Pride as Fred’s exploits are finally recognised

SPORTING PRIDE: Fred wearing some of the medals he won in his athletics career.
SPORTING PRIDE: Fred wearing some of the medals he won in his athletics career.

THE family of Spen Olympian Fred Lord are delighted he is being recognised, a hundred years after he competed in his second games.

Doreen Naylor, of Little Gomersal, could not believe it when she saw a feature about her grandfather in last week’s Spenborough Guardian, and got in touch with us to say she had some photographs of him.

“I just sat down to read the paper and was thrilled to bits to read the story,” she said.

The article quoted Neil Shuttleworth of Hyde, who co-wrote Manchester Marathons 1908-2002 which features Fred.

It told how the unassuming athlete from Cleckheaton made his mark in history by completing Olympic Games Marathons both in 1908 in London and 1912 in Sweden.

He was one of only four men to complete both, and he was the only Briton.

However while Neil had lots of information on Fred, he did not have any pictures of him.

Fred died in 1928 of septicaemia after using an old knife as a shoe horn when he was putting on his clogs for work. He left a wife, Annie, and four children, Elsie, Mary, Wilfred and Cyril. He was just 48.

Sadly none of his grandchildren ever knew him, but they were always told of their grandad’s heroic feat.

“My mum, Elsie, was the eldest of his children,” said Doreen.

“She spent a lot of time with him and used to love to go swimming with him. Before he became an athlete, he had been a really good swimmer.

“They were a normal family, they lived in a small house in Westcliffe Road, and he was just a working class man.

“They wouldn’t have had much money so how he managed to compete in London and Sweden I’ve no idea.

“We grew up knowing he had run in the Olympics but that was it. His family never bragged or boasted about it.

“As we’ve got older, we’ve found out more about him and it really was an incredible achievement for someone who was just a manual worker.

“I’m just sorry that he died so young and we never got to know him, but I’m so glad that his story is being told now and he is getting the recognition he deserves.”

Fred joined Wibsey Harriers in 1905 aged 26 and soon began winning medals at club and county level.

Just three years later he was selected to represent Great Britain in the first London Olympics and finished the marathon in 15th place.

Four years later he represented his country again, finishing 21st in blistering heat.