J. "Pat" Parker, 1911-c1966

Pat was now selected to represent Northern Ireland in the International race held in Belgium a week later at Hippodrome de Stockel, Brussels, but he was unable to churn out another top performance after such a short interval.  England won the team race and Northern Ireland placed 6th – but Pat Parker failed to finish.

A sensational run came from the Irishman in the London to Brighton relay where, running the second leg, he passed the eight runners who had started before him, took Belgrave into the lead and smashed the stage record; but his team were unable to sustain this lead and eventually placed 2nd.  In the summer, on the track, Pat got up to 3rd place in the AAA 3 miles at White City, setting a Belgrave record of 14:28 and his reward was a British international vest for the 5000m in the annual match vs France. In Colombes, Paris, however, he could only place an untimed 4th of the four runners.

The following year Pat was 16th in the “Southern” and again prominent in the National Cross Country Championship, eventually placing 7th and first Belgravian. Once more he donned a Northern Irish vest for the International race, this time held at the Royal Ulster Show Grounds, Belfast. Again England triumphed with Northern Ireland 6th, but again he was out of his team’s scorers, placing 51st. Another record time came in the London to Brighton Relay, this time on the final stage into Brighton.

By 1939 athletic minds were beginning to focus on the Olympic Games, due to be held in Helsingfors, Finland in 1940. Belgravians were desperate for Pat to get down to some serious training, feeling that he and possibly others in the Club had a chance of making the team. Of course, the clouds of war were gathering and this Olympiad was never celebrated. As late as 1944 and ’45 it was still hoped that the Irishman would be able to resume some sort of running, but Pat’s athletic career was never resumed.

Pat Parker leads Charlie Smart along West Side, Wimbledon Common during a 5 mile road race in 1940.

Born: 7 December 1911, Ireland.

Joined: 5 March 1935.

Died: circa 1966.

Best performances:

3 miles – 14:32 (1937).

International vests:

Northern Ireland 2 (1937, 1938)

Great Britain & Northern Ireland 1 (1937).

Major championship record:

AAA Champs. 3 miles – 3rd (1937)

English National CC Champs. – 4th (1937), 7th (1938).

J. Parker, commonly known as Jack or Pat was elected to membership of Belgrave Harriers at the age of 27 and almost immediately made his mark by placing 2nd in the Club’s 3 miles track championship, following up by winning the 1 mile title. In a 5 miles road race vs. Ashcombe AC and Ealing he matched the experienced Belgrave international Arthur Penny, crossing the line in equal first place.

Pat began the following year confidently by winning the Sussex Cross Country Championship at Hassocks and was a member of Belgrave’s winning London to Brighton road relay team where he ran on the first stage (from Mitcham in those days) taking Belgrave into a fourteen second lead.  By now he was making a name for himself and was on the initial A.A.A. list of those under consideration for selection for the Berlin Olympic Games at 5,000 and 10,000 metres, but no other results featuring his name have been found for this year and it is possible that he was injured or not up to his normal standard of fitness.

 

1937 was Pat’s finest year. He ran to 3rd place in the Club’s 10 miles cross country championship and was 3rd overall and first man home for Belgrave Harriers in an international cross country race held in Paris.  After a blazing start Belgrave didn’t have a man in the top fifty after half a mile. Then Pat, closely followed by Tom Carter, gained dozens of places and as the first lap was completed they were 6th and 7th. He was up to 5th on the second lap and finally ended the race in 3rd a short way behind two Frenchmen.

The Southern Counties Cross Country Championship was held at Horton Kirby, Kent, where Pat and Jim Ginty were 100 yards clear of a field which was loaded with claret and gold vests near the front – but no official result was declared because, due to high winds, the “trail” was blown away and many runners went off course. A rerun a little later in the season saw only 32 individuals and four teams turn out, Belgrave not among them.

In March the National Cross Country Championship was at Stratford upon Avon and Pat was 4th across the finish line. Just ahead of him was fellow Belgravian Jim Ginty but as the first two in the race did not represent clubs who had full teams, the Belgrave pair actually scored 1st and 2nd – our best start to a National team score to this day.  In spite of this, with Arthur Penny and Alf Taylor out injured and Tom Carter running with a heavy cold, Birchfield Harriers carried the day with 90 points to Belgrave's 94.

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Left: The English National Cross Country Championships of 1937 were held on 13th March at Stratford on Avon. Pat Parker lies in 3rd place and ended up 4th. It is unclear as to whether the runner on his left is Jim Ginty, also Belgrave, who ended up 3rd.

 
 
 
 
 

Above: Pat is lying 6th in the 1938 "National" at Reading. Leading the group is the eventual winner, Jack Holden of Tipton.

References:

Richardson, Lawrence N., Jubilee History of the International Cross-Country Union 1903-1953.
Buchanan, Ian, Who’s Who of UK & GB International Athletes 1836-1939, (National Union of Track Statisticians).
Buchanan, I., Thurlow, D. & Moreby, K.,
1930-1939 U.K. Men’s Ranking Lists (National Union of Track Statisticians, 2008).
The Belgravian (the official gazette of Belgrave Harriers).

Footnotes:

1 Who’s Who of UK & GB International Athletes, reports Parker’s date of birth as 4th July 1908. We have used club information.

2 The same source reports Parker’s best time as an estimated 14:32.5; 1930-1939 U.K. Men’s Ranking Lists records the time as 14:32.0; The Belgravian gives it as 14:28.

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