Manchester Metropolitan University's Research Repository

‘Old Harry Andrews’:surviving the professional pedestrianism to amateur athletics transition

Day, Dave (2012) ‘Old Harry Andrews’:surviving the professional pedestrianism to amateur athletics transition. In: Day, D. ‘Old Harry Andrews’:surviving the professional pedestrianism to amateur athletics transition. In D. Day, ed. Sports and Coaching: Pasts and Futures. Manchester: MMU, 2012. Manchester Metropolitan University. ISBN 978-1-905476-77-0

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The nineteenth century witnessed the consolidation of a triadic model of class with those in the middle, especially the educated professional classes, assuming much greater power in the social and political arena. With that power came the ability to be able to shape the world, including sports, in their own image and in the latter stages of the century traditional working class sports such as pedestrianism were superseded by the rationalised, standardised and sanitised versions of athletics preferred by the middle classes. The Amateur Athletic Association (AAA), formed in 1880, centralised the organisation of track and field athletics, established common written rules for events, standardised the dimensions for tracks and equipment, and framed regulations so as to enforce the doctrine of amateurism, particularly the abhorrence of professionalism and gambling. So effective was this programme of rationalisation that professional pedestrianism, a vibrant and widespread working class sport for over two hundred years, had almost disappeared by the time the final blow was delivered with the 1906 Street Betting Act which enacted that anyone loitering in public places for the purpose of bookmaking, betting or wagering should be liable to summary conviction. For many pedestrians the sport had traditionally provided a career path from competitor to trainer and official but the growing influence of amateurs from the 1860s and the institutionalisation of the sport under middle class control from 1880 created changes, some more subtle than others, in the nature of the working environment for the experienced ‘ped’. This chapter uses the life course of one pedestrian exponent, Harry Andrews, as an exemplar of how such men adapted their working lives to accommodate the shifting nature of the sporting milieu. Andrews (1831/3–1885), who ran his first race in 1854 and was still competing over twenty years later, was typical of the pedestrians of his day. Although not the most prominent competitor of the period he had a lasting association with the sport and found ways to continue working within the emergent amateur athletics scene. While recognising that the use of a biography, especially of a man like Andrews who lacked the political and social status to effect change, only provides a narrative of one man’s life in one location it can, and does, reinforce the impact that national modifications in sporting structures could have on an individual and the way in which they responded. Harry was not the only pedestrian faced with these challenges and the indications are that others adopted similar strategies although the hidden histories of many of these working-class men make confirmation difficult and reinforce the need for further research, particularly using a prosopographical methodology (Oldfield, 2011), into those who were directly affected by the standardisation of sport by the middle classes.

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