ATHLETICS: THURROCK Harrier stalwart John Dowsett has died after a short illness, aged 69.

The Grays-born athleics enthusiast, who moved to Tiptree when he retired, ran for the Harriers in the 1960s and 1970s. He held the club’s 400m record – in a time of 49.7 – which he set on Southend’s track.

Dowsett was a county level athlete, but when his running career was over he began an even more important phase of his athletics life as a starters’ marksman.

Harriers David Staines, who is an old friend, said: “He was tremendous as a starter’s marksman.

“He did this job for 30 years and was absolutely indispensible. He helped out at Blackshots, countywide and nationally. He was precise and courteous, calm and business-like. “They are just the things you need in some of the high stress situations that can occur in athletics,” added Staines.

Dowsett served as a starter’s assistant for UK athletics and in the British athletics league.

The former Ford worker was busy at tracks throughout the county up until September and in recognition of his work he was made a life member by the County Athletics Association.

Staines added: “John was quite a quiet individual but always cheerful. He never asked for any thanks but will really be missed because he was one of those people who make the sport possible for so many grassroots runners.”

THE funeral is on Thursday March 27, at Writtle Road, Chelmsford.