The Club House, Harrier Way, Ballyclare
Officers and Committee 2019-2020
Formed in 1907 - A Concise History
In September 1907 a small number of Ballyclare athletes who were members of Belfast Trinity Harriers decided to form their own running club. They met in a barn at the back of Baird's Public House on Main Street and chose the name East Antrim Harriers. Little did they know that from those humble beginnings they were forming one of the most successful running clubs in Northern Ireland's History. In those early days runners travelled to races on a brake (a horse and carriage). It wasn't long before the club had it's first victory when an athlete named Bob Kerr won the Ulster Senior Cross Country Championship in 1909.
Following the end of World War 1 the club continued to expand and in 1920 they purchased an old army hut which served as their Headquarters for almost half a century. The club continued to make its mark and in 1925 they came first in the Northern Ireland Junior Cross Country Championships and repeated the winning performance the following year.
From 1926 to 1958 the club started a run of successes which are unlikely to be equalled by winning the Northern Ireland Senior Cross Country Championships 24 times. This included 13 consecutive victories. They were also runners up on 9 occasions in the same period.
In the 1943-44 season 'The Harriers' performed an extraordinary feat by winning every race both at Team and Individual levels.
During this illustrious period the club were represented by the legendary McCooke brothers Steve and Charlie. Steve McCooke was selected to represent Great Britain at the 1948 Olympic Games in London and competed in the 10,000 meters at Wembly Stadium. That year the 10,000 meters was won by the legendary Emil Zatopek, so he was in some very good company. Steve was an agricultural worker at Greenmount College at the time and had to take 2 weeks unpaid leave to enable him to compete. He later recalled that he had set off for London with thirty Shillings in his pocket leaving his wife and 6 children behind and when he returned 15 days later his wife asked him for 2 shillings and he had to tell her that he only had tuppence left.
East Antrim Harriers have always endeavoured to be innovative and proactive in promoting the sport. In 1959 Harriers Chairman Mr John Wilson held a series of Keep Fit classes and a group of Ladies were suitably inspired and decided to form East Antrim Ladies within the club. Competition and sporting opportunities for woman at this time were very limited. Undaunted, East Antrim Ladies arranged their own races including 2 races against Dublin's Clonliffe Hariers in 1963, one at Santry and a return in Ballyclare. Eventually the Athletics authorities realised the need for woman's competition and in 1965 the first ever Northern Ireland Ladies Cross Country Championships were held in Ballyclare with East Antrim Ladies winning the Title.
The first race in Northern Ireland solely for veteran runners was held in Ballyclare in 1971 and is attributed to Club members Jimmy Todd and Johnston Scott. Shortly after this event the Northern Ireland Veterans Association was formed. Both Johnston Scott and Jimmy Todd were later to receive MBE's for 'services to athletics'. A recent article posted in the official NI Veterans Athletic Association website suggested that Jimmy Todd was Northern Ireland's 'greatest ever veteran athlete' citing his numerous world records and recalling amongst other feats his 1993 Belfast 10K run in 41.01 minutes at the age of 71!
Today's Harriers continue to compete at all levels of the sport and the Club has embraced the popularity of the marathon with many athletes training for and competing in marathons across the globe from Amsterdam to Stockholm, from Boston to New York and of course London and at home in Belfast.
The Club now meet and train from their own Clubhouse in Ballyclare which is located in Harriers Way, the road being named in honour and recognition of the part played by East Antrim Harriers in promoting sport in Ballyclare and Northern Ireland.
The famous Black and White Hoops are still very much in evidence today and the Club Celebrated its Centenary in 2007 with a Gala Dinner attended by over 100 members past and present.