Roy Langford - Article No.1 (03/10/2011)

This is the first of many stories which I hope will grace the pages of the Bugle, my nostalgic trip again down memory lane and a look back with pride at my ten seasons with Tipton Harriers Athletic Club from 1955-1964.  I competed in nearly three hundred races in my time with this club, so I can therefore only briefly cover each track season with a mixture of interests, thoughts and stories of this great athletic era, and my very minute participation in keeping this club in the forefront of its popularity over the intervening years.

Tipton Harries was a club founded from small beginnings in 1910 with its headquarters for many years at the Waterloo Inn, public house in Waterloo Street, Tipton; this is where Jack Holden the Tipton Harrier legend started his magnificent running career.

New Home for Tipton Harriers

But in 1936 a new home was found for its headquarters on land on the corner of Park Lane West and Coneygree Road which was owned Palethorpes Ltd the sausage and pork pie manufacturers, and what a luxury this finely built wooden constructed sports pavilion must have been at that time for any athletic club, and a new exciting time in the club’s history.  The opening ceremony was performed by one of Tipton Harriers greatest benefactors Mr Henry Palethorpe who was to become president of Tipton Harriers, another item of interest was for the use of this wonderful sports pavilion the Tipton club had to pay just a nominal ground rent fee of just two shillings and sixpence per year with also the added use of Palethorpes new sports ground opposite the club house in Sedgley Road East.

My Journey Down Tipton Harriers

Wednesday July 6th 1955 still dwells in my mind it was a fine warm summer’s evening, and felt on top of the world.  I had already put in a full day’s work at Ewarts Ltd, Burnt Tree, Dudley, been home for a light tea, then packed my running kit into a holdall before leaving home with my grandparents (Susan and Harry Woodall) voices echoing in my ears wishing me good luck on my endeavour to join Tipton Harriers.  I had only a short distance to walk to Dudley Town Centre to catch the tram? To my destination which was one stop before Dudley Port railway station, my short nervous walk along Sedgley Road East was full of anticipation at the through of joining the Harriers and if I would be made welcome there, all these questions going through my mind would soon be answered.  My Uncle George had set up a meeting for me at 7 pm that evening with club officials, and it was rapidly approaching that time as the club house came into view, waiting outside was the friendly face of my Uncle George who lived in Coneygree Road and knew many of the athletes from Tipton Harriers.

Over the entrance to the club house painted on a placard was what you might call the Tipton Harriers coat of arms or badge of the club, it was a Whippet in full flow with the club motto underneath ‘Swift and Eager’.

As we entered the threshold of the club house it was a hiver of activity with a number of athletes getting changed into there training gear and some were in the old age custom of rubbing embracation oil all over their legs, the smell filled the whole room, it was a smell my nostrils would soon get accustomed to over the coming months.

My eyes then gazed around the club house walls my attention had already been taken up by the framed photographs of past and present Tipton Harriers placed on the walls, from my brief observation one man stood out from them all with numerous medals and cups, his name was Jack Holden.  When I arrived at the Harriers that evening for some reason or other I expected the great man to be there but of course he wasn’t he had if my memory serves me well – had closed the pages on his competitive running career in 1951 or there about.

Gentleman Jack Baker

All of a sudden an elderly gentleman approached me and asked who I was and could he be of any assistance to me, I explained to him my name was Roy Langford and hoping to join the Harriers that evening, with that taken care of he shook my hand and said ‘his name was Jack Baker the long time club trainer and caretaker of the club house on most training evenings.  He then explained to me that a training session was already in progress across the road on Palethorpes Sports Ground, and if I changed into my running kit I would be more than welcome to join in the session, so with out hesitation I changed and across the road I went, with my Uncle George in hot pursuit.

On the training ground I met up with some club officials who I found out later were Len Myerscough, Jim Bedford and Eddie Griffiths all former Tipton Harriers.

I Passed My Test Run for Tipton Harriers

I was asked to join in the training session with the result after a few laps warming up, some stretching exercises and a few practise sprint runs I was asked if I was ready for a trial against some other Tipton sprinters in attendance that evening.  One of my fellow sprinters I competed against on that special evening was Brian Boyce who was to become a good mate of mine while a member of Tipton Harriers.

I managed to win both my trial sprint races that evening over 100 yards and 220 yards with the result I was asked if I would be available to run for the Harriers on Saturday 9th July at Wordsley.

It was a more confident young man that left the training ground that evening.

As I parted company with my Uncle I thanked him for his great support that evening.  I was on cloud nine as I made my way home to 5 Fairfield Road, Dudley, were my grandparents awaiting my arrival with the good news.

My Debut Race for Tipton Harriers

Wordsley Sports Gala, King George V Park, Wordsley - Saturday July 9th 1955

Saturday afternoon 9th July my nerves were all on edge as I made my way by bus to Wordsley Sports Gala, my legs still felt rather sore and stiff from my trial runs on Wednesday evening.  I thought what am I doing, I felt ill prepared for my first meeting, my head was spinning with self doubt, I thought I must get back into serious training again if I had any chance of wining any races, but it was a bit to late for that, with my first competitive race for Tipton only one hour or so away, and didn’t want to let the club or myself down.

The butterflies were still in my stomach as I entered King George V Park playing fields and made my way to the changing room marquees, were I reported my arrival to the track steward and my own club representatives Len Myerscough who told me I had taken the place of A Salt in Heat One of Event No. 3 the Mens Senior 100 yards race.

Then looking through the programme, the meeting had been organised by Stourbridge, Wordsley and District Harriers and the teams taking part were Wolverhampton, Bilston, Smethwick, Halesown and Tipton Harriers.

The meeting started at 3 pm.

I felt nervous tension return as the time drew near for my debut race for Tipton Harriers approached, I had warmed up with a few laps around the park and some practise sprints, when the announcement came over the loudspeaker to report to the starting line for the Mens 100 yards Sprint Race, as we assembled on the starting line it suddenly dawned on me that I was the only athlete in the line up without starting blocks and this put me at a big disadvantage, starting blocks gave them easily a two yard start on me, and as the starter fired his pistol I was last away, but ran strong enough to finish in second place and get to the final.  I was more pleased with my performance.

The final was Event No. 9 in the programme.  It would be nice to record that I won the race in a blaze of glory but I didn’t, but ran very well to finish in third place which made my day.  I have no record of who won the race, which hasn’t bothered me all these years.  To be honest I have no record of any winners of the 16 events contested that afternoon and anyway who would have thought that one day I would be writing about the days proceeding after all those years.  My prize that day for third place was a Stuart Crystal cut glass flower vase, presented to me by Mrs V.S. Pardoe one of the Sports Official’s wife.