Alastair McCorquodale, (1925-2009)
ALASTAIR McCorquodale was born at Hillhead, Glasgow, and went to Harrow, where he was victor ludorum and in the first XI football and cricket teams. He appeared in the 1943 Eton match which was rained out and, in the 1944 fixture, came in at No 6 to score 27 runs and also took three wickets for 76.
On joining the Coldstream Guards as the war ended, he took up athletics to avoid too much drill. He was the Army champion at 100 metres in 1946, won again at the Amateur Athletics Association meeting of 1947 and also competed for Scotland.
He married Rosemary, of the Turnor family of Stoke Rochford in 1947, and in 1955 they made Little Ponton Hall their home, which remained so.
But his big moment came when he crossed the finishing line of the 100m final of the 1948 Olympic Games in London. Alastair was inches away from medal glory in fourth place, roared on by a crowd of over 80,000 spectators in Wembley Stadium.
Three black athletes were ahead of him, with American Harrison Dillard becoming Olympic champion. The media immediately pounced on this and in a spin years ahead of its time proclaimed Alastair to be ‘The fastest white man in the world’.
It took a photo to settle the outcome, with Dillard given the victory over fellow American Barney Ewell, the 100m world record holder, both clocking 10.3sec.
Alastair was given fourth, with the same 10.4 time as bronze medal winner Lloyd LaBeach (Panama).
The strong American quartet crossed the line first, with Great Britain’s squad of Jack Archer, Jack Gregory, Alastair McCorquodale and Ken Jones came home in the silver medal position, some eight metres behind.
Sensationally, the USA were disqualified for a faulty baton changeover and the British sprinters declared the winners and Olympic champions.
Two days later a special appeal jury reviewed the case and a film of the race produced sufficient evidence for them to reverse the decision to disqualify, and to almost everyone’s satisfaction the gold medal was awarded to the USA and silver to Great Britain.
Alastair had gone into the Olympics in scintillating form, yet had only taken up serious sprinting a year earlier, preferring rugby and cricket as sporting activities.
Never over-concerned about training – it was joked he would stub out his cigarette to go on to the track – McCorquodale decided from then on to concentrate on cricket.
He went on an MCC tour of Canada in 1948, playing several first-class matches for Middlesex, earning a place in Wisden with a bowling average of 99.75 for his four wickets.
After the Olympics he left both the Army and athletics to move into the family printing business McCorquodale and Co, which had printed the 1948 Olympics programme as well as company magazines. He took over the chairmanship in 1967.
He sat on the boards of British Sugar and Guardian Royal Exchange, was a governor of Harrow School and ran his family estates around Little Ponton
Despite being long retired from athletics he showed a turn of speed in his mid-fifties when he found two men in his grounds and gave chase, so that they were fined £60 each for trespassing with a gun.