On 4th August, 1883, the Strathallan Games took pride of place, being the biggest, best attended and most longstanding of the meetings that day. The report began: “After the lapse of one year, these annual Games and athletic sports were held at Stanley House Cricket Ground , Bridge of Allan, on Saturday. The weather was favourable, only one slight shower falling during the afternoon and the concourse of spectators numbered about two thousand. Three grand stands were created, one for the accommodation of the general public, another set apart for lovers of “the fragrant weed”, while the third was reserved for private ticket-holders. ” There followed thirty lines of honoured guests who came from all over central Scotland. The Chieftain was Colonel Williamson of Lawers, his henchman was Mr J Mackison, and his champion Mr A Menzies. The meeting began at one o’clock with the confined events and went on until six o’clock. Running (including races for boys under 14 years old), jumping (including pole vaulting), piping, dancing, tug o’war, a ‘pitcher and water’ race and wrestling without shoes. The hurdles were over obstacles of 2′ 6″ and there was even a sack race over low hurdles. The band and pipes of the 51st Highlanders performed and all in all it was a very successful meeting.
On the same day, were the Inverkeithing Games where there were only seven events on the programme (including vaulting with the pole) and the other meeting that day was at Dumbarton, ‘held under the auspices of the Dumbarton Corporation’, and there was a large attendance. The band of the Dumbarton Volunteer Reserve was in attendance and played throughout the afternoon. The events were mainly running events – the report on the main events of the afternoon did not mention any field events at all.
On 11th August the principal event was the Garnock and Gowkhall Sports and took place ‘in a field near the village’ with competitors from all over Dumfries but also from Edinburgh, Dunfermline and Alloa. The Depot of the King’s Own Borderers at Berwick held their annual athletic sports in the Pier Field, Berwick. A full programme of athletic events were held while the depot band played a selection from their repertoire. This was the nearest to a modern sports day as we know it in August so far. Finally there was a sports meeting at Hamilton by the Academical Football Club which was the first of a two days sports meeting and as might be expected the 1st LRV performed well up to expectations with several prizes going their way.
Shawfield Ground had not hosted a Saturday event for over a month but they were back on 18th August with ‘a more than usually interesting programme’ . Although the runners turned out in great numbers the crowd was disappointing. Events included a quarter mile handicap (prizes a silver cup and 30/-, 15/- and 5/-), a half mile handicap (prizes as for the quarter), Boys one mile handicap (prizes 10/-, 5/- and 2/6d), two miles handicap, 220 yards consolation handicap, three quarters mile consolation handicap (prizes for consolation races 20/-, 10/- and 5/-) plus a competition for ‘the neatest running costume’ – all the competitors were very neatly dressed and the judges had a difficult job to decide!
There was a half-mile handicap at the Edinburgh Royal Gymnasium grounds where several hundred spectators turned bu but the biggest crowd of the day was at the second day of the Hamilton Academicals FC sports. Winners included men from HAFC, QPFC and DFC as well as members of several bicycle clubs, in addition there were a few athletes not attached to any club.
Finally on that afternoon there was the Corstorphine Gymnastic Games confined to the inhabitants of Colinton, Currie, Ratho and Corstorphine. It was an annual meeting and consisted of both running and field events. It would be interesting though to find out what the qualifications were for entry to the ‘Old Men’s Race.’
In the last week of August, 1883, there was the Shawfield Grounds meeting which had the first heats of a 130 yards sprint and a half mile handicap. One of the interesting features of the Maybole FC Annual Sports was the running of AP Findlay in the half mile from the scratch mark. Findlay would go on to be the first winner of the amateur cross-country championship of Scotland but one who was noted for his strength – on one occasion the etire field went completely off the trail on a snowy afternoon led by AP Findlay (who it is alleged) knew what he was doing! It would seem that he had the speed of the half miler – at Maybole he finished third conceding 80 and 60 yards respectively to the first and second finishers. The other meeting that day was ‘the popular sports’ at Crieff. Captain Henry Grant of Grant was Chieftain for the day although there was no report of him having a henchman or champion. In addition to the programme of athletic events, the Crieff Company of PE Volunteers went through their programme in a ‘very creditable manner’, and the Brothers Anderson, celebrated Scotch gymnasts, performed a series of daring feats on the English, Scotch and flying trapezes. There was also a horse jumping event (possibly show jumping?) and a trotting competition where several horses ‘broke the trot.’ It was reported to be a great success.
An interesting month with many ‘novelty’ events – wrestling without shoes, competition for ‘the neatest costume’, gymnastics – and bands with everything. Above all however was the athletics – many meetings had pole vaults, meetings were organised by local authorities (Dumbarton Corporation), football clubs (Maybole FC), military regiments (KOSB’s in Edinburgh) and private groups and individuals.