ST. BEDE'S COLLEGE , WHALLEY RANGE
SOUTH MANCHESTER. JANUARY 1963.
Only on this January lunchtime my progress to the main block was halted by my French teacher who beckoned me towards him. This was the French teacher who has had me caned for "doodling" the logo of my pen manufacturer in the margin of my exercise book. My immediate thought was to what punishment he had in store for me today.
To my surprise he was quite pleasant. Obviously, 50 years on, I can't remember the exact conversation but my recollection is that it went something like this.....
TEACHER: "Lonergan, as I recall you did pretty well in the School Sports, didn't you?"
ME: "Yes, sir, I won the 880 and the 440, sir."
TEACHER: "Yes, I thought so. That's why I chosen you to represent the school at cross country"
ME: "But we don't have any cross country teams, sir. We only play football; I'm in the team."
TEACHER: "I know that, but the Manchester Cross Country Championships are coming up and it's been decided that the school should enter."
ME: "The lads who run will have been doing cross country since September at least, sir. For some it's their 3rd season. We've no experience. It's not fair"
TEACHER: "Maybe, but we have decided"
ME: "When is it ,sir?"
TEACHER: "A week on Saturday, in the afternoon"
ME: "Then I can't, sir, I have a paper round. Starts at 4 o'clock"
TEACHER: "Where's the shop you work at?"
ME: "Near Heaton Park. I live in North Manchester."
TEACHER: "No problem then. That settles it. The championships are actually in Heaton Park!"
He had me. I had no more excuses. I would have to run.
So that was that. Despite not having a cross country team we would be lining up against schools from all over the city. With no experience and having done no training we would face lads well into their third cross country season. The best would already have represented Manchester and the very best would already have been snatched up by athletics clubs in the city. Salford Harriers, Sale Harriers or Manchester & District Lads Club Harriers. What chance did we have?
The weekend before the race I mentioned the race to the lads on the estate. They told me that there 2 cross country league operating in the city. One for schools in the north and one for the south.
They informed that a boy at their school called "Sankey" had won all the north based races. He was unbeatable. So as a complete novice obviously
" you'll do nowt! you've no bloody chance!", they said.
A part of me was intrigued as to how it would go. On passing the 11+ exam several boys from the primary school class had opted to go to Cardinal Langley in nearby Middleton. It was a new school but they tried to uphold the "grammar school" tradition of rugby union and cross country with no football being played at that time. Set in suburban Whalley Range St. Bede's College turned out teams in football from under 12 and both football and rugby from under 13. But no cross country teams. But..........
WHO KNOWS I MIGHT JUST BE GOOD AT THIS RUNNING GAME!