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A tribute to Sir Roger Bannister

Following the sad news that we have lost a true legend, it is timely we share this report from Alan Chidley.

As most people are aware Sir Roger Bannister was, for a very short time, a member of Finchley Harriers, one of the two clubs that amalgamated to become Hillingdon A.C.

He was 17 at the time and getting ready to go to Oxford where he would join Achilles A.C., the club at Oxford University.

However the minimum age for membership of Achilles was 18, so he needed a club to bridge those few months.

In the book titled “The First Four Minutes’ by Sir Roger, there is a photograph of Roger running in what looks like the Middlesex Youth X/C in 1947/48. He is running in a Finchley Harrier vest.

A few years ago I organised a reunion for the old club and during this I, as Historian, was asked about the details of Sir Roger’s membership of Hillingdon AC.

I was unable to answer all the questions so I decided to write to him via the College he was with in Oxford. I enclosed a SAE and waited for a reply.

One very warm day I was sitting in my living room, half asleep, when the phone rang. Unable to raise the energy to get up I let the answer phone deal with the call. On the recording was my mobile phone number and a minute or two later my mobile phone rang.

I thought I had better answer this so did so and said a very sleepy hello. The voice at the othe end said, “Hello this is Sir Roger Bannister speaking”. Suddenly I was wide awake and said “Good heavens”,to which he replied cheerily, “Why do you say that? I am a human being after all”. I said “of course, but I have never received a call from a Knight of the Realm before.”

There then followed a 22 minute conversation where he tried to answer my questions and although some of the memories were a bit hazy he did very well.

He asked me about the present club and hoped there was no bad feeling about his membership being so short. I assured him there was no bad feeling at all.

He said it had been a choice between us and Polytechnique Harriers and as he lived in the Pinner area had decided to join the nearer of the two.

As I was on my mobile I was able to move around my house and get out some magazines from the relevant time. He was interested and surprised when I read out some articles where his name appeared.

Finally he wished me all the best and said “Keep up the good work with your club, officials and Committee members are very vital and important.”

So ended my only conversation with a Knight of the Realm, somehow I can’t see it ever happening again.

Rest in Peace Sir Roger Bannister.