The Jarrow Arrow was on track for a very special celebration.
Steve Cram was at Monkton Stadium for a presentation evening to mark the 80th anniversary of Jarrow and Hebburn Athletics Club, the place his extraordinary career began.
All athletics clubs depend on the efforts of so many people who keep them going over the years and we have some of those people represented here tonight.Steve Cram
The evening paid tribute to the late Sir John Jarvis, whose generosity helped set up the club.
Becoming High Sheriff of Surrey in 1934, he decided he wanted to help the most distressed area in the country and, after being told it was Jarrow, made anonymous visits to the town.
Horrified by what he saw, he set up the Surrey Fund to help Jarrow and raised more than £40,000 from Surrey residents to help the town.
He rehoused 600 ‘slum-dwellers’ at his own expense, underwrote and subsidised numerous business projects to create employment and in total, gave £1million of his own personal fortune to help Jarrow (the equivalent of £80million today).
His contribution was commemorated with a new plaque, officially unveiled by his granddaughter, Tessa Preece, who had travelled from Surrey for the evening.
The ceremony also saw the presentation of a number of awards, named in Sir John’s memory, to members of the club who have achieved great success in athletics. Among those receiving a ‘Jarvis’ was Steve Cram, who is still the club’s Honorary President.
He was delighted to be on hand to mark the milestone in the club’s history.
“It is fabulous,” he said.
“All athletics clubs depend on the efforts of so many people who keep them going over the years and we have some of those people represented here tonight.
“They may not get the plaudits that people like me do, but they are the ones who are here every week - the coaches, the club secretaries.
“I am not so involved here any more but I am extremely grateful for the people who have been a huge part of my life.”
One of the posthumous Jarvis awards was particularly poignant for Steve, with this beloved coach Jimmy Hedley among those honoured.
“Jimmy was crucial to everything I managed to achieve,” he said.
“It is 14 years since he passed away, but I go to athletics meetings all over the world and hardly a month goes by without someone coming up and mentioning Jimmy.
“He was a great coach and a lot of people still remember him very fondly.”
Steve also collected a special award on behalf of former world mile record holder and New Zealand John Walker.