THE world of athletics has been saddened by news of the death from cancer of Wickford’s former international star Sid Purkis at the age of 70.

Sid was also one of Essex’s top athletes. Born on May 10 1938, Sid spent his early years in Harold Wood.

He was one of five children and the toughness that was later to show on the track was apparent at an early age when he and both his sisters were admitted to Oldchurch Hospital with diphtheria.

Sadly, his sisters succumbed to the disease but Sid recovered, albeit with legs so thin it was amazing that they were later to carry him to such fame.

Sid attended Gubbins Lane Primary School and then Redden Court Secondary School, where his sporting prowess first became apparent.

He won the Essex Schools 220 yards title and showed his all-round sporting ability by keeping goal for the county’s soccer team.

But athletics became his first sporting love and he joined Romford Athletics Club in 1956.

He soon made his mark by beating the under-17 440 yards championship record with a time of 52.8 seconds.

Sid was one of the last young men to be called up for national service and to the benefit of the army he not only won their 880 yards championship but went on to represent them in capturing the inter-services title over that distance.

After leaving the army he continued his running career with Romford and went on to win numerous county and southern titles.

Sid finished as runner up in the AA’s 880 yards track championship and was selected to compete for Great Britain in the European Championships in Belgrade in 1962 as well as the British Empire Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia, the same year.

He also represented his country on many other occasions in France, Germany, Italy and several of the former Iron Curtain countries.

When Romford AC amalgamated with Hornchurch Harriers in 1968 to form Havering Athletics Club, Sid joined Thurrock Harriers.

Here he was a major influence in the Harriers dominating the county and area club scene over cross-country and road during the late 1960s and early 70s.

He was the complete club man. To underline his greatness, his best time at 800 metres of 1 min. 48,8 secs and and his best mark at 440 yards of 48.8 seconds were not only ranked as the best in 1961, they would be rated in the top 20 in UK lists today.

Sid left school at the age of 15 and became a French polisher, but after completing his national service he joined his brother in a successful window cleaning business in Brentwood High Street and surrounding areas.

He regularly ran home after a day’s work to his home in Wickford. Despite hanging up his racing shoes he still ran regularly to keep fit.

In fact, he was still running up to four months ago when he was diagnosed with cancer.

However, in typical fashion he displayed tremendous courage and strength during his short illness.

Sid had lived in Wickford with his childhood sweetheart, Sylvia, for the last 48 years and they celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary earlier in 2008.

He is survived by Sylvia and their two sons, Glen and Barry, and five grandchildren.

Sid died on December 21 and the funeral service will be next Monday at 11.45 am at St Margarets Church, Castledon Road, Downham West, Wickford.

The family have requested no flowers but have asked that donations instead should be for Hospice at Home and sent c/o funeral directors S Carter and Sons, 32 London Road, Wickford, SS12 0AN.