Club History: The Second 25 Years - written by Bill Littlejohn (Squash 1956)After the war in 1945 the Club adapted to the changes in the UK. Austerity and rationing continued for several years as the returning combatants took the majority of the University places. The first post war member elected was number 131 S Pannikar.and the early names that stand out are Eric Evans and Ron Unsworth an England Rugby captain and London Olympics hurdler respectively both elected in 1947. Ron went on to become a pillar of Manchester University sport in the Athletic Union and XXI Club and who will hopefully be at the 75th Anniversary Dinner wearing his Olympic Blazer.
The changes in education occuring then meant that many grammar school boys became involved in University sport. The MacDougall Centre had opened before the start of the war and the swimming, rifle, squash and to a lesser extent basketballclubs all prospered as the new, larger and wider intake began to make an impact. The social element in the background of the Club began to recede and under the influence of Roly Harper, Mike Scotts and Arthur Triffit the ‘elite sportsman’ role became associated with the accolade of membership. The ‘aerial’ nature of the ceremonial mentioned by Allister continued and new members stood on the table whilst their achievements were read by the secretary and the dinner speeches were delivered from table top. The destructive revels continued to rule out returns to restaurants and hotels and the refuge provided by the Firs Bar for the nightcap session continued until long after Len Langford retired lasting almost until the end of this period. Wythenshawe ground opened but had little impact on the XXI Club world. The Firs, the Macdougall and the River were still the focus of the Club’s activities. Len Langford’s relevance to the Firs was matched by the avuncular management of Cliff Steele at the MacDougall and the involved style of Walter Saul at Wythenshawe. Manchester was indeed fortunate that these dedicated managers contributed so much to the ambitions of their young friends. Both the Firs and Wythenshawe had welcoming and active bars which encouraged after match conviviality and the coffee bar in the MacDougall provided a wonderful lunchtime meeting point suitable to the shorter timespan involved with that Centre’s sports.
Throughout the 1950’s and into the 60’s the swimming, rifle and squash clubs were always represented on the elected members register with names like John Band, Brian Snowdon, Ken Cleves, Vin Miller, Chris Williams, Jim Roberts, John Deacon, Roger Horsfield, Geoff Hazzan, John Howcroft and Robin Barlow all featuring. The Centre’s contribution was not limited to university sport, in 1955/6 the squash club initiated and organised the first season of competition in the Lancashire League. That year there were 8 teams of three people competing in a 14 match season and the University Team won the Title. In 2006 a dinner celebrated the 50th anniversary with a meal attended by 300 people. The North West Counties Squash League is now the biggest unified competition in the world with about 80 clubs fielding teams of 5 in leagues of 12 teams each playing a 22 match season ie about 400 people involved every week for almost half the year.
The Firs sports continued to contribute their share during the second quarter century with, in particular contributions from Rugby Union, Cross Country & Athletics, Soccer and Cricket. Notable members were Lol Carroll (Soccer 1957) one of the last amateurs to play for Manchester United, Dave Hancock (Cricket 1966) a long serving Club Secretary and opening batsman for Cheshire with International Athletes such as Chris Goudge, Bob Birrell, Ron Hill, John Whetton, Geoff Hignett and Andy Carter. The XXI Club’s quarter century of excellence certainly lived up to the ambitions of Roly Harper and Mike Scotts.