All eyes will be on Andy Murray this week and perhaps next, but 50 years ago it was British women tennis players who were on top, with two of them fighting for the trophy in the final at Wimbledon. Christine Truman lost by a narrow margin but only after she fell and hurt her ankle. The victor, Angela Mortimer, afterwards declared, ‘Well, I knew I must make her twist …It’s not a nice thing to do …but I knew that if she has an injury I must exploit it.’
It was 1961. Who would have thought a woman could be so mercilessly competitive back then, years before the Pill and The Female Eunuch? And yet Mortimer, with her strawberries-and-cream accent, sounded entirely of her time, gently spoken, apologising for her victory, almost; yet with that thread of steel, not giving an inch.
We heard the clip again on Sounds of the 20th Century, Radio 2’s blockbusting series (produced by Heather Davies) that’s taking us on Thursday nights through the events of the past 50 years from 1951 to 2000, each year given a single programme, like turning over the pages of an audio scrapbook. It’s as if the Controller is trying to prove that the nation’s best-loved music station can outwit Radio 4 by coming up with an extended sequence of programmes by the end of which we are supposed to have changed the way we think — this time about the past 50 or so years of life around the globe (rather than the last two million).
Last week’s hour-long immersion of archive footage interwoven with the top music (this is, after all, Radio 2) gave us Yuri Gagarin’s first space mission — it took him just 108 minutes to put a girdle round the earth, which came out of the ether from a Pathé News bulletin and hit the ears as such a mind-blowing fact.