FOR the first time in 137 years, the Prince Hassan Pacha 100 Yards Challenge Cup, which has been presented to the fastest man in the country since 1871, has been back in Darlington this week.

Inscribed on the cup’s ornate silver sides are the names of Britain’s finest sprinters.

The Northern Echo: A PA File Photo of Linford Christie celebrating his 100 metres Olympic win in Barcelona. See PA Feature WELLBEING Linford Christie. Picture credit should read:John Giles/PA. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature WELLBEING

Linford Christie (above) is on there a record eight times, from when he dominated sprinting in the late 1980s and early 1990s on his way to winning gold in the 1992 Olympics 100 metres in Barcelona.

Just before Christie is Alan Wells, “the Flying Scotsman”, who broke British records in winning Olympic gold in Moscow in 1980; just after Christie in 2011 is Olympian Harry Aikines-Aryeetey who is now known on television’s Gladiators as Nitro.

In 1923 there’s the name of Eric Liddell followed in 1924 by that of Harold Abrahams.

The Northern Echo: Nigel Havers, right, as Lord Andrew Lindsay races Harold Abrahams, played by Ben Cross, in the film Chariots of Fire

Liddell was the devoutly religious Scot who felt his running glorified God, and Abrahams was the English Jew from Oxford University who felt his running helped combat anti-Semitism. They were both selected for British Olympic team in Paris but, on the voyage over, Liddell discovered the 100 metre heats were on a Sunday and felt unable to race.


However, his team-mate, Lord Andrew Lindsay, gave up his place in the 400 metres so Liddell could run and, against the odds, he won gold.

Then Abrahams lost in the 200 metres, his favoured event, but, in the last event, he too won gold in the 100 metres.

This is the story that David Puttnam’s famous film Chariots of Fire is based on, and last weekend, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Paris Olympics, there was a charity screening of it in Sunderland, followed by a Q&A session with the director, actor Nigel Havers, who was nominated for a Bafta for playing Lindsay, and Steve Cram, the Jarrow Arrow, and fellow athlete Allison Curbishley.

The Northern Echo: The Prince Hassan Pacha Cup at last weekend's 100th anniversary screening of Chariots of Fire with, from left, Shaun Campbell, Allison Curbishley, director David Puttnam, actor Nigel Havers, Steve Cram and host Jeff BrownThe Prince Hassan Pacha Cup at last weekend's 100th anniversary screening of Chariots of Fire with, from left, Shaun Campbell, Allison Curbishley, director David Puttnam, actor Nigel Havers, Steve Cram and host Jeff Brown

And Shaun Campbell, from the Arthur Wharton Foundation in Darlington, borrowed the trophy from the Amateur Athletics Association and took it along so that they could hold it aloft just as Liddell and Abrahams had done 100 years earlier.

“When I put it in their hands, it was like ‘wow…’,” said Shaun.

The Northern Echo: The 'Prince Hassan Pacha Cup' at the Arthur Wharton foundation Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTArthur Wharton's name on the trophy. Pictures: Sarah Caldecott

One of the first names on the trophy, at the beginning of that long list of Britain’s sprinting greats, is that of Arthur Wharton himself.

He won it not once but twice, and in claiming it for the first time in 1886, he equalled the world record and became the first man in Britain to do 100 yards in exactly 10 seconds.

The Northern Echo: Arthur Wharton with the Prince Hassan Pacha Cup in 1887

Arthur was born in Ghana. His father, Henry, was Methodist missionary with Scottish roots while his mother, Annie, was a member of the Fante royal family. Arthur was sent to England for education in the expectation he would follow in their father’s footsteps as missionaries. He spent two years at a Methodist college in Staffordshire and when that closed in 1884, he was moved to Henry Brooks’ Cleveland College in Boyes Hill off Milbank Road in Darlington.

The Northern Echo: Headteacher Henry Brookes is in the big chair on the left of this picture with his pupils outside his school in Boyes Hill, off Milbank Road, Darlington

In May 1885, aged 19, he entered the Darlington Cricket Club sports day at Feethams. "He was then quite unknown," said The Northern Echo in a 1913 interview. "He was given a few yards start. Most people thought the was running in his bare feet because of the brown pumps he wore. . .'blending' with the colour of his skin.”

He led from the start of the 120 yards dash but when he reached the finishing tape, he ducked beneath it, not knowing the winner was supposed to break it. Tom Mountford, who was second, could therefore have claimed the race but instead handed Arthur his first prize.


Darlington trainer Manny Harbron took Arthur under his wing, and that summer he ran in races as far afield as Stoke and Crewe. Athletics, though, was as much about gambling as it was about racing, with a handicap system employed to keep the punters guessing about who might win. In Middlesbrough in June 1885, Arthur won by “fairly three yards” but because the race was fixed, he was presented with the second prize of a salad bowl.

He smashed the bowl at the feet of the organising committee and advised them how they might make a new one out of the pieces.

Over the winter of 1885-86, he established himself as the best football goalkeeper in the north, and early in the summer of 1886, he won sprints in Widnes and Sunderland as well as at Feethams.

The Northern Echo: The Umpire magazine of July 1886 profiles the phenomenal Wharton

He became a northern celebrity, but as well as opponents on the track, he had to combat racism off it. In 1886, The Umpire magazine (above) told how at Sunderland, Arthur was resting in his tent when other athletes walked by saying they weren’t going to be beaten by a “darned n******”.

Arthur strode out into the middle of their group and said: “I’ll give you to understand that I can box as well as run.” The Umpire said it was “a remark which completely silenced his traducers”.

With good early season form, he entered the Amateur Athletics Association national championships on behalf of Darlington Cricket Club, held at Stamford Bridge in London, now the home of Chelsea FC.

In his 100 Yards heat, he won easily by six yards in an astonishing time of 10 seconds dead – equalling the world record set in America.

The final was closer, as he reached the tape half-a-yard in front of the fancied Charles Wood, but again it was in a time of exactly 10 seconds, and he won the cherished Prince Hassan Pacha Cup.

The Northern Echo: The Prince Hassan Pascha Trophy

The cup (above) had been presented by the son of Khedive Ismail Pacha, the ruler of Egypt, who had been a student at Oxford University in 1871 when he spectated at the championships. Every winner’s name since 1871 was engraved on it – but strangely not Arthur’s in 1886.

The Northern Echo: Arthur Wharton winning the Prince Hassan Pacha Cup in 1886 The Northern Echo: The Northern Echo reports Arthur Wharton's second victory in the Prince Hassan Pacha Cup on July 4, 1887

The Northern Echo's headline on Arthur's win in 1887

He was, though, big box office, and as the AAA champion ran in meetings across the country in return for gate money.

As well as being an exotic celebrity, Arthur had a peculiar running style. The Darlington and Stockton Times, an early champion of “the coloured Colonial amateur”, said: "He has neither system nor style, but he runs like an express engine with full steam on from first to last, with a result that makes both system and style unnecessary."

During the football season of 1886-87, he cashed in on his celebrity status by playing for Preston North End – one of the best teams in the country – in the FA Cup, reaching the semi-finals. He turned out for other teams, including Darlington, when Preston didn’t require him.

Arthur warmed up for the 1887 athletics season by winning at Feethams and then Widnes before defending the Prince Hassan Pacha Cup.

He had strained his side at Widnes through failing to warm up properly so the bookies made Wood favourite to win the AAA championship, but Arthur – running for the “Cleveland College, Darlington” – beat him easily. This time, his name was inscribed on the trophy and he was allowed to take it back to his rooms in Boyes Hill and show it off.

The Northern Echo: Shaun Campbell pictured with the 'Prince Hassan Pacha Cup' at the Arthur Wharton foundation Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTShaun Campbell pictured with the Prince Hassan Pacha Cup at the Arthur Wharton foundation. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

It can’t have stayed long in town because that summer Arthur was in big demand at meetings across the north, and the following summer, he’d moved from Darlington to Sheffield to turn professional, which meant he couldn’t defend his amateur trophy.

This week, though, after 137 years, the silverware has been back, touring Arthur’s old haunts, going into schools and visiting athletics groups.

“It gets a remarkable reaction,” says Shaun Campbell. “People can’t quite believe it is in front of them after all that time and they can’t get over what it means. We’d like to thank English Athletics and the AAA for letting us use it to inspire and motivate people in Arthur’s adopted town of Darlington with its wonderful stories.”

  • With thanks to Danny Howes


The Northern Echo: Willie Applegarth with 1912 Olympics coach, Sam MussabiniWillie Applegarth with 1912 Olympics coach, Sam Mussabini

ANOTHER local name is on the Prince Hassan Pascha Cup: that of Willie Applegarth, who won it in 1913 and 1914.

Willie, one of eight children, was born in Union Street, Guisborough, in May 1890, the son of a grocer from Stockton. The family moved to London in 1906 where Willie became a post office clerk and ran with Polytechnic Harriers.

At the 1912 Olympics, he was eliminated in the 100m semi-final, but took bronze in the 200m and anchored the British relay team to an Olympic record gold in the 4x100m.

In his golden years just before the First World War, he set world and British records, including beating Arthur Wharton’s 100 yards record by doing it in 9.8 seconds – a record that stood for 44 years.

In 1913, he visited his hometown of Guisborough, and attracted a large crowds to his training sessions on Peacock's field where he was twice clocked at 9.8 for 100 yards.

Trained by Sam Mussabini, who also trained Chariots of Fire’s Harold Abrahams, Willie turned professional in 1915 and emigrated to America where he became a track and soccer coach in Pennsylvania. He died in 1958, the year that his record was finally broken.

The Northern Echo: Willie Applegarth on the cover of Boy's Own in 1914 when the magazine hailed his as Britain's most famous athlete