Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and

Dorothy Manley - Silver medalist London Olympics 1948

The Parlette's  By Alastair Aitken

It was after Easter in 1948, at the training weekend at Butlins' for Olympic possible, that John Parlett and Dorothy Manley struck up an acquaintance and then they became friends at the major Championships of 1948 and 1950. After that both went their separate ways and had families and, did not meet up again till sometime after the tragic death of Dorothy's husband (Hall) in 1973..It was sometime after that John Parlett and Dorothy Manley had met again and got married in 1979.

Dorothy Manley was born on the 29.4.27 at Manor Park. She belonged to Essex Ladies and her racing height and weight was 1.65/56kg. It was interesting to note that she was a shorthand typist with the Suez Canal Company when she went to the Olympics at Wembley in 1948 and, was granted the time off for the Games as 'Unpaid leave!'  She went into the Olympics in 1948 as her first international event, having finished fifth in the final at the WAAA Championships although, she had won a 100yards race at Eton Manor in 11.1 in May. In June she won a 100m in Lee in 12.00 which was her fastest time for the distance. She did in fact only win one women's WAAA title and that was over 200m in 1950 at the White City Stadium. As Dorothy Hall she ran 24.6 that year in a heat in the European in Brussels and that was her listed best. Remembering that was all on cinders, as there was not such a thing as tartan in those days..
Another interesting fact is that Dorothy and John Parlett were both part of World Record Relay teams' at the White City in September of 1951. The events were 4x220 and 4x880 respectively and co-incidentally they both retired in 1952. John after an appendix operation and Dorothy after a serious thyroid problem in 1952.


Dorothy Nee Manley (As listed in the Olympic Records), then Hall and later Parlett)

What is your memory now of the Olympic Final in London in 1948( 1 Fanny Blankers-Koen (NED) 11.9; 2 Dorothy Manley (GBR) 12.2; 3 Shirley Strickland (AUS) 12.2; 4 Viola Myers (CAN) 12.3; 5 Patricia Jones (CAN) 12.3; 6 Cynthia Thompson (JAM) 12.9.)
"I have got vivid memories of the Olympic Final. I was absolutely terrified before when the six of us were in the tunnel waiting to go out for the Final. If I could have run away I would have done. It was really so nerve racking then, coming up out of the tunnel I heard someone call my name and I realised it was the chap who ultimately  became my brother in law. Just hearing his voice sort of helped. Someone you recognised as I was going to the mark and putting my starting blocks in place. What disappointed me most in the Olympics was being in the lane nearest the crowd because, had I been in the centre I always felt that if you were in the centre lane you can judge people either side of you. In the lane I had you can't. Running up I instinctively turned my head round once just like that. I never did it before and I never did it after. I don't know why I did it. I think because running in that lane something inside me  just told me to  look to see where the others were.
Another thing about that race was that I had got such a good start as , I was usually a notoriously bad starter. On that particular occasion I think I got the best start of my life and in fact I thought I had got a flyer and I was expecting us to be recalled and, in so doing I must have lost, obviously I was not going to beat Fanny, but I think I would have been closer to her had I not been thinking things like that. You hear them today say 'I am absolutely focused from the starting point' but I was not like that. I was not really focused on what I was doing.'
Fanny Blankers - Koen was voted for by the IAAF, at one time, as the Greatest woman athlete of all time and Karl Lewis was voted as the 'Greatest' Male athlete. What did you think Fanny Blakers- Koen was like as a person and as an athlete.
She was a lovely person. I met her a number of times after.I never beat her obviously but I did run against her in Dublin.
I think she was lucky in that she was such a strong person, physically strong and I think she was quite determined. I think she was like me in that she just loved running. I don't think she did things like they do these days.
The European Bronze medal that was something special too. (1 Fanny Balkers-Koen 24:0; 2 Yevgeniya Sechenova SU) 24.8; 3 Dorothy Hall (GBR) 25:0; 4 Sofya Malshina (SU) 25:0; 5 Bertha Brouwer (NED) 25:00; 6 Zoya Dukhovich (SU) 25.5.
'Yes! That was a nice race. I did my fastest ever  200m in the heats in Brussels but I did not do that in the final.'
You appear to have had a good time when you competed
I had a happy time. Obviously one wanted to win but it was not the be all and end all. People say to me 'If only I had got the gold kind of thing'' I say 'It did not disappoint me that I was only second because I did not think I would get second in the Olympics. When you think about it I had not really done anything at all until 1948 of note and I was put on the list of possible as a high jumper.
You were fourth in the high jump at the Commonwealth Games in Auckland in 1950 (1 Dorothy Tyler (Eng) 5'3/1.60; 2  Bertha Crowther (Eng) 5'3/1.60; 3 Noeline Sweinton (AUS) 5'1/1.549; 4 Dorothy Hall 5'1/1.54. out of nine finalists.
'That was a laugh because  I did not know I was even entered till we got to New Zealand and it was coming up in a day or two's time and the Team Manager said to me 'Would you like to do the high jump' and I said 'How can I be in the high jump I have not be entered and he said 'Yes you have!' I had no idea, no one had told me so John (Parlett) and I found a rope and we stuck it on some posts in New Zealand and I used to jump over that and, that was the only training I had and I went out on the day of the event and managed to get fourth.It all strikes me as very funny.' (Also she achieved a bronze in the 440yards medley relay and a silver in the 660yds medley relay).
You achieved a gold medal in the 4x100m relay in the 1950 European in front of Holland, Soviet Union, France, Italy and Yougoslavia in 47.4.That must have been a memory for you (Team Elspeth Hay; Jean Deforges later-Pickering; Dorothy Hall and June Foulds later Paul)
We beat the Dutch. That was probably the most exciting race because we actually got the medal and we had beaten Fanny.
June Foulds was the one who was running against her although she did not necessarily do the winning of it. I ran third. I always preferred running round the bend. I always felt I was running faster round the bend. I have discovered since then that I have got one leg that is quite a bit shorter than the other and, it is that way round. If it had been the other leg a bit shorter I could not have run as I would have been lopsided. It is funny that I got an Olympic medal with a leg shorter than the other.'
Were you inspired to come into athletics to begin with
My schoolteacher at the junior school. She was so keen and she gave me every encouragement. First of all it was running for the school, then it was the District, then the County. Of course, then the war came and so we did not do anything for a time at all.
I did not do anything at all to begin with as everyone was evacuated but in 1942, when everyone was drifting back again, there was a meeting down at Ashton Playing Fields and I remember running in that, with no training of course because I had not done any. I won the 100 and 200 down there that day. How I won the 200 I don't know. I had not run a 200 before. When I finished it I nearly passed out because I lacked training. I had not got a lot of stamina. I was only eight stone so I had not got a lot of strength in me but as I have said before I always take my ability to run as 'God Given' I am a Committed Christian. He gave me that ability and it has given me a lot of fun. Unfortunately it ended in 1952, the same as John did by a strange co-incidence with is appendicitis. I had the starting of my thyroid trouble and it just got worse and worse. I could not run round the track as I got this burning in my throat and got all out of breath and got a goitre in my throat, my eyes started to bulge and I had very symptom they could have apparently. I was terribly on edge and had a voracious appetite and lost a lot of weight so, my days for being an athlete were over then.
But you had had a wonderful opportunity and you did very well
That is really Thank's to Sandy Duncan. He was the one who got me through the Olympics. He was my coach.
People who were put on the list as Olympic possible at the end of 1947,if they had not already got a coach they were awarded one and I was put in the hands of Sandy and I had not met him till then. I did not start training with him till March and I won my medal in August. So he did a wonderful job really in a short time I was grateful to him..
When you gave up athletics you had that strong interest there being a Committed Christian.
I have always had an interest. I am an Elder of my Church. I am a Non-conformist and belong to the Reformed Church."

Alastair Aitken

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