Finally, a major British newspaper has published an obituary about Olympic rowing gold medalist, Bert Bushnell, who died on 9 January (see also my entries on 18 and 26 January 2010). The Independent published a nice piece by Janie Hampton last Monday, 15 February. Reading the obituary, it is clear that Bushnell was a real character; read this article by clicking here. Earlier the local newspaper, Henley Standard, had published an obituary, on 25 January, click here to read that.
I am dismayed to see Janie Hampton's obituary of my father described as a “nice piece”. Apart from the factual inaccuracies that this obituary contains (wrong place of birth and date of birth), it paints a picture of a man who is unfamiliar to those of use who knew him. Yes, he was a real charcter, no, he never wore a “knotted handerchief” on his head,and certainly not while sculling. What he wore was a tight sculling cap, something quite different. My memories of him as a father are of a man who had an enormous respect for the Olympics and especially for the Olympics staged in Great Britain in 1948. I find it very hard to believe he would ever have criticised the unfiorm he wore or the opening ceremony of the Games in any way. His partner was Richard Burnell. He did not partner a woman in the boat as seems to be suggested by the obituary. I note this obituary seems based on a previously published book. The writer did not contact any of Bert's close family to verify any of the content ofthis obituary. For a truer picture of Bert Bushnell those interest in accurate rowing history might like to see the Tribute made to him at his funeral. His family will be happy to provide it.
Jacqueline Page, daughter to Bert Bushnell
To be fair, the Janie Hampton piece was less of an obituary and more of a re-hash of her book on the last London Olympics. I doubt there was any proper research carried out on Bert Bushnell at all, and there was barely any mention of anything he did in his life other than in 1948. It was disappointing to see such a one dimensional (and at times wildly inaccurate) obituary in a newspaper such as the Independent.
Dear Jacqueline Page & “Anonymous”,
It seems I have put my foot in my mouth by calling Janie Hampton’s obituary of Mr. Bert Bushnell in The Independent a “nice piece”. I have not read Ms. Hampton’s book on the Olympic Games in 1948, and cannot comment on it. If the obituary (as it is called by the newspaper) has all these inaccuracies as mentioned, it is indeed not a “nice piece”, and it was of course not my intention to offend any of Mr. Bushnell’s friends or his family by calling it so. And for this I apologize deeply and sincerely. Not knowing or understanding the poor quality of Ms. Hampton’s piece, I was happy to see something longer written about him in a major British newspaper; I did expect to find well-written obituaries in The Times, The Daily Telegraph, and The Guardian, but as of now, I have found nothing. I would be very happy and honoured if Mr. Bushnell’s family would provide me with the Tribute made to him at his funeral, so I could post it on this blog and that way set things straight.
Yours very sincerely,
When my book 'The Austerity Olympics' was published by Aurum Press in 2008, Bert Bushnell and many of the other oarsmen and sportsmen who I had interviewed were all delighted. Bert Bushnell never objected that I had quoted his stories about 1948, and invited me to conduct further interviews for television. When The Independent asked me to write his obituary, focussing on his victory in 1948, I used the same quotes, which illustrated that historical moment, and his fiesty character.
I apologise for getting his birth date and place wrong. Janie Hampton
Jacqueline, I was wondering if I can contact you in private. We are in the same family, I think your dad was cousin of my father in law and my children are desperate to earn more about Bert. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org