Part 1: Post-war to 1960

Written by Arthur Evans, in the Club Magazine Issue 1 Jan-Mar 1984

Before the war Stockport Harriers were a prominent club in the area and they had meeting places at Stockport, Alderley Edge and Macclesfield. After the war at the end of 1945 / early 1946, on the initiative of Stan Spearing, the former Stockport runners decided to start a Macclesfield Harriers. They had a few of the former runners and some newcomers coming home fit. Their headquarters was the Talbot Hotel, Chester Road, run by their Chairman Mr Harry McLese.

They really took off in 1947, when they put on the first Macclesfield 10 miles road race. This is when I joined. The Macclesfield 10 was held every year from 1947 to 1955. The first four years it was won by the great Jack Holden, runner up Frank Gratton. This was followed by three wins by Sgt Billy McKinnis, one by P.D. Smith of Sale and finally in 1955 by Joe Lancaster. The race started and finished at the Talbot Hotel (now a roundabout). I have still got the Macc Times 10 Miles Trophy if we want to restart it. [ED: The Trophy was awarded once more in 1990 to S Eardley of Macclesfield Harriers. The race has not been run since and the trophy is in the Clubhouse Trophy cabinet]

Frank Gratton – Frank was our star runner, he had won the famous Rivington Pike Fell race at 18 years of age. He was fourth in the A.A.A. Marathon in 1948 (Olympic year) and 1949, and he won several marathons, his best time being 2 hr 39 min. He was runner up in the South London 30 miles a total of four times. He won the Cheshire Cross-Country Championship, which was an unofficial trail in 1947, and went on to run for Cheshire 5 years in succession. He could also turn his attention to the track and could win two mile races.

Cross-country races in those days were not like those today where you do several short laps for 5 or 7 miles; they were nearly all 9 mile races, and you started and finished at the same place, it was no good for spectators as after the start they did not see the runners again for about an hour. One or two runners usually got lost since a trail was laid with paper waste and there were not many marshalls, they would have been miles out, and then have to get back. A few stalwarts filled tin baths with hot water for us. This was outside the club or school room, and then they brewed up for us. The older runners used to lay the trail, if they did not start early enough the leading runners caught up with them – causing a lot of confusion!

The club stood still for a bit then, we did very little track running and road races were not as numerous as they are now, and in addition, we had to travel by train and bus.

I went off to do my National Service and came back in December 1953 … to find that a new and coming star had just joined the Club, young Mike Corcoran. I took over as Club Secretary and in 1954 started a Boys section. At this time the club members were all male and the joining age was 16 years. By starting a Boys section it was brought down to 14 years for the first time.

Mike Corcoran was joined by Alec Morton and Derrick Fife from Whaley Bridge, and local boy Pete Burgess. These four in 1954 won the Cheshire Youths Championships, went on to get second team in the East Lancs., then surprisingly WON the Northern Counties Youths and finished runners up in the National Championships.

A word about Mike Corcoran; his records read like this — Cheshire Youths Championships cross-country 1955, Senior 1959, East Lancs. Youths Champion 1955, Junior 1956-57-58, Senior Champion 1959. Best National performance was 3rd in the Junior 1958! Mike represented England the Combined Services in March 1958 and in an International in France in 1958, and was British Army Steeplechase Champion in 1958.

One point about National Service – in the late 1950s and early 1960s running took off in the forces. As a result we managed to get several of our runners in the Cheshire Regiment [ED: 22nd] at Chester, where they helped the Regt. Team in the Army Championships. Lads from the Cheshire’s came running for Macc. at the weekends – we also had several matches against them and they took part in all the relay races we put on. As a result a close relationship between the Club and the Cheshire’s took place. On leaving Chester for other parts, the Regiment gave Macclesfield Harriers a Trophy to make this close association, with the proviso that it be given for cross-country running. This is now our Cup for the Senior Championship which has been won for the last three years by John Whalley. [ED: The 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment Cup is still awarded as the Senior Men Cross Country Trophy]

The Boys section prospered and were runners up in the Cheshire Boys Championships in 56 and 57 and won the Youths in 1958 with Tom Shufflebotham individual winner.

By 1959 the Boys and Youths had graduated to Seniors and won the Cheshire Seniors Championship in 1959 and 1960.

From this point on the numbers started to disappear and no new replacements had joined: Mike Corcoran had turned to football, playing for Macc. and Congleton. Derrick Fife had emigrated to Australia. Youngsters were more interested in watching the Six Five Special on Saturday tea time instead of being away running. The Club faded – only Alex Morten was left, so he joined Salford where he ran about another three years, leading their Two Mile track team.

One very interesting point, whilst Mike Corcoran was at his best, the runner up to him was nearly always the great Ron Hill, who did not start to win the East Lancs until after Mike had retired from running. Another great runner who never beat Mike was Roy Fowler.

  • What was to happen next?
  • What were the fortunes of the club in the 1960s?
  • Don’t miss the next episode of the “History of the Club”.