Len Whaley, Boxing Correspondent
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
When Terry Spinks won an Olympic gold medal in 1956 he was a hero to everyone in east London, but he hit hard times in later life. He was an ex-bankrupt with a drink problem and given just a few days to live.
He later admitted he owed his life to the one person who stepped forward to help – a cousin he had not seen for 20 years.
That person was Rosemary Ellmore, who took Terry into her Chadwell Heath home and looked after him for 19 years until his death in April this year.
Although having a full-time job and a family of her own, she took it upon herself to rescue the one-time ‘Golden Boy’ of British boxing, giving up work so that she could care for him.
The former ring great followed his outstanding amateur career by winning the British featherweight title as a pro. He enjoyed life and could party with the best in his heyday, but the good times were long gone.
Spinks confessed later: “I had hit rock bottom and I owe my life to Rosemary.”
He had been living ‘like a tramp’, seriously ill and drinking heavily, but with her support and round the clock care, Terry’s health improved.
He began to get his life back and beat the booze: “He never had a drink all the years he was with me,” said Ellmore.
Supported by her husband, also named Terry, she took the ex-champion around to social events, boxing shows and sporting dinners and began a campaign to get him the MBE that had been awarded to nearly every other British Olympic champion.
She organised petitions, wrote hundreds of letters and spent many hours encouraging support before her efforts were crowned with success in 2002.
Some 46 years after winning Olympic gold, Spinks was awarded an MBE, and later described the visit to Buckingham Palace as one of the proudest moments of his life.
Ellmore continued her devoted care until Terry died in her arms at their Chadwell Heath home in April – ironically just a few months before the Olympic Games were staged in the borough where he grew up.
The fascinating Spinks story is told in a newly-published book: Terry Spinks MBE, Life was a Roller-Coaster, with Ellmore updating an earlier biography written by Bob Longhurst.
“It’s my tribute to Terry. I’ll remember him as a brilliant boxer and a wonderful person who everybody loved,” said Ellmore, who has two sons and five grandchildren.
The new book will be launched, appropriately, at the Black Lion, Plaistow – home of Terry’s old club West Ham BC – in a special event on Sunday afternoon (4pm).
The event will be attended by boxing celebrities, where the book and autographs will be available. .
Longhurst, a prolific writer on boxing, will attend the event and have some of his books on boxing stars including Tommy Farr, Jack Petersen, Dave Boy Green and Eric Boon on sale.
■ Terry Spinks MBE, Life was a Roller-Coaster is published by BL Associates, priced £16.99.