Taunton School at Dusk

Olympian’s 76-year-old Letter Found Under Floorboards at Taunton School

Posted: 7th December 2021

girls from an independent school with a letter from 1945

A 76-year-old letter written to a future Olympic medallist has been discovered under the floorboards at Taunton School.

The document was uncovered during a refurbishment at one of the boarding houses at the school in Staplegrove Road, Taunton.

The letter, written in 1945, was addressed to a 10-year-old Tauntonian who later went on to become a bronze Olympic relay medallist.

Michael Wheeler competed in the 1956 Olympics in the 4x400m relay, where he won bronze alongside his teammates Peter Higgins, John Salisbury and Derek Johnson.

Andy Budge, the painter and decorator who discovered the letter hidden under the floorboards, said: “I was hunting around to see if there was anything there. I found a few old coins and stamps, then I found the letter.

“Someone else might have seen an old piece of paper and put it in the bin but I’m interested in history so I was curious. It made me feel quite sentimental to think that this letter is part of the history of the school.”

Taunton School archivist John Brown said: “We dusted off the old registers and it was certain that the boy in the letter is the young athlete who went on to compete in the Olympics. This letter was a lucky find. Michael Wheeler was one of the best athletes Taunton School has ever produced.”

Michael’s first three years at Taunton School were during World War II, during air raids and food shortages. The school grew vegetables on the playing fields and kept rabbits and chickens. Children from other schools were evacuated to Taunton School.

During his time at Taunton School, Michael (who was known as Mick as a child) broke several school records in running events, then went on to compete internationally, propelling him towards Olympic success.

Ten-year-old Ellie Onesti, a current Taunton School pupil, said: “We learnt about the war in school recently so it’s really exciting to see this letter. It was written not long after the war when Michael was the same age as me. Life for him would have been very different to how it is now so it’s interesting to learn about him.”

Lee Glaser, Taunton School’s Headmaster, said: “To uncover a letter from the 1940s is incredibly exciting – but then to discover that it actually belonged to a pupil who later went on to become an Olympian is astonishing.

“Michael may have dropped the letter, however I like to think that he hid it under the floorboards for future generations to find!

“We’re proud of Taunton School’s rich history and our reputation sporting excellence.”

The letter, dated 5th December 1945, reads:

In very great haste

Darling Mick

Hope you are pleased with your parcel. I went to 15 shops to get the scouts uniform. If too long, matron will no doubt alter them for you

Longing to see you Paddington 18th

All my love

Mummy xx

Michael retired from athletics in 1966 and went on to become a teacher. He died in January 2020, aged 84.


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