Obituary: Ken Baily

Ken Baily, athlete and sports enthusiast: born Somerset 1911; died Bournemouth 10 December 1993.

'WHAT are you doing here?' asked the Queen on spotting Ken Baily among a crowd in a Sydney street. 'I'd go anywhere for you, Ma'am,' replied Baily.

Baily, England's self-appointed sporting cheerleader, did go almost anywhere for sport and at home in Bournemouth he was always present at a royal visit. When Prince Charles attended his first trade union conference Baily was at the door presenting him with a carnation buttonhole.

Ken Baily died of cancer in a nursing home at Bournemouth, where he had long been the town's most famous resident. He was a familiar figure on his bicycle returning the greetings of members of the public with a salute. His place in the community was established early in the Fifties when, as 'Genevieve' in the Bournemouth Times, his Tatler-style column featured not only social occasions but national sporting events.

He was already in The Guinness Book of Records for running the most recorded miles and famous as the man who had run all the way to America by going round and round on a ship's deck. He also carried the Olympic torch when the games were held at Wembley in 1948.

For the next 30 years he continued to be a torch-bearer - taking a flame along the Bournemouth promenade to start the annual regatta fireworks. As the years passed there was concern that he might not be able to keep up with the younger runners. But he did and his fitness was partly maintained by regular sea-bathing which included a dip on Christmas Day and at midnight on New Year's Eve with the Bournemouth Spartans.

Another annual custom for Baily was an appeal for nearly new sports equipment for young teenagers wanting to take up a sport. In a career which as well as journalism had embraced work as clerical assistant in the telephone exchange, he had faced financial uncertainty; and he had to overcome a speech difficulty whilst a public figure.

An inheritance later allowed Baily to spend the last quarter-century travelling to all the main international sporting occasions. It was Baily who came to the rescue at Twickenham in 1982 by covering the streaker Erica Roe with his Union Jack. More recently he was at the Barcelona Olympics in his familiar top hat, red tail-coat and Union Jack waistcoat just as he had been at the 1966 World Cup when he became known as World Cup Willie.

He often wore this John Bull outfit on the plane and train all the way back to Bournemouth. The town's summer illuminations are still candlelit by the public and on August Wednesday nights right up to this year holiday-makers would be amazed to find themselves collecting their taper from England's cheerleader in full costume.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources Officer

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen at th...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - London - £40,000 + Bonus

£36000 - £40000 per annum + Bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own