George T Ward v Tom Blair

This profile is of a sprinter and not a distance runner which makes it unusual on this site but it is included because of the circumstances of a particular race.   I had originally written it as one of a series of Clydesdale Harriers profiles and Ward is undoubtedly a man of his time.   The race in question is a challenge race for a trophy specially commissioned and presented to the winner.   

With a club as notable and as long lived as Clydesdale Harriers, the difficulty in any such work as this the question is who to include and who to leave out. Many champions, international representatives and hard working club men have been omitted. GT Ward had a very successful athletics career but has been included because in 1887 he was involved in a challenge match which represents an aspect of the sport that has long disappeared. When Clydesdale Harriers was formed one of the main athletics talking points for some time had been the challenge matches between WG George and J Cummings in England. Where their three challenge events covered three races at different distances, the GT Ward and T Blair match was a one race shoot out.

GT Ward was a founder member of the club who ran in the club’s first track race – a 300 yards handicap race at Meadowside. He came from the Parkhead area of Glasgow and his father had been an Army sprinter who won several races ‘open to the entire forces.’ His sons were reported to have inherited his ability and George who was the younger first raced in 1883 in the West of Scotland Sports where he was third in the 440 yards to AS Blair and followed this up with second in the 220 yards at the Vale of Leven Sports to Peter Logan. His best meeting that year was at the Abercorn Sports in Paisley where he was first in the 100 yards, first in the 440 yards and second in the 220 yards. He was clearly a runner of some ability when he was challenged by to a race over 220 yards by T. Blair of Queen’s Park FC.

The first blast of the trumpet was an article in the ‘Scottish Umpire’ at the end of September 1886. “We hear that T. Blair (Queen’s Park FC) is anxious to meet G.T. Ward (Clydesdale Harriers) in a 220 yards race, the Harrier to get 4 yards. If the start is authentic and Ward in form the issue should not be in doubt.”

Nothing more appeared in print until the 30th November of the same year when the ‘Scottish Umpire’ had this piece: “G.T. Ward (C.H.) thinks T. Blair (Q.P.) was only joking when he said he would give him 4 yards in 220, but if he really means it, he will accept his generous allowance or run level.”

The New Year came in and then things started to get serious. In the ‘Umpire’ of 18th January 1887 – “Some time ago we made reference to the probability of a 220 yards race being arranged between T. Blair (Q.P.) and G.T. Ward (C.H.). We are now in a position to state that the race has been finally fixed. Both gentlemen, with their friends, met in our office last Wednesday to draft conditions and suggest officials. The match will probably take place at the St Mirren F.C. Sports on 15th April.”

In the ‘Scots Umpire’ of 13th April it was announced that a £10 cup had been donated for the race which was billed as the star attraction at the St. Mirren F.C. Sports in and advertisement further through the same paper. A copy of the article is attached but the gist was as follows: “What promises to be a very interesting and busy athletics season in the West opens on Saturday when the St Mirren and West Of Scotland CC Sports are to be held. Regarding the latter of these we are unfortunately not in a position to say anything very definite never having been favoured with any particulars. The St Mirren Sports however are better advertised and will no doubt be better patronised by athletes. The principal item on the programme is the long talked of 220 yards scratch race between T. Blair (Queens Park) and G.T. Ward (Clydesdale Harriers) for a £10 cup. The event is the first of the kind in Scotland and originated in the desire of the friends of the two athletes to test their respective capabilities over the distance. Ever since it was announced it has created considerable speculation, widespread interest and much diversity of opinion as to the result. In some quarters G.T. Ward finds most favour. The distance is a favourite one with him and as he has, for the first time for him in his somewhat extended athletic career, put himself unreservedly in his trainer’s hands and is pleasing him in his trials it is expected that he will beat his time and win. Tom Blair on the other hand does not lack backing and his friends are confident that he will on the eventful occasion carry off the honours. We are inclined to regard the issue as a very close one and by no means certain on the one side or the other. We however expect a splendid race and a fast time and we believe there will be a large turn out to witness its decision. The St Mirren authorities are doing their best to have all the arrangements in connection with the race as complete as possible.”


Tom Blair

The race itself was covered in the ‘Scottish Umpire’ of 19th April 1887 as follows.
“The fact that Ward reversed the result two weeks later at the Vale of Leven Sports was of little consequence – the challenge had been lost and Blair went on to a magnificent career as a sprinter. In 1886 he was second in the 440, in 1888 he won the event in 53.4 seconds; in 1889 he again won the 440, this time in 52.2 as well as taking second in the 100 yards; in 1890 he took his third 440 yards title in 52.8 and was again second in the 100 yards; in 1891 he was second in the 440; in 1892 he was down to third in the 220 but did not turn out in the 440. Three victories, two seconds in the 440 plus a second in the 100 and a third in the 220 make for a good career!”

Challenges such as that between GT Ward and T Blair were fairly common among the top men. As mentioned earlier it was at about this time for instance that WG George and J Cummings fought out their three race, two man challenges over various distances between one mile and ten miles. The challenge would be issued, the response made, seconds nominated, terms agreed and the match made. It seems strange to us in the twenty first century that athletes would put themselves on the line like this when so many of the top men (and women) avoid each other as much as possible, preferring to achieve qualifying times in Europe, America, England and not at home against each other. It might do more to improve recruitment and standards were the practice of man to man racing reinstituted. His favourite distance was said to be 100 yards and he would have been clear favourite to take the SAAA Championship title in 1888 had his ankle not been injured and giving him considerable difficulty. Although he won three races that year, the title was not one of them. “The Scottish Umpire” reported in 1890 that he had been very unfortunate due to accidents. Presumably ‘accidents’ = ‘injuries’.

The same report went on to point out that he had won over 80 prizes ‘yet he is modest and wears no trinkets.’ It was the fashion to wear medals on the watch chain across the chest and presumably he shunned the practice. It concluded ‘He recommends himself to you by his looks which are free and winsome, set off by the fairest of fair locks.’

Jack Gifford

Victoria Park AAC was formed in April 1930 and one of its first stars was the middle distance runner Jack Gifford.   Born in Airdrie in 1915 he first appears as a good athlete at the SAAA Championships in 1932.   He was the first club man to be noted in the results of the SAAA championships when, although unplaced, he won a standard medal for the Mile.    His running was good enough for him to be asked to run in the invitation mile at the Rangers Sports in August where he was third behind Calderwood (Maryhill) and R Clarke (Plebeian).   In winter 1932/33 he ran the first stage for the unplaced Victoria Park team in the Midland District relays and in the West District Championships at Hamilton he was second to JC Flockhart of Shettleston.   Well don on Flockhart, he was fully 70 yards up on the third runner.   He was absent from the team that ran in the National at the end of the winter season.

 1933 was the year when the first Victoria Park senior man won a medal for the club, it was again Jack Gifford  who was third in the mile.     It had been a good season for him.   On Monday, 22nd May at Hampden in the Maryhill Harriers Sports, he competed in a very good quality two miles race where off a mark of 45 yards he was second to Tom Blakely of the host club who set a new Scottish record for the distance.   The Glasgow Herald commented that Blakely took the lead at a mile and a half in 6 min 59 sec and from that point there ensued a struggle with J Gifford, the youthful Victoria Park runner which lasted to the tape.   Blakely apparently had the race won entering the straight but Gifford challenged boldly and in the end was only beaten by inches.   He ran from the 45 yard mark so he too must have smashed the old record had he run the distance out.”   

After Blakely, it was Tom Riddell that he tested himself against.   On 17th June at the Glasgow Police Sports he was second to Tom Riddell in the One Mile Invitation Handicap    Running from 16 yards he was leading the great man in the back straight of the last lap when he was overtaken, finishing ten yards down at the tape.   He was running well at just the right time – the SAAA championships were just one week later at Hampden Park.   Gifford ran in the mile and was only beaten by Tom Riddell and Jackie Laidlaw.   Riddell was well away and the comment was that Gifford had enhanced an already growing reputation – had Riddell been absent either of the others would have been a worthy champion.   His time that day was 4 minutes 24 seconds.  

That winter he again ran the first stage of the team in the Midland relays and although he turned out in the District Championships he was outside the first ten and only his club’s second scoring runner.   There was no Victoria Park team in the National cross-country championships but in January 1934 they had a team out in the eight stage Edinburgh to Glasgow relay for the first time.   There was another first for Gifford – he ran the first stage for the club and was therefor the first Victoria Park runner ever to run in that wonderful event.   He ran well enough to be fastest man on the stage – two seconds up on Ian Lapraik.   

       1934???   

  In January 1935 Gifford again ran in the Edinburgh to Glasgow but this time on the tough sixth stage.   It may be that the seven miles on the road  was a bit much for a half-mile and mile specialist who never seems to have tackled even two miles on the track but he was over a minute slower than the fastest on the stage although he picked up one place.    In the District Championship that year he was again second Victoria Park finisher when he was tenth although the team finished second and a silver medal was his.   There was however no senior team, indeed no senior runner, from Victoria Park in the national championships at  Hamilton.

Summer 1935 saw the promising Gifford improve at both half-mile and mile.   On Monday 20th May he was back at the Maryhill Harriers Sports at Ibrox where a competitive 880 yards he was timed at 1:57.7 from a handicap of only 8 yards.   His next appearance was at the national SAAA championships at Hampden on 22nd June where he finished second to Tom Riddell but ahead of Donald Mclean of Maryhill Harriers in 4:34.   Riddell won by 25 yards but second in the national championship was his best competitive race yet.    The biggest race was yet to come: on 24th August 1935 he ran against the AAA for a Scottish team and finished fourth in the mile.   

In the ’35/’36 cross-country season, Gifford did not run in the District relays but he did run in the Midland District Championship – but for Bellahouston Harriers and not Victoria Park.   Fifth in the individual race, he could not be counted for the team championship, his change of club had been too recent for that, but he would run and help win many a medal for Bellahouston before his running career was over.   He was however ineligible to run as a team member in the National that year but running as an individual he was 17th.

*

In the SAAA Western District  v  Atalanta match at the Glasgow University ground at Westerlands on Monday, 1st June he was timed at  4:33.0y for the Mile where he was second to Robert Graham.   

Hitherto known as a half- and one miler, Gifford stepped up a distance to race successfully at three miles on 6th June, 1936, at Hampden in the Queen’s Parl FC Sports Meeting at Hampden.   He turned out in the individual and team race over the distance and won in 14:49.6.   The report had a special paragraph on the event headed PERFORMANCE OF MERIT.    It read: “The other performance of real merit was that of Jack Gifford of Bellahouston in the three miles.   He beat JC Flockhart (Shettleston) in a great race by three yards in 14:49.6.”   Other runners who finished behind him were Donald McLean, Emmet Farrell and TW Lamb.      

Gifford might not have been eligible for the cross-country season’s teams, but he could and did run in the club’s medley relay teams.   On 20th June at Glasgow Police Sports a new Scottish medley relay record was set by the Bellahouston Harriers  team of Gifford, Bone, Young and France.  The Glasgow Herald reported: There was one performance of the gathering demanding minute reference and that was the win of Bellahouston Harriers in the one mile medley relay race, which they won in the new Scottish record time of 3:34.2, 0.2 faster than the time put up by Glasgow University at the same sports four years ago.   It was half miler Jack Gifford who really did much to help Bellahouston achieve this performance.   He went round the half-mile at the heels of Robert Graham, always appearing to have an abundance of pace, while it seemed that the joint mile record holder (whose record was broken by SC Wooderson in Saturday’s Southern Championships),  was in front trying hard to get clear of Gifford, but the latter refused to be shaken off and became the challenger-in-chief, with the result that Bellahouston enjoyed the slight advantage of a change-over so close was the struggle; and the time for the half was 1:58.2, the sign of a record in the making. ”   The remainder of the team – G Young, J Bone and Charlie France – all did their bit and the race was won and a record set at 3.34.2.   

The SAAA Championships were held a week later with a Friday night session where the heats of the sprints were run off – as was the final of the medley relay championship.  The successful Bellahouston team from the Police Sports were forward again and won the national medley title with Gifford on the first stage.   The next afternoon, on 27th June at Hampden in the SAAA Championships Gifford confirmed his move up a distance when he ran in the Three Miles.   In an excellent race where he faced opposition from Donald McLean, JC Flockhart, A Dow, I Lapraik and Emmet Farrell, he emerged victorious in 14 min 54 seconds from McLean of Maryhill.    The Glasgow Herald correspondent seemed a bit confused as to Gifford’s club allegiance – the results had him as Bellahouston Harriers but the report read: “A fine spectacular race was the three miles, won by J Gifford (Victoria Park).   It was veteran Donald McLean who made it a great race by compelling the favourite of Victoria Park to pull out all he knew to head the big smiling Greenock policeman in the good time of 14 min 54 sec.”

1937 Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay race start.

On 30th November, 1936, Gifford ran the second fastest time of the day to see the team finish second.  In the District championships proper, he finished fifth although the team was out of the medals.   Came the national and he was twenty eighth for the team that finished eighth.   The Edinburgh to Glasgow relay was a bit later in 1937, being run on 3rd April, 1937, instead of January as in previous years.   It was a more successful team outing and Gifford ran on the last stage where he pulled up one place for Bellahouston Harriers to finish in third and win him a bronze medal.   

Wednesday, 12 May, 1937 was right in the middle of coronation celebrations which included athletics meetings in both Glasgow and Edinburgh.    Gifford ran in the Hampden Park event and won the Three Miles in 14:44.4.    The pace was made mainly by JC Flockhart and he and Emmet Farrell led into the home straight but neither could sustain a finish and Gifford won fairly easily.   On 25th May in the Maryhill Harriers Monday evening sports he ran in the Two Miles but the handicapping was so ferocious that he was not in the first three but it was nevertheless another hard run for him.   Given the successes of the Bellahouston Harriers relay team it was not a surprise that they were invited to, and duly won, the invitation six lap relay at the Monkland Sports at Coatbridge with Gifford part of the team that, and this is a quote, “won easily”.   The annual SAAA West District  v  Atalanta was held on 1st June, 1937, at Westerlands, and Gifford was second to Robert Graham of Maryhill in a race won only by inches.

The races were coming thick and fast and on Wednesday 15th June Gifford ran in two races at the one meeting.   He won the mile in 4:13.1 (a new record time) by ten yards and then won the three miles in 15:17.6 by 40 yards from Adam McLean of Glenpark Harriers.   The big one was the SAAA championships at Hampden on 26th June and this year, Gifford passed up the opportunity for individual gold in favour of relay gold.   The Bellahouston medley relay team of Gifford, Murdoch, Smith and France retained the title in a time of 3:41.2 from Springburn Harriers and Maryhill Harriers.   The winning margin was 15 yards.   

A week later, 3rd July, the relay team took part in and won the invitation relay at Ardeer Recreation Club’s sports meeting at Stevenston with a quartet of Gifford, Smith, Nisbet and France and “were never in danger of defeat.”   And that was the end of the season for a successful Bellahouston team – and for Gifford too.

 

The Midland District Relays of season 1937/38 were held at Garscadden in the West End of Glasgow.  Jack Gifford ran first stage for Bellahouston Harriers but at the end of the race was, not in top times although the team finished  third.   When it came to the District Championships however, the club won the event with Gifford back in 14th place of more than 200 starters.   Unfortunately when it came to the National, Bellahouston were third team but there was no Gifford in the team.   The Edinburgh to Glasgow relay took place on 9th April and Gifford ran on the first stage where he was third for the team which won the race.   

Into the summer and the Monkland Sports were held on 26th May in 1938.  There was a medley relay there in which the team (Gifford, Bell, Murdoch and France) was surprisingly beaten back into third place behind Springburn Harriers and Glasgow University.   It was a good team and the defeat must have hurt the national champions and record holders.   They put this right at the Babcock & Wilcox Sports at Renfrew on 11th June when they won the event from Springburn with a team of Gifford, Smith, Thomson and France.   Hard on the heels of the Babcock Sports, two days later in fact on Monday 13th,  he won the half mile at the Renfrew CC Association Track Championships on the previous night in 2:00.6.   A week later, 18th June, at the Glasgow Police Sports at Hampden Park,  Bellahouston did not only win the relay, but set a new Scottish record for the event.   Gifford ran a most impressive first leg in 1:56.4 defeating international runners Graham and Carstairs.   The new relay record was 3:32.9 and it was the club’s third title win in three years.  This time the team was Gifford, Murdoch, Smith and France.  The athletes were back at Hampden for the SAAA championships the following week and Gifford was out in the Mile.   The report read:   Until the last lap of the Mile, many of the spectators thought that young Jack Gifford, Bellahouston, would menace R Graham’s prospects of retaining his title, but it was obvious that Graham, in the lead and confident enough to remain there, had something in reserve, and when the champion did make his effort, he drew clear steadily and won by five yards.”   Gifford’s time was a reasonable 4:28.0 to Graham’s 4:27.6.   

The relay team ran several more times that season but Gifford was not always part of the squad  after the SAAA title had been won.   eg he wasn’t in the team which was second at Ardeer on the first weekend in July, but he was in the team that won in Dam Park, Ayr, on 9th July with Ross, Smith and France which won by 40 yards from Victoria Park.   Individually, he ran at Largs on Monday, 18th July.   The Scotsman reported “”The failure of Robert Graham to turn out in the three-quarter mile invitation was compensated for by the magnificent race run by J. Gifford, of Bellahouston. He won well by eight yards and his time of 3 mins 5.8 seconds for the full distance was only 1.2 seconds outside Graham’s Scottish record.”

Gifford was out running for Scotland again on 23 July 1938 in Dublin in a match against England and Ireland.   The Scottish team were really outclassed on the day but Gifford ran well enough to finish second of the six runners in the Mile in a time of  4:22.0.   He was eight yards behind CJ Emery of England (the international cross-country champion) and ahead of team mate PJ Allwell.    It was a fitting way to bring down the curtain on a very good season.

1937 Renfrewshire cross-country champion: Jack Gifford

In the District relays that winter he ran on the third stage for the Bellahouston Harriers A team which finished third.   The club’s second team was fifth which was a bit of a warning for the others with longer races coming up.   For instance the winners, Maryhill, could only field one team and Shettleston Harriers, running on their own turf, were second and twellfth.  Unfortunately appearances are sometimes misleading – the District title went to the Victoria Park team with their first six runners in the top 20 finishers.   Incidentally the individual winner was Jim Morton who went on to be SCCU president and manager of the Scottish cross-country team for several years after the war.   This relatively poor performance must have spurred the Bellahouston team on for they won the National at the end of the year with six men in the first 30 of the field of almost 200 runners.   But Gifford did not appear on the team sheet that time.   Nor was he in the club team that was second in the Edinburgh to Glasgow relay on 22nd April.   

 The Bellahouston squad won the SAAA Medley Relay title again at the national championships at Hampden Park on 23rd June, 1939 which meant that they had won it four years in succession.   The winning team was Gifford, Murdoch, Bone and France and the beat Springburn by 30 yards in a time of 3 min 37.3 sec.   They were so far ahead of any team in the country at the time that, had the war not intervened, they might have set a record for the number of wins.   Gifford’s first individual victory was on  27th June in the Glasgow Transport Sports at Helenvale Park where he won the invitation 1000y in 2:12.8 off 16 yards.  There was a medley relay which Bellahouston won without calling on Gifford’s services.  The Transport Sports was a fixture that many did not want to miss – the narrow Helenvale track was known as a good one and many fast times were recorded there up into the 1960’s when they stopped holding meetings there.   

He may have missed the Helenvale relay but he was back at Ardeer with his team mates on 8th July for that one and the squad of Gifford, Thomson, Nisbet and France was too good for Maryhill, with a time of 3 min 46 sec.   The Rangers Sports on 5th August had many very good international athletes in action and Gifford ran in the 1000y off a handicap of 20 yards where he finished second to G Sears of Kent Beagles who won in 2 min 10 sec.   Gifford was only half a yard  down at the finish.   His season was brought to a close at the Cowal Highland Gathering on 26th August, where he ran the opening leg in the relay.  Given a lead on the opening leg by Gifford they were ‘sound winners’ in the good time of 3 min 39 sec.   The team of Gifford, Wilson, Bone and France was too good for Springburn Harriers who were only five yards adrift at the tape.   

Alex Wilson tells us that after the War started, he continued to do club runs and compete sporadically .  On 14th July 1945 he won the mile handicap at Milburn Park, Alexandria, in the Vale of Leven District Sports in 4:28.2 off 45 yards. That equates to about 4:36 for the full mile, so he was still in good shape.     There had been several medley relay races that year but the top teams were Victoria Park AAC and Garscube Harriers – the great Bellahouston teams had been broken up and it would be some time before they were again winning national titles.   Victoria Park won every relay they contested and in August alone they won three relays including one against an SAAA Select at Lennoxtown at the end of the month.   Gifford may have been running well but he did not appear in any more prize lists for the rest of 1945.   Like so many others, his career as a runner was blighted by the war which came as he was running very well and his best years were taken from him.    He had been a very good athlete with a fair range of ability: 880 yards to three miles on the track, fastest times on stages of the Edinburgh to Glasgow road relay, and team and individual medals over the country.  His individual medals and achievements should not be forgotten in favour of his relay achievements.

[It is only right that I acknowledge the help and assistance given by Alex Wilson with this profile: he also supplied all the photos.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Relays: SAAA Medley Relay 1975 – 79

In May 1975 Glasgow District Council started a new venture:  the Glasgow Highland Gathering was held at Scotstoun with a mix of events for all age groups, for men and women, invitation events and some championship racing.   Among these races was the SAAA Medley Relay championship.   After several years of wandering around the country, and indeed three years when it was not held at all, it had come to Scotstoun.   The Victoria Park, based in Scotstoun since 1930 had been very successful in relays of all types and distances so it was a natural fit.   Unfortunately in its first year there, the medley title went to anther club from the west end of Glasgow, Garscube Harriers.   Even then it was the Garscube B team that emerged triumphant from the race in a time of  3:36.0.    It was an inglorious restart for the event.   Colin Shields in the Athletics Weekly reported as follows:

A farcical SAAA National 1600m Medley Relay Championship was won, after an undistinguished race, by Garscube ‘B’ with only two clubs competing. More importance should be accorded to National titles by clubs such as Edinburgh Southern Harriers, Edinburgh AC, Shettleston, Victoria Park and Bellahouston etc – none of whom bothered to compete!”

Result:  1 Garscube Harriers ‘B’ 3.36.0; 2 Garscube Harriers ‘A’ 3.45.2; 3 Falkirk Victoria Harriers 3.46.4.

At the second Glasgow Gathering, in 1976   Garscube Harriers was again successful, their A team this time, in 3:38.6, from Victoria Park in second and Paisley Harriers were third.    It was a wet, windy afternoon at Scotstoun and the heavy track did not make for fast times.   There was also a clash of date with a football match at Hampden Park leading to a smaller crowd than usual and several officials calling off.   It could have been a reason to terminate the series after only two meetings but the Glasgow Council went ahead with the championship in 1977 when there was another name engraved on the trophy.   

One of Scotland’s best ever middle distance runners was running really well in the mid seventies and Frank Clement took part in the medley relay championship on 21st May, 1977.   The report in the Glasgow Herald read:  “Barely 10 minutes after having won the City of Glasgow Mile at the Glasgow Highland Games at Scotstoun, Clement was again facing the starter to run the first leg of the Scottish Medley Relay Championship  for his club, Bellahouston Harriers.   Terry Young, a most promising young half-miler from Central Region AC  with a time of 1 min 53 sec already this season was far too fresh for a jaded Clement and played a major part in bringing victory to his club in 3 min 30.7 sec – three seconds ahead of Bellahouston.”   

On 20th May, 1978, there was yet another new name on the trophy.   When Victoria Park last won the title, the man on the first leg was British international half-miler David McMeekin.   He was again in action that year.   “The new Scottish medley relay champions are East Kilbride AAC.   After David McMeekin had given Victoria Park a lead of close on 20 yards over the opening 800 metres, East Kilbride pulled back only a little on the both 200m sprints, but on the final 400m Alan Cord  tore holes in Ian Smith’s lead and just took the tape by inches, both teams clocking 3 min 34.3 sec.   

After that near miss, Victoria Park were in action the following year.   Between 1946 and 1971, the medley title had been completely dominated by Victoria Park AAC (9 wins) and Bellahouston Harriers (5) with the Edinburgh University  squad the next biggest winners (4).   But the 70’s had seen triumphs by Garscube, Central Region and East Kilbride.   The entries in 1979 included Ayrshire AAC, Clyde Valley AC, East Kilbride AAC, Garscube Harriers, Shettleston Harriers and Victoria Park AAC.    This was the day however that the old guard, as represented by the home team, re-asserted itself and Victoria Park won in a time of 3:38.2.    

The Highland Games continued into 1980 and they retained the medley relay.    This suited the runners – a regular venue, on a good track with  decent changing rooms and ease of access.   Victoria Park fought hard to retain their title but had to give best to a Glasgow University AC team from just up the road at Westerlands who won by 0.7 seconds in 3:31.2. 

Below: Entries for the Medley Relay Championship in 1979 

 

 

Relays: SAAA Medley: 1969 -1974

The Mile Medley Relay had been contested as an official SAAA championship since 1919 but with the coming of the Empire and Commonwealth Games to Edinburgh in 1970, all track measurements were changed to metric from imperial.   It was now a 1600m medley relay and the distances were now 800m, 200m, 200m and 400m.   The first winning time would therefore be a new record.   Victoria Park had had a very good record in all relays over the years since their formation in 1930 but this team performance in 1969 must go down as one of their best ever.  I quote from the Glasgow Herald of 26th May that year.   The headline read  “Victoria Park set formidable target.”

“The winning team on Saturday in the Scottish 1600m medley relay championship had things going for them.   They knew that, no matter where the watches stopped at the finish, they would be creating a new Scottish national and all-comers record.   The meeting was the Glasgow championships at Scotstoun Showground, and the first time the race was being run over the metric distances instead of the former mile medley.   But Victoria Park were not content just to get their names first in the new record book.   They made sure a formidable target would be set.   Their quartet – Hugh Barrow, Robert Lawrie, Gordon Millar and Andrew Wood – covered the distance in 3 minutes 23.7 seconds, not only better relatively than the existing national mile medley record but more important, improving on the all-comers time of 3:25.9 that was set up in 1952 by a celebrated Jamaican team which included three of their four Olympic 4 x 400m gold medallists in Helsinki that year including Arthur Wint, Herb McKenley and George Rhoden.   

Mike McLean, the Scottish 880 yards champion gave Bellahouston a tremendous start over the 800  metres leg, leading Barrow to the change over by about half-a-dozen yards in what was officially timed at 1 min 50.3 sec.   The two sprint legs that followed kept Bellahouston still in the lead by all of 15 yards and this gave Victoria Park’s last man, Andrew Wood a chance to show just why he is Scotland’s national 440 yards champion.   He chased Ronnie Wallace of Bellahouston at incredible speed down the back straight, passed him coming out of the crown of the second bend and positively streaked up the home straight for a great victory.   His time was variously taken as something between 47 and 48 seconds but, as the athlete himself said, these times are so approximate in relays that you can’t be too specific about their validity.”

Although the Scots athletics public still loved relays, there were not as many on the programmes for the various sports meetings still in existence.   This was maybe because it was a bit difficult to organise the change-overs what with boxes to be accurately marked out and officials/judges in sufficient numbers to be found, maybe also because many of the tracks used for the sports meetings and gatherings still extant were short and it would be really difficult to have two take over zones in the same place!   Mainly of course the big show piece meetings at Ibrox, Hampden and Parkhead had ceased and the effect that that had on the whole athletics season, not just the relays, was massive.   

One of the gatherings still held on a 400 metre track was at Dunoon where the District relays had been held over a number of years incorporated into their annual Cowal Highland Games.   And so it was that on 29th August 1970, in Dunoon, Victoria Park retained the relay title after a thrilling race against Bellahouston Harriers.   The team was depleted by the absence of Barrow, Lawrie and Millar but the replacements were David McMeekin on the 800m leg (a GB internationalist), Iggy O Muircheaetaig (an Irish international 200 and 400m runner), and Gordon Muir (a top class runner in his own right).   Add them to Andrew Wood and you had a very strong squad indeed.   They won in a time of 3:27.4 to Bellahouston’s 3:28.4.

The race was won in 1971 by Bellahouston Harriers in a time of 3:34.0, but that heralded three years when there was no national medley relay championship held at all.   That’s right – no championship in 1972 or 1973 or 1974.   A bit of a disgrace.   Maybe because a meeting was abandoned or cancelled one year it would be possible to accept a ‘no event held’ but for it to happen three years in succession reflects poorly on the governing body at the time.   The attitude to the trophy seems to reflect a growing impatience on the part of the SAAA championship organisers at the time to cater on championship day for any track race that did not simply require a starter, judges and officials.   It was not held at a specific time of the year, not that the two reported on above were at opposite ends of the competition season.   There was of course no regular venue – after many years at an unlined track in Shotts, it was at Scotstoun in May then Dunoon in August.   Had they been seeking a venue accessible to all clubs, then the Argyll peninsula would not have been high on their agenda.   It appeared that anyone bidding for it, or even prepared to host it, would get it on their programme.

That was about to change though.   Probably because the 1969 event had been so successful, the event was awarded to the Glasgow Sports Promotion Council to hold it at their Glasgow Championships and Highland Gathering at Scotstoun in May.   A good track, a decent crowd guaranteed, and easy of access from anywhere in the country.   The first of these was in 1975. 

 

   

 or cancelled in 

Relays: SAAA Medley Relay 1935 – 1939

The available SAAA records for the championship for this period is scanty but we will put up what we have and if/when more information comes to hand, it will be added.   Over this period the relay was run at the SAAA Championships which had instituted a Friday evening session consisting mainly of heats of the sprint events.   In this context it maybe made sense for them to run the medley final since all the sprinters were already at the venue.   It meant that having run no finals the runners would be fairly fresh.   They could hardly be expected to run a relay between heat and final, and if it were held after the final then the athletes would be rather tired and in any case the relay would not be their main event of the afternoon.   But that’s reading a lot into a little information!   The point is that they were held during the evening session on Friday.

The Queen’s Park Sports on 1st June 1935 had a wonderful cast of athletes taking part, noted in the Press as possibly the best ever, and the events included an Inter-City Medley Relay.   Edinburgh defeated Glasgow in 3:35.4,   “It was curious to find Glasgow on the losing side mainly because of the failure of AD Turner and Robin Murdoch on the furlongs,   Neither the Scottish Champion nor Turner were fully fit, and poor exchanging gave Edinburgh an additional pull.”   The Glasgow team might have been better using some of the Springburn Harriers who were in action that day.   “Springburn Harriers have gathered together a very useful lot if Saturday’s meeting is any criterion.   They had a regular field day in the open events securing three firsts in the open and youths sprints, a victory in the mile and seconds in the half-mile, high jump, obstacle race and 440 yards. ”   

A week later St Peter’s AC held their eighth annual sports meeting and it was one which was well known for its relay content – they had 440 yards relay (4 x 110), 880 yards relay (4 x 220), Mile Relay (4 x 440) , two miles relay (4 x 880) and a four miles relay.   There was no place unfortunately for a medley relay.   Anyone looking for clues as to the result at the SAAA would have noted that Garscube won the 440 yards relay, Bellahouston won the 880 yards relay, Maryhill won the One Mile relay and also the Two Miles relay.   Maryhill could only finish third in the two shorter relays so there was not a lot to be gleaned there.   The Police Sports were held on 15th June and the relay race was noted as less good than in previous years.   Maryhill Harriers won in 3:41.8 from Springburn and Bellahouston,   They were reported to have “won easily.”   

As it turned out, the other clubs should maybe have taken a closer look at the Springburn squad because on Friday, 21st June at Hampden Park, they were the ones who won the SAAA Medley Relay title in 3:40.8.   This was the first time that the Friday evening session had taken place and it was voted a great success.   

The Friday night experiment was voted a great success and was repeated at the  SAAA Championships held on  26th June.   However at the Queen’s Park FC Sports of 6th June, there was a medley relay in which Glasgow with a team of CF Campbell, DA Brownlee, DM Pearson and C France, defeated Edinburgh (JC Stothard, RR Wylde, R Forman, GD Malcolm in 3 min 46.4.   Campbell and Brownlee were both Springburn Harriers with Campbell having contested a hard fought half mile against Stothard earlier in the afternoon, being beaten only by one and a half yards.   

Only two weeks later, on 20th June, the Glasgow Police Sports were held at Ibrox and of course the programme contained a medley relay.  It was the only event of the afternoon that produced a record.   The report read:  “There was one performance of the gathering demanding minute reference and that was the win of Bellahouston Harriers in the one mile medley relay race, which they won in the new Scottish record time of 3:34.2, 0.2 faster than the time put up by Glasgow University at the same sports four years ago.   It was half miler Jack Gifford who really did much to help Bellahouston achieve this performance.   He went round the half-mile at the heels of Robert Graham, always appearing to have an abundance of pace, while it seemed that the joint mile record holder (whose record was broken by SC Wooderson in Saturday’s Southern Championships),  was in front trying hard to get clear of Gifford, but the latter refused to be shaken off and became the challenger-in-chief, with the result that Bellahouston enjoyed the slight advantage of a change-over so close was the struggle; and the time for the half was 1:58.2, the sign of a record in the making. ”   The remainder of the team – G Young, J Bone and Charlie France – all did their bit and the race was won and a record set at 3.34.2.     Maryhill was second and Springburn third with the winning margin being 20 yards with a further 20 yards between second and third.  

A week later at the opening Friday night  meeting, held on 24th June. of the SAAA championships was a very similar event with Bellahouston Harriers emerging triumphant in a time of   3:41.2 The time was a full eight seconds slower than at the Police Sports but the medals were the thing at  the championships and so began a marvellous spell of SAAA titles for the Glasgow club.   

On 28th May, 1938, at the Monkland Sports, there was a medley relay held in which the favourites, Bellahouston Harriers, were beaten in the heats by Glasgow Un iversity and both defeated by Springburn Harriers in the final in a time of 3:37.8.   The final result was Springburn (Kinloch, Carson, Campbell and Waddell), first, Glasgow University second (Livingston, Young, Muir and Sinclair) and Bellahouston (Bell, Murdoch, Gifford and France) third.   Babcock & Wilcox held their annual sports in Renfrew on 11th June and they too included a medley relay but there was no mistake by the national champions this time.   Bellahouston Harriers won from Springburn Harriers in 3: 42.5 with a team of Gifford, Smith, Thomson and France.   Gifford on the half-mile and France on the final 440 yards stage were the key men in all of the Bellahouston victories in the event over many years.    The Scottish championship in 1938 was for the first time not held at the National championships but at the Glasgow Police Sports held at Hampden Park on 18th June.   The race was a really good one and led the reporter at the Glasgow Herald to say:   “Relay racing – most exhilarating of all athletic spectacles – provided the highlight at the Glasgow Police Athletic Association sports at Hampden Park on Saturday.   The feat of Bellahouston Harriers who established a new Scottish one mile relay record of 3:32.9 in winning the SAAA medley relay title for the third successive season was emphatic approval of the wisdom of the Association’s step of divorcing this event from the championship meeting proper.”    

It is not clear to me how such a decision on its success could be made after only one race.   However, Bellahouston won in a record time with a team of  Gifford, Murdoch, Smith and France, from Glasgow University  and Edinburgh University.   It as wn by three yards with ten yards separating the two University teams.  

Successful as the Herald reporter felt the divorce between the race and the national championships had been,  came 1939 they were run at the SAAA Championships on 24th June.     The Monkland Sports at Coatbridge on 27th May saw Maryhill win the event there.   “Maryhill, who included R Graham and RTH Littlejohns, the respective Scottish mile and half-mile champions, won the mile medley relay after a thrilling tussle with Springburn.   Even after Littlejohns had given his mates a useful lead at the end of the first ‘leg’ , Graham was unable to hold Campbell (Springburn) on the third leg, and it was only a magnificent finish by RR Mahlanghele which won the event for Maryhill.”   Result:  1.   Maryhill (Littlejohns, Little Graham, Mahlanghele)   2.   Springburn Harriers.  Time:   3 min 35.2.   

One meeting down –  Maryhill 1, Springburn  2.   At the Babcock Sports on 10th June, there was a medley relay on the programme and the Bellahouston team of Gifford, Nisbet, Ross and France was victorious in 3:41.8 with Springburn second.   It should be noted that the nine year old Victoria Park was already winning many medals and at this meeting won the Empire Exhibition Trophy for the club with most points overall.   The Police Sports which had hosted the SAAA Medley Relay Championships the previous year went past without a relay at all and it was on to the national championships on 24th June at Hampden.   Quality told and Bellahouston won their fourth successive championship.   Result:

  1.   Bellahouston Harriers   (Gifford, Murdoch, Bone, France)
  2.   Springburn Harriers (Kinloch, Canon, Waddell, Campbell)
  3.   Glasgow University (McGlone, Rankin, Sutherland and Wright).

 Winning time: 3:57.6

It had been a superb run by Bellahouston – four championships and two Scottish records – but let’s not forget the excellent Springburn Harriers team which contested every relay and every championship with only one set of gold medals to show for it.   How would they do after the War?   The coming team was Victoria Park from Scotstoun, Maryhill had been a good competitive team for decades and the Universities were always liable to be a threat depending on who was ‘comin up’ to the Varsity in any particular year.

 

TC Hughes


The photograph above is of Thomas Campbell Hughes of Edinburgh Harriers who was one of the best club runners of the early 20th century.   He emigrated to America not long after the above photograph was taken and his grand daughter, Laura Bartlett, has been in touch with some information about him that is of genuine interest to  all interested in the history of Scottish distance running.   Before we look at his records as far as we can follow them, it might be worth looking at the club running scene at the time he was running.   The following paragraph is taken from Colin Shields’ centenary history of the Scottish Cross-Country Union, “Whatever the Weather”.

“Edinburgh Harriers, a larger club and one of the powers of the sport at that time also had an interesting fixture list.   It included 10 inter-club runs, with away trips including Galashiels and Glasgow, and an inter-club run and football match with Watsonians at Myreside on Christmas Day.   Club races ranged from a two and a half mile handicap to the 10 mile club championships and teams were also entered in both the Eastern and National Championships.    George McKenzie, who was to be Honorary President of the Union and gain 10 international vests for Scotland in the period 1909-14, was always an enthusiastic advocate of cross-country running.   In a newspaper interview, he said “It is distressing to see the number of young men in our public parks on a Saturday afternoon watching a football match, blue in the face and shaking with cold.   Compare them with the athletes who, with blood coursing through their veins, are enjoying healthy exercise with a harrier pack.”   He explained that on Saturday afternoons three packs – slow medium and fast – covered the laid trail through the country with beginners naturally starting with the slow pack and working their way up as they felt more capable.   “Any young man who cannot run four miles with a harriers slow pack should see a doctor at once”, said Mr McKenzie.

Recommended training was road runs twice weekly, together with the usual country run on a Saturday with a long walk at a good pace on a Sunday.   Rubbing was regarded as important and this was usually done by the club trainer.   Regarding diet it was accepted that the athlete could eat almost anything though moderation was the watchword of the athlete.   Cigarettes and alcohol were tabooed by the wise runner.”

That was the kind of environment that Hughes and others of his generation were used to and the context in which his running should be seen.   It should be noted that the times and performances were of a high standard and would not disgrace any ordinary club runner today.   

Thomas had three brothers who were also runners: two of them were also Scottish international runners.  They were RE (Robert Edgar) in 1906 when he finished sixteenth, and JD (John Dunlop) in 1911 and 1912 when he finished 33rd and thirteenth.   The three mentioned above all emigrated to the United States but the fourth, Alexander, who also ran for Edinburgh Harriers, fought in the first world war with the British forces and was killed in action.   

The fine trophy above was the Edinburgh Harriers Challenge Cup which was won by Thomas for the first time in 1901.   The National Cross-Country Championships in 1901 were held in Glasgow and TC Hughes finished third leading the Edinburgh team to second place behind Clydesdale Harriers who only defeated them by one single point.   Edinburgh was second by only one point behind Clydesdale Harriers.   The following year Hughes repeated the act.   Winning the club’s 10 mile race for the second time, he followed it with a very good run in the National at Myreside in Edinburgh where he was always up with the front runners, second at half distance, and again finishing third.   This time he was again the first Edinburgh runner to finish and again they were second team.   The man was running well and, as far as cross-country was concerned, clearly the best that Edinburgh had to offer.   But it would get better.

If 1901 and 1902 were good, 1903 was even better.   There was no Challenge Cup for TC this year but there was a bigger target to aim for.   In early 1903 discussions were held by the Irish and Welsh associations regarding an international race were enthusiastically supported by Scotland despite opposition from England who held themselves apart.   Apparently they felt that an international championship would detract from their own championships.   Being English, they suggested that their own championships, open to all-comers, should incorporate the international.   When it was clear that the other countries were going ahead with it anyway, they agreed to send a team of 12 runners to the first ever international cross-country fixture.   It was to be held at Hamilton Park Racecourse in the west of Scotland on 28th March.   As one of the top Scottish runners of the day, Hughes must have been motivated by the prospect.      The season progressed and the Scottish National championship was held on 14th March at Scotstoun Stadium in Glasgow.   The race was won by an Irishman, PJ McCafferty running for the West of Scotland Harriers, which caused some problems, but Edinburgh won the team race handsomely from Clydesdale Harriers with Thomas in sixth place.   This ensured selection for the Scottish team to face England, Ireland and Wales two weeks later.   In this race he finished twenty first of the 40+ competitors and was one of the top six Scots from their team of 12.   The medal shown here was the winning team medal from the National of 1903.   It should maybe be pointed out that although the history books list the race as having been held at Hamilton Racecourse, it was run in the grounds of the Duke of Hamilton’s Palace.   The race started in front of the Racecourse Grandstand and after 300 yards went in to the grounds of the Duke’s estate returning to the racecourse for the finish.

In 1904 the championships were held at Whiteinch in Glasgow and Hughes second, but first in the team race.   How did this one come about?   The race was won by J Ranken of the Watsonians club with Hughes second across the line.   However Watsonians did not field a team for the team competition so Hughes was the first runner in the team competition.   First and second in the same race.   Edinburgh won the team race again.   Earlier in the year, he had won the trophy illustrated at the top of the page for the third time and was allowed to retain it.   It was a common practice at the time and many quite valuable trophies were given to runners at open meetings and at some championships.   eg Clydesdale Harriers won a gold cup at Newcastle after they had won the two miles team race in three consecutive seasons.   The trophy above is engraved Edinburgh Harriers Challenge Cup.   Presented by Mr TD Crichton”.  This run should have guaranteed him selection for the international match but whatever the reason, he did not run on the day.

There were two Hughes brothers in the Edinburgh team of 1905 – TD was second counting runner for the club over the 10 mile course when he finished in thirteenth place and RE was 33rd for the team that finished second to the West of Scotland Harriers.   It was a good omen for Robert for, although neither was to be in the international in 1905, he was to be in the team in 1906.   The National was run in both years at Scotstoun and Robert, despite not being in the first eight on the day was picked for the team.   The national  was to be held there a fortnight later.   He ran well to finish 16th and be a scoring runner for the Scottish team.   he following year, 1907, the Edinburgh Harriers squad had three of the Hughes brothers in the club squad of twelve.   The page below from the 1907 Cross-Country Championship lists the team.   The championship was held at Portobello, Edinburgh,  on 9th March.   None of the brothers was among the first eight or nine, and the club team was also out of the medals in fourth place – they did however finish two places better than their local rivals of Edinburgh Southern Harriers.   

The full programme can be seen  here

At Scotstoun in 1908 there were again no members of the family in the top ten, and this was to be the case until the championships of 1911.   The club was now being challenged in its Edinburgh base by the Edinburgh Southern and Edinburgh Northern Harriers clubs but was holding its own and keeping them at bay as far as results were concerned.   Then in 1911, JD Hughes became the third family member to gain international honours when he finished fourth in the National Championships at Pollockshaws in Glasgow.   He was the second finisher for the club and the club won the championship for the first time since 1904.   At the selection meeting on the Saturday evening his selection for the international at Newport, Monmouthshire on 25th March was confirmed.   The fixture had changed since Thomas had run in the first ever international in 1903 – France had joined the competing teams and the standard of running was higher.   The race distance however remained at ten miles.   Hughes was 33rd finisher in the race won by Jean Bouin of France.   The National Championships were back at the Scotstoun trail that the athletes knew well for the 1912 version of the event and Edinburgh Harriers were third.    JD Hughes finished tenth and was selected for the Scottish team of 12 for the international to be held at Saughton Park in Edinburgh.  He ran a much better race than before, maybe because he was running in Edinburgh rather than in Wales, maybe because of the earlier experience, and finished 13th.   The six scoring Scottish runners were all in the first 22 finishers and the team was second.  JD Hughes therefore won an international team silver medal.   

The club did not enter a team for the 1913 championships at all.   The Hughes brothers had all contributed greatly to the cross-country successes of the club and had contributed also to the Scottish cross-country team for a ten year period.   They did of course run on the track but were not as successful with no national medals or international appearances to their credit.   This is understandable because there was only the one international fixture a year which had only two men per event, and because the standard of running in the endurance events at the time was very high indeed.  If we look at the extract from the SAAA Championship programme of 1909 we will see that.

The complete programme can be seen at this link

Look at some of the names here.   Tom Jack won the Scottish 10 Miles Challenge Cup seven times between 1904 and 1911, also  won the Four Miles title and represented Scotland five times in the cross-country international.   Alex McPhee won the Scottish Four Miles title twice, won many medals for the ten miles championship , won the cross-country championship twice and had three representative appearances over the country.   Sam Stevenson won the Four Miles title twice as well as the Ten Miles, ran in the 1908 Olympics, won the cross-country championship and represented the country in the cross-country championships.   DF McNicol won the track Mile championship twice and was one of the best runners in Britain at the time.   The standard was undoubtedly high and to stand on the starting line and challenge these men was an indication of his ability.   All three brothers would have competed in track meetings from April through to September at open sports meetings, in invitation races and in championships at local, district and national levels and a trawl through the newspaper archives would be an interesting exercise.   For instance we know that TC ran in the half-mile open handicap at the meeting organised by Edinburgh Southern in May 1908 but was unplaced in the handicap.   The programme for this meeting can be found at  this link


The above profile was completed and added to the website and then ….  Mrs Bartlett, his grand daughter, came up with another medal.   This was for the North East Counties Cross-Country championships.   I contacted Archie Jenkins in Alnwick who has written two books aboput the history of athletics in the north east of England and his reply reads: 

“The North East Cross Country Association Championships were first held in the 1894/85 season and this certainly is one of their silver medals, either individual or team. The 3 badges on the medal depict the original flags of Northumberland, Durham and Cleveland (not sure if it was called Cleveland then, certainly the Teesside region). The association covered the area from the Tweed to the Tees.
I myself have many of the medals, which have now changed design to the NECAA (North East Counties Athletics Association). The medal now depicts the region with NECAA added. This took place in the 80s, but the term NE Cross Country Association was still in use until 2001 and then incorporated the women’s association, although there had been joint championships since the early 1990s.
As is often the case the original medal was more eye catching.

He followed this with:

“I think there could be the following link with Hughes and the North East of England. For whatever reason the family may have lived in the Gateshead area in the 1890s. I would imagine the silver medal is a junior team medal. In 1895/96 T Hughes (Gateshead Congers, Gateshead Congregational Church Harriers, who eventually folded in the late 1959s/ early 60s) won the NECCCA junior championship. Elswick H won the team, so possibly the Congers were second. The following year Hughes retained his junior title now competing for Gateshead St Mary’s, the future Gateshead H. Elswick again won the team title, so St Mary’s may have been runner up.

Mrs Bartlett felt that the family could have been living in England at that earlier point.   I contacted Arnold Black, Scottish athletics historian, who said: ” I was looking up for info on JD Hughes and discovered he was born in England in 1892. ”   And as we know already, the two were brothers.   Their sudden appearance as very good runners in Edinburgh is probably explained by their running in England before a move to the Capital.   The search for information goes on.   

 

All three emigrated.   It was Scottish athletics’ loss.

 

….

 

 

 

 

Relays: SAAA Medley Relay 1948 – 1958

The medley relay remained a very popular event after the war and many sports and athletic meetings had it in their programme.  There were inter-club races,  there were medleys for senior men, senior women,  junior men, inter-area, inter-city, inter-works relays and various others.   Then there were the SAAA Championship events that the crowds had flocked to see.   Unfortunately, the new governing body did not want to have them at the SAAA track and field championships.   They were farmed out all over the place – to Helenvale for the Transport Sports on a midweek evening, to the Police Sports at Ibrox, to Shotts Highland Games, and to the Junior Championships.   They were run on proper tracks – but also on narrow tracks with no lane markings.   The way they were shuffled around was nothing short of a disgrace.   The current situation is that there is no official list of dates or venues  of these championship events.   What is noted here is what I have been able to dig up from the internet, from old ranking lists and back numbers of newspapers.   Apologies for the gaps which will be filled as the information becomes available.   

1948’s SAAA Junior Championships were held at New Meadowbank which pleased just about everybody who had been to the 1947 version at Rugby Park, Kilmarnock.   Both senior relays, 4 x 110 yards and the medley (800, 200, 200, 400) were contested – the 4 x 110 being won by Edinburgh University from Victoria Park and Shettleston in 43.8 seconds.   The winning team was AT Bruce, St C Taylor, JL Hunter and DD MacKenzie.  

For the longer one, James Logan commented on the medley relay for ‘The Scots Athlete’ “In the Mile Medley Relay J Smart confirmed his position as Scottish champion by laying the foundation of Edinburgh Southern Harriers victory with a fast ‘half’ and the other members of the team carried on the good work.   The time 3 minutes 36.8 seconds was first-class as this event was run in a rain storm.”   The winning team was J Smart, HW Mercer, J Thomson and J Crow.   Victoria Park was second and Glasgow University third.  

*

The medley relay championship in 1949 was moved to Helenvale Park and held on on 27th June.   It was a Wednesday evening and the occasion was the Glasgow Transport Sports and was notable because a new record for the event was set by the winnng Glasgow University AC team (T Begg, RM Ward, JPH Paton and DK Gracie) of 3:31.7 which was 1.2 seconds inside the time set by Bellahouston in 1938. 

*

They were back at the  SAAA Junior championships when they were held at New Meadowbank on 8th July in 1950 and both sprint and medley relays were held in the course of the afternoon.   The medley relay was won by a good Glasgow University team of T Begg, RM Ward, R Dow and DK Gracie in 3:32.4 and Edinburgh University won the 440 yards relay in 43.4 seconds.

*

New Meadowbank was the venue on 7th July, 1951, the SAAA Junior Championships the occasion, when the medley relay, along with the 4 x 110 yards was contested.   Victoria Park’s team of W Jack, R Quinn, W Kennedy and W Christie (pictured above) won the shorter race from Garscube Harriers and Edinburgh University in 45 seconds.  This was the start of something big.   It was the start of a series of relay triumphs that is unlikely, even 60 years later, to be beaten.  Nine wins in succession and ten out of eleven.   Astonishing.

In the longer race, the Scotstoun team had to give best to Edinburgh Southern Harriers who won in 3 minutes 31.7 seconds with a team of J Smart, J Pearson, J Hardmuir (?) and J Crowe.   Victoria Park was second and Glasgow University third. 

*

The medley relay plus the sprint relay were back again at Helenvale on 12th July, 1952 and incorporated into the SAAA Junior track and field championships.   Both were won by the same club – Victoria Park AAC from Scotstoun on the other side of Glasgow.   In the 4 x 110 their squad was G McDonald, R Quinn, N Wilson and R Whitelock and they won in 44.2 seconds from Garscube Harriers in second and Shettleston Harriers third.   In the Mile Medley, their squad consisted of F Sime, R Quinn, R Whitelock and R Mill.   They won from Garscube Harriers in second and Bellahouston in 3 minutes 36.8 seconds.

*

The senior relays were again held at the Scottish Junior Track and Field Championships on 4th July 1953, but this time at Westerlands in Glasgow and both sprint and medley relays went to Victoria Park AAC.   In the 4 x 110 yards the team was M Wilson, R Whitelock, H Quinn and R Quinn and they defeated Heriot’s  AC and Shettleston Harriers in a time of 44 seconds dead.   In the Medley relay, JS Hamilton, R Whitelock, H Quinn and R Quinn defeated Bellahouston Harriers and Maryhill Harriers in a time of 3 minutes 33.9 seconds.   

*

The medley relay was held for the third time at the SAAA Junior Championships in 1954 at Westerlands with Victoria Park determined to hold on to their two senior relay titles.   This they did with some style.   Read this from the Glasgow Herald:  “A feature of the meeting was the dual success of Victoria Park AAC in the 4 x 110 yards and medley relays.   They have thus won all five championship relays , a record which cannot be beaten and probably never be equalled.”   

WS Breingan, W Kennedy, A Archibald and R Quinn won the sprint relay in 44.5 seconds, and T Begg, Breingan, JA Herron and R Quinn took the medley in 3:37.5.

Whitelock, Quinn, ? , Henson

The events had been successfully held at the Junior Championships.   Well organised, on good tracks that were accessible – so they were moved to one of the biggest meetings in the country.   Glasgow Police Sports a Ibrox in 1955 were held a week earlier than usual and probably as a consequence, none of the University teams took part  because it was the date of the Universities Championships.   The winners of the medley were again  Victoria Park AAC whose team of D Henson, JV Hamilton, A Archibald and R Quinn recorded 3 minutes 32.5 seconds.   The club’s sprinters, needless to say – they were a class apart in the 1950’s –  took the 4 x 110 yards again.   This was the fourth time in succession that they had taken the medley title but their record in the shorter sprint relay was incredible – they first won it in 1951 and they won it every year from then until 1959, missed a year when Glasgow University won it, then went on to win again in 1961!   10 wins in 11 years. 

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June 9th, 1956 at the Glasgow Police Sports, held at Ibrox, was the date of another victory for a University team – between the wars the university teams from Edinburgh and Glasgow were key players in the event and were still a force to be reckoned with after the second war.   Their victory was largely due to the running of JV Paterson who ran the fastest half mile of his career.   Their time of 3:50.5 was not a record since CAR Dennis, who ran the last stage, was not a Scotsman; it could only be recorded as a championship best performance.  Victoria Park was second and Bellahouston Harriers third.

The 1957 Medley relay was held at the Glasgow Police Sports for the third time, again at Ibrox Park,  on 15th June.   Edinburgh University won the title from Bellahouston Harriers.   There was some controversy about the result which had been hinted at the year before:

“In winning the Scottish one mile medley relay championship Edinburgh University put up new record figures of 3 minutes 27.2 seconds.   The foundation of their success was laid by JV Paterson who returned the fast time of 1 min 52.4 sec for the half mile.    The students time will not be accepted as a national record for CAR Dennis is not Scottish.   Bellahouston Harriers whose team clocked 3 min 30,2 sec and beat Glasgow University’s previous best time of 3 min 31.7 will be the new record holders.”

The result:

1.   Edinburgh University AC (JV Paterson, RA Robertson, I Sutherland  and CAR Dennis);

2.   Bellahouston Harriers (DL Fraser, P McPherson, GR Fleck and KA Fleck)

3.   Shettleston Harriers.

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