21st Jan 2006:

Is Harlequins Orienteering Club 40 years old today?

Well, Opinion is divided on the subject...

The factual accuracy of this article is not confirmed and may be open to (civilised) dispute. Please help the author ({Postion Vacant}) by providing more evidence or recollections.

Octavian Droobers have a very clear 'foundation myth' and there is no doubt that the club was formed in late October 1965 (Source OD Website).

But when exactly was the club that is now known as Harlequins first take form? Opinion is divided, was HOC an independent foundation on 1st April 1968 or was it a continuation of the earlier Halesowen & District O.C.? Was HOC even founded on 1st April - In the absence of written records recollections by some cast doubt on this.

What evidence do we have? Several newspaper cuttings, an early issue of the West Midland OA newsletter, a clipping from a 1979 'The Orienteer' magazine, recollections and some recent letters from Chris Schaanning and two from Harry Price.

Here is the first from Chris in 1987, to Gilbert Herbert (scan of original is here). The underlining is mine- not Chris's

Letter 1 from Chris Schaanning

'Dear Gilbert,

As mentioned over the telephone yesterday, I gathered from recent HOC minutes that 1988 is considered as the Club's 21st Anniversary. As the oldest current member (yes, my membership dates back even before Harry's, although he was born a few years before me!), I feel I ought to put the record straight on this point.

The Club was in fact formed on January 21st 1966 under the name of Halesowen & District Orienteering Club, the founder members being Eric Ostle, Charles Gains and others, including myself. During the next few months, the Club gained members not only from Halesowen, but further afield, such as Sutton Coldfield, Solihull, Coventry, and not least the "triangle" Stourbridge/Kinver/Dudley, from where the current 'old guard', personified by Messrs. Hickman, Griffin, Maynard, Price and others 'joined up'. This was a result of the W.M.O.A.'s various instruction courses held throughout the region. (I can recall holding one-day courses in Sutton Park, Kenilworth, Kinver, Redditch, etc, and the "converts" were asked either to form their own Club or to join one of the two existing clubs, i.e. Halesowen or O. Droobers).

In order to accommodate the wider geographical spread of the Halesowen & D.O.C.'s membership, the Club decided in 1967(?) to change its name to Harlequin O.C. The centre of gravity had by now moved well west of Halesowen, and thanks to the invaluable help received from the Kinver Youth Centre (run by Harry Price), we now had a regular base for meetings and instruction.

In conclusion, therefore, I consider 21st January 1987 to be the 'coming of age' of our Club; that is this month, not next year. The change from Halesowen to Harlequin (same initials!) was merely a logical means of making the Club more acceptable to members outside the Halesowen area. You may find the attached Press Cuttings of "historic" interest.

I'll be pleased to discuss this further with you one week-end I am at home. A very Happy New Year,

yours sincerely,


So according to Chris the club was founded in 1966 as HDOC and later changed name to HOC.

There is independent and contemporaneous documentary evidence that a club called Halesowen & District Orienteers was formed at a meeting on 21st January 1966. Here are the press cuttings (originals with Robert Vickers)

Press cutting Jan 1966

Press cutting Jan 1966

Press cutting Jan 1966

(Click the image to zoom this one...)

Press cutting Jan 1966

Press cutting Jan 1967

This last cutting (seen in full here) is datable to June 1967 by the reference to "first running of the British Champs" - so the club was still referred to by it original 'Halesowen' name at this point

According to the July* 1968 WMOA newsletter HDOC appears to have an independent existence as an orienteering club but was this club simply an offshoot of the H&D Athletic club as claimed in the following letter from Harry Price? The underlining is mine - not Harry's.

(*A handwritten note indicates this is the July issue - the latest month referred to in the text is March. "Foot and Mouth" fixes the year as 1968.

Letter 1 from Harry Price - original in AdHOC ?June? 2005

Dear Lynden,

In the March/April (2005) edition of Ad Hoc reference was made to an article which appeared in the WMOA July 1968 newsletter.

I can positively assure you that by July 1968 the Harlequins O. C. was already in existence.

With help in supplying compasses and secretarial assistance from the then Central Council for Physical Recreation several training Sundays were organised using Kinver Youth Centre, Kinver Edge and Kinver Million. Those days were highly successful and attracted considerable interest. As a follow up I invited all the participants - literally hundreds - to a meeting at Kinver Youth Office with a view to forming an orienteering club.

The date of that meeting was 1st April 1968.

Among those present were the Pardoe brothers both of whom were rugby players. Bert Pardoe suggested since it was April 1st , Harlequins might be an appropriate name. This was accepted. Chambers English dictionary defines Harlequin as: "... a buffoon ..."

I became the first secretary, Bert Pardoe donated our first trophy for the club championships which were held in the early days as near to 1st April as possible. My best effort was 2nd to Colin Maynard when the event was held at Trentham Wood.

There were now three orienteering clubs covering the Midlands from Coventry to Worcestershire and Shopshire. The Halesowen club was, in my view, really a section of the Halesowen and district Athletic Club - of which Chris Schaanning was a member. The Octavian Droobers was based around the King Henry VIII School in Coventry. Why Droober? Well the guiding light was Ted Norrish, a teacher at the school with a nickname, I was told, of Droober.

The Halesowen Club folded and most of their membership joined HOC.

The first HOC "Badge Event" was to be called the Bo-Peep Event because it was to be held on Enville Sheepwalks. This event had to be transferred to Brown Clee Hill - and thus began the links with Lord Boyne of Burwarton.

Colin Maynard and I were the planners, organisers, car park attendants, starters and results co-ordinators. In those days two and a half inch black and white photo-copies were used and the results took at least a week to process and send out. You had to leave a stamped addressed envelope at the event if you wished to receive the results.

I suppose very few of today's HOC membership will have heard of me until the recent newsletter. I would now qualify for M80 but no longer participate (knee problem) but I have a grandson who is a member.

I believe that I can justifiably be proud of what has evolved since that 1st April 1968 meeting and I am sure that with the present HOC committee the club will go from strength to strength and even more success

Yours sincerely

Harry Price.

P.S. After Harlequins came Walton Chasers formed by Peter Palmer, then Wrekin O C really an off-shoot of Harlequins and finally Potteries O C which some Harlequins joined.

So according to Harry, HOC was founded independently of HDOC and HDOC later folded, members transferring to HOC.

Founded on April 1st? Named on April 1st? Overlap between HDOC and HOC?

There are two pieces of evidence that support 1968 as the year, but do not confirm the month and day for the naming of, if not the founding of HOC. The first being the WMOA newsletter for July 1968:

The previously mentioned WMOA newsletter mentions both Halesowen and a 'new club' - suggesting that there was a time period when both clubs existed - or at least this was the intention at the time the article was penned. The article was written during or after March and before July 1968 and suggests that at the time of writing the club was not yet formed nor officially named . It seems unlikely that the copy would have been prepared before 1st April - given that it would have been 12 weeks in advance of publication - so why does the author not know the name and only hopes that a club will have been formed.

Whatever the exact date the mention of "Price" and "{name}...appeal to sense of humour' makes it certain that the club in question was Harlequins. There is no suggestion here that the club was a re-branding of or a combination with an existing club. The 1968 newsletter refers to hopes for 3 specialist clubs - a fair assumption might be that these are OD, HDOC and HOC but an earlier (June 1967) newspaper clipping refers to "three specialist clubs": Halesowen (HDOC?), Coventry (OD?) and Shenstone College (!) . So if in mid 1968 HOC were the third specialist club had one of these already folded or did one merge into HOC?

This second piece of evidence is from Mike Griffin, via Robert Vickers:

'1968 was the year that Manchester United won the European Cup. Mike Griffin remembers seeing this on TV in the pub after the meeting which founded HOC.'

Research reveals that the cup final on May 29th 1968 and not April 1st (Source: BBC Archives also Perhaps Mike was referrring to a semi final on 1st April however this was a Monday and most European games were mid-week in those days...

So is Mike's memory wrong? Was Mike Griffin thinking of the Semi Final? Was Harlequins founded on 1st April and then retrospectively named? Was the intention for form the club determined on April Fools day but the formal incorporation was at a later date?

Letter 2 from Chris Schaanning - from the same AdHoc as Harry's letter

Dear Lynden ,

I was interested in Barry McGowan's comments about the origin of the Harlequins. As the club's oldest (?) member, perhaps I may be able to add one or two points here. If my memory serves me right - and we are talking a lot of years ago, here - the sequence was as follows:-

First, the WMOA was formed (mid-1960's ?), with Alan Batstone as Chairman.

Then came the first Club, namely Halesowen & District Orienteering Club (HDOC) - based on the Halesowen & District Athletics Club. I had been a member of the Athletics section for some time and had been able to drum up some interest in Orienteering amongst some of the runners. (Charlie Gains, Brian(?) Westlie, and Eric Ostle are names that come to my mind).

Next came the Octavian Droobers - led by Ted Norrish and based on King Henry VIII School in Coventry.

My main function at the time, as regional development officer, was to 'spread the O-Gospel', and during one of my several 'induction' courses I was lucky enough to come across Harry Price, the local leader at the Kinver Youth Centre. Harry became very keen on Orienteering, and he and many of his youth club members initially joined the above HDOC.

As time went, and more and more members joined HDOC from outside the Halesowen area, It was decided to give the Club a non-geographical name- hence the 'Halesowen & District' became 'Harlequins', with Harry Price as Chairman. At no time did the two Clubs exist at the same time, nor was there a vicious takeover battle; the HDOC simply merged peacefully into HOC for practical reasons! Regards,

Chris Schaanning

Here we may interpret the last paragraph two ways... HDOC became HOC - which is in accordance with Chris's earlier letter or HDOC merged into HOC - which not agreeing exactly with Harry's recollection is probably what would have happened in practice. In this following letter Harry states that the HDOC equipment passed on to HOC so perhaps HOC is, in some way, a continuation or 'heir' to HDOC

Letter 2 from Harry Price - a follow up to Chris's second letter - appeard in AdHOC june 2005

Thank you for publishing my letter last month. After reading Chris' letter there are one or two points where his memory is not quite correct. Perhaps as the club's oldest member (?) it is understandable and forgiveable.

There is no doubt that without Chris' stalwart efforts in the 1960's perhaps the Harlequins might never have been formed. His contribution to orienteering in the Midlands is considerable. In those early days it was thought that orienteering could be organised on a county basis. The then CPRE wrote to each Education Authority in the Midlands inviting representatives to a meeting at Lickey Youth Centre. As the area Youth and Community Officer in Staffordshire with special responsibility for outdoor activities I went along as the Staffordshire Representative. There I met Chris and as a result we advertised training courses which were to be held at Kinver Youth Centre. The response was staggering. Several courses were held using Kinver Edge as a training ground. No members of Kinver Youth Centre were ever involved. Later youngsters from Wimbourne (?Wombourne?) Comprehensive School became much involved.

I was never a member of Halesowen Orienteering Club, nor were any of the original members who attended the first April meeting in 1968. The county idea for orienteering didn't work. Clubs were formed with membership covering local areas. When the Halesowen Club folded the equipment was passed to us.

Orienteering in those days were very different unsophisticated affairs. I remember taking part in a West Midlands event near Lake Bala and coming across, while competing, another early member Peter Parker, with his back to a wall enjoying a flask of coffee and a sandwich! On another occasion at an event near Symond's Yat I forgot a plastic bag for my map, it rained and I finished up with a hand full of papier-mache - it was at that event that I met Chris going back to the start because he'd forgotten to mark it and so couldn't find his first control.

Orienteering was taking up much of my time. I was Harlequins first secretary - not chairman, one of the Pardoe brothers took the chair. I initiated a Staffordshire Youth Service Annual Orienteering event and my own family became much involved. Eventually my boss in Stafford pointed out that I was spending too much time on the sport and reluctantly I gave up the secretaryship and handed over to Pat Pay. My crowning orienteering achievement was being selected to represent the West Midlands in the National Championships which were held at Pembrey in South Wales. My performance was abysmal. It was my only representative performance - as was my only appearance for Notts at Hockey, probably for the same reason! I hope this will clarify some points regarding the Harlequins' early history

Yours sincerely

Harry Price.

Earliest Documentary Evidence for 1st April: "The Orienteer"

A final bit of (secondary) evidence but the earliest (so far) printed word that lists the 1st April...

This is a clipping from "The Orienteer" February 1979.

Conclusion (for now!)

The recollections outlined above notwithstanding there are, in theory, a number of possibilities:

  • Independence: HOC independently founded 1968, HDOC disbanded 19XX
  • Absorption: HOC Founded 1968, some time later HDOC formally absorbed within HOC
  • Merger: HOC Founded 1968, some time later HDOC & HOC merge, retaining the name HOC
  • Fade: HOC Founded 1968, some time later HDOC fades away, with most members joining HOC
  • Rename: HDOC is renamed HOC sometime between 1967 and 1968
  • Founding Fathers: Members of HDOC, with others, found HOC and HDOC meets one of the fates above.
  • Or none of the above!
So we have printed, contemporaneous and public evidence for HDOC being founded in 21st January 1966,

We have a recollection that states HDOC 'become' HOC in one of several ways,

A recollection that HOC was independently founded and named on 1st April 1968

A recollection that confirms the year but not the date


A magazine article that appears also confirms the year and an approximate date.

I have no reason to doubt anything Chris, Harry and Mike have written or said. I know it was a long time ago and it does not really matter at all but I would very much like to get hold of some more evidence.

I especially would likely press cuttings, minutes of meetings and newsletters, that might help confirm and clarify exactly what happened when HOC was founded. I would love to start an archive section on the website - so any early material, results, recollections and photographs would be most welcome.

If anyone recalls the dates and has maps of our first training, open and badge events - please let me borrow them!

I will carefully scan everything in and return

David Williams

Stop press... a very big box of ADHOCs has just arrived from Lynden.. I will start digging... follow this link to find out "The Truth"
Site Meter