August 02, 2010

The evolution of Veterans Athletics


What are myth, legend and history? Can they be part of the same thing? How should a critical period be represented, particularly by someone who was a significant player in it? Does the participant viewpoint make the story less valid, providing caricature rather than perspective, understanding and insight; revealing current affairs rather than contextual analysis?
John (Jack) Carroll VC, from Kurrawang (near Kalgoorlie), WA, won his award for actions at Messines Ridge during World War 1. Bean records these in his official history and the Australian War Memorial displays the official citation. Bean's account is adequate. The citation is graphic. But Carroll's family's account, as oral history, provides a more revealing picture. "Seeing his mates torn to pieces around him, Jack 'lost his mind', went berserk and charged the German line. He bayoneted a few to death and kept running forward killing a few more Germans, and capturing their machine gun nest." The first fourteen words don't appear in the official records but they allow us greater insight into this incredible man. Were they his words to his family? It appears so. They have been passed down for 90 years. He returned to WA, married, had no children, spoke very little about his experiences and died in obscurity aged 80. He was given a full military funeral and was buried at Perth's Karrakatta Cemetery. His VC was given to the AWM in 1989.
This example highlights the difficulty for the participant historian. Jack Pennington OAM has had to develop his records, memories and references into a coherent story from such a perspective. But Jack was not only a participant he was a significant player. Yet, just as Carroll's family was able to add insight from the inside, the potential exists for Jack to add depth to his representation from his insider perspective. He certainly tells us his story, the beginnings of Veterans (now Masters) athletics in this country with some hint of the international beginnings, and a colourful, rich, contextual one it is. But his story is not confined to the results sheets or the minutes or the official policies. Jack creates a tapestry, weaving subjective and objective together, seeing inspiration, desperation and perspiration as important elements for preservation. We are grateful for Carroll's family's words because they add to our understanding of the man. That too is Jack Pennington's purpose for his story.
The feel of the times, the smell of the contest (on and off the field), these are the essences Jack wants to reveal in his text. They are a reflection of the man. His passionate, forthright, but knowledgeable discourse sets him apart. I have known only one other like him: Percy Wells Cerutty. In fact they share many similarities, but passion and forthrightness stand out. Jack is a legend in his own time. Author, athlete, researcher, lecturer, teacher, administrator, guinea pig, editor: Jack is a Renaissance Man of the sporting world. Whether in learned papers, teaching nationally or internationally, creating newspapers, grinding away on treadmills while attached to machines, winning medals, demonstrating technique or timing splits in races, Jack created his own niche.
It is history that Herb Elliott beat Mery Lincoln in a mile race in Perth, just part of the Elliott legend of being undefeated in the mile and 1500m during his senior career. But that result, as history, doesn't tell anyone that this race may have been one of the greatest Elliott ever had! It was held on a grass track marked out on a suburban football (Australian Football) oval in Leederville. Secondly, Elliott only won the race on the judge's call (no photo finish in those days for Saturday club athletics). I was on the finish line. I would have awarded the race to Lincoln even though Elliott was a hero. Looking at their faces after the announcement I thought that Elliott would always remember that race and Lincoln would
never forget it. We gain further insight when we understand that their respective coaches, Cerutty the philosopher and Stampfl the scientist, despised each other, not that Elliott was ever friendly towards his opponents.
It is such nuances and background that Jack strives to bring to history. He wants to create living images. He wants his readers be a part of history for a moment. He sets himself difficult tasks.
Questions flow freely from Jack's revelations. Why did Veterans Athletics rise on the spirit of those who fought in WW2? Why were the amateur code and democratic structure such rallying points for so much of the early policies? Why has that democratic spirit (eg rotating presidents, informal nomination for executive positions) been replaced by a corporate policy based on exclusion leading to careerist outcomes? The social, economic and political context has shaped this sport and Jack has provided sound evidence for further analysis.
But above all else Jack has set us on a journey to capture the spirit of a movement, one that was at the forefront of developing a sport to suit the needs of those who were getting older. People could contentedly find their own level, whether at the dynamically competitive or at the leisurely active. It allowed all or anyone to achieve those spectrum opposites in an organisation with few constraints.
It is a moot point whether today's organisation reflects the founders' ideals but by any measure it provides for their purposes.
Jack Pennington OAM: thank you for your creativity. passion and foresight.
Ray Green April 2010


Blogger Friar said...

The book can be purchased from Jack Pennington, OAM
24 Alberga St Kaleen ACT 2617

4:38 pm, August 02, 2010  
Blogger Friar said...

" The Evolution of Veteran Athletics " part one -1966-81
part two-The legends
By Jack Pennington O.A.M. a founder member.
and the first Vice-president of -
The Australian Association of Veteran Athletes-[19731
[Commissioned by the "AMA" in 2007 and submitted to them Oct. 2008) - published by the author July 2010.-
Foreword by Ray Green--Of the A.C.T. -Veteran Athletics Club.
133 pages and 25 photos----The Australian results of the first International tours of 1972 U.S.A.---London--Germany and 1975 Toronto
reports on Goteborg 1977-Hannover -1979-Christchurch-1981.
The first hand reports of those legendary men who who brought it all about-;
The politics and trials and tribulations of 'Apartied' and professional problems which we dealt with.
Published as a service to Veteran Athletes as an authentic history by one who was involved and who was the editor of -
The Veteran Athlete magazine 1971 -1979
This book can only be obtained from Jack Pennington by hand @ $20-.
or by post at $25 dollars-[send cheque or money order to.
Jack Pennington OAM 24 Alberga Street
Kaleen- Canberra A.C.T. 2617.

1:18 pm, August 09, 2010  

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