croydon Advertiser described it as being ‘the only affiliated Harriers’ Club belonging to Croydon.’ Its headquarters were at a social club in Ellis David Road and ‘young men interested in this form of recreation’ were enjoined to contact the Secretary, Mr. Wilfred Gibbins of Tamworth Road. Also at this time, the Croydon Advertiser mentioned a club known as Onward Harriers which was probably based in Croydon, but this was never specifically stated.
Egdar Lloyd, former World 50 mile record holder, latterly a Croydon Harrier, first joined Herne Hill in 1908 because there was no Club here in Croydon.
Early in 1910, the Croydon Advertiser announced that South Croydon harriers had been disbanded because so many of its members had joined the Army. This is rather interesting because, whilst its demise is considered newsworthy, its formation had never been mentioned. At the same time, an organisation known as Croydon Harriers with headquarters at Hornimans Hall and with a Secretary by the name of M. Pearce, made it known that they would welcome new recruits. In March 1910, there was a report of an inter-club 3 mile cross-country race between Croydon Harriers and Thornton Heath Harriers. The winner was Cornwall of Croydon. An advertisement of about that time announced that Croydon Harriers held ‘ordinary’ runs every Tuesday and Saturday from Hornimans Hall. One month later there was a report of the Croydon Harriers 10 mile club championship race for a cup presented by their championship race for a cup presented by their President, Mr. H. Hopkinson. This race began from the Purley Oaks Team Rooms opposite the Royal Oak on Brighton Road.
Having followed these few references to Croydon Harriers in 1910, it was surprising to find in May 1910 that the Croydon Advertiser announced a meeting to establish the Croydon Athletic Club because, ‘for some time past it has been felt that Croydon should have an athletic club and a suitable ground where local athletes could train’. This new club had its headquarters and training nights at the Nest, Selhurst and its Secretary was H.H. Rundle of Moffat Road. It was this club that Edgar Lloyd and Jack Lisney came to join. Later in 1910 Croydon Harriers revealed its mysterious background: it was part of the Y.M.C.A but, whilst there is no reference to it ever linking up with Croydon Athletic Club, it does not appear again.
Croydon A.C. continued to flourish right into the period of the Great War. In February 1914, they defeated Brighton Railway A.C. at park lane in a 3 mile cross-country race by 18 points to 33. The Club 6 mile cross-country championship that year was won by a second-claim member, Edgar Lloyd, in 36:38.0; the first of the Croydon A.C. athletes was T.Rumsey 37:50.0. In July 1914 the Croydon Advertiser reported that Croydon A.C. was holding three evening meetings at the Nest. The Club was reported to have over 70 members and its Secretary was Mr. H. W. Hines. As late as October 1914 a five mile walking race along Shirley Church Road to the Swan, West Wickham and back was reported. After that, Croydon A.C. fades from history.
With the Great War over, athletics in Croydon took some time to revive. In June 1920, the Advertiser reported an athletics meeting organised by Creeds. ‘This meeting is being promoted for the purpose of trying to get a fresh start for athletics in Croydon. Already some of the old champions’ names are to hand for entrants such as …. E.E. Lloyd, the 50 mile World’s Record holder and Marathon Champion’. Evidently Jack Disney was yet to emerge in a leading role, because he was merely listed as the cloak-room steward for this event. By June 1921 Mr. H. E. Wills had informed the Croydon Advertiser that there was to be a Croydon Sports Club competition at Plough Lane, and he expected to have the finest lot of athletes ever seen in Croydon. Among the individuals entered were Albert Hill, the double Olympic Champion, Joe Binks and Percy Edwards, and amongst clubs entered were Birchfield Harriers. One of the special events was to be a ‘dribbling race for local footballers’. Certainly the Croydon Advertiser credited the undoubted success of the meeting to Mr. Wills. This Croydon Sports Club was the embryo out of which Croydon Harriers emerged.
Later that year a group of youngsters, under the guidance of Mr.Wills, trained and did cross-country runs centred on a hut in Plough Lane, near Croydon Airport. They were the Harriers section of the Croydon Sports Club.
On 23rd July 1921, a momentous event in the history of the club occurred: it was announced that Mr. J. R. Lisney had taken over as Secretary of the running and walking section of Croydon Sports Club and anyone interested in joining should contact him at what was to become a very familiar address – 57 Wiltshire Road – complete with giant clam-shell in the front garden (now to be seen at the Croydon Arena). The first A.G.M. was in August 1921.
One of the most important activities of the club in the early days was the Sunday morning stroll to various villages. For example, in September 1921, the Croydon Advertiser reported a stroll to the White Bear, Chelsham, led by Mr. W. W. Hines.
(Mr. Wills with his Harriers at the White Bear, Chelsham)
The first record of a Croydon Harrier team was in August 1921 when the Croydon Advertiser announced that the ‘team’ for the Saturday was Smith, Bristow, Wills, Haydon, Compton and Bearle, with Mr. W. Croft as manager. Unfortunately, we do not know what they were entered for. In October 1921 the first ever cross-country season was announced commencing with a social run and walk from the Wilton Carriage Company – Waddon New Road. Other clubs taking part were Surrey A.C., Epsom Harriers and Mitcham A.C. The run and walk were to be followed by a tea and an impromptu concert. After this, Walter George, the one time World 1 mile record holder, had consented to give a lecture on cross-country running. At about this time, Jack Lisney was elected onto the committee of the South of Thames Cross-Country Association. In November 1921 it was announced that the Club had secured a trainer, Mr. F. Penn, an old Croydon A.C. member who was to be in attendance every training night.
The Club Minute Book records change the name to Croydon Harriers being agreed in September 1925.
Details from minute book
The great problem facing Croydon Harriers in the 1920’s and 1930@s was the lack of a permanent ground. Concern about this and the consequent insecurity that resulted was expressed most frequently at Committee meetings. The Croydon Harriers were still based at the Wallington F.C. ground, Plough lane, in 1924. Records tell that they were charged 10 shillings per week to use the questionable facility in 1926. Les Rickett recalled the amenities – changing was still in the old converted army hut with one bath, heated and filled from a copper boiler. This has to be shared by both men and women – in two separate sessions.
By 1927, however, the Club had moved to the Thornton Heath Cricket Club ground in Galpin Road. It is recorded that Croydon Harriers had to ask for changing facilities here and also that the grass should be cut. An interesting entry appears in the Minute Book in 1928 when the club received a letter from Thornton Heath Cricket Club’s solicitor because they had persistently declined to pay the rent. In the late 1920’s the Club seems to have contemplated using the Norwood ramblers ground and also a field in Pampisford Road, but definitely, in 1929, they began to use the Old Whitgiftians Ground in Addiscombe Road.
The committee seems to have been discussing the possibility of having a track in Wandle Park, but nothing came of this. The same is true of the Council’s consideration of the proposal to build a cinder track at Purley Way in 1931. In 1934 the Club was using the Gaumont-British Sports Ground for training at a rent of £10 per year, but soon after the committee was discussing an attempt by Gaumont-British to restrict their activities. The club then moved to Pampisford Road. In 1936 there was a passing reference to the use of the Post Office Engineers Ground in Plough lane. Throughout the 1930’s however, the Club was using the News of the World track at Mitcham for their matches.
The cross-country venue moved about just as much as the track and field venue. In the 1930’s the Club was based at the Shirley Inn where the fee was 5 shillings per week. Women were taking part in cross-country as well because there was a proposal that a ‘bath be provided for the girls cross-country at Shirley’. In the 1929-30 season, the Club was still at the Shirley Inn, but the following season the Headquarters was, rather strangely, Sanderstead Post Office.
Photo of Les Rickett
As mentioned already, the Club decided to acquire a coach in 1921 and there was an interesting entry in the 1923 minutes which records a spontaneous collection to pay 17 shillings outstanding to the trainer. Life Member Les Rickett recalled that ‘coaching as we know it today was practically non-existent’. As far as training was concerned, no one ever had thought of weight and circuit training. Apparently, up to 1927, Jack Lisney was the mainstay of Club coaching and then he obtained the services of an ex-Surrey A.C athlete, Difford. He was also a starter, and he was paid 12 guineas officially for ammunition for his pistol, but in effect for coaching. Another source of coaching in the 1930’s was Stan Twort, later one of our longest serving Vice-presidents who was a field events and hurdles coach and he generated quite a considerable amount of enthusiasm until he had to move away. In those days, however, there was nothing to compare with the proficient coaching structure resulting from the B.A.F. Scheme, which we now take for granted.
Competition and Athletes of 1920’s and 1930’s
We know that from the earliest days, the Club enjoyed a tradition for walking, with Jack Lisney himself being one of the first keen members of the ‘Heel and Toe’ brigade. In 1921 he was pictured in the Daily mail, almost in pole position for the Croydon to Godstone walk. The result is not known.
Croydon Harriers first notable success came in 1924 when the South of Thames Junior Cross-Country team title was won at Epsom – these historic runners who finished 9, 10,11 and 12 were F. Whiting, H.Wills (Jnr), L. Smith and W. Booker.
Photo of F. Whiting, L. Smith, unknown, C Casse and H Wills
All through this period, the Club had its handicap events. The Ashby Mile Handicap itself was presented in 1927. Les Rickett remembered that these were always well supported. He also recalled that the Club had four inter-club meetings on a league basis with Mitcham, Epsom, and Belgrave, one on each ground on a points system. The events were 4 x 100 yds, 4 x 300 yds, 4 x 800 yds and one mile team. The winning club held a shield for a year. There was also a Southern Amateur Athletic League in which the club competed in the 1930’s. Most of the competition then was in the form of relays and handicaps, field events were hardly ever in evidence, even at White City.
The most successful athlete of this period was Cis Wright who achieved 59.8 sec for the women’s 440 yards at Stamford Bridge on the 16th August 1930. This was the Clubs greatest singled performance.
Les Rickett of course, was our best sprinter in those days, having recorded his 10.1 sec 100 yards at Stamford Bridge in 1930. Another notable performance was D.L.Grigg who managed to win the Surrey Senior Dicus in 1935 and 1936 with County records on both occasions (118ft 6ins and 120ft 7ins). There is a minute that he was selected to represent England against Finland, but no further details were provided about this. There were also 2 Surrey Cross Country representatives in 1934, S.M.Frost and E.Constable. Another startling performer in those days was the late H.J.Lewis who did manage a down hill 10.0 sec 100 yards on one occasion. His most memorable feat, however, was achieved in one match where he appeared on the track clad in spikes, shorts ……….shirt, collar and tie. He had arrived too late to change completely but was so keen to run that he did as much as possible …. and won the race!
Croydon Harriers – Surrey Cross-Country runners up 1938
The committee was naturally the backbone of the Club and the minutes provide some real insight in to its activities.
In 1923, a ‘Mr Chilcott’ appeared before the committee, by request, for refusing to run in a relay race at Acton. The committee did not think his excuse was justified and he was cautioned. This suggests a rather more strict attitude than today towards Club spirit.
In 1925, the question of new note paper was raised and it was decided that full use of the note paper already in hand should be made and that a new supply should be obtained as soon as the Presidency has been filled. It must have been expensive to be a President in those days.
An interesting decision was made in 1928, in that ‘Hurdles, Discus and Javelin should be included in our programme for next season’. A significant advance indeed.
In 1935, the Club tried its wings with the reformation of a Rambling Section, with a subscription of two shillings and six pence. Later in the same year a Motor Section was proposed but the idea seems to have lapsed.
An unfortunate event occurred in 1937. The late Reg Mercer had been reported to the Kent A.A.A. for competing in an unregistered meeting: he was declared to have lost his amateur status and the Club, in consequence, had to suspend him from active membership. But about two months later he was reinstated by his County and the Club.
Finally, the minutes of the era closed in 1938 on an amusing note, because the Men’s Secretary had to resign as ‘he would be getting married this year and this would take up a lot of time …’ This was accepted by the Committee, apparently without comment. Marriage would seem to have been quite a business in those days.
The Club minutes came to an abrupt close in August 1939. The next entry recorded a special meeting in March 1946, at 28 Wellesley Road, the object of which was to revive Croydon Harriers. Amongst those present were now familiar names, Jack Lisney, Stan Twort, Reg Mercer, Les Rickett, Billy Croft and Freddie Allen. The undoubted success of the meeting is reflected in the ongoing history of the Croydon Harriers. The aforementioned Reg Mercer was one of the Club members who saw wartime action. Such was his modesty that few, if any of his contemporaries, were aware of his outstanding bravery. His Wellington Aircraft crash landed after a mission and burst in to flames. He rescued two of his fellow crewmen from the wreck. One of these was still strapped in the blaze when Reg, already clear and severely burned, saw him and returned to the gutted fuselage to free him. He received a mention in despatches on 26th February 10943.
Later in 1946, minutes recorded our first post-war selection. Shirley Cawley was picked to represent Surrey Women’s A.A.A. in the high-jump. She went on to win an Olympic Long jump Bronze in Helsinki in 1952, but by then she was no longer a Croydon Harrier.
Photo of Shirley Cawley – British Number 2 Long jumper 1950
Mention was also passed, condemning the ‘lack of interest in the youth of the town’ – referring obliquely to the absence of a running track!
The next few years saw more discontent arising from the need for a cinder track in Croydon. In 1947, Plough Lane was unavailable and negotiations with the Old Croydonians Harriers for a track in Beddington Park were unsuccessful. The Club tried Coombe Lodge and the Trojan Sports ground and eventually was given a grass track on Duppas Hill, but the surface was considered to be useless.
Cross-country fixtures at this time were still being held from the Shirley inn. The next development was that a plan was hatched to lay a track on the old Beckenham Golf Course 9previously Woodside race Course) and now known as Ashburton Playing Fields. This was not brought to fruition, although Club trai8ning sessions were held there.
Eventually the hopes of 30 years were fulfilled. Jack Lisney and those who had campaigned for a cinder running track in Croydon, almost since Croydon Harriers was formed, were rewarded by the construction of a cinder track on the Albert road Recreation Ground in South Norwood. This Croydon Council undertaking was opened in 1953, amidst great celebrations on the part of the local athletics fraternity. From this moment, the history of Croydon Harriers began a new path. Now that they had a permanent home, Croydon Harriers began gradually to establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with amongst the athletics community.
Photo of Nick Morgan and Jack Lisney
Since we know far more about Croydon Harriers after 1953, it was decided that this section of the booklet should not be a chronological account, but instead should highlight certain aspects of Club life. One important point to note is that athletics has undergone am immense transformation in this period – not just in Croydon Harriers, but everywhere. Athletics was still rather parochial in 1953 – a few fixtures, fears of too many commitments, fears of athletes competing too young, committees having to sanction each action of the Secretary – even the affiliation fees to A.A.A. and W.A.A.A. were ratified for payments annually instead of being paid automatically. This should not be taken as an implied criticism of individuals: this was in fact the time-honoured procedure.
Jack Lisney, honoured in 1951 with Life Membership to commemorate his twenty-seven years dedicated service as Honorary Secretary, continued in this capacity until 1962. He was then forced to restore on his doctor’s advice, (he would never have admitted ill-health). The effect of his resignation was startling. The Club’s very foundations were shaken. Officials had come and gone before, but Jack had provided continuity. Now he was gone. His successor was Mt. T.E. Swancott, elected as Vice President in the 1940’s and always a hard-working club official. He had previously taken over as Acting Honorary Secretary in 1959 when Jack Lisney had been ill, and had since served as a very active Assistant Secretary. In many respects, he was the obvious successor, but he always emphasised that he saw himself fulfilling an interim role. A very popular figure, his commitments were so many that the task of Honorary Secretary became an increasing burden to him and at the A.G.M. of 1964, he stepped down in favour of a new and rather youthful Honorary Secretary, Mike Fleet, who has been in office ever since, with the exception of a spell when Keith Burchell stood in when Mike returned to college. T.E. Swancott, (Swanee to everyone), went on to become a very distinguished President and Joint Patron for many years.
Photo of T.E. Swancott (Swannee)
At least three Club members, Bob Harvey (son of a long-serving treasurer), Trevor James and Fred Stebbings have taken their expertise to other clubs, namely Hastings A.C., Cannock and Stafford and Luton. In addition, Bob is currently serving on the management committee of the National Young Athletes League. Others have gone on to make their mark in the world of officiating – Tom Miles was a prominent timekeeper in the 1960’s and Doug Webb, now a chief starter, is regularly to be seen on international duty, often accompanied by fellow starter, Andy Glover.
Ken Cooke has provided distinguished service to the organisation of cross-country running, locally and nationally, and his most senior appointment is as championship secretary to the English Cross-Country Association – all this whilst still being internationally active as a veteran athlete! He has already won gold and silver team medals for distance running in World Veteran Championships as far afield as the USA and Japan.
Our most distinguished member and Patron is the RT.Honorable Lord Weatherill DL, who took office whilst MP for Croydon NE and hosted the Club at a special dinner at Speakers House, Westminster in 1984. Thirty seven members and partners attended this memorable occasion.
In the 1970 version of this booklet much was made of international selections because of our international athletes who particularly helped focus attention on the Club.
Our very first international athlete had been a Discus thrower, D.L.Grigg, in the 1930’s. In modern times our selections, however, came gradually with Nick Morgan representing England at the Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff in 1958. He represented Great Britain and England several times and his career culminated with his 55ft 7in (16.59m) Shot Putt in Paris in 1961. At about the same time, Jean Card was representing Great Britain in the Women’s High Jump and she too competed in the Commonwealth Games at Cardiff.
In the 1960’s Mike Fleet earned several international vests, which included a victory over the Russians at Volgograd, which was reported with great enthusiasm on the BBC National News and made him a household name. His greatest performance came after he had been ignored by the selectors for the European Championships in 1962. He achieved 1:48.9 sec over 880 yards at Brighton to earn a place in the English team for the Empire and Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia. There, in the heat of the Australian summer (our winter) he finished 5th in the 880 yards final.
Mike Fleet leading Chris Carter home in Volgograd 1960
Marathon Runner Don Fairclough worked his way into the international limelight in the late 1960@s and his fine victory in the Polytechnic, Windsor to Chiswick event won him England selection for the 1970 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games. Don produced a performance quite beyond expectation. Not only did he finish third, thus earning himself a bronze medal, but his time was 9th fastest ever in the World – 2hrs 12mins and 19 secs. This was an improvement of 6 mins on his only other marathon time recorded in the Polytechnic race and at 21 years of age! Significantly for Croydon Harriers this was the Club’s first medal in the Commonwealth Games. Don’s international career amazingly extended until 1985.
Photo of Don Fairclough, Commonwealth Games Edinburgh 1970.
Don was not the only Croydon Harrier selected for the Edinburgh Games. Norman Morrison, our 1 mile record holder, represented Scotland in the 1500 metres and Keith Fall represented Guernsey in the 800 metres.
Since 1970, there have been many more opportunities for selection at Senior and Junior level, but it has to be said that Croydon Harriers have been producing and recruiting exceptional athletes to match that expansion.
In our 1970 Jubilee booklet, we commented that despite many achievements, Croydon Harriers still awaited an Olympian. Shortly afterwards, two athletes, already with elevated status, joined the Club. Paul Nihill silver medal winning walker in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and High Jumper Ros Few, who competed in the Munich Olympics in 1972. In 1976, Paul became the first current member to gain Olympic selection. He won his place to contest the 20K walk in Montreal, finishing, for him, a disappointing 30th – but what a comeback for a man of 36!
Photo of Paul Nihill
The dominant international athlete of the last decade or so has been Shot Putter Judy Oakes, who has now achieved both Olympic and World Championship selection. Along with her many other honours and distinctions, including the award of the M.B.E., Judy won the Commonwealth Gold Medal in Victoria, British Columbia in 1994. She is currently co-holder of the record for Great Britain selections with 72 vests; has won a record 35 National titles and has captained G.B. for the longest time. She also tops the list of appearances at major games.
Photo of Judy Oakes
To reflect these selections, a Roll of Honour has been compiled and we hope that you will find all our representatives listed.
Roll of Honour Table
Our international links are many and varied. Part of this has been provided by overseas athletes who have come to our town and competed for the Club. Some were outstanding athletes and others were enthusiastic participants who joined in everyday Club events.
From the 1960’s onwards, we remember Hope Obianwu (Nigeria), Lloyd Maloney (Montserrat), Richard Nandolo (Malawi), Ian Cook (Argentina), Reinfried Bardelang, Klaus Kluepfel, Klaus Weinsierl, Edgar Rummele, Berndt Winkler (Germany), Ferdi Koch, Carlo Magni (Switzerland), Alex Cooke, Dave Beauchamp and Robin Ball (New Zealand).
Two very distinguished athletes joined the Club in 1972 and, during brief stays, set the Club records by which we still remember them. They were John Beers (Canada) in the High Jump and John Delamere (Australia) in the Long Jump. Rhodesian Steve Bradbrook boosted our sprints, while others from overseas were flamboyant Frenchman Jean-Luc Ceschina, Ric Trackok, Tom Montague (USA) and Swiss Nationals Jorg Haffliger and Ruth Messmer.
More recently we have benefited from the involvement of several Australians, including John Bruce, Dave Byrnes, Lindsay File, Wayne File, Di and Dave Chettle, Max Little, Kevin Rock, Wayne Smith, Martin Stock, Geoff Thomas, Bob Walczak and Ray Williams. Dave Chettle improved Don Faircloth’s Club marathon record to 2:11:41 in 1979. At the same time, New Zealander Gillian Drake was rewriting our Women’s Marathon records, her best being 2:38:57, set in 1981. Countrymen Bruce Odams and Bruce Melrose wore Croydon Harriers colours with distinction in the 1980’s, as did the talented Nigreian brothers Bolaji and Ademolo Odunsi and Irishman Tom Connell.
Photo of Dave Chettle
Currently our teams are boosted by Olive Burke (Ireland), our 75th year Women’s Captain and versatile field events expert Harald Roehrig (Germany), while the younger athletes Sebastian Caillaux is keeping the French flag flying.
Photo of Olive Burke
Members from abroad are not however, our only overseas links. Croydon Harriers have been prominent participants in the twinning arrangements of the Croydon Arnhem Link and teams of Borough athletes have visited Arnhem in 1954, 1964, 1974, 1985 and 1994. The itinerary of Croydon Harriers visits over the last 25 years or so is quite outstanding in its regularity and scale.
Of course, teams have visited us from many of these places and from further afield too.
We hosted a very talented Rift valley team from Kenya in 1973 and they eclipsed 6 Croydon Arena records in one evening.
Hastings A.A.C. of New Zealand visited us in 1981 and we staged matches for the Australian Youth Touring Team in 1983, a very strong North Shore Boys’ team. This latter match at Norman park was made memorable by the appearance of the then emerging South African middle distance Zola Budd (now Pietrse) who won the 1500 metres in 4:10.0 secs.
These links often foster life long friendships and they widen our horizons. Athletic Clubs can be more than just sports clubs, as in our case, where members have been offered opportunities to travel and to meet athletes from abroad, which may not otherwise occur.
Gym Sessions. In the 1950’s, schoolmaster Phil James, introduced a popular weekly fitness session at the Ashburton School gym. Together with ‘Swannee’ Swancott, he did much to bridge the gap between schools and the Club. These sessions continued under different management until the 1980’s and now training of this type is carried out in the Club Headquarters where the very popular ‘Multi-gym’ unit is an added attraction.
Photo of Phil James coaching Maureen Brazier 1956
Timsbury Manor. It is clear from records and observation that the Club officials have always been alert to the need for competent coaching and interesting training initiatives. In the 1960’s, Timsbury Manor Sports Centre in Hampshire was added to the Club itinerary. Initially inspired to visit by Nick Morgam, groups of Croydon Harriers greatly benefited from long weekends of concentrated coaching. Team spirit grew from the communal existence and the Club continued to avail itself of the excellent facilities until the centres much regretted closure.
Merthyr Mawr. Another feature of the Club’s broadening horizons at this was time was its association with the Merthyr Mawr Training Centre at Candleston Far, South Wales. In 1962, Mike Fleet was one of the earliest visitors to this camp where the main attraction for the athletic masochists were the huge sand dunes nearby. A succession of Croydon Harriers groups has visited Merthyr Mawr and, following the closure of this centre, Dennis Wallington initiated weekend trips in nearby Ogmore-by-Sea. The rigorous sessions undertaken on the sand dunes have contributed to the significantly improved performances of our middle distance Men and Women and toughened the technical athletes too.
Warm Weather Training. In recent years, the value of warm weather training has been recognised by a succession of Croydon Harriers winter and spring visits to such exotic training venues as the Algarve, Benidorm, Crete and Lanzarote. Athletes have accordingly been able to benefit from the opportunity provided by the warmer weather temperatures to do quality training and technical work.
In recent years there has been an increased variety and volume of competitions. The only regular events in the early 1950’s with which the Club was associated, were those organised by the East Surrey League and the Surrey Women’s League. These hard-fought leagues were always a popular part of the programme. In 1963, the men joined Herne Hill, Hercules AC, Wimbledon and Mitcham, in forming a weekday evening league with five meetings, known as the Rosenheim League. Over the years, this has expanded to two divisions, with an end of season Plate Final. Croydon have won this handsome trophy several times, often in ‘needle’ matches with Herne Hill.
The National Men’s League was introduced in 1969 with three divisions and a host of area qualifying leagues, with promotion and relegation throughout. As a result of a computer decision on strength, Croydon Harriers joined Division III in 1969 and we retained our status.
In the 26 years of National League competition, Croydon Harriers have featured in 17 of them in Division III from 1969 to 1971. Sadly, in 1994, the Club was relegated from the Guardian British Men’s League as it is now known. A very close runners-up spot in the Southern Men’s League Division I in 1995, augers well for a rapid return to the upper echelons.
Our women, early members of what started out as the Motorway League and which subsequently became known as the British League – now the UK Women’s League, are currently still in Division “, having greatly benefited from Sheila Glovers management over the twelve years to 1994.
This year in the associated Cup competition, the Club reached the semi-final in both the Men’s and Women’s events. Our women have been finalists on previous occasions, their best placing was 4th and they won the Plate Competition in 1983.
Another key commitment is to the Surrey Men’s Cross-Country League. In 1993 Croydon Harriers successfully applied for the admission and thus joined a very competitive structure alongside Belgrave, Walton, Herne Hill and Hercules. At much the same time, the women’s section became involved in the Greater London Cross-Country League, which had competitions for three different age groups. This provided them with a similarly elevated level of competition from which their membership surely benefited. They now compete in their own Surrey Cross-Country League.
The Club’s young male athletes have been consistently successful in the National Young Athletes Competition, reaching 11 consecutive Cup Finals. They made one main final, finishing 5th, and won the Auxiliary Cup Final in 1992. Now our recently formed young female athletes’ team has won promotion this year.
Another development which further indicated the expansion of club activities was the advent of our own promotion. In 1961, Jack Lewis (Men) and Nan Brown (Women) Trophies were first offered for competition. These were our own trophy meetings at Croydon Arena and both occupied a recognised place in the annual athletic time-table for many years. In 1963, the ‘Advertiser’ Schools cross-country races were first promoted and these have now blossomed in to major annual events. Croydon Harriers also pioneered a new type of meeting: in 1967 our first Field Events Meeting was promoted. This was organised to give a greater emphasis in athletics meetings to the much neglected field events. A considerable number of trophies were competed for at this meeting each year. Held at the Crystal palace National Recreation Centre, the advent of the all-weather track saw the scope of the meeting extended to envelop yet another ‘Cinderella’ sector, namely the hurdles. Latterly known as the Field and Hurdles Events Meeting, it attracted competitors from all over the United Kingdom and in 1969, several United States Internationals honoured the event with their presence as a result of a coincidental American tour. Highlights over the years included a World Pentathlon best of 4123 pts. by the current Olympic Champion, Bill Toomey (USA), in 1969. A Commonwealth high-jump record of 2.22m by John Beers (Canada) in 1974 and a UK and English Native record in the discus of 62.10m by Bill Tancred in 1973. The meeting is not now held, but is still remembered by athletes from many clubs, especially because of its pioneering character.
Photo of Commonwealth and Club High Jump record – 2.22m John Beers
In more recent times, the Club has been involved in the organisation of the Croydon Centre One Mile, the Croydon 10K, and the Mid-Week Trophy, all of which have been received favourably by local people and have been well supported. The record for the mile run, from Broad Green to the Swan and Sugar Loaf, stands at 3:59:98, set by Pat Chester (TVH).
Photo The Croydon Centre Mile Race 1986
The Club has also hosted the County Cross-Country Championships at Happy Valley and the Surrey Track and Field Championships at the Croydon Arena on several occasions.
In the 1950’s and 1960’s Croydon Harriers used to hold clubhouse nights at places such as Woodside Boys’ Club; the Library Annexe and South Norwood, but these were always one night affairs. In 1961, the Croydon Amateur FC began work on their clubhouse at the Sports Arena and this contributed greatly to the social life of Croydon Harriers who were given access. It was obvious, however, that the needs of an athletics club and a football club would not be identical all the time. A group of Croydon Harriers inherited the Club’s wish for their own premises, but instead of preserving this as a dream, led and inspired by our enthusiastic coach Stan Biggs, they opened negotiations with the Croydon Corporation for a site on which to build a Headquarters incorporating their needs.
This was eventually agreed and, after a great deal of fund-raising, the Headquarters building, covering 275 square metres was erected in 1973. The scale of the building and its flexibility in use has been the envy of other clubs and has enabled a variety of training programmes and other events. Much of the leadership in its development in the early days and more recently, had been to the credit of Keith Burchell. For many years now, essential behind the scenes maintenance has been carried out by Brain Cook.
After much campaigning and planning, the cinder track which had served the Club since 1953, was scheduled for replacement. We bade a light-hearted farewell to the old cinder track on Sunday 5th August 1988 when the Mayor Cllr, Derek Loughborough, was the guest of honour at a meeting which featured such athletic appetisers as the ‘Last Ash Dash’, won by Devon Wright, and a nostalgic final ‘Cinders’ lap, with souvenir certificates for all finishers. During the enforced 11 months absence from the Arena ‘building site’ which followed, training sessions were held at Normanton Park, Bromley and all ‘Home’ matches were ‘away’.
On Sunday 1st October 1989, the Club was given a privileged preview of the new all-weather track when the Parks and Recreational Services Committee granted Croydon Harriers permission to stage its own ‘All-Weather Action Day’. Chairman, Cllr. Ernest Noad, cut the ribbon to open the proceedings, at which signal, the Club President, Dennis Wallington, led a memorable mass-participation @First Brilliant Red Lap’. The potential of the new facility was clear for all to see and a new ground Pole vault record of 4.40m was a portent of greater things to come.
Photo – ‘First Start’ for all weather track … L to R – Judy Oakes, Rt Hon Bernard Wetherill, Mayoress Cllr.Maragaret Mead, Nick Morgan, Eugene Gilkes, Shireen Bailey, Paul Nihill, Don Faircloth
The fully completed international standard track with floodlights was opened on behalf of the indisposed Mayor, Cllr. Dudley Wood, by our Club Patron, Rt. Hon. Bernard Weatherill, on 7th May 1990. During the Inter-Area match which followed, an astonishing 24 new grounds records were set!
This publication is a major part of our 75th Anniversary celebrations which, thanks to the efforts of many members, have taken place very successfully alongside the vast programme of activities in which our athletes and officials have been routinely involved.
The early season visit of our Dutch friends really brought the club families together and since then, we have never looked back.
On 9th July, we staged our 75th Anniversary Celebration Day at the Arena and were honoured by the presence of the Mayor of Croydon, Cllr. Clarence McKenzie, who conducted the opening ceremony by cutting our splendid ‘Birthday Cake’, courtesy of Brown’s the Bakers of Croydon. Past President, Carole Richardson and Evelyn Fuller, completed the job, so that everyone, and there were hundreds present, had a share! A thematic programme of events followed, including such novelties as ‘throwing the 7.5 wellington boot’; ‘a 7.5 stride long-jump’ and a ;75 x 1 lap relay’ which featured the happiest groups of participants ranging from grand-children to grand-parents, ‘Golden Oldies’, including 8 past Presidents ! …. And a slightly bemused band of Croydon FC runners who joined in the fun despite there not being a dribbling race as there had been 74 years previously at Plough lane! Cathy Freeman, Australian 400m star was a very private guest at the barbecue that followed – much to the disappointment of thwarted autograph hunters who didn’t recognise her in civilian clothes.
So how do Croydon Harriers stand as we close our third quarter century and open another? We are certainly a more advanced and active club than we were in 1970 and the following details of all our ‘Track and Field’ league and cup achievements summarise the end product of more than 80 matches in 1995.
UK Women’s League Division 2
4th of 6
20th of 25
17th of 25
Rosenheim League E Division
5th of 8
19th of 24
4th of 7
5th of 7
McDonalds National Young Athletes Southern Premier
4th of 16
McDonalds National Young Athletes Southern Premier
1st of 8 (Promoted)
3rd of 6
2nd of 8
2nd of 8
1st of 7
5th of 7
6th of 8
Guardian Jubilee Cup
3rd of 8
5th of 8
McDonalds Auxiliary Cup Final
2nd of 8
And what of the future? With the multi-million pound Croydon Tram Link, soon to be routed beside the Arena, its management structure in the process of change, with possible club participation and major development envisaged at Albert Road too, more people, more action and significantly improved control and facilities are very much on the cards.
On the individual front, who, we wonder, among the new members of 1995, will go on to emulate such stalwarts as Judy Oakes and Tony Owers, they themselves raw recruits 25 years ago. We wish them all well and look to our young athletes to keep the Croydon Harriers’ flag proudly flying in the future.
Photo of Trevor James
Compiled by Trevor James
Croydon’s Arnhem Link has always been strongly supported by Croydon harriers, but on one occasion, rather too enthusiastic support from Judy fleet nearly led to an international incident when a combined team of athletes and tennis players arrived from Arnhem. The tennis matches were played at a sports ground behind the Fleet’s house and Beryl Fleet told Judy that she could invite a few girls over for a drink after the matches has been played and before the girls returned to their host families. Apparently the word went round – in Dutch of course – ‘Drinks at the Fleets’. Judy had told the girls ‘It’s the house with a pond and conservatory at the back of the house’. A short while later, some neighbours were alarmed to find two young men peering through their windows and a large crocodile of people winding their way down the back garden. Judy had forgotten that the house next door also had a pond and conservatory. Fortunately, order was restored after one of the young men managed to say ‘Not the Fleet’s – no!’. Of course the surprised neighbours then joined the party in the Fleet’s back garden.
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In the early 1960s the social life of young people in the Harriers sometimes encompassed dances and other events at St Luke’s Church Hall. A regular face at these events was that of sprinter Clive Sharpe who attended one dance wearing a brand new pair of Addidas trainers – long before such footwear became a fashion item. He was asked by one of the local girls what sort of shoes they were and quick as a flash replied ‘Jazz shoes’. This response travelled like wild fire and the following Saturday afternoon, bemused shop managers were inundated with enquiries for ‘Jazz shoes with the three stripes on the instep’.
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Austin Fox recalls that, as a young enthusiastic apprentice, he was introduced to the Club after winning the 440 yards and coming second in the 880 yards at his firm’s sports in 1946. The meeting has been organised by Redhill and Reigate AC and their Secretary gave him Jack Lisney’s address. Such was the spirit of athletics in those days.
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The Crystal palace National Recreation Centre was the scene of some of Croydon Harriers’ high drama on one occasion in 1970 …. Not the Annual Field and Hurdles Events Meeting, but the sprint race where Quentin Keeling, a quality competitor in those days, had gritted his teeth rather too much and had lost his false tooth. The stadium was brought to a halt whilst a team of volunteers scoured the track looking for this valuable item. The search went on for some time because the missing fang had landed on the white line, but everyone had been concentrating on the red track.
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On one memorable occasion Ferdi Koch, a popular Swiss visitor, became disoriented in thick fog during a cross-country race on Hayes Common. Over an hour after the previous competitor had finished, a bedraggled and forlorn Ferdi emerged from a police car which, independent of all other search parties, had picked him up in Bromley High Street. We are told that Ferdi contemplated taking up the marathon after that!
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Various athletes have had encounters with the police over the years, but to spare their embarrassment, no names are mentioned. One was stopped cycling down Gravel hill for speeding! Another was stopped on the same hill by the police because they believed that he was speeding! He admitted that he had been doing 39mph as he knew that prosecution would be unlikely at less than 40mph and was left off with a warning. What the police didn’t realise was that there was actually some doubt over the ownership of the motorbike and age of the rider.
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Nick Morgan was one of the Club’s earliest internationals, but he was also very much a regular presence at Club training nights. Being a shot putter, he was a formidable figure, but on one occasion, some of the other athletes decided to reinforce just exactly how formidable he was…. by three of them fitting inside his vest and processing round the track hotly pursued by a good humoured Nick.
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After a long training run one day, Geoff Neal commented to Mike Caudwell that ‘I knew I was getting tired when I found it difficult to overtake lamp-posts’.
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In his excitement some 40+ years ago, a 5th year schoolboy was not in the least suspicious to learn from a prefect that he had been picked to represent Croydon in the County Schools long jump as he wasn’t aware of selection letters. He also thought it was nice to be offered a lift to Motspur Park on the same prefect motorbike. Only at the gates when he was told by the prefect that he was in the senior event and to compete under the prefect’s name did he begin to smell a rat. It transpired that the older boy preferred to play cricket. Undaunted, our schoolboy set about his task and foolishly finished 2nd with a jump of 18’ 6” (5.63m). ‘Report to the selection table’ he was told by an official ‘you may be asked to provide a birth certificate later’. He collected his prize certificate and ran to very fast to a waiting motor bike! … That was probably the turning point in his career which peaked with international status and a Commonwealth Games Final appearance in a totally different event.
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Not for Don Fairclough the sophistication of modern supplements or an infusion of Chinese caterpillar elixir when he won his Commonwealth bronze ‘I attribute my success to heaven-sent good luck’ said Don, who received a direct hit from an overflying pigeon during the opening ceremony.
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Thoughts from Abroad
In suburban wastelands on the fringe of town
Symmetrical ovals can be found
Where people run smoothly and others walk stiffly
They’re named after roads such as Albert and Iflfey
The former is where Croydon Harriers function
By the chip shop and trains that define Norwood Junction
In their little brick houses with Michaelmas daisies
The local regard the athletes as crazies
With their poles and their hurdles, their hammers and spikes
And triathletes with unrecognisable bikes
Why would you run when you’ve got a telly
And some Boddingtons Ale in your brain and your belly
There’s many reasons as people run
For some it’s a challenge, for others it’s fun
So, you see as arena with inadequate stands
And two dozen spectators warming their hands
I see 75 years of breaking barriers
I see ghosts of former Croydon Harriers
Nostalgia is easy so I won’t succumb
For I see the best is yet to come
Dr. Martin Collis
Former lecturer in Physical Education
University of Victoria
(Croydon Harrier – 800m 1.55.5, 1959)
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