Campsie HG Programme

After the Campsie Highland Games page was uploaded John MacKay of Shettleston Harriers told us that he had a copy of the programme for the Games of 1946.   Unfortunately the Shettleston Harriers names had been highlighted but no matter.  It is possibly the only copy of the programme extant.   Well worth a good look.   Apart from any international stars in the pages, a look at the open events will show names like George McDonald (SAAA Sprint Champion), Ian Panton (SAAA 440 champion), Frank Sinclair (SAAA Mile champion and cross-country internationalist), Allan Watt (international sprinter) and many more.   Even among the officials were Willie Maley, WS Lawn, George Dallas and Duncan McSwein.   Have a good look.   Look also at the number of competitors from the local St Machan’s!

 

George Sutherland

Issue Number One

All successful magazines have a driving spirit whose name is synonymous with the publication – eg “The Scots Athlete”  (1946 – 1958) and “The International Athlete” (November 1958 – 1961) with Walter Ross, and Scotland’s Runner” (1986 – 1993) had three editors in Stewart McIntosh, Allan Campbell and Doug Gillon.   George Sutherland was responsible for “Athletics in Scotland” which appeared from 1973 to 1976.   George is not as well known as the others nor as well-known as he should be.   

This is partly because he is not one for pushing himself forward.  The other magazines above had photographs, on some occasions with the “Scotland’s Runner there were cartoons, of the editors.   Unlike many producers/editors his own picture never appeared in the magazine.  The other magazines above had photographs, on some occasions with the “Scotland’s Runner there were cartoons, of the editors.   Nor was there a ‘From the Editor’   or ‘The Editor Speaks’ article to give a clue about his own standpoint.   It was all about the sport, unfiltered, with no opinion of his own ever expressed.   

Nor did he seem to have an athletics pedigree that we could relate to – no one ever talked about their rivalry or races with him.   What was the man who was responsible for it like?   George describes his own involvement in the sport as modest.   A pupil at Robert Gordon’s College in Aberdeen, he was a member of the athletics team with the high spot possibly when the relay team of which he was a member won the Scottish Schools relay in 1953.   He remembers that on the day he shook the hand of Eric Liddell’s brother .   When he got home to Aberdeen that afternoon, his Father told him the story of Eric Liddell.   The involvement in the sport continued and after leaving school he joined Aberdeen AAC.   He turned out for the club in the 440 yards and the half mile where he was a sub-2 minutes runner.   It should be noted that this was a good time for a club runner, running on a cinder track in the  1950’s.   Like many a middle distance athlete at the time his heroes included Roger Bannister and Chris Chataway, and like many others probably admired Herb Elliott and Peter Snell.  It was a time when athletics featured on the black and white television screens with races such as Chataway versus Kuts under the floodlights at the White City.   It was an inspirational time.   

When George was asked how the magazine came about, why did he produce it, his response was as follows: “My wife Beryl and I started the magazine to encourage as many people as possible to take part in athletics”.   It was produced entirely by George and Beryl, there were no other staff involved.   Beryl did all the typesetting.   It was a very good magazine but to think that it was run by husband and wife with no other paid or employed staff adds to the admiration.   It was packed with information – see the page below from issue number 34 as an example – at a time when such information was not easily available to the ordinary club athlete.

Why did it cease publication?   George says, when asked, that “the reason I had to stop producing the magazine was the fact that I became Managing Director of Ivanhoe Printing Co. Ltd. of Musselburgh (he was a 50% shareholder) and had to concentrate on that.”

For some further comment, we turn to Peter Hoffmann, one of the country’s best 400/800m runners, who was a friend of George’s and sheds some light on these questions when he says:

“George lived at Durham Square Portobello Edinburgh round the corner from me. I seem to recall he printed the magazine in his attic at home. He was a lovely chap, tall, bespectacled and balding.   He lived with his wife and two daughters. I was at their house on a few occasions mainly with EAC stalwart Dougie McLean who was friendly with George.   I helped to distribute and sell a few editions of the magazine. Thinking about why it stopped, I wonder whether his job and therefore home circumstances may have changed which had implications for the demise of the magazine. I mention him once or twice in my diaries.” 

Where is George now?   He still lives in Edinburgh, he and Beryl have two daughters, three grand children and two great grandchildren.  His late brother was Lord Stewart Sutherland of Houndwood was Principal of both London University and Edinburgh University.   He says, ““I still take a great interest in athletics.”   We all wish him well and thank him (and his wife Beryl)  for the magazine which was the right magazine at the right time for Scottish athletics.

 

 

….

Campsie Highland Games

 

The map above shows how isolated Milton of Campsie and Lennoxtown are in 2020.   It was much more so in the late 1940’s.   Kirkintilloch was the nearest town of any size and there was no running track, the only pavilions were for a couple of football teams, and yet some of the best international athletes in the world – sprint hurdlers, middle distance runners (at least one a world record holder), throwers and jumpers all travelled to this rural spot on the edge of the Campsie Fells to compete.   See the photograph below for the quality men who took part in what was the best ever in the area.

 

Back Row:  Dick O’Rafferty, Dave Guiney (1948 Olympian), Jim Reardon (1948 Olympian), John Joe Barry, Jack Gregory (GB Olympian, 1948 and 1952), Paul Dolan (1952 Olympian), Ulick O’Connor, Con Sheehan.

Front Row: Prince Adedoyin (1948 Olympian), Canon Denis O’Connell, Charlie McManus , Liam Brown

The answer is sitting second from the left in the front row.   Canon O’Connor was a young live-wire Catholic priest who went to Lennoxtown and let his love of sport shine through to change the attitudes of the population who mainly thought of football when the word sport was uttered.    Ordained as a priest in Ireland in 1941, he then spent all of his life in Scotland.   St Machan’s and Lennoxtown where he was  assistant priest.   During this time Fr O’Connell’s ;ife-long love of athletics was to come to the fore as he organised Community Games.   During his early years in Scotland he was alarmed at the sectarian divide in the West of Scotland perpetuated through football, and set about using athletics as a means to bring different religious communities together.   He initiated a series of Community Games where athletes of all backgrounds could compete freely regardless of background or religious belief.  He moved to St Agatha’s in Methil in 1949.   

Right from the start there was sporting action at St Machan’s Boys Guild.   Fortunately much of it was covered by the local Press and so we have first hand information about a lot of it.   Where possible we will let the Press of the time tell the story.

The Boys Guild competed in a host of events all through the summer and won pretty well all of them and were referred to in one article in late August as ‘the District cracks’.   On 22nd August for instance they won the Inter Parish Boys Guild Championships at Adamslie Park to win the trophy donated by Tommy Lorne, the famous comedian.   On 30th September 1942 the following article appeared in the Kirkintilloch Herald.

It had been a good year and it was to be followed by another successful season.   On 23rd June, 1943 the notice below appeared in the ‘Kirkintilloch Herald’ 

The following week it was announced that there would be an inter-youth team contest including St Mary’s Guild, Pollockshaws (Glasgow Boys Club Champions) and St Machan’s BG at Lennoxtown as one of the star attractions of the meeting.   There were many meetings in which the boys took part – eg at the Catholic Youths Welfare Sports at St Moan’s, St Machan’s were easy winners of the various championships and went home with four cups and a shield.   On 13th July the club sports trophies were presented by Father Wheelan at a function presided over by Rev Father O’Connell.   The Boys Guild was firing on all cylinders and at the start of September this notice appeared:

And the famous name was revealed in the issue of 20th September – 

 

*

The 1944 season started with an open meeting in May at Wishaw organised by the local St Ignatius Club, where they performed well.   At the end of June they were only beaten by that year’s champions, Wishaw Boys Club, because there were two field events – junior and senior high jump involved.   Had it been only track events, they would have won.    By now there was a St Machan’s AC and the Press on 30th August, 1944 reported under the heading ‘Outstanding Sports meeting at Lennoxtown’ that “St Machan’s Athletic Club held their second annual sports meeting on Saturday at Lennoxtown Playing Fields before a good attendance.   Competitors included nearly all the leading Scottish champiopns and a small but notable support from English runners.   Among the foreign competitors were a team from Norway and two coloured runners from British Honduras.   The highlight of the sports was undoubtedly the magnificent performance of JC Corfield of Tipton Harriers and W Donaldson, RAF, in the two miles team race.   Donaldson led most of the way until about two laps to go, then Corfield put in his effort, going on to win by about 12 yards.   JE Farrell, Scottish cross-country champion and track ten mile champion was third.   The race was easily the fastest two miles run in Scotland this year.   Dunky Wright again got on the winning road in the 15 miles road race in the good time of 1 hr 28 min 16 sec, from his clubmate G Porteous of Maryhill Harriers, 1 hr 31 min 33 sec.   Porteous it will be remembered won the steeplechase at Rangers Sports.”

The report went on to describe almost all the events and the standard was high.   The report ended with the following –

Father O’Connell was being noticed.

*

Better known as a track club, the club also competed cross-country although there were at that time no events for Under 15 or Under 13 Boys.   Their Youths division did well and one of the highlights was on the first Saturday in March.

The club had a good summer competition and then the big meeting of 1945 was introduced by the following lead in to the event in the local Press:

Unfortunately, the weather did not do its bit to make the event a success – the start to the report indicates this.

Competitors on this dismal day included Alan Paterson who could only manage 6’0 in the conditions while TD McKie of Glasgpw Police, with an 8″ handicap took first prize.  The two Irishmen Dave Guiney and Tom Wall gave a demonstration of the shot putt and high jump respectively.    

The 1946 programme, courtesy of John Mackay of Shettleston Harriers, can be seen  here

The article in the “Kirkintilloch Herald” of Wednesday 14th August, 1946, indicated a club of some strength.   Read this one.

There was more coverage over the summer but the range of meetings listed above gives some indication of the club’s activities.   

The first notice of the Campsie Highland Games was in the Kirkintilloch Herald of Wednesday 4th September, 1946, under the heading ‘World’s Champion for Campsie’.   The article started:

The review then went on to list the Irish runners and their achievements: they were led by L ieut Con Sheehan “who excelled himself recently at the Clonliffe diamond jubilee sports, when in receipt of one and a half yards, he showed a clean pair of heels to the brown bullet,  MacDonald Bailey,  On this form Sheehan is in Britain’s top flight of sprinters.”  The other relay runners were Paul Dolan (220 yards), Jimmy Reardon (440 yards) and Liam Browne (half mile).   Dick O’Rafferty was a 6′ 4″ high jumper who led the field eventers.   Were the Games a success?   Emmet Farrell in his ‘Running Commentary’ in the Scots Athlete of October, 1946 reported thus:

The locals were more direct about the weather: “”When is Namcy Riach due to appear?” queried a competitor at Lennixtown’s High Games on Saturday shortly before the programme opened.   The reference to Scotland’s swimmer was most appropriate for the day was more suitable for an aquatic display than an athletics match. Viewed from the heights of the playing field pavilion balcony the sports arena had the appearance of a giant paddling pond, its surface being dotted all over with pools, some of them ankle deep with more moisture coming down every minute.   Our sympathies at this stage were with the St Machan’s AAC committee and particularly with the convener, Father O’Connell, Lennoxtown’s young priest and sportsman, who had worked with might and main to build a bill of champions the likes of which has seldom been seen outside the confines of London, Ibrox or Cowal.   The meeting had a decided international flavour for competing were the pick of Scotland’s athletes, a strong team of challengers from Eire, stalwart sons of Poland and a big personality in Prince AE Adedoyin.”   

The ‘Glasgow Herald’ simply said that  “Good performances were discounted at St Amachan’s Sports where conditions were the worst possible for the many notable Irish, Scottish and Colonial competitors, but D Guiney (Dublin) putted the shot 44 ft 5 1/2 inches, the best performance in this event in Scotland this season.   Prince Adedoyin (Queen’s University Belfast, won the broad jump and hop, skip and leap, and was placed second in the high jump handicap with 5′ 10″

A word about some of the competitors mentioned might be in order here.   

*Prince Adedoyin was the son of the king of Ijebu Remo in Southern Nigeria who came to study medicine at Queen’s University, where he took up sport.   He won the high jump at the AAA’s championships in 1947 with a 1.93m clearance.   He competed for GB in the 1948 Games at high jump and long jump.   There were also several appearances in international matches.

*Dave Guiney was an all-round sportsman who played Gaelic football, hurling and rugby union as well as winning 30 Irish titles as a sprinter, long jumper and weight thrower.   He competed in the shot putt at the 1948 Olympic Games.

* Paul Dolan was an Irish sprinter who went on to compete in the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki.

*Ulick O’Connor was world famous as a talented sportsman, writer, poet, historian and critic who competed regularly in Scotland at many highland games such as Bute and Cowal.

*Jack Gregory competed for GB in the 1948 Olympics where he was part of the silver medal winning team with Alistair McCorquodale, Jack Arthur and Kenneth Jones.   

These are just a few of the athletes competing at Campsie in 1946.   Like all the best Sports of the era, there were open events and the locals in Campsie were out representing the local St Machan’s Harriers and their representatives won both Senior and Youths sprints.   There was maybe some evidence of Canon O’Donnell’s practical athletic talents there.   The club affiliated to the SAAA and to the SCCU was called the St Machan’s Boys Guild AC and competed in the National Cross-Country Championships in 1946/47 when they finished 6th, counting runners placed 10, 16, 33, 35.   In 1947/48 the team failed to close in but there were three runners as individuals – W Ferrie 20th, F Kearney 60th and G Ferrie 112th.   There was no St Machan’s representation in 1948/49.   The pattern was similar in the District Championships with a complete team only finishing in 1946/47 in equal sixth with St Modan’s.   

But if the Games of 1946 was good, 1947 was even better.

Community Sports and Games were held as usual through the year and then the following summer saw this notice in local, national papers as well as in the ‘Scots Athlete’.   Maybe the weather the previous year, see the photograph above, had something to do with it but the event this time was to be held in July rather than September.   

The date was significant because it came just 7 days after the AAA’s championships in London where several of the invited athletes were competing.  Nevertheless this preview appeared in the Kirkintilloch Herald ten days before Campsie Games.   Note the enhanced status of Price Adedoyen.   Note too from the handbill above the increased number of star runners including John Joe Barry (the Ballycurran Hare) and Steve McCooke.

That Adedoyin was in great form was indicated by his performances in the Triangular international of 1947 – note the report in the Dundee Courier:

The meeting was well set up and under the heading “MANY BRILLIANT ATHLETIC PERFORMANCES” the “Glasgow Herald” reported

The performances were indeed good ones, with some being outstanding – particularly for the time and the venue.   

100 yards: I Sutherland (VPAAC) (6 yards) 10 seconds;   220 yards: I Sutherland (VPAAC) (14) 23.2 seconds

400m invitation: ES Blackadder (West of Scotland) (26) 49.4 sec; 880 yards: H Malloy (West of Scotland) 13 1/2) 2:04

One lap (Youths) D McD Balloch (Auchmountain H) (30) 34.8 sec;

1500 metres (Invitation: JJ Barry (Clonliffe H) (scr)  4 min 8.8 sec; One Mile JJ Barry (scr) 4 min 26 sec;

5000m:  A Forbes (VPAAC) (scr) 15 min 16.3;

High jump: A McLaren (St Modan’s) (9 in) 6′ 2″; Broad jump: D Davidson (St Modan’s) (3’3″) 22′  8 1/2″;

Throwing 28lb weight:  G Kordas (Nottingham U) (2′ 6″) 55′ 4″; Throwing 16lb ball: G Kordas (4′ 6″) 49′ 11″;

Throwing the Hammer: G Kordas, 172′ 8 1/2″ 

If these times, heights and distances are impressive, then it would have been even more so with the names of the unplaced athletes noted.    It also took place just three weeks after the triangular international in which Barry won the mile and Forbes and McCooke were second and third in the three miles.   

*

In July 1958 the St Machan’s boys were all competing well, winning more than they were losing in team competitions and tour of Ireland was organised with competitions against Irish athletics and boxing teams.   

The meeting in 1948 was not as big as the two previous years and the preview in the ‘Kirkintilloch Herald’ read 

 

but John Joe again took part and broke his own ground record for the mile.   Results for this meeting have been hard to find but the entire Herald report is below.

Into 1949 and one of the finest cross-country runs in a St Machan’s vest was that of John Joe Barry who won the Irish cross-country championships entered as JJ Barry, St Machan’s.   One of the initiatives started during the early 1940’s was a joint St Machan’s (Lennoxtown) and St Michael’s (Parkhead) international sports meeting at Helenvale in Glasgow and this went ahead again in June 1949.   John Joe again appeared as St Machan’s in Scotland although keeping his Clonliffe Harriers membership in Ireland and at this  time he really excelled himself.   See below.

You will note the commenced about Rev Fr O’Connell.   He left Campsie and Lennoxtown at some point in 1949 and moved on to Fife.   That may be why it has been impossible so far to find any trace of the Campsie Highland Games in 1949 but we will continue to look.   But if ever proof were needed that one man can change any situation, then surely the activities of Canon Denis O’Connell at St Machan’s is it.

 

 

 

Clydesdale Harriers Hannah Cup

Clydesdale Harriers was established in May 1885 and through the years since it has acquired (accumulated?) a large number of trophies – Cups in the main, but also shields, statuettes and other awards.   The one I’d like to know more about is the marvellous Memorial Bowl  with its bas-relief depiction of a tiger hunt with elephants, jungle scenery and even tigers, the oldest is the club senior men cross-country championship cup first won by DW Mill in 1899; the most prolific donor was Jock Semple who has donated many cups to the club as well as to Scottish athletics generally.   One which was ‘lost’ was the Dalgrain Cup for the Youths (U17) Championship – identical to the Bastable Trophy awarded to the youth of the meeting at Strathallan Gathering, they were both won in the same year by Douglas MacDonald, David McAusland and Mark Govan.   Lots of trophies, lots of stories.   But for me the most fascinating is the Hannah Cup, donated by 5 times SCCU Champion and multi track title and record holder Andrew Hannah it has been awarded for a series of different events.     

In 1903/04 the club handbook reported: “A cup, value £10, has been presented by Mr Andrew Hannah, to be competed for by Members of Clydesdale Harriers.   The Race will be run on the Track during the Cross-Country Season.   The Winner will also get a medal and hold the cup for one year.   The distance will be Three Miles.”   This was to be the Hannah Cup which has been competed for since – the latest valuation put it at approximately £6000.   He had offered to put the trophy, valued 10 guineas and there was some discussion as to how it would be awarded.   One suggestion, followed the following year was that it be awarded for a points competition over the club’s four open races.   The report on the first race was as follows:    “The Contest for the handsome Cup kindly put up by Andrew Hannah was a Three Miles Flat Race, decided at Meadowside, Partick and resulted in James Reston winning, with Saml. Stevenson close up and MF Dickson third”.  

These three runners are worth commenting upon in their own right: James Reston was a Scottish International cross country runner who later emigrated to the United States and was the father of James “Scotty” Reston of the New York Times newspaper – a. internationally renowned reporter and journalist; Samuel Stevenson  went on to become an established Scottish athlete and champion and Olympic athlete and while Matthew Dickson was one of the longest serving of Clydesdale Harriers and SAAA administrators.   The race for the Trophy had its designation altered twice thereafter (in 1913 it was again altered to be for the first man home in the Western District Championship).

It is currently awarded for the fastest time in the club’s annual cross country handicap race.  This was as a result of a motion at the September 1927 Committee Meeting by T Kent seconded by J McNamara that it be awarded to the runner with the fastest time in the 7 miles handicap.  This has been the designation for almost of the trophy’s existence – ie the past 80 years.   This race is also one of interest – it is run as a ‘yacht handicap’.   ie the runners start in order of their handicap with the slowest starting first.   Just after Ian Donald joined the club from Shettleston and was back marker (off scratch) on a three lap train, the limit man, Jim Sweeney, came past the start at the end of the first lap just as Ian was about to start off.   “I passed him as if he was standing still!” was Jim’s boast for a long time afterwards.

Trophy winners below are up to the club centenary year of 1985.

Andrew Hannah

Year Winner Year Winner Year Winner
1904 J Reston 1905 S Stevenson 1906 S Stevenson
1907 S Stevenson 1908 S Stevenson 1909 A McPhee Jnr
1911 A McPhee 1912 AS Loch 1913 Sam S Watt
1914 P McGregor 1915 - 1916
1917 - 1918 - 1919 -
1920 A Smith 1921 F McCormack 1922 D Farmer
1923 J Foster 1924 W Waddington 1925 G McQuattie
1926 L Hearns 1927 T McAulay 1928 H Noble
1929 T McAulay 1930 T McAulay 1932 JC GrayYear Winner
1933 T Sinclair 1934 T Arthur 1935 JC Gray
1936 JC Gray 1937 T Sinclair 1938 T Sinclair
1939 T Arthur

Sam Stevenson

Post 1939-45 War

Year Winner Year Winner Year Winner
1947 G White 1948 G White 1949 P Younger
1950 P Reynolds 1951 W Howie 1952 G White
1953 G White 1954 P Younger 1955 G White
1956 J Wright 1957 J Wright 1958 J Wright
1959 J Wright 1960 P Younger 1961 C O'Boyle
1962 J Wright 1963 JB Maclachlan 1964 JB Maclachlan
1965 I Donald 1966 I Donald 1967 I Donald
1968 R Shields 1969 I Donald
1970 R Shields and I Leggett 1971 R Shields
1972 A Faulds 1973 D Gemmell 1974 P Dolan
1975 P Dolan 1976 P Dolan 1977 D Gemmell
1978 P Dolan 1979 P Dolan 1980 P Dolan
1981 - 1982 P Dolan 1983 R McWatt
1984 P Dolan 1985 J Cowan

It is a marvellous list which contains Scottish champions, Scottish record breakers and champions and medal winners at all levels but they were all good Clydesdale Harriers racing for a valuable trophy donated by one of Scotland’s finest ever distance runners.

 

West of Scotland Harriers and the William Pearce Cup

 Scottish harrier club histories contain a relatively rich seam of information of cups and trophies donated by patrons and benefactors as well as former members. Indeed, one of the reasons for enticing members of parliament, civil dignitaries and the like to become patrons, was often in the hope that some item of silverware might be forthcoming.  The Pearce Cup was one such example albeit a fortuitous windfall for one harrier club.

The West of Scotland Harriers were formed in 1886 following on from Clydesdale Harriers and Edinburgh Harriers. In the mid-1880s, membership of sports clubs was something of a collector’s hobby and the new harriers’ clubs had members from a range of sports, principally amongst them were rowers, cyclists and footballers. The West of Scotland Harriers in particular contained a strong, active membership of both cyclists and footballers as did Clydesdale Harriers. John Meikle was a member of both the West of Scotland Harriers and Bellahouston Cycling Club.

John Meikle

Meikle was a founding member of the West of Scotland Harriers in 1886 and had experience of both cross-country running and cycling before helping form ‘The West’. As ‘The West’s’ membership grew, so too did engagement with other clubs for fixtures and of course prizes for special ‘challenge’ races. The peculiarity of the Pearce Cup was that it served two functions in its lifetime. Initially a cycling Cup, it was taken into ownership by a harriers’ club through the influence of Meikle with the harriers’ club continuing to put it forward for cycle races which it staged until the club used it for cross-country purposes. The trophy was titled the ‘West of Scotland Cyclists Meet Association Challenge Cup’, a title which in itself challenged the engraver to be able to fit it all on one aspect of the cup. The trophy stands (without plinth and top) at 56 cms. high, 21cms. in diameter and weighs 3.2 kilos and is of silver gilt.

Funds for the trophy were donated by William Pearce to the West of Scotland Cyclists Meet Association in 1886. However, the Association soon became defunct, presumably as a consequence of the developing schism in cycling at the time relating to issue of the National Cyclists Union and the twin issues of racing on roads and Scotland wishing to run its own affairs. The West of Scotland Harriers took over some of the duties of the West of Scotland Cyclists Meet Association by virtue of John Meikle being appointed a ‘pro tem’ secretary of the Meet Association in 1887 as it struggled to continue amongst growing ‘animus’ between clubs and individuals. Meikle, seen as a known and politically safe pair of hands in the continuing war of words in the struggle for oversight of cycling in Scotland, was therefore in a position to acquire the trophy in 1888 for the West of Scotland Harriers (who had significant numbers of cyclist members) on the demise of the Association after the first Pearce Cup race in 1887. Given that by 1888, there were only about 20 Harrier clubs in existence, the Pearce Cup remains one of the oldest Scottish Athletic trophies still in existence. The first winner however, is recorded as Lanarkshire Cycling Club.

A note about Sir William Pearce helps.  It is clear from the press of the day that he was a great benefactor of a range of social and civil activity. His connections and philanthropy extended from another Pearce Cup donated to Bellahouston Baths Company for swimming competition and to the Glasgow Agricultural Show for the best 2year-old filly. He also funded the Pearce Lodge of Glasgow University which then was used for students of naval architecture. Born in Kent in 1833 he trained as a naval architect and moved to Scotland when appointed manager at Napier’s shipyard in Govan. He rose steadily into partnership and then sole owner and the company was renamed the Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Company, specialising in large vessels such as passenger liners and warships employing at its height some 5,000 people. Like many successful businessmen of the day, he felt the draw of politics, as this would be where he could be close to decision-making and help shape the industry in which he was a key player. He was elected as the first MP for Govan in 1885 (Conservative) and created a Baronet in 1887. However, he died suddenly in 1888 aged 55 years. He was also a Grand Master of the Provincial Lodge of Glasgow another social institution which gave opportunity to mix and mingle with civic figures of Glasgow.

The inscription on the trophy reads William Pearce rather than Sir William Pearce and given the social niceties of the day, it therefore seems likely that the funds donated for the cup just predated the first 1887 competition and were given whilst still plain William, but just before his award of the Baronetcy. By all accounts he could afford his philanthropy. His estate at death was valued at £1,069,669 which in 2020 is worth just under £140m. His widow, Lady Dinah used the inheritance to help the local community of Govan, in particular donating funds to build the Pearce Institute still in operation today as an events venue on Govan Road. There is a statue adjacent to the Institute erected in 1894.

The trophy itself is now missing its top and plinth, but is still an unusual and impressive trophy although no longer in use. The original races became the foremost cycle races in the west of Scotland cycle racing calendar and were to take place in June of each year over not less than 25 miles and not more than 50 miles. It was a team race of 3 cyclists.  From the outset the race was promoted as a road race and not a path race, a detail which ultimately led to its demise as a cycle race due to safety considerations. From the first winners in 1887 of the Lanarkshire Cycle Club, there was an unbroken run until 1895.

Accounts of the race day of the cyclists’ border on the chaotic. By 1888, when Meikle himself was selected for the Bellahouston CC for their Pearce Cup team, the local press in a kind, but probably honest appraisal of him, talked of him as ‘having practically given up training’ but ‘clearly (able to) demonstrate his latent powers’ as ‘a man out of training’. In the account given of the Pearce Cup race of 1888 it is easy to see how his condition mitigated against a decent performance.

‘The usual amount of false alarms took place while the men were away. First of all, in came J Meikle, at a whacking pace, who was thought to have done the distance in record time. Great, indeed, was the disappointment felt when we were informed that John had dismounted to smoke a cigarette which had been given to him on the road. After smoking for a bit he thought the men had got rather too much of a lead, so did not try to catch them, but came home instead.’

Race day at Lanark was clearly carnivalesque. At the Clydesdale Hotel, Lanark there was ‘a most severe feed’ but described by the dining cyclists as ‘only a bit of steak tea’. Passing the time while the cyclists were away, the spectators indulged in foot races for wagers and betting on the result of the cycle race with sums of up to £3 being offered on a Motherwell victory by a drunk Motherwell supporter who then resorted to wanting to ‘rin ony man a hunner yards fur a boatel o’ whiskey.’ John Meikle seemed in good company. Meikle later took up yacht racing.

Despite the rather ‘loose’ approach to race preparation and organisation, the early years of cycle competition saw Maybole CC achieve an outstanding ‘3-in-a-row’ with one rider, WN ‘Wumphy’ Allan riding in all three victories; never again achieved.  The Maybole team of 1890, the last of their three victories, was made up of the three Allan brothers, RF Allan, WN Allan and TK Allan. In their first win in 1888, Lees rode a trike. In the period from 1887 until the last cycle race for the Cup in 1899, six teams won the trophy. The achievement of the Maybole club was due in part to the huge interest in sports at that time.  There was certainly evidence that in Maybole and in Ayrshire more generally, both cross-country running and football was part of the fabric of recreational activities of young men and Maybole had its own history of runners such as Robert McKinstray and James Rodger who was a founding member of Carrick Harriers formed in November 1889. A full list of cycling club winners is appended at the end of this piece.

As the cycling fraternity became more organised and the sport grew and with the technical advances in cycle engineering and construction (eg. pneumatic tyres), other races soon took precedent. In 1895 the West of Scotland Harriers took the decision to suspend the race after the Scottish Cyclists Union forbade licensed riders of the SCU to compete. The date had been changed from a May/June race to September and it may well have fallen foul of the new SCU calendar (Scottish Cyclists Union formed in 1889) as well as cycling politics of the day. However, it was resurrected in 1897, but with only 5 entries it struggled to gain a foothold amongst the cycling fraternity. By 1899 the final cyclist’s winners of the trophy were Wishaw Cycling Club. The cycling world had moved on from Harriers clubs offering cycle races. The trophy which at the outset was ‘the absolute possession’ of the West of Scotland Harriers was intended to keep the trophy in the possession of the club as it was customary at the time for any individual or club winning any trophy three times in succession, to be able to lay claim to keep the trophy. The ‘absolute possession’ phrase thus prevented Maybole Cycling Club, winners in 1888, 1889 and 1890 from keeping the trophy and would also prevent any future three-time trophy winners likewise.

The trophy now became part of the fabric of the West of Scotland Harriers to be awarded annually to the club champion for winning the club cross-country championship over 8mls. The first winner in 1900 was JJ McCafferty, one of two brothers who joined the West of Scotland Harriers (the other brother PJ McCafferty joined ‘The West’ later from Celtic Harriers). Of particular note was the prolific ‘West’ harrier, George Mackenzie. A slight man, he was to become one of the stalwarts of the Scottish International team between 1904 and 1914, competing in nine International Championships. He won the Pearce Cup (club cross-country championship) five time including a treble in 1908, 1909 and 1910. Mackenzie was also part of the West of Scotland Harriers team that won the NCCU of Scotland Championships in 1905 for the first time. He went on to win 3 further National team championships with the ‘West’ but the individual title eluded him. Mackenzie contributed to the war effort by training troops on Musselburgh beach and when he finished his running career, opened a sports’ outfitters in Edinburgh. The picture below depicts Mackenzie with a substantial array of prizes and trophies and the William Pearce Cup is on the far right at waist level with a figurine on the top.

Only three other athletes of the ‘West’ would win the Cup three times or more; GH Davidson, A Spencer and AL Spencer (who won it 4 times) and only Davidson and AL Spencer managed ‘3-in-a-row’.

As was the case with many clubs, the fortunes of the club waned after World War 2.  The Pearce Cup was only sporadically put up for competition after the war as membership was relatively low, and by the early 1960s numbered only a few dozen. Both RJ (Bob) Smith, a former member in the 1930s, and Johnny Todd, who coached the youngsters, were energetic in keeping the club going and there was a mini revival in the early to mid-1960s. Despite some noted runners (and indeed a few internationals), there was insufficient competition to merit individual club championships although in 1966 there was an attempt to run a track and field championship for the younger members but this only numbered 6-8 members. In cross-country any attempt to assume the mantle of club champion was by placing in the National Cross-Country Championships thus the Pearce Cup had effectively disappeared from 1945. Senior membership numbered literally only a handful of active runners and the only notable success over the country was in the form of a Youth team that placed 6th in the national cross-country championships in 1967.

However, in the 1970s the Pearce Cup re-appeared with Davie Wyper the recipient. David was a superb marathon and ultra-runner and in 1972 he placed second in the Edinburgh to North Berwick road race over the marathon distance (2hrs. 24mins. 50secs) and then went on to win the race in 1976 and 1978 over a shorter distance with a time of 2 hrs. 01min. 50secs in 1976. David received the Pearce Cup from 1972 until 1979 when it was handed back to the club on its disaffiliation.  

The West of Scotland Harriers effectively disaffiliated from all county and national bodies in 1978 with the records showing a fee paid to Renfrewshire AAA of £1.50 on 26th November, 1977 for season 1977-78. Some members continued to pay subscriptions in order to keep the name alive, but the club effectively dissolved in the 1980s. In what was the last act of the (very few) remaining members, an approach was made to the then SAAAs to take the club trophies (and with them a significant chunk of Scottish athletic history) in order that they be re-used. While the SAAAs took the WG Wylie Cup for an indoor Octathlon championship, the Sir John Ure Primrose Cup for indoor pole vault and the Warren Challenge Cup for the men’s 60metres indoors, they opted not to take the William Pearce Cup. Presumably, with the others being of silver and the Pearce Cup gilt, there was not the same incentive. The trophies were handed over at a ceremony at the Scottish National Championships at Crownpoint, Glasgow in July, 1989. The William Pearce Cup is still in the possession of a former West of Scotland Harrier.

Appendix 1

William Pearce Cup winners – cycling

1887 Lanarkshire CC 1888 Maybole CC

1889 Maybole CC 1890 Maybole CC

1891 Cathkin CC 1892 Northern CC

1893 Northern CC 1894 Cathkin CC

1895 No competition 1896 No competition

1897 Carrick CC 1898 Wishaw CC

1899 Wishaw CC

 

Appendix 2

 

William Pearce Cup – West of Scotland Harriers Cross-Country Champion

1900 JJ McCafferty 1901 JJ McCafferty

1902 WT Marshall 1903 PJ McCafferty

1904 Thos. Mulrine 1905 Geo. Mackenzie

1906 Thos. Mulrine 1907 Wm Bowman

1908 Geo. Mackenzie 1909 Geo. Mackenzie

1910 Geo. Mackenzie 1911 Harry Hughes

1912 Geo. Mackenzie 1913 Geo. Mason

1914 David Peat 1915 No competition

1916 No competition 1917 No competition

1918 No competition 1919 No competition

1920 GH Davidson 1921 GH Davidson

1922 GH Davidson 1923 BS Passmore

1924 CH Freshwater 1925 RB McIntyre

1926 RB McIntyre 1927 BS Passmore

1928 A Spencer 1929 A Spencer

1930 SK Tombe 1931 WS Fisher

1932 A Spencer 1933 AL Spencer

1934 AL Spencer 1935 AL Spencer

1936 A Spencer 1937 no record found

1938 no record found 1939 no record found

Ackowledgements and sources

The Maybole history group and Rich Pettit in particular were a good source of sporting (and other) history and made valuable suggestions.  https://www.maybole.org/history/books/carricks%20capital/sport.htm

As always, the British Newspaper Archive was invaluable in both bringing to light further material as well as substantiating sources and information

Membership handbooks of the West of Scotland Harriers were used to gather more detailed information up to 1939 (possession of the author).

Norrie Dallas provided photographs of the cup from photographs in his possession, plus further information and support for this article

The etching of John Meikle is taken from The Scottish Umpire, Sept 6th, 1887. The Scottish Umpire was accessed at the Mitchell Library, Glasgow.

The photograph of George Mackenzie forms part of the author’s materials on the West of Scotland Harriers.

The material on William Pearce was accessed largely at Glasgow City Archives number GC 920. 04. BA

Further material on Pearce was accessed at the University of Glasgow, the University of Glasgow Story at https://www.universitystory.gla.ac.uk/biography/?id=WH0159&type=P

 

Hamish Telfer

Heart of Midlothian Sports: 1885 – 1890

The contribution of Scottish football to the development of amateur athletics in the early days was vitally important to the development of the sport and this has been well documented on this website already    One of the major contributors in this respect was the Heart of Midlothian FC whose annual sports were well attended and generally very successful. 

In 1886, the Heart of Midlothian Football Club Annual Sports took place over two Saturdays – 29th May and 5th June.   The first day was largely Five-a-Sides.   First team were to receive gold medals and the second team silver medals.   Twenty teams had entered and the first and second rounds were decided at this meeting.  There were other items and they were a 120 yards handicap race (confined to members of the club), a quarter mile handicap (confined) and half mile handicap (confined).    The following week saw Edina Hearts No 2 win the football gold medals from Northern by one goal and 2 touches to 1 touch.   As far as the athletics were concerned, there were some well known names taking part.   The events and results were as follows:

120 Yards:  4 heats and a final:  1.   Allan (St Georges FC) 1 yard;  2.  Jenkinson (HMFC) 5 yards;  3.  Phillips (Northern FC) 2 yards

Dribbling Race: 1.  D Riddoch (St Bernard’s); 2nd D Aitken (HMFC)

Quarter Mile Handicap: 1. TED Ritchie (Edinburgh H) Scr;  2.  T Jenkinson (HMFC) 13 yards; 3.  TD Cameron (EUAC)  2 1/2 yds

Half Mile handicap: 1.  JA Wilson (EUAC) 58 yards;  2.  TED Ritchie (Edinburgh H)  Scr;  3.  WF Arnot (St George FC) 80 yards.   

Place Kick:  1. Alex Vallance (Rangers FC); 2ndD Aitken (HMFC)   Distance 160 ft  6 in

One Mile handicap: 1.  P Addison (Edinburgh H) 125 yards;  2. JG Grant (Edinburgh H) 20 yards; 3.  D Syme (EFA) 113 yards.

Hurdle Race:  1. A Vallance (Rangers); 2.  R White (Hamilton Academicals FC)

Twenty minutes go-as-you-please race: DS Duncan (Edinburgh H);  2.  WM Jack (Edinburgh H) 3.  P Addison (Edinburgh H)

Consolation Race:  WA McLaren (Edinburgh H).

It was an interesting and varied programme with two sprints, two middle distance races, a go-as-you-please, a place kick and a dribbling race all on the programme with several very talented athletes such as Alex Vallance, David Duncan, Peter Addison and WM Jack all competing.   It was just a year since the first open athletic club had been formed (4th May 1885) and only nine months since the birth of Edinburgh Harriers in September 1885 and although the Edinburgh team was represented, there were many competitors from football teams.

Alex Vallance

In 1887, the sports were again spread over two Saturdays with both being in June.   Again, the first part was almost entirely devoted to an invitation eleven -a-side football tournament.   There were three handicap races confined to members of the football club and the preliminary rounds of the football.   As for the football: “This was robbed of a great deal of its interest by the action of the Hibernians who elected to go to Dundee rather than fulfil their engagement at Tynecastle.   In order to prevent disappointment, the ground team got together a scratch eleven to contest the first tie with the Bo’ness and a hard tie resulted in favour of the visitors.”   

The following week, the programme was much as before with several of the same athletes from 1886 competing.   The handicapper was Mr W Lapsley – owner and convener of meetings at Powderhall Grounds who really knew his job, and, more importantly, knew the athletes.   The results on the day were as follows:

120 yards handicap: HE Trussett (St George’s FC); 2. A Mates (WSAC); 3. T Kitchen (Kilmarnock H)

Dribbling Race: 1. J Taylor (St Bernards FC); 2. MA Greig (HMFC)

440 yards handicap: 1. A Mason (WCAC) 15 yards;  2. E Henderson (HMFC) 25 yards; 3. J Brown (Melrose VC) 22 yards

880 yards handicap: 1.  A Wilson (WCAC) 12 yards ; TED Ritchie (K Harriers) Scr;  3.  TM Imlach (HMFC) 70 yards).   ” min 06 sec

One Mile Handicap: 1.  J Young (Edinburgh H) 25 yards); P Addison (Edinburgh H) 60 yards;  3. K Wareham (Edinburgh H) 90 yards.   4 min 30 3-5th sec

Hurdle Race: 1.   W Whitelaw (Edinburgh H)2.  Sime (unattached).

Four mile handicap: W Henderson (Clydesdale Harriers) 50 yards;  2. WM Jack Edinburgh H) scr.   30 min 42 sec

Place kick: K McKenzie (Burntisland Thistle) Distance 149 feet

No really big names jump out but there were several who were talented, international runners and popular in their day – TED Ritchie had won the SAAA 880 yards in 1894, Henderson was second in the 10 miles to Alex Findlay in 1897, and Addison was a very good runner, a favourite with the crowds for his never-say-die spirit and he had his reward when he was picked for the Irish International.

The 1888 versions of the sports were again on the first two Saturdays in June  –  June2nd was the first day and it was again mainly football.   They were not so favoured by the weather “owing to the state of the weather the only event which came off was a football match between the St Mirren and the Mossend Swifts.”  St Mirren won 2 – 1.

The report on Saturday 9th June began by saying that “during the first Heats rain began to fall.   When the fourth event on the programme was reached a heavy downfall took place.   After that however the rain ceased altogether.”   

Dribbling Race:  1.   T Murray (HMFC) ; 2  J Wood.

440 yards handicap: 12 runners.   1.   J Adams (HMFC) 14 yards; 2. W Whitelaw (EH) 10 yards) 3. FD Cameron (SCAC) 18 yards;  Time  59 sec.

120 yards handicap final: 1. W Bernard ; 2. G Erskine ; J Adams (St G FC).   Time 12 2-5th sec.

880 yards handicap: six ran.  1. G Hume (EH) 25 yards;  2. FT Rae (EH) 15 yards;  3. JJ Archibald (St B FC) 20 yards.  Time  2 min 16 1-5th sec.

Place Kick: 1.   Ferguson;  2.  Carruthers (HMFC)   Distance 135 ft 7 inhes.   

One Mile Handicap: 1. WM Jack (EH) 30 yards;  2.  DS Duncan (EH) scratch; 3.  W Heathcote (St Bernards FC)  Time 4 min 44 sec.

Hurdle race.   4 runners.  W Whitelaw (EH); 2.  JH Allan (St George FC)

Two Mile Handicap: Four entered – a capital race!  1.  WM Jack (EH) scr;  2. P Addison (EH) 115 yards;  3. W Heathcote (St Bernards FC) 170 yards.   No time taken.

Despite the weather it was another fairly successful Saturday’s sport – not as big a fixture as some of the Glasgow meetings, it had nevertheless some very good races if the reports are to be believe – particularly the Two Miles Handicap although it would have been interesting to have seen the time.

 

The sports of 1889 followed more or less the same formula with the first Friday night, which had a crowd of approximately 3000, having the three confined track events and the football preliminary rounds. this time it was again a five-a-side.   The weather was a bit better and all scheduled events took place. 

The report for the meeting of 8th June 1889

After the traditional first Saturday on 31st May, 1890, the weather for the second Saturday, report below) was described as ‘charming’ and there was a large attendance of spectators.   The first event was the 100 yards sprint which this year had ten Heats .   The Heats were followed by the Dribbling Race which had four Heats, the final being won by W Taylor  (HMFC).    After the final of the confined 120 yards, the second round of the open 100 took place with two Heats to be run.   

There is no doubt that the Sports were successful – the football domination of the first night – the tournament plus confined athletic events only – was always well supported and the second session a week later was usually contested by good class athletes.   The Glasgow meetings went on in the 1890’s to attract international star athletes and the question is whether the Hearts Sports could do the same. 

Hamish Telfer’s Scottish Harriers Histories

Hamish Telfer was a member of West of Scotland Harriers and a good club runner who trained under John Anderson.   He went on to become a high quality coach and  has maintained an involvement in the sport ever since.   He is particularly interested in the Harrier movement in Scotland.   This interest is not just to do with the current scene or even yesterday’s harriers.   It goes back to the days before organised harrier clubs existed and he has done, and is doing, considerable research on the topic.   His work is invaluable to any serious historian and is of interest to all who are involved, even peripherally, in Scottish endurance running.   The articles located at different points through this website can be seen at the links below.   

[ Harrier Clubs Before 1885 ]   [ Harrier Clubs Before 1900 ]   [ The First Scottish Harrier Clubs ]

[The William Pearce Cup ]

The Race to Sub 2

 

 

The race to become the first Scottish amateur to run the half mile (804.67 metres) in under 2 minutes began in earnest on June 26, 1867. The occasion was the second annual sports of the Edinburgh University Athletic Club, founded in 1866. The venue was Greenhill Park, Edinburgh, where a quarter-mile grass track had been – we will assume correctly – marked off with small red flags. On the first day of the two-day event, a large and fashionable assemblage witnessed a sensation when 20-year-old law student William Kinross Gair scorched to victory in the half mile in a sensational time of 2:01.0. For good measure, Gair also turned out the following day and took the quarter mile in 53.25 sec. A gifted all-round athlete who also excelled at cricket and golf, Gair probably achieved these performances with only a modest amount of training. On graduation, he became the Procurator Fiscal for East Stirlingshire and held this post continuously until three years before his death in 1932.

Incidentally, the University of Edinburgh Athletics Club was not only in the vanguard of Scottish amateur athletics in the 1860s, but also, it would appear, the first sporting organisation in Scotland to use a stopwatch to record performances. The stopwatch in question would probably have been the Benson’s Chronograph, developed in 1861 by the royal watchmaker James William Benson of London. Advertised as “an invention for the timing to the fraction of a second and for the registration of minute observations”, the early models had an accuracy of a quarter of a second and retailed at £42 in silver and £52 10s in gold. These were exorbitantly expensive timepieces. To put it into a proper perspective, in 1867 a Benson’s Chronograph would have set you back twice as much as the average worker earned in a year. Only wealthy individuals or affluent organisations like Edinburgh University A.C. could afford themselves the luxury.

It was not until the 7th edition of the Edinburgh University Athletic Club Sports at Greenhill Park that another amateur would come close to Gair’s mark. On June 19, 1872, after seeing off the persistent challenges of Edinburgh medical student Reginald Mapleton, 18-year-old David Henry Watson of the Glasgow Academical Athletic Club passed the finishing post in a superb time of 2:01.75. Watson later took up a career as a stockbroker at the Glasgow Stock Exchange and was capped three times for the Scottish rugby team. In 1877 he delivered the decisive pass that enabled Malcolm Cross to drop the winning goal for Scotland against England on the playing fields at Raeburn Place.

https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/95796/scotland-rugby-team-1877

We will have to turn the clock forward another eight years to the 14th edition of the Edinburgh University Athletic Club Sports on July 9, 1880 until another amateur athlete comes within a sniff of the two-minute mark again. Here on the grounds of the Royal High School in Corstorphine, 22-year-old Alexander Stephen Paterson (E.U.A.C.) was credited a good time of 2:03.8 when finishing third from scratch in the handicap race.

The following year, Paterson passed up the opportunity to defend his half-mile title at the E.U.A.C. Sports, making way for 20-year-old Malcolm Tod (Edinburgh Wanderers’ F.C.) who won from scratch in a lifetime best of 2:03.5. Both Paterson and Tod quit athletics at the end of that season and, like many Scots of that era, set their sights on the colonies, the former eventually settling in New Zealand and the latter emigrating to Canada. Paterson was a founding member of the Scottish Amateur Athletic Association in 1883 and served as Hon. Treasurer and Hon. Secretary of the new federation until 1885. A barrister by profession, he emigrated to Wellington in 1888, where he passed the English bar and practiced law until his health broke down a year before his early death in 1898. Having been a popular figure in his native Edinburgh, he had been poised to stand for the New Zealand parliament.

By now, the pattern was becoming a familiar one: young, mostly middle to upper class student-athletes would appear like comets out of nowhere and light up the tracks with their dazzling performances before disappearing without a trace. The reason may be found in societal norms around social standing among the educated elite and the role of sport as a rite of passage on the road to graduation and a career in the making. After the public schools and universities had paved the way and codified key aspects of amateur athletics, the first clubs began to emerge outside of academia contributing to the groundswell that would eventually lead to the formation of the Scottish Amateur Athletic Association in 1883.

The fastest Scottish amateur half miler in 1882 was the 20-year-old Douglas R. McCulloch, of Helensburgh Athletic Club, who on 27 May covered the distance at Kennyhill Park, Glasgow, in 2:03.5.

15 years after William Gair had brushed with the 2-minute mark, the race to become the first Scot to go sub 2 was still wide open.

One of the highlights of the inaugural S.A.A.A. championships at Powderhall Grounds on June 23, 1883 was the half mile race in which the Scoto-Canadian Tom Moffatt (Montreal A.C.) triumphed by 20 yards from Tom Ireland (E.U.A.C.) in a Scottish record time of 2:00.75. Moffatt, who was born in Whitehill near Edinburgh in 1859, ran with a long, graceful stride and a handkerchief covering his head, drawing comparisons to his great American contemporary Lon Myers. He spent the summer of 1883 touring Scotland before returning to Canada, where he won the first Canadian half mile championship at Montreal in 2:07.5 on 6 October. On September 27, 1884, he defended his Canadian title over the half mile at Montreal in 2:05.8 and also won the quarter mile in 52.5. To cash in on his fame, he subsequently turned professional.

Alas, the ensuing years brought no further progress towards the grail of the sub-2-minute half mile which shimmered tantalisingly on the horizon like an untouchable desert mirage.

The fastest Scottish amateur over the half mile in 1884 was Telfer Ritchie (St George F.C.), who covered the distance in 2:02.4 minutes when he won the S.A.A.A. championship at Powderhall Grounds on 28 June. Ritchie made a valiant effort to defend his S.A.A.A. title on 27 June 1885 at Westmarch Ground, Paisley, but could do no better than 3rd place. Victory went to James Logan (Vale of Leven F.C.), who won by a foot from Reginald “Reggie” Morrison (E.U.A.C.) in a Scottish best for that year of 2:03.6. Though being of Australian birth, Morrison was selected and played for Scotland at rugby in their matches against England, Ireland and Wales in 1886. He also held the post of S.A.A.A. Hon. Treasurer in 1885-86, but he eventually gravitated back Down Under and became a medical practitioner in Melbourne.

In 1886 James Logan was again the fastest Scot over the half mile courtesy of a fine 2:01.8 at Hampden Park on 21 August. Three years after the formation of the S.A.A.A., more and more working-class amateurs, of which Logan was exemplary, were now coming to the fore. Logan, born at Bonhill in 1863, was employed as a printfield worker, dyeing and printing calico fabrics for a living. Telfer Ritchie, having joined Watson’s College A.C. and Edinburgh Harriers, rediscovered his best form after a year in the doldrums and posted several good times that year: a 2:02.0 at Powderhall Grounds on 17 July, a 2:02.3 behind James Logan at Hampden Park on 21 August and a 2:02.6 at Kinning Park on 14 August. The four-time S.A.A.A. champion over the mile, David Scott Duncan (Edinburgh Harriers), also showed a good turn of speed over the “half” when he clocked a 2:03.5 at Hampden Park on 21 August. Duncan really needs no introduction here, and his invaluable contribution to Scottish amateur athletics is amply documented elsewhere. However, none of the above-mentioned featured in the S.A.A.A. half-mile championship, which was decided at Powderhall Grounds on 21 June, the 18-year-old Watsonian Simon Henderson winning easily ahead of two other lesser-knowns in a modest 2:04.8.

There was little for Scots to celebrate in 1887 either. John Braid, a teacher at Stanley House, the former public school in Bridge of Allan, provided the outstanding performance of the year when he won the S.A.A.A. championship at Hampden Park on 23 June in 2:02.4. However, there was at least some quality in depth, with Stephen Nobbs (Royal High School F.C.) finishing second in 2:03.2.

Fast times over the half mile were again in short supply in 1888. There was, however, a solitary ray of hope when Alex Marshall (Dumbarton A.F.C. & Clydesdale Harriers) romped to victory in the S.A.A.A. half-mile championship at Powderhall Grounds on 23 June in 2:02.6. David Macmichael (Edinburgh Harriers) produced a similarly good performance at Powderhall Grounds on 19 May, when he won the half-mile handicap from 10 yards in 2:01.4. It was clear, however, that Scotland desperately needed an injection of fresh blood in this event.

As if on cue, a new star emerged in 1889: Robert “Bob” Mitchell. Born in Paisley in 1870, Mitchell joined St. Mirren F.C. (and also, subsequently, Clydesdale Harriers) in 1888 and trained at Westmarch Ground under the watchful eye of the former professional champion, and latterly “Saints” trainer and groundsman, Bob Hindle. Mitchell had an easy, graceful running style but he also possessed frightening raw speed (he could sprint the 100 yards in under 11 seconds) allied to solid endurance, both of which Hindle was careful to cultivate. After running 2:01.5 off 10 yards at Kilmarnock on 4 May and 2:02.2 at Hampden Park on 30 May, Mitchell stormed to victory in the Scottish half mile championship on 22 June 1889, again at Hampden Park, in a near-record time of 2:01.0. Waiting until the home straight before unleashing his finishing sprint, he won easily by 10 yards from John Wright (Dalmuir Thistle F.C. & Clydesdale Harriers), with Alex Marshall, the holder, third in about 2:05.0. Mitchell concluded the 1889 season by setting a Scottish 600 yard record of 1:15.6 at Ibrox Park on 3 August and posting a 2:02.2 for the half mile at Paisley on 10 August. There was no doubt that he was capable of going sub 2 in the right conditions, and under more auspicious circumstances he might in fact have achieved it during his rookie year – but, alas, he didn’t. The Glasgow Herald in its June 23, 1889 edition reported a rumour that he had done 1 min 59 sec in practice. Old-school peds like Bob Hindle were hard taskmasters who ascribed to rigorous training and all-out time trials, but a rumour was a rumour, regardless of its credibility.

After comfortably defending his Scottish Half mile Championship at Powderhall Grounds on June 23, 1890 in 2:03.2, Mitchell turned his attention to breaking Tom Moffatt’s Scottish half mile record of 2:00.75 and, specifically, or more importantly, to becoming the first Scottish amateur to officially beat 2 minutes. At the St. Mirren Sports on Westmarch on 19 July he took advantage of perfect weather to win the half-mile handicap by 4 yards from his training partner John Hindle (37y). He succeeded in lowering the Scottish record to 2:00.4, making him the first Scottish amateur to intrinsically beat 2 minutes for 800 metres, but failed to achieve what was probably his real goal. A week later, in any case, he was back at Westmarch with the declared intention of trying to break the record again. Unfortunately, he was facing an unwieldy field of 26 participants and sub-optimal conditions. The actual time of the race was 1:59.2, and Mitchell, who was 4th, was credited with doing it in a fraction over 2 minutes. This time, however, varies with different accounts from 2:00.4 to 2:00.8, so he could not be credited with equalling the record. After two near misses, Mitchell made no further serious attempts at the sub-2-minute half mile over the remainder of the season. Meanwhile, over in Dundee, Charles Niven Cation (Hawkhill Harriers) put in a flawless performance on 19 July when he won the scratch handicap race at a Bon Accord meeting in 2:01.8. However, Cation was another of those highly promising athletes who materialised like a genie out of a bottle and then vanished into thin air.

On June 20, 1892, Bob Mitchell secured his third S.A.A.A. half mile title in a row at Hampden Park with a time of 2:03.6. On this occasion, however, he was pushed all the way by Walter Malcolm (Morton F.C. & Clydesdale Harriers), who finished just 3 yards behind. While Mitchell failed to get beyond 2:03.4 for the 880 that year (at Ibrox Park on 25 July), Malcolm emerged from the Paisley man’s shadow, graduating to scratch and inching ever closer to that elusive sub-2-minute clocking in the weeks following the national championships. At the St. Mirren F.C. Sports at Westmarch on 25 July he won the quarter off 10 yards in 51.2, running on to complete the full 440 in 53.0 seconds. Then he took second place in the half-mile handicap in 2:00.6 off 5 yards (which equates to 800 metres). On 15 August he went one better when he ran second in the half-mile handicap at the Morton F.C. Sports at Cappielow Park in his native Greenock in 2:01.0. A ship draughtsman by trade, Malcolm trained under the direction of John Ferguson on the cinder track at Cappielow Park. Like his great adversary from the Paisley school, he was a stylist with an impressive turn of speed. With Mitchell looking to win his fourth S.A.A.A. title and Malcolm determined to strip him of his crown, the next season promised to be exciting. And, of course, the question of who would be the first Scottish amateur to beat the 2-minute barrier was still on the table. Mitchell or Malcolm? Gentlemen place your bets!

When Walter Malcolm and Bob Mitchell crossed swords again at Hampden Park on 4 June 1892, the Paisley man won without turning a hair in 2:01.6. In fact, Mitchell could not resist casting a mocking glance back to the Greenockian, who finished 3 yards behind in 2:02.0. At the S.A.A.A. championships in Dundee on 25 June, Mitchell again came out of top, scoring his fourth successive victory, albeit minus the gamesmanship this time, for he had to pull out all the stops to win by half a yard from Malcolm in 2:05.8. A week later at the Clydesdale Harriers Sports at Hampden Park on 2 July, it was Walter Malcolm’s turn to make a serious attempt on the half-mile record. Regrettably, he was running in the absence of Mitchell, who had inexplicably declined the invitation. In this race, unusually, the winner’s time was not taken because all the watches were on Marshall! And he didn’t disappoint when he sprinted across the finishing line in 2:00.2, a new Scottish record by a fifth of a second, missing the 2-minute mark by a hair’s breadth. As neither Marshall nor Mitchell were able to make any further gains that season, the “jackpot” rolled over to 1893.

In 1893 the signs were set for a breakthrough in the matter of the sub-2-minute half mile, but would it come to pass? One real breakthrough worth mentioning that year was that of John Hindle, Bob Mitchell’s training partner. Hindle, a scourer and finisher in the Paisley cloth industry, had improved steadily under his father’s guidance and joined the top echelon of Scottish half milers. Mitchell was out due to injury and had to forgo the S.A.A.A. championships at Hampden Park on 17 June. Even in Mitchell’s absence, though, the race for the half mile championship was a memorable one, Walter Malcolm (2:01.8) winning by a yard from John Hindle (2:02.0), who in turn was a yard ahead of the talented young Watsonian Andrew Muir (2:02.2). Malcolm and Hindle two also had a great race over 1000 yards at the West of Scotland Harriers Sports at Hampden Park on 12 June, where both competed from scratch in the half-mile handicap as part of an arranged attempt on the 1000 yards record. After both men passed through the half mile just behind the placed runners in 2 min 2 sec, Malcolm got away from Hindle over the last 120 yards and won by 4 yards in a new Scottish record of 2:21.0. Surprisingly, the 2-minute bastion managed to withstand all assaults once again. In fact, the fastest time by a Scot that year was not credited to Malcolm, but to Hindle, who was timed at 2:01.2 at Ibrox Park on 8 July.

This lantern slide image dating from 1893 shows a 600-yard scratch race at Cappielow Park, Greenock, featuring (from left to right) Tom Robertson (Clydesdale H.), James Rodger (Carrick H.), John Hindle (St. Mirren AC), Robert Mitchell (St. Mirren AC) and Walter Malcolm (Morton F.C.). © McLean Museum and Art Gallery, Greenock.

A shift in the balance of power occurred in 1894, when Walter Malcolm made his exit and John Hindle fell away after promising so much. Meanwhile, Bob Mitchell returned from injury and James Rodger came to the fore as a half-miler. At the S.A.A.A. Championships at Powderhall Grounds on 23 June Mitchell secured a record 5th win in a slow race devoid of his toughest opponents. Despite that, he could not get near 2 minutes for the half mile, his best effort that year being a 2:01.6 at Ibrox Park on 30 June. The fastest Scot over 880 yards in 1894 was in fact James Rodger (Carrick Harriers), who just missed the national record when he clocked 2:00.4 at Underwood Park, Paisley, on 21 July. Rodger, a watchmaker from Maybole, was a two-time winner of the S.A.A.A. mile championship. Another bright spot was the rapid rise of Robert Langlands (Clydesdale Harriers), who won the half-mile handicap at Hampden Park on 9 June in 2:01.0 off 20 yards and saw his starting allowance slashed.

You may be asking what happened to Walter Malcolm? After the 1893 track season he sustained what only was described as a “career-ending injury”. However, things would go from bad to worse for Malcolm. On 23 April 1895 he died of phthisis pulmonalis after suffering a ruptured blood vessel. He was only 24 years of age.

The 1895 season marked a changing of the guard in the half mile as Robert Mitchell finally lost his stranglehold on the event. It also saw the secession of the western clubs from the S.A.A.A. and the formation of the S.A.A.U., which, in turn, meant that there was now not one, but two, national championship meetings. From the outset it was clear that Robert Langlands would go on to great things that year when he ran the half mile in 2:00.8 off 12 yards at Partick on 20 April. Robert Langlands was born at Govan on 27 April 1870 and worked as a surveyor for Lloyds of London. He was one of four brothers from Dumbarton whose father was Postmaster in Dumbarton.   Unlike the rangy Bob Mitchell, he ran with a short, choppy stride but nevertheless he was able to cover the ground very quickly. On 1 June he improved to 2 minutes dead off 10 yards at Alexandria. While Langlands was making all the news, James Rodger made his season’s debut at the annual sports of the Victoria Bicycle Club at Underwood Park, Paisley, on 4 June. And what a debut it was! Having only recently recovered from injuries sustained in an accident, he won half mile flat race from scratch in a magnificent 2:00.0 – a new Scottish record. However, it would appear Rodgers’ performance was a footnote lost in the white noise of the ongoing dispute between the east and west, and it was never recognised as a Scottish record even though the result was published in miscellaneous newspapers. That notwithstanding, the sub-2-minute half mile was now so close you could almost touch it.

At the S.A.A.U. Championships at Ibrox Park on 22 June, there was unfortunately no showdown between Langlands and Rodger over the half mile as Rodger opted to run the quarter mile, winning in 54.4 sec. There were only two competitors in the half-mile championship – the two Bobs, Langlands and defending champion Mitchell. This, according to Scottish Referee, is how the race went: “Attended by the Paisley master — Mitchell — Langlands set off on a race which nobody but those in the innermost “know” could have thought him capable. The pupil of Danny Friel made all the running, and this to such purpose that he ran Mitchell to a standstill and got home alone in the phenomenal and record time of 1 min 59 3-5 secs. This is a new Scottish native record, and it was made in such circumstances as to warrant us expecting even better things from Langlands. To beat Mitchell’s record of 2 mins 2 secs, to rub out Malcolm’s of 2 mins 0 1-5 secs, and to get within measurable distance of Bredin’s 1 min 58 secs, stamps Langlands’ performance as one of the most wonderful in the history of Scottish athletics.”

So that was it. 28 years – and countless failed attempts – after William Kinross Gair had come within a second of breaking 2 minutes, a Scottish amateur had finally done it. After Langlands had shown the way, another two Scottish athletes would emulate the feat by the end of the century: Willie Robertson (1:59.8 in 1898) and Hugh Welsh (1:59.4 in 1899). Even half a century later, a sub-2-minute half mile on cinders was still considered a quality performance. Today in fact, it’s a time many club runners still aspire to over the shorter 800 metre distance, and that’s on synthetic tracks. In 2019, 80 Scots bettered 2 minutes for the 800 metres, but only 65 managed the time required to beat 2 minutes for the half mile (1:59.2).

At the end of the memorable 1895 season, Langlands hung up his spikes for good, having achieved his lifetime goals of winning a Scottish title and setting a Scottish record. Work commitments brought his career to an early end.

One unfortunate figure in this story, James Rodger, managed to get his name into the record books after all when he lowered the Scottish 1000 yards record to 2:20.2 at Ibrox Park on 3 August 1895. However, there was to be no happy ending for Rodger for both he and Mitchell were suspended from the S.A.A.A. in 1898 for betting. One is only left to wonder if they had perhaps once betted on themselves to go sub 2 when they were in their prime.

 

The Iain Robertson Interview

After 20+ years of coaching, Iain retired from the sport and is now living in Kirkcaldy.   He says retired – but he still acts as a consultant to  other coaches and gives advice when he is asked for it.   Coaches come from a variety of backgrounds – some are ex-athletes, some start as a parent who is dragged along by a child and ends up supervising then coaching, and some come from other sports.    Iain is in the latter category.

He started after being a good standard amateur football player.   He had been at school with Brian Scobie and they both played for the school team.   Brian found his way into athletics but Iain was mainly a footballer.   Like other young players of a good standard, there were times that he was playing three games at the weekend – for the school,  for the scouts, for a local amateur team and so on.   He joined the local Killermont Amateur Football Club for whom he played in most positions over the years.   When the team coach moved away to another club, Iain started taking training sessions, and became a player coach.   The high spot was probably when the team won the West of Scotland Amateur League Division One championship in 1963-64.   He was interested in coaching but was coming into it as a player with no real knowledge of training other than from his own experiences.   

In 1963 two Scottish football team managers, Jock Stein of Dunfermline and Willie Waddell of Kilmarnock, went to see how the great Helenio Herrera of Inter Milan went about training his squads.   Ahead of their time, they would probably be ahead of their time were they to do so today.   They came back and talked about what they had learned.   Iain was interested in their findings.   Herrera looked at training, saw how different players reacted to the same training, and understood them as individuals.   Iain took on board the lessons about working with individuals as well as groups and teams and this affected how he worked with the football players he was training.

But he then wanted to take things a bit further and this led him into athletics.   How did he get into athletics?   He had friends participating in the sport, he had done some sprinting at school and he had also been friends at school with Brian Scobie who went on to do great things in athletics.  So the contacts were there.  At that time, with the publicity being given to the upcoming 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh with all the pre-Games hype, he decided to give up football and took up athletics.   Friends encouraged him to  join Maryhill Ladies AC where he met Jimmy Campbell and started out with a few athletes and started on the coaching ladder.

If we stay with the facts we see that his coaching career started like many others but then as his abilities and attitude were recognised, progressed further and maybe faster than most.   At the time there were three grades of coach – Assistant Club Coach, Club Coach and Senior Coach.   He came into coaching in 1970 and in 1974 he took his Senior Coach examination and qualified with the highest mark ever awarded by Great Britain Chief Coach Bill Marlow.   

 It was a rapid rise through the various stages.   At that early point in his career he was already working with people in the club who were running in international fixtures.   There were not many internationals at that time but through the mid 70’s he was asked by Frank Dick to go with some Scottish teams to small international fixtures in Norway and other countries.   He was also working on the educational side of athletics with Frank and that also helped him to progress his coaching skills.    

The Coaching structure in Scotland at the time was a simple but effective pyramid system with the National coach at the top and Group Coaches for the event groups (sprints, endurance, throws and jumps) below and answerable to him.   Each group coach had Event Coaches for whom they were responsible.   Iain became Group Coach for the Sprints in 1981 and Staff Coach for all sprint events.   He held these posts until 1987.   There was a considerable responsibility in both these posts.

His worth was quickly recognised and from 1982 – 84 he was the UK National Event Coach for both Men and Women 400m and the 4 x 400m relay.   This was followed immediately by appointment as UK National Event Coach for Women’s 100m and 200m from 1984 to 1990.   It had been a meteoric rise and was rewarded when at the  National Coaches Conference in 1990 he was awarded the status of Master Coach.   

 With the GB Men’s and Women’s Sprint Squad: Iain is standing beside Linford Christie and in front of John Regis.

Having looked at the outline of his career as a coach, we should maybe look at his philosophy of coaching and what made him so successful.   

The coaching structure that he operated within, as outlined above, has changed irrevocably now but he has no doubts about its efficacy.   In his opinion, one of its main virtues was that good coaches came together and worked together.   They spoke to each other as coaches and learned from each other.   They read about their events, they attended courses and conventions and brought the information back.  It was a way of bringing all the knowledge together, assessing it and sharing it.    Iain is adamant that you have to listen to people all the way through, you don’t have to agree with them but you have to listen to them and the structure was good at ensuring a two way flow of information.   

The information exchange with everybody at all levels he sees as vital but who were the main influences on him?    Undoubtedly some seeds were sown by what he read of Helenio Herrera (above) and his thoughts on the sports person as an individual.    Given how early in Iain’s coaching career Herrera came along, we can have a quick look at what Wikipedia has to say about him.   It says:

“Herrera pioneered the use of psychological motivating skills – his pep-talk phrases are still quoted today, e.g. “he who doesn’t give it all, gives nothing”, and “Class + Preparation + Intelligence + Athleticism = Championships”. These slogans were often plastered on billboards around the ground and chanted by players during training sessions.

He also enforced a strict discipline code, for the first time forbidding players to drink or smoke and controlling their diet – once at Inter he suspended a player after telling the press “we came to play in Rome” instead of “we came to win in Rome”.   

It was about working with individuals – each individual reacts differently to the same training – and to do with motivation.   If you look at some of the comments on   this page   you will see how much of a motivator Iain was when working with Glasgow AC some decades later.

 When he joined up with Maryhill Ladies AC there was the influence of the livewire Jimmy Campbell – a wonderful coach with a lifetime of involvement in sport (football as well as athletics) and experience of working with athletes at all levels.   As a mentor, Jimmy (on the right above) was in the very top class.   A Scottish and British international coach he was always on the go, always keen to help other coaches – and always interested in the individual athlete or coach to whom he was talking or with whom he was working.   

When Iain was working through in Edinburgh he travelled through to Glasgow three and four times a week – but he also did some work with George Sinclair and his athletes – another source of information and ideas.   Add in Bill Walker at Meadowbank too.   But from the mid 70’s he was influenced by National Coach Frank Dick (above) whom he thinks was outstanding at bringing to Scotland what was happening in the whole world of athletics.   Iain found himself thrown into situations by Frank that challenged him and assisted him to develop even further.   When one of his athletes (Val Smith) won the WAAA’s Junior 100m, Iain was invited to make a presentation at the International Coaches Convention presenting immediately after David Hemery – pretty daunting as a young coach, facing an audience of hundreds of experienced coaches in a packed hall who had just heard from an Olympic champion.     

Then there was the trip to Bad Blankenberg in East Germany in 1989 as a member of the UK delegation to the XV Congress of the European Athletic Coaches Association in the middle of the cold war.   Even the journey to get there was educational in many ways – through the infamous Checkpoint Charlie, travelling thereafter in a coach with blacked out windows and so on.   Travelling with the top coaches, sharing information, techniques and knowledge was a tremendous experience for Iain and the information which he gained was shared with others back home in Scotland because he was not selfish with the knowledge.    Frank had him involved in coach education from early on and he was a regular speaker at the SAAA/SWAAA courses at Inverclyde.  

When  we look at the many successes Iain had with many athletes at international, Commonwealth, European, World Championships and Olympic Games, we really want to see how he went about his work, what his guiding principals were in practical terms..   

The attention to the individual athlete is always in any conversation with Iain about coaching.   He also says that it is not always the international standard athlete who is the highlight for the coach at any given time.   You succeed best when you help each individual performer to maximise what they can achieve with their own ability whatever their level.   Certainly those who have seen him coaching at club level know that the range of talents with which he worked was wide – he was not a coach who only operated in the upper echelons of athletics.   

As far as dealing with athletes is concerned, it is vital that the athlete understands what the session is seeking, what the session is teaching and/or what the activity is working to achieve.  The coach can see the movement patterns but only the athlete can sense/feel the kinaesthetic cues ie the feelings/sensations in their neuromuscular system.  Learning to ‘feel’ the movement patterns and report appropriately is where the athlete helps the coach.  This effective interaction is vital in getting technique precise, for that athlete, allowing the athlete to ‘feel’ the performance, and continually seek to replicate optimal sensation to underpin optimal performance outcomes. The old adage ‘if you can’t do it right slowly you won’t do it right at speed’ should advise the journey to optimal technique supporting optimal performance.

Coaches have athletes come to them at varying stages of their career and when you have been as successful a coach as Iain, sprinters of a high standard come looking for  whatever will give them a bit extra, lift them up to a higher level of competition.   In that case, the coach fulfils a different function.   He becomes an advisor or a consultant.   After all, he says, the coach does not necessarily know what it is like to step on to the track, in front of 1000’s of spectators at an Olympic Games – the athlete learns.   The coach wants the athlete to fulfil his ambition and they work together to do that.   Of course, that depends on the coach having the knowledge in the first place.   

Sandra and Iain at the Olympics in Los Angeles

That Iain had the skill and pedigree to assist any athlete in the country is shown in many ways but probably best by Sandra Whittaker’s career.    An extract from her own account of training with Iain (seen in its entirety at the link above) reads

“When I joined Glasgow Athletic Club I was fortunate enough to be placed in the sprints training group which Iain Robertson coached.   Within the first year Iain had quickly recognised my potential and approached my parents to ask if they could bring me to training more than once a week as he said he felt he could really make something of me.  After discussion, my parents committed to taking me out to Scotstoun three times a week and Bellahouston one day a week.  This was the start of great things to come.”    “Our training programmes were very challenging, but with Iain’s support and encouragement we got through them, sometimes on our knees by the end of a session.”

Early recognition, get the parents not just on-side but prepared to help in an active fashion, and being able to make the athlete work hard.   From these beginnings Sandra went on to perform at the very highest level.   Maybe her best performances were

(a)  in the World Championships in Helsinki in 1983 when she was eliminated in her Heat of the 200m by just one one-thousandth of a second in a talent packed race with Merlene Ottey, Florence Griffith, Angela Bailey and Marisa Masullo in front of her.   It was four to qualify regardless of times and she ran faster than 12 (twelve) of the 16 who qualified for the semi-finals.     It should also be noted that Sandra’s quarter-final was run into a -0.3 m/s headwind while the other three races benefited from wind assistance that was never less than +1.0 m/s.

and 

(b) in the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984.   She was third in her Heat in 23.22, fifth in the quarter final in 22.98 and failed to qualify for the semi-finals.   Runners in front of her were Bacoul (France) in 22.57, Brisco Hooks (USA and the ultimate winner) in 22.78, Bailey (Canada) and Davis (Bahamas) both in 22.97.    Another ferocious Heat, less than 2 tenths behind second and only 1 one hundredth behind third and fourth.   Faster than 7 of the sixteen who qualified for the semi-final. she was most unfortunate.   

She had been very carefully prepared, racing against the very best in the world there was no one better prepared physically and she certainly did not ‘blow it’ mentally.   It says a lot for her and for Iain’s preparation.   

It was a time of course when athletes from many countries were involved in drug abuse and the athletes from the Soviet bloc countries were particularly understood to be experimenting with various substances and combinations of substances.   When Sandra twice missed out on progressing by the narrowest of margins one has to wonder.   Iain is quite philosophical about it and none of his athletes were using anything illegal.   There was one regret though.    The Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in 1986 saw Sandra come away with a bronze medal in the 200m behind Angela Issajenko of Canada and Kathy Cook of England.    After the Ben Johnson doping scandal and the Canadian Dubin inquiry in Canada, Issajenko confessed under oath to doping offences and gave chapter and verse on what she had been taking and when.   The period encompassed the ’86 Games.   Iain wrote to the governing body requesting that  the result of the Women’s 200m be looked at again in view of what had been admitted at the Dubin investigation but nothing was done about it.   In view of the fact that several such cases have resulted in athletes places in championship races being upgraded after doping offences were discovered, there is a clear case for the situation to be reviewed.  

None of this of course takes away from the remarkable coaching career of a remarkable man – or of the wonderful running of his athletes who all worked hard for him as well as for themselves.

 

 

 

The Iain Robertson File

..Iain, front right, with City of Glasgow AC group at Grangemouth

Like all coaches at the time, no matter how good or how much involved in athletics, Iain had a day job and had to work hard at it.   Nevertheless his time spent track side was considerable and it did not diminish as his responsibilities to coach education or his international duties increased.   Very few, if any, coaches in the 21st century realise how much time and effort was put in by their predecessors.   Some of the very best Russian coaches on a visit to the country were astonished at how much a Senior coach in the 1980’s was supposed to know and that they were all holding down ‘day-jobs’.     Iain’s load was much more than most coaches even then had to carry but it is worthwhile looking at just how much quality work he crammed in.

First on the Athletics Coaching front (remember he only started coaching in 1970):-

1973 – ’76: Scottish Schoolgirls Residential Course at Dunfermline College of Education.

1974:  As a delegate to the UK Sprints Conference: Iain was the Group Leader in a group researching into “increased leg speed” which involved the introductory talk and then leading the discussion involving some of the country’s very best sprints coaches.

Then at the International Coaching Convention in Edinburgh:-

1973: ‘Coaching the young girl athlete’;

1974: ‘Teaching and learning the skills of sprinting’;

1976/’82/’83: Group Seminar leader and Chairman of discussion on all Group feedbacks;

 1986: ‘Development of a Sprinter’. This paper was picked up by and published in ‘Track Technique’ the official technical journal of the Athletic Congress (TAC) of the USA, in the Fall 1987 issue.

On National Coaching:-

1983: At the National Athletic Coaches and National Event Coaches Conference at Crystal Palace, his presentation was on ‘The Work, Duties and Complexities of National Coaching’.

On Sponsorship:-

1988: He presented a paper entitled ‘A Case Study – Lessons for others’ dealing with club sponsorship.   This was at the Glasgow Sports Council’s Forum day at the Kelvin Hall .   (It was the result of his work with Glasgow AC where he had been instrumental in gaining sponsorship of £24,000 over three years from the McLaren Group.  This was not the only sponsorship activity undertaken by Iain – for instance, the photograph below was taken after a successful trip to the WAAA’s championship where as a result of his activities the group could fly to London, stay in the tower at the venue, have a night after the championships were over before flying back home.)

On International Events:-

1990:  He was the Director and Co-ordinator of the Third Workshop of  the European Coaches Association which was held in the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow in association with the European Indoor Championships.

As an organiser:-

1984 – ’93: Iain was a member of the Executive Organising Committee of the Glasgow Marathon, which became the Great Scottish Run,

Also for the same period of 11 years he was the Chairman of the Technical Committee and Primary Finish Controller of the Marathon/Great Scottish Run

1993 – ’98: Member of the Glasgow Marathon Board.

1988 – Manager of the Glasgow team to the Nuremberg Marathon, which won the team prize.   

1986 – ’98: Chairman of the Kelvin Hall Sports Arena Trust

1986 – 2007: Chairman of the Kelvin Hall Sports Education Trust (1986 – ’98), and after stepping down as Chairman of the Trust, he remained as a Trustee until 2007.

 Some other activities which impacted on athletics (and other sports).   

In 1993 Iain went to work at the Scottish Sports Council, which later rebranded to sportscotland, where his role as Director of Finance and Support Services gave him the opportunity to further impact across the broad spectrum of sport.

1993 – 2009: as director and Company Secretary of the Scottsh Sports Council Trust Company he contributed to the operations of the three National Sports Centres – Glenmore Lodge, Inverclyde and Cumbrae. 

1998 – 2009:  As Director of Finance and Support Services at sportscotland he was involved in creating and responsible for setting up the company structure for the Scottish Institute of Sport and acting as Company Secretary to the S.I.S. 

1993 – 2009:  Iain was Trustee and Treasurer of the Scottish Physical Recreation Fund which awarded grant assistance to sports participants, clubs and bodies.

1995 – 2009:  As Director of Finance and Support Services he was involved in the structuring of a new division, with separated accounting functions, when sportscotland was appointed the distributor of the Lottery Sports Fund in Scotland to the benefit of all sports bodies, facility providers and participants.

 2002:  Involved with the creation of the Scottish Sport Hall of Fame and at the inaugural induction ceremony Iain was liaison and host for the family of Eric Liddell, and for Allan Wells and Ian Stewart looking after them on the day of the ceremony.

Much of that might not have happened though.   We came close to losing his services on at least two occasions.   First of all, he applied in 1979-’80 for the post of Director of Coaching for New South Wales. He had family in Australia – his sister was living in the country.   He was interviewed in London for the post by the Executive Director of the New South Wales AAA.  Iain did not get the job but there was a follow up.   He was going to Australia in late 1980 and was asked to go and see the Executive Director again.   It was explained that the person who had been appointed had the same qualifications as Iain but he was Australian working in the country in education so had something to fall back on if the job didn’t go as planned.   However there was an immediate job for Iain – the Armed Forces Championships were being held the following day in Sydney.  Could Iain help?   He could and did and at the meeting he was Chief Track Judge on a searing hot day (he reckons that it was so hot that his leather belt absorbed so much sweat that he could have wrung it out at the end of the afternoon!)   The starter at that meeting had been appointed the chief starter for the Commonwealth Games to be held in Brisbane’s QE11 Stadium in 1982. Iain drank in all the information he could about the starter and his command timings and the challenges athletes faced in the Australian conditions.   He then travelled with his sister to see the facilities in Brisbane and photographed the stadium, the warm up track, alternative preparation areas, the living accommodation, the training facilities and as much detail as he could.   It all came in very useful in the lead-in to the Games, briefing this own and the Scottish Squad on what to expect and therefore prepare for before even leaving Scotland and for the team to use during the Games themselves.   The QE II Stadium is pictured below.  

The second time was in 1981 when Iain was interviewed for the post of BAAB Coach for the North of England West of the Pennines.   He was chosen to fill the post but after he had carefully weighed up the situation, he decided not to take up the offer.

It was a happy ending but his services could have been lost to Scottish athletics altogether.