Not black and white

Barry Edge looks back on two defining moments in his life – one during a game of Aussie Rules football.

Barry Edge writes…

Like most people Ive experienced defining moments – times when certain events have profoundly changed my life, and whilst this memoir reflects and focuses on two such moments it also reveals a subtle personal message that may cause some Valiants to question my sanity.

It’s early 1968 and the relationship between me and my athletics trainer was at a standstill – euphemistically speaking. According to my trainer I had become fractious to his guidance. In reality I was choosing to share my personal time across athletics and youth work. As a last ditch attempt to get me to ‘see reason’ he suggested we meet on neutral ground to air our differences. So we went to a game of Australian Rules football.

Not Black and White

I was useless at football (soccer), and by late 1962 after a season playing rugby union it was clearly evident I was never going to make the grade. So I took up running to keep fit little realising that by mid 1963 I would be a member of the Canning Districts Amateur Athletic Club.

The defining moment giving rise to full participation in athletics occurred on Thursday morning November 29, 1962 when watching the then European champion, Englishman Brian Kilby complete the 7th British Empire and Commonwealth Games marathon in 2:21:17.0 – a clear 58.6 seconds ahead of the defending champion, Australian Dave Power, and setting a new ‘Games record for good measure. In my mind’s eye I can still see him crossing the finish line looking as fresh as when he started.

By mid 1963 I was competing in cross country events for the Canning Districts Amateur Athletics Club and where I first met my co-runner/trainer.

For the first twelve months our athletics partnership was amiable at best. For me it was a means of keeping fit whilst competing in cross country and long distant events. For my trainer it was a chance to compete and beat the best in Western Australia. Sadly, our different philosophies were never bridged.

Back in the 1950s I was akin to a Good Samaritan doing for and helping others I perceived less fortunate than myself – sometimes known as good deeds – and without necessarily focusing on my future it would occasionally occur to me that I had a vocation waiting for me helping others.

I can remember a sunny day in 1959 along with other teenagers from St Stephens, Bentilee interacting with carers and children in and around the spacious gardens and lawns of Belmont House, Cheshire. The carers were friendly; the children were happy; we were happy. However, when it was time to say goodbye some of the children were crying, several were asking us to stay, one or two wanted to come with us, and the carers had their hands full keeping all the children away from our coach. Personally it was a gut wrenching experience that remains with me still. After Belmont House I knew that one day I too would be dedicating my life working with children.

My 1959 defining moment became a reality in Australia in 1964 when I started voluntary youth work with the Church of England Boys’ Society engaging boys aged 8 to 17 in a range of indoor and outdoor activities including hiking, camping and mountain climbing.

By 1968 I was spending more hours in youth work and less with my trainer. His demeanour was becoming less charitable toward me and there were times he would vent his displeasure that had been generated elsewhere.

So there we were, watching a game of football between West Perth and South Fremantle. My trainer was a West Perth follower; South Fremantle for meYes, the Mighty Red and White Bulldogs.

With the game done and dusted our relationship was still at a standstill. And although we’d see each other at athletic meets we never again trained together.

See you later
Barry Edge
Western Australia
November 25, 2018

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