Written by David Barrington
The Club is very sad to have to report the death of William N.C. “Bill” Coyne in Melbourne,Australia on Monday 13th October,just two months short of his 90th birthday.
Bill was a Vice-President and a prominent member of Poly Harriers during the 1950s and 1960s and,apart from being a very good middle distance runner himself,he became a top coach to a number of International runners. These were notably 3000m Steeplechasers of the renown of Finchley H’s Eric Shirley Senior(8.47.6),Olympic finalist at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956 and still competing at M85,and TVH’s Eddie Ellis(8.56.0 in 1957). Bill was also believed to have provided technical advice to Olympic Gold medalist,Chris Brasher. Bill himself had a handy 3000St pb of 9.46.2 at the 1954 Middlesex Championships,a mark which still ranks him 21st in the All-Time Kingston & Polytechnic Lists to this day(q.v.). He also served on the Middlesex AAA Committee.
He was renowned for introducing training methods which were ahead of their time and he had a big influence on the careers of many athletes of his era. He was one of life’s great characters,as were fellow middle-distance contemporaries in the Poly such as Jimmy Wood and Graham Ward. Anecdotes abound – Bill could be guaranteed to recall his RAF Service in the 1940s in Egypt where he would be about the only erk keeping running-fit whilst all the others were indulging in Wine,Women and Song – the self-effacing punchline was that it was Bill who became ill and others went scot-free!
In the late 1960s,Bill was sadly lost to Poly and British Athletics when he emigrated to Australia with his wife,Joan Carden,one of Australia’s leading Opera singers,who regularly graced the Sydney Opera House. He became prominent in local politics and served a term as Mayor of his Melbourne township,as well as becoming a member of the local Glenhuntley Athletics Club,where he had some input with leading Aussie ‘chaser,Trevor Vincent.
Eric Shirley Junior,who contacted the writer with the news of Bill’s demise, kindly supplied much of the above information,and for whom Bill was a godfather,visited him Downunder 3 years ago and,although in pretty good shape,he was suffering from Alzheimers. However,every now and then,Bill would regale a tale recalling the good old days of Polytechnic Harriers and some of the amazing sessions done on the track at Chiswick,as well as at Paddington track,in Richmond Park and,up in town,around the Outer and Inner Circles of Regents Park.
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