Part 3: A lean period in the 1960s and revival

Written by Arthur Evans, in the Club Magazine Issue 3, Jul-Sep 1984

The end of the era of the old Macclesfield Harriers was around 1962, although the Club never officially dissolved. Most of the Club’s trophies were collected in and were in my keeping for the next 12 years.

In 1965, 66 and 67 the Macclesfield Rugby Club held a Sports Day and Fete and in conjunction Dennis Clayton revived the Macclesfield ‘10’. We lent them the Macclesfield Times Trophy and with the help of officials from the old Macclesfield Harriers and Macclesfield Wheelers, this race was a success. It was won on all three occasions by Roy Fowler of North Staffs fame, who later broke away and started the present Staffordshire-Moorlands Club.

There was an attempt to start up an Athletics Club again around 1968-69, I only attended the first meeting but had too many commitments on at the time to become involved. The headquarters were at the Boys Club and after a slow start some progress was made. Dennis Clayton came over for a long holiday from South Africa and gave them a boost for about three months, but to the best of my knowledge it only survived for about 14 months. However, in this time it did unearth some local talent who went on to better things at university, among them Bill Rennard, John Heaford and a few more.

The great revival and formation of the existing Club came in early 1974. It was all started when Ann Sudell wanted to take up athletics. She was told that the nearest club was Sale. Her father Dick Sudell, our first Life Member [ED: Richard (Dick) and his wife Betty were both involved in the revival of Macclesfield Harriers. The Richard Sudell Memorial Trophy is still awarded each year as the Senior Ladies prize, and the Betty Sudell Memorial Trophy is awarded for Contribution to the Club], made enquiries and put an advert in the local paper asking if anyone was interested in forming a club. After a meeting at his house, a small group of Dick, Bill Rochester, Bruce McLean and John Gutterson hired the Town Hall and advertised an open meeting for anyone interested. In the meantime they had been busy and visited everyone who had been connected with athletics in the past, and contacted the Northern Counties who sent Mr J.E. Davies Senior to advise. This is how I got dragged in again!!

At the meeting which was well attended by old athletes, budding athletes, current athletes and interested parties, it came to light that living locally were Mike Tagg an English International runner, Mike Billington the Captain of City of Stoke A.C. and Malcolm Warburton of Oxford University and Streford AC and a NUTS statistician.  A committee of 19 members was formed to set up the Club, with John Heaford as secretary, Brian Furness as Chairman and Mike Bannister as the Treasurer.

After a few meetings the Club was launched at the Macclesfield Rugby Club’s ground thanks to Mike Bannister’s help. The first training night showed a big enrolment (including 9 year old Andrew Street), the biggest percentage being boys and girls and a few teenagers from Kings School. Mrs Peta Norman, a P.E. teacher for the Macc College, was a great help in obtaining on loan all the equipment for us an, and John Sleaford was the first Coach. The one night a week training session continued for a few weeks, and in September we held the first Club Championships to find out how much talent we had got.

The preparing of the Rugby Club ground for this event was a feat in itself. Cutting the grass with ordinary household lawn mowers, marking the track out with a one wheel effort contraption, using washing up liquid bottles filled with whitewash to mark out the bends, and all this done in pouring rain by the first members of the committee. The Championship itself went of fairly smoothly, despite another day of non-stop rain.

Trophies from the old Club and their funds had now been passed onto the new Club, and some were given out at the first event.

From September through to March a one night a week training session was held at the Macclesfield College indoors – thanks again to the help of Mrs Norman. On one of these nights the first real senior runner called in to enquire about running locally – his name, Brian Kemp.

When the track season started in 1975, we arranged a match against the also newly formed Crewe and Nantwich AC. We had a big turnout for this but it soon became clear that we had a load of Under 11 and Under 13 Boys and Girls, and a few teenagers – mostly sprinters – but no Seniors. The match and the time of the coach leaving were advertised. The fact that we had no Seniors was made even more clear for, when Brian Kemp turned up for the coach, he was asked by the person he sat with “Which are your children?” Brian replied that he had no children, he was then asked “Well – what have you come for then – just to watch?” Brian ran in the 1500m and finished second in a photo finish. Among the organisers of the match were Sid Hope and Geoff Harrop, both former Macc Harriers/ Sid had just won the Northern Counties Marathon Champs, and I was able to give him a tankard that he had won in Macclesfield about 13 or 14 years previously.

This match, which was a success, saw the real start competition-wise for the Club.

Part 4 will tell of the late Seventies.