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Dudley Harriers, how it all began

The history of many athletics clubs within the Midlands can trace their history back to Birchfield Harriers. Before 1924, athletics clubs could have multiple branches across a region. One of Birchfield Harriers branches was Tipton Harriers. Tipton Harriers became independent in 1910 and after the war, as their membership grew new branches were formed - the Dudley branch of Tipton Harriers was one of them. In 1924 the M.C.A.A.A banned the practice of having club branches which encouraged the formation of new clubs. The Dudley branch of Tipton Harriers formed a new club, Dudley Harriers.

Matt Weaver (pictured fifth from the left on the middle row in the picture, right) was the first secretary. He put 10 shillings of his own money into the kitty to get the club going. He was later to become a leading figure in Midland athletics, holding various offices, including Honorary Secretary of Birmingham and District and was a Midland Counties AAA official for about 20 years.

Both the Tipton Harriers (Dudley Branch) and the independent Dudley Harriers had their headquarters at the Gipsy's Tent pub which was at the junction of Stafford Street and Steppingstone Street at the top of Dudley Town. The Gipsy's Tent was used as a race headquarters for events in connection with the Birmingham & District Invitation Cross Country League which was formed in 1925 and the annual Boxing Day race, starting from that point became a great club tradition. His wife, May Weaver, when later interviewed by The Bugle recalled the early days when she made the running shorts for club members and really became involved in Dudley Harriers' affairs, as her home became a place for talking tactics, 'rub-downs' and club business.

Matt Weaver became the club's first life member in 1935. Riley Newell, Billy Preece and Wilf Walker were also founder members of Dudley Harriers and were honoured with life membership in 1951.

In 1936, twelve years after Dudley Harriers was formed, the club established a womens section.

Photograph on the right taken from an article in The Bugle called 'The Dawn of the Dudley Harriers' written by Roy Langford. Young women such as Joan Taylor and Betty Sankey brought new honours to the club as the women's section developed. Joan won the Midland Womens Junior Cross Country Championship in the late 1940s and was second in the National CCC and Betty Sankey won 11 medals for road and track walking and finished third in the national one mile walk at White City, just after the Second World War.

Young women such as Joan Taylor and Betty Sankey brought new honours to the club as the womens section developed. Joan won the Midland Womens Junior Cross Country Championship in the late 1940s and was second in the National CCC and Betty Sankey won 11 medals for road and track walking and finished third in the national one mile walk at White City, just after the Second World War.

The foundation of Dudley Harriers as an independent club allowed for the continuation of many fantastic achievements by athletes in cross country, road racing, road walking and track and field athletics. This new foundation would eventually lead to an amalgamation with Stourbridge and Wordsley District Harriers and the formation of Dudley and Stourbridge Harriers.

The common bond of goodwill and fairness that athletes have for each other, was captured in this article from the 1940s about a race which included local clubs Dudley Harriers and Tipton Harriers.

news paper clipping

*article extracts from: The Bugle (article published 3/7/2019 written by Gavin Jones), Newspaper cutting taken from the history section of the Birmingham and District Cross Country League written in 1940. photograph credits: some photos were included in the article published by the Bugle (article written by Gavin Jones), another photo taken from an article called "The Dawn of the Dudley Harriers" written by Roy Langford for the Bugle.

First team picture Gypsys Inn Pub Women members