Formation and Early Days
Like any other sporting club, BAC has had its ups and downs, but has remained a prominent sporting club in the town for the majority of its existence. Records show that the club was originally formed in 1906, but little else is known, except that it soon became defunct, although an annual Brockenhurst to Bournemouth road race had been organised.
1908 – 1919
On Monday 14 September 1908 at the Dolphin Hotel, Bournemouth, the club was re-established with the object of cultivating athletic exercise in general according to the definition by the AAA. Many of the original meetings combined both athletics and cycling races, and also permission was given by the committee for boxing gloves to be purchased as a means of training. Club colours were established as a white jersey with black running drawers. The first lady member of the club joined in 1910, and the club continued to have an active contingent of ladies for periods of existence.
During the winter season of 1910, Freddie Webber won the Southern Counties Cross Country Championship and the Club had three men home in the first twenty. The club progressed rapidly in the early years, and in 1914 there were two or three promising members who might have represented the club in the Olympic trials at Stamford Bridge.
The First World War created a gap in the life of the club, and we suffered considerably from the enormous loss of young men in that War.
1920 – 1945
The club moved forward after re-establishing itself after the War, and exceptional performances were achieved by E A Riley in 880 yards which earned him an international vest.
were regarded as the most successful period in the club’s history. The medley relay team of that time – E A Riley, W Goff, S A Lovegrove and L S Wilcox – were each Hampshire County Champions at their distance and achieved many successes in relay competitions.
Ken Baily, Douglas Brady, John Harris and Noel Griffin went on a relay across the Atlantic. They ran around the decks of the SS Bremen from Southampton to New York, covering 997 miles in 5 and a half days. They carried a torch in which was a message asking President Roosevelt to declare war if Germany attacked hoping it would deter the Germans. Ken says their appeal fell on deaf ears and they arrived back in England only three days before Hitler invaded and war was declared.
The formation of a ladies section was agreed upon in 1939, with representation on the committee of the Club.
During the Second World War arrangements were made for the safety of the club trophies to be stored in the underground ‘ice house’ of a large estate in the Dorset countryside.
1946 – 1970
After the war when the club re-gathered momentum, a ladies section was again formed. Miss G E Young became Hon Secretary and captain of the ladies section. Miss Young was an outstanding high jumper and won the Southern Counties title and the WAAA National Championship in 1947. Along with Douglas Wingate, she was selected to train with the British team for the 1948 Olympic Games in London.
With a membership of 111, including 12 ladies, the club became a hive of activity for the next five years. As ever, finance was a continual problem, and in 1959 a Supporters Club was formed separately from BAC to raise the necessary funds.
In 1960 the King’s Park Athletic Centre was opened by Sir Arthur Porritt. The official opening took place on 23 July, when a match was held between the AAA Combined Services and Combined Universities, organised by the Royal Navy.
The club hosted a meeting with an Austrian Club, Linz AC, and Portsmouth AC in the summer of 1961. During the next 20 years clubs from Switzerland, France and Germany arranged visits to Bournemouth and many friendly links were established, particularly with the French clubs who we continue to visit during the cross country seasons.
The Meyrick Park cross country course was established in 1961, and the following year a road races section was formed. There was now sufficient activity from the ladies’ membership to organise the first ladies trophy meeting to be held at the track.
In 1969 the club colours were again changed to the current amber vest with a royal blue vertical band over the left shoulder and royal blue shorts. Also in 1969, the track was converted to the metric system, but was subsequently found to be four inches too short! This was obviously rectified by the Borough Council.
1971 – 1981
In 1972 a senior team was entered into the National Cross Country Championships for the first time in the clubs history and finished 35th from 130 teams, with the junior team being placed 9th.
The resurrection of the ladies’ section was developing rapidly with 50 members already, and a number of creditable results were achieved in various team competitions mainly through their younger members. The ladies consistently achieved an average of ten UK top 25 rankings in the various age groups and excelled themselves in 1977 with a total of 19.
During the mid seventies, the club found itself in the middle of a dispute regarding county boundary changes moving Bournemouth out of Hampshire and into Dorset. Eventually, the club was left to make its own decision about county allegiance. The club felt that Dorset would be the most appropriate county, and as Dorset was weak in both athletic ability and administration compared to Hampshire, BAC became the premier club from the 1974/75 season onwards.
The club was now developing its strength in both the men’s and ladies’ sections with an ever increasing number of younger members. This was obviously brought about through the improvements made to both the number and standard of coaches. Results produced by the National Union of Track Statisticians showed that in 1974 the ladies’ section was ranked 31st club in Britain.
In 1980, the club’s social activities were amalgamated and a social section was formed with representation on the executive committee. The social section was completely responsible for organising the necessary fund raising functions and other social activities, such as the annual presentation dinner dance. This was a traditional feature in the club’s history and has been attended by many prominent guests associated with athletics.
The following year a major step forward took place when floodlights were erected around the track to enable training to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings as well as Sunday mornings.
The 75th anniversary year of the club showed yet further developments in all aspects, including increased membership to over 300 active members, coaching awards achieved, a total of 80 club trophies, and individual athletes’ improved performances. Alison Hollington became the first member ever to win a National Cross Country Championship title. Paul Rees was appointed National Event Coach for the shot, an outstanding personal achievement. Three ground records were broken – one of them by our own Karen Harvey in the 3000m.
The club now found itself with the largest membership and probably the strongest athletics organisation in both quality and quantity in its history to that point.