A brief history of East Antrim Harriers

Friday, 15 July 2016

A brief history of East Antrim Harriers

In September 1907 a small number of Ballyclare athletes who were members of Belfast Trinity Harriers decided to form their own running club. After a meeting in a barn at the back of Baird's Public House on Main Street they chose the name East Antrim Harriers.

The Ballyclare club was to become one of the most successful running clubs in Northern Ireland, winning its first honour in 1909 when Bob Kerr claimed the Ulster Senior Cross Country Championship. 

In 1920 the club purchased an old army hut that was to become their HQ for the next 50 years. During that time, they won the Northern Ireland Junior Cross Country Championships in 1925 and 1926, and from 1926 to 1958 won the Senior Championships a record 24 times (including 13 in a row) as well as 9 runner-up titles!

In 1943/44 the club won every race at team and individual level, quite and achievement.

In more recent times, the late, great Hill McNeill wore the black and white vest with distinction and Jimmy Todd, Northern Ireland's 'greatest ever veteran athlete', set numerous world records and in 1993 ran the Belfast 10K run in 41.01 minutes at the age of 71!

The Harriers have always led the way in promoting their sport. In 1959/60 club chairman John Wilson held a series of keep fit classes, which eventually inspired some of the ladies in the class to form East Antrim Ladies within the club. This was at a time when competition and sporting opportunities for women were very limited. East Antrim Ladies arranged their own events, including two races against Dublin’s Clonliffe Harriers in 1963 - one at Santry and a return in Ballyclare.

Eventually the authorities realised the need for women’s competition and in 1965 the first Northern Ireland Women’s Cross Country Championships were held in Ballyclare, with East Antrim Ladies winning the senior title.

The first race to be held in Northern Ireland solely for veteran runners is said to be an event held in Ballyclare in 1971 under the auspices of club members Jimmy Todd and Johnston Scott. Shortly after this the Northern Ireland Veterans Athletic Association was born.

Both Jimmy Todd and Johnston Scott were later to receive MBEs for services to athletics.

The club meets and trains from their Clubhouse on Harrier Way on a Tuesday and Thursday night from 7.00 (you'll see them pounding the streets around the town in their distinctive black and white stripes, come rain or shine). Another great wee Ballyclare club with an amazing heritage that we can all be proud of.

Check them out at www.eastantrimharriersac.co.uk

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