The Origins of the WMOA

The Origins of the WMOA

Reproduced from an article in “West Midlander” by Rod Postlethwaite 

Whilst reading the History page of the OD website I noticed that there were references to the formation of the WMOA at about the time Droobers were formed in 1965. This meant that the region could also be celebrating its 50th anniversary. 

Trying to find out the definitive date proved to be no easy task until I read the Spring issue of ‘Focus’. There was an article about the BOF Archive which is now held at Sheffield University following the death of the BOF Honorary Records Officer, Terry Dooris, a few years ago. Way back in 1996, Terry had been extremely helpful whilst I was researching the History of Wrekin Orienteers for their 21st Anniversary. 

With this is mind I contacted Clive Allen who, I believe, is writing the history of BOF in readiness for the Federation’s 50th Anniversary. He was extremely helpful and sent me copies of the first few meeting minutes as well as the initial English Orienteering Association. 

It appears that we have actually missed the 50th Anniversary as the inaugural meeting was held at the Martineau Teachers’ Centre, Bristol Road, Birmingham on 21 November 1963. We are, therefore, 51 years and 6 months old! 

Things were very different in those days and the attendees all appear to be part of the Local Education Authorities. There are references to a training course at Bilberry Hill (Lickey Hills) in February 1963 and a practice event at Ribbesford Wood in July of the same year. Could these be the first orienteering events in the region? 

The minutes themselves were very formal, as befitted the times, and attendees were referred to as Mr. Miss or Mrs. They were also quite sparse in comparison to the amount of work that the present committee does. 

The first committee that was elected was as follows: 

Mr. A. Batstone (Chairman)
Miss D.A. Whyte (Secretary)
Mr. R. Swannell (Treasurer)
Mr. D. Esp (Shropshire LEA)
Miss P. Hannay (Birmingham)
Miss H. Rogers (City of Birmingham TC) Mr. R.H. Simcock (Worcestershire LEA)
Mr. G. Swift (Smethwick LEA) 
Mr. J. Thorne (Warwickshire LEA) 

In the inaugural minutes there is a reference to a Newsletter, the forerunner of this publication which appears to have been published before the formation of the Association. 

A Constitution was agreed in January 1964 and membership fees were set at: 

  • Individuals: 5/- per annum (25p) 
  • Individual Units (Clubs/ Schools/ Colleges) 10/- per annum (50p). 

English Orienteering Association 

Before BOF was formed Scotland had already formed its Association as had several other regions – North, North West, South and South West as well as the West Midlands. It was, therefore, decided to form an English Orienteering Association, which still exists though in a different format. 

The initial meeting was held at the Castle Hotel, Bishop’s Castle in Shropshire with A.H. Batstone and Chris Schaanning (who was very influential in the early days of HOC). 

Of the attendees, one is still orienteering – Mike Murray of SLOW whose identical twin brother, Pat, still orienteers for Chasers and was Organiser of the recent Midland Championships on Cannock Chase. 

It was quite fascinating to discover the origins of the Association and maybe, one day, I may go to the Archive to find out some more.