Written by FWP
This letter,sub-headed - "Shadowed by the Police" - was written by Mr FW Parker of London AC to The Sporting Life Newspaper and was published on November 14th 1904.
So nothing ever changes then!!! Read on,fair reader.
ATHLETES’ SUNDAY STROLLS
Shadowed by the Police
(To the Editor of the “Sporting Life”)
Sir – I thought you might like a few notes concerning the opening stroll of the Ranelagh Harriers’ walking section on Sunday. It was chiefly remarkable for the extraordinary attention it received from the police. Fifteen members and visitors turned up. There would have been a large muster but for the heavy fog in the early morning which kept several away. The fog lifted and cleared right away half an hour before the start,and brilliant sunshine was enjoyed throughout. The fifteen included FB Thompson,PL Fisher,Major CE Liles,F Unwin(Hon. Sec.),E Ion Pool,TW Blott,A Wilson,CH Spendlove,HF Woodgate,myself(a visitor) and five others whose names I do not know.
We found the police very busy. A sergeant took the name and address of the hon sec.,and,although it was pointed out that it was in no sense a race,and that the men had merely met for a social stroll,and all were in ordinary street walking costume(several carrying overcoats and sticks),the sergeant,who carried out his instructions civilly enough,demanded the route and destination,and informed us his instructions were that “any combination of persons” using the highway was contrary to law,so that three friends arranging to meet and go for a stroll together is practically a conspiracy!. A uniformed officer on a bicycle was also waiting,and we heard that at breakfast time the police had visited the hotel and taken the names and addresses of everyone on the premises – servants and all!.
The walk was across the Common,through the woods into Kingston Vale,across Richmond Park from Robin Hood Gate to Kingston Gate,thence through quiet roads to Surbiton,where a light luncheon was taken. We found the police had telephoned from Wimbledon to announce the invasion,and we were tracked to the Rising Sun,a quiet but comfortable hostelry on the outskirts.
Arrangements were made for two or three members to have a walk from there on Tuesday evening,when the police interviewed the landlord,and on hearing of the arrangement told him that if he permitted it “it would go against his licence”. Of course,he had to cancel the arrangement.
The walk was resumed via Surbiton Hill,Worcester Park,Malden,Raynes Park,Cottenham Slope,and back to the Wimbledon HIll Hotel,about 16 or 17 miles in all. The pace never exceeded four miles an hour,and the men split up into little knots of three or four each,so it is difficult to understand the action of the police,which caused mingled amusement and indignation. It was suggested that future walks should take place in Russia,where possibly the police regulations are less stringent.
It may be the authorities were misled as to the nature of the affair,and expected to find a crowd of motor cars,and a score or so of half-dressed men with all the paraphernalia of a road race. We were even counted out and home,another sergeant whom we passed half a mile from home remarking as the last bunch passed him,that we were one less than we started. This was quite correct as Spendlove only went a few miles,and had to return,being unable to spare the whole morning.
I understand that “representations” are to be made to the various authorities and to headquarters,
Yours etc. FW Parker (London Athletic Club)
Hurlingham,Nov 14th 1904.
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