Ode to my friend Robin
I first met Robin at Meadowbank for training in the late 60’s, when I travelled from Dollar where I was a boarder. Robin always joyously, even proudly, reminded the listener, whoever that lucky person was, that, at that time, I was always attired in my school shorts! We were brought together by Bill Walker who was and is still part of the fabric of Meadowbank.
Robin was a great Steeplechase track athlete and I was a 400m / 400m Hurdler and it was in these roles, running for Edinburgh Athletic Club, that Robin and I became close friends.
Robin worked for Credit Lyonnais in George Street and I worked nearby for Touche-Ross, and in the summer we would race out of work with great haste to Meadowbank for hard training. It was not long before we were sharing a flat with Martin Craven ( a top ultra-distance athlete) and Sandy Keith (an international standard Marathon runner). The flat was an athletics hub of extremely high intent and energy, in which Robin was the leading ‘mover and shaker’.
In the winter Robin competed in fell running. His record for winning covered 2 decades and was prolific. Later he took on top managing and organising roles within UK fell running. In the summer Robin was a Steeplechaser representing EAC throughout it’s ‘golden era’ of the 1970’s.
Although EAC was profoundly successful in the 1970’s it was poorly funded, which, on trips down south, meant making do, rather than staying in Hotels.
Robin, being Robin, always came up with someone who had a spare bed or sofa. In the late summer of 1974 for the forthcoming Pye Gold Cup Final at Crystal Palace, Robin had organised what seemed to me, to be the ‘dream’ overnight accommodation in Clapham – the flat of 2 nurses that he knew (while they were working night shift). The arrangement proved to be ideal and we both slept well and went off to compete, with Robin and I recording PB’s. One of the Nurses who was from Morningside went to the track later and watched. Having slept in her bed I made the effort to say thank you to her. I was on such a high from my record run that I could not remember what she looked like, but I remembered her beautiful voice. I am eternally grateful to Robin for this piece of organising as 2 years later I married that same nurse!
Many years later Robin and I would laugh and joke about how we each managed to find the only 2 women on the planet capable of coping with 2 of the most domestically inept men on earth. Both of us would marvel at the fortitude of Roz and Shirley and compare the lifelong experience respectively with us, as similar to serving several consecutive life sentences for them and winning the pools for us!
Robin introduced me to his beloved golf, giving me 14 shots which soon turned around to him getting 14 shots from me. As Robin got older his golf improved and equally his love for the game grew.
On Robin’s most recent trip to Madiera, we had a beautiful game of golf at the Championship Santa de Serra. We were both playing way better than our handicaps and were ‘all square’ after 18. The weather was perfect and more holes were on our minds, but countering this were the ringing tones in our ears of the girls ‘not to overdo it’. Also if we did play more we would doubtless risk being late for our rendezvous with the girls, which certainly would incur some proper wrath. There was a long moment of silence while each of us was working out whether we would be able to come up with a script that would get us ‘off the hook’. Not a word spoken (and no such script imagined, I think) we spoke at the same moment “let’s play a few more” ! In the game I kept thinking I had Robin and then he would get ‘up and down’ and then I managed to drill my drive arrow like but straight left into the thick bush. We were playing like bears, absolutely no quarter given but laughing and joking like mad about the trouble we would be in with the girls for being so late.
At the last Robin had me, as I ‘duffed’ my short – sided chip, with Robin’s ball nestling safely in the cup. Didn’t I just hole my next chip for a halved match. What a poetic way to end such a wonderful contest ; an impressive and memorable 25 holes we played. Tired but exhilarated I drove back to Funchal, while Robin worked on the ‘excuses’ script. For both of us our day of golf was magical.
Fast forward to last week, being there for him and saying how unfair his situation was and how at least we have had a lot of laughs – Robin woke up, lifted his head and strongly said “Absolutely no complaints and no regrets, Norman”.
True to the end Robin displayed the toughness, grit and determination of the long distance runner and also the positivity of the committed Champion.
Norman Gregor (February 2018)
Obituary in the Edinburgh Evening News February 16th :
THERE are sporting all-rounders and then there was Robin Morris who has died, aged 68, after a year-long illness.
Ex-international steeplechaser, former hill running champion who helped get the culturally significant Edinburgh Seven Hills race off the ground, golfing historian who served the Heritage Group at the Royal Burgess Golfing Society – the oldest in the world – he was also trustee of the Eric Liddell Centre and member of the selection panel for the Scottish Sporting Hall of Fame since its inception, 98 inductees ago, in 2002. Read more …