Running ace Gerry leaves huge legacy

A man whose name became synonymous with running in Pendle died on Saturday after a brave two-year battle with cancer.
Gerry McCabeGerry McCabe
Gerry McCabe

Gerry McCabe (68) left an indelible mark on the local running scene.

He not only gave the area its toughest event, the challenging Hendon Brook Race.

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He also founded the Pendle and Burnley Grand Prix series of races and was the founding member of Pendle’s largest running club, Trawden AC.

Born in County Durham of proud coal mining stock, Gerry did not initially thrive in his studies.

Encouraged by an uncle to work harder, he eventually progressed to Trinity and All Saints College in Leeds where he met his future wife, Ann.

After leaving the teacher training college he worked in schools across the north of England before moving into special education and initially working at a school for profoundly disabled children.

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Gerry first came to Pendle from his native North East in the early 1980s when he was appointed head at Hendon Brook School in Nelson.

It was a post he held until retiring in 2006 and he oversaw the school’s amalgamation with Brunshaw School in Burnley as Primrose Hill School.

Always a keen runner, Gerry soon became involved in the local scene and launched the Hendon Brook event, initially as a fund-raiser for his school.

Disappointed with the number of entrants for the first event he soon realised that it had clashed with other races locally.

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With that in mind he started to formulate the Pendle and Burnley Grand Prix, a series of local road, fell and cross country races which is still contested.

He was the main organiser for many years, while also setting up Trawden Athletics Club, originally part of Trawden Celtic Football Club but now a popular stand alone club which caters for runners of all ages and abilities.

Anyone who has been involved with running locally will know Gerry for his infectious enthusiasm for the sport. But that enthusiasm was not only reserved for his love of running.

Anyone who met him through his work in local schools would know just how much each pupil mattered to him and would appreciate that he would strive to make the world a better place, a little at a time but with a great deal of effort and dedication.

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A committed socialist from his coal mining roots, he was a regular contributor to our Readers’ Views page on a variety of topics and also served for a short time as a member of Colne Town Council.

Diagnosed with cancer just over two years ago, his friendly and cheerful character soon saw him make friends with all his carers.

He was named as the Sports Personality of the Year in the 2015 Pendle Sports Awards, an award collected on his behalf by son David and daughter Judith as he had just started a course of chemotherapy.

A proud grandfather of six, 68-year-old Gerry continued to play a role in education after retirement as he was a member of the governors at three schools in Colne.

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David said this week: “Running was his true sporting love and he could be proud of the Hendon Brook Race and Trawden AC.

“He was a true socialist and lived that in his contribution to society. Very much a people person he really would do anything for anybody.

“In all his schools the children really loved him and he would do everything he could to help them.

“He always joined in the school productions and drove everyone mad by improvising his way through them, rather than learn the lines.

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“He was well known for his colourful and entertaining speeches at presentations and prizegivings and that showed how much he loved the organising side of running as much as the running itself.”

A funeral service will be held on Wednesday at 1-15pm at Sacred Heart Church in Colne followed by a service at 3pm at Skipton Crematorium.

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