THE Reebok may be the home of the Wanderers nowadays, but Burnden Park will live in the hearts of many supporters as long as they live.

Most of us remember it simply as a football ground, of course, but at one stage athletic and cycle meetings were also held there.

I found this article when browsing through the papers from the early 1950s, and in itself it was a piece of nostalgia. I thought you would be interested in it, a report of a discussion about sporting fixtures of the past:


t's a funny thing," said a veteran, "but when I was a lad I'd sooner see a sports meeting than a football match, but I've never had the chance to watch a 'proper do' since they moved the cycle and running tracks off Burnden Park.

"Burnden Park?" exclaimed a 30-years-old listener.

The old man nodded. "That's right," he said. "There were some great shows down there. There was a cinder track just outside the grass of the football pitch, and round that was a cement cycle racing track, properly banked for speed. I've seen 20,000 at Burnden for a sports meeting, and that was a crowd in those days."

"Aye", recalled another elderly Boltonian. "I've seen some good racing down at Manchester-rd. There used to be a lot of competition among the big cycle makers then. They had their own teams of racers."

The two ancients nodded in agreement.

"There was Ben Jones of Wigan, Vic Johnson of Birmingham, Gascoigne and Winrow of Bolton, all good 'uns, and I remember a chap named Wills coming up from London. He was the first chap ever to ride over 60 miles in a hour on a bicycle.

"A motor cycle?", suggested one of the younger people.

"No, a push bike - of course he was paced by a motor cycle on which the rider sat up straight to shield the cyclist from the wind, and there were rollers at the back of the motor-bike that went round if the cyclist happened to get too close with his front wheel."

"He must have travelled a bit."

"He did an' all. Well, this Wills chap came to Bolton to give an exhibition ride, but he could only do about 48 miles in the hour at Bolton because the banking was not steep enough for higher speeds."

"Only 48 miles an hour!" gasped his listeners.

"And there were some good runner, too. I remember Alfred Shrubb, who held nearly every record from a mile upwards. He went round the Burnden track as smoothly as a big seconds hand on a watch."

"I've heard of Shrubb," put in a listener.

The old man raised his eyes in mock incredulity.

"Good heavens", he cried. "He's heard of Shrubb! There was another fellow named Duffy, a world beater. At Burnden he tried twice to beat the pistol and got penalized a yard each time. Then he was licked by just two yards. And another chap, an Australian, the Blue Streak. Donaldson, I think was his name."


rom then on the recollections of the two ancients came fast. One remembered a cyclist Dan Flynn, from Glasgow, then five miles champion of the British Empire. Flynn, in starting his sprint on the last lap at Burnden, touched the foot wide grass verge near the railings with his front wheel, and was thrown into the crowd, cutting himself on the sharpened points of the wooden rails as he flew through the air.

The other recalled seeing a cycle race, a walking race, a high jump contest, a weight throwing competition, and a boxing tournament all going on at once in the Burnden arena.

"But," he said sadly, "football crowds grew bigger. They put benches on the cycle track, and then extended the paddocks till at last there was no room for even a real running track, and that was the end of sports at Burnden."