Tributes to Mike Harding, former Honorary Secretary of the Old Salopian Eton Fives Club from 1979 to 1998, have been pouring in since his untimely death at the age of 68.
Under Mike’s leadership the club flourished: he enthused fellow players of all standards with the very ethos of the game and a tremendous sense of fun. He will always be remembered for making fives, first and foremost, a convivial activity and ensuring that there was plenty of socialising afterwards. For many, Mike epitomised the very best of alumni sport and the OSEFC fixture card always had enough fives for people of all abilities. He was meticulous in chasing members in their wilderness years (ages 18-25), and always made everyone welcome (usually with a pint of beer).
In the Eton fives world, Mike set an example that every club secretary should aspire to and it is difficult to think of any other club that has been run with the efficiency, willingness to be accommodating, and the sheer joy of the game that Mike brought to the role. His keenness to support the game in general and OS fives in particular, was unmatched.
Further accolades recall the high esteem in which Mike was held: “a delightful man”, “a lovely gentleman”, “one of life's stars”, “a colossus”, “one whose outlook on life and sport was so much admired”. Mike was literally everyone's friend and his smiling and cheerful presence always brought a sense of warmth and happiness to any gathering. It was wonderful to see a wreath in the shape of a Fives ball at Mike's funeral – that cannot have happened often before.
Mike was proud to have been born a Shropshire lad and to have gone to Shrewsbury School. He was probably ahead of his time in taking a gap year between school and university, touring through Morocco and having six months in Canada. He greatly enjoyed his time at St Andrew's University, where he studied biochemistry, although he later became an accountant. In due course, he became Financial Director of Hinds, the jewellers, until his retirement in 2012. Needless to say, being the friendly person that he was, he maintained a close liaison with former colleagues, who always invited him to join them on social occasions.
It was through business that Mike met Mel; they were married and blessed with a daughter Clair in 1982. Together they forged a strong family life.
Mike was interested in other sports beyond fives and he found time to follow football, rugby and rowing. He also had a love of animals and supported rescue centres.
In recent years, Mike had not enjoyed good health, suffering from arthritis and heart problems, but he always remained cheerful and positive, thinking of others before himself. He will be remembered as a man who lived a full life, taking and giving in equal measure.
Our condolences go to Mel and Clair.
Gordon Stringer/Dale Vargas
Fellow Old Salopian Robin Topham offers his own tribute:
When I left U.K. For NZ I was also leaving a passion behind. Fives meant so much to me as a sport and a social exercise. I loved the people and characters in a game that required no referee and had the crucial element of luck that any good game needs. Mike was a colossus in my world, someone whose outlook on life and sport was much admired and aspired to. His willingness to give to, to organise and to support Old Salopian Fives in particular, as well as the game in general was unmatched. We need someone out here with his capabilities to get the game down under!
Please represent me at the funeral and shed some tears. We have lost a great friend and person, one of life's stars. I can only imagine that his life will be celebrated with a pint or two...have at least one for me.