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News > Memories > Track and field record breakers at Oswestry School in the 1960s: Tony Hughes 

Track and field record breakers at Oswestry School in the 1960s: Tony Hughes 

Often the bridesmaid, never the bride, David Pickup usually found himself trailing home behind Tony Hughes at the end of the steeplechase, and his best placing in The Triangle was runner-up, twice!
3 Aug 2023
Written by David Pickup
Memories

In the main photograph, yet again, I can be seen in pursuit of Tony (RA) Hughes on the Maes-y-Llan, second from the right as we approach the finishing tape of the 100 yds. I am completely mystified as to why I am wearing my football kit - perhaps I ought to have worn my boots as well!

However, I was never talented enough to number myself amongst that select bunch of record breakers who emerged during the sixties when track and field records began falling like ninepins.

Being of an inquisitive nature (nosey), I recently began to ponder on the whereabouts of some of these Old Oswestrians, whether they had pursued their athletics after leaving school, and where life's path had taken them. 

Many had long since dropped off my radar, but I was able to locate a few, and the first person I contacted was the aforementioned RA Hughes who was the Captain of Athletics during my time at Oswestry School.

When I caught up with Tony he was living quietly on the edge of a small airfield overlooking the Solent with views out towards the Isle of White. Whilst still at school, Tony had been in the vanguard of young athletes who began breaking athletics records at the start of the golden sixties, and on Sports Day, 1960, he broke three records that had stood for over twenty years.


RA Hughes, the first of the record-breakers, receiving one of his four Victor Ludorum trophies.

Having left Oswestry in 1960, Tony stepped up training in pursuance of his ambition to compete in the 1964 Olympics, but despite being in the form of his life, regularly beating athletes who were subsequently chosen to represent Great Britain, Tony's talent was completely overlooked.

With a wry smile Tony commented drily that it appeared that he had been in the wrong club at the wrong time as he was never invited to represent the UK. The club to which he attached himself after leaving school was the unfashionable, fledgling Oswestry Athletics Club which used to compete on the Boys' Modern School track adjacent to Oswestry School, and I remember going in company with my brother Bernard and Jack 'Grevo' Greves, to watch him run the 440 yds for Oswestry Harriers in an evening match against Shrewsbury in his last term at school. Despite a poor start Tony came third with a very respectable time of 53.4 secs, but he was angry with himself for not winning the race. On the way back, Jack and I became engaged in conversation with a couple of girls and having lost all sense of the time arrived back at School House, very late, to find ourselves locked out of the building. Forcing a window to gain entry we fully expected to be confronted by Stoker Lewis, but for some unaccountable reason our absense had not been noticed and, undetected, we quietly made our way up to the senior dormitory as though nothing had happened. A narrow escape.


 

It is worth pointing out that some of the times Tony Hughes set in the years immediately after leaving Oswestry would have destroyed school records standing in 1960 for the 100, 200, 440, 880 yds, and in 1962 he equalled the High Jump record of 1960, which stood at 5ft 6in.

His time of 4 minutes 8 seconds for the 1 mile in the County Championships of 1963/4 was particularly outstanding bearing in mind that the 4 minute mile barrier had only been breached by Roger Bannister in 1954, aided by pacemakers Chataway and Brasher.

Along with rally driving and hot-air ballooning Tony has had a life-long interest in keeping horses, and over the years he and his family have competed in many horse events, even selling one of his best horses to the legendary British showjumping champion, Harvey Smith. Tony commented, "Not quite as much fun as fast car events but still a very enjoyable sporting activity".

It is true to say that speed, in one form or another, has played a large part in this OO's life, and as he sat in the afternoon sun sipping a glass of whisky whilst watching World War II spitfires flying tourists on pleasure trips from the nearby airfield, he surprised me by reflecting wistfully on the times he had flown out of there in small aircraft owned by friends, taking advantage of his pilot's licence.


Photograph take by Tony of a Spitfire that flies out of Daedalus Airfield almost daily.

This came completely out of the blue as I had not realised that he was licensed to fly, but I do remember him telling me that from leaving school he had wanted to join the RAF, but had been dissuaded from doing so by his parents. During a brief moment of inward debate I wondered whether a flight with Tony at the controls would have been as thrilling as it had been riding with him in one of his fast cars back in the fifties.

Now in retirement, Tony makes regular trips to Shropshire visiting family and friends, and he hopes to attend more of the biannual Sunday lunches organised by a group of 1950s Old Oswestrians.


(Left to right) Tony Hughes, George Roberts-Jones, and David Pickup in earnest discussion about old times.

To see more photos from the lunch please check out the gallery below.

Photo gallery

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