Sunday, 5 March 2017

Growing up in Eltham in the 1950s ......... stories by Eddy Newport no 14 ..... throwing the discus

Another in the series by Eddy Newport taken from his book, History of a War Baby.

My discus and athletic ability was spotted at the Gordon school, and also at the Woolwich Poly.
First the Gordon School.

The Gordon school physical training teacher was Mr Learmouth. He was very keen on all sports and put us through our paces.

He discovered that I had a natural ability to throw the discus.  The playground had a throwing circle marked out and we took turns in throwing a rubber discus towards a fence about 100 feet away. When it came to my turn I through it over the fence and Mr Learmouth asked who did that. I put my hand up and he said can you do that again.

And so I did. From that moment on I were one of his favoured pupils to be coached to go into the school sports days and inter-school competitions. I did become school champion for that year. I came third in the 100 yards and I also won the 100 yards hurdles.

An event took place during the lunch period, when Mr. Learmouth decided to encourage the lads to try out some boxing. He set up a real boxing ring in the main hall and encouraged boys to box one another for three rounds. I think he was hoping to get an idea as how many up and coming boxers he had in the school. I and a few friends had just had our dinner and we went into the hall see what was going on. Mr Learmonth was asking if anyone wanted to take on the lad who had just finished off three competitors and was looking for his forth. “Go on Ed” said one of my mates, “you can get the better of him” they encourage.

So with a lot of bravado, I stuck up my hand. I took a few steps and I was in the ring with Mr L putting on my shaking hands a pair of the biggest boxing gloves I had ever seen. “Stand back,” he said. He then left me all alone in my corner. “Round one” Ding went the bell and as I went forward with my hands in the southpaw position. I did not know what hit me I only know something did and after taking about ten blows in my face, I started to see stars. Not one blow did I get into my opponent. Mr L stopped the fight and I was sent back to my friends feeling very stupid for allowing myself to get involved.

Later on at the Poly.

My first year at the Poly was marred by an illness I had, which kept me away from school for four weeks. It started with a very bad cold that developed into pleurisy.  I was taken to the hospital for an X-ray and I had to stay in bed at home for most of the time. I was very weak and did not feel at all well.

However I did recover and when I went back to school I had to work harder to catch up with my lessons. It was about this time we had the worst flood in the south of England in living memory. A tidal surge followed by a storm caused damage to many coastal resorts and over three hundred died in this disaster. The caravan at Seasalter where Mr Stark had his van, was partly destroyed. New seawalls were built along the coast to protect the land after this.

Mr Lissamer the sportsmaster was not long in recognising my discus throwing ability and I was selected to throw for the school sports days. I won of course as no one could get anywhere near me. It is not the fact I was anything special I was about the only one who could actually throw the discus to any distance.

This put me in the  elite of the top sports pupils. In the summer months while everybody played cricket, a game I had no love for, we, the elite, would be off on our own doing our training with running, throwing the javelin and discus.

When we got fed up with all that we went back to the pavilion for our shower, and off home before the cricketers were through with their game. S

id Sillet was our javelin champion and Bob Taylor was our long distance runner.  We were duly entered into the Woolwich area sports day when we were competing against other local schools, the Gordon being one of them. I won and Mr Learmouth (from the Gordon) did not even speak to me, he felt I was a deserter. What followed from this was the All London Sports Day event held at Ladywell sports ground Catford. Representing Woolwich with other athletes from various schools we were bussed to the ground.

Feeling very nervous we got prepared for our events. The discus circle was to my horror made of concrete I have only thrown from a grass circle before. I wore spiked shoes which were no good at all on the hard surface. Not only that but it was pouring with rain and thoroughly miserable.  I had two no-throws and my one and only good throw was very poor.

During this event, a lad from one of the other schools broke the record and threw it over two hundred feet, an amazing achievement. I went home very dejected realising my discus throwing career was at an end and I was not as good as I thought I was.

© Eddy Newport 2017

Pictures; from the collection of Eddy Newport and the Gordan School courtesy of Chrissie Rose, 2014

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