Sports Day : the race that lasted 20 years

The Reverend Stephens provides us here with yet another journey into “a foreign country; they do things differently there” (L.P.Hartley). And sixty years back in the past, it’s the start of the race in 1957. It’s late in the day, judging by the shadows. I think that the starter is Oswald Lush and look how each team has a differently coloured sash for identification purposes:

The next race started, I think, in 1969. None of those rather young little boys will be nervous, just because thousands of people are watching them and if anybody in the race slips and falls over, everybody will laugh at them and remember the event for the rest of their lives:

And here are the finishes. This one comes from 1957:

And here’s another tight finish from the same era:

The finishing judges display great concentration, especially Mr Lush on the right:

And the winner is…..No 22. Except he’s twelve years late, because this is 1969:

Some finishes in 1969 seem to have been based on folk dances:

The finish in 1977 was a lot more decisive:

And talking of individuals, this is thought to be B Watchorn in 1957. Just look at where there used to be a cricket scorebox:

And finally, here is a young man thought to be called Burney winning the mile in 1954:

This was possibly John Murray Burney from Gedling. He will be over 80 years old if he’s still out there somewhere. I hope he is.



Filed under History, Nottingham, The High School

21 responses to “Sports Day : the race that lasted 20 years

  1. That race in ’77 sure wasn’t a photo-finish!! That boy had speed!!

    • He certainly did. I used to teach him, and I always thought that he lacked confidence in his own abilities but when it came to athletics, he was a real star!

  2. Peter Prokopa

    1977 pic is Neil Crowe, I think that would be the 400m, could be Paul Hemmingway in the background?

    • Thanks very much for the input about Neil Crowe who I knew as a sixth former, but I don’t remember Paul Hemmingway so I can’t confirm it either way. I’m sure you’ll be right though!

    • Jan

      Pete. Is that you standing at the side of the track next to, what looks, like Matt Guest?

  3. It’s always good to see old school photos. Did the school have a photographer, or where these taken by individuals in the crowd? An ‘official’ photographer is a nice way to record such events.

    • No, these are further photographs taken by the Reverend Charles Stephens, He was a teacher of Geography at the school, but also had a parish to look after. His hobby was photography and he ran the school’s photography club. On Sports Day he would have wandered around and taken photographs of whatever he thought interesting.
      One interesting thing was that he used to take portrait photos of the older boys in his classes. All very proper, I hasten to add. As they come from 1970-1975, these “rebels” all have the long hair of the time and look like “Mott the Hoople do their A-levels”. So far, I’ve not published any because I don’t know what the legal position is. They don’t deserve to disappear for ever though.

      • It’s a great idea to have them as a record and I guess one day, they’ll reappear when data protection rules have passed them by. I love looking at old photos, they are such great records of times gone by when life was much simpler. Even the 70s had their moments, I remember them well!

    • I would agree with you there, Derrick. I just hope that eighty year old Mr Burney is traced, although statistically, he may well have passed on. It’s very strange for a teacher when his or her pupils become adults and then reach middle or even old age. I found out yesterday that one of my FIrst Year 11 year olds from way back would be going to his daughter’s 21st birthday party that afternoon and evening. Where does it all go?

  4. I was thinking as I viewed this post that every one of those action pictures was taken someone using a film camera. No digital back then. No room for errors. You had to know exactly what to do when you pushed that shutter button or else you would not get the picture you wanted. Great post, John. I really enjoyed this one!! Thank you!

  5. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Amy. You are totally correct about ” No room for errors.” In the 1930s a French photographer called Henry Cartier-Bresson produced a superb example of this called “Man Jumping over a Puddle” (1932). Google will help you find it and Wikipedia has an article about him which also shows his “Photograph of Alberto Giacometti” which is another example of “No room for errors”.
    I found a fellow blog poster who has written about what is generally called “The Decisive Moment” at
    Sadly, some of his photographs have disappeared for some reason, but his actual post is very interesting. Don’t forget to try “he decisive moment photography” in a google image search. There are some unbelievable shots in there, all taken by one shot, chemical cameras, operated by ordinary, fallible, human beings.

  6. I do like the finishing line judge with the great coat. Bit he has either lost last year’s hat or bought a new one.

    • I’m afraid that you quite often need a greatcoat at Sports Day, and a big hat! Nowadays, we have Sports Day on the first Wednesday of the Summer Term, which, depending on Easter, can be in late April. Central England is quite capable of producing snow in April, and on at least two occasions, the event has been postponed because of snow. Otherwise, rain is a frequent occurrence at this time of year.
      Years ago, in the glorious years of the British Empire, Sports Day had copious snow on its rather early date of March 29th 1901. They just carried on: ““…the turf was naturally affected by the overnight fall of snow, which made the going heavy.” Nevertheless, the winner still won the 100 yards in eleven seconds.

  7. Wonderful races. Always exciting.

    • Yes they are, and not least because they always have their classmates and friends shouting them on, and very often parents too will come along to spend the afternoon watching their son take his first steps towards the Olympics.

  8. Simon Burney

    Hi I`m happy to confirm that John Burney is Indeed alive and well, but not running any more! I`m Simon, his son and I was also also a pupil there from 1970-1980. I was taught Geography by Rev Stephens (who also ran the photography club) & also Mr Lush who appears on some of those pictures. For a few years I was able to compete in the Old Nottinghamian`s cross-country representing the school team, against my Dad as an ON. Unfortunately during my time there he was unbeaten so I never got bragging rights once back home. Soon after I switched from running to Cycling and had more luck beating him at that!

    • I’m so glad to hear that John Burney is fit and well, especially as he has the privilege of being the subject of one of the Reverend Stephen’s finest photographs. The more I’ve written about CHS the more I’ve come to respect him. He really did do his very best to live his life according to his faith, giving up his time to many different clubs and activities. I remember sitting in the Main Stand at Forest on one occasion, just after he’d retired, and being surprised to see on the electronic score board that he was one of the main sponsors of the England v Scotland Schoolboy International that I was about to watch. A fine Christian gentleman.
      Please pass on all my best wishes to John Burney, and thank you for contacting me.

  9. Des Close

    I am sure that John Burney was my Regional Manager when I worked for John Hudson Fuels. He was based in Derby but promoted me with a move from the North East to the South East in the late eighties.

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