Wigan runner tackles 101km challenge in memory of uncle

An athlete plans to put in the miles once more to raise money for a lasting memorial to his popular centenarian uncle.

Thursday, 28th October 2021, 9:57 am
Updated Thursday, 28th October 2021, 10:45 am

Matthew Melling, known as the Wigan Runner, was devastated when his uncle Harry Melling died on September 19 at the age of 101.

He had been the oldest surviving submariner from the Second World War and was also known for running Melling’s shoe shop in Newtown and being a warden at St Mark’s Church.

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Harry and Matthew Melling

Now, Matthew wants to create a permanent memorial in a place in Wigan which was special to his uncle.

He said: “Harry loved both walking around and sitting on a bench in Alexandra Park every day across the road from his home in Newtown, chatting to and making friends with just about everyone he met.

“So I have decided to find a way to purchase a special park bench right there in Alexandra Park in memory of Harry so that others can sit and enjoy, just like he did. All donations received will go towards the cost of this special memorial in Harry’s memory.”

Matthew is asking people to sponsor him as he takes on a fund-raising challenge in honour of Harry.

Starting on November 5, he plans to run 10km each day until Remembrance Sunday, November 14, when he will finish with an 11km run.

The total distance will be 101km, with each kilometre representing a year of Harry’s life.

Matthew said: “This park bench will ensure that even though Uncle Harry’s flame may have gone out, his legacy will live on forever.”

Harry served his country from 1939 to 1945, before returning to Wigan to work as a cobbler.

He married wife Gladys, who died around 20 years ago, and although he had no children, he was close to his nieces and nephews.

Harry was already known by many people, but Wiganers really took him into their hearts after he was targeted by a callous thief four years ago.

It led the veterans community to make sure his wartime efforts were recognised and he was invited to many prestigious events, even meeting the Duke of Cambridge.

Harry celebrated his 101st birthday in April at Alexandra Grange care home in Newtown, where more than 500 cards were sent to mark the milestone.

Matthew said: “He was an amazing man, loved by everyone he met because of his character, integrity, honesty, ability to make people laugh with his outspoken sense of humour and because he defined the word gentleman.”

Donations towards buying a bench can be made at www.gofundme.com/f/a-park-bench-in-memory-of-harry-melling

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