More evidence has come to light on the history of Sunderland Harriers formation as an athletics’ club.
Various dates have been put forward for when it was founded and a Sunderland Echo newspaper article from 1954 has revealed more details.
Featured in the Saturday Sports Parade, the article said: “The club’s history began in1884 when it was founded as the Sunderland Athletic Club. In 1889 it was reorganised and took its present title.
“The first meeting of the newly formed Sunderland Harriers club was held on Tuesday 1st October, 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.’’
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.
The Sunderland Harriers committee now look likely to adopt the year of 1884 as the date of their formation and this will make them the oldest athletics club in the North.
The Saturday Sports Parade article made interesting reading: It said: The 70-year-old Sunderland Harriers and Athletics Club – the oldest athletics club in the North of England – has the biggest crises of its history.
For the 135 strong club will be without a ground on which to train because it can’t pay the fee for the use of the facility.
Their present home is on the Bede Grammar School playing fields, but a fee of 7s 6d (37 pence) for each of the two nights a week to train there is proving too costly for the club.
“The subscriptions are not heavy, but we do not want to increase them if we can help it, said Mr Bill Watson, track secretary of Cairns Square, Fulwell.
“There are 100 men and youths at the club and 35 women athletes. For a senior member the annual subscription is 6s, (17-19 years) 3s 6d, (15-17) 2s and (under 15) 1s. There is just not the money coming in to pay our way,’’ explained Mr Watson.
“Our problems would be answered if we could get a training field or sports ground at a cheaper rental or better still, if someone would let us have the use of their ground for free. It is important that our club should continue to help keep the name of the town to the front in the athletics world,” adds Mr Watson.
The article went on: The chairman is Mr Joe Thornton, who has been a member for 32 years and chairman for the past three. He was a member of the youth team which won the North Eastern Counties Cross Country Championship in 1926.
Secretary is Mr Bill Ward who has had a long association with the club and treasurer Doug Tiffin. Coaches are Sunderland policeman Derek Bloomfield and Ryhope Grammar School sports master Harry Peart supervises the coaching of the women athletes.
Some of the members take part in both summer and winter sports meetings. Prominent among them is Gordon Freeman who finished 24th in the National Cross Country Championships in a field of 874 which included the pick of the cross country runners from the British Isles.
There are several title holders in the club and quite a few members have represented Northumberland and Durham in national championship events.
Leading athletes at the present time include Alan Gibbon (long jump and hop step and jump), John Constable (long jump), Gordon Carr (high jump), Alan Cowie (pole vault), Harry Gardner (sprinter), Bill Watson (shot and javelin) and Graham Rendall (mile).
Bede School facilities did become a training venue for many years for Sunderland Harriers right into the 1980s.