Southgate County School


Clive Collier, 1945 - 1952

Clive CollierIn December 2001, we were notified by Peter Deller (1945-1951), an old friend and contemporary, who had being trying to find him again, that Clive (also known as Cliff) died in his sleep on 27th November 2001, having had no known health problems.

Clive was perhaps the finest athlete the School ever produced, the highlight of his career being when he finished second in the Senior 440 yards in the All England Schools Sports at Port Sunlight in 1952. (But see the email from Brian Cook in October 2002, below.)

The winner of the event, in a new record time of 48.8 seconds, then an amazing time for a schoolboy, which, as I recall, made headlines on the sports pages of some of the national newspapers, was Derek Johnson, later a very well-known international in senior athletics.

I got to know Cliff, as I knew him, in the last two or three years he was at school and I have to say he was one of the nicest and most modest people I have ever met, always willing to spend time to help junior members of the team (I was in the year below him).

I saw him only a couple of times after he left school and I had been trying to help Peter Deller find him, hoping that I would see him again myself. During my enquiries I heard that he had been very successful in business and, during that time, had been extremely generous to many people but that later he had unfortunately had some very serious problems with his business, by no means unusual in more recent years.

Clive appears in several photos in the 1950/51 and 1951/52 Albums, as well as in the "Official" photo of the whole School in July 1949, and we hope to be able to include a fuller tribute to him, and possibly some more photos, in the New Year.

Since writing the above we have received the following messages:

Email from Peter Deller (1945-1951)
I and my dad together with Clive's father and Robbie travelled overnight up to Port Sunlight to see Clive run in those championships when he ran the race of his life. I am so saddened that he has gone "almost without trace". He was originally a short distance sprinter, 100 and 220 in those days, but Robbie coaxed him into thinking about the quarter of a mile. To do that he had to build up his stamina on top of his natural speediness. Both as a close friend and as someone who needed to last a little longer for the full passage of play on a soccer field I took up road running at night with Clive to achieve our separate aims. Our testimony to success in that joint endeavour was when we tied for first place in the school cross country race. (I am not sure if Bryan Ward was running because he was normally the acclaimed wizard over a cross country course!). Tempus fugit, damn it.

Email from David (Dingle) Smith (1946-1953) - now living in Australia
I once borrowed his track suit (not many of us owned them in those days) for a Schools Cross Country Comp on a very wet Saturday in Epping Forest. It had all his award badges and I was very proud and eyed as some kind of super runner by the other teams (at least before the start!).

Phone call from Mike Middleditch (1947-1952)
Mike came second in a "photo finish" in the Intermediate 440 yards in the same All England Finals in 1951. He says the Championships were held over three days and he and Clive went up and stayed together for the full three days. He and Clive played cards and Clive won a lot of money from him - but gave it all back before they came home.

School Magazines
Referring to the School Magazine for the relevant year, April 1952, we were disappointed to find, on Page 17, under the heading "ATHLETICS (BOYS), CRICKET AND FOOTBALL", the brief Note: "We much regret that reports of the above were not received in time for inclusion in this issue."

Although all of us who knew Robbie know just how much he did for sport in the School, I'm afraid this was only one example of how his administrative abilities fell short of his coaching skills.

Nevertheless, a very nice photo of Clive, together with Peter Deller and four other trophy winners at the 1951 School Sports, appeared at the front of the Magazine. The Sports that year were held in Broomfield Park while underground drainage was being installed in the School field in Fox Lane. This photo appears in the 1950-51 Album, where Clive can be seen also in the 2nd XI Football team photo.

Robbie had got his act together in time for the next year's Magazine, April 1953, which included the following:

440 (senior): Collier, 1st in 53.3 secs.

MIDDLESEX GRAMMAR SCHOOLS A.A. 30th Annual Championships, White City, July 21st.
"Collier reduced the previous 440 yards record by six-tenths of a second, with a time of 51.4 secs.”

"Despite a dead head-wind reaching a force of 45 m.p.h., and an abnormally long home straight of the circuit Collier achieved a time of 50.9 seconds." (Robbie omitted to mention in what place Clive finished.)

"Collier, having won the Middlesex A.A. 440 and Southern with 51.9 seconds, concluded the season by being runner-up in the National Championships at Motspur Park in 50.7 seconds.

We congratulate Collier on his selection by the English Schools A.A., for the Young Athletes Course at Lilleshall, in April, 1953."

In October 2002, we received the following email from Brian Cook (1947-1952)
Brian was another of the School's outstanding athletes - he achieved 3rd place in the High Jump in the All-England Schools Inter-County Championships held at Bradford on 11th July 1952 and also played at Centre-half in the London and Middlesex County Schools Football Teams.

I was saddened to learn of the death of Clive (Cliff) Collier. I last saw him at the 1992 or 1994 Re-union when we talked about his epic race with Derek Johnson.

However I must disagree with the memories of Peter Deller and Mike Middleditch about the race. Peter said he went to Port Sunlight to see the race, but that Meeting was in 1950, and Mike’s 1951 race would have been in Southampton. The 1952 Championships were held in Bradford, I know this because I also represented Middlesex, in the high jump, in 1950 and 1952.

In those days the 440 Yards race started and finished halfway down the home straight and Cliff’s very successful plan was to sprint the first 50 yards, float around the top bend, sprint down the back straight, float the bottom bend and then put in a final burst to the line. Unfortunately at the Bradford track the start was from outside the track with a 100-yard dash to the apex of the curve, leaving only half the bend to float before another sprint.

Coming into the home straight Cliff was leading and with 10 yards to go I was on my feet, level with the finishing line, ready to cheer the gold medal winner when another runner on the inside suddenly made a late surge, and as Cliff threw himself at the tape and onto the track he was pipped on the line by the competitor from Essex. As he lay on the track Cliff looked at an official and said "Did I win?" The official shook his head and poor Cliff’s head dropped. But, ever the sportsman, he was soon smiling and shaking his opponents hand.

I still believe that if the race had started in the usual place Cliff would have won, but he made no excuses and accepted the defeat in his usual sporting way.

The winner was Derek Johnson, who won the Silver Medal in the 880 yards at the Melbourne Olympics of 1956.

Brian Cook (1947-1952)