From There… To Here

The social history of Wester Hailes

Olympic Potential

There can be few people unaware that the Olympics are well underway, with Team GB picking up their first gold medals yesterday.  When Britain won the Olympic bid, it decided to take a more systematic approach to finding potential winners through a pro active talent spotting scheme.  Scouts went out across the length and breadth of the country visiting clubs, schools etc to talk to local coaches.  UK Sport also advertised for people to take part in their “Sporting Giants” scheme which is of course how Helen Glover, one of yesterday’s gold winning rowers was found. 

 Sport was a regular feature in the Sentinel, not only at the national level but also local matches, achievements etc.  Although football made many appearances, a wide variety of sports were given coverage over the months and years.  If the country had taken a more thorough approach to identifying potential Olympic talent earlier, perhaps some of those featured below would have made the medal winning podium in previous Olympic years!

Wester Hailes has shown an impressive track record in basketball.  We recently featured the WHEC Under 14 team who were aiming for the Scottish Cup back in 1984.  The over 18s team also had great success, moving into Lothian’s First Division in 1991.  Funding was an issue and they were hoping their recent wins would encourage local businesses to sponsor them.  You can read their story here at Sentinel April 1991.

The Sentinel reported in 1982 on the move within schools to try and combat the dominance of what was then termed the Eastern Bloc in gymnastics.  Olga Korbut’s performance in the 1976 Munich Olympics inspired many to take up the sport, but also highlighted how far behind other countries were in terms of training and facilities.  The WHEC increased their number of coaches and held regular club training nights as well as making gymnastics an integral part of the curriculum. 

 Table Tennis
In 1985, a local boy had caught the attention of Scottish Table Tennis who picked him for Scotland’s Under 14 squad.  Alan Flockhart was only 12 when he was spotted.  His coach thought Alan was the most talented player he had ever coached, with the potential to go far.  But he also highlighted the need for sponsorship and felt that a lack of funding could get in the way of progress. 

Creating a wave of controversy and news headlines at London 2012, badminton has been a highly popular sport over the years in Britain.  In 1982, the Sentinel highlighted WHEC’s badminton club and the efforts being made there to give training opportunities to young people coming up from primary school.  The level of interest was so high amongst the community that the community club was in danger of running out of places. 

Only becoming an Olympic sport in 2000, trampolining is due to start this Friday in London 2012.  In 2002 the Sentinel featured Kirsty Louden who had come second in the under 13 Great Britain competition the previous year before winning in Sweden and Northern Ireland.  Despite the rigorous training and level of danger (it’s listed in the top ten of dangerous sports), her coach felt it was still regarded as a minority sport which made it difficult to attract media coverage. 

Gold Medals
Bradley Wiggins may be breaking records with his tally of Olympic medals, but in Wester Hailes the record holder was veteran athlete Ernie Plimmer who had managed to amass 7 gold medals by 1986!  Frequently beating runners younger than him, Ernie at the age of 69 ran the 100 metres in 13.6 seconds. The Sentinel featured his achievement here.


Pages From The Past

This week we’re back in the summer of 1987.  The main headline in the Sentinel featured fears that the Wester Hailes Shopping Centre might close if planned superstores at Hermiston Gait were given the go ahead.  Other stories include

  • Dumbryden pupils winning first prize at the Highland Show
  • A winning motto from a first year WHEC pupil
  • News from around the community, and a feature on the 8 local playschemes that were in operation that summer
  • An interview with Joyce Paterson, the woman responsible for teaching hundreds of local young people to dance. 

You’ll find all these stories and more here at Sentinel August 1987.

A mystery cleared up!

A couple of weeks ago we highlighted a mystery surrounding the apparent re-naming of Gillespie Gardens when it was first built.  Caroline Campbell got in touch in response to say that she has lived in Wester Hailes since 1970.  She remembers that when this set of houses was first built, no-one seemed to have a name for them.  There were a few to choose from and Alcorn Square was the name finally picked by the developers.