1883: September

September, 1883, started with reports of matches held on the opening day of the month with Shawfield Grounds topping the reports.   The meeting there featured a 10 mile race for a £30 purse between William Smith of Paisley, and D Livingstone of Tranent.   Smith had a 25 yards start.   By the end of the seventh mile, Smith had almost lapped Livingstone, starting the ninth mile they were running side by side with Smith exactly one mile ahead.   He won in 53 min 11.75 secs.   There was also the second round of a 120 yards handicap.   Barrowfield Park was the scene of another track meeting, ‘got up by Mr James McLeavy of Alexandria’ and the main race here was a One Mile Handicap.   There were other races and although there were no comments on prize money, the report concluded that ‘Amateur contests were also advertised to take place but as it was contrary to the rules of the association,  to compete with professionals, the events did not fill. ‘

The remaining fixture on 1st September was the Beith Annual Sports which had sprints, middle distance events, quoiting and ‘penny pitching’.    It was not said what ‘penny pitching’ was – but surely not pitch and toss???

 There were three fixtures on 8th September – the Shawfield started with a 200 yards dog handicap.   For two-legged competitors there was a half-mile handicap with prizes of £10, £1:10:0, £1, 10/- and 5/-.     The Dunfermline  Cricket and Football Club’s annual amateur athletic sports took place before a crowd on 5000 spectators and included most running events, including hurdles, selected field events, shying at wickets and lawn tennis.  Competitors came from Queen’s Park FC, Royal High School, Glasgow University and similar University and School FP clubs.  Finally there was a small meeting in Hawick with running and cycling handicap events.

September was a slow month for the sport – athletics tended to finish at the end of August but, nevertheless, came 22nd September and the Shawfield Grounds fixture had a 120 yards sprint and a One Mile Handicap with prizes of £14, £2, £1 and 15s.   The odds for the betting were also listed in the Glasgow Herald and if you were interested in running, it was a good meeting, but if you were a committed amateur, forget it.   Both meetings that day were professional.   At Powderhall the match was a head to head between Clark of Portobello and Albert of Edinburgh for £10 a side.   Run over 880 yards with runners starting from scratch, they were evenly matched and running side by side into the final straight, Clark stumbled and fell yards from the tape and Albert won.

The summer was pretty well over and what do we know from it?   Having looked at the programme for every Saturday, we see that there were many meetings for amateurs, organised by works, by individuals, by local authorities, by football clubs, by cycling clubs, by cricket clubs most weeks so that there was no shortage of access to the sport for those interested.

There were also many professional games – the weekly one at Shawfield grounds being the standout example.   It was a time when the most luxurious method of travel to New York by Cunard steamer could cost only 18 guineas and the cheapest 21 guineas, Ballantyne’s whisky was 10 shillings a gallon and walnut bedroom suites were £23:10:0 so the money on offer at the professional games was really worth winning.

In addition every meeting had its own speciality – note that in this month alone there was quoiting, lawn tennis,shying at wickets and ‘penny pitching.’