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Isle of Man at the Commonwealth Games Logo 2018 website 2018 website
Isle of Man Team 1958 Isle of Man Team 1962 Isle of Man Team 1966 Isle of Man Team 1970 Isle of Man Team 1974 Isle of Man Team 1978 Isle of Man Team 1982 Isle of Man Team 1986 Isle of Man Team 1990 Isle of Man Team 1994 Isle of Man Team 1998 Isle of Man Team 2002 Isle of Man Team 2006 Isle of Man Team 2010 Isle of Man Team 2014
One small step for Dursley, one giant leap for the Isle of Man . .

When fledgling stockbroker Dursley Stott nervously settled into his starting blocks on the red shale track at Cardiff Arms Park, Wales, on July 17, 1958, for a heat of the 100 yards, it was the beginning of the Isle of Man’s long and enduring relationship with what are now known as the Commonwealth Games.

A dream had turned into reality for Curwen Clague, the editor of the Isle of Man Examiner and the founding father of International Cycling Week. It really was a case of one small step for Dursley, one giant leap for Mann.

And when the ungainly Stuart Slack took a surprise bronze medal in the 120-mile cycling road race on the final day of the Games, Curwen's determination to see the Island's finest pitted against what amounted to some of the finest athletes in world sport had been truly vindicated.

Four years previously an early BBC television spectacular had allowed Curwen, who passionately identified with sporting excellence, to witness the opening ceremony of the fifth British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, Canada.

One lone entrant on the flickering black and white screen caught his steely eye. It was the figure of sprinter Thomas Robinson, proudly marching behind a placard bearing the name of the Bahamas and introducing his country into the Games fraternity. It sparked the notion in Curwen's mind that the Isle of Man could and should be part of the greater sporting stage.

His inspiration had been further spurred by the performances of legendary Manx distance runner Bill Kelly, and he asked himself the question: why had the opportunity been missed to gain entry into the Games for Kelly?

He put theory to the test and the when the Games opened in Wales, 10 Manxmen, including Kelly, took their place in the Commonwealth sporting arena for the first time.

The detractors, and there were many, had been silenced and, if truth be known, the seeds for the development of the Island's sporting infrastructure had been sewn. The then Lieutenant Governor, Sir Ambrose Flux Dundas, who in his day had been a fine high jumper with the Achilles Club had, in consenting to be the first patron of the BE and CG Association of the Isle of Man, expressed the hope that 'every endeavour will be exerted to provide a 440-yard athletics track for the Island.

That would take many years to come to fruition, but for now Curwen's drive and enthusiasm were at full speed and, aided and abetted by some powerful fellow travellers, the path to further glory was being laid.

Curwen always thought big …. and he was very serious about hosting the Games in the Isle of Man. You could not fault his enthusiasm for such a project – you just stood back and thought: Why not?

It was, of course, too big an ask for the Island but he would have been mightily pleased that the Commonwealth Youth Games made it to these shores in 2011.

Dursley Stott 100 yards
Lift off: Dursley Stott (centre, 21) runs in a preliminary heat of the 100 yards the day before the Games were officially opened. He was the first athlete to compete for the Island

Funds, of course, always provided a major obstacle. The first participation, notwithstanding that some competitors and officials dug into their own pockets for the petrol and rail fares to get to Cardiff, cost just over £400.

Stuart's medal eased the fundraising task, although the cost of sending a team to Perth in Western Australia four years later was daunting, but the Manx flag was to fly again with the assistance of a UK-wide appeal launched by the Commonwealth Council of England and via the establishment of a weekly lottery in the Island.

By the time it came to select the team, there was just under £2,000 in the kitty, the Manx Government having dipped into the public purse to the tune of a modest £400.

Curwen, who had been team commandant in Wales, was elected team manager but just eight competitors were to don Manx colours, and they returned home empty handed on this occasion, although Ron Killey, who had been part of the inaugural team, claimed a fine sixth place in the 120-mile cycling road race.

Ron and Curwen were ultimately to form a long-lasting relationship as both officers of the Island's association and as officials of the teams that subsequently represented the Island round the globe.

While Australia drew a blank in terms of a medal, all that was to change four years later in hot and humid Jamaica when Peter Buckley struck gold in the most convincing manner in the 120-mile cycling road race. Peter, who was one of Britain's finest riders at the time but rarely visited the Island from his home in Oldham, pulverised the 43-strong field and launched the Isle of Man into the headlines in no uncertain terms.

Curwen was quick to scotch the notion that Peter was not a fully fledged Manxman, reminding all who would listen that he was Manx-born of a Manx mother.

The excitement was heady but Curwen, always the thinker, was ahead of everyone in preparing for the moment when Peter would have the medal placed over his head. To make sure the Manx Anthem would ring out in the national stadium in Kingston that night and aware that a mistake had been made earlier when the wrong victory anthem had been played for a Welsh gold medallist, an incident that caused a lot of bad feeling, he approached the chief of protocol and was given the assurance that all would be well.

It was, and there was an added bonus when the whole Manx team was invited into the royal box to witness it.

Not only were the Island's world sporting aspirations improving but so too were the hopes and dreams for local facilities to help maintain the standard required to compete at the highest level.

Douglas Corporation held talks with the finance department of the government with the idea of reshaping the King George V Park 'Bowl' to accommodate a 440 yard track in the area and at the same time it was anticipated that the development of the Derby Castle site would result in Douglas having a modern indoor swimming pool.

Much was changing at Games level too. The name altered with the dropping of the world 'Empire' and metric measurements were introduced.

Peter Buckley celebrating

Curwen Clague: ‘Buckley is as Manx as I am … ‘

‘Let me digress just for one moment to make one point clear: Buckley is Manx - as Manx as I am. I want this known loud and clear because reportage after the event went to every length to play this down and claim him for England.

‘Peter is Manx born of Manx family - and a host of them in Peel were rooting for him that day.

Peter was born in the Isle of Man in 1944, the only son of Louis and Joan, his soldier father having been sent to the Island as part of the Home Guard to mind the internment camp at Knockaloe. While Louis was from Oldham, Joan was a Peel girl. The family moved to Louis’s home town of Oldham after the war.’

Peter worked for British Rail as a clerk and enjoyed considerable success at domestic and international level, winning the Manx International over three laps of the TT Course in 1969.

Tragically, on July 4, 1969, Peter died before he could defend his title at the 1970 Games in Edinburgh. Riding home to Oldham with a friend after a training ride, he was thrown from his bike when a dog ran into his front wheel. He died soon afterwards and Louis and Joan consented to the donation of his kidneys to save another life. A seat in his memory was sited near the top of Creg Willys Hill and the British Cycling Federation inaugurated the Peter Buckley Trophy series, an annual competition to determine Britain’s best junior road racer.

Peter’s medal and a photograph of him are on display at the Leece Museum on the quayside in Peel.   Click here to read more

Curwen Clague

Curwen Clague spent many hours talking up the Island and was
The man who made it happen ...
Curwen Clague became part of the fabric of the Commonwealth Games.

For his birthday at the Games in Edmonton in 1978, other general managers produced an illuminated birthday cake for him, appropriately topped out with a 60 watt light bulb.

Curwen enjoyed great support from the likes of the Rev Fred Cubbon (pictured above with Curwen) who acted as team commandant on several occasions.

He was presented with the British Cycling Federation’s Gold Badge of Honour in recognition of his achievements with International Cycling Week and in 1979 the same organisation presented him with an illuminated address on behalf of the Manx people, which recognised the important and ongoing contribution the Island had made to cycling. Curwen died in August 1982 aged 67.

Curwen Clague

Ron Killey competed for the IoM at the 1958 and 1962 Games as a cyclist.

He then took up managerial positions before taking over from Curwen Clague as secretary of the Commonwealth Games Association of the Isle of Man. In all, he attended 11 Games.

In 1994 he was elected as the European vice-president of the CG Federation for a four-year term, and he attended the Victoria Games of 1994 in that capacity. The appointment is agreed between the between the four home nations, Malta, Gibraltar and Cyprus on a four-year rotational basis. Ron, a regular off-Island performer during his career, won a stage of the Tour of Britain in 1956 and finished third overall.

He was awarded the OBE for his services to Manx cycling and died in 2014.

It cost more than £3,000 to send the Manx team to the Caribbean but travelling the short distance to Edinburgh for the 1970 Games was a lot easier a proposition at £100 a head.

It was also a time for reflection on what had been achieved and consideration of where the Isle of Man needed to be in the future and each sport affiliated to the CGAIoM was charged with ensuring that it had qualified coaches and other personnel to ease the strain on competitors and allow them to focus on their principal objective.

Sadly, the Island's hopes of further immediate honours were dealt a dreadful blow when Peter Buckley was killed in a training accident, but fresh hope arrived in the shape of Alex Jackson, who had become a seasoned international and swam for Great Britain in the Mexico Olympics of 1968, finishing fifth in the 100 metres freestyle final.

Thirteen made it to the Scottish capital, among them Alex, who was to give the Island its third medal – another bronze.

She was well clear of the field in the heats of the 100m freestyle and looked odds on for gold. But it was not to be. She finished fourth but made amends in the 200m event, a new one, breaking the British record on her way to a coveted third place.

Back home, the push to further improve the lot of our sportsmen and women was gathering place and by 1971 the Sports Council was in exsistence with funds available for coaching, the development of facilities, and off-Island competition.

There was finance, too, for pre-Games preparation and training and the future was looking distinctly bright for the next venture, this time to Christchurch, New Zealand. Greater care and consideration were given to team selection and each nomination was required to reach an agreed standard.

New Zealand staged what were regarded as the best Games to date despite intense security in the wake of the deaths of the Israelis at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. There were some excellent performances from the Manx, but no medals.

And as Britain's influence in the Commonwealth continued to wane, the title of a sporting festival second only in stature to the Olympics, was further overhauled and the world 'British' was lopped off the name of the Games.

There was another glory day for the Island in Edmonton, Canada, in 1978, when Stewart Watterson took the bronze after two days of intense competition in the 50m small-bore prone rifle event, getting the verdict on a countback.

This was to be Curwen's last Games and he died as final preparations were being made to take a team to Brisbane in 1982. His foresight and ability has never been, or is likely to be, surpassed. The Island owes him a great deal. Perhaps some day his memory will live on in some tangible fashion.

There was a return to Australia in 1982 but sub-tropical Brisbane was not kind to the Manx, even with the likes of Manx International road race winner Steve Joughin in the team.

Fortune was to change on the Games' return to Edinburgh four years later when Nigel Kelly, whose demeanor and lifestyle always saw him at odds with 'the management', literally blasted the opposition out of sight in the individual Skeet clays competition, the fiesty markman missing just four targets during an intense two days.

Auckland in 1990 drew another blank, as did Victoria, British Columbia in 1994, but the Island's first silver medal was claimed in magnificent style by policeman Dave Moore in the first Games to be staged in Asia. He survived the tension of an 'Olympic' shootout in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 1998 to finish second in the 50m small-bore prone individual event.

Maureen Payne and Pauline Kelly didn't complain too much when they were christened 'the gallant grannies' after reaching the quarter-finals of the flat green bowls women's pairs competition in murky Manchester in 2002, where they drew with eventual gold medal winners New Zealand.

They put a smile on our faces with their skill and determination. But apart from high-jumper Martin Aram becoming the first Manx athlete to reach a field sport final, there was little else, including the weather, to enthuse about.

That was to change four years later in marvelous Melbourne when two medals – gold and bronze – came our way.

Cyclist Mark Cavendish, one half of the 2005 World Madison championship team, showed a clean pair of wheels to the some of the best in the business to secure the 20km scratch race on the velodrome

The Olympic Trap pairs clays event proved to be a happy hunting ground for Wilfy Walton and Trevor Boyles, both reminding us of our potential to produce marksmen of the highest calibre, when they took the bronze medal.

There was another ‘double’ in the heat and dust of Delhi in 2010 when another clays man, Tim Kneale, secured a bronze in the Double Trap event, while young cyclist Mark Christian, with an already enviable palmares, returned home with a well deserved bronze in the 40km points race on the track.

The Island was rewarded with silver in Glasgow at the 20th celebration of the Games in 2014 when Peter Kennaugh’s valiant effort in the 40km points race brought the medal tally to 11.

A significant feature of the Island’s third visit to Scotland was the performances of the young gymnasts in general and by Grace Harrison in particular, the 19 year old reaching the final of the individual competition.

Very noteworthy, too, was the excellent improvement of our swimmers, all of whom made a great contribution to the overall success of the Island’s 15th participation in the Games.

The Island’s sporting odyssey in the ‘Olympics’ of the Commonwealth is a truly remarkable one and its journey throughout the world continues apace, with the Gold Coast of Queensland, Australia, next on the horizon.

The commitment both on and off the field of those who want to represent the Island is a lasting testimony to those who took the first faltering steps more than 56 years ago.

Alex Jackson

There is a certain quaintness about these images of Peel swimming pool (above) and Onchan Stadium, yet each played a significant part in the development of the Island’s sporting culture and foray into the Commonwealth Games.

The lengthy, asphalt cycling track at Onchan, dating from the early 1950s, was way ahead of its time and helped to establish the reputation of a good number of cyclists, not least the three on the left of the picture (l to r) Roger Kelly, John Killip and Peter Callow.

Brian Whitehead, extreme right, a short distance sprinter who caught the eye of top English coach Dennis Watt, was not so lucky as to enjoy a cinder or shale facility on the inside of the cycling track, but at least he could perform on grass in front of a generally large and appreciative visiting audience during the regular summertime entertainment, that is now devoted to stockcars.

Colin MacLachlan (on Whitehead’s right), on the other hand, used to run the 880 yards and one mile for Woodford AC, and was accustomed to a more helpful surface, although he also ran on Ramsey golf course to hone his fitness ahead of Perth, the photo having been taken ahead of the 1962 Games.

Similarly, the pool at Peel was a regular competitive venue and one that was appreciated by sprinter Alex Jackson, soon on her way after this picture was taken of her being presented with the Fenella Cup in the mid-1960s to representing Great Britain at the Olympics and at other major championships and meetings.

The Onchan track is now home to stockcars and you can no longer plunge into Peel pool.

While there was a recent and unsuccessful push to open a wooden indoor velodrome in the Island, several Commonwealth Games core sports now enjoy excellent competition and training facilities thanks in no small part to the success of our Games athletes.

Isle of Man cycling