An OA’s memorabilia from the 1948 London Olympics has gone on display for the first time at the school.
Harry McIlvenny, who was a boarder at the school from 1936-1939, played in the Great Britain Football team at the games and scored the winning goal in the opening first round game against the Netherlands.
The shirt he played in – together with Olympic Medal, Diploma, match programmes and letter inviting him to participate in an Olympic trial match – have formed the centre-piece of an exhibition showcasing the school’s Olympic heritage.
n addition to Mr McIlvenny, two other former pupils have represented Great Britain in the Olympics; David Barker in the equestrian team in 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and Peter Lund, who was in the two-man bobsleigh team in the 1984 Sarajevo winter Olympics.
Mr McIlvenny’s possessions from the 1948 London Olympics are being loaned to the school by his daughter, Jane Cockcroft.
She said: “I’m delighted the school is showing such interest in my father’s Olympic experience. He attended Ashville from the age of 14 and loved it so much he even named his house after it!
“He was a natural sportsman and it is fair to say that, during his four years at the school, his sporting achievements surpassed his academic ones, being a member of several teams including the Cricket XI and Tennis team.
“All the players in the Great Britain team were amateurs and the manager was none other than Sir Matt Busby. My father also played for Bishop Auckland and Bradford Park Avenue and his father, who was a professional footballer, played for Bradford City in the 1910s when they were in the 1st Division which was the equivalent of the Premiership today.
“My father was invited to play in a team selection match, but just as a reserve. However, he must have impressed Matt Busby as he went on to play in all the matches, even scoring the winning goal in the opening game.”
Ashville Pre Prep School headteacher Carol Berrie said: “We are very proud of our Olympic links and delighted that we are able to put Harry McIlvenny’s Olympic medal and Number 9 shirt on display.
“We have some very talented footballers of all ages at Ashville, and no doubt a few will dream of one day playing for their country. Harry McIlvenny not only played for England, he also played for Great Britain.
“1948 was the last time a Great Britain Football team took to the field in an Olympic Games. Now, 64 years later, a Great Britain Football team will once again play in the world’s greatest games.
“But will they fare any better than the squad in which a former Ashville College pupil featured so prominently?”
In the 1948 “Austerity” games, Great Britain’s opening match was played at Highbury in front of 12,000 strong crowd. At 90 minutes, with the score tied at 3-3, the game went into extra time. It was McIlvenny who proved the hero of the hour, scoring the winner on 111 minutes.
Through to the Quarter Finals, 25,000 football fans crowded into Craven Cottage, West Ham, on August 5, to watch the GB team face France. This finished 1-0 to Great Britain. The decisive winner was scored on 29 minutes and this secured the team a place in the Semi Finals against Yugoslavia on August 11.
Playing in front of a 40,000 strong mainly partisan crowd at The Empire Stadium, Wembley, the home team were just one match away from the Olympic finals. Sadly, this was a match too far, and the GB team went down 3-1.
The only medal the team could hope to win now was Bronze, and to do so they had to beat Denmark. Again, this game was played at Wembley and the number of supporters was 50,000. Despite opening the scoring and taking the lead twice, Great Britain went down 3-5.
Sweden claimed Gold, with Yugoslavia Silver and Denmark Bronze.
Harry McIlvenny died in 2009 aged 86.
Picture Caption: British and proud! Harry McIlvenny’s daughter, Jane Cockcroft, holds her father’s Olympic football shirt while two Ashville Pre-Prep pupils try on his track suit bottoms.