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Newsletter for the Point Chevalier Historical Society

No. 63 February 2019
“Doughty Dan” Mason —
the man who missed out on
Olympic gold
An email late last year from an overseas
athletics historian, preparing an article for a
Canadian website, led me down the road to
researching the sporting career of one of
Point Chevalier’s early service station

Daniel Leslie Mason (1890-1976), proprie-

tor of the Pt Chevalier Service Station at the
corner of Kiwi and Great North Roads
during the 1930s and 1940s, was a man who,
according to some recollections, “should
have won at the 1920 Olympic Games” for
New Zealand, to become our first athletics
gold medallist. An honour which, of course,
rests with Jack Lovelock thanks to his
efforts 16 years later at Berlin.

Those who did remember Mason talked of

him being the victim of the NZ Amateur
Athletic Association’s confusion over the
rules of the time. He himself told a
biographer later in life that he’d refused to
pay a reinstatement fee of 5/- to the Associa-
tion. “It was the principle of the thing,” he’s
reported to have said. “I felt that I had won
back my amateur status through wartime
service, and through performance for New
(continued next page)

Dan Mason (left) with US athlete Ear Eby, at the

1919 Inter-Allied Games in Paris.
Agence Rol - http://gallica.bnf.fr

All meetings 10.30 at 990 Great North Road, Western Springs (Horticultural Centre)
February 21 2019 — Joanne Graves, Auckland Libraries, on the heritage collections at the research centres
This is our 10th anniversary meeting
April 18 2019
June 20 2019 (Annual General Meeting)
August 15 2019
October 17 2019 & November 21 2019
Pt Chevalier Historical Society An Australasian Athletics Union had existed since the
Minutes of meeting Thursday 15th November 2018 late 1880s, with a New Zealand body formed in 1906
Auckland Horticultural Council Rooms (the year Dan Mason first appears in the press as com-
peting in prize events). The NZ Athletics Union and
Meeting started at 10.30 am. Present: 21 people the NZAAA had reciprocal written agreements regard-
Apologies: Ray Patterson, Lisa Truttman ing reinstatement of athletics as either professional or
amateur from 1907, usually involving approval of the
other organisation and 12 months stand-down.
Thanks to Helen Pearce for her excellent article in the latest
Pt Chevalier Times. In 1915, Mason seemed to be on a roll towards getting
a points prize with the Athletic Union, winning at
Thanks also to Heather Hannah for her continuing sponsor- Matangi, and securing a placing at Huntly. At the
ship. Maungatapu Sports that year, he won the mile, the 120
Guest speaker yards hurdles and dead heated for the cup.
Tim Carter spoke about the New Zealand colonial administra- In May 1916, he joined the NZEF. By then, he was a
tion of Samoa and the part it paid in the tragic flu epidemic taxi proprietor. A year later, he was in Codford Camp
after WWI
on the Salisbury Plains, where in late May (according
to one of his letters to his mother):
Meeting closed at 12.15
“On Saturday afternoon last battalion sports were held,
and I had to run in stocking feet. The band is connect-
ed with Canterbury Battalion, and of course I was run-
(Continued from front page) ning for them. Everyone started off scratch in all
events. I won the ¼ mile, ½ mile and hurdles — the
If anything, though, it looks like Mason was the one only ones I started in. The boys were delighted, of
who’d been confused. course. C Battalion won most points for the day. I did
not have to run very fast either.
His parents were George Mason and Jessie Weaver.
George Mason, born in Surrey, England, came to “Well, on Sunday morning word came round saying I
Auckland when he was 18 aboard the W ild Duck, and had to meet in a trial, for a representative from the Bri-
worked with his uncle James Mason, a noted nursery- gade to compete at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea, on May
man at Parnell and St Heliers. He married Jessie (a 28. It was for a quarter-mile. There were 18 starters
Whangarei lass) in 1880 and the couple then moved to and it was run in two heats. I won my heat and also
Northland. Mason worked on the railways in the won the final, and I am going to Chelsea next Saturday
North, especially the line between Kamo and till Tuesday, to run for the honour of the NZ 4th Bri-
Hikurangi. After that work ended, he took up farming gade. I will have all expenses paid, and the battalion
at Marua. has bought me a pair of shoes and I will be running in
a black jersey with a silver fern worked on the front
George and Jessie Mason were to have at least five with the letters NZ on. L am also going to run in a
children: William Harold (1881-1881), Linda May mile, if I feel fit enough; but the other must come first
(1882-1957), Hilda Mary (1885-1957), Zillah Maude as I have had too little training for both. I have been
(1887), and Daniel Leslie (1890). Dan, the youngest, given all this week off duty by the General of the Bri-
was working as a painter by the time he’d reached the gade in which to train.
age of 21 in 1911 when he appears for the first time on
the electoral rolls. But around five years earlier he’d “There is a lovely training ground just a quarter of a
started another career; as a professional runner. In mile from here at Stockton Park. I am going over there
1906, he won first prize of £5 in a mile handicap race this afternoon. I am running very well, and it would
at Kamo. In 1910, again at Kamo in a one mile handi- not take me long to get back my old form again; but of
cap, he won first prize of £6. At Hukerenui the same course the sports are a week from to-day and time is
year, he won five shillings coming in second over 100 short. The boys in the band were terribly surprised, as
yards. At Maungatapere in 1912, he won 15 shillings they did not know I was a runner being nearly all
for winning in a 120 yards forced handicap. South Island boys. They laughed when I told them to
back me as I would win. Now they are wild they did
Mason did particularly well at the Waipu Games on not have side bets on me as a "dark horse."
New Years Day 1913, winning at the quarter and half-
mile events, and 150 yards forced handicap. All of “I took a bet of four to one that I couldn't win the
which were prize events. By 1915 at least, Mason was three. This man was saying he would bet on this and
a member of the Northern Athletic Union, an organisa- that and no one seemed to bother him, so I said "What
tion for professional athletes which offered points priz- will you bet I can't win the three races I am in." He
es of their own. He was only willing to travel away said, "I'll bet you a quid to 5s." I said "Right," and
from Kamo for prize events, to compensate for the cost promptly gave him the 5s. l wish I had had more mon-
of travel. ey then. At any rate I have a quid now instead of 5s.
The two quarter-miles I ran yesterday morning as
trials on top of Saturday have stiffened my calves
a bit, but I am working them well and I think I
will be A1. I may get a good bit of running to do
now if we are here anytime but I know we are
going away from here soon."

Mason was sent to France, but was there barely

two months before he was hospitalised with si-
nusitis and then sent back to England. Once out of
hospital, he began running again. At Woking in
June 1918, Mason won a half mile handicap. At a
brigade meeting at Luton in September that year
he won open half-mile and one mile races, and
the Sporting Life described him as “Mason is the
best miler this country has seen for many a day,
and great things are expected of him …” It is said
that during 1918, Mason scored 20 wins and a
second from 21 starts.
In July 1919, at the Inter-Allied Games held in
Paris, France, “Doughty Dan” as the Northern
Advocate proudly called him won the 800 metres
event, surprising many by beating the American 600 Dan Mason (left) in his heyday, and (right) in 1964 with the
yard champion Earl Eby, and was presented with a gold gold watch he received at the 1919 Inter-Allied Games. The
watch by France’s Marshal Pétain. watch was still in working order. Images from the book
Champion Blokes: 44 Great NZ Sportsmen Then and Now, by
“The little blonde champion, Eby, however, met his Max Smith (1964)
first European defeat and his match in the 800-meter
run in which Mason of New Zealand supplied a bril-
liantly run and judged victory. While Mason's win over
been amateur, but had accidentally ran for prizes during
the national 600-yard champion was quite unexpected,
the war, or those who had been amateur before enlist-
surprising the spectators who were looking to see Eby
ment, but not Mason. The press were somewhat sur-
repeat his quarter mile triumph, there was no reason to
prised that he faded out of mention in the first months
discount the possibilities of the Antipodean as a victor.
of 1920 and then, for the most part, forgot about him.
He had already outdistanced Eby in the preliminary heat
(the latter finished third, with Bergemeier of Australia He did do some judging and other administrative work
second) and although neither had extended himself. Ma- at athletic events in the 1920s, but never ran in competi-
son's time of 2 minutes even was good. tion again. He moved from Whangarei to Mt Albert in
Auckland, then to Pt Chevalier where he bought land at
“In the final. Mason took an excellently calculated
the corner of Kiwi and Great North Roads, and operated
chance and practically ran a lead race all the way. Eby
his service station there until he retired around 1950,
had to begin his final spurt from sixth place in the field,
and lived in Murrays Bay for the rest of his life. He
and did succeed in passing all but the New Zealander.
served withy the Home Guard during World War II.
Eby, like most of the spectators, probably figured that
Mason had set too strenuous a pace to have a spurt left He donated a trophy he’d won at Stamford Bridge dur-
in him, but the Colonial surprised him. His magnificent ing his Army running heyday in England to the
flying finish brought him home a yard ahead of Eby in Whangarei Boys High School in October 1925. The
1:55 2-5, breaking the French record. The sturdy remainder of his trophies were left to his nephew in his
Antipodean had outguessed and outrun Eby.” (Official will to dispose of as he saw fit.
Report of the Inter-Allied Games, 1919)
His service station was later run by Collett & Fleming,
It seemed that such a successful, almost unbeatable ath- then became a Shell station, before finally rebranded by
lete would be certain to be chosen to compete for New Shell as “Z”.
Zealand at the 1920 Antwerp Olympic Games once
Mason returned home in late 1919. But – no. To com- Lisa J Truttman
pete in the Olympics, you needed to be amateur, not
professional. Despite that fact that Mason’s competi-
tions while in the Army were not prize events, he had
still been a professional for 10 years before he enlisted.
The NZAAA were prepared to reinstate those who had
20th Annual
Point Chevalier Reunion
and Get Together

Did you live, play sport, or go to school at Pt Chevalier, St Francis or Pasadena area from the
1940s on? Come join us at
Pt Chevalier RSA, Great North Road
9th March 2019
From 1pm onwards
Please inform family and friends, as addresses and phone numbers may have changed.
Ray Patterson (09) 4169103
Elaine Fox (09) 6267877
Mark McVeigh (09) 8337267
Alison Turner (09) 8250300
Looking forward to catching up with you all.

Membership of the Point Chevalier Historical Society

Membership is open to all with an interest in our area’s history, and costs only $20 per person ($30 for two or more in
the same household). This entitles you to vote at our meetings, and to receive mailed copies of the Point Chevalier
Send cheques to: Pt Chevalier Histor ical Society, C/- 119C Hutchinson Avenue
New Lynn, Auckland 0600
or bank direct to our account: Kiwibank 38-9008-0749260-00 (make sure your name is included as a reference)
Your membership fees mean that we can keep publishing the Point Chevalier Times.
Your support would be appreciated.

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