First President of BAC. A Runners’ Guru.
A Personal Reminiscence by Lawrie Brown
I first met Tony Bobby in 1989 on the Leaver Causeway – running in opposite directions. I was usually moving towards Storeton; he was always racing towards Rock Ferry and home. Two things were noticeable about Tony. His shining bald head and his wonderful strong legs. He was always in express mode… upright running with high knees and pummelling arms.
I grew to know Tony. I joined him in the choir at St. Anne’s, Rock Ferry. Recognising me as a Causeway runner he invited me to join him on Saturday mornings for a run. Being very wary of his obvious running qualities I at first declined but Tony was very persuasive but I soon relented and so began years of Saturday morning Causeway running. We would meet at 8.00 o’clock. Tony would take the lead and I would run directly behind. Talking was not allowed! We usually ran a seven mile route (Brimstage, Clatterbridge, Brackenwood, Redhill, Causeway). When Tony decided that running on Saturdays was not enough he demanded a Sunday meet. Again, more hesitations, I told my wife I would be at risk with consecutive Tony sessions (the Sunday session was to be 8-10 miles ) but Tony would not be denied and the risk was taken. Running improvement rather than repair was the result!
Tony came to Birkenhead in the 1950s to work in Cammel Lairds. He was a joiner/cabinet maker by trade and he moved with his wife from Northern Island to make a new life in Wirral. He and Maureen were champion cyclists, their sporting success founded on grit and determination…. in abundance! Determination and grit were the traits that marked Tony. He was unrelenting in his sports and personal life. Tony never did things by half.
The Saturday morning duo were eventually joined by other runners. But all had to comply with Tony’s Golden Rule of No Talking. Some, of course, found this difficult but in truth Tony’s discipline ensured good progress for all his early runners. BAC was not formally launched until 1995 but from 1989 until that time the Bobby Runners (Tony, Lawrie, Pauline, Michael, Jerry, and Margaret) would meet each Saturday and Sunday, choose a direction and enjoy excellent runs. Under Tony’s guidance the group competed in many races including the London, Nottingham, and Snowdon Marathons.
But Tony was not perfect! Sometimes he could err! He often told the story of his first New York Marathon. On the night before the race he ate the biggest steak his eyes had ever seen. The consequence was unmitigated indigestible agony for 26 miles. On another occasion he was preparing me for the Chester Half. It was supposed to be a twelve mile jog… but turned out to be 17 miles of torture in the sun, leaving me dehydrated, with a face covered in salt and a wife ready to murder Tony for bringing her husband to near death!
Tony ended his racing career in 1992 when he completed the Liverpool Half Marathon in good style, finishing around 1.40. He was over 60 years of age. When BAC was formed in April 1995 it was obvious that only one person could fill the role of President. This was a position he took very seriously – and generously. He inaugurated the President’s Race and provided cups, medals, and mementos. He continued to attend socials, meetings, and BAC adventures abroad. When he felt he could no longer run on Saturday mornings he exercised by walking but was always very careful to meet his runners en route to Brimstage and share an encouraging greeting.
Tony died on 23 April 2013 peacefully at home. His friends mourned their loss and BAC attended his funeral in large numbers. He was such a strong and influential character that I found it difficult to accept that he was gone. At choir I expected him to arrive and complain that I was singing too loudly. But he never did. Years later I still miss him.
Our Hall of Fame is a celebration of the contribution to our club by wonderful the commitment, time and dedication of some wonderful people.