Fred & Margaret Rogerson
On 23 October 2010, Fred Rogerson, the founder of the Bob Graham Club, sadly passed away. When Fred stood down as Chairman of the Club in 1998, various tributes were made to him for his enormous contribution to the Club and to long distance mountain endeavour. Now that he is no longer with us, it seems right to acknowledge on this the Club's web site the contribution that Fred and his wife Margaret made.
My own introduction to Fred came in 1984 when as youth of 20 I got it into my head that I could do the Bob Graham. Introduced to Fred by friends at Ambleside AC, there began one of those relationships of my life that I truly treasure.
Fred and Margaret were a real help to me in my preparation. Sadly he and Margaret were otherwise engaged on the day of my attempt in 1985, and I didn’t get the Rogerson “treatment” on the day!
In the late 1980s work, marriage and family dominated my life and I somehow managed to drift away from fell running, only returning in the early 2000s. I went to the BG Club Reunion Dinner in 2005 to see my mate Bob Wightman get his certificate, and by the time I left that evening, I had agreed with Selwyn to succeed Paddy Buckley as Secretary of the Club.
I visited Fred shortly after that, to make sure the “founding father” was in favour. The measure of the man was that he greeted and then talked with me as if I had never been away from the fell running and BG families.
I saw Fred regularly after that. Despite physical frailty, he was always the gracious host, and happy to delve into that astonishing memory to bring back memories from any period of the Club’s existence.
He always seemed surprised by the ovations he received at BG Club Dinners; he was truly the most modest of men. But those ovations were richly deserved, and reflected the huge respect and affection that hundreds, now thousands, of people felt for a man who did so much to foster long distance mountain endeavour, and helped give so many of us such fantastic long days in the hills.
Attached here to download with the permission of the late Bill Smith (member number 15 of the Club) are Bill’s article about Fred from the October 2007 edition of The Fellrunner Magazine and also Bill’s obituary for Fred taken from the Spring 2011 edition of the same magazine.
In addition to these fine articles penned by Bill, Mark Hartell, the current President of the Club shares his thoughts about Fred and Selwyn Wright, Fred’s successor as Chairman of the Club, has allowed us to use the text of the address he delivered at Fred’s funeral.
From Mark Hartell
Fred will be sorely missed by many people as he was a rare character; someone who, with his wife Margaret, devoted a huge chunk of his life selflessly to nurturing, inspiring and encouraging the dreams and ambitions of others.
I’m sure he could not have known what he was starting when he was involved in the formation of the BG Club all those years ago. For many years, the numbers of people attempting the BG was a trickle but then it started to swell. By displaying all those characteristics that aspirant BG Club members require - patience, tenacity, determination, commitment - Fred saw the club mushroom to 1000 and then 1,500 members.
Some may say that Fred has a lot to answer for; in one view of the world he encouraged selfish devotion to an arguably futile cause. But that would be to miss the point. Fred instinctively understood how a passion, a desire and a lot of hard work could bring special things from people and he cultivated that in hundreds or thousands of us - quietly and non-judgementally. He also saw how those skills - that self-belief, reliance and confidence - transfer into our daily lives and makes us, we hope, slightly better people.
For anyone who didn’t really know the measure of the man, consider this. Three times Fred turned out of bed to drive up to Braithwaite and see me off on Lake District 24 hour record attempts. Given that Fred lived in Lindeth that means he must have risen at about 3.30 am. It wasn’t because he knew me particularly well; it was simply because he believed in the value of the 24 hour record as passionately as I did and he understood so much better than I think I ever will the importance of simply “being there” for someone.
On the third and ultimately successful attempt, Fred was even apologising to some of the road support that he might miss me at Wasdale, but he was there at all the other road crossings - no fanfare, but making a huge difference by his presence.
For me, Fred was a giant and I was lucky enough to stand on those shoulders to achieve an ambition that I will cherish for the rest of my days. His heart was as big and strong as his hands (and if you ever shook his hand you know what I mean!!) The world of fell running will miss Fred profoundly and forever.
From Selwyn Wright
A Eulogy given at the Thanksgiving Service at St Martin's Church, Bowness on Friday November 5th 2010.
How to compose a tribute to Fred Rogerson? Where to start on the 32 years that I knew him when my words can't really do justice to the man who invented the Bob Graham Club and ran it for 28 years.
Back in 1998 Fred decided to pass on some of the many jobs that he'd done since the Club began, and Mark Hartell honoured the occasion by asking the members to write their thoughts about Fred, and then compiling a book of the results! I make no apology for summarising those contributions here; the eloquence of several hundred fell runners is a powerful force indeed!
A number of quotations are bonded together with the verses of a poem written for Fred and Margaret Rogerson in 1998 by Chris Bland of Borrowdale, stonemason and fell runner.
Stone, lime, sand, cement,
Hammer, chisel, quarries, lintels,
They say it’s a skill, a trade, a craft;
But they don’t know it's a way of life.
I’ll never forget your being there to meet and greet us at the Moot Hall after our run. In the background, with a look of quiet satisfaction as you watched another group who had risen to the challenge and succeeded
Fred and Margaret were there at five in the morning to see me off on my way and wish me luck, and were there at every road crossing to cheer me on.
What if I had never met Fred Rogerson....?
I remember talking to you Fred, when I was first thinking of the attempt. I remember asking you how I was going to prove that I’d been to all the summits. I remember you laughing at me while Margaret fed me biscuits and tea.
Langdale, Eskdale, Borrowdale,
St Catherine’s, St Andrew’s, St Mary’s,
Valley folk, good and true,
Are all a way of life.
The unselfishness and generosity you have shown me over the years and all the other Bob Graham attempters is second to none - you have provided the inspiration and encouragement I have needed many times. Since I did the Round in '89 I haven’t missed the Dinner yet. I wouldn’t miss your speeches for the world.'
I failed in spite of everyone’s support, but Fred’s words afterwards made a difference too. He’s seen similar things before, so he can look at you and say with conviction: Remember not to look at it as a failure but as an attempt. Remember you’re not the only one who’s been through this. You’ve got it in you. I know you can do it.
What is the definition of a non-fellrunner? Someone who has to ask who Fred Rogerson is!
Herdwick, Swaledale and Rough Fell sheep,
Ewes, lambs, gimmers, twinters,
Edmondson, Gregg, Hartley, Birkett,
Are all a way of life.
Your encouragement on a Round, whether it comes through the gathering gloom at Dunmail or the euphoria of Latrigg, is a real source of inspiration. With grateful thanks from a bunch of southern flatlanders.
Milton Keynes Athletic Club
You don’t like the spotlights Fred, I know that, but you were there and that gave me the confidence that I had ‘official’ support. And then the Club that you created..... the Bob Graham.....has allowed me to meet some of my best friends, people who I can be at ease with and people with whom I can pick up where I left off.... 2 hours ago or 2 years ago.
When Fred came to answer the knock on his front door I said, “Hello Fred, you won't remember me because it's about 10 years since we last met.” Fred looked carefully at me for a moment and then said, “Oh yes I do, you are Mike Langrish.”
Just to thank you most sincerely for opening the door to one of the greatest days of my life.
The completion of the Round with your encouragement is a gift which lasts for life.
Oak, Ash, Birch, Pine,
Orchid, Foxglove, Bluebell,
Bracken, Fern and Fungi,
Are all a way of life.
And a few words of mine from 1998:
Over the years it’s become pretty clear to me that the Club is one of the most important things in your life and that’s probably why I felt a tinge of fear along with pride when you asked me to take over as Chairman. The fact is I’m not as confident as you are about my ability to take over but there’s one thing I'm sure about. I’ll use all the determination that got me round the 42 Peaks to try to do justice to Fred Rogerson - a hero of mine.
In this life there are givers and takers
You Fred and dear Margaret too
Have given us more than you'll ever know,
God bless and thank you!
A beautiful Way of Life.
And finally here’s Wynn and Steve Cliff talking back in 1998 about Fred’s retirement. “Hope this doesn't mean you won’t be at Dunmail Raise, or Wasdale, or any of the other places we’ve met over the years.”
Well, no Wynn; I have a feeling we shall be bumping into Fred and Margaret in just those sorts of places for a very long time to come.
Postscript, 15/16 July 2011, Fred’s Round
The club thought long and hard about how best to acknowledge Fred and Margaret’s huge contribution to the Club and its members.
Fred never did a Bob Graham, so we suggested to his family that we might take his ashes on a final journey, relay-style, round the Bob Graham Round. Fred’s family agreed wholeheartedly, and even volunteered one of their number to take part!
Many members of the Club offered to do the whole or part of legs with the ashes. Others were happy just to walk in the final stages of the Round from Portinscale to the Moot Hall.
Here are a few reflections on the day from first Morgan and then Selwyn:
It was inevitable that after a period of good weather, things would be different this weekend!
First and foremost, I want to thank the extended Rogerson family for allowing us to take Fred on this journey. It felt like a fitting way to mark the achievements of one of the most remarkable men it has ever been my privilege to know and call a friend.
I am sure it was a day of many memories for many people, family and others.
Just before we departed from Honister the heavens opened and it rained harder than at any time on what was the wettest July day I have ever experienced. (I had been out on leg 3 with a contender from 3.10 am Saurday morning so had already seen my fair share of water!) Just as it relented, there were several lightening strikes and massive claps of thunder. I sensed the hand of some higher power and saw Fred with that twinkle in his eye, laughing his socks off. Some things never change!
One of Fred’s grand daughters, Suzanne, came with us over leg 5 and was unfailingly cheerful and charming despite being out of her comfort zone and shod only in road shoes. It was easy to see the emotion running close to the surface, but how perfect it was to have a member of the family with us and Fred as the journey drew to a close.
The walk in from Portinscale was great fun; lots of chat, some old and distinguished friends of Fred to help us along, and a large contingent of Fred’s family to see him home.
As I was having a restorative pint in the Kings Arms with Selwyn, Gary, Leigh and a few others I glanced out of the window. A huge, bright double rainbow was arched over Keswick. There was that Rogerson twinkle again, no laugh this time, just a broad smile. Well done to Selwyn for pulling this off and thanks to everyone who came out to make the day a special one.
I was just tucking into my first pint (about 9.20pm Saturday) when Morgan drew my attention to the huge double rainbow which had settled above Latrigg. The point was not lost on any of us! This was one of Fred's great big smiles at the end of a hugely satisfying day..
The fact that it followed about three hours after the massive electric storm which hit Honister, and made us scurry for cover, was surely significant. I’ve listened to Fred’s, “The Bob Graham Round shouldn’t be easy…” speech many times. I had to think that the thunder and lightning was just another way for him to make his point. Maybe Suzanne, Richard, John and Ian, high on Dalehead, didn't quite see it that way!
Anyway enough of my sentimentality! The fact is that we got him round, and I think for most of us it certainly wasn’t easy. They were pretty miserable conditions almost from the start: at the same time as my heart went out to those of you who battled the wind down the Helvellyn Ridge and those who raced through the deluge to Wasdale, I was dreading the soggy climb up Yewbarrow! And later on Gable the marrow was thoroughly chilled.
As in most BGRs everybody contributed and I hope everybody has got the same sense of satisfaction that I’m wallowing in! It was a weekend which I shall remember always and I want to thank you all for helping to make the vision a reality. The man himself would have been proud.
The last word on a very special day must though go to Suzanne Taylor, Fred’s grand daughter, who joined the leg 5 runners. Here are her thoughts on what came to be called Fred’s Run.
As the grandaughter of Fred and Margret Rogerson the Bob Graham Round has always been part of my life. I never really knew or understood what it was or what it meant to “do” the Bob Graham. All I knew was that there was and always had been a picture in my Nan and Grandad’s hall/living room of a man in shorts in front of a funny map whom I assumed was Bob Graham.
I am ashamed to say that it was not until my Grandad passed away that I really understood what the Bob Graham Round was. Obviously we were all devastated and all coped the best way we knew how. For me I took immense comfort from thinking my Grandad was reunited with my Nan, I knew this would make him happy and this made me happy.
It was only now that I looked into and got involved in conversations about the Club and found out exactly what it was and what it was to run the Bob Graham round, 42 peaks in under 24 hours.
At the funeral my overwhelming memory is of Selwyn reading extracts from some of the lovely things people from the Bob Graham Club had written about my Grandad and my Nan when he had stepped down as Chairman of the Club. They made me laugh and cry, but started to give me a little insight into exactly what my Nan and Grandad meant to the Bob Graham Club, and what the Club had meant to them.
As the weeks passed talk started of a fitting tribute to my Grandad and so came the phone call from my Mum ... “the Club have suggested that as your Grandad never actually did the Bob Graham Round, it would be a fitting tribute to do a relay and take Grandad’s ashes on their final journey. I was wondering if… you’d like to do a leg?” Now as someone who was at this point “a bit” of a runner, of course I said… yes!!!!! I saw it as my opportunity to make my Grandad proud.
So the months passed. I was still doing my “bit” of running, trying in my own way to incorporate ‘hills’ into my running, putting the reality of what was ahead out of mind as best I could. As the time came closer my Uncle Ray offered to put me in touch with a friend who had done the Bob Graham Round, of course I took him up on the offer. And so I met Richard Lamb, first we spoke on the phone and then we met up to go for a run. If I’m honest we didn't do much running but his input was immensely helpful. But more importantly for me we spoke about my Grandad, well Richard spoke and I listened.
And so the day arrived, I had been emailing Selwyn prior to the day and had my schedule and my terrible nerves!!!! Richard had offered to do the last leg with me to support me. Nothing could have prepared me for the day; well more precisely the bloody rain and those of you who were there know what I mean!!!! In Richard's words, it was “very thick rain”. All I knew was that even before I was a quarter of the way up Dale Head I was soaked through to my knickers!!! And then there was the thunder. I have to say I wasn’t impressed with that one… it was my Grandad’s way of testing me!!
So I finished my leg. On reflection what can I say… it was without doubt one of the proudest moments of my life, it was an honour to be welcomed for that brief moment into the world of the Bob Graham. I have to say with my hand on my heart that Bob Graham people are some of the best people I have ever met, they made me feel so very welcome, they certainly looked after me every step of the way and they made me the proudest person in the world to be Fred Rogerson’s grand daughter. I even got to experience Wynn Cliff’s tea and cake!!!
I just had to mention that on a couple of occasions Richard did ask me when I was going to do my first BG? He did originally say next year but after he saw me on 16th July he changed it to the year after!!!! Unfortunately I will have to put my BG training on hold because yesterday I got confirmation that I have a place in the London Marathon 2012 .... SHIIIIIIIIIIIIT!!!!
I want to take this opportunity to thank all those involved on that special Round, but especially those on the last leg, who made it one of the best days of my life. It was truly one of the proudest moments of my life to be part of that special day and to take my Grandad on his final journey; we enjoyed our first Bob Graham Round together. I also want to thank my wonderful family who were there to send me on my way at Honister and welcome me at Portinscale.