As olympic fever grips the nation, with the opening ceremony of the London games on 27th July, we turn the clock back 60 years to another Olympic year, to take a look at the leading Black Country sports event of its day, the Annual Sedgley Sports Gala.
We have featured this great athletics event in previous issues; in Bugle 1026 we had the Sedgley gala of 1951, when Fanny Blankers-Koen wowed the Black Country crowds, and in Bugle 1036 we looked at the gala of Coronation year, 1953, all thanks to former Mayor of Dudley, Councillor David Stanley, who kindly loaned to the Bugle his copies of the gala programmes.
This week we look at the last Sedgley programme in Councillor Stanley’s collection, that of the 10th gala in 1952. It took place on 5th August, just two days after the closing ceremony of the Games of the XV Olympiad, held in Helsinki, Finland.
This caused concern that the Sedgley gala would not attract its usual calibre of track and field stars, a fact acknowledged in the programme notes: “This year, as is now wellknown, we were in competition not so much with other athletic meetings in England, Wales and Scotland, but with the Olympic Games, the greatest sports feature in the world.
“With all the stars at the Helsinki gathering, which wound up officially only two days before the date of our own meeting, it did seem that for once, in fact, the very first time, as if our many thousands of patrons would have to be satisfied with a programme mainly comprising those still very capable performers on track and field, but not quite good enough this year to win their places in the party for THE games.
“But so great is the appeal of our meeting that with the kind assistance, one again, of our firm friend, Mr Jack Crump, honorary secretary of the British Amateur Athletic Board, we present for your entertainment this afternoon a programme we modestly claim is as good as any since we took the field in 1942.”
A number of international stars joined the many local athletes in taking part at the Dormston playing fields.
From Australia came Shirley Strickland, who won gold in the 80m hurdles at Helsinki, and sprinter Verna Johnson; from New Zealand came Yvette Williams, who won long jump gold in Helsinki; from Jamaica came sprinter Kathleen Russell and long jumper Hyacinth Walters; from Barbados came cyclist Kenneth Farnum.
British big names at Sedgley in 1952 included high jumper Dorothy Tyler, 1500m and mile runner Len Eyre, 1500m runner Doug Wilson and sprinter Brian Shenton.
69 nations competed at the Helsinki Games, up 10 from the 1948 London Games.
The Soviet Union competed for the first time, as did Israel, the People’s Republic of China, The Bahamas, Gold Coast (now Ghana), Guatemala, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Netherlands Antilles, Nigeria, Thailand, and Vietnam. Germany was represented by two out of three possible teams. East Germany did not compete but West Germany did, as did the Saar Protectorate, a separate entity after the war until 1957.
The United States topped the medal table, with 40 gold, 19 silver, and 17 bronze medals; the Soviet Union came second and Hungary was third. Hosts Finland were eighth in the table while Great Britain finished the games in 18th place, with one gold – Harry Llewellyn, Duggie Stewart, and Wilf White (equestrian); two silver – Sheila Lerwill (women’s high jump) and Charles Currey (sailing); and eight bronze – McDonald Bailey (men’s 100m), John Disley (men’s 3,000m steeplechase), Heather Armitage, Sylvia Cheeseman, Jean Desforges, and June Foulds-Paul (women’s 4x100m relay), Shirley Cawley (women’s long jump) Donald Burgess, George Newberry, Alan Newton, and Ronald Stretton (cycling, men’s 4,000m team pursuit), Helen Gordon (swimming, women’s 200m breaststroke), Kenneth Richmond (wrestling) and Denys Carnill, John Cockett, John Conroy, Graham Dadds, Derek Day, Dennis Eagan, Robin Fletcher, Roger Midgley, Richard Norris, Neil Nugent, Anthony Nunn, Anthony Robinson, and John Taylor (men’s hockey).