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Gap in the Wall filled at last

FILLING a gap at the Hole in the Wall, Olympic athlete George Butterfield was finally, formally, remembered this week at the pub where he was landlord.

Though the Backtrack column had played some small part in his belated recognition, the credit belonged entirely to Darlington Harriers and to Ian Barnes, the club secretary.

Among those present was Arthur Butterfield, a great nephew from Merseyside. "I was always glad to have Olympic blood in my genes, " he said, "especially when supporting Liverpool at Leeds United."

Joyce Bower, a niece from Stockton, also reckoned that athleticism must run in the family because she'd not only played county hockey but won a handbag in a Ropner Park race to mark the 1953 Coronation.

Rowland Butterfield, a nephew, claimed that his uncle George also had an eye for the ladies. That was also a family trait, said Rowland, and twinkled as he said it.

By the end of a thoroughly pleasant morning, but after nothing stronger than a pot of coffee, the family had even decided that George was a relation of Cushy Butterfield, a big lass and a bonny lass who - as the Tyneside folk song merrily recalls - particularly liked her beer.

Though Cushy is certainly on that famous Blaydon Races painting, her active participation after all that alcohol may be a matter of some doubt.

Born in Stockton, George Butterfield became a Darlington Harrier, was AAA mile champion from 1904-06 and ran the world's fastest mile - 4.18.6 - in 1906.

At the London Olympics in 1908, just 18 countries in competition, he was second and third in his heats but failed to qualify for either final.

He became landlord of the Hole in the Wall in Darlington Market Place, joined the Royal Field Artillery in 1916 and died in action, legs blown off, the following year.

His obituary in the Northern Despatch recorded that he'd once raced against a greyhound. The dog, inevitably, came second.

A grateful town had given the family an illuminated scroll, represented to the council in 1987 and subsequently lost in the nether regions of the town hall.

Coun Stella Robinson, the mayor, inaugurated a plaque outside the pub on Tuesday, declared it a "rather auspicious" occasion but sensibly made no mention of her careless colleagues.

"I think it will give encouragement to a lot of young athletes in Darlington, " added the mayor. No ifs and Butts, it should.

JOY Watson, the only other Darlington runner to compete at the Olympics, was also at the ceremony - a shrinking violet as the Hole in the Wall flowered.

Back then she was Joy Grieveson, described in the papers as a flame-haired flyer, a 22-year-old wages clerk who represented Great Britain in the 1964 games in Tokyo.

No e-mail in those days, no text alerts, no satellites to signal her success. When she wanted Bert Goodwin, her coach, to know how she was getting on, she sent him a picture postcard.

Now she's 64, three times a grandmother, still works full time, holds a Darlington FC season ticket and is secretary of the junior football team in which one of the grandbairns plays.

The hair's still auburn, if not so vividly aflame. If no longer flying, she's still very much up and running.

"People say I'm fit but that's because I'm still always dashing around, " she says. "It's a way of forgetting the aches and pains of old age."

She was 14, daughter of the Co-op butcher from Carnaby Road, when a friend introduced her to the Harriers - initially as a hurdler. Five years later she won her first Great Britain vest, in the 400 metres.

At 7am she'd train in Tommy Crooks park, at night beneath the street lights at the Rolling Mills track or on road runs with Bert Goodwin following in his car. "Bert said if we stopped he'd knock us down, " she says. "That was the incentive."

She won 400m silver in the 1962 European Games in Belgrade, having taken a week's annual leave to compete, and later that year contested the 220 yards in the Empire Games in Perth.

The baker gave her a cake, the jeweller a silver tray; work colleagues literally rolled out the red carpet.

In the 60s she got embarrassed when someone on the bus asked for her autograph - "Everyone was staring" - now she's just as unassuming. Her mementoes, possibly even some cine-film, are somewhere in the attic.

"I always kept out of the limelight if I could. I don't know why really, I was just never one for boasting. I was happy just to represent the Harriers. That was honour enough for me."

Strictly amateur, she even had to pay money for television appearances - there was a Sportsview once - to the club.

She preferred local handicaps, particularly the Sunderland police sports, to big international meetings.

A hamstring injury restricted her in Tokyo, where she'd been one of the favourites. She didn't get past the semi-final.

"The Olympics was like being in limbo. I was used to running and working all day, most of the time we were just at the camp doing nothing."

In 1966, after the Commonwealth games in Jamaica, she suddenly retired.

A few months later she married Darlington footballer Stan Watson.

"I decided that international athletics wasn't the life for a married woman, I'm old fashioned like that, " she says. "I didn't think it was fair to be going off for days on end. I never really regretted it."

Her sport is now almost entirely football. "I don't think athletics is the same now, I wouldn't enjoy it. I used to think that running was for fun and these days there's so much pressure, so many different people to please.

"It was good while it lasted, but I don't really miss it at all."

BACKTACK BRIEFS...

THE great Charlie Wayman's funeral takes place today.

Older readers will abound with affectionate memories; younger ones may hardly credit them.

Charlie was a Chilton lad, worked down the pit - "knee deep in water for 12/6d a week, " he once recalled - wrote to Newcastle United for a trial and was signed for £10.

In a career embracing five Football League clubs he hit 252 goals in 384 games, a 5ft 5in centre forward proving all that they suppose about good stuff and little bundles.

He'd bagged 36 in 53 for the Magpies, travelled back to Chilton on the OK bus, fell out after being dropped for the 1947 FA Cup semi-final and signed for Southampton for £10,000. The Saints loved him so much he was given use of a holiday villa for life.

Transferred to Preston - "I told Tom Finney I had a bed leg; he said I was better on one leg than most men on two" - he appeared in the 1954 Cup final, a picture on the sideboard of his meeting the Queen Mother.

Later that year he hit four on his Middlesbrough debut, a 60 thrashing of West Ham, notching 31 in 55 matches.

Charlie's playing career ended with 14 in 23 at Darlington, his younger brother Frank making a single right wing appearance in 1957.

Charlie had also played wartime Wensleydale League football while at Catterick, alongside the likes of Finney, Albert Quixall, Matt Busby and Magpies' goalkeeper Ronnie Simpson.

Busby had digs in Middleham. "Something to do with football, " his kindly landlady advised, was no sort of a career for a gentleman like himself.

Wartime memories were recalled in Middleham's parish magazine three years ago. When Charlie was conscripted, wrote Derek Slade, they didn't believe his stated occupation. They did after he'd scored six in eight minutes.

He became a brewery rep, coached Evenwood Town, lived in Coundon but had been ill for several years.

We'd last seen him in 1988, then 66 but looking ten years younger. He'd little time for football.

"In my time we were all on the same money, all pulling together, " he said. "Now they don't think about the supporters, only themselves. Football's not sport any more, it's just 100 per cent business."

His funeral is at noon at St James's church, Coundon, the interment back home in Chilton.

DAVE "Jock" Rutherford and George Brown, both England amateur internationals, plan a reunion of Northern league players - and referees - of the 60s and 70s.

"Like a lot more we only seem to see one another at funerals. It would be great to do some proper catching up," says Dave, the column's All Time Hero.

George Brown, best remembered at Tow Law, reckons he was the second quickest player in the league - behind Jock. Jock demurs.

"George was always on his knees coughing his guts up," he says.

Long retired, George remains a Tow Law season ticket holder. Twenty years past the qualification date, Jock's still registered in the Over 40s League but rarely gets a game. "Unfortunately we have a manager who looks at age rather than ability. I'm a bomb waiting to explode," he insists.

They'd love to hear from any keen to be part of the reunion. George is on 01388 810601, Jock on 0191-2962262 or jock1945@hotmail. co. uk ANOTHER hoped for reunion, another amateur international, 83-year-old Bobby Davison will be among the crowd at tomorrow's FA Vase quarter-final between Crook Town and Bury Town.

Kimblesworth lad originally, Bobby will be in the Red Lion at North Bitchburn - one of the many village teams for which he also played cricket - from one o'clock and would love to see former team-mates or opponents from both sports.

"When Crook win," he says, "my day will be complete."

RECENT references to Manchester City legend Roy Paul remind Steve Smith that Paul also captained Worcester City in their finest hour - the 1959 FA Cup win over Liverpool, a giant killing at St George's Lane.

The visitors included Tommy Younger, Ronnie Moran, Jimmy Melia, Alan A'Court and Geoff Twentyman; the pitch was frozen. The Worcester Evening News reported that the Liverpool rearguard were "as nervous as old ladies on icy pavements." They slipped 21.

A WELL known Sunderland businessman travelled to Gretna for the Scottish Cup quarter-final last Saturday, only to discover that it was all-ticket.

The gateman, a kindly soul, advised that only Press passes remained and was asked if there was anyone there from the Sunderland Echo. Since (hardly surprisingly) there wasn't, our friend gained admission.

Loyally, we decline to name him. "I regarded it as an initiative test," he says.

And finally...

THE country against which George Best scored his only hat-trick (Backtrack, February 28) was Cyprus (or as one reader wrote, Cypress.) Brian Dixon in Darlington not only knew the answer but recalls that when England played Cyprus at Wembley a few years later, Malcolm Macdonald scored five.

Who, asks Brian, scored England's only goal in the return leg - and why was the match put back from February to May?

With more from Crook v Bury, the column returns on Tuesday.

Published: 03/03/2006



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