Archie Craig of Bellahouston Harriers won the National Cross Country Championships in 1913, second four times, was selected seven times to run in the international cross-country championships, and won two silver and one bronze medal in the SAAA track championships. He had two sons, Archie and George, who were both cross-country internationals but his total number of vests was higher than theirs combined, this despite the fact that his career was disrupted by the War of 1914 – 1918, and he was racing some of the finest ever to take part in the sport – eg Jim Wilson and GCL Wallach. Craig seems to have been a cross-country specialist who could run very well on the track – as his SAAA medals show – but he ran sparingly on the latter surface and most years he did not appear in either the ten miles or four miles SAAA championships. His name was also absent by and large from the results of the Rangers FC and Celtic FC sports. Although we know that he ran in handicap races as wide ranging as 880 yards and three miles, they are far between and so his track running, other than in championships, has been omitted from this profile.
He first appeared in the championship results in 1911 when he was third in the West District championships but did not come to the attention of the public at large until he won the SCCU title in 1913. Not a prolific racer, Craig did not appear in any of the major races of the summer in 1912 – there were nine men forward for the 10 miles championship but he was not among them, nor was he present at the SAAA Championships in June. Came winter 1912/1913 and the first race of any consequence was the Clydesdale Harriers 7 miles handicap and team race at the beginning of November. Craig was not mentioned in the results but by the start of December the sports writers were lamenting the fact that there had been little in the way of any races since then. This did not mean there was no action, of course, as inter-club runs were the rule rather than the exception with the clubs organising joint fixtures pretty well on a weekly basis and with the occasional ‘muster run’. A muster run was a major undertaking for the host club which invited five, six or, occasionally even more, other clubs to come to their headquarters for a mass cross-country run, usually in three packs. Clubs often travelled quite a long way for these athletics and social occasions – the extreme maybe being Broughton Harriers joint run with West of Scotland Harriers on New Year’s Day.
The national cross-country championships were held on 1st March, 1913, at Scotstoun, where Bellahouston retained the team title and Craig won the individual title from Sam S Watt of Clydesdale. The race was reported by Colin Shields in his history of the SCCU: “Seven teams entered the national championships, including first time entrants Gala Harriers. Archie Craig (Bellahouston) moved into the lead after just a mile with defending champion Sam Watt and George McKenzie leading a chasing group of runners. Craig was challenged for the lead up to half distance in the 10 mile course, but finished strongly to win by forty yards from A McDonald (Monkland Harriers), who came through strongly in the final mile to finish runner up two seconds ahead of Watt.”
This gained him automatic selection for the international where he was 14th. The international board discussed the requirements of a cross-country course in response to comments from the British delegates that there was too little real country in some events and too much racing track surfaces where speedy runners had it all their own way, and the strengths of cross-country specialists was not given a real opportunity. The Board did not closely define the conditions but left it to each country to provide ,as natural a course as possible and the course should provide some hill, natural or other obstacles such as ditches, gates or hedges, and a little road if the same cannot be avoided.’ Colin Shields observed that the French in 1913 had provided a well varied 10 mile course, including flat meadow land, ploughed fields, and long stretches of hilly woodland paths through private parkland.
Clearly in excellent form he went on to be second in the SAAA 10 miles track championship on 5th April to GCL Wallach in a time just outside 54 minutes (Wallach ran 53:01) The race report: “Under the auspices of the Scottish Amateur Athletic Association the ten miles championship of Scotland was run at Celtic Park on Saturday afternoon. There were 13 entrants of whom 12 started. T Jack the holder has now retired from racing and did not run. At the start A Semple, Shettleston Harriers, took the lead, but in the second lap GCL Wallach, Bolton United and Greenock Glenpark, went to the front. In the third lap, A Kerr, Bellahouston Harriers, led, but in the fourth quarter mile circuit Wallach was the first to pass the timekeeper and from this point to the finish he continued to gain ground. At half distance he had lapped the field, and in the sixth mile only five runners were left – Wallach, A Smith, Falkirk Victoria Harriers, D Honeyman, Bellahouston Harriers, A Craig, Bellahouston Harriers, and AB Lang, Greenock Glenpark Harriers. Craig, the Scottish cross-country champion, ran very consistently eventually finishing second, but Wallach continued to draw away from the others and at eight miles broke record, doing 42 min 13 1-5th sec as compared with the previous best of 42 min 14 set by T Jack in the championships of 1907. In the next mile Wallach was no fewer than three seconds inside record and he maintained this advantage to the finish.”
Craig picked up another second place medal in the SAAA championships over four miles, again won by Wallach in 20:44 who, apparently, looked a winner all the way with Craig as ‘his most formidable opponent.’.
After a summer of competing in the various sports and games meetings, and in which he won his two silver medals, it was back on to the surfaces of the sport in which he excelled, cross-country.
The 1914 national was held on a testing course on 7th March at Carntyne Racecourse in Glasgow. Craig was second to Wallach in the national by 50 yards after leading for the first half of the race with his Bellahouston team mate G Stephens third Since Wallach was running as an individual not a team member, Craig was counted as first with Stephens second and other club runners third, fifth, sixth and twelfth for a comfortable victory. The international was held at Chesham, in Buckinghamshire, and Scotland, with five Bellahouston Harriers in the team, finished second with Craig in twelfth place.
The following summer, Craig was active on the track in preparation for the SAAA Championships over a variety of distances – on 23rd May in the Greenock Morton Sports at Cappielow he ran in the half mile where he won his heat in 2:06 .2 from a mark of 35 yards but was unplaced in the final. On June 13th Bellahouston Harriers won the Three Miles Team Race at East Kilbride with a team of J Lindsay, A Craig, G Cummings and J Smith. These led to the SAAA Championships at Powderhall on 27th June where he was third in the four miles to Wilson (first) and Wallach (second) both of whom ran for Greenock Glenpark.
The First World War then intervened and among the lesser tragedies was that there was total cessation of athletics championships in the UK. Track championships resumed in 1919 and cross-country in 1920.
In 1920 the first post-war national was held on 6th March at Rouken Glen in Glasgow. Craig was third behind another Anglo, James Wilson, who was to wear the colours of Greenock Glenpark Harriers, and Dunky Wright. The international championship was held at Belvoir Park, Belfast and Craig was third Scot to finish when he crossed the line in twentieth place.
The national championship was held on 5th March, 1921 again at Rouken Glen, and JH Motion of Edinburgh won the race from Wallack with Lawrie of Garscube third and Craig fourth. When the squad of twelve for the international at Newport was chosen, Craig was named as the team captain for what looked like a good team, but unfortunately they could only finish fourth with Craig 32nd finisher.
4th March, 1922, saw the national held at Musselburgh Racecourse, where Craig was second and the report in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ read: “The Scottish National Cross-Country Championships, individual and team, were decided on Saturday at Musselburgh over a course of between nine and ten miles. Sixteen clubs sent teams of 12, and there were also five individual runners. By courtesy of the Lothian Racing Club, the racecourse grandstand with its fine range of stripping rooms and sightseeing accommodation, was put at the disposal of the committee.
All the teams turned out and a start was made before a big attendance of the public in a hailstorm. After the racecourse was covered, the leaders were JG McIntyre, Dumbarton, (the four miles Scottish track champion, GCL Wallach, Greenock Glenpark, winner in 1914, and WGS Moor, Edinburgh University, this year’s novice champion. These were in a bunch. Their time was 6 min 14 sec. Before leaving the race course for cross-country work, the field had spread out for about a quarter of a mile, and men were beginning to drop out. After the cross-country tour had been made by Inveresk, Dalkeith Road, Edenhall and Levenhall – rather more than half the journey – in 31 min 30 sec, the leaders were:- Wallach going steadily about 200 yards ahead of S McMillan, Greenock Glenpark, who was about 300 yards ahead of his clubmate D Cummings. There was a fine struggle going on for the team championship by Shettleston, Greenock Glenpark, Maryhill and Garscube. The cross-country tour was made again before the finish on the racecourse straight. It was seen that Wallach was ahead and he romped home quite fresh.”
The result was Wallach first in 58:52 2-5th, Craig second in 60:03 and Riach, Maryhill Harriers, 60:07. The international was held from Hampden Park in Glasgow, starting at half-time in a football match where admission was 1/- and 10,000 programmes for the race at 3d each were sold to the spectators. The cross-country race was won by Guillemot of France (winner of the English cross-country championship a few weeks earlier), with Wallach fourth, Craig (vice-captain) tenth and Dunky Wright eleventh. Scotland was third behind England in second and the winners were France. France had earlier complained about the course being too rough and hilly, but withdrew the protest after winning the race.
The national in 1923 was held on 3rd March, at Bothwell Castle Policies, outside Glasgow. Craig was fourth and so was Bellahouston. First three individuals were Dunky Wright, JG McIntyre and A Lawrie, first three clubs were Greenock Glenpark Harriers, Garscube Harriers and Shettleston Harriers. Chosen for the international in Paris on 23rd March, he was thirteenth. JGF McIntyre finished a close-up second to Blewitt of England and Shields commented that ‘apart from near veteran Archie Craig the rest of the team disappointed badly’ and the team finished last.
In 1924 the date was 1st March, the venue Musselburgh Race course. In what was to be his final run in the national championships, he finished second. The ‘Glasgow Herald’ had the story: “over 200 runners were engaged on Saturday in the Scottish National Cross-Country Team and Individual Championships. Besides 15 clubs there were seven individual entrants. Boisterous and cold, the weather was quite favourable for a tough race, for it was dry and bright. A novelty was introduced as far as the choice of track was concerned. Except for three little breaks over farm fields, the running was all done on circuits of Musselburgh Racecourse, the fine springy turf of which favoured the going. The race started and finished at the Lothian Racing Club’s grand stand. Mr J Howieson, Shettleston Harriers, president of the National Cross-Country Union of Scotland, was referee and starter, and the time keepers were William Struthers, honorary president, George Hume, GM Grant, J McCulloch, JW Miller and D Taylor. The race was a fine one and was witnessed by over 2000 spectators. The runners were out of view for three little spells of a few minutes, and thus the interest was well maintained and the officials were able to form a useful opinion of the quality of the runners in view of the choice to be made in Glasgow this week of the international team to compete at Gosforth Park, Newcastle. Shettleston Harriers early established a lead which brought them into the winning place. They were particularly well served by D McL Wright, the holder of the individual championship which he won a yera ago when running for Clydesdale Harriers. Wright kept in front all the way, taking it easily for a third of the distance, before drawing away to a 30 yard lead from WGB Moor at half distance. Moor is an old Gala Harrier, an Edinburgh University student, and now running for Edinburgh Harriers. At halfway the third man was RB McIntyre, West of Scotland Harriers, who was a candidate for the Scottish Junior National Championships which was also being decided. In the end Wright finished fresh fully 50 yards ahead of A Craig (Bellahouston Harriers). RB McIntyre was placed third, some 50 yards behind Craig.”
Another very good run by Archie Craig who was of course selected for the international in England. Not only selected, the 42 year old Bellahouston runner was the captain who led his team home when he was sixteenth finisher.
This was his final fling in the international but Archie Craig continued to serve Scottish athletics. Colin Shields again:
“This was Craig’s farewell appearance for he announced his retiral from competitive running after the race. He acted as trainer to future Scottish cross-country teams, became President of the Scottish AAA in 1937/38 and watched his two sons Archie junior and George run five times for Scotland between them in the immediate pre and post Second World War period. “
As Colin says, Craig was president of the SAAA in ’37/’38, but it was as a member of Lochwinnoch – a small club in Renfrewshire located to the west of Glasgow which provided many athletes for Bellahouston Harriers, including the wonderful Harry Fenion. Undoubtedly a class act, Craig, like many others, had his sporting career blighted by the effects of the hostilities between 1914 and 1918 which took six years out of his career when he should have been at his best. Given that he was placed in the national when in his 40’s and ran in the international at 42, we look at his athletics and ask, “What if …?”