Leigh gymnast's 1928 Olympic blazer back in town

Gymnast Ada Smith with her Olympic regalia in 1928

Gymnast Ada Smith with her Olympic regalia in 1928

First published in North West

AN important piece of Olympic history is back where it belongs in Leigh.
The 1928 Olympic blazer and diploma from the Amsterdam Games that belonged to Leigh gymnast Ada Smith has been bought at auction by Jill Orrell Head Coach of Leigh Gymnastics Club.
Jill was quick to act when she learned the memorabilia was being put up for auction.
"The items are a very important part of Leigh Gymnastics Club history and Leigh's heritage. Ada Smith trained at the Marsh Gymnasium in Ullswater Street, Leigh. She was part of the first ever female Olympic Gymnastics Team to compete for Great Britain. The team was made up of the best 12 gymnasts in the country. Her team mate Hilda Smith (no relation) was also from The Marsh Gymnasium. Ada then went on to coach members of the Leigh Club at the Marsh Gymnasium .
"For 84 years theirs was the only women's GB gymnastics team to win an Olympic medal for Great Britain.
"Leigh Gymnastics Club highlighted Ada's achievements when they headed a campaign with a National Lottery heritage bid to save the Marsh Gymnasium when Wigan and Leigh College closed the Railway Road campus. Unfortunately the heritage bid was turned down and the Marsh Gymnasium, the oldest working gym in the country, remains boarded-up in Leigh. But the Club remains strong and now trains at Westleigh High School."
The 1928 Olympic medals, passport, official photographs, letters and memorabilia were donated to the club many years ago and now the collection is complete.
When she heard the blazer and diploma were going up for auction Jill unsuccessfully tried to purchase them before the sale.
Leigh Harriers' historian John Taylor and former field athlete Peter Todd attended the Adam Patridge auction house in Macclesfield on behalf of Leigh Gymnastics Club and secured the items with a £1,000 bid against internet and telephone competition.
Interestingly during the auction a relative of 1928 Olympic coach who trained Ada and Hilda contacted Adam Partridge with his phone number to pass on to Jill.
She explained: "The family from London had been researching the 1928 Olympic and had come across the article of the auction online and immediately the grandson recalled his grandmother telling him the story of how 'two strapping young woman from up North' named Ada and Hilda helped the team to win the bronze.
"Coincidently his grandmother, was also called Ada and he was astounded that they both trained at the Marsh Gymnasium as his name is Mr Marsh! He felt compelled to get in touch!"

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