Sports Roundup

The Box

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We’re spending the rest of today looking at sport and sporting activities. Plymouth has links to some famous sporting personalities and teams. This list is by no means exhaustive but provides a few highlights.

The ‘All Blacks’

Did you know the New Zealand rugby team played here in 1905 as part of a tour of Britain, Ireland, France and Canada? It was the first time they had toured outside of Australasia and nearby Newton Abbot was one of their training bases.

At the time Devonport Albion (who merged with Plymouth in 1920 to form Plymouth Albion) were English Club Champions and Great British Runners-Up. 20,000 spectators turned up to watch this ‘clash of the Titans‘. New Zealand won 21-3 and their tour achieved legendary status.

It also marked the first use of the ‘All Blacks’ name, although apparently this happened by accident. A newspaper reporter claimed that New Zealand played as if they were ‘all backs’ but his comment was printed with a spelling mistake in it!

A scrum during the Devonport Albion v New Zealand All Blacks rugby match, Rectory Ground, 1905 © The Box, Plymouth

Fred Perry

Before Andy Murray’s 2013 victory at Wimbledon, tennis ace Fred Perry (1909-1995) was the last British man to have won the title. He’s still the only British player to have won all four Grand Slam singles titles, and he led the Great Britain Davis Cup team to victory four consecutive times from 1933-1936.

Two years before they tasted Davis Cup success, the team played their first round match of the 1931 competition here in Plymouth, and we have images of them at an official dinner in the city archives.

Mayor of Plymouth and Davis Cup Team clipping, 1931 © The Box, Plymouth

Angela Mortimer

Wimbledon champion Angela Mortimer was born in Plymouth. Between 1953 and 1962 she was ranked in the world ‘Top 10’ nine times. She reached a career high of World Number 1 in 1961.

Mortimer was a quarter finalist at the US Open (1952) and Wimbledon (1953, 1954, 1956, 1959 and 1960). In 1955, she won the women’s singles title at the French Open (1955) and the women’s doubles at Wimbledon with Anne Shilcock. In 1956 she was the runner up in the women’s singles in France.

1958 was a successful year for her. She was the runner up in the women’s and mixed doubles and the winner of the women’s singles title in Australia, and the runner up in the women’s singles at Wimbledon.

1961 was the pinnacle of her tennis playing career. She won French, German, Scandinavian and British titles and made it to the semi-final of the US Open. She then won the women’s singles title at Wimbledon.

At the time of this interview on the BFI Player she was the World Number 1.

Angela Mortimer being interviewed in 1961


Often referred to as the greatest footballer of his generation, Edson Arantes do Nascimento or ‘Pele’, played at Home Park in 1973 in a friendly match between Plymouth Argyle and Brazilian club Santos FC. The all-star team also featured Edu, Carlos Alberto and Clodoaldo from the Brazil squad who won the 1970 World Cup. Unbelievably, the final score was 3-2 to Plymouth Argyle!

You can watch Pele being interviewed in this clip on the BFI Player. There’s also an interesting article on The Guardian website.

Pele being interviewed in 1973

Here’s a new archive film clip produced especially for this year’s History Festival. It features some mini-Olympians at their local sports day on the Hoe as well as some actual Olympians!

And finally, here are a few images from the archives showing various sporting activities from Plymouth’s past including golf, athletics, stock car racing, boxing, snooker and the all important ‘egg and spoon race’!

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