LONDON — Jamaica's first Olympic Gold Medallist and late former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom (UK), Dr. the Hon. Arthur Wint, has been honoured in London with a special Blue Heritage Plaque.
The plaque was unveiled on Friday afternoon (Oct.19) during a ceremony held at Dr. Wint’s former residence at 22 Philbeach Avenue in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The ceremony took place on the 20th anniversary his death and was organised as part of the Black History Month and Jamaica 50 celebrations.
Dr. Wint first moved to Philbeach Avenue in 1949 with his wife Norma, while he was studying for his medical degree, and lived at that address with his family on several other occasions.
“Throughout my early years, 22 Philbeach Avenue figured prominently in our lives,” said Valerie Wint, who along with sister, Dr. Alison Wint, unveiled the plaque in their father’s honour. “It was a home we returned to many times and it is with a sense of great pride and honour that we are here today to unveil this plaque in his honour,” she added.
She told JIS News that her father’s long connection with the UK made the honour very special for the family.
“It’s great honour because my father had such a long connection with Great Britain. He was here for 10 years, from 1944 to 1952, and again from 1959 to 1963 and then again when he was High Commissioner, so he spent a lot of his life here in England, and to have that honour of putting that plaque on the building to say, ‘yes he was here’, is great honour. For us, as family members, it is just a lovely honour,” she said.
Ms. Wint used the occasion to launch her book about her father titled: ‘The Longer Run,’ which she informed, was about 15 years in the making and took three years to write.
“It started (after his death) and I did quite a lot of research and I was lucky to able to interview Herb McKinley twice before he died,” she said.
Dr. Alison Wint, for her part, said while she was very honoured and proud of her father, she was surprised by the number of people who also held him in high esteem.
“I was very honoured by the ceremony. I was very proud and to know that so many other people knew him as well. It takes me by surprise to see that so many people loved him and hold him in such affection. It’s something to be very proud of really,” she stated.
High Commissioner to the UK, Her Excellency, Aloun Ndombet-Assamba, described Arthur Wint as a “great Jamaican”, who was not only an outstanding athlete but also an excellent representative for Jamaica in the UK.
“Thank you all for coming out to honour a great Jamaican in this way. I am very conscious as I stand here (as High Commissioner) that I am standing on the shoulders of the great Arthur Wint, his having been one of our great representatives here in the UK. I don’t have to say anything about his prowess as an athlete or his time in the RAF (Royal Air Force) or his being a doctor, but just to acknowledge his life and work of this great Jamaican, who we honour today,” Mrs. Ndombet-Assamba said.
Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Councillor Chistopher Buckmaster said the Blue Plaque was a tremendous way to mark Jamaica’s 50th anniversary and to also remember a great man, who inspired a vast number of Jamaicans. He said he hoped the plaque will remind people of Dr. Wint’s achievements and serve as an inspiration to many.
Several other tributes were paid to Arthur Wint by representatives of the West Indian Ex-Service Men Association, the RAF Association, as well as several of the athletes, who competed with him during his athletic career, including Lord Terrance Higgins and his close friend John Parlett, who said Arthur Wint was an outstanding man in every way.
The Blue Heritage Plaque was organised by the Nubian Jak Community Trust and Chinara Enterprises Ltd, with the support of the Jamaican High Commission and the RoyalBorough of Kensington and Chelsea.
Arthur Wint, known as the “gentle giant” because of his six-foot, five-inch frame, was born in Plowden Manchester in 1920. He attended Calabar High School from 1930 to 1936, where he ran the sprints and did high and long jump. He completed his secondary school education at Excelsior College, where he excelled as an athlete, becoming Jamaica’s Champion Boy Athlete in 1937.
Dr. Wint trained as a pilot with the RAF in Canada and rose to the rank of flight lieutenant. After serving in World War 11, he attended London’s St. Bartholomew’s hospital as a medical student.
At the 1948 London Olympics, he became the first Jamaican to win an Olympic Gold Medal, beating teammate Herb McKenely in the 400 metres race.
In Helsinki1952, he was part of the historic team that set the world record while capturing gold in the 4 x 400 metres relay. He also won silver in the 800 meters.
He ran his final race in 1953 at Wembley Stadium, and qualified as a doctor that same year. In 1954, he was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) by Queen Elizabeth II, and the following year, Dr. Wint returned to Jamaica, eventually settling in Hanover as the only resident doctor in the parish.
Dr. Wint was appointed Jamaica’s second High Commissioner to the UK in 1974, serving until 1978, and was awarded the Order of Jamaica in 1989. He passed away on Heroes Day, October 19, 1992, and was given an official funeral. He is survived by widow Norma, and daughters Valarie, Alison and Colleen.