Crowds gather at Manchester Crematorium to celebrate life of respected fell runner
Monday 30th April 2018 11:52 Sports Posted by Mark Phillip

Glossopdale Harriers turned out en masse for the funeral last Tuesday of John Hewitt, their long-time Chair, writes Neil Shuttleworth.

It was typical fell racing weather, but that did not deter them gathering en masse at the Manchester Crematorium for a service that celebrated many aspects of John’s life which took a dramatic turning last May when he was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour.

John’s spirit during his months in a nursing home and a hospice was evident in the eulogies several people gave at the service. Friend Julie listed ten characteristics particular to John that are embedded in her memory; fellow Harrier Caitlin Rice, now an international climbing the slippery slope, recalled her early days when he introduced her to the sport; another colleague insisted that after a decent run on the fells they find a decent hostelry for a decent drink. His laughter, smile, enthusiasm and ability to organise the club meetings and committees were all part of John who fought the brain tumour he had with such serenity. It was humbling to see him in a hospital bed at Christies, underneath it all the old John shone through.

The wet, wintry weather for John’s service did not stop cyclists coming to his service. Rob Taylor, a Pennine Fell Runner, who had competed with John, was a pal who visited him regularly by bicycle. Another cyclist at the service was a Chorlton Runner who met him through other activities.

He lived and worked in Manchester, but his bicycle was part of him and as he liked the hills and moors it was to Glossop that he gravitated for the fell running and camaraderie. At his wake we saw photographs of John and his pals in their youth hiking in Wales, Norway and the Peak District, and once when soaked sleeping in farmers barns.

John favoured the longer fell races, in particular the now-defunct Marsden to Edale, the Old County Tops and the Bens of Jura fell race. From 2010 he was the Chair of Glossopdale Harriers, until last November when he was unable to continue in the role, and now the club has grown to over 200 members from its base of about 60-80. In a tribute in ‘The Fellrunner’ Nev McGraw, a fellow Harrier, says others described John as ‘passionate, enthusiastic, loyal, incredibly funny, supportive, inspiring, kind, and a lovely man.’ John has left a fine legacy on which members can build. The Club’s new Chair John Stephenson and the committee have named the annual Shelf Moor race in September in John’s memory. Along with other ways of remembering, his character and deeds live on and will not be forgotten.