By Pat ashworth
Gerald Wilmer, who took the initiative to form the Ski Club of Manchester, died, aged 90 years, in his sleep at home on 16th October. Judy, his widow, who did not ski but helped in the background, has filled me in with some of the information I had not garnered from elsewhere.
Gerald’s mother was Swiss. He went to school in Switzerland, so was one of those competent and fearless adults that many of us would have liked to emulate. He entered the Army towards the end of the war, which led to him becoming an active member of the Army Ski Association. An SCGB Silver skier, he became a N.W. Representative, to be joined later by Jane Fairclough who was covering another part of the area.
Gerald organised the Pre-Ski exercise classes at St. John’s College gym. He was enthusiastic about local skiing, and following the gift of a tow from (Harry?) Askew, was active in promoting a ring-round system for telling people where to find local snow. As part of my enquiry into this period, Mike and Marianne Tann, who used to have a smallholding in Rainow and host barbecues for the Club, have forwarded copies of some notes written by Mr Askew about the local ski areas. The people involved in the local skiing would also go on trips up to the Cairngorms.
Mike and Marianne and Barbara and Harvey Scholes supported Gerald in his bid to strengthen SCGB activity in the regions. Thus the Ski Club of Manchester was formed as an affiliated club, a trend which also happened in Yorkshire, with a negotiation for a per capita payment to the local group for members of the SCGB.
One or two ski slopes were cultivated with their landowner’s permission, so that not only were the committed members transporting and setting up the tows in winter, but mowing the fields to make them easier to ski on. Bill Walmsley used his engineering skills to make and service club tows.
Gerald gradually withdrew from the club, later enjoying driving to Switzerland and cosseting his bad back in warmer climates. Having been made redundant in the textile trade he worked for a fellow club member Bill Smith.