About Harold Maurice Abrahams
Harold Maurice Abrahams, CBE, (15 December 1899 – 14 January 1978) was a British athlete of Jewish origin. He was Olympic champion in 1924 in the 100 metres sprint, a feat depicted in the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire.
Abrahams's father Isaac had emigrated to England from Russian Poland. He worked as a financier and settled in Bedford with his Welsh wife Ester. Harold was born in Bedford, and was the younger brother of another British athlete, the Olympic long jumper Sir Sidney Abrahams. Another brother, Sir Adolphe Abrahams, became the founder of British sport medicine.
Abrahams was educated at Bedford School, Repton School and then at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, from 1920 to 1924. He then trained as a lawyer. At Cambridge, he was a member of the Cambridge University Athletics Club (of which he was president 1922–1923), Cambridge University Liberal Club the Pitt Club, and the Gilbert and Sullivan Society. Before going to Cambridge he served as a lieutenant in the British Army.
While at Cambridge, Harold was romantically involved with the seriously academic Christina McLeod Innes, and they became informally engaged, but their relationship waned and ended as Abrahams began focusing exclusively on his athletics and the Olympics.
In early 1934, Abrahams met D'Oyly Carte singer Sybil Evers, and they began a passionate on-and-off romance. According to his biographer Mark Ryan, Abrahams had a fear of commitment and old-fashioned ideas about the role of women in marriage, but he was able to overcome these, and the couple wed in December 1936. In the film Chariots of Fire, Evers is misidentified as D'Oyly Carte soprano Sybil Gordon (portrayed by Alice Krige), and the film portrays the couple as meeting a decade earlier than they actually did. Because of a serious illness and surgery in her youth, Sybil Evers could not have children, so Abrahams and Evers adopted: an eight-week-old son, Alan, in 1942, and a nearly three-year-old daughter, Sue, in 1946; Sue later married nuclear activist Pat Pottle. During the Nazi regime and war, the couple also fostered two Jewish refugees: a German boy called "Ken Gardner" (born Kurt Katzenstein), and an Austrian girl named Minka.
Evers died in 1963 at the age of 59, and Harold set up two awards in her name: the Sybil Evers Memorial Prize for Singing (1965–1995), an annual cash prize awarded to the best female singer in her last year at the Webber Douglas School of Singing and Dramatic Art, and the Sybil Abrahams Memorial Trophy, presented each year from 1964 onward at Buckingham Palace by the Duke of Edinburgh, President of the British Amateur Athletics Association, to the best British woman athlete.
- "Harold Maurice Abrahams (1899 - 1978) Athletics", Game, Set and Lodge: Freemasons and Sport ed 4; Library and Museum of Freemasonry; January 2015; page 1