LACE 1922 - 2003
LACE. On Monday, March 10, 2003, peacefully
surrounded by his family at St. Bridgets Hospice, Henry Dennis aged 80 years of
Maynrys, 6 Laureston Close, Douglas. Much loved husband of Betty, dearest father
and pal of Peter, loving grandad of Claire-Louise and James, beloved sister of
Olga and dearest father in law of Chris, brother of the late Colonel Winston and
the late Selwyn. A service of reception will be held at 6.30pm, on Monday, March
17 at St. Marys Church, in Douglas. A requiem mass will be held at 1.15pm on
Tuesday, March 18, at St. Marys Church, in Douglas, followed by cremation.
Family flowers only please. Donations in lieu of flowers, if so desired, may be
sent to St Bridgets Hospice, c/o Mr Collier. All enquiries please to Kingswood
Funeral Home, Kingswood Grove, Douglas. Tel 661611
Lace (right) is pictured with Noel Cringle (now
President of Tynwald) at the Boundary Harriers dinner
I first met Dennis when I was a mere lad way back in 1966. I was into running
and football (well just about every sport actually) in those days, but after
meeting my mentor and life-time influence, Albert Johnson, made the switch to
race walking. It was then where I really got to know him.
During the mid sixties he was one of the main
timekeepers along with Eric Brown (NOW THIS REALLY IS GOING BACK). He was
always enthusiastic about the sport and would turn up in all weathers to either
timekeep or judge. Like the late Kevin Madigan he was always reliable and if
he couldn't offer his assistance, you could bet there would be a pretty good
reason, and of course he would let people know he couldn't attend an event the
A Manxman through and through, and although very
much the old school type, he was always prepared to move with the times and
not stagnate. On committees, he was never afraid to speak his mind and ask
awkward and uncomfortable questions in order to achieve clarification on certain
issues. Indeed he could prove a very useful friend and ally at selection
time and if he thought there was a case for sending an athlete to the
Commonwealth Games, for example, he could present his case most passionately.
A thick skin can come in handy. He was never afraid to take a bit stick
enroute. But he was always approachable and would go the extra mile to help
And rest assured he put the athlete before the
official. Just to quieten the cynics and doubters of that point, surely forty
consecutive years in the sport, often getting wet and cold and giving up his
family time is a testament to this. Indeed he carried on helping and giving up
his time pretty well up to his 80th birthday. Nothing was too much trouble to
I can't remember any time before a race he didn't
greet me with a "Alright Rob, family OK?" He would never ignore you and would
recognise, praise and acknowledge any good performance.
As athletes go we can be a selfish bunch and often
forget the work that officials like Dennis have put in throughout the years and
indeed Walter is still doing to this very
day. These stalwarts are hard to replace. I'm sure Colin Halsall, an
ex-athlete himself, in particular, will appreciate this nowadays, being our
My sympathy to his wife Betty (who no doubt had to
put up with alot with Dennis always being out and about) and of course to his
son Peter, who incidentally was a fine race walker during his teens. Thanks
Dennis to all the time, loyal support and encouragement you have devoted to Manx
athletes over forty years. You have been a good friend and will be sorely
as he will be remembered with stopwatch in hand
at the old "bowl" course. Here he is timing
the man who brought me the sad news on Monday night,
On behalf of the Isle of Man Veteran Athletes' Club
I wish to say how sorry we are to hear of the sad loss of Denis
Although he was involved in athletics for many
years I only knew him for the last ten years or so. I mainly came into contact
with Denis during the Isle of Man Marathon & Half Marathon every August in
Ramsey where he always agreed to be our race referee. He always seemed to enjoy
himself on the day, meeting friends both old and new. I am sure that at the
event this August his cheerful and smiling face will be truly missed. Our
thought go out to Betty at this sad time.
at the "bowl" in 1983 Dennis is timing
myself with fellow timekeepers Ian Turnbull (left)
and the late Kevin Madigan (right).
to the 1990 Commonwealth Games as Assistant
Team Manager, but also undertook the
role of Athletics Manager. I can't comment
as to how much help he gave Brenda Walker
or Dave Teece, but he certainly worked
hard for me during the three or four
weeks we were away. The occasion that
I best remember, and that sums up Dennis'
affable, no-nonsense personality, revolved
around a training session. About a week
before the 30km race, I was scheduled
to do a two hour session on the course.
Dennis duely arranged transport to the
venue and offered to 'hold the watch'.
We set off early on a Saturday morning
and arrived at the course before anyone
was about. I set off on my first of
ten laps, leaving Dennis leaning on
the car in the sunshine. When I came
past at the end of the lap, the car
was empty and there was no sign of him.
Next time around, there he was - sitting
in a deckchair on the pavement outside
a hardware shop. In one hand he had
a stopwatch, in the other a cup of tea
and in front of him was a neat little
table upon which were my drinks. He
didn't move throughout the session and
on subsequent laps I saw him with various
snacks and more cups of tea. It turned
out that as soon as I'd started he'd
gone into the shop to ask the owner
if he could fill my water bottles. The
shopkeeper must have been happy to be
involved and so 'pushed out the boat'
for Dennis during the morning. Dennis
introduced me when I'd finished, and
the shopkeeper put a hand on my shoulder
and said, "Your dad's been telling
me all about you and the Isle of Man".
The man got me a coke and an ice cream
and when we eventually drove away, we
had a complimentary New Zealand flag
each. A memorable morning with my 'dad'
thought about something to write about Dennis trying to remember funny stories
and incidents but nothing sprung to mind. I think that this is due to the fact
that in the time that I knew him Dennis was always around but never at the
forefront, preferring instead to work behind the scenes. He could be relied on
to be there, where ever you wanted him doing what ever was asked of him. That
said he was certainly one of the main protagonists in getting the club house up
and running at the Bowl. The decision to move from the Memorial Hall in Union
Mills was not a popular one but Dennis supported it believing that it was best
for the athletes, he had nothing to gain from it but he still spent many an hour
converting the former mobile classroom into our own club house.
didn't compete in athletics, he told me that he was a swimmer in his younger
days but he still dedicated much of his time to athletics and in particular race
walking. He was ever present at Boundary Harriers events when I first started
and he was a notable absentee from our events over the last year or so.
I don't remember Dennis arguing with anyone, the only
time I recall disagreeing with him was in 1986 when he urged me to have another
go at achieving the qualifying time for the 30km Commonwealth Games walk. I
didn't want to but I did try in the end. He also supported me for inclusion in
the 1987 Inter Island games team believing that I was one to produce the goods
when it mattered. Along with Betty he always had a good word to say for all
athletes, no matter how they felt after the race.
In latter years
conversations between us were more likely to be about his grandchildren and my
children, Claire Louise and Callum being in the same class at St. Mary's, and
when ever we met he would always ask how they were doing. But race walking was
never far away. We would often talk after Mass at St. Josephs Church, Willaston
and one Saturday evenings conversation in the summer of 2001 sticks in my mind.
We had a party of athletes racing in Dublin and on hearing that Steve Partington
had achieved the qualifying time for the Commonwealth Games, he could not
contain his excitement.
He was better
known by others who will be able to write a more meaningful passage than I could
ever do, he was better loved and and will be sorely missed by them too.
But I knew Dennis
and I will miss him.
I was very sorry
to hear about Dennis - when I took over
as race secretary for the vets six years
ago I had to contact him several times
for help and/or advice, and I was most
grateful for his assistance. He will
be sorely missed.
welcome any further tributes or pictures of Dennis