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Jerry Jim's training stable in early Victorian Preston

Day, Dave (2014) Jerry Jim's training stable in early Victorian Preston. In: Day, D. Jerry Jim's training stable in early Victorian Preston. In D. Day, ed. Pedestrianism. Manchester: MMU Sport and Leisure History Group, 2012. Manchester Metropolitan University: Sport and Leisure History Group. ISBN 9781905476954

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Abstract

By the first half of the nineteenth century, pedestrians preparing for matches were training rigorously under the guidance of local experts whose regimes drew on their own competitive experiences and the sport’s oral traditions. Sinclair noted the ‘incredible perfection’ which these men had brought to the art of training and Egan specifically highlighted Robert Barclay as an intuitive trainer whose detailed planning and scientific approach in researching and experimenting with respect to training factors would have ‘reflected credit on any anatomist’. Given the importance of gambling in this period, trainers inevitably experienced some constraints on their behaviour and respected trainers were men of proven probity who reported progress truthfully and were obedient to the rules laid down by their employers, the ‘friends’ of the athlete. This paper explores the life and times of one particularly successful exponent of the trainer’s art, James Parker, alias Jerry Jem or Jim, a provisions dealer and beerseller whose training was ‘not to be surpassed by any professional of the present day’. Jerry had his training headquarters in Preston by 1851 where at one point he had nine pedestrians in his ‘stable’, a number of them living with their trainer. These pedestrian communities generated an informal locus for collective learning through which skills and knowledge were reproduced across generations. Analysis of Bells Life reports from the 1840s to the 1860s suggests that Parker trained at least eighty pedestrians, including two of his sons, many of whom went on to become trainers themselves, an enduring feature of coaching communities. Race reports concerning Parker’s athletes also reflect the changing nature of the sport in this period and emphasise the increasingly negative influence of betting on the honesty of many events.

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