Sunday, August 6, 2017


Betty Cuthbert, taken by me , during  an  early   athletic  event  in Sydney circa  1950  , the letter  E pinned to her stands  for  the Ermington Public  School, which  she  and  twin sister  Marie ,  also fleet  footed ,  attended .  Marie , unfortunately , blurred,  was  cut out of  the photograph .  In the school photo below , from which Betty  is missing for some unknown reason ,  Marie  Cuthbert    is  in the  third row from  the  front , fourth girl  from the left,white  ribbons  in  her  hair . In  the back row , third  kid from the  left  in  whites, is  this writer.  
 My  abiding memory  of  attending  the school  at the same time  as  the  Cuthberts was the annual event in  which the fastest  girl runners  and the fastest  boys, me one of the latter ,  were pitted  against each other . The  Cuthberts   romped  home  against  the  rest  of  the  field ... beaten by  girls !  Still, Betty went on  to win  three  Gold Medals at the 1956  Melbourne   Olympics  and  another  at Tokyo .
In the  l960s , I recalled this ignominious defeat   in  a   piece  I wrote  for  the   Rotorua   Post  when  I met  up  with her  again when she was on a  tour of New Zealand ,  part of  a clipping from  that  story below .  

Ermington  Schooldays

The Cuthbert  family ran  a plant   nursery  at  Ermington, within  walking distance  of the school . There was a   view  from the nursery across  the Parramatta River  and  industrial  plants , a   paint  factory  in particular ,    from  which  fumes   wafted . After I left Ermington and went to high school at North  Newtown  and  then  Fort Street, I  daily took the  train  from West Ryde  which  went  by  factories  emitting   strong  smells . 
On hearing in 1969  that Betty  had  been  diagnosed with  multiple sclerosis, I speculated  that  those  industrial fumes  may  have been responsible for her  condition .  I recalled  the brother  of a friend of mine who lived down near the  river had  come  down with some strange  illness.  

 Taking  to the  hills

Despite being beaten by the  Cuthberts , I took up cross country running  and used to scamper  across  the Carlingford  Heights like a  Beagle , athlete  Albie Thomas prominent in those days .  At North Newtown  Intermediate High I was in the athletic team  which in 1953  won  the Mick Simmons Trophy  for the Champion School  and the Junior Panel at the Combined Intermediates  School  Carnival .  Some additional  after school  training  took   place  at  Burwood   at  an athletics field where   Betty  may have   become  involved  at  some stage , not  sure about  this .   
Dead Heat
The  news of  Betty's  death   caused   my  heart to flutter  when  it was  stated that she  was  79 ... so  am  I.

The typical open mouthed running style  of Betty captured in this  statue of  her at  the Melbourne Cricket Ground .(By  Peter  Simon )