Obituaries - Centurions Worldwide Community

Centurions Worldwide Community
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Tributes to Centurions
Centurions who have passed away will always live on in our memories.

These pages are dedicated to Centurions around the world, their achievements of walking 100 miles in 24 hours and the contributions they have made to the world of race walking
John (Paddy) Dowling C331

Paddy - as he was known to many, sadly passed away over the weekend 5-6 February 2022.

He was a remarkable race walker who participated in many ultra races in Europe over several decades. Paddy held so many records - often spanning years and decades.

Paddy has his own page on Centurions Achievements where his race walking accolades are recorded.


Race walkers share their memories:

Guy Goodair:  Paddy & I became Centurions in the same race - Leicester to Skegness 1962 - I only did the one, whilst Paddy went on to become an outstanding ultra distance walker, many of his achievements were made at an age when most other athletes have retired. He told me he never managed to finish the Strasbourg Paris race because on many occasions he was waylaid by offers of champagne as he passe through the region.

Graham Hibberd: Very sad news, he was a friend for many years, going back to when I joined Sheffield Race Walking Club way back in 1964. For many years we trained and competed in numerous races, happy memories of times past. Rest in Peace John.

Colin Moore:  Reading Dermot O'Toole's book on the Parish Walk it recalls that when Paddy won the event in 1974 he collected the winner's trophy on Douglas Promenade, went back to his hotel to change and then got onto the morning boat to Liverpool (he had another event planned in Bradford the following day) before the third finisher had completed the course.

Cath Duhig: Sad news

Peter Selby writes:  What a character.  Race Walking is full of  people like Paddy, but  there is (or was ) only ONE PADDY DOWLING - I can hear them singing this from the terraces of Roubaix, Paris Colmar,  many parts of Europe where he competed in 100 miles  24 Hours   or 200k.  I also recount  some memorable happenings.
The first   was when he competed at Blackheath in the Rainer 24 Hours Race circa 1986/87   ( the Crane twins of Himalayan Running Fame  competed and help organise ). Wendy Wallace ( as she was then known ) the late Phil Hastings, myself and others provided the  race duration feeding station. In  the evening when Paddy was asked what he would like he firmly stated Fish and Chips (and he meant it! )  Anyone who knows Blackheath would not normally associate it with  Fish and Chips, but how wrong can you be. Paddy was served up with a Super de Luxe Cod and Chips which we purchased in the Village Centre.  He ate the lot and very thoughtfully put the rubbish in appropriate bin and finished "his supper" with a large mug of tea, all this without stopping !

Having just completed  the Roubaix 28 hour race Paddy returned to his room  (I was sharing with him ) at the Campanile hotel and promptly fell asleep. missing the prize giving and then a meal, He slept through all of this and the following night.  He had had the chance to shower and change his clothes before disappearing to the land of Nod.  He would just not wake up the next morning when we were to depart for the ferry at Dunkirk.  I  was aware that smoke was a great sleep breaker so struck a match and held it close to his nose. The "trick" paid off and he jumped up  not sure where he was.  Safe to say all caught the allotted ferry with plenty of chat especially from Paddy  catching up on the near15 hours he had missed by being asleep.  

The third occasion was in the early 1990s after the Paris Colmar. Paddy was one of a support team for Ann Sayer, Richard and Sandra  Brown on the epic race from the outskirts Paris to the banks of the Rhine.  After the event,  they and most of the back up crew were staying overnight before the journey home. However,  Paddy along with  Bob Dobson,  Colin Young  and myself had to hot foot back to England mainly for work. One can imagine the "patter" during that 18 hours the trip took including a diversion to the Charles de Gaulle Airport to return mobile phones hired for use during the race (very few of which worked ) and a picnic in the Vosges mountain range . Need I say more when you have two of the greatest storytellers in race walking with  Paddy and Colin as passengers from 6pm until noon the next day non stop recalling some of their most  interesting races..... Bob and I were grateful  to be able to share the driving  as a "rest period".   That trip was one of the most memorable I have ever taken and to be  with such  eminent athletes and sportsmen is something  I will cherish always.  Rest in Peace  Paddy.

Tributes on FaceBook

Daniel Pluchon:  C'est avec tristesse que j apprend la mort de. John. Dowling un très grand marcheur de fond avec qui j'ai eu la joie de marcher

Luc Gautier: Je me rappelle d'une petite anecdote, je suivais Claude Sauriat à l'épreuve de marche Compiègne Paris et le départ se faisait attendre, car on attendait un dernier marcheur attardé à cause du brouillard ou des horaires d'avion. On voit un taxi arrivé et un mec sortir en short et petit maillot (marcel), malgré les moins 5 degrés qu'il faisait à 7h du matin, c'était notre John Dowling, de plus, il n'avait pas de suiveur, rien qu'une petite valise. Je ne me rappelle plus de sa place, mais il a été au bout, un guerrier cet Irlandais.
I remember a little anecdote, I was following Claude Sauriat at the Compiègne Paris walking event and the departure was delayed, because we were waiting for a last walker who was delayed because of the fog or flight schedules. You see a taxi come in and a guy come out in shorts and a short t-shirt, despite being at least 5 degrees at 7am, it was our John Dowling, furthermore he had no support, just a small suitcase. I don't remember where he was, but he was at the end, a warrior that Irishman.

Mich Mich: Que de km marchés !!!! Bon repos monsieur

Pascal Grange: Grande tristesse pour ce marcheur endurant et toujours discret. Il me revient beaucoup d’anecdotes dont celle du 200 Km de Nantes. Jean-Pierre s’en souvient.

Denis Dugast: Il était un acteur de cette grande famille de la MARCHE,nous avons tous en mémoire des souvenirs notamment de ces années glorieuses pour la MARCHE de fond.La reprise de Strasbourg Paris en 1970 fut une grande réussite,relançant la marche sur les 24heures et +.Lire et relire "LE CERCLE DES MARCHEURS DISPARUS" par Alain Moulinet"Editions Le marcheur" 229,on y parle de JOHN DOWLING avec photo-1970-

Hans van Wakeren: Condolences

C939 Ray Platt

Ray was a member of Southend on Sea AC and qualified as a Centurion at the London, Battersea Park 100 in 1995. Ray was a proud Centurion and wrote a poem about what that achievement meant to him.

Ray became unwell after contracting a water infection and was taken into Southend Hospital over the weekend. Unfortunately this proved one battle too many for Ray.

Ray was a proud Centurion and wrote a poem about what that achievement meant to him.

The sun shone proudly from cloudless skies
Hats, sweat and sunglasses protect our eyes
We check our watches as the time nears one
For we know we walk and dare not run

One hundred miles or more or less
My legs will venture with some distress
Remember the training, remember the pain
Each strike of the foot again and again

The hours pass and my legs are strong
Lonely thoughts, lonely time are helped by song
My back held straight, tired arms are swinging
To the gentle song my head is singing

Great shock as I peer at my swollen hands
Blood congealed and congested like swollen glands
The torture and pain one suffers for glory
Will open the pages of life's full story

The sun has gone, the moon appears
Long hours have passed since starting cheers
My thoughts travel briefly of forthcoming night
Long shadows, dark trees cast daunting a sight

Dawn, sunrise appears once again
My body sways with onslaught of pain
My lips are dry, I search for water
Without such fluid my body will falter

My legs recover by body strong
The speed increases, I march along
I search for reasons of knowing why
One hundred miles do or die.

C605 Graham Peddie MBE

Graham Peddie, MBE, passed away peacefully on 6th May 2021 aged 82.

As warden for many years of Tanners Hatch Youth Hostel on the National Trust’s Polesden Lacy estate in Surrey, Graham was particularly known for his contribution to the YHA and to the health, wellbeing, education and enjoyment of young people. Graham delighted in introducing young people to the joy of being connected with the natural world. Hostelling weekend events organised by Graham, for example with folk music, are still fondly remembered many years later. Graham retired as the warden of Tanners Hatch in 1998  and set up the Pitstop charity for the homeless and socially isolated. It is for this work that he was awarded the MBE in 2002.
Graham was an early member of the Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA) and of the Surrey LDWA Group. Tanners Hatch Youth Hostel was a key feeding station on the 30 miles and 50 miles Tanners Marathon long-distance walking challenge events, at which Graham provided much appreciated drinks and words of encouragement.
He was a Surrey Walking Club (SWC) member for some years in the 1970s and 1980s. Graham walked for SWC, wearing his club vest and black shorts, in long distance race-walks like the Hastings to Brighton. Many SWC strolling and racing members participated in “The Tanners” events, and, for racing members like Peter Selby, these provided good training for the London to Brighton 52 miles race.
Graham qualified as Centurion C605 (Surrey Walking Club) in 1977, completing 100 miles in 21h 56m 47s at the Bristol R.W.C. 100 miles race.
Graham will be remembered for his humanity and kindness, his outstanding contribution to the Surrey community, and as one of the great characters of long distance walking, race walking and the world of Hostelling.
obituary written by Sandra Brown

C471 Peter Goodchild

Sadly we have just been informed (16 December 2021) that Peter passed away in September 2021.

Peter was a member of Surrey Walking Club and qualified as Centurion 471 at the Ewhurst 100 organised by Surrey Walking Club in 1971 in 20.19.37.

writes  Peter Selby (Surrey Walking Club)
Peter Goodchild   joined SWC during the halcyon days of Race Walking   ( 1950s to 1980s ). He competed  as a Senior in the 1960s and 1970s having missed the junior ranks.  A steady, but very fair walker,  Peter achieved many  successes eventually  becoming a Centurion at Ewhurst.  
As an endurance walker he revelled on the Club Strolls and apart from the regular Sunday Jaunts, he took part in the "Racing  strolls" that were on the road, usually quiet country lanes, where a steady 5 mph was maintained (8kph) and distances started at 15 miles and went up to 30 miles. These sessions were the brainchild of  Dickie Green a great advocate of   "long/slow  distance"  training (LSD ).
Peter found the cross country strolls more relaxing and always had a good turn of conversation in a calm and often humorous manner. I recall having many a chat with him about  then current affairs    Millwall  FC , Vietman, Cod Wars, politicians not behaving themselves. The lunchtime stops enabled Peter to show his  darts skills in many a game which took place between the  unofficial  SWC roving team and the locals at Betchworth, Trottiscliffe,  Cowden and other such  village pubs.
His becoming a Centurion was  an exceptional achievement and well deserved.

C266  Fred Baker

One of our all-time greats of ultra-distance walking has passed-on, aged 88.  Autumn 2021

Legendary Fred Baker of Highgate Harriers completed 19 UK sub-24 hours' 100 miles races, commencing with a 22:30.13 timing in the testing 1956 Sheffield-to-Harrogate-and-back, which saw 38 start & 21 finish (8 of whom became new Centurions).  Fred earned Centurion number 266.

Fred served as the Centurions' Honorary Secretary from 1986-to-1995.  When stepping down he passed this position on to fellow Highgate Harrier Bill Sutherland BEM.
In 1982 Fred was elected as a Centurions' Vice-President.

Fred resided in Carlisle, in a care home during his last days. For decades life was split between the UK and Australia, where he owned property.  Needless to say he was in Carlisle for our spring and summer and, when weather turned for the worse, he was off "down under" for 6 months.  He was one never to be forgotten.  

Very sad indeed. Fred was one of the greats, a great walker and a very kind person. It was Fred who gave the Centurions the Scorers salver to record those who completed 20 C1911 100 miles. We have very happy memories of Fred at C1911 events, as our Hon Secretary for many years, as part of England’s historic Roubaix squads, and from his time in Australia. Never to be forgotten, as you say.    Sandra and Richard Brown
. Didn't really know Fred but always looked up to his status.  Edbanger (Ed Shillabeer)
. Sorry to hear this.  Angus Browne
. Very sorry to hear about Fred Baker.  From Cape Town if I remembered returned there, probably about 1995, coinciding with him relinquishing his Centurions' role.  We discussed South Africa several times after I told him I lived there for a number of years. A wonderful calm and sensible man  Excellent company.  John Hall
. Fred came out each summer for quite a number of years, always basing himself in the warmer climes of Brisbane and normally walking with John Harris, one of our Brisbane based Australian Centurions.  He walked in 4 of our Australian Centurion qualifiers but he was really just a few years too late and never quite made it as an Australian Centurion, to go with his English and Continental badges.  I remember him fondly as a wonderful man.  As you say, not one to ever be forgotten. Tim Erickson
. Fred Baker is very special to me.  Very sad to hear of his passing.  He watched the 1994 100 at Hungarton, the last of the very hilly courses. A very hot day.  34 started, only 12 finished.  Mainly experienced walkers. 3 qualifiers.  I qualified as well.  (A few records).  He wrote me a lovely positive letter.  Which I still treasure. I had never met him before.  He said that he trained in Australia for the 100 by doing 30 miles in one walk a week.  He was getting on then.  His longevity is to be admired.  Richard Cole.

C466 Derek Harrison

Derek Harrison died Friday, 16 August 2021 at the age of 86. He was a true legend of Manx athletics, and in his heyday he was one of the greatest long distance walkers in the world.

Derek qualified as a Centurion in 1971 at Surrey Walking Club's Ewhurst 100 with a time of 19:34:35 and was a member of Boundary Harriers, Isle of Man.

In 1976, Derek competed at the Woodford 24 hour track race with a finishing distance of 211.13km -(131.21 miles)
intermediate distances:  150km -16:15:07  ; 200km  22:38:35. A new 24 hour track record.
Derek went on to better his permance two years later in Rouen (FRA)  where he completed the 24 hours road race in 219,570km (136.43 miles) - to become the new world record holder.

Derek also competed in the many long distance walks on the Isle of Man:
Manx Harriers website End to End 2005: "Parish Walk record holder Derek Harrison, 11 times a winner of the old east coast End to End walk, made an amazing comeback after a serious stroke."

Parish Walk website:
  • Derek Harrison's record time of 15:20:21 set in 1979 stood for 27 years until it was emphatically broken by Sean Hands in the first sub 15 hour time of 14:47:36

Dave Griffiths writes a tribute to Derek - posted on Facebook (23 July 2021)
In addition to these accomplishments, Derek still holds Isle of Man track records for 150k, 100 miles and 200k, these being split times recorded during the Woodford Green race in 1976. He set the 100-mile road record at the National 100-mile Championships on a route from Leicester to Skegness in 1976, a record subsequently beaten by John Cannell. He represented the Isle of Man over a shorter distance of 20 miles in the Commonwealth Games in Christchurch (New Zealand) in 1974.
In 1979 Derek set the Parish Walk record of 15 hours 20 minutes and 21 seconds, a performance that went somewhat under the radar at the time.
Derek was a true gentleman, quiet and modest about his achievements. He was one of the greatest athletes the Isle of Man has known and he will be remembered with great affection and respect by all who knew him.

Peter Ryan C934

Writes British Centurion Dave Ainsworth: The news we've been expecting from Woking Hospice has so sadly come to pass.  Last night Pete watched the football on television (he was a keen football follower) and, after going to sleep, failed to rise this morning - having passed away peacefully during the night.  He last days saw him greatly heartened by the receipt of so many messages, letters and cards. Sorry to be the bearer of such sad news.One never to be forgotten!

Pete made it to number 3 in the National Race Walking Rankings at 50k with a clocking of 4hrs 18mins in 1982 but be was to leave the sport for about 15years before returning in the late 1990s and achieving some remarkable performances as a veteran on the UK and International stage. For instance, he was twice winner of the walking section of the Honolulu Marathon and broke 4hrs to win the walking section at the Berlin marathon. Yet his most memorable achievement has to be winning the 100 miles at Newmarket whilst pushing himself to the absolute limit and finally gaining international recognition with selection for the English team for the Roubaix 28 hr walk in France.

George Beecham MBE  C.716

George Beecham MBE was a Life Member of Belgrave Harriers, a member for 69 years, who sadly passed away at the age of 89 after a long illness from cancer.
George competed at Race Walking at all distances and was a winner of the Hastings to Brighton and was also Centurion 716.

George was well known in Canvey Island for his charity work for which he received his MBE.
As a youngster George suffered from asthma. When he was eighteen he decided to take up race walking to help improve his health. He had continued doing that and similar activities in a very serious way ever since. As a young man he represented his county of Surrey as well as Great Britain in race walking.
In 1957, aged 28, he came third in a Belgian race won by Don Thompson, the only British man to win a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics. The following year he came first in the tough Hastings to Brighton race which is 38.5 miles over the rolling Seven Sisters hills. When he took part in the London to Brighton race in 1951 he came fourth.
George scored 3 times for the winning  Bels National 50kms team- in 1957 (2nd scorer), 1960 (1st scorer - in 5th place) & 1961 (3rd scorer).  He was also in Belgrave's winning team in the 1954 RWA National 20 Miles (4th scorer).
Since then he has walked many marathons and in 1981 he first took part in the 24 hour  track race at Brighton in very wet conditions and passing the 100mile point to become Centurion 716. in 22hrs  45m 12s and continuing to complete 104m 557yds.
In later years he was an athletics coach who helped train Commonwealth gold medal winner Dean Macey
George, who had lived on  Canvey Island for many years, had worked tirelessly to raise money for charity and promote sport among young islanders.
He was one of the founders of the Canvey Athletics Club, and had run in many London Marathons –
George was born in Hackney in 1931 but moved to Surrey during the Blitz.
He married his wife, Marlene, in 1957 and the couple moved back to London before settling on Canvey in 1963, with daughter, Catherine.
George continued to work as a Post Office engineer, but became involved in the  fundraising branch of the Royal National Lifeboat Institute on Canvey and had been chairman.
As well as the marathons George took part in many of the annual Nijmegen, Holland, four-day 200km  marches, with up to 45000 competitors, raising funds for Canvey charities, while his marathons have raised thousands for asthma charities and the RNLI.
Despite ill health for many years George has always fought through it with great courage and determination. Although Canvey Island was his home Belgrave was always in his heart.

George passed away 14 September 2020

The Canvey Island website have dedicated pages to many notable Canvey Islanders -

John Dunsford C734

From Carl Lawton (Belgrave H) : It is with regret that I have been informed, by daughter Wendy, that long time Belgrave Member John Dunsford  died on 16 August after a long illness, aged 87. John had been a member since 1970.
He was one of our regular race walking team members throughout the 70's and 80's over all distances, representing both Belgrave and Middlesex.  He competed London to Brighton, Hastings to Brighton, Plymouth to Dawlish amongst others and in 1982 became Centurion 734 at his first attempt at the Leicester 100 miles (22:12.40) regularly supported by wife Barbara and the camper van.
In later years he travelled the world  in the Vets events.
He leaves wife Barbara and children Jonathan, Wendy and Barbara Junior

Doug Hopkins C347 1939-2020

Doug died, 6th July 2020, at home after suffering from cancer of the brain and other related causes. He was 81.
He became a Centurion at a relatively young age, Gibraltar champion and several  times Kent Champion.  At Medway Athletics Club, formally Rochester and laterally Medway and Maidstone AC he served as a initial coach to the most eclectic bunch of walkers as Cameron Corbishley, Gordon Beatie, Di Pegg (Bullard), Steve Holiday, Chris Hobbs, Tim Hayes, Rod Parkins and many others.
Writes Dave Ainsworth:
Popular Chatham-based Doug Hopkins was Centurion No.347, qualifying when aged 23 in the colours of London Vidarians at the 1963 Brighton-to-London-and-Back clocking 22:24.10.  1963 was the only year where this journey was reversed - starting and finishing in Brighton. Doug was one of 6 London Vidarians to qualify that day.   Doug raced for London Vidarians and then Medway AC, which in 2001 was part of a merger which saw Medway & Maidstone AC appear on our scene.  Doug put much back into our sport after he'd hung up his racing shoes, by qualifying as a Judge and accepting many appointments.  He'd only recently stepped down from judging.  He was a loyal supporter of Kent County AA fixtures for decades.

George Audley (C22): 1935-2020
From Tim Erickson
Sadly, I must report the death of another one of our Australian Centurions, with the passing of George Audley (C22). After living for many years in Perth, George had moved back to Birmingham, England, some years ago to spend his remaining years with his family. George passed away on Sunday 28th June 2020 at the age of 84, at  home in Birmingham.

read more on George in Tim's  obituary

Whilst George has now passed on, his memory will live on, both to hs fellow Australian Centurions and to the wider Australian ultra distance community

Deryck Skinner (C51) 1932-2020
From Tim Erickson

Australian Centurion Deryck Skinner (C51), who walked his 100 mile qualifier in 2005 in 22:39:55 at the Santos Stadium in Adelaide. Deryck died in Adelaide on Tuesday 19th May 2020, aged 87.
At 72 years of age, Deryck was the oldest Australian to earn his Australian Centurion badge. He went on to finish 3 further hundreds in the next 2 years and set a series of M70 and M75 records that will take some beating

He will be sadly missed by us all

C599 Ann Sayer MBE   

Sadly,  Ann passed away on 15 April 2020 from Coronavirus COVID-19.  
Ann has done much for long distance walking over the years through her work for the Brotherhood of Centurions and the UK's Long Distance Walking Association (LDWA).
After completing a 100 mile walks in the annual LDWA Hundred Ann then sought another challenge - race walking a 100 miles in 24 hours.

Ann's first competative 100 mile was in the Netherlands in 1977 and became Continental Centurion CC36 and later that year, became British Centurion C599 with a faster time of 20.37.14.
Intent on walking even further, Ann completed LEJOG - Lands End to John O'Groats in 1980 creating a new walking record. Her time of 13 days, 17 hours and 42 minutes put her in the Guinness Book of Records and she was awarded an MBE for services to sport in 2005. Ann also represented Great Britain in several 24 hour races in France and participated in the legendary Paris Colmar race in 1992.

Read more on Ann's amazing sporting career and the many trinbutes from  friends and colleagues

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