FOREWORDLETTER PUBLISHED IN
(THURSDAY MARCH 5, 1992):
PIRIE: FORGOTTEN MAN OF ATHLETICS
Sir, Under the heading “Athletics honours Pirie” (February 26) you report the tributespaid to the late Gordon Pirie at the memorial service in St Bride's Church, Fleet Street.As well as his contemporaries, the athletics establishment, both past and present, and thepress were well represented.It is regrettable that this acclaim and recognition comes now, after he has gone, and wasnot expressed when he was alive. The country he served so well on the world's runningtracks thought him unworthy of an honour, while the establishment found no place forhis profound knowledge of the sport and his boundless enthusiasm. It must baffle hismany admirers world-wide that Britain offered him no official coaching post.The argument was put forward in your sports letters (December 26) that the regularaward of honours for sporting achievements did not begin until the Sixties, after Pirie'stime. This is not correct.In the Queen's Birthday Honours list of June 1955, Sir Roger Bannister, a contemporaryof Pirie, was appointed CBE for his services to amateur athletics, clearly for achievingthe first sub-four-minute mile the preceding year. In the same list, George Headley, theWest Indian cricketer, was created MBE.Picking at random, one finds in the New Year's Honours of 1958 a CBE for DennisCompton (services to sport), a similar honour for Dai Rees (golf) and the MBE for theboxer Hogan “Kid” Bassey (for his services to sport in Eastern Nigeria).Rather ironically, in the same year, Jack Crump, the secretary of the British AmateurAthletics Board, with whom Pirie was often at loggerheads, was appointed OBE for hisservices to athletics.Pirie's services to sport far exceeded those of his British contemporaries; athletes orofficials. He was a giant of his time and it was his name that drew crowds to the WhiteCity and inspired the later Bedfords and Fosters. One suspects that he ultimately paid theprice for speaking out and for being of independent mind without the necessary Oxbridgepedigree. The answers lay among that assembly gathered in St Bride's, and ought to berevealed.Mrs Jennifer Gilbody
BBC Sports Personality of the Year 1955
1955 GORDON PIRIE
Pirie, the middle distance running champion,reportedly covered 200 miles a week during training. He clinched the award after setting five worldrecords and beating a string of first class athletes, a feat that won him huge popularity.
© 1996-2007 Dr John S Gilbody