The club was founded as Twickenham A.C. on a cold Sunday morning in December 1963 when a group of like-minded, enthusiastic athletes met up at the Stoop Memorial Ground, Twickenham (now home to Premiership Rugby Union giants Harlequins) to launch the borough’s first athletics club. The brainchild of long time President Harry Gabbeday, the club’s distinctive red and white vests graced athletic competition both across the country and Europe for the next 42 years.
The club’s early years took place in an era before league competition, with trophy meetings and internal competitions being the order of the day. The club was also a male only preserve, something that was to change only in the middle of the 1970s. Although the club were not involved themselves, Twickenham A.C. hosted the very first British League fixture in 1969, when the best athletes in the country were to grace our home track with their presence. In 1974, a similar entourage were to visit, as the Great Britain team held a 24-hour fund-raising event prior to competing in the Rome European Championships.
The club had a very strong throws section after John Curtin became a member in 1965. Among the club’s throwing stars was the talented decathlete, Buster Watson who was selected for the British Team in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Others of note were Danny Maloney, Junior International and Army champion in the discus, Lesley Garland, UK number 2 in the shot put, Mick Strzadala, second in the English Schools shot put, and Robin Chandler, who was ranked in the UK’s top ten in the javelin. John was Chairman of the club in the 70s and 80s and was President for a decade. He continues as Senior Throws Coach to the club and is a Vice President.
The club entered the Southern League in the 1970s, joining in Division Two of the newly formed competition. The club enjoyed mixed success during this time, but only entered the top division in the 1990s. Many illustrious names have been responsible for the day-to-day success of the club since its inception: Harry Gabbeday in the 1960s, John Curtin and Robin Chandler from the 1960s to the present day, Tom Brooks in the 1970s and Malcolm Muir and Jim Macgregor from the 1980s into the new millenium. Though many other people have been responsible for the smooth running and the successes on and off the track, these people will forever be remembered for keeping the club going strong.
In 1983, the club was dwindling in Division Four of the Southern League, had no women’s team, but had a strong group of young athletes coming through under the guidance of Malcolm Muir and Jim Macgregor. It was in this year that the club moved from its home at the Stoop in Twickenham to a new home at the Barn Elms Sports Centre in Barnes. Inside two years, the club’s name was changed to Richmond and Twickenham AC, to illustrate the stronger links with the local authority, which by this time had pledged to support the establishment of an all-weather running track at Barnes, replacing the cinder surface that the club had previously trained and competed on. The new surface was finally laid in 1994 and was opened officially a year later by Britain’s youngest ever-Olympic finalist, Ade Mafe.
In 2006 the club was relocated and renamed once again, its new home being the impressive new track at St Mary’s University College in Twickenham and its new club name St Mary’s Richmond AC. At the same time it swapped its red and white running colours for the blue and white quarters of St Mary’s.
The Men’s team made a steady rise up from the depth of the Southern League. In 1986 they first gained promotion to Division Two under the guidance of Team Manager Archie Taylor, where the club remained for two seasons before relegation back to Division Three. In 1992 the team were promoted again, only to preserve their status for a single season. In 1995, under the Management of Robin Chandler, the team were back in Division Two, and by 1998 they had made it into the top flight for the first time in the club’s history. In their first season in Division One, the team led the Division throughout the first four matches of the season, before slipping away to finish a still exceptional 4th in Division One. In 2000 the team slipped out of the top flight and then dropped to Division Three, where they remained until gaining promotion back to Division Two as champions in 2008.
The Women’s team entered league competition for the first time in 1986, starting in Division Four West. After nine seasons of near misses, under guidance from Malcolm Muir, Jim Macgregor, Jenny Eldridge, Susan Palmer (nee Eldridge) and Tim Gutch throughout the seasons, the team gained promotion to Division Three in 1996. There they remained until winning promotion to Division Two for the first time in the club’s history in 2007. In the following year 2008 they were champions once again. At the end of that season, the club decided to switch from Senior and U15 competition to Seniors only and so had to start in the bottom division, Senior Division Three, but 3rd place in this division in 2009 was enough to gain promotion to Senior Division Two.
The club entered the Rosenheim League in 2000 for the first time, and in their first two seasons managed by Gary and Susan Palmer, the team won the Western Division on both occasions. In 2003, under Paul Derrien’s management, the club once again won the Division and repeated this success in 2007 and 2008. In the latter year the same success was achieved by the club’s ladies team, thanks to new team manager Julia Pearce, and his double success was repeated in 2009.
The club’s junior athletes competed in the Thameside League from 1985, enjoying mixed success during this time, including one Championship season in 1988. They also competed in the Macdonald’s Young Athletes League, the London Youth Games and countless Young Athletes Open Competitions. With the move to St Mary’s in 2006, the club joined the Southern Division Two South of the National Young Athletes League, managed by the club’s new distance coach Noel Stoddart, and missed promotion in their first season of competition by one place. In 2007, competing in the Southern Division Two North, the club made up for the previous season’s disappointment with an emphatic first place and promotion to Southern Division One.