ARTHUR PENNY 1907–2003
Left: Arthur Penny wins the British Empire Games 6 miles at White City, London, 1934.
So Arthur "Nutty" Penny, a seemingly permanent fixture in the life of Belgrave Harriers, has left us just as we were thinking him to be immortal. He played a tactical race right to the end, fooling us with a good recovery in Kingston Hospital, only to succumb on Saturday 29th November 2003 just four days before his 96th birthday.
Arthur was actively involved in Club affairs for 75 years. Yes, 75 years. During that time he attended hundreds of committee meetings, officiated as our Starter, coached, played Santa Claus at our Children's Christmas parties of the sixties, and of course ran his way to international honours, including a Gold Medal at the 1934 Commonwealth Games (British Empire Games in those days).
It was in 1928 that he joined Belgrave and within one year he had gained an individual bronze and a team gold in the Surrey Cross-Country Championships. Our captain of that time was the legendary Bert Footer who, with Ken O'Kell and Micky Pyer, was spearheading an amazing advance towards a golden era. Footer was a strict disciplinarian who coached his pack meticulously, and the arrival of Penny gave him further impetus. A strong rivalry developed between these two exceptional runners. They were inseparable and soon became known as "the twins", not least by other clubs. They were amongst the first to take up daily training, when Tuesdays, Thursdays and week-ends was the norm.
Footer took his men through to team gold in the National Cross-Country Championships of 1935 and 1939. Arthur called the 1935 race his most thrilling. The twins were locked together for the second half of the race and gave each other no quarter. They gained several places and passed the great Jack Holden near the end. It came to a drop finish and Arthur secured 4th place. They were both selected for the England team which achieved victory in the International Championship for that year.
Arthur was in exceptional form and played a key role in Belgrave's hat-trick in the prestigious London-Brighton Relay (1934, ‘35 & ‘36) which was the fore-runner of today's 12-Stage. He was now an international to be reckoned with and had a bright future in that sphere. He was selected to represent England in the 1934 Commonwealth Games at White City, together with Jack Holden, Furze and Potts.
sports magazine "Superman" praised the team and featured a
photograph of the winner -- Arthur Penny. Their reporter wrote,
six miles showed us that England's distance running tradition is
anything but dead. Our men were utterly relentless in their pacing of
each other and we finished our four in the first five, Rankine of Canada
taking second place."
When Arthur approached the team management after his victory to claim some expenses he was refused and told "You've won a gold medal, what more do you want". How times have changed!
Penny was made a Life Member of Belgrave Harriers in 1934. He had become well known outside of Belgrave. An athlete economist was reputed to have written "The sterling qualities of Belgrave Harriers are clearly based on the right use of the penny"! Everything seemed to be on a high but then he fractured a foot and was out for the whole of the 1935 season. Although he returned to fitness in time for the 1936 Olympic Trials he did not reach his previous form and just missed out on a place in the Great Britain team.
Belgrave's fame had spread far and wide by 1937 and the French invited the Club to take part in a European inter-club cross-country race. Belgrave won ahead of the French and Belgians and this made sufficient impact back home for the team to be invited by the BBC to appear before the TV cameras at Alexandra Palace, then in their infancy.
During our 116 year history there have been many Belgravians who have stood out in their various ways; runners, walkers, officials and managers. It is a select list, though never compiled. If it were to be there is no doubt that the name of Arthur Penny would feature prominently. We shall miss his familiar presence, his droll humour and his forthright views, but he will live on in our memories as the last of that great team of the thirties. A few weeks before his death he had his photograph taken in front of the late Tom Carter’s portrait in Belgrave Hall. Tom smiled down at his former team-mate, with that mischievous twinkle of his. He probably received Arthur with that same twinkle saying "About time Penny, we've been waiting for a sixth scorer" !
Our commiserations are extended to Eric and Pat.
Above right: 27 January 1937. Part
of Belgrave's winning team which beat U.S.M. (Paris) pose with Surrey's
winning Inter-county team at the Television studios, Alexandra
Palace. But for our match in Paris coinciding with the
inter-county championship, Carter, Penny, Footer and Cohen would have
been included in the Surrey team. Belgravians are (left to right)
rear row: W.L. Bayliss (President), A.R. Shaw. Centre row: C.T. Carter,
A.W. Penny, J.A. Kemp, L.J. Cohen. Front row: A.E. Taylor, H.E.
Footer. The central figure is, of course, J.C. Crump and the man
on the extreme right, Denis Brickwood - then of Mitcham AC but later
Belgrave H. Six days after these teams were televised by the Baird
process, it was announced by the B.B.C. that the E.M.I. process would be