Banknock Village – “Two” Olympic Games in 1948
I watch events in the 2004 Athens Olympics in glorious technicolour on
satellite TV, I fondly recall listening to the 1948 London Games on our
old wireless in the spring of that year.
our living room in Schoolhouse, Banknock, I learned that in June 1939,
the International Olympic Committee had awarded the 1944 Olympic Games
to London, but that World War II had forced their cancellation. However,
a year after the war ended, London had been selected again, this time to
host the 1948 Games to be held between the 19th of July and
the 14th of August.
heard that, not only would fifty-nine countries be represented by around
three thousand seven hundred men and nearly four hundred women, but also
that a temporary running track had been constructed within Wembley
Stadium as the main venue. Newspaper pictures of the stadium taken well
before the completed one shown below excited me to the extent that there
and then I decided that, when we got back from our summer holidays in
Fife, our ‘Bumpy Ibrox’ would also be converted to become a home for
athletics at the ‘Banknock Schoolhouse Olympics’ – two competitors, John
Henderson and Robin Profit!
Wembley Stadium in 1948
event, as Robin and I had no real idea of what facilities and equipment
would be involved, the preparations for our venue were ad hoc and solely
determined by what caught our fancy from newspaper reports and
photographs of events as the Games progressed.
‘simulation’ was of the 100m final because of the thrilling commentary
heard on the wireless and then seen later as newspaper shots of its
start and its finish - an unexpected winner in the form of high hurdler,
Harrison Dillard - and of course our joy at Scotland’s Alistair
McCorquodale coming in fourth – alas ….so near and yet so far from a
Start of the 100m in 1948
Finish of the 100m in 1948
(69) from the United States 1st, McCorquodale (36) from Great
Britain 4th, LaBeach (57) from Panama 3rd and Ewell (70) from United
Harrison Dillard (USA) 10.3sec.
Barney Ewell (USA) 10.3sec.
Lloyd LaBeach (PAN) 10.4sec.
Alistair McCorquodale (GBR) 10.4sec.
Melvin Patton (USA) 10.5sec.
Emmanuel McDonald Bailey (TRI) 10.6sec.
straight track for the Banknock sprint was the 30 yard red blaize path
running from our schoolhouse garden fence-stile to the back door in the
wall of the school playground, and thus it ran alongside the main
scrub-grass area of ‘Bumpy Ibrox’ – no starting blocks, no gun, no tape,
no cameras, but umpteen heats from which we both of course qualified for
our grand-final – which my sister Elizabeth, as sole judge, announced as
a dead-heat between JH and RP!
highlights that we chose from - because of British successes – silver
medals at best – were (in bold below)
Manley Athletics Women's 100 Metres - Silver
Gardner Athletics Women's 80 Metre Hurdles - Silver
Williamson Athletics Women's 200 Metres - Silver
Tyler Athletics Women's High Jump - Silver
Lloyd Johnson Athletics 50 000 Metre Walk - Bronze
McCorquodale Athletics 4 x 100 Metre Relay - Silver
Archer Athletics 4 x 100 Metre Relay - Silver
Jones Athletics 4 x 100 Metre Relay - Silver
Gregory Athletics 4 x 100 Metre Relay - Silver
Richards Athletics Marathon - Silver
London hurdles of course involved the legendary Fanny Blankers-Koen of
the Netherlands as a winner of four gold medals in the 80m Hurdles,
100m, 200m and 4x100m Relay - but our interest was in Maureen
Gardner andrelising how close she had been at the finish with the
same time as Blankers-Koen in 11.2 secs …. having slipped back just
enough from where she is in the lead in the following shot taken during
Gardner leads …. but …
Fanny Blankers-Koen (HOL) 11.2
Maureen Gardner (GBR) 11.2
Shirley Strickland (AUS) 11.4
Yvette Monginou (FRA) 11.8
Maria Oberbreyer (AUT) 11.9
Libuse Lomska (CZE) 11.9
years I learned that Maureen Gardner had married Geoff Dyson the British
National Athletics Coach …. And Geoff’s manual on Athletics became my
key text-book for the sport when I was training to be a Phys. Ed.
Teacher from 1958-61.
adapted our local hurdles race by running round our circular track on
the grass area that had school bean-bags marking out the inner ‘kerb’.
The hurdles (four) two at each side of a diameter line were made from
canes that rested in the ledges on the top of our cricket stumps … with
Elizabeth detailed to run hither and thither to replace them as we
periodically knocked them down in our 4-lap race to make roughly 80
metres in all. … If we knocked down more than three hurdles we were
disqualified from any of the ten heats that were run. We got zero points
for being disqualified, 2 points for a win and 1 point for coming in
second. I think I won overall, but I remember clearly that there were
more disqualifications than good clean finishes … and quite often,
Elizabeth, as the hurdle ‘replacer’, could not possibly be in four
places at once, thus replacing a knocked-down cane(s) was not always
possible! ….. Good fun, but not very realistic.
jump using a scissors technique as we had seen in the newspapers was
easy to organise from one point of view as we were able to borrow two
stands and a weighted rope from the school. But landings were not into
sand as was normal then, so this inhibited us a little. Thus there were
a few sore bumps down on to our bottoms to be endured in the heat of
competition, which Robin, being much taller than me, to my great
annoyance won rather easily.
changing of the baton in the relays intrigued both of us, so we decided
to get Elizabeth to time us as we ran as a team of two against the
clock. By experimenting with various ways of passing the baton we
definitely improved our times for an eight lap race. When I hear the
catch-phrase, ‘Beat the Clock’ on TV nowadays, I remember our original
version of it from our ‘athletics’ in 1948.
‘piece de resistance’ was however – The Marathon – so easy to organise,
but with some obstacles in our version. Two times round the course -
which started with ten laps of ‘Bumpy Ibrox’ - then up through the door
in the school-playground wall (which the leader had to open and the
follower had to close!) – then six times round the school building –
then out the school front gate to the main road (opening and closing the
gate as before!) to run left along the pavement for 50 yds to Bankier
Road – then a left-turn down the road to the front garden gate of the
Schoolhouse (opening and closing as before!) - twice round the gravel
path around the schoolhouse – then over the stile to be greeted by the
roars of the imagined awaiting throngs in ‘Bumpy Ibrox’, and, then,
after the second grand circle of the course, doing two final laps of the
track to the finish. Robin and I liked this event so much, and trusted
each other so explicitly in the counting of all the numbers of circuits
to be travelled en route, that our mini-marathons were still going on in
the September well after everyone had gone home from Wembley weeks