Fitting tributes to Olympic star who struck gold

Retired vet and Olympic gold medallist Bob Braithwaite at his induction into the University of Edinburgh's Sporting Hall of Fame in 2010. He is pictured (left) with Melvyn Cornish, the former University Secretary  Photo: University of Edinburgh
Retired vet and Olympic gold medallist Bob Braithwaite at his induction into the University of Edinburgh's Sporting Hall of Fame in 2010. He is pictured (left) with Melvyn Cornish, the former University Secretary Photo: University of Edinburgh

The glory days when Garstang celebrated a local Olympian hero’s homecoming were recalled this week.

The death of former Garstang vet and Scorton resident Bob Braithwaite MBE at the age of 89 has led to tributes from the sporting world and recollections of his triumphant days as a member of the Great Britain Shooting Team in the 1960s.

Mr Braithwaite was educated at the Friends School Lancaster and studied veterinary science at the University of Edinburgh.

His large animal practice was based at Castle View on Bridge Street, Garstang.

He competed in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics in the Olympic Trap event finishing seventh. But four years later he was back for the Mexico Olympics with renewed determination and clinched Gold and an Olympic record – missing just two clays in the first round and hitting all 175 on the second day of the contest.

The Clay Pigeon Shooting Association noted his death with great regret and commented: “Bob’s achievement is all the more impressive given he was holding down a very demanding and time consuming job and it was in an era when there was no formal training programme and no funding arrangements.”

Unable to travel to the few training grounds available he installed an oscillating trap on his family’s farm and it is reported that a local priest volunteered to operate the trap at twice weekly training sessions.

In June 2010 the gifted sportsman was admitted to the University of Edinburgh’s Sporting Hall of Fame. He recalled that as a student he had spent much time playing football and cricket and reflected: “I thoroughly enjoyed sport, no matter what it was.”

He started studying at the university at the age of 16 and the citation on the Hall board notes: “A true gifted amateur competing in an era of increasing professionalism, Bob’s achievements were recognised with a MBE in 1968 for services to sport.”

Recalling those days when the gifted sports contestant combined training with day jobs he told the local Edinburgh newspaper The Scotsman: “So my practice didn’t suffer I had to build a simple trap on my family’s farm because the nearest proper ground was in North Wales. I practised there whenever I could. I didn’t enter that many competitions each year. We went to the odd one abroad -the Europeans or the worlds - but most of the time you just went to competitions in the north of England and spent the time in between practising.”

He went on to win numerous sporting contests, including being five times winner of the prestigious British Open Grand Prix Olympic Trench Championship, but this week it was his Olympic homecoming which was remembered.

Preesall resident Mrs Joan Morrison, who then lived at Forton, said his achievement deserved to be remembered: “We were so proud...(it was) something to celebrate. It’s the only gold medal we had round here for a long time. When he came home with the medal I don’t think he went home; as far as I can remember they just picked him up and brought him straight to Garstang. It was in the evening and we all went - quite a few hundred of us - to greet him, to say well done and all that sort of thing, just outside the Community Centre. We cheered him.”

Local vet Alan Pearson also shared memories of Mr Braithwaite who was his first employer. He said: “He was a good boss, firm but fair. He gave me my start in life for which I am ever grateful. He was a good vet. His approach to treatment was very simple but very effective.”

Mr Braithwaite, who lived with his second wife in Capernwray near Carnforth, died on February 26 and his funeral was held at Lancaster and Morecambe Crematorium yesterday.