Roy Langford - Article No.4 (09/01/2012)

I have to bypass 1956 with my stories of Tipton Harriers because I've got no record of myself competing; it's just a blank year. This again doesn't mean I didn't take part in any races, just that I have no record of them which came as a shock to me.

But I do have a record of that Tipton Harriers were holding their Annual Dinner and Prize distribution on 30th May that year. I had this news in a letter from my gran Susan Woodall on 26th April 1956. She told me I had been invited to this meeting and would have to reply before May 16th if I wanted a ticket.

I was then serving my two week Army Emergency Reserve Training from the 18th April to 2nd May which I received this letter at 18 Command Workshops R.E.M.E. Bovington, Dorset.

'I wonder did I go to that Annual Dinner and Prize distribution on 30th May that year.'

Gordon Proctor Memorial Shield - 26 June 1957

While browsing over the front cover of this programme I realised that perhaps I didn't take park in any events for Tipton Harriers in 1956. The reason being that Tipton won the Inter-Club event for the 'Gordon Proctor Memorial Shield' last year and I know I didn't take part in the proceedings. Now for a bit of detective work for Bugle readers – can you tell me who Gordon Proctor was to have a Memorial Shield named after him? Was he an athlete or benefactor of West Bromwich Harriers, because I've become rather intrigued about this gentleman? When you are young and competing for trophies you never thought much about who the memorial was dedicated to, so could any Bugle reader supply me with photos or this person and details about his life and perhaps a photo of the Memorial Shield, and one thing more is this trophy still competed for on a Inter-Club basis.

The Sports Meeting

On a warm humid Wednesday evening on 26th June 1957, a coach load of Tipton Harriers and supporters arrived at Newton Road Playing Fields. Over 150 athletes congregated together for this meeting and made more important for our athletes because Tipton wanted to hold onto the Memorial Shield for another year. The host club being West Bromwich Harriers and for me looking back at this meeting there was a bit of sex discrimination going on, because the women's events didn't count towards the points scored for the 'Gordon Proctor Memorial Shield'.

The teams competing that evening were – Dudley Harriers, Oldbury Harriers, Sparkhill Harriers, Smethwick, West Bromwich Harriers and Tipton Harriers.

Novel item in the programme was this footnote

'Are you interested in Athletics?'

Well why not join your local athletic club. You are always welcome at our training quarters, Community Centre, Vicarage Road, on training nights, which are Mondays, Tuesday and Thursdays from 7.30 pm until 9.30 pm.

Hon Sec Mr W H White, 12 St Albans Road, Smethwick.

The programme itself was poorly printed but it has survived in my keeping for all these years, and it's rather unusual and interesting to see only the athletes who won their races had enough space to pencil in their names in the programme.

The meeting gets underway at 7.15 pm

The warm evening made it ideal for sprinters with the minimum risk of pulling any leg muscles and an evening conducive for fast times, and this was shown to be true when the meeting got underway at 7.15 pm.

The official starter was Mr W P Wheatley, and the meeting got off to a flying start when the Dudley Harrier S Phillips fled down the track to win Heat One of the girls 80 yards dash in the great time of 9.8 seconds, a feat and time she repeated in the final 20 minutes later.

It was then the turn of Tipton Harriers great ladies sprint champion Joy Gray to show her prowess and win her race in the 100 yards heat in 12.5 seconds, and later on Joy stormed down the track to win the final in a personal best time of 12.1 seconds.

There were also some notable performances that evening from Tipton Harriers, Men's, Junior and Youth teams.

Double Win for Tipton Sprinter

My own long awaited piece of personal glory was to unfold on that evening. I felt in great form and yours truly Roy Langford was able to record his first sprint double win. My first success was in the 100 yards 2nd string race wining time 10.2 seconds, and then 25 minutes later I put in a good performance and turned another corner in my athletic career by winning the 2nd string 220yards final in 24 seconds and these two wins gave my confidence a much needed boost and a stepping stone knowing I was now capable of winning races again. Running was great fun but I think everyone like the thrill of winning.

Another Double Winner

One particular star that shone brightly that evening was a middle distance runner named Geoff Eales who showed what club spirit was all about and ran his heart out in two great middle distance races. His first race was in the 1 mile team race which he won in the excellent time of 4 minutes 22.6 seconds. For some athletes that would have been enough on that sultry evening, but for Geoff he doubled up in the 880 yards race which was run 30 minutes later and against all the odds showed what determination was all about to record his second win that evening in 2 minutes 2.2 seconds an his efforts that evening had gained us 12 points towards winning the Memorial Shield again.

Other Tipton wins that evening which kept the points flowing in were:

D Henderson won youths 2nd string 100 yards final in 11 seconds

T Fry won junior 1st string 100 yards final in 10.6 seconds

J Embury won youths 2nd string 220 yards final in 25.6 seconds

The last but one event of the evening was the Men's Medley Relay team race. Team selected was Stuart Williams 880 yards, D Stanton 220 yards, Roy Langford 220 yards and on the anchor leg the 440 yards Brian Boyce. We were all keyed up for this race, but there was no pressure on us to win, because our hard working club representative Jim Bedford had been keeping his eyes on the points situation all evening and informed us we had already got enough points in the bag and had retained the Memorial Shield again. So with this knowledge and only our pride at stake, we all ran our individual legs of the race in a more relaxed manner and to our great delight we finished up in first place, to finish off a good night's athletics for Tipton Harriers and myself.

Tipton won the Inter-Club contest with 64 points. Runners up West Bromwich Harriers with 51 points.

Immediately after the last event it was with great pride that our club official Jim Bedford collected the Gordon Proctor Memorial Shield for the second year in succession.

My next story will be about the Dupont Group Sports Day on Revo Sports Ground, Tividale – Saturday July 6th 1957.