Best in Town
South Shields Harriers
Running and Athletics for all
South Shields Harriers: a short history
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The Harriers were founded in 1900; are probably the second oldest sports club in the town, after Westoe Cricket & Rugby; and have a proud history.
In 1904, they inaugurated the World’s first Harriers team road race, from Sunderland to Westoe. In Tom Payne, they had a world record holding walker, while JG McFarlane, the club secretary, was an outstanding UK miler.
Eleven members of the club were killed during the First World War, from a membership of around fifty.
In the 1920s, the club added a Youths’ section and the first Ladies’ section in the North East. Both the walking’ and the ladies’ section were pre-eminent during the inter -war period. Fred Hakanson walked for England, while in running, Sid Hitcham won the North East Counties Cross country Championship and Reg Loader became AAA 100 yards champion.
After the Second World War, there was continued success for the ladies, while there was further North East success in running by Ralph Sheraton, Dave Deacon, Jock Biggs and others. Joe Relph took up coaching after his running career, then became a leading international official. They were succeeded in the 1970s by Mike Kearns, who held the UK record for the 1500 metres , and Diana Cotterill, who walked for England. Morris Robertson topped off a sporting career which had started as a Sunderland reserve, then a sprinter in the 1940s & 50s, with the 0/60 UK record for a 24 hour track race.
The first Great North Run saw Mike Kearns finish 3rd; Alan Richardson 7th; and Karen Goldhawk (nee Moodie) winning the Ladies.
In the 1990s, the club finally had an Olympian ( a status denied to Tom Payne by dubious athletic politics almost a century before) in Jared Deacon, 400 metres relay runner.
The club has seen continued success since 2000, with Emma Morris high jumping for England, and winning the New Zealand Championship; Alex Turbett winning the Army Javelin Championship; and Luke Clarke the Junior Great North Run, in 2012.
Throughout its history, the club’s members and teams have had regional success, winning local races, county championships, the North East Harrier League, and Veterans’ awards.
Recently, Luke Adams won the Senior Grand Prix of the Harrier League; Phil McClusky the Senior Grand Prix in the Northern Track League; Linda Bone the League’s Ladies Veterans’ cup; the Mens’ and Womens’ teams are the current holders of the North East Veterans Track & Field titles; while Liam Emmett has just won (2013) the Durham Schools Intermediate Cross Country Championship.
In addition, Peter Tate has been North East Coach of the Year and Mick Frazer North East Official of the Year.
The club has always prided itself on its ‘inclusiveness’. Its early inauguration of Ladies and Youths sections underline this, as does its yearly programme of club races, enabling members of all abilities and ages to participate. Coaching is for all abilities and a RunInEngland group, under Pat White, has now been established to encourage newcomers. The club subsidises juniors who wish to compete and pays for coach training.
The Harriers have always endeavoured to promote athletics regionally. JG McFarlane organised the Ingham Infirmary Sports for over 40 years until the 1950s, attracting leading international runners such as McDonald Bailey and Arthur Wint. This was followed in the 1960s and 70s by the Club 21 Meeting, for local clubs, and Sports week, which culminated in an athletic meeting at Gypsies Green.
Internationals such as Derek Ibbotson and Dorothy Hyman were regular competitors: Steve Cram won his first prize there: and Brendan Foster ran the first sub-4 minute mile in the North East, which we believe is still a World record for a 5 lap track and the club promoted the inter-counties 20 mile Champs from Gypsies in the 1980s.
While the Harriers have been located at Gypsies Green for over 50 years, they also promote Cross country races at Temple Park for the Cross Country League and for the North East, hosting the Northern & National Cross Country Champs.
Finally, the club has organised successor races to the original Sunderland -Westoe race for over a 100 years. The course has changed as traffic increased and is now held on the Leas as the SandDancer 10k.
This is shortly to be supplemented by ‘coastal challenge routes’ over the Leas and a parkrun. Gypsies is not the most up-to-date stadium in the country, you may have noticed, but it is adequate for training and in a superb position for distance running. I hope the history of the club in another 100 years show that this has been the basis for even more success.