Soham Grammarians - Harry Kane SG44, Olympian

Harry Kane was in the 1944-45 school year entry, Form IIA.

In the Autumn 1947 Soham Grammarian his departure is noted:
Valete LVB H Kane: Athletics Team

There is an A Kane identified in the Michaelmas 1946 School Photo between Lewis Heavens and Tinker Wells.

Fred Eden SG44
says that Harry was known as Adgy Kane, which would explain the original identification.  Lewis and Tinker were in Harry's year. This is a different part of the photo to that used in the Ely Standard article below.

A Jewish evacuee, Harry was fortunate to be happily placed with a couple in Stretham. He was bright and athletic and joined in well with village and school life.

After returning to London in 1947 his athletic talent was able to develop to a much higher level and he became a hurdling Olympian.

As far as is known there is no connection with the England Football Captain Harry Kane ....

Soham Grammar School Photo, Michaelmas 1946

back 5: - Colin Scarf - George Peacock - I McCullough? - Rodney Cutting

row 4: ( ) - Lewis Heavens - A Kane (Harry) - Gerald Tinker Wells - 4

row 3: David Gardiner - Vernon Groom - 2 - Peter Handley

row 2: Donald Tills - Max Constable - Ian Burroughs - R Cutworth

front 1: J Malcolm Watson? - 2

Ely Standard 14 July 2021
Residents share their stories of Cambridgeshire's own Harry Kane

Residents have shared their stories of ex-Olympian Harry Kane, who attended Soham Grammar School, and arrived in Cambridgeshire as an evacuee. 

There is no argument that England football captain Harry Kane has become one of the most well-known athletes in the world. But for one namesake who moved to the Fens, sporting prominence on the global stage was already on the horizon.

Harry Kane, thought not to be related to the Three Lions' skipper, was one of a number of Jewish children who evacuated to Cambridgeshire after the Second World War, many of those living in Stretham. “Harry lived on Short Road and we went to school together,” John Baylis, who lived near Harry, said.  “He went to Stretham primary school then to Soham Grammar School, but I did not see him much after then.”

Born in London to an Orthodox Jewish family, Harry’s mother and younger brother were both killed in a house fire when he was 10 years-old.

After moving to Stretham to live with Alfred and Gladys Reeves, Harry made his mark at Soham Grammar School in athletics as he began to take part in inter-county competitions.

“Harry went to the school where he is remembered as an excellent sportsman,” Cambridgeshire historian Mike Petty said.  “He took part in the school athletics in 1947, beating Robert Norman of Haddenham.” Robert Norman sometimes ran in events alongside Harry, who was in the same house as him at Soham Grammar School after first meeting each other on the school bus.

“He was a normal lad, nothing extraordinary but strong,” Robert recalled.  “He used to race in the cross-country event and we raced against your age group. He probably assisted me with points at school championships. He was a keen competitor and compared to the current Harry Kane, I think he would have the same demeanour.”

Having been spotted while at Hackney Downs School in London, Harry then went onto compete at international competitions, and with it came success. In 1952, he won the 120 and 200-yard hurdles events at the British Athletic Championships, followed by victory in the 400m hurdles at the Maccabiah Games in Israel in a record time of 50.50 seconds.

His record-breaking feats did not stop there, though.

Aged 21, Harry was in action at the British Athletics Championships in the 440-yard hurdles event in 1954, setting a British record and came second at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games the same year.

“Harry Kane returned to Stretham several times to visit the couple with whom he was evacuated,” Mike said.  “One such visit was reported in the Ely Standard for September 1955, shortly after success in an international athletics match against France at Bordeaux.”

... for England in the international events at Porto on Saturday coming, coming first in the 400m hurdles. This was the first track events of the afternoon, and was run in terrific heat. A sports commentator for lunch newspaper reported "it was left to Harry Kane to hold on gamely to finish a fifth of a second ahead of the Frenchman Cury."

Harry’s brother, Gerry, also came to visit the area. Les Gotobed was one resident who knew Harry and used to keep an eye on his progress. John knew him and we went up the road to watch Harry hurdle jumping on the television,” he said. “He was a tall fella’ with dark hair. Everybody knew everybody then; as soon as you got a stranger in the village, you asked who they were.  “Harry said ‘hello’ to you when he went by. The evacuees knew nothing about the village and kept themselves to themselves.”

Perhaps one of Harry’s greatest achievements was representing Great Britain at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, competing in the 400m hurdles.  After winning silver in the 200m hurdles, he then won the 400m hurdles at the Maccabiah Games a year later.

But the skills he learnt and his persona towards others while at school were important on his path towards sporting glory.  “He integrated into the school fairly well, he wasn’t bullied; he looked after himself,” Robert said.  Harry was not short on intelligence, either, according to Les, who said if you went to grammar school, “in that day, you had to be pretty good to go there.”

A friendly man away from the track, Harry moved away from Cambridgeshire as his athletics career progressed, but he did not fail to leave a lasting impression.  “He was quite good at football and must be around 85-90 years-old,” John said.  “When we had sports days in the village, he won the running and hurdle races; he was a nice lad.” 

British Library
Kane, Harry (Part 1 of 5). An Oral History of British Athletics
13/2/2002 Abstract (please click the link to hear Harry Kane speaking)
Part 1: Childhood. East End of London. Grandparents from Russia and Poland. Paternal grandfather in the Cavalry. Maternal grandfather cobbler. Very fond memories of childhood. Own mother died when he was 10. Eastern European culture reflected in the language - lots of different words - Jewish Yiddish - Polish etc.  'All in the pot'.
Childhood memories brother Gerry. Attended Robert Montifiore School. Evacuation to Cambridgeshire during war. Streatham village near Ely. Terrible story of house fire in new house in Oxford in which his mother and new younger brother Stanley died and father was burned. Father went to war and he and Gerry returned to family in Streatham and lived there beyond the war. (Got a Christian education and talks of Sunday school trip to Norfolk coast.) Remembers the Jewish community in the East End and returning to visit grandparents there. Father was a taxi driver and drove petrol lorry in the war.Living conditions. Story of father returning after work and leaving some food on his plate for Harry. Relationship with parents. First mention of gambling - gambler all of his life.
Jewish religion - Orthodox/Kosher house. More detail of the house fire in Oxford. Her parents blamed his father the aftermath of the fire. Maternal grandmother however had a lot to do with upbringing of Harry and Gerry. Mother's funeral. Relationship with maternal grandmother. Returned to the evacuation family until he was 13 - Gerry returned earlier - the couple became his surrogate parents [Alfred James and Alice Reeves].  Life in the village of Streatham? They were the most significant influence on his life. Living off the land - growing and shooting food. Integrated into village life. Beginning sports. Mentions Grafton and London Athletics Clubs. School sports day important - 440 yds moved up from sprints. Discusses handicap races. Discusses technique for running 440yds.  Criticism of his methods. Training. Getting into top level sport. Fenland Grammar Schools Association - where he first started to win 440 events. Returned to live with father in Stoke Newington. Hackney Downs Grammar School (Grocers) - Leslie Mitchell was athletics coach at school and noticed Harry's ability. Kept in touch with Leslie Mitchell. Amateur Athletic Association (AAA) allocated Harry a hurdling coach. John [Mesurier]. Geoff Dyson was national athletics coach. Joe Simpson (friend-chief of police) got Harry job, which would give Harry time off for training.

Jewish Lives Project
An Olympian hurdler who broke records in Britain and at the Maccabiah Games.
Kane was born in the East End of London, into an Orthodox Jewish family. His father was a taxi driver and his grandparents were from Russia and Poland. During the war he was evacuated to Cambridgeshire where he had a Christian education, began playing sport and winning inter-county competitions. Tragically, his mother and younger brother were killed in a house fire [in Oxford] when Harry was ten. [He returned to Cambridgeshire]. Back in London [to which he returned in 1947] his talent was spotted while at Hackney Downs Grammar School and the Amateur Athletics Association allocated him a hurdling coach, John Mesurier. In 1952 he won the 120 and 200 yard hurdles at the British Athletic Championships. The following year he won the 400m hurdles at the Maccabiah Games in Israel with a record time of 50.5. In 1954, at the age of 21 he won the 440 yard hurdles at the British Athletics Championships, which set a British record, and he came second at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games.  That year he was ranked 7th in the world in the 400 yard hurdles. Kane competed in the 400 metre hurdles at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne. He won a silver medal in the 200 metre hurdles and came first in the 400 metre hurdles at the 1957 Maccabiah Games.
Kane set an English inter-country record in the 440 yard hurdles, and matched the Scottish all-comers record. In 1952, at the British Athletic Championships he won the 120 yard hurdles with a time of 15.4, and the 200 yard hurdles with a time of 23.3. At the 1953 Maccabiah Games, Kane won the 400 meter with a games record times of 50.5.

In 1954, at the British Athletic Championships he won the 440 yard hurdles with a time of 53.4. In 1954, competing for England, Kane was second in the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games 440 yard hurdles, with a time of 53.3. His personal best in the 400 was 51.5, in 1954, setting a British record. In 1954, he was ranked seventh in the world in the 400 hurdles.

Kane competed for England in the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, in the 400 meter hurdles. In 1957, he was ranked eighth in the world in the 400 hurdles. That year, Kane took a silver medal in the 1957 Maccabiah Games in the 200 meter hurdles, with a time of 25.3 seconds, while winning the 400 meter hurdles.

In his early athletics career, in May 1949, Kane finished runner up in two flat races in an athletics competition held in Victoria Park, Bethnal Green. Kane finished second in the 220yds sprint to his cousin, Ivor Baylin and Kane finished second to Dove in the 440yds race.
Harry Kane had the following podium finishes at major championships: 2nd in the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games 440 yards Hurdles. In the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games he was eliminated in the heats of the 440 yards. In the British Empire and Commonwealth Games he competed for England.

Personal Best: 400H – 51.5y (1954).
Melbourne 1956
#5 h2 r2/3
400 metres Hurdles
Facts about Olympic Athletics Melbourne 1956 - Athletics
400m hurdles M   
Semifinal:    5th    52.7 secs   
Round 1:    2nd    51.8  secs  Q

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page created 16 Jul 21:  last updated 17 Jul 21