Reproduced with kind permission from the FRA and Don Booth, originally published in The Fellrunner, the magazine of the Fell Runners Association (issue 126, spring 2020). If you want to receive regular copies of the Fellrunner magazine then please join the FRA.
Obituary: Bill Bentall
Bill Bentall, who has just died of stomach cancer, will be remembered by those who were fell racing in the 1970s and ‘80s – perhaps particularly for his many cartoons which enlivened the pages of The Fellrunner in those decades.
Raised in a back-to-back in Bradford, Bill’s first forays, in his teenage years, were into the world of the Arts. He played the flute in the Northern Philharmonic (he modestly attributed this to the fact that “all the men were away at war”) and trod the boards: the Yorkshire Post and Bradford Telegraph & Argus both named him “actor most likely to succeed.”
But he qualified as a metallurgist, working initially for Babcock and Wilcox. Ireland Alloys, a company dealing in scrap aerospace alloys, spotted his gifts and persuaded him to join them. He rose quickly to be Sales Director, in which capacity he opened up sources and markets in Germany (learning German in order to do so) and in the Soviet Union (where he designed Dark Peak’s strip: he was a founder-member of the club!).
He also boxed, moving onto fell- and, later, road running. He always said that he had no talent other than discipline. He acquired computerised training schedules from an American university in the 1970s – and followed their dictates. He took part in the classic fell races and in ‘The Karrimor’. He turned in his slowest marathon when he was 60 – a creditable 3:10. He learned to swim crawl and took up triathlon, going on to represent GB in the 65-69 age group (and winning the British Grand Prix in 1998). He celebrated each discipline with cartoons and in poetry and prose.
He painted well, and brought his artist’s eye to photography, which absorbed him for several years. He also compered, very ably, bi-annual fashion shows put on by his first wife, Brenda, a textile designer-turned-boutique-owner. (Brenda predeceased him.)
Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes observed, “Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself but talent instantly recognises genius.” Despite having much to be immodest about, Bill was (almost) always modest about his many talents and achievements but the first to recognise other people’s abilities and talents, and to bring them to the attention of others. He had great generosity of spirit.
Perhaps Bill’s greatest gift was his capacity for friendship – one of Life’s greatest gifts. He told me once that he had only ever chosen his friends on one basis – that of friendship. Wherever he went and whatever he did, Bill made friends. His cartoonist’s ability to see the amusing side of Life helped him in this, and his cartoon-drawing for friends old and new endeared him to them. I have kept many of his letters and cards for the cartoons which adorned them. I will be far from alone in being pleased and proud to have enjoyed both his talents and his friendship.
Bill is survived by his second wife, Hazel, her children by a previous marriage and their grandchildren. The grandchildren invite those who would like to, to donate to the cancer research-supporting efforts: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/isabelle-charlwood.
After a long delay, caused entirely by the webmaster's forgetfulness, here are some cartoons by Bill, plus a page from the First 10 Years about the club badge:
© Dark Peak Fell Runners 2020
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