An interview with Jean Stone MBE

April 2012

Jean Stone worked as an occupational therapist in Scotland and worked with the GB and Scottish teams at the Paralympic and Commonwealth Games. She helped organise the 1984 Paralympics at Stoke Mandeville. She was also a board member of WheelPower - British wheelchair sport.

Jean talks about her involvement in the 1984 Stoke Mandeville Games

I had taken early retirement from my job in Scotland in early 1984 and I came down to help Joan Scruton and the BPSS with organising the Games. I had an office in the corridor. My main memory of the Stoke Mandeville Olympics was trying to find the money.

I was quite used to talking to Rotarians and the Round Table had agreed to campaign to help raise money, so from January to July I addressed an awful lot of their meetings, including one at an Edinburgh hotel where because the conference room was out of action I had to talk to 30 men who were squeezed into my hotel bedroom.

On another occasion I remember we chose Martin McElhatton (as one of the more presentable young men in the British team) to go and collect a cheque from some Girl Guides who had been fund raising. I took him to receive the cheque and there were all these little Girl Guides, crawling all over him like ants.

I think there was a much closer connection between the town and the hospital back then. Lots of Buckinghamshire organisations and local businesses supported Stoke Mandeville. I remember the Braziers family business did a lot and John Jacobi helped with PR and was there at events socialising; Cllr Xenia Williams form Aylesbury District Council was another big supporter as was Rita Mallalieu. And then there were the Rothschilds at Waddesdon Manor.

I remember meeting Lady Rothschild at one of the events in the lead up and her asking me "Have you got all the money that you need?” and I must have explained to her that no we hadn’t really, that there was still a long way to go. Anyway, the next day this cheque arrived from her addressed to me for £5,000.

I was a bit shocked and showed it to Joan Scruton. “Where did you get this?” she wanted to know. I explained that I had simply met Lady Rothschild and asked. She was really a bit put out as she felt that was her job and I shouldn’t have got involved. But it was a nice example of the local connections that were in place back then. I remember it was the bandmaster at RAF Halton who composed the Stoke Mandeville anthem for the games and he and the band turned up to play it for the opening ceremony; and of course all the RAF apprentices had already been helping with erecting the flagpoles.

Everyone had thought first of all that 1984 would just be like the regular International Games that happened every fourth year at Stoke Mandeville. But then we realised that we were expected to pull out all the stops and that this one had to be bigger and better with more razzmatazz than anything previous.

There were entertainments, there was the Canadian Mounties on their horses, there was even the games paper Pursuit which came out every day.

They built the covered grandstand and all the extra seating. Of course it still wasn’t big enough and lots of the sports had to be farmed out – there was table tennis at the Civic Centre and archery and fencing in various schools. But even the beer tent went up a notch or two. The Guttmann Supporters Club ran that; lots of local people like Tony Higgs, Betty Crook, the Eatwells and Sandy Green were involved.

Once the games actually started then I was finished; my work was all done and up and running. I was on the way down and finishing off, just checking that what I expected to be in place was actually happening. I got around and watched some of the fencing and I went out to High Wycombe and saw some of the swimming.

Download a pdf of Jean Stone's interview here