Store unveils plaque in memory of climber James

Staff at Decathlon store  in Sheffield who contributed to a plaque in memory of James Brownhill
Staff at Decathlon store in Sheffield who contributed to a plaque in memory of James Brownhill

A PLAQUE has been unveiled at the Decathlon sports equipment store in Sheffield city centre in memory of climber James Brownhill, who used to work there.

The family of James, who died at the age of 22 in an accident in the French Alps, joined his former work colleagues for the ceremony at the premises off Eyre Street.

“The staff had all contributed to a collection to pay for the plaque and even collected additional money when they decided they wanted to improve on the original idea they had,” said James’ father, Gary.

Already Decathlon has given £1,500 to a memorial fund after donations and sponsorship money were stolen from the house of James’ girlfriend, Sinead, in Manchester.

He worked at the store in Eyre Street while studying to become a physiotherapist.

James fell with climbing partner David Evans, from Liverpool, who also died near Chamonix on July 1. The memorial fund aims to encourage a higher level of safety, good practice and sustainability in university climbing clubs.

Decathlon staff at the plaque unveiling were all people who knew James. Some had been instrumental in organising Decathlon’s replacement of the stolen money.

A tribute on the plaque says: “A great friend to many, gone but will never be forgotten”.

There is also an extract from a poem called The Victor by C.W. Longenecker, which was in the Order of Service at James’ funeral: “Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man. But sooner or later, the man who wins is the man who thinks he can.”

Gary said it was part of James’ approach to life and he had a copy of it next to his bed while he lived at home in Lodge Moor when not at university.

The family very much appreciated the sentiment behind the generous act of the Decathlon staff “and it’s part of the extensive support we have received since James’ tragic accident and helps us deal with the situation by having something positive to focus on, as well as being very grateful for individual acts of kindness shown to us.”

Fundraising has been boosted by a tournament organised by friends of James at Sheffield Hockey Club, a golf competition held by friends of the Brownhill family and an ‘Everest Challenge’ at Liverpool University Climbing Club.

The fund is now able to provide bursaries for climbing courses for 17 years, exceeding the original target of five years.

“We are eternally grateful for the events and activities which have been undertaken for ourselves and the JBMF, and so something positive can come out of our sad loss, of which we are sure James would have approved,” added Gary.