Chelmsford Athletics Club

Chelmsford Athletics Club - Club History Chapter 3

Chapter 3 – The Years of Growth (1956 to 1961)

In 1956 Jack Bowen became Chairman, and Norman Skingley stepped into the role of Club Captain.  With Roy Meadowcroft, they were to preside over a major expansion in the club’s activities.

Although Ray Fullerton had laid the foundations, it was under the leadership of Jack and Norman that the influx of youngsters was encouraged and brought forward, especially in distance running and sprint relays.

Members of the club won five National Schools titles in three years – amongst them Nick Torry, who won the 100m in 1959.  The Junior Sprint Relay team of 1959 (Nick Torry, Jaffa Jarvis, David Grimwood and Ralph Burrows) set a British Junior record in the Southern Championships – a club record that still stands today. 

Jaffa Jarvis                         Colin Craig                 Ralph Burrows                  Nick Torry

Nick Torry wrote at the time that ‘the relay training was ahead of its time, and would be very helpful for the GB relay team”.

However, the record setting was not without incident. In the heats, as Colin, all unaware won the race with ease, the other three gathered in excited chatter in the middle. Jaffa (2nd leg) had put the wrong hand back for Nick, who did a ballet dancer’s step to pass the baton. Ralph took a split decision to put his usual hand back and prayed. Jaffa likewise made an improvised pass!

Brian Hill-Cottingham was the first, and most outstanding of the intake of distance runners recruited in Ray Fullerton’s time, and was quoted at the time that he was “mentored by the club’s best distance man, Jack Bowen”.

A very good team became an outstanding team with the arrival of Buddy Edelen in 1960, and that Christmas they won the Bedford to St Neots Road Relay.  In April 1961 they were victorious in the Leyton to Southend Relay, and gained a place in the Southern London to Brighton event.

Southern Counties Cross Country 1957-58

In Chapter 2 we covered the exploits of Chelmsford’s rising star, Bill Cornell, in the latter half of the 1950’s he helped the club win their first medals in the Southern Counties Cross Country.  Bill registered his first victory in the event in 1957, and the following year he led the Youth team to a bronze medal.  The newspaper report on the event describes him taking the lead 250 yards from the finish of the 3.5 mile race, and going on to cross the line a full 10 seconds ahead of the competition, in a time of 18m 59s.  Bob Rust finished in 46th place, Peter Bailey was 55th, and Colin Christian came 57th.  Bob Squirrel, in his first year as a Youth finished 60th.


Bob Rust                              Peter Bailey            Colin Christian                        Bob Squirrel

Later Club Secretary                                            Essex Junior Steeplechase

                                                                             Champion 1959

Leading Athletes – Late 1950’s

During this period, some of the club’s stars included:


Dick Loft – Long Jumper                Dudley Courtman – 880yds and 3 miles


Nick Torry – Schools 100m            Rodger Bell – Oxford XC Captain

Brian Cottingham-Hill - The Club’s First International

In January 1960, 21 year old Brian Hill-Cottingham was selected to run for England in an international cross country event in Belgium, having finished 12th in the National Championships.  The local newspaper ran a feature on him in the build up to the event, describing Brian’s typical training regime – catching the train home from his job as an articled accountant in London, and then riding his bike straight from Chelmsford station to the Club HQ in Waterhouse Lane.  And then, after a thorough work-out, a ride home, a shower, a meal – and then straight to bed!  “I don’t have a special diet”, he commented to the reporter, “I don’t think my programme is too strenuous – it’s just a question of routine.”

1960 – The Most Successful Year Yet

By 1960, plans were afoot to create a new cinder track at Melbourne Park, and Chelmsford was becoming the real focal point for athletics in Essex.  The excitement was enhanced by the instigation of the first coaching courses in Chelmsford, organised jointly by the club and the Essex Coaching Committee.  At the first such course, at Melbourne Park, 75 local youngsters turned out, with the coaches including:

  • Brian Cottingham-Hill and Tony Elder (Senior Essex Coach) - Distance Running

  • Nick Torry, Norman Skingley (Club Captain) and Don Evans (Senior Essex Coach) - Sprints

  • Bob Sussex (former international long jumper) – High Jump

  • G. Tregunna (Southend School Master) and F.C. Smith (Essex Schools Champion) - Discus

This first coaching event, combining the talents of top coaches and local athletes was, by all accounts, a huge success.

The air of positivity and enthusiasm around the club was clear from the 1960 Annual Report:

International Cross-Country honours for Brian Hill-Cottingham, a new cinder track; a profit on the year of nearly £250, victory in the Coronation Trophy, the Legion Trophy at Hornchurch, the South East Essex League, the Essex Junior Cross-Country, the Glemsford Road Relay and the Brantham Junior Trophy; English Schools Championships for Jennifer Farley and David Rutty; these were the achievements of the most successful year in the Club’s history.

Many and various were the fine performances of club members, but we must single out a few of them for mention.  The Committee decided that two performances – 21st place in the International Cross-Country, and 5000m in 14m 9s – both by Brian Hill-Cottingham, were the best of the year and he therefore wins the Ward Trophy.

The Sykes Trophy is awarded for improvement resulting from hard and consistent training, and the Committee were quite unable to separate Bob Squirrell and Ken Burgess.  They therefore share the trophy for the following year.

To name every athlete who did well would turn this report into a book, and to name only a selection would be unfair, but the Committee wish to congratulate all our members on the part they have played in this fine season.

We are issuing a Building Fund Appeal, as we regard the provision of a new Headquarters as one of the main tasks facing us.  The provision of a new HQ has become urgent because the new cinder track is being built.  This new track marks a turning point in our history and the Committee would like to express their thanks for Chelmsford Council for the support they have given, and are giving to us.

Unfortunately, poor weather subsequently delayed the completion of the cinder track, and it was not finished until July 1961, and the Opening Match was postponed until April 1962.

Buddy Edelen

In October 1960, an American distance runner appeared on the scene.  Buddy Edelen was a former student at the College of Minnesota, and had set an American record for the 10,000 metres earlier in 1960.  Edelen had embarked on a tour of Europe, and on his way home stopped off in Chelmsford, where his coach Fred Wilt hoped to find him a club.

He made his debut for the club, and gained his first experience of cross country running in the South East Essex Cross Country League at Hadleigh, where he pushed Brian Hill-Cottingham into second place in a largely two-man race.  New club colleagues Ken Rogers, Dave Loveless and Peter Bailey came 4th, 6th and 7th respectively, and Chelmsford ran out winners with the most convincing victory in the history of the League.

Road Relay Success

The addition of Buddy Edelen to the club distance running squad stood Chelmsford in good stead for a number of fine team performances in Road Relays over the next few years. 

In April 1961 the team broke the event record at the Leyton-Southend Relay.  The race was an Eight Stage event:

  • Stage 1:                                Loveless (11th in 26.20min)

  • Stage 2:                                Bell (27.20min) – Chelmsford up to 2nd

  • Stage 3:                                Brian Hill-Cottingham (26.32min) – Chelmsford remain 2nd

  • Stage 4:                                Christian – 2nd

  • Stage 5:                                Rogers – 3rd

  • Stage 6:                                Edelen (25.11min) – 1st

  • Stage 7:                                Burgess -1st

  • Stage 8:                                Bailey (19.12min) – 1st

Winning time:    3:06.2

Apparently the team celebrated by going on to Bill Cornell’s wedding reception, before he left for Illinois the next day!


The team then went on to make a first appearance in a National Relay in October 1961.  The London to Brighton relay was a 12 Stage a race for the top 20 clubs in the South, and the club finished in a highly creditable 15th position, competing against a raft of international athletes.  The stage breakdown was:

  • Stage 1:                                Dudley Courtman – Chelmsford 11th

  • Stage 2:                                Bell – Chelmsford up to 6th

  • Stage 3:                                Loveless – Chelmsford down to 16th

  • Stage 4:                                Bailey – 16th

  • Stage 5:                                Rogers – 17th

  • Stage 6:                                17th

  • Stage 7:                                17th

  • Stage 8:                                Edelen – up to 15th

  • Stage 9:                                Hill-Cottingham – remaining 15th

  • Stage 10:                              15th

  • Stage 11:                              15th

  • Stage 12:                              Christian – 15th

Their result meant that they qualified automatically for the 1962 event.


‘Pop’ Bailey and Rodger Bell                                        Brian Hill-Cottingham, Buddy Edelen, & Ken Burgess