Great Britain v Greece Signed Athletics Programme, 1951

Great Britain v Greece Signed Athletics Programme, 1951
Paper athletics program, with image of Greek statue and Greek and British flags on cover
Program for an athletics match between Great Britain and Greece in Athens, 1951. Signed by participants. Private collection.

This program with its many signatures, from an athletics match held in 1951 between Great Britain and Greece in Athens, has been in the possession of Trevor Watson for nearly 70 years.

The front cover reads:

Great Britain
Hellas (Greece)
Panathinaikon Stadium
29 & 30 August 1951
Athletic Events.

A keen sports fan from childhood, Trevor and his sister spent much of their school holidays in the early 1950s at Westbourne House School, near Chichester. Their uncle and aunt were caretakers, and Trevor would use the swimming pool and tennis facilities while the pupils were away.

Also present at the school was a young woman named Anne Shilcock, daughter of the school’s Principle. Having recognized that his daughter had great potential at tennis, he had a tennis wall built at the school to allow her to practice.

It paid off, Anne went on to win the Wimbledon Ladies Doubles title in 1955 with Angela Mortimer.

A keen tennis player himself, fourteen-year-old Trevor was playing on his own against the wall one morning in 1954 when Anne appeared and asked if he would like a “knock up”? He agreed. After playing they got to talking about hobbies, and Trevor revealed that he collected stamps, athletic programs, and autographs. Later that afternoon Anne came to find him, and produced the 1951 program covered in signatures, which she gifted to Trevor.

As a young sports fan and autograph collector it was a wonderful treasure, and I can always say that I have played tennis against a Wimbledon Champion too.

Trevor Watson

Athletics matches are held between two or more teams, be they local clubs, universities – the Oxford and Cambridge Athletics Varsity Match dates back to 1864 – or nations. In a match, each athlete competes in their usual events to earn points. The team with the most overall points at the end of the match is the winner.

Competitors often collect the signatures of their fellow participants, in this case on the event program, as a souvenir of the match.

This program, from a match held in Athens in 1951 includes signatures from names which would go down in the history of athletics in the following years, including:

  • Middle distance runner Chris Chataway, who would go on to compete at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics and 1956 Melbourne Olympics, as well as winning European silver and Commonwealth gold in between, and being one of the pacesetters for Roger Banister’s famous sub-four minute mile on 6th May 1954.
  • Peter Hildreth, European bronze medalist in the 110m hurdles who would go on to represent Great Britain at the Olympic Games in 1952, 1956 and 1960 Rome Olympics.
  • Gordon Pirie, 5000m and 10000m runner, who also represented Great Britain at the 1952, 1956 and 1960 Olympic Games, winning silver in the 5000m final of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, and taking bronze over the same distance in the European Championships in 1958.
  • Steeplechaser John Disley who won Olympic bronze at the 1952 Olympic Games, represented Wales at the 1954 and 1958 Commonwealth Games, and went on to found the London Marathon.
  • Rex Alston, already by 1951 a leading sports commentator for the BBC and well-known sports journalist for the Daily Telegraph.

The program, acquired many years ago by the young Trevor remains a cherished possession.