RIP Alan Richards - A Personal Appreciation (24/02/2016)

As you may be aware Alan Richards, a stalwart member of the Club, has recently died and here Tony Phillips fondly recalls the man.

Alan Richards was a local Tipton lad who lived within 2 miles of the club he joined in the early 1960's, and by hard, regular training with a group of talented Tipton runners, all of local origins, he became a member of the first team at senior level. In 1969 he had an outstanding run in the National Cross Country Championships at Parliament Hill, London, to become a member of the first Tipton winning team in 19th place, and third member following Jim Wright and Alan Rushmer. His achievements are recorded elsewhere but he was a member of Tipton's National winning teams in both cross country and road relays.

Apart from his running achievements, Alan enjoyed the social life of the club, that was very much alive at that time, and helped to build the team spirit and camaraderie that led to many of the club's successes.

Alan liked a drink with his fellow club members, so from time to time a group was rounded up to have a night out at a local pub, in strange places like Lower Gornal. The group would consist of Alan , from Bradley, Ray Thorpe, Tipton, Jim Wright, Wednesbury, Bert Harbach, Netherton in Dudley, and myself. As I was the only car owner I acted as the taxi, picking them up and dropping them off at their homes later. After an enjoyable evening with recollections of running experiences and endless jokes from Bert, I had the job of getting them back safely, so my drinks were limited,. When I dropped Alan off at his home his mother was never surprised at his condition.

Apart from the local social meetings there were holidays together by groups to North Devon, Lake District and other places, to enjoy the company of club members.

But the most memorable holiday was a tour de France, that involved a long drive round France with the above group of Tiptonians. It was a camping holiday taking the route down the west coast to Bordeaux, then eastwards across the foothills of the Pyrenees, staying at campsites, on some of which we pitched our tent on the way to Cannes in southern France, with lots of sun, sea to swim in and beaches to sunbathe, cafes and restaurants to eat and drink.

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From Left To Right - Tony Phillips, Bert Harbach, Alan Richards, Ray Thorpe & Jim Wright

But we had to cook our full English breakfast at sites on the way, sometimes on grass roadside verges. It was on one of these that a never to be forgotten occasions happened. The breakfast was prepared on camp stove then we sat down to enjoy the plate of fried food with plate on thighs, then Alan's plate slipped to the ground together with the food. It caused great hilarity, but Alan's response cannot be repeated. Then it was a drive north to Paris, where we found a campsite just outside the city. To finish the tour in style we booked a show at le Lido theatre on the Champs Elysee.

It was a theatre that offered a cabaret and burlesque show, the trouble was that formal dress was required, so we gathered up the best we could salvage from the tent, and drove to the Champs elysee where we found an an underground car park; we changed from camping attire to more or less presentable dress, and were allowed in the theatre. The burlesque show. Needless to say the acts raised lots of laughs. Back to the camp that night, and a drive to Le Touquet airport to fly back to England. At 20 years of age Alan had travelled a long way from Tipton in more ways than one.

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From Left To Right - Bert Harbach, Ray Thorpe, Kim Wright & Alan Richards.

A holiday to remember and stories retold many times, received with a wry sense of humour by Alan, and Bert's endless jokes received in the same way that Alan didn't always appreciate. Sadly, only Jim and myself are left to recall those happy days at Tipton. They were happy days at the club, with good friendships, hard training, and a very successful club in all respects. A time of memories.

Tony Phillips