id117-An International Rediscovered

Written by DB   

Reginald Revans 1907-2003

An invite to the University of Westminster?s mini-Exhibition at the spiritual home of the former Polytechnic Harriers at their Regent Street Campus,as it is now known,rekindled my interest in the Club?s history and set me off down another bridlepath to the past.

The University of Westminster is the current name of what was founded as Quintin Hogg?s Regent Street Polytechnic in the early 19th century,travelling via the Polytechnic of Central London et al. Many and varied were the Sports & Social Clubs formed and run out of Regent Street;the Harriers being one;most are still in existence in one form or another,whether,like the Harriers under our new name of Kingston AC & Polytechnic H at Kingston upon Thames;or like the Hockey Club,still playing at Hartington Road but under the name PCL Chiswick - and on two superb new all-weather pitches;or,like the once all-powerful Water Polo team,now operating in a North London Pool but again still using the Polytechnic name.

The part of the Exhibition,mounted under the direction of Brenda Weeden,the UoW archivist,dedicated to the Harriers included photos of the Poly Sports Ground(The Quintin Hogg Memorial Ground officially) at Chiswick from the air and from ground level in 1938,when the Stadium was built;striking depictions of starts of the Poly Marathon at Windsor Castle with Royalty in attendance;and action photos of 1952 Olympic 100m bronze medalist, McDonald Bailey,at full throttle at Chiswick and of Harry Edward,the only winner of the 100y,220y & 440y at one AAA Championship(1922). It was this latter photo which reminded me of the recent ?discovery?,earlier this year,that one of the Poly?s more illustrious internationals and vice-presidents,Reginald Revans,was still alive and well.Harry Edward & Reg Revans wouild probably have competed in the same meeetings on occasions for Poly.

During my compilation of the Polytechnic Harriers History 1933-1983,for the Centenary,I had been singularly unable to trace the whereabouts of Professor Revans,as he had become;there was just no evidence in the Poly papers whether he was alive or dead,so much so that it was decided,together with some six other ?missing? VPs,to eliminate him from the list which appears in both our current winter and summer fixture cards.

WRONG!! Athletics historian David Thurlow,an absolute master at tracking down and interviewing former internationals,whose articles can be read in ?Track Stats?,the quarterly journal of the National Union of Track Statisticians(NUTS),had been talking to an athletics contemporary of Mr Revans,one Kemel Bagnall-Oakley,himelf into his 99th year. The latter was fairly certain that our man was still alive. A lead via Paul Willcox,the Achilles Club historian,confirmed that Revans had declined an invite to the Achilles Club centenary celebrations in the late 80s but that correspondence since had not been acknowledged.

It just so happens,luckily,that David Thurlow?s daughter works for a company(probably BT) with access to the telephone numbers and addresses of the whole UK and he called me to report that there were 76 R Revans in the UK and would I help him ?phone them all one by one! But,even more fortuitously,there turned out to be only one listed as RW Revans,with an address in Cheshire,so I decided to write on the off-chance - and in this game it is always an off-chance though sometimes boldness is the key! Two weeks later -- Bingo! Eureka!! I received a letter from his daughter to the effect that Reg is still alive and reasonably well and about to celebrate his 96th birthday.

Athletically,Reg won silver medals in both the long jump and triple jump for England in the first-ever British Empire & Commonwealth Games,held in the Canadian city of Hamilton,Ontario in 1930. He also represented Great Britain in the 1928 Olympic Games,as well as in several dual internationals and it was,indeed,when he was touring the USA with the Oxford & Cambridge University athletics teams in the late 1920s that the first seeds of his brilliant academic brain manifested themselves.The Oxbridge team were extravagantly entertained everywhere,as was the habit with universities such as Harvard & Yale,the leading Ivy League establishments,and the future professor was soon convinced that America could just not go on behaving in such a manner and he predicted economic disaster - a few months later came the Wall Street Crash and the beginning of the catastrophic Depression of the 1930s. He was very soon in demand,both in the USA and throughout the world as an exceptional academician and mathematician and he became a friend of some of the World?s great achievers,including Einstein. He was,amongst many other posts,Professor of Industrial Management in Brussels and was credited with turning around Belgium?s desperate economic performance in the 1960s,as well as creating an education plan for the National Coal Board immediately after World War Two. His ?Action Learning? management and industrial concept of basing the way forward on what was not known became a universally-recognised system which brought him international acclaim as a great 20th century thinker.

As he approaches his 96th birthday in May 2003,he still receives many requests from American Universities to lecture and advise - flattered he remains,but his home in Shropshire is now his final castle.

Postscript - This article was written in late 2002. Sadly,Reg did not live to celebrate his 96th. He died a few months beforehand - or,as his family endearingly wrote in his obituary and funeral notice, - ?Left the Take-Off Board January 8th 2003?.


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