Holmfirth Harriers' hundred!
You might think the battle to keep fit is a pretty modern obsession but it actually goes back a long way, as members of the Holmfirth Harriers are out to prove. We've been finding out how they're celebrating a happy - and healthy - 100th birthday!
Pioneers: The Holmfirth Harriers in 1911
It's obviously a major milestone for Holmfirth Harriers Athletic Club, with a year-long series of events being launched this month, including a re-enactment of the club's first training run way back in October 1907. Since that first event, the club's come a long way - and we're not just talking about the miles and miles that its members will have run not only around Holmfirth but all over the country.
Harriers members and Compo!
It's a proud moment for the club and, though there have obviously been a lot of changes over the past hundred years, Club President Ashley Smith tells us that the Harriers have stayed close to their roots - and are proud of it: "Back in 1907, a group of local amateur athletes formed a club known as Holmfirth Harriers. One hundred years later, Holmfirth Harriers is still run by local amateur athletes but in a very professional way!"
The origins of the club can be traced back to a meeting held in the Elephant and Castle Inn in Holmfirth on October 1st 1907 where, according to the minutes: "It was resolved to form a Harriers Club". And so it began. Naturally, rules had to be passed and club officers were appointed, but the main thing was for Holmfirth's athletes to get out there and get running. With that in mind, a fixture list for the 1907-8 season was drawn up at a second meeting two days later.
Then, on October 5th 1907, it was time to hit the road! The inaugural Holmfirth Harriers club run took place - starting and finishing at the Elephant and Castle. No doubt a couple of pints (and no more!) were consumed by the thirsty runners at the end of the event. The attendance book for that historic first club run shows that all of ten people took part, including Club Captain John Turton and Vice Captain Herbert Earnshaw. A far cry from the hundreds of members who are members of the Harriers now, but you've got to start somewhere and these pioneers really were starting something which would run...and run!
Since then, Holmfirth Harriers have notched up many successes over the past 100 years. The club's first team win came in 1909 at the Senior Huddersfield and District Cross Country Championships. More recently, the Harriers' Under-13 boys picked up a national win, coming first in the 2006 English Cross Country Relay Championships. The club was even voted 'Club of the Year for Innovation' by UK Athletics in 2005 and this led to a nomination for the Central Council of Physical Recreation's 'Club of the Year' award, which the Harriers then won.
Medals: Harriers keep on winning!
Club President Ashley Smith says the Harriers have never shied away from a challenge: "Holmfirth Harriers' athletes have brought numerous honours to the club over the years. Just this September, for instance, the senior men's team won a gold medal at the Yorkshire Road Relay Championships, while the senior women and the under-13 girls won bronze medals."
The size of Holmfirth Harriers has increased dramatically over the years. Records show that just 28 members attended club runs and races during that first 1907/8 season, with an average attendance of 16. Today, with nearly 700 members, it could be said that things are looking really healthy, but its members admit that the club's history hasn't always been this rosy. Membership had dwindled into single figures by the 1950s and there were fears that the club would fold. But thanks to the late Norman Haigh and others, the Harriers struggled on. Membership started to increase through the 1960s and 1970s - and that led to more individual and team successes.
The Harriers get out in all weathers!
So, in 2007 and on into 2008 the Holmfirth Harriers have a chance to look back on their achievements - and look forward to the future. Much like the countryside around the town where they're based, the club's story has its ups and downs, but to have lasted this long must surely be cause for a big celebration. With that in mind, they've got some big plans including a party for all members, past and present, a new book telling the complete story of the Harriers and, of course, a centenary programme of races. After all, that's what it's all about!
All images on this page are © Holmfirth Harriers and are used with permission.
last updated: 03/10/07