The Electronic Telegraph
Monday 11 December 2000

Bailey stop-watch ticks on
By David Miller

UNTIL, at the age of 14, I met Emmanuel McDonald Bailey, warming up before a
race was something unfamiliar, as for most schoolboys. Back in the 1940s
tracksuits were unknown. You took your pullover off and ran. Imagine the
initial anti-climax, therefore, when Bailey and Arthur Wint, Britain's
leading track stars, visited my school to coach . . . . and began by making
us jog round the track.

Arguably Britain's best sprinter - notwithstanding Olympic victories by
Abrahams, Wells and Christie - Bailey was grace personified, supple as silk,
and a joint world record-holder at 100 metres with seven others, including
Jessie Owens, on 10.2sec (on cinders), first set by Owens in Chicago in

>From 1946 to 1953 Bailey was, bar the Olympic year of 1948, the Amateur
Athletic Association double sprint champion; a proud achievement that earned
him a place in the Guinness Book of Records, the editors of which, Norris
and Ross McWhirter, were more appreciative of his effortless sustained
eminence than many among the blazered AAA.

Bailey was 80 last Friday, and arrived in London from Trinidad, his
birthplace, to spend Christmas with his 10 grandchildren and three
great-grandchildren who live here. His eyesight is poor, but his infectious
cheerfulness is undimmed.

Coming to London in 1939 from Port of Spain - by invitation for the
championships - he failed to make either AAA final, but three years later
returned when volunteering for the RAF. Soon he met and married Doris,
settling to become a byword in Britain's sporting culture. Before the
Bannister-Chataway-Brasher-Pirie era, he was, with Sydney Wooderson, the
face of British athletics.

Yet hugely popular though he was with promoters and crowds everywhere -
especially at the old White City - there existed a subterranean racist
attitude among some. It was surprising how often domestic records went
unratified because the track was allegedly centimetres short, there was no
wind gauge, or too few stop-watches. He was too gentle, too debonair a man
to be bothered by this.

He accepted good-humouredly the then stringent amateur regime, in which an
overcharged train fare could threaten your career.

"We won prizes, such as a 12-piece tea-set," he recalls, "and I admit we
sometimes asked the promoter to swap it for cash, but it didn't make us
rich. The only time we got something generous was at the annual Glasgow
Rangers Sports, when Bill Streuth, the secretary, would come into the
dressing-room, whisper a few words, and slip you a hundred pounds.

"When we went to Dublin, to run for Billie Moreton [promoter], we'd receive
eggs or tea or butter which were still rationed. Abrahams [AAA treasurer]
and Jack Crump [secretary] begrudged us these gifts."

In 1952, Bailey and Les Ayre, a prominent 1500m runner, were invited to Los
Angeles for a gala meeting. The promoter came to the hotel with a bundle of
dollars, but Crump asserted that this was irregular. The promoter insisted
Crump keep the money. Bailey and Ayre thought Crump might slip them
something later. But no. To give Crump the excuse, Bailey requested a dollar
loan, for him and Ayre to go shopping. When they returned home, Crump
formally reminded them to return the loan.

A year later Bailey was suspended by the Southern AAA for allowing his name
to be associated with starting blocks marketed by Lilywhite (an innovation -
I ran in the British Games junior 100m with starting blocks sawn from an old
church pew).

Bailey challenged the decision and was defended by Sir Frank Soskice, the
former Labour Attorney General and later Home Secretary, who robustly
informed the full AAA body that McDonald Bailey and

McDonald Bailey Ltd were separate entities. Collapse of case. A Colonial
Office adviser to the humiliated AAA told Bailey he had ruined his chance of
receiving the MBE.

"I told him he could keep it," Bailey said. "I had dared to challenge an
archaic system. It opened the door for others."

Bailey briefly became a rugby league professional with Leigh, at the
suggestion of Eddie Waring, but muscle tears resulted in his playing only
one game, against Wigan, for the switch-on of Leigh's floodlights.

He first equalled the 100m world record with 10.2 in Iceland in 1949 - "a
perfect track, but they had no wind gauge". Two years later, in humid
Belgrade, he repeated the feat. "The reception was marvellous," he recalls,
"better even than the White City - a wonderful feeling, with Owens having
been my boyhood hero."

For the Olympics in London he was below par, having slowly recovered from a
near-ruinous injury the previous year, and suffering laryngitis on the day
of the 100m final. He came sixth and last behind Dillard and Ewell, both
American, and LaBeach, of Panama.

In 1952, drawing a cinders lane drenched by rain spilling from the Helsinki
stadium roof, he was third, in the same time, 10.4, as Remigino (US) and
McKenley (Jamaica) and fourth-placed Smith (US). In the 200m he was fourth.
"That was my best event, but I was the only one doing both sprints," he
said. "I was leading 40 metres out, then my legs went."

Eamonn Condon

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