The Ship and Turtle is where it all began….
The first person recorded as having walked 100 miles within 24 hours was J.E. Fowler Dixon. In 1908 he completed 100 miles in 20:36:08 at Lille Bridge, London and was awarded the number 1 in recognition of his achievement. Fowler Dixon was also a founder of the Amateur Athletic Association (AAA) and our first President from 1911 as well as our first Centurion.
The idea of forming the Brotherhood was conceived by E.R. Bob Gillespie, who walked 106 miles non stop in a 24 hour race in 1908 and successive races held the following years led to the formation of the Centurions at a meeting held in the Ship and Turtle, situated at 131, Leadenhall Street, London on 11 May 1911.
The first Centurion Handbook (1913) listed Centurions numbered from 1 – 54. The most recent Handbook published in the year if the Centurions’ Centenary 2011 listed number 1 – 1082.
Membership was originally limited to 100 but this was rescinded in October 1930.
C100 was Tommy Richardson who walked 100 miles in 17 hours 35 minutes 4 seconds in the
1936 24 hour track race promoted by Yorkshire Walking Club.
In 1951 Mr. Charles Eade, editor of the “Sunday Dispatch” newspaper offered to sponsor
the event, the aim being to raise the profile of the Centurions and hopefully establish an unbroken run of annual qualifying races. This offer was gladly accepted and established a helpful connection between the newspaper and long distance walking. There were 21 new Centurions in 1951 and 27 the following year so the arrangement proved to be a success.
The Sunday Dispatch newspaper changed hands in 1958, bringing an end to the sponsorship, but Leicester Walking Club stepped in with a course from Leicester to Skegness via Peterborough which produced 13 new Centurions.
In 1959 the first Dutch walker Lieuwe Schol qualified as C291. He would later instigate and
become the first president of the “Centurion Vereniging Nederland” (C.V.N.), a position he
held for 27 years. The C.V.N. Secretary, Ko van der Kwaak, presented a cup known as The Netherlands Challnege Trophy for competition between English and Dutch Centurions in the 100 mile race.
In 1960 the Centurions marked their 50th year with an anniversary dinner at the House of Commons. In the same year Frank O’Reilly C276 broke the 17 hour barrier when he walked the Leicester to Skegness course in 16:54:15. One month later Frank represented his country, Eire, at the Olympic Games in Rome. Later in 1960 Colin Young qualified as C317 in the 24 hour track race organised by Walton A.C. He came second to Hew Neilson C145 who broke all previous existing records when he completed 133 miles 21 yards in the time allowed, including 100 miles in 17:18:51. Colin went on to become one of England’s most successful long distance competitors on the continent.
In 1977, for the first time in British history, two women were allowed to compete on equal
terms with the men, Ann Sayer (Essex Ladies A.C.) and Dianne Pegg (Medway A.C.). Their performances were recorded separately at the end of the race results and their eligibility to be allocated Centurion numbers caused some discussion. Proposals suggesting that a separate women’s section be formed or the “women should not be admitted” found no support, and eventually it was agreed that as the membership criteria had been fulfilled Ann and Dianne would be allocated numbers C599 and C608 respectively. Since then 78 women have qualified (most recent number issued was 1209).
In 1978 the first, and so far, the and so far the only true Centurion came into being when Bill Brown C12 celebrated his 100th birthday in the company of many other Centurions.
The Centurions celebrated their 75th anniversary in 1986 with a dinner held at the Irish Centre, Camden Sq., London. It was a great success and by a happy chance was attended by exactly 100 Centurions and guests.
1991 marked the 25th anniversary of the formation of the “Centurion Vereniging Nederland” (C.V.N.), and a shield was produced for presentation to them to them to mark the occasion.
In 1999 Surrey Walking Club published a book to mark their centenary, ‘Unbroken Contact’, edited by Sandra Brown. One of the chapters featured the Centurions, a welcome addition to Centurion history.
The 2001 AGM was held at the New Astley Club, Newmarket, and was followed by a most enjoyable 90th anniversary dinner, organised by Ron Wallwork C 893 and his wife Joan. The guest speaker was 1960 double Olympic medallist Professor Peter Radford, author of “The Celebrated Captain Barclay”.
In 2004 the prized C1002 badge for the 1000th Centurion went to Dutch walker Gerrit van Haandel.
A dinner marking the Centenary was held at the palace of Westminster- House of Commons, Members Dining Room. The sponsor was Bob Russell, MP for Colchester. 103 Centurions attended. A commemorative medal was presented to all Centurion attendees. Paul Nihill was the guest speaker.