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Daughter’s dash into the past

Saturday, 10th August, 2019

Rama and Garry Gardner with some of the history about Rama’s mother, Joan Stratford. PICTURE: Emily McInerney Rama and Garry Gardner with some of the history about Rama’s mother, Joan Stratford. PICTURE: Emily McInerney

By Emily McInerney

In 1956, a young Broken Hill athlete, Joan Stratford, had the chance to compete in the Olympics but her appendix burst. 

Now, her daughter Rama Gardner, along with husband Garry, have come to the city to research Joan’s story.

Joan was born in 1937 and was adopted to Broken Hill in 1941, at the age of four.

“We wanted to find out more information, so we travelled to Broken Hill,” Rama said yesterday. 

Rama and Garry went to the Historical Society and were able to find old primary school pictures of Joan as well as articles in the Barrier Miner and the Conveyor.

“Mum went to North Public School and Broken Hill High School,” she said.

“Her favourite teacher was Miss Long from 4B who motivated her into sports and running.”

Rama said BDT columnist Graham ‘Bushy’ Burke was very good friends with Joan and spoke with her on many occasions.

Locally, Joan competed in the Barrier Ladies Amateur Championships, the Country Women’s Athletic Championships in Sydney and at school she was the North Girls Champion Athlete of 1951.

“We would like to see any other photos that might be around,” Rama said.

“There were some in The Conveyor but not many in The Miner.

“Apparently mum was known as ‘the Broken Hill Dash’ and she ran against Majorie Jackson. She also trained alongside Majorie for the Olympics.”

Marjorie Jackson-Nelson finished her sporting career with two Olympic and seven Commonwealth Games Gold Medals, six individual world records and every Australian State and National title she contested between 1950 and 1954. She later became the Governor of South Australia.

The Barrier Daily Truth ran a story about Majorie Jackson’s run at the Zinc Oval in 1952.

“Probably the largest crowd ever seen there turned out at the Zinc Oval yesterday to see the world’s champion woman runner, Miss Marjorie Jackson, competing against local girls at the Broken Hill Athletic Club’s special championship carnival,” the BDT reported.

“In the final J. Stratford had Miss Jackson a little more extended, but the Lithgow Flash again shot past about 10 yards before the post and finished a couple of yards in the lead.”

Joan came in a few seconds behind her in that heat.

In 1956, Joan qualified for the Melbourne Olympics but disaster struck the day before her big race when her appendix burst.

“She didn’t end up running,” Rama said. “We used to hear about it all the time. She cries every time the Olympics are on TV.”

Rama said she wanted to find out as much as she could.

“Mum is getting on a bit, she can only tell us so much now.

“When she separated from my father a lot of that history was lost.”

Rama keeps in constant contact with her mother.

“I’ve sent her the school photos, every time I find something I ring her.

“It was a great journey to make, we want to get as much history as we can.”

She said the Library archives staff said they would keep digging for history and the Historical Society were very helpful.

“They are worth their weight in gold. We just want to show our appreciation for the information that has been passed on.”

As well as researching, Rama and Garry have visited Silverton and the places where Joan had been.

“Mum lived in Williams Street and she ran at Penrose Park. We visited Zinc Oval. We also want to go to Alma Oval.”

The couple will be in town until Monday when they head back to Gippsland in Victoria.

Rama said she had been to Broken Hill twice before and that it had changed a lot since her first visit when she was 16.

Anyone with information about Joan Stratford may contact Rama on 0438 561 038.

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