Dorothy Parlett – 1927-2021
Everyone at West Ham United has been deeply saddened by the passing of lifelong Hammer and 1948 Olympic medallist Dorothy Parlett at the age of 94.
Surely the only Hammer to have won an Olympic medal and watched her team win a trophy at Wembley Stadium, she was born into a West Ham family in Manor Park in April 1927.
After running for her school, district and county, her potential as an athlete was recognised and she raced for Essex Ladies before being selected to represent Great Britain at the 1948 Olympic Games, which were held in London.
Dorothy Manley, he maiden name, was initially selected to compete as a high jumper, but her coach Sandy Duncan instead decided to train her as a sprinter in the space of a few months and, such was her talent and speed, she was entered into the 100 metres.
West Ham is very much in my family
At the time, athletics was an amateur pursuit, and the 21-year-old had to take time off unpaid from her full-time job as a typist for the Suez Canal Company and took the London Underground to Wembley to compete.
Undeterred, she qualified for the final, where she finished as runner-up to the great Dutchwoman Fanny Blankers-Koen in a time of 12.2 seconds – in what was her first international athletics meeting!
Perhaps Dorothy’s familiarity with Wembley helped her cause, as she had been in the crowd eight years earlier to watch her beloved West Ham United defeat Blackburn Rovers 1-0 to win the Football League War Cup.
“I know I was about eight when I went to my first West Ham game,” she recalled in an interview with the Club in 2013. “We were on holiday in Devon and they happened to be playing Plymouth Argyle and, of course, my father said ‘We're going to that match’, so I was taken along and that was the first match I ever saw.
“I went to a cup final during the war in 1940 against Blackburn Rovers. It was surprising we got any matches at all with the way we were getting air raids in London, but we had to have some fun because life was pretty awful otherwise!"
After winning a European Championship Gold medal as part of the 4x100 metres relay team in 1950, Dorothy’s athletics career ended in 1952 due to illness, but her life was far from over as she had three children and became a piano teacher.
Her support for West Ham endured, too, and that was passed down to her son, grandsons and great-grandson.
“West Ham is very much in my family,” she confirmed in 2013. “My father started supporting the Club as a boy of 16 and he went to the 1923 FA Cup final and right through until he was 88!”
Dorothy, who named Bobby Moore and Trevor Brooking as her favourite players, visited London Stadium for the Olympic Games in 2012, aged 85, when she was invited to watch the Women’s 100 metres final, 64 years to the week since her own medal-winning run.
She passed away on 31 October 2021, aged 94, and is survived by her 96-year-old husband John Parlett, a fellow athlete who also competed at the 1948 Olympic Games and won the Gold Medal at the 1950 European Championships.
Everyone at West Ham United would like to express sincere condolences to Dorothy’s loved ones at this time.