Much has been written about how Paralympians have overcome adversity to achieve sporting success. It is also notable that many Paralympians compete in more than one discipline. Team GB’s first London 2012 Paralympics Gold Medal winner Sarah Storey has overcame her disability to win multiple medals in several sports. The same is true with Royal Mail’s Paralympics hero Ian Hayden.
Royal Mail’s Gold Medal Winner stamp issued today commemorating Sarah Storey’s gold medal win in the Cycling: Track Women’s C5 Pursuit.
Ian Hayden joined the Army in 1970 but suffered injuries to his back, legs and shoulders after being attacked on guard duty in 1974. While this ended his Army career, Ian Hayden was obviously not a man to rest on his laurels – within two years he had started a business and formed the charity All About Ability. He also became active in a variety of sports after leaving the Army, including horse riding, cycling, golf and athletics.
After being asked to open the new disabled entrance to a local Post Office, Ian became an Equal Opportunities Officer and Employment Consultant at Royal Mail Oxford.
Royal Mail’s staff magazine Courier reported in January 1992 that Ian Hayden had been selected for the Barcelona Paralympics. He had previously won two Gold Medals and one Silver Medal at the Seoul Paralympics in 1988, and was also the World Record holder in javelin, discus and shot in the standing position.
Ian Hayden with his medals from the Seoul Paralympics and other championships, with Royal Mail managing director Bill Cockburn. (Courier, January 1992)
Later that year, in the July issue of Courier, it was reported that Ian had been forced to switch from competing in the standing position to competing from a wheelchair. But this proved not to be a problem, as he then went on to break three new records at the national championships, and to break two of them again in international competition.
At the Barcelona Olympics itself Ian Hayden won two Silver Medals, despite injuring his arm whilst getting out of the bath at the Olympic village. The October 1992 issue of Courier reported that this injury caused Ian a great deal of pain, as apart from his physical disabilities Ian was also a haemophilic. Reporter Graham Harvey wrote that Ian “ignored the pain to take silver in the shot and javelin”. Ian himself said of his experience at Barcelona “I was beginning to bleed pretty badly after competing so I had no choice but to withdraw from the discus”, the implication being that had he been able to compete he may have medalled in that event too.
Ian Hayden with his two Barcelona Paralympics Silver Medals, which he won despite an arm injury. (Courier, October 1992)
Ian Hayden had hoped to go to the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics but injured his back during qualifying. However, in 1995 he completed a sponsored ride from John O Grots to Lands End on a hand-powered bicycle, which raised £100,000 for the British Paralympics Association, so he still managed to contribute to British Paralympics success in Atlanta.
Ian Hayden (front left) with fellow Paralympian Tanni Grey (later Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson), receiving a cheque for £200,000 from postman Brian Burnham (top left) on TV-am in 1992. Also pictured is TV-am presenter Katharyn Holloway. The money was raised for the British Paralympic Team by Royal Mail employees. At this time Royal Mail was the only sponsor of both the British Olympic Association and the British Paralympic Association. (Courier, September 1992)
Ian Hayden died aged 64 in 2011, and his obituary appeared in the Oxford Times. The obituary notes that Ian was awarded the MBE in 1994 for services to equal opportunities. His family reflected that “Ian led an amazing life.”
Stamps featuring all Great Britain’s Paralympics gold medal winners will be issued within 24 hours of victory. Visit your Post Office today to buy the stamps, or buy online at www.royalmail.com/goldmedalstamps.
The Royal Mail Archive in London holds back issues of Post Office and Royal Mail staff magazines, which are an invaluable resource for family historians and researchers. Find out more at www.postalheritage.org.uk/genealogy.
Posted in Archive, Philatelic
Tagged All About Ability, army, athletics, Atlanta Paralympics, Barcelona Paralympics, Bill Cockburn, British Paralympics Association, Courier, cycling, discus, equal opportunities, family history, genealogy, gold medal, gold medal stamps, gold medal winner, Gold Medal Winner stamp, golf, horse riding, Ian Hayden, javelin, Katharyn Holloway, London 2012 Paralympic Games, Royal Mail, Royal Mail Oxford, Sarah Storey, Seoul Paralympics, shot put, silver medal, sport, staff magazine, Tanni Grey-Thompson, Team GB, TVam, World Record, world record holder
Team GB’s gold medal winning athletes are not only finding themselves appearing on stamps within 24 hours of their victory, they are also being honoured with a gold letter box in their hometown.
One of the gold letter boxes (image from Royal Mail Stamps & Collectables Facebook page)
As with the Gold Medal Winner stamps Royal Mail are dispatching staff to re-paint the letter boxes within a day of each athlete’s victory. There are now gold letter boxes from Penzance to Lossiemouth, with (hopefully) lots more to come.
The gold letter boxes are getting a lot of attention in the media and many people have asked us whether it is unusual to see letter boxes in colours other than the traditional red. In fact it isn’t. When letter boxes first appeared in the British Isles they were painted green so as not to intrude on the landscape.
One of the first pillar boxes to be used in the British Isles, introduced in the Channel Islands circa 1852-1853 (OB1996.653)
Unfortunately the colour green proved too unobtrusive and people were unable to find them. After experimenting with a chocolate brown colour, the Post Office finally settled on the bright red we know today.
The familiar red pillar box, a rare example of one produced during the reign of Edward VIII, 1936 (OB1994.45)
In the 1930s some boxes were also painted bright blue to promote the new Air Mail service. Our curator Julian Stray restored one of these rare blue boxes several years ago and you can read all about that on this blog.
A rare blue Air Mail pillar box
Visit http://www.goldpostboxes.com/ to see the locations of all the gold boxes, or read our article on Letter Boxes to find out more about their history.
Posted in Postal History
Tagged Air Mail, air mail pillar box, airmail, airmail pillar box, athletes, blue pillar box, British athletes, Channel Islands, Edward VIII, Edward VIII pillar box, first pillar box, gold letter box, gold medal, gold medal winner, gold pillar box, gold post box, Great Britain, letter box, London 2012, pillar box, pillar box red, pillar boxes, post box, posting box, Royal Mail, Team GB
by Richard Wade, Archives Assistant
The Post Office has always had many clubs and associations that its staff could get involved with, especially where sport was concerned. Most large offices had their own football, cricket or tennis teams, and Post Office staff have taken part in many other sporting championships besides.
Most of these sports had countrywide postal leagues such as the Courier Cup. There was also a Civil Service athletics championship in which postal workers often featured, and there were regional athletics competitions within the Post Office.
An article from Courier magazine (October 1968) about Post Office employees competing at the Mexico City Olympics.
Given how seriously sport was taken it is perhaps unsurprising that there were more than a few people from the Post Office chosen to represent Great Britain in the Olympic Games. These athlete’s achievements were celebrated in the Post Office staff magazines, and by looking through these one can find out about a lot of the people that were chosen and their athletic achievements.
The following list should represent the large number and diversity of the Post Office’s Olympians. Only a very small handful of medals were gained by Post Office employees, but there were a lot of people who either took part or were shortlisted for the Games.
It is not always clear what happened to individual athletes, but if any information about their results is known it is included. If nothing is given then they certainly did not win any medals and in many cases may not have reached the final selection of athletes.
The period covered is from 1936 to 1988, excluding the war years when there were no Olympic Games. Before 1936, the staff magazines were in a different format and did not really celebrate the achievements of particular staff in the same way. Ending in 1988 gives a period of roughly 50 years which were studied and seemed a sensible place to stop as after this time; the Olympics really became dominated by professional athletes and the chances of anyone from the Post Office taking part would have been much smaller.
1936 – Berlin
- Mr A. J. Norris from the Savings Bank department was chosen for the marathon. He had already won the Post Office’s polytechnic marathon several times.
- From the Money Order department was Miss B. O. Crowe who was selected for the Women’s Gymnastic team.
1948 – London
- This year had a poor showing, which was a shame considering these games were in London. The only person selected was Mr G. F. Ward for the 10m high board diving. He worked as a clerical officer in the Savings Bank department and already held the title for the Men’s High Diving Championship in England.
1952 – Helsinki
- Mr K. A. Richmond, a Night Telephonist from London Telegraph Region Directory Enquiries, was selected for the Heavyweight Wrestling and took the bronze medal.
1956 – Melbourne and 1960 – Rome
There was nobody selected from the Post Office at all in 1956 or 1960, but these were the only two Olympic Games where this happened during the period I looked at.
1964 – Tokyo
The first of several Olympic Games where the Post Office was well represented:
- Maureen Tranter, a telephonist at Wolverhampton, was shortlisted for the 220yd relay and went out to Tokyo, but in the end was not selected. At the age of 17 she was still young and had potential, as can be seen by her appearances in future games.
- Ray Middleton from Golders Green Sub-District Office was selected for the 50km walk and finished 12th place out of 32.
- Syvanus Blackman, a postman from Acton Sub-District Office, took part in the Light Heavyweight weightlifting and finished 10th place.
- Kenneth Hill from the Postal and Telegraph Office in Liverpool reached the shortlist for the cycling team, but there are no further references to him, so presumably he was not chosen to go to Tokyo.
1968 – Mexico City
This seems to have been a good year for the Post Office with four people going out to represent Britain. Unfortunately, they did not bring any medals back with them, although several personal bests were achieved.
- Maureen Tranter tried again, this time for the 200m sprint and the sprint relay. She got a personal best time of 23.5 seconds in the 200m sprint, bit it wasn’t enough for a medal.
- Syvanus Blackman also entered in the weightlifting for a second time.
- Mike Bull was the son of John Bull, who was a Belfast telephonist. Mike was entered for the pole vault. He managed 16’5″, a British record, but still one foot short of the winner and not enough for a medal.
- Robin Baskerville, the son of Sid Baskerville (an Information Officer at Royal Mail Headquarters) was entered for high board diving and took part in the heats, but failed to qualify for the final.
An article about Post Office employees competing at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics from Courier magazine, October 1968.
- Maureen Tranter went out for the third time, this time in the 4 x 400m relay.
- Phil Griffiths, a technician from Stoke on Trent, was a participant in the cycling.
- Alan Almond, a technical officer, was a participant in the coxed fours.
- Brian Brinkley, who was the son of Corinne Brinkley (a cleaner at the Head Post Office) entered in the 100m, 200m and 400m freestyle swimming. He competed in the heats, but did not reach the final. Interestingly, he went on to win bronze with three others in the 4x200m relay and reached the final for the 200m butterfly in the 1976 Olympics, but this does not appear in the magazine. Maybe he had left the Post Office in between.
- Nick Nearchou, a senior mechanic in the London Postal Region, entered for weightlifting.
- This is more of a sideline, but a notable achievement all the same so deserves a mention: the Olympics for the handicapped at this time took place every two years in Brussels. In this year, Jim Gladman, a night telephonist from Torquay, gained silver in the table tennis, a bronze in the shot put and came fourth in the discus.
- Mary Stewart, a clerical officer, entered in the 1500m.
- Phil Griffiths entered again in the cycling with Trevor Gadd, both of them technicians. Trevor finished 12th place in the men’s individual pursuit.
- Peter Weston did not take part himself in the Olympics but did manage the archery team that represented Great Britain. He was a Technical Officer at London Telecoms West. The highest place reached by any of the archery team that year was 21st.
- There was a possible Olympic hopeful in Steve Cronshaw, but it wasn’t clear whether he went to the Olympics, just that he was a strong contender to be selected.
1984- Los Angeles
- Dennis Jackson and Benny Graham were both hopefuls for the 50km Road Walking, but again, but neither of them made the final selection.
- Arthur Spencer, a Doncaster Sub-Post Office Assistant, finished 28th place in the free pistol shooting.
- Mike Jones, who was a Security Driver at the Redhill Mechanised Letter Office, represented us in the hammer throw, but he did not make it through to the final.
- In the Paralympics of that year however, Ian Hayden won gold in the javelin and discus and took silver in the shot put. He was an equal opportunities officer at Royal Mail Oxford.
As can be seen, although very few medals were brought back, the Post Office had quite a strong presence in the Olympic Games and considering they were competing against the world’s best, they did pretty well. In all the years researched, bar two, there was somebody representing the Post Office and in some cases there were several. There can not be many employers with that sort of a record.
As has been written at the beginning, this is only the tip of the iceberg as far as Post Office sport goes. There were also many national, international and regional competitions that Post Office employees took part in and the Post Office’s own sports leagues, all of which are reported on in the staff magazines, copies of which can be found here at the British Postal Museum and Archive.
For more information on other sporting heroes of the Post Office, including Albert ‘Tiny’ Sangwine who represented England at the 1924 Paris Olympics, please see the BPMA’s online exhibition Playing for the Cup.
Posted in Archive, Collection
Tagged 4 x 400m relay, 50km walk, A. J. Norris, Alan Almond, Albert Sangwine, archery, Arthur Spencer, athletics, B. O. Crowe, Benny Graham, Berlin Olympics, Brian Brinkley, bronze medal, Civil Service athletics championships, Courier Cup, coxed fours, cycling, Dennis Jackson, directory enquiries, discus, G. F. Ward, Great Britain, gymnastics, hammer throw, heavyweight wrestling, Helsinki Olympics, high board diving, Ian Hayden, javelin, Jim Gladman, K. A. Richmond, Kenneth Hill, London Olympics, Los Angeles Olympics, marathon, Mary Stewart, Maureen Tranter, Mexico City Olympics, Mike Bull, Mike Jones, Montreal Olympics, Moscow Olympics, Munich Olympics, Nick Nearchou, Olympians, Olympics, Paralympics, Paris Olympics, Peter Weston, Phil Griffiths, pole vault, Post Office Savings Bank, Post Office sport, Post Office staff, Ray Middleton, relay, Robin Baskerville, Seoul Olympics, shot put, sport, sporting championships, staff magazine, Steve Cronshaw, swimming, Syvanus Blackman, table tennis, Team GB, Tokyo Olympics, Trevor Gadd, weightlifting