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A Short History of the Club
 
The Club’s origins lie in a night school class held in Maghull during the 1975/76 school year, which produced a group of enthusiasts who wished to continue their interest in fencing when the session ended. They took the decision to form a new fencing club to be based at Kirkby Sports Centre and, in recognition of the financial assistance given by the Sports Centre to acquire an initial stock of equipment, the club was named the Kirkby Sports Centre Fencing Club.

The Club continued to attract new members, not least from the night school classes run in Liverpool by Beryl Banks, who also became the Club’s coach. From the start, the Club has prided itself on its friendly and social atmosphere and this was probably why most members were initially content to fence only at the Club’s Wednesday meetings, without serious participation in outside competitions. As the experience of the members grew, however, the wish to match themselves against fencers from other clubs within the North West and from further afield also developed. The Club joined the Westside League and acquitted itself well against the leading clubs in Merseyside, Cheshire and Lancashire. On an individual level, Maurice Butler won the Club’s first silverware at the Liverpool YMCA Beginners Foil and soon followed it up with the Zaaloff Intermediate Foil trophy.


NW Team Epee 1992

The 1992 North West Team Epee Champions
(l to r) John Waugh, Gary Clark, Gary Longthorn
The late eighties saw the Club start to establish itself as one of the North West Region’s leading clubs. The Kirkby name appeared on its first senior trophy in 1986 when John Waugh, Neal Jones and Gary Longthorn claimed the North West Team Epee championship in a sudden death play-off against Bramhall, a title that the Club was to claim five times in the next seven years with Gary Clark and Conrad Winters partnering the ever-present Waugh and Longthorn.

The Westside League title was won for the first time in 1989 and in the following season the Club won all three divisional titles, the first and only time that any club has achieved this feat. While the A team was in close contention for the premier title every year, the B team won its division nine times in ten years, illustrating the depth of talent that had developed within the Club, and further demonstrated by the way that the club was able to field two competitive teams in each division of the League during the 1990/91 season.

In addition to the team trophies, members also started to accumulate individual prizes. Barbara Evison won the Club’s first North West title by taking the Women’s Epee in 1991, followed by Gary Clark in 1992 in the Men’s Epee and Estelle Walker in 1993, again at Women’s Epee. The North West Master-at-Arms trophy, for the fencer with the best combined results in the three regional championships, also found an almost permanent home at the Club with nine winners in eleven years (Gary Longthorn 5 times, Gary Clark 3 times and John Waugh once).

Gary Clark claimed the Club’s first Open championship with the Shropshire Foil title in 1992 and followed it up with the Merseyside Epee in 1993. Gary Longthorn succeeded Clark as the Merseyside Epee champion in 1994 and shortly afterwards Tricia Rodgers took the Women’s Foil at the York Open. David Melling added another epee title to a growing list when winning at York in 1995.

Gary Longthorn and John Waugh were also members of the Lancashire team that won the Duffy Memorial Epee Competition in Dublin in 1993, the first time that the trophy had been won by an overseas team.

Gary Clark MOFT 1993

(above) Gary Clark scores the winning hit
in the 1993 Merseyside Open Epee Final and
(below) receives the trophy from Arthur Banks.


Gary Clark MOFT 1993
Winton Cup 1993

Four members of the Club representing the North West at the 1993 Winton Cup.
(l to r) Gary Longthorn, Tricia Rodgers,
Fiona Cameron and Gary Clark.


The achievements of the Club were also recognised by the selection of Barbara Evison, John Waugh, Gary Longthorn, Gary Clark, Tricia Rodgers, Fiona Cameron and Jonathan Stobbs for the North West Region team, with Waugh achieving the unique honour of being selected at all three weapons. Steve Evison was also invited to act as Team Manager for the Region’s team at the Winton Cup. In 1997, Jonathan Stobbs achieved the Club’s first international honours with his selection for the England team at the Cadet (Under 17) Home Internationals.
As the Club's members were achieving these successes, the Club itself was changing. The independent status of the club was recognised in 1990 by the abbreviation of its name to the Kirkby Fencing Club but the early nineties were difficult times for the recruitment of new members from Kirkby and its surrounding districts. In February 1992 the members took the decision to relocate the Club to Edge Hill College in Ormskirk in the hope that this would attract new members, and also to take advantage of the improved facilities on offer. In recognition of the change of location, the Club was renamed the West Lancashire Fencing Club.

The decision to relocate was soon vindicated by an increase in membership levels and the well-attended club nights attracted a healthy blend of experienced fencers and relative beginners, which has continued to this day, even through the periodic ups and downs that affect the sport in all parts of the country.

Club members have continued to pick up trophies, with Gary Clark leading the way with open event triumphs at York, Glasgow and Ashton. Jeff Kiy also joined the ranks of open champions with the Rivington Park Poule Unique foil in 2006. Several senior members have also been selected for veterans representative teams at national and regional level. A full list of the Club’s successes can be found on our Roll of Honour.

Gary Longthorn MOFT 1994

Gary Longthorn with the
Merseyside Open Epee
trophy in 1994.
WL Invitation Foil 2001

Members of the winning team at the
2001 West Lancashire Invitation Foil
(l to r) Barry Scragg, Grant Bond-Taylor,
Gary Longthorn, Steve Evison,
Lisa Raper, Mark Rowntree.
In addition to its own activities, Club members also feature prominently in the wider fencing community. Several members are on the organising committee of the Merseyside Open, the largest open event staged in the North of England every year, and the Club has also run a number of other successful events, including the Helmac One Hit Epee competition (later renamed the West Lancashire One Hit Epee) and the West Lancashire Invitation Foil for local club teams. The Club was also honoured with an invitation to host the North West Regional Championships in 2003.



Gary Longthorn
December 2000
(Updated October 2008)
 

For more information, contact Gary Longthorn by e-mail at
Gary.Longthorn@westlancsfencing.co.uk

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