The Club was founded in 1886, which makes it one of the oldest surviving athletic clubs in the country.
A few years ago we had a look at the local newspaper records for 1886 but could find no mention of Ryde Harriers. However, there was a report in November that Arthur Atherley’s Harriers had “a splendid run” at Brighstone. And at the 3rd A.G.M. of the Isle of Wight amateur Athletic Association, also in November, financial problems were highlighted!
To put this in context, there was very little organised athletics in those days, and amateur athletics was the preserve of upper class males and indulged in only during their years at ‘Varsity. It was only the Olympic movement at the turn of the century that put athletics on the map. The lower orders competed for money at fairs and festivals and were ignored – although their times for (say) the 100 yards or the Mile were far superior. There were also some organised long-distance events. This was called “Pedestrianism”, and was another profession tainted by money (and the races were often won by Native Americans!).
The Harriers movement was something very different, and seems to have arisen in a spontaneous manner in the 1880’s, and originally the runners were supposed to follow the Hunt (for hares) on foot rather than on horseback. But it seems that this was just an excuse for free running over open country – across fields and through woods, over ditches and streams, and through gaps in the hedges or vaulting the gates. It didn’t cost anything and anybody could do it. Over the years this became the foundation of organised Cross Country running, and Harriers clubs are still the proud preservers of “proper” XC. And the object is still to have a “splendid run”.
The first world war and its aftermath seems to have caused Ryde Harriers to suspend operations, and it was only in 1931 that the Club was re-established.