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.   



Lanark Rifle Volunteers


Burnbank Grounds from Part Circus

Not all sports organised by football clubs in the nineteenth/early 20th century were he same.   They all entertained the public in their thousands but the content was different.   For instance Rangers, Celtic and Queen’s Park were all amateur sports and attracted Olympic, European and the best of Scottish as well as having many handicap events for local athletes.   Clyde FC on the other hand held purely professional sports meetings, as did the Glasgow Police AC.   But the Lanark Rifle Volunteers were different from both.   It has proved to be difficult to follow their version of a summer sports meeting for several reasons: 

  •   they are not covered by the Press nearly as much as the others, and the trail is difficult to follow.   There are not many photographs or line drawings either;
  •  the trail is obscured by the size of the Volunteer movement.   In addition to Third Lanark, there was 1st Lanark and regiments up to the 105th Lanark.   Athletes were as lik ly to be attributed to the simple LRV as to any single regiment.
  • later the 3rd LRV did not have either cycle races or running races at their meetings and so could not be sports meetings.   The chosen descriptor was carnival.

So rather than follow the sometimes unclear, sometimes invisible Third Lanark Sports, we will simply illustrate the athletic activities of the Lanark Rifle Volunteers wherever the trail takes us.

Third Lanark RLV had been taking part in athletics, as well as a range of other sports, for over a decade when the SAAA was founded in 1883.   The Athletics Club was formed in the Regimental Orderly Room, East Howard Street, Glasgow on 12th December 1872.     The Third Lanark website, www.third-lanark.com , tells us that:

“The first Scotland v England football international at Hamilton Crescent, Glasgow in 1872 inspired the regiment to start a football team of their own, subsequently becoming one of the original members of the Scottish Football Association.   A meeting was duly advised by the intimation of a public notice on the 12th December 1872 by members of the 3rd Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers and the meeting was convened in the Regimental Orderly room in East Howard Street, Glasgow. Private Broadfoot explained that the meeting was called for the purpose of organising, if possible, a Football Club in connection with the Third Regiment. He further reported that Lieutenant-Colonel H E Crum-Ewing, the majority of the Officers and twenty-five other members of the Regiment had signified their willingness to support such a club.”   

The club had many members who took part in athletic sorts meetings and they appear in the results from meetings as far afield as Edinburgh, the Borders and various Highland Games, as well as in both professional and amateur meetings.   They clearly held some meetings of their own since they were referred to in later publications.   The 1st Lanark seem to have been most assiduous of the LRV regiments in holding proper amateur athletic games.

Ir is not clear when the first proper athletic meeting was organised by any of the Lanark Volunteers but on 29th May, 1875, there was a typical sports meeting of the time.   It was held at Burnbank Grounds (above), and was ‘a promenade and annual sports organised under the auspices of the 1st LRV’.  The weather was good, there was a large crowd, and it was a successful meeting with flat races, field events (cricket ball and high leap), races confined to members of the regiment and open races.  There was also a steeplechase run from Burnbank Park, over palings and hedges to the flagstaff in the West End Park and back.   First man home was disqualified for failing to take the last paling, preferring to take the extra distance and run through the gate.    The races included a 100 yards race, a 220 yards, a quarter mile (open to amateurs), half a mile,  120 yards hurdles (open to amateurs), one mile (open to amateurs), sack race, and steeplechase.   A high leap (open to amateurs), vaulting with the pole (also open to amateurs), broad leap (open to amateurs) and  throwing the cricket ball (open to Amateurs).   All races not specified were open to members of the regiment or confined to members of the regiment and in some cases there were separate races for amateurs or members of the regiment.   This was more than ten years before there would be an open athletics meeting run by an open athletic club.   

The link between the Volunteers and Glasgow Academy at Burnbrae should maybe be noted.   The Volunteers was a massive organisation at the time and the shared the use of Burnbank with the Academy.  It was situated on the south-side of Great Western Road at Barrington Drive, and was leased from the First Lanarkshire Volunteer Rifles hence the use for drill.   The Glasgow Accies first president was H E Crum-Ewing who was also a founding father of Third Lanark possibly through the volunteer connection

 There are several references to this joint activity in the Press at the time:  eg The Glasgow Herald of 6th June 1881 refers to “At a meeting of the Directors of the Glasgow Academy permission was granted for this company (The Hillhead Company of the Glasgow Highland Division of the Rifle Volunteers  to drill in the playground of that institution.”   

The cutting dates from 1897.   At the time Third Lanark FC was one of the best known in the land.   Formed shortly before the Rangers FC and also hailing from the south side of Glasgow they kept up with all the modern trends:  Was this the first floodlit football match in Glasgow – or even in Scotland?

There are many instances of members of both 1st and 3rd Lanark taking part in open meetings.   For instance in 1877 on 11th June at the Greenock Sports: WR Kirk 1st LRV won the half mile and in the one mile race he was part of a  dead heat for second.  At Dumbarton FC Sports on 7th June, 1881 Alex McNab 3rd LRV second in 100; 31st May, 1882 at the Alexandra Athletic Club meeting, T Dingwall (limit man) of 3rd LRV won the Mile Handicap from a mark of 130 yards.   Later at the same meeting he was second in another Mile Race for the Warwick vase.   This race had been won previously by A McCorkindale of 1st LRV.   The most prolific racer and prize winner however was J Crerar of 3rd Lanark.   In the Parkgrove FC Sports in August 1879 he was second in the quarter mile and unplaced in the final of the 100 yards, having won his Heat; in the Queen’s Park Sports of 1880, running from scratch in the 100 yards,  he won his Heat and was third in the final, he won the 120 yards hurdles and dead heated for second in the quarter mile.   He just seemed to go on racing successfully – open races or races confined to the LRV members, 100, 220 440 or hurdles, high jump or long jump he did them all.   


Cathkin Park

On 6th June, 1881 3rd Lanark Rifle Volunteers Sports  were held at Cathkin Park but results of this meeting are not to hand.

On 11th June, 1881 the amateur athletics fixtures for July and August were published and on August 13th, at  Cathkin Park,  the 3rd LRV  Regimental Athletic Club Sports and Promenade were scheduled to take place.    The report in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ of 15th August said: 

“3rd LRV Regimental and Clubs Athletic Sports

The first annual athletic sports in connection with the 3rd LRV Regimental and football club took place on ??? grounds, Cathkin Park, Cathcart on Saturday afternoon.   About 3000 spectators were present although the attendance was not so large as might have been expected from the nature of the gathering.   The sports were under the patronage of the Lord Provost and Magistrates of Glasgow.   Among others present were Colonel Merry. Major Wilson, Captain GM Wilson, Captain McCloy, Captain Hallcoat, Lieut JB Wilson, Lieut ?? McLaren, Lieut Hamilton, Capt John Cassels, Mr John J Murray, Mr Jas Taylor jnr, Mr J Wallace, Mr Crerar. ”    

Events on the day included Half Mile Handicap (confined);   120 yards hurdles race (club and regiment_; 100 yards race (open);  100 yards regimental race; four-a-side football; one mile bicycle race; One mile race (open); tug of war (regimental and club); 100 yards members handicap; quarter mile race (confined to regiment); sack race (club and regiment); quarter mile handicap (confined to regiment); quarter mile handicap (confined to members);  obstacle race (open); quarter mile race (open); 220 yards consolation race. An interesting comment after the event at the prize giving came from Colonel Murry who looked upon the South Side as the cradle of athletic sports ie Queen’s Park, the Rangers, 3rd Lanark and other famous clubs.

This event was one week before the Rangers FC held their own first annual sports.

10 days after the meeting, the following sour-faced article appeared in the”Glasgow Evening Post” of 20th August 1881:    

“Athletic Jottings”

I am always sorry to see the word ‘failure’ written upon anything connected with athletics.   This cannot exactly be be said of the sports of the 3rd Lanark LRV on Saturday,  though if they were not a failure they were not exactly a success.   The weather was everything that the most captious could wish, the sun shone and all things which are supposed to favour athletic meetings were in the ascendant, and yet the public did not patronise the sports at Cathkin Park on Saturday last.   The reason is not far to seek.   People do not care to see a lot of confined races in which no one is interested by the competitors themselves.   No known man is performing, and the whole affair is a scramble.   It was a mistake for the club to connect itself with the regiment.   If it had gone to work on its own account, it might have been more successful.   However “experientia docet”and if it should venture again into the athletic world, I have no doubt that it will be having this experience to guide it in the future.   The club will see that there is something else required than the getting up of any programme and opening its gates to induce the public to come in.  What is more, the prizes for the open events were no great shakes, and the entries were received in proportion to the value of the articles.   Almost in all cases the names sent in did not exceed half a dozen and the fields were necessarily very limited, and the competition, with the exception of the hundred yards, which was a very good race, very tame indeed.   All the valuable prizes were confined to the regiment, for which I am led to believe the Committee are not responsible. as in most cases the donors, who were principally officers of the regiment, stipulated that they should be confined.    The result was unfortunate but they will know better next time.”


31st May, 1882 at the Alexandra Athletic Club meeting, T Dingwall (limit man) of 3rd LRV won the Mile Handicap from a mark of 130 yards.   Later at the same meeting he was second in another Mile Race for the Warwick vase.   This race had been won previously by A McCorkindale of 1st LRV.   


The ‘Glasgow Herald’ of 2nd June 1884 had a lengthy report on Military and Athletic Sports at Burnbank under the auspices of the 1st Lanark RV.   The weather was of the ‘most enjoyable sort for outdoor proceedings and several thousands of spectators turned out to witness the sports which were thoroughly successful. ‘    The card was described as an extremely varied and interesting one and contained events confined to members of Her Majesty’s Forces including auxiliaries, confined events open only to members of 1st LRV and open events to which all amateurs were  free to compete.   Confined events included 100 yards race, three legged race, sack race, monkey race, one mile race and drop kick; open events included 100 yards, mile and hurdles.   But the most interesting part of the programme was the military part, reported the Herald, which included purely military events such as tent pegging, tug of war, heads and posts, tilting at the ring, silent ride and lemon cutting.   The Scots Greys and Royal Artillery (mounted) came from Maryhill and ‘showed considerable skill with lance and sabre.’   

There were 24 events on the programme on 13th September in 1884 when the 10th LRV held their sports at Burnbank in weather that was ‘of the most pleasant’ There were more field events than was usual at the other sports meetings held in and around Glasgow: Running hop, step and leap, the running long leap, high leap,  putting the light stone, putting the heavy ball, throwing the heavy hammer and tossing the caber all took place alongside a full programme of running events plus dancing and military drills such as cutting the lemon, field gun driving competition, wrestling on horseback.   There were confined events to Volunteers, to non commissioned officers, to heads of companies and, of course, open events. 

The 1st LRV held their sports meeting a year later, on 30th May in 1885, again at Burnbank Grounds, Great Western Road, Glasgow.   Remember that at that time Glasgow was part of the County of Lanarkshire.   The report in the ‘Sporting Life’ of Tuesday, 2nd June, tells us that the weather was ‘pretty good’ although wind got up as the afternoon progressed, the field was in ‘pretty nice condition’ and a ‘large and fashionable gathering of spectators lined the ropes.’   It was well supported by the athletes too with names like JR Gow and A Vallance of the Rangers FC competing.   There were 14 events on the programme, several with heats involved – eg the 100 yards had 3 heats, the 100 yards handicap open had 7 heats, the quarter mile 4.   There were sprints (120 hurdles, 120 open handicap hurdles, 440 yards mile handicap),  middle distance races (half mile handicap, 1 mile open), there were novelty races (wheelbarrow race, obstacle race, sack race), bicycle races and ‘sort of’ field events (Drop kick and cricket ball throw).   All the major football clubs, and some of the lesser,  were represented (Rangers, St Mirren, Lanark RLV, Battlefield FC, West of Scotland FC), as were the Universities (GUAC and EUAC).   All in all it seems to have been a good day’s sports.  Although it was still before the establishment of open amateur clubs, it was described as “the annual sports promoted by the athletic club of this popular corps”, so the public appetite was there for athletics meetings and the LRV had been promoting them.   

Meanwhile away from the football field, Clydesdale Harriers, the first open Scottish athletics club, was founded on 4th May, 1885: and their first ever track competition was held over 300 yards with 54 entries.   Of these only 36 ran; there were seven heats, semi-finals and final on the same evening at Kinning Park.  The event was a great success and the winner was CJ Rattray of the 1st Lanark Rifle Volunteers from H McHardie , Clydesdale, J Cherrie, Clydesdale, and GT Ward, Partick Thistle..   He won in 33 seconds.     The first race organised by an open athletics club in Scotland was won by a man from the 1st LRV.

The 1st Lanark Sports were again held at Burnbank Grounds on 28th May 1886.   Clydesdale Harriers were well represented at the meeting, as were the Universities, the football clubs (the numbers from the previous year added to by Pilgrims FC, Craigielea FC, Dumbarton Athletic FC and Vale of Leven FC) and several unattached runners..   Events were largely as the previous year except for the addition of “Heads and Posts (Mounted)” which was contested by members of the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars.   It was a success but there were bigger numbers at the Edinburgh Harriers Amateur Sports held at Powderhall.   Edinburgh Harriers were the second of the amateur athletic clubs to be set up in 1886.   Maybe we should note the absence of five-a-side football from these Sports.

The meeting above was very clearly an amateur meeting but there was another called  the  ‘ Tenth Lanark Volunteers Annual Sports, also at Burnbank, held on 21st August which was restricted to members of the regiment with a few races open to professional athletes.   It was a short programme and very varied with a strangely named ‘Lemon Cutting’ which was won by a Hussar so it may well have involved sabres and horses!


That there were still members of Third Lanark who were keen athletes is maybe shown by this article that appeared in  the “Scottish Umpire” of 30th November 1886:

“Apologies to C.H.   The “Scottish Umpire” had said after a footballing defeat that the Clydesdale had more to learn about football than about running.   They were taken to task for this and published the following list from among the members of the C.H.     Goal:   Phillip (Pilgrims); Backs:   Gow and Vallance (Rangers), Cherrie (QP);  Half backs:  Gow (QP), Auld (3rd LRV), Cameron and McIntyre (Rangers); Forwards:   Marshall and Thomson (3rd LRV), McKenzie and Gow (Rangers), Cleland (Cowlairs), Allan (QP).”    It should be noted that Auld, Marshall and Allan were all capped for Scotland 14 days later.   Scottish international football players who were interested enough to joing a specialised athletic club.


There is often a moving spirit in the development of any sports club or section and in this case it might well have been James A Crerar.  He had been President of the club before becoming President of the SFA in 1888 having joined Third Lanark in 1875.   Although he was a football player to start with he was also a considerably good athlete and the Scottish Referee (3rd December 1888) tells us that “As an athlete Mr Crerar’s record is worthy of honorable mention.   In distances from 100 yards to the half-mile he gained distinction.   His best performance was the quarter in which he gained 12 first prizes.   He beat at his favourite distance WW Beveridge, in his day one of our fastest sprinters.   Notable events too in his career were were his defeat twice in the half of JD Finlayson , a runner who may be remembered for his excellent record in the Mile.   In the heavy items such as hammer throwing and shot putting Mr Crerar had few equals.   Altogether his total list gives 56 prizes.   This represents athletic powers far above the average, and well entitles their possessor to a first place in the ranks of Scottish athletics.”

He was indeed a very good athlete who competed in the late 1870’s and the start of the 80’s.   He competed often and was well known in Glasgow.  eg at the QPFC Sports in September 1878 he ran in the 440 yards where he was second in his heat of the 440 yards handicap, and second in the Final; June 1879. Alexandra Athletic Club Sports, half mile handicap, 1st; at Ardrossan, July, 1879 second in 220, second in 440; at the Parkgrove Sports in Trinidad Park, Copeland Road, in Glasgow on 23rd August 1879 he was second his heat of the 440 yards open handicap and third in the Final (where the winner was WW Beveridge), then was third in his heat of the 100 yards handicap but unplaced in the final.   He ran in the 3rd Lanark colours although at the QPFC Sports he was noted in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ as being for the host club: possibly a typo.These events were chosen indicate his range with prizes wo at 100, 220, 440 and 880 yards.


23rd May 1889, Upper Lanarkshire Examiner, “The officers of our local volunteers some time ago obtained the lease of the Clydesdale Hall in the Main and second in the Final; Street for the purpose of using it as a drill hall and gymnasium, and on Tuesday the formal opening took place in the shape of a grand gymnastic entertainment, given by a party of gentlemen belonging to the 3rd LRV Athletic Club under Sergeant-Instructor Clark.   The hall ….. has been fitted up with a complete set of gymnastic appliances consisting of ladders, horizontal and parallel bars, rings and trapeze, while a large number of bar bells and dumb bells, Indian clubs &c have been provided.”

On 1st June 1889, the 1st LRV held a sports event at Burnbank Grounds with flat races, both open and confined and cycle races,    Running events included 100 yards (open event had seven heats, semi finals and final), 220 yards (six heats), quarter mile, (four heats), half mile, mile and three miles with a fair sprinkling of national champions and record holders such as JR Gow, J Wright and J Blane.  

Later that year, on 24th August  3rd LRV had a confined meeting at Cathkin Park and they were reported to be of a ‘very jolly character’.   There were running events and a 5-a-side football tournament.    We know that this meeting took place – but it is not covered in the Glasgow Herald, either in the athletics column nor in any of the three Volunteers columns.   


The Scottish Referee of 2nd July 1894 had this short preview of the annual sports: “Third Lanark have an amateur and professional tourney on similar lines to that of the Celtic on Cathkin Park, on Saturday first.   Queen’s Park and all the leading League clubs have entered, and the play therefore should be of a first class order.   The prizes of course will b in kind and not in money, and are a valuable lot.   In addition to the football the public will of course gain admission to the Carnival a show in itself worth all the money (sixpence) asked.   Besides the serious football, two teams of non descripts will play in fancy costumes, and we shall have a Tel-el-Kebir five a side with the sodger and the sailyor chasing the ball. A side splitting entertainment it will be, to be sure – so be there.”

 This sounds more like a football day out than a sports.  

27th July 1895 was the due date for the Third Lanark Sports, and the ‘Scottish Referee’ had this to say: “The Third Lanark FC Sports which took place at Cathkin Park on Saturday afternoon were quite a success, though the unfavourable weather took a toll on the attendance.   The programme was an admirable one and the procedings were admirably conducted.   The gymnastic club in connection with the regiment gave some very clever displays on the horizontal bar, while the musical and bayonet exercises by the Gordon Highlanders were probably the leading features in an afternoon’s sport.   The Thirds sports are now recognised as a sort of introduction to the football season, and on account of the variety of entertainment which they afford are looked forward to with pleasure.” 

The ‘Glasgow Herald of the same date gave more information on the content of the programme – wrestling on horseback, and a five-a-side competition with Rangers, Clyde, Third Lanark, Linthouse, Hibernian, Partick Thistle and Motherwell.   The organisers in cluded the afore mentioned JA Crerar and a note was made that the football was not a great success.  

But if we fast forward a year or so we see that Thirds actually stepped back from amateur athletics such as those run by most clubs or even the professional athletics organised by Clyde FC.   The sports of 1896 were cancelled late in the day but the comments contained in the Press indicate that they maybe did not take the athletics aspect too seriously.   From the Glasgow Herald of Monday, 27th July, 1896:

“Rain fell copiously on Saturday and all the leading athletic events down for decision had to be declared off.  The Third Lanark FC Committee held out as long as possible before coming to a decision.   At one time in the afternoon there was just the prospect of the rain clearing away, but by the advertised time of starting it came on again and, despite the presence of a number of competitors and the public, there was nothing for it but to declare a postponement till the 5th of next month.   Unfortunately this will clash with another important meeting in the city, but as the sports under the auspices of the Volunteers are outside the pale of ordinary club gatherings, they will doubtless be accorded a good measure of support.”   

The phrase about the sports being ‘outside the pale of ordinary club gatherings’ is an interesting one and is perhaps qualified by the underlined section of the preview of the 1897 meeting below.

23rd July 1897, Scottish Referee, looking forward to the Saturday Meeting at Cathkin: “The Third Lanark’s tournament has now become a thing of perpetuity, and year after year is increasing in popularity.   Unlike other big clubs, the Warriors do not indulge in cycling and flat race running.   On the contrary, theirs is a meeting peculiarly their own, and none the less interesting because of that.   Cathkin being devoid of a cycling track, the Volunteer Committee in the past had to search for other pastimes to entertain their patrons and, under the guiding hand of Major Wilson, they succeeded in introducing novelties that were at once interesting, amusing and instructive; in fact, the Gay and Gallant Gordons were seen by many on Cathkin who would never otherwise have had the privilege of witnessing the hardy Highlanders go through the scenes of  physical drill and other manoeuvres that were stamped on the minds of those who saw them.”  

An interesting start to the preview of the Games and maybe a reason for the absence of the ‘tournament’ from the sports pages.   It went on to say that there would be a senior 5-a-side football, a tug-of-war with several clubs competing, a gymnastic exhibition by the 3rd LRV, a 100 yards handicap confined to footballers, the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders with their full pipe band and drummers and a ‘mimic battle’.   The football tournament would include the ‘Light Blues’ and the ‘Maroons’, the ‘Bully Wee Clyde’, the Hibs, the Partick Thistle, the St Mirren and the Motherwell.   An entertaining afternoon, events started at 3:00 pm, but not athletics as we know it!   In fact the Third Lanark Sports as described do not fill the bill for aficionados of running, jumping or throwing.   

The ‘Dundee Courier’ reported on 26 July, 1897, on the meeting under the heading  THIRD LANARK FC SPORTS  which began as follows:

“These annual sports held at Cathkin on Saturday afternoon attracted an audience of 7000 spectators.   The programme was of a varied and interesting character and for the first time there was introduced a 100 yards flat race handicap open to professional football players.”   It covered only three events – the footballers 100 yards, the 5-a-sides and the tug-of-war’   By having the football players race open to professional players, many of the fastest men were unable to take part since they were competing in amateur athletics.   

That these sports of 1897 were not a deviation from the norm, is indicated by the preview in the Scottish Referee of 1st July, 1898 which again emphasised the absence of track and field athletics and read:


The Third Lanark Committee are making preparations for their annual carnival, which is to take place on the last Saturday of the present month.   Since the Warriors followed in the footsteps of the majority of other class clubs by holding annual sports they have met with unfailing success.   Unlike their football colleagues however, the Third have provided an entertainment peculiarly their own yet decidedly entertaining and attractive.   This season it is the intention of the promoters to continue outwith the pale of the beaten track of cycling and flat running, and with a programme arranged to suit the palates of the public in general, and footballers in particular, they anticipate that another successful meeting will result.   The professional five-a-side competition will certainly create a considerable stir, as it will give many the opportunity to see again the ‘dribbling demons’ tripping hither and thither after the ball in all their old elasticity.   A junior tourney is also in the process of being arranged and as usual the military from Maryhill will show their work as warriors true in drilling, bayonet exercise, physical drill and other manoeuvres.   Several interesting titbits are in view and when the programme is issued it will be seen to be one of the best.  The very novelty of the sports will have a magnetic effect on the multitude.”

Without criticising the content of the sports in any way whatsoever, the meeting was not an athletics meeting like those of Queens Park FC, the Rangers FC, Celtic Fc or St Mirren FC.    There is enough here to show what the club could have been in terms of athletics success and the results achieved by their athletes wete at time quite superb.   What is manifest however is that the Thirds Sports were not at all athletic events as such.   This does not mean that there were no athletics meetings held at Cathkin Park.   Far from it, but these were held by organisations other than the football club.   For instance the Glasgow Police Sports which was a major meeting right up into the 1950’s is associated with Ibrox Park but they were held at Cathkin for several years – eg in June 1897 they were at the Thirds ground and included running events, field events such as high jumping, pole vaulting as well as piping, dancing and tug of war.  Thirds themselves had their five a side football tournament at the end of August and they were very successful too but as for open athletics – not organised by them.

The original venue which hosted these events was abandoned in 1903 when the club moved to the old Hampden Park.   Queen’s Park moved from this facility to one more suited to their needs and Thirds moved in.  To change or not to change?   The name tat is.   The following cutting from the ‘Scottish Referee’ is relevant:

  And they did just that: Old Hampden became the new Cathkin Park.

Clydesdale Harriers Sports: 1911- 1914

Alex Justice

“The Annual Sports were held at Ibrox on 27th May, 1911, and were very successful from an athletics standpoint.   Boxing and Wrestling contests were included in the programme, and not only were we able to make ends meet, but we cleared a few pounds as a result.”

“With the exception of R Quinn’s two miles record in the walking competition nothing striking was witnessed at the Clydesdale Harriers Sports at Ibrox Park on Saturday” was how the Glasgow Herald began its coverage of the sports.   It was however a good meeting with several current or future Scottish champions taking part – eg the half mile had A McPhee of Clydesdale Harriers and George Dallas of Maryhill among the finalists but they were unplaced with victory going to Clydesdale’s Maguire.

“The Annual Sports at Ibrox, on 25th May, were very successful from every point of view.   We held a second meeting at Clydebank and, although the weather was unfavourable, we came out on the right side financially, while athletically we created a record, being the only Club in Scotland to hold two Open Athletic Meetings in one season.”

This was all very well but the reports of the event did not indicate any real class athletes taking part.    The competition was good and the crowd found the events ‘riveting’.  Certainly the numbers of entries were satisfactory – there were exactly 100 for the 100 yards  There was a three miles flat handicap won by Hughes (West of Scotland) – a popular win     P McGregor of Clydesdale won the open half mile off 48 yards but  there was more coverage given to WM Crabbie of Edinburgh Academicals (20 yards) who was a provisional selection for the Olympic Games.   Crabbie won his heat but apparently did not show the same judgment in the final, although reports also said that he was ‘jostled’ once or twice, and lost when he might have won.   Allan Glen’s School won the relay race and their high jumper W Weir won the event with a 5’4″ clearance.   The two miles walk was won by Clydesdale’s Alex Justice who seemed at this point to be the perennial runner-up (walker-up?) to Motherwell’s Quin.   Quin had the better of him but when Quin was absent, Justice usually was able to beat all comers.   

“Our Annual Sports meeting, held at Ibrox Park on 31st May, 1913, was an unqualified success.   From an athletic standpoint nothing better could be desired, while thanks chiefly to the special attraction of the International Boxing Match, the club came out well on the right side financially.   

We held a second meeting at Clydebank, on 21st June, which was athletically a great success.   Unfortunately, owing to counter attractions in the district on the same day, the attendance was not as good as expected, and the club lost a few pounds on the venture.” 

The 31st May meeting was ‘favoured with excellent weather’ and there were between 2000 and 3000 spectators.   There were 96 entries in the 100, 73 in the 220 and 56 in the half mile.   There was a two miles team race for teams eligible to run in a district cross-country race, and six schools – Allan Glen’s, Bellahouston Academy, Dumbarton Academy, John Street Higher Grade School, Paisley Grammar and St Aloysius College – contested a relay race.   There were not one but two boxing matches.   Unfortunately, due to the track being remodelled, the events were run on the grass.    The Two Miles was won by Bellahouston from Clydesdale with Greenock Glenpark Harriers third.   The individual winner was Duncan McPhee of Clydesdale from Lindsay of Bellahouston.   

Duncan McPhee

The 1914 meeting was held on 30th May.   It was the old story – a good programme but with a disappointing attendance.   Entries were big and races close but the crowds were absent.   In the 100 yards there were 24 heats and 4 semi-finals and in the other event with a very big turn out, George Dallas of Maryhill and West of Scotland won off 14 yards from  Duncan McPhee (Clydesdale Harriers and West of Scotland, scratch) .   In the two miles team race Greenock Glenpark defeated Clydesdale Harriers (the reverse of other races that summer).   Alex Justice (Clydesdale Harriers) won the One Mile walk off scratch in a new Scottish record of 6:42.4.   Allan Glen’s won the schools relay from Hillhead High School. 

By the end of May 1915 hostilities had been continuing for some time and the Clydesdale date at the end of May was being used by Morton FC at Cappielow Park where before an attendance of over 4000 the competitors, of whom the reporter said many were under-trained, there was some good sport.   There was a 100 yards, 220 yards, 880 yards, two miles and a five a side tournament featuring Morton, Clyde, Queen’s Park, Rangers, Celtic, St Mirren and Third Lanark.   Morton beat Rangers in the final by 3 goals to none.   

George Dallas (right)

Clydesdale Harriers decided at a Committee Meeting later in 1918 to suspend all activities sine die for the duration of the War and although there were sports meetings held during the War, most including races confined to servicemen or organised as a means of raising money for the War Effort in some way or other (see the pages on this site about the Rangers FC and Celtic FC Sports at the time), all serious sports meetings were suspended.


Tommy Boyle

Tommy Boyle is one of Scotland’s most successful coaches ever.   He is also known across the globe as a successful coach who is readily prepared to talk about his work, his sources of information and inspiration and the athletes he has worked with.   He followed the traditional route of Scottish, indeed British, coaches who start out as runners, go on to become ‘Johnny a’things ‘ in his club – working on the committee, raising funds, sweeping the floor after races, etc with some coaching thrown in.   The coaching becomes a full time job with maybe a wee role on the committee and selling some raffle tickets.   Where Tommy left the traditional club coach role was when he realised that an exceptional runner required exceptional methods.   The various club roles were stripped away so that he himself could learn how to provide these exceptional measures.   Having taken this decision he tackled it with honesty, with intensity and dedication.   The results were there for all to see.   

This profile covers all aspects of his life and career, because the one influences and shapes the other more than in generally recognised.   Tommy has been very helpful in the construction of this profile and in fact almost all of section three comes direct from him.   The tale is told in four parts with some comments from some of his friends and colleagues on a separate page.   There will also be the text of some of his lectures added.

Tommy Boyle: the Background       Tommy Boyle: Club Coach        Tommy Boyle: Master Coach  

Tommy Boyle: Life Coach                ‘As Ithers See Us ..’                        

Tommy Boyle: ‘as ithers see us.’

One measure of how good a coach is, regardless of the success of the athletes coached, is what their peers and rivals think of them; how they stack up in the eyes of critical contemporaries.  We asked some coaches, athletics aficionados and others who knew/know him what they think.   

Anne Howie

First up is one of the athletes that he worked with back in the beginning in Bellshill, Anne Howie, and she encapsulates in her comments all that Tommy Boyle is about.   She says:

I met Tommy when I was around 14 or 15 when I changed running clubs and joined Clyde Valley AAC in the mid 70s.  I joined along with a few others who had jumped ship and we all became part of a mixed ability endurance training group, males and females, which included athletes who were already members of the club – an amalgamation of several other athletics clubs in the area, including Bellshill, Motherwell, Airdrie and Coatbridge.

Our section of the club was based at Bellshill YMCA.  Our club nights were Tuesdays and Thursdays. During autumn and winter we trained around the streets of Bellshill and on the playing fields of Bellshill Academy.  We also had sessions inside the school – circuit training in the gym hall as well as intervals in the long school corridors – they were hard!  Longer interval sessions took place at Strathclyde Park, mainly on non-race weekends and most of the group would meet up on Sundays at some pre-arranged location for a long run, which was mainly at a sociable pace so we all could chat and have a bit of a laugh.  Another facility we used was the Police Hut in Bellshill where we did strength work using weights – it was no fancy gym like the ones around today but it was a great resource for the club.  From spring through the summer track season we relocated to the track at Coatbridge on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and also some weekends. 

Tommy planned and led most of the group’s training but we would also do some sessions with other coaches leading; I recall sessions where we did running form drills under the guidance of a sprints/hurdles coach – diagonals across the school’s cinder pitches.  Whilst we mostly trained as a group, somehow Tommy always managed to individualise our training plans so we were working towards our own specific performance goals.  Our training paces, the number of interval reps we did etc., were all geared to help each of us achieve what we had identified as our targets for the season.  It never felt like one athlete was being favoured over another, at least I never felt like this, as Tommy put just as much effort into coaching the back of the pack runners as he did those at the front.

Looking back, I think Tommy, in many respects, was ahead of his time as a coach.  His structured and methodical approach to training his athletes was based on the wealth of knowledge and understanding that he was continuously accruing and applying.  He was on a constant learning journey and he liked to learn from the best – he went on lots of coaching courses and had good relationships with coaches at all levels including the national coach at the time, Frank Dick.

He used methods and approaches that I read about athletes incorporating into their training today as if this is new.  Tommy was applying these techniques to our training way back then – over 40 years ago.  An example of this is speed ball training.  Whilst mainly part of the training for sprinters, Tommy also built it in to the training plans of his endurance athletes too.  Nowadays, training based on heart rate zones is commonplace using heart rate monitors built into sports watches etc.  Tommy was applying this well before this technology was available using a stop watch and getting us all to manually take our pulse rates.  As indicated above, we also did strength and conditioning training with weights, which many current professional athletes claim to have only recently added to their training programmes and are extolling the benefits of.  I’m sure we also did high intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions which have become a ‘new’ phenomenon in the field of fitness training.

Tommy also encouraged us to keep training diaries to log the different aspects of our training – endurance/strength/speed endurance/speed etc. – to build an overall picture of our training load, identify imbalances, weaknesses, performance progression or regression and used this information to change or adapt our training as required.  I did this with coloured pencils, now you just upload your Garmin data to a spreadsheet on your computer or other device.

Tommy coached a number of athletes to international success, including Tom McKean, who was in our endurance group and Yvonne Murray who came under Tommy’s guidance at a later date – Tommy’s accomplishments as a coach had clearly prompted Yvonne’s move from her previous advisor.  He also coached a number of sprinters who achieved national titles and represented Scotland at various levels.

Helping young people reach their potential on the track was obviously a driving force for Tommy, however, it wasn’t just about winning medals and gaining national titles; Tommy was equally, if not more, interested in helping his athletes to succeed off the track – he was a life coach as much as he was an athletics coach.

Most of the young athletes Tommy coached, me included, were from low income/socially disadvantaged backgrounds and destined to remain in that demographic into their adulthood, all things being equal.  Tommy had other ideas; he wanted more for his athletes, he wanted them to, clichéd as it is, be the best they could be personally, socially, emotionally and academically.  At the very least, he wanted to broaden their horizons as to what life had to offer, how they could do and achieve more and move beyond their current circumstances through hard work and application, developing resilience and holding themselves to a higher standard.  He didn’t preach, he gave sage advice and, as far as possible, provided emotional and practical support.  

I always recall Tommy saying that most people in our group would marry someone in the same social bracket, who lived within a few miles of each other and would settle down in the same area where they grew up.  Nothing wrong with that if the two people are happy but what he was saying was ‘go out and explore the world, meet other people who have different experiences, expose yourself to other experiences and then decide who with, what and where you want to settle down, if that’s what you want to do’.  

Tommy also emphasised to his athletes the importance of their education and was clear that it should be prioritised over athletics even though he also believed that participation in sport provided young people with many opportunities to develop skills as well as personal qualities and traits that would benefit them as adults in terms of both future employment, health and well-being and life in general.

There were individuals in our group who could easily have found themselves on the wrong side of the law but Tommy found ways to keep them on a more positive path, steering them away from health damaging and anti-social pastimes/activities and getting in with the ‘wrong’ crowd.  He took an interest in them, listened to them and helped them to learn skills and develop characteristics that would give them a good chance of ‘winning in life’ long after they’d, metaphorically speaking, stepped off the track.  To this day, though I have lost touch with a number of the individuals from our training group, I’ve not heard of anyone I knew back then falling into or being in a negative life situation.

Tommy’s belief that participation in athletics and sport in general, with the right kind of guidance, could help build character and equip young people with skills for life has continued beyond his time as an athletics coach through the work he undertook in the latter part of his career prior to his retirement (I believe he has finally retired!). 

Although, I didn’t keep in regular contact with Tommy after graduating in the mid 80s, we remained long distance friends (I moved away from Lanarkshire permanently) and there were various occasions when we reconnected – weddings, birthdays, Christenings; however, a few years ago he got in touch with me regarding a project he was working on and brought me on board to assist in evaluating its impact – I have a background in health related research and evaluation.  The project, in my opinion, sums up everything Tommy is about – a passion for helping young people achieve their potential in life through sport and creating the conditions to facilitate this i.e. enabling the adult influencers that surround young people – sports coaches, teachers etc., to develop, instil and reinforce in their charges positive character building traits that will give them the best possible chance of succeeding as adults in this challenging and complex world.

Then former Scottish national coach and British National Coach, Frank Dick, comments briefly:

“Tommy has been an outstanding ambassador for Scottish Athletics and coaching, he did a truly fantastic job with Tom McKean and Yvonne Murray.”

From Norman Poole, above, President of the British Milers Club:

Tommy Boyle is undoubtedly one of the top Scottish coaches of all time whose athletes have won numerous medals at major
indoor and outdoor Games.
I first got to know Tommy at various Games during the late 80’s and in particular during my own time as the UKA National
Middle Distance Event Coach in the 90’s. It was during this time that his two most well known proteges, Tom McKean and
Yvonne Murray, were at their peak. I always remember the calm, controlled and studious nature of Tommy at the Games no
matter the level of stress experienced within the competition arena. Tommy never appeared ruffled, always in control and this
is what he transferred to his athletes. A vital ingredient for success at World level for both athlete and coach.

I have heard Tommy speak about his training methods and coaching philosophy in the past and have had discussions during
our times at the various Games. He always struck me as a coach who planned his athletes training schedules meticulously,
investigated all areas of concern for them and was a stickler for the fine detail which he knew could make a difference to their

He also emphasised the importance of assessing the aim of each major session and designing it around the needs of each
individual. I well remember how this was exemplified when he was attempting to perfect certain areas of Tom McKeans training.
In the early stages of his development Tom was experiencing difficulty with key 800m sessions and complained that he could not
cope with the recoveries between sets. These were recoveries Tommy knew were appropriate for other 800m athletes he had
coached. To further understand why Tom had this problem Tommy invited physiologist Myra Nimmo to check Tom’s lactates during
a session. Myra found that Tom’s lactate levels were remaining high for substantially longer periods of time compared to most
other 800m athletes. By increasing Tom’s recoveries the times of his sessions improved to acceptable levels and also met the
criteria set for the aims of the sessions. Tom went on to improve his pb’s.

This is a story that I have never forgotten and always refer to it when planning the recoveries of major sessions for the varied
individuals I have coached.

Some months after Tom McKean won the 800m Gold at the 1990 European Champs in Split I had the pleasure of listening to
Tommy deliver a lecture at the European Coaches Conference in Finland. He was rewarded with a standing ovation on the
completion of his lecture. An ovation that continues to this day.


Gordon Crawford, above,currently National Coach in Switzerland, working with their elite and Under 23 squads, says:

“Tommy Boyle for me as a young endurance coach was an inspiration. At the time Tommy was coaching three World Class athletes whilst doing all of that in Scotland. Truly amazing. More importantly and a fact that has influenced my own approaching to coaching is Tommy’s ability to inspire and develop top class support teams around his athletes. The integrated approach to the development of world class athletes for me was ahead of it time. Tommy is a great innovator and reflector in his coaching and has a very open mind, very much a growth mind set and positive approach to coaching. Tommy has never been afraid to make tough decisions. I get on very well with Tommy and class Him not only as friend but a top class person. Tommy is very intense but has a great sense of humour but is a private person and a family man. For me Tommy is one of the great Scottish Athletics coaches and a real prescience and knowledge of athletics.”

Doug Gillon

Doug Gillon, above, formerly athletics writer and journalist with the ‘Glasgow Herald’ as well as for some other publications such as the highly regarded “Scotland’s Runner” who is a long time friend of Tom’s adds this assessment:

Tommy Boyle seemed to come to public notice for the first time when a talented young junior, Tom McKean, compiled impressive performances at 200 and 400 metres in the years following the 1980 Olympics. Of course, like all coaches who seem to have nurtured an overnight success, a lengthy unseen apprenticeship had been served, by both athlete and coach. Boyle, who had guided McKean since 1974, when he arrived at the Bellshill club aged 11, was ensuring McKean served his apprenticeship, by developing his speed. However, Boyle always knew that his real talent lay over 800m. And he was not going to do it by making the lad a slave to the miles, in the Scottish harrier tradition. He was going to develop and harness his pace.

What singled out Boyle, as  his protege began to make headlines over two laps, was his attention to detail. There was no lottery in the early ’80s, and no chance of a working- class kid, a labourer laying slabs for the local council, finding the wherewithall to even approach what we w ere beginning to become a ware was available at the likes of Loughborough. Or the USA, or Soviet Union. 

Boyle identified a range of deficiencies and potential service providers, then set about trying to fund them. But the medical, scientific, nutrition and coaching components only began to come together when he found an eager listener in luxury car dealer Glen Henderson. Years earlier, Henderson had identified similar deficiencies in his own sport, speed skating, and had set about bringing the best Dutch coaches to Scotland. Boyle found himself knocking on an open door, and brokered a complex sponsorship and employment package. 

Two  visionaries were looking through the prism of elite  performance development from the same angle, yet  the scale of Henderson’s willingness to invest in what Boyle perceived as essential, proved staggering.

Boyle left no stone unturned, and Henderson’s funding meant scrutiny of every potential   avenue became possible. The concept of ” marginal gains ” had yet to be coined, but Boyle was laying down markers which seemed to become eerily  familiar decades later, when we watched the progress of   British cycling .

So Tommy was a workaholic, an innovator, and an analyst, as befitted a man with a background in the science of management and quality control. I was fortunate in following and charting the career of Scotland’s most exciting talents that Boyle was prepared to share his vision and his methods. Unlike many coaches, we were welcomed – even encouraged to come to training sessions, including over Christmas.

And when science and technology did not have the answer, the pragmatic Boyle invariably did.  Like preparing McKean for the hurly-burly of elite two-lap racing. He set him up with a big Lanarkshire policemen, and instructed the cop – no mean athlete, with excellent pace – to lean on McKean, or box him in, to give him an appreciation of the physicality of the event.

His psychological approach was also fascinating, and when McKean’s performances reached a domestic plateau in the late 80’s, Boyle scared McKean into finally following instructions, and achieving the times his training indicated were possible. He warned McKean that if he could not run as instructed, they were finished. The outcome was a victory at Crownpoint in 1:44.79, a time which will celebrate 30 years as the Scottish native record next summer (2019). There has been only one other holder of this record since 1970!

I believe that discovering what he was capable of on his own, may have been the key which helped  unlock McKean’s ability  to wait in front, and repel all challenges – the tactic whereby he won European outdoor and World indoor gold. 

Boyle swore afterwards that he had meant every word that day at Crownpoint in 1988. And more than once, when he considered withdrawing his protege from races for which he believed he was not properly prepared, or focused, Boyle would remind me that he saw his responsibility as looking out for McKean’s future, not as an athlete, but as a human being.

I suspect Boyle might ultimately have concluded that he never quite got the best out of McKean (either time-wise or in terms of global titles). I always felt that the Bellshill Bullet was a unique talent, possessed of reserves that not even Boyle could manage to unlock.

Not that he was rigid in his approach. When he inherited Yvonne Murray from Bill Gentleman, he quickly concluded that he lacked the tools to add a finishing kick which might cope with suspected drug-fuelled Eastern Europeans. He enlisted Stewart Hogg, a sprint coach steeped in the traditional Scottish pedestrian tradition. It proved a marriage made in heaven, with Yvonne mastering a kick which was first unveiled when she won European 3000m gold, in 1990, in Split. It was masterly team work, brilliantly planned and executed.

Nor was Boyle a one-trick pony. His energy and enthusiasm for his training group at Wishaw was boundless, and the success of numerous athletes at Bellshill YMCA, and their reverence for the coach, was testimony to his effectiveness.

The Boyle era, coinciding as it did in the rivalry between Murray and Liz McColgan, was one of unprecedented success for the sport in Scotland. 

Boyle was a man ahead of his time, a n innovator and a deep  thinker. He was heart-warmingly steeped in his athletes’ welfare, but did not suffer fools.

He helped  fuel   one of the most exciting periods in Scottish athletics history, and had his era not coincided with intense doping skullduggery in Eastern Europe, there might have been even greater triumphs. That’s part of the tragedy of doping. It haunts athletes and coaches for life. One never knows what might have been. “

Mark Munro

Mark Munro, CEO, Scottish Athletics

I first remember Tommy Boyle when I was a young athlete at a Livingston Open Graded meet, Tom (Mckean) was also there and Tommy was somewhat of a ‘legend’ having masterminded the careers of Tom and Yvonne (and latterly Susan Scott). He also had a reputation as being quite ‘fierce and intimidating’ if I remember. However, following my 800m run which was nothing special, I remember he asked me walking past, “was that a PB son, you did well, you attacked it”. Those words stayed with me for many a year.

Having left the sport as a competitor in my early 20s, I met Tommy again around 7 years later when I had started working on the Positive Coaching Scotland programme through my employment with the SFA. We struck up a very strong and effective working relationship from that point and then Tommy was instrumental in my appointment as Head of Development at Scottish Athletics some 7/8 years ago now.

Tommy has since remained a mentor to me and he’s one of our most successful coaches ever. Someone once asked me how I would describe Tommy and my response was;

Very successful, extremely detailed, straight talking, fiercely competitive, intimidating when he needs to be……….but very fair…….. and arguably the most successful coach that Scotland has produced in, and stayed in Scotland”

Sir Bill Gammell, 

“Tommy Boyle is a legend. He embodies all the values that he Coaches and Teaches.   Aspiration, Insiration, Determination, Perspiration, Innovation.    Tommy’s passion is in helping others to become the best that they can be, and he has left a huge legacy with his work since inception at Winning Scotland Foundation. “


Gregor Townsend

Gregor Townsend, SRU,

Tommy has been of great help for me throughout my coaching, both as a source of valuable advice and as someone who has supported me when times have been tough.    I feel very grateful to have met Tommy and spend a few years working alongside him for Winning Scotland Foundation.    The timing of this was very fortuitous for my coaching career, as when we first met I was taking the first steps into my new life as a former player.   We’ve had many a discussion about coaching, helping people reach their potential and how to get the best out of a team.    He is undoubtedly a world class coach who still thinks deeply about the coaching process.    I usually leave our meeting with a notebook full of ideas and energised to get out there and coach.

Tommy cares deeply about improving the lives of young people in Scotland and is just as passionate about Scottish sport.  It’s been an honour and a real pleasure to call him a friend.

Susan Jackson

Susan Jackson, Winning Scotland Foundation

Tommy was an inspiring member of the team at Winning Scotland Foundation.   He was passionate about the ambitions of the organisation and what it stood for.  He gave everything he had to the work of the Foundation and inspired so many people along the way.  We often had some animated and heated discussions and on many things didn’t see eye to eye.  But this was so good for both of us and these “discussions” ultimately strengthened our relationship.  I learnt so much from Tommy about leadership and the support he gave me, particularly during challenging times, was tremendous.  I always knew he had my back.  A fantastic colleague that I am now proud to call my friend.

Jim Fleeting

Jim Fleeting, Director of Football Development, SFA

Tommy Boyle was Mr Positive Coaching. His expertise in the project and enthusiasm to make change for sport all over Scotland was fantastic. He was a true leader and was always on the end of the phone should we require some guidance. A good man and one we enjoyed working with.

Judy Anderson, finance and progress manager at WSF.

When I think of my dear friend Tommy Boyle there are several phrases that come to mind which I will try and summarise as succinctly as possible.

An Amazing Mentor

I first met Tommy when I started work at Winning Scotland Foundation in 2008. Fresh from a challenging job at a very successful oil company I was full of enthusiasm and energy to make a difference in the charity. What I didn’t realise was that Tommy would completely challenge and change my attitude and beliefs on each individual human being’s personal potential in life.  I have never had the privilege to meet someone who has such a god given gift to bring out the best in each and every person!   He makes you believe and know that you can shoot for the stars!    He challenges you, helps you, puts you right out of your comfort zone, mentors you and out of that comes a very different human being.   Blessed with a brain unlike most he was never afraid to speak his mind or challenge anyone at any level and because of this he was absolutely instrumental in the success of Winning Scotland Foundation. After 7 years working with Tommy I completely understand why he was such a successful athletics coach.

Hugely Committed to Developing Young People through Sport

Despite Tommy’s international coaching success I know that what he cares about most deeply is developing each and every young person to reach their potential and giving as many young people as possible the chance to develop themselves through positive experiences in sport. During his time at Winning Scotland Foundation Tommy invested blood sweat and tears in the Positive Coaching Scotland programme which was latterly recommended by the Scottish Government for National roll out. A huge achievement! The journey to get there was not easy but perseverance and doggedness is in Tommy’s genes and despite some seriously challenging times the programme became a national culture change programme adopted by the national agency for sport and many of the sporting governing bodies in Scotland including Scottish Football. Because of this Tommy can be hugely proud that many more young people in Scotland will have the opportunity to develop themselves through positive sporting experiences.

A Dedicated Family Man

I have had the huge pleasure of getting to know Tommy’s family over the years who are incredibly special to him. Tommy and Julie are blessed to have wonderful relationships with their sons and grandchildren.

A Very Special Friend

Above all I am hugely privileged and blessed to be able to call such an extraordinary man a special friend. I know that he and his wife Julie would always support me in any time of need and likewise I would do anything to help them.

And finally, Tina Syer (above) had a lovely piece published in the RCA blog.  Unprompted and sincere, you can find it at




Tommy Boyle: Mastercoach

Tommy in 1991 with the Post Office Counters Coach of the Year award : Other contenders that year were Ron Roddan (Linford Christie’s Coach), John Trower (Steve Backley) as well as Mike Whittinghame, Ron Murray (Geoff Parsons), Judy Vernon and John Isaacs (Mike McFarlane)

So far Tommy’s coaching career echoed that of many others in Scotland.   He was a  young runner who had been encouraged to do some coaching by one of the top men in his club, did the coaching courses, read the books and gone to the conferences.  He served his time in a supportive club where he worked on the committee and in all the roles that good club members fill while learning his trade as a coach; he had coached some very good athletes who had won SAAA championships, and he had worked as Group Organiser for the Sprints in Scotland.   

Everybody has theories about what a coach is.   The international sprinter who said that a great athlete made a coach famous rather than the other way round was maybe half right.   It assumes that all the coach of a brilliant athlete has to do is get him fit, point him in the right way and then get out of his road.   But how does he get him fit , then how does he decide on the right road and when does he get out of the way?  The basic assumption is that coaching an international athlete is straightforward and easy.   Then there is the comment made by a Scottish Games athlete that “no matter how often you polish a piece of glass, you’ll never make it a diamond.”   The unspoken question is how do you polish a diamond?

Then there is the eternal question about whether coaching is an art or a science with the weasel-words answer usually given that it is ‘a bit of both’.   The problem is that the relative percentages are never discussed seriously and most coaches do not have either the time or the inclination to really develop the ‘science’ side of the argument.   

Tommy asked himself that question and went further down the science route than almost all of his contemporaries.   He then spent much time finding out about the demands of the events he was coaching, the fit between them and the individual athletes in a practical way.   Before looking at that, I’ll quote another top class Scottish coach, Ian Robertson, who said that ‘if you are doing it properly, then you can only coach three athletes at a time.’   The clear message being that coaching Olympic athletes is not just a wee hobby.  A point emphasised by another high quality coach, Jimmy Campbell, who used to say to would-be coaches, that if they were doing their job as coaches, they’d be heading for “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” 

The message seemed to be – almost full-time job.   Reevel Alderson in the “Scotland’s Runner” magazine for November 1986, had no doubt where Tommy stood on the science/art divide:   “The man who works at the only factory in Scotland to make mainframe computers takes a scientific approach to coaching.   And at the European Coaching Convention this month he’ll unveil the results of that work.   Graphs will be produced detailing minutely the development of his protege Tom McKean from competent club runner to the man who, if meticulous planning goes well, will take the World Championship 800 metres title.   It’s the sort of scientific and professional approach to athletics which is needed in Tommy’s view if Scotland’s athletes are to reach their full potential.   In fact, professionalism is, in his eyes, the only way forward from the disappointment of the Commonwealth Games.”      

As for Tommy, if we look four years down the line (1991) at part of an article in ‘Scotland’s Runner’ number 60, we see what kind of detail Tommy went into.   The complete article can be found at  this link  where the amount of detail that went into his work with Tom can be seen.   

Tommy is seen here to have analysed the demands of the event and measured his runner against these.  We all do that but the extent of his analysis and measuring went beyond the usual for Scottish coaches.   He was using terms that not many were even familiar with, never mind using at the time, such as OBLA runs, mmols of lactic acid. video feedback, etc.   The question was whether these were these empty measurements which led nowhere or were they meaningful measurements which were of practical use?   To find out we should start at the beginning.   The information quoted below comes from a paper that Tommy delivered in 1986 on Tom’s early development between 1976 and 1980.

Tom McKean (Date of Birth 27th October, 1963) had joined the club as an 11 year old in 1974. and by 1980 it was clear to Tommy that he had a big talent on his hands. 

“The knowledge gained during that period (as a club coach up to 1980) has proved to be a valuable asset which could not have been obtained in any other way. However, the tremendous enjoyment derived, and enthusiasm generated were gradually being eroded by my over—involvement in administration and dealing with increasing numbers of very well-intentioned but totally blinkered individuals. Fortunately, I was forced in 1980 to take a very serious l00k at my commitment to athletics as we were expecting a family. I asked myself a question which we repeatedly ask our athletes — “What do you want from athletics” — answer — “To coach athletes”: solution — simple — remove everything which was not directly related to coaching,

The result was that, after a transitional period, I ended up coaching a small group of athletes three times per week, thus allowing for a more balanced life style and one where I was once more able to enjoy the challenge of coaching athletes.

The next stage was to critically assess the efficiency and effectiveness of my coaching and to ensure that what little time I had was managed in a more professional manner.”

The above was taken from a talk that he gave to the Edinburgh International Coaching Convention in 1986 and reflects his approach to the situation: there is a saying in coaching that the athlete should not be restricted by the coach’s limitations.   Many (most?) coaches do not realise that they have any limitations which restrict the development of the athlete.   Tommy was almost brutally honest in his appraisal of the situation.   The decision which was taken then to cut away the extraneous club activities, to recognise that they were distractions from the main task and that he himself would have to give more time to coaching, was proved by events to be the right one.   And it was all athlete driven.   

Having taken the decisions to concentrate completely on the coaching, the first thing Tommy Boyle had to do was map out the route that Tom had to take.   Good coaches seldom coach for the current year, they are always looking ahead and Tommy was no different in that respect, but he was different in the detail as he went down the road to the future.  The plan might need altered, tweaked or even changed but having a plan that can be changed is far better than having no plan. A look at how he structured the crucial Junior Man – second year senior man transition is perhaps instructive.  The following is taken from Tommy’s report to the International Coaching Convention in Edinburgh.

Junior Man 17 – 19

Cross country is now seen only as conditioning with races as fitness tests or fun with the boys. Weights were introduced in the circuit format with the major training objective being the development of sprinting ability and refinement of technique aiming to significantly improve 200/400 metre times Which would be the limiting factor in subsequent specialisation at 800 metres if we recognise where the event is how going With Sebastian Coe t s world record l:41.73 (1:40 by 1990).

First Year Senior 19 – 20

The plan was to reduce his 200/400 metre times but with a shift in emphasis via the introduction of structured track training for 800 metres.   However disaster struck when during a very cold spring, he increased intensity too quickly during the transition to track training.   Result – shin problems – which, combined with a typical cavalier approach by a 19 year old, we had a bad injury which almost finished his athletics career through the sheer frustration of having trained hard all winter only to miss the full track season.   Fortunately Tom Craig did an excellent job – gave Tommy one race where he finished second in the Scottish 800m championship.   This kept him in the sport, but only just.

Second Year Senior 20

The first objective was to consolidate the pre—injury performance and then to begin the next phase of development which was to specialise in the 800 metres event. Tommy was gradually introduced to increased workloads, training plans, short and long term objectives and gradually the process of transferring greater responsibility to the athlete was underway. major and minor objectives established and achieved — confidence in the coaching and training increased through realisation of goals discussion were now common with valuable feedback flowing in both directions. The year was concluded by introducing Tommy to a four year Plan, aimed at Edinburgh/Stuttgart and, as we were now half -way through having successfully achieved all objectives served the dual purpose of establishing confidence and presenting even greater challenges.”

Tom wins against Paul Ereng: probably his best ever race: he won in 1:43.89.

Splits of 24.43, 50.14, 1:16.57 and 1:43.89: 


At this point we go back to the transition from coaching a domestic Scottish champion to working with an international class runner.  We have seen that he had a problem with an injury as a first year senior that almost put him out of the game before he was properly in it.  It was effectively dealt with by Tom Craig, highly respected physiotherapist whose day job was with Rangers FC and we will come back to that.   However we have commented already on Tommy’s total honesty and he accepted responsibility for the injury.   He was equally honest with Tom though – 

“The increased free time, meeting girls, loss of the training discipline, resulted in the gradual realisation that he was not going to fulfil the promise which the previous year’s performances were suggesting he was capable of.   I had a head on collision with Tommy where the hard facts were laid on the table: either 100% or nothing, and for some three months he messed about before eventually realising that he was throwing away the very thing he was good at.   

As a coach I learned much from the situation:

(a) You can be the best in the world with the most talented athlete but unless he wants success more than anything else, forget it!   You are wasting your time.   

(b) The other harsh fact which emerged was the realities of our sport in Scotland: here we had another talented athlete out for a year and no one asked a single question why.   It was a case of facing up to the facts and organising myself accordingly to ensure that I was suitably equipped to bridge the chasms in the system.”

The second fact above is worth looking at again.   Tom had been injured and almost totally out of the sport in consequence.   No one in authority in the sport had investigated the reason.   Tommy had gone to Tom Craig, one of the best if not the best, physio in the West of Scotland.   But Tom, however good he was and however well he communicated with patients, was not full time in athletics.   He once told me when I took a Scottish international athlete to see him that if the athlete had been a football player, he could get him fit to play the following Saturday but ….  and gave us some advice on exercises, treatment and how to approach track running in the near future.    His priorities were not athletics and he was not immediately available.   In addition it was the coach or athlete who had to foot the bill for treatment.   If Tom were indeed going to tackle other world class athletes, there would be injuries serious and minor which would require immediate treatment from a quality physio or sports doctor.   

Every good coach/athlete will conduct an objective review at the end of each competitive season.   Tommy, true to form, conducted a more detailed (and debatably more honest) assessment at the end of 1985 season.   Instinctively he knew that the apprenticeship was over for both, Tom was laying slabs in a youth employment scheme, not conducive to becoming a world class athlete, we had to be ruthless in our review, Tommy used his business skills and developed a model which he honed in future years.   (See Susan Scott 2004/5, below)

The review led Tommy to several conclusions: 

# Tom was now committed to the four-year plan;

# Tommy was confident he knows what is required to prepare a world class 800m athlete with Toms potential;

# He had to be able to train twice a day and be able to work part time;

# They needed to build a support team Physiologist/Physio /Podiatrist /Legal advice.

How could these requirements be achieved?   For the breakthrough to world class competition, he needed a carefully crafted marketing plan.   Having known Frank Dick, UK National Coach, for some time and sent him a call for help.   Frank helped and between them  they agreed the outline of a strategy for 1985.   Tommy understood it was only a plan, however he took a pragmatic approach,: they had nothing to fear no one expected Tom to really do much more than he had – just another good age group potential.

Tommy later shared the plan with journalist Doug Gillon when the first part had been executed successfully and we were in the new frontiers phase daring to dream the plan (and subsequent results) was:

Open the season at Scottish YMCA champs 400 test the speed low key no pressure: result 1st  in 48.0

Win UK closed 800m in Antrim – no one would expect Tom to be anywhere but he was 1st in 1.49.19

Andy Norman, Mr UK Athletics back then, was a no-nonsense ex-policeman from the South of England and a bit of a bully.   Many athletes were a bit scared of him but he had the power to help or hinder an athlete’s career.   He gave Tom his ticket home before the heats on Friday and told him “You will get a flight home to Glasgow tonight.”   However the race didn’t go to script: Tom took David Sharp in the home straight to win. Suddenly everyone was asking who was this Scotsman?  Tommy had prepared him well for the rough and tumble of a top 800m by training against top 400-man Ian Callander training pal from Bellshill YMCA: Doug Gillon refers to this in his comments on another page of this site.    At this point we quote Tommy directly.

“Next up we convinced Andy to get Tom a race in Europe Madrid result where Tom was 1st in 1.47.7  – new PB

Absolutely key in the plan was to go head to head with Edinburgh’s Paul Forbes, by now a 1.45-man, tough competitor and coached by my pal Bill Walker from whom I had learned so much.  Tom was again 1st in 1:53.4 massive confidence boost.

We had calculated correctly that this would get him selected for two internationals: the first was at Gateshead against Steve Cram it was a fantastic opportunity to make a name for himself and Tom seized it and was 1st in  1:47.25  for another new PB.

Next was the second international, critically again televised, and the result was another 1st  in 1.47.1 – a  PB -against Chris McGeorge (coached by George Gandy)

Tommy went on to say “ It is fantastic when a plan comes together, however we still had to have a bit of luck.   This came in the form of Sally McNair,an upcoming TV Presenter, who did a fantastic piece on prime time news.   Within 30 mins I had a call from car dealer Glen Henderson.   He said he wanted to meet the coach,so I travelled down to Prestwick in my wee Ford Escort and met him  in his big flash Mercedes Garage.    

Glen asked the direct question: “What do you require to make this guy world class?”   I replied that it would take a part time job, transport,  financial assistance with medical support and help with travel to competitions in order to be independent from agents.   He replied, ” I will support you both – provided Tom stays with you and you leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of world class performance.”   Glen added “I will give you a week to find the top Physiologist and physiotherapist,”

I called Professor Myra Nimmo and she agreed to be part of the team.   She also suggested that Dave McLean, physiology lecturer and exercise physiologist with the SRU would be a wise choice.  We subsequently recruited Jim Black, podiatrist,  a nutritionist and, as athletics was in middle of the transition to professionalism, we recruited lawyer Doug Whyte, ex athletics coach to look after trust funds.   The team was in place by the end of the year and Glen agreed to a package of funding, valued around £ 40, 000.

He also advised on negotiation of a sports wear contract with Puma, a tough negotiation with Derek Ibbotson, Marketing Director and Olympic medallist.   Derek became a great friend and eventually Puma sponsored both Tom and Yvonne.  He was a great guy with a wealth of experience and  was always willing to advise at major competitions, indeed he was in the warm up arena when Yvonne went on to win her bronze medal in Seoul Olympics against some rather suspect opposition which we shall discus later .

Next up was an unplanned race over 1000 m at Meadowbank .  Tom did not run well and we both learned the hard lesson of competing at this level when you have not trained for 1km .  The second half of the season was always going to be ‘in at the deep end’ and learn how to compete against the best on the circuit and vitally in televised races with good appearance money.”

The Competitions were:

Venue Position time comments
IAC Crystal Palace second 1:47.8 J Cruz 1st
Budapest second 1:46.05 New pb
Europa Cup first 1:49.05 very tactical race
Zurich B Race first 1:46.28 massive learning experience
Berlin GP sixth 1:46.09 Painful experience of back to back comps in same week

Coaches always learn from every race their runners take part in and Tommy learned more about Tom, when he was exposed to the unknown.   The race was in Cologne where he was first but it was at the end of a hard season and he was out of gas by then.   Tommy had guided his protégé to “world class” – but, probably more important, he had developed a strategy to maximise the opportunity when it happened, securing a unique sponsorship package with Glen Henderson and building a support team which did not exist in Scotland at that time.

Tommy knew sports science could help them however the challenge was to find out how.  This resulted in a whole programme of testing conducted on every session  – OBLA every mile round the streets of Bellshill, then in the lab, lactate testing of circuits, power circuits and many challenging discussions on training load mix and recovery.  Myra once asked Tommy why he was doing a session – he replied “Because I am the coach.” She immediately responded,  “Why are you giving Tom this session ???”  One of the biggest lessons Tommy learned. 

The Team then reviewed Tommy’s next four-year plan, specifically the review of 1985 and the plan for a massive year in 1986 Commonwealth and Europeans within one month.   Once again it was back to the process of critical review tackling the issues of Where are we now? What we learn — performances v plan, where are we going now?   how will we get there?

Tommy reflected that the strategic plan was working, he had successfully navigated the athlete through the myriad of challenges which occur in every young athletes’ life.  He remembers his observations at the time regarding the landscape in Scottish sport and specifically Athletics, there was no institute of sport, no real performance strategy ,a fact concealed by a group of willing volunteer coaches  who tried manfully to promote specific events against a tide of mediocrity in the sport, I really admired these coaches who gave so much of their time in an attempt to improve the standard of coaching and performance across the country.I    think they were given a very small fee to cover a massive task ! True heroes and legends of the sport .   Tommy also discussed with  Doug Gillon, a font of knowledge, how he had observed that almost without exception Scottish coaches and athletes who succeeded in reaching the highest performance levels in international athletics did it in spite of the system, they tended to work in small groups and just did their own thing-  a critical success factor he had learned from the people in pro athletics who produced more top class sprinters than amateur athletics ever did.   Tommy was smart enough to learn from this discussion and it only reinforced his belief in the strategy which he had developed ,do it your own way and becomes self sufficient

He remembers a discussion with Myra Nimmo who firmly believed that very soon sports science would become part of the support mechanism for top athletes,however we were in the then and now facing the unknown.   Tommy knew he had little experience in the four year championship cycle, he was also painfully aware of the lack of real experience in Scotland .   We can perhaps get a good insight into his thinking and how they approached the commonwealth games and European championship year by reading an extract from a lecture he later did LINK

Phase III – Fourth Year Senior 22

Careful analysis of the previous year’s situation clearly indicated that we had several flaws in our armoury.  To reinforce these weak spots necessitated strengthening the support team.  Fortunately, Tommy’s major sponsor, Glen Henderson, in addition to being a very successful motor dealer, was also a very knowledgeable sports enthusiast who specialised in speed skating and was able to advise in which direction we should move if we were to continue to progress in the cut and thrust arena of World Class athletics.  This was gradually achieved by the recruitment of the best help which we could find:  every aspect was improved.

Training workloads were increased in line with the requirements of three-round championships.   Physiological testing was commenced to monitor the effect of present and past training and to provide a more accurate guidance of future training.  Physiotherapy was made more readily available and this, as Glen Henderson had predicted, proved to be a crucial factor when Tommy was injured in three separate occasions but was still able to complete “safely” and “successfully”.

The objectives were established – competition plans compiled in such a manner that the minimum of exposure would obtain the desired effect – recognising the degree of expectancy which would inevitably exist and gather momentum leading up to the Commonwealth Games.  Experiments were conducted in minor races, previous personal bests achieved but, importantly not surpassed, offers to run in major races were politely refused, the opposition and their ploys totally ignored as we became engrossed in the seemingly impossible task of getting Tommy through the injuries in the correct mental attitude.   This was done and the final preparation for Edinburgh checked and re-checked by Stuart Hogg, long time friend and senior sprints coach.     Nothing was left to chance in our quest for competitive advantage for the athlete – result:  2nd position – 1m44.80, new Scottish National/Native Record.

The next task was to overcome the vacuum created by the post Games anti-climax.  This proved to be an even bigger problem than I had thought it would be and this is where the team approach really “proved its weight in silver”.  Our solution to the problem was a total change in environment – training partners – coach – and, probably most important, to escape family pressures – a very high risk some might say but we prefer to think that the final week’s preparation in Glenrothes was a sensible response to a very difficult situation – result:  Coe 1st, McKean 2nd, Cram 3rd – new Scottish Record – new PB.”

Glen Henderson was a very interesting person and had himself been a competitive sportsman.  A motor dealer, motorcycle racer and speed skater he broke the quarter mile British speed skating record in 1954. He later became one of the largest motorcycle dealers in Scotland.     A pupil at Ayr Academy, he left at 15 and opened a motorcycle repair shop in the town supported by his maternal grandmother Ann Aitken who even pawned her fridge to purchase fuel for her grandson’s racing bike. Glen won the Scottish Motorcycling Championships on the sands at St Andrews a year later.  He went on to race at Brands Hatch, all the British racing circuits and all over Europe. He sustained a serious crash at Kirkcaldy and stopped racing for good and took to preparing racing bikes.   One of his Honda motorcycles came second at the Monza circuit Grand Prix to the amazement of the Honda Factory Works Team who could not understand how a tiny workshop in Scotland could achieve such a result. When his close friend Bob McIntyre was killed, while racing, Mr Henderson gave up all his racing activities.   He was also involved in speed skating: in 1954 he broke quarter mile British record. He went on to establish the Scottish Speed Skating Union and this involved developing a training programme for young promising speed skaters. This was so successful that several members set World and European records.   So his interest in sport was not a new thing and his experience of competing internationally himself gave him an insight into what was required to do so effectively.   In addition as a businessman he was direct in his approach.   This was just what Tommy needed.

Glen Henderson

The dream of every coach who is fortunate enough to coach an athlete with potential, is to take them the full journey to the ultimate challenge in athletics the Worlds and Olympics, the Worlds were in Rome 1987 and the Olympic Games were in Seoul in 1988, Tommy was determined to ensure his protégé was provided with the very best opportunity to make this massive leap both in performance level .

Tommy reflected on the World preparation,  saying, “the team were in place Tom appeared to be handling the increase in volume and intensity which would prepare him to run four rounds in sub 1.45 seconds which we anticipated.   Early season racing went well he won the Europa Cup for a second time and had a few other competitions including the UK trials.   I remember Derek Ibbotson sharing a piece of his hard-earned experience, he said you can only get experience of competing in these races by doing it, you may be fortunate, but many athletes require one full cycle to learn how to handle the external pressure – Tommy and Tom were later to reflect just how wise these words were!”

Tom navigated the first three rounds in a spectacular manner attracting a great deal of media attention and expectation.   Tommy remembers the hype and how Tom was sweating profusely in the warm up area a new experience, the call room to track was a long process and then the athletes were held on the track for a very long time, another first experience.   The race was brutal: the Kenyans had a plan, very well executed – one athlete (Mara) ran on Tom’s shoulder, he was boxed in for 450 metres and then just as the gap opened he tripped on Peter Elliot’s legs in what was to date the fastest race of his life and for the first time in his career he appeared to be lost.   He was devastated, finished last and coach Tommy noted a weakness which perhaps would define Toms world level career. Tommy was later to hear his Mentor at Winning Scotland Foundation, Sir Bill Gammell, repeating the statement “it’s the ability to think fast under pressure which separates the truly greats in sport and life “    However the greatest surprise was the manner in which the British press crucified Tom as a coward.  It was shocking and Tommy told a few of them that they should hang their heads in shame, however Tom was scarred by what the press said .

Coach Boyle himself learned the big lesson that “it is in failure that athletes really require a coach to support them in navigating the mental minefield of focusing on the learning from any life lesson”. Tommy remembers his dad’s advice when he fell of his bike in an accident with a bus,   “he said get back on now and go for a long run on the road with traffic”.   Tommy discussed with sponsor Glen Henderson and they agreed Tom should not only race but chase the winner of the worlds – Billy Konchella – and take him on head to head to bury part of the scar.   He did and beat him three times before the season finished including a great pb in Lausanne. He says, “We were later to learn the surface scars healed quickly however Tom had personal issues in his relationship with his long-term girl friend and went of the rails a bit in the winter, visiting night clubs in Glasgow a mistake which would come back and bite hard at the moment of greatest pressure  –  The Olympic Games.”

Tommy was asked to coach Yvonne Murray (4th October 1964) in October, 1987.   She was already a considerably good athlete who had been third in the 1986 Commonwealth Games 3000 and in August 1987 had finished third, this time at the European Championships in Stuttgart, in a time that would have won gold in Edinburgh.   She had fastest indoors times by a Scot for 800m, 1500m, 3000m and two miles; she had outdoor records at 1500m (both native and national), 1 mile (Native and national), 2000m national, 3000, (native and national) and in 1987 in the world rankings she was 9th for 1000m, 6th for the mile, 2nd for 2000m and 7th for 3000m.   It is not an easy task being asked to coach a runner of that calibre and improve that athlete’s performances.    Tommy wasn’t the first Scottish coach to have this challenge: there was an article in World Sports magazine about John Robson changing coaches with the new coach saying that John was a great runner, he would make him a great champion.   No word of it being a challenge, he would make John a great champion.   Several months later, deep inside the magazine was a quote from John saying that the toughest thing he ever had to do was ask his old coach to take him back!  

It was at the end of the 1987 season that Tommy was asked to take on coaching Yvonne Murray and he remembers advising Yvonne to go back and talk her coach.   However she said it was over and wanted to move on.   Tommy remembers I knew little about preparing a world class athlete for 3000 metres, but we had a fantastic professional support team in place and I knew from what I saw that we could improve Yvonne Murray.

Tommy coaching Yvonne and Stuart Gibson doing 1000 reps at Strathclyde Park

“It was back to the drawing board.  We used the tried and tested strategy,” understand the event requirements, evaluate the athlete’s status and then establish short medium- and long-term plans to ensure the athlete was gradually developed to compete to win at world level”
I remember contacting the BBC and requesting copies of videos of previous competitions, followed by long hours studying her races, identifying her strengths and weaknesses, we embarked on a full physiological screening programme to objectively assess the athlete, Myra Nimmo was awesome and could relate well to Yvonne having been on the journey as a female athlete herself.   We only had one year before the Seoul Olympics.  We took a few risks in our planning – cut her mileage in half, focused on quality as she already had a massive engine with a very low heart rate (which we had checked thoroughly) Stuart Hogg agreed to work on Yvonne’s leg speed and over that winter she spent most Saturdays in Glenrothes doing sprints, long intervals and circuits at night, Myra, Dave and I focused on the quality of her running utilising the OBLA runs, weights and circuits to ensure Yvonne was physically capable of sprinting from a long way out.
However, it was probably the combined effects of the total support package, leveraging off our success with Tom McKean, we negotiated a sponsorship with Glen Henderson, part time job and car combined with a shoe contract with Puma Yvonne was furnished with all the physiological back up which provided that critical confidence that what she was doing was working and she could confidently go for the win.”

Tommy now had two athletes in prep for the Olympics.   Tom had a big fright at the UK trials when Martin Steel, a low level 800 athlete went through in a 48. sec first lap, Tom chose to go with it.  However at 700m the wheels came off, swimming in lactate he just managed to hold off the fast finishing Steve Heard to gain the qualifying place with Steve Cram in first place.   Tom again:  I remember that night in the bar Doug Gillon did his usual ferreting and learned that Martin had been asked to go though fast with a view to taking Tom out – I wonder who would benefit?   Martin and ??
Next experience for Coach Tommy was a week before the team flew out to Japan, being confronted by the Sun newspaper saying they had dirt on Tom. He had been stung by a kiss and tell girl:  in the winter of 87/88 he met a girl in a Glasgow night club, had a short relationship and made the big mistake of going back to the club in the summer where he was duly ambushed for a picture.   “I met the rats and told them they were vermin, however they said they would print the story on the day the team left the UK, I called Doug and Alex Cameron for advice.  We agreed to get a counter story in the record with a picture of Tom and Yvonne with his fiancé however the damage was done. You can imagine the row in the McKean family and how and where his head was as he met the team,all the boys giving him the big ra ra as he boarded the plane for the Olympics in Seoul.
Combined with this Yvonne Murray had a big shock incurring a bursar in her hip just three weeks before flying out Tommy and Dave took the gamble got top SRU surgeon to inject, with the result we were able to quickly accelerate training and Yvonne was set for her big dream .
The Olympics was a massive challenge for the team, Seoul was at the other side of the earth.  High temperature high humidity with big security issues for UK and USA teams, .  I remember long team meetings throughout the winter adapting Yvonne’s training to maximise improvements ,planning every detail of the trip which would involve a holding camp in Japan, it was an up market country club with over three hundred army personnel guarding the perimeter, with the UK and US teams confined to the camp .
Tommy and Stuart had a massive challenge now disaster recovery, with Tom’s head back in Bellshill, Yvonne still lacking the confidence to push those vital 300m reps, OBLAs had to be done through the village with the coaches pedalling frantically to avoid traffic and keep up with Yvonne.    Once again, all the hard graft paid off and I utilised every ounce of my experience to get our two proteges to the start line ready to perform.   Tom did a 600-time trial in 74 sec he was ready Physically!!!
When they moved across to Korea and into the village, Yvonne froze on her first training session with the UK team, her 300s were poor.   This is when a coach has to stand up and be counted.   Peter Coe once asked me did I see the moment when the athlete lost it in warm up.   This was it.   I went into overdrive, lifted her by the lapels stared into her eyes and challenged Yvonne to rise to the moment, I told her “you are in world class condition this is your moment seize it Stuart said, “Tommy be careful these UK coaches are watching”.   I responded  XXXX them!  It’s Yvonne that matters, it worked, next set of 300s she got her time down from 48 to 43 with short recoveries, the game was on again!!

The prep had been done, it was over to the athletes.  Tom was in excellent physical condition,but in the second round he was in another world and woke up in sixth place with 90m to go, he pushed his way through to the qualifying position only to be disqualified after a protest by Holland.  That was a long hour, indeed a long journey home for him and he disappeared from the radar for a few months to recover his relationships back home .

What an experience the whole competition day was for Tommy, Yvonne and support team; she qualified easily for the final, which was loaded with world class athletes and many who were suspected of taking illegal substances. Tommy reflects “drugs were a massive problem at that time especially female athletes from the eastern bloc.   Derek Ibbotson was with us in the warm up arena, it was intense, however with his usual Yorkshire wit Derek said did you see that Tommy I said what?  Paula Ivan going into the porta loo with her bag, He instinctively started his watch, the time ticked by, this was minutes before these athletes were to run the biggest competition of their lives. Time went on.  Yvonne was buzzing to go, we observed it was 13 minutes before Ivan emerged    It was a fantastic race third fastest of all time, but Yvonne was in awesome condition, see the race   here  .  The result:

1st Tetyana Samalenco later known as (Tetyana Doroski and not found positive until 1993 and a load of medals later)
2ND Paula Ivan Romanian with mysterious background who disappeared from the scene shortly after??
3RD Yvonne Murray 8.29 smashed her pb and in my opinion cheated out of an Olympic Gold.

Tommy went on, “this was a fantastic example of what could be done with a talented athlete with the requisite support in place and done in Scotland without the use of performance enhancing drugs.”
However ever the perfectionist Tommy noted after a study of the video of the race that the habit of looking round at 200m was still there, work to be done in the learning process perhaps an extract from a lecture in 2005 gives us a short insight into the 1989 season.   Tommy says:  
I had to teach Yvonne to believe in herself and learn to be ruthless in the pursuit to WIN.
The ultimate challenge for any coach is standing tall with your athlete in adversity and I had been taught this all my life at home, in sport and at work, now was the time to find out how much I had learned and if I could help Tom return from disaster.   I knew how good Tom was and firmly believed he could do much better and win titles and subsequently spent a great deal of time convincing the sponsors to stay with him which they did !

1989 for both athletes the winter consisted of consolidation of the training regime which we had implemented.
• Increasing load – reducing recovery/increasing intensity
• Improving every aspect of technique – circuits/weights/running
• Construction of a competition programme which would ensure the athletes had the opportunity to learn from previous mistakes and learn to win at championships.
• Lifestyle balance was again improved with every aspect scrutinised and corrective actions implemented
The plan for Yvonne had two major objectives – teaching her to change pace of speed and sending mis-information to her rivals, I discussed with her how to beat female drug athletes, what will frighten them – she replied no female enjoys going from way out in a 3k -THE AHA moment.  

The plan with Tom was straight forward: just convince him how good he was and train harder than ever before and race harder to build his confidence especially against the Kenyans

During the complete season I spent three weeks on the European circuit with Tom and Yvonne learning how they coped with the situations and each other this was to prove a very valuable experience in preparing for the Commonwealth Games Europeans indoors and European outdoors in 1990 – result was an extremely successful competition season with many fine performances
Tommy was quoted as saying ‘these were two of the best years I spent with Tom and Yvonne.  All the hard work was paying off we were a great team at that point it was one of those magical parts on all of our journeys through life’ 

 The highlights Tommy remembers being for Tom – 
• Increase in exposure to Grand Prix Competition with very fast first laps.
• Taking on the best in the world week after week.
• Front running the Scottish Championships and new Native Record 1:44.79 at Crown Point.
• Chasing and beating Paul Ereng (Olympic Champion) unbeaten over 20 races in one of the best races of his career (1:43.9 – Scottish National Record at Crystal Palace)
• Winning the Grand Prix Final
• Finishing Top world rank at 800m in the world.

Highlights Tommy remembers for Yvonne were
• Grand Prix Final Kick at 200m (Gold) – 9:02.59 3k
• World Cup Final Kick at 800 (Gold) – 8:44.34 3k
• First British Winner of Women’s Track Event at World Cup Final.
• Ranked no 3 in the world at 3000m
• Critically no one knew where Yvonne would kick from in a competition.

Tommy remembers remarking to Glen Henderson in their annual review, “Glen I feel we are on the cusp of big things with these two athletes” little knowing that Glen was under sever financial pressure because he had invested so much in building a speed skating arena in Prestwick and their sponsorship would soon end.   Coach Tommy was right.   1990 proved to be a fantastic year for the athletes and the team.    He reflects that it was “the culmination of years of hard graft by everyone involved the strategic planning, the massive research, focusing on mastery coaching versus short term win at all costs, yes it was tough especially with a load of critics in Scotland.   We were all still learning what this level was all about 1990 posed numerous challenges perhaps best explained in a lecture link?” 

1990 – Phase IV – Winning at World Class Level
The objective was to develop a double periodised competition plan aimed at preparing an athlete to compete in the Commonwealth Games in Auckland, New Zealand in January followed by European indoors Glasgow for Tom with a second competition phase aimed at winning the European 800 and 3000 in Split Yugoslavia in August. The challenges were immense, and included: –
• Further refinement of all training loads;
• Meticulous planning of double periodised year;
• Travel – accommodation – medical – physio – communication;
• Pre-Games training camp in Australia then travel to Auckland
• Coach support in Auckland – T Boyle/S Hogg;
• Competition opportunity limited 1 Comp each – Result Silver for Tom in relay and silver for Yvonne in the 3000
• Tom transition back to indoors prepare to win Europeans in Glasgow which he won!
• Yvonne transition back into volume training in Scotland.

The main Competition phase was the European Champs.   Preparation consisted of :-
• Meticulous planning of load intensity;
• Thorough evaluation of competition;
• Competition season designed to create picture in opposition mind;
• Final preparation – in warm up area –
• Convincing Tom to run from the front to win
• Reassuring Yvonne that she could out kick the drug athletes by going from long way out
• And as it transpired staying focused in warm up knowing Tom McKean had just won Gold!
• Result both Scots won Gold a massive result for everyone involved.    

Coach Tommy was now in big demand he remembers requests to lecture all over the globe, numerous athletes requesting to join the squad, However as Tommy says I had proved to myself, I could coach athletes in different events to become the very best they could be , the strategy had been proven and training methodology tested to its max, I was not a massive EGO guy ,and was more interested in coaching Tom and Yvonne in the final stages of their athletics journey and leveraging off these results to help the local athletes ,club and hopefully to better promote the development of athletics in Motherwell and North Lanarkshire and I did just that over the next few years .
Securing sponsorship from Smith Clyne Beecham –(for Lucozade product for the athletes and the club ) we used this to provide every child with a can of Lucozade in every schools cross country and Tom and Yvonne would be there to present awards these events were massive and grew until we had 90 % of primary and secondary schools competing with thousands of young people introduced to the sport Tommy said I found the success we had achieved opened doors and I was determined to leverage the opportunity to its max .
I always did one lecture at the start of each year just to sharpen my thoughts and refresh ideas therefore I agreed to do the European Coaches Congress in Finland ,not knowing that Frank would ask me to do two lectures -wow that was a challenge with loads of interpreters over 150 delegates from across the globe ,it went down well and I received the coach of the coaches award -it was nice to be recognised by your peers .
I remember after I had finished my second lecture, which was emphasising the scientific approach with pulse monitors, lactate analysis and stuff like that, Gordon Surtees, a great friend, came on and opened with the statement, ”I have never used a pulse monitor or lactate analysis in my life.” A MAGIC MOMENT FOR COACHES AND LESSONS THAT EVERY ATHLETE IS A PROJECT AND THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO ACHIEVE THE SAME END GOAL !

Tommy still had unfinished business supporting Tom and Yvonne. Glen Henderson had business challenges and had to withdraw his sponsorship Coach Tommy and Jessie Hill Tommy’s PA (who was now looking after most of the athlete’s administration issues) went into overdrive to recover the situation, digging deep into their business experience they secured a sponsorship with Giltron Office Supplies for Tommy and with Scottish Equitable for Yvonne.

Puma also pulled the plug on Tom’s contract as Derek Ibbotson was replaced as Marketing Director.  Once again we were proactive and negotiated a contract with New Balance for both Tom and Yvonne I think the headline poster was “The New Balance of Power “with a picture of Tom and Yvonne winning the Europeans .Many people have asked why we kept things so tight as a team ,indeed why we provided so much support for the athletes , Perhaps  Sir Bill Gammell defined Tommy more accurately than most when he said “Tommy is one of the few people who have real vision, can see the big picture, but also has that unique ability to be able to translate vision into a strategy and then implement practical solutions to big challenges .”

Tommy reflects, “I had loads of critical comments regarding the way I coached, the way I managed the athletes, the way we trained, indeed just about everything we did, however that is what happens in a small nation when you become successful load of “experts” keen to knock you down!

Fortunately, I had been brought up the hard way, family of 11 children, no money, we learned the true meaning of G.R.I.T. very early as had Tom and Yvonne.”

Tommy added “history has proven we were ahead of our time recognising that to succeed at world level athletes would require to become professional and be supported in a professional manner, as is now the case in most sports I guess we were trail blazers in our approach “

Tommy moved to Livingston with Honeywell Computers into a very demanding production management position, so his time was now being stretched even more, Business demands increasing

Coaching and managing world class athletes who depended on athletics to earn their living, supporting the development of local athletics made it inevitable that something had to give and Tommy ended up in hospital –  a sharp warning .However he had already moved to what he calls the reflective stage in coaching athletes, that is where you listen to the athletes and just reflect back on what they say and think, maybe adding a wee bit advice on the way, indeed Tom and Yvonne and the athletics squad were actually out in Portugal on warm weather training when he landed in hospital so the final stage of the  process had begun .

1991 was World Championships year and Yvonne was asked what she wanted to do.   She said she’d like to try altitude training; so Tommy did his usual in depth research and preparation, Myra contacted Tim Noakes, Yvonne contacted Margaret Strang, mother of Internationalist  David who was part of the 4 x 400 silver medal team in Auckland,  1990.   Tommy planned his holidays so that he could go out to Johannesburg for three weeks with his son Mark  to support Yvonne.   Then it was down to sea level for a few weeks.   Physiological testing was coordinated by Myra and Tim Noakes .

Tommy remembers “I was shocked when I met Yvonne at the track in Stellenbosch – she was very emotional, I knew something was not right -too much work on her own – however we pulled it together did some great work and then Yvonne went back to altitude for the second phase.

Did it work?  Tommy says they learned loads however, with hindsight world championships year was not the time to experiment, – “hindsight is a fantastic thing!” he says, before looking at what was ahead..

1991 The main competition season for Yvonne:

  • Major mistake in Europa Cup, Frankfurt when we decided to experiment with Yvonne going after one lap. She went too fast on that first two laps and really suffered.  Therefore, it was an experiment which backfired in the HEAT! Tommy was now increasingly aware of the challenges for Yvonne running in high heat and humidity her body did not handle it well and she did not perform to her capability despite loads of preparation .he remembers long discussions with Myra and loads of research mainly into the knowledge gained by the army, they concluded that to see real adaptation Yvonne would need to be in heat and humidity for around six months ,just not an option we had to make the best of it and perhaps be more selective however the worlds were in Tokyo and Olympics in Barcelona both hot and humid ???? 
  • Quickly back on course with good victory at Meadowbank in 8:36.05;Tommy remembers that one well “What a competition that was against Liz .   I had told Yvonne to give Liz utmost respect and run inside her vest, which she took literally and as she had poor spatial judgement due to an impairment in her left eye she bumped into Liz repeatedly.  it was a brilliant run by Yvonne, however when they finished Liz gave me an awful glare ,when in reality I was paying her the highest respect a coach can give an athlete .
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGuzEhCgDi0
  • The Worlds was always going to be tough on the back of beating the Russian in 1990 we prepared Yvonne as best we possibly could, used a treadmill in a local authority greenhouse in East Lothian to try to help acclimatise to the heat and humidity
  • The race went well but I could see Yvonne was over heating and she knew it, she went a wee bit early given how she felt and could not go with the pace of the two Russians, one of whom would later be found positive for drugs.

As for Tom in 1991:

  • Fourth European Cup Win
  • Major wins in Europe on the circuit
  • Worlds made a Minor mistake, in what was a brutal qualification first time we had experienced it one person through in each heat Tom misjudged his run on the home straight against 400m specialist Mark Everett, yes it was a long journey home.

A year later and in 1992  the Boyle camp was focused on the Olympics in Barcelona


  • The year was focused at preparation for the Olympics
  • Main competition season went well – most objectives achieved
  • Major issue was trying to overcome the acclimatisation to heat
  • Result Olympics – did not perform to capability in the conditions.
  • With hindsight Yvonne once again did not compete well in high heat and high humidity. we must accept and move on to other challenges.


  • Tommy remembers that yet again he had to dig deep use every ounce of coaching experience to support Tom in rebuilding his confidence after 1991 however Tommy sensed the athlete was not totally focused or confident in his own ability, once again we got Tom into fantastic shape.
  • Tom had Major wins in Grand Prix circuit that year.
  • Tom then qualified for Olympics however Tommy remembers well that in the warm up area he asked me to take a picture on his new camera, his priorities had shifted, and Coach Tommy knew it!
  • Tom ran poor race tactically -no excuses he did not perform well and Tommy new it was getting near the end of their relationship.

Tommy reflects,  “I knew we were reaching the final stage of the coaching journey with Tom, however I decided to give it one more effort with Tom and go for the world indoors in 1993, Coach Tommy did his usual thorough in depth research and decided to really put the ball in the athletes court, he called Meg Ritchie -Yes discus Olympian now strength and conditioning coach in the US and a good friend of Stuart Hogg .”

What a decision this was for Tommy.  He sent his athletes out to Meg in Tucson Arizona 5000 feet above sea level.

Tommy had done all the spade work, everything was set up Meg was astounded at the level of performance of both athletes.   She called Tommy just before Tom was about to leave for the world indoors and told him that Yvonne wanted a word.  Yvonne announced that she wanted to run the world indoors: this was totally unplanned –  a big WOW moment for Tommy!

Meg explained that the positive environment with massive football guys in the gym giving it the big positive vibes to Yvonne every day had a massive impact.  Yes, it was a tough decision but that this was the reflective stage of the coaching journey.   Tommy knew he had to let the athletes take ownership and they did both now going into the world indoors full of the positive vibes and in excellent condition Tom having just run a pb over 600m of 73.4 sec –

Coach Boyle was now in uncharted territory and he was once more doing what few other coaches are brave enough to do, give the athletes total control and learning to live with the consequences they would require in their future lives.

Tommy remembers that many people thought he smothered the athletes, however as we are seeing now this was a long way from the reality.   He says “my coaching philosophy was all about producing Better Athletes and Better People and preparing them for the next stage in their journey through life – not sure the athletes understood or ever appreciated that and how hard that is to do -when you have to stand back and let them  learn from making  mistakes and learn life lessons from that process .”   

Tommy went on to discusss a great believer in Mastery Coaching which is Developing the Athlete and the Person,   Physiologically -Psychologically – Socially


WORLD INDOORS 1993.   800m Result:  Tom McKean   Gold   1.47.29


At this point it might be said that Tommy had been very shrewd in the way he supported Tom knowing as he did that the end of their very successful partnership was looming.   

Coach Boyle had taken a massive calculated risk in adapting his approach to majors for both athletes Tommy refers to learning from Gestalt – which he had successfully utilised in business, basically you cause a bit of disruption and humans have a fantastic way of reorganising and re-establishing order and these athletes certainly did quotes Tommy.   However he was painfully aware you cannot use very often !

 WORLD INDOORS 1993 Result Yvonne Murray Gold 8.50.55

Tommy saw less of Tom upon his return.  He says of that time “Toms head was in another place.   He was spending more time with pals on the golf course, listening to their advice.   Then one day he came up to me at the track, when I was surrounded by a group of young athletes and announced he was moving on.   I was very disappointed, not by the fact which I knew was inevitable but by the manner in which he did it – yes I was not impressed ,

Unfortunately for Tom, he like many sports people who try to change the successful recipe, find it is not that simple and Tom’s performances were never the same  again and he retired from the sport in my opinion far too early as he was actually a late developer who had never missed a major competition through injury it was also at that time that a chasm appeared in UK Middle distance as the stars gradually retired

Tommy says he was very proud of the fantastic journey they had had together.   “We travelled a long and successful journey a club coach from Bellshill YMCA and a young boy  from a deprived background in Viewpark to the  heady heights of world class competition and inspiring thousands of young Scots on the way.”   Tommy remembers one old worthy from his home village of Newarthill saying ,”Tommy you did a fantastic job, McKean was a magnificent athlete and Scotland loved watching him on telly because you never knew what he would do, but it was always exciting.  Aye well done the wee lad from 15th Motherwell BB

17.  Reality is Tommy and Tom had one of the most successful coach /athlete partnerships ever in Scotland from boy to man and spanning 16 years as we can see from this chart which details selected highlights of the journey.




Year / Date PB Event Psn Time
  200 800
Phase IV   29 ‘93     World Indoor Gold 1st 1:47.29
  28 ‘92     GP Final                    (Bronze) 3rd 1:46.06
        1:44.39 Cologne GP 3rd 1:44.39
  27 ‘91   1:44.20 Malmo GP 2nd 1:44.20
          Stockholm GP 1st 1:44.41
          Europa Cup                    (Gold) 1st 1:45.60
  26 ‘90   1:44.76 European Champs        (Gold) 1st 1:44.76
  Example of a Competition Year 14/9/90     Sheffield 1st 1:46.50
  9/9/90     Rietie 2nd  
  29/8/90   Peak Split 1st 1:44.70
  17/8/05     Gateshead 1st 1:45.50
  7/8/05     Malmo 1st 1:45.30
  4/8/90   1:44.44 AAAs – Trials 2nd 1:44.44
  20/7/90     Crystal Palace 4th 1:45.15
  12/7/90     Lausanne 1st 1:45.67
  6/7/90     Edinburgh 1st 1:44.96
  2/7/90     Stockholm 2nd 1:45.75
  29/6/90     GB v GDR v Canada 1st 1:46.98
  1/90     C Games Auckland    
  2/90     UK    
  2/90     AAAs Birmingham 1st 1:46.90
  3/90     European Indoor Champ                                                (Gold) 1st 1:46.22
  25 ‘89     World Cup (Kiproketch) (Gold) 1st 1:44.95
          Zurich Champs 5th 1:44.20
    Scottish Native   Crown Point                  (Gold) 1st 1:44.79
    Scot. Nat. Record 1:43.88 London GP – “Erang” 1st 1:43.88
          European Cup              (Gold) 1st 1:46.94
Phase III   24 ‘88     Olympic Games H2 Disq. Personal Issues
          GP Final 1st 1:47.60
          1st 800 IAAF Ranking    
  23 ‘87   1:44.45 World Champ Final 8th Media Expectation
          Europa Cup                  (Gold) 1st 1:45.96
          Luagana GP – “Konchela” 1st 1:44.45
  22 ‘86   1:44.61 European Champ       (Silver) 2nd 1:44.61
        1:44.80 Commonwealth         (Silver) 2nd 1:44.80
  21 ‘85 21.60 1:46.05 Budapest GP 2nd 1:46.05
          Europa Cup                  (Gold) 1st 1:49.11
          UK Champs                  (Gold) 1st 1:49.12
Phase II   20 ‘84 22.38 1:48.04 Scot Cat. 1st Scottish International
  19 ‘83 22.40 1:49.80 Scottish Champs 2nd 1:49.18
          Injured – shins    
  18 ‘82 22.80 1:49.30 Scottish Champs 400 1st 1:49.30
          8 Nations 1st Exposure
  17 ‘81 22.90 1:52.60 W. Dist. 800 1st  
          Scottish Junior 400 1st  
Phase I   16 ‘80 23.50 1:54.10 British School 800 1st  
          W. Dist. 200 1st  
  15 ‘79 24.00 1:59.70 British School Cross Country 16th  
  14 ‘78 24.50 2:08.00 Scottish School Cross Country 4th  
  13 ‘77 25.70 School and Club Competition    

Coach Tommy Boyle still had unfinished business in supporting Yvonne Murray, through the rebuilding process into her 1993 season, Tommy was already planning for the next phase, fully aware of the changing landscape in the 3000 metres event, the increasing numbers of athletes being found positive for drugs, and the reality that all training takes its toll on the Physical and Mental wellbeing of an athlete .What was his thinking on this . Tommy reflects I spoke to Dave and Myra ,we agreed it was, see this season through then move towards the 10K for the Commonwealth Games in  Canada 1994,then shift to road running as we knew Yvonne had biomechanical issues which would prevent her from continuing on the track .Tommy was also aware of his responsibility to tackle the issue of de-training with an endurance athlete like Yvonne a conversation he did not look forward to, knowing how emotional Yvonne was about her running career.

Tommy discussed the plan for 1993 and 1994 with Yvonne and she committed 100% to the shift in emphasis with the result her confidence grew every week in training and Coach Tommy guided her through a very successful  season, with the introduction of road racing at Aberdeen, where she finished second.

1993 “Great when a plan comes together”

8:41.59 GP Final 2nd
5.36.03 Sheffield GP 1st


Brussels GP 2nd
8:33.62 London GP 1st
8:30.70 Oslo GP 2nd
4.17.15 Europa Cup (Bronze) 3rd
15.20.01 5K Road Aberdeen 2nd
8:50.55 World Indoor Toronto (Gold) 1st

 Tommy was proven to be right once again in his evaluation that Yvonne should move up ,a fact confirmed by the Grand Prix final .”one of the few clean races Yvonne competed in with three clean athletes taking the podium positions for the first time in many years.   Tommy now reveals he made a concerted effort in the full and certain knowledge that 1994 would be the final track season he was determined to pull out all the stops and try to ensure that it would be one of her best and one she would remember for the rest of her life.   “I know Yvonne never really realised  the depth of thought I put into this apart of her career, however that is the role of a good coach .”

3000 metres  Sonia O’Sullivan (IRL) 8:38.12  Yvonne Murray (GBR) 8:41.99  Alison Wyeth (GBR) 8:47.9

Once again Tommy utilised his still growing knowledge and experience to develop a strategy and detailed planning for season 1994.   Significant changes were made to Yvonne’s training, starting with longer OBLA runs. her husband Tom would take Yvonne out to Kirk of Shotts on the old A8, we had decided to utilise the prevailing westerly wind for her five and six mile efforts, Tom had massive patience and needed it as motorists would peep their horns as he drove behind Yvonne, protecting her from potential hazards, what a fantastic job he did in that season which was all part of Coach Tommy’s strategy of handing over responsibility to the athlete –  the final stage in any coaching journey .

It is a legacy to Tommy’s coaching how well he managed that change in direction and change in ownership resulting in a fantastic competition season where Yvonne ran within .5 sec of her 3k pb and broke the Scottish National Record for the 2k at Meadowbank .   The big objective however was the Commonwealth Games and Tommy remembers in the planning phase I realised that the qualifying criteria would be a major issue given, time and lack of opportunities, so I met with the late George Duncan, Team Manager, and shared my concerns.  He asked me straight “Tommy if I back the decision to pre select Yvonne, can you promise me she will be ready on time to win a medal” .   I replied “George unless she falls into a drainer she will win a medal”   It was not a high risk as I knew how well she was performing in training.   One of the best seasons I had in coaching an athlete to truly be “the very best they could be”  

Example of a Competition Year 11/9/04   8:56.81   Crystal Palace World Cup 3000m (Gold) 1st
4/9/04     5:38.0 Sheffield GP 2000m                                     2nd
24/8/04     31:56.97 Victoria Commonwealth 10k               (Gold) 1st
10/8/04   8:36.48   Helsinki 3000m – Euro. Champs       (Silver) 2nd
22/7/04     4:22.64 Oslo – Bislett 1 mile                                     2nd
20/7/04 4:04.18     Gateshead 1500m (Front Run)                    1st
15/7/04   8:29.6   Crystal Palace 3000m (0.5 off PB) 2nd
8/7/04     5:26.93 Meadowbank Inv. 2000m (Scottish Nat Record) 2nd
12/6/04 4:01.44     AAA 1500m                                       (Silver) 2nd
22/5/04     15:23 Aberdeen S/CD R/Race 2nd

 Tommy reflects,I decided not to go to the games -yes, a big decision, however a key part of the strategy of handing over the responsibility to the athlete and one which I was later to learn Yvonne was not comfortable with, indeed it was to end our successful partnership.   Yvonne ran a fantastic race: she kept the head,  waited and waited until it was her magic moment.”

Commonwealth Gold 1994

Tommy, was now managing all of production at the computer plant Livingston. They had been taken over by Packard Bell and moved into producing workstations for the inland revenue and then building desk top computers. The work force was growing, margins were eroding, pressure was increasing.  Tommy was working longer hours traveling to Livingston along an ever busier M8.  On the athletics front he had fortunately advised Yvonne to move to road which meant she should no longer require all of the intense coaching he had previously provided.  This did not sit well with Yvonne, a reaction that would maybe be expected from any athlete, Tommy says “I knew that, however painful, it was the correct thing to do.”    He gradually re-aligned to this mode of coaching, until 1998 when Yvonne decided to move on to pastures new:  Tommy’s only regret was that, like many sports stars, Yvonne did not appear to be able to move on to the next stage of her life in her mind!!    This was indeed the case with very many international sports stars whose whole life has been focused on the sport and Debbie Brill in Canada was one of the pioneers in a movement aimed at re-educating retired or about to retire international athletes.  When asked Tommy says, “I had a fantastic experience coaching Yvonne, introducing her to a professional approach to coaching and training, watching her mature into a very successful world class athlete who on her day could compete with the best in the world -which is all any coach can really do!”

Summary of Yvonne’s Achievements

Bronze Medal 1985 European Indoor Championships
Silver Medal 1986 European Indoor Championships
Bronze Medal 1986 Commonwealth Games at Edinburgh
Gold Medal 1987 European Indoor Championships
Bronze Medal 1988 Olympic Games at Seoul
Gold Medal 1989 World Cup at Barcelona
Silver Medal 1990 Commonwealth Games at Auckland
Gold Medal 1990 European Championships at Split
Gold Medal 1993 World Indoor Championships at Toronto
Silver Medal 1994 European Championships at Helsinki
Gold Medal 1994 Commonwealth Games at Victoria
Gold Medal 1994 World Cup at Crystal Palace

– Ranked Number Two in the World in 1994 for the Mile, 2000m and 3000m
– First British Female to win a Gold Medal in the World Indoor Championships
– First British Female to win an individual track Gold Medal in the World Cup
– First British Female athlete in 21 years to win a European Championship Gold Medal in a track event
– The Honour of MBE was bestowed upon Yvonne at Buckingham Palace on 12th March (New Year Honours List 1991)

In an interview with ‘The Scotsman’ what his proudest moments as a coach were, he named four of which “Probably the first one was Yvonne winning a bronze in Seoul (at the 1988 Olympic Games] after only coaching her for a year. That was tremendous.”    When we looked at the development of Tom McKean and the initial work done with Yvonne, the evidence of Tommy’s scientific approach was easy to see.   What we note from the development of Yvonne – already a very good athlete when she asked him to coach her – is the ‘coaching as an art’ side of things.   If you read Yvonne’s own profile    you will see some evidence that she learned more about racing tactics  with him.   

One of Tommy’s lesser known but equally good athletes was Peter Meechan from Newmains, Lanarkshire, who was a Special Olympics athlete who specialised in the pentathlon and the more explosive field events.   Over the period between 1982 and 1993 he competed three times for Great Britain and 17 times for Scotland.   In the course of that period he won 14 gold medals, 5 silver and 1 bronze, including gold at the Special Olympics.   Peter was one of Yvonne Murray’s training partners.   He was at times very direct in his comments and  at one point said to Tom, “you need to toughen up against the Kenyans“, this was during the time when the team were prepping him with 1000 metre runs for the head to head with Paul Ereng at Crystal Palace (see further up this page) which was one of Tom’s greatest performances.

Tommy Boyle was a very busy man now, however, he still had a burning desire to put something back into the local community and especially athletics.  Throughout the 90s he continued to support, indeed coach, young athletes and convinced Motherwell District Council to invest in an athletics development project, involving the appointment of an athletics development officer.  Tommy was quoted in the local press as saying  “we must move into the 21st century. Society cannot expect volunteers to run sport it should be the responsibility of the community to recognise the importance of sport in developing the Health and Wellbeing of all young people”.   The package was valued at over £50 k per annum.  Always a visionary, Tommy also recognised that if athletics were to survive in tomorrow’s society, it would require to address the issue of inactivity back in the communities rather than just at centralised sports facilities.   
Perhaps we get an insight into his thinking in the vision he had about the way society would go in the name of the project he pioneered in an attempt to get political focus on the declining fitness of young people, especially in deprived areas where drugs were becoming an easy alternative to activity. Tommy managed to leverage off the high profile of himself and his athletes and succeeded in securing funding from Team Sport Scotland, Scotland Against Drugs and dozens of local companies to launch COMMUNITY ATHLETICS 2000.   This involved establishing satellite athletics clubs in local schools and community centres and training local people to become self sufficient
He says, “I remember we had a big inter club competition in Kelvin Hall, one of the local bus companies provided free transport for all and John Anderson agreed to compere the event. It was awesome; we set up 16 clubs.  The concept was miles ahead of its time however politics intervened. The politicians were so busy in-fighting regarding the establishment of North Lanarkshire with all its political factions and the project became a victim. One high profile councillor later commented –“Yes Tommy, way ahead of its time – however we would all give an arm and a leg if we could establish these clubs in to combat the decline in fitness in todays communities and the price we will all have to pay for the NHS”.   

Tommy remembers many fine athletes who came through the athletics development project in the 90s, and says:  “We had established a great team of coaches supported by many fine PE teachers we paid to run Saturday morning coaching clinics, where typically three hundred young athletes in loads of events would be coached.   I was extremely fortunate to help hundreds of young athletes on their journey and has detailed one sample of the class of 1997 medallist in Motherwell Athletics Club

Life was quite hectic for Tommy: he now had a young family, he was traveling to Livingston daily where he had been promoted to Director of Operations in Packard Bell with up to 500 staff which was running 24-7 at peak season.  His days became increasingly long, and it was time to pull back from athletics and focus on family and business.   This he did, coaching only a few athletes when he had the time and motivation.   However his priorities, not to say his passion, was now running a business and raising the family!

Fate intervened once more Tommy was asked to take on a young athlete – Susan Scott.

Susan Scott (26th September, 1977)  was a considerably good runner who was originally trained by John Montgomery before she came under Tommy’s wing.   For the bare facts, her Wikipedia entry reads as follows: 

“Susan Scott (born 26 September 1977) is a Scottish track and field athlete who competed for Great Britain at the 2008 Olympic Games in the 1500 metres. She also finished fourth in the 800 metres final at the Commonwealth Games in 2002 and 2006.   Scott was born in Irvine, North Ayrshire, Scotland. Representing Scotland, she finished fourth in the 800 metres final at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester 2002, and Melbourne 2006.   In both finals, she broke the Scottish record. In running 1:59.30 in the 2002 final, she improved her best by over a second and broke the longest standing Scottish track record to become the first Scots woman to run under two minutes. The previous record of 2:00.15 by Rosemary Stirling, had stood for 30 years. Scott improved on this in the 2006 final with 1:59.02, which stood as the Scottish record until 2014, when Lynsey Sharp ran 1:58.80. As of 2015, Scott ranks 11th on the UK all-time list. Her 1500 metres best of 4:07.00, was set in June 2008. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, she was eliminated in the heats of the 1500 metres.”   

Tommy agreed to coach Susan on the clear understanding that it would be within the constraints of his time.   However, Tommy now had perfected a tried and tested methodology Myra agreed to help in her spare time again no stone was left unturned in the pursuit of excellence however by this time we had an institute of sport and that solved a few issues for Tommy.    He says perhaps it is best to read the 2005 lecture on Susan but once again proved just how good a coach he was in taking a 2.08 athlete to such heady performances.   Tommy added: “I was very fortunate to have the support of my old pal, Frank McMahon, who was Susan’s Minder whilst she did weights in Local Authority Gyms.   Frank, pictured below with Susan, called a spade a shovel – just what she needed to bring her out of her very deep shell.   Frank was also great support when he came out to Melbourne with us for the Commonwealth Games in 2006.   

A measure of the preparation Tommy did for Melbourne was contacting the head coach at Bendigo athletics Club, Peter Barratt.   He did not believe Tommy would trust him with his top athlete.   However he arranged everything for Susan including the critical training partners and supported her in a very successful series of three races which she won before the Games.   She is pictured below with the Bendigo training team and some club members .

detailed below the key performances of Scott when Tommy coached her.

Age Year / Date PB 800 Major Event Psn Time
Phase IV 32 2010 C Comm. Games/European Champs
31 2009 World Champs
30 2008 Olympic Games
29 2007 World Champs
28 2006 Comm. Games/European Champs
27 2005
Example of a Competition Year 21/8/05 Norwich Union Super GP 2nd 2:03.77
14/8/05 Scottish Champs (Gold) 1st 2:02.85
7/8/05 2:01.17 IAAF World Champs (Season Best) 8th 2:01.17
22/7/05 Norwich Union Super GP 3rd 2:02.06
10/7/05 AAA Champs & Trials (World & Comm)
(Gold) 1st 2:02.97
27/6/05 Josef Odlozil Memorial GPII (1500m) 2nd 4:14.84
12/6/05 Lille GP (1500m) 6th 4:09.10
Phase III 26 2004
Example of a Competition Year 15/8/04 Scottish Champs (Gold) 1st 2:02.85
14/8/04 Scottish Champs (Gold) 1st 4:17.0
30/7/04 2:00.71 Crystal Palace GP 4th 2:00.71
24/7/04 GB Match 6th 2:03.00
17/7/04 BMC 1st 2:01.70
14/7/04 Lahiti Games 1st 2:01.46
11/7/04 AAAs (Bronze) 3rd 2:02.13
27/6/04 Gateshead GP 6th 2:01.40
19/6/04 Euro. Cup (Bronze) 3rd 2:01.35
12/6/04 BMC 1st 2:00.77
2/6/04 Open Graded 2:01.87 mx
22/5/04 BMC 2nd 4:10.56
25 2003
Example of a Competition Year 1/8/03 North Down Games (Silver) 2nd 2:03.9
26/7/03 AAAs (Silver) 2nd 2:04.13
29/6/03 GB v. USA v. Russia 6th 2:03.16
21/6/03 Euro. Cup 6th 2:04.28
12/6/03 Ostrava GP 5th 2:01.85
1/6/03 2:01.08 Hengelo GP 2nd 2:01.08
GB Int. 5th 2:03
Scottish (Gold) 1st 2:02
24 2002 1:59.30 Commonwealth Games Scot. Nat. Record 4th 1:59.30
AAAs (Gold) 1st 2:03.84
23 2001 Scottish (Gold) 1st 2:06
European U23 Champs (1500m) (heat)
Phase II 22 1999 AAAs U23 (1500m) (Gold) 1st
20 1998 Scottish Champs 800m (Gold) 1st
19 1996 Scottish Champs (1500m) 3rd John Montgomery
Scottish Schools CC 2nd
Scottish CC Champs (Gold) 1st
British Schools Indoors (Gold) 1st
Phase I 15 1992 Scottish 800m Champ U15 (Gold) 1st Graham Greenham
14 1991 British Schools CC West District Champ
13 1990 Scottish CC Champ (Gold) 1st Glen Harrow
11 1988 Scottish CC Champ (Gold) 1st

Domestically Susan won the 800m 5 times and the 1500m twice (one indoors) in Scotland, and at GB level she won the 800m twice and the 1500m once (indoors) for eight GB medals in total including one at 3000m. These were between 1998 and 2009.

In the ‘Scotsman’ interview mentioned above, Tommy mentioned as one of his proudest moments “Susan Scott breaking the Scottish record at two successive Commonwealth Games – first in 2002 in Manchester and then in 2006 in Melbourne.”   His pride is  entirely justified in that the first time she broke the national 800m record, it was one that had been in existence for all of 30 years and had withstood attacks by such big talents as Ann Purvis, Margaret Coomber, Christine and Evelyn McMeekin, Lynne McDougall and others.   The fact that she then retained the record until 2014 is another testament to the value of the time.

Word of Tommy’s coaching and the performances turned in by Tom had got around: this fact was highlighted in a story of an incident that took place in Portugal Tom was doing three .x  a minute intervals 3-3-3 minutes  They noticed a guy watching from the bushes.   The guy was Steve Ovett .   So they spoke to him and subsequently they had a few long chats.   Steve’s perception was that they didn’t do long reps. He was astounded    He also loved the set approach.   He also said Tom should race more ( a common misconception in Britain at the time) When Tommy asked how many T0m had done last year, he said seven, it was 15 – all world class, televised for sponsorship.   Again he is reported to have said, “wow how wrong can you be?” and praised the Scots’ business led approach which allowed us a freedom to do what we wanted not what an agent wanted.

But just as others wanted to pick up information from Tommy, so he was always learning himself.   Tommy was a supporter of the British Milers Club and he has this to say of the club:

“In my early coaching days, I was an observer of the BMC strategy being shaped by Frank  Horwill and his band of knowledgeable fellow coaches around the country.   Over the years as I learned more and observed the massive benefits which it provided to young middle distance athletes and their coaches.   

Clearly a model of delivery which was simple slick and effective ,one where athletes were centre of the focus, just get on with providing graded races providing opportunities for all of the athletes to improve on their personal best – exactly what every young person wants from the sport .

I was often asked why we did not use them with Tom, really quite simple he was a fast twitch fibre man and our strategy was to pursue the sprint 400 to 800 route .   I remember John Anderson as national coach saying this is the way ahead for clubs and competitions, sprint and hurdle competitions,  jumps competitions ,throws competitions and of course multi-event competitions

My belief is that this is even more relevant in today’s world where athletes, officials, volunteers and parents do not want to spend all day at league matches half way across the country .   I was privileged to be invited to share my coaching knowledge and experience at BMC events on several occasions, and one night after the formal stuff spent hours in a room with Peter Coe, Wilf Paish, Norman Pool, Gordon Surtees and  a few other legends of coaching it was amazing .

Finally a measure of how much I admire the BMC Competition structure is that this year 2018, my son Christopher returning to competition after two years out through injury had a competition programme which consisted of six BMC competitions where he gained massive experience racing at his own level and from May to August gradually improving his PBs , winning one race – with resultant massive confidence boost: is that not what coaching is all about providing the opportunity for young people to become the very best they can be?

I will never cease to be amazed about how BMC just make it work !”

This profile has not been about Tom McKean, Yvonne Murray, Susan Scott or any other athletes.   It has been about Tommy Boyle, whose Mastercoach certificate is above, his methods and his progress on the world stage.    What have we found out?   

  •  First that he is prepared to work long and hard away from the training venues to evaluate and calculate.
  • Second, he pays great attention to detail.   
  • Third we have found out that he is very honest with the athletes and, more important, with himself.   
  • Fourth, he is prepared at all times to learn what he can to increase his own knowledge and to develop his athletes’ competitive advantage. 

These are not qualities unique to Tommy but where were these qualities to take him next?   

Tommy, the family man (but who’s looking over his shoulder?

“Retirement is fantastic”, says Tommy, “loving the time to spend with my ever-supporting wife Julie who has supported me on every stage of my coaching and business life and without whom I could never have done a fraction of the things I have achieved in sport and in my life.
I now have the time to learn more about my other passion, gardening indeed an old gardener from a local village is teaching me how to grow begonias, maybe even competition ones!
However both of my two sons are now doing athletics:  Christopher competes for Victoria Park in 800m and Adam is no 1 in Scotland for Javelin at his age group .   His coach is Karen Costello and they are mentored by Mike McNeil, who coached Goldie Sayers to the Olympics; Chris has a training partner called Steven Bryce – a young para athlete, who is coached by his dad, Allan, and I.  He did very well in the recent LA Special Olympics ,winning a gold silver and bronze

We started the page with a picture of Tommy with a quite prestigious award and we can finish with another.   Note this communication from June 2010:

Tommy was invited to lunch with the Queen and Prince Philip in Buckingham Palace in recognition of his service to sport and youth.   He says of this that he has received many an award throughout his career but this is one of the two that mean most to him.   The UK coach of the year and “this invitation and discussion with HRH the Queen.   It was an awesome day.”  

But let’s not forget that Tommy Boyle is a coach and a family man – the photographs below show both sides.

Steven Bryce

Adam Boyle, Scottish Schools Athletics – Nat Champs 2017     (C)Bobby Gavin 

Christopher training at Gullane