Clive Shippen, 1931-2021
Clive’s hallmark was the meticulous nature in which he approached everything in life. Every detail was thought about beforehand, and the result was that whatever project he undertook – and there were so many – they ran like clockwork. Results needing to be produced on the fly for the Belgrave 12-Stage Relay? How should we celebrate the Centenary of the Club? Need a Referee for a major Club meeting? Clive was your man.
Clive’s parents, Fred and May, had met when they were both on the domestic staff of the Duke of Marlborough’s household. May was at Marlborough House in Pall Mall while Fred was one of the personal staff brought by the Duke when he was visiting London. Neither of them wanted to remain in service when married and Fred was fortunate in being offered a position at Lloyds Bank, Pall Mall. Initially, they lived in Balham, but in those days Henry Ford was establishing his motor-works in Dagenham and vast tracts of the Essex countryside along the A124 into London were being opened up for affordable housing. So it was that the pragmatic Fred and May directed their gaze to the east to establish a family home, and Hornchurch in Essex was Clive’s place of birth on 18 December 1931.
In time Clive attended Park Lane Junior School but with the onset of war, in 1939, he found himself evacuated to Chichester in Sussex on the very day that hostilities were declared. The haste was due to the nearby proximity of RAF Hornchurch – an obvious enemy bombing target. But early days of the war, in England, were relatively peaceful, and Clive rejoined his family, now in Clapham, just in time to experience the ‘blitz’. A second evacuation took him to Irthlingborough in Northamptonshire but once again he returned to London to witness the onslaught of V1 flying bombs and V2 rockets.
Inevitably schooling was fragmented but by 1945 Clive was studying at the technical branch of Wandsworth Grammar School. Already a ‘scouter’ Clive additionally became a member of the school’s ATC Squadron. An early introduction to athletics as a young boy had seen him tackle the high jump but in his last year at school, he won the mile title and represented both school and squadron in the London Championships.
Clive Shippen, 1976 and aged 45.
It was as a Rover Scout in 1952 that Clive first visited Belgrave Hall. His troop was training for their annual cross-country race and in those days the Club’s facilities were often made available to schools and other groups looking to sample the joys of running. Bill Merryman led the scouts out across the Common and Clive made a strong enough impression to be encouraged to join the Bels., which he did in March. A year passed before he ventured to take part in a Club race – the ‘5¾’ road race used to select the team for the London to Brighton Relay. He placed a promising 20th of 36 runners.
Due to his ongoing training as an engineer, Clive’s term of National Service had been deferred but in December 1953 he joined the Officer Cadet Squadron of the Royal Engineers. After Passing Off he considered joining a unit in Malaya or Africa but finally settled upon a Chatham-based Training Regiment of the Royal Engineers. Here he took on the organisation of his unit’s cross-country team, taking them to victory in the Home Counties District Cross-Country Championships. Under Clive’s wing, the unit also reached the Army Athletics finals. Demobbed at the end of 1955 he was promoted from 2nd to 1st Lieutenant and placed on the reserve list.
1956 saw Clive settling back into civilian life. It was also the year of the Melbourne Olympics. Chris Brasher, Olympic Gold medallist in the steeplechase, and Charles Elliott of Polytechnic Harriers came up with the idea of forming a specialist steeplechasers’ group – the ’Barrier Club’ – and Clive attended the inaugural coaching day at Motspur Park. From now on he was a steeplechaser.
The year was also notable in that Clive married Elizabeth. They had met as teenagers in 1948 at a Wandsworth Town Hall dance and had waited until National Service was over before tying the knot. Sons Martin and Mark both became well known in Belgrave circles, with the latter becoming an outstanding young pole-vaulter.
Above left: Dave Baulch hands over to Clive Shippen in the 1958 'Southern' London to Brighton 12-Stage Road Relay. Clive is setting off on the fourth (Purley) stage. The team placed 6th. Right: The leading pack in the 1962 Club Championship over 6 miles for the 'Tom Carter Trophy'. Pat Newall leads, followed by Charlie Walker (5), Clive Shippen (7), Ron Linstead (14), Mike Shingles ? and Barry Sawyer (6). Linstead, back from his exploits in the Comrades Marathon ran out the winner from Newall and Sawyer. Clive was 5th in a field of 22.
Getting back into training, Clive placed 7th in the Club’s 7 Miles Cross-Country Championship in December 1956 and thereafter was selected for most of the Club’s teams for the next decade. In 1957 he had his first outings in the ‘Southern’ and ‘National’ cross-country events, and by 1958 he’d gained selection for Belgrave’s London to Brighton Relay team where he ran stage 4. His best-ever Brighton run came in the 1960 ‘Southern’ event, where he was entrusted with the tough Dale Hill stage, the 11th; he gained a place in setting the second-fastest time of the day to hand over in 4th, a position held by the team on the final leg. It was a good year, for in the summer he ran to a steeplechase Club Record of 9:28 in the Sward Trophy Meeting.
In 1962, at Epsom Downs, Clive got up to 11th in the Surrey Cross Country Championships and thus earned a Surrey vest and a spot in the County’s team for the Inter-Counties event. Regular competition for the Club on the track, the road, and cross-country continued, but as the 60s closed, he gradually shifted his emphasis towards road-running. In 1969, at the age of 38, he stepped up to the marathon, completing the Polytechnic Marathon from Windsor to Chiswick in 2:53, and then going to 2:41:20 in the same event the following year.
Veteran Athletics took off in a big way in the 1970s, just as Clive was approaching 40 years of age. He placed 3rd in the steeplechase at the Veterans International Championships at Crystal Palace in 1972, setting a British Veterans’ Record of 10:04.8. Two weeks later, in Cologne, he improved again to 10:01.6. In 1974 he was a member of Belgrave’s winning National Veterans Cross-Country team, alongside Laurie O’Hara and Pat Newall. In 1981 Clive ran in the inaugural London Marathon.
Above left: Clive's first marathon, the 1969 Polytechnic Marathon from Windsor to Chiswick. Centre: The Wimbledon '10' of 1971. Right: Winner of the Carshalton Trophy Veterans 'Sutton Mile' in 1972.
But competition was only a small part of Clive’s activities in the sport. In 1957 he became a Belgrave Committee Member and by 1959 he was joint editor of ‘The Belgravian’, the Club’s gazette. This journal he continued to drive along until 1967, working alongside three joint Editors, and then he took it forward alone until 1979. It was published like clockwork and maintained contact with many old members long after their competitive days were over. From 1969 he became joint Editor of SCAN – the Surrey County Athletic News magazine. In 1972 he became Editor of the World Association of Veteran Athletes magazine – which he named ‘Veteris’. Other literary projects included being an occasional correspondent for ‘Athletics Weekly’, researching and writing about the Club’s early history – and even contributing articles to non-athletic publications.
Clive served on the committee of Surrey County AAA, becoming the County’s Press Officer, and was made President of that organisation in 1981. The South of Thames Cross Country Association benefitted from Clive’s talent and he was made President in 1977. He served on the committee of the South of England AAA and was eventually made a Vice-President of that body. When the London to Brighton Relay was discontinued due to increasing volumes of traffic, Clive was heavily involved in organising the Belgrave 12-Stage relay, which took the place of the ‘Southern’ event for many years, heading up the results team.
As a Field Events Judge, Clive progressed to the point where he was called upon to be Field Referee at the Surrey County Track & Field Championships. He judged at events right up to international level and continued to officiate at all levels into the 1990s. He was even Chief Arena Marshall at Crystal Palace.
When the Club’s Centenary approached in 1987 there was no shuffling around trying to work out how the Club’s 100th year would be celebrated. Clive was already on the job. A host of commemorative events were organised by him, each with its own distinctive programme.
In 1966 Clive was made a Vice-President of Belgrave Harriers, in 1969 he was elected Life-Member, and in 1972 he was made President. Regard for his standing in athletics was high all around Surrey County and he was a long-time member of both Surrey Beagles and South London Harriers as well as the Bels.
When Clive and Elizabeth emigrated to Australia in 1995 to join their sons Martin and Mark, it was difficult then to visualise Belgrave Harriers without him, a man who had embraced every aspect of life in our Club and athletics. Not one to do things half-heartedly, Clive became an Australian citizen, but despite being on the other side of the world, Belgrave Harriers was often in his thoughts. As the new millennium dawned and Belgrave were once again in contention for national titles, Clive would regularly check into the Club’s website on a Monday to read the reports of activities at the weekend – how had we got on at Milton Keynes, Sutton Park, or the various venues of the Surrey Cross-Country League? Members fortunate enough to be able to visit Sydney always called in to see him and within a few minutes, he was eagerly seeking out the latest news from Wimbledon and reminiscing about the old days.
Clive passed away aged 89, in Sydney, on Saturday, 19 June 2021. He was pre-deceased by Elizabeth in 2010.
Above left: From competitor to official. Clive acts as a Recorder in the 1986 London Marathon. Right: Sydney, 2016, and Clive (left) receives a visit from old team-mate John Thresher, for many years a resident of Canada.
Shippen, C., The writings of.