J.P. "Pat" Parker
Born 4 July 1908, Ireland.
Died circa 1966.
Joined 5 March 1935.
Best performances 3 miles – 14:32.0 (1937) (see foot of page).
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).
Below: The National C. C. Champs. 1937 at Stratford on Avon and Pat Parker lies in 3rd place. He was to finish 4th.
J. P. PARKER, commonly known as Jack or Pat, was elected to membership of Belgrave Harriers at the age of 27. Almost immediately he made his mark by placing 2nd in the Club’s 3 miles track championship and 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 1936 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 and took Belgrave into a fourteen second lead. Soon his name had reached the ears of those in the higher echelons of our sport and he was placed on the initial list of men under consideration for selection for the Berlin Olympic Games, but nothing further of note was achieved that year.
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 in Paris. After a blazing opening half mile Belgrave didn’t have a man in the top fifty. 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 on Avon and Pat was 4th into the finish funnel. 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, Birchfield Harriers carried the day with 90 points to Belgrave's 94.
The International race was held in Belgium a week later at Hippodrome de Stockel, Brussels, but Pat, representing Northern Ireland, 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 the team were unable to sustain this level of performance 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 what was reported as a Belgrave record of 14:28 (see foot of page) 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 hosted at the Royal Ulster Show Grounds, Belfast. Again England triumphed with Northern Ireland 6th, but again J.P. Parker was not one 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, 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 over.
• Who’s Who of UK & GB International Athletes (Buchanan) reports Parker’s 1937 A.A.A. time as an estimated 14:32.5; 1930-1939 U.K. Men’s Ranking Lists (Buchanan, Thurlow & Moreby) records the time as 14:32.0; The Belgravian gives it as 14:28.