Memories of Peter Curry & Cross Country
By Geoff Tudor, Cross Country Captain, Oxford University, 1947
In the summer of 1947 I was chosen as Oxford’s cross-country Captain for the coming season and Peter was my No 1 supporter and a very close friend. In 1946 we had been narrowly beaten by Cambridge for the second year running – though Peter came 1st and I came 3rd. We were determined to change this by enhancing the profile of the sport at Oxford by a series of measures:-
1: Developing inter-college races to enlarge the ‘field’ from which the team would be chosen
2: Launching a second team ‘Oxford Tortoises’ with its own sweater badge
3: Start of term trial races in which 60 took part – a big improvement on the handful who started out on training in 1945 and 1946
4: Finding a new course to replace the flat and rather dull course along the Cherwell which started from a college playing field with few facilities. The new course started and finished from the OUAC track so had better changing and catering facilities. The course started and finished along the Thames (Isis) tow-path, but included in the middle a fairly stiff and hilly stretch of farmland. This provided an additional challenge/hazard in the form of a post-war squatter settlement of caravans, shacks etc not far removed from the shanty towns depicted on TV today. Ribald remarks from kids were reinforced by stray dogs which tended to join in the chase, and more than one runner staggered to the finish holding ripped shorts in place with one hand and needing treatment for bites. (Strong incentive to be near the front and pass before the dogs had woken up!)
Early results were promising:
8 Nov. a win against a strong Blackheath team. Curry came 1st, ahead of Olympic runner Sidney Wooderson
15 Nov: 28-50 win against Finchley Harriers – I came 1= with Curry
6 Dec.: 17-38 win against Cambridge. Curry and 3 others came equal first – which incidentally secured promotion of Cross Country to a Full Blue sport. (Sadly I was below par having just taken my History Finals and could only make 7: should have been a clean sweep!)
We were a happy bunch and had some entertaining times. One memory is of returning elated from an away win and making for the homeward train. Peter used to be clad in kilt and hooded duffle-coat, and with his slim build and fair complexion his appearance misled a porter. Seeking to separate this apparent young lady from a bunch of rowdies he helpfully held open the door of a ‘Ladies Only’ carriage and did his best to usher ‘her’ in. This went down well with the team, and also when I recounted it at the Thames Hare & Hounds dinner after the Cambridge match.
Peter and I resumed our contacts when both were chosen for the 3,000m Steeplechase in the 1948 Olympics after he came 1st and I came 2nd in the AAA at White City in July. (This was an event that needed several years’ build-up, not a few months, and we didn’t get very far.) Fairly soon afterwards I moved to the West Country where I ran a bit with the Dartmouth Naval College team but not further afield. Sadly I lost touch with Peter at this stage, but still have many happy memories of those days.