Roy Langford - Article No.24 (09/09/2013)

In putting my exploits on the athletic track on hold for this story, to give a brief nostalgic insight into the structure of Tipton Harriers in 1961, which will also cover the Annual General Meeting of that year which took place on Friday 5th May at 7.30 pm at the Sedgley Road East Headquarters, Tipton.

But first and foremost a look back to those great years, and a roll of honour to some of the stalwart officials, the backbone of any club who gave endless hours of their precious free time working on behalf of athletes like myself, without any form of financial payment, and some of those dedicated main officials who spring to mind in the year 1961 and who I focus my attention on are, Ken Rickhuss our club captain, a great sporting ambassador and inspiration to all on and off the athletic track, and treading closely in his well worn footsteps Jim Bedford our General Honorary Secretary, this will of the wisp character, just lived and breathed Tipton Harriers and forever recalling his great running performances for the club, next in line for praise is Len Myerscough our club treasurer and team manager, a person always ready to muck in and lend a hand at any athletic meeting he attended, another man we seemly just took for granted was Joe Gripton our Financial Secretary, a man with all the brain power and skill to make the club finances balance at the end of each financial year, and not forgetting the efforts of my mate Brian Boyce who was our press secretary for this year whose journalistic columns about our running feats would take up space in our local editions of the newspapers i.e. Express and Star and Dudley Herald. I leave till last but one the very important post of Club President who for the past few years had been Mr George Price who worked at Vono Ltd, Tipton, in some sort of managerial position, to be president of any sports club you usually had to have a few quid in the bank to be some sort of club benefactor if the club needed any financial aid (I don't know if Mr Price fitted into this category or not).

I have on purpose left till last one of the most important jobs of any clubhouse THE CARETAKER this undertaking for up teem years at the Tipton Headquarters was the responsibility of Mr Jack Baker allied with this considerable knowledge and expertise as club trainer, but with his sad death in January this year 1961, the caretaker role was taken over by his son-in-law Mr Jim Brimble, John's dad which kept the job in the family so to speak, one of the many roles of this office meant stoking up the boilers for the hot baths after a training session which cost you 6 pence in old money, but many of the athletes failed to adhere to this rule and went home without payment. I can't personally ever remember using the bath facilities preferring to take my sweat home with me for the leisurely comfort of a Radox bath at home. The job of club trainer was taken over by Mr W Stokes a person I knew little about, and what knowledge he had about the stresses and strains of every day life of an athlete, I have yet to find out, because it sometimes takes much longer for athletic injuries to heal up, it's no use using the old magic cold wet sponge like they do at football matches, but good luck to his new venture as our club training, I'm quite sure the spirit of "Owd Jack" will be watching over him.

The Financial Side of Tipton Harriers

I suppose one question anyone might ask is how much financial backing did the Harriers get to run the club, well I might add very little in 1961, but one blessing was they still only had to pay two shillings and sixpence ground rent per year for the club headquarters, this rate was fixed as a nominal fee back in 1936, when the then new club house was taken over by Mr Henry Palethorpe. The main source of income to pay the gas, coke and electricity etc, etc, came from the efforts of the athletes themselves through the sale of football tickets every week, a sort of football sweep the club ran, this income brought in about £300 per year, the life blood of the club, other fund raising efforts came through social evenings and dances on a Saturday night at the club house, but with all the hard work that went into those efforts over the 12 month period, they produced very little to swell the club funds, this year is was only £1 17s 8p.

The Annual General Meeting

The annual general meeting of the club was held at our Headquarters, Sedgley Road, East Tipton on Friday 5th may 1961 at 7.30 pm prompt. This meeting was the first one I had attended since joining the club in 1955, a fact I'm not proud about, and the main reason I had put in an appearance this evening was because a little bird had whispered to me that I was to pick up a trophy again this year, because I was the Sprint Champion of the club for 1960, for my great efforts on the outdoor track and with I suppose my brilliant runs early on at Cosford's indoor meeting taken into account. The meeting opened up to a packed club house at 7.30 pm with the secretary's report read by Jim Bedford which is as follows.

Secretary's Report by Jim Bedford

'Fellow members it gives me great pleasure to present to you our 51st Annual Report and my own ninth.

During the last year we had the misfortune to lose our great friend, founder member and trainer Jack Baker, who passed away on January 20th 1961 in his 78th year. We are greatly indebted to "Owd Jack" and his wife and family for their service to our club. He served us all well, and we will not forget him.

I would take this opportunity of thanking all our officials for their service to the club during the last 12 months, and would hope they will continue to give their services, but we are not staying were we are, we intend to go further and as we go forward we shall need more help from all, so please come along and be proud to say in year's to come, "I also helped " I can assure you that the great tradition of Tipton Harriers has got t o go forward. That means officials and athletes have to be on their toes in more senses than one.

New members are wanted, senior and youths. If we intend to stay on top we cannot relax. If I mentioned any one name to thank during the last 12 months my time and space would be limited to this, so thank you all, but if you do not think in your own mind you have pulled your weight there is time to catch up, but don't lag behind anymore.

Now I come to what is the highlight of the Club's career, we at last have won a national team title. We in 1961 are National Junior Cross Country Championship holders. It is a grand feeling to have at last achieved this distinction, I feel greatly indebted to the team who made this possible namely, Geoff Wood, Doug Fownes, John Thorneycroft and Dave Denton. Being your secretary at this time, I do not wish to tread on the team manager's domain, but I do say with all my heart to our athletes, "Thank you" keep going forward, I will try not to let you down, and if we all try, ours will be the glory in athletics.

To Palthorpes employees Welfare Club and Vono Ltd, my thanks for your help, without our own ground we would be sunk without you. To the Express & Star for publicity and to everybody who has helped to make this Report a success, "Thank You"'

Yours faithfully

Jim Bedford

Hon Secretary

Team Managers Report by Len Myerscough

Track season

'Once again it is my pleasure to report another good track season for the Club.

Numerous team and individual events were competed in, and many successes recorded, including the Track League and the Gordon Procter Shield. Our sprinters of course played a big part, and this section of the Club has now become very much stronger which of course, is invaluable in team events. Many members spent the winter season running at Cosford and put up some very good performances, and Roy Langford excelled with some wonderful performances.

Bert Harbach crowned a very good season by being selected by the A.A.A. Indeed, it was a very good season.'

Cross Country

'This was a really great season for the club, and consistently good running by all members gave as third position in the Birmingham League, our highest position for many years. Our juniors excelled all season and followed a grand second in the Midland Championship by winning the National Junior Championship (the first national title won by the club). This was indeed a great occasion, and here I would like to pay tribute to all members of our Junior Section for their wonderful running throughout the season, and for helping to keep the club in the forefront of Midland and National cross country running.'

'Our youths too have put up some sterling performances and have fully justified the confidence of the club. May I conclude my remarks on cross country by congratulating Geoff Wood upon his selection as an English junior international, a well earned honour. We hope there are many more to come. To Ron Franklin, too our congratulations on being selected for Wales in a cross country international, well done, Ron.'

Road Running

'Once again our teams have put up some magnificent performances all over the country, with every member playing his full part in our many successes. Perhaps the highlight was winning the Harborne Relay when the team of Doug Fownes, Ron Franklin, John Thorneycroft, Ken Rickhuss and Bert Harbach beat the previous course record by more than four minutes. Indeed it has been a grand season. Of our new members John Thorneycroft put up a marvellous performance in gaining seventh place in the Junior National Cross Country Championship and should have a really great future. Allan Whittle, too (although not yet qualified to run for the club) should prove a great asset. May I conclude by again paying tribute to Ken Rickhuss for splendid running and inspiring captaincy, and to Bert Harbach, our vice captain and every member of the club for their enthusiasm and support in making this a wonderful year.'

Yours sincerely

Len Myerscough

Next up on the podium was Joe Gripton our Financial Secretary to deliver his brief on the monetary affairs of the club, in his long debate the went on about the expenditure, trading accounts, income and club assets, which was all double dutch to me, but with all that jargon the fact and figures added up to the club announcing a profit of £36.18s.6d on the financial year.

Presentation of the Annual Club Championship Trophies

The finale of this Annual General Meeting was the annual prize presentation to the Club Athletic Champions, this duty was carried out by our club president Mr George Price and the proud winners were as follows:

Club Senior Cross Country Champion Bert Harbach – he received the Jim Partridge Trophy and Club Plaque

Club Junior Cross Country Champion Geoff Wood – he received the Chilton Cup and Club Plaque

Club Youth Cross Country Champion Terry Fones – he received the D H Hartland Cup and Club Plaque

The Club Track Champion was Ron Franklin he won the President's Cup and Club Plaque

Last but not least to receive his prize was yours truly. I was presented with the Showell Cup as Sprint Champion of Tipton Harriers, but disappointingly through some bad hindsight by club officials they hadn't bought me the club's obligatory keepsake club plaque to go with the cup, which would have been a proud marker for one of my best season's running for Tipton Harriers.