FIVE years ago, Portadown 2000 tabled a proposal that a statute of Olympic Golden Girl Mary Peters should be erected in the town to honour the former Portadown College head girl’s pentathlon triumph in Munich 1972. It was met with great enthusiasm, especially by pupils, past and present of the College, proud of her achievements in athletics and beyond.
Since then, she has established the Mary Peters Track in Belfast, has promoted sport - especially among the young - has rubbed shoulders with royalty as a Dame of the British Empire and is HM’s representative in the capital as Lord Lieutenant of Belfast.
The promoters of the statue picked out a site at the Pleasure Gardens, looking across the Bann at the old Portadown College, they consulted master sculptor John Sherlock, designs were created (based on the iconic picture of Mary on the Munich podium). She was fully behind the project and even ‘sat’ for the piece of work.
Trouble was, the finance had not been secured and the plan withered on the vine, leaving Mary Peters embarrassed and not a little angry. Typically, when the Portadown Times contacted her, she showed her accustomed dignity and would not speak on the record. Now in her early 70s, Mary’s love for athletics in undiminished. She is an ambassador for Northern Ireland and for Britain throughout the world. So much so that she was asked to nominate a promising young athlete - she chose Katie Kirk of Holywood - to help light the Olympic flame.
Portadown has lost the golden opportunity to cast Mary in bronze. Instead of such an honour in her home town, it is almost certain that it will be sited at her Belfast track, which is undergoing a £3m upgrade.
A case of being also-rans...