Sadly we have to inform you that Eric Hall of Belgrave Harriers and a double Olympian passed away on March 20th, 89 years of age. Eric has a special place in the history of our club and is fondly remembered by those of us, who were privileged to know and race against him. In particular, he was an inspiration to Ron Wallwork, who takes up the story.
ERIC HALL REST IN PEACE
Eric’s first race in Lancashire was probably the 1957 50km at Leyland. He was already an Olympian having qualified by finishing second in the race the previous year at Enfield.
Four years later following another Olympic appearance in Rome, this time at 20km the Belgravian, who was a Customs & Excise Officer was posted to Manchester’s Ringway airport and it was a chance meeting in Deansgate with Joe Lambert that triggered off Eric’s period with Lancashire Walking Club. Joe, a senior civil servant had met Eric at the Civil Servant championships and extended a welcome to guest in the club’s events. Well, he accepted the invitation and joined second-claim, turning out whenever he could.
I can’t recall just how long Eric was stationed at Ringway before being posted to Leicester, perhaps five years, but his time in the north was of terrific benefit for me. I was making my way up the rankings, and he was an endless well of advice and support and was instrumental in my international breakthrough in 1963.
Joan and I were frequent guests at Eric and Mavis’s Cheadle Hulme home so that us men-folk could get in some serious “strolling”. I have vivid memories of Eric’s favourite route, a four-hour slog which took in the “Cat & Fiddle” the second-highest pub in England. Of many things he told me, was that after a season of 50km training and racing, my times at all the shorter distances would improve and so they did.
During his sojourn with LWC he raced at all the Club’s venues; West Didsbury, Frank O’Neill’s at Swinton, Urmston Baths, the Plough Hotel at Crossens, Southport and Earlstown, fitting in easily, with no hint of the great walker that he was, and always ready to spend time with walkers seeking advice.
Eric’s race walking career wasn’t a long one but left an indelible mark on the race walking scene. Along with his great friend Stan Vickers he helped his club Belgrave Harriers maintain a decade of dominance in the three national road championships: 10, 20 miles and 50km. In addition to his two Olympic appearances, he won the 1957 national 20 miles championship and logged another dozen top three national finishes.
We lost touch for 20 years but reunited in the late 80s and thereafter met on a regular basis. Eric remained a source of encouragement, always ready to pitch in with schemes I dreamt up and typically, although in his late 70’s played a crucial role in the 2009 Barclay Re-enactment.
Deepest Condolences to Mavis, Alister, Sharon and his Grandchildren
An eloquent and fascinating obituary penned by Alan R. Mead is to be found at ERIC W. HALL 1932-2022 and an abridged version is available at Double Olympian Eric Hall, oldest and longest serving Belgravian. A must read.
A lovely early anecdote goes as follows:
“Why don’t you meet us outside Kingston Odeon on Saturday,” offered Eric’s friends. “We’re going up to our club at Wimbledon.” A naïve Eric thought he was going to join a rambling club. An added impetus was that it was the summer of the 1948 London Olympics. Eric and his schoolfriends were avid autograph hunters and in nearby Richmond Park, not far from Ladderstile Gate, there were rows of barracks that were one of the sites of the ‘Olympic villages.’ So not only were exotic athletes to be spied in the park, but this club at Wimbledon had members who were Olympic competitors. Eric completed his application form and became a Belgrave Harrier on 1st November 1948.
And, as for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics:
The Melbourne city experience was wonderful for Eric. He loved Australia and revisited many times throughout the rest of his life. But the race was not a happy one. After rainy and cool conditions which had the British rubbing their hands with glee, race day proved to be hot and very humid. Eric lost over 3 kg in weight during the event (he was only just over 61 kg to start with) and went through a very bad patch when it was all that he could do to focus on the blue line marking the route and aim for each next drinking station. Several competitors ahead of him collapsed and Britain’s no. 1, Don Thompson, was so far gone that he walked into the back of a parked car and, dazed, then set off again in the wrong direction. Of twenty-one competitors, six failed to finish and two were disqualified. Thompson was hospitalised for three days. Eric was 9th and remembered nothing about the finish – except for Stan Vicker’s comment, “I had to persuade them to keep the stadium gates open for you!”
Meanwhile the ever vigilant and knowledgeable Peter Matthew, Editor Athletics International and International Athletics Annual has supplied these details:
Eric William HALL (GBR) (b. 15 Sep 1932 Oxshott, Surrey) died on March 20 aged 89. A distinguished member of the walking community and a past President and life member of Belgrave Harriers, he had three internationals for Britain, including 9th at 50k in 1956 and 10th at 20k in 1960 at the Olympic Games, RWA champion at 20 miles 1957, with 2nd places at RWA 10M 1957-8 and 1961, 50k 1956, and in the AAA 7 miles track walk 1957-8. Walks PBS: 2M 13:51.4 ’60, 5M 36:09.0 ’60, 10000m 45:34.2 ’60, 7M 51:52.0 ’60, 1Hr 12,740m ’57, 10M 1:16:09 ’57, 20k 1:33:37 ’59, 50k 4:31:41 ’56.
A last word remembered in Alan Read’s obituary.
Very many years ago Jack Crump, the Secretary of the British Amateur Athletic Board, found cause to say of Eric that he was “Gentlemanly, modest, temperamentally and technically a perfect walker.” Well over 60 years later we can not only confirm those qualities but add that Eric was generous in the extreme and a great friend to many, in all walks of our Club and sport.