The Notable - Tommy Farrell – (1943 - 1951)

TOM  FARRELL  went  to  his  third  Olympic Games  in  the  summer  of  1972  -  16  years  after  his  first  Olympic  experience  -  all  thanks  to  the  power  of  prayer.

Tommy  was  a  Quarry  Bank  schoolteacher  who  ran  in  the  400m  hurdles  in  Melbourne  in  1956,  then  the  800m  four  years  later  in  Rome.

He  had  long  since  hung  up  his  running  spikes  in  1972  when  he  got  the  call  to  return  to  the  Games  arena  in  Munich  -  this  time  as  one  of  a  team  of  eight  chaplains  to  be  on  hand  to  offer  spiritual  advice  to  competitors.

Then  curate  of  St  Peter's  Church  in  Woolton,  The  Rev  Farrell  admitted:  "I  believe  it  is  legitimate  to  pray  before  an  event.  I  used  to  pray  before  an  event  that  I  wouldn't  fall  or  do  anything  soft.  But  I  never  prayed  for  victory  -  that  would  be  unfair.  I just wanted to do my best."

Farrell  never  needed  spiritual  assistance  when  he  was  breaking  national  records  -  including  the  British  400m  hurdles  mark  running  under  the  Liverpool  Harriers  banner.

He  was  a  Harrier  when  he  represented  Great  Britain  in  Melbourne  1956  as  a  hurdler - and  he  still  had  the  Liver  Bird  on  his  chest  four  years  later  when  he  went  to  Rome  as  a  half-miler  and  reached  the  800m  quarter-finals.  His reasoning  for  the  switch  was  admirably  honest. "The  Olympic  400m  hurdles  will  be  won  in  about  49.2  seconds,"  he  said.  "Which  means  that  to  come  near  that  you  have  to  be  able  to  run  a  quarter  of  a  mile  in  46  seconds.  I cannot do that."

But  in  the  build  up  to  Rome  he  did  beat  AAA  title  holder  Brian  Hewson  in  the  880  yards. 

On  June  15,  1960  Farrell,  who  had  earlier  won  800m  and 400m  invitation  events  during  the  British  Games,  raced  over  400m  hurdles  in  an  England  v  Italy  match  at  London's  White  City  in  UK  record  time  of  51  seconds.

A  month  later  he  won  his  second  AAA  championship,  this  time  over  880  yards.  As  a  result  he  decided  to  make  800m  his  objective  for  Rome  and  made  the  team  -  ironically  the  day  after  his  national  quarter-mile  hurdles  record  had  been  ratified.

Born  in  Moscow  Drive,  Stoneycroft,  he  taught  at  various  schools,  including  Quarry  Bank  and  Maghull  -  and  in  his  early  athletic  days  as  a  pupil  of  Liverpool Collegiate  School,  his  main  events  were  sprints  and  long  jump.

He   finished  fourth  in  the  All  England  Schools  Long  Jump  final  with  a  leap  of  20  feet  four  inches  -  and  soon  after  switched  to  the  quarter  mile.

He  always  modestly  insisted  that  he  wasn't  the  best  athlete  in  the  Farrell  family.  Tom  was  Collegiate  School's  Victor  Ludorum  in  1951,  emulating  the  performance  of  his  father  30  years  earlier,  who  was  described  by  his  son  as  'a  better  all-round  athlete  than  he  could  ever  hope  to  be.'

Farrell  senior  must  have  been  some  athlete,  although  he  couldn't  claim  to  have  been  at  three  Olympic  Games!



(A note from Webby)

We don't usually add a comment from the recipient of this Notable Section.  However, to set a precedent , here is Tommy’s opinion of our efforts :-

Dear Webby,
I’ve looked at the website blurb.  Well put together!   Could have done with blocking out those knobbly knees!   I hope it’s a plus for the old school, and other OBs will enjoy it.   
And now I know what a jpg is!