On Friday June 11th 1937 the local newspaper reported that a meeting had been held at the Mechanics Institute in Jarrow the previous evening and that “on the suggestion of Mr. A. E. Liddle (Town Clerk) it was decided to call the new club the ‘Jarrow Cycling and Athletics Club'”. Elected as Secretary was Mr. Bob Charlton.
The new club was formed in response to the setting up of a sports stadium at Monkton in Jarrow. Unemployed men had been given the task of laying out and reconstructing the stadium which had fallen into disuse over the years, it having once provided cycling, tennis and other amenities. The cost of the work was met from the Surrey Fund, established after the Jarrow March by Sir John Jarvis who was M.P. for Guildford and Lord Lieutenant of Surrey and subsequent M.P. for South Shields, Chuter Ede who was then Chairman of Surrey County Council. Maybe Sir John thought that having a stadium would make us march faster!
The workmen were engaged on monthly spells and work had gone well. The setting up of a sports stadium was seen as important because Jarrow lacked organised recreation facilities and at that time there were national fitness campaigns. The National Fitness Council had been approached already to help fund the work of the newly formed Juvenile Organisational Committee. Jarrow in 1937 was witnessing special measures to occupy unemployed men in work designed to help the local community.
So the stadium was built and on June 10th 1937 an organising committee agreed to use it. The athletics section was quickly assembled by Bob Charlton. Bob’s interest in the stadium stemmed from his role as secretary of a local football side which was using the grounds. His interest in athletics came from his participation in the sport. Bob was an ex member of Wallsend Harriers from at least 25 years before, and it was he, along with Club Chairman Jack Rieber, who was the driving force behind the club for many years. Recognition of his overall contribution to athletics came when he was awarded the prestigious Olympic Torch award, a rare honour, of significance to the whole sport.
In the short time left before the war, the club managed to get under way. One of its first members and past President, Tommy Power recalled “In those days, everyone was a sprinter. The mile had not been discovered and a marathon was something we did in a charabanc tour at race week. Unfortunately the war came and club members were dispersed all over the world.” But Bob kept in touch and after the war the club reformed back at Jarvis Stadium, as it had been named; the club’s original colours were even Sir John’s horse racing colours of royal blue with three amber hoops.
The club has prospered since those founding days. The custodianship of the stadium saw the Metalworks, Tubeworks and Palmers take over to form MeTuPa. The athletics club moved to nearby facilities for four years in the 50’s during that upheaval, but in 1958 it moved back as Jarrow Athletics Club. New members had been recruited, many of whom are still going strong, so they say! The likes of John Keefe, Eric Huskisson and Jimmy Hedley who have taken over the mantle so sadly left by Bob Charlton’s passing in 1985, of the driving forces behind the club. Jimmy, of course, is internationally known as the trainer of Steve Cram and David Sharpe and in recent years has mentored Vince Wilson to National recognition. Jimmy now has a talented squad of ladies, including Julie Mitchell, Claire Smallwood and Angela Hunter, under his wing.
The latest changes for the club came about in 1969 when it was renamed ‘Jarrow and Hebburn Athletics Club’ and the current club colours of gold with navy blue sash were adopted, and more recently when the local authority took over the lease on the ground.
The achievements of Steve Cram and David Sharpe have given the club great recognition over recent years and allowed a great deal of growth. To give mention here to all of the athletes worthy of recognition would fill the whole page. (See our soon to come section on our athletes). The future seems to be well catered for as well with a strong crop of up and coming junior athletes.
The late 80’s saw a major redevelopment of the facilities at Monkton with a new track laid and a 1000 seat stand built. Behind the stand, the indoor hall houses a 60m sprint track, a long jump, high jump and pole vault area complete with a more conventional sports hall, changing and refreshment facilities. For this we are grateful to our local authority, South Tyneside Borough Council, who continue to encourage athletics at Monkton in the tradition established by Sir John Jarvis.
With these excelent new facilities, we have extended coaching provision, track & field, kids & seniors. Our close connection with the council has led to the inclusion of a purpose built cross country course into the reclamation of an extensive area of derelict land next to the stadium. It’s a fair but exposed course that will be tough on a bad day.
Special thanks to Tom Tweddell who wrote the original article on which this history is heavily based.