Ronald Michael Delany, the 21-year-old Villanova University commerce and finance student who beat the best milers in the world in the Olympic 1,500 meters, flew home to Ireland for the Christmas holidays, and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED sent me along to see what kind of a hero's welcome the old country would give him.
I told Jim Cahill, the TWA man, as we stood waiting at the check-in counter at Idlewild Airport in New York, that I had never met Ronnie, and Cahill said he hadn't either. But then we both recognized him from his pictures as he came hurrying through the crowd. Wearing a duffel coat and carrying a tweed topcoat, he looked very tall and very thin and very Irish with his black, tousled hair and his high color and his blue eyes and his sharply angular face that became actually handsome when he smiled. And he was smiling in a minute at the girl who had just told him there would be a charge for overweight.
"Ah," laughed Ronnie softly, "a nice girl like you wouldn't be charging me, now would you, for a little overweight when I've flown all around the world with TWA?"
It didn't work (although the girl couldn't help smiling), and as Ronnie reached for his wallet, Jim Cahill moved over and introduced himself and then said, "Did you know there's a writer going with you?"
January 21, 1957
"Ah, yes," said Ronnie, making a face, "Jumbo Elliott [his coach at Villanova] told me, and isn't it a nuisance? I'm that weary of pressmen."
Jim Cahill leaned over and whispered, "He's right behind you."
"Oh, oh," exclaimed Ronnie, drawing his coat collar up in embarrassment. Then he turned quickly around with his winning smile and put out his hand.
"I'm very glad to meet you," he said, "and I'm just sorry I'm the cause of taking you away from home at Christmas time."
I waited until we were well out over the sea to tell Ronnie that I had no intention of interviewing him in a pressman's usual way, but was simply going along to observe the celebration. Then, in an offhand way, I confided that I myself was the son of a County Clare man.
Soon we were talking away at a great rate (I was getting more Irish by the minute), and Ronnie was reaching up in the luggage rack and taking down a toy kangaroo he had brought from Australia for his girl friend and childhood sweetheart, Elisabeth MacArthur. Before we knew it, we were over Shannon Airport, 2½ hours ahead of schedule, thanks to a solid tailwind.
"That's too bad altogether," said Ronnie. "If we were on schedule I'd expect my father to meet me. But at half 3 in the morning, nobody will be here. I suggest we go to a hotel in Limerick and sleep a few hours."
A few minutes later an astounded Ronnie Delany found himself in the midst of a wildly cheering crowd of several hundred that included not only his father but his mother and his brothers Joe and Paddy and his sister Colette, and pretty Elisabeth MacArthur herself. There were a dozen pressmen from the Dublin newspapers and photographers and a rather tense press conference (Sample question: "Will you continue to run?" Sample answer: "Well, I'm 21 years old. What do you want me to do—retire?"). Lord Killanin, the president of the Irish Olympic Council, was there and Captain Theo Ryan, the president of the Crusaders, Ronnie's athletic club, and stocky, gray-haired Billy Morton, Dublin's promoter of amateur track events and the man who first proposed that Ronnie try running the mile.
Thus began a day that was one happy blur, with a breakfast at Hotel Glentworth in Limerick, an official reception by the mayor of Limerick at the Town Hall, and then the triumphal motorcade from Limerick to Dublin, with scheduled stops for official welcoming ceremonies and quite a few unscheduled stops like the poignantly vivid one pictured above.
This was 63 miles from Dublin. On a hillside, around a turning in the road, stood a line of boys, 10 to 12 perhaps, the tin-whistle band of De La Salle School of the Christian Brothers. One of the young Brothers was acting as conductor of the band (which had drums as well), and it was clear when Ronnie's motorcade came down the road that the best that was hoped for was maybe a slowing down of the parade and a wave of the hand from the Olympic hero. But when Ronnie took in the scene before him, he asked the driver of the Mercedes sports car in which he was riding to stop. Then he hopped out and ran toward the boys.
The boys, and the Brother too, were stunned and awestricken. Then the Brother, beside himself with excitement, cried, "Play, boys!" and, jumping up and down, he led them—solemn as little owls—in the old patriotic air, A Nation Once Again, which goes:
When boyhood's fire was in my blood,
I read of ancient freemen,
For Greece and Rome, who bravely stood,
Three hundred men and three men;
And then I prayed I yet might see,
Our fetters rent in twain,
And Ireland, long a province, be
A Nation once again!
As the tin whistles and drums finished, the Brother whirled on Ronnie, now standing beside him, and, mad with excitement, implored: "Ronnie, d'you have the gold medal!"
Ronnie dived a hand under his coat and brought out the Olympic medal, and the boys, unfreezing at last, crowded around him for a look.
"D'you see," cried the Brother, "d'you see the gold medal, boys! All right then, let's have a cheer: Hip, hip!"
The boys cheered lustily, and Ronnie shook hands with as many as he could and then ran back to his car, the Brother racing after him, his cassock flying, shouting with all the fervor that was left in him:
"Ah, you're very good and kind, Ronnie! You're very good and kind!"
Enthusiasm ran high all along the winding road to Dublin. Children predominated in the crowds of the towns and villages. There were bands in some and banners in others ("Kildare Welcomes Ronnie" was one), and in between towns men ran from the fields and lorries screeched to a stop as their drivers waved and cheered. At Nenagh there was a full stop while Ronnie and his mother and father went into O'Meara's Hotel to greet the mother of Bob Tisdall, who won Ireland's last gold medal in the 1932 Olympics.
In the town of Naas there was a stop for lunch at Lawlor's Hotel. A long table had been set in the dining room for the official party, and the proprietor was wearing tails for the occasion. I was seated across from Billy Morton, and I asked him who it was who had been blowing a whistle whenever the party tarried too long on the road. In reply, Billy reached into his vest pocket and pulled out a referee's whistle (see page 64) which he said he carried with him at all times to deal with just such emergencies.
What, I asked Billy, had been the reaction in Dublin when the first news came of Ronnie's victory in the 1,500.
"Naturally, the city went wild," said Billy, whose speech is reminiscent of Barry Fitzgerald, "but to those who knew Ronnie's abilities well, it was nothing that was actually unexpected. Ronnie did a 4:05.8 mile, breaking the Irish record the first time he had ever tried it. He won it as he liked, with no trouble at all, and, mind you, it was on the grass at College Park. Now at Melbourne, Ronnie was 16 months older and that much stronger. It stood to reason."
Bill shoved a mouthful of potatoes and peas onto the back of his fork and went on: "There are three things about Ronnie. One, he was born with natural ability. Two, he is able to listen and learn. Three, he has great competitive spirit. All this, plus plenty of good common sense."
"Get him to tell you," he said, "how he ran me out of the house when I first proposed that he have a go at the mile."
As we were eating, Mr. Thomas Dow-ling, chairman of the Naas Urban District Council, leaned over Billy Morton's shoulder and showed him a scroll he intended to present to Ronnie a little later. He said it had been composed and printed in the preceding two hours.
"Two hours!" exclaimed Billy Morton admiringly, holding the scroll up for my inspection. "What do you say to that, Yank? Could they beat that on TIME magazine?"
"I don't know," said I, "but we could beat it on SPORTS ILLUSTRATED."
Billy realized he had identified me with the wrong magazine, but he covered his tracks quickly.
"Oh," he said, "I was assuming that, I was assuming that!"
Over the tea and coffee, Mr. Dowling arose and presented the scroll to Ronnie, who responded briefly with just the barest hint that this was the grandest occasion of all. As final cigarets were lighted, Captain Theo Ryan leaned over Billy Morton's shoulder and confided that, as director of the motorcade, he was planning to arrive at the Mansion of the Lord Mayor of Dublin at 3:30.
"I think that's a mistake, Theo," said Billy Morton. "Four p.m. would be more like it as far as getting the crowds goes."
"The Lord Mayor is expecting us at half 3," said Captain Ryan. "I talked to his secretary."
"Well, now," said Billy Morton, who had no official status in the motorcade, "I'm not thinking of the Lord Mayor or the Lord Mayor's secretary. My concern is for the man in the street. If I had the say, Theo, when we reach the outskirts of Dublin, I'd give the order, 'Proceed at a snail's pace!' "
Captain Ryan rubbed his chin and then said, "We'll make it half 3, Billy."
"Will you compromise, Theo," demanded Billy desperately, "will you compromise on quarter to 4?"
Captain Ryan shook his head and moved away. Just as everyone was rising from the chairs, an elderly man wearing a mustache and an overcoat, and having no connection with the official party, arose from one of the side tables and began to speak in loud and ringing tones. Everybody sat down again.
The unscheduled speaker, it soon became plain, was not saluting Ronnie Delany, but a local hero of legend, "the immortal Steve Conniff, who held every Irish record from one mile to 10." As he went on and on he made it clear that, in his opinion, no man—past, present or future, and present company included—could have beaten Conniff in his prime. (I found this to be a common occurrence all during Ronnie's stay. With a little stimulation, patrons in the pubs would recall somebody out of the past who could beat Delany. With a little more stimulation, they were ready to take him on themselves, given "a week to train and proper shoes.")
At last, with Billy Morton blowing his whistle to clear the way, the official party reached the cars, and the motorcade resumed its journey. There were no further stops scheduled until Dublin itself, but people continued to shout and wave along the roadside. Finally, Dublin's city limits were reached and cyclists by the score swung in alongside Ronnie's car and little boys and girls ran alongside and a pretty colleen climbed upon the rear bumper and rode resolutely and unsmilingly along like Joan of Arc going into battle. "Terrific show, Ron!" the people cried on every side, and Ronnie, when he wasn't signing autographs, waved and smiled to them. When the car pulled up in front of the Lord Mayor's Mansion the crowd swept over the lawn, and the police, in the good-humored way of Dublin guards, cleared a path for Ronnie, who raced up the steps to shake the outstretched hand of the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Robert Briscoe.
"It is my great privilege," said the Lord Mayor when the crowd had quieted down, "to be in office when a Dublin citizen has brought so much credit not only to Dublin but to Ireland by his wonderful accomplishment. It gives me the greatest of pleasure, Ronnie Delany, to extend to you the warmest congratulations of all our citizens."
He stepped away from the microphone, and Ronnie took it over.
"My Lord Mayor," he said easily, as though he were accustomed to speaking from the steps of the Lord Mayor's Mansion every day of the week, "ladies and gentlemen, young boys and young girls. Thank you for this wonderful reception. I thought I might have created a bit of a stir, but I never expected anything like this. I sincerely hope that in the future I will be able to bring further honors to Dublin and to Ireland."
The Grand Reception
Then everybody went into the Lord Mayor's Mansion for a reception. It was a grand affair, with drinks for everyone's taste. Ronnie's father, Patrick A. Delany, who is a customs official, stood chatting with the Lord Mayor and Lord Killanin and other notables and Ronnie himself sat on a sofa talking to Eamon Kinsella, the hurdler of the Irish Olympic team.
A little later when Ronnie was talking to another group, a Dublin pressman came up and asked him who the man (Kinsella) on the sofa was. Ronnie looked at him incredulously. "Well," he said, the color going out of his face as it does when he is annoyed, "if you, as a Dublin pressman, don't know who he is, then I'm not going to tell you." And he turned away.
But, altogether, it was a day that no small irritation could spoil. The next morning, refreshed by 10 hours sleep, Ronnie drove in his hired car from his home, a brick house in a row of identical houses on St. John's Road in Sandy-mount, a suburb of Dublin, to the General Post Office on O'Connell Street. There, in the studios of Radio Eireann, he sat down with Philip Green, the sports broadcaster, and told the story of his victory in the 1,500 meters at Melbourne (see box page 61) as it had never been told all the long way home.
That afternoon I visited Ronnie at home, and his mother served tea and biscuits and buttered bread in the parlor with its fireplace and piano and comfortable furniture and Ronnie's trophies everywhere. Ronnie's father brought out some of the letters he had received after Ronnie's victory, and among the letters was one from Eamon de Valera, the former head of the Irish government, who lives not far away from the Delanys. In his letter Mr. De Valera compared Ronnie's great victory to the exploits of Matt Donovan, the legendary Irish plowman celebrated for his ability to plow a furrow straighter than a straight line. Like Matt, said Mr. De Valera, Ronnie had won "for the credit of the little village."
I remembered to ask Ronnie if he had, indeed, ordered Billy Morton from the house when he first suggested the running of the mile in a Dublin meet.
"Ah, yes," laughed Ronnie, "I remember, I told him I didn't want to hear any such nonsense, and I sent him out of the house. Well, Billy went over in a flash to see Daddy and when Daddy came home he asked me to run it and I refused again. He insisted and I said, 'That's all very well for you to say, Da', but I've got to do the running.' Well, Da' kept at me and finally I decided to run the thing.
"But the funny thing was that Elisabeth and I had been dancing every night for a week when the day of the race came and I was pretty tired. But didn't it lash rain and the race have to be postponed for two days? By that time I was well rested and ran the 4:05.8 for a new Irish record. And I felt very good doing it, too."
Ronnie's brother Joe came in with his pretty, rosy-cheeked girl friend Markie O'Callaghan, and they presented Ronnie with a big leather-bound scrapbook stamped in gold letters: "Ronnie's Great Day." Furthermore, knowing how busy Ronnie would be with his studies and his running, they volunteered to keep it up for him. Ronnie thanked them profusely and then remembered he had something himself to show them all. He went and got it, and what was it but a black tie embroidered with a golden wreath, in the center of which appeared the legend "4 M.M." Ronnie said Roger Bannister had sent it, and others like it to the eight other four-minute milers.
Then it was time for Ronnie to go, for he had a date with Elisabeth, of course, and at the door he waved and said, "God bless."
Ronnie and Elisabeth were on the go all the time. One night they went to see Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra in High Society and another night to Oklahoma!. At the latter, Ronnie was recognized as he came in, and the whole audience started cheering, and nothing would do but for him to go up on the stage and say a few words. Afterward, the manager came to his seat and whispered that he had better leave a few minutes early to avoid a mob scene. Another evening Ronnie took Elisabeth to see the variety bill at the Gaiety and he said "it gave me a queer feeling" when, in one of the skits, the comedian kept telling his wife to run and get this and that until she finally exclaimed: "It's always run here and run there. Who do you think I am—Ronnie Delany?"
One night I invited Ronnie and Elisabeth to dinner and the theater, and they selected the Russell Hotel for dinner and the Gate Theatre, where The Importance of Being Earnest, by another famous Dubliner, was playing. At the Russell the menu was in French, of all things, and Ronnie solved that by ordering "thick soup, steak and trifle for dessert." At the Gate, Lord Lundford himself, the producer, came up and congratulated Ronnie and bowed low to Elisabeth.
Afterward, Ronnie proposed a sightseeing tour of Dublin in the rain, and as we drove along, Elisabeth spoke of her art studies and made deprecating mention of the amateur theatrical company she played in.
"Ah," said Ronnie, "you're too modest altogether. Didn't the critic who saw you in Arms and the Man say you were another Siobhan McKenna?"
We passed by the shops of Grafton Street and then, a little later, the old section of Dublin known as "The Coombe." As Ronnie pointed it out, Elisabeth sang the Dublin classic:
I'm a fine buxom widow, I live in a spot,
In Dublin they call it the Coombe;
My shops and my stalls are laid out on the street,
And my palace consists of one room....
Ronnie joined in the chorus:
You may travel from Clare,
To the County Kildare,
From Francis Street on to Macroom,
But where would you see,
A fine widow like me?
Biddy Mulligan, the pride of the Coombe.
They have the Irish gift of laughter. When Ronnie won at Melbourne, Elisabeth wrote him an air-mail letter in which she said (among other things): "Not bad for a grade B 100-yarder"—which was Ronnie's first rating as a schoolboy runner.
Sometimes Elisabeth would tell of places she had gone and dances she had been to while Ronnie was at school. At such times they have a little game they play. At the end of her story, Elisabeth says, "And then this question followed." And Ronnie always takes the cue and asks, "Who took you?"
Their understanding is no secret in Dublin. Ronnie received a Christmas card from a girl in America, and a Dublin college student, working extra in the post office for the holidays, scrawled over the girl's home address on the back of the envelope, "And what will Liz MacArthur say to this?"
Ronnie on Running
Ronnie visited two hospitals during his stay at home. One was St. Mary's for crippled children at Cappagh, and the other was St. Augustine's for retarded children at Blackrock.
In the car, driving out, the subject turned (as it did invariably elsewhere) to the subject of running, and I asked Ronnie to repeat some of the things he had touched on during the flight from New York.
I recalled that he was booed in Madison Square Garden last winter for running only as fast as he needed to and on competing against the clock, Ronnie said:
"I think the sport of running is in the competition. And the competition is not against the clock, but against another human being like yourself. Now when I run against a man I enjoy it. But if I were to set up a timepiece there and try to beat it, I wouldn't get enjoyment out of it at all. The thrill of running, the pleasure of running to me is not in making records and getting your name flashed around the papers, but winning races and winning them by beating another man in a fair run.
"Like if I run a four-minute mile and I'm running against fellows who can only run 4:12, the spectacle isn't there, the thrill isn't there. You look at a man, you can't tell what time he's running. It's only afterwards you get the pleasure from the time. I remember the moderator of athletics at Catholic University School in Dublin, Father Lonergan. When I was 18, I asked him before one race, 'Father, will I have a go at the record?' He said, 'Ronnie, don't do anything of the sort. Run to win your race.' I never forgot that advice and I've been following it ever since."
Of the tension he feels before a race, Ronnie said:
"Before every meeting, no matter how small or how big it is, I get this terrible sensation in my stomach, that terrible nervous feeling. Sometimes it's worse than others. In the Olympics, I found I was controlling it very well. I felt that my mind was in command of my body at Melbourne. But usually the feeling is that you can't run an inch and the last thing you want to do is run. Except for the Olympics, I've never been able to acquire any great confidence in my running just before a race."
I reminded Ronnie that John Landy said that if anybody ever ran a 3:55 mile, he—Ronnie—would probably be the one to do it.
"It's all a matter of mind over body," said Ronnie. "A few years ago, no one could run a four-minute mile. Now 10 men have done it. A couple of us are very young. I'm the youngest, 21, and Brian Hewson's only 23. None of us has reached his peak, the peak supposedly coming around age 25. Definitely we're going to improve in the next few years, everything being in order and God willing. We're all going to improve, and the only way we can improve is not in style but in going down, going a little faster. Well, if we're running 3:59 now, we can run 3:58 next year maybe and 3:57 the year after and then who knows where we will stop."
At St. Mary's hospital, Ronnie went from bed to bed, making sure that he missed no one. Some of the children wore little paper hats that the Sisters had made for them. One had printed on it: "Welcome, Ronnie. It was kind of you to come and visit us." A little boy on crutches wore a hat that read: "I'll run you, Ronnie."
At St. Augustine's, in the home for retarded children, Ronnie appeared with Santa Claus and made a little speech and then got down on the floor and showed the boys how to work their toys, as a band from the village played Christmas carols. At the end of the visit one of the Brothers called for a cheer, and then everyone stood at attention for the Irish national anthem.
One afternoon Billy Morton invited the leading citizens of Dublin, including the Lord Mayor himself, to a special meeting in Room 318 of the Gresham Hotel. Billy had a buffet laid on, and plenty of good drinks, and came right to the heart of the matter, which was that he had purchased a wonderful tract of land at Santry on the road to the Dublin airport and wanted the distinguished gentlemen present to help him raise the money to build the first cinder running track in all Ireland. Then he called upon Ronnie to say a few words. Ronnie got up and said:
"My Lord Mayor and gentlemen. Naturally, I am very pleased at the interest my victory in the Olympics has aroused here at home. But, gentlemen, while it's all very well for people to be interested and be clapping me on the back and shaking my hand, what I would really like them to do to show their appreciation for my little part at Melbourne is something constructive, and the constructive thing I want to see is the building of a cinder track.
"In my own belief, gentlemen, there are 10 or 12 other O'Reillys and Kinsellas and Delanys around the country, perhaps even walking the streets of Dublin at this moment. These young people would run if they had the facilities to run. Now we, as athletes, can buy our shoes, we can learn from fine coaches like Jack Sweeney, Louis Vandendries and Captain Theo Ryan. But we can't build a cinder track ourselves. That's up to men like you. Billy Morton has taken a wonderful step in acquiring a site that I believe to be the finest in the world.
"Gentlemen, I have found to my own detriment that I can't train on grass alone. When you get into big-time athletics, you've got to have big-time facilities to work with. Our boys can't be expected to compete against the other athletes of the world under the present unfavorable conditions."
Ronnie looked around at the distinguished citizens present, their mouths open at the poise and assurance of this 21-year-old. Then Ronnie closed off his speech by stating emphatically:
"This cinder track is not something for me personally, it isn't for Billy Morton personally. This is something for all Ireland, something for our capital city of Dublin to be proud of—our own cinder track. Thank you, gentlemen."
As Ronnie sat down, the Lord Mayor got up and announced that he was not a rich man. But, he said, he would like to start the ball rolling with a personal contribution of ¬£25. The upshot was that a total of ¬£51 was pledged then and there and promises made of full support for Billy's cinder-track scheme "The amount collected," said Billy Morton afterward, "represents a profit of 100% for the occasion. Which isn't bad at this stage of the game."
Mr. Costello laughs
Another afternoon Ronnie and the entire Olympic team were escorted by Lord Killanin and the other officials to the Phoenix Park residence of the Prime Minister of Ireland, Mr. John A. Costello.
Now, it must be borne in mind (as Ronnie himself explained to me) that Mr. Costello is a man with great problems on his mind, economic and political. Perhaps (said Ronnie) this explains why he is renowned in Ireland for never smiling.
Mr. Costello greeted the athletes in a friendly way, but he maintained his dour expression. One of the photographers was bold enough to call out, "Oh, come now, sir, let's have a smile."
Mr. Costello tried, but he couldn't manage it. Then Ronnie leaned over to him and (thinking of the prime minister's great burdens) said:
"Sure, what have you got to smile about, Mr. Costello?"
Ronnie (he said later) recoiled in horror at the presumption "of an upstart like me" in speaking so.
But what did Mr. Costello do but throw back his head and laugh heartily and say, "How right you are, Delany!"
Dubliners cultivate the art of public speaking (although most of them, like Ronnie Delany, seem to be born with it), and the dinners given for the Olympic heroes provided rare opportunities for oratorical flourishes.
Lord Killanin, as president, presided over the dinner given by the Olympic Council of Ireland at the Dolphin Hotel, and opened the affair with a toast to the president of Ireland. The room was cold and drafty at first, but soon it was warm with the cordiality of the speakers. Every speech had wit and eloquence, and Chief Superintendent (of the police) Patrick Carroll even succeeded in making a roll call of distinguished guests sound like an epic poem. He included in his tributes one to Billy Morton, "whose enthusiasm comes in bucketsful," and I sat up at this, for a Dublin man had confided to me that on certain athletic questions Mr. Carroll and Mr. Morton were "at daggers drawn."
But it was Colonel F. A. Ahern, who has brought many an Irish jumping team to the National Horse Show in New York's Madison Square Garden, who reached the pinnacle of eloquence for the evening. A handsome ramrod of a man, wearing his army uniform, Colonel Ahern paid tribute to the gallant horses and the gallant men who had represented Ireland in the equestrian events of the Olympics at Stockholm. Then, his rich and vibrant voice quivering with emotion, he turned to Ireland's greatest hero of the day and said:
"Ronnie Delany, you have raised the heart of every Irishman at home and abroad."
Looking out over the guests again, he went on:
"The question is asked: who is responsible for this fine boy's success? Who is to be credited with his training?"
He paused and dropped his voice to a whisper.
"I think I know."
He raised his soldierly arm slowly and pointed.
"There sits his mother. There sits his father."
He waited, then turned back to Ronnie.
"Oh, Ronnie," he said, "hold fast to the ideals learned at that dear mother's knee. Remain steadfast in the principles instilled in you by your devoted father. Keep that excellent modesty that has been such a credit to Ireland. Do these things and I promise you, Ronnie, that the long and glorious path ahead shall be strewn with golden laurels."
The hit of the evening at the AAU dinner, presided over by President Fred Moran at the Shelbourne Hotel a few nights later, was Ronnie's father, Patrick A. Delany, looking as distinguished with his silver-gray hair and athletic physique as Colonel Ahern himself.
"This," said Mr. Delany, "is my day, this is my hour of glory. I am not known for anything I have done myself, I am merely known as the father of Ronnie Delany."
He spoke of the great Irish patriots, Parnell and Emmet and O'Connell, and the words by which they are best remembered. He said that perhaps Winston Churchill would be remembered best for his tribute to the RAF in the Battle of Britain: "Never was so much owed by so many to so few."
Mr. Delany paused, and the room was breathless.
"And now," he went on, "since this is my hour, I should like to say the words for which I hope I will be remembered."
"Never," he said, holding his head high, "never were so many made so proud and so happy...by one!"
There was a standing ovation.
Irish banquets never fail to provide a neat balance between sentiment and hilarity, and a little later all the guests (about 100) were joining in singing the great sporting song, Bould Thady Quill, the chorus of which goes:
For gambling and bowling, for football and courting,
Or draining a jorum as fast as you'd fill,
In all your days roving, you'd find none so jovial
As our Muskerry sportsman, that's Bould Thady Quill.
After that, Ronnie himself was persuaded to go to the piano and play the only song he knows by heart, I'll Be Loving You Eternally. When he had finished, the Lord Mayor (the Lord Mayor was everywhere, it seemed) came up to Ronnie and said that the song was his favorite as well. He also confided that if ever Ronnie wanted to stand for public office to let him know.
Could anything, in the way of entertainment, have topped all that? Ah, yes, indeed. Billy Morton, the man who first proposed that Ronnie Delany try running the mile, got up and sang Mother Machree with power and authority and followed that by dancing the grandest buck-and-wing that Dublin had seen in many a day.
Luck of the Irish
Fate had one more favor waiting for Ronnie Delany. Just as he was saying his last goodby to Elisabeth MacArthur and the both of them wishing for just a few more minutes, Liam Boyd, the TWA man in Dublin, called on the telephone and said the weather had held up Ronnie's flight and he would have to spend another 24 hours at home.
Last week, Ronnie Delany, the Dublin boy, was back at Villanova, studying, training and directing traffic at the Sunday Masses at St. Thomas' church to earn his $5 weekly spending money. And the County Clare man (who had found his first cousins and stood in the room where his father was born) was back at his desk at SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. Before parting in New York, the Dublin boy had said, "Was it not the grandest trip you ever had?" And the Clare man had replied, "Ah, it was, it was."
'NIELSEN GAVE ME THE BECK'
In an interview with Philip Green, of Radio Eireann in Dublin, Ronnie Delany told the inside story of the 1,500-meter final at Melbourne as it had never been told before. Green began by asking Ronnie:
"Now then, Ronnie. What position did you take at the start?"
"I was on the outside at the start and I was glad I had that position, for I didn't run into the trouble that I would have run into if I had an inside lane position. So I ran down the straightaway in about No. 8 position and it was a very comfortable position because no one was making a break at that early stage, and the whole field was bunched together in about 10 yards.
"In the second lap, the positions were somewhat the same, except that I didn't lose any ground, but a few men moved up from about ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th into closer position which put me into 11th position, but actually I had lost no ground on the leading runner so I wasn't worried. Now the second lap went about the same pace as the first, and I did notice a definite change in the pace when Murray Halberg had the pace taken away from him by the Australian boy, Merv Lincoln. He came over at the end of the second lap, and he took the. pace from Halberg. He picked it up considerably and the whole field sort of moved with him, and then Halberg was in about third. I think he was straining badly even at that stage but we moved on that third quarter, and when we hit the bell the whole field had come as a group and bunched into a six-yard space, which was just fantastic. Twelve men all running together within 6 yards. I was in, I'd say, about ninth or 10th position at this time. I had an inside position which wasn't too good, but my coach at school, Jumbo Elliott, always told me when in a box to just relax. So I relaxed, and next minute I saw Gunnar Nielsen of Denmark look back at me and he gave me the beck to move inside him."
Phil Green looked startled. This was new to him and everyone else in the studio.
"This fellow Nielsen is the man who ran against you when you broke the four-minute mile?"
"Yes, Gunnar Nielsen of Denmark."
"Yet he gave you the beck, he motioned for you to pass him?"
"He gave me the beck to move inside him, for which I thanked him from the bottom of my heart."
"He felt he was gone, of course?"
"He felt he had no chance at that stage."
"But he could have shut you out?"
"He could assist me or he could shut me out, as you say. Instead, he let me run inside him, and I took this very nice opportunity and moved inside him. Then I had a gap to move out on. This was at the 300-yard stage with Hewson now taking over the lead from Lincoln. I moved outside then, and we were in the back straight so I was losing no ground on the outside here because each man had to run the same length of the straight. I decided I would move up slowly and hit the bunch at 150 yards from home. I think I had planned this all along, before the Olympics. So I moved up slowly, still feeling very good. Landy was ahead of me slightly and he was really moving. He was working, you know. I got by Landy pretty easy, and that put me in 4th position—about 180 yards to go. When I saw Hewson in front of me I said to myself, 'Gosh, this is Brian Hewson—this is the guy that beat me at Lansdowne Road last summer'—and I think I remember saying, 'There's not going to be a repeat of Lansdowne Road.' [Ronnie was beaten decisively by Hewson at Lansdowne Road.] So I really put the boot down, as we say at home here, and I found that I was surging to the front with very little difficulty. I hit the front, and I knew I was going away from them at 50 yards from the tape. I realized I had the race won, and I sort of remember breaking out into a big smile, and when I went through the tape I was so delighted I threw my arms out in the air. I never felt so happy in all my life."
DELANY ON THE BOARDS
Two meetings between Ireland's Olympic star and Hungary's crack miler, Làszló Tàbori, will be highlights of the 1957 indoor track season. Delany's first appearance will be at the Boston A A games on February 2; he will appear in five, possibly seven, more mile races thereafter:
Feb. 2 Boston AA games*
Feb. 9 Millrose Games, New York
Feb. 16 New York AC Games
Feb. 23 AAU championships, New York*
Mar. 2 IC4A championships, New York
Mar. 9 K of C meet, New York
Possible further appearances are at the Chicago Daily News Relays on March 16 and the Cleveland K of C games March 22.
* against Làszló Tàbori