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Portal family from Overton helped organise the 1948 Olympic Games
THE LONDON 2012 Olympics have revived treasured memories for a prominent north Hampshire family whose members had key roles to play when the Games were last held in this country more than 60 years ago.
Viscount Wyndham Portal, who ran Laverstoke Mill, near Overton, was asked by the Government to be president of the 1948 London Olympics – a showcase event that had to be delivered on a shoestring budget in the aftermath of the Second World War.
Viscount Portal, who had proved himself a shrewd business operator and held the high-ranking position of Minister of Works during the war, was chairman of Portals Ltd, then based in Laverstoke and now a subsidiary of De La Rue .
A number of his relatives still live in the Overton area and they have kept a remarkable treasure trove of memorabilia from the 1948 Games, which were seen as a unifying force after the bitter conflict.
Sir Jonathan Portal, Bt, Viscount Portal’s first cousin once removed, told The Gazette : “We are very proud of the family connection with the Olympics.
“Wyndham was an important national figure, having been Minister of Works during the war years, and was created Viscount because of what he had achieved. My mother, too, had a remarkable part to play in the games – and both these family connections with the Games give us great pride.”
Sir Jonathan’s mother, Jane, Lady Portal, played her role in the 1948 Games before she actually married into the family. Then Jane Williams, she worked as secretary to Commander Bill Collins, who was tasked with organising the Olympic torch relay, which ran from Athens to London as did the 2012 torch.
Jane, Lady Portal, said: “He thought the torch relay was important for the spirit of the games and all that it stood for. Wyndham, who had a budget to work towards, actually thought the relay could be scrapped to save money. I remember him as the man who was trying to spoil our torch relay. I couldn’t have imagined at that time that I would marry a Portal!”
Jane, Lady Portal married Francis Portal, Viscount Portal’s cousin, in 1950 and moved to the home he built near Overton, where they raised two sons and a daughter. At the time, Francis was working at Laverstoke Mill.
Jane, Lady Portal’s amazing scrapbook includes an original programme of the 1948 Games, souvenirs, newspaper cuttings as well as numerous pictures of her helping to draw up the torch relay route.