Vina Lilian Montague-Woolger 1913-1994

There may be several contenders for the title of 'Father' of Bodybuilding; but few could deny that this beautiful woman was truly the 'Mother' to British Physical Culture

 

An athlete and professional dancer (one of the famous Tiller girls), from her early teens, Vina quickly became immersed in the fitness lifestyle even before her marriage to the blonde, handsome Lifeguard Bob Woolger


The couple set up the first unisex sports/gym club in 1931 with Hiking, Biking, Indian club routines and Weight work as the order of the day. Between 1939 and 1946, during the Second World War, Vina was both Mother and father to offspring Dianne and Robert (Joanne arriving in 1953) fostering their lifelong enthusiasm for the healthy lifestyle


As a P.T.I. returning from the RAF, Bob headed a rehabilitation centre for ex-prisoners of war in Belgium. Back in Blighty in 1946 it wasn't long before the 'Woolger Barbell Club' was re-launched and the Woolgers swung into promoting physical culture which included Bodybuilding, Weightlifting, Balancing, Wrestling and Archery. In fact, all things physical

 

As participants in these shows, and houseguests, most of PC personalities of the 50's, 60's and 70's were hosted by Vina and Bob.
An ever open door, avant gard health/fitness gym and Vina's effervescent personality and marvelous cooking made it difficult not to outstay one's welcome. Their House guest list reads like a Who's Who of Physical Culture

 

Oscar Heidenstam was a regular visitor and the Woolger gym featured many of his articles and books. Every lifter of substance was welcomed. Al Murray (British Weightlifting |Coach), Jimmy Halliday, Mel Barnett, Ernie Peppiett, Julian Creuse, Bill Watson (who became Coach to Tottenham FC and pioneered weights for Football training), Iranian Lifter, Bodybuilder and Balancer Mahnoud Namjou was entranced by Vina and let her into the secrets of his Tarot card predictions of 'Happy day -- Unhappy day'.
Oscar State, who had co-refereed the Weightlifting with Bob at the 1948 London Olympics, enjoyed his sojourns in Portsmouth. Reg and Mareon Parks began their honeymoon with the Woolgers before setting off for South Africa


Families who laid the foundations of today's Fitness Industry like Bill and Irene Norris, The Pullums, Ralph and Dorothy Samuels, ted and Hilda Durante, Reuben and Beryl Martin (Trois deMilles -- whose courtship blossomed when the pair were 'on the boards' at the Portsmouth Colliseum), all were enriched by Vina's hospitality, her never failing fun-loving enthusiasm


Even today's giants like Arnold Schwazenegger, Lee Haney and Bob Paris will give full credit to the influence of Vina Woolger and the perfect example she set for the solid traditions of happy, healthy family life.
Her recipe for the good life should be preserved along with her favourite recipe for English Fruit Cake (Arnold's favourite) for posterity...


Moderate amounts of good food, regular doses of exercise and excessive helpings of unstinted love, pride, faith and encouragement

 

This diminutive lady leaves us an outsized legacy we'll cherish always