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We strike gold on Deceased Online and find records for British Olympians from over 100 years ago

Scottish Olympic Heroes: Thomas ‘Ted’ Ranken (18 May 1875 – 27 April 1950) 
and Arthur ‘Archie’ James Robertson (19 April 1879 - 18 April 1957)

Here at Deceased Online, we are very much enjoying the London 2012 Olympic Games and are now looking forward to the fantastic Edinburgh Festival. To celebrate both, we are highlighting two Scottish Olympic heroes whose records can be found on the Deceased Online database.

Scottish athletes, Katherine Grainger, Heather Stanning, Andy Murray, Tim Baillie and Scott Brash, have all won gold at the 2012 Games. Fellow Scot, Sir Chris Hoy, has entered the record books for winning his sixth gold medal and becoming Britain’s most successful Olympian. Gold medals were just as abundant for Scots and other Britons in 1908, when London first hosted the Olympics. 

At the beginning of the Games, the Bishop of Pennsylvania gave a now-famous sermon at St Paul’s Cathedral, in which he declared, “The important thing in these Olympiads is not to win, but to take part.” 

 "The important thing in these Olympiads is not to win, but to take part."

This message may have been lost on the British athletes, who went on to top the medal table. Held at the White City Stadium in West London’s Shepherd’s Bush, the Games of the IV Olympiad were a huge success for Great Britain. The host nation won one hundred and forty six medals in total, with fifty-six golds – twenty-three more than nearest rival, the United States.

Archie Robertson comes second in the 3200m Steeplechase in the London Olympics of 1908 (Image from the 1908 London Olympic Games Official Report).

The first Scottish Olympian to win a gold medal in London was Arthur ‘Archie’ Robertson. In 1908, he won gold as part of the three mile race team, alongside Joe Deakin and William Coales. Interestingly, Robertson had been born in Sheffield (home city for modern Gold Olympians, Sebastian Coe and Jessica Ennis) but to a Glaswegian doctor. Previously a strong cyclist, injury led him to take up athletics when he was 25. In the Athletics Stadium at White City, Robertson won silver in the 3,200 Metres Steeplechase and then competed in the Five Miles Final just three hours later, coming fifth.

After the Olympics, Robertson retired from athletics, and soon returned to cycling. He died in Peterborough, where he had attended school, and was cremated on 23 April 1957 at Cambridge Crematorium.
Archie Robertson was inducted in the Scottish Sporting Hall of Fame in 2004.

Details of Archie Robertson's cremation record on the Deceased Online database

British Army officer, Captain (later Major) Thomas 'Ted' Ranken is one of a small group of Olympians, now including Andy Murray, who won two medals on the same day. The 1908 Shooting events took place in Bisley, Surrey, where Ranken won three silvers in the team event, the Individual Single Shot and the Individual Double Shot. Sadly, he failed to repeat his success when he competed in Paris at the 1924 Olympics (now most popularly associated with the film Chariots of Fire). Major Ranken served with the Royal Scots in the First World War. He died at a nursing home in Edinburgh and was cremated on 1 May 1950 at Warriston Crematorium.

Ted Ranken's record of cremation from Warriston Crematorium in the Deceased Onlne database

We would love to hear from anyone who has found other Olympians on the database. Let us know by leaving a comment below, or join the debate on our Facebook page!


1908 London Olympic Games Official Report
Medal Card of Major Thomas Ranken
The Times, Saturday April 29 1950, page 1


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