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Famous flame lights up a town
1:44pm Tuesday 17th July 2007 in Heritage
THE 1948 Olympic Games took place in Great Britain and the Olympic flame was carried in July of that year from Mount Olympia in Greece to Wembley Stadium via Redhill and Reigate.
Veteran runner H J Bignall, of Redhill and Reigate Athletic Club, carried the flame from Nutfield to Station Road where he handed it on at a stop by the Warwick Hotel to fellow club member Fred Prevett who was to carry it to Reigate.
Thousands lined the route and I was among the throng in Station Road, Redhill, to witness an exciting and unique event.
The mayor of Reigate, Alderman Lorkin, and his wife were on the steps of the Warwick Hotel, as was Canon Fitzgeorge, vicar of St Matthew's.
It was 7.15am when Bignall ran to the waiting Prevett, the flame was passed from one to the other and Fred started off on his journey to Reigate accompanied by a police motorcyclist and official cars.
Also following was two and four-wheeled traffic that made the route to Reigate look like Epsom High Street on Derby Day.
His destination was the Red Cross in Reigate. Waiting there was A S Pirie, brother of the famous Gordon Pirie, who took the flame from Fred.
Such was the crowd there, spilling out on to the road, that Pirie was unable to break into a run immediately but had to walk several yards before his path was clear and he could properly start his run on the next stage at Buckland.
At the time Redhill to Reigate stage runner Fred Prevett worked for London Transport at the Reigate bus garage.
In the 1950s he was to work at Redhill telephone exchange where I also worked.
In all the time I knew him he never once mentioned the carrying of the Olympic flame and it feels strange to now be writing about him second- hand when, had I only known at the time, I could have had all the information first hand about what must have been a great day for him, and now a great memory for me.
Article by Alan Moore, author of A History of Redhill Volumes 1 and 2. History website www.redhill-reigate-history.co.uk