One of Barnsley's greatest ever athletes has been inducted into the England Athletics Hall of Fame.
Shot putter Arthur Rowe won British, European and Commonwealth titles as well as representing Great Britain at the 1960 Olympics, before venturing into rugby league and the Highland Games in Scotland. Arthur's son Steve was delighted to receive the award late last month on behalf of his father, who died in 2003.
Steve said: "It came out of the blue. I just got an email saying he was one of the ten people to be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. Myself and my sisters went to the event and it was a very proud moment. I'm sure my father would have been happy looking down. It's nice that his achievements are still remembered more than 50 years on."
Arthur was born on August 17, 1936 and grew up in Smithies. He left school aged 15 to become a blacksmith's apprentice and was good at various sports. He turned down a contract with Rotherham United FC and took up athletics aged 17 when he was waiting to bat during a cricket game but noticed a shot put class taking place nearby.He impressed, even in cricket pads, and began a notable career in the sport.
Known for practising after work on the streets of Smithies, Arthur rose dramatically through the British ranks before announcing himself on the international scene by winning the Commonwealth Games in 1958 in Cardiff. That was followed a few weeks later by gold in the European Championships in Stockholm with a new championship record of 17.8m.
After continuing to improve his British and European records, he went to the 1960 Rome Olympics and was expected to become Britain's first throws medallist since 1924.But he struggled with the heat as well as a stomach problem – thought to be dysentery – and had lost ten pounds in weight by the time of his competition.He failed to make it through the qualifying stage, falling just a few centimetres short.
Steve said: "He had been on the boat for days to Rome and it wasn't ideal preparation. He was very proud to be an Olympian and he looked back fondly on his career with the shot."
Arthur wanted to quit the sport after Rome but was encouraged to carry on and continued to break his British and European records, moving up to second in the world rankings. He looked likely to retain his European and Commonwealth titles in 1962. But he shocked the world of athletics by deciding to join rugby league club Oldham which brought him enough money to buy a house and car.
The change in sports was not successful and, after leaving Oldham a year on, he was not allowed to return to the shot put as he had breached British Athletics' rules which prohibited professionalism. Son Steve said: "He found out that rugby league hurt too much and he didn't last long doing that. I think he had a few regrets about leaving athletics but he was very family-oriented and just wanted to provide for us."
Rowe then enjoyed a lucrative career in the Highland Games and was the world record holder for tossing the caber. After his sporting days were over, Arthur ran a building business in Barnsley for 20 years. He lived in Smithies, Honeywell and Monk Bretton before he died of cancer in 2003 aged 67. His wife Betty is still alive and he has three children – Steve, Stephanie and Louise as well as two granddaughters.
Steve said: "We had a good upbringing and never wanted for anything. He was a massive physical presence, after all those years being a blacksmith and then throwing the shot and the caber. When I had been naughty and was told 'wait til your father comes home' I used to feel ill. But he was a kind and generous man who liked a party, and he's passed that on to the rest of us."