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The first meeting
The idea for a local rambling club was the inspiration of Cyril Wilson, who ran a photographic shop in Lytham. Dennis Cross, a founder member, recalls: "I took my films into Cyril Wilson for developing and processing and when he saw pictures of the Lakes and local fells, he said he intended to form a local rambling club and would I like to join."
There were 32 people present at the inaugural meeting on February 1, 1954 when Mr Wilson was unanimously elected chairman. Mr Wilson said he wanted the club to cater for all tastes in walking. Walks would be graded, depending on their difficulty. There would be walks to local fells and monthly visits to the Lake District or Yorkshire Dales. The first officials were: secretary, Miss A.M. Hands; treasurer, Miss R. Gill; press representatives, Mr E. Miller and Miss P. Cross; committee, Miss Jean Watson, Miss J. Knowles, Miss Barbara Stevenson, Mr A. Morgan and Mr J. M. Tavernor. The membership fee was set at 5/- per person and 3/-6d for juniors. In May 1954 Cyril Wilson became president and Dennis Cross chairman.
Are local women more keen on walking than men?
This was the headline in the Lytham St Annes Express after the inaugural meeting of the LSA Rambling Club. The article said there was overwhelming support for forming the club from the 32 people present. But five times as many women and girls turned up to join as men! The report went on: "Mr Cyril Wilson who is organising the club told the meeting that he had the names of a number of men who expressed interest. One of the five men present explained that their interest would become clear at a later stage". The Express said another member; a woman was less kind to the men: "They will wait and see how it goes before committing themselves," she said. "Women are more willing to take the responsibility of organising a club." One of the women who volunteered to work on the committee explained that she had moved to the town recently and wanted to join a social club. "People who go rambling are usually pleasant and easy to get on with, and I get a lot out of it," she said.
The Parlick pioneers
The first-ever club ramble was to Bleasdale on Sunday, February 28, 1954. Forty club members climbed to the summit of Parlick Pike in the teeth of a raging blizzard.
The Bulletin reported: "Many and varied were the styles and colour of dress and equipment, and the chairman's battered and much- travelled trilby came in for some ribald comment. Some of the ladies rather unwisely came in skirts and bare legs in a blizzard can be rather uncomfortable. Slacks are much better suited to our purpose, even in good weathers. We all returned to base without any casualties, apart from a scratched leg. Unfortunately, the first aid kit was with the other party.
"Everyone agreed that in spite of the weather, it had been an enjoyable day and we were entertained on the homeward journey by the "Back-Seat Male Voice Choir" supplemented by some of the ladies! For the third ramble to Pendle Hill in late March, the number of hikers had Increased to 62, travelling in two coaches. After mist all the way to the top, they were greeted "like the curtain going up on a Wagnerian setting" with glorious views.
Gordon Arrowsmith and Charles Lowe were the youngest club members at the age of 15. "As lads, we were inspired by the pictures Cyril Wilson used to put in his shop window of Hillary conquering Everest, " recalls Gordon. "We joined the club because we fancied a shot at mountaineering."
The first Bulletin ‘The monthly Bulletin’ began life in March 1954, "in the nature of an experiment" - but soon became a regular feature. It was distributed free of charge in order to promote club activities and to engender a spirit of togetherness. There was an editorial column, the chairman's notes, social news, club gossip and regular articles by the talented Jay Tea (John Thornton).