Victoria Park Harriers and Tower Hamlets Athletics Club

Friendly east London club for athletes of all abilities


Victoria Park Harriers: The History of an East London Athletics Club, 1926-1976

By Gordon Everson

Chapter 5: Men Who Were the Club (Officials) | Contents | Chapter 7: Those Who Ran Slower, But Further (880 - Marathon)

Chapter 6: Speedsters (100 - 440)

In Part 1 of our concentration on men who made and sustained VPH, we leaned towards those who were best remembered for their contribution to the administration. Some of them were better than average athletes but there were others who left their imprint in both spheres. To try to categorize them and yet again separate athletes who officiated less notably from members who never attended a committee meeting would be difficult even if it were necessary, which it is not. However, to attempt to maintain some order to this narrative we will in this chapter spotlight those whose abilities were best expressed over one lap or less on the track.

The first of the speedsters to make his mark in the blue sash was Tommy Griffin who has already been mentioned elsewhere but then Will Knight and Jack Kilbey held the 100 yards R. Moore Cup in turn before Billy Little, who was swifter than any of them, came to the fore. A popular character, he twice held the championship and clocked 10.4 secs in 1932. Jack Hill also took the Club 100 on two occasions and was one of our best men for six seasons. He kept in contact with the club for years after the war from his home in Chadwell Heath and in 1953 wrote a graphic account in the "Victoria Park Harrier" of that famous day in 1937 when diminutive Wally Cairncross, Charlie Carpenter, Stan Cannell, and Jack himself took the bronze medal in the AAA 4x110 relay championship at White City. Charlie Carpenter had been our junior champion in 1935 and was no slouch over 440 yards, winning the Major Nathan club championship over that distance in 1937. He was a bit of a 'card' but tragically contracted tuberculosis and that killer disease took poor Charlie within three years.

Wally Cairncross retained the club sprint title in 1939 and might have made it a hat trick but for Adolph Hitler. He was fast on his feet in other ways for Wally regularly entertained at our Club Dinner and Dances with his tap dances. He had taken the Moore trophy from Stan Cannell, three times Club Champion, in 10.4 secs. Stan it was who lingered in the memories of pre-war members. A superb sprinter, Track Secretary (1936 - 9) and a devoted member, he was a great loss and his wartime death is mentioned elsewhere.

The sprinters of the thirties had not the opportunity to score Club Championship doubles for there was no 220 yards Championship. The policy was no trophy, no championship and it was not until 1950 that the James Brown Memorial Cup was presented to commemorate a brave London fireman who had been killed during an attempted rescue.

In the thirties, Billy Bartholomew might just as well have left the Major Nathan Cup at home for having won the inaugural race in 1933, he held on to it for three more years, his best time being 52.8, yet Billy Bart was a half miler who we will come across later. In fact, at no time before the war could the Club parade a quarter miling specialist. George Robertson and Freddie Plumm both held the Club title but they too were running under distance and then came World War II.

One of the first members to find his way back to Victoria Park track in 1946 was ex-prisoner of war Stan Rawlins who had won the Major Walters 100 yards Junior Championship, the Junior long jump title, and the A.A. Cooper Senior long jump in 1939. We relied upon him as a utility man for several years and in 1947 he beat Jimmy Joyce in the Club 440y. Jimmy, another pre-war member, had also been a POW. The lost years and wartime hardships were a burden to him as they were to Stan, but he regularly appeared for us over 220/440. From 1947 to 1951, he was runner-up in the Club 440 on four occasions and was once 3rd but never held a title. Jimmy had been introduced to athletics by the Crown & Manor, one of the major London youth clubs affiliated to the National Association of Boys Clubs. From its quarters in Hoxton, the Crown & Manor served the young over a wide area and over the years was a valuable recruiting ground for VPH. Besides Jimmy Joyce, we gained Alf Luhman, Gordon Everson, Ken Rouse, Harry Wright, Billy Nicholls, Jimmy Holmes, Ron Iron, and others.

A newcomer in 1946 was Sid Primack whose short pattering stride propelled his generous frame over a 100 yards in 10.5 secs. His career was brief but Sid was still in contact with old team mates more than 40 years later. During 1947, he was our second string to Deric bareford, a tall ginger-haired fellow who had only come to us that season. When Deric turned up at the track after being demobbed from the RAF, the rush to obtain his signature on a membership form was almost unseemly. His physique and raking stride riveted attention and it could scarcely be believed that he was unattached. His brother had been a member of Polytechnic Harriers and he had run school events before the war. In 1946 Deric was awarded the RAF Victor Ludorum trophy. When he took the Middlesex 100 yards title in 1949, finished 2nd in the Southern and reached the semi-finals of the AAA furlong, it was hoped that he could reach for the highest honours but Deric always had difficulty taking life too seriously and he settled for a long career of club athletics and selection for County, area and AAA teams. Five times he was hailed as Middlesex Pentathlon champion and twice collected AAA Decathlon place medals.. Sprint titles in the London AA and Civil Service Championships also fell to him. His record in Club Championships was astonishing. Seven times he was 100 yards champion; on four occasions he held the 220, and twice the 440. In our field events, he was eight times long jump champion, the first and last success being 13 years apart, and for 10 years held the high jump title, 17 years separating first and last! He was not so dominant in the shot putt, twice being champion, but in the discus Deric notched up no fewer than 14 victories, the first being in 1950 and the last in 1973 when aged 50. The Pentathlon was his every time he competed, which was 7 years. The only other field event championship staged during Deric's active years was the javelin and this was the one discipline which eluded him, yet on six attempts, he was either 2nd or 3rd. This total of 54 titles might have been greater had the Pentathlon been inaugurated earlier than 1953; and Deric had been a member for three years before the shot putt, discus, and javelin became Club Championship events. He was awarded the Sullivan Trophy in 1955.

Remarkably for a 10.1 (100y)/22.3 (220y) sprinter, Deric once ran in a 2-mile team race and in 1961 turned out for VPH in the Middlesex 7 1/2 miles Cross Country Championship race. In a match at Imber Court, he turned out for us in both sprints, two relays, and six field events including the hammer! Deric's sports shop in Well's Street, Hackney was, up to the late 1990's, a mecca for generations of VPH members, a place where the active always received a discount and the retired kept in touch and were entertained by a torrent of jokes and gossip. Twice Club President and a Trust member for some years, he gifted equipment to our headquarters time and again without display. Deric Bareford is a special pinnacle in the VPH Hall of Fame.

In 1948, Jock Kelly, a burly policeman, clocked 10.3 in a match 100y at Walton but regretfully he flitted only briefly over the scene, as did bespectacled Albert Morris. Albert rarely trained but he ran himself into the ground every time he competed. Over 220y, he would so drain himself he was barely conscious; it was frightening to see but there was only one of our number who could test Deric Bareford and that was Fred Baillie.

In 1937, Fred had set a Club Junior 100y Championship best of 10.6 secs. He returned in 1948 and soon showed his paces but he was not a good role model for good clubmen. Only rarely could he be persuaded to travel to an away fixture but Fred was certainly a character and liked to act up that of a wide boy. Strolling nonchalantly up to the start of a sprint, he would regard his opponents with studied contempt and puff on a cigarette until the last moment. His hunched shoulders and spare frame suggested he needed a decent meal but his rapid strides took him over 100 yards not much outside 'evens'. In 1950, when 30 years of age, he fought Deric Bareford every inch of the way in the Club sprint championship and snatched the title in 10.3 secs. His form attracted the attention of a professional runner who trained at the Park and he persuaded Fred to enter the famous Scottish professional Powderhall handicap. His backers anticipated a coup but when it was found he had been made back marker, they dropped him like a hot brick and Fred didn't even go to the start. A chastened man, he applied for amateur reinstatement on the grounds that he actually had not raced as a pro. To make sure he would get a favourable verdict, "I'll just slip in a few quid," said Fred. Presumably he didn't try that ploy for he was reinstated but time had sped by and it was too late for Fred to make a comeback.

In 1948, Bareford, Primack, Rawlins, and Baillie combined to clock 43.5 secs for a 4x110y relay at Woodford, a club record which stood for 28 years. Almost certainly the 1937 squad had been faster but no official time had been recorded for 2nd and 3rd.

During those early post war years, we had several youngsters who could make a match with many of the seniors. There was Bernard Supple who in 1948 won the Army Cadet 440y in record time and Barry Levy, a Hackney Downs Grammar School boy, who was formidable up to a 'quarter' and was a 6.39m (20' 11 1/2") youth long jumper. At Walton, he set a Youth 220y ground record of 23.5 secs. Eric Hagger, a big raw-boned lad, could run 10.6 and 23.8 (100y/220y) on Victoria Park but was at his best in the long jump, winning the London AA and finishing second in the Middlesex Junior competition. In later years, he fathered Kim Hagger, Essex Ladies international long jumper and heptathlete.

Another good sprinter/long jumper was Charlie Jewers, 3rd in the 1949 Essex Youths Long Jump, but frail, short-striding Peter Seabrook, who could also run and jump, had more reward for he won the Middlesex Youths 100y in a championship record of 10.6 secs at Eton Manor in 1950. During that year, Dave Long was Essex Youths 220y Champion and in the Club Junior 100y, Dave took the title from Peter who so lost his form and confidence, he turned to coaching before moving on to valuable work in various administrative posts.

Dave could have eaten Peter for breakfast and his stiff, powerful style brought him further success but after National Service, he could not recapture the old spark, hard though he tried. The war years destroyed many promising sporting careers but National Service could be no less destructive. Two years in the armed forces broke training disciplines and it was hard to resume the old patterns; many didn't try.

The promising Derek Reeves didn't make it but Stan Skegg almost managed the transition. As a Junior, the cheerful, cherubic Stan narrowly beat club mate Barry Levy in the 1951 London AA Junior Long Jump and set a championship best in the Club Junior Long Jump with (6.16m) 20' 2 1/2", a leap which lasted as a best for a decade. Also during 1951, he prised the Major Walters 100y trophy from Stan Long in 10.8 but the placings were reversed over the furlong. Upon leaving the army, Stan was quickly into his running and at Southall in 1953 he conjured a 10.3 100 yards equalling the ground record. Sadly, things never went well after that and Stan gave up the following season.

If ever there was a one-lap specialist, it was David Ryde, for he seldomed chanced anything shorter and never ran further. Too heavily built for sheer speed, it is extraordinary that he only entered two club championships at any distance; both were at 440 yards and each time he was the winner - 1949 and 1951. A medical student, he was always pressed for time to train or race and, having qualified, had even less, but Dave was a good club man who clocked 51.6 for a 'quarter' and kept contact for many, many years.

Fred Newberry's giant lazy stride could carry him around a useful furlong and he twice took the club title but he was best over 440 yards. In 1948, he was London AA Junior Champion as well as holder of the S.W. Cannell Club Junior 440y trophy, and as a Senior twice held the Major Nathan Cup, setting a championship best of 51.8 in 1953. Without coaching, Fred could hurl the javelin 45.72m (150'); unfortunately, he tended to eschew training as well and never fulfilled his potential. His brother Bill ran usefully for us over a couple of seasons though not quite up to the same standard.

When Fred set his Club 440y Championship record, he beat Alan Day, a distinctively courageous man. Of average height, he possessed a barrel-like chest supported on powerful thighs and calves with slim ankles and small feet. For his size, he took small steps and all this seemed to make him susceptible to injuries which might have been avoided with regular workouts. When he competed, Alan's face screwed up with effort which was wholly genuine for he could breach the pain barrier until on the verge of total collapse. He showed 51.3 secs at best and his single club title was poor reward but three seasons was all he could take .....and then he married!

One of the most stylish sprinters, Harry Conroy managed to finish 2nd and 3rd for five years in Club 100y championships from 1950 but was never victorious. A useful coach for some years, he contributed to the magazine and gave a hand in many facets of club life. Harry was badly missed when he moved away. Another classy mover was Johnny Turpin. He joined in 1949 when only 14 years of age. At that time, we had no Youths or Boys championships but before he had reached 19, John had twice won the Major Walters cup, twice being 2nd, and once 3rd. In 1953, he notched an unprecedented double by winning the Club Junior and Senior sprint titles when aged 17. It was difficult for him when, in the following year, Brian Chandler snatched the Junior title. Perhaps defeat was difficult to handle; regretably Johnny did not keep at it and turn the corner.

Brian was a sturdy, quiet lad who, although he lost his grip on the Major Walters Cup in 1955, bounced back and regained it the following year. He looked a good prospect but poor Brian suffered a nervous breakdown and never ran again.

Jimmy O'Donoghue was never good enough to win a club championship medal but he was a fine club man ever willing to use his bouncy, springing action in the sprints or jumps. Such fellows deservedly remain in the memory when greater talents are recalled with difficulty.

In 1952, a little chap named Charlie Burgess made a brief impact. Nearing his thirties, Charlie was still a sprightly runner who clocked 10.4 (100y) before he vanished as quickly as he had appeared. Ian Keir also joined later in life than most. Twenty six years of age and introduced to running by his bank sports club, he was with us for three years; a pleasant team mate capable of 23.6 (220y) and 52 seconds (440y).

Les Logan came to us with the reputation of having clocked some fast times in army athletics and soon proved his worth. Well built, carrying more weight than was good for him, Les was not the fastest of starters and his flapping hand movements were wasteful but he once showed 10.2 for 100 yards and was invariably around 23 secs over the longer sprint. He ran for VPH for five years and was an excellent club man who could also long jump, clearing 6.56m (21' 6 1/2") in 1955. Les held five club championships in these three events.

In the mid-fifties, we had a surfeit of sprinters. Dave Coates, a pocket Hercules, who later moved to longer distances; Sid Jefcoate, a young man with a whirlwind arm action reminiscent of the American Olympian Lindy Remingo, who was Junior 100 champion in 1955 but didn't last; Johnny Waterson, as smooth a runner as ever wore spikes; Johnny Sullivan - small, determined, and usually smiling; Derek Duncum, another in that mould who had a biting wit; Ron Cohen and Alf Gillett (the latter being mentioned elsewhere) all wanted to run and so extra non-scoring 100 yards races were often held during inter-club matches. This also gave openings to newcomers and novices and it was in one of those events in 1955 that Stan Wilson was discovered. In his first ever race, wearing cheap spikes several sizes too large, he scorched over the cinders in 10.6 secs, equalling the time returned in the 1st string match race. About 5'7" tall, with powerful shoulders and a long striding action he always went to win but at the same time lacked confidence. This may have been due to the injuries which played havoc with his career partly brought about by training which was insufficient for the speed he could conjure. In 1956, he was third in the Middlesex 100y and was awarded county colours and in two seasons collected four club titles as well as the Sullivan trophy. Three times he clocked 'evens' on different tracks; he ran 220y in 22.8 and long jumped 6.57m (21'6 3/4"). How far he might have gone we never discovered for despondent over his injuries Stan threw it all up. He had been a good club man, a shooting star quickly extinguished.

Ken Prevost was a frequent stand in for Logan or Wilson and took the Club 100y Champiosnhip in 1959. He had joined 11 years before, been placed in various Junior Club Championships as well as in every Club Senior field event championship and won the Pentathlon in 1958. This all-round ability made him a particularly useful team member in matches. He turned to coaching, qualified for his AAA Badge and built up a good school, but he was lost to us when he went to live in Switzerland, his wife's birthplace.

High stepping Vic Marmoy had a natural talent which enabled him to total eight Youth and Junior Club Championships over 100, 220, and 440y. He could run to the brink of a 53 quarter and at Eton Manor clocked 23 secs for 220y, a super time for a Junior in 1957. Sadly, he lost interest and was yet another "if only ..."

As with David Ryde, medical studies hampered Bob Hamill's running but his neat compact progression enabled him to hold his own at any distance up to a half mile and as a Junior in 1955 he showed 2:04 but, again like Ryde, he was most comfortable at 440y. In his first year as a Senior, 1957, he clocked 51.6 and the following year was Club Champion. Over 220y, he had shown 23.5. At the age of 21, he retired.

London fireman Tom Stanton was well into his twenties when he signed up for us in 1959. Little more than a novice, he was timed at 10.5 (100y) and 23.6 (220y) but the Brigade had first call on Tom and we could only occasionally obtain his assistance. He was badly needed, for during that year, our Senior sprinting was at a low ebb but it was soon to change.

In 1960, a slightly built lad appeared on the scene and it was immediately apparent that he was going to be a threat to our top juniors for he had no trouble in covering 220y in 23.9. He was Paul Kerslake, one of the few blessed with natural speed and a flowing classic style. In his only year as a Junior, he was favoured to take the Major Walters Cup but his rivals didn't fancy being clobbered by a newcomer and with only one other entry the championship was abandoned. Not wishing to waste the evening, Paul switched to the Senior championship. Deric Bareford had last won the title five years before; his last appearance in the race had been in 1957 but canny Deric had run his eye over the likely contestants and decided that even at 36 years of age he had no one to worry about. He was right but he hadn't reckoned on the new lad who streaked away to win by three yards. The following year Paul hit remarkable form. In the Middlesex Championships, he was fourth in 10.1, a disappointment, but in the Coronation Trophy at Chelmsford he scored a sprint double with 10.0 and 22.6 secs. He earned his county vest but perhaps it had all come to him too easily. He never trained or raced as often as he might have done and although Paul retained the Moore Cup for three more years, twice took the 220y title and invariably scored well for us in club matches, he never progressed to faster times or greater honours. Eventually he became a publican and was last seen at The Tiger in 1990.

Johnny Schollhammer and Danny Collingwood were born a year apart and were not related but they might have been taken as twins for their athletic careers were remarkably alike. Both joined at 15 years of age, in 1957 and 1958 respectively; they were of a similar build and relied upon strength and determination. They were versatile, capable in the sprints, happiest at 440y, unafraid of two laps, and prepared to tackle any field event made by man. John was rarely without a smile or retort; Danny less outgoing but they were indistinguishable when it came to reliability. As a Junior, John ran personal bests of 10.5 (100y), 23.1 (220y), and 51.3 (440y); Danny clocked 10.4, 23.5, and 52.1, but each found that, when they reached Senior status and maturity, increased body weight became difficult to carry. It is greatly to their credit that they did not fold up and both enjoyed lengthy careers. John could not better his junior marks but he set PB's of 11.31m (37’ 1 1/2") in the Senior shot putt, 30.60m (100’5”) in the Senior discus, and 2:02 for the 880y. Danny did a little better; he got his 440y down to 51.2 and produced a 1:59.4 half mile. He also long jumped 6.48m (21'3"), putt the shot 11.62m (38' 1 1/2") and threw the javelin 46.78m (153'6"). This all round ability secured the club Pentathlon on four occasions.

A key member of our teams in the early sixties was the muscular Bernie Skeels. Already a Senior when he joined VPH, Bernard quickly made everyone sit up and in his first season headed our 220 and 440 rankings. His purposeful running was a pleasure to see and in 1961, he clocked 10.2, 22.8, and 49.8 (in the London AA). It seemed as though he was heading for the big time but although he was within a stride or two of his best times during the next two seasons they were never bettered. It must have been discouraging and he drifted away. During his five seasons, Bernie took seven club championships, four being consecutive victories over 440y.

Losing Kerslake and Skeels, it was a relief when Anson Gibbons, always known as Tyrone or Ty, came through as a senior in 1965 after less than a season in the junior ranks. Ty was not our first black member, but he was the first to make an impression. Besides his athleticism, he was a cheerful character and popular team mate who gave VPH splendid service. He did not like to expend more energy than necessary and it was a pity that there was no one in the club who could extend him. Indeed, our sprinting was at such a low ebb that times of 11.3 and 11.8 were all that was needed to take 2nd and 3rd places in the 1967 100 yards championship! In 1965, 1966, and 1969 (Alan Barber 12.0???), insufficient entries left the sprint title vacant, which was hard on Ty for he must otherwise have added to the nine club titles that fell to him in five years from 1965. At his best, Ty sparkled with times of 11.1 for 100m, 22.3 for 220y, and 49.3 for 400m. After taking a back seat for several years, Ty made a serious comeback in 1973, coming 3rd in the Middlesex 200m in 22.7 the following year, and regaining the Club 200m title in 1975 after a lapse of seven years. He returned 23.1 on that occasion to equal the championship record, a not inconsiderable achievement when on the verge of 30 years of age.

In 1970, most of our club championships, apart from the mile, fell in line with athletics generally and staged out races over metric distances. It was in that year of change when Andy Hyde signed for us. A strongly built black lad, he made an instant impact and coasted to a Junior Club Championship sprint double with 11.8 and 23.4. Here indeed was an exciting successor to Ty Gibbons. During 1971, he took the club Senior title in 11.6 and went on to win the Southern Counties Junior Championships in 11.2, place 2nd in the English Schools 100m, finish 3rd in the AAA Junior 100 metres with 11.1 secs, gained an England International Junior Vest, and even cleared 6' in the high jump in a pentathlon. Andy was also credited with a possibly wind-assisted 10.8 100 metres but we never discovered if he could repeat it for he lost his way and sadly never ran for us again.

Nevertheless, we now entered a golden period. Jeff Smith, a gritty runner who was never short of an amusing quip, made his appearance in 1969, when he took the Youth 220y championship in an unremarkable time. Few realised how young he was but two years later he still qualified as a Youth and notched a very respectable sprint double in that level of 12.0 and 23.8 secs. In 1971, he was runner-up in the Middlesex Youths 100m and 3rd in the 200m and during 1972 was credited with a windy 11.2 100m. He won the Senior club title in 11.7 at the age of 17 and clocked a 53.4 400m but for some reason or other Smithy then lost his way. Inevitably his form went to pot and he gradually slipped away. He had been a loyal club man and was a loss to be decried.

As Jeff went down, Steve Payne's star was rising. Winning the Club Youths 1 mile in 1971 attracted little attention but the following year Steve began to show his paces and took the Club Junior 200m in 23.5. He knocked off another half second for a season's best at that distance and then recorded 51.3 for 400m; all while still a Youth. Unfortunately for Steve, neither the 100, 200, or 400 Youth Club Championships were held in 1972 owing to poor entry but in 1973 he really made things hum as a Junior. Unprecedentedly, he notched club championship sprint doubles in both the Junior and Senior events and surpassed himself by registering a brilliant Middlesex County Junior double, clocking a wind-assisted 10.9 and 22.7 after closing a 5-metre gap in the straight. He was also very formidable over 400m, after setting a Junior club record of 50.0 secs in the London Schools; he earned selection for the Home International. It was a year of high achievement that Steve never matched. In 1974, he was 3rd in the County Junior 100, but chinks appeared in his armour. He coasted the 100 Junior Club Championship to retain the Major Walker Cup in a slow time but failed to hold on to the Senior R. Moore Trophy being easily beaten by John Isaacs, 12.1 to 12.2 secs. Steve never seemed the same again. In 1975, he competed at Senior level and in the rankings of that year he was credited with times of 10.8, 22.1, and 50.9; superb running, but he didn't take a single title. In our Golden Anniversary year of 1976, the tale was the same, or similar, for he was again shut out from all club championships. His speed too declined; 11.3 and 22.8 were excellent marks, indeed he was our fastest Senior sprinter, but the explosion of Youths and Juniors meant Steve only figured 6th in the 100m VPH rankings and 4th= in the 200m! His morale was undermined, doubtless his justified pride took a knock and he never ran for the club again. A fine stylist, a smooth natural runner, Steve was unfortunate to arrive on the scene at the wrong time. Had he been born five years earlier, and not collided with our precocious youths from West Indian stock, he might well have developed as a Senior and gone on to great things. Alas, we will never know.

John Isaacs, who had beaten Steve Payne in 1974, popped up in 1965 when, as a Youth, he won the Club Junior 100y in 10.9. In 1966, he took both Youth sprint titles and the Junior 220y Club Championship. He clocked personal bests of 10.3 and 22.9 and it all looked so promising but he slipped out of sight. In 1972, he re-emerged and ran 11.7 for 100m. Perhaps John foresaw a career which could not keep up with his ambition for his mind turned to coaching. It was in this new area that John gradually directed his energies. He became Club Coaching Secretary. A black trainer was a novelty in British Athletics and John soon had a coterie of youths blessed with built-in speed and spring. David James was one of the earliest to show the benefit. In 1974, he won the Middlesex Youth 400m in 52.4 and in 1975 was runner-up in both the Middlesex Youths 100m and 200m clocking 11.1 and 22.5. He was also in the VPH team which won the Southern and AAA Youths 4x100m championships but he had to live in the shadow of the sensational Mike McFarlane and it was a great pity that he gave up the sport. In 1973, Danny King ran 52.1 when only 16 and was selected for Middlesex. He took the 1974 Club Junior 400m in 52.6 and in 1975 the Senior Championships, clocking 50.6 though still a Junior. He headed our ranking lists with 49.0, a time he reduced in 1976 to 48.1 for a club record when he was awarded his Great Britain vest for a Junior International.

If asked to name the No. 1 in his stable, John Isaacs might have named Vernon Bramble, Club Youth Champion at 100m and long jump in 1974 who the same year set a Championship record of 6.59m in the Middlesex Youth Long Jump. Greater things were to come but as with Danny King and others, Vernon's career carried beyond our anniversary year and the final word must fall to another historian; however, by 1976, and still a Junior, he had set a club record of 10.7 for 100m, clocked 22.2 200m, run 49.9 for 400m, cleared 7.04 for a club long jump record, high jumped 1.75m, and triple jumped 13.95m. A great competitor, he anchored the VPH quartet that took 3rd place in the 1975 AAA Junior 4x100 Championship and among his club titles was a Junior and Senior 100 double.

Vernon had taken the baton from David Baptiste who earlier that year won the Middlesex 400m Hurdles Junior Championship and at the English Schools showed 56.3. He could run around 51 seconds over the flat but was unreliable; always choosy about his appearances and did not last. Hugh Boatswain was on the second leg in that fine bronze medal Junior relay team which clocked 42.98 secs. His fastest run in 1975 was 11.4; twelve months later he was given 11.1, which was a flash in the pan if genuine. He had a liking for the high jump and turned out to be a 1.83m (6' plus) man even as a Junior. Such rarified heights were not attained until after our Golden anniversary and Hugh must feature in any post '76 narrative; as must Phil Tapper. A sprinter pure and simple, he was entrusted with the first stage in the AAA relay. Returning 1976 bests of 11.5 and 22.6, he went on to better both marks.

When 14-years-old, Mike McFarlane won the 1974 Hackney Schools 100 and 200 in 12 and 24.4 secs, he attracted some attention; perhaps not a lot but John Isaacs knew that here was a somewhat special young man. Although obviously strong, he was not exceptionally big for his age nor was he a classic stylist but his rapid leg movement got him over the ground FAST. Winner of the London Boys 100m, he had by the end of the season edged his 100m time down to 11.7. Early in the 1975 season, he clocked 11.5 at Crystal Palace, yet was regarded as only good enough to make up the relay at a Southern League meeting. Then came the Club Youths Championship where he was given 11.1. Timekeeping was viewed with some suspicion after the retirement of Veteran AAA timekeeper Dick Everson, having the strength to press the button was not the only requirement, and Mike's performance was scoffed at but if on Vicoria Park cinders, it took some believing, undoubtedely it must have been a snappy run for Mike was soon travelling at faster speeds on better surfaces. In the Middlesex Youths 100 and 200, he scored a double with the amazing times of 10.9 and 22.1, both championship records. The latter was a UK record for 15-year-olds. Selected for England in a schools international, he ran 200 and won in 22.2. He captured Club 100 Championships at Youth, Junior, and Senior level and anchored the VPH quartet when we took gold medals in the both the Southern Counties and AAA Youths 4x100 relays with 45.3 and 43.94 respectively; team mates were Neville Douglas, Colin Francis, and David James. Throughout 1976, Mike went from strength to strength; Club, County and National titles all fell to him. Selection for Great Britain in Junior Internationals was virtually automatic; in later years, of course, he experienced European, Commonwealth, and Olympic competition. John Isaacs' reputation soared with him and was polished by TV commentator Ron Pickering. Tragically for VPH, there arose feeling that John and the sprinters in his stable were in danger of becoming bigger than the club. Times were changing and it seems they had expectations that the VPH committee would not, indeed could not, satisfy. After some months of dissatisfaction, John decided to take his talents to Haringey and Southgate, the club favoured by Ron Pickering. This was undoubtedly a severe jolt. John Isaac's coaching had been a major influence on our meteoric rise through the divisions of the Southern League, but the jolt turned into a devastating blow when seven or so of the youngsters resigned and trooped off to Haringey. There was some bitterness over the defections and Club officials felt they and VPH deserved better. However, all this took place after we had celebrated our 50th year and must be explored by another but because it followed so closely on happier times, we cannot ignore so sad an episode.

Chapter 5: Men Who Were the Club (Officials) | Contents | Chapter 7: Those Who Ran Slower, But Further (880 - Marathon)