A verse on the 1908 London Marathon

Found- a rare and forgotten slim volume Verses by one Norman Grieve privately published in 1912.  A handwritten note loosely inserted in the book says that Norman William Grieve was director of the Anglo-Ceylon and General Estates Company Ltd. (12950 acres, half tea, 40% forest – the rest cocoa, coffee and cardamons.) He  had interests in Mauritius and also dealt in rubber. The poems are on a variety of subjects – Canada, Golf, Marconi and this topical poem about the Italian runner Dorando Pietri. Pietri finished first in the marathon at the 1908 Summer Olympics in London but was subsequently disqualified. He became something of a hero at the time and met the Queen…

Dorando_portret

The Marathon Race

(Olympia Dorando in First but Disqualified)

“Only a Race,” you say, and yet conceive

The bitter pangs of that brave heart –

Foremost of all the runners, there in sight

The goal, then deathly weariness

And the overwhelming shout of all those watchers:

What anguish! the longed-for laurels

Almost in his grasp, and yet how distant.

O God, to my tired body give

Strength to run out the Course and gain the wreath

Continue reading

Robert Barlow – teacher and athlete

I can find nothing about Robert Barlow apart from this affectionate portrait by his friend and colleague L.R. Reeve* whose archive we acquired. He may have been born in 1897 but that's about it..His obscurity is particularly odd because Reeve rated him 'supreme ...above all' and he had met many famous men and women, some world famous.

ROBERT BARLOW

In my opinion Robert Barlow, born in Manchester, was the most outstanding Lancastrian of his era, and during the last hundred years Lancashire has been rightly proud of many great men. Moreover, although I spent most of my long life in London persistentIy visiting the House of Commons, colleges of the University of London, conferences, public meetings and lectures in search of and finding really great men and women, supreme above them all stands Robert Barlow.
Continue reading

FryCBpic651

C. B. Fry—Renaissance man

There are many photos of C. B. Fry (1872 – 1956)---an athlete who also  represented England at football and cricket,  Classical scholar, teacher, politician., journalist and author --- on the Net, but you won’t find this one. It comes from a batch of press photographs dating from the forties and fifties. Fry is shown wearing his basic B.A.gown, gained many years earlier after a horrendous performance in his Finals at Oxford, where he was awarded a fourth class degree ( incidentally, I know of only one other famous man who gained such a terrible degree and that’s John Ruskin). The great man finished his teaching career way back in 1898, so perhaps he is revisiting Repton, where he was a pupil, or Charterhouse, where he once taught, in order to receive some sort of honour. I think the photo is rather good, conveying as it does that combination of fierce intelligence, physical toughness and commitment that made the man, in the words of John Arlott, 'the most variously gifted Englishman of any age'.

National Treasure Stephen Fry claims C.B. as a kinsman, but does he offer much or any evidence for this? Not having read any of his memoirs, I cannot judge, but there does seem to be something of the younger’s man’s nose in the great sportsman’s own, if this photo is any guide. Both C.B. and Stephen also have mental illness in common. The former’s disastrous showing in the examination room was put down to a derangement that followed his efforts to pay off huge debts--- and at various times during the rest of his life he became incapacitated by similar bouts of mental illness. Mental problems often run in families. Was this true in the case of Stephen’s own bipolar disorder?

Incidentally, C.B.’s party trick, which he claimed to perform up to his seventies, was to leap backwards from a standing start onto a mantle piece behind him. Now that’s something I’d like to see Stephen Fry perform. [RMH]