1928 British Gymnasts

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to look at the British delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Games. There are many gaps in our knowledge of those who competed at this edition, but we wanted to focus in on the gymnasts, as there are two in particular that have eluded efforts to track down the details of their later lives.

As a member of the Northampton Polytechnic Institute, Doris Woods represented Great Britain as part of the first national women’s gymnastics team and helped them place third in the all-around in 1928. She later took to judging gymnastics competitions, but aside from the fact that she remained unmarried as late as 1939 (and thus retained her surname) and that she may also have been a member of London’s Ibis Club, we know nothing about her. Given the lack of clues in contemporary reports and even the uncertainty about her surname (which is sometimes listed as “Wood”), the best we can say is that she is almost certainly deceased, but otherwise remains an Olympic mystery.

On the men’s side, T. B. Parkinson was a member of the British team that placed 11th and last at the Amsterdam Games. Individually, he had a best finish of joint-65th on the horizontal bars. Unlike Woods, we know much about Parkinson’s gymnastics career, including that he did not take up the sport until he was 18 and that he was British national champion in the team all-around in 1933, 1934, and 1936 with the Bolton Lads. The one critical detail that escapes us, however, is his full name, which might provide additional clues as to his birth and death. Research by Connor Mah and Rob Gilmore has suggested that he may have been Thomas Buchanan Parkinson of Bolton, born February 4, 1905 and died November 29, 1965, but thus far no one has been able to confirm this.

Thus we have another short blog entry today, but we will be back soon with more Olympic mysteries. We hope that you will join us!

Stéphane de la Rochefoucault

Just to move in a different direction, today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to feature a short and completely random Olympic mystery. Long ago, we featured the case of the 1900 French fencer Viscount de Lastic, an individual who should have been easy to identify, yet remains unknown. He is not, however, the only member of the French nobility for whom we are missing information.

The 1928 St. Moritz bobsleighing events are among the poorest documented in terms of the biographical details of the competitors, and we are missing even the full names of two of the Mexican competitors, G. and J. Díaz (in fact, that whole team is probably worth its own Olympic Mysteries blog post). One would assume, however, that the competitor known as Stéphane, Viscount de la Rochefoucault would be at least well-known enough to have a few details for. After all, we have full life stories for two of his teammates and full birth information for a third, leaving only Jacques N. Rheins as a mystery. Even for Rheins, however, we know that he was a World Championship bronze medalist in 1934.

(Coat of arms of the Maison de La Rochefoucauld)

About Rochefoucault, however, we know nothing for certain. Searching for a “Vicomte de la Rochefoucault” by the name of Stéphane yields few relevant results, save for repeated suggestions to search for the house of “de la Rochefoucauld”. This inquiry is slightly more fruitful, but leads to no viable candidates for the Olympian on the surface.

(Obituary for the Vicomte de la Rochefocault in The Baltimore Sun, February 26, 1907, pg. 11)

Searching through newspaper archives was immediately more successful, as we located the obituary of a sports patron by the name of Vicomte de la Rochefocault, who died February 25, 1907 at the age of 44. Of course, this could not be the Olympian from 1928, but it did provide a lot of family details to work with, as his full name was Charles Marie de La Rochefoucauld. Yet still, there was no Stéphane to be found in the family tree.

(Sosthène de La Rochefoucauld pictured at Genanet)

Charles Marie did, however, have a nephew by the name of Sosthène III, who participated several times in the early 24 Hours of Le Mans automobile race, a sport that often intersects with those who take part in bobsleigh. Sosthène was born June 20, 1897, making him a reasonable 31 in 1928, a year in which he was also titled the Vicomte de Rochefoucauld.

It seems almost certain, therefore, that Sosthène was the Olympic bobsledder, but, unfortunately, we were unable to locate a smoking gun. Sosthène died October 20, 1970, so if it was him, he was never among the oldest Olympians. Nonetheless, we hope that you enjoyed this brief foray into the world of exploring unknown Olympians.

Post-World War II Olympic Mysteries

Today on Oldest Olympians we are concluding our look at Irish Olympians who were born before 1931 for whom we lack either a date of death or confirmation that they are still alive. We have just three more competitors to cover, all of whom took part in the Games after World War II. Although this means that they could, in theory, still be alive, we believe that it is most likely that are all deceased.

Peter Foran – Member of the Irish boxing delegation to the 1948 London Olympics

Peter Foran, born in 1927, was a member of an Irish boxing family and won his first junior title as a welterweight in 1946. In 1948 he captured the senior title and was therefore selected to represent his country in the Olympic tournament, ultimately losing to upcoming bronze medalist Hank Herring of the United States in the second round. He later worked in the radio and television industry and while we know of an Irish obituary for a Peter Foran who died on July 28, 2007, we have yet to connect it conclusively to the Olympian.

Tom Smith – Member of the Irish fencing delegation to the 1948 London Olympics

Tom Smith was active in fencing from 1943 through 1956, but the highlight of his career came when he was selected to represented Ireland in the foil competitions at the 1948 London Games. There, he was eliminated in the first rounds of both the individual and team tournaments. As one might imagine, his fairly common name has been an obstacle to finding anything more about him and while it seems likely that he is deceased given his active years, it is possible that he is still alive.

Harry Byrne – Member of Ireland’s sailing delegation to the 1972 Munich Olympics

Harry Bryne, born July 2, 1929, represented Ireland in Dragon class sailing at the 1972 Munich Games, where the nation placed 16th among 23 teams overall. We do not know much else about him, although we are led to believe that he is the individual listed in this obituary, who died July 4, 2019. Unfortunately, we have been unable to confirm this fact.

That concludes our posts on Irish Olympic mysteries! We did want to update one of the Canadian cases: Connor Mah was able to confirm that Canadian sport shooter Donald Sanderlin was indeed born in 1933, but sadly died in 2013. We also have a correction from Diego Rossetti, who informed us that Italian gymnast Silvio Brivio died in 2010, not 2011. As always, we greatly appreciate such contributions. Looking forwards, we will be bringing you a new topic in the coming days and we hope that you will join us!

Pre-World War II Irish Olympic Mysteries

In the past on Oldest Olympians we have looked at Australian and Canadian Olympians who were born before 1931 for whom we lack either a date of death or confirmation that they are still alive. Today we wanted to begin a two-part series looking at similar cases who represented an independent Republic of Ireland. Thanks to some excellent research by Connor Mah and Rob Gilmore, we have only a handful to cover, so today we are going to look into those Olympians who competed in the 1920s, all of whom are definitely deceased.

Mick Farrell – Member of Ireland’s football squad at the 1924 Paris Olympics

Mick Farrell, born in 1902, was a member of the St. James’ Gate Football Club when he represented Ireland in the tournament at the 1924 Paris Games, where the nation was eliminated by the Netherlands in the quarterfinals. He was with St. James’ Gate from at least 1923 through 1928, but outside of that we have been unable to trace him with any certainty. He is possibly the Michael John Farrell born February 7, 1900 who died July 14, 1968: this individual worked the Guinness Brewery in Dublin and had two brothers who were affiliated with the club, but as of yet we have no definitive tie to him being the Olympian.

(John Connor, pictured in the Northern Whig, June 18, 1951)

John Connor – Member of Ireland’s athletics delegation to the 1924 Paris Olympics

John Connor, born in 1893, won Irish national championships in the high (1924) and long jump (1925), but was best known for the triple jump, winning titles in 1921, 1924, and 1925. At the 1924 Paris Games, he placed 10th in the latter event. By career he served with the Royal Ulster Constabulary and was still alive in 1951, when he resigned from that job and was still sprinting. After that, however, we have been unable to locate further details.

(Mossy Doyle, picture in The Boston Globe, November 26, 1927, page 7)

Maurice “Mossy” Doyle – Member of Ireland’s boxing delegation to the 1924 Paris Olympics

Mossy Doyle, born May 16, 1903, was eliminated in round one of the featherweight boxing tournament at the 1924 Paris Games by upcoming gold medalist Jackie Fields of the United States. In Ireland, he won the national title in 1923, 1925, and 1926. He then had a respectable professional career in the United States from 1927 through 1931, but in the 1950s he moved back across the pond to London. His activities near the end of his life are currently a mystery, even to some of those closest to him, and in 1992 it was said that his family believed that he died in a fire a few years earlier. We have not, however, been able to uncover any confirmation of this story.

(George Kelly, pictured in the Sunday Independent, November 8, 1936)

George Kelly – Member of Ireland’s boxing delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics

George Kelly won an Irish national championship in featherweight boxing in 1927, which led to his selection to represent the country at the 1928 Amsterdam Games, where he was eliminated in round one. He then had a lengthy career as a professional, which lasted until 1938 and included national lightweight titles in 1934 and 1935. Following his retirement, he appears to no longer be mentioned in newspapers, which suggests that he may have emigrated somewhere. A lack of clues about his personal details, such as his age, occupation, address, and relatives, combined with his common name, have made it difficult to learn his ultimate fate.

That is enough for today, but we have three more Olympians to cover, all of whom competed after World War II. We hope you will join us when we post about them!

Micheline Lannoy

In today’s blog, we wanted to provide a handful of updates about Olympians that we have covered in the past. Most importantly, however, we wanted to wish a happy belated birthday to Belgian figure skating champion Micheline Lannoy, who turned 96 yesterday! Derrick Bouchard, a volunteer researcher with the Kingston Branch of the Genealogical Society, assisted us in locating the son of Micheline Lannoy Macaulay, who was able to confirm that she was indeed still alive. This means that there are no remaining gold medal mysteries, so we greatly appreciate Derrick for the work he did in contacting the family!

(Micheline Lannoy)

On to the proper birthday post: Lannoy and her partner Pierre Baugniet were Belgian national champions in the pairs event from 1944 through 1947. In 1947 they took both the European and World Championships, and then followed that up with victories at the Worlds and the Olympics in 1948. Despite these impressive successes, the duo ended their careers after the Games and managed to maintain a low-profile thereafter. Lannoy later moved to Ontario, Canada and took the married name MacAulay. Now that we have confirmed that she is still alive, we can note that she is the sixth-oldest living Olympic champion and the third-oldest living Winter Olympic champion.

Additionally, we also wanted to share a bevy of updates from Connor Mah, who has done some excellent research in solving our Olympic mysteries: for starers, he was able to confirm that the obituary of the John F. K. Hinde who died May 31, 2017 was indeed the Olympian John Hinde, born October 3, 1928, who represented Great Britain in rowing at the 1952 and 1956 Summer Games. Similarly, he proved that the Frank William Daniels born August 21, 1928 who died April 9, 1990 was the American boxer who was an alternate in the middleweight division at the 1948 London Olympics. From our Australian Olympic mysteries, he also demonstrated that welterweight boxer Rusty Cook, born April 20, 1913, who fought as a welterweight at the 1936 Berlin Games, did in fact die on October 10, 1991.

Mah’s research, however, was not confined to confirming previously uncertain information. From the Australian Olympic mysteries, he located the death dates of two freestyle wrestlers: 1948 flyweight Bert Harris, born in 1916, died March 6, 1982, while 1952 welterweight Bev Scott, born September 30, 1914, died October 27, 1998. He also discovered that one of Scott’s opponents, Canadian Niaz “Nick” Mohammed, who was born January 29, 1926, died March 16, 2011. Finally, Mah located dates of death for two other Canadian Olympic mysteries: 1948 athletics bronze medalist Dianne Foster, born March 3, 1928, died January 4, 1999 and 1948 track cyclist Bill Hamilton, born in 1930, died November 23, 2017.

This is to say nothing of the individuals that Mah was able to confirm living, who we will feature in future Oldest Olympians posts. We want to express our extreme gratitude for his aid in solving so many of these Olympic mysteries!