Graham "Brian" Gorman, 1931-2020
Above: Brian Gorman runs in the South of the Thames Cross Country Championship, held in Stanmer Park, Brighton, on 17th January 1976.
Below: Approaching the finish at Stanmer Park. He was just outside our scoring six that day; they placed 7th.
Right: Brian and Pete Gardner are less than half a mile from the end of the March 1977 5¾ miles Belgrave Road Championship. Brian somehow put 44 seconds between them by the finish at the end of Lauriston Road.
Far right: An earlier 5¾ miles Championship, March 1975. Climbing Cottenham Park Road towards Christ Church, a hill affectionately known as the "Kiss of Death", and Brian battles towards 11th place.
General Register Office. England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes.
ARM conversations with Brian Gorman.
The writings of Arthur Bruce.
Brian Gorman was something of an enigma; but without a doubt, in a club that has had more than its fair share of ‘characters’, he stood out as a real ‘card’. Not an outstanding athlete – although maybe he could have been; not a club administrator – although he was always there to do his bit as he saw fit; he was a one-off.
Reportedly born in 1931 (somewhat later according to the General Register Office) Graham (for that was his real name) Gorman, known to us all as ‘Brian’, joined the club in 1967. He had talent – amazing talent for someone who was a novice and approaching 40 (but looked much younger). His beginnings in athletics were modest, leading home the back 25% of our Surrey League team in October 1967, in the days when we could turn out around fifty runners on a Saturday. By March 1968 he was 14th from a field of 45 in our Championship road race, the ‘5¾-miler’, used as a trial to select the 12 men for the National Road Relay. Not only was he only just outside the dozen, but he completely blew the handicapper out of the water to win first prize by 45 seconds. A year later he had slipped back a bit, probably working on his handicap. As he settled into the pattern of his running life, he didn’t often travel to compete, preferring to run from the club-house, but did venture onto Battersea track occasionally for a 5 or 10k Club Championship. 1975 and the following winter was probably his best spell when he was up to 6th from 48 in the Autumnal ‘5¾’, scored in our Surrey League team and closed in our scoring four in the South of Thames ‘Junior’ Race. He even ventured to Brighton in January 1976 where he was just out of the scoring six in the ‘Senior’ race.
Brian is believed to have worked at the huge Express Dairies milk depot that used to exist at Morden, but he was much more well known as a disc-jockey and for managing a rock & roll group known as ‘The Jaguars’, who often performed at our club-house dances.
He might not have raced much in the accepted manner, but on club nights, or Saturday and Sunday training runs from the Hall, he was a demon, and frequently left everyone for ‘dead’. At 6:15pm on a Tuesday, as Belgrave Hall was left behind, it was, “All got your numbers? Timekeepers ready?” Then, as the pack swung into Lauriston Road, “Ooh! I feel terrible tonight,” he would utter to anyone who came near him, but by Windmill Road the hammer was down and nobody could hold him as he used every trick in the book to keep his place at the front. On one occasion Club Captain and multi-international Gerry North was heard to gasp, “What’s going on, I’m eye-balls out here!” Arthur “Boofer” Bruce would deliberately tease Brian, moving up to his shoulder, just to see him spurt away again. As “Boofer” said, “It’s like touching a worm with a lighted cigarette.”
On one occasion, a Sunday morning, our pack were joined by a lone, lean, young runner with long hair and wearing a faded blue track-suit. He joined the group as they climbed Spankers Hill. A few witticisms were exchanged but it was soon obvious that he was in no way discomforted by the pace. On reaching Richmond Gate the pack turned for home and as the newcomer effortlessly moved ahead it was obvious that this was no ordinary runner. But Brian wasn’t one for letting an “unknown” move away from him just like that. He also drew clear of the pack, closed the young man down, and while the Belgrave squad were left floundering in their wake, the pair disappeared off into the trees heading for home, neither giving the other any quarter. Eventually, a truce was called, and turning to the interloper, Brian complimented him: “You’re not bad. You should think about joining a club. My name’s Brian by the way – what’s yours?” “Steve,” came the reply from the smiling young man, “Thanks for the run.” It was future world-record holder and Olympic Champion Steve Ovett, but Brian didn’t know.
For very many years indeed, back at the club-house, Brian slipped into his other role – providing the teas and cheese rolls in the club room with a never-ending patter for which he must have employed a script-writer. He always roped in somebody to help him pour the teas – and act as his straight-man:
To someone asking for a ‘cuppa’: “Hello mate, haven’t seen you in ages,” followed with the all-to-audible aside to his accomplice, “Somebody told me he was dead!” Or, “Give him the roll with the mouldy cheese in – he won’t be with us long.”
Great days, when the club-house was buzzing. Working behind the bar, getting involved with our fund-raising jumble sales – this was Brian’s domain. For his huge contribution to club life Brian was made a Life-Member of Belgrave Harriers in 1985.
Few had seen Brian during his last decade or so and, sadly, the news was received that he had passed away a little while back, but with no remaining relatives there was nobody to inform the club of his demise.