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Were You There? Barrel Racing in Guildford High Street

Barrel Race Guildford High Street, 1968.

Dragon reader Graham Richings kindly submitted some images from slides taken by his father in the 1960s and 70s.

Among them were these two images apparently of some sort of barrel rolling race down Guildford High Street on March 2, 1968. It must be true that as well as all day two-way traffic in the High Street we had a different view of Health & Safety in those days!

Does anyone recall these races? Do you witness them? Why were they run? Who took part? Was there a prize? Who controlled the traffic? Were there any injuries?

Another competitor – this time a solo effort.

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5 Responses to Were You There? Barrel Racing in Guildford High Street

  1. A Tatlow Reply

    November 16, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    How I miss Kinch & Lack! Still searching for one of those stripey, elasticated belts with the snake buckle which they used to sell.
    Can’t help re. barrel rolling.

  2. Albert Robinson Reply

    November 17, 2017 at 6:10 pm

    Ah yes, I remember it well (with apologies to Maurice Chevalier).

    We won the cup. We had a Navy.
    You saw ‘the cops’. My hair was wavy.
    You could wait; on a yellow line. You could park on High Street.
    Life was fun. We had a laugh.
    But now, alas, I feel the draught.
    Ah yes, I remember it well.

  3. Howard Richings Reply

    November 17, 2017 at 7:54 pm

    Yes, I was not only there but a participant in the race. In those days it was an annual part of Portsmouth Polytechnic’s (Now Portsmouth University) rag week. The race involved rolling a 140lb wooden barrel 74 miles from Trafalgar Square to the Victory In Portsmouth. At the time I was an undergraduate in the Civil Engineering department whilst working for Guildford Rural District Council who were sponsoring me on a 4-year sandwich degree course.

    I think the teams were made up of six runners, running either in pairs or singly in a leapfrogging relay with a supporting vehicle dropping off fresh runners, picking up the tired ones and then driving ahead to the next suitable drop off point. The event was carried out with the cooperation of the various police forces on the route. The section down the granite setts of Guildford High Street was just one of the notable challenges along the route. The climb up to Hindhead and the final ascent over the South Downs being particularly painful memories.

    It said much for the engineering skills of our colleagues in the Mechanical Engineering department who made the phosphor bronze bearings on which our barrel ran that it survived 74 miles with no shock-absorbers.

    There were a number of teams from both the polytechnic and from other organisations in Portsmouth. If I recall correctly the Royal Navy team won (surprise, surprise) in a time of about 3hrs 45mins. We managed around 4hrs 30mins with which we were well pleased, given that our preparation had amounted to no more than a few quite short training runs.

    The photographs you published were taken by my father but did not include me as the Police decided Guildford High Street posed too great a risk and diverted some of the teams via the by-pass so avoiding his camera. When my brother recently came across the photos, and sent them in, he was unaware of his kid brother’s athletic achievement some 50 years previously.

    Excellent story. Thank you for sharing it with us. Ed.

  4. Howard Richings Reply

    November 17, 2017 at 10:04 pm

    Whoops! As the astute will have noticed my initial memory of the times for the run were somewhat in error. They say that the older you are the better you were, but not that good. On reflection I think the times were nearer to 9hrs 45mins and 10hrs 30 mins. Maybe there other participants out there who remember better than I.

  5. Aubrey LeHay Reply

    November 25, 2017 at 5:02 pm

    Am sure Horatio would turn a blind eye to Howard’s maths. Other races I have heard of were London to Portsmouth on bicycles in the thirties (‘phone calls were made ahead to switch traffic lights off as riders drew nigh) and the November release of Beaujolais Nouveau race from France to Trafalgar Square. Think that stopped the year after a Harrier jump jet crew won……

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