Tributes to Centurions who have passed away
But they are not forgotten as their fellow walkers speak fondly of those who were once their friends.
Many recollections of daring deeds are collected together in these Obituaries pages.
Friends and family of Centurions who have passed away are remembered in the News section
Geoff Dowling C635
Sadly, we report the passing of Geoff Dowling on 28th September after a few days in hospital.
Morecambe born, Geoff had been a member of Yorkshire Race Walking Club since 1963 and was the current President of the Club. He was, for many years, Race Secretary for both the Bradford Whit Walk and the 'Dick Hudson' events. In his race walking career, he won a gold medal in the 2005 European Masters Championship in Portugal as a member of the UK Masters team.
Geoff qualified as a Centurion in 1978 (Leicester to Skegness) finishing in 22 hours 37 minutes.
He contributed to a variety of publications with articles of sporting, industrial and military history
Geoff was awarded the Korean War Medal.
Very sad to hear of the Passing of Geoff Dowling C635, who was a real powerhouse of Ultra Distance and Northern Area Race Walking over so many years. Very few have made the immense contribution he has made. May he Rest in Peace. Bill and Kath Sutherland
This is very sad news. Geoff was a real character and a tough competitor, and achieved much in his race walking career. I'm sure his funeral will be well attended and few anecdotes told. Chris Flint.
Trevor Chorley C.435
Trevor's son, Martin, informed us of is fathers passing:
"Trevor passed away on the 22/06/2017 at the ripe old age of 88, he was immensely proud of his Centurion membership and his two walks he raced in, with his best ever time of 19 hrs 45minutes and 45 secs."
Trevor grained his Centurion number, C 435, in 1969 with a time of 21:35:54. The race was organised by Chas Shelley of the Bristol Race Walking Club - “The Bristol 100”.
The race was held on a 10 mile lap at Winterbourne on virtually traffic free country roads. The race was started by His Grace the Duke of Beaufort and there were 59 walkers in the race. Trevor walked with another local chap called Les Gwinnell. His time noted abovre A very good improvement on his first race!!
In 1970 Trevor entered the Leicester to Skegness 100 miles race. 65 started but only 31 finished. Trevor appears to figure in our history as he didn’t disclose on the race entry form that he was already a Centurion and this caused a bit of confusion when handing out the medals later!!!
Teunis van de Pol C.960
Frans Leitjen reports:We are sad to report that yesterday (12 March) Centurion 960, Teunis van de Pol, has died unexpectedly. Teunis was an experienced walker, who did the Nijmegen Four Days Marches 26 times and the Nijmegen-Rotterdam 100 mile walk 13 times. Teunis became a Centurion in Battersea Park in London (1999). He also held the Continental Centurion title and was a member of the RWV. Nowadays, he mainly walked with his wife Jennie and his grandson Thomas. We wish them a lot of strength with their sudden loss.
Ernie Bishop C. 654
Ernie completed his 100 miles in 21.02.59 at the 1979 Ewhurst 100 organised by Surrey Walking Club.
According to the Centurion Handbook he did not complete any more, possibly because his focus was on the LDWA.
He served on the national LDWA committee for 12 years, including 3 years as Chairman. He was also the first chairman of Kent Group and completed 11 LDWA 100 mile challenge walks.
photo:Ernie is pictured on the extreme right.
Other Centurions pitcured:
Phil Hastings C632 on the left
Mike Powell Davies C 709 with dark hair and beard in the background.
Keith Chesterton C 704 centre front with map case.
Bernard John Rawlings C. 212
Leicester Walking Club are sad to announce that Jack Rawlings died on 18th September 2016 aged 90.
Jack was born in the Chippenham area in 1926 and moved to Leicester to train as an engineer.
Jack joined the Leicester Walking Club in 1951 and in 1953 walked from Birmingham to Wembley Stadium to become a Centurion 212 (22 hours 7mins 52 secs)
Jack was one of the original Senior Coaches trained by Lloyd Johnson in the 1960’s. He was also Club Captain, President and was editor of the Leicester Walking Club magazine (step by step) in the 1960’s.
Jack was a coach and mentor and when he moved to Stratford upon Avon in the early 1970’s to work as a lecturer at the local college he still continued to come down the walking club every Saturday for the next 38 years.
Photo is Jack in his racing gear in 1960 as the anchor man of Leicester’s team that came third in the National 10 Miles. (Jack finished in 43rd place in a time of 84:38).
George J. Birchall C220
We have just heard about the death earlier this year of C220 George Birchall. George qualified as a Centurion in 1954 in a time of 19:32:27,
George’s father was G.P. Birchall C.101 also of the Lancs WC who qualified at the Bradford track in 1936. They were the great walkers of the day.
Vic Murray C256
Vic passed away over the weekend of 23-24 April 2016 aged 88 years. Vic qualifed as a Centurion at the London - Brighton and back race in 1955.
Writes Tony Taylor:
Vic Murray - an inspirational Centurion
It was heartening to hear that there was a good turnout for Vic Murray’s funeral with Eric Horwill attending as President of the Centurions. Quiet and unassuming he was a much loved member of the club, always willing to help out, whatever the task.
Fred Pearce, who supplied the evocative photo (left) of Vic racing over 60 years ago, recalls that his Dad, Fred Pearce Senior and Vic finished together in the London-Brighton and Back in 1955 when they became Centurions No 255 and 256 with a time of 22hrs 29mins 50secs.
Chris Bolton was very close to Vic. Indeed Chris remembers Vic as his mentor, the reason he both joined Lancashire Walking Club and became a Centurion. This is the story Chris penned for the Centurions web site.
"In May 1957 I went to Blackpool to watch the finish of the Manchester to Blackpool relay race. This was an eleven man relay featuring the best running clubs from the Midlands and North of England.
It was there that I met Vic Murray who told me that each year he walked Manchester to Blackpool, a distance of 51.75 miles. I couldn’t believe anyone could walk that far; he then told me that he had walked 100 miles within 24 hours and was Centurion No. 256. At that moment ambition was born and I knew that I wanted to be a Centurion.
Four weeks later, aged eighteen and with no training or preparation I stood on the start line at 6-15 am to walk from Manchester to Blackpool. With only the confidence and ignorance of youth I kept with Vic for forty miles. At that point I decided to retire and a message was sent for a car to pick me up. After sitting at the side of the road for forty minutes I realised that the message must have gone astray and as one of last walkers passed (Billy Watson C146) I decided to join him and finish the race. In the end I finished in 11 hours and 3 minutes, just behind Billy but in last place.
Well that certainly wasn’t an auspicious start but I was hooked. Five years later I finished the Manchester to Blackpool Walk in fourth position and led Lancashire Walking Club to the Team Title. Seven days later I qualified as a Centurion, finishing together with Brian Howarth and Paddy Dowling, and I would be forever grateful for the chance meeting with Vic Murray.
On crossing the finishing line I was the youngest Centurion at that moment, not the youngest ever. However 48 minutes later Davey Moncrieff of Sheffield crossed the line and he was three months younger than I was so that distinction didn’t last long.
Vic will be sadly missed and I cherish many happy memories of him. He had a wry sense of humour. I remember him telling me one day that Marie was suspicious of him clearing off every Saturday (it wasn’t true of course) and that he had to show her his blisters to prove what he’d been doing. As he said “its a good job I didn’t tell her I went horse riding”. For my part I won’t be able to approach the turn in Heaton Park on the Simister course without remembering Vic’s welcoming encouragement and the time he chided me gently for claiming the cone was in the wrong place!
Vic Murray, Centurion 256 – Rest in Peace.
Wilf Smith C275.
Leicester Walking Club are sad to report the death of Wilf Smith C275.
Wilf, who passed away yesterday (6th February 2016) aged 91 years, was a one of the club's stars from many years ago but remained a life long supporter.
In July 1958, 34 year old Wilf hit the front page of the Leicester Mercury by winning Leicester Walking Club’s Leicester to Skegness race on his first attempt to become centurion number 275. He completed two further Leicester to Skegness walks and many of the long running Leicester Mercury 20 Miles races.
From the Archives:
Leicester Walker No 16 (date unknown the last edition of this Newsletter in 2009)
In the past Wilf has been mentioned frequently in THE LEICESTER WALKER , either do to the fact that he usually acknowledges safe receipt of this newsletter and incidentally sends along some stamps to help alleviate the cost of postage and production.
He is also mentioned due to the fact that he was the inaugural winner of the 1958 Leicester to Skegness Walk.
I therefore thought that it would be quite appropriate for me to produce of few details about Wilf’s career as a Walker. I was prompted to do this when I saw a photograph and article about Wilf in the Leicester Mercury recently.
The article is headed ‘Champ who made headlines in 1958 still going strong. Wilf, 84, fit as a fiddle.’
Wilf still trains every day when he alternates stretches one day with running on the spot the other for 45 mins. He did the Skegness 100 three times and ran the Leicester Marathon twice. He and his wife Marg have 4 children, 14 grand children and 14 great grand children. His winning time in 1958 to become Centurion no. 275 was 18.02.37. He was third in 1960 behind Frank O’Reilly in 18.18.32 and then after a break of 14 years finished his third 100 in 1974 with a time of 20.15.34.
I have a great affinity with Wilf as I was his cyclist attendant on his first two hundreds and in 1974 his was in the winning team along with Dave Jones and me. What is more we both started our walking careers in the same race, the 1954 Leicester Mercury 20 miles.
However, his time in that race of 3.11.15 was some 44 mins. faster that me. He went on to figure prominently, particularly in the longer events and won the Midland 50kms. title in 1956 with a time of 4.54.07. We raced against each other on a number of occasions during our first few years, although I probably did more races than Wilf , it took over 3 years from our first race for me to beat him in a 6 mile club race. This was in September 1957. I won in 51.53 with Wilf finishing 3rd. in 55.00. In fact it wasn’t until March 1958 that I beat Wilf in a longer distance race—the Sheffield 15 miles.
|C.314 Edward (Ted) Billingham|
I have just received the news (19 January 2016) from Ted's wife, Maureen that Ted has recently passed away.
Ted was a member of the Royal Sutton Coldfield Walking Club and qualified as a Centurion in 1960 at the Leicester to Skegness race in a time of 23h 06m 10s.
Maureen writes that Ted loved his walking and the friends he made. What better accolade and memory could we have than this?
In her letter, Maureen also writes that she and her daughter raised a glass to the Centurions on Christmas Day ... and will continue to do this every Christmas in memory of all the good times and good friends.
Well, Maureen, we will also continue to do the same and remember Ted and you and your family in the spirit of walking and the Centurions. God bless.
Kathy Crilley, C.933, Captain