Gordon Pirie’s Laws of Running
- Running with correct technique (even in prepared bare feet), on any surface, is injury
(Thursday March 5, 1992):
Pirie: Forgotten Man of Athletics
Sir, Under the heading “Athletics honours Pirie” (February 26) you report the tributes paid 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 the press were well represented.
It is regrettable that this acclaim and recognition comes now, after he has gone, and was not expressed when he was alive. The country he served so well on the world’s running tracks thought him unworthy of an honour, while the establishment found no place for his profound knowledge of the sport and his boundless enthusiasm. It must baffle his many admirers worldwide that Britain offered him no official coaching post.
The argument was put forward in your sports letters (December 26) that the regular award of honours for sporting achievements did not begin until the Sixties, after Pirie’s time. This is not correct.
In the Queen’s Birthday Honours list of June 1955, Sir Roger Bannister, a contemporary of Pirie, was appointed CBE for his services to amateur athletics, clearly for achieving the first sub-four-minute mile the preceding year. In the same list, George Headley, the West Indian cricketer, was created MBE.
Picking at random, one finds in the New Year’s Honours of 1958 a CBE for Dennis Compton (services to sport), a similar honour for Dai Rees (golf) and the MBE for the boxer Hogan “Kid” Bassey (for his services to sport in Eastern Nigeria).
Rather ironically, in the same year, Jack Crump, the secretary of the British Amateur Athletics Board, with whom Pirie was often at loggerheads, was appointed OBE for his services to athletics.
Pirie’s services to sport far exceeded those of his British contemporaries; athletes or officials.
He was a giant of his time and it was his name that drew crowds to the White City and inspired the later Bedfords and Fosters. One suspects that he ultimately paid the price for speaking out and for being of independent mind without the necessary Oxbridge pedigree. The answers lay among that assembly gathered in St Bride’s, and ought to be revealed.
Mrs Jennifer Gilbody
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