Official Opening of the New Clubhouse, Sunday 16th October 2005.
Copy of the opening speech by Chairman Mrs Christine Pearson:
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the official opening of the new clubhouse for East Cheshire Harriers & Tameside Athletic Club, and a special welcome to our guests The Right Honourable David Heyes MP for Ashton-under-Lyne and his wife Judith, Councillor Dave Sweeton and Mr John Knighton from Tameside Sports Development. I would also like to extend a special welcome to Ex-Councillor Mr Frank Ruffley. Mr Ruffley attended the opening of the old clubhouse along with Mr Sheldon MP in 1979.
It is lovely to see so many people here today, especially many former members who we haven’t seen for a long time, to help us celebrate this special occasion.
It's hard to believe that East Cheshire Harriers has been in existence for 83 years. A running club was originally formed in 1907, but the effects of the 1st World War very nearly put an end to it. However, due to the enthusiasm of a small group of runners, the club was reformed in 1922 under the name of East Cheshire Harriers.
One man who played a major part in the club's survival and development was Bill Fellows. For over 50 years Bill worked in many ways for the club and at the age of 78 he was still working for, and running at, the club. Following another difficult period in the early 1970's, East Cheshire Harriers members raised enough money to build a permanent headquarters here at Richmond Park. Again, Bill Fellows played a significant part in that project and on 15th July 1979 the "new" HQ was opened by the Rt Hon Robert Sheldon MP. To show the club’s appreciation it was named the Bill Fellows Clubhouse.
The clubhouse has served East Cheshire Harriers very well for 26 years, but, like everything else, things start to go wrong with age. Added to this, the success of the club and the thriving membership means that the old place is just not big enough. So, around 6 years ago it was decided that the time had come for some desperately needed renovation work and an extension. Once again, we had to raise money to allow building work to go ahead. As with the old building, it was the commitment and dogged determination of one person in particular that enabled the project to succeed. When many others would have thrown in the towel after being buried in mountains of paperwork and hampered by red tape, our current Club President, Jack Marsden, battled on to overcome all obstacles. It is because of his dedication that today we are opening our new clubhouse.
Jack has been a member of East Cheshire Harriers for 59 years. He first joined at the age of 13 in 1946 when there was only a few junior members. By his own admission, he was never one of the fastest, but was proud to make the last place in the Youth Team that won the East Lancs Championship.
After leaving school at 16, his time was divided between his running and accountancy studies, but he continued to support East Cheshire Harriers during a very successful period.
Just before his 21st birthday, Jack passed his Accountancy Finals as one of the youngest ever to qualify, which gave him more time for running and his increasing involvement with the administration of the club. Despite moving to "foreign territory" (Marple Bridge, Stockport) Jack continued his affiliation to East Cheshire Harriers and became Chairman in the late 1960's. Despite his work taking him abroad on many occasions during the 80's and 90's, he still managed be at the club most Saturday afternoons and to this day still attends on Saturdays. Jack has continued to serve the club as both a Committee Member and Auditor.
In 1978 he recorded his one-and-only success as a runner by winning the Club's Christmas Handicap. Unfortunately, in December 1979 he had a car accident, which prevented him from defending his title. A week later on Saturday he was back running and managed 2 to 3 miles despite a painful neck. This was later found to be due to crushed vertebrae.
Jack is not the untalented person he would have us believe. Outside the club he is involved in a number of voluntary organisations. He is currently Governor and Past Chairman of Governors at Ashton 6th Form College, Chairman of the Audit Committee at Northern Counties Housing Association and a member of Stockport Samaritans.
He is also an accomplished actor and singer, having been a member of Ashton Repertoire and Dukinfield Amateur Operatic Society, taking part in many productions alongside future soap stars. To prove the talent has not diminished, on a recent cruise holiday he won a "Pop Idol" competition after performing what he thought was simply a karaoke number, singing "San Francisco".
I cannot finish my tale about Jack without paying tribute to one other person, his wife Maureen. Their marriage is yet another notable success story having recently celebrated 40 wonderful years together.