ROBBIE CORKISH 14.01.1955 - 20.01.2007
A tribute by Rob Lambie
It was very sad to hear of the passing of ex Western Athletic Club runner Robbie Corkish at the relatively young age of 52.
Robbie had been ill for about 10 months, but finally succumbed to a wretched illness he had fought with great fortitude last Saturday evening. Though there was a certain inevitability of his illness, his attitude to it and his work colleagues was quite remarkable. He did not dwell on the cards fate had cruelly dealt him and his thoughts were on how he could pass on his considerable experience to a potential successor to ensure that they were best prepared to take on the role. He even kept working right up until his departure and had asked for a laptop be sent round to his house, so he could continue working, such was his commitment and devotion. He never complained about his health and scorned at anyone who offered him sympathy. He just wanted to be treated like any other member of staff.
To describe Robbie to anyone who didn't know him would be a challenge in itself. Controversial, colourful, brash, witty, larger than life are all appropriate descriptions that spring to mind. He was a small man but had talent in skip loads, especially in sport. He was good at athletics, football, golf, swimming, gymnastics, pool and snooker. If he had taken up horse jumping he would have excelled at that too. I think maybe weightlifting would have found him out though. As if that wasn't enough he was extremely intelligent also. I think his problem was that he was naturally gifted and everything came a little too easy to him. He never had to work at it.
People will have different views on Robbie but for the most part he was well liked and was highly respected. We all have our own memories and stories connected with him but one thing is for certain - once seen never forgotten - he was a 'one off'.
A trip down memory lane then, albeit a fast lane is called for and I hope this tribute will do justice to him.
I first recall meeting him in 1966 at Ballakermeen school. He was a year behind me at school. He was a small cocky individual who was not short on self confidence. Word soon got out that this Corkish guy was a useful cross country runner. And he was. In his second year (year 8) at Ballakermeen he broke the Gooseneck course and also became Island Junior cross country champion. He always ribbed me after that about how much he bettered my time and dined out on that for years. He even ran faster times than Dennis Killey, Dave Cowell, Dave Newton and Steve Kelly et al. You get the picture.
But his athletic prowess never really developed and he seemed to get bored by the scene. He moved on.
It was in his teenage period that he concentrated more on football. He was a fine player who scored many goals not only for the school team, but for senior clubs like St Georges, Laxey and Corinthians. He was a tad dirty to be truthful and knew all the tricks. It was about when he reached 18 that he took up pool.
Athletics was now a memory. He kept up his football but was well into the pool scene. In fact about the late 70's he became the Island Pool Champion. He would think nothing of challenging anyone to a game of pool (hustler), much in the same way that Alex Higgins did in snooker in his younger days. He was now enjoying the social side of life but I think the football was still keeping him reasonably fit.
It was about the mid 80's that I came into contact with him again, in a work capacity. He was extremely bright, great at his job and had extraordinary problem solving abilities. Everyone who had a problem came to Robbie. This guy really could multi-task. One moment he could be irritating by never keeping quiet and another moment he was outrageous with his practical jokes. Life was far from dull when he was around.
After a while I began to tease and taunt him about the fact that he was too old and out of condition to make a serious comeback in running. He said he could though and we had a wager on it.
Slowly but surely he started to train and though he started with a 40 minute run for 10 km (an average time in those days) he was beginning to rise to the challenge. A few weeks later his time came down to 38 minutes in the Douglas Firemans and people were now beginning to take note.
Who was this 'live wire' turning up at these races giving it loads and running really well, especially considering he had been out of action for nearly 20 years. To make matters worse Robbie would make a point of having a cigarette just before the race, just to rub peoples' noses in it. Of course his many pints after a sporting event were legendary and he was once known to down a pint in less than 2 seconds.
But more and more he trained and he was now running just over 35 minutes and winning handicap races. I was now getting nervous - the bet was looking vulnerable.
When he joined WAC in the late 80's/early 90's he really came on as he started to train hard with other WAC runners like Allan Gage, Peter Costley and Kevin Albinson.
By the early 90's he actually got down to about 33.40 for 10km and a little after that he recorded his best ever Syd Quirk Half Marathon in 71.50 - just behind Allan Gage and just ahead of Ray Cox. He was in line for the Island Games for that distance but couldn't consolidate on that run as he got a bad calf injury. Sadly he never quite got over that and after months of frustration he called it a day. But he won the bet and had made a point. He never quite reached the veterans athletics scene much to the relief of myself and others. He moved on.
He never persevered with any physio and then went back into the pool world and slipped back into his early age lifestyle.
Soon after that he moved on to snooker and yes you've guessed it - he excelled at that also. He represented the Island and once recorded a 100 break. He later took on more administrative role and wrote for the papers for snooker.
So there we have it. That pretty well brings us up to date.
Robbie was no role model and he seemed to rip up the rule book on numerous occasions but you can't ignore his talent. How many people could have made a comeback after all those years and produced the times he did?
If only he had knuckled down and not wasted his God given talent in athletics, trained hard under a good coach, who knows what times he would have been running for 10,000m in his 20's. But then most of us don't have a choice of sports to pick from like he did, plus the fact he really did enjoy life to the full. He certainly packed a lot into his 52 years. We forgive him for that.
Well I hope I've done you justice mate and thanks for some great memories.
Naturally our thoughts go out to Robbie's family at this very sad time.
If you have any pictures of Robbie please email to [email protected]