Sunderland Harriers officials are having to rewrite the history of the club after newspaper articles suggest that the club is much older than originally thought.
Previous research found the date of the Harriers was given as 1897, but a look through some old newspaper cuttings and minutes gives the date of the foundation of the Wearsiders as October 1, 1889.
Previous to that, there was mention that the club had been in existence since 1884. Long time chairman Mr J.G. Mawston reported at the annual meeting in 1936 he had been a member since 1884 – a period of 52 years. But there was no mention during that time that the Harriers from 1884 to 1889 were an inaugurated club.
Further information has come to light through the British Newspaper archives which said: “The first meeting of the newly formed Sunderland Harriers club was held on Tuesday, October 1, 1889, in the Central Coffee Tavern.
“It was decided that the club colours would be black pants and white jersey with black shield on the left breast and the letters SH worked in white on the shield.”
If Sunderland now adopts the 1889 date, it will make them one of the oldest sporting clubs in the city and only Elswick Harriers have been in existence as long as Sunderland in the North East.
But to add to the intrigue, old Sunderland Harriers’ club handbooks have the formation date down as 1897 and reformed in 1905 to suggest that there has been a break in their service.
The club’s first handicap race in 1890 was held from the Three Crowns Hotel with the finish at the central station cab office. There was a dense crowd around the hotel to greet the winner - Barkiss running in splendid form won by 30 seconds.
The Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette reported that the first championship race that Sunderland Harriers took part in was in 1891 at Manchester in the Northern Counties Junior Cross Country Championships.
The report said: “That they would leave the Central on Friday afternoon by saloon for Manchester, where they will be put up for the night so to be quite fit for the long and trying course between eight and 10 miles. 300 runners are expected to take part.”
It went on to say: “That the first Sunderland Harriers annual dinner was held in the long room of The Three Crowns Hotel, High Street West. Councillor Thomas Burlinson presided and he was supported by a large number of runners from Sunderland Harriers and neighbouring clubs...