Bristol City’s turf being replaced the stand behind was replaced by the current Dolman stand (named after a former chairman) in the 1960s.
MARINA’S LIFE WITH A CITY LEGEND
21 November 2006 – Harry Dolman became chairman of Bristol City F.C. in 1949, a post he would hold for over 30 years. An engineer who had bought out the firm he worked for, he designed the first set of floodlights installed at Ashton Gate in the early 1950s. In 1970 The Dolman Stand is built at a cost of £235,000 and is named after chairman Harry Dolman.
When Harry Dolman, a giant of Bristol’s industrial and sporting life, married Marina in 1961, he was 63 and she was just 24. Quita Morgan talks to Marina about life with the Bristol City chairman. Marina Dolman met her first paparazzo on her wedding day, when he jumped onto the running board of the Rolls-Royce.That lone celebrity-hunter was unlucky – he had to leap from the moving limo with neither picture nor quote.
But for Marina it was a first glimpse of her future as the glamorous young wife of Bristol City chairman Harry Dolman. She was 24 and pretty, he was 63 and wealthy. Soon their secret was out – and about to be splashed across the front pages. After marrying quietly at Quakers Friars early one April morning in 1961, the couple held a reception for close family and friends at the Grand Hotel in Broad Street. ‘Someone must have tipped off the newspapers, because we had to dodge reporters as we left the hotel,’ Marina recalls, flashing the same smile that must have captivated Harry some 45 years ago.
‘The Rolls was taken round to the back of the hotel to avoid the press, but one of them still managed to spot us. It was my introduction to what life as Harry’s wife would be like.’ Throughout 16 years of marriage and nearly 30 of widowhood, Marina has been a fervent soccer fan.
As well as being president of Bristol City FC, she has also been an active president of the supporters’ club since her husband’s death in 1977. At 70, she no longer runs the Chew Magna house which she and Harry chose as newlyweds, but has downsized to a home in South Gloucestershire.
But there’s no danger that she will ever give up going to football.
She has been a regular fixture in the directors’ box at Ashton Gate since her honeymoon, and she’s proud to have turned into its longest resident. A Dame of the Order of St John and a former trustee of Bristol Cathedral, Marina was born in Hong Kong in 1936.
‘My father was in the army and we sailed from China to India when I was six months old,’ she recalls. ‘We moved to Northern Ireland in 1939 and then to Wales, after war was declared. My mother and I could no longer travel with my father because of the war, so at first we stayed at my grandparents’ house in Pembroke Dock, and then my mother rented a house in Tenby.
‘While we were staying with my grandparents, I remember seeing a German plane overhead, and then the oil tanks on Barrack Hill go up in flames when the bombs dropped. ‘My mother told me it was an air raid, and she picked me up in her arms, wrapped me in a blanket, and carried me down to the cellar.
‘That was why we moved to Tenby, but we often visited my grandparents. One Sunday, in 1941, my grandmother tried to persuade us to stay the night.
‘I remember mummy hesitating. But then she said no, we had to get the bus back to Tenby because I must not miss school the next day.
‘That night my grandparents’ house was bombed and razed to the ground. Fortunately, the family were all in the cellar and survived, though one of my aunts was badly injured.
‘In 1942, we rented half a house in Blackpool to be near my father. But when he was posted back to India in 1944, mother and I went back to Wales.
‘When my father was demobbed, he joined the civil service.
‘We moved to Bristol in 1947. I hated the city at first because it was such a contrast to the freedom and beauty of Pembrokeshire. Bristol in those early post-war days seemed a dull, dark, grey bomb site.
‘One day my father took me to the Central Library to help me with an essay I had to write, and afterwards we went next door to Bristol Cathedral.
‘As we walked in, the sun was shining through the windows, and that was the first time I felt happy and relaxed in Bristol.
‘I was sent to Merrywood Grammar School in Knowle, which I hated at first but enjoyed more after a while. We had a terrific headmistress and a very sound all-round education.
‘After leaving I worked in an office for six months before going to the Phyllis Christie private secretarial college in Cheltenham.
‘After that I worked in Bath, London and Hanover, where I lived for 18 months until my mother became unwell and asked me to come home.
Then she spotted Harry Dolman’s employment advert in the newspaper; the job required not only secretarial skills but also knowledge of French and German.
‘I wasn’t at all keen,’ recalls Marina, ‘I had never heard of Harry Dolman or his engineering company, Brecknell, Dolman and Rogers Ltd, on Pennywell Road.
‘Anyway, I wanted to be an air stewardess, not a secretary, but I replied to the advert for my mother’s sake.
‘Harry interviewed me and asked lots of questions before saying: ‘I’d better test your shorthand, I suppose.’
I shall never forget that test. It was a really horrible piece of technical jargon and engineering terminology, but fortunately I was quite good at shorthand, and was able to read it back to him.
‘That was November, 1959, when I was 23, and I married Harry 15 months later. For more than a year, it was strictly business, and then one day in March, 1961, while we were opening the post together, we laughed about something in one of the letters, and out of the blue Harry said: ‘If I asked you, would you marry me?’ (he was recently widowed).
‘I thought he was joking, but he asked me to think about it. He was 39 years older than I was, so there was a lot to think about and talk about.’
‘My parents were not very happy about it, and said I was wasting my life.
‘It might sound a clich??, but Harry was my soulmate and once we had decided, there was no point in waiting.
‘We married by special licence. No one knew apart from our families and close friends, but it caused uproar as soon as word got out because of the age difference.
‘I probably married an older man because I spent my early childhood, before my younger sister came along, living with much older people.
‘My mother was one of eight, and I was very spoiled as the baby of the family, with uncles and aunts who used to take me out; it meant I grew up finding people of my own age rather immature.
‘I think the age gap between Harry and me seemed more like 20 years rather than 40, because in those days I was older than my years and he was younger than his.
‘I enjoyed my life with Harry, and we had a great time. Never for one solitary moment did I regret my decision, and I know he didn’t.’
Tagged: , 1970 , 1936 , India , 1939 , 1941 , 1944 , robins , football , soccer , sport , china , blackpool , players , dolman stand , merrywood grammar school , french , hong kong , rolls royce , pembroke dock , pembrokeshire , tenby , quakers friars , chew magna , hanover , harry dolman , Bath , Knowle , London , German , Cheltenham , Wales , BS3 , Bristol , UK , 1946-1960 , Bristol-football , Bristol-City , Ashton-Gate