Clydesdale Harriers Hannah Cup

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Hannah

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

Sam Stevenson

Post 1939-45 War

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

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


Bobby Quinn

Bobby Quinn (left), SAAA Championships 1955

Bobby Quinn was a lifelong member of Victoria Park who was an international class sprinter over all three sprint distances of 100, 220 and 440 yards and very good relay runner in 4 x 110 yards, 4 x 440 yards and medley teams which almost monopolised the Scottish championships.   His contemporaries included Willie Jack, Ronnie Whitelock, Alan Dunbar and his twin brother Harry.   Unlike the others Bobby and Harry continued in the sport as officials long after their running career had finished and officiated at international and national fixtures and championships as well as at Commonwealth Games. 

The Victoria Park website tells us of his early years: 

“Born in Detroit, USA in 1929, Bobby and his twin brother Harry came to Scotland when they were 3 years of age.   Like many of his generation, Bobby started out by doing his national service in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) and was based at Mill Hill Barracks near London. His time served in the army prepared him for a life as a motor mechanic with the Scottish Development Agency.
Bobby and his twin brother Harry were encouraged to join Victoria Park Athletics Club by the great Ian Binnie and trained with the top athletes in the country. He wouldn’t have known then that his association with athletics would last a lifetime.”

Bobby second from the right

In the national championships in June 1951 Bobby qualified for the final o the 100 yards but was unplaced.  His first SAAA medals came in July 1951 when he was part of the 4 x 110 yards relay team that won the national title along with W Jack, R Kennedy and W Christie.   In August, running from 5 yards he was third in the open 120 yards at the Rangers Sports, won by club mate Willie Jack in 11 seconds.

Then in the 100 yards at the national championships in June 1952 he was fifth in the 220 yards won by Willie Jack (Victoria Park).   He followed that with two medals in the SAAA Relay championships at Helenvale Park in July when he was in the winning 4 x 110 team (McDonald, Quinn, Wilson and Whitelock) and ran a 220 yards leg of the Medley Relay team (Sime, Whitelock, Quinn and Mill).     Then in the Rangers Sports on 3rd August, off 3 yards, he was giving his twin brother Harry and yard and a half in the open 100 yards and that was how they finished – Harry won with Bobby runner-up.   The photograph below is of the team that won on 23rd August, 1952, running in the order of McDonald. McLachlan, Quinn and Hamilton.

The following year, in June 1953, in the 100 yards he was fourth behind W Jack (VPAAC) in 10.0, R Whitelock (VPAAC) in 10.1 and A Dunbar (VPAAC) in 10.1.   Four runners from the same club were the first four in the national championships.   Quinn was also fourth in the 220 yards in 22.8 behind Jack, W Henderson (Edinburgh Northern) and Whitelock.  The Quinn brothers won their first medals together on 3rd July, 1953, when they were members of the club 4 x 110 team that won the SAAA championships, and then they ran the two 220 yard stages for the winning medley relay team.  Four medals for the Quinn Twins on the one afternoon.  He followed this excellent weekend with a victory in the invitation 120 yards at Rangers Sports on 1st August off 4 yards from Crawford of Bellahouston.

1954, ’55 and ’56 were undoubtedly his best years and more detail will be given for them.

Although he took part in the 1954 early season club events and inter-club fixtures, the standard in the sprints was very high indeed but the Glasgow Highland Gathering at Scotstoun on 29th May saw him win the invitation 440 yards handicap off a mark of 18 yards in 49.2 seconds.   A week later he raced on the south side of the river at Shawfield Stadium in the Lanarkshire Police Sports where he won the 220 yards from 5 yards in 22.9 seconds.   The next medal was on 19th June in Edinburgh when the Glasgow Herald had this to say:  “R Quinn (Victoria Park) resisted a strong challenge by KA Robertson (Edinburgh University AC) in the last leg of the Scottish 4 x 440 yards relay championship in the Edinburgh Lighting and Cleansing Department Sports at Meadowbank and brought victory to his club.   Quinn passed Robertson in the final straight.   Robertson made a supreme effort and only the judges knew who had broken the tape.”       

With the SAAA Championships on the weekend of 24th June, 1954, Quinn was rounding into form very nicely when he won the 100 yards at the Glasgow Inter-Club race at Westerlands on 15th June in 10.2.  In the June 1954 issue of the Scots Athlete, Emmet Farrell was looking at the SAAA Championships with a view to spotting potential team members and for the sprints he hedged his bets by listing McKenzie (EUAC), Alan Dunbar, Henderson (Watsonians) and R Quinn as contenders.   On the actual day, Henderson won both sprints with Quinn being third in the 100 in 10.5 seconds – the same time as winner and second placed Dunbar!  Three men together on the line in the same time.  He was second in the 220 with Dunbar back in sixth place.  Emmet commented after the championships that “versatile R Quinn in the sprints has been a sheet anchor in in Victoria Park’s great winning relay efforts when his courageous finishing efforts have frequently taken the tape from his opponent’s vest.”

At the end of June 1954 he was fourth fastest in the country with the 10.2 from the Westerlands meeting.   By the end of September, he topped the rankings with that same time his best – and Scotland’s – for the season with Gordon Cain of Edinburgh Northern on 10.3.   Not in the first four in the 220 he was down as ‘notable’ with his time of 22.3 off 3 yards at Ibrox on 7th August.   That time was done in the Rangers Sports where he won the invitation 100 yards from clubmate W Breingan and Donnie McDonald of Garscube Harriers.     On 21st August he was back in Edinburgh again on relay business at the Highland Games but unfortunately the Glasgow team of McDonald, Dunbar, Quinn and Kirk could only finish third behind Birmingham and Manchester in the Inter City Medley Relay, and third again in the  Inter Association Medley Relay behind England and Ireland with a team of Stoddart, Henderson, Quinn and McDonald.   

In the national sprint relays, Harry missed out but  Bobby was in both teams again running the anchor stage for each – the relay leg being the 440 yards.    By the end of 1954 he had been in three gold medal winning relay teams – 4 x 110, 4 x 440 and the Medley Relay.   The club went on to win the 4 x 110 every year until 1959 and then again in 1961; they also won the medley relay every year between 1952 and 1955 inclusive.

On 7th May 1955, in an inter-club with Shettleston Harriers and Heriot’s FP he won the 440 yards in 50.8 seconds and also ran in the winning relay team for the club which won easily.   A month later on 4th June, in the Glasgow Police International Sports at Ibrox Park, Bobby won the 440 yards from the back mark of 1 yard in 22.5 seconds, a performance that the Glasgow Herald described as one of his best.   At the same meeting he was part of the team which won the championship medley relay, the team being Henson, Hamilton, Archibald and Quinn.   Next up was the national 4 x 110 yards relay on 11th June at the SWAAA championships, where Victoria Park teams were first, second and third.   It was now a race a week for him and on 18th June at the Lanarkshire Police meeting at Shawfield, he won the 220 yards in 22.4 seconds from the mark of 1 yard (which is really no mark at all).   

  A week later in the nationals, he was a finalist in the 100 yards but his first individual gold medal came in the 440 yards where he defeated JV Paterson with both men credited with the fine time of 49.6 seconds.  It was such a good race and showed so many of Quinn’s qualities that it is worth reproducing the ‘Scots Athlete’s report in full:

“Three heats were held on Friday evening.   Many enthusiasts considered JV Paterson a certainty, and even more so after the way in which he covered the distance sensibly in 50.2 seconds in his heat.   However, it was to be no easy task for Paterson but the toughest, closest and most exciting event of the championships.   Atr the start it was Quinn off for a very fast 300 yards closely followed by Paterson.   D McDonald who had been runner-up in three previous years, was sluggish on the outside while Sanderson, Steele and Taylor were completely left at this stage.   Round the bend Quinn’s very fast pace early on showed itself and he began slowing.   It was then Paterson began to move away and he entered the straight in the lead.   50 yards to go it looked Paterson but slowly and perceptibly Quinn closed the gap and at the tape, although both dipped, Quinn’s burly chest got there.”

On 2nd July that year the club suffered a rare defeat in the SAAA 4  x  440 yards championship at Westerlands in the Scottish Schools Championships.   The race was won by the Clydesdale Harriers quartet with Shettleston second and Victoria Park back in third.    On July 23rd he was at the Linksfield Stadium for the Aberdeen Corporation Sports where he won the quarter mile: 

“R Quinn (Victoria Park AAC) , the Scottish quarter-mile champion, equalled the ground record of 49.5 sec when he won the 440 yards.   He and JV Paterson ran from scratch in the ‘quarter’ but Paterson was beaten into third place by D Martineau (Aberdeen) who had a handicap of 35 yards.”

Unusually, Bobby did not feature in the prize list at the Rangers Sports at Ibrox but in the other major meeting – the Highland Games at Murrayfield on 20th August – he was in action in no fewer than three races.   In the Invitation 440 yards race against the real ‘big boys’ of quarter miling, he finished third behind Peter Fryer of England and S Steger of Switzerland.   Then it was on to the two medley relays: in the Inter Association race the Scottish team of Gorrie, Robertson, Henderson and Quinn was second behind  England and ahead of Eire, and in the Inter City race Glasgow was second behind Birmingham with a team of McDonald, Robertson, Quinn and Stoddart.   On the first Saturday in September at the Shotts Highland Games,  Victoria Park won the 4 x quarter lap relay but it is not clear whether Bobby was in the team.   The season was pretty well closed by now with only the Dunblane meeting to go but that was avoided by most Victoria Park runners – they had had a good season and Bobby in particular had a lot to remember.

On 5th May, 1956 in an inter club fixture with Clydesdale Harriers and Shettleston Harriers, Ronnir Whitelock won the 100, Dunbar the 220 and Bobby took the 440 yards in 51 seconds before being part of the winning 4 x 440 relay team with McIsaac, Christie and Reilly – McIsaac being another top class sprinter to roll off the VPAAC Production line.   There was also a Quinn in the winning 4 x 110 team but this time it was brother Harry.   The result of the meeting was a victory for Victoria Park (84) points from Clydesdale (36) and Shettleston (26).   In a match at Craiglockhart on 12th May, Bobby was part of the 4 x 440 relay team which won in 3 min 27.4 sec.   There was no Scottish record for the event at the time but it was believed to be the fastest ever run by a club team.  Bobby ran the firsts stage this time then it was Smith, McIsaac and Thomson.   On 9th June, the team could only finish second in the SAAA Medley Relay behind Edinburgh University.    

Quinn and Paterson were again first and second in the national quarter mile championship on 23rd June 1956 but this time there was daylight between them with Quinn timed at 49.8 seconds and Paterson at 50.3.   Bobby also ran in the 220 yards that afternoon where he was unplaced in the final.  

Harry and Bobby were again in the winning 4 x 110 yards relay team on 7th July at New Meadowbank during the Scottish Junior Championship meeting.   The club were second however in the 4 x 440 relay behind Edinburgh University who ran a new best time for the distance of 3 min 26.8.    In the Rangers Sports at Ibrox on 4th August Bobby ran very well in the invitation 440 yards to be third behind TS Farrell and H Kane of the AAA’s but the family honours went to Harry – read this one:

“The feature of the open events was the sprint double of H Quinn (Victoria Park) , twin brother of the Scottish quarter mile champion.   He won the open 100 in 10.0 seconds from four and a half yards, and the furlong in 22.1 from 10 yards.”

It had been a very good three years for Bobby.


On 17th May in a club competition, Bobby ran a fast 440 of 50.9 seconds on the cinders at Scotstoun which indicated that he was back and running well in the new season.   In 1957, his sole medal in the SAAA Championships was a silver in the 220 yards behind W Henderson of Watsonians with 0.2 seconds separating them (22.7 to 22.9).   Two weeks after that  he was a member of a brilliant, even by their own high standards, 4 x 110 yards relay team  of Dunbar, McIsaac, R Quinn and R Whitelock in the SAAA Championships at the Scottish Schools Championships at Westerlands when they won in 43.4 to equal their own 5 year old Scottish record.   Unfortunately they could only finish third in the 4 x 440 relay behind Edinburgh University and Glasgow University.   That was to be the last of the medals for season 1957: Bobby was not in the first three at any distance in the Rangers Sports or the Edinburgh Highland Games meetings where he was not in either of the relay teams.  

We have concentrated on his career individually and as a member  of the club teams but there was more than that.  At a time when there were very few international fixtures, and when there was often only one man per event, Bobby ran for Scotland in two internationals: on 17th July, 1954 at the White City in London when England & Wales took on Scotland & Ireland where he was fifth in the 220 in 22.9 seconds and a member of the 4 x 110 yards team that finished second.   Three years later he competed for Scotland against Ireland at College Park in Dublin where he was second in the 220 yards in 23.2 seconds.

He was clearly a very good runner whether  you measure success by fast times, championship medals or competitive spirit – just look at the photograph at the top of the page of his victory over JV Paterson in 1955 for determination, drive and will to win.   Brother Harry was also a tough competitor and both went on to become top class officials over the next 30 years and more.

Bobby Quinn and Willie Jack

Bobby, Harry and Ronnie Whitelock all stayed in the sport as administrators and officials long after their running careers were over and all served their club and the wider sport in Scotland well.    At club level Bobby served on the committee for many years and was elected on to the SAAA General Committee. He was further elected as West District secretary from 1976 to 1980.     A very capable administrator he was also on several sub-committees and given additional tasks.   For example in 1979 he was not only a member of General Committee and West District secretary, he was also a member of the General Purpose and Finance Committee, Convener of the Selection Committee and Equipment Officer for the West District.   The following year he was also one of the Association’s auditors.   Come the 1986 Commonwealth Games, and there was Bobby again – transport co-ordinator and in charge of training officials and administrators.   You will note that one of the others on his small group was ‘H Quinn’.   To a remarkable degree the twins overlapped as administrators for the SAAA  


At the same meeting, Ronnie Whitelock was one of the timekeepers.   It is always good when an athlete goes on to put something back into the sport and to see three sprinters from the same generation of the same club still putting something back more than 30 years after their medal winning days, is praiseworthy but all too rare.   In the list of officials for 1979, Bobby was listed as a Grade One official for track judge, judge for jumps, for throws and as a marksman (now called a ‘starter’s assistant’); Harry was a Grade Two jumps judge and marksman.   To some extent this reflected their future careers with Harry becoming slightly more of an administrator, while Bobby was much more seen in action as a judge, referee and clerk of the course.   Harry made his debut on the General Committee in 1977 and became SAAA President in 1988/89.   

The programme extract below comes from 1979, May 20th, at Scotstoun Playing Fields, where Bobby was SAAA Representative and Ronnie was a judge.   Both liked to be where the athletes were.   All the time he was on the various committees at club and national level, he was working his way up the officials ranks.    

Bobby added timekeeping to his qualifications and then became a qualified referee for track events.   When I was asked to organise the SAAA Decathlon Championships in 1978, I sought advice on the best men to help organise and Bobby was highly recommended as Arena Manager, a most important post for two days of athletics with some very temperamental athletes.   He was a first class official for that particular job.   He turned up at the few committee meetings held before the event as he would on the day of competition in his blazer and flannels, brisk of manner, every hair on his head in place.   Of course he had a clip board too.   There are many tales of the three decathlon championships I organised but the two ever presents were Bobby and David Morrison as field events referee.       

He was by this time, a much respected official and officiated at events the length and breadth of the land.  Always on the side of the athletes, he was never a soft touch.   There was one decathlon, held in a Games year, where on the first day the national staff coach for decathlon asked if the 100 yards could be run the other way.   It was at Grangemouth where there were starting lines at both ends of the straight and, of course finish lines at both ends of the straight.   The staff coach wanted to give the guys the chance of a good time because selection was at stake, there was a head wind and there were no other decathlons that year for the athletes to get their points.   I asked Bobby who agreed.   Then later in the afternoon, there was a request for the long jump to use ‘the other pit’ so that the wind was behind them and it was a Games year, and …, and …  Bobby agreed to that.   The second day of the decathlon starts with the men’s sprint hurdles.   On arrival I noted that the hurdles had been set out, the starter’s rostrum was in place, and it was all systems go.   Then the staff coach appeared again and asked if we  could run the hurdles ‘the other way’ because …   It meant asking the ground staff to reposition every one of the hurdles right at the start of the day.   Bobby agreed, then took me aside and said a few choice words that it was the last time we accommodated the coach!   He was all for helping the athletes but there had come a point where the demands on the ground stewards and the timetable were becoming excessive.  

Bobby officiated at Commonwealth, national, district, county and club championships; he officiated at sports meetings, highland gatherings and open meetings.   He officiated mainly as a track official (judge, timekeeper, meeting referee) but to every one of these events he brought the same efficiency and professionalism.    He also officiated at club events such as the classic road relay that was the unofficial start of the winter season – the McAndrew Relay.

Still officiating in 1990, he had ceased by 1995 and the page in that year’s SAF handbook read 

The picture above is of Bobby carrying the torch for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.   There is more about this, and about Bobby’s life away from athletics in the excellent obituary by Jack Davidson below.


Bobby Quinn

Born: May 13, 1929; Died: October 28, 2019

BOBBY Quinn, who has died aged 90, was a leading Scottish track athlete in the 1950s and later a well known and highly regarded official. He was a versatile sprinter covering 100 to 440 yards, twice winning national championships in the latter event while collecting silver medals three times at 220 and a bronze in the 100.

In the colours of Glasgow’s Victoria Park, he was an important member of their highly successful relay teams with whom he claimed 15 national championship medals, including 12 gold. Although they claimed medals at three relay events, the 4×110, 4×440 and Medley (1x 880, 2x 220 and 1x 440) they excelled in the sprint version, winning seven consecutive titles from 1951 onwards with Bobby carrying the baton each time. He was the first to recognise the contribution of teammates of the calibre of Olympian Willie Jack, Ronnie Whitelock and Alan Dunbar among others and the expert coaching of Willie McFarlane, former double Powderhall Sprint winner.

Bobby’s excellent form was recognised with the award of two international vests, in 1954 at London’s White City for a combined Scottish/Irish team against England/Wales and in 1957 for a match in Dublin against Ireland. Domestically he also enjoyed success at many of the top meetings, including Rangers Sports, Glasgow Police Sports, Glasgow Highland Games and Edinburgh Highland Games at Murrayfield where he featured in the Glasgow relay team competing against rivals from Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh etc.

After competing he took a break from the sport but later made an important contribution as an official for more than 30 years as both a committee member of Victoria Park and secretary/treasurer of the West District of the SAAA. He was very involved in the preparations for the initial Glasgow marathons and at the 1986 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games was transport co-ordinator. In 2014 he was delighted to be given the honour of carrying the Commonwealth Games baton along Paisley Road West, days before the opening ceremony.

On the track, seasons 1954-56 were particularly memorable. In 1954 he was a member of the club’s relay teams which claimed gold in all three events in the national championships, a feat which it is understood has never been repeated. At the same time he won his first individual medals, at 100 and 220, with the club awarding him life membership for these achievements.

In 1955 and ’56 he won individual gold over 440 yards at the national championships, on both occasions against the much more fancied J.V. Paterson who in 1957 would win the event at the World Student Games in Paris. The first of those races was described in the Scots Athlete magazine as “ the toughest, closest and most exciting event of the championships … Paterson leading off the final bend but with 50 yards to go Quinn closed the gap and his burly chest got to the tape first,” while his 1956 triumph was reported as a superbly judged effort from the outside lane.

An injury at work led to his retiral in 1958; as a highly competitive athlete he only wanted to race if able to give his best.

Robert Quinn was born in Detroit, a twin of Harry also an athlete, to parents Benjamin and Elizabeth who had emigrated from the Gorbals. This unfortunately coincided with the Depression resulting in their return when Bobby was three to Glasgow where his father worked in manual jobs. There were another five brothers, Benny also born in US, and Joe, John, Tony and James. The family initially lived in the Gorbals, then Drumoyne and latterly Penilee with Bobby attending St Gerard’s school in Govan.

National service in the REME near Reading followed during which his running career began. Once demobbed, Victoria Park’s distance running champion Ian Binnie who worked alongside Harry, arranged for Bobby to join the club in about 1950, paving the way for athletic success.

He worked as a motor mechanic in Hillington, mostly for the Scottish Development Agency and in 1957 married Marie Kilpatrick, also from Glasgow. They enjoyed a happy marriage of almost 50 years till Marie’s death in 2007 during which they had five children, Robert, Tony, Elizabeth, John and James. In 2009 he married Anne with whom he enjoyed his latter years, the couple regularly going on cruises to the Norwegian fjords and the Mediterranean.

In retirement he took up bowling at Paisley’s Hawkhead Club where he had success on the green while another sporting interest was Celtic where he had a season ticket. His faith as a member of Our Lady and St George’s Church was important and he assisted the St Vincent de Paul Society in the parish. He liked to make a contribution in every aspect of life and his humility and sense of fun endeared him to all. Over his final months he was extremely well cared for in Erskine Park Home.

He is survived by his wife, sons, grandchildren Hamish, Michael and Charlotte and brothers John,Tony and James.


David Cooney: Team Manager

David receiving the AT Mays Team Trophy from Leslie Roy in 2019

One man in his time plays many parts and that is as true in athletics as in any other walk of life.   Certainly David has more than played his part in the success of Cambuslang for decades not just for years.   Starting as a runner approximately 50 years ago he contributed as we have seen to many triumphs for the club.   His whole hearted commitment to the one club in his life is seen graphically in his run in the Mamore Hill Race but he also contributed seriously to the club’s most successful years as a very capable administrator and team manager.    Unlike many very good club servants who turn their hand to every single aspect of club activities – coaching, officiating, administration, team management, recruitment, running when required and so on – Dave concentrated his efforts on team management, and specifically senior and veteran teams.   As a result his considerable energies were concentrated on the one aspect of club organisation.   This specialisation and drive were key factors in the develpoment of the club.    The following brief summary of club involvement gives some illustration of this.

 * President of Cambuslang Harriers in two spells – from 1980 to 1986 and then a mammoth period from 1992 to 2019.  

* Track& Field Team Manager (Senior Men) from 1976 to 1994

* Cross Country and Road Team Manager for Seniors and for the Masters Team from 1980 to date

*Club Publicist from 1980 to date     * Athletics Weekly Correspondent from 1980 to 1986

Although he limited it, that is a lot of work for any club member to undertake – especially when you add in work as a Secondary School History teacher and commitments to his family.   The work in itself is considerable at any level – doing it successfully is another matter and there is no measure that you could use that would say he has been unsuccessful.   We only need to look at the statistics from 1980.   It is almost impossible in a profile like this to detail all that the club won while David was team manager, but there is enough below to indicate that his reign was not one with a few lucky trophies, maybe won by one or two outstanding athletes.   It has been consistent good performances.   Good runners, encouraged and organised by a back up led by the team manager.

Event 1st 2nd 3rd Event 1st 2nd 3rd Event 1st 2nd 3rd Event 1st 2nd 3rd
National CC 16 8 7 District CC 24 11 3 Edinburgh Glasgow 1 6 5 Six Stage 6 7 11
National Relay 5 5 5 District Relays 8 5 7 National Masters CC 18 8 3 Masters Relay 14 4 2

The photograph at the top of the page shows David receiving the AT Mays Trophy on behalf of Cambuslang Harriers from Leslie  Roy in 2019.   This Trophy is awarded to the club that scores the lowest aggregate number of points over the five races at the national cross country championships,.   ie the club with the best all round performances over all five age groups.   First introduced in season 1988-89, it has been won by the club 23 times out of a possible 31 to date.  

By winning the national cross-country championship, Cambuslang Harriers were automatically invited to take part in the European Club Championships every year.    In David’s opinion the club’s bestperformances were 

Albufeira 8th team Andy Beattie/ Ross Arbuckle/ Eddie Stewart/ Jim Orr
Marignane 6th team Graeme Croll/Charlie Thomson/ Eddie Stewart/Jim Orr
Alicante 8th team Graeme Croll/Eddie Stewart/ Mark Gormley/Charlie Thomson
Albufeira 6th team Tommy Murray/Graeme Croll/Charlie Thomson/Jim Orr
In the 1993 version of the race, Tommy Murray finished 19th to be first UK runner and club in 6th was first UK team.   As he says 
“We did compete for a few years afterwards but with weakened teams as the Europeans was now held the week before the Scottish.”
These are the bare statistics.   As David says later, many clubmen worked hard to make them possible (and he names them) but how did he himself become involved?   We asked him about it but before going on to the cross-country and road teams, we should have a look at the club’s 17 years in the Senior Men’s Track League.   The League had been going for some time but at this point it was at its very best – especially after the mid 80’s when there were 5 divisions, four of 8 clubs and one of 6.   Many top class athletes with tenuous Scottish connections came up to take part and the standard was very high.   David was the Cambuslang team manager here.

Club Track Team Manager for the Scottish League 1977 to 94.

How did it start?

From memory I took it on as probably no one else wished the job.  It was an onerous one.  We did not have a proper track and being mainly a road and cross-country club we were lacking in sprinters and field events athletes.  We were always looking for athletes to compete for us in the sprints and in the field events.  Cambuslang Rugby club provided some and Robert Anderson recruited some senior pupils from local secondary schools.  Before each meeting I would make about 40 phone calls the week before to our athletes and then followed this up a few days before the event.  It was sometimes frustrating when after all my efforts some individuals did not turn up which caused problems on the day in asking some athletes to double or triple up on events.

 Non-appearance by athletes and having to step in to gain some precious points were not unusual in my role as team manager. I remember travelling up to Aberdeen one April and I spent my time marking Higher History essays there and back. Our bus was delayed and when we arrived I hurriedly handed in the tem sheet, changed my shoes and then joined the other 10,000m runners who were already lining up. Another time, having submitted the team sheets and run a 10,000m along with other management duties, I decided to have a can of Irn Bru, a Mars Bar and a packet of crisps. I was not long finished when word arrived that one of our 5,000m runners would not now be coming. I can tell you it was a painful run for me. Another episode which comes to mind was submitting the team sheet and then going to the hammer to act as an official. When it came to the start of the 3rd and final round I stepped in to take a throw as our designated hammer thrower had not arrived. There is a first time for everything. I managed to release the hammer after swinging it from side to side (no fancy turns for me). On release I almost fell out of the circle but just managed to hold my balance and record a legitimate throw. I almost made double figures! However, some precious points were gained.

During the period we had in the league we stayed mainly in division 2 although we twice won promotion to division 1 and were relegated twice to division 3.  It was becoming harder and harder to find enough athletes to compete and at the start of the 1995 seasoned I contacted our regular competitors to gauge their interest.  With the response being very lukewarm the decision was taken to withdraw from the league.

Undoubtedly gaining promotion to division 1 was the highlight of my involvement as track team manager.  The success there was due to our strength at middle distance and to the acquisition of some talented sprinters/jumpers and field events athletes from the defunct Clydebank AC.

 Road and XC Team Manager

How did it start?

In the early to mid 70s Robert Anderson as club captain was the key person with regards to the senior men and young athletes.  From the mid 70s on I shared the responsibility for the seniors with Robert.  Selection for road and country relays involved having a time trial before the opening event of the season i.e. the McAndrew Road Relay.  Allocation of places to the various teams would be mainly based on the times recorded although consideration would be given to an athlete(s) missing the trial but who had competed well in the previous month.  Normally selection for the 8 man Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay was based on performances in the relays leading up to it with the Allan Scally Relay being the final decider for any vacant places.

At times when Robert was not club captain the new captain would be involved in the selection process.  Various captains in the late 70s, the 80s and 90s such as Alec Gilmour, Eddie Stewart, Jim Orr and Charlie Thomson would contribute to the selection discussion.  Again selection on previous times was the major guiding factor but sometimes the horses for courses judgement was used especially when a Cross-Country course was known to be particularly tough which would suit one athlete over another.

From 1988 onwards when our veteran men first came to the fore Robert, the club captain and I were the selectors and in time a veterans captain also became involved.

The current selection set up for senior men and women now involves lead club coach Mike Johnston, current club captain Iain Reid and I,  with the same trio plus Colin Feechan for the masters men and women.  Mike is able to give good guidance on the current form and training performances of our athletes while I can provide up to date information on athletes living out with the local area whom I am regularly in touch with.


Having been involved with the club for almost 5 decades it is difficult to mention all the highlights as at the time any national team medal is special.  However, there are several which stand out. 

Naturally our first ever senior national medal in the 1980 Scottish 4 man Cross Country relay is special.  Our quartet of Eddie Stewart, Rod Stone, Alec Gilmour and Gordon Rimmer beat pre race favourites and title holders Clyde Valley who had Jim Brown and Ronnie McDonald in their team.  Such was Clyde Valley’s confidence in retaining the trophy they had returned it pre race bedecked with red ribbons which added to the occasion when our runners went up to collect the trophy.

Our first victory in the national 6 stage road relay also stands out.  With the final long leg to be run we were second to Edinburgh Southern thanks to the efforts of Tom Ulliott, Rod Stone, Jim Orr, Eddie Stewart and Charlie Thomson.  Alec Gilmour who had come off the night shift was tasked with reeling the Edinburgh Southern runner in.  I was standing about ½ mile from the finishing line alongside the Edinburgh bugler when an Edinburgh vest appeared on the horizon.  At this point the bugler sounded his victory cry.  However, he was premature in blowing as it turned out the Edinburgh vest was that of a 5th leg runner for them and right behind him the red and white vest of Alec came into view.  The gritty Alec had delivered the team gold for Cambuslang.  Incidentally Tom, Jim, Eddie, Charlie and Alec all trained with Brian’s renowned Wednesday night’s track group comprising runners from various Glasgow and Lanarkshire clubs.

The club’s first and only Edinburgh to Glasgow Road Relay is also worthy of a mention.  Victory was delivered courtesy of Charlie Thomson, Calum Murray, Tony McCartney, Andy Beattie, Eddie Stewart, Alec Gilmour, Paul McAvoy and Jim Orr.

The first senior men’s Scottish XC team win in 1988 which was the start of 8 consecutive team victories is also fondly remembered.  Our 6 counters were all inside the top 18 finishers – Alec Gilmour, Colin Donnelly, Eddie Stewart, Ross Arbuckle, Jim Orr and Charlie Thomson.

In contention too is the over 40 men’s first win in the 1999 UK 8 man road relay championships. The team of Barnie Gough, Dave Dymond, Freddy Connor, Frankie Barton, Charlie McDougall, Eddie Stewart, Frank Hurley and Archie Jenkins upset the apple cart to gain a surprise victory from their more fancied English rivals.  This win was very special to the club as it was its first UK team championship medal and it did not go down well with a certain English journalist who considered the Cambuslang runners to be “Scottish raiders” in what was a UK event!   He even asked if Eddie was the son of a certain Lachie Stewart!

The Scottish Road Relays in 2016 saw Cambuslang sweep the boards in the senior men and masters over 40 and M50 events.  The honours on that day went to the senior sextet of Iain Reid, Stuart Gibson, Craig Jardine, Robert Gilroy, Ryan Thomson and Kyle McLellan, the M40 sextet of Tony McCutcheon, Jamie Reid, Alick Walkinshaw, Kerry-Liam Wilson, Mick O’Hagan and Kenny Campbell and the M50 quartet of Paul Thompson, Chris Upson, Colin Feechan and Stan Mackenzie.

On the ladies front the club had its first female Scottish team victory in 2012 when the U20 trio of Alex Lamond, Katie Bristow and Mairi Brown took the honours.

The 2017 Scottish 10 mile road championship victory for our senior ladies by masters runners Bernie O’Neil, Erica Christie and Jennifer Reid stands out especially when seeing the ladies’ joyful reaction when the team results were announced.

Finally the fact that the club has won the AT Mays Trophy, awarded to the best male club across the 5 age groups in the Scottish XC Championships, on 23 out of a possible 31 occasions since its introduction in 1989 speaks volumes about all our members who have contributed to this undoubted achievement


None.  No one team has a divine right to win national medals.  All our athletes can do is to give 100% on the day which they do.  If we lose or are not in the medals then our competitors have deserved their medals.  

 At the National Road Relays Cambuslang men won the senior race, the M40 race and the M50 Race.   All the runners with their medals.


Again over such a lengthy period so many people have made significant contributions to take Cambuslang forward from being a small parochial club to one of Scotland’s most successful clubs.  The contribution of individuals can be measured in terms of the length of that contribution either as an official, coach or as an athlete and in a number of cases as a combination of these. It is impossible to mention everyone here and I hope that no one is offended if their name does not appear on the list.

With regards to officials Des Yuill and Jim Scarborough gave great service to the club from the early 1970s to the early 90s as did Cameron Brown during the 1980s and 90s.  Likewise, Fiona Pollock, Robert Anderson’s daughter, is currently heavily involved as a club official and along with Pamela Stephen is looking after the youngest group of athletes. 

Mike Johnston and Owen Reid stand out as long serving and successful coaches from 1989 when they took their first coaching badges to the present day.  Mike, in addition to his own coaching role is currently involved in mentoring a number of relatively new coaches to the club such as Colin Stephen, Iain Crawford, David Stirling, Simon Gold, Lynn Angley and Dale Woods.

From a strictly running point of view club has been blessed with a large number of committed and talented athletes such as Alec Gilmour, Eddie Stewart, Colin Donnelly, Charlie Thomson, Jim Orr, Mark McBeth, Stevie Wylie, Graeme Croll, Archie Jenkins, Charlie McDougall, Frankie Barton, Jack Brown, Jamie Reid, Robert Gilroy and Kerry-Liam Wilson and emerging young talented runners such as Ryan Thomson, Craig Jardine, Gavin Smith, Jamie Mackinnon Drew Pollock and Chris McLew.  It is worth mentioning that Charlie has now been a club member for 40 years and has 9 Scottish XC team gold medals in his possession as does Colin Donnelly with Eddie Stuart on 8.

Finally there is a group of club stalwarts who have contributed both as runners and as a club officials or helpers.  Iain MacCorquodale and Stuart Gibson are past club captains with Iain Reid being the current one.  Barnie Gough, Frank Hurley, Colin Feechan and Dave Thom have always been great club servants as runners and officials/helpers.  Ian Gordon too played his part as both a club official and master runner and Des Dickson has now stepped up to serve the club in his capacity as the new club president while recently winning his first ever  national individual and team medals.  Robert Anderson stands out for his 50 years plus service as a competitor, coach, club captain, committee member, recruiting officer and club groundsman.  Robert has imbued me and the club with the desire for Cambuslang Harriers to be the best it can be.

Without the contribution of those mentioned and of others too numerous to include Cambuslang would not have become the club it is today.

David receiving the SALSC  award from the SALSC Chairman, Ken Owens

Of course it is important to read what some of the athletes who have worked with him have to say about him and we have noted these on another page, and it is clear from them that David had a major part to play in the development of the club.   He has been President, with one six year gap, from 1980  to 2019 which also coincides with the development of the club from almost a village club to an international club.   President and team manager for the most significant period in the club’s history.    The photograph is of him receiving an award for Services to Sport this year – 2019.   Well deserved.   Any sport could do with more of his sort.   David would admit that he could not have done as much without the continued support and understanding of his wife Anne.

Dave Cooney as a runner    What Others Say about David


Hunter Watson

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Hunter Watson qualifying for the final of the SAAA Junior Mile in 1954

Hunter Watson has had a superb career in the sport – a good class athlete from the age of 15 at school in North Berwick, he went on to play a significant part in the world of athletics in Aberdeen.   He ran with and against some of the very best, maybe particularly during his time at Edinburgh University, and at times defeated them.   As a coach he has developed and worked with international athletes and as an administrator he was for many years an essential part of the Aberdeen AAC committee.

To start with, Hunter did not realise that he had any talent for running until, at age 15 in 1951, he won the half mile for fourth year pupils at the East Lothian inter-school sports. He had been surprised to be selected to represent North Berwick High School at this event because not only had he never run in a half mile race previously but he had not even finished in the top three in any race at the school sports in which he had competed!     He assumes that he was selected to run in that half mile race as a consequence of getting back to the school first when on one occasion the fourth year boys were asked to run round North Berwick Law during a games period. Presumably that made the games master confident that Hunter Watson would not make a fool of himself, and hence the school, in a half mile race.

 Having been given no advice about how to run the half mile, he had no race plan. He simply ran round with the other boys in the race. However, something odd happened half way down the back straight of the second lap: out of nowhere came a sudden urge to sprint for home and that Hunter did, winning in a time of 2:27.  He himself says of this period: “Prior to winning the half mile for fourth year pupils at East Lothian’s inter-school sports in 1951 I had only competed in sprint races and had never finished in the first three since I had no great talent for sprinting. However, after winning that half mile I began regular training and trained for the full range of events at the school sports and not only for the middle distance events. That regular training does make an enormous difference to performance was proved at the school sports in my sixth year. In those sports I finished second in the 100 yards race but won each of the other races, i.e. the 220 yards, the 440 yards, the half mile, the one mile and the 100 yards hurdles. I also won the three jumps: the long jump (19 ft 6 ins = 5.94 m), the triple jump (39 ft = 11.88 m) and the high jump(5 ft =1.52 m). I was unplaced in both the shot put and the discus. Being greedy, that rather annoyed me!”

Wondering whether, if he could win an inter-schools half mile without doing any training, what he might capable of accomplishing if he did do some training. Three years later he found out.

As a student at Edinburgh University, Hunter had a very good cross-country season in 1953/54.   He says that on the Wednesday afternoon of the first week of term there were trials for various sports. He was tempted to go to the trials for the rugby team since he had been rugby captain at North Berwick High School. However, he decided to go to the cross country trials instead. That decision had happy consequences since, during the 1953-54 cross country season, he won the Eastern District Youth Championship on 6th February and subsequently finished second in the National Youth Championship.   In the February issue of the excellent ‘Scots Athlete’ magazine, Emmet Farrell commented that the National Championship in that age group would probably be between Gordon Kerr of Victoria Park and Ian Cloudsley of Shettleston but added, “yet there are good reports from the East of WH Watson (Edinburgh Varsity) ..”  Hunter lived up to the billing by finishing second in the race to Cloudsley, being only two seconds down on the winner. and four seconds ahead of the third man in a very close finish.  The 1954 track season was to be a good one and Hunter has no doubts that the training he did for the cross-country benefited him greatly.

Hunter did not win any individual events during the 1954-55 cross country season but was invariably a counter in the Edinburgh University Hare and Hounds team that did win several team titles then. As a consequence Hunter was awarded a blue from Edinburgh University for cross country.

In summer 1954 Hunter not only won the Scottish Junior Mile Championship but he also finished fourth in the AAA Junior Mile too. His time in that event was 4:21.6, a time which put him tenth equal on the list of the ten fastest British Junior Milers of all time. (At the same age Roger Bannister’s fastest time was 4:23.4.)   The season had started well with a match against Victoria Park AAC at Craiglockhart in which Hunter won the Mile in 4:34.1  and when he won the SAAA Junior Mile at Westerlands on 3rd July, James Logan wrote in the ‘Scots Athlete: “The Mile was won easily by W Watson, the Scottish Youths cross-country runner-up, who strode out very strongly in the last lap.   With developed confidence he is capable of a much faster time than his winning one, which was very good considering the wintry conditions.”   The September issue of the same magazine listed Scottish best performances and Hunter was fifth for the Mile with 4:21.6, a time run at Birmingham on 31st July.

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Finishing in first place for the University at the East District Relays in 1954

On 6th November 1954, all the Districts held their relay championships and the East District event was at Galashiels over a total distance of 10 miles.   The team of Jackson, Horne, Miller and Watson won by 15 seconds from Falkirk Victoria with their second and third teams in fifth and seventh in a field of 19 teams.  Later that month he ran in his first Edinburgh to Glasgow eight-man relay.   The University had a good team out and Hunter was on the first stage where he finished sixth.   The team finished fourth.  Incidentally, between 1954 and 1971, Hunter ran for four teams in the Edinburgh to Glasgow – Edinburgh University Hares & Hounds, Edinburgh Eastern Harriers, Edinburgh AC and Aberdeen AAC.   He remembers the race with affection and comments

I have fond memories of the early races which were sponsored by the News of the World. That sponsorship permitted 8 buses to be provided, one for each of the stages in order to transport the 20 runners who represented their clubs over these stages. There was very little traffic on the roads then so there were no hold ups and the buses had no difficulty getting to the start of each stage in plenty of time. This permitted runners who had already competed plenty of time to support incoming runners. When I began competing, each race began in St Andrew’s Square in Edinburgh and finished in Ingram Street in Glasgow. Eventually, because of the traffic, both start and finish had to be changed though I am not certain when that happened. When I first ran in 1954 there were still tram cars operating in Edinburgh and cobbled streets. In the early days after each race all the competitors and officials were treated to a meal by the News of the World in a large restaurant in Buchanan Street called Ca’d’oro.   Unfortunately it was destroyed by fire in 1987.”

 The University team in 1954 with runners like Hunter, Adrian Jackson, Horne and Miller was very successful winning the East District cross-country relay in November and the championship in January 1955.   Came the National championship at Hamilton and Hunter was eleventh in the winning team in the Junior race.

During the 1955 track season Hunter’s principal achievement was his win in the mile at the East of Scotland Athletic Championships. His winning time was 4:18.1, a time that bettered the previous best performance of 4:23.3 by just over 5 seconds.

Between 1951 and 1953 there had been a steady improvement in Hunter’s performances which was a consequence of regular training. Perhaps the most significant accomplishment during that period was his win in the junior mile handicap race at Edinburgh Highland Games on 22nd August, 1953.   Running from a handicap of 100 yards, his time was 4:26.9.   Prior to that race, Hunter had not been a member of any club. Within minutes of his win, however, he was invited to become a member of Edinburgh Eastern Harriers. The invitation was accepted.

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Hunter, second from right in the front row, with the Edinburgh University team which had been Inter-Varsity Champions and Eastern District champions in 1956

Injury had curtailed his participation in the 1955/56 cross-country season but he did finish eighteenth in the National Junior championship.   The subsequent 1956 track season was to be Hunter’s best.

On 12th May 1956 in the regular match with Victoria Park, he again won the Mile, this time in 4:24.8 and a week later, 19th May, in the University championships at Craiglockhart, “WH Watson, a former Scottish Junior Mile Champion, returned a Mile record of 4 min 19 secs.”   This was a feat that produced mixed feelings in Hunter.   He had won the title in a time that had taken 3.3 seconds from the existing record, set by the wonderful Morris Carstairs, and yet the university trophy which went to the athlete judged to have set the best performance of the meeting. The cutting below seemed to think Hunter’s was the top performance.   This went to Paterson who had set new championship records in the 440 and 880 yards.   The half mile was interesting in that Adrian Jackson, whose eye was maybe on an invitation to an up-coming 5000m in Helsinki, ran and pushed the winner to the record.   It is possibly the only half mile that Jackson ran but if it was part of his preparations for Helsinki, then it worked – he won there in 14:13.6.   Hunter continued to run well and at the Scottish University Championships he won both Mile (4:34.3) and Three Miles (16:04.3)  titles.   

The performance which gave him most satisfaction, however, was the one in Manchester on 28th May when he finished second to Martin Walmsley, British Universities Mile champion,  in a mile in a time of 4:14.6.   That was a new Edinburgh University AC record and might have been the fastest mile time ever at that time by a student at a Scottish university.   The purple patch continued when he had an excellent run in the Scottish championships on June 23rd when he was second to Graham Everett recording a time of 4:18.3.   The report on that race read –

“In the much-publicised Mile, the less fancied men must have been surprised to find themselves in the company of the giants at an advanced stage of the race.   With a very fast ‘half’ to his credit earlier in the season, JR Cameron, Thames Valley Harriers, might have been expected to make a very strong final challenge, but Everett commanded affairs immediately the break was made at the second last bend, and, indeed, it was WH Watson who came on in determined fashion to take second place..”      The winning time was 4:16.1 and Cameron ran 4:21.0.   It was indeed a very good run by Hunter if we note that Cameron had run a 4:07.0 Mile on 21st September 1955, and Everett had set a new Scottish record for the distance on 9th June, 1956.

Hunter’s performances on the track while representing Edinburgh University in 1956 led to his being awarded an athletics blue to be added to his cross country blue.

At the start of the winter in the East District league match at Dr Guthrie’s School on 20th October, the first three to finish were Jackson, Watson and JV Paterson and the team won comfortably from Braidburn.   Paterson, Horne, Watson and Jackson also won the East District relay on 3rd November in Perth before the Edinburgh to Glasgow relay at the end of the month.   Hunter ran the first stage, finishing seventh this time and again it was a forecast of the team’s final placing – seventh.   Meanwhile in the same race, Edinburgh Eastern Harriers (whom he had joined in 1953 before starting at Edinburgh University) were making their first appearance, finishing fifth and picking up the medals awarded to the most meritorious performance by an unplaced team.   Hunter missed the closing championships of the cross-country season – District and National – due to injury.  He again represented the University in the Edinburgh to Glasgow in 1957 when he ran the difficult second stage against some of the very best men in the race.  By 1956 Hunter was gaining experience of committee work as a consequence of having been elected to the club committee of Edinburgh Eastern.  

When, on 27 March 1961, Edinburgh Harriers, Edinburgh Northern Harriers and Edinburgh Eastern Harriers amalgamated to form Edinburgh Athletic Club, Hunter was elected unopposed to be Edinburgh AC’s first cross country captain and hence to be a member of the Edinburgh AC committee.

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Finishing third in SAAA 880y in 1960


In 1957 Hunter graduated from Edinburgh University with a First Class Honours degree in mathematics. and in 1959 he graduated from that university with a Master’s degree in education. He then taught secondary school mathematics for six years before moving to Aberdeen in 1965 in order to become a lecturer at Aberdeen College of Education.   While in Edinburgh however he kept on running, and running well, over the country with Edinburgh Eastern Harriers and then Edinburgh AC.  On the track the two medals in the East District championships were noteworthy.   In May 1960 he was second in the 880 yards, behind Neil Donachie and in May 1962, second again, this time in the Mile which was won by Chris Elson.   In the SAAA championships at the end of June there was another very good run when he was third in the 880 yards behind Morrison and Clark.

While in Edinburgh, Hunter had become a qualified coach – and an advanced coach at that.   Under the system used at that time, this was equivalent to the Senior Coach award that came shortly thereafter.   When he moved to Aberdeen, he relinquished the qualification since his new post as lecturer at Aberdeen College of Education allowed no time for coaching.     While teaching at Ross High School in Tranent, he had further evidence that regular systematic training brought real and lasting improvement.   He says of this time:

“While a school teacher I observed other boys who apparently only had a modicum of talent blossoming after they also started regular training. These included Billy Donaldson and Gavin Hay at Ross High School, Tranent, the school in which I first taught. In 1961 the best that Billy could do in the school sports was to finish third in the 220 yards for second year boys. I cannot recall Gavin, who was a year younger than  Billy, being placed in anything. In 1963 Billy won the National Senior Boys Cross Country title and also the first of the Scottish Schools Cross Country titles for his age group. At the National he and Gavin helped Edinburgh AC to win the Senior Boys Cross County title at the National Championships. In the East Track and Field Championships, Billy won the Youths half mile and Gavin the Senior Boys half mile. Gavin’s time, which I do not have to hand, was a new championship record. (It was around 2:08, I believe.)”


Billy Donaldson (the winner) 22 and Gavin Hay 29 in the Boys National at Hamilton in 1963

Fortunately for the sport and for Aberdeen AAC, he did eventually find the time to continue coaching youngsters interested in middle distance and cross-country events.    He did no courses for athletic official status, either track or field, but he has in his time so far officiated at every event on the calendar except the pole vault.   He has even acted as starter and on one occasion officiated as such at a Young Athletes League final at Meadowbank.

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Aberdeen AAC Men and Boys, taken in 1976

Hunter is extreme right of second back row.   Also in that row are Fraser Clyne, 8th right, and Graham Laing, 3rd right,  both ran in the Commonwealth Games: Graham in ’82 and Clyne in ’86.   Also in the picture is Mel Edwards, 6th right.

By 1974 Hunter’s elder son was displaying an interest in athletics and that led directly to him beginning to organise events for youngsters within Aberdeen AAC, a club which he had joined immediately after moving to Aberdeen.  Of this period he says:

“That led to me organising a few events for youngsters at Linksfield Stadium where the club trained. On two occasions I also, without club support, took youngsters to compete in events at some distance from Aberdeen. Their performances were such that it seemed obvious that much could be gained by establishing a Young Athletes Section within Aberdeen AAC. The club secretary gave me the go ahead provided that this section could be self-financing. On that basis I took the necessary steps to establish a Young Athletes Section. Parents were willing to assist me as were two senior members of the club.

On behalf of Aberdeen AAC, I applied to join the Scottish Young Athletes League. My application was accepted and, to the surprise of some clubs in the League, Aberdeen AAC won the North East Section and finished third in the League Final.”

The following year he was elected club secretary.   He remained in that post for twenty years. After he stepped down as secretary he was made an honorary member of the club and he continues to take an interest in it though no longer plays any active part. While club secretary, however, Hunter spent a vast amount of time on club business. He not only performed the normal secretarial duties but he also coached athletes, acted as a team manager, helped to organise road races and convened both athletic and cross country meetings. As far as he was concerned, being secretary of Aberdeen AAC was as much a competitive activity as was being an active athlete.

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1979.  Coaching some colts (Under 11 years) in discus throwing: preparing to throw the discus is Duncan Matheson who represented Scotland in the Commonwealth Games in 1990 (decathlon) and 1994 (long jump)

Aberdeen AAC had several noteworthy successes during Hunter’s time as secretary and also produced some outstanding athletes, including some who gained international recognition and two who broke Scottish native records.    However, while these successes gave him much satisfaction, he gained even more from the fact that the club thrived during his time as secretary and became far and away the largest athletic club in Scotland.  SAF data reveals that, as at 12 March 1994, Aberdeen AAC had 493 members aged eleven or over whereas Scotland’s second largest club, Pitreavie AAC, had 337 members. (Edinburgh Athletic Club at that time had 312.)  Aberdeen AAC numbers had peaked in 1988 when the club had a total of 606 members of whom 517 were aged eleven or over.   (The club’s number of senior athletes fell slightly when several road runners left Aberdeen AAC to form a separate road running club.)

In 1991 the City of Aberdeen presented Hunter with an engraved rose bowl which is now displayed in his home.


That the work was appreciated is evidenced by comments from club mates Mel Edwards and Bob Masson.    Bob says

“My first definite memory of Hunter was at a committee meeting in 73 or early 74 where Hunter had been invited to put forward his suggestion for a Young Athletes section in the club.  At that time AAAC had a pretty small membership (probably no greater than 50), predominantly composed of seniors and mainly interested in running, generally of the long distance variety.  His proposal was accepted and Hunter became the secretary of the YA section.  In 1975 he was elected to secretary of the full club, a post he was to hold with distinction for 20 years.

Our paths almost crossed a few years earlier, as Hunter is fond of mentioning to others when we meet at the track.  We both came to the  fourth leg on the E to G relay in 1971 from opposite ends of the distance spectrum.  Hunter was running for AAAC and I was representing Aberdeen University.  We never saw each other during the race but Hunter recalls that we ran identical times for the four mile leg that day.

Over his tenure the club was to grow (about 500 members at its peak) and become more of track and field club and AAAC would regularly qualify for the Young Athletes final.  The men’s team went on to win the Scottish Athletics League finally in 1995, much to Hunter’s satisfaction. On the team bus to the final match at Meadowbank that day went a team of athletes ( not a single one of whom was doubling up in an individual event), substitutes (just in case) and Hunter.  When victory was confirmed, there was an overwhelming desire that it should be Hunter to whom the cup be presented.  I seem to remember that we couldn’t find him in time but there will be a photograph of Hunter and cup surrounded by the entire team somewhere around.

Possibly his most important legacy will be that he managed to persuade Aberdeen City Council that a Track and Field club our size in a city of our size couldn’t hope to develop without an eight lane all-weather track.  The University track at Balgownie had fallen into disrepair and had only been built with seven lanes anyway.  The argument we hadn’t had a home match in the first fifteen years of the Men’s League, amongst others, seemed to have some force and the surface at Chris Anderson stadium was opened in1989.

Aberdeen AAC yearbook no 4 (1993) records that Hunter held several  AAAC veterans’ club records.  These were M40 bests for 800m (2-01.1) and 1500m (4-08.0) set in 1976 and 1977 respectively and the M50 800m of 2- 14.7 set in 1986.  He did show me one of his training diaries, where he recorded the miles covered running (no surprise) but also interestingly  in addition the distances he covered cycling and walking.

After retiring from his post as Secretary, Hunter continued to take a great interest in the activities of the club and in recognition of his many services  he was to become one of the first four inductees as Life Members at the AGM of 2007.  He still frequently attends home league matches, the latest the first meeting of the Scottish League just yesterday (06/05/2017).  He would often cycle from home to the meeting (I’m not sure whether he still does), but if one were to look around the stadium and spot a yellow fluorescent jacket topped with a shock of silver hair then the thought would be “ Hunter’s here again”.

Words to describe the man?  Enthusiastic, dedicated and meticulous aren’t really enough.

The times for the E-G fourth stage in ’71 was 32:47 .   All sections of the club appreciated his work: Bob was very much a track and field man: a decathlete who for many years was Scottish national coach for the event while Mel was a top class road, country and hill runner who won what was probably the best cross-country race I ever saw   Mel says clearly that Hunter deserves an MBE for his work.  He speaks with some knowledge here – the club has two members with the award – Mel himself and Donald Ritchie.  Mel points out that Alastair and Jean Wood ran the club and then Hunter set up the young athletes section before becoming secretary.   “What a work he did”, says Mel, “His phone probably never stopped – and this was when he was still a Maths lecturer!   He was also secretary and I remember many a well organised meeting with lots on the agenda.”

Denis Shepherd elaborates on Mel’s comments about Hunter as a committee man saying:

“Hunter kept a tight rein on the club’s finances in conjunction with the Treasurer.   When preparing the agenda, he scrutinised past minutes and made sure that everything that needed to be decided or organised was brought up in good time.   Everything he said or wrote was carefully considered before he said it: someone said that even when he spoke, his sentences seemed to be coming from a carefully constructed written document.”

More generally, Denis says of Hunter that “he was very pro the club and the athletes he coached.   He was known to try to persuade team managers who had already selected their team to ask a selected athlete to give way to his athlete.   At one Young Athletes League meeting he was appalled that a track official representing the club had done his job properly and disqualified Aberdeen for an illegal change-over.”   The last bit makes him sound like any coach in that situation!

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Hunter beseiged by youngsters at the end of a primary schools sports meeting in Aberdeen in 1994.  He had initiated this event several years previously in order to interest youngsters in athletics.

That this reaped a bigger harvest than just bringing athletes to the club is seen by the recruitment of parents as top class officials.   For instance one of those who joined as a consequence was Mark Davidson who was a silver medallist in the 1990 Commonwelath Games 4 x 400m relay.   His own event was the 400m hurdles where he won the Scottish title three times,  he also won the indoor 400 metres flat twice and set many records.   His father – Jim Davidson – became a grade one timekeeper who officiates at local meetings.   Similarly when Duncan Matheson (six Scottish titles outdoors, three indoors, 2nd  AAA’s indoor heptathlon plus the two Commonwealth Games) became a club member both his parents got actively involved: father Miller is still a coach at the club, and his mother became a grade one field judge.   She officiated at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.   When Hunter stepped down, the club president Trevor Madigan took over the task of organising the Primary Schools Athletic Meeting, and this year (2017) Hunter’s daughter-in-law Ruth Watson, kept the family connection going when she was responsible for it.

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At the conclusion of a girls international match in 1976.   Hunter had persuaded the Aberdeen and Grampian Regional Councils to jointly make available the sponsorship.   It went on to become the Celtic International.   Hunter is standing beside the timekeepers stand.

Although Hunter was heavily involved with club organisation and administration after he became club secretary in 1975, he did manage to put in some useful performances at competitions.   For instance on 12th August, 1973 at the age of 37, he ran 1500m in 3:59.5 which ranked him twenty second senior in Scotland.  This was done while representing Aberdeen AAC in Division 1 of the Scottish League where he finished third A String and fourth overall – among those who finished behind him was Hugh Barrow of Victoria Park.       

Thereafter, notably in 1976 he had a series of good runs. In that year, on 30th May, and having turned 40, he won the Scottish Veteran’s 800m title in a championship record time of 2:01.1.    In the world rankings for 1976 that time of 2:01.1 placed him 9th equal in the 40-49 rankings for the 800m. It stood as a Scottish vets best for the distance until 1993 when clubmate Denis Shepherd ran 2:01.0 in Dundee.   Now, in 2017, 41 years later, it remains the second best time by an Aberdeen AAC M40 for the distance.   Later that summer he won the British Veteran’s 800m title in a time of 2:01.5.    That season he also ran 55.7 for 400m at Balgownie on 4th April, and 4:12.2 for 1500 on 9th May in Dundee.

In 1977 he won the Scottish Veteran’s 1500m title  on in a championship record time of 4:12.6.   He ran 4:12.2 on 9th May 1977 when representing the club in a meeting of the North Eastern League and this placed him 19th equal in the 40-49 rankings for the distance.  This was an official time but on 12th June 1977, he ran 4:08.0 in a Scottish League Division 1 Match at Coatbridge on 12th June.  Here he finished out of the first three and the time is an unofficial one, taken by a club member.  This, of course, meant that it did not count for world rankings.

Because of injury niggles he did not compete again in a championship event until 1986. In that year he won the Scottish Veteran’s 800m over-50’s title in a time of 2:14.7 at Dundee on 29th June.  In ’86 he also ran a 1500m in 4:37.8 at Balgownie in the club championships on 30th August.

We have then three Scottish and one British veteran championship victories – three of those in two summers, and two of them in record time.   One of the interesting things about these is that they are at the same distances as he was running as a schoolboy of 15 in 1951.   Most endurance athletes tend to go up a distance or several as they grow older but Hunter must have looked after himself throughout his career to be able to set records at his original distances.   In the picture below, we see him at the age of 47 in a race where he finished 23rd in a strong field of veteran cross-country runners.

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Scottish Vets cross-country in Aberdeen in February 1983.

Although injury problems in 1987 led Hunter to conclude that it would be prudent to stop competitive running, he remained active. In particular, he continued cycling and was pleasantly pleased to discover that at 80 years of age he was still capable of going for cycles of up to sixty miles, albeit at a much slower pace than when he was younger.

The ability to still be able to cycle significant distances well after joining the ranks of the elderly is only one of the things that gave Hunter satisfaction. Another is that not only is his elder son, Bill, still an active athlete but Bill’s wife and both of his daughters are also. In fact, Bill’s wife, Ruth, is also a coach as is Bill’s younger daughter, Rachel.   Athletics, therefore, remains one of Hunter’s great interests.

We finish with more comments from two of his club mates.   First comes from Lynda Bain, former Scottish women’s marathon champion and record holder:

“Hunter takes a genuine interest in athletes.  He took his position as secretary of Aberdeen AAC very seriously and made the effort to encourage me when I joined the club.  He took the time to keep informed about athletes from the club and their performances.  I have met him recently and he hasn’t changed a bit!  He still looks pretty fit.”

Colin Youngson, former Scottish marathon champion, says

When I was a student at Aberdeen University, Hunter Watson once beat me in a mile race on the chunky cinder track at Linksfield, Aberdeen around 1967.   He simply trailed me unobtrusively until unleashing a tremendous sprint!   After that tactical lesson, I ran the first three laps as hard as I could and moved safely out of his reach.   He had of course been a Scottish One Mile medallist in the 1950s; and won Scottish and British Veterans track titles when he turned 40.   I remember him advising me to breathe only through my nose as I raced.    However I continued to use mouth and indeed ears as well!   As a middle distance coach of AAAC, he organised many track repetition sessions for athletes who performed very well over 800m and 1500m – but few had the stamina for 5000m!   He was a well-respected long-time Secretary and had considerable influence on the club, due to his meticulous organisational skills and encouraging journalism in the club newsletter.    Largely due to his influence, AAAC developed into a marvellous club for young athletes; the seniors won many national road and cross country team medals; and had great success in track and field leagues. In his early 80s, Hunter remains fit, healthy, clever and determined.

Charlie Forbes

Charlie F

I first met Charlie in 1986 or 1987 when there was a TSB Schools of Sport week at Inverness.   I had invited Gerry Barnes up from Blackburn since he was the North of England staff coach for 5000/10000m and Charlie came along to give us a hand.   He knew all the athletes, filled us in on their backgrounds and helped with the coaching and administration.   Our respect for him grew over the week and has continued to grow over the years since then.   I have known several of the athletes and coaches that he has worked with and they all speak highly of him.    He has worked at local, district, Scottish and British national levels as administrator and coach, he has been a very good club man representing the club in many events on the track as well as on the roads, he has worked with all age groups – indeed his current Power of Ten profile has him coaching athletes from Under 15 to veteran, male and female.   I asked him how he got involved in the sport and his response is below.

“I suppose sport always figured in our family as my twin brother Gordon and I used to be encouraged to race each other at every opportunity.   Also our older sister Sandra was no slouch and was North Schools 220yards winner to her credit.   Egging us on was my late father who was a top sprinter up here in the North and clocked 10 1/5secs for the 100yards on grass tracks with no specific training.   His claim to fame was he competed against Iain Young who was Scottish Champion and Olympian at the time and held him off in the old North District 100yds Championships at Forres over a 1 yard handicap.   He also had other trophies and medals that that we goggled at as young boys for swimming and football where he had a spell with Inverness Clachnacuddin.

As Gordon and I went through school, sports days became a place to shine for me rather than the classroom, although Gordon was slightly faster than me in primary I emerged as the better sportsman in secondary school and competed in many school events under the guidance of my PE teacher – the well known North District and Scottish Athletics  official Colin Baillie.   Colin who later team managed Inverness Harriers in the Scottish Leagues was very passionate about pupils in schools taking part in sport especially rugby and athletics and I did my first formal athletics training under Colin at Millburn Secondary School in Inverness.   In first year I remember coming second in an Inverness Area Schools cross country event which I think I could and should have won had Colin not told me to sprint through the finish a lap too early.   When I think back to the sessions we did especially the 300 and 400 reps and the recovery we got between each might be an indicator why my 800 time only hit about 2.11.   Colin who is a good friend still and we talk quite a lot about school days.   Although I did quite a bit of athletics in school my first love was football and as a 14 year old I must have shown a bit of promise and was totally elated to receive a letter from Desmond White who was then secretary of Celtic Football Club to say they were watching me.   At sixteen I had Hearts knocking on the door and keeping tabs and at 17 had a two week trial with Aberdeen FC. It was about then I started to understand about more about speed (or maybe the lack of it in my case) as I played a couple of bounce games for Aberdeen reserves of which one was against the first team.   I was centre half and given the job of marking Scotlands top scorer and Internationalist over the last 2 years Joe Harper.   When I watched him on the telly he always looked a bit squat and dumpy and during the game I was totally mesmerised how a wee guy like this could move so fast. He was a great guy though and was very encouraging to myself and another couple of lads on trial. I played Highland League with Nairn County for a while but I suppose I was an amateur at heart as the treasurer was always chasing me for my national insurance number so they could pay me which incidentally was £3 appearance, £3.50 draw and £4 for a win.   I was not really interested in getting payed as playing for the team was more important and when players that took me through to training in their cars would try fiddle expenses claiming false passengers I moved on to play in another league and saw my football out there.   I always did running through these times and always kept myself fairly fit during close season at football.

In 1977 I married Liz and we now have 3 children (who all have 2 children each so 6 grandchildren keeps us both on our toes).   During the period they were growing up I got the running bug during the boom of the early 80s and when Neil our oldest was about 10 I took him down to Inverness Harriers and in 1985 I joined the coaching staff.   It was quite a baptism of fire and I was thrust into things that were taking me out of my comfort zone and had to learn quickly about thinking ahead especially with about 40 kids in your charge.   I also quickly realised that all these years playing football that it did not teach you much about how your body works and adapts to specific things, why we warm up etc. etc.   I can honestly say that my first 6 months athletic coaching taught me more than all the years I was involved with football.

CF Inverness Group

Charlie (fourth from the left, front) with some clubmates including Charles Bannerman in the dark blue on his right

I still managed to run the odd race and 10ks and ½ marathons were family days out. My modest bests for these were about 37.30 and 83mins although the half was about 400/500m short I believe. I also competed in Highland Games then and enjoyed the spirit in which they were run and competed in. My last couple of races were in 2004/5 and could still keep the youngsters at bay in the 100yds handicap. One of these was at the Newtonmore Games and as we were lining up on the start Andy Young  (Victoria Park and now coach to Laura Muir) who was recently crowned Scottish Senior Champion at 800m that year happened to be up in the area that weekend and entered the games. When he saw me lining up in the 100yds he thought going scratch would be still not pose a problem. He thought wrong as another oldie Trevor Madigan from Aberdeen and myself saw him off. I ran 11.4 secs off 12yds handicap.”

One of these was at the Newtonmore Games and as we were lining up on the start Andy Young  (Victoria Park and now coach to Laura Muir) who was recently crowned Scottish Senior Champion at 800m that year happened to be up in the area that weekend and entered the games. When he saw me lining up in the 100yds he thought going scratch would be still not pose a problem. He thought wrong as another oldie Trevor Madigan from Aberdeen and I saw him off. I ran 11.4secs off 12yds handicap.”


 Charlie at the Games

Another athlete I was managing to hold off at the games was up and coming star 14 year old Jamie Bowie whom I had under my wing for a few years in his early running career. Jamie went on to become Inverness Harriers most successful ever athlete competing in the 400mtrs picking up medals at World and European Championships as a Junior and Senior member of the Great Britain 4 x 400mtr squads.


     Jamie Bowie

He mentions Andy Young who  was one of the first athletes in a Scottish Team that he worked with when he was asked to be a Team Manager with the then Scottish Athletics Junior Commission in 1994.   Other coaches and officials he was involved with over the years included Walter Bisset, Rodger Harkins, Hugh Murray and Anne Scott.    Athletes such as Lee McConnell and Darren Ritchie were also part of the Squad then and under the guidance of Isabel Robertson who did such a fantastic job for Scottish Athletics for so long.   Charlie adds that

Getting invited to be a National Team Manager of this commission in 1994 was a great honour and the start of a 15 year journey of managing and coaching with Scottish Teams. From the humble beginnings of Celtic Games Teams where your character is fully tested looking after the young stars to the Senior Teams where I witnessed and worked with some great athletes, managers and coaches along the way. (Too many to mention) In 2000 I was selected along with Pat Rollo to be the Team Managers for the first Commonwealth Youth Games which were held in Edinburgh.   Following on from this I was selected to be male Senior Team Manager for Great Britain in the GB v USA v Russia International in Glasgow.    This was great experience for me especially the GB Match as there were all the International Stars on show including Paula Radcliffe, Jonathan Edwards and Bob Weir who is an absolute gentleman.

However the greatest honour for me will always be getting to manage or coach with Scotland`s Teams. Throughout that period of involvement I travelled far and wide and trips to Cyprus, Greece, Belgium, France and all over Ireland and numerous trips to the Loughborough International each May.   The only place I never got a trip to was Wales funnily enough. In Scotland after finishing team management I was asked to be one of the Regional Coaches and did that for 2 years while the project lasted and covered the Outer Hebrides which offers a great place to train for any athlete but especially endurance with some great dunes on the West coast.   I also covered Shetland and Orkney it was here I got to know Piotric Haczek who had just taken up the role of National Sprints and Hurdles Manager for Scottish Athletics.   Piotric was a Polish athlete who mainly competed in the 400 metres.   An outdoor and indoor world champion in the 4 x 400 metres relay, his success came mainly in relay, his best individual performance being a gold medal at the 1999 European Under 23 Championships.   I learnt a good bit from him as I still had Jamie Bowie under my wing and when Jamie went to University in Edinburgh I managed to get him fixed up with Piotric and the rest shall we say is history.

Going away with teams was a great learning experience and sitting chatting in the bar in the evenings was better that any coaching conference where discussions went on well over time.   Hugh Murray, Mike Johnstone and Brian Whittle always were good for getting things going.

I always managed to take something that I had learnt back home to my groups and hopefully (at least I like to think I did) make them better athletes because of it. I think back to the first athletes I coached Grant McDowall and Stephen Hendry  in 1986 and wonder what if they were about now with all that I have learned since these early days. But I am sure we all as coaches say “If I knew then what I know now”…… Both Grant and Stephen were very good U17 800mtr runners and they would knock lumps out of each other in training. Stephen did 1.55.60 (club record for that time) and Grant 1.56.20. It was not until 2012 before that record was broken by Sean Chalmers who I picked up from a schools competition a couple of years before and he took it down to 1.54.79 when he finished 4th in the Under 17 AAAs Final at Bedford. Sean has since gained a scholarship in Lamar University, Texas and I am pleased to see his running is going from strength to strength. Around that time Mhairi MacLennan was breaking through on the cross country scenes picking up National vests and still is under the expert supervision of John Lees another coach I met on National duties.

Of the group from that period and currently the one that is making a big breakthrough in such a short space of time is Stephen Mackay and now can claim to be a hot prospect for the future. He has now lowered his 800m time to 1.50.39 and in all my time coaching I have never met a more committed athlete. All he has achieved has been done locally without any financial support as he has travelled long distances to get the right competition out of his own pocket. He will deserve any success he gets.


 Stephen Mackay (no 14)

Sandwiched in between are many junior and seniors I have coached with many making National Junior teams as sadly for me we have not had the luxury of a University in Inverness (until 2015) and all athletes have I have had to move on to other coaches as I believe you cannot coach at a distance, some may disagree but I feel it`s not fair on the athlete that needs on hand support. Seniors are different.

The most successful XC Inverness Harriers had was in Dundee in 1993? when we had an individual winner with Under 15 boys race with Stuart MacKay who also led the team to gold which was followed up with bronze medals for the under 17 men and under 20 men`s teams that year.

Others to mention would be Simon McIntyre who as an Under 20 finished the year top Scot for 1500m and 9th in the UK rankings with 3.51.86. He picked up track and field Internationals as well as Cross-Country vests and proudly boasts to be the only Inverness Harrier to beat a young Mo Farrah in a Cross-Country meeting.

I have also coached an Olympian although she was part of the GB 2012 Modern Pentathlon Team, Mhairi Spence was also selected for a Celtic Games Cross-Country in Ireland when we had a good going group in that period and others then making national teams were Jennifer Main and DJ McAuley.

Disability Athletes have also been under my wing lately as part of my work is to identify and find coaches for them. Jason MacLean was part of the 2014 Scottish Commonwealth Games Team and finished 5th in the final of the T37 100mtrs. Paul Davidson a T20 400 runner is now making his breakthrough and has just been selected for the British Athletics Futures Squad 2015/16 and has his target set for Rio 2016 Paralympics. With both these athletes again travelling to other countries has been part of the journey with Jason competing in Dubai and Paul in Italy.

I still see quite a lot of former athletes and its special when they keep in touch when they have been away for some time.”

Charlie is now doing a lot of work in Disability Sport and holds the title of Highlands & Islands Regional Manager – Disability Sport at High Life Highland.   In recognition of the work he has been doing this year, at the Inverness Harriers club social night this year (2015) he received an award.   I quote:

Scottish Disability Sport is delighted to congratulate Highlands & Islands Regional Manager Charlie Forbes on deservedly receiving sportscotland’s Regional Coach Award. Inverness Harriers volunteer coach Charlie Forbes was surprised on Saturday night when at the Harriers Christmas night out he received the Highland Disability Coach of the Year award. Charlie was nominated for the award in recognition of his service to Disability Sport Coaching. Charlie has worked with many athletes throughout his coaching career which spans an incredible 30 years of coaching.  This award recognises Charlie’s commitment and time dedicated to his athletes outwith his full time employment in disability sport with High Life Highland. This award is a partnership approach with High Life Highland and sportscotland, recognising the outstanding contribution and significant impact of local coaches in enabling quality sport and physical activity opportunities to happen in communities across the Highlands. After a very impressive speech by Inverness sports legend Colin Bailey, Charlie was presented with his award by Commonwealth Games para athlete Jason Maclean and para athlete Paul Davidson.”

Chas Award

Receiving the Award

Recently he picked up another 2 awards one for The Highlands and Islands Regional Disability Coach and was honoured to receive the Inverness Area Sports Council award for Coach of the Year.

This does not mean of course that he has given up working with other athletes.   Charlie is currently the club coaching convener and is a UKA Level 3 Performance Coach for sprints/800m/1500m/long distance and steeplechase, although as a capable and experienced field events athlete himself he does some work in that area as well.   A look at Power of 10 – which is not a comprehensive survey – indicates that he has nine athletes under his supervision ranging form an Under 17 high jumper to a V35 half marathon runner.   In addition as a good club man as well as a talented sportsman, Charlie has competed in several events for the club in the track league although his recent events have included mixed terrain races and parkruns.    Speaking of which he is also a time keeper at these events and his contribution has been noted – “This week’s fabulous volunteers were Billy Skinner (course set-up), Charlie Forbes (timekeeper), Willie Ross (back-up timekeeper) …”  

As an administrator Charlie has worked at club, district and national level.   A former club president at Inverness, when the Scottish Athletic Federation came into being in 1995, Charlie was the North Area Representative on the council and sat as Chairman for the North District Cross-Country Committee as well as secretary over a period of years between 1995 to 2014. He officiated at the 2003 European Cross-Country Championships and 2008 World XC Championships when they were held in Edinburgh and last year was a Technical Official at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

 In this connection he has been involved in lobbying and supporting local politicians on behalf of the sport: when Inverness was selected by sport Scotland as a possible site of sporting excellence, he stepped up in support and was quoted as follows: “Support for the hub came from Inverness Harriers coach Charlie Forbes, also Regional Manager for Highlands & Islands Disability Sport.   He believes that in indoor centre with a running track is much needed and would lead to more athletes competing at a higher level.   Inverness Harriers have four athletes of Commonwealth Games standard and there could have been more if we had a big indoor centre,” he said.   “It can be pretty difficult at times for our athletes.   They often scrape the snow off the track which is not ideal for health and safety reasons and in winter there is often no training facilities available , unlike in the central belt.” 

Coaches, officials and administrators often have to fight their corner and in a place as remote from the levers of power as Inverness this is even more the case.   Athletes in the north are lucky to have men like Charlie Forbes to go into bat for them.

Tommy Callaghan

TBP 64 The start of the Edinburgh to Glasgow in 1964: Tom is second from right in the back row – behind Alex Brown of Motherwell.

This profile was written by Tom’s clubmate, Joe Small.   Tom is the personification of the really good athletic club member – the man who always did what his club needed him to do, and then went a bit further.   He was a runner, a club official, an administrator, a coach to several Scottish and British international athletes.  Tom also ran a sports shop along with one of his protégés, Ron McDonald for a time.  He was also the man on the wrong end of a very poor decision by the governing body of cross-country in Scotland which Joe refers to in the following narrative.   

Tom Callaghan came from Airdrie, but was involved with Coatbridge’s Monkland Harriers and latterly Clyde Valley A.A.C. for over 30 years as a runner, official, coach & organiser.

He joined Monkland in 1958, competing in cross-country & road running as a boy & youth. Among his club contemporaries at the time were top class runners like Jim Finn, who won the Youths National in 1960 and 1961, Jim. Grant, 2nd in the Boys National in 1959, Jimmy Johnstone, 2nd in the Youths National also in 1959. 1959 seemed to be a good year for Monkland, with Tom picking up a silver medal as the Boys team finished second in the National, only 3 points behind George Heriot’s School. In the 1961 Midland District race he was in the bronze medal winning Youths team along with race winner Jim Finn & J. Grant. Teams involving Finn, Grant, Tom & Tommy Gallagher won many other relay & team prizes around this time.

Moving up to the Junior/Senior ranks, the likes of Finn & Grant fell away, as is so often the case with talented boys champions. Tom, now training with Jimmy Johnstone ran on road, in cross-country & highland games events, winning the handicap mile at Kirkintilloch with a time of 4.08 in 1964. He competed in the Edinburgh – Glasgow on eight occasions, for both Monkland & Clyde Valley. In 1980 he picked up a team bronze medal when Clyde Valley finished 3rd. in the West District cross-country championships that year.

It was early in his senior career that he became involved in the organisational side of things. In the mid-sixties, Monkland were stuck in a rut. Tom, along with a few others including Jimmy Johnstone, Willie Drysdale & Willie McBrinn replaced the long running club secretary & proceeded to introduce a number of initiatives to reinvigorate the club. The launch of a series of cross country races involving local schools resulted in a good number of new young runners joining the club. The best known of these would be Ronnie MacDonald. Others included Frank Gribben, Peter Preston, Danny Nee, Jim Burns, Kenny Ashwood, etc. quite a conveyor belt of talent.

It was with the emergence of Ronnie MacDonald that Tom first became involved with coaching. He guided Ronnie to the level of performance and results that can be seen in his profile elsewhere on this site. When Jim Brown joined the club in 1970, he also advised him for a number of years, again the results can be seen on Jim’s profile. The other big name to join Monkland in the early ‘70s was Ian Gilmour. This came about after Ian finished 3rd. in the National Junior cross country championship (behind MacDonald & Brown). Tom approached Ian after the race & asked if he’d be interested in the joining the same club as the two guys who had just beaten him. Ian agreed & competed very successfully for Monkland & Clyde Valley for a number of years.

Back to the organisational side of things. Tom, through his contacts in Coatbridge Town Council, was instrumental in turning Coatbridge into the focal point of cross country, road running, later track & field for a good number years.

The National Cross Country championships first came to Drumpellier Park in 1973 (Jim Brown winning the Junior race & the Junior team also finishing first for good measure!) and returned to the same venue for a further three years. Other events held were the District & County cross country championships & relays, Schools cross country championships, Women’s international cross country race, Schools Home Countries international & Boys Brigade National championships, all sponsored by the council. On the road, the first running of the Coatbridge 5 mile race, initially as part of a town festival, saw the introduction of lucrative prizes, the winner receiving a portable tv, quite a step up from the usual cutlery sets etc. being handed out. Top class athletes from south of the border were enticed to compete. The first race in 1973 was won by Ian Stewart, his first race back since taking a year out of the sport following the 1972 Olympics. Again, Tom was the driving force behind most of these events, although he would always say that he had a lot of help from club members & other local organizations.

Through the success of these events & the local club, the council was persuaded to proceed with the building a new athletics stadium, opened in 1975, complete with an international standard 8 lane all-weather track & accommodating 8000 spectators, costing £410,000 (£3m in today’s money). The first meeting held on the track was organized by Monkland Harriers, after which they were not involved, the Council taking over running of events. Later, international meetings, national, district & local championships all came to the town.

One of the goals of the council (and Tom), was to attract the World Cross Country Championships to the town. Scotland was due to host this prestigious event in 1978. Following a special General Meeting of the Scottish Cross Country Union in 1976, the race was awarded to Glasgow. This decision saw the end of the local council’s involvement. The story behind this decision deserves an article of its own, one which Tom is working on at present. It will make interesting reading when complete!

The International Cross Country decision previously mentioned also saw the end of Tom’s direct involvement in the sport.

Tom was also one of the instigators in the formation of Clyde Valley AAC, this being an amalgamation of five Lanarkshire clubs, to try & form a `super club’ to compete on the same level as the large Edinburgh & Glasgow clubs of the time. A look through the results of the period will show how successful they were for a number of years. Probably the most high profile athlete to be produced was Tom McKean.

For a number of years the club secretary was none other than Tom Callaghan.

Just to give a quick idea of how busy Tom was, he was involved in all of the above, together with training & competing, bringing up a family, holding down a full-time job and then opening a number of sports shops in partnership with Ronnie MacDonald. Some of you no-doubt purchased shoes, track suits or vests from the aforementioned Monkland Sports! As the saying goes, “If you want something done, ask a busy man”

Nowadays, he’s retired, still out walking everyday, but still taking a keen interest in most sports, particularly Aberdeen F.C and the Tour De France, both formed in the same year, 1903, coincidentally!

Denis Shepherd

Denis AAAC Champs 81

Denis, in the cap, winning the club 400m championship in 1981

Denis Shepherd, born on 5th June, 1952, has for decades been one of the mainstays of Aberdeen AAC.   A more than useful athlete, he has covered every single track event ranging from 100m all the way up to the half-marathon, plus all four jumps and the decathlon.   When I say every single track event, I mean them all, including 110m hurdles, 400m hurdles and steeplechase.    As a veteran he has creditable marks at 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 400m hurdles plus high jump and long jump.    When he ran 2:01 for 800m as a veteran, it was a Scottish best.   If that were all there was to Denis, then it would be a creditable athletics career to say the least but there is more to come.

I drove an Aberdeen AAC athlete, a senior Scottish internationalist, down to Stretford in Manchester in the mid-90’s  to run in a British Milers Club 800m.   He finished a good third in an excellent field and turned in a time of 1:49.3.   He was delighted and added that Denis would be happy that the club record was now below 1:50!   Denis was, and still is, the Aberdeen club statistician.   He keeps the records and is meticulous about keeping to the rules.   For club records and best performances, the athlete has to be at the very least a second-claim club athlete or there is no club record or even certificate awarded.   Denis says that on records, “I pass the information on to the committee who make the decision but I try to keep to the rules.   However, so long as an athlete is a member at the time they qualify regardless of whose colours they are in.”   There is also an annual Aberdeen statistical book that is a wonderful piece of work, well produced and exhaustively researched – all from Denis, without payment and solely for the good of the club and its athletes.

Denis Nethy 81

Denis (21) at the Nethy Games, 1981: backmarkers in the 800m handicap

Where did it start for Denis?   I’m always intrigued how people got involved in athletics in the days before ‘sport4all’ or the ‘running boom’ made it a fashionable thing to do.  In Denis’s case, he went to Alford School from the top end of Primary School until the end of Secondary 4, where the PE teacher was a Mr Harvey who was keen on athletics and entered the pupils in various inter-school events.   Secondary 5 and 6 were spent at Inverurie Academy where the teacher responsible was Brian Pratt, assistant games master, and he helped Denis to develop as a high jumper and hurdler.   It was then on to Aberdeen University where he continued his progress as an athlete.   His range of events has been referred to above and we should look at his personal best performances.

100m – 11.9; 200m – 23.6; 400m – 51.8.

800m -1:56.1; 1500m – 4:07.7; 5000m – 16:46; 10000m – 35:33.1.

Half Marathon – 81:33.

110 metres Hurdles – 17.4; 400m Hurdles – 57.1; 3000m SC – 10:21.6.

HJ – 1.68i (1.67); PV – 2.45; LJ – 19ft ¼”; TJ – 12.13; Decathlon – 3563.

He was the kind of athlete team managers love: 14 events plus relays and a real competitor in every one!   He did actually compete once in all four throws events.   The performances would probably have been better but Denis was plagued by sinus problems from the age of 15 until they were cured by the removal of a growth at the age of 29.   He kept on training for fitness and when he turned 40 in 1992 he started to come quite close to his pb’s.   His personal best performances as a vet were:

100 – 12.1; 200 – 24.6; 400 – 53.0; 800 – 2:01.0 (Scottish best at the time); 400H – 59.9.

HJ – 1.68i (1.67); LJ – 5.46

And if we check out the archive at, we find that he was ranked nationally over 400 metres hurdles in 1973, ’74, ’75, ’77, ’78, ’79, ’80,  ’82, … ’92 and ’93.

When asked what his best performance was, he replied that he wasn’t sure about the best, but they were probably some of his vets running which included 59.9 for 400m hurdles in a Men’s League match, and also doing a Scottish best of 2:01.1 for 800m as a non-scoring athlete in a North East League match, defeating the club’s scoring runners in the process.   It beat club mate Hunter Watson’s club record by 0.1 seconds.  There was also some satisfaction as a veteran to defeat  a senior runner, and the previous year’s winner, Alan Banks, in the 800m at Lochaber Games.

Denis Haddo 80s

A fast finish at Haddo House in the ‘Round the Castles’ series in the 1980s

Like many athletes, Denis began coaching while he was still a competitive athlete.   He tells us that “My coaching started in 1975 when Jean Wood (then secretary) suggested I go to the assistant club course in Largs.    It seemed funny on the first course because I kept identifying myself as an athlete rather than the coach they were speaking about but it inspired me to go out and coach athletes – I was a hands on, or rather feet on, coach as I joined in the sessions whenever possible.   I initially regarded myself as mainly a coach and in the latter years of my own running career, but after recovering from injuries around 1976-78 I started getting PBs again and prolonged my first-team career until I retired at 30.”

From 1975 Denis was coaching while competing and bringing his times down – eg the 400m hurdles pb was 59.3 in 1975 but came down to 57.1 in 1979.   There had been various unspecific medical problems of a glandular nature which had been bothering him since he was about 25 years old which eventually forced his retirement in late ’93.   There has been some competition in recent years although it has been infrequent due to these problems as well as the more usual sprains and strains.

As an administrator, he became a member of the Aberdeen AAC club committee from August 1975 until October 1999.  Among the posts held he has been assistant secretary, men’s captain, cross-country captain and ladies secretary.   Outwith club positions, Denis has also been secretary/treasurer of the North-East League from 1976 until it disbanded in 1996, also has served as minutes secretary of the Petrofac (previously Grampian) League for many years, a post he still holds.

Runner, coach, administrator – quite a load but it was not the end of the story, not by a long chalk.   He is also a qualified track judge, timekeeper and marksman and although there are no recognised qualifications for seeding or for announcing, Denis is experienced in both.  As a coach he is a level 2 coach in sprints and middle distance and has coached SAAA champions in various events of whom the most successful was Paul Allan, a GB junior decathlete.    In addition to competing for the club and coaching other athletes to compete for the club, he has acted as team manager for many years including 1995 when Aberdeen won the Scottish men’s league for the first time in its history.

Also known as a statistician, Denis produces an annual book – too big really to be called a booklet! – of club statistics which this year runs to 60 pages.   Its contents include:

* Club Records for All Age Groups

* Highlights from the Club’s 2013/2014  and 2014 Seasons

* Club All Time Lists of Senior Champions

* All the Club’s Major Games Representatives

* Club All-Time Indoor Rankings for Senior Athletes

* Club Indoor Records for All Age Groups

* Club All-Time Top 20 Lists – Senior Events

* Club All-Time Top 10 Lists – U20, U17 and U15 events

* Club All-Time Top 10 Lists – Veteran Men and Women

* 2014 Top 5 Rankings for All Age Groups

The Year Book is compiled by Denis with assistance from Mark Davidson, Fiona Davidson, Joyce Hogg, Alasdhair Love, Marina Millar and Bob Masson.   It includes approximately 30 full colour photographs of club members, a quiz and several colour adverts placed by local businesses.   It is far and away the best of its kind that I have seen, bigger, brighter and more detailed.

Denis Inverness 92

Denis (14) at his first Scottish Veterans Championship in June 1992 at Inverness

(With the late Jack Gelder)

Denis was kind enough to complete the questionnaire and it is time to look at some of some of his replies.

Name: Denis James Shepherd

Club: Aberdeen AAC

Date of Birth:  5th June 1952

Occupation:  Self employed massage therapist and Press results compiler (also part time entertainer and ceilidh dance caller)

What has athletics brought you that you would not have wanted to miss?   The buzz of going to competitions and the ‘high’ after doing well.   The satisfaction of seeing others doing well and knowing I had helped them either as a coach or as an official.

What changes, if any, would you make in the sport?  I think the coaching of youngsters should be more regulated.   Coaches go on courses which teach them that youngsters should not specialise too early or do certain types of training; but in practice in clubs new members who show promise in one discipline are often sent to a specialist coach who may not have the time or inclination to devise different schedules for different ages of athletes, or to organise sessions with other specialist coaches so that they can reach their full potential in all events.

I also think that coach education should be standardised.   As an illustration, when I did the middle distance coaching courses, a well-known national coach gave us examples of speed endurance sessions, presumably for a middle distance (800/1500m) athlete.   Soon afterwards I asked another locally based coach to have a look at a programme I had done for one of my athletes  which included some speed endurance sessions based on the above.   He wrote against these, “This is not speed-endurance!”   The course training was apparently for cross-country and not 800/1500m as the qualification should have been.

Administration-wise I think that precise results should be available within a certain period, as often there are only provisional results available months later.   Sometimes SAL don’t publicise their own championship results at all!   Results should also automatically show the distances of races, often the compilers have to trawl through various results websites to find the distance and sometimes, as I was told with regard to the schools road championships, the course has not been measured at all.   I also think race organisers should be forced to include actual age groups in the results – M40, W50, etc instead of saying  V  or SV as nowadays there are no uniform definitions of these and they can mean anything.

Any work as Press Reporter, club magazine, etc?   I edited the ‘Aberdeen Athlete’ (comprehensive club magazine) for fourteen years.   For the past 26 years I have produced the club year book.   I have also provided results to the ‘Press & Journal’, ‘Courier’, ‘Herald’ and ‘Telegraph’ and done reports for ‘Scotland’s Runner’.   I am currently results and editorial contributor to ‘Athletics Weekly’.

Currently?   Apart from the above athletic activities, my competitive instincts are now geared towards traditional entertaining, and this year I won the Scots Verse trophy at Kirriemuir, mouth organ at Kirriemuir and Keith, and story telling at Kirriemuir, as well as the free-style (accompanied) traditional singing at Aberdeen.   But above all, I won a bothy ballad event for the first time at Strichen, and, as a result, have been invited to compete in the Bothy Ballad ‘Champion of Champions’ event in Elgin Town Hall on February 13th, 2016.

Denis Striche Presentation

Denis receiving the Bothy Ballad Trophy at Strichen

Charles Bannerman

Chas and Jenny

Charles with daughter Jenny – in Inverness colours, of course!

Charles Bannerman is a name known in Scottish athletics for many things including coaching, journalism and broadcasting on sport, but these days possibly as a prolific poster on internet forums with insight, opinions and comments on all issues to do with athletics.   There is a lot more to him than that and he is living proof of a truth not often mentioned in the Press which is that Scottish athletics extends beyond the central belt although that’s not how those from the central belt usually see it.

When it was decided to hold the Scottish Cross-Country Relay Championships at Kinmylies in 1980 there were many who thought it was asking too much.   There were discussions, special club committee meetings and articles in the papers about why go all the way up there, how could they manage it, there should be a special train, team selection was difficult because a key runner had to work on Saturday morning and so on.   The event went off really well and was enjoyed by all those who were there.   Mind you, it didn’t go back there until 1989 and it hasn’t been back since.   This of course body swerved the question of how those from Inverness and further North managed to come to races in Glasgow, Edinburgh and their environs week after week for the entire year, every year.   Both these championships were organised by a man whose name is well-known in cross-country circles nationwide – Walter Banks, president of the SCCU in 1981/82.    Charles was asked about Walter whom he had cited as one of the men who had a big influence on him.

“The Banks had been close family friends for as long as I could remember and when Walter realised that I had a growing interest in athletics, he did a huge amount to encourage that in very many ways. That was tremendously influential.  I worked very closely with Walter for about 40 years and his input to athletics in the North was enormous.   At the 1980 national relay championships he put me in charge of the course and in 1989 the results. He attended his last meeting when he was in his mid 80s and not long retired from official duties, which included timekeeping.  I sat with him in the stand where, just for fun, he was taking his own times.   I unobtrusively scribbled down what he had for one 400 metre race to check it against the automatic timing.   The average error across the entire field was a mere 0.04 seconds!”

This all confirms, if confirmation were needed, that those outside the central belt are as enthusiastic about our sport as anyone in the land and work extremely hard not only to keep it alive but to develop it.    For those from the area who want to progress in the sport there are many hurdles to overcome and we can see from  Charles’s career in the sport what these hurdles are and how he overcame them.

In a very good article in the “Inverness Courier” he is described as “the ultimate multi-tasker” and it is probably how he manages to fit in everything he is involved in and still make an impact at national level.   As we look at his career it becomes clear how many strands intertwine all the way through.

Charles was brought up in Dalneigh in the west of Inverness and his career in athletics did not have an auspicious start. At primary school he was consistently last in the sports, even trailing in, he says, behind the lad who had a mild case of polio and wore a light caliper!   But athletics was appearing regularly on television where people could see top class athletics unavailable to them locally.   Charles’s developing and fundamental fascination with athletics, was fanned by the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, live by satellite for the first time.   That was the year of course that Scotland’s Fergus Murray and Ming Campbell competed for the British team.   Whether it was the impetus provided by the Games and other meetings shown in black and white on television, or simple maturity, or more likely a combination of both, Charles tells us that  “For some reason during early secondary, I acquired a modest athletic ability and eventually settled down at 400/800 (OK – 440 and 880 to start with!) although I competed at all distances in the 100 – 1500 range plus a little cross country and road racing. I first joined Inverness Harriers in 1969, I am now its longest serving member and have been a life member since 2007.”

Charles sat his Highers at Inverness Royal Academy in 1970 which was an auspicious year for Scottish athletics – the Commonwealth Games came to Scotland, to Edinburgh which was to be his choice of University.   It is impossible to think that he was not as inspired as the rest of Scotland by this event.   There was even an Inverness input.   In a report on the website we read that

“There was an interesting Highland prelude to the 1970 Games when eleven athletics competitors from four Commonwealth countries took part in the Inverness Highland Games on Saturday, 11th July, as part of their preparations for the Meadowbank event.   The appearance was negotiated by the North of Scotland AAA officials including the late Donald Duncan, President of the SAAA in 1957.  

The squad was managed by former 440 yards world record holder Herb McKenley who was then Jamaican team coach.   From Jamaica there were 400m runners Leon Priestley and Eshinan Samuel and high jumpers Yvonne Sanders and Andrea Bruce.   The Canadian contingent consisted of endurance athletes Ray Verney, Andy Boychuk and Dave Ellis along with shot putter Brian Caulfield, while reigning Empire and Commonwealth decathlon champion Royal Wiliiams and hammer thrower Warwick Nicoll represented New Zealand.

Completing the eleven strong squad was Scotland’s own 800m specialist Mike Maclean who returned a time of 3:57.2 in the 1500m to defeat Verney.   Maclean also returned a surprisingly modest and comfortable 52.8.  

North distance running legend Alastair Wood moved to the very bottom of his range to take on Canadian opposition in the 5000m where he recorded 14:56 on a grass track whioch had suffered from an extremely wet summer.   He eventually conceded defeat to Boychuk and Ellis who crossed the line together in 14:41.  

The turf was wet enough for Saunders and Bruce not to risk High jumping but they instead contested the 200m which Saunders won in 25.8.  

Nicoll won the wire hammer, the only event of its kind on the North Amateur games circuit at the time, with a throw of 56.29m, nine metres clear of former Scottish internationalist Alex Valentine of Elgin AAC and RNAS Lossiemouth.

However the technical departure to the Scots hammer appears to have got the better of Nicoll who, deprived of the capacity to turn, had to concede defeat to Tony Cohen of Inverness Harriers.”

The next day, the NSAAA officials acted as ‘taxi drivers’ to get the athletes back down south where they were due to compete at another meeting over the then customary pre-Games distances of 150, 300 and 600m on the black Rubkor track at Grangemouth.

Ian Tasker, who wrote the “Courier” report,  was at that time a competitor himself but has just retired from handicapping after 43 years in the job.

After leaving the Academy in 1971, Charles went to Edinburgh University where he gained a first-class honours degree in chemistry.   The Courier reports that his multi-tasking skills were in evidence when at University; he told them “I’m quite good at using a lot of short spaces of time to do different things. For instance, when I was at university and exams were coming up, if I was waiting for a bus I would just open up the folder at the bus stop and revise a couple of lectures.”    The University experience was important, he says, in that  “I realised that there was a whole world of athletics outside the circuit of Highland Games which used to be such a limiting influence in the North. It is that limiting influence, which held back North athletics for so long, which has left me with a lifelong wariness of over exposure to Highland Games.

However I never really surpassed mediocrity in performance, failing ever to reach the finals of the Scottish Schools or SAAA senior championships and ending my track career with PBs of 52.4/1:58.7 plus a single North District and a single EUAC 400m title.   When I returned to Inverness to teach Chemistry in the mid 70s, I immediately acquired a desire to coach and this happened to coincide with very rapid development at Inverness Harriers.   There was a mission underway among four or five of us to modernise the sport in the North by removing it from the backward influence of the Highland Games and instead applying the likes of what I had learned in my Edinburgh years.
 In 1980 I stopped running completely in favour of coaching and administration and remained totally inactive for almost the entire decade.”
This was an important decision because he could now influence many more athletes than he could ever have done as a runner, and this was to the benefit of Inverness Harriers, the North of Scotland and Scottish athletics generally.   The coaching talent revealed itself fairly quickly.

Fraser, Neil

Neil Fraser

Charles coached his first Scottish champions, including Neil Fraser (Senior Boys’ high jump), in 1978 and Neil was also the first schools internationalist he worked with when he gained representative honours in 1979.    In 1981, and by then a hurdler, the future national record holder was one of his first two senior internationalists.    Neil’s conversion from high jump to hurdles, which in the pre-Queens Park track era involved paving stones and a soft blaes surface, was interesting!   In 1981 Neil began a course at Heriot Watt University and Charles, while still retaining some input, was pleased to have his old coach Bill Walker to pass Neil on to.   By the time he had finished competing, Neil had won the SAAA 110 metres hurdles in 1983, 86, 87 and 88, been second in 1981 and 84 and third in 1991, he also had a full set of gold, silver and bronze for the indoor 60m hurdles and set a Scottish record for 110 hurdles in 1987 with a time of 14.11 seconds which stood until 1994.

Charles points out that he learned a lot about events he had never contemplated coaching from following the demands of athletes he was coaching.   This is almost identical to the coaching career pattern of many top class coaches who utilise every means of improving their knowledge of the sport by every means possible – reading, talking and discussing the events for which they are responsible, attending meetings and responding to situations that arise.   By 1981 he had a group of over 20 sprinters, hurdlers and high jumpers.   And in 1981 one of the new arrivals was Jayne Barnetson who would go on to become one of the country’s best ever athletes.   Four years later, Jayne became National high jump record holder and, 30 years on, still holds that record.   Jayne cleared 1.88 three times while Charles was coaching her and 1.91 in 1989 after she had started training with Scottish National Coach David Lease.    Jayne was also his first GB internationalist.   If we look at her record while she was with him, we note that she won the SWAAA High Jump in 1985 and 87 and was second in 1984, 86 and 88, took second in the WAAA’s Junior High Jump in 1985  and also won the heptathlon in 1988.   Jayne’s 1.88m in 1985 was a new Scottish record,  and the  1.91m has yet to be beaten by any Scottish high jumper.

His other Scottish senior internationalist of 1981 was high jumper Tommy Leighton and Charles also coached the first Scottish club Junior Women’s Under 15 team to break 50 seconds in the 4 x 100m (49.9 twice in 1980) as well as the Inverness Harriers club team which won the senior women’s title in 1981.   When asked about it, he points out that  “the leading light of that senior team was one of my very first sprinters who is now Dianne Chisholm whom I have mentored as a coach as and when over the years. Dianne had the distinction of coaching her own high jumper daughter Rachael MacKenzie to Glasgow 2014 so I therefore class myself as Rachael’s athletic grandfather!”

Barnetson, JayneJayne Barnetson

By now Charles was established in his career as a science teacher, coaching and learning about sprinting, hurdling, high jumping and  other events as well as being a member of the club committee and became chairman of the North District of the SAAA in 1980, an office he held until 1986 which he says  enabled him to play a role in modernising athletics up here.    In addition to the coaching and administrative involvement, he qualified as a Grade 2 starter and marksman, held various club committee posts and founded the Inverness Harriers Open Meeting in 1976, the year he also became athletics correspondent for the “Inverness Courier.  If you want a job done, ask a busy man!  A wee recap in case you missed it:

Coach of international standard athletes – fairly senior administrator at district level as well as locally – official as starter and marksman – club committee worker – sports journalist – and organising the Inverness Harriers Open Meeting.   All at the same time.

None of this went unnoticed south of the highland line: in 1985 Charles was approached by Scottish National Coach David Lease who offered him the post of Staff Coach for high jump.    Of this, he says  “That was an interesting offer since, due to a combination of work commitments and remoteness from Largs, my formal qualification never actually progressed past Assistant Club Coach for which there wasn’t even an exam! However I have always maintained that you learn far more during a couple of hours in the pub with people like Frank Dick, Bill Walker and David Lease, my own three biggest mentors, than you will at any official course.  I turned down David’s offer since my son was expected and I had therefore decided to wind my group up and withdraw from more or less all athletics commitments at the end of the 1985 season.   I was probably by this stage also suffering from a bit of burnout.   The one exception was that I continued with Jayne to the 1986 Commonwealth Games and World Juniors.”

David Lease was a Welshman with a very quiet demeanour who was known and respected by all Scotsmen.   On one occasion when he was with a Scottish team which had lost the pole vaulter, David filled in and competed for Scotland.   He knew what was happening in athletics all over Scotland better than many who had lived here all their lives and it was indeed an honour when he approached Charles.


David Lease

Charles became a freelance sports reporter for the BBC in 1985 but only had limited involvement in active athletics when his two children were very young but began to train and compete again in 1989.   This involved a combination of track and road 10Ks where, about to become a Vet, he managed 37:36.    (which is incidentally two and a half minutes slower than his daughter’s current PB).   You can turn runners into coaches but you can’t stop them wanting to run and Charles still runs as frequently as his aching connective tissue allows.   He would, he says, love to dip below 50 minutes for 10K once again (best for 2015 is 51:31).

His broadcasting career continued to develop and in 1994, when Inverness Caley Thistle and Ross County joined the Scottish Football League, he began to do live match day radio and television reports.

He couldn’t stay away from coaching for long and during the 90s he dabbled in short term coaching projects such as advising Mel Fowler on how to prepare for the European Police 400m championships whilst based in darkest Skye and helping David Barnetson with an experiment in 400 hurdles.   Mel was an interesting athlete who had started his career as a long and triple jumper with Victoria Park AAC and was already an internationalist when he joined the police and went north.   David was Jayne’s brother and a top athlete in his own right, winning the SAAA high jump three times, being second five times and third twice, with victories indoors and in the pentathlon.   His best 400m hurdles was 52.6 seconds in 1996.   So, although not responsible for their entire careers he was working with top quality athletes and, basically, taking up where he had left off.   He was however not involved in the nitty-gritty of full time coaching and came back into coaching in 1998.

The club was short of coaching specialists  and Charles spotted two extremely talented youngsters – Vicky O’Brien and Lesley Clarkson – and decided to take the plunge into coaching again. His Assistant Club Coaching qualification had lapsed but Charles received discretionary reinstatement to what has nowadays evolved into Level 3.   [Coaching qualifications at that time had three levels – ACC, Club Coach and Senior Coach.   The standards were high and the written examinations at Club and Senior level difficult.  On one occasion when Frank Dick was taking a group of Russian coaches round Britain, these professional coaches found it difficult to understand how amateur coaches could have the level of knowledge the senior coaches in Britain had].

The following year Vicky O’Brien won the Schools International long jump and the Scottish under 17 title with 5.95 and gained a GB under 18 selection. Lesley Clarkson became AAAs junior indoor and British Universities outdoor 400m champion in 2001, with a time (54.44) which qualified her for the European Juniors, in advance of making the 4 x 400 pool for the Manchester Commonwealth Games.

David Lease had maybe left a note for his successor or Meg Stone was really au fait  with what was happening in the country and was extremely encouraging, and gave Charles an opportunity as sprints coach with the Scottish team at the 2000 Loughborough International.   He worked as a coach for a whole Commonwealth Games four year cycle and withdrew from coaching until 2008 when his daughter, Jenny, made a delayed comeback to the sport as a road runner.   He is currently coaching Jenny and thinks he will stick with that.   Jenny has a series of marks ranging from 2:20 for 800m through to 58:51 for 10 miles via 9:51 for 3K and 35:15 for 10K.

Meg Ritchie Stone

Meg Stone

Away from the track, he is membership secretary for Inverness Harriers, a post he has had since he retired from teaching in 2013.   Having joined the Harriers in 1969, he has been involved in the sport for over 50 years now and has had time to think on the changes that have taken place over that period and how he feels the sport should be developed.   I asked him for his thoughts on where the sport is going and, maybe where it should be going.  This is is reply.

“My philosophy of athletics comprises a set up with clubs firmly at its centre, dedicated by commitment and hard work to achieving the highest standards possible for athletes all abilities – Olympians down to the most modest wearer of a club vest.

As a result I have little time for distractions such as Jogscotland, over priced city road races, Highland Games, Sportshall and Fun Athletics, especially distractions which dilute commitment and competitive ethos. The critical criteria for me, therefore, do not relate to elitist performance standards but to the values and attitudes within a competitive sport. I therefore welcome anyone of any standard who is prepared to pull on a club vest and compete.”

Meanwhile, where is he now?  Charles continues his broadcasting activities with shinty having been added to his responsibilities.   He has won awards as a sportswriter for his journalism at the Highland Media Awards ceremonies in both 2001 and 2005 and that continues.   He has written six books over the years including  “Against All Odds”, the official account of the controversial Inverness football merger, and “Maroon and Gold”, the history of Inverness Harriers up to Glasgow 2014.   We have already mentioned his post as membership secretary of Inverness Harriers and his coaching of daughter Jenny as a road runner plus his own continued quest for a sub-50 10K   – if you want a job done, ask a busy man!


Kenny Phillips: the runner


 Kenny winning at Dam Park, Ayr, c1947

Kenny Phillips is a well kent face in Scottish athletics – nowadays he is mainly seen with camera in hand taking his excellent photographs at athletics meetings all across the country in all weathers in every season of the year.   The photographs are posted in picasa web and he encourages clubs and individuals to download them first of all for the individuals concerned and also for club purposes.   The motivational power of  photographs for athletes is considerable.   There is however much more to Kenny than that.

Kenny started out 70 years ago as a club runner for his local club, Beith Harriers and ran in no fewer than 50 consecutive national cross country  championships – a quite remarkable record.   He also ran in the prestigious Edinburgh to Glasgow relay race with the first run in 1954 when he turned out on the first stage.   The ‘News of the World’ as it was often called because of the sponsorship was a hard race to run.   The top 20 teams in the country, entry by invitation only and supported by eight buses, one for each stage, and a fleet of Rolls Royces for the officials and a slap-up meal in the Ca d’Oro in Glasgow for the prize giving.   Kenny’s best run in the race was probably in 1958 when he ran the third leg: Ian Harris (an SAAA marathon champion), despite an accident on his new motor scooter just before the race, had run in to ninth, place on the first stage, Tommy Cochrane (another cross-country international runner) moved Beith Harriers up to seventh and then Kenny, with fifth fastest time of the day, took them up to sixth.   Unfortunately the team could not maintain this high position but Kenny had had a terrific run.

He was also a good track man who specialised in the Mile.  His career is summed up on the Beith Harriers website as follows:

“Kenneth Phillips specialised in the mile but also ran the half-mile and cross country.   He competed in the National cross country championships 50 times. His favourite course was at Stewarton where the field was similar to that at Beith, rough, sharp corners and 8 laps to the mile.    He often won both the ½ mile and 1 mile at the Bonnet Guild Sports and, one year, was the first to break the 4 minute mile when he was the only competitor to realise that the lap counter had made a mistake with 3 laps to go instead of 4.   On another occasion at Stewarton in the Medley Relay, Kilmarnock and Beith were neck and neck at the final changeover for the final ½ mile.  Kenny was up against the Ayrshire Champion, Willie More, and dropped the baton when it was accidentally knocked out of his hand by Willie.    Willie, being a perfect gentleman and sportsman marked time until Kenny caught up and passed him. Kenny then hugged the sharp corners and made Willie run wide each time he tried to pass. By the time they reached the final uphill stretch, Willie was exhausted and Kenny easily romped home for the winning team.”     To those who don’t know, More was a first rate athlete with a 3 miles best of 14:21 – a good track man in all distance events, maybe particularly the steeplechase.

The sport was different at that time, and many from that era feel strongly that it was a healthier sport too.   The website has a record of a typical summer for Kenny.

15/5/54 Glasgow Telephones, Helenvale:  1 mile open (90yds) Unplaced

22/5/54 Stevenston 1 mile open (90yds) 1st

29/5/54 Glasgow Highland, Ibrox 1 mile open (90 yds) Unplaced

5/6/54 Singers Sports (Clydebank) 1/2 mile open 3rd in heat; 1 mile open (75yds) Unplaced

12/6/54 Glasgow Police, Ibrox 1 mile open (75yds) Unplaced

16/6/54 Bellahouston, Saracen Park 4 x 1/2 mile relay; 2 mile Team

19/6/54 Babcock & Wilcox 1 mile invitation (75yds) 4th

26/6/54 Stewarton 1 mile (75yds) 1st

29/6/54 Glasgow Transport, Helenvale 1 mile (65yds) Unplaced

10/7/54 Saxone 1 mile (65yds) 4th

21/8/54 Bute 1 mile (65yds) 3rd

28/8/54 Dirrans (Kilwinning) Medley Relay (1/4) 1st; 2 mile team 2nd individual 1st team; 1/2 mile open (30yds) Unplaced

12 meetings in three months, often two or more races in the one meeting.   Four first place awards, a second and a third.   The figure in brackets was his handicap for that particular race and the handicapping system was the one that prevailed.   There was usually one or maybe two runners with very favourable handicaps and many more who claimed that the handicapper had done them an injustice with an unfair handicap.   It was possible to be a good runner and never win a handicap race.   Kenny’s four firsts from 12 meetings was an achievement!   The photograph at the top of the page was taken by the photographer of the Ayr Advertiser after a mile at Dam Park.   Kenny says:

“Dam Park was still a grass track..  I had a pound of honey pears and a pint of milk before the race and studied the competitors limbering up beforehand.   The favourite for the mile was the international cross country runner Gibby Adamson from West Kilbride  and there was a tall, athletic looking Latvian, a Displaced Person, with long flowing blond hair, about whom we knew nothing.    The second prize was a wrist watch, which I planned to aim for as I did not possess a watch.   During the race my plan was working fine with me lying behind Gibby but my competitive spirit erupted and as the reporter printed when describing Gibby…. “when out of the blue came K Phillips of Beith”…… Instead of the watch, I won my first individual first-prize of a rug, which wore in my bedroom for years.” 

The area covered by meetings was wide – Glasgow, Clydebank, Ayrshire, Renfrew, Bute and all over the Central Belt – with transport often by public transport or pushbike.

 Kenny is a very quiet and modest man who doesn’t like to talk about himself but he did say that he thought one of his best his best races was when he won the 1500m at the World Youth Festival in Moscow in August, 1957.   The picture below gives an idea of the size and splendour of the opening ceremony at the Lenin Stadium.

Lenin 100,000

This was Kenny’s first experience of a major games with a massive opening ceremony.   The World Student Games had begun in 1923 and continued under other titles until 1957 when they were under the banner of the World Festival of Youth and Students.    The World Student Games continued as before but the Festival of Youth had been attached from 1947.   Venues for the event, which was held every two years, in the 50’s up to ’57 were Bucharest, Warsaw and Moscow.  By 1957 Russia had realised the publicity value of sport and made it a really big event, which was run in parallel to the World Student Games.  The meeting was combined with cultural activities such as a visit to the Bolshoi Ballet.   There was also time for seeing how the ordinary Russian families lived and there were some eye-opening experiences for Kenny and his team mates.   He ran in the 1500m with the race run on a warm day at 2:00 pm.   There were some cultural visits in the forenoon  and the athletes had to compete thereafter.   Kenny’s attitude was never to let others have an easy run, always make a race of it.   This time was no different, he went for it – and won!   It was a wonderful experience, he made many friends from other countries and he still writes to one of them to this very day.

Kenny Kiltie

Kenny in his kilt with Judy Wolfe and two others of the English delegation.

Kenny however bracketed that with his many double victories (Mile and half mile) at the Stewarton Bonnet Guild Festivals – when he usually returned with two clocks donated by the Provost whose son had a jewellers shop.    Although he was mainly a miler, he often ran in the 880 yards simply because the mile was usually last on the programme and the half mile was fairly early so he ran in that as well.   Initially he would ‘hare away in the first lap’ and be passed by several others in the second lap.   He changed his tactics when in one particular race  at Babcock & Wilcox the Scottish mile champion Jimmy Reid was back marker and he was off 25 yards.   He was passed early on by the other runners in the first lap but hung in behind Jimmy until the finish when he pipped him on the line.   He changed his tactics after that.

One of the big race meetings was the annual Rangers Sports at Ibrox where the field for the open handicap mile was a specially permitted 165 instead of 100 with three or four men on each handicap position.   He remembers being off 65 yards with dozens of runners starting ahead of him and he had to make ground in each of the eight straights, hold it on the bends – and he eventually finished fourth, 50 yards behind the third man and out of the prizes.

What training did they do?   When he started it was a two and a half miles run on a Tuesday and again on the Thursday with a race or two on the Saturday.   Then when they saw how good George Lightbody was they began to follow his training methods.   George was a very good athlete and raced successfully at distances between 100 yards and 10 miles although he was principally a half miler with a sub-two minute time.   Everybody started to do that kind of training and the club at one point had half a dozen runners running two minutes for the half mile – that at a time when almost all tracks were grass or cinder of varying quality and shoe technology was not as advanced as today.   The cross-country and distance runners were also later on influenced by reading of Zatopek’s training – as indeed were athletes all over the world – and the training load was increased.    One of the local men who first took up the big mileage was Tom McNeish from Irvine who was even training on a Friday night before a Saturday race – and he was the Ayrshire and South-West champion.

Over the country  a source of pride is that he won the Over 50’s veterans cross-country championship at Troon and takes also great pride in his 50 consecutive national championships.

Kenny Beith 2

Kenny second from the right

I have looked at his running first because that’s what we all came into the sport for in the beginning.   But he has been a one-club man and Beith Harriers was that club.   When he was working in England he ran additionally for Rochdale AC and Horwich RMI but he has always been first claim for Beith (and Longbar) for his entire career.   The willing always get the work to do and Kenny has been Secretary and Treasurer of Beith Harriers, Secretary and Treasurer of Ayrshire Harrier Clubs Association, and  SAF Official.

A tireless worker for the club and for the sport, he formed an offshoot at the Stewarton Sports Association (Athletics Section) and promoted the Stewarton Cross country Races for 30 years.    When he moved to Stewarton, the Territorial Army was leaving and wanted to give their hall to the council but they did not want it.   One of the councillors, Bob Craig, a cyclist, wanted a Stewarton Sports Association to be formed which would use the hall as their headquarters.    The Association encompassed cyclists, footballers, and all sorts of sports and Kenny was responsible for athletics.   He says that he had an empty hall and 50 youngsters with no equipment, not even a ball.   He worked with them for years and many are still involved with the sport at some level, even if it is only running in some local 10K’s.   There were several good athletes came from his club – one group , Matthew Porter and twins Gary & Keith Haro, with no experience at all finished first second and third in the under 13s mile at the Beith Open Sports meeting, and then in the national cross-country at Irvine Matthew came in second – he let a more experienced boy beat him at the finish when with more races under his belt he could have won.   Another athlete in one of his groups was Rose Reilly.   She could run and jump well but went on to become a real professional football star in Italy.  Among her teams were Reims and AC Milan.   Rose was quite a talent, just how good can be seen by looking her  up on Google.   A youths team, consisting of Tom Findlay, Robin Young, Tom McEwan and Freddie Slaughter, won both the Ayrshire and West Cross Country Championships.

The Stewarton Sports Association was also in action on a Sunday morning from the Strandhead Pavilion with many local, and some not so local, coming to jog and run over the local Ayrshire countryside.   All levels of athlete came along – many will remember the talented Jim Ash, Ultra Runner Peter Dawes, Ironman Alex MacPhee, Jim Auchie, with his 2 sons and daughter, who started the Dalry Thistle Club, Chris James, the British Orienteering champion came down when he was working in the area and many more.  A favourite course was both banks of the River Annick with a wash and swim near the finish, summer and winter, and often having to break the ice.

Kenny got married at the age of 30 and moved to Lancashire.   He stopped training, put on some weight but continued to enjoy cross country running on a Saturday with Horwich Mechanics and Rochdale Harriers.   Horwich Mechanics was similar to Beith Harriers, having started in 1924 and struggling to field a team but now has a membership of 250.  The chairman had participated in the 1930 Kinder Scout Mass Trespass to open up the countryside.   Rochdale Harriers was a much larger club and hired the Town Hall every Christmas to hold a Dance and raise enough money to finance the club for a whole year.   Kenny’s eyes were opened when he saw the mass participation in the cross country events for boys and girls due to the co-operation with the schools.   This was in 1962 and he tried to bring some of that to Scotland when he returned.   One of the the events he started up was the Stewarton cross-country race.   They were run for 30 years – pretty well until all the original organisers had left – and attracted most of the best of Scottish talent including Liz Lynch and Lachie Stewart.   In one year they had 800 competitors.  They had help from the County Youth Services whose head Walter Howie would send someone to help with entries and results, lend them a Gestetner machine to print out the results, hire of the hall only cost them £1.    But there were also problems –  they had to get permission from a separate letting committee which included ministers of religion from all local denominations who were reluctant to give them that permission to use the school and hold the race on a Sunday.   That meant an appeal to the whole county council where they got their decision.   Then there was the problem of sweeping out the accommodation after the race, scrubbing the floor, etc and then have to pay £75 for professionals to do it because, no matter how well they had done it, that was what the system required.   That is all in addition to organising the race with advertising, entry forms, prizes, result organisation and in addition Kenny and his colleagues had to lay the trail and their wives made the teas and baked the cakes.   It was a lot of real work and to carry it on for 30 years with no complaints was a wonderful job on the part of all involved.

He was of course also active outside Ayrshire and was one of the men who, along with the late Alex Johnston helped lift the Glasgow Women’s 10K to the big 10K – OK event that it became.  Over 1.000 3 feet high, high-tensile steel trail markers with coloured plastic were hand made but one spring at Pollok Park some of the students got lost where the yellow flags passed through a “host of golden daffodils”.

But it is as an Ayrshire enthusiast that will be best known.   Kenny with the aid of the BBC Children in Need grant for 3 years also promoted the Garnock Valley Athletics Project with branches in Beith, Glengarnock, Kilbirnie and Dalry schools.  The Harriers provided 4 coaches, Trish Sloss, Stewart Ferguson, Lindsay McMahon, Robert Connelly, and the schools co-operated with 4 teachers.   A SAL senior coach was engaged to train the coaches.

For more on Kenny and the organisation of athletics in Scotland, specifically Ayrshire, go to     Kenny Phillips: Official and administrator

Kenny Beith 1Kenny on the right in the back row.  

Kenny Phillips: The Beginnings


Kenny Phillips is a well kent face in Scottish athletics – nowadays he is mainly seen with camera in hand taking his excellent photographs at athletics meetings all across the country in all weathers in every season of the year.   The photographs are posted in picasa web and he encourages clubs and individuals to download them first of all for the individuals concerned and also for club purposes.   The motivational power of  photographs for athletes is considerable.   There is however much more to Kenny than that.

Kenny started out 70 years ago as a club runner for his local club, Beith Harriers and ran in no fewer than 50 consecutive national cross country  championships – a quite remarkable record.   He also ran in the prestigious Edinburgh to Glasgow relay race with the first run in 1954 when he turned out on the first stage.   The ‘News of the World’ as it was often called because of the sponsorship was a hard race to run.   The top 20 teams in the country, entry by invitation only and supported by eight buses, one for each stage, and a fleet of Rolls Royces for the officials and a slap-up meal in the Ca d’Oro in Glasgow for the prize giving.   Kenny’s best run in the race was probably in 1958 when he ran the third leg: Ian Harris (an SAAA marathon champion), despite an accident on his new motor scooter just before the race, had run in to ninth, place on the first stage, Tommy Cochrane (another cross-country international runner) moved Beith Harriers up to seventh and then Kenny, with fifth fastest time of the day, took them up to sixth.   Unfortunately the team could not maintain this high position but Kenny had had a terrific run. 

The question asked of every runner is about how they got involved in the sport in the first place and the response is usually has usually to do with friends or family taking them along.    Ian McCafferty was taken along by Alex Brown to make up a team, another went because the club had a shower and the family home didn’t.   Kenny’s story is a bit more complicated than that and is well worth reading as part of Kenny’s story and also for a view of society and the sport that most in the 21st century have little or no knowledge of.   Kenny writes:

“When I was in the primary school, I used to get into fights nearly every day, especially when the Den School closed and their pupils were transferred to Dalry and after the Clydebank blitz when the Glasgow evacuees arrived. I was often sent up to the Headmaster at the secondary school to get 3 of the belt.   My father was usually unemployed for the first 10 years of my life during the Depression and the headmaster used to supply me at the beginning of each winter with a pair of tacketty boots – so he knew me well. There were 50 pupils in my class when we started school and the class was split into two at the beginning of each year and moved to higher classes.   The result was that some of the slower pupils reached the end of the primary school and left school at the age of 14 without ever getting to the secondary school.   I arrived in the third top class at the age of 10 and, when we got an Intelligence Test and adjusted it for my age, I got an IQ of 129. I never got into the Preparatory Class as the headmaster sent me straight up to the secondary school at the age of 11 along with one other boy from the Den. I am not sure whether it was because of my fighting and he wanted to keep an eye on me or whether it was an educational experiment or whether he was far sighted and wanted to advance my opportunity to sit the Highers at the age of 15. In any case, I soon learned to stop fighting the bigger boys and the Headmaster insisted on me taking Latin instead of Woodwork.

I lived in a tenement in Smith Street and a neighbour, James Walker, about 5 years older, used to take me on long walks up the glens in Dalry. We had a gang in Smith Street and all the boys in the summer used to hike 7 miles over the Fairlie Moor to Portencross to spend the day at the seaside, playing among the rocks and gathering “wulks”. I joined them at the age of 5.

One day at the age of 10, some of us went for an adventure up the Hindog Glen and arrived at the Gowanlea Farm, where the farmer’s daughter, Jenny Longwill, allowed us to stroke and sit on the two ponies.   Two of us often returned and soon Jenny had us feeding the hens and calves and doing odd jobs. We returned every weekend, in the summer making hay and in winter exercising the ponies and Clydesdale horses.   During the War with the shortage of petrol, I harnessed the pony and trap on Saturday mornings and accompanied Jenny to her shopping in town.   We became very fit, expert cow milkers and bareback horse riders, tanned almost black working in the fields and familiar with the surrounding hills. I continued to work at other farms until I left school and would consume up to 16 pints of milk a day, becoming very strong.

Back at school, I was the smallest in the class and was outclassed in the sprints, high jump, long jump and shot putt.   In the 2nd year, everyone was unsure about completing the mile and hung back in a bunch allowing me to open up a large gap which they never closed.   I started training for the mile at dinner time along with a small boy, Andrew Sampson from Longbar in the 1st year, and, using the same tactics, won the mile every year afterwards.

At the end of World War 2 in 1945, , the Co-operative Youth Club was formed and the returning troops started to teach us.  Sanny Tait became the trainer of the Dalry Thistle Football Club and taught us the football rules, Dougie Kell got us interested in Music, Dr Watt gave medical advice and Jimmy Scott taught us Gaelic.  

A Sports Meeting was held at Merksworth Park and I saw a competitor limbering up, whom I thought had a good athletic build.   I was right as it turned out to be Frank Sinclair of Greenock who won the 1 mile race.   One of my neighbours, “Panny” Goldie played at left back for the Thistle football team and he asked me to join his team for the relay race.   I ran the first lap and came in last.   I was dejected and disappeared into the crowd not waiting to see the finish. “Panny” eventually found me and told me that his team had won and he presented me with my first athletics prize – a plastic cheese dish.

At the Co-operative Youth Club I was in the football team at outside left position and purchased a new pair of football boots with hard toe caps and took great care to dubbin and polish them up.   I was disillusioned however at the next match when one of the captain’s pals was picked to play in my position and who then asked to borrow my new boots.   I had started to work in Beith by that time and decided to join Beith Harriers. The football boots came in handy when running over ploughed fields.”

Kenny’s story took place at about the same time as Emmet Farrell’s as described in ‘The Universe Is Mine’ (elsewhere on this site) and between them they tell an interesting tale: sport from a historical perspective.   Emmet’s early days in the sport were based on Maryhill Baths in the middle of industrial Glasgow.   Kenny’s was in rural Ayrshire where the trails are renowned for their ‘traditional’ nature and where the phrase about ‘long Scots miles’ originated.       He now turns to his early days at Beith Harriers.

Kenny four

Beith Harriers Clubhouse had been requisitioned during World War 2 and in 1946, when Kenny first visited it, it had just been handed back to Beith Harriers.  It was surprisingly roomy and equipped with the main hall containing a mat, horse, parallel bars, rope rings, weight lifting equipment,  boxing gloves, batons and massage benches.   One end was divided off with concrete floor, shower and two large baths with hot and cold water.   A further small extension contained the coal-fired boiler for the hot water.  It was one of the few harrier clubs with such facilities and was often selected for inter-club, Ayrshire and South West cross country events.

The club trainer was John Gibson who had retained that position since the 1920s. The President , AF (Sanny) Neilson, was a founder member of  both Beith Harriers and the Ayrshire Harrier Clubs’ Association and a future President of the Scottish Cross Country Union, Tom McAllister, a former Empire Games 400 yards athlete, attended with Mattha Barr, a pre-war cross country runner, to give the runners a rub-down with talcum powder or olive oil after the road run.  Secretary, Mattha, during the rub-down, used to regale the runners with his tall tales about former races.  In arguments with his former colleagues, George Murdoch, Jock Calder, Bob Burniston and George Morrison, who visited often, he used to produce his “Bible” containing cuttings, photos and results to prove who was right.   Jack Millar, the 1929 National Novice Cross Country Champion, took the track and field training in the summer.   John McRobbie led a group of weight lifters, organised the annual Christmas Draw and became the British Weight Lifting All-Round Champion for two years in succession. One of the weight lifters (Morrison) competed with distinction at the Empire Games in New Zealand and was awarded a plaque by the British Weight Lifting Association.   Albert Barrett continued to run on the road on his own but conscientiously lighted and stoked the boiler for the hot water. Leslie Martin was Treasurer with a bank balance of £10-16/9d.   George Lightbody was Club Captain and went round chapping doors to get more members.  George Lightbody, Jimmy Davidson and Frankie Thomson were the only members who did cross country running and when Kenny joined he was automatically selected for the relay teams.

Winter training on Tuesday and Thursdays nights consisted  of 21/2 miles on the road and on Saturday afternoons up to 5 miles cross country. The road run took only 15-20 minutes and the remainder of the evening was filled with gymnastics, weight lifting , boxing etc. Sunday training was frowned on in those days, no girls were allowed and boys had to be at least 17 years of age.

 When Walter Howie, Ayr County Council Youth Organiser, formed the 10 Ayrshire Youth Panels, including athletics, he appointed Jack Millar as Athletics Coach in the 3 towns of Beith, Dalry and Kilbirnie.   This introduced a large number of both Boys and Girls to athletics and there was a demand to start a Ladies Section in Beith Harriers.   Despite some opposition, a Ladies Section was formed under the control of Jack’s wife, Margaret, meeting in the Backburn School, Beith, on Saturday afternoons.   When the boys were running cross country from the Harriers Clubhouse, the girls played badminton in the School.   The boys then joined the girls at badminton in the early evening and then sometimes on to the Cinema in Beith.  There was a good social atmosphere which attracted many others from outside athletics and led to several marriages.

In the summer months, Jack Millar introduced some new methods of training for the track and field.   First of all he had to mark off a 220 yard track on the grass field, which he quickly did with pegs and a 22 yard length of string.  After exercises and a warm up, we all did starts and then fast and slow laps with Jack timing us with a whistle at each half lap to aim for exact pace judgement for the different race distances.  We always finished with a warm down which did away with the need for a massage.

In 1948 George Lightbody managed to procure 3 pairs of spiked shoes suitable for the track runners and suggested that the club should pay for them now while the members paid back at, say, 2/6d per week; also that an application should be made to the Education Authority for coupons, as shoes and clothing were still rationed.

George worked in Glasgow on Saturday mornings and had to make some arrangements to compete in the Ayrshire Cross Country Championships at Benwhat, 3 miles above Dalmellington.   He packed his travelling bag with his strip, tracksuit and spikes and added his badminton racket to enable him to join the Ladies Section in the evening.   He took the train to Irvine where he had arranged to join the Irvine YMCA bus.   On entering the bus, big Tam McNeish asked him what it was sticking out of his bag.  George replied by asking Tam if he did not know that there was 6″ of snow at Benqhat and he was carrying his snowshoes.

After the race George had to avoid Tam and quickly join the Beith Harriers bus back to Beith for the badminton.

Kenny had never run 7 miles before and it turned out to be more like 10 miles on a steep hillside with constant jumps over rashes and ditches.   He arrived back last.

The race was won by the favourite, John Fisher of Ayr, and the winning team was the local Doon Harriers, most of whom had already worked an extra shift underground as miners digging coal to restore the economy.

Benwhat consisted of one row of miners houses and a school.   A collection was taken by the Ayrshire Harrier Clubs’ Association after the race and the can contained more than the total of all the other races in Ayrshire.   Such was the generosity of the miners and their families.

Work parties were continually being arranged to deal with the leaking sloping felt roof, installation of a new boiler and heating system, constructing a weight lifting platform to protect the wooden floor, painting and repair of doors and window, repairing drains, etc.

Beith Harriers made a substantial financial contribution to the formation of the Beith Orr Trust Field and Running Track and were then asked by the District Council to organise an Annual Gala Day and Sports Meeting in the summer of 1956.  At this time Kenny was appointed Secretary of the Club and had to arrange a work party, Presentation of Prizes and Presentation to AF Neilson in appreciation of his long service as President of the Club, two summer Bus Runs, summer activities in Beith and Kilbirnie and the Annual Beith New Year Cross Country Race .  The Ladies Section was organising a Beetle Drive in the Backburn School. The Sports Meeting was held on 23rd June, 1956, with fine weather in the afternoon, short thick grass in the field, a well rolled track and the loudspeaker helped the competitors and spectators to enjoy the varied programme which consisted of men’s, women’s and children’s races, high jump, weight lifting, BB gymnastics and five a side football.  The arrangement for Emil Zatopek to make a guest appearance fell through due to the political disturbances in Hungary.    Ice cream and lemonade were on sale in the field , entrance to the field was free but programmes were on sale at 1/- each and a collection was taken.   At the end of the day, a light tea for officials was served by the Ladies Section in the Town House.   The District Council had guaranteed the sum of £50 to run the sports meeting and agreed that the surplus of £26-14/8d should be put in the bank under the “Beith Orr Trust Park Sports Fund” to start off the next year’s sports.

Kenny moved to Sanquhar and James Walker was appointed Secretary in 1957.   Harry Maxwell obtained estimates of £15 for felt to be applied to the whole roof  by the members and a separate estimate of £54 from a contractor to cover the roof with concrete tiles.  The low price of £54 for the tiling was because the contractor had a stock of surplus tiles of different colours from several jobs and he was charging for the labour only.  The members agreed to accept his offer as it would save them much maintenance work in the future.

In 1958 it was noticed that the roof was sagging due to the weight of the tiles on the unusual timber roof structure and it was decided to remove the tiles and return to the felt covering.  Kenny managed to sell the tiles to Sanquhar Town Council for the original £54 price as spares for their different coloured tiled houses.

When in Sanquhar, Kenny met and trained at the Nithsdale Wanderers Football ground with a group of youths from Kirkconnell and Kelloholm under the leadership of Jock Hammond.  Margaret Smith, a girl aged 15, trained with the boys and was as good as them.   Kenny took her to the Cumnock Sports and, when Kenny told the Ardeer Ladies how good she was, they tried to ban her under the newly formed Women;s AAA’s rule that the women competitors had to be members of a club affiliated to the WAAA.   Kenny had to quickly get Margaret enrolled in Beith Harriers.

One of the boys from Kelloholm was Danny McFadzean who was just an average runner but also enrolled in Beith Harriers.   He joined the Navy and  during skiing training in Norway broke a leg.  Six weeks after breaking his leg he took part in the Beith Harriers annual 5 mile road handicap race.   With a good handicap position, he easily won the race.   Danny later became the Navy Marathon Champion.   Danny was in the same era as Ian Harris, Army Marathon Champion, and Tom Cochrane, International Cross Country runner but Beith Harriers never managed get them together in the same team.   Unknown to them, Danny running for the Royal Navy and Ian running for Walton competed in the 19th Chichester to Portsmouth 16 mile race when Ian was second and Danny was tenth.

Another boy training at Sanquhar was the Professional Handicaper’s son from Kirkconnell.  The boy was a good half miler but it was rumoured that the father instructed his son to compete only in 220 yard races and work up his handicap with the intention of making a betting fortune a few years later in the half mile.    It was disappointing for the boy and Kenny never heard later about any fortune being made but it confirmed Kenny’s resolution never to run as a professional.   He had already met Hugh McWhinnie when training at the Beith Clubhouse.  Hugh had been a good miler but had been persuaded to join Mitchell, the Bookie’s stable when his mother owed £10 for the rent.  Hugh became disillusioned when he got instructions not to win any races as the bookie needed to keep him as insurance against any large betting losses.   John Glen, brother-in-law of the Murdoch Brothers of Beith, also kept in touch with the Powderhall sprinters and used to tell of professional runners laughably speeding up a high knee action near the tape to allow others to pass.

The Beith Harriers clubhouse was the cause of many a discussion at committee meetings, and no doubt on training evenings as well but there were, as in all running sagas in clubs up and down the land, some humorous tales too.   One concerns the the nearby List D school.  It was clear that the club house was too small to accommodate all the runners involved in the successful and classic New Year’s Day races and the head at the Church of Scotland’s Geilsland School offered them the use of the large gymnasium and showers at the school.   In return the club offered to provide coaching in athletics for the pupils.   The offer was graciously turned down because, the headmaster said, they’d never be able to catch the absconders!