Early Beginnings (with thanks to John Lofts)
The founding of Aldershot, Farnham & District Athletic Club on 7th August 1966, was a momentous occasion and as we look back it is difficult not to take it all for granted.
The merger of Aldershot and District A.C. and Farnham A.C. was a marriage on the rebound. The negotiations between Farnham and Guildford and Godalming A.C. stumbled over the inclusion of Godalming in the name. As the Guildford and Godalming clubs had previously merged about a decade before they wished to include their name in full while Farnham thought the name in full would be too much of a mouthful.
At the time the Aldershot Club, whose colours were white with green hoops (the same as existing colours of AFD women) were mainly a very strong ladies club with a newly emerging boys and youths section, which had just competed with distinction for the first time in the ECCU National at Graves Park Sheffield. The ladies through Sheena Fitzmaurice, Pat Card and Margaret Bram had made an effective climb to the top of women’s Cross country. At the time the club had just received permission to organise its Sunday morning training at the Mons track at the back of the Military Stadium. We had for the first time got permission to put on our annual Trophies Meetings at the Military Stadium and used the grass track at Aldershot Park for other matches.
Much of the Club foundation came with our magnificent organisation of events for youngsters. In those days we organised a Track and Field League and a Cross Country League for local school boys which was a great recruiting basis. We had indoor training at North Camp for the girls and St Michael’s School for the boys under the superb direction of Tim Carroll. We had visits from men who were to become world-famous but were AAA National coaches at the time – Ron Pickering, Tom McNab and John Anderson to name but a few.
All those years ago we organised womens and youths & boys road relays in Aldershot which attracted huge entries and were the most popular in the country. As well as the schools we got great help from the Army and we used Army Junior Units as venues for our Cross Country Leagues. In conjunction with the former Aldershot Borough Council, we used to hold an evening sports meeting which was often the introduction for young school children and young servicemen to the sport. The Aldershot Council also helped us to buy an old Army hut which we re-erected in Aldershot Park as our club headquarters at our grass track. You can see from this that the Aldershot Club was very much on the up and one of the most talked about clubs in the country.
The Farnham Club, whose colours were red, were mainly a harriers club based at the Memorial Ground in Farnham with its unique grass 300 yards track. The club organised a very popular Paarlauf each year, which always attracted International athletes. They also organised a very popular Cross Country Relay in Farnham Park which had a very good entry. The club was made up mainly of seniors with most of the administration undertaken by Alan Mason, who was one of the first coaches to go through the Loughborough Summer School under the legendary founder of the coaching system in this country, Geoff Dyson. The leading athlete was Ron Stonehouse, who had the misfortune to be a contemporary of Brasher, Shirley, Disley, Chataway, Norris, Pirie and Driver and would in any other era have been one of the greats of the sport. Ron ran in the curtain up to the legendary Kuts/Chataway race which was run at White City.
You can see from this that the marriage was perfect with the merging of the young and enthusiastic Aldershot lads with the experienced Farnham seniors and in middle distance running our record in Southern Cross Country and Road Running since 1966 speaks for itself. We were probably the first club in the South to be equally strong in both women’s and men’s athletics. In the sixties and seventies we developed an enormous amount of talent and with the founding of the League system, we were soon to become a force in track and field as well as cross country and road running.
With the formation of the Rushmoor Borough Council from the former Aldershot and Farnborough Councils, we were later to get the financial support which enabled us to use the Military Stadium for training. In 1966 it cost committee members 2 shillings (10 pence) per week to keep the club going and the members also paid 1 shilling (5 pence) for training. It was not unusual for us to fill a coach on a Sunday morning to visit Elvetham or Frensham for organised training.
It is hoped to bring this history up to date in the future with notable events since 1966. I also hope to be able to publish some photographs. Any member who can help on this score?