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Our sports heroes go down in history

By Isle of Thanet Gazette  |  Posted: May 04, 2012

  • FOOTBALLER: Edward Wright, who attended St Lawrence College and Cambridge University Photo from Sportspages.com

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IN JUST over three months time the Olympic Games returns to London for the first time since 1948.

The Olympic flame will be making its way through Thanet in July and tens of thousands of people will be lining its route all across the UK.

It is not just the flame that has touched these parts, there have also been Olympians themselves that have their connections with Thanet.

THE 1908 London Olympics saw Alfred Courthope Benson Bellerby, born in Margate in 1888, take part as both a high jumper and a long jumper.

Al Bellerby won the high jump in the Cambridge vs Oxford match for three successive years (1908-10). He also competed in the long jump in those years and took part in the high jump as well in 1911.

Bellerby also won a hockey blue in both 1910 and 1911. It was not unusual in those days for major sportsmen to compete in multiple events.

While in the modern era athletes like Jesse Owens and Carl Lewis have competed in both sprint events and the high jump, in the early part of the 20th century such occurrences were much more commonplace.

This was largely due to the exclusive nature of what at the time were exclusively amateur sports. Only people of a certain privileged background, with the time and the means to compete, could do so.

The ban on professionals being allowed to compete meant that many sports were effectively only open to rich people, who were able to train IN an expensive hobby. This meant many were people like Bellerby who attended private schools and red brick universities.

Bellerby's personal best for the high jump was 1.82 (1909); and for the long jump - 6.59 (1908). Although he didn't reach these bests at the Games and ranked 20th for the high jump and 16th for the long jump.

Alfred's grandfather, William Benson Bellerby, lived just long enough to know that his grandson competed in the Games, dying in December of that year.

In 1911 Alfred was living with his parents and siblings on Northdown Road, Margate. In this census his father intriguingly referred to one of his servants, Rose Bolton, as being illegally married!

The son of a music master and organist from Yorkshire, Alfred was recorded as a theological student and was studying at Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

He would go on to take Holy Orders and become a schoolmaster.

During the Great War he was in the Royal Army Clothing Department; a non-fighting role fitting with his status as a reverend. His address given on his medal entitlement card in 1923 was St Lawrence College, Ramsgate – he had returned to teach where he had boarded as a child.

Bellerby was not the only old boy from St Lawrence College to represent Great Britain at the Olympics. There was also footballer Edward Wright, who like Bellerby attended both St Lawrence College and Cambridge University.

Wright participated in one game of the 1912 tournament but was not part of the side that beat Denmark 4-2 in the final. However, this win secured him a gold medal as part of the Great Britain football team at the 1912 Games (although it was an exclusively English team!).

He also represented England as a full international in a 1906 game against Wales.

More recent times saw Sean Kerly, who attended Chatham House Grammar School, winning gold as part of the GB hockey team in 1988, improving on his bronze medal success of four years earlier.

He scored a remarkable eight goals in the 1988 tournament, including a hat-trick in the semi-final victory over Australia and one in the 3-1 victory over West Germany in the final.

The final itself saw many millions stay up late and hear the memorable line by Barry Davies "where were the Germans and frankly who cares!"

With varying degrees of success, Bellerby, Wright and Kerly are some of Thanet's local sporting heroes of the past.

Who will be our sporting heroes of the future?

Local family historian Elizabeth Peters's website is at at www. searchyourpast.co.uk

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