Track Stats - Charles Russell Dickinson

After 118 years the true identity of an AAA champion revealed

Research by Cyril J. Smyth

Over the past months I have been compiling data on athletes of “yore” who competed for Dublin University (Trinity College, University of Dublin). As quite often happens, data from differing sources do not always agree, and my problem arises from no better authority than Peter Lovesey’s “The Official Centenary History of the AAA”, published in 1979. In his compilation he credits the 440 yards championship of 1892 to Cyril Dickinson (Ireland) in 50.4 seconds. The championships were held at Stamford Bridge, London, that year. I believe the result to be incorrect, and perhaps this is already known, but the information still appears on the gbrathletics website.

The confusion arises from the fact that there were two brothers who attended Trinity College Dublin, both of whom were athletes who competed for Dublin University, and both had the same first initial “C”. One was C.R. Dickinson, the other C.H. Dickinson, and even the second initial could have been mis-read or mis-typed “H” and “R”. Charles Russell (“Charlie”) Dickinson was born on 23 April 1869 and Cyril Henry Dickinson on 1 July 1876. I am in no doubt that Charles is the brother who won the AAA 440 yards title in 1892, and here is some biographical information to back this up.

Charles Russell Dickinson: Trinity College Dublin, B.A. 1888; brother of Cyril H. Dickinson; became Vicar of Woburn Sands 1899-1900 and Vicar of Ridgmont, Bedfordshire, 1919-1927. I.A.A.A. (Irish) 440 yards champion in 1891 in 52.6sec and in 1892 in 51.5sec; dnf I.A.A.A. 220 yards in 1891 and champion in 1892 in 23.8sec; also competed in the 100 yards in 1892. In other words, Charles was an accomplished Irish sprinter and I.A.A.A. 440 yards champion at the time of the AAA Championships in 1892.

Cyril was not a sprinter but a middle-distance athlete, albeit that he did compete at 440 yards on occasion. His biographical details are as follows:

Cyril Henry Dickinson: became Barrister at Law; brother of C.R. Dickinson. I.A.A.A 880 yards champion in 1897 in 2min 4.6sec and in 1898 in 2min 3.8 sec; I.A.A.A. 1 mile champion in 1897 in 4min 33.0sec; also entered the 440 yards in 1897 but did not compete; 3rd in I.A.A.A. 1 mile and 2nd in 440 yards in 1898. Won at 440 yards (52.2) and 880 yards (2:02.6) in the Scotland-v-Ireland match at Powderhall, Edinburgh, in 1897 and was 2nd at 880 yards in the Ireland-v-Scotland contest at the R.D.S. Showgrounds, Ball’s Bridge, in 1898. Also 2nd in the AAA Championships 880 yards in 1897.

If Cyril had won the AAA 440 yards in 1892 he would have been barely 16 years of age and a prodigious talent!

In Kenneth C. Bailey’s “A History of Trinity College, Dublin 1892-1945”, the author states of Charles Dickinson: “Dickinson was the first Irishman to win a flat race championship in England, which he did in winning the 440 yards in a magnificent time (50 2/5 seconds) in 1897 … his brother, Cyril H. Dickinson, also a Trinity man, was Irish champion at 880 yards in 1897 and 1898 and at one mile in 1897”. Dr Bailey was a Fellow of Trinity College and the Registrar of the college at the time he wrote his book, which was published in 1947 by the University Press, Dublin. As Registrar he had full access to all the personal details of former students, which include information in many cases other than academic performance. Charles was the first son and Cyril the third of Hercules Henry Dickinson (1827-1905). H.H. Dickinson was a Church of Ireland clergyman and theologian and he and his wife had nine children. He was vicar of St Ann’s, in Dublin, for 47 years and in 1868 was appointed dean at the Chapel Royal, Dublin Castle, and chaplain to the lord lieutenant.

Note: Peter Lovesey comments: “I’m pleased to be corrected on this”.