It is said that you cannot libel the dead. In legal terms this is true. You can, however, so traduce the memory of the dead, who cannot answer back, that you do worse than libel them, you destroy their memory.
As part of the Olympics there has been created a small museum in the British Library dedicated to the previous Olympic Games held in London, those of 1948 and 1908. If I could bear to go to London I might well visit this museum as it appears to be of more than passing interest to anyone concerned with British social history.
But there no need to visit the Great Wen, a video has appeared showing an interview with the curator, Bob Wilcock.
The bit which particularly interests me is that portion where the curator describes his favourite photograph. This is an image of Thomas Jack a British marathon runner who led the race until “he stopped off at a pub along the way and never finished the race.” An amusing story which will cause many a chuckle and heads to shake in wonder in these days of ultra professional sports people.
And all a completely untrue.
Thos Jack was a noted Scottish athlete of his day. A man who competed in and held records in just about every distance from 100 yard sprint to marathon, including cross country. The son of a farmer who died when Thos was a boy through native intelligence and hard work he gained entrance to the University of Edinburgh where he graduated in science. He then spent his working life teaching in leading Scottish schools. A sergeant in the Territorial Army, when WWI was declared he was commissioned in the Royal Scots and won a Croix de Guerre in Mesopotamia. After the war he played a leading administrative role in Scottish and British athletics.
His record as a scholar, soldier and athlete were exemplary. But above all, and more important to him and his family was the fact that he was a Christian gentleman of the utmost integrity. An elder of the United Free Church of Scotland and after 1929 the Church of Scotland he held to the highest principles in every aspect of his life.
Throughout that life he never smoked or gambled. There is the story of him returning from the Middle East on a troopship after the War. To pass the time he and three other officers played bridge. At the conclusion of the voyage they totalled the points and settled accounts. Thos Jack was one of the winners, and refused to take a penny of his winnings as he considered gambling to be a sin.
As well as refusing to smoke or gamble he never took an alcoholic drink in his life. Does this sound like the type of man to slope off to the pub in the midst of representing his country?
I happen to know a bit about this athlete because I am proud to say that Thos Jack was my grandfather.