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Jimmy O'Brien Obituary

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21/05/2024 00:00, In Blog /

The death of Jimmy O’Brien on Saturday 18 May was received with great sadness by those of us who knew him as a prolific racer within the Welsh Athletics community in the late 1950’s and through the 1960’s.

A natural runner with a brilliant competitive ability he was always prepared to give it a go at the front of a wide range of events from 1mile up to Marathon whilst always supporting fellow competitors across the line regardless of their position in the race.

Although his only Welsh title was the Welsh 7mile CC Championship in Seven Sisters in 1961 and run in a howling gale, Clive Williams, who was present, advises that Jimmy won it easily despite the atrocious conditions.

In 1962 he made his only appearance for Wales in the International Cross Country (the predecessor of the modern World Cross) finishing in 57th place in Sheffield and first Welshman home.

Jimmy, along with his brother Aneurin, were part members of the Relay Team carrying the Queen’s message in the build up to the Empire Games in Cardiff in 1958 whilst in 1960 he ran the great John Merriman very close over 3miles in Abertillery.

Along with his brothers Albert, Aneurin, John and Harry, they followed their father Ike O’Brien into distance running and the family were part of the backbone of the Port Talbot YMCA and Port Talbot Harriers teams for over 30 years from the mid 1930’s to 1970’s. Father Ike was a 2h 45min Welsh Marathon Winner in 1939 and was also known for his participation in many Ultra distant events like Cardiff to Swansea along with one personal run from Llangadock, through Llandeilo, Carmarthen, Kidwelly, Llanelli to Swansea

John L S Griffiths (Swansea Harriers)


Hedydd Davies Past President Welsh Athletics shared:

Jim O’Brien


I had the pleasure and honour of running against Jim many times in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.


The first occasion was in a road race match in Carmarthen 1958 between Queen Elizabeth Grammar School Boys and Port Talbot Harriers.


Later, I ran against him in many cross country events and always found him a formidable opponent.


A detailed account of his many successes is to be found in John Davies’s excellent Book ‘100 Years of Port Talbot Harriers (1921-2021)’.


He was, like his father Ike and four brothers, faithful members of Port Talbot Harriers and Port Talbot YMCA.


Jimmy’s greatest success was winning the Welsh seven mile cross country championship in Seven Sisters in 1961.


He really enjoyed his athletics, and he was highly respected by all who knew him and competed against him many years ago.


Alan Currie shared:

Really sad to hear about Jimmy. Raced against him many times, always a long way behind. He seemed to win most of the races I ran in the 1960s, often running in together with Dil (Robbins). A real gent.

The John Davies book on Port Talbot Harriers mentioned above is available on Amazon for those interested.