Rangers Sports: 1882 – The quest for the ‘second annual’

Start of the Police ‘Catch the Thief’ race: a feature of the first Rangers Sports – and of the Police Sports mentioned below

Quite often the description of a sports meeting which starts ‘First Annual … ‘ expresses the good intentions of the promoting club which are not followed through by the next year’s committee.   This could be because of a change of personnel or of a change of priorities or some new factor coming into play.   However it pans out, a good percentage of ‘first annuals’ are not followed through.

In August 1881 both Third Lanark and the Rangers held their ‘first annual’ sports’ a week apart, Thirds being seven days before the Rangers event.   The search for the ‘second annual’ begins on  Saturday, 1st April, 1882 when there were no athletics meetings reported in the ‘Glasgow Herald’.    The ‘Herald’ is the newspaper of choice for the search since the two clubs we are interested in here are Glasgow clubs.   The following Saturday, 8th April, there were what were called ‘National Sports’ at Shawfield.   In front of a crowd of 1500 people, 36 entered the 160 yards handicap and 29 in the 600 yards handicap which was run as a single race and included a two miles race.   The National Sports included highland dancing, bagpipe playing, heavy events, etc and most of the competitors were professionals.   On the same day there was a foot race between two men for £4 at Longbar, Beith.   Other than a professional walking race in Edinburgh, that was it for the second week in the month.   Came  15th April and the main fixture was an amateur athletic meeting run by the West of Scotland Cricket  Club at Hamilton Crescent.   A well organised meeting, it was not the first in the series, and it included two- one- and half-mile bicycle races, and 100 yards, 120 yards hurdles,200 yards, quarter-mile, half-mile, one mile and, as a source of amusement, a steeple chase with 4 water jumps.   There was also an Indian tug of war over water.  At Shawfield there were the usual professional races – on this occasion there were the preliminary rounds of a 333 yard handicap race, no fewer than 16 of them.   As at the National Sports, the bookies were very busy.    On the east coast there were the games of the Edinburgh High School.   On 22nd April, the Kilmarnock FC annual sports had their first meeting with the conclusion being held the following week.   The main attraction was the football tournament but there were several athletic events – a 100 yards confined to the club, and a mile confined to the second eleven.   Larchfield Academical Club also held their sports on that day.   These included a 120 yards hurdle race (won by A Vallance of Rangers FC), a 100 yards, a 200 yards, a quarter-mile handicap, a half-mile handicap, and one mile.   On the last Saturday of the month, the National Sports took place at Shawfield (“Mr Gilmour’s grounds) involved Donald Dinnie and W Cummings.   Kilmarnock FC Sports reached their conclusion with the open athletic and cycling races taking place.   In Glasgow, the Glasgow Academical Club held their annual sports on Kelvinside Grounds with a mix of confined and open events.   


The Glasgow Academy Sports is one of the very oldest in Scotland.   This winner’s ticket is to JM Bishop

(Grandfather of Scottish International Miler, Hugh Barrow)

Into May and the first events were contested on 6th May.    The big report was on the Glasgow University Sports at Gilmorehill with the only other event being the weekly day’s professional sport at the Shawfield Grounds.   On 13th May, top item in the Glasgow Herald was Watson’s College Sports at Myreside, closely followed by the Edinburgh Royal Gymnasium Sports, which was a professional event with, for example, a prize of £15 for the Mile, watched by a crowd of 2000.   Then there was the weekly  professional Shawfield Grounds event in Glasgow which this time included a 200 yards dog handicap race.   The final of the 333 yards handicap was run and there were great shenanigans in one race with runners being tripped up, cries of foul, the tape being broken by the judges and ‘no race’ being called.   And that was just in the heats.   The dog race was won by Mollincott from Poodle and Gip.   The owner of Poodle claimed that his dog had won and said he would write to the press.    There was a foot race in Beith over 160 yards for a £10 prize – two runners forward.    There was an amateur sports at Vale of Leven organised by the local cricket club where 3000 spectators watched athletics, cycle racing and four a side football.   The next Saturday was the 20th May was the date for the big amateur athletic meeting in Greenock organised by the Greenock Cricket Club, Greenock Wanderers Football Club, Greenock Amateur Bicycle Club and the West of Scotland Amateur Boat Club at Glen Park.  “The above four clubs intend, it is understood, making the Glen Park Sports an annual event.   The name chosen for the sports is of interest because the Greenock section of the Clydesdale Harriers was given its independence in 1892 and took the name of Greenock Glenpark Harriers.   That was the only event of the afternoon and many of the contestants were representing football clubs with a big group from QPFC.    .The already well established Alexandra Athletic Club Sports was given top billing on 27th May for their event at Kennyhill Park.   Petershill defeated Alexandra Athletic in the four a side football tournament and again, the prize winners lists were dominated by representatives of football clubs with the Queen’s Park athletes but T Dingwall of Third Lanark won the handicap mile confined to the West of Scotland and was second in the Open Mile handicap.   The National Games at Shawfield where one of the attractions was to be Donald Dinnie lifting a 230 pound dumb bell from the ground to arm length above his head – this was successfully accomplished: he also won putting the stone, throwing the hammer and tossing the caber.  In the wrestling Dinnie qualified for the final when – “When he came to meet Dinnie, Harrison advanced, as is customary, to shake hands, Dinnie refused to accept this token of friendly rivalry.   The crowd repudiated this act, and loudly hissed the champion.   A rather lengthened struggle took place and Dinnie had some trouble getting the mastery but ultimately threw Harrison heavily twice in succession and won.   Harrison was warmly greeted when he left the ground.”   There were annual sports held at Dumbarton that day and in the east, Edinburgh Royal Gymnasium held their sports before about 2000 people.

On 3rd June the Kilmarnock Amateur Bicycle Club had their annual sports.   One of the most popular of the sports, it was held on the Rugby Ground where although there was a football match and two foot races, it was almost entirely a cycle meeting.   The Ayr Academical Sports (which are much looked forward to by the youth of the town) were held on 10th June and had races for all the schools in the area as well as a few for senior athletes and a football match was also incorporated into the programme.   There were sports at Shawfield Grounds again – this time mainly heats of a 200 yards race with the final to be held the following week.   There were also sports held at Johnstone under the patronage of Colonel Sir Archibald Campbell and held on the ground of the Johnstone Football Club.   Donald Dinnie was in action again at Greenock in the National Games held there and in the Borders, the games held in connection with the Hawick Common Riding went off successfully with the main events being wrestling, running.   Chief among the wrestlers was G Steedman of Drybeck “against whom none of the competitors had the slightest chance.”   The proprietor again presented a very popular show at Shawfield Grounds on 17th June with the finals of the previous week’s 200 yards race plus a half mile handicap.   Crescents Park in Pollokshaws was the scene of another popular annual sports.  Well attended as these were, the meeting at the Renton in Dunbartonshire was the biggest with 4000 spectators present.   The Edinburgh Institution held their annual sports too on that afternoon.   The annual Games of the Kilbirnie Football Club took place on 24th June at Stonyholm Park, the Edinburgh University Cycling Club Sports took place at Powderhall with several foot races in the programme and the Shawfield Grounds events took place but were now reported in a separate ‘Pedestrianism’ column.   

Donald Dinnie

We are now three months into the summer athletics season and so far not a sign of the second annuals of either Rangers or Third Lanark meetings.    It is of course true that their first annuals were in August but dates can change for all sorts of reasons, and because the events are annual, it does not mean that they are inevitably on the same Saturday v=every time round.   July is a busy month for summer sports enthusiasts despite the Fair Holiday fortnights taking place.    The last Saturday in June saw the South Western Annual Sports in Copeland Road grounds, Govan.   As was to be expected many of the local football clubs were represented.   This first day of the meeting was largely four a side football with a confined 100 yards and a place kick competition.     The seventeenth annual sports and bicycle races of the Edinburgh University AC took place at Corstorphine, and there was a meeting held at Plains, Airdrie.    

Into July and the second day of the South Western Sports which was mainly an amateur athletics meeting plus the final of the four a side football.   There were over 30 entered for the open 100 yards and all events were well supported.The Edinburgh Annual Games took place at the Royal Gymnasium, Edinburgh, and the Jedburgh Annual Games started with the quoiting at 10:00 am and included athletics.   The prizes were of a high order an included silver cups with the 300 yards hurdles winner collecting a purse of gold, second also had a purse of gold and third took home a purse of silver.   On Saturday 15th July the Balfron National Games took place.   The title has nothing to do with the governing body (if there were one!) but everything to do with national pastimes.   The meeting started with a ploughmans’ 100 yards, and included running, jumping, wrestling,  quoiting.   and a brass band competition with prizes of £12, £7 and £2.   There was also the Denny Scottish Games which were professional and after a lapse of ten years the Stirling Highland Games appeared on the schedule: this was largely because the Strathallan Games could not take place that year.  It was the success of the Strathallan Gathering that had caused the Stirling meeting to be dropped some years earlier but in the absence of this competition, Stirling filled the bill.   The Johnstone Games took place as did the West Kilbride Annual Games and the West Fife Gymnastic Games.  There was no football at any of these Games but that would be put right in the final weeks of the summer.    On 22nd July the preliminary events for the St Mirren Sports took place with the football maybe taking pride of place.   Teams involved included Queen’s Park, Dumbarton, Queen’s Park Rovers, Craigielea Academicals, Arthurlie, Johnstone Rovers, Argyll, St Mirren, Woodside, Thornliebank, Beith and Johnstone Athletic.   There were a few cycle and foot races at this meeting.   Falkirk Football Club also had a meeting that day – but without any form of football.   The Queen’s Own Yeomanry Athletic Sports took place after a space of six years on the South Haugh of Hamilton on 29th July where there was a great variety of athletic events including ’tilting at the ring’.   The Glasgow Police Sports took place on Glasgow Green – described as an inaugural sports and in addition to the more usual athletic events there was a ‘Catch the Thief’ race where the policeman, wearing the day uniform gave the thief 20 yards start.   On this occasion the thief eluded his pursuers.    The Colinton and Currie Games, and the Dalkeith Gymnastic Games took place in the east and Kelso Gymnastic Games in the Borders.    

August was when the Third Lanark and Rangers first annual sports took place in 1881,   In time the first Saturday in August would be the Rangers Sports day for many decades but on 5th August 1882, the only meeting reviewed in the Glasgow Herald was the Nairn Games where there were ‘athletic sports, bagpipe playing and dancing.’   The big event on 12th August was the Bute Highland Games at the Public Park in Rothesay.   There was a very long programme involving athletics, dancing and wrestling with separate races for amateur and professional runners.   After the founding of the SAAA in 1883, amateurs would not be allowed to compete in the same meeting as professionals but in 1882, it was thought to be appropriate.   There was also a big meeting at the Shawfield Grounds.   One of the runners in the sprints was cautioned for not trying and the winner of the mile was Moore – ‘a Glasgow ped who  is credited with being a genuine “square” runner’.   The prizes were all cash.   There were Land Sports at Dumbarton Pier organised by Dumbarton Football Club.   Another football club – St Bernard’s FC – had their sports at Powderhall: again they were labelled the ‘first annual’.   The football competition here was a five a side as opposed to the more numerous four a sides.   The Lauder Games and Horse Races were also held – so far we have had what we were taught as the long jump called the wide jump, the long leap, the broad jump, the running long jump and Lauder referred to it as the Running Spring’ as opposed to the ‘High Spring’.   On 19th August the Ayr Academical Athletic Club’s Autumn Sports were held at Springvale Park in Ayr.   There were flat races both open and confined, field events (throws and jumps), cycle races, and the report concluded with the remark that there were several other interesting events on the programme without saying what they were.   The by mow customary meeting was held at Shawfield, and Crieff Highland Games were held in Market Park before an amazing assembly of the great and good.   There were no athletics competitions of any sort reported on in the Glasgow Herald for the last Saturday in August but the Queen’s Park FC meeting was there in its place on 2nd September.

The band of the HLI played throughout the afternoon and there were bicycle races as well as foot races.   The great WG George of Moseley Harriers competed and won the mile and half mile but was only second in the quarter mile. The most successful of many nglishmen was DH Brownfield who won three events – including the broad jump.    Although there were many football players among the prize winners, there were none from either the Rangers or Third Lanark.    The only athletic opposition that the organisers faced was the professional meeting at Shawfield.    A week later, 9th September 1882, there was the usual professional meeting at what was called this time round the Shawfield Recreation Grounds and there was a meeting organised by the Dunfermline Cricket and Football Clubs.   Away from the central belt there were annual games at Lockerbie and the Edinburgh, Straiton and Pentland Games were held.   There were sports organised by the Volunteers but they were the 1st Dumbarton and Renfrew Artillery Volunteers.   The only entry under the heading ‘ATHLETICS’ on 16th September was the Paisley Bicycle Race Meeting which was confined to cycle racing with no athletics, football or even tug of war to break the pattern.     23rd September was again a good day for Shawfield with the regular 2000 spectators turning out for the pro sports and the only other event was the small Rosewell Games.   The season was effective ended  on 30th September when Shawfield saw what was said to be the best running of the season and there was a meeting at the Edinburgh Royal Gymnasium’s own grounds.   A match for £10 a side over 150 yards ‘level’ was held at Powderhall and that finished the summer season.   

Having looked at what was on offer ever Saturday, as reported in the Glasgow Herald’ from the start of April until the end of September without sight of a sports promoted by either Third Lanark or the Rangers, it would seem that no second annual was held.   It should be noted though, that the search was limited to reports in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ Monday editions.   The events could have taken place and not been reported;  or they may have taken place on days other than a Saturday.   These both seem unlikely.   

Football Clubs and Athletics

Queen’s Park FC

Let’s get the question of whether the connection with football was good for athletics out of the way to start with.   A very large number of senior and professional football clubs was established in the 1870’s – Queen’s Park FC was set up in 1867 with Kilmarnock FC two years later, but we note that Dumbarton 1872, Third Lanark (1872), Rangers (1872), Hamilton Academicals (1874), Hearts (1874), Hibernian (1875), Falkirk (1876), St Mirren (1877), Arbroath and Airdrieonians (1878) all appeared within seven years of each other.   It might be a useful exercise to see what the Scottish athletics scene was in 1871 and compare it with 1879 to see what differences, if any, appeared.     

The summer season in 1871 starts for us with the Glasgow Academy Sports on the last Saturday in April and the Glasgow High School Athletic Sports one month later on 27th May.   Both were reported extensively in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ with some interesting comments in the latter on the place of athletics in the life of the pupils after they left school.   These events, like those at Dumfries Academy on 17th June, were not of course available to the general community.   However the Pollokshaws Star Quoit Club held a sports meeting on the 17th and a week later there was an athletic meeting held at Vale of Leven organised by a Committee which had some wee hiccups – I quote: 

“We append the results of the matches which came off, but about one third of what were on the programme were not gone on with, partly on account of the dissatisfaction of the committee with a number of the competitors from a distance, whom the supposed to be more anxious to get the prizes than to compete fairly for them, and partly, we understand, that the drawings at the gate did not sufficiently supplement the subscriptions which the committee had received.”

Into July and the 10th RRV organised the Greenock Highland Games where several noted athletes took part, and the following week saw the Dunblane Highland Games and the Campsie Athletic Games.   I have noted the various organising bodies as an illustration of the haphazard nature of the organisation of the sport at the time -schools doing their own thing,  a quoiting club, a local committee, the 10th RLV, and local Games Committees which were self perpetuating bodies.   This diversity in provision led not unnaturally to local distances and events – a 250 yards race at one venue, a 4 miles race at another, a Beaters Race, and throws events such as ‘throwing the sledgehammer for height.   The nature of the Games as a social event on the local calendar is perhaps best illustrated by the Balfron National Games and Horse Racing.    The National Games were traditional Scottish events including races for local boys (living within 5 miles of Balfron),     The competitors included top men such as Donald Dinnie, ove of the best Scottish throwers ever, and Alex McPhee (Paisley) who won many races around the country and was father of Alex, junior, and Duncan McPhee who were Scottish champions on the track and over the country for Clydesdale Harriers and West of Scotland Harriers.   The athletics were followed by the horse racing where the star turn was a beast named Snorter.   In August  there was a meeting at Milngavie organised by Sir George Campbell, Bart, on the same day as the Strathallan Gathering at the beginning of the month,  there were others at Paisley, Kilbirnie and Crieff in August.

The picture is anything but clear but what we can say is that whether an event occurred or not depended on the interest of a particular group or individual.   eg with hundreds of RLV’ in the country, what inspired the 10th RRV to put on a meeting?   Or later the 1st or 3rd RLV organisations?   Why a quoiting club?   The provision was patchy and irregular.   The events were staged in local fields.   The fields being of different sizes, the distances were often of different lengths – the 250 yards above was replaced by a 150 or a 300 or a 330 yards at other venues.   The middle distances were poorly represented although there were enough at one mile, four miles, two miles, or whatever to earn a fair amount for runners like Alex McPhee.   There was no standardisation of distances between venues and the measuring was almost certainly of variable accuracy.   There were for a few years in the 1870’s Inter-University meetings but there was a break after 1873 (held at St Andrews) and 1889 when they were resurrected at King’s College in Aberdeen.  Finally there is no description that uses the word ‘amateur’ in any of the reports on the meetings – nor do they use the word  ‘professional’ either.   Given the frequent mention of known professional athletes and the fact that we know meetings such as Dunblane and Strathallan were professional at the period (although they later ‘turned amateur’), it can be assumed that most meetings were professional.

There is a marked contrast with the 1879 season.   

Many clubs held athletic sports and not just the top level clubs such as Rangers, Celtic, Hearts, Third Lanark, etc: annual sports were held by Royal Albert FC, Parkgrove FC, Hurlford FC,  the Crescent FC, and Maybole FC among many others.   Parkgrove was based in Govan with headquarters in Copeland Road while the Crescent FC team hailed from Ardrossan.   Just looking at the fixture list for 1879 we see that the following teams hosted their own sports:

Arbroath FC (24th May), Kilmarnock FC (17th June – co-hosted with Kilmarnock Cricket Club), Hurlford FC (28th June), Johnstone Athletic FC (19th July), Parkgrove FC (16th August), Cartside FC (23rd August).   There may well have been more.   They were usually all well attended and included sports other than athletics, mainly variations on the football 5-a-side although some of the meetings held a single match between two local teams as part of the programme. eg at Hurlford,  Hurlford won from Kilmarnock Hibernians.  Confined races were also usually part of the programme with races confined to locals, or members of the sponsoring football team, but occasionally groups like carters  or ploughmen had their own races.   The prizes for these sports were not negligible either, at times they were better than many of those handed out in the second half of the 20th century!    For example the Sports at Ardrossan had among the prizes (these are just examples but typical of all events – including the three legged race, the sack race, the Mile handicap, etc)-

100 yards:  1st silver mounted crystal biscuit box;  2nd silver plated inkstand

Half Mile:  1st Gladstone travelling bag; 2nd silver mounted oak butter cooler

Football contest: 1st four gold badges;  2nd  four silver Maltese crosses

Given the amount spent on the awards, it is clear that these clubs valued what the event would bring to them in return.  Running a sports was not a small undertaking. 

In addition the standard of athlete was high (JA Crerar of Third Lanark, and J Finlayson of QPFC were among the prize winners at this meeting).   Obviously, the nearer the venue to any of the big cities, the more players from the big teams there were.   The Parkgrove FC meeting in Govan had competitors from QPFC (incl JW Harvie, BB Sykes, JD Finlayson), Rangers FC (A Watson) and LRV (JA Crerar, J McKay) as well as from assorted other football clubs noted only by their initials – JCFC, WPFC, and others.   The prizes awarded were often listed in reports but the only one noted at the Parkgrove meeting was for the 300 yards handicap (confined) and was a sterling silver cup worth 30 guineas – ‘presented by the ladies of Govan.  To be won three times.’   The last qualifier was important since many athletes thought winning a cup once meant you kept it.   Even stipulating three times was not a tight enough definition either – did it mean winning the trophy three times was enough or did it mean that it had to be won three times consecutively?   Nevertheless 30 guineas was a big sum in 1879.

The bigger clubs such as Kilmarnock FC, St Mirren  FC, St Bernard’s FC. Hamilton Academicals and Airdrieonians had their own meetings with their own variations on the format.   Hamilton Academicals had their sports over two consecutive Saturdays.  eg on 5th July 1884 they held the first day’s sports where the main events were the football competition which was won by Cambuslang, the place kick won by H Reid (Rangers FC) from H McHardy (Rangers), 100 yards heats with final the following week, and the confined 440 yards.    On 11th July, there were eleven events, 100 yards (open), 100 yards (confined), 440 yards open handicap, scratch half mile (confined to clubs from Lanarkshire), half mile open, one mile handicap,  120 yards hurdles, obstacle race, consolation race, one mile cycle race, two miles cycle race.   The prize winners were almost all from football clubs – Cambuslang FC, Dumbarton FC, Pilgrims FC, Rangers FC, Royal Albert FC, Vale of Leven FC, 3rd LRV FC and Hamilton FC with some athletes from the universities (a few) and other clubs such as Golfhill Tennis Club.   That same day, Airdrieonians had their own two day event with an amateur athletic sports on the 12th and was mainly composed of confined events plus a four a side football competition with the final to be held the following week.   Came the 18th and it was an athletics meeting that we would recognise as such today.   There were several names which were well known at these Sports around the West of Scotland – A McNab (3rd LRV) was a prolific prize winner, JG Cleland (Royal Albert) and “the sack race was an easy thing for ‘Tuck’ McIntyre’ who was a member of Rangers FC who, as well as being an excellent sprinter in open events, was making a habit of winning or being placed in the obstacle race and the sack race.  Before playing for Rangers, from 1883, he had been a member of Alexandra Athletic – a club that had a long history of promoting amateur sports back into the 1870’s.   Also on that afternoon were the St Bernard’s FC Sports at Powderhall and the West Kilbride Annual Sports at Seamill.   

When St Mirren opened their new grounds at Westmarch in Paisley on 23rd July 1883, they did so with an amateur athletic sports meeting.   Founded in 1877, theirs was one of the oldest annual sports meetings on the calendar, late July every year, having been started in 1881 and continuing from there.   Greenock Morton, founded in 1874, was there too with a first rate annual sports,usually towards the end of May, where the feature race was for many years the quarter mile with such as Eric Liddell racing at Cappielow for Edinburgh University as an individual and in the relay too.   

By 1880, there were many more athletic meetings available to the athletes of the country and a lot of that was down to the football clubs using their own grounds as a venue and making at times considerable amounts of money from them.  The increased number of clubs in the central belt meant that there were that many more meetings in a relatively small area and the regular runners became known and developed their own supporters.   The more they raced, the better they became as runners and the standard in the country rose.   In addition,  the fact that the clubs had standardised ground sizes meant that the running distances were also standardised which helped the runners judge their efforts more accurately.       In short athletics gained

* More Meetings

*Standardised Track Sizes

*Standardised Distances

*More and better publicity

*Because of the above, more recruits to the sport

Of course the football clubs also gained – money from the crowds that rolled up and fitter players among the benefits but the contrast between athletics provision in 1871 and 1879 was marked.



Rangers Sports: The First Meeting

Tuck McIntyre (left) and Tom Vallance (right).

Given that the Rangers Sports was one of the longest running sports promotions in Scottish athletics history – it ran from 1881 into the 1960’s – and the importance of its place in athletics particularly after the second great war, it is maybe appropriate to note the origins in a separate page.   Note that the meeting spoken of was in 1881, two years before the SAAA was founded and four years before the first open athletics club appeared on the scene.   The following is from the ‘Glasgow Herald’ of 22nd August, 1881.


The first annual amateur athletics sports held in connection with this celebrated football club took place on their grounds, Kinning Park, on Saturday afternoon.   Splendid weather and a most attractive programme induced a large number to be present, though the grand stand was but partially occupied.   The sports were in all respects a great success, the two mile bicycle contest being one of the chief features.   There were five competitors, including DD Bryson, the amateur champion of Scotland, who rides splendidly, and in the last two laps received round after round of applause.   For the obstacle race, 24 entered, who were set off in three heats and a final, and as the difficulties proved rather trying to the competitors, few completed the distance.   At the start the men ran about thirty yards backwards, turned round and got over the first barrels by leap frog, the next were crept through, the hurdles were crawled under and leaped over as best they could, where fresh difficulties had to be overcome.   The first of these consisted of poles placed at an angle and resting on the top of  horizontal bar about 10 feet high, from which ropes were suspended, the poles were clambered up sailor fashion, the ground being reached by sliding down the ropes.   Further on, young trees, divested of branches, and supported at either end by trusses about 2 feet high had to be walked along, and as they were placed at a distance from each other, and about 35 feet long, the vibration in the centre caused most of the competitors to lose their equilibrium when they had to try again or give up.   The last obstacle was a horizontal bar over which the men had to throw a somersault.   When this was reached the best gymnast both in the heats and the final, was 30 or 40 yards in front, when he had an easy finish.   In the half-mile open handicap, JD Finlayson (QP) was defeated by McCulloch of Helensburgh, and though entered for the Mile he did not run.   A large field entered for the 100 yards open handicap, the running in which was very good.   The tug-of-war was different from the usual contest.   Instead of teams facing each other and pulling one rope in opposite directions to force their opponents over the mark, the new method consists of two ropes of equal length with loops at either end and securely tied together in the centre.   Four only compete at a time, each putting the fixed loop over his body and standing at opposite corners where flagstaffs are fixed in the ground about two yards behind.   All pull in opposite directions, the first who seizes his flagstaff and drags it from the ground to win.   The contest was most amusing.  All the other events passed off well.   

The sports were under the patronage of the most noble the Marquis of Lorne, the Hon the Lord Provost of Glasgow, Dr Cameron MP, Mr A Crum MP, ex-Lord Provost Collins, and other gentlemen.   A source of attraction was the playing and singing   by the band of the 8th LRV.   Judges and Handicappers – Mt Livingstone and Mr Robertson.   Starter – Mr John Graham.   Timekeeper – Mr J Smith.   Clerks of Course – Mr McKay and Mr P McNeil.   Referees – The Sports Committee.   

The important thing in any sports meeting however was how the events worked out and who the winners were.  The events in order here were as follows:

100 yards (confined):   final heat:  G Gillespie, scratch, 11 sec.   Prize presented by Mr J Stewart, Ascog

Quarter Mile Handicap (confined):  AS Maitland,  15 yards,  59 seconds

Quarter Mile Race Open : FG Connell, WSFC,  55 seconds    5 ran

Broad Jump:  T Vallance, Rangers FC,  21′ 6″

100 yards Open Handicap:  DD McGillivray, Caledonian FC, 10.2 seconds

Hurdle Race Open:  T Vallance  Rangers FC, 18 seconds

Half Mile Handicap Open:  D McCulloch, Helensburgh FC, 10 yards, 

Obstacle Race Open:  T Vallance, Rangers FC, 

One Mile Open Handicap: AD McGillivray, Caledonian FC, 4:46.   14 ran.

Tug of War Open:   T Vallance, Rangers FC

Two Miles Bicycle Race Open: DD Bryson, Midlothian CC, scratch, 10 minutes 09 seconds

Place kick open: AH Holmes, QPFC, 183 feet.

Consolation Race:  P Logan, Vale of Leven, 

There was also a four-a-side football match won by QPFC who defeated Blackburn Rovers in the final.   The ‘Man of the Meeting’, had there been such an award, would undoubtedly have gone to that superb athlete Tom Vallance who won four events of widely differing natures.   He would go on to set the first recognised Scottish amateur long jump record a month later at the QPFC Sports with a leap of 21′ 11″.   At the inaugural Rangers Sports, his brother Alex was third in the half mile handicap and he would go on to win the SAAA 129 yards hurdles in 1888.

Mention has been made of Tom Vallance’s record long jump at the QPFC Sports on 3rd September, 1881.   It was not his only event that afternoon.    In the hurdles race, brother Alex was second in the first heat, then Tom won his heat by 6″ and then won the four man final from Turner (QP) and Alex was third.   He won the Broad Jump, as it was then called, in a new Scottish record of 21′ 11.   The high jump report comments that Vallance of the Rangers was ‘the first to succumb‘ but doesn’t specify which one it was.  The Games had their share of controversy too – JA Crerar of Third Lanark being second in the 440 and also in the 100 yards where many thought that he had been the winner, and even more disputation after Arthur Muir of Kilbarchan won the pole vault: he was alleged to be a professional competing under an assumed name with the result that the prize was withheld until the matter had been decided in Committee.   No doubt about either of Vallance’s victories though.   The star name was that of Englishman WG George who won the half mile and Mile.

The 1881 were the first annual sports but it is difficult to find a second annual sports.   There were several sports meetings every week that summer with Shawfield and Edinburgh Institution featuring every couple of weeks and at times every week.    The Glasgow Herald reported throughout the summer on Athletics and the chief sports each week were as follows:

Month First Week Second Week Third Week Fourth Week Fifth Week
May Kilmarnock FC Glasgow University Edinburgh Royal Greenock AA Alexandria AC
June Kilmarnock CC Ayr Academical Pollokshaws Kilbirnie FC
July Edinburgh Uni South West FC Balfron National Sports St Mirren FC Glasgow Police
August Nairn Games Bute HG Ayr Academicals -
September Queen's Park FC Dunfermline Paisley Cycle Meeting -

By the time of the Queen’s Park Sports took place, the football season was well under way and no real sports would be held thereafter.   An interesting sideways glance tells us that the great miler WG George took part in the Queen’s Park Sports of September that year winning the Mile (easily) and the half mile but could only finish second in the quarter mile.   Rangers and Celtic Sports in years to come would regularly invite champions from England and Ireland but Queen’s Park was there first.   The south side of Glasgow was also served by the South-Western Football Club Annual Sports which were held at their grounds at Copeland Park, Govan.   The number of running events was limited to a sprint and a middle distance event and the main event was a four-a-side but a good number of the runners were from the football clubs – Rangers and QPFC as well as the sponsoring club.   

The quest for the ‘Second Annual’ Sports can be seen at  this link .



Celtic Sports: 1895 – 1899

AR Downer.

“There will be no Irish competitors at the Celtic Sports on Saturday but it is just possible that one or two prominent Irish athletes may figure in the flat events.   They of course run the risk of disqualification if they compete under the rules of an alien Union, but that would seem to have little or no terror for them.   The Celtic, as is well known, have a powerful influence on Irish athletic circles, and from the temperament of the people across the channel all the restrictions in the world will not prevent the men from competing if they make up their mind to do so, and can find the time to travel to Scotland.   What influence the absence of the English party, whose presence has always been a commanding feature of the Celtic sports, will have on the attendance remains to be seen.”  Yes indeed, runners like Bradley and Bacon were undoubtedly big attractions and also added a lot to the Scottish scene generally and they would not come to the SAAU rules Celtic sports.

Before we go on with the account of the Celtic Sports in 1895, we should maybe look at some Scottish athletics history.   The top club in any sport, whether it be football, athletics or any other will be the subject of criticism and at times unfair discrimination.   In 1895 Clydesdale Harriers was the strongest club in athletics and Celtic was one of the strongest in football.   The Scottish Amateur Athletic Association was in dispute with the Scottish Cyclists Union which was allied to Clydesdale Harriers.   One thing led to another and Clydesdale broke away from the SAAA.   With powerful members of Celtic also members or former members of Clydesdale, eg the Maley brothers, PJ Gallagher, etc, the club left the SAAA and joined the Union.   With the SAAA allied with the AAA in England and the IAAA in Ireland, it meant that no athlete of any club affiliated with these bodies could run at SAAU events without being disciplined by their governing body.   Celtic were outside the SAAA pale and had cast their lot with the SAAU.    Back to Scotland in 1895.

All the talent that the SAAU can boast will be at Parkhead on Saturday.”   So said the Glasgow Herald of   6/8/95.   Whether they did or not, the meeting was a great success.   The ‘Scottish Referee’ of 12th August reported:  

£440!  This magnificent sum was drawn by the Celts at their sports meeting on Saturday.   This total must be as much a source of joy to the Celtic as it must be the envy of other clubs.   We said on Friday that the Celtic could draw admiring throngs even without the aid of Bradley, Bacon and co., and the monster attendance is proof of our estimate of their loyal patrons.   It must be particularly gratifying to the Celts that whereas other clubs can barely make both ends meet they can do so with ease and leave a handsome balance to carry forward.   Enterprise such as the Celtic have shown in enlarging and improving their model enclosure deserved success, and none will grudge them the reward that has now attended their labours. “

As far as the athletics was concerned, there was nothing really remarkable other than the revival of the steeplechase  and after the interest and amusement it created on Saturday, it is certain to be an annual institution at Parkhead.”   With an attendance of 20,000 lined round and round the arena, the events on the programme included 120 yards handicap invitation, 100 yards flat race (10 heats and three semi finals), 220 yards (8 heats), 440 yards (4 heats), one mile, and mile steeplechase handicap (29 ran).   They were all good, close, club standard races and the point of the steeplechase seemed to be entertainment with one comment being that there were not enough water jumps.   There were also a number of cycle races in which RA Vogt had entered as Celtic FC!

The Maley brothers were all famous athletes – Tom was maybe the most naturally talented, Willie worked hard for the successes he got, and AS was a regular competitor in the sprints at the Sports meetings round the country.   Alex Maley was the third of the Maley brothers who all became football managers – he was manager of Clyde, Clydebank, Hibs and Crystal Palace, and Tom at Manchester City, Bradford Park Avenue and assisted at Southport.

1896 was to be Willie’s year – even if he had been a team manager for several years.   There were two Scottish championships in 1896 and Willie ran in the SAAU version at Hampden on 27th June.   His form coming in to the championships was not of the best but on the day he emerged triumphant as SAAU Scottish 100 yards champion with a winning time of 11 seconds.

In August however his mind was on the club sports meeting.   The weekend before, on the weekend of Rangers Sports, the Celtic manager was nowhere to be seen.   The ‘Referee’ remarked, Secretary W Maley was at Brig o’ Allan negotiating talent for the 15th while AS Maley busied himself in the ring at Ibrox booking entrants for Saturday  first.”

When the day came there was a sight seldom seen at any sports meeting: the team manager running in the competition and even winning a prize from a low mark.   Willie Maley was second (scratch) in the first heat of the invitation 100 yards and second in the final, beaten by JB Auld (1 yard) with the first 4 all very close across the line.   Winning time was 10.8 seconds.   The One Mile handicap was won by G Graham (CH – 75 yards) from JS Duffus (CH – 50 yards) in 4:23.8.   In the open 100 yards there were 20 heats with AS Maley (off 4 yards) winning the 11th heat but not progressing to the final.   It was won by T Frew (Vale of Avon – 5 yards) in 10.6.   There was a Great Novelty Race – This race was between D McFarlane, cyclist, and S Duffus, four miles champion, and W Robertson, one mile champion, foot runners.   The cyclist, who was paced by tandems, had to cover five miles or 3800 yards, and the foot runners about 2 1/2 miles or 4310 yards.     The race afforded considerable interest to the crowd.   McFarlane, who smashed  Vogt and Crawford’s records from two hours to five miles, won the prize.   

There was a two miles steeplechase: “The competitors with the exception of Blews fought shy of the ditch.   Judge Allison of St Mirren decided to award Mr Blews, Kirkcaldy FC, 250 yards, who finished third, the prize with the other two prizes to be retained by Celtic.   Blews, without exception, cleared the hurdle and the ditch fearlessly every time.   His time was 12 min 25 sec.”

The 300 yards was won by CF Meikle, Partick Thistle, who was a regular competitor at the various sports meetings.   And finally, Conneff, the American champion, one mile flat race, ran an exhibition race, and was accompanied by Mullen.   The event fell flat and the time was bad.” 

It was a good meeting but again there was evidence of the continuing series of innovations by the club – the novelty race, the steeplechase and the invitation race.   The spirit would continue into the Monday meeting too.

After the main sports meeting on Saturday, there was the Monday supplementary meeting.   The ‘Glasgow Herald’ said “Celtic hold a supplementary meeting this evening when another interesting programme will be submitted.   Instead of a 100 yards sprint there is one over 130 yards .  This distance is more popular in the East than in the West but the race tonight should reveal that such men as Bell, Auld, Shanley, Mitchell and others who improve the further they go, at their best.   There is an entry of 66 for this race and, except in the case of W Maley and Auld who start at scratch and 1 yard respectively, as in the shorter sprint, the principle of gradation has been carefully applied all round.   Another Interesting feature is the introduction of a high jump handicap, and the fact that eleven entries have been received clearly shows that this and other miscellaneous athletic events only require such encouragement as the Celts are exhibiting tonight to gain in popularity, and develop results that will in the end add to our national prestige. ”

The article went on to say that there would also be a two miles handicap with A Hannah (CH) and J Lamb (Edinburgh) competing, plus a series of cycle races.   The meeting on 10th August attracted 4000 spectators on a fine night, a;lthough the programme was said by the Herald to be a lengthy one.   What was there on it?   There was an open handicap 120 yards with 12 Heats: AS Maley, off 6 1/2 yards won the 9th heat and Willie Maley (scratch) tied with J Darque and in the run-off, Maley was the one to go to the  final where he was unplaced, the winner being Cordner of Glenboig FC.   The open handicap high jump saw a Maryhill Harriers 1-2: the winner was J Gillan from J McFarlane.      The two miles flat race handicap was won by the scratch man, JJ Mullen of Elysian AC, from W Robertson of Clydesdale Harriers, also off scratch, in 9:44.6.   The two ran together to the final straight when Mullen ‘shot to the front’ and won by 5 yards.   Mullen was four times Irish AAA Mile champion between 1893 and 1896 and once GAA mile champion plus IAAA four miles champion in 1890 and five miles in 1896.   There were three cycle races.

There was also notice of a professional cycle and athletic meeting the following Saturday ‘on a large scale.’

Alf Downer, Scottish Pelicans

Negotiations had been going on between the SAAA and the SAAU over the weeks and months since the split and agreement between the two was reached in the SFA Rooms at Carlton Place in Glasgow on 23rd April, 1897. New laws and rules were issued defining what was an ‘amateur’ as had been accepted in Leeds in February 1896 between AAA, SAAA, and Irish AAA. Summer 1987 saw the two factions again competing under the single umbrella of the SAAA. The SAAU cause was probably helped by the fact that the major clubs in athletics and football were united in opposition to the SAAA.

On 9th August, 1897, Scottish Referee said “W Maley was at Newcastle on Saturday looking for talent and secured not a few stars.”   The  Glasgow Herald, also of 9th August, started its preview of the event

The sports were on Saturday, 14th August in 1897. as follows.   “Everything the Celtic do, they do well; there are no half measures with them.   Since the institution of their sports it has been a rule with them to introduce eminent athletes from England and Ireland .   Bradley, Bacon, Perry, Wittenberg and Kibblewhite, an others of less note, have all helped to throw lustre over meetings at Parkhead from time to time, and though the amateurs of the present day are made of different stuff from these men, there are several who stand high in public favour, one or two of whom we are to have the pleasure of seeing on Saturday first.”   It went on to name some of them,  starting by saying that Bradley was not a certain starter, FW Cooper ( superb sprinter and Welsh rugby international), W Elliott, AAA quarter mile champion would run in the 300 yards, and W Tysoe would turn out in the 1000 and mile handicaps.  They had invited 12 to 15 men to take part in the mile, including the three prize winners from the Rangers Sports the previous Saturday.   

After these comments and the big build up, came the day and the Herald said:   ” Expectation in the case of the English runners who took part in the sports of the Celtic Football Club was scarcely realised.  The fact is that both A Tysoe and JW Bradley were most disappointing, and their failure to rise to the dignity of their reputation is the only regrettable feature in connection with Saturday’s function which in other respects was one of the most interesting in the club’s history.   

Tysoe’s running in the 1000 yards was indeed poor and the final was won by Jackson of Maryhill Harriers, and the same script was followed in the Mile with Jackson winning and Tysoe disappointing.   There were 20 heats, 4 semi finals and a final in the 100 yards which was eventually won by A Cairney of St Gerard’s off 4 1/2 yards.   The 300 yards had nine heats and a final.   There were 3000 spectators at the Monday supplementary meeting to see the 120 yards open handicap where after 12 heats, a second round and into the final, AS Maley was nowhere in the final which was won by Celtic FC’s T Moore.   The two mile flat race was won by  T McMillan  of Stirling off a mark of 200 yards.   Both meetings (Saturday and Monday) had several cycle races on the programme.

Alf Tysoe winning the Olympic 800m, Paris 1900

The report of the meeting was in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ of 1st August 1898 .   That means that the sports had been held on 29th June when the usual date had become the second Saturday in August.  How so?  Well, the second Saturday of August  had always been pretty near the start of the football season and most years there were friendlies and trials being played by the clubs of whatever standard.   This could at times make life difficult for any event taking place from the middle of August on.  It would eventually mean the death of the Celtic Sports.  In 1898 the season did start on the second Saturday and Celtic, reluctant to miss a year, and not wanting to hold them on the same day as Rangers Sports, went back two weeks from their normal date.  Not being at home on the second Saturday, they held the Scottish 50 mile cycling championship at Parkhead that day.   Hence the end of June for the sports.   The meeting however was a good one – particularly for the flat racing, as reported in the ‘Scottish Referee’.

“Though blessed with ideal sports weather, it cannot be said that the Celts’ crowd answered to it or to the excellent programme provided.   By three o’clock the vast terraces and stands were very sparsely occupied.   In another half hour, however, they assumed a cheerier look, and so did the countenances of the officials.   If not up to expectations, the gate in comparison with that of other sports was very goodand we doubt not that the Celts are duly thankful for their success.  …

“We had no crawls from the cyclists, no ‘hanging back from the athletes.   Caldow, a champion come but yet coming, and Goodman, Gascoyne set the crawlers an example they would do well to imitate always.   For the athletes, Messrs Cooper, Wadsley, Auld, Tysoe, and MacKenzie all ran to the death.   As a result the public were immensely pleased with the afternoon’s sport.   So much so that had Celtic, as usual, ventured upon an evening meeting tonight, they would have the satisfaction of having the public with them.”

The meeting was a success and the papers would be talking about it two and three weeks later when the football season had started up.   The race of a meeting full of good racing with close finishes was the half mile with Tysoee against the AAA’s champion Relf.   They ran together, passing Robertson of Clydesdale who was the best of the rest, before Relf gave nest 80 yards out leaving Tysoe to run on and win if he could.   His time off 7 yards was 1:57.1 (against 1:57.8 a week earlier from scratch at Powderhall.)   The winner however was Gudgeon of Ayr United.   Apparently Tysoe tried to come through on the inside but there was a lot of jostling and he eventually fought his way clear when, according to the reports, had he just gone round his man he would have won the race.  He redeemed his poor running of two years previously.    The 120 yards was another very good race with all five finalists very close at the finish,   JB Auld of Ayr FC, a regular finalist at these meetings, winning from 3 1/2 yards from Cooper of England (scratch) in 11 3/5th.   Other events included a 220 yards (won by Kerley of Dublin), half mile (won by J McKenzie of Dublin – 25 yards), One Mile won by S Young of Paisley (115 yards) and several field events.   Horgan of Ireland gave a demonstration of shot putting and created a new Scottish record of 46′ 8″, in the high jump Leahy who had cleared 6′ 4″ the week before only managed 5′ 11″and was easily defeated in the handicap.   Caldow and Gascoyne starred in the cycle races.   

Denis Horgan won a total 42 shot put titles during his athletic career, including 28 Irish championships, 13 English championships (all for the 16 pound shot) and one American championship.  Horgan was “usually so superior to his fellow competitors that he seldom trained in any sort of systematic way, yet he showed a marked consistency of performance, in all conditions, over a period of twenty years. [from his Wikipedia entry}

All in all a good quality meeting, a variety of events and everybody happy yet again at a Celtic Sports meeting.

In 1899, 12th August was the dat, the club returning to its regular place in the calendar.  The ‘Glasgow Herald’ said:

“If records did not fall on Saturday at Parkhead like grouse on a Highland moor, the excellence of the sport was such as has not been equalled at any athletic function in Glasgow this season.   Nor is this surprising when the eminence of some of the competitors is taken into account.   Hitherto the Celts have culled from the rich athletic stores of England, but this season Mr William Maley has directed his attention to the not less wealthy resources of Ireland, several of whose more distinguished athletes accepted the invitation, and their presence more than anything else contributed so largely to the success of Saturday’s meeting.   If there is any place in Scotland where those of Irish nationality are warmly received it is at Parkhead, which overflows with a kind of exile enthusiasm, making Irishmen feel thoroughly at home and inspiring them to lofty achievements.”   

Denis Horgan of Banteer in the shot, Kiely of Carrick-on-Suir in the hammer and hurdles and Leahy in the high jump were all mentioned with Horgan setting a new .Scottish record of 47′ 1″ and Kiely doing like wise with 149′.   The half-mile was won by J McCafferty, sometimes known as P McCafferty who won the Scottish cross-country championship and then ran for Ireland in the international.   The Mile was said to be an interesting race with the winner being Clydesdale’s JC Lindsay although Clydebank’s A McDonald was jostled in the finishing straight when he looked like the winner and could only finish second, one place in front of McCafferty.  The other races including the cycling events were close finishes but not up to the standard of those mentioned above.  All round, it was a good meeting   to end the millennium.    

Rangers Sports: 1895 – 1899


President of The Rangers and Vice President of Clydesdale Harries

From ‘The Scottish Referee’, 3rd  June, 1895:

“Rangers, we understand, have resigned their membership of the SAAA.   This step has been forced on the club by the fact of their declaration to adhere to the new Union, and the other fact that under its auspices the club run a sports meeting on Wednesday evening.   To run such a meeting and still retain the membership with the SAAA would have rendered the Rangers liable to be dealt with afterwards, hence the resignation.   This is, we believe, the first of the withdrawals received by the SAAA officials, and we believe that Rangers have had official acceptance of their resignation sent to them.”

There is need of a little sporting history here.   Clydesdale Harriers was the biggest and most powerful athletics club in the country at this point and as is usual, big clubs attract criticism.   This is true whatever the sport but in this case the governing body were taking steps to ‘clip its wings.’    The club had ‘sections’ across the country – five semi autonomous sections in Glasgow alone plus Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire, Lanarkshire and Ayrshire.   In addition they had members from outwith these areas attached to the nearest section.    The first dispute in 1888  was because the SCCA wanted to (a) ban clubs from having sections at all – a direct assault on the only club to have such; and (b) rule that runners in championships had to have done at least ten training runs from the club headquarters during that season.   With members in Stirling and other outlying centres who could not get to any of the HQ’s it was again aimed at CH.    The Harriers broke away, set up the Scottish Harriers Union and ran rival championships and races and before long the dispute was resolved and among the chief negotiators for Clydesdale was John Mellish: described as ‘one of those who had brought the club to its resent high pitch of excellence’ by the Scottish Referee, a former pupil of Glasgow Academy, a member of the 1st LRV and secretary of a Scottish MP at Westminster, in 1889 he ‘permitted himself to be nominated as President of Rangers.’   There were many links between the two clubs.

In the club handbook of 1895/96 we note the following: “It has been thought advisable to sever our connection with the SAAA, and become affiliated with the SAAU, a new body which has come into being owing to the strained relations existing between the SAAA and the SCU.”   The SCU was the national cycling body and there had been continuing disputes between them and the SAAA on the definition of professionalism in the sport.   Clydesdale had members from a whole range of sports – cycling, swimming, skating, boxing, cricket and football – and were standing up for their own members.   The CH then split from the SAAA and set up the Scottish Amateur Athletic Union.   

The link with the Rangers led to the club allying itself with the Harriers and joining up with the SAAU whose rules were slightly different to those of the SAAA, and they had separate championships. That’s the background to the comments about the new Union and their leaving of the SAAA.   The same issue of the ‘Referee’ (3 June, 1985) made the following comment:

“To get up a meeting in six short days may be taken as a fine example of smartness.   Rangers have undertaken this and we do not believe that their enterprise will meet with disappointment.   The committee, with Mr GP Hourston at its head, are gentlemen versed in the running of sports; an excellent management involves an excellent meeting.   The entries, even on such short notice, are numerous and admirable in quality.   Vogt, McLaren and Kyllacky will mount in the B class, and in the A Simpson and all the best men will be up.   The foot racing will see all the Western “cracks”  on the path, and altogether a good evening’s sport is promised.    Rangers make their debut under the new Union, and as this is the first departure of the kind in the West on the part of one of the SAAA’s former adherents, the novelty of their position may help the attendance.”

Although this was not the club’s annual sports meeting, its significance for domestic athletics is hard to overestimate, whatever the outcome of the meeting.   The ‘Glasgow Herald’ of Thursday 6th June reported:   “RANGERS FOOTBALL CLUB.   This club held an amateur athletic and cycling meeting at Ibrox Park, Govan, last night under SAAU and SCU rules.   About 2000 spectators attended. ”   Events and winners are noted:

100 yards:  8 Heats, three semi finals, final:  G Browning  10 4-5th secs.

One Mile Flat Race:   W Robertson 4:33.6  

Half Mile cycle race:R Crawford   1:09.6

One Mile Bicycle Race:  AH Duncan 2:25.6

Five Miles Bicycle Race:  W Robin.   NTG

It was on then to the Annual Sports in August.   The officials on the day included J Mellish as a judge, and G Hourston as clerk of the course.   The report in the Glasgow Herald’ simply said: “The annual amateur athletic meeting under the rules of the SAAU and SCU took place at Ibrox Park, Govan, on Saturday afternoon.   Fully 7000 spectators were present. ”  

There were 10 heats and two semis of the 100 with the eventual winner being D Cram of Rangers in 10 4-5th seconds.   He took the lead at 25 yards and won going away.  Cram had been a regular finalist in the sprints over the years but this was his first major win. The 300 yards was won by Auld of Ayr FC.   A 1000 yards was won by L Ropner (Clydesdale)  in 2:20.2   The Mile was won by Robertson of Clydesdale from scratch in 4:38.4 in what was described as a magnificent race.   There was also a two miles in which, after Duffus and Hannah dropped out, H Yuill, Wishaw, won from 120 yards in 9:41.0.   In this race there were 23 starters but only 3 finishers in the event.   

“A glorious and pronounced success!   Augury successfully defied!   Enterprise rewarded!   These and such like terms as these describe the Rangers revels at Ibrox.   It is not gush but fact to say that these were the best sports of the season, and it remains for the Celts to show whether or not they can excel them.   Unfortunately champion Maley was elsewhere, so that Auld Ayr and Clyde Wilson were robbed of the chance of showing him the way to the tape.   Neither of these two cracks were placed in the final which went to Barclay, three and a half yards.  ”     That was the comment in the ‘Scottish Referee’ the Monday after the Sports of 1896.   The Sports in 1896 was on 3rd August.   

There had been two national championships in 1895 and again in 1896.   In the 1896 SAAU championships at Hampden on 27th June, Willie Maley won the 100 yards in 11 seconds.   (The previous year it had been won by Wilson of Clyde in 10.8 at the same venue).   Remembering that there were seldom any field events at SAAU meetings, other athletic events at Ibrox in August, 1886, included 

100 yards won by G Barclay (KNH)10.6 sec

Half Mile:  J Quinn (Ayr FC)  2:00.2 (off 40 yards)

One Mile: J Barclay (WSH) 4:24 (Fine race with Jackson of Rangers FC)

Three Miles:  Lamb from Duffus.

Meanwhile, in Stirlingshire, , “Secretary W Maley was at Brig’ o Allan negotiating talent for the 15th while AS Maley busied himself  at a meeting in  the ring at Ibrox booking entrants for Saturday 1st.”   Who was competing in the professional Games at Bridge of Allan?   Alf Downer for one and Gideon Perrie who was born in Lanarkshire but living in America and was the American professional champion for the shot, hammer and ‘other heavy events’.

Alf Downer, Scottish Pelicans

Negotiations had been going on between the SAAA and the SAAU over the weeks and months since the split  and agreement between the two was reached in the SFA Rooms at Carlton Place in Glasgow on 23rd April, 1897.   New laws and rules were issued defining what was an ‘amateur’ as had been accepted in Leeds in February 1896  between AAA, SAAA, and Irish AAA.   Summer 1987 saw the two factions again competing under the single umbrella of the SAAA.   The SAAU cause was probably helped by the fact that the major clubs in athletics and football were united in opposition to the SAAA.   

The Rangers Sports in 1897 were held on 7th August and the Scottish Referee of 9th August again sang the praises loud and clear:

“RANGERS REJOICE”  was the headline, followed by “Scotia’s darling club never had a more successful or pleasurable meeting than that of Saturday.   In fact we take leave to say that it was by far the smartest and most interesting sports meeting of the season.   There were no crawls and no crawlers, whilst spills and spillers were very few.   Not in one but in every event the pursuits to the tape were fast and the finishes close, dead heats occurring in the 100 yards, whilst an almost unparalleled circumstance took place in the Mile flat between Mills and Duffus, the pair actually dead heating.   The Committee, headed by JR Gow, deserves great praise for their management, and we expect tonight’s continuation meeting, under their supervision to be even more interesting and enjoyable, especially as football occupies a place on the programme.   A word of commendation is due handicappers Hannah and Livingston, for the cycling and foot races were equally good.”

The Glasgow Herald’ of the same date read:  “Since the season started no more pleasant athletic function has taken place than that held under the auspices of the Rangers at Ibrox Park, Govan, on Saturday.   The weather was all that could be desired, , the heat of the sun being tempered by a fairly strong breeze, which told against good times being done.   Fully 14000 spectators were present and they were entertained with a splendid afternoon’s sport.   The bands of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders and Govan Police played selections, while a detachment of men from the above regiment gave an exhibition of musical drill and a military field display.   Everything was run up to time and at the close Miss Caldwell presented the prizes to the successful competitors.”

What of the competition, then?   First off, there were more officials listed than at any of the previous Sports and they included W Maley (not off at Bridge of Allan this year), W Sellar, JR Gow, W Wilton, DS Duncan and A Hannah.   The 100 yards resulted in a win for JS Muir of QPFC, off 4 yards, by a foot; Half Mile: J Jeffrey (Irvine AC  55 yards) won; in the One Mile, DW Mill of Greenock Glenpark Harriers 60 yards) looked like winning it until Duffus (Clydesdale 55) came through strongly to make a dead-heat of the race: Mill would join Clydesdale and win the SCCU championships twice at the turn of the century); an there were also bicycle races for professionals and also for amateurs.   The competition was continued on the following Monday evening.

On Monday, 9th August, 1897, there was what was termed the continuation of the sports but the programme contained a senior 5-)a-side tournament (featuring Rangers, Third Lanark, Hearts, and Hibernian), a Junior 5-a-sides (with Strathclyde, Parkhead, Cambuslang Hibernians and Glasgow Perthshire) and a 220 yards confined to registered professional football players.   With four heats and a final it was won by Tom Hyslop (Rangers FC – 5 yards) from Andrew Holms (Renton – scratch) and N Smyth (Rangers – 9 yards) in 24.0 seconds.   Held on a pleasant sunny evening, it was watched by a crowd of 5000 spectators.   

DS Duncan

The following year’s Sports were held on 6th August, and the Glasgow Herald on 8th August, 1898 published the details prefaced only by,  “The gathering on Ibrox Park on Saturday afternoon was a successful one in respect of good racing, fine finishes and splendid management.”   It was certainly well supported by the athletes – 20 heats in the 100 yards plus four semi finals and a final equalled 25 races over 100 yards in one afternoon.    It was won by McLean of QPFC from Wardrop of QPFC in 10 seconds.   The One Mile with an 80 yard limited handicap was won by TP Robertson (no club given) from R Brown (BH) in 4:20.4.   The next race was the 120 yards invitation handicap won by Grant (CH – 5 yards) from PJ Kerley (MHFC) 1 1/2)  in 12 seconds;  Kerley then won the 220 yards handicap and in the half-mile A Morris defeated A McDonald (CH) in 1:58.4.  There were also cycle races. both amateur and professional.  

‘The Scottish Referee, 8th August, 1898,  was a bit more eloquent:  “Ye gallant Light Blues are to be congratulated on the success of their sports on Saturday.   Favoured with a continuance of brilliant weather, tempered by a cooling breeze, competitors and spectators were in fine humour.   A shadow hovered over the scene owing to the death of Dr John McLeod, the flags being lowered to half mast in respectful sympathy.   …   the raucous shouts of the ‘bookies’ of whom a numerous company were present. Beginning with the sprint, which was run off on the turf in front of the grand stand, the meeting proceeded with a smartness and despatch  that made the sport most interesting and enjoyable, and secured for the meeting the verdict of being one of the best in the Rangers history and of the season. “

The paper went on to comment on the individual events but the extract above indicates the success of another meeting.  The weather was not good on Monday night for what was now being called the Rangers tournament but before that started there was a One Mile handicap won by J Dickson (Edinburgh – 75 yards) from J Darwin (East Calder) and J Revell (Galashiels).   As for the football, the rainy weather had made the ground wet and boggy and did not lend itself to scientific football, but what it lacked in science, it made up for in spirit.   St Mirren won defeating Hibernian by one goal to two points.   

Not finding a report on the Sports in August 1899 in either the Referee or the Herald, it may be that there were none that year.  Note the following:

“Rangers, notwithstanding they are hurrying up the contractors for newer and greater Ibrox with all speed, find that they will have to draw upon the fields of their friends for a few weeks at the start of the season.   Anxious to help each other in a time of difficulty, we are pleased to learn that the clubs have readily complied with the Rangers demand, and will accommodate them with dates until such time as Ibrox is ready for occupancy.   Rangers patrons will bear with them in their little difficulty and turn out generously when the club is away, so as to compensate the clubs who are obliging the “Light Blues.”

The Scottish Referee, 7th August 1899


Rangers Sports: 1890 – 1894

The Rangers had been holding sports successfully since their first venture into athletics promotion in 1881.  When the Clydesdale Harriers came into being in May 1885, they trained at the Rangers grounds at Kinning Park and Ibrox.   The clubs had members in common and they held joint sports for a while.   This changed in 1890 when the clubs agreed to hold their separate meetings.   The joint ventures had been held at the start of July but from 1890 the Rangers meeting was held on the first Saturday in August: this would be a fixture in the calendar right up into the 1960’s.   The Herald commented upon this.   

“For a couple of seasons past the Rangers and Clydesdale Harriers combined their meetings.   This year however the Rangers courted success independently and met with their reward.   Fully 6000 spectators were present at Ibrox Park on Saturday to witness the various events.   The weather was all that could be desired, if anything it was too warm for the competitors in the various events, the football especially.  The athletes were not numerous but a good day’s sport was witnessed nevertheless.   Considerable interest was taken in the football tournament for which four clubs competed – namely Rangers, Dumbarton, St Mirren and Linthouse.      [Glasgow Herald, 4th August, 1900]

The absence of the new club, Celtic FC, from the football was maybe explained by the fact that they had a tournament of their on on that day and had three 5-a-side teams competing there.   Events contested at Ibrox in 1890 included quarter mile flat handicap confined to football section (J Henderson (30 yards) won by a foot from AH McKenzie off 10 yards; quarter mile flat handicap open won by D Wright Abercorn FC from CL Aitken, Clydesdale H; one mile flat race handicap won by W Henderson from AG Colquhoun, both Clydesdale H; three miles ordinary bicycle race; two mile safety bicycle race.   Bicycle races were held at this time on machines with solid tyres, the pneumatic variety just being introduced.   Some meetings would hold two races at a particular distance – one for bicycles with solids and the other for Bicycles with pneumatics.   On the same day as this report was published in the Herald, the ‘Scottish Referee’ had a letter debating whether the pneumatic tyres should be banned.   Among the officials on duty were John Mellish and Tom Vallance as Judges, and Alex Vallance as Time keeper.   

Andrew Hannah

In 1891 the Rangers Sports were held on Saturday, August 1st, and as might be expected many of the officials as well as competitors were from Clydesdale Harriers.   Many of course had dual membership including John Mellish who would play a significant part in resolving the dispute that split Scottish athletics in 1885/86.    Most sports had their special event, or even a novelty event, to draw in the crowds and one of the most popular events at this meeting was a 440 yards race confined to “bona fide playing members of Rangers FC.”   It was won by Reid (30 yards) the goalkeeper, from Kerr (35) and AR MacKenzie (10).   However the fact that football prevails even at the Rangers Sports was evident right at the start of the report in the ‘Scottish Referee of 3rd August, 1891: 

“Long may this flag float over a vigorous club, and may remembrance of victory already achieved stimulate the club to greater exertions in future,”   These were the stirring, cheering words that Councillor Primrose spoke after unfurling the Rangers Joint League Championship flag on Saturday.   So far as their sports were concerned, the flag was honourably hoisted, and it is to be hoped that similar luck will follow the club so long as a tattered rag of the banner floats gaily in the breeze.    One disappointment was experienced by the 10,000 people present, and that of course, was the non-appearance of FJ Osmond the English champion cyclist whose recent phenomenal performances have electrified the wheel world.   ,,,,,  “


The first Saturday in August, 1892 was the 6th of the month and like its predecessors it was a great success.   The biggest crowd ever seen, 12,000 spectators, was present at the games and, financially, £259 was taken at the gate, £60 for the stands, and the total with entry fees etc came to over £350.   Typical of the period the cycle racing was a big draw with Mecredy, the Irish champion proving to be a crowd pleaser.   The ‘Scottish Referee’ commented ‘cycling is booming.’   Beveridge and Tom Blair were the top sprinters but they held the 440 yards confined to Rangers players again and A Mc Creadie who won it was reported to be all out at the finish.   There were several close races, especially the 220 yards invitation:   “Did McCulloch or McLeod win the 220 invitation?  This is still a problem with most people although Judge McNab has it  solved to his satisfaction by giving the race to McCulloch,   The finish was certainly a close affair, and in the circumstances it might have been as well to have had a couple of judges on the men.   McLeod led until ten yards from home, then McCulloch drew level with him, throwing upon his powerful rival that characteristic glance which implies that he has a grip of his man, but which almost lost him the race.   On the tape McCulloch should conserve all his attention and leave those “glances” to the finish.   The time was given 24 2/5 seconds exactly – the same as McCulloch did in his heat – and yet he did not run so strongly.   Three watches were on the event and two of them gave the time as 23 2/5th seconds.   If this really be the case then McCulloch has equalled McLeod’s record time for the distance made at the WSH meeting in 1891. ”  

With a big crowd, quality athletics on display and a profit at the end of the afternoon, what more did a meeting want?


The meeting on 5th August 1893 was a well supported one – 12 heats, semi finals and a final of the 100 yards with Rangers player JR Gow (3 yards) making the final’ ; 8 heats of the 220 with Rangers man H Barr winning his Heat.   The ‘Glasgow Herald’ reported as follows. 

“Ibrox was the centre of attention on Saturday afternoon, the occasion being the annual sports of the Rangers FC, which were a great success in every respect.   The sprints were capitally contested, ; indeed all the races – cycle and flat – resulted in very close finishes.   We can only refer to one or two of the outstanding features of the day’s sport.   First then TE Messenger created a small sensation by breaking the 600 yards record.   He sliced 2-5th off the previous best, and had he been pressed to any extent, he would have done much better time.    Messenger ran very smoothly and he displayed perfect skill from start to finish.   Another feature of the meeting was the failure of AR Downer, the Scottish champion, from whom great things were expected.   He was badly beaten in the 100 yards heat, the time for which was 10 2-5th sec; and in the 220 yards heat he was at least four yards worse than 23 seconds.   DR McCulloch’s success appeared to give great satisfaction to all present.   He just lost the 100 yards final by a breast after a most spirited finish with J Weir of Milngavie FC (6 yards).   JJ Rice (Partick Thistle), 17 yards, had something to spare in the final of the 220 yards handicap.   The mile was won in 4 min 28 2-5th off 60 yards which shows that J Stavert is a rapidly improving runner.   The Clydesdale Harriers Mile was won in 4 min 23 sec. and Morton did his record 4 min 24 1-5th on the Rangers ground.   Hannah did not run quite up to form on Saturday.   At one time he looked like winning the two miles handicap, but he cracked badly when the supreme  moment came.  S Duffus, Arbroath Harriers (20 yards) won and T Mitchell, Paisley Harriers, who might have been first had he not spurted so soon was a good second.   The cycling as usual called forth great interest.   The gate money yielded over £200.”   

At the end of the day’s sport the prizes were presented by Mrs Primrose, wife of Bailie Primrose.

Stewart Duffus and his brother JS

The ‘Glasgow Herald’ had an interesting take on the 1894 meeting when it began “The new professionalism had its beginning at Ibrox Park on Saturday and Rangers FC are to be congratulated on their efforts to popularise cycling in Scotland.   Though the number of riders present fell far short of what was expected, still there was a fairly large contingent of what is known as the Paris crowd to make the racing interesting to the 15000 spectators who came there impelled as much  by curiosity as much as by desire to see good sport. …”   The meeting, which included a four-a-side football competition, seems to have been the only one held on the Saturday with the amateur athletics being held on the following Monday.

This Monday meeting contained many top names as well as several amateur cycle races.   The same paper reported on Tuesday, 6th August:

“Following their professional tournament on Saturday, the Rangers last night held a meeting last night open to amateurs only.   There was a good attendance of spectators and, considering that the weather was bitterly cold and that there was a strong breeze, the sport was excellent.   Indeed the two miles flat race was the finest ever witnessed in Glasgow, and resulted in a very popular win for A Hannah .”

Events at the meeting included 100 yards handicap (10 heats, 2 semi finals, final), 600 yards flat handicap (third in this race was RS Langlands who would become the first Scot to run under two minutes for 880 yards),  Two Miles flat plus three cycle races (half mile, one mile and five miles).    It was a very short programme compared to the normal Rangers sports and for the athletics supporters being limited to three events on a Monday evening was not what they would have wanted.    

It had been an experimental weekend, the least successful meeting for several years but 1895 would see a return to the normal format.   However the pace in athletics events for their relative sports was being set, for the time being at least,  my Maley of the Celtic who was inviting the top men from all over Britain, maybe especially Ireland, to his club’s meetings.

Celtic Sports: 1890 – 1894



Celtic FC was founded 1887 and played their first match in May 1888.   Many football clubs (QPFC, the Rangers FC, Third Lanark, Partick Thistle, etc)  organised sports meetings at the time and Celtic, with such as Willie Maley and his brother Tom on the books were almost bound to follow suit.   Two years after that first football match, they were organising their first meeting.   

The Scottish Referee of 4th August, 1890, referred to what it called a preliminary meeting to its first sports the following week: “On Saturday the Celtic Football Club made a beginning at sports holding and a promising one it was.   Next Saturday the by event comes off and Celtic Park will be big-crowded indeed.   The various events have been filled well, and sport will be good, in addition to which it is well to remember that the meeting will be under good management.   Entries can yet be made with Mr William Maley.”

But before the big meeting the following week, there was the report on the preliminary sports on the first Saturday in August: a date that was synonymous with the Rangers Sports at Ibrox. “Some disappointment was caused at the Celtic Sports on Saturday when it was became known that a great number of the clubs who had entered in the five-a-side competition was not likely to put in an appearance.   This robbed the sports of a great deal of interest.   A little time had to be “frittered” away and once or twice the crowd became nervous.   What a big crowd too!   If there’s a club in Scotland that can make a “draw”, that club is the Celtic.   The track looked a “hummer” (?) but it falsified its appearance later on.   After the 300 and 200 yards had been run, the holes left on the surface showed that it was still heavy.   It will require all the rolling it can get between now and next Saturday.

The club possesses a few capital sprinters and the confined handicaps were really enjoyed by the big crowd.   Tom Maley was handicapper to less than a step, and it was nonsense to be asked to give away the distance to some of the competitors.   Kelly with practice we fancy, would make a mark in distances under a quarter and over 100 yards.   P Gallacher collared the 300 yards prize; he had to run for it.

W Maley collected a couple of “firsts” – the 100 yards and 200 yards.”

It was only four years since Willie Maley had won the SAAU 100 yards championship and it is good to see that the former Clydesdale Harrier was still competing.   The comments on Tom Maley and handicaps above are reproduced as in the paper but what happened was described further through the ‘Referee’.   There were four Heats of the 100 yards.   “The first brought out only two runners Kelly 4 yards, Collins 10 yards.   Kelly ran a magnificent race and when only half the distance was traversed had overtaken his man and eventually won anyhow.   In the second Heat, Willie Maley had some work ere he beat his two opponents but he ran strongly to the finish.   In the fourth Heat the full complement put in an appearance.   Tom Maley was scratch but after the start had scarcely got into his stride when he drew up, being unable to give six yards to P Gallagher who came romping home.   Murphy had 9 yards and McVey 11 yards off Maley.”   Willie Maley won a hard fought final to win by half a yard from Gallagher.   Both Maleys were in the 220 with Tom again off scratch, as he was in the 300 yards where he finished third.   All events were confined events.

 Celtic played Cambuslang in the 5-a-side but since Cambuslang had turned up with only four players, they ‘picked up the odd Celt’ and fought their way to the final where they would meet the Celtic number one team the following Saturday.

Was the meeting on 9th August a success?  This from the’ Scottish Referee’ of 11th August:   “The experiment made by the Celtic FC on Saturday of holding a sports meeting was fully justified by the magnificent success which attended the venture.   We have witnessed all the leading athletic events this season but in point of enthusiasm we must give the palm to this immense gathering.”   There was more but the undoubted success of this event is testified to by the above extract and the fact that 5000 people attended.   The paper even gave three reasons for the triumph:

  1.   The fact that it was the Celts’ debut on the path;
  2.   The excellence of the sporting bill of fare;
  3.   The value of the prizes “which the executive without regard to cost have secured.

There was even a bit of controversy.   One of the top sprinters was Mr DD Bulger, a former Irish champion,  who had “a peculiar cat-like method of starting came in for much comment and experienced authorities were inclined to doubt its legality.   The rule has it that no part of the athlete’s body shall protrude beyond its mark, and interpreted strictly we certainly think that Mr Bulger’s style of springing off, or steadying himself with his hands on the track an infringement.   We do not know for what reason he has adopted this position, or of what value it is to him as an athlete, but it is certainly a novel departure from the starting methods which have hitherto been witnessed in Scotland.”

Novel it may have been in Scotland but Daniel Delany Bulger was a multi title winner from Dublin who had won the Gaelic Athletic Association 100 yards in `886, 1887, 1888, 1889 an 1890, and the Irish AAA’s 100 yards in 1888, 1889 and 1890 and the 220 yards, GAA, in 1885, 1886 and 1887, and IAAA in 1885.   He did run at Parkhead despite the doubts but was unplaced in both handicap finals. 

In the sprints, Tom Maley was more fortunate in the open 100 yards, off 3 yards,  than he had been in the confined version tha previous week: he won his heat, semi final and final, where the winning time was 10.2 seconds; J Kelly of Celtic won the 220 yards from a mark of 15 yards; the half mile had 17 starters and was won by Mitchell of Harriers in 2:04; the Mile with 15 runners was won by A Russell of St Mirren FC; and the two miles flat handicap was won by Henderson (300 yards) from McCann (100 yards) and Russell of St Mirren (150) third.     Top event however had to be an event held for the first time in Scotland – a 100 yards invitation scratch race.   There wre four starters – Bulger, Tom Maley, Tom Blair and McPherson.   Bulger won from Blair in 10.4.   Interestingly Willie Maley ran in the 100 yards from 5 1/2 yards and won his heat but failed to get through his semi final but – h seconds was running as ‘Celtic FC’ and Tom was running for ‘Clydesdale Harriers’.   There were also bicycle races on the programme as well as a dribbling race (confined to reserves), a sack race which had heats and a final, and the final of the five-a-side in which Celtic won by one goal and one point to one point.

There were some caveats after the meeting however: note this from the ‘Glasgow Herald’:

“The ground of the Celtic is well suited for the football but for an athletic meeting such as was held on Saturday afternoon it is perhaps the most poorly adapted enclosure in Scotland.   This blight, we are in a position to state, will be removed by next summer.   A cinder path worthy of the reputation and position of the club will be laid, and other alterations effected which will place Parkhead on a level with Hampden, Ibrox and other athletic enclosures.   Had the facilities for running been good, the Celtic sports would have been the finest, from an athletic point of view, ever seen in Scotland. …   It went on to mention in particular the corners were too “sudden” for the runners and good times.   But the comments of the two reports confirm that the standard at this first venture was remarkably high.   


The pattern of a preliminary meeting on the first Saturday in August followed by the major event the following weekend was followed through in 1901 with the dates being the 1st and 8th of August.    Once they had both been completed, the ‘Scottish Referee’ of 10th August commented: The Celtic Executive have scored a remarkable success with their athletic meetings of the last two Saturdays, and one which cannot but justify their policy in treating their patrons to a sight of some of the best talents in the three kingdoms.   The spectators turned out in their thousands. and one would have thought that from the excitement caused by the various events,and especially by the wheel races, that a stiff football match was in progress.   The visitors took away a good share of the pots , and Vogt again proved his popularity and ability.”    

4.5000 spectators attended the preliminaries meeting on the first Saturday in August and was enjoyed by all but the programme for the main meeting was not available a week beforehand other than that the main events would be 100, 220, 440, 880 yards and one mile flat races, dribbling race and the final of the 5-a-side tournament between Celtic No. 1 and Kilmarnock Athletic plus bicycle races at half mile, one mile and two miles (both for solid tyres and pneumatic tyres) and a hurdles race.   RA Vogt, champion and record holder at distance from half a mile to over twenty miles was to appear in the cycle races as were Torrance, Cockburn, Campbell and Howie but Collins would not be there as he preferred the East Stirling FC Sports.   Vogt had taken a tumble at the last  year’s sports but that’s part of the excitement of the event for the spectators.

 RA Vogt, Clydesdale Harriers, who was a great favourite at Parkhead.

Celtic certainly did have athletes from all three home nations competing in 1891 and the’Glasgow Herald’ tells us that C Bradley of Huddersfield was the best English sprinter that has visited Glasgow.   He won the scratch 100 yards race, was second in the open handicap race to Dickenson of Dublin University.   In the cycle races Vogt had two firsts and a third.   

In 1892 the open meeting on the second Saturday in August was less successful and the coverage was more sober.   The ‘Scottish Referee’ started its comments with this:   Amid circumstances deplorably depressing opened their new grounds at Parkhead last Saturday.   It was most unfortunate that an event so important in the short yet brilliant career of the club should have been marred by such miserable weather.   As Mr Farquhar Matheson, the referee, remarked at the social which followed the sports, the weather is one of these factors entirely beyond the control of the officials.   Saturday’s wretched experience was doubly unfortunate in that it robbed the public of really seeing at their best the very cream of British athletic talent.   Despite all however, the attendance of the public was most exemplary,   How they lasted out a programme which took almost exactly six hours to get through is a testimony to their patriotism.   Happy is the club that has such patrons.  ….”

There was however no financial loss and rain is to be expected in Scotland.   Bradley was again in action, the highly regarded  WJ  Holmes was in the half-mile and several of the best cyclists took part.   DD Bulger, described as English and Irish hurdles champion and record holder, ran well enough but was beaten by Dickie who had 11 3/4 yards start.  Hugh Barr, Scottish international long jumper and sprinter also took part  in the sprint, WJ Holmes won the half mile in 2 minutes dead and Bradley was described as the finest sprinter ever seen in Scotland.   There were stars everywhere.   Bradley won the 100 yards invitation from Bulger (running from his hands),  with McCulloch and Barr racing for third place.    Bulger ran in the hurdles but failed to break the record – little wonder given the weather.   The club had a supplementary meeting on the Monday, 15th August, 1892, with a 100 yards (Bradley scratch. W Maley 6 1/2 yards, and several others), 600 yards handicap, three quarters mile flat handicap, plus bicycle races.   The meeting was very successful with events at a variety of distances being run and cycle racing also on the programme.   The 100 yards handicap had six heats and Bradley won from McCulloch and Blair of QPFC; a 600 yards flat race was won by Woodburn of West of Scotland; a three quarter mile handicap was won by Campbell of Clydesdale; the ten miles cycle race was won by McLaren from Vogt and Mecredy won the half mile cycle race.

The second Saturday in August 1893 saw Parkhead occupied by a match between Celtic and Queen’s Park so the Sports were shunted back a week.   Given the standard of athlete promised, they were none the worse of it: the report in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ the following Monday began “The annual sports of the Celtic FC held at Parkhead on Saturday afternoon attracted the largest crowd ever witnessed at an athletic meeting in Scotland, it being estimated that 20,000 spectators were present.   Nearly all the English and Irish cracks were present, and this, combined with the fine weather, no doubt partially accounted for the large attendance.   The arrangements were excellently carried out by Mr William Maley and an able committee.”

The 120 yards had twelve heats, three semi finals and a final, won by Bradley from Huddersfield; 100 yards flat race invitation handicap won by JR Gow (Rangers) from TE Messenger Salford;  the 120 yards hurdles had three heats and a final, won by Shaw of London;  300 yards flat race handicap with eight heats and a final, won by AH Thom (Third Lanark) off 3 1/2 yards;    half mile handicap open won by SW Ashworth from Manchester; one mile flat race handicap won by  SW Ashworth.      The back marker in the open mile was Fred Bacon (Salford, second) who set a new record of 4:25.

 There were also half mile bicycle race, 5 heats and a final*,  one mile handicap race open to riders receiving handicaps up to 100 yards from RA Vogt (3 heats);  three miles bicycle race handicap (3 heats and a final); and 10 Mile bicycle race won by O’Neill (Vagabond AC) from Vogt.     * In the half mile race, third heat, Vogt punctured and had to get a new machine; McCaig waited on him and Vogt allowed him to win.

The success of the meeting can also be seen in that the amount drawn at the gate  was £350:10:6 and with other sums due the total was over £500.   The follow up meeting on the Monday night had many good performances to commend it but the ‘boisterous weather’ did nothing for the crowd size.   Bacon set another record – for the thousand yards this time –  of 2:19.4;  O’Neil equalled Vogt’s quarter mile flying start record of 32.4; the final of the 120 yards flat handicap had a marvellous race between Bradley of Huddersfield, Gow of the Rangers, Lumley of Newcastle and Young of Beith with inches covering all four at the finish – Bradley won; Godfrey Shaw won the hurdles race and Crossland of Salford won the two miles.   Another good evening’s sport.

The preview of the 1894 sports in the ‘Scottish Referee’ waxed lyrical: “Celtic are busy completing their arrangements for their Saturday and Monday Carnival.   To the club that has competed such athletic triumphs in the past, nothing is impossible, and, great though their previous records be, we expect from the  labour and enterprise they have devoted to this meeting that it will result in all previous records being bust.   

The grounds and tracks have been magnificently worked up by Master-of-Works McKay and all who are privileged to look upon them on Saturday will pronounce them the finest in Scotland if not in Britain.   Mr W Maley is responsible for the list of attractions which are sufficient to please the daintiest athletic palate.  It is indeed a meeting of the champions of champions, the creme de la creme of the Scottish, English and Irish athletic paths.”

After that the meeting hand plenty to live up to.   The crowds had seen Willie and Tom Maley in action at the club sports and on 11th August 1894 they saw youngest brother Alex competing in the sprints.   “The annual sports of the Celtic FC were held on Saturday afternoon at Celtic Park, Parkhead.   The weather was dull and threatening but fortunately the rain held off and the events were carried off under favourable auspices.   Nearly all the champions of Britain competed, and although there were no records broken some accomplished wonderful time considering  that there was a strong wind.   The arrangements of the secretary, Mr William Maley, were excellent and the sports were an unqualified success.   Representatives from the Queen’s Park, the Rangers and nearly all the leading clubs gave assistance in carrying out the programme.   It was estimated that 17000 persons were present, and with the supplementary meeting tonight (Monday 13th) the club will doubtless reap a handsome surplus.”   To give a  notion of how the spectators saw the meeting, the results below are in the order in which they took place.

3 Miles Bicycle Race Handicap:  CP Glazebrook (Manchester)

120 yds hurdles  (four heats + final later in programme):    A Graham (West of Scotland)

120 yds invitation handicap: 1.  CA Bradley (Huddersfield);  2. A Downer (Pelicans);  3.  TE Messenger (Salford)

880 yds flat handicap:  D Caw (MH)

Half mile bicycle handicap (7 heats + final): D McEwan (Ayr)

100 yards handicap (12 heats, semi finals + final): Jeffrey  (IFC)

Mile handicap:  FE Bacon (Salford)

one mile bicycle race (3 heats + final):  JH Simpson (Cathkin)

220 yds handicap (8 heats + final):    JF Burnett (EH)

10 miles bicycle race: 1.   O’Neill (Dublin),  2.  Naylor (Dublin);  3.  Leitch (London)

Alex Maley was mentioned – he ran in the 100 handicap and won his heat off 13 yards in 10 seconds dead but did not progress through the semi final.  

Celtic had now held five successive and successful sports meetings – the enthusiasm and drive of W Maley had no little part in it but it is good to note the amount of help they received from other football and sports club personnel.   Names like Gow and Vallance appear as officials as well as competitors, Farquhar Matheson and many other members of Clydesdale Harriers officiated every year (the Maley brothers and many others were members of the club before the Celtic FC appeared on the scene), men from Queen’s Park and other clubs were also in evidence.   All that remained to conclude the five years was to hold the supplementary Monday night meeting.   We conclude with this from the ‘Glasgow Herald’ of Tuesday:

“The sports of the Celtic FC were continued last night when Bacon, the English champion, accomplished a performance in the our miles flat handicap – that too on a very heavy track and in miserable weather, rain falling heavily all the time – that cannot be too highly spoken of.   Starting from scratch with George Crossland, the Salford Harrier, he beat the Scottish record by 10 seconds, his time being 19:44.4, with Crossland, who also beat the record, close up.   The winner was Duffus (Arbroath Harriers), 230 yards, who came in 25 yards in front of Bacon, and whose time was 19:04.2.   Bacon’s last 25 yards was done in 3.2 seconds, being equal to quarter-mile time.   Andrew Hannah started from the same mark as Duffus but gave in early in the race.   The 600 yards flat race scratch invitation was won by JF Magee (Dublin), time-1:16.2; SW Ashworth (Manchester) was second and TE Messenger (Salford) third.”

There were also    a 100 yards and a 120 yards hurdle race as well as two cycle races with the riders eventually riding in the dark.

Farquhar Matheson (right) and his four brothers: He was track referee at all five meetings above





Ian McWatt

The Dumbarton AAC team that had run from Glasgow to Fort William: Ian McWatt third from right

Ian McWatt of Dumbarton AAC was one of the best known track officials in Scotland and before that he was, as the photograph above shows, a keen runner.   The photograph was taken after the club had run a relay from Glasgow to Fort William using only eight runners who ran four stages each.   It was not an easy task but the men running it had one recce runs for weeks beforehand and every one of them knew what had to be done.   It was a club event  and Ian was very much a club man.   He ran in all championship races – club, county, district and national.   He also ran in the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay several times in the 1970’s plus all the races that club runners do – Nigel Barge, Glasgow University Road Race, Balloch to Clydebank and so on.   Very easy to get on with, he was widely known throughout the running world.   

I had known him as a runner from the days when we met in the county cross-country championships and always found him easy to get on with.   The weather didn’t bother him and he turned out rain or shine and did his best.   One of his friends from the running and racing days shed some light on his character when he tells us that “As a runner, he was meticulous in the way in which he packed his kitbag on race day: everything was in a different polybag – clean kit, dirty kit, wet-weather kit, arctic kit, towel, soap, comb, clean trainers, dirty trainers, micropore,  vaseline,  germoline …  Very often, this resulted in lengthy rummagings in the kit bag, because the polybagged items weren’t as easily identifiable as if they had been packed loose; if this failed, then countless polybags emerged onto the floor until the right one was found.   This shows that attention to detail was his forte, which certainly carried over into his officiating – and, no doubt, his school work. While the polybag syndrome manifested itself every Saturday afternoon, it occurred in spades on Glasgow to Ft William occasions, when multiple changes of kit were needed and one had to be prepared for multiple soakings, freezings  etc.” 

Ian, a long time teacher at Dumbarton Academy, was also a member of the local cycle club and took part in many of their events.   When he stopped competitive running, Ian became an official.   As befits a runner he was a track rather than a field official and was a time keeper from 1986.   He was awarded the Raymond Hutcheson Trophy for Services to Officiating on  3rd Nov 2018, and the citation for the award read:

“Ian started timekeeping in April 1986
In October 1987 Ian passed both the practical and theory tests require by Scottish Amateur Athletics Association/Scottish Women’s Amateur Athletics Association, and became a Grade ! timekeeper – 1987 style.   Since then Ian has continually officiated as a timekeeper at both Endurance (Road Running and Cross Country) and Track and Field events as timekeepers were expected to do in those days.  In 2016 his latest Record of Experience still records him doing so. Ian has assisted and mentored many new timekeepers over the years.  As an example, at the Scottish U13 and U20 Championships in August 2017 Ian, as Chief Timekeeper, used his knowledge and experience to lay out the timekeeping team in manner that enhanced the skill level of his team – by insisting on capturing times other than first place.

Under the tutelage of Ray Hutcheson, Ian expanded his role in athletics to include Photo-Finish. Ian is one of the core individuals whose expertise makes this aspect of athletics in Scotland the envy of the rest of the UK. Ian has applied his innovative skills continually, in order to improve the technology used within Scottish Photo-Finish. One example is that the Scottish Athletics Display Clock now uses a “wireless” device Ian developed and manufactured.

Ian is always ready to turn up for the vital pre-event set up necessary to ensure Scottish athletic events are the success they are. In 2016 Ian’s RoE records 62 days of Photo-finish activity, and previous years records show the same level of commitment and involvement.   During Ian’s 30 plus years in athletics, he has been a member of the Scottish Athletics Timekeeping Peer Group, including being Head of Discipline for a number of years. Ian is currently a member of the Scottish Athletics Photo-Finish Peer group.   

Ian has officiated at numerous British Athletics events – as both a timekeeper and a photo-finish judge. He was a member of the Technical Information Centre team at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and a timekeeper at the 2011 Youth Commonwealth Games in the Isle of Man.
For the reasons above we wish to nominate Ian McWatt for the 2017 Ray Hutcheson Trophy”

Dave Finlayson – Head of Discipline Photo-finish
Mike Forrest – Head of Discipline Timekeeping

I knew Ian as a runner and also as a timekeeper.   When I went on the course for timekeepers, Ian was one of the three instructors (the other two were Sheila McDougall and Jim Johnston).   We subsequently worked at many meetings together where Ian was the Chief and I was the lowliest of the Indians.  He never flapped and faffed about as some did; he never got angry or impatient as others did, although like everybody else he was at times a wee bit irritated.  After every race, the timekeepers had to check the times, have them copied out and sent to the recording officials.   Meanwhile the Starter was anxious to get the next race off.   Ian as Chief always kept the Starter waiting unacknowledged until he was sure that all the recording had been done and dealt with before he gave the signal for the next race.   Even on very wet afternoons when the other officials and the runners were just wanting to get the meeting finished, Ian would say “Let them wait” until the results and times were recorded to his satisfaction.   

As Dave and Mike said above he officiated at both track races and road/cross-country events.    He was always there, always helpful.   

When I heard from Alistair Lawson that he was very ill with cancer, I visited him in the Vale of Leven Hospital.and we talked about several topics but he showed me photographs of his cycle trip to Spain in August 2017 in which he looked very fit and as happy as ever.   He had been diagnosed with cancer at the start of 2018 but was looking forward to getting back home.   Unfortunately he died on 13th February before that could happen.   His funeral was held on 21st February and there was a big turn out of athletes, cyclists and friends at the Crematorium in Cardross.   But Ian, had the last word, and a good one it was too, when he left instructions that the mourners should be taken to the Abbotsford Hotel in Dumbarton and “give them all a bl**dy good feed!”

Clyde FC Annual Sports: 1911 – 1918

The 1911 Sports were decidedly not what we would understand as an athletic event today although there were some athletics involved.   Held on 29th July, 1911, the following extracts from the Scottish Referee give a flavour of the event.   First there were three big photographs of an exhibition boxing match between Jimmy Wilde, world 7 stone champion and local boy Billy Padden.   Then there was a note saying that “Third Lanark’s new trainer, W Biggins of Addieswell, was a competitor in the sprints at Clyde club’s sports.  He was not so successful as Tom Brandon, St Bernard’s trainer, who won his heat of the 120 yards and was second in the final.   Then – “Almost everybody who is anybody in football was at the Clyde club’s sports on Saturday.  There were Messrs Wilton (Rangers), W Maley (Celtic), H Low (St Mirren), T Moore (Hamilton), M Dunbar (Celtic), J Kelly (Celtic), James Brownlie (Third Lanark) and Herbert Lock (Rangers.) 

In 1912 the meeting was held on 27th July and the programme contained five-a-side football, a 15 mile race featuring Kohlemainen of Finland for a £25 a head stake, a penalty kick competition, and a footballers race in fancy costume.   The five-a-side tournament was held ‘for behoof of’ Billy McCartney, Clyde and ex-Hibs FC, and featured Hibs, Clyde, Partick Thistle, QPFC, Third Lanark and Hamilton Academicals.   The 15 miles race was run over 60 laps of the track and while it was making progress, the penalty kick competition was going on in the infield.   Popular comedian George Robey was allowed to take part.   The race resulted in a win for the Finn  in 1 hour 22 minutes.   

Move on a year and note this article from the Glasgow Herald of 21st July, 1913: 

“The Clyde Football Club are apparently “whole hoggers” as far as professionalism is concerned, and in this respect  they are at least consistent.   Instead of running amateur sports, as so many professional clubs do [amateurism in Scotland is practically subsidised at the expense of Association Football] Clyde are running a purely professional gathering on Saturday first.   Of course football is the trump card, but in addition they are introducing Jack Donaldson, the eminent sprinter, and a runner of his impressive accomplishments should attract many to Shawfield on Saturday.   Largely through the influence of Struth, several of the best professionals in Scotland will take part in the proceedings.   Professional running in Glasgow has been pretty low in the water for years, but the Clyde are serving up in an attractive manner on Saturday, and will no doubt be rewarded for their enterprise. ”   

Did their initiative pay off?   The ‘Scottish Referee’ of 28th July, 1913, led with the headline 


Donaldson’s Grand Running

The enterprise of Clyde Football Club, Limited, in promoting another professional sports meeting on Saturday was rewarded with a splendid attendance – an attendance we usually associate only with the Rangers and Celtic clubs.”

… and went on to comment on the fine weather with the track loose on the surface but in good order.   The events on the rogramme were 120 yards, 220 yards, 880 yards and One Mile, all open handicaps.   The one mile featured Kohlemainen of Finland and Hans Holmer from America which was won by the latter in 4:27 with Kohlemainen dropping out 20 yards from the finish.   Jack Donaldson was an Australia and touring Europe in 1913.   The ‘Dundee Courier’ of 28th July told us that Donaldson’s time for the 120 yards in his Heat was 21.25 seconds, a new world professional record run on a specially stringed course.   Clyde’s sports had an international dimension with Australians, Finns and even Englishmen competing.

Jack Donaldson

There was good coverage in the ‘Daily Record’ of  27th July, 1914 of the Clyde Sports which featured the world 7 stone boxing champion Jimmy Wilde in a six round exhibition bout against Billy Padden of Glasgow.   The report, by a reporter labouring under the nom-de-plume of The Brigadier, began “Why a professional sports meeting should attract so many thousands as attended the Clyde gathering at Shawfield Park, when amateur sports have to struggle for existence, might well serve as a subject for earnest debate.   I was officially informed that the drawings would total £500,   Of course it cannot be denied that particular features, such as the appearance of Jack Donaldson, the Australian sprinter, and Jimmy Wilde, the wonderful little Welsh boxer, were more potent than the sport viewed broadly.   People will always pay to seethe best. ….   Not so much was expected of W Kohlemainen, the Finland runner, yet he gave us the finest exhibition of running seen at the meeting.   This was in the three miles handicap. “

The three main contenders in this last (the three miles) were Kohlemainen, Hans Holmer (USA) and George McCrae of Scotland.   McCrae held a good second until the run for home when he dropped back.   All three had competed elsewhere earlier in the day and Kohlemainen  won on both occasions.   At Shawfield was close up with Holmer well back.


In July 1915 the papers of all descriptions carried page after page of soldiers killed in action.   There were many photographs with simply the man’s name rank and regiment with the single word ‘killed’.   There were probably no sports in 1915.


The ‘Sunday Post’ on 30th July 1916 reported on the  Clyde FC Sports.  Boxing was again on the bill of fare (Mick McAdam of Airdrie  v  Tancy Lee of Edinburgh), and WR Applegarth ran in the 100 yards.  ‘Scotsman’ of 31st July: “Although the weather was somewhat depressing, there was an attendance of 15,000.   Football was the chief attraction, although in the flat handicaps the presence of Applegarth, of London, probably attracted many to Shawfield.   He was beaten in his heat of the 120 yards by W Irons, Leith, 15 yards, and his attempt at record in the 220 yards was a failure.”   Events that year were 120 yards, 200 yards, half mile, Two Miles flat race open handicap.   The boxing seemed to be a novelty and would be repeated the following year.  

An attendance of 15000 was big, even for the days when Rangers and Celtic were pulling them in in even bigger numbers for their sports in August.   Football was always on the agenda and boxing had proved to be a good draw down through the years.   However the time used for the football tournament and for the boxing tournaments meant that there was less time for the athletics.


1917 was a very interesting year for those following athletics at Shawfield.   First of all there was an Amateur Sports under SAAA laws on Tuesday 24th July which included sprinting, distance running, junior 5-a-side, boxing (McGurk v Beattie, Cameron v Lindsay over 6 x 2 minute rounds, and then on 28th July there was a professional sports with races over 120y, 200y, 880y, One Mile and Two miles with prizes of 60/-, 20/- and 10/-, the exception being the 120y where the winner received 100/-.     

The former was reported in the ‘Daily Record’ which said that the SAAA meeting was a warm up for the Pro meeting at the weekend.   Read it for yourself: As a preliminary to their annual sports meeting on Saturday first, Clyde FC sponsored a meeting under SAAA rules at Shawfield Park last night.   Entries for the handicaps had filled out in satisfactory style, and the pick of the Glasgow Junior League clubs took part in the five-a-side football.   A couple of boxing bouts completed an interesting programme.   Fully 2000 spectators attended but unfortunately heavy showers prevented the intending late-comers from completing their journey.”   Nevertheless, 2000 on a Tuesday night could not have been a bad evening for the club.

The events held were 100 yards (5 Heats and a Final), 220 yards (6 Heats and a Final), half-mile and one mile.   There were two 6 round boxing matches between McGurk and Beattie, and Cameron and Buchanan as well as the football.   Then it was on to the Professionals at the weekend.

‘The Daily Record’ had magnificent coverage of the second meeting under the headline ‘Double at Clyde’s Pro Gala: Ayrshire runner wins distance events”.   The report’s opening sentences (written by Cessnock) read: “Clyde’s professional sports gala will not be long ere it is regarded as a summer institution, if it has not already attained that dignified position.   That the meeting is popular we had further evidence on Saturday for there was a crowd of 17,000 at the Ru’glen Bridge enclosure, and their interest was sustained to the finish.   …   The feature of the meeting was the double victory in the distance races of J Lindsay, a Dreghorn runner who used to be associated with Bellahouston Harriers as an amateur.   Lindsay was not “expected” in either event, for Donaldson of Bathgate was “barred” in the Mile, and Glen of Edinburgh was made favourite for the longer race.  …  Jack Donaldson and Cyril Mears, both Australians, competed in the two short distance events.   Both were given too much to do in their present condition.”   There was a half mile race won by the Hearts assistant trainer, Tommy Barclay.   Other events were a 120 yards, a 220 yards, a One Mile and a Two Miles.   The obligatory 5-a-side was won by Clyde who beat Rangers 2 – 1.

George McCrae

Resources were scarce in 1918, the year the War ended, but on Saturday 27th there were several sports meetings held, albeit on a smaller scale than heretofore.   The ‘Daily Record’ gave over its back page to photographs, one of which was the finish of the Ladies’ Race at Ibrox in the National Union of Railwaymen’s sports.   The event was covered by the ‘Sunday Post’ however: most of the amateur clubs were represented (Bellahouston Harriers defeated Eglinton Harriers in the relay, and both clubs were well represented on the prize list) many of the prize winners were military men, there was a five a side tournament and an open tug of war.  The ‘Post’ also covered the professional sports at Shawfield.   Results only, probably because of the shortage of newsprint.   Events included 100 yards, 220 yards, half-mile and one mile, all open handicap races, and a five a side with Clyde, Clydebank, Rangers, Partick Thistle, Celtic, Third Lanark, Queen’s Park and Hamilton Accies.  Rangers beat Clydebank 2 – 0 in the Final.   Out of the city, Greenock Glenpark Harriers had their annual sports meeting at Cappielow Park.   

The ‘Scotsman; on  28th July, 1919, reported on that year’s Clyde FC Sports like this: “The seventh annual professional sports meeting was held at Celtic Park (granted by Celtic FC), Glasgow, on Saturday in brilliant weather and in presence of 15000 spectators.   J Donaldson (Australia), J Mears (Australia), and G McCrae (Edinburgh) competed.   A feature of the afternoon was an attempt by G McCrae to set up new figures for the Three Miles.   He failed, however, to reproduce his real form and finished fourth in only moderate time.  “There followed a list of what they called ‘principal results’.   There were 100 yards (won in 9.8 off  10 1/2  yards), 220 yards won in 22 seconds (off 22 yards), half mile (won in 1:57.2 off 60 yards), mile won in 4:22.4 off 100 yards and a three miles won in 14:45.4 off 100 yards.   Rangers beat Clyde in the 5-a-side by 3 – 1.   

The ‘Sunday Post’ gave it a much bigger spread but agreed with the ‘Scotsman’ that McCrae was the headline story.   It also pointed out that Mr William Struth was the handicapper.   He had been a professional sprinter himself in his heyday and was in 1919 employed by Clyde FC who were clearly maximising use of his talents.   



Clyde struck a successful vein with their professional meeting at Shawfield yesterday.   The meeting was well managed, the sport good and the crowd exceeded 40,000.   The heats of the two mile motor scooter open race came first.   There were two heats with two in a team.   The event proved of great interest.   HJ Arrol and J Lawrence in a “Mobile Pup” machine ran to the final.   Lawrence made a good fight of it but he was unable to get speed up to beat Arrol and the finished:  1.  Arrol;  2.   Lawrence.”

The report then went on to cover the individual events in some detail – an account of each heat plus a detailed description of the Final.   Track events were 120 yards, 220 yards, half-mile, a One Mile event (in which McCrae did not start, reserving his powers for the bigger race to come), and the Three Miles.   The task set McCrae was beyond him with the winner, off 190 yards (ie nearly at the end of the back straight to McCrae on scratch), the second placed runner had a start on McCrae of 550 yards (ie one and a quarter laps) and third off 250 yards.   McCrae finished but was almost 200 yards behind the winner.   Rangers beat Clyde 4 – 0 in the football competition.

In terms of popularity and drawing in the crowds, the Clyde had seemed to get it right.   Minimal athletics involvement, boxing tournaments, 5-a-side football, motor scooter racing. penalty kick competitions – all the fun of the fair in fact.   The growth in crowd size when they decided to abandon amateur athletics and go for entertainment seemed to prove that – from a couple of thousand, to 10,000, to 15,000, to 17,000 to 40,000.   And that growth was secured while the awful carnage of the first world war was continuing on the continent, when papers were listing the dead at least once a week by the end of the war, almost daily at the start.   But if the formula was working so well, why did the club return to the amateur fold in the mid 20th century?


Clyde FC Annual Sports: 1885 – 1895

Cycle racing at Barrowfield

(Note the crowd size)

The Scottish football clubs were holding athletic sports meetings well before the SAAA came into being in 1883, and when, after 1885, the amateur athletics became less the prerogative of the private school FP clubs and Universities but more a pastime enjoyed by the common man, the clubs continued to provide the entertainment of regular track and field competition.   Queen’s Park FC, the Rangers FC, Ayr FC, Partick Thistle, the various branches of the Lanark Rifle Volunteers, St Mirren and many more from among the junior ranks such as Maybole, Royal Albert and so on held regular meetings for amateur athletes.  The Clyde FC meetings lasted in various forms for many decades.   They started off as amateur sports but then they became professional for a time before returning to the amateur fold.   Note this article from the Glasgow Herald of 21st July, 1913: 

“The Clyde Football Club are apparently “whole hoggers” as far as professionalism is concerned, and in this respect  they are at least consistent.   Instead of running amateur sports, as so many professional clubs do [amateurism in Scotland is practically subsidised at the expense of Association Football] Clyde are running a purely professional gathering on Saturday first.   Of course football is the trump card, but in addition they are introducing Jack Donaldson, the eminent sprinter, and a runner of his impressive accomplishments should attract many to Shawfield on Saturday.   Largely through the influence of Struth, several of the best professionals in Scotland will take part in the proceedings.   Professional running in Glasgow has been pretty low in the water for years, but the Clyde are serving up in an attractive manner on Saturday, and will no doubt be rewarded for their enterprise. “

The trail will be difficult to follow but we will start at the beginning.   

The Glasgow Herald of 30th July 1886 carried a report on the Clyde FC Sports at Barrowfield Park on the previous Saturday.   The weather was fine although there was a strong wind blowing “which assisted the runners greatly.”   The events covered included 100 yards (six heats and a final), a 220 yards, a half mile handicap, a 300 yards consolation race and a four a side match between H Brown’s team and Britton’s team.   No clubs were noted for any of the runners and there were only the two football teams out.  The report also said that it was the third annual Clyde FC Sports.   But …. 

The following report was printed in the ‘Scottish Referee’ of 4th July, 1887:

“The first annual sports to be held in connection with the Clyde Football Club were held at Barrowfield Park on Saturday afternoon.   The weather was excellent and the various events were well contested.   About 3000 spectators were present.   Mr S Lawrie acted as judge.”   One of the features of this event is that it was held only four years after the formation of the SAAA and  two years after the first open amateur athletic club was formed.   The contestants therefore came from a wide range of clubs including Clydesdale Harriers, West of Scotland Harriers and many football clubs, senior and junior.   One of the contestants was W Maley of Clydesdale Harriers who won his heat of the 100 yards off three and a half yards but was unplaced in the final.   Events included the 100 yards (confined), 100 yards open, 440 yards open, 880 yards (members), 880 yards open with 23 runners, 220 yards open, one mile open with 22 starters,  plus a four-a-side competition which was won by Clyde Strollers over Clyde by a goal and a touchdown to nothing.   It was a  very successful first venture.    

The ‘Glasgow Herald’ covered the event – this from the issue of Monday, 2nd July. 1888:  “The second and principal day of these sports took place on Saturday at Barrowfield Park, Bridgeton, under the most favourable weather conditions.   The programme consisted of 18 items including the consolation race and the semi-final and final ties of the four-a-side football competition, and the final heats of the competitions confined to the club, the preliminaries of which were held last Saturday.   The entries were very large, reaching nearly 300, and showing a considerable increase over the entries last year – the year in which the open sports were instituted.   Mr John Meikle was referee, Mr R Livingston was handicapper, Mr D McCall as starter, Mr M Steel as timekeeper, and Mr R Young Clerk of the Course.   The sports were well conducted and there was a large attendance of spectators.”

The events also included bicycle races and a walking race and competitors came from even more clubs than the previous year and the result of the four-aside was a win for Cambuslang over Clyde Rovers by a goal and two touchdowns to nil, while the tie for 2nd prize went to Renfrew who beat The Abstainers by two goals and one try to nil.   Goals, tries, touchdowns – a wee bit different from the five-a-sides that became popular later where only goals and corners counted.   One of the runners was James Erskine of Clydesdale Harriers whose two sons were good sportsmen with Ralph being world champion boxer, and who were both killed in the ’14-’18 war.    

We were reminded on Monday 24th June, 1889, by the ‘Scottish Referee’ that  “Clyde FC Sports take place on Saturday first.   Remember Barrowfield.”   The following Monday there was no report on the event but the results were listed for those interested.   The meeting clashed with the SAAA Championships held at Hampden that year and the entries were subsequently down with all the big names running at the big meeting.   

The ‘Glasgow Herald’ of 30th June, 1890, merely said: “The annual sports in connection with the Clyde Football Club took place at Barrowfield Park on Saturday afternoon and proved a great success.”   There was no indication of numbers of spectators or of the weather but the results indicate that it must have been good summer afternoon.   The 100 yards had twelve Heats, four semis and a Final; 7 Heats in the 220; 4 Heats in the 440; 23 ran in two heats of the 880 yards (an interesting result with M.A. Gemmell of Clyde finishing third); a Mile and a Two Mile Handicap plus the cricket ball throw.   In the four-a-side football  Third Lanark beat Celtic in the Final. 

The ‘Scottish Referee’ on the other hand waxed lyrical on the meeting, saying –“Like the great river after which this old and famous East End club is named,, its origin was lowly, its progress continuous.  The tide of prosperity has ebbed and flowed during the Clyde’s long career, and though they have often taken it at the flood, however, the Clyde have maintained their position as the oldest and most popular of our Eastern clubs.   On Saturday they made a record in regard to the number of their entries, over 300 athletes names appearing on the programme.   In recogmition of the club’s enterprise, too, the gallant men of Bridgeton – as Sir George Trevelyan has styled his constituents – turned out in large numbers.   When the programme of events was opened at 2:30 the enclosure was lined round and round, whilst the grand stand was well filled.   The day was very suitable for sports, and when the Bonnybridge Band, in stirring trumpet tones, started the music, everybody bore a holiday smile, and and the men toed their marks in thorough good humour.”

Like some of the other clubs Clyde also held a football tourney and theirs was always at the start of August.   These were well supported and the competition in 1890 was held on 4th August with a programme entirely football oriented:

  • Senior five-a-side tournament;    * Finals of a Junior 5-a-side;   *100 yards footballers race;   * Place kick confined to players in the 5-a-sides’   * Dribbling race open to all league footballers;   *One Mile trotting handicap.   

These meetings were often also referred to as ‘Sports’ meetings.   

Into 1891 and entries for the sports closed on 22nd June at H & P McNeil91 Union Street – Messrs McNeil being two of the famous brothers who were founder members of the Rangers football club.

The Sports were becoming very popular and the ‘Glasgow Herald’ had a short preview in the Monday 22nd June, 1891, edition: “On Saturday first Barrowfield Park will be ablaze with excitement, the cause being the annual sports of Clyde FC, who with their extensive membership and following should have a big success.   Needless to say, the entries are large at this meeting which, athletically is one of the best patronised in the western district.   Several of Saturday’s champions will compete and it will be interesting to watch how they perform in handicap events.”    

The meeting on the Saturday was a big success and was fully covered in the Glasgow Herald of 29th June.  The entries were up on former years and they even had the Bonnybridge Brass Band to entertain the crowd.   The crowd ‘was well up to previous years’ and MF Gemmell was third in the Final of the 440, having won his Heat.  There were running races from 100 yards up to 3 Miles, a four a side competition and three cycle races – one mile solid tyre safety bicycle, one mile pneumatic tyre safety bicycle and three miles pneumatic tyre safety bicycle.   

In 1892 the preview of the sports (Glasgow Herald, 20th June) read: “The residents of the East End will have an opportunity of showing their interest in athletics on Saturday first when the Clyde FC will bring off their annual meeting.   None of the athletic or cycling cracks ill be present, as the former will be engaged at Dundee and the latter at Hampden , competing for championship honours; but as there are so many good second-class men belonging to both branches of sport, the races should suffer little by their absence.   The ground at Barrowfield has been improved in several respects since the last athletic meeting held there and cyclists especially should have greater freedom in taking the corners.”   Yes, the Clyde Sports were to clash with the national SAAA Championships again – but then so were the Heart of Midlothian Sports, Strathmiglo Sports and several other meetings which would also coincide with the highspot of the summer athletics season.   The result was that the same Glasgow Herald did not report on the Sports.

At the start of June in 1893 – the month when Clyde had their sports meeting – there was a note in the ‘Scottish Referee’ which simply said, “The Clyde FC intend to have their pitch dug up during the season and the clayey surface replaced by ashes so as to lend additional facilities to the draining powers of the field.”

I assume that they meant during the close season.   This would account for the difficulty in finding a sports meeting in June,1893.      No reports of the event were found in either Glasgow Herald or Scottish Referee for 1893 but the Sports took place on their due date in 1894.   

The Glasgow Herald of 18th June that year read: “The annual sports of the Clyde FC took place at Barrowfield Park on Saturday after noon.   The weather was delightfully fine, but the attendance was small owing to the counter attraction, the lifeboat procession. ”   There followed a list of officials (including Willie Maley as one of the judges) and results.   After ten Heats and two Semi Finals the 100 yards was won by Wilson of Clyde FC (off 5 yards) in 10.2 seconds.   Although he won his heat of the 220 yards (eight Heats) he was unplaced in the final which was won in 23.4 by Houston of Rangers FC and Clydesdale Harriers,   The quarter mile was won after 4 Heats by Scott of Clydesdale Harriers in 55.1.   The half mile handicap was won by Kelly of Clydesdale from Smith of Abercorn FC in a field of 33 runners.   The mile went to Milroy of Maybole FC from Kelly.   The runners all seemed to come from West of Scotland clubs and there were no reports of field events.

The Lifeboat procession referred to was an annual event which was very popular and several sports meetings lamented the fact that their event was held on the same day.   The procession started at Bunhouse Recreation Ground (behind the Kelvin Hall) , Blantyre Street and Regent Moray Street and collections were taken up at various points along the route in aid of the Glasgow Lifeboat Fund.   All sorts of groups took part in this great procession including the Associated Carters Society of Scotland, Clyde Shipping Company’s sailors, Royal Naval and Pensioners, Glasgow Ambulance, and many more, which wound its way round Elderslie Street, Sauchiehall Street, Buchanan Street, Argyll Street, London Road to the Green.   Hordes of people went along to watch and contribute to the fund.   Any sports meeting on the day would feel the financial hit.

So much for the report, there were further comments on the event in the Special Notes On Sports column.   They said “Sports of an unpretentious nature were held at Barrowfield by the Clyde Football Club and everything passed off most creditably.   The foot running was highly interesting while the tug of war open to public works was a happy idea on the part of the executive.   Let the Clyde make this one of the features of the annual sports and it will take more than the attractions of a lifeboat demonstration to keep the general public away.   The Maryhill Gasworks No 1 team carried off the first prize – as they deserved to do, for there was more skill to their work than in that of the other teams.   The Blochairn smelters, who distinguished themselves at the Exhibition sports of 1888, were much fancied, but in the semi-final they were somewhat easily beaten.   The third peize went to the Wellpark Brewery team.   The 100 yards final was a very pretty finish.   Wilson of the Clyde was first, T Moore, off 9 yards(who fades away terribly at the finish) was second .  …  Kelly, Clydesdale Harriers won the half mile and with greater care he might have won the mile.  …   Several of the back markers – Robertson in particular – showed bad judgment in the Mile,   The 220 yards and 440 yards were productive of capital sport; and for a meeting comprised entirely of flat events, it was a conspicuous success.” 

From the purely club point of view the athletics high spot of 1895 was the winning of the national SAAU 100 yards by W Wilson of Clyde FC.   There was a split in the governing body at this point and Wilson won the SAAA version of the Scottish 100 yards – a title won the following year by Maley of the Celtic.