McDonald Bailey (15/12/2013)

On 4th December 2013 an international athlete by the name of Emmanual McDonald Bailey died at the age of 92. Why you may wonder is his passing being noted on the Harriers website. Well he actually has some connections with Tipton which triggered some delving into the archives.

Back in 1951 the Sedgley Sports were staged by the Harriers and had a number of star athletes of the time attend to compete. Our own Jack Holden, who the year before (in 1950) had won the European & Empire Games Marathons, had many friends and contacts within the sport and this facilitated many "stars" of the day to be seen the Sedgley Sports meetings around this time.

So it was on 7th August 1951 that the programme for the event stated "Nowhere is there a keener appreciation of a good athlete and in the Black Country, which itself has produced a long line of outstanding runners. Today we see in action sports men and sportswomen who have helped to put their respective countries and clubs back into top place."

There was Arthur WInt, McDonald Bailey, Dorethy Tyler and Fanny Blankers-Koen all to be in attendance. It was noted in the programme:-

"What can one say of McDonald Bailey and Arthur Wint? The performances of these two brilliant runners will always find a place in the record books. "Mac", who runs with the speed of wind, is undoubtedly the greatest sprinter since Jesse Owens. Wint is just as supreme in the middle distances, 440 yards and 880 yards, as "Mac" is in the short races."

It went on to say about them :- "A West Indian, and the son of a schoolmaster, "Mac" has broken "evens" probably more times than any other sprinter, including Owens; Wint a Jamaican, is one of a band of four who have won AAA 440 yards and 880 yards Championships on the same afternoon.

Moving on to the famous Dutchwoman and the British star:- "At the age of 32, Fanny Blankers-Koen, mother of two children, should be "going back", but this remarkable woman is the exception to the rule, as witness her five successes in the Dutch Women's Championships only a fortnight ago. It is worth recalling that she won the 100 m in 11.9 seconds, 80 m hurdles in 11.3 seconds, 200 m in 25.4 seconds, high jump, 5'7", and long jump, 19 foot 4 1/2 inches. Not much evidence of "going back" there.

It is difficult to think of any woman athlete likely to compare with the jet propelled Fanny, who can be expected to earn more gold medals for her country in the Olympic Games at Helsinki next year. British womanhood, however, is not far behind, and in Mrs Dorothy Tyler (Mitchum) has a strong claimant for honours.

Moving back to "Mac" he was to be invited two years later to the 1953 version of the sports after having run in the 1952 Olympics. He was invited in good faith and committed to attend but, come the day, things had changed as the programme notes explain of his absence:

"Festival Year, Olympic Year – and now Coronation Year. And despite the absence of the great athlete, McDonald Bailey, we hope and think that at the end of the day's racing you will be able to look back on this afternoon's programme as ranking among the best we have ever presented. But haven't all of them been great occasions?

Having been in the proud position of being able to offer you, year after year, the cream of the country's performers, both on the track and awheel, the search for new faces, in the absence of up-and-coming stars since our last merry meeting, was restricted, but we are of the opinion that in presenting you with the "Sedgley Coronation Mile" you will see probably the finest field of runners ever put on outside the White City.

If there was any disappointment at the enforced withdrawal of McDonald Bailey, we hope you will bear with us. It was one of those things we could not possibly foresee. Nor, for that matter, "Mac" himself when we first approached in this year with our now annual invitation....But we owe him no grudge the turning professional rugby player only a matter of days before we were hoping to see him in action. He has helped to draw bring crowds of Sedgley in the past and we know that deep down inside him he will be sorry he is not among us this afternoon.

But Sedgley's loss (and Britain's too, for that matter) is Leigh's gain, so let's wish him well and thank him for all his valuable assistance in the past. After all, not many meetings, outside London, had the pleasure of seeing those electrifying runs which brought him the A.A.A.'s "double" of 100 yards and 220 yards for seven successive years."

So there we have it. Farewell "Mac" who graced a Tipton meeting with grace and style.

McDonald Bailey - AW

McDonald Bailey - Guardian Obituary

McDonald Bailey - Independant Obituary