'An amazing gentleman' - Tribute from Derek James to Frank Browne MBE

Derek James (pictured left) pays tribute to Norwich's Frank Browne MBE

Derek James (pictured left) pays tribute to Norwich's Frank Browne MBE - Credit: ARCHANT

Following the news that one of Norwich’s most loved fundraisers - dubbed the "snooker marathon man” - had died, journalist Derek James has paid a personal and heartfelt tribute to him.

They were words I looked forward to hearing. “Frank is in the front office.”

He would be sitting there with a smile on his face bringing news of his latest snooker marathon to raise money for others.

And it was a privilege to be able to act as a messenger telling our readers what Frank was up to. It was always a joy to be in his company.

I, along with many of you I suspect, was sad to read that he had recently died at the age of 88.

A man who overcame great difficulties to devote so much of his life to helping others in the best way he could – by playing snooker.

Frank was born in Norwich during 1933 and had a condition called Friedreich’s Ataxia which resulted in a severe speech impediment.

His dad, also Frank, was a forward-thinking Labour councillor, and with his support young Frank was able to attend mainstream schools and then worked at the highly respected Remploy company, which employed people with disabilities.

Most Read

It was in the 1980s when he first came to ask if I could write a piece about his latest snooker marathon.

From the moment I met him, I admired this man as he struggled to tell me the details - and it turned out to be the first of many visitors.

Goodness knows how much he raised over the years. A man of faith, he attended St Catherine’s Church on Aylsham Road, Norwich, and he helped a range of local charities by staging his marathons. He also helped many animal charities.

His first snooker marathon was in 1981, the Year of the Disabled, to repay some of the help he had received with reading, writing and speech therapy.

Frank had been playing snooker since the age of 12, a sport where no words are needed. And boy was he good at it.

Many years later a booklet called I Played Snooker For God was published all about Frank, who was made an MBE in 1993.

It included many tributes to him and this delightful poem by Janet Baker:

An enterprising chap, this Frank.

Certainly deserves a clap, this Frank

Practising for a marathon

Weeks before the day

Bring aching painful arms

Much to his dismay

But never daunted for long

He snookers on and on

He snookers for a cause, this Frank

May all success be yours, dear Frank.

We will remember him.