IN JUST a few short years Michael Spiers retired from being the Isle of Wight’s most talented athlete of the 1950s to complete an amazing double.

He left our running tracks after winning 22 local titles, to become Michael Jon, our most famous hair stylist of the period.

Amazingly, he only spent just five years in athletics, but he left a legacy of some fantastic performances.

Roger Bannister, Chris Chataway and Gordon Pirie were making world headlines, but here on the Island Michael was almost winning titles for fun.

Isle of Wight County Press: Michael Spiers winning a race in his younger days as an athlete.Michael Spiers winning a race in his younger days as an athlete.

In those few years, he virtually won every event, from a 100 yards sprint to the Island cross country race.

That’s not all. He also went undefeated as a javelin thrower.

The one mile became his speciality and he never lost a race on the Isle of Wight over that distance.

His best-ever time was on a grass track at the JS White’s Sports Ground in Cowes.

He clocked 4 minutes 27 seconds.

It was not long after Bannister had broken the four minute barrier.

At his bumpy Ryde Harriers track at Simeon Street, his home venue, his best had been 4.32.

Isle of Wight County Press: Michael relaxing on holiday in recent times.Michael relaxing on holiday in recent times.

Michael first came to the Island as a wartime evacuee, but when his father was drafted to Nodes Point, the family settled here.

Before his own army service, he’d won cross country races at Ryde’s Upper Grade school.

He remembers playing a soccer match for the Island Boys Clubs and both football and cricket for his local village, St Helens.

After a year or two away from running, he joined the army and quickly won mile races in both PT gear and full training kit.

That led to London Command titles at one and three miles and fifth place in the army national championships, over 880 yards, against a field of international and top county runners.

In Essex, he joined Ranalagh Harriers and, being virtually unknown, swept the board with all the handicap races in the area.

He told me, back in 1985, when we first met: “With two stripes and four stars I was earning two pounds ten shillings a week in the army.

“On a Saturday, I could pick up £15 worth of prizes, strictly things like cutlery and tea sets, but definitely not cash.”

In 1952, he came back home and joined Ryde Harriers.

They were strong on the track, but had far less members than they do today.

Within a week or two, he won the Island mile, 880 and 440 events.

His undoubted class meant he smashed so many records, some of which have never been beaten.

Michael’s best half mile over here was 1.59.

Training with top athletes in the army had proved such a benefit when he returned to the Island.

The nucleus of his build-up was fast and slow 440s, known as interval training, three times a week and once when the season started.

On one occasion, Michael gave up the chance of a Hampshire junior title to run in a senior cross country event.

Under-age, he came seventh, won his colours and a place in the Inter-Counties final.

In that race, was his famous puffing hero, Gordon Pirie.

Isle of Wight County Press: Michael Spiers's hero, Gordon Pirie.Michael Spiers's hero, Gordon Pirie.

Michael was more happy as a middle distance runner, but on one occasion it must have been a rush of blood — he entered the Hampshire ten-mile road race.

Apparently, it hurt him so much, but he still managed to come second in around 57 minutes.

One afternoon at the Pitt Street track in Portsmouth, only Michael and Len Brown lined up for Ryde in an inter-team event.

They entered everything.

Michael had to run from the long jump pit to even start the 880 event.

Somehow, they managed to come second overall.

He once made the headlines in a French newspaper when he was training to be a hair stylist in Monte Carlo.

He came second in a South of France cross-country run.

The Monaco club, who he was running for, were delighted and he won his colours.

The banner headline read ‘Le Monegasque Spiers.’

Despite eventually giving up athletics to concentrate on building up his local hairdressing business, Michael made a shock comeback after 17 years at the opening of the Smallbrook track.

Isle of Wight County Press: Michael’s salon in Newport, Michael Jon.Michael’s salon in Newport, Michael Jon.

It was purely for his sons, to see him running for the very first time.

Despite no training, he came second in the 440 event.

He’d won an equivalent race 21 years earlier.

That spurred him on to attempt more races, but later in the week he developed knee trouble after a six-mile run.

After that, he settled for playing snooker for Westridge, fishing, shooting, swimming and organising the St Helens road race.

When I first interviewed Michael it was in the golden era of British milers and 1,500m stars.

Was he envious of their success and wealth?

He told me: “I have great admiration for people like Coe and Cram, but am not envious.

“I didn’t have the same outlook on life to reach that stage. My purpose wasn’t strong enough.

“I just enjoyed it and had a night out with the boys if I fancied it.”

During his fantastic years at Ryde Harriers, Michael did become such a role model for some young hopefuls.

One of them, Roy Ingleton, who trained with him, went on to become the club’s next ace middle distance runner.

In our last interview, just a couple of years ago, Michael told me: “I owe such a lot to athletics. It gave me a determination to get through.”

That led to his successful business career.

Before emerging as Michael Jon, he had worked at Jack’s salon in Ryde, and later in London.

He set a new trend in ladies hairdressing when he opened his shop in Newport High Street.

Quite quickly, he became the Isle of Wight’s most famous hair stylist and spent 32 years near the Guildhall.

He also opened a second shop in Sandown, which was run by his wife, Stella.

At one time, between both salons, they employed 33 people.

For several years, he was used by L’Oreal, as a guest stylist, and even appeared at the Albert Hall in front of 6,000 people.

Isle of Wight County Press: Michael Spiers doing a hair styling demonstration.Michael Spiers doing a hair styling demonstration.

As a demonstrator, he worked for them all over Britain.

He was also a judge at national competitions.

Thirty years ago, Michael bought some land at Knighton, near Newchurch, and planted trees.

Despite the Great Storm of 1987, with hurricane force winds, they flourished into what is now a wonderful wood.

Inspired by Roger Bannister and Michael Spiers, I took up mile running.

I had some success, but could only manage 4mins 40secs as my best time.

I was never quite in the class of our very own four-minute styler.

The last time we met, Michael did quickly solve a mystery for me.

I had interviewed movie star Jeremy Irons on two occasions, but never knew which was the St Helens house he had grown up in.

It was only a quick sprint from where we were.

Neither of us were up for that — so we just looked at it from his front garden.