Chelmsford Athletics Club

Chelmsford Athletics Club - Club Memories



This page provides a collection of memories, contributed by members of the club, both past and present.  If you would like to add YOUR memories please let us know.

Click here for download version, including some photos.

Brian Hill-Cottingham
Sir Rodger Bell
Nick Torry
Valerie Wicks
Ralph Burrows
Mike Ranson Recollections
Speech by Derek Cole
Mike Ranson
Ian Buchanan
Doreen Bowen
Sir Frank Holroyd
Mick Elliott
John Hely-Hutchinson
Dudley Courtman
Bill Cornell's Row with the British Board
Bill Cornell Memoires
Don Cox
Buddy Edelen
Gerry Cox
Miv Owen
Geoff Tyler
Shirley Quinn
Roy Meadowcroft
The Dave Bedford Incident

Brian Hill-Cottingham – 1st May 2011

I have been through all my training records and selected a number of events.  I think Ken Burgess has the right note, in that we had a great team attitude so that as well as competing in our main events, we all filled in and I record that I frequently did a leg in the 4 X 110 (yards!).

I now think that I joined in 1953 and Bill was later in 1954. I used to marvel (probably jealously) at Bill’s ability, being some two years younger, running faster than me and able to turn his efforts to anything from High Jump, Javelin, Long Jump etc - you name it.  If I remember correctly, starting to do well at KEGS, largely because I was made House Cross-Country Captain, and only then starting to enjoy running, I was encouraged to come down to Waterhouse Lane by John(?) or Mike(?) Kelly and Peter Candler and the Courtman twins (Dud and Don).  On arriving I was mentored by the Club’s best distance man, Jack Bowen, and subsequently, good old Ernie Daley, who also gave a lot of encouragement to Bill when he arrived on the scene.

Facilities were a bit different then. Track training was carried out on the Marconi sports ground adjacent to the Railway.  It was grass of course.  I seem to remember that we (the Club) marked the track out. There were sand filled jumping pits and one served as a Pole Vault landing area when some athletes got around to that event. Health & Safety were not around then!

In addition, Chelmsford City FC allowed us to use the 5ft cinder path round the soccer pitch on Sunday mornings during the winter. Despite that path having near right angled corners, we still often did sessions of 220 yards, 440 yards and sometimes longer.  We then started to use the grass track at Melbourne Park in front of the original pavilion. Winter training was road running during the week and cross country at weekends (there must be several pairs of knees – as well as mine - that are suffering from the many miles we did on the roads, often doing 60-80 miles a week) - often with a race on the Saturday.

There were exceptions! In the cold fog/smogs preceding particularly the winters of 1961/2 and 1962/3, the roads were too dangerous because of widespread ice, fog/smog and later, frozen snow/slush.  Sometimes, Ken Burgess and I went out “cross country” if the sky cleared and the snow was reasonable; other times, Bill, Bob Squirrell, Pop Bailey, Terry Farrow, myself and several others would do “indoor training”!

The old Club Hut in Waterhouse lane was probably some 35 yards long, 25 of which was occupied by the Mens changing area. The “Hut” had suffered from subsidence at either end so there was a “hill” in the middle, so after an exercise warm up, and moving all the chairs into the middle of the “Hut” with the table tennis table (that can tell a tale of epic matches as well – Bill also excelled at that!), then we would do anything up to an hour and a half, training up and down the Club Hut going round the chairs, slowing quickly for the turn at either end, then accelerating away each time.  We knew we had worked after those sessions but without it, there would have been no training for sometimes a couple of weeks at a time.

Returning to the team elements, Ken was right about the Romford Half Marathon.  I think it was the third annual event he mentioned.  I had won the first one on 9th April 1960, from Terry Smith of Ipswich, and received a prize/medal from Jim Peters after the event, with encouragement to run marathons.  I never did.

Our middle distance teams set records for relays at the Boxing Day Bedford to St Neots, The Leyton to Southend (which gave us entry into two annual London to Brighton relays), the Newmarket cross country relay (around a horse training area) - as well, of course, competing in our biggest event, then run from Rainsford School (now St Peters) - the Sidney Taylor Road Relay.  In its day it was one of the country’s top road relays, to which all the best clubs in the southern half of the country came.  I seem to remember in one year, we had at least FOUR teams running.

Although not entirely sure of the timing, the team efforts were demonstrated in the way that the club worked together fundraising for the new HQ at Melbourne Park. All those Charity Walks and Christmas and New Year Dances which were so successful at the Shire Hall.

On a personal theme, as a youth, I had it pretty well all my own way until Bill came along.  It got a lot more competitive when our age groups coincided, or when he started to run Junior as a youth or Senior as a junior.  I did usually have the edge when it came to the longer event, but not always.

I am not sure if it was the Festival Trophy or the Coronation Trophy event that the Club put on at the Grass track at Melbourne Park on 30th June 1956 when many had wrongly expected one Chris Chataway to be competing for the Achilles Club in the One Mile – in which Jack Bowen and I, still a junior, were to compete for Chelmsford. I had never run in front of a real crowd before and Chelmsford had turned out in force - I reckoned 10 deep all around the track at the time.  Jack led for much of the race, which I finished up winning in 4m 27.7 (my best at the time).  Jack then won the Three Miles, and Bill won a 440 yards by some 25 yards in a good time on that track of 52.6 secs.

Three months later, Bill won a Youths Mile at Eton Manor in 4m 21.8secs and three months after that, won the Essex Youths Cross Country title.  On 27th July 1957, Bill won the AAA Junior Men’s Mile in 4m 15.5, with me trailing along in 5th at 4m 22.8secs.  

On 4th January 1958, Bill won the Essex Youths Cross Country title and I won the Junior Men’s title, resulting in my being selected for the Essex Senior team in the Inter Counties.  Essex were second, and I was 4th home for Essex in 28th place.  

In January 1959 I won the County Junior title again and was this time a member of the victorious County team in the Senior Inter Counties - this time finishing 17th and was the first Junior home. Later that month I won the North of the Thames Junior title by some 33 seconds but the rest of the winter season was marred by two bouts of Asian Flu!

In January 1960 I finished 10th in the Inter-Counties and was second home for Essex. The team were 4th.  For that, I received an invitation to run for England in Hannut in Eastern Belgium on 7th Feb.  In icy cold I managed sixth place with only Stan Eldon from UK ahead of me.  In March, I finished 13th in the National Cross Country Championships and was selected to run for England at the International event in Glasgow where I finished 21st. Later that year I ran 14m 9.2 for 5000 metres at The White City and set a new lap record in the Sidney Taylor relay with George Knight of Essex Beagles at 14m 45secs.  On Boxing Day that year we ran away with the Bedford to St Neots relay, setting several stage and event records.  The team was Buddy Edelen, Rodger Bell, Ken Burgess, Pop Bailey and myself.

June 1961 was a momentous month, in that having led the Southern Counties 3 Mile Track Championship for most of the final lap, I was pipped at the post by Gordon Pirie, in a time of 13m 47.2.  On 27th June, probably the last event on the old Grass track at Melbourne Park, with pacing help from Roy Meadowcroft and Andy Davis (a Wethersfield American Airman), I won the Club One Mile championship in 4m 10.7 secs - probably the fastest mile seen in Chelmsford until that time.  On 15th July the AAA Three Mile championship arrived at White City.  A heavy thunderstorm had left the black cinder track flooded for our event.  Gordon Pirie went off like a rocket and for most of the race had a huge lead, with other favourites Bruce Tulloh, Martyn Hyman etc all dropping out, leaving me to chase Gordon.  Had it been an extra lap I might have caught him as he was fading rapidly but nevertheless, I had a cherished silver medal.  A few weeks later, Gordon made headlines after running professionally in a Bullring in Spain!  

Subsequently, I understand that allegations were made that he had competed professionally before. It was still a shock, when I received a telephone call from the Daily Telegraph sports columnist asking me if I would now claim the title.  I replied that I did not care if he had ridden a bike - he won and that was that.  For once, I was reported word for word! 

Six days later, I ran 3m 50 for a 1500 metre at White City, and the following day, again at White City, ran 8m 3.8 for 3000 metres - both invitation events.  

In August, as part of a small UK representative team, I ran at an International event at Vittel in France, winning the 3000 metres on grass in 8m 23 then making up a 4x100 metre relay team with Adrian Metcalf, Robbie Brightwell and Sid Purkiss of Romford.  We were beaten on the line only by the French team!  

After finishing 13th in the 1962 Inter Counties, I was selected for an International event at Dunkirk, winning from French Marathon Champion, Alain Mimoun.  Two weeks later, Buddy and I finished 2nd and 3rd in the Southern Counties, behind Mel Batty.

In 1963, I tried indoor tracks for the first time, finishing 3rd in the AAA 2 Miles at Wembley, and winning a Home Countries International 2 Miles - again at Wembley, and televised at prime time, Saturday afternoon!  My time was 8 Min 52 secs.

In 1964, with business activity taking over, it was a great surprise to win the Essex 1 Mile championship again, at Southend in 4m 13 secs.  For nearly 3 years, I had had the Senior Cross Country League matches all wrapped up, until one Buddy Edelen arrived as a Chelmsford member and we had many a tussle - Buddy eventually getting the better before going back to the States to set 6 Mile and Marathon records.

All sorts of things come to mind while writing this - training with Bill, almost sprinting the sides of a soccer pitch at Marconi’s, jogging the goal ends, then sprinting the straights for FIFTY laps without a break.  Summer training evenings doing 24 by 440 yards, starting a lap every 2 minutes and averaging under 64 sec a lap, or 5 by One Mile, averaging under 4min 24 secs with a 5 minute break between each mile.  On a winter evening with Buddy, running from Waterhouse Lane via Writtle and Margaretting, to the bridge at the bottom of London Hill, up Galleywood Common, and racing up the hill from the bridge to Galleywood crossroads TEN times - jogging back between and finally racing back to Waterhouse Lane!!!  Some Sundays being dropped by car 10 to 15 miles away and finding our own way back (running of course) - and Ken Rogers being “lost” when only a hundred yards from his back garden.

In later years, I recall managing the boys and youths sections of the club, and setting new training ideas using the woods at Melbourne Park.  Getting an 8-man relay team to run continuous 8 mile legs from Chelmsford to Edinburgh for the 1970 Commonwealth Games - then doing a similar 12-man relay from Brentwood (starter Jim Peters!) to Munich, taking a Message of Goodwill for the UK team in 1972.  For that we had a lot of help from Brentwood Rotary Club and other Rotary Clubs en route. (That’s another story!).  Those were the days.

A final observation.  Middle distance is covered reasonably well.  There were some pretty good efforts from sprinters, field eventers and the jumpers and hurdlers over the years which should come into the archives.  Bob Loveridge persevered so well over hurdles for instance.

Sir Rodger Bell

I joined Chelmsford AC early in 1956 when I was 16.  Thereafter, I raced for the club when I was not at school or university until about 1965 when the demands of practice as a young barrister, living in swinging sixties London, and a recurrent injury, brought an end to serious training.

The last races which I remember for the club were the National Cross Country Championships on Hampstead Heath in February 1964 (101st in a field of about 1000) and the Southern Counties Athletics Championships later that year (5th in the final in 4min 8.6secs).  I turned out for the club whenever I could, in cross-country in the Winter, road races in the Spring and athletics in the Summer, often running more than one middle or long distance event in the same afternoon, in inter-club meetings on the track.

The events I enjoyed most were the road relays. We had two of the best road runners in the country in Brian Hill-Cottingham and Buddy Edelen, when he came over from the States, and there were a number of others like Alan Bannister, Pop Bailey, Bob Squirrel, Kenny Burgess and myself who could turn out decent relay legs in support of the two stars.  So, we tended to do quite well, even against bigger clubs, and the team effort was fun.

The other memorable occasions of club life, for the middle and long distance members, were the midweek, Winter evening training runs around the streets and lanes from the rather decrepit clubhouse in Waterhouse Lane.  Everyone who turned up set off together in a large group, led by Brian.  After a suitably slow warm-up, we did a series of “strides” which meant stretching out as fast as possible, over variable distances of between about a quarter and three-quarters of a mile, with slow trots in between, while one by one, according to our pace, we each caught up the by now jogging Brian.  When everyone had more or less recovered Brian would designate the destination of the next stride, and off we would go again.

It was very good endurance training, but with plenty of time for chatting.  Indeed, Neil Kemp has reminded me that in the 1962/63 Winter, when I had just left university and was studying from home for my Bar Finals, and Neil was a 17 year-old apprentice at Hoffmans, I was so talkative about what fun university was and how anyone could afford to go to university if they got a County grant and worked on building sites or as a hospital porter or at Britvics in the vacations, as I had done, that he decided to have a go himself.  In fact, he ended up with a science PhD and a very successful career with the British Council.

I have very happy memories of Chelmsford AC, but my most memorable race was not for the club at all, but for Oxford University against Cambridge in May 1961. The Oxford-Cambridge Sports in those days took place at the White City, over about two hours in one afternoon.  There were two competitors for each team in each event. The track races were still in yards, not metres, and I was selected in the Mile with Roger Thorn, who had won the event the year before.  The leading Cambridge man was Herb Elliott who held the World 1500 metres and Mile records, and had won the Rome Olympic 1500 metres Gold Medal the year before, taking off with 600 metres to go and winning by about 18 metres from a strong field.  However, Herb had come to Cambridge soon after that victory, and although he had continued to run, taking part in the University cross-country match that winter, for instance, he had conscientiously devoted himself to his academic studies and did not pretend to be near his previous fitness.  Moreover, he started the afternoon by winning the 880 yards in 1min 59secs, nowhere near his best but a useful time requiring a lot of effort.  So, Roger and I thought we were in with a chance when we set off barely two hours later, and we shared the best pace we could through the first three laps.  At the top of the back straight on the last lap, however, with 300 metres to go, there was light pitter patter outside us as Herb tore past.  He finished in 4min 7.2 secs, with Roger 10 yards behind in 4min 8.4secs and me a wilting third in 4min 9.2secs. After the race Herb was gracious enough to say that if we had managed to run the first three laps a little faster, he would have had to let us go because he was so “pooped” after the 880.  If he had let us go, we would have been the only ones to have beaten him over a Mile in his senior career, but I didn’t believe him. He was just being kind (he was one of the most modest men I have ever met). The fact is that he was in a different class.

The following year I managed to win the event in 4min 7.2secs, my best time, rather unfairly just catching Martin Heath of Cambridge on the line, when he had no time to react.  Sporting Life awarded me a cigarette lighter for this victory, although I didn’t smoke, but the race against Herb is more memorable now, looking back.  Firstly, because it was against the great man himself, and it was my first time under 4min 10secs, but also because it was a defeat, and a comprehensive one too.  Eight years of head to head athletic competition and over 40 years as a trial lawyer, has proved time and time again that one learns much more from one’s many failures than from the occasional success.

Rodger’s memories of Brigadier Arnold-Strode Jacks D.S.O. and three bars Olympic 1500m champion of 1912, paced by Philip Noel-Baker, Minister i/c Festival of Britain 1951:

I remember going to the Festival of Britain in a coach from Moulsham Primary School, in my last year there, each of us with our pack of sandwiches.  I refuse on principle to watch/read about events which are promoted as history when I can remember them perfectly well. Too often the youngish historians get things completely wrong, which makes me wonder how much of real history is completely wrong too.

I never met Philip Noel-Baker, but after his wife died, Arnold Strode-Jackson came back to England from the States (New Mexico?) where he had settled as a rancher on marrying an American lady. (Was the ranch in her family, I wonder?).  He must have lived somewhere in West London after his return because he regularly came down to Thames on Saturday afternoons in the Winter to watch home matches.  It was sometime in the middle sixties because that was when I was running most regularly for Thames.  He was a very engaging old man, still tall and straight and mentally "all there". I spoke to him often and he was intrigued by the amount of training I had done for the Oxford/Cambridge Mile.  He said that before the Sports each year the Oxford team went down to Brighton for a few days and their training consisted mostly of walks and bath-chair races along the front. Heaven knows what times he would have done with proper training.

Nick Torry – June 2011

My earliest memory of running for Chelmsford Athletic Club is of a cold April evening in 1956 at Rayleigh Weir Speedway Stadium, taking part in the Junior 100 yards.  My diary of the time tells me that I won in 10.8 seconds, but my memory of the occasion is particularly vivid - not only because of the unusual venue, but also because it was also under floodlights!

My home was in Witham and my training was divided between Chelmsford and Colchester, where I was at school.  Training on Sunday mornings was based at an old Scout Hut in Waterhouse Lane, which I think was the club HQ at the time, and we warmed up by jogging beside the river and underneath the railway arch to the Marconi Sports Ground.  The surface was grass of course, as it was at the Hoffman’s Sports Ground off the Rainsford Road, which the Club was able to use during certain weekday evenings.  Everywhere we trained was on grass, and matches were nearly always on grass too.  I remember meetings at Needham Market, Brantham, Hadleigh, Romford and above all at Melbourne Park, where for some reason we could race but not train.   

Cinder tracks were a luxury and we looked forward to running at places like Hornchurch, Ilford and Southchurch Park, Southend.  They were OK in dry weather, but I remember the Essex Schools’ Championships at Colchester Garrison in 1956, when torrential rain turned the cinders into a quagmire. Towards the end of the fifties we did train on cinders – at the old Chelmsford F.C. ground in New Writtle Street.  The track was round the outside of the pitch, was wide enough for one runner, and had square corners.

The Club was very friendly and welcoming.  I remember particularly the club coach Ernie Dailey’s infectious enthusiasm and the club secretary Norman Skingsley’s quiet efficiency and encouraging support.  We all looked up to older athletes like Roy Meadowcroft, Doug Minett and the Courtman twins, Doug and Dud, and to our near contemporaries like Bill Cornell, who was a year older than me and doing great things in the 880 yards, the Mile and in cross-country, and came so near to a four minute Mile a few years later - and Brian Hill-Cottingham, whose wonderful race against Gordon Pirie later had us all cheering.  I remember the friendship and camaraderie of Ian and Campbell Pulley, Rodger Bell and Ian Pitwood, Jack and Penny Gardner, Pete Horsley, Kenny Burgess, Bob Rust, Bob Squirrel, Colin Christian, ‘Pop’ Bailey, Bob Gibson and Bill Lee. 

However, it was Derek Cole who helped me most.  He gathered round him a group of promising young athletes and with his tremendous technical expertise encouraged them to greater things.  I well remember his group training weekends, either by the Thames in Marlow, where we slept in the summerhouse in his Dad’s garden, ran round the steep hillsides nearby, swam in his Dad’s pool and even canoed on the Thames.  Even more memorable was an Easter weekend spent under canvas in a field at Gosfield Lake, when it rained solidly throughout.  After the frequent runs we plunged into the lake to get rid of the mud.  I was privileged to share a tent with Buddy Edelen, an extremely modest American, who later finished sixth in the Tokyo Olympic marathon and sadly, I now realise, died fourteen years ago.

Derek’s relay training was ahead of its time and would be very helpful for the GB relay team today.  He transformed the four of us above – myself, Bob “Jaffa” Jarvis, Dave Grimwood and Ralph Burrows - into a speedy, efficient quartet, who changed the baton at full speed and at full stretch and in winning the Southern Junior Championships in 1959, setting a club record of 43.5 seconds (4x110 yards) that still stands today 52 years later.

He was largely responsible for my best season, 1959, when I was eighteen years old.  Prior to that season I had concentrated on the 220 yards, having won the English Schools Junior Championship on another Speedway track at Belle Vue, Manchester in 1955.  In the following three championships I had managed 4th, 2nd and 3rd. Derek persuaded me to concentrate on the 100 yards and it worked.  After finishing second in the L.A.C. Schools, I won the Essex Junior and Essex Schools, both in 10.0. 

At an evening meeting at Hornchurch I ran 14.8 for 150 yards, behind the great Peter Radford, beating European 400m Silver medallist, John Salisbury.  I reached the semi-final of the AAA Championships but was beaten to the final by Peter Radford, Ron Jones and Jimmy Omegbemi.  But my greatest day was week later on the grass at Northwich, Cheshire, when I won the All England Schools Senior 100 yards, equalling the record of 10.0 seconds, and proudly received the shield from Lord Leverhulme as captain of the winning Essex team.

Training went well during the winter of 1959/60 as I prepared for my first season as a Senior.  I ran several times at the pre-Cosford venue for indoor athletics – an old RAF hangar at Stanmore, recording 6.6 several times for 60 yards.  As there was no heating, many of us wore black tights beneath our shorts to keep us warm!  The hangar was so short that we had to run out of the door at the end into the snow onto coconut matting.  As the door was only two lanes wide, we had to converge swiftly after finishing, so that in one race I accidentally spiked a fellow competitor, fortunately not seriously, with the short spikes we screwed into the soles of our running shoes.

Sadly, during March 1960 I suffered a recurrence of an old rugby injury – a slipped disc – and as a result I missed the coveted Lilleshall training week with top national coaches.  It was also the end of my 1960 track season – the very year when the cinder track at Melbourne Park opened.  In subsequent years, although I trained very hard every Winter at university and ended up far fitter and stronger than ever before, I pulled hamstrings with monotonous regularity at the beginning of each track season.  I represented Durham University, the U.A.U. and the B.U.S.F. and ran regularly for the Club until 1967.  I continued to enjoy athletics enormously, running 9.8w (100 yards), 10.8 (100m), 22.1 (200m), 50.4 (400m) and 86.0 (660 yards).  When I watch athletics now, I console myself with the thought that I would not have disgraced myself in a world class women’s event!

Some time in the early sixties I was representing Durham University at Loughborough when someone drew our attention to an experimental run-way to the Long Jump.  It was hard and firm and had a rubbery texture.  We tried it a few times and told each other that it would never catch on!  Now Chelmsford has a superb all-weather track and a wonderful indoor facility too.  Well done Chelmsford Athletic Club.  May you continue to flourish.

Valerie Wicks - daughter of Councillor Ron Wicks

I know my father was a member of the athletic club for many years and I can remember going to Melbourne when they only had the grass track.  We also took part in the sponsored walk to collect money towards the new club house.  I have some photos of meetings but cannot lay my hands on them at the moment as I'm not sure where they are as some are in the loft, but I will look for them and send them to you.  He was interested in most sports and also belonged to the Chelmsford Hockey Club - but athletics was the one he supported the most.

Regarding Walter Landers, I have a cousin who is friendly with Walter’s daughter Jean and will try and get some information from her or give your address so she can contact you herself.

Ralph Burrows  

Member of 1959 British Junior Record Relay Team, whose Club record still stands. Now UK Athletics, National Technical Official. Olympic Official 2012.

Waterhouse Lane HQ. Wooden hut, ex wartime with uneven floor sections and slugs in the shower. Training with free weights, which when mishandled fell straight through the wooden floor necessitating some hasty patching. (Thanks to Marconi for providing the aluminium sheeting).  Sprint training on dark winter nights running then jogging between alternate lamp posts.  Little threat from cars - more from small yapping dogs and uneven road surfaces.

Coach travel to away matches; trophy, open, invitation, commemoration and annual meetings. No leagues at that time. Two, three, four events undertaken per meeting to gain valuable points for the team.  I remember I was once entered in a Two Mile walking race - a crippling experience for a sprinter not used to running more than 220 yards.  The leading group passed me on their third lap.

I was invited to join Chelmsford AC in 1957 by Roy Meadowcroft, following a Marconi intercompany match.  Roy was all things at the club - meeting organiser, membership secretary, team manager, transport organiser, competing athlete and more.

Career highlight: Being a member of the Chelmsford AC relay team. British Junior record for the 4 x 110 relay, 43.5, 1959.

Other notable highlights: Competing on the 1948 Olympic track after its move to Eton Manor; being selected to officiate on the London 2012 Olympic track   

Athletics has been a way of life and a best friend during my time as an athlete, team manager, technical official and member of various committees.

 

Mike Ranson’s Recollections

Mike Ranson joined in 1947, after Army Service, and while at Oxford ran for the Tortoises (the cross-country 2nd VIII) against the Cambridge Spartans.  He was co-opted onto the club committee on 5th March 1948.  At the AGM of 5th October 1948 his proposal to increase subscriptions was promptly ruled out of order by Alderman Hugh Wright.  For the club he was, as Track Secretary, a great innovator in the early 1950’s - and in 1954 he organised a floodlit meeting at Rayleigh Greyhound and Speedway Stadium, and a club tour to Luxembourg, Strasburg and Thun, to compete against local clubs and watch the European Championships.  He also recalls doing endless repairs on the 1937 clubhouse.

He took up a teaching post in Ibadan in Nigeria in 1955, becoming a leading Starter and a Nigerian Field Event Judge at the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, and their delegate to the IAAF Congress in Stockholm during the 1958 European Championship.  Until the early 50’s the use of floodlights was rationed because of fuel shortages, but then Mike persuaded the stadium owner to hire out the ground, and EKCO to sponsor a meeting.  It would only take a 400 yard track which had to be marked out by a club team in the two days after the previous meeting, as dogs did practice circuits on the surrounding dog track.  Most races in those days finished in mid straight, and the main problem there was the 10 yard concrete starting grid for the bikes.  The stadium had a huge pile of spare cinders.

 

Speech by Derek Cole, best man, at the 50th Anniversary of Michael and Daphne Ranson

Aug 2009

Growing old disgracefully. That perhaps accurately describes both Michael and me. Since half a century ago we both roiled the waters of Chelmsford athletics, we have both been blessed by treasures, in Michael's words, as wives who have brought some element of common sense into the wilder escapades of our lives. My problem in proposing the health of this devoted couple is that my contacts with Daphne have been rare indeed. We only met briefly again last month.

However, I feel sure that Michael's obvious prosperity, success, happiness and indeed sanity have, as with me, only been secured by the proper supervision of a loving and capable wife. The two of us owe a lot to both of them. However, if you should see the pair of them with heads together comparing notes I will be grateful and I feel sure Michael will also be grateful if you would take immediate steps to interrupt them at once and put a stop to it.

We all at Chelmsford became fully aware of Michael's skills and talents when he invited his friend the Rev Nick Stacey, the Olympic Relay finalist, to speak at the club dinner. He was able to reduce us to fits of laughter by merely recounting Michael's time in Oxford athletics, regaling us with the various ventures, initiatives, schemes, plans, enterprises, aberrations , eccentricities and folies d'esprits he indulged in there . In reality he was describing in jocular mode Michael's dedicated voluntary service to the community, which was of great benefit to us in Chelmsford and, no doubt, on into Norfolk.

Some might regard people of our age as something of a survival.  Last year I met again another distance runner from my youth, Nigel Stewart, and we recalled with satisfaction words put into a character's mouth by his father the famous Oxford Don of Michael's time, Professor J.I.M.Stewart, the novelist Michael Innes:  “I have long since ceased to be a survival and have become an anachronism. I have every intention of living on to become a crying scandal”.

But enough of Oxford. We can remember their wedding 50 years ago in the words of the Cambridge poet Rupert Brooke that “happiness filled the night”, that “we flung the dancing moment by with jest and glitter”.

Although today may be more muted, we can remember both occasions in the final lines of the poem – “The laughter swelled unbroken round us and the jest flashed on. We who knew the best down wondrous hours grew happier yet. We sang at heart and talked and eat and lived from laugh to laugh, we too, when you were there and you and you”.  After 50 years, I propose again the health of this loving and much loved couple. Ladies and Gentlemen  'Daphne and Michael'. 

Mike Ranson

The photograph of both teams was taken at Schifflange in Luxemburg and includes Club members:

  • Back Row: the present Air Marshall Sir Frank Holroyd K.B.E., 7 & Ken Rogers 8 from left (including child), Ian Buchanan (part author of Guinness Book of Record 3rd from right
  • Second row: Gordon Harris 3 from left, Doug Minett, 4 from left
  • Below the photo taker Dick Loft
  • Front row: Derek Cole (centre behind two elbows), John Capers (far right).
  • Back Row far left Syd Bryant (Oxford).The 16mm film he took has now been enhanced on DVD and circulated by John Caspers and his son

Ken, Gordon, Derek & John Bryant were distance runners., Doug and John Capers were sprinters, Dick Loft a Long Jumper and Frank and Ian Buchanan Shot-Putters.

The undeveloped photograph and an account of the Luxemburg and Strassburg matches were hastily posted to John Chaplin at the Essex Chronicle to report on the first part of the tour. Mike says of John Chaplin = “he was a good friend of Athletics and very helpful”.  He recalls frequent meetings with John at The Saracens Head.

Getting to the 1958 Cardiff Games proved interesting. Mike flew in from Nigeria to Heathrow and made his way to the A4 where Derek Cole picked him up.  It was intended to reach Derek’s hotel in Chepstow in time for Mike etc to catch the last train to Cardiff, but Mike insisted on a stop for a lengthy dinner. When they reached Chepstow, Hotel and Station were firmly closed and all three slept in the car.

Petrol came off the ration in 1950 and cars started to replace bicycles. Many cars were somewhat ancient, and Mike’s car rapidly lost its two nearside doors, so accepting a lift was slightly tricky. Mike also helped revive Chelmer Cycling Club of which his mother (a Rural District Councillor) was President.

Ian Buchanan

by Derek Cole

Ian did all his athletics for Chelmsford A.C.  He is third from right, back row, in the Schifflange photo on the trip to Switzerland in 1954.  When I was editing Athletic Review in Sydney in 1957 he wrote, at my suggestion, an analysis of split times at 200m in 400m races.  He showed that top athletes produced their best time when the first 200m was no more than 1.5 seconds faster than the second.  Nobody had asked for this before, but it had interested me, since I had seen Arthur Wint with similar splits overhaul Herb McKenley, who had run a very fast first 200m, for the Gold Medal in 1948.

Godfrey Brown, Silver medallist in 1936, then wrote an article suggesting that a different approach might suit different athletes. However, when I met Herb McKenley at the Stockholm European Games in 1958 he laughed and said that on the American College circuit he never won by less than 30 metres, so it didn’t matter how he timed it.  Arthur Wint had judged it right and given him a nasty shock.

An American coaching magazine published c1959 reported the results of a treadmill test which tended to support this, so I wrote to the author.  Three weeks later he phoned me from London!  He and his wife joined us one Sunday on the Marconi track near the Waterhouse Lane hut, but over lunch at the County Hotel his wife told me they had little knowledge of Athletics as her husband, Dr Robinson, had done the research by special request.  He was one of the world’s leading experts on tropical diseases on his way to a conference in Africa!  American athletics was entirely college based at that time and they were astonished by the variety of athletes training on a grass track on a Sunday morning.  Mrs Robinson had a long conversation with Bob Squirrel.

Track & Field News, California - April 2008

Ian Buchanan

B. 28 January 1932, Sheffield, Yorkshire.

D. 6 April 2008, Aylsham, Norfolk.

Ian Buchanan was a native of Yorkshire, born there in 1932. At a small brunch at his home in East Anglia, Ian presented Peter Matthews and me with the first copies of that book, which I still treasure.  His final book, written shortly before he became ill, is an absolute gem of sports statistics, and Who’s Who of UK & GB International Athletes 1896-1939.

Ian from his earliest days was a sports fan. He was a useful half-mile runner in school and also played rugby, which was his favourite sport to watch.  He attended the 1948 Olympics in London where his love of athletics and the Olympics blossomed.  Around that time he became close friends with Ross and Norris McWhirter - the two brothers who founded the Guinness Book of World Records.  Both of them kept athletics statistics and Ian started helping them with their hobby.  In that regard he became a member of the Association of Track and Field Statisticians (ATFS) and the NUTS (Britain’s National Union of Track Statisticians).  In 1961 he published his first book – “Encyclopædia of British Athletics Records”.

In the 1970’s he began helping Erich Kamper with data on British Olympians.  Ian and I first came in contact in 1981, when Kamper put us in touch.  By that time, Ian had already contributed to several books and had also written a small monograph - “A Handbook of Far Eastern & Asian Games Track & Field Athletics”.  Together we began to collect data on American and British Olympians and over the next few years collaborated on several books.  Our first book was in 1983: “Quest for Gold: The Encyclopedia of American Olympians”, which was followed in 1986 by “The United States  National Championships in Track and Field Athletics: 1876-1985”.  With Peter Matthews, a former editor at Guinness, we also worked together on “The Guinness International Who’s Who of Sport”.  Peter and Ian also wrote the seminal work on British athletes in all sports – “All-Time Greats of British and Irish Sport”. Ian continued to produce work on British athletes and Olympians independently.  His best contribution to the history of Britain at the Olympics is the definitive work – “British Olympians”, published in 1991.

In 1991, Ian sponsored a group of Olympic historians to meet at a small pub in Knightsbridge, London - The Duke of Clarence - where the International Society of Olympic Historians (ISOH) was formed.  As the group broke up that afternoon, we walked outside into a chilling British December rain, and decided we needed to elect a President.  Standing huddled under some umbrellas, there was only one choice, and Ian Buchanan was chosen that day as the first President of ISOH.  He guided ISOH through its formative years and helped the group become internationally known and achieve official recognition by the International Olympic Committee.  He served two terms as President of ISOH, stepping aside at the quadrennial meeting in Sydney.

Buchanan s business career was as a re-insurance agent, primarily based in Hong Kong, where he moved in the 1970s, although in retirement he settled back in his native England to a charming cottage in Burgh Next Aylsham, in Norfolk.  For his work in Olympic history, he was made an Honorary Member of ISOH after he stepped down as President in 2000 and was awarded the Olympic Order in Silver in 1997 by the IOC.  He is survived by his wife, Jeanne, and two children, Jamie and Joanna.

He will be missed by all of us who will always remember his big smile and his hearty laugh

Peter Matthews, a former editor at Guinness

Recollections of Doreen Bowen

Doreen (nee Hunt) was persuaded to join the club in 1946 by ‘Ginger’ Skingsley, and an early memory is going to Motspur Park in a club coach to watch Sydney Wooderson's last track race - an attack on the world three mile record.  As every club in the South East had the same idea, the ground was full and the gates locked.  However Ray Fullerton did not serve in the VIIIth army for nothing, and he got the gates opened specially for Chelmsford.  Unfortunately Wooderson pulled a muscle and did not finish. 

The ladies section was run in the early days by Mrs. Mitchell when she left Jack Bowen’s mother Winifred took over.  Sadly she became ill, and when she died of cancer in January 1954 a packed funeral service was held in Chelmsford Cathedral.  Joan Faulkner, who taught at the County High School then became Ladies Secretary.  Doreen can well remember the introduction of the first 440 yard races for women.  The records show that as many as 7 ladies ran in the club handicap of 1954 to tackle this alarming new event.  The handicap was won by Diane Grey, but Doreen recalls Barbara Theobald, who later married the club's top sprinter Trevor Thorpe, as the fastest over a quarter-mile.

Doreen did not recall Fanny Blankers-Coen meeting Ray Fullerton, shown in the club photo, but thinks Ray might have well have brought her to Chelmsford.  The photo of the interior of the Waterhouse Lane Hut shows an open door on the right leading to the tiny kitchen which doubled as a Ladies Changing Room.  She recalls visiting Derek Cole in his rooms in Jesus College Cambridge with Ray Fullerton and others, after the club's February 1951 match with the University.

She married Jack Bowen in 1954 and in effect retired.  During National Service Jack was part of Squadron Leader Davis’s famous athletic squad including Derek Ibbotson at RAF Yatesbury, and ran for the RAF and Combined Services, as well as winning the Essex Junior Mile.  She recalled that ‘a tall runner from another club who also ran for Chelmsford’ had put him in touch with Davis and urged him to apply for Yatesbury.  I said ‘that sounds like Peter Manning’ and indeed it was the future Canadian Olympic Coach.  Jack's unit transferred to the Habbiniyah air base in Iraq, still held by Britain since 1918, but Squadron Leader Davis retained all athletes at Yatesbury to represent the RAF.  After the cinder track was opened at Melbourne Park, Jack persuaded Davis to hold an RAF match there.

Jack was Chairman for five years and presided over a big increase in the club's successes (see the report of 1960).  Brian Hill-Cottingham and others acknowledge his help.  He left Marconi's to become Deputy Director General of the Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors (now incorporated into the Institute of Civil Engineers) and was awarded an MBE.  Doreen recalls accompanying him to the ceremony, and later to two Royal Garden Parties.

Air Marshall Sir Frank Holroyd, KBE, CB

My father was a very well known and highly respected AAA coach and International Judge.  He worked at EK Cole, and my athletic career started there as a young sprinter, winning a number of EK Cole club races.  However I was quite a good all round athlete and won the ‘Victor Laudarum’ award as the best all round athlete when I went to Southend High School for Boys.  As I started to bulk up and put on more muscle I concentrated more on the throwing events

Aged 15 I started a student apprenticeship at Crompton Parkinson in Chelmsford and subsequently joined Chelmsford AC and Chelmsford Rugby Club. Naturally I took part in the Crompton Parkinson sports days, together with another apprentice Dennis Broyd, who was a very good 440 yard runner.

As a junior I established a club junior Shot Put record, and with Martin Lucking represented Essex Juniors in the Shot Put.  He went on to be UK champion, and I joined the RAF!!  Later, aged 19 (on the Thun trip), I set a Chelmsford AC Senior Shot Put record.   This was where [Derek and I] met up 57 years ago.  I joined the RAF in 1956 and continued with athletics and rugby.  I was Group Shot Put champion and later, as the Station Commander at RAF Locking I led the Station athletics team to take 1st place in the RAF inter-station competition, undertaking Shot Put, Discus, Javelin and Hammer.

Meanwhile my father continued with his coaching, organising and judging, concentrated on the ladies of Southend-on-Sea and Essex, until shortly before his death.  It was his passion.  My sister also had success with Southend AC.  She won many club championships and EKCO AC Championships, particularly in the pentathlon at Junior, Intermediate, and Senior levels, and in the Essex Championship. She represented Essex at the White City in the late 1950’s in the Shot Put but says she was outclassed by Russian ladies with moustaches!!! 

Mick Elliot

I finished my involvement with athletics in 1976 and took up football as a referee. Having finished playing at about the same time. I was a referee for 30 years having done circa 2,500 games including 3 Essex County cup finals. At around the same time I was invited to join the Old Chelmsfordians Association and played cricket for them for about 20 years. For the past 7 years I have been a director of the Essex County Football Association with responsibility for discipline.

On the cricket front I finished playing some 8 years ago and took up umpiring. Currently I'm the umpires appointments secretary on the T Rippon Mid Essex League.  All this is a long way from being the village hall secretary at Hatfield Peverel at the age of 18 and the Chelmsford AC team manager soon after and the Essex CAAA team manager for youth and juniors a short while later.

I would like to thank you and Roy Meadowcroft for pointing me in the right direction when I left school in Surrey and got spotted by Arthur Alchin winning the Essex Army Cadet cross country championships at Waterhouse Lane, Chelmsford in 1961 (I think) and then became involved with Chelmsford AC.

Dr John Hely-Hutchinson Ph.D.

I joined Chelmsford AC in early 1954 and spent most of the 1955 season away on assignment to the BBC you [Derek Cole] did indeed hand over the job of track secretary to me after you left in 1956.  At the close of that season, before moving to London, I wrote up the year's events in detail and the account should be somewhere in the club archives.  The three most significant events, in my opinion, were firstly winning the County medley relay; secondly being for the first time able to field full teams of both Senior and Junior Men and Ladies; and thirdly winning the cup for the most distinguished local youth organisation.

I did my best times (50.0 sec) either on the outside lane or a 500m track because my right leg is shorter than my left.  I might have done better still on Fenners, which I believe has a clockwise track [He ran at Fenners for the club v Jesus & Trinity in 1954].

Shortly after arriving in Chelmsford, I remember going, with most of the club, to see Chattaway break a world record in beating Kuts at White City.  It was freezing cold and we wondered how they could put one foot in front of the other.

I arrived too late to hear of the trip to Thun which was I think recorded brilliantly on film.

Dudley Courtman - Chelmsford Athletic Club in the Fifties

My earliest memory of Chelmsford Athletic Club is turning up on one Saturday afternoon to run in a cross-country race, probably as a member of my school team.  The year was around 1950.   As I entered the large clubhouse doors facing the river I was greeted by the overwhelming smell of embrocation, which emanated from two improvised tables in the centre of a long room where semi - naked elderly men – elderly to me anyway – were being pummelled and slapped by energetic masseurs, one of whom I subsequently learned was the legendary Benny Welham of Chelmsford City Football Club fame. I was somewhat mystified if all of this activity, which everyone was taking very seriously, was an integral part of a race and became slightly worried that I might be expected to join in - have a turn on the table that is.

It was Wintertime and the hut was filled with the noisy discussions amongst the competitors who were getting changed using folding chairs arranged along both walls of the long room. Everyone eventually drifted outside to warm up for “the off”, “the line up” and the firing of the gun. There followed a mass get away across the old rubbish dump, which soon subsided into a crocodile as the railway viaduct was reached; a right turn was made along the cinder track, then another to join the footpath behind the Crompton’s factory as far as Waterhouse Lane; them across the open clayey fields towards Writtle village, across a style followed by a right swoop down towards the river, the brick works bridge, a water meadow, Admirals Park, two more river bridges and back to the start. Us boys ran one lap but seniors carried on for another one or two laps depending upon the race’s status. Then came the steaming hot shower, mugs of sweet tea, an impromptu prize giving, speeches and generous applause. This was the first of many happy visits.

In the 1950’s the wooden club house, built in the 1930’s presumably by club members, was looking rather sorry for itself. One assumes that in wasn’t used much during the war years, maybe only for war related activities.  By now it was looking a bit neglected and dilapidated. The interior was also rather drab - a coat of paint wouldn’t have come amiss.  One could imagine that at one time when all of the paintwork and plumbing was new it would have looked splendid. Its builders must have been proud of it.  At the end of a long changing room were showers, a women’s changing room and a small kitchen.  It was here where the catering was carried out for the races, special events and club meetings. On social occasions, sausage and mash suppers were served. Growing lads thoroughly approved of such feasts and we could easily cope with the generously heaped plates. We were just recovering from the effects of the wartime food rationing.

The heart of the club building was its showers. These were provided via a large gas boiler which looked as if it was about to fall off the wall, and which emitted quite a loud bang when it ignited. I got the impression that the safety limits of the whole set up were on a knife edge. The plumbing, which included the several gas-fired heaters in the main room, was inspected, when the need arose by Ken Rogers, a three miler and cross-country runner from Braintree who worked for the Gas Company.  There were times when Ken had to forgo his training and get his tools out.  He did this with great good humour and a joke or two. He was a lovely man, much admired and liked for his ready wit and repartee. He memorably led our singing on a club visit to Switzerland. Rumour has it that the bars of Thun and Interlaken are still resonating to the rollicking songs that Ken introduced us to.

The Club distance runners’ regular training sessions were usually Tuesdays and Thursday nights and Sunday mornings. This was the pattern before training regimes changed and running became more serious with some athletes training every day as it became clear that this was the only way to keep up.  In the 1950’s training was fitted into a working life which seemed a good perspective. One had time for other things.

Winter training nights from the club were mainly for road and cross-country runners. The nights were dark and often very cold when groups of runners wearing only shorts and vests made their way up Waterhouse Lane to join the Writtle Road, past the Black Lion, The Horse and Groom,  then a left turn to Writtle Agricultural College, through Writtle village, back to Waterhouse Lane junction and home.  On one occasion I followed the celebrated Jim Peters on my bike several times around this course when he set the Essex ten mile record.  The temperature in the club house was usually pretty low so returning runners, enveloped in their own steams of sweat and saliva stood as close to the small heaters as they could possibly bear. One of the club’s regular runners, who shall be nameless so as not to upset his family’s sensibilities, would often leave his saturated kit where he dropped it on the floor, reclaiming it at his next training session and drying it out in front of the gas fire (if it was working!).

My brother Don asserts that he learned, after a hot shower how to dry himself in forty-five seconds on a miniscule towel in the refrigerated club house. A process which has stood him in good stead ever since.

In the Winter, most of the long-distance runners confined themselves to one or two laps of the Writtle Road circuit, but there were Marathon runners who went further afield sometimes, causing consternation.  Arthur Hogg, a forty-five year-old who worked at Hoffman’s, would disappear for hours on a training run and return long after everyone had gone home.

One regular ritual was held on Boxing Day when the training session would finish with a crossing of the River Can which entailed diving into the river and into the showers with equal rapidity.

Some track and field athletes trained during the winter months on Sunday mornings and increased their schedules in the Springtime.  In the Summer months the adjacent Marconi field was used for track event training and it was here that running began to become more scientific: stop watches measured pulse rates and lap times, and training schedules and coaches made their appearance. Athletes’ training sessions were thus carefully monitored. This was in the days of Geoff Dyson, the national team coach, who gave an inspirational lecture at the Hoffman’s community centre.  He dramatically marked out on the hall’s floor the length of the world records for triple and long jump and calculated what improvements we needed to make.  He physically showed what a 7ft High Jump looked like.  

At this time club athletes began to take an interest in their diets; there was talk about the benefits of fruit juices, wheat germ and vitamin E. For middle and long-distance runners it was the era of Emil Zatopek and from the great Scandinavian champions.  World record after world record fell with the culmination in the 1960 Olympics when John Landy ran away from the field in the mile in spectacular fashion. The training schedules were based upon the Fartlek method, i.e. running fast and slow, although not on the track but in the forests and sand dunes. If only we had had those forests here. The best that we could manage was running around the woods at Melbourne Park when the club eventually moved into the new club house there when the Waterhouse Lane hut became uninhabitable.  The new building was financed by the club with contributions, I presume, from other bodies. I can remember club member, Jack Bowen making a handsome contribution and urging all us young lads to do likewise.  Most of us had little money to contribute.  Nevertheless we dug deep.

Middle distance times and standards were raised to a new level nationally by Roger Bannister, Chris Brasher and Chris Chattaway, all of whom became sporting legends.  Chelmsford Athletic Club had a few who reached celebrity status, and many who were dedicated foot soldiers.  You needed a strong contingent to compete in club, county, regional, and the road relays events, and the club always gave a good account of itself.  There were many inter-club track events around the county and beyond.  At the one in Cambridge we had to run the opposite way around the track. One wonders whether the university was making some philosophical point!

The Chelmsford sponsored Sidney Taylor Road Relay became a major county event usually run from Rainsford School, presumably because the facilities at Waterhouse Land couldn’t cope with the interest and numbers involved.  On the strength of our good showing the club was invited to compete in the London to Brighton relay on a number of occasions and I can remember running the first leg from the Houses of Parliament. An annual event was the Leyton to Southend Road Relay along the A12 and A127; it was handy that the Southend Road boasted a cycle track which made running a lot safer although crossing the Rayleigh Weir interchange was rather hazardous.  Again, this became a very popular feature on the running calendar – I’m not sure who had the original idea but no doubt some of the club officials were involved.

Every club depends upon its worthies. No club can succeed without them. Chelmsford was blessed with many public-spirited competitors and officials over the years. To mention a few seems to be an injustice to the others but in the fifties I have vivid memories of two arch organisers and athletes who were an inspiration to many by their hard work, encouragement and personal charm and charisma - Mike Ranson and Derek Cole. Both boasted a background in athletics at the highest level and were determined to share its pleasures, especially amongst the young.  I counted myself as one of the beneficiaries. They contributed so much to the club’s development, including training and team building camps at Gosfield Park, Marlow and on the River Seven, as well as a fixture with a Swiss club combined with a visit to the European Athletic Championships in Berne.  And they are still nudging things along.

Another of their initiatives was organising the track meeting at Rayleigh Weir. In post war Britain there were very few proper running tracks. This was one of the limitations that Geoff Dyson highlighted in his lecture. It was a great disadvantage when competing on the world stage.  When I visited Germany – courtesy of the army – in 1954 I was amazed at the proliferation of first-class running tracks at every army base I visited.  This country was just miles behind the times.  It was in recognition of this dearth of cinder track experience that Mike and Derek had the bright idea of using the Speedway track at Rayleigh Weir. Somehow my brother Don and I were allocated the task of marking it out.  I think that at the time we were between leaving school and doing our National Service and were deemed to be the only ones with the free time to do it.  On reflection we were a little flattered by the responsibility and were relieved when in the subsequent races no significant records were set.  The event was well received locally and created a lot of interest.  In later years when a new track was finally laid at Melbourne Park our “marking out” abilities were not called upon.  I celebrated “the opening” by running the three miles, my first attempt at the distance and my last race for the club.

Bill Cornell’s row with the British Board

By Derek Cole

Bill resumed competing in late 1960 when with Fred Wilt’s help he secured a Scholarship at S.I.U. and at the North of the Thames cheerfully told everybody about his plans. Two more top runners promptly applied to Lew Hartzog and he was delighted to accept them as he had been appointed to revive a week Track team. Then the AAUA changed the rules so that from September everybody over 21 was excluded. The three had to take off in a hurry for the summer term. Bill’s memoires recall how the British Board wanted to refuse permission to compete. The club committee unanimously disagreed with the Boards and the battle was on.

Bill’s memoires also record how the press reported that the Board hoped the IAAF would back them, but I knew that when Alec Henderson of my club in Sydney accepted a Scholarship in 1957 Arthur Hodsdon, the Australian Secretary, wrote to the IAAF, who just refused to reply.  I now believe this was on Harold Abrahams advice.  What the board didn’t know was that Lord Exeter, President of the IAAF and the AAA, was also Chairman of the Radio Industry Council. In fact, I got my 1948 & 1956 Olympic tickets direct from him.  One of our company directors, Lord Waleran, lobbied him in the House of Lords and he said quite simply ‘This is a matter for the AAA. Take it up with them’.

In fact, after consulting our company legal officer, I had come to the same conclusion.  To protect Scottish views, the Board constitution said that the Home countries’ AAAs would take all decisions and the only function of the British Board was to communicate them to the IAAF. The matter was ‘ultra vires’ Jack Crump, who was only a postman under the rules!

However, the Board caved in. I now think this was on the advice of Harold Abrahams (their Chairman) as during the row over the Amateur Rules in 1979 Ray Stroud, AAA Treasurer, said that as soon as an athlete took legal advice, Abrahams would say ‘This is dangerous. We must concede’.  I now know that by the 1960’s he was himself arranging unlawful ‘salaries’ for British athletes.  At Stockholm in 1958 I had said to him that aspects of the Amateur Rules were void at law and he had replied ‘Of course they are’.  We then had an argument about the Law of Nations because the IAAF, urged on by the West, were insisting, in my view unlawfully, that East & West Germany should compete as one team.  I quoted my Professor at Cambridge, by then President of the International Court, so Abrahams knew I knew the law.  By the 1960 Olympics my view prevailed.   Had the Board said ‘No’ I intended to ask an emergency meeting of the Club Committee to write to the AAA asking them to do their legal duty, declare the Board’s decision void and take over the matter, with a hint of possible judicial review.  I would also have pointed out that in extremis Bill could if necessary, end any contractual relationship with the British Board by resigning Club Membership. As an American resident he would then be entirely under AAUA jurisdiction.  Bill later confirmed that this was also Lew Hartzog’s intention. Bill and the others would have suddenly run for SIU as members of an AAUA affiliated body.  Every College in the USA would have backed him.  Happily this wasn’t necessary and Bill still holds club records set in America.

There was an aftermath in 1979. When the Board appointed David Shaw as the first salaried Secretary, the AAA chose a separate ‘Athlete’s abroad’ Secretary in Eric Shirley who promptly gave Steve Ovett permission to run in Europe without telling David.  I was able to advise him that the AAA consent should have been transmitted through him.  At the same time the Board were threatening to ban the Meadowbank and Gateshead athletes under the Amateur rules, but I forwarded the legal opinion from Bill’s case to Barry Willis, the AAA Secretary, who took the whole matter out of the Board’s hands.  Interestingly, AAA rules had a detailed and totally legal procedure to set up a quasi-judicial Investigating Committee to handle disputes.  It was drawn up pre-war by a very distinguished Gold Medallist and QC, Douglas Lowe, who lived on to turn his 90th birthday party into a passionate rally to support the rights of our athletes, including Louise Miller and Terry Whitehead, to compete at the Moscow Olympics.

Bill Cornell – Memoires 2011

It was only in my 16th year that I came home from work one evening and Dad said he wanted to talk to me.  What have I done wrong now?  He got real serious, told me to sit down and listen to what he had to say.  In a nutshell he told me that I was a good, even above average footballer and cricketer but not good enough to make the big time.  “I have taken the liberty to get rid of your football and cricket shoes and want you to use these.”  He went to the laundry closet and came back with a sweatsuit, singlet and shorts, a pair of training flats, and spiked racing shoes.  He handed me a membership card to Chelmsford Athletic Club, and said “I truly believe this is your sport son.  Give it a shot for me.  If things haven't worked out in a couple of years you can always go back to football and cricket.”  Apparently Dad knew what he was talking about, as track and field was to be the story of my life!  Thanks Dad!

Dad took me down to the Chelmsford Athletics Club, which at that time was located in an old army barracks hut down Woodhall Lane, and happened to be alongside another hut that housed the Chelmer Cycling Club which Mum and Dad had belonged to, and where they first me.

There were 20-25 men and 10-15 women athletes in the club.  When we travelled to a meet by bus we barely filled 35 seater.  That's with athletes, coaches and a few parents.  We all had to chip in to pay for the bus, and a tip for the driver.  Pure amateurism!

Athletics are meant to be fun.  After each practice we would meet at a local pub for a couple of pints - very rarely more than two on a week night; maybe a few more on a Saturday night after a meet. Most times the trips meant arriving an hour to 1.5 hours before the first event, compete, back to the bus.  Bus was stopped at a pub for about an hour - time for a nosh and a couple of pints - sing song on the bus all the way home.  No drinking or smoking on the bus, and keep the songs clean.  Most trips were only about an hour away.

All coaches were volunteers, and two that paid attention to me were an older gentleman named Ernie Daley and the Club Secretary/coach Derek Cole.  Derek was my main man - he was a Cambridge University Law graduate.  Spoke a little toffy-nosed but was a real down to earth person - I would be thanking him for giving me the guidance that would affect my entire life span.  I owe everything to Derek!  Ernie watched over me at practice and gave me useful tips on technique, race strategy etc but Derek “took care of me”.  He was the son of E.K. Cole (EKCO TV and Radio) which was big in East Anglia – they would eventually amalgamate with PYE TV.

Don Cox

I still hold 9 club records for race walking, from 3,000 to 24 hours/100 miles and 133 miles in 28 hours, I was voted MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR 1971, and for an athlete who was gaining fame as a race walker in a running club, I was very proud.  I went on to be selected into the Olympic training team, but as the bad boy was dropped for not doing what the coaches wanted. 

I won the ESSEX 3,000 championship twice.  Chelmsford did not have many female athletes.  We had Jacky Philp (lovely girl), but we had to import girls from Ilford AC for our Saturday night do's.  Tony Perkins would always turn up with a car-load of lovely female athletes - good on yer Tony!  The love of my life was in his car but I left her behind and went to Australia.  Two and a half years later I returned, but it was too late, so I went out to Australia 17th September 1972, came back in 1975 and got picked for GREAT BRITAN and NI.  I was picked to race in a full track meet (after being the first Brit home in a FULL international in Rotterdam a few weeks before) along with fellow Chelmsford AC 400m runner, Steve Marlow.

I used to train with Terry Farrow (best mate).  Our week would be something like this: Monday - 15 mile run; Tuesday - track work or road reps; Wednesday - 15 mile run; Thursday - road reps; Friday – rest; Saturday - race (anything from 7 to 20 miles); Saturday night – party and drink too much and go silly - sometimes not getting any sleep till 5am; Sunday - long run 15 or 20 miles (no matter how much you drank the night before).  You would be there for 10am start.  Everyone was always there.

As well as being a top class race walker I have run 26 marathons, with a best of 2h 48min 48sec.  20 performances all under 3 hours.  I won the Ford half marathon, I was second in the Wyalla marathon in South Australia.

Later I have been in the England Ultra distance race walking team, being the best Brit home in the Roubaix 28 hour race, with 133 miles.  Looking back, the best years of my life were September 1967 - 17th September 1972.


Buddy Edelen

At least four club members have met The Queen. Only Buddy has greeted her with ‘Hi! Queen!’

South East Essex would be different after Buddy’s last run in England on July 27 1965.  For five years the neighbourhood had set its clock by Buddy’s morning run, his evening return, his trot down the street for a paper, and the tidbits of food he called dinner; his back-and-forth jaunts along the sea front.  People grew accustomed to his haphazard dress, the bizarre collection of torn sweat shirts strangely lettered, his dark socks stuck into old shoes, the backward lean in as he ran, and twisted arm.  Through it all the friendly word and a smile; always the acknowledgement that he was a guest in their country.

The streets would be quiet, like those rare days without a breeze off the sea front, just enough to make a person pause, notice the stillness and then move on.

 

“I would like to request a few lines to express through the medium of the Athletics Weekly magazine my appreciation and gratitude to all the athletes officials and friends I have had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with since 1960.  The opportunity of living in England has not only enabled me to develop into an international distance runner, it has afforded me the chance of making many close friendships which I shall cherish for many years to come.  I know my coach Fred Wilt would like me to convey his gratitude as well, since it was at Fred's suggestion that I first decided to come to England.  The experience I gained through four years of active participation in British athletics contributed immeasurably in helping me to represent the USA in the Tokyo Olympics, and for this alone I feel indebted.  I shall be returning to the USA to begin work on my Masters degree in Colorado, and I must admit that it is with considerable reluctance that I shall be leaving.  I would like to convey a special thanks to the officials of the BAAB and the ECCU for their kind cooperation and help; to Mel Watman, Sam Ferris and others on the Athletics Weekly staff who have given such generous coverage to my performances over the road, track, and country; to the athletes and officials at the two clubs I have been affiliated with - Chelmsford and Hadleigh - and finally to the many other athletes and friends I have made over the past five years.

“Thank you all very much.

“Yours sincerely, Buddy Edelen”


Gerry Cox

At Rainsford Youth Club in the mid-fifties Gerry Cox took the Club’s weekly ‘Circuit Training’ - a system he had helped Morgan and Adamson develop at Carnegie.  One report suggests it was also used at the Waterhouse Lane hut, causing the holes in the floor.  Via Chelmsford, it was introduced into Sydney.  Bill Cornell records how Gerry arranged for him to spend a week at Carnegie. Gerry also had the burden of being Cross-country Secretary after the pre-war team had retired and every Wednesday after training he frantically checked that the club could field a team of six the following week.

His elder brother David is on the May 1950 cutting. Before the days of the Thatcher Gates, he told the story of pursuing down Whilehall a sports car which turned into the dead-end of Downing Street. Their delight was brief. The sports car shot down the steps and disappeared into Horse Guards parade.

Miv Owen

I just noticed the old "Club History Photo's" in the Photo Gallery section on the website.

The tallest guy in many of the photo's is my old coach Ernie Daley.

EA24 is actually one of my old photo's inherited from Ernie (EA = Ernie Athletics) and the first athlete from the left, currently marked as unknown, is Ken Burgess (still supporting us!.. and a friend of Ralph Burrows). Then it's Brian Hill-Cottingham (our first international). Followed by Ernie Daley and Bren Motley who is/was Nigel Motley's uncle. I trained a few (!) miles with Bren, but he died about 20 years ago. I would guess the photo was taken at the old Harlow track looking at the stand.

The "Mrs Keene's hut photo" brings back teenage training memories of cold nights! The hut stood in Waterhouse Lane (to the left of the road just after crossing the river bridge heading out of town). The ladies changing room was the open door on the right and the men's was a partitioned off area (not existing in the photo) just in front of the closed door to the left. The men’s shower was behind the door. I don't know what the stuff hanging up is but the hut could have had a use before becoming the AC HQ (apart from being an army hut of course!). The floor looks in good condition - many times our throwers put weights through the boards!!

Fanny Blankers-Koen (the flying housewife) has a statue in Rotterdam (I used to pass it on my way to work!). I didn't know she visited Chelmsford!

In the 1954 photo I thought F. Holroyd was actually George (?) but I could be wrong. Graham Smith, a long standing coach at Chelmsford, died about 15 years ago.

[Comments by Derek Cole: 13/08/2019]:

I can clarify the query about the Holroyd first name. The son joined the club when he was a local apprentice. He became Air Marshall Sir Frank Holroyd..

His father George lived in Southend and was for many years Ladies Secretary of Southend  and Secretary of the EKCO Athletic Club.

Southend has, or used to have', a yearly trophy in his honour.

I had quite forgotten that at the opening of the Chelmsford track the national relay team chosen by Jack Crump were disqualified! Absit Omen. Both Holroyds came on the club's 1954 tour of Europe, when Frank broke the club shot put record. He was helpful in recalling events from the 1950s.

The Chelmsford records show that on the tour at least one UK team successfully completed and won a relay in Europe. We practised hard before we left and it was the precursor of the junior relay successes which followed.. 

Geoff Tyler

When I used to do weights at the club hut around 1968-69, the floor bounced & once I had the bar stuck on me & let it drop & it went straight through the floor boards. I needed a second person to help me extract the barbell. Doing jumping like triple jump was like jumping on a trampoline. Once I noticed a Rose Bay willow herb flower its rose coloured flower at a height of some 2 feet INSIDE the hut.

I remember one day at the club hut, seeing a young girl watching me doing weights, later when I learnt her name, a certain Shirley Wood (now Quinn), I helped coach her on discus in between her walking sessions. Maybe Shirley has further memories of that old club hut.

In around 1964 Chelmsford AC, the Police and the Rugby Club had a match against the prisoners INSIDE Chelmsford prison!  It was great fun and experience for Richard Smith, myself & others in CAC,  but not so for Mick Jackson who was a sprinter & police cadet.  There were no spikes, no starting blocks, no javelin, no starting pistol allowed in the prison - Mick slipped at the whistle to start his race and fell flat on his face with 300 hundred prisoners laughing & jeering!

Shirley Quinn

I joined the club in 1967 as a runner, having tried sprinting for a while I then tried the then new event for girls of 880yds. I also trained with Miv and his coach Ernie. We would go to the clubhouse in the winter for road running sessions. Many times I would be the first to arrive and be stood waiting for a key holder to turn up and would see rats running around the area. My memory of the ladies changing room is that when you turned the tap on the sink on you got your feet wet if you hadn't put the plug in!!

Roy Meadowcroft

In 1934 there were many great athletes in Chelmsford but no club had been formed for the town so all the local athletes had to travel to neighbouring towns - Southend for example.

Marconi, Hoffmans and Cromptons employed many of the top athletes to compete for them in the works and interworks championships.  The athletes were not employed for their skills in electronics; each factory wanted their athletes to win the Inter Sports championship as it was very prestigious to do so. Ray Fullerton remembers being headhunted by Marconi and being told that all he had to do was clocking at 10pm, go home and come back to clock out at 7am to receive a salary and then compete in all the sporting events.

The athletes, who all wanted a club in Chelmsford, often competed in intertown events, between Southend, Colchester and Chelmsford.  Chelmsford almost always won.  Ray Fullerton designed a badge for the club, based on the Chelmsford County Crest, which was the catalyst for the club's formation.  During the Summer evenings, all the athletes met at the Cromptons Ground on Tuesdays, and during one of the meetings Ray showed everyone the badge, which spurred him and all the other athletes on to realise that a club was possible.  Ray enlisted the help of Sidney C Taylor, the owner of the Essex Weekly News, and he agreed to become President.  They hired the Cathedral Hall late that Summer for a public meeting, and the AAA Secretary came up from London.  289 people attended, and all joined the newly formed club at 2 shillings and sixpence.  Alex Spendlove,  an international road walker became the club's first Chairman and Arthur H Beaton became the first Secretary, with Ray Fullerton as his assistant.

John Chaplin, the Sports Reporter on the Essex Chronicle, gave the event lots of publicity which helped ensure the meeting's success.  The club blossomed, but after a year it was identified that a clubhouse was needed.  Marconi's New Street Works had 2 huge 350 feet high radio masts, and in the base of these masts were two double skinned wooden huts.  In 1935 the masts were being dismantled, and the huts that were used as broadcasting studios were to be dismantled as well.  Arthur H Beaton worked at Marconi's and Ray asked him to find out what was going to happen to the huts - and if they were going to be thrown away, may the club have them to use as a clubhouse? Marconi agreed to the proposal if the club arranged the transport costs. A member of the club, and a local builder arranged the transport, and all the club members helped to rebuild the huts.  The council was approached for a suitable site to place the huts, and there was some disused land in Waterhouse Lane that was being used as a Refuse Dump. With the aid of Sidney C Taylor, they were allowed to use the land for the clubhouse, so long as they did all the work to clear it up, and paid a peppercorn rent.

Chelmsford Athletics Club was the only club in England at that time to have a clubhouse, and it was a fantastic achievement for all its members.  Marconi's sports ground was minutes away, as were fields where they could do cross country runs - and right outside the Hut was a natural 4 mile course.

In the year of the Queen's Coronation in 1952 there were funds available to local authorities to build something to mark the event.  Post the Second World War there was a lot of redevelopment throughout Britain due to the destruction of property from bombings in that time.  Boarded Barn, much of which had been built in the 1920’s, was surrounded by fields and it was an area that was identified by the council to create housing for homeless families and people returning after the war.  Most of the open farmland and fields were developed and Melbourne was born.  One area, however, that was not built on was Melbourne Park and it was used for recreation and sports by the local residents and inhabitants of Chelmsford and the surrounding areas.  The park was very popular and the Chelmsford Athletics Club would use the ground.

There was no clubhouse there at that time, and the one in Waterhouse Lane still acted as the club's HQ, but some of the matches were held at Melbourne Park, and the club members would get together to mark out the track with paint.  In the early days, the track was not easy to run on as it had been farmland, and was bumpy underfoot - but over time, with regular rolling and use, it became more even.  Painting the track took quite a bit of time, and once the grass was mown the track would be lost, and the process had to begin again, so when in the Coronation Celebration Fund appeared, some of the money was given to create a cinder track at Melbourne Park and it was placed where the track is now - but placed the other way round by 90 degrees.

At the time, all of the specifications for the track were of a pre-war standard.  The members of the club wanted to add a lane to then usual 6 lane track, so that the inside lane didn't get so clogged up.  Their wish was granted and they had the first 7 lane cinder track.  The cinder track was wonderful when it was first installed, and a rare commodity for most clubs, as the nearest one was in London.  It was a much better service to run on than grass as it had better grip under foot.  Once the track was installed, major sporting events took place at Melbourne Park.  The first event was Eastern Counties versus Jack Crump's team, who were well respected by the AAA.  Jack Crump’s team won.  The next major event was the English Schools Tournament where children came from far and wide to take part.  Whilst away from home they stayed with local families.

The cinder track though a fantastic facility had its downfalls and by modern standards it would not do at all.   In bad weather it was practically unusable as it had a tendency to flood.  When it was built it was lined with ballast and had drainage holes, but as time went on they got blocked, the water couldn't escape and the track would fill with puddles.  In the early 1980’s the Ladies National League came from Plymouth and Wolverhampton to contest a match.  When they arrived at Melbourne Park the heavens opened and the track flooded.  All the ladies had to return home, not having competed.  After this incident a new directive was issued by the UK National League that no League match could take part on a cinder track.

By the 1960’s the clubhouse in Water Lane was falling into disrepair, and a new building was needed.  Melbourne Park was now the main training ground for athletes.  The factory sports grounds of Marconi Hoffman and Cromptons were not always available due to them holding matches regularly on the factory sites, and later when the industries wound down, the land was sold for redevelopment.  Melbourne Park was a logical place to rebuild a clubhouse but funds had to again be raised.

Club members launched a buy-a-brick scheme.  Dinner dances, raffles and rummage sales were organised and money given to individuals by the Co-op in their profit sharing scheme went towards the clubhouse.  To help them the National Playing Fields Association also gave them a grant.  On 4th May 1969 Harold Abrahams (the subject of the film Chariots of Fire) declared the clubhouse open.

At that time you could go cross country running from the clubhouse as none of the houses behind the stadium had been built and the land was still fields. The clubhouse was further extended in 1982, the year of Marks and Spencer’s centenary as the company wanted to celebrate the event by giving money to local communities.  The extension was used for weight training.

Throughout the 1980’s the cinder track was getting very run down as the National League had deemed the ground inappropriate for matches.  Chelmsford Athletics Club had to travel around the country to compete under their rules, with no home games. At that time there were no subsidies/ grants to support the expenses of hotel and travel costs, and many of the best members, after supporting themselves through the first few seasons, couldn't afford the time or the money needed to compete in the away matches.  The teams became compromised and the National League demoted Chelmsford Athletics Club.

The club then competed closer to home.  The Southern League, for Men and Women, the Eastern Young Athletes League, and the Anglian League still used Melbourne Park, but by the 1990’s the ground was only used for training purposes, and all matches were contested on the Braintree, Harlow, and Ilford tracks.

By the 1990’s the need for a new track was desperate.  The council was fully aware that the track was in a state of disrepair and recognised that a great majority of local athletes needed good facilities for training purposes and match competitions.  The council however, did not have sufficient available funds to support the project, so in the mid 1990’s they approached the National Lottery Scheme and applied for funding - not only for the track, but an indoor facility.  The Lottery did not give 100% funding to projects so the council funded 49% of the capital needed, which would pay for the track, extension of the car park and the new road leading in.

Before any decisions were made the local residents attended a meeting to voice any concerns they had about the project.  They were fully supportive of the idea, but were worried about traffic at night and parking in the streets - which is why a new road and entrance was devised, along with a larger car park.  This would ensure as little disturbance to neighbouring properties as possible.

In October 1996 planning was granted for the project, but the Lottery bid had as yet not been made to get the rest of the funding.  The first attempt in 1997 failed due to technicalities in the paperwork, but Chelmsford Council was encouraged to apply again.  The second attempt failed also as the UK Athletics Association, who are the government body for sports, had not in their agenda recognised any need for any new sports facilities in the entire Eastern region, never mind Chelmsford!  Third time lucky - Dave Griffin knew the Facilities Manager of the UK Athletics Association, who had recently been appointed, and he agreed that the Eastern region had been neglected in their brief.  He raised it with his committee, the application was finally granted.  As the whole project could be done in two stages - the building, and the track - and the Lottery grant was holding up the proceedings as it had not been granted, it was decided to build the track first, so long as it didn't jeopardise the Lottery funding application.

In April 1998 the laying of the track began.  Then it rained heavily for 6 weeks and everything stopped.  Thereafter the track was built and finished, all bar the line delineation, in December 1998.   As the track had lost 6 weeks in the early stages, by December the weather conditions were not good enough to paint the lines on the track, so the track could not open until April 17th 1999. Melbourne Park again had a great track, and was well on its way to becoming a centre of excellence. Trevor Brooking, an international footballer, opened the track.

The building of Melbourne Park indoor facility was extremely well planned out and was erected in record time.  The building commenced in October 2001 and was completed in July 2002.  Sally Gunnell, the world Olympic 400 metre Hurdles and World Record holder opened Melbourne Park Athletics Centre.

From a humble farmer's field, Melbourne Park has grown and flourished, to house one of the best athletics facilities in the country.  It is deemed now to be possibly the only track in the County that is suitable for County Championships, as it is so well designed.  The indoor facility allows athletes to train all year round, and hosted the first ever Essex Indoor County Championship in 2003.

The Dave Bedford Incident 1971

Letter to Athletics Weekly from Dave Bedford:

May I, through your columns apologise, to Mr. Roy Meadowcroft of Chelmsford AC for the recent incident at the Southern III Division League Promotion Match at Erith.  I realise that in this daring and permissive society much of the common decency of life has disappeared and that my changing vests on the back straight and bearing my torso to the crowd was nothing but an irresponsible and vulgar act.  Whilst on the subject of club vests I sincerely hope that a rule will never be passed concerning club shorts as this could prove even more embarrassing.  Although this does not condone my actions, I did happen to see an official’s toupee dislodged in the wind.

Roy Meadowcroft: It was not due to him baring his chest, he had been warned of the need to wear a club vest but chose to ignore that thinking Dave Bedford was above the rules.  I was men’s team manager and our sprinters came to me to lodge a complaint given the referee no option other than as disqualification.  Ken Hills one of the team that day confirms my memory.

Geoff Tyler: I remember the incident vividly. I was on the "infield" for the shot or discus.

Dave Bedford was running the 5,000m and we had plenty of time (even though by that time he was world record holder) to see he was not wearing a club vest.  Richard Smith said: "He has not got a club vest on - that is against the rules".

His club colleagues were hearing the objections during the race and one of them ran over to him at the 300m mark for him to change vests. He did so on the back straight and was, at the end of the race (laps ahead of anyone else), disqualified for "bearing his naked torso" instead. 

Chelmsford AC was famous, and much discussion was made on Athletics Weekly for months, both FOR & Against the club’s action.