BASC stalwart Jack Miller's death announced
Sadly, the death of former BASC Chairman Jack Miller, has been announced. As many members will know, Jack has been in poor health for some time. Unfortunately, he was admitted to hospital with an infection but whilst there he tested positive for Covid-19 and whilst he initially seemed to be fighting the virus, it got the better of him and he died on Tuesday 15th December. BASC's condolences go to Jack's family.
Backtrack in the Summer 2007 reported the speech to Jack given by Alan Masters, the then newly appointed BASC Treasurer, at the BASC members dinner that year. Jack had just retired as BASC Chairman and the speech was a tribute to his time as Chairman. We can do no better than reproduce the text of that speech:-
It is my pleasure to have been asked to say a few words about Jack. I feel reasonably well qualified to do this because I have known Jack for about 12 years, in fact since the European cup in Lille in 1995. Since then we have shared athletics from Edmonton to Melbourne and from Helsinki to Seville. We have shared a bottle of Ribena (as Jack's likes to call his red wine) on a train back from Cardiff where we were pursuing contact with Welsh athletics; and a lot more than one bottle while watching cricket at Lords. I have been sandwiched between him and Graham Botley in a two seater van, which eventually broke down and had to be towed away. And we've sung Welsh songs together on the balcony of an apartment we shared with David Lewis in Athens. With shared many highs and lows at athletics but none more so than standing the old Panathenaic Stadium in Athens watching Paula's drama unfold.
Some years ago, Jack told me that he was getting the opportunity to retire early, and I asked him what he was going to do with himself. He said that he couldn't stand reading the papers on Monday when some sporting drama had unfolded, and he hadn't been there. So, he was going to become a professional sports watcher. Those who know him feel he has achieved that ambition and long may he continue to do so.
Most of you will be aware that about seven years ago the supporters club was in danger of collapsing. Funds were severely depleted; membership had dropped off drastically and was down to a few hundred and publicity was poor. Jack took it upon himself to see what could be done. While encouraging new people to join the committee, in the first year or two he personally produced backtrack, did most of the work on the club diary and set about building links with UKA and Fast Track. The club today is in a reasonable financial position, backtrack and the yearbook our respected publications and membership is 1,300 and rising. UKA and Fast Track now recognise us and give us advertising space at the major British meetings. So, it would not be unreasonable to suppose that this club would be virtually non-existent today without Jack's drive, leadership and enormous enthusiasm for our sport.
So Jack, on behalf of the committee, I thank you for providing the venue for the committee meetings and being such a generous host. And from the committee but on behalf of the membership as a whole, I offer you our sincere thanks and ask you to accept this token of our appreciation from Katherine (Merry). (Jack was then presented with book tokens which is subsequently spent on surprise, surprise, a selection of sports volumes.)
In the same edition of Backtrack, Jack related how he became involved with BASC:-
I have never been greatly fond of Californian Chardonnay and it is to blame for my 10 years on the BASC committee. In 1996 I had volunteered to help with the fundraising for the British Olympic Appeal and so after several Raffles, some dinners, the odd auction, a rowing event in Mansion House Square, a sponsored swim and a Fantasy Cricket League, not to mention the drinks parties, I decided to buy myself a return ticket to Atlanta.
I was invited to a BOA dinner there and it was the only time during my visit that I was not offered Coca-Cola. At the dinner I sipped Chateau BOA Californian Chardonnay. At my right sat H. Robert H Stinson treasurer of IAAF, a fellow solicitor and the chairman of BASC. Shortly after the chowder I ventured tentatively that the club of which HRH was chairman and I was a life member required the application of a semtex suppository.
So a few months later I was required to attend an AGM at which I was the only non-committee member present. HRH deaftly dealt with such minor inconveniences as they're not being a quorum and the accounts showing the club to be significantly insolvent. The only hiccup in an otherwise impeccably smooth meeting was that one committee member objected to my election on the quite reasonable grounds that my CV showed no evidence of interest in athletics. He did not prevail: I was duly elected.
To outsiders gave me hope. First at a long supper in a back alley in Athens with some unspeakable liquid to drink, I met Trevor Frecknall. Trevor was then news editor of athletics weekly but, it was to his enthusiasm for the grassroots of the sport and his care for athletes that struck me. As a result, I went to his office and we arranged for a revamp of Backtrack and started using real colour photos by Mark Shearman in it. To this day the club relies massively upon the support of the proprietor of athletics weekly and its production staff.
The second outsider was Dave Moorcroft, whom I first met at Athens airport when he was chief executive designate of the British athletics Federation. Despite all the ensuing difficulties he has always been friendly, approachable and informative. He's been to our AGMs (as a result of which we suddenly started getting a quorum) and our first dinner. He always answered questions with a refreshing honesty. When he came to office the governing body became supportive of the club.
The club has grown: it now has over 1300 members. This has meant that volunteers have had to shoulder a much bigger burden to keep it going. The members have no right to expect the efforts in very different styles that Peter White, Eric Thompson, Sandra Hogben, Marjorie Roscoe, Richard Harris and Alan Masters, to name but a few have put in for no more reward and the odd lunch after a committee meeting and perhaps a glass of something refreshing.
I've had a lot of fun. Much to my bank managers angst I have been to some fascinating places to watch athletics. I have seen some wonderful performances and some sad failures (I still insist that anyone who cries, does so on my left shoulder, as damp affects the fibres in the one with which I threw cricket balls). The highs always seem to be greater than the lows. I would like to apologise to the poor German fan who paid a fortune to a tout (inevitably a British one) to sit behind me in Barcelona when Linford Christie won the hundred metres. I jumped up and down so much that he saw nothing.
The club is in reasonably good shape. I would like to stay involved if required and certainly will not stop watching athletics. Let us hope that the successes at the European indoor Championships show that a new generation of stars is coming through. Thank you to all members who supported the club. Should we toast its future in Californian Chardonnay?