It was a very exciting night for the members of West Dorset Fencing Club in Bridport on Thursday 3rd March 2011. With Allan Jay and Bill Hoskyns, our greatest ever British fencers, regularly attending the club sessions, and with Olympic fencer Shirley Parker as founder, chairman and one of the club’s coaches, the fencers in Bridport are accustomed to Olympic celebrities attending their evenings.
Even so, when two further Olympic fencers came to add to the numbers and demonstrate their skills with the club members, it did make for a very special evening. Janet Cooksey and Graham Paul, who are the current World Veteran’s Champions at foil and epee, paid the club a visit and fenced all evening with anyone who wanted to take them on.
Janet Cooksey and the club’s founder, Shirley Parker have been friends and rivals for many years, having regularly formed the backbone of the British team in the 1960’s under their maiden names of Cathie and Netherway. Frequently taking 1st and 2nd places when meeting in competitions, their final contest was the 1966 Empire and Commonwealth Games in Jamaica, when Janet won the hard-fought title.
Five Olympic Fencers in Attendance
The club was delighted to make them welcome and with both Allan Jay and Bill Hoskyns being there that night no less that five Olympic fencers were in attendance to lend the club their support. A point of interest is that these five, when competing in the 1950s/60s, (and in the case of the Veterans up to the present day,) accounted for 4 Olympic silver medals, 26 Commonwealth Games Gold medals, 2 full World Championship titles, 13 Veteran’s World Championship titles and 24 British National Championship titles.
To have crossed swords with these fencers was the chance in a lifetime for such a young club.