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News > Memories > The progression of athletics at Oswestry School through the 1950/60s

The progression of athletics at Oswestry School through the 1950/60s

Part 1: Athletics slowly emerges from the shadow of football and cricket.
6 Mar 2023
Written by David Pickup
Memories

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1950's OOs

RA Hughes (shown running in the main photograph), Captain of Athletics at Oswestry School in the late nineteen fifties, won the Junior Victor Ludorum, followed by three senior titles, and in 1960 he broke three school records that had stood for many years. From school he then went on to compete for a place in the National Team leading up to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and his form at the time suggests that he was very unlucky not to have been included in the final squad.


Tony, yards from victory.


In the lead photograph RA Hughes presents a lone figure in wintry conditions, well in front of the chasing pack, as he heads towards victory in our 1960 inter-schools match against Oswestry Boys' High School, and immediately above, in the same race, he is just yards from crossing the finishing line in first place. 

However, I am slightly ahead of myself here, so, turning back the clock, I recall that my brother Bernard and I were sports-mad as youngsters, and wherever we went our family would be involved in some sort of sporting activity. Here we are all togged up on a day out to Blackpool in the 1940s, and as usual, mum is selflessly carrying bat and ball prior to a game of cricket on the sand.


A family day out in the 1940s (Bernard left, David right).

On arrival at Oswestry in 1952 we were delighted to learn that sporting activities formed a large portion of the curriculum. Cricket and football were the dominant sports, followed by athletics and the much less popular activities such as swimming, tennis, and fives.

Facilities at the school were rather primitive and coaching was more or less non-existent in all spheres apart from swimming which was conducted in the town baths. The construction of the Memorial Hall in 1954 provided the impetus for the development of a range of indoor sports but athletics remained a poor relation and until the late fifties, track and field events all took place on grass which was subject to vagaries of the weather.

Our first use of Park Hall Army Camp Stadium for the annual Sports Day competition was in the spring of 1959, and the combination of better facilities, a cinder track, and spikes, produced better results and records began to fall. 


Park Hall Stadium. (L-R) D Pickup, G Hitchen, D Bebb, R Morgan, B Pickup, RA Hughes.

Inter-schools competition started in 1958/59 with a match against our old enemy and fierce rivals The Boys' High School resulting in a very satisfactory victory for Oswestry, and the bragging rights over the 'cabbages' lasted for several weeks. More matches against schools and other bodies followed and interest in athletics slowly began to grow.

This kind of competition gradually drove the sport forwards and to stimulate yet more individual interest, sports standards were introduced so that boys could earn a point for each House by reaching a certain standard in each event, and thereby feel that they were making a contribution. Consequently upon this, House Colours were awarded when a certain number of points were attained. Athletics at Oswestry were finally on the up and up.

For the second year in succession the annual school sports were held at Park Hall Stadium on 2 April, 1960, and in the photograph below Tony Hughes is breasting the tape in the 440 yds final with my brother, Bernard, in hot pursuit. The 220 yds final was closely contested, with Bernard and myself crossing the line together. To my chagrin the result was given to Bernard!


Park Hall Stadium - 440 yds.

 


Park Hall Stadium - 220 yds. (David, right)

RA Hughes, the flag bearer of athletics at Oswestry left school in 1960 with the probable unique record of having carried off a Junior Victor Ludorum title and three senior ones. Whilst still at school he had also been the record holder for, and the title holder of, the Shropshire Junior Championships over 440 yds. Not only that, he won the Shropshire Schools and the Midlands Counties Junior Championships over the same distance. For several years after leaving school he pursued his athletics career as he attempted to gain a place in the National Team in the run-up to the Olympics of 1964. The picture below shows Tony holding his 4th Victor Ludorum Trophy alongside the winning relay team of 1960.


RA Hughes (3rd from left).

At the end of this article I have posted a list of the times Tony achieved in various locations after leaving school.

The following year, in 1961, Roger Morgan (captured in the earlier photograph, 4th from left in the line-up at Park Hall Stadium), took up the challenge and scooped the Victor Ludorum. In the process he broke the 1 mile record, previously held by Tony Hughes, in a time of 5:09, and that of the half-mile in 2:12. Roger's time for the 440 yds was 57:1, and for the 220 yds it was 26:10. During these games a total of thirteen School Records tumbled and it was the start of a golden decade for Oswestry School athletics. 

The newspaper cutting below, although difficult to read, sheds light on the events of the day, with particular reference to Michael Harvey's splendid efforts in the Intermediate High Jump. 


Report of Sports Day, 1961.

The decade of the 1960s saw more rising talent emerge at Oswestry School over a range of sporting disciplines, and School Team members would eventually form a sizeable contingent of athletes who represented the county of Shropshire. I will elaborate on this in the final part. 

100yds           9:9sec     Joint with John Cleaton at Cosford, 1961?

200yds           22:8sec   Also at Cosford, 1962/3/4?

440yds           48:8sec   White City, London, 1962/3? (National Championships)

880yds           1min 58sec    Butts Stadium in Coventry (Midland Championships) A 330yd track and the only event that my mother came to watch with her sister.

1 Mile              4min 08sec   County Championships, Shrewsbury, 1963/4?

* * * * *

High Jump      5ft 6in     Harper Adams Agricultural College, 1962

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