Eulogy by Geoff Reed, Bill’s business partner:
I am sure that many of you here don’t know me so just to let you know I am Geoff and I was Bills business partner for over 25 years.
We first met when I joined BISRA in 1968. BISRA was a research centre for the British Steel industry. Bill was already in a senior position with his own department.
I had resolved as a young engineer that if ever I got the chance to start a business I would jump at it. So when Bill asked me in 1977 to join him in the venture he was planning I grabbed the chance. I reasoned that if anyone could make it Bill could.
To cut a very long story short we used consultancy work to fund our ideas and this allowed us to develop them from prototypes to full size installations. One system for improving the hot rolling of steel strip, which we called Encopanels, went on to be an industry standard. The success of Encopanels all over the world lead to us being given the Queens Award for both exports and technology. This required a trip to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen for the award ceremony. We were the smallest company ever to be so honoured.
I am sure you are aware that business partners often don’t get on. It’s a bit like a marriage, you have to try and make it work. Fortunately Bill and I got on very well and developed a way of communicating on technical matters which was like a kind of mental shorthand. Each of us knowing how the other was thinking.
Business is not all hard work. We had a number of adventures and memorable moments. One such incident occurred when we had a vital meeting with a top civil servant, who must remain nameless, regarding a research grant that we were desperate to receive. The civil servant had travelled down from London to where we were staying in a hotel in Dorset. The plan was for us to take the civil servant to see the equipment the next morning. That evening we had a pleasant dinner and then moved on to the bar. Now, I am sure It will shock you all when I reveal that Bill liked a drink and had a great capacity for it. So seeing the way things were going I excused myself about midnight and left Bill and the civil servant to get on with what looked like being a marathon drinking session. The next morning I went down for breakfast. No Bill or civil servant. After making enquiries at reception I was told that the civil servant was wandering the upstairs landing in an advanced state of alcoholic poisoning and Bill had gone out for five mile run. The civil servant was so ill he had to be put back on a train for London on the understanding we kept quiet about the whole affair. He never saw what he came to see, but we got our grant.
To Bill’s family Bill was a remarkable and devoted Father and those of you associated with athletics also know that he shared your passion for athletics and Belgrave Harriers in particular. He put a great deal into supporting the club and its younger members. But I think it’s important to remember that there was another side to Bills achievements. He was a truly great engineer and innovator with an international reputation. Bill had his name on over 200 patents and had technical articles published in most of the worlds technical and scientific journals.
There are very few people who have had as remarkable life and career as Bill. His passing is going to leave a an empty place in my life , and I am sure in yours too.
Jodie Albrow [Club president]:
When you are crazy passionate about something, bordering on obsession, it is rare to meet another who understands, supports and shares it with you – Bill was like a stick of rock that said “athletics” all the way through.
I will never forget the time he was supporting the UKWL team and he told me (off), before I had caught my breath, that one should be expending one’s energy on running not checking behind them in the 4×400, noted, I never looked behind me ever again!
A true gentleman who I feel privileged to have met, spent time with and shared a passion with.
Bill’s daughter, Tina:
I think it is true to say that you don’t fully appreciate what you have until it is gone and that is true for many of us here today when we talk about Dad.
His lifetime achievements were numerous. From an early age at Emanuel School he proved to be a brilliant, but naughty student who’s youthful pranks nearly blew up the physics department on more than one occasion!! He studied hard at Brunel university and earnt a 1st class honours degree in Mechanical Engineering. His apprenticeship at Napiers Aero Engines led to his passion for aircraft, fast cars and it was here where he met Mum, nearly 60 years ago.
Dad became a chartered engineer in his early 20’s and published many papers both here and abroad. Dad started his own engineering business with the help of Geoff Reed and after many years of tribulations they became very successful. Dad enjoyed sharing tales of his work exploits over dinner, with a glass of wine. I remember him recalling a business trip to Hong Kong where he was asked to present a Police award as the dignitary had not turned up. Dad agreed and enjoyed handing out long service medals to grateful officers who thought he was a member of the British Government as he was wearing his Belgrave club tie displaying the portcullis.
Another story he enjoyed telling happened during a business trip to Korea where after plenty of alcohol, the hosts challenged him to a karaoke competition. He said he won, singing Frank Sinatra’s “I did it my way”! Dad loved telling the tales of his adventures at family dinners and there were many stories.
Dad lived life to the full, encouraging us to “work hard and play hard”. He was always happy in his garden at home, starting new projects, building a wall or a bridge, he loved the great outdoors. Dad was a loyal friend to many, helping anyone who asked and expecting nothing in return. He loved being a part of Belgrave Harriers and was delighted when elected a life member.
Dad was a modest man, playing down his own personal achievements and encouraging others in their own pursuits. He was a loving husband, father and grandfather, truly one of a kind. We love you Dad and shall miss you terribly.
From Bill’s Best Man, Gordon Halcrow:
I got to know Bill when he was a student at the College which became Brunel University. At that time I was a staff member of The Department of Mechanical Engineering. Bill was the very best student in my long career at Brunel, and he and I became life long friends. When he asked me to be best man at his wedding to June, over fifty years ago, I felt privileged.
Bill’s work as a professional engineer was outstanding and he and his equally talented partner, Geoff Reed, proved to be a powerful combination. Old age and frailty prevent me from being present, but Geoff will give me a first hand account of the service. I mourn the loss of Bill, my modest friend of well over sixty years, but I am proud to have taken a small part at the beginning of his outstanding career. My love and sympathy go with this note, to June, Tina and Jo.
The club’s two Road and Country team managers:
Charlie Dickinson [women’s TM]:
I met Bill for the first time when we both ran in the Surrey County Veterans Cross Country Championships at Petersham in October 1988 after turning 40 in the Spring of that year. I had returned to running and joined Belgrave the year before after giving up football. Bill had turned 50 that year. Bill’s inspiring chat before the race gave me great confidence and fortunately we both finished with age group medals. A good day for the club.
I spent the following year travelling and then after returning to England in 1990 Tom Carter suggested I help Bill edit the Belgravian, the club magazine. So I went down to Bill’s office in Epsom where his secretary explained how to use one of their computers to write up lists of results and team managers reports. In those days they were then all sent off to the printers who published the magazine. Bill and his partner ran a very successful engineering business with a small team of draughtsmen drawing up plans to send all over the world. His partner did ruefully suggest the business should be renamed Belgrave Harriers, an ironic comment about the amount of time Bill spent organising his British League Track and Field team.
Bill embraced everything in life. Apart from his business, running, his family and Belgrave, Bill was also a passionate gardener. He had a very extensive property in Forest Green in the Surrey Hills. Apart from growing flowers and vegetables, Bill’s hobby was brick laying. He built a large walled garden and many brick paths over the years with materials from the local brickworks.
Last September I took a dozen of young women from the road and cross country team on a training weekend staying at Bill’s suggestion at a Youth Hostel a few miles from where he lived. After a great session running on woodland paths in the morning, we were all invited over to Bills house for a barbeque in the afternoon. The memory of that meal, sitting on the patio in the Autumn sunshine, the hospitality of Bill and his family, will live for ever. One of the runners said that she hadn’t eaten as much since Christmas.
Will Cockerell [men’s TM]
I navigated all sorts of adventure with Bill over the past 20 years, and no single adjective could sum him up. He was one of those over-achievers, and was driven, clinical, direct and not one to suffers fools gladly. A quick check on the final email parlay I had with him, has his last words to me as, “what a nonsense.” Happily, he was on my side for that one! He was by no means always in agreement though, treating every situation on merit, but he oozed pastoral care, and tempered my “flair for drama” as he put it, with a bon mot here, or witty anecdote there. He’d remind me of a high stakes business deal in the Far East that went belly up, and a gun was coolly waved at him, with the statement: “do you know if you hadn’t backed down tonight, I was going to shoot you?” Compare that to committee, he’d gently chide. Another time a role relinquishment of mine was met with: “resignation denied, giving up is not an option…” This past few years he was the staunchest of allies, as I attempted to rebuild a famous squad; and I’m glad he saw evidence that we’re getting there. When the squad won silver at the Southern cross, our first medals there since 1971, there’s no-one I’d have preferred counting the runners in on that final corner in Brighton than oh so loyal Bill.
He had a fine sense of humour and took impish delight in a reverse of mine when he took us to Portugal for the European clubs half-marathon champs in 2002. A close encounter with a femme fatale on the post-race dancefloor was actually the local Lisbon pickpocket finding an easy mark. Oh, how he laughed, and this year asked if she’s still spending my cash. He was like a father figure to dear old Paskar and upon putting him to work at Jordan’s lush eight acres, affectionately nick-named him “the Dark Destroyer,” due to PO’s unwieldy machine skills. But Paskar recalls Bill was only ever patient and loving toward him, and his words below are heart-breaking.
Charlie’s tribute shows what a multi-tasker Bill was, as does Alan Mead’s fine biography elsewhere; and someone you wanted to do well for. His persuasiveness was legendary, and gruelling trips to Wigan or Gateshead to come last in a BAL ‘chase weren’t done for myself or the club, they were done for Bill. Belgrave was doing well when Bill found us, but to stay that way took enormous hard work in many forms. From raising funds for, and directing, three complex rebuilds of Belgrave Hall, to 124 BAL fixtures in a row over 3 decades, he was at the heart of our affairs, and he summed up the type of man he was when I tried to ward him off slogging to Sutton Park this year due to a sub-par team. “I’ll be there,” he said, “I’m not a fair weather friend.”
My abiding memory of Bill is of someone who seemed to be happy helping others to get the best out of themselves. It was never anything but a pleasure to see Bill, who genuinely wanted to know what you were up to inside and outside the sport. Like so many here I will always be grateful for the support I had from him on a number of occasions.
At John Jeffrey’s memorial he spoke so proudly of what John had achieved. Together they were a formidable team that took the club to such great heights. The last time I saw Bill was at one of the final BAL matches getting a kick out of watching Abi and I trying to navigate the throwing circle. A great loss to Belgrave and the sport of athletics. Thank you Bill.
I’m very sad to hear about the passing of Bill … I remember the first time I met him & both Bill & Alan convinced me to join Belgrave H after the south of England 6 stage at aldershot when I came in second place (1st leg for Milton Keynes ac) just behind Sam Haughian & beating ‘Lee Hurst !!..6th I think ??”
He then invited me to his home/farm & made me feel very welcome & He knew all my race wins & times & a total gentleman regarding what he & Belgrave Harriers could do for me & my athletics career & made me feel very special . A great man, Belgrave through & through & will be sadly missed but never forgotten. A LEGEND ….& now feel motivated to re -join Belgrave as a veteran/master !!.. “ RIP Bill …’forever ( Claret & Gold ) x
Much has been written of Bill’s remarkable achievements in Industry and for his beloved Belgrave Harriers but my memories are more of a personal nature. I first met Bill at Belgrave Hall in 1963 where to a young runner making his way, Bill was ever supportive. Those were the golden sixties for runners. We enjoyed many fun evenings at Belgrave Hall with Bill and June stomping up a storm on Traditional Jazz nights. Much later, after I had emigrated to Canada, his welcoming upon return visits of me and my wife Eva to his Surrey home were infinitely memorable.
Their trips to Toronto and our visit together to a cottage by the lake in Algonquin Park with “Fireman Bill” managing the bonfire on Thanksgiving day, is an unforgettable memory. Bill was an exceptional man and loyal friend and I cherish our last meeting together in April 2017 at Cannizaro House, Wimbledon and Belgrave Hall. Truly, they don’t make his like any more, ‘Nature made him, and then broke the mould,’ [Ariosto].
I first met Bill in 1993 at a British League match and he immediately struck me as a remarkably warm-hearted and gentle man but with a driven passion for his sport and for Belgrave Harriers. Like everyone who knew him I have so many fond memories of conversations and times spent with him, with countless examples of his kindness and generosity. My first date with my wife clashed with a BAL match in Birmingham in 1995 but Bill guaranteed that I would make it back to London in good time. And so at the end of the ‘chase – which as you know was barely half way through a BAL meeting – he insisted on driving me to the station in Birmingham to make sure I made it back to London for our first date. He just genuinely cared about everyone whilst quietly and modestly getting on with whatever needed to be done. I feel privileged to have known Bill, what a truly lovely and great man. I would like to extend my condolences to his family for such a loss, my thoughts are with them.
When joining Belgrave as a young and shy lad at the age of 14, I was lucky enough to meet some special characters; Keith Sinclair, Colin Pearson, Leo Coy and Bill Laws amongst many others. Thanks to their kindness and support, I felt welcomed, I felt like I belonged here.
Bill was one of the first to take the time to chat to me and was always interested in what I was up to and how my training was progressing. He was always extremely supportive, but it was his work with the wider team that I will best remember him for. His enthusiasm for the club and sheer workload, managing the team as well as offering his time and expertise to the club as a whole is surely unrivalled in recent Belgrave history.
Bill, along with Alan Mead, was instrumental to the huge amount of success the club enjoyed, beginning in the early 80s. We entered a new chapter in Belgrave’s history at this time winning year on year men’s track team promotion. We also won area and national road relay titles. With Bill at the forefront, the success continued for many years and there is no doubt in my mind that the club would not have enjoyed the success it had if it were not for Bill.
Bill will be greatly missed but never forgotten by any of us. Thank you for everything, Bill.
Bill was my team manager for our annual race in Ostend – fantastic times. Thank you Bill for the memories.
Bill was a warm and generous person who helped so many Belgrave runners, including myself, when they were going through difficult times in their lives.
Bill never expected anything in return and this is why he was so special. I knew Bill and his family for almost 40 years and in all that time he did not change.
My thoughts go out to the family and all his good friends.
It was very sad to hear of the passing of Bill,
such a stalwart of Belgrave in the time I’ve been associated with the club.
The volume and content of the tributes paid is testament to the warmth everyone felt towards him and the debt of gratitude owed for so many achievements, both on and off the race track.
I had the pleasure of sharing time with Bill on Belgrave committees, the board of a commercial company created to run the club’s commercial affairs, as one of his athletes in the British League team and as an athlete getting his unstinting support in many a race. It didn’t matter what the circumstance was, he was always cheerful, passionate, friendly and funny. He combined his commercial acumen, self-belief and drive for achievement, with his passion for athletics to achieve extraordinary things. He did this with a smile on his face, a metaphorical arm round your shoulder and a dose of humour, that always made anything you did with Bill an enjoyable experience rather than a chore – his clear love of the sport was contagious.
He’ll be sorely missed and my condolences to his family.
This incredible guy has helped countless athletes over the decades and I am no exception. He was an integral part of my career and a huge reason I sit here with these rings on my arm. He guided me, supported me – at times financially – and facilitated the biggest change in my fledgling career. When I left my first coach I thought my chance at sport was over. Bill organised the move to Linford Christie’s training group where my career took off. I represented my country, ran faster than my Sunday League football self could’ve ever dreamed of, raced Usain Bolt (unsuccessfully) and wore the Belgrave colours in the London Olympic Stadium. Beyond athletics I moved into bobsleigh where he regaled me with stories of other Belgravians who had successfully made that transition. He even supported me until very recently when he was very sick – and probably thought the medication was confusing him when I told him I was cycling. He never asked for a thing in return, just that I proudly represent the club he loved and the club I came to love, @belgraveharriers. He was my friend and a bona fide hero and I will miss him terribly. Knowing that I won’t receive any more email replies or won’t visit to Forest Green has left a huge hole in my life and it’s a truly surreal feeling. He was one of those old boys you thought would just go on forever. ~
There are many people hurting at this news and I had the privilege of speaking with his family last night whose wish it is that we raise more awareness of Prostate Cancer and encourage men to get checked sooner. For those who’ve read this whole tribute, you’re either supremely empathetic or you’re an individual/sportsperson who has your own experience of a Bill. Be grateful for them, and don’t take them for granted. There aren’t many of his calibre left and I will endeavour to follow his example. Thanks Bill, goodbye my friend.
I’m still in shock, I can’t believe Bill Laws has gone.
It’s rare to find someone like you who was passionate about my passion like you Bill.
The support, the encouragement, the help.
Some of us who didn’t have fathers, you became our father figure.
You made our dreams to reality, with your encouragement, words of wisdom.
When i joined Belgrave in 2000, you made a great impact in my running life and results were prominent in 2007.
I’m one of those thousands you’ve had impact on. Bill Laws we will miss you dearly
When Bill came to support the team at cross country races in recent years, he made it his business to find out all our first names and then he would approach to say hi in his warm and gentle voice making us all feel important and proud to be representing the club.
My visit with Charlie’s training group to Bill’s home just 4 months ago will last long in my memory. Bill was the kindest and most generous of hosts.
I feel so fortunate to have known Bill and benefited from his kindness and generosity over the years. So many great memories but what most sticks in my mind is his ever-present support for the club, whether it be at Sutton Park, Parliament Hill, road, track and country he was always there cheering us on. A truly great man who always had time for me and I will miss him greatly.
Bill Laws was a successful entrepreneur who in his time managed Belgrave Harriers in a similar manner. Behind this was a man who was kind, generous and concerned for his family and friends. He encouraged and supported those who were experiencing problems particularly if they were Belgravians.
Bill never mentioned his own setbacks and enjoyed a very positive attitude to just about everything. For him there was always a solution and his boundless energy has in past years assured that Belgrave Harriers is still on the map.
Some of us look to our future with some trepidation without him but he will always be an example of the pursuit of excellence and pride in wearing Belgrave Harriers colours in competitive athletics.
This is so sad. There are only a very few people that the Club can function properly without. Bill was one of them. Bright, strategic and sensible. And more importantly, he was a thoroughly nice bloke.
In alphabetical order:
What a lovely man! Great to see him support so many events out on the course. ❤️
This is sad news for anyone fortunate enough to meet Bill. You could not wish to meet a more kind hearted, genuine and encouraging individual. He was a key component in Belgrave’s success and it is a pleasure to say I know him.
Rest in peace Bill – wonderful man.
RIP Bill, I’ve some great memories with this man
Very sad to hear that. I used to have many a good chat with Bill. RIP.
A true gentleman and will be sorely missed by all of his friends at Belgrave. Can’t thank him enough for all the support and encouragment over the years.
Bill was integral to every single part of my Belgrave (& wider athletics) life and I will miss him dearly.
So sad, a real gent and such a great supporter of the club and of athletics. A big part of every track match as well as road and Xc events. He will be very sadly missed.
Bill was the main reason I returned to Coaching and Belgrave. One of the most supportive, professional, firm and fair guys in a challenging & ever changing period for Athletics & its Athletes at many levels and so many areas within the club. He will be sadly missed for many many reasons both personal & professsional. Good bye to a true gentleman indeed. RIP Bill.
I knew Bill from my early days coaching at Belgrave in 1991 – always helpful, upbeat, positive and optimistic.
I then worked closely with him, as well as John Jeffery, with the British league team as sports therapist / masseur. I started in 1997 until we pulled out in 2012 – it was a pure pleasure and I feel honoured to have been part of the team.
His achievements in the British League at that time are huge – he was supportive of all the athletes and at the same time would want success for all concerned. In the background he was always worrying where the next points were coming from in order for the team to be successful.
RIP Bill you will be sorely missed. I don’t think people realised just how much you continued to do for the club in every way. A good man x
It was wonderful that we got to spend that special afternoon with him and his family only a few months ago. They were all so generous and I know Bill has touched the lives of many Bels and Belles over the years.
Geoff Jerwood, Herne Hill Harriers TM:
Very sad to hear about Bill. I of course know and was part of some of the history from the HHH side of things, but I always got on well with Bill on a personal level and especially in more recent years.
RIP Bill. Condolences to all who are affected and to Belgrave as a club for your loss.
We will observe a silence before Saturday’s men’s Division 1 race.
I have a wonderful recollection of being asked to join Belgrave as the pole vault coach by Leo Coy and John Jeffery. I was then asked to the presentation dinner at Selfridges Hotel by Bill Laws. What a wonderful greeting Alan and I were given by Bill, sitting next to him on the top table. It was an honour to be part of such a wonderful club.
When I wanted to start my pole vault club at NESCOT College, Ewell, he attended meetings with the principle with me and found funding for some of the equipment and poles. Many pole vaulters, male, female, old and young were coached by myself for 10 years thanks to Bill.
I have fond memories of going to the men’s British League meetings with Bill, what a super team he managed. Belgrave have lost a good friend
Apart from being a member since 1953, running the British League for over 30 years, managing the various Hall changes over the years, including getting the finance to do so.
President on two occasions, leading the Committee as Chairman, staunch supporter at many events, track field, road and cross country,
He was “Mr Belgrave” taking over from the late Alf Harley.
I am sure many will be able to add to that.
Always one to greet you and say hello , you’ll be sadly missed Bill RIP Sir !
Bill and June took such care of us and gave us such good hospitality that training day. And was always asking how training / racing / injuries were going and always offering help / advice.
It does give some comfort that he got to spend one last Christmas with his family. He will be a big loss to the club.
Bill should be remembered for his fine work in taking Belgrave Harriers to the then very summit of track and field athletics. Having known Bill since our early days of membership from the mid nineteen sixties it is with appreciative memories we hold his fine service to our club including his recently well deserved term as President of Belgrave Harriers. Sincere condolences to all his family, friends and colleagues in athletics on behalf of Pat and myself.
A very special man – firmly entwined with club history, who will be missed.
Rest in Peace, a warm hearted kind guy who was always prepared to listen and offer advice. A pleasure and an honour to have known you. The next outing is for you Sir!
RIP Bill, thoughts are with his family.
A true gentleman and brilliant supporter of the club. He will be truly missed. 😥
So sad to hear. What a great man, had the pleasure of being part of some great Bels teams with Bill at the Helm. A real athletes man and a true gent. Rest in Peace Bill.
Bill, rest in peace and you will be missed by so many. He was like a father to me and the pain is just too much for me at this moment. May his soul rest in peace. Bill, we love you.
Bill was the guy who got me to Belgrave. Total gentleman who loved the club and would have done anything for the boys on the team.
Very sad for me to hear this. Bill was instrumental in my own development and played a massive role in the development of many others.
I am so sorry to hear of Bill’s demise.
He was a long-standing member of the Club and his heart was in it at all times, even when things were not going as well as they could be.
He was the driving force behind our British League teams and played a large part in their success. But it was not just at the top level that he showed his interest.
When we moved down to lower levels of competition his enthusiasm did not wane.
He was active until the end. We shall miss him.
I’m really saddened to hear this news. Bill was an absolutely wonderful man whom I had the utmost respect for. On behalf of all of the Australian athletes who have known Bill I’d just like to say a big thank you for taking us under his wing and helping us to be the best we could be for Belgrave Harriers. More importantly, thank you for your friendship, which is something that will endure. Goodbye, Bill. A gentleman in all facets of life. RIP mate.
Anyone who ever had the pleasure of getting to know Bill will never forget him. He was one of the most kind-hearted, encouraging people I have ever met.
I first met him as a teenage athlete when he was still managing the Men’s BAL team, he would often drive us up and down the country for fixtures, trips in his Jaguar became legendary for the stories he would tell about his life.
Since being on the committee with Bill and working with him as Secretary, he was the driving force behind so much of the development of the club whether it be athletics-based or at Belgrave Hall. Rest in peace Bill, you will be deeply missed
Very sad news. Bill was such a gentleman. Will be greatly missed.
Mr Belgrave in my eyes. Such a nice guy and always full of confidence and praise. Will be missed by so many. RIP Bill, Sharpy x
Behind every great historic institution like Belgrave Harriers there are periods that need certain individuals for support and guidance both financially and physically and Bill Laws was that person, Belgrave has a historic past and a bright future and Bill will be remembered for its past and its future.
Gutted to hear this, was proud to run for him. Condolences to his immediate and Belgrave family. RIP Bill, Sp8y.
Such sad news. Bill was always someone who leant a hand with advice when I was growing up in the junior ranks of the Bels.
I knew him and my dad used to enjoy long chats about the sport they loved.
Rest in Peace Bill
The loss of Bill is a massive shame not just for Belgrave, the athletics community but for life generally. He was genuinely one of the nice guys around and I class myself lucky to have known him and been recipient of his generosity. Whether it was a supportive kick up the ass during a Surrey league or at Sutton Park or even taking me to Manchester in his posh motor for a British League, nothing was ever too much for him. I wasn’t a star, an international or anything, I was just a guy turning out for his club to score a few points where I could.
I might have playfully mocked his height (being a giraffe myself) but Bill will leave a big hole. RIP Mr Laws.