Skip to Content

Unsung Heroes...Parade-ring manager at Uttoxeter

14 July 2016

‘This place is my anchor, it’s been my life for a long time’
Eric Coleman 95
Parade-ring manager at Uttoxeter
His has been a long and eventful life, so much so that this page is not large enough to record it. Eric Coleman has seen the world but now has eyes only for Uttoxeter racecourse.

“I’m winding things down a bit, but I’m still pretty active,” he says. “I’ve been involved at Uttoxeter for about 30 years, it’s a cracking little racecourse, very friendly.

“My role now is to make sure the parade ring is ready for racing, that there’s plenty of water for the horses, that the bell works, get everything organised properly. I used to help out with the winning connections, but I didn’t get on so well with that – I do like to be outside, you see.”

Coleman left school at 14, was apprenticed to an electrician until volunteering for the RAF, whereupon he was posted to a Spitfire squadron at Scapa Flow naval base as ground crew. From there he played his part in the theatre of war, becoming caught up in the retreat to El Alamein – “We had to get out pretty fast” – before charting a route across the Middle East and India, from Tehran to Calcutta and across to the border with Burma, where Japanese forces were launching a major offensive that culminated in the intense fighting at the Battle of Imphal and Kohima.

Later, a spell in military hospital with a bout of the wasting disease tropical sprue earned him repatriation and he worked on Mosquito bombers in the north-east of England while also finding time to run the local cinema. After six years in the service of his country and demobilisation, he ran a grocery shop in Manchester with his wife Jessie for 35 years before they retired to Uttoxeter.

“I used to walk our dogs around the course and just began helping out with some odd jobs. A few years later I was the voice of the PA announcements, and then [clerk of the course] Jon Pullin gave me the position of parade-ring manager. That involved all sorts of jobs, kept me busy.”

As Coleman has served Uttoxeter, it has served him. When Jessie died – they had no children – he was left on his own, but the racecourse and its staff have become a surrogate family.

“I’ve got lots of friends, but this place is my anchor, it’s been my life for a long time. I love working here.”

Back to Case Studies