OCTOGENARIAN athlete Ian Barnes and Belgian academic Herwig Reyneart were lunching at the Hole in the Wall in Darlington last week in a bid to – well – fill in some gaps.

Ian’s secretary of Darlington Harriers. Prof Reyneart has written a book on Olympians who fell on Flanders Field – including former Harrier and Hole in the Wall landlord George Butterfield.

Known universally as Butt, he won the AAA mile in successive years from 1904-06, clocked 4.18.6 in 1906 – the world’s best time that year – and represented Great Britain at the London Games in 1908, the fourth modern Olympiad.

Eighteen countries took part in the opening parade, 17 carrying the national flag and Finland, on their uppers, carrying a bit of card with their name on it. The following day’s Northern Echo devoted four paragraphs to the entire event, the same as for Tow Law Catholic Sports.

Butterfield, who finished second and third in his events but failed to make the finals, joined the Royal Field Artillery in 1916 and was killed in action the following year. Chiefly thanks to Ian Barnes, a plaque in his memory was erected outside the Market Place pub in 2006.

The meeting at the Market Place pub – “quite a nice lunch,” says Ian – threw up a few discrepancies, not least that Prof Reyneart believes Butterfield to have been born in 1879. Ian (and the plaque) think it was 1882.

At any rate, we may not have heard the last of him. Next year marks the Harriers’ 125th anniversary, an occasion on which they hope to stage a mile race in Butterfield’s memory – and for the first time in Darlington, to break four minutes.

“We’ll have to find some sponsors to attract a quality field but I really hope we can do it,” says Ian. “If George Butterfield can run four minutes 18 seconds in 1906, I’m sure that someone in the North-East can beat four minutes today.”

Described in Backtrack last August as “a sporting, smiling assassin”, gentleman Jon Barnes – a formidable 45-year-old – is switching hunting grounds.

In the 2014 cricket season, the Darlington all-rounder topped the NYSD League bowling averages, claiming 77 wickets at just 8.28 apiece and with an economy rate of 1.72 an over.

“I just waddle in off eight short strides. After that it’s the batsman who gets it wrong,” he insisted back then.

Later this month he begins a new chapter with Mainsforth of the Durham Cricket League – while continuing as Darlington’s part-time club steward.

“There are a few personal reasons but Darlington have been very fair to me about it,” he says. “The Durham league probably isn’t quite as high a standard as the NYSD but there’s a lot going on at Mainsforth and they’re trying to progress up the ladder a bit. It’s a new challenge. I’m looking forward to it.”

Absent all season from these humble precincts, ground hopper extraordinary John Dawson turns up at Shildon v Dunston UTS last Wednesday evening – having started the day in Poole, Dorset.

“Nine o’clock train from Poole, 73 bus that detoured round Tottenham Court Road, coach to Middlesbrough, another to Hartlepool, an hour at home and then out again.”

Poole, inevitably, was also to take in a match – completing his set of grounds at the first three steps of the national Pyramid. The retired postman, 74, now needs just three to complete step four.

One’s Guernsey, improbable members of the Isthmian League. “Maybe next season,” says John. “You can’t get a bus to Guernsey.”

Astonishing enough, goodness knows, John’s seasonal total will still be a lot fewer than that of Peterlee-based Lee Stewart, who remains optimistic of crowding in 300 matches in 2014-15. That he wasn’t at the Good Friday morning Durham Challenge Cup final between Gateshead and Shildon is explained by the fact that he was on a multi-venue ground hop in West Yorkshire. That his girlfriend was at the cup final is best explained by Katie herself. “I’m at work at half past two,” she said. “Some of us have to, haven’t they?”

…and finally, last week’s column noted that Blackpool had already used 50 different players this season and sought the identity of the only Football League club – close to home, mind – that had called upon more.

It was Darlington in 2009-10, a season in which after 12 games the Quakers had accrued two points and scored four goals. Ian Marshall, now with Cambridge United, appeared in 40 of the 46 matches; Jordan Marshall, now kicking around the Northern League, became the 54th first team player when called on as a 72nd minute sub in the 5-0 defeat to Notts County. John Waddleton, himself in Darlington, was first with the answer.

Today a cracking question – and a cracking prize. Readers are invited to name the only four managers in the “92” who’ve played for England – a total of just 25 caps between them.

First from the hat wins a copy of Michael Walker’s highly-acclaimed book Up there: North-East Football Boom and Bust. Answers to the email address at the top of the column.