Britain’s First Olympic Champion who later came to live in Whittlesea.
By Gwen Hawke and Maureen Doyle
Launceston Elliot was born in India on 9th June 1874, but his parents, who married in Carlton in 1873, chose his name because he had been conceived in the City of Launceston.
Launceston was the son of Gilbert Wray Elliot and his third wife Anne Mason. Gilbert who was descended from the Earls of Minto of County Roxburgh, Scotland was a Magistrate in British India and Launceston lived with his family in Bombay until his father retired from his post in 1887 and took the family back to England.
At this time Launceston was a well built thirteen year old and it is believed he commenced training as a weightlifter with the famous German weightlifter Eugen Sandow in 1889.
When Launceston was training for the first Modern Olympics which were held in Athens in 1896, he had an additional tutor, Bill Kline, a German circus performer. At twenty-one, Elliot was described as a handsome young man, 6 foot 2 inches (1.88m) in height, of fair complexion, muscular build with a handle bar moustache.
Launceston became a member of the British team which sailed for Athens on 26th March 1896. Although he did not win his first event of super heavyweight two handed lift his second event super heavy weight one handed lift with dumbbells saw him snatch victory with a lift of 71kgs . Thus becoming immortalised as Britain’s first Olympic Champion.
He married Rose Emelia Helder in 1897 and in 1923 moved with his family out to Australia where he became a gentleman farmer. The Elliots lived for a short while on a farm “Airlie” in Seymour before moving to “Mount View” in Broadford. Around 1928 the Elliots moved to “ Richlands” in Ridge Road Whittlesea near the showgrounds.
Unfortunately Elliot’s Olympic medals were stolen but his memorabilia has been donated to Scotland’s Sports Hall of Fame by his Granddaughter Ann Elliot Smith.
In 1930 Launceston died of cancer of the spine. He was fifty-six and buried in Fawkner Cemetery.
It was through Gwen Hawke and Maureen Doyle that the unmarked grave came to the attention of the British Olympic Committee, firstly via Lord Sebastian Coe then via Lord Monaghan as well as the Hugh Robertson Britain’s Sports Minister.
It led to magnificent Headstone being erected and a pompous ceremony at the unveiling that saw Lord Monaghan and Hugh Robertson travel to Australia for the occasion. Launceston Elliot’s granddaughter Ann Elliot Smith also attended along with Gwen Hawke and Maureen Doyle.