Sunday, 16 July 2017

A fine spirits...

It is obvious from the first days of the Beaumont Harriers that there was a superb spirit in the club - indeed the opening notice said that "a fine spirit exists amongst our fellows". Reading the early reports of the club's activities it is clear that this was the case.

In those early days major events were usually followed by a "smoker" or smoking concert where the memEers and guests took it in turns to do their best to emulate the musical hall stars of the day. The Beaumont Harriers also held an annual "Cinderella Dance" at the Assembly Robms, Bow, and there was said to be a heavy demand for the tickets priced at 1s 6d (8p) single or 2s 6d (13p) double.

The Essex Beagles continued a similar social programme and from 1892 held an annual dinner. The club spirit was evident: at the 1898 dinner the Chairman Mr Mclarty remarked that the Beagles "were an enthusiastic and successful" club and "particularly hearty cheers" greeted the star athletes George Martin and Tommy Bartlett.

But it was on the training runs, competitions and other day-to-day aspects of club life where the spirit was forged which remains with the Beagles to this day. One of the first members to join the reformed Beagles in 1920 was the late Fred Almond (d.1984) who was typical of young men in the area working long hours for little pay. It is not unsurprising that the Beagles captured the imagination of Fred and others like him. As he wrote in 1981: 'Things were tough and pleasures hard to come by, therefore club life was a real bonus and everyone encouraged each other". This was never more true than in competitions where "times for a race did not matter at all, so one tried to win either individually or as a team. In matches one tried everything to earn a few points for the club".

A feature of this team spirit was the pride of members in wearing the club colours. The choice of black and yellow hooped jerseys was made by the Essex Beagles from the 1891. By the turn of the century the club colours were the more familiar black vests with two yellow or gold hoops which remained as the main club colours for almost three-quarters of a century. A significant change was introduced during this period however a white vest with gold and black bands was adopted in 1929 and remained in use until the 1950's for summer competitions only.

The next change of colours, this time to a gold vest with black trim, evidently brought luck for it marked the re-emergence of the Beagles from 1972 onwards. Ten years later the club reverted to a design closer to the historic style - black vests with a single gold hoop, bearing the logo of Le Coq Sportif (who provide some kit as part of a sponsorship deal). These colours remain in this centenary year. Although the colours may have varied over the years as the "Beagles history shows, it’s the man inside the vest that counts" (to coin a phrase first used in the 1933-34 club review)."

Many members retain a close and healthy interest in the fortunes of the Beagles from whatever part of the country or the world that life has taken them. As Harry Callow puts it: "I am sure that had it not been for the friendly club spirit of the Beagles I would not have maintained my interest". Despite the inevitable changes of this past half century and the pressures of the sport these days, the friendliness of the Beagles is well-known in athletics circles and the strength of club spirit lingers on as a factor in Beagles' life.

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