Fifty Years Ago In Rome

Olympic Marathon Rome 1960

Fifty years ago (Saturday the 10th of September 1960) one of the most famous Olympic Marathon’s of all times took place. In Rome in 1960 Abebe Bikila wrote himself into the history books by winning the race barefoot. In that race were three Irishmen Bertie Messitt, Gerry McIntyre and Willie Dunne who had mixed fortunes. Bertie unfortunately was withdrawn from the event by, perhaps overzealous, officials as he struggled home towards the end of the race. Willie Dunne had a better time of it but did struggle himself in the concluding miles having run with the leaders in the early miles. Gerry McIntyre had the best race of the three was the first man on the Irish team home in a creditable 22nd place.  

I’ve been lucky enough to be able to talk with two of the three Irish team members over the last few years (Bertie and Willie) and both were incredible men with a deep and uncomplicated love of running. Both men worked incredibly hard to make the Irish team for that race and deserve great credit for their performances on the biggest athletic stage of all.

 Happy anniversary boys.

Willie Dunne In His Olympic Uniform - 1960


Donore Team 1956

3 thoughts on “Fifty Years Ago In Rome

  1. maurice ahern

    Is that Bertie Messitt no.58 in the lead, with the smaller figure of George Mc Intyre no.60 also in the lead group? Perhaps Willie Smith of Donore Harriers can identify the leading group. If not Ian O’Riordan of the Irish Times could help. They are great photos and utube, reflecting the pride and passion of top marathon running in those days. Bikila must have had some tough feet to run bare foot on the cobblestones of Rome. What a fantastic athlete. Well done to whoever compiled this.
    Maurice B Ahern

    1. Maurice,
      I think that is Bertie alright. One of the problems I had when I interviewed Bertie for Irish Runner a few years ago was that there was a dearth of good photographs available to me of him. I had to scratch around and get the best of what I could find. I’m not sure about George although that seems like a reasonable guess. I have a book that gives details of all of the Olympic marathons at home and I’d hope it contains details of the race numbers worn by individual athletes. I’ll check that at home and post back if I learn more.

      Thanks for your feedback,


  2. Maurice O'Connor

    There was another Irishman in the field that day Denis Sonny O’Gorman, was not picked for Ireland even though he ran 2.18 that year in Liverpool. Picked for GB and finished 16th.

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