Belfast Telegraph

Home News

Tribute to pipe-smoking Olympic hero who loved chips

By David Young

The forgotten exploits of a podgy, pipe-smoking marathon runner who won Olympic gold almost 100 years ago are to be marked ahead of the 2012 games, the Assembly has heard.

Co Antrim born Kennedy Kane McArthur, an unorthodox athlete who reputedly ate chips for breakfast, triumphed at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm.

But beyond his home village of Dervock, his story is little known on the island of his birth.

That's because when he crossed the finish line in Sweden he was wearing South African colours, having emigrated from the north of Ireland more than 10 years prior to his finest hour.

The Dervock and District Community Association are now intent on highlighting the area's role in raising a champion through a series of events to commemorate the centenary of his win, which conveniently falls in the year London will host the games.

Foremost in the plans is the staging of a marathon through the village in two years' time.

Stormont Sports Minister Nelson McCausland yesterday commended their efforts.

“McArthur was a very colourful character and a remarkable individual as well as being inspirational,” he said.

The association, which already hosts an annual half marathon, is also hoping to create a local exhibition on McArthur's life story.

“I think events such as this and individuals such as this can be inspirational to young athletes today, they set up before them good role models,” said Mr McCausland.

McArthur worked as postman in Dervock before leaving for South Africa in 1901 at the age of 20. In his new homeland he became a policeman, joining the force in Johannesburg.

His gold medal was to be the highlight of an athletics career that was cut short by injury.

After the Olympics he returned to Dervock for a short period with his South African wife. But she was apparently not a fan of the Co Antrim climate, so the couple returned to South Africa once again.

He died there in June 1960.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph