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Service to sport: The story of the CCPR -1935-1972

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Service to sport 1974The history of an organisation is apt to make much duller reading than the biography of a person. The history of the CCPR may perhaps be redeemed from this fault by the fact that, in large measure, it is the biography of a most remarkable woman, Phyllis Colson. "No great man lives in vain", wrote Carlyle. "The history of the world is but the biography of great men". Phyllis C. Colson (or P.C.C., as we shall hereafter call her) was a great woman and she has left an ineradicable mark upon the development of physical recreation in this country.

Nevertheless, this history, undertaken at the request of the Sports Council, will be no mere eulogy or exercise in hagiography (biography of venerated persons. ed.) P.C.C. possessed rare and outstanding abilities and few human weaknesses. But her greatest gift was to secure the collaboration of others, and that is why the story of the CCPR is far richer and more varied than the story of one person, however talented, could be. As will appear in these pages, the work of the CCPR was made possible because she inspired many other people - some over the whole period of the CCPR's existence - to share her vision and to show the same devotion.

The CCPR grew, within thirty-seven years, from a small group of people, setting to work with two donations totalling £300, into a national body spending over £1,250,000 a year, employing a staff of nearly 400 full-time workers, and with capital assets whose real value must be several million pounds. The story of this phenomenal growth and of the kaleidoscopic range of activities and contacts which was the Council's life-blood from its early days cannot be told easily within the covers of a modest volume. If I seem to touch only superficially, or not at all, on certain aspects of the Council's work or on some of the individuals associated with it which some readers may feel deserved more attention, I know that my difficulties will be understood.

Little can be said here about the contribution made by the CCPR to the understanding and solution of technical problems relating to physical recreation and physical education. Quite apart from the Author's lack of any professional qualifications to write about technical matters, it would be invidious, if not impossible, to attempt to separate in technical terms the work done by the CCPR's staff from that done by their professional colleagues working for local education authorities or governing bodies of sport, or teaching in universities, colleges and schools. Further, the CCPR was a body which concentrated almost exclusively on giving practical assistance to other organisations and training leaders and coaches to a non-professional level of technical and teaching skill. It was in no sense an academic body - it was only in its latest years that it had even a single member of its staff free to devote part of his time to any study that could properly be called research.

The historian of the CCPR is not faced with any shortage of material. From its earliest days, its published Annual Reports recorded in meticulous detail the activities and achievements on which it based its claim for continued public support. Few voluntary organisations can have gone to such pains to secure regular reports of the work of its staff, recorded under a vast number of categories, for careful distillation and presentation to Government departments, the Council's committees and sub¬committees, and to the general public through its Annual Reports. This was one of the cardinal principles of its founder, which the staff accepted in general with good will. They grumbled and procrastinated at times, but they knew that, in the end, the time and labour they put into their reports were far exceeded by their General Secretary's.

No, the difficulty confronting the historian is the need to explore the vast mass of material in existence so that nothing of real significance is omitted. And a greater difficulty has been to decide how to present it - whether : (1) chronologically, if dully, as the years go by; (2) in terms of service to particular organisations or groups of organisations; (3) as a record of contributions made to the development of particular activities or types of activity; (4) under particular subject-headings, such as "National Recreation Centres"; or, (5) by placing chief em¬phasis on the gradual, organic, structural development of a body whose very success in getting increasing public recognition and statutory financial support may have planted the seeds for the eventual absorption of its staff and assets by a statutory body. In the end, it seemed best to adopt the last course, telling the CCPR's story in sequences of periods of years, interspersed with chapters devoted to certain easily separable aspects of its work.

In the interests of historical perspective, it has been thought right to include some references to one or two developments in the field of physical recreation which, strictly, do not fall within the CCPR's own history. For example, though the work of the National Fitness Council from 1937 to 1939 was separate from the CCPR's, the respective fields of work of the two bodies were so close that to speak of one involves the other. Moreover, the story of the National Fitness Campaign seems little known, yet it is of such great ,historical interest and current relevance that it will, I hope, seem to merit the attention it has been given.

Ideally, a historian should be objective and impersonal. But that ideal is seldom reached by anyone writing about events in which he played some part and I cannot hope to escape some imputations of partiality. But my readers will, I trust, forgive such attempts at comment and interpretation as I shall make; a bare recital of ascertainable facts and statistics would have made an indigestible and not very satisfying meal.

The history of the CCPR is so evidently a 'success story' that there is no need - least of all for someone writing from the comfortable detachment of retirement - for any of its few set¬backs or failures to be ignored or minimised. Nor have I sought to exclude mention of controversial issues or of the opposition the Council had occasionally to encounter from some quarters. To have done so would have made its success seem less remarkable than it was.

This history ends with the transfer of the CCPR's principal assets to the statutory Sports Council in June 1972. To avoid overburdening the text with too many names and statistics, certain material vital in an historical record has been relegated to Appendices. These contain some published tributes to Phyllis Colson; the names of the Council's Honorary Officers and Committee Chairmen whose invaluable voluntary service might otherwise have gone unchronicled; the membership of the Executive Committee in 1972; the names and dates of service of long-serving members of the staff; the organisations represented on the Council and the individual members with their dates of election; and lists of the Council's publications and of sources consulted.

In addition to drawing on the Council's records and my own memories, I have had the advantage of being able to discuss various sections of this history, not only with some of my former colleagues but with many friends who have been closely associated with the CCPR's work. Among them, I record my particular thanks to The Baroness Burton of Coventry, Sir Robin Brook, Sylvia Buzzard, Kathleen Colson, Arthur Gem, Sir Reginald Goodwin, R. E. Griffith, Sir George Haynes, Denis Howell, M. P., Lord Hunt, Sir Jack Longland, P. B. Lucas, Peter McIntosh, Ernest Major, B. L. Pearson, Sir Stanley Rous, H. Sagar, Lesley Sewell, Phyllis Spafford and Lord Wolfenden. Though they have given me both advice and encouragement, they bear no responsibility for the opinions and reflections contained in the pages that follow.

Finally, I wish to acknowledge my great debt to my wife for her forbearance and interest throughout the writing of this book.

H. Justin Evans (1974)



 editors comments   

Editor's comments - [  This is one of our favourite books, an historical narrative by (Howell) Justin Evans, former Deputy secretary and acting general secretary (1944-1968) of the Central Council for Physical Recreation prior to and in 1974 (formerly the central council for physical recreation and training) and now the Sport and Recreation Alliance (SRA).  Justin Evans was also the secretary of the Wolfenden Committee on Sport 1957-60 and author of the 1960 landmark document in British sport policy; The Wolfenden Report:  Sport and the Community. Evans was awarded an MBE for services to youth in 1942 and an OBE for services to physical recreation in 1968. 

This book (we have scanned it since it is long out of print) details Evans’ interpretations of the journey of the CCPR from 1935 to 1972 and the executive Sports Council. A rather enjoyable read if like us, you like that sort of thing.

This is a raw (and therefore authentic) scan, best read on screen since it is in A5 format. Please reference as the original (see below).  ]  Reference this?Cryer, J. (2013). This page title in italics. Retrieved date, from In the text: Cryer (2013)


APA reference for this document


Reference :   Evans, H.J. (1974) Service to sport: The story of the CCPR -1935-1972. London: Pelham Books


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Download this file (servicetosport_1974.pdf)servicetosport_1974.pdfEvans, H.J. (1974) Service to sport: The story of the CCPR -1935-1972. London: Pelham Books
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