Graham Bennison

GB Three Towers

Graham running in the Three Towers

Fife AC has been blessed with many good officials – covering a wide area with many club organised open races covering most of the county for most of the year it would have to be the case.   Pe0ple such as Dave Francis, Eleanor Gunstone, Donald Macgregor and Ian Docherty are all life members.   Graham Bennison was suggested as a representative of all the club members who put in such hard work all year round.

Graham Bennison of Fife AC is known as a seriously hard working club official – he is pretty well an ever-present throughout the year at cross-country, road and track & field meetings.   What is less well known in that he was a very good runner in his own right with best times ranging from 1:59 for 800 to 2:29 for the marathon, and races up to the Two Bridges and  London to Brighton.   The photograph above was taken during the Three Towers Fell Race, which was a 20 mile race organised by Bury AC and was raced between the mid-60’s and 1990 when it was discontinued.   Graham was kind enough to complete the questionnaire below and we can start there.

QUESTIONNAIRE

 Name: Graham Bennison

Club/s: Bolton United Harriers, Barnet & District, Fife AC

Date of Birth: 21/08/46

Occupation: Retired

How did you get into the sport initially?   I’d done a bit of running at various sports as a teenager but it was at Trent Park Teacher Training College in 1965 that I was asked to run a colleges cross-country championship.   A few of us did quite well and formed a cross-country team.   Back home that summer a work colleague of my mum’s asked would I be interested in joining Bolton United Harriers.   Initially I was running 440 yards and 880 yards but the following winter’s (1966/67) cross-country saw further progress as a distance runner, setting a college course record that lasted until John Bicourt broke it in 1969.    I represented Bolton UH for 21 years covering everything from 100m to 100km and was lucky enough to compete in a golden period with the likes of Mike Freary and Steve Kenyon as training partners as well as club colleague Ron Hill.    I worked as a teacher in the south of England from 1968  – 1972 and represented Barnet & Dist over track, road and country.   I was always’s being called upon to make up the 4 x 400m team.

In 1973 (25th August) two Bolton colleagues invited me to join them at the 36 mile 158 yds Two Bridges Race.   I placed ninth amongst a strong field in 3 hours 53 minutes 09 seconds, my ultra debut.   It was quite a week…. the previous Saturday as a warm up I’d run the slightly uphill Preston to Morecombe Milk Marathon in 2:38.21.   On the 21st (my birthday) there was a special 3,000m at Leverhulme Park, Bolton to highlight a Bolton member Peter Lever who had emigrated to Canada and represented them at the marathon.   In the local press myself and another runner Gordon Entwistle were not in the reckoning but at the bell it was Gordon who sprinted home (8.53) with me in chase (8.55) leaving a star field behind.   I’d had a few wins over road and country before but never was second so pleasing !

In 1974 I debuted at the Isle of Man 40 Miler and in 1977 achieved 4 hours 13 minutes 24 seconds. More followed……London to Brighton,  Woodford Green to Southend  and in the early 80’s the Bolton 40 Mile where long time friend Dave Francis placed 1st and I was 2nd.

Moving to Fife in 1987 re-kindled my love for the country although in August that year as a veteran over 40 my tendons seriously  broke down at the ten mile point in the Two Bridges (I finished…silly sod!) but could never again compete over long distances on the road.

 Personal Bests?   We didn’t have computerised results back then so some like 200m can’t be precise.

100m 12.9.      200m  24 something.      400m 52.5.     800m 1:59.2.      1500m. 4:10.     Mile 4:19.     3,000m 8:55   .  5,000m 15.20       Track 50km. 3: 19 ?

Road 10km. 32.08.      10 Mile. 50.36     Half Marathon 68. ?       15 mile – 80 minutes ? seconds (Sale 15).      Marathon 2:29.40 (Boston April 1975).

Two Bridges 3:51.6 (25/08/79).     TT 40 – 4:13.24 (1977),     Woodford to Southend 40 – 4:23.44 (1976).      London to Brighton (52.5 miles) 6:14.05.

Thank God I’ve still got some of the certificates otherwise I wouldn’t be sure of some !

Has any individual or group had a marked effect on either your attitude to the sport or your performances?     Mike Freary, former UK 10,000m record holder was an inspiration. So often Ron Hill would break the course record running second leg for Bolton in many road relays. Mike would run third leg and break the time Ronnie had just set !

 What exactly did you get out of the sport?  Friendship, confidence, travel, health.

 Can you describe your general attitude to the sport? Always optimistic, the challenges are out there even as an over 65 veteran.

 What do you consider your best ever performance?   Winning a big field half marathon at Swinton (1979) in 72 minutes something.     I felt so, so easy and was way ahead at the halfway turning point, coasted over last few miles !      Running at Boston in 1975 with Ronnie was a big thrill and an experience.

What goals did you have that remain unachieved?    Just to try to keep running.

 What has running brought you that you would have wanted not to miss?    The camaraderie.

 Can you give some details of your training?    Too spasmodic  now but I still would recommend to younger athletes twice weekly speed sessions and the long Sunday Run.    Back in the 70’s early 80’s I used to notch up 100 miles a week in the summer months.

AS AN OFFICIAL/COACH/ADMINISTRATOR

Describe briefly your career as a club official/committee member, noting posts held.   Too many schools official posts to mention, committee member of Bolton UH and Fife AC. President of Fife AC

Do you have any qualifications as a coach or as an official?  No !

 Do you see yourself mainly as an administrator, coach, official or team manager? (Or even all of the above!). All.

 Are you involved in athletics outside the club?   ie at school or local authority member.   Yes many years at school level and am still involved.

 Are you a member of any group as club representative?   Ie at County, District or National level?   No.

First London Marathon

Graham (centre) running in the first London Marathon

It is very clear from the above that although Graham is maybe seen as an official, administrator or Press reporter, he is really a runner.   Any distance runner from the 60’s right through to the present can identify with all, or at least most of the above.   The man whose tendons packed in at ten miles but went on to finish a 30+ miles race!    The club man who would run in whatever his club needed him to, regardless of distance.  A runner from the 70’s who did 100 miles a week with 20 (or 20+) miles on the Sunday and who sought the hard races.   When he started out the only graft that most runners received seemed to be safety pins and blisters.

1979 Graham BennisonGraham (holding the Trophy) with the Bolton team after the 1979 Two Bridges.

It can be seen from the questionnaire that Graham is now in the M65 age group – and he is still running and his ambition is to be able to go doing just that.   If we look at his recent racing as noted in the Power of 10 website, then we see that at the time of writing he has run in 22 races at distances ranging from 800m to 8 miles between April and August.   The 800m was in a League Match for his club at Aberdeen and the 8miles was at Ceres.   His times at standard distances are   One Mile 7:17,   5K 25:11,   5 Miles 43:59.   There have been 4 League Matches, 7 Parkruns and 5 Mile races.   He has been first in his class 4 times, and second three times.

Referred to in the Fife AC website as “the multi talented Graham Bennison he has filled many roles within the club since his arrival there.   Like any good clubman, Graham served on the club committee roughly from 1990 to 2003, the honour and duty of being club President over the two years 1991-2 and 1992-3 and his subsequent election as Life Member of Fife AC where he is in some very good company indeed including well known athletes, officials and administrators such as Don Macgregor, Allan Faulds, Andrew Lemoncello, Terry Mitchell and Eleanor Gunstone.

GB race

As a former school teacher, Graham has been involved in Schools athletics for decades and was an ever-present at local, District and National Schools Championships.    I well remember seeing him immediately after the end of a long drawn out Scottish Schools Indoor Championships at the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow – these events always over ran considerably – note book in hand, leaning against the wall dictating all the results to local newspapers in Fife so that they would have them as soon as possible – and then setting off on the long journey back.   He has in fact coached two Primary School sessions a week for eight years, with one of the schools involved winning the Fife Primary Schools P6 and P7 cross-country championships.   Some time ago he was Fife AC Boys and Youths Team Manager – mind you that was when Andrew Lemoncello was in the Under 13 age group.

Fife AC is known for its varied programme of open races with interesting names – the Strathmiglo Straddle, the Gauldry Gallop (now sadly defunct), the Strawberry Novice and so on.   Graham has been race organiser of many of these races and assisted at many more.  He was on the club  road race committee for  many years and organised many, many races for the club.   A fellow club member said “Graham came up to Fife from Lancashire in the mid 1980’s and immediately got involved with the club. He became a committee member and was always a good publicist writing weekly columns for all the local papers and as you know over time became athletics correspondent for the Courier with a particular emphasis on the club.   He was also one of the prime guys to encourage the club to organise the many races it does.   In particular he was probably responsible for the Hill of Tarvit race and the Ceres 8.   He also helped inspire our Summer series held over five races and the Tour of Fife which is five races over five days.”    Others have commented on his knowledge of athletes.   Another commented on his knowledge of runners –  “Graham certainly was pretty good as a results man knowing most of the runners by sight and with a very good memory for placings etc immediately after races. ”   He could be seen after races with his notebook and pencil writing down places, names and times as the runners crossed the finishing line, often having a complete list of results before the computer had done its work.

Speaking of newspapers, it seems a good place to mention his penchant for communication.   Graham has his own Twitter and Facebook accounts, but as far as athletics is concerned, he is listed at linkedin as an ‘independent newspapers professional’, in which capacity he reports on all athletics connected items, particularly to do with Fife AC of course, to the many papers in the Kingdom.

Graham has also been team manager for the Fife AC Track & Field team and he has been noted to run in events where the club was short of a runner.   While not a qualified coach, he has assisted Dave Francis with the younger runners.

For the work that he has put in over the years he was nominated to be a carrier of the baton for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014.   This was announced in several local papers after he had created a particular ice-cream cone in celebration of the Games – I quote from one of them:

St Andrews athlete Graham Bennison has launched a special Cone to celebrate the arrival of the Queen’s Baton at local institution Jannettas Gelateria, just hours before his stint as Baton bearer.   Father and grandfather Mr Bennison (67), who is well-known for his coaching in local primary schools and his athletic prowess, unveiled the triple red, white and blue ice-cream cone to celebrate the arrival of the Baton in St Andrews.

The colourful creation, which was made within the Jannettas Gelateria premises alongside the shop’s vast array of other flavours, combines blackberry sorbet (red), vanilla (white) and blueberry (blue) and will be available until Sunday 29 June 2014 at the special price of £3 for three scoops.

Owen Hazel, Jannettas Gelateria owner said, “The Queen’s Baton Relay arriving in St Andrews is an exciting event for the town and we thought it would be fitting to create our own delicious themed cone, not only to mark the day itself but the significance of the games themselves which are guaranteed to enthral communities throughout Scotland and further afield. Graham Bennison is a local athlete who, due to decades of commitment encouraging and building on local youngsters’ talent, thoroughly deserves to be part of the relay celebrations.”

Baton 5

Graham with the Commonwealth Games Relay Baton, 2014

Once a runner, always a runner but what do runners do when their peak has passed? Well Graham has continued to run but now serves his club and his sport as race organiser, press reporter, team manager, coach and all round clubman.

Eric Fisher

EF TS 76Eric (33) centre stage after the 1976 Tom Scott Road Race

Eric Fisher was born on 31st May 1946 and would become a very good runner indeed, a very good coach and organiser as well as being a key figure on the Edinburgh Boys Brigade scene.   I first met him as a marathon runner in the SAAA Championships at Meadowbank in the early 70’s.   A friendly, unassuming runner who got on with everyone, he turned into an excellent all round distance runner with medals on the road and over the country.    How did he get started in the running business in the first place?

Eric first got into the sport through the Sunday School picnics where all the races were short sprints which he could never win.   He wanted longer distance races as did another youngster by the name of Doug Gillon.   The picnics were all held at Dalkeith Country Park and when such races were introduced they used to beat everybody else, just ran away from them.   He really started in the sport however at the Boys Brigade of which he had been a member since the age of nine, starting as a Lifeboy.   The Leith Battalion had a big field which had been purchased for them by AJ Letham (Captain, 1st Leith Company) and the Battalion Sports were held at Letham Park every year.  

There were only races at 100 and 220 yards at first but by the time he was 14 there was a half mile – he ran in it and won it.   There was a cross-country championship in March but Eric’s Dad, who had been a PTI in the Royal Artillery and ran the mile at such meetings as Cowal and Ibrox, refused to let him run against 18 year olds.   He relented when it was pointed out to him that he was running away from these same 18 year olds in training.   Came the Battalion Cross-Country Championship – Eric was second and selected to run in the Inter-Battalion Cross-Country Championships for Leith Battalion.   The race was held at Port Seton and was won by a big boy from Motherwell called Brown!    Eric was 23rd in the Senior race against older boys.    He represented the Brigade in all sorts of races.   For instance –  

E Fisher (4th Leith Co, BB), aged 18, on Saturday won the annual race to the summit of Arthur’s Seat (800 feet) and back in 19 min 7.5 sec.   Second was A Kennedy (Restalrig YC) and G Jones ((Colinton YC) was third.   The team prize was won by 4th Leith Co, BB

Glasgow Herald, May, 1969

He was however more involved in football playing centre forward for his school.   He was selected for the Leith school team. Peter Cormack (who went on to play for Hibernian FC, Liverpool and Scotland)  was in the team at outside right.  

He never took any notice of athletics until 1966 when he was about 19 years old and Claude Jones of Edinburgh AC who worked in Ferranti’s asked if there were any runners in the factory who were not involved in the sport.   Eric was pointed out to him and he was invited along.   The first night there he was involved in a 2.5 mile race: it was a handicap race but all athletes started at the same time.  He saw one guy he knew and told the handicapper he could beat him.  It turned out that it was Doug Gillon (again) who had been attending Watson’s College and was ranked number 3 in the United Kingdom for the steeplechase in his age group.   Eric kept up with them for about 100 yards, fell away and finished between two and three minutes behind them.   That wasn’t bad for a youngster on his first night though. 

Knowing nothing about training he thought he could get fit for the National the next year after three months of training but Eric soon realised the sport was a wee bit harder than that.   He was coached initially by Claude Jones but was later helped by JT Mitchell, a senior club member who became President of the SCCU.   Mitchell was a janitor at Drylaw Primary School and he had training sessions on a Tuesday night which involved gym work and weight training as well as running.   After that he was motivated by club members such as Jim Alder and being in the team with all the other guys.   He ran on the road, on the track and over the country.   He reckons his best cross-country race was at Drumpellier Park on the first occasion EAC won the team race.   He was hoping to be the sixth counter – in fact he finished 41st and was fifth counter.  Claude and JT told him the win was partly down to him since he had improved so much, finishing 60 places higher than they had estimated he would!  

I always think of Eric principally as a road runner where he was ranked in the annual rankings seven times in 10 years between 1972 and 1981.   His best time was 2:27:03 in 1977 when he was seventh fastest in Scotland.   Remember that we are talking about what was maybe the highest peak ever in the event in this country.   He also won a bronze medal in the SAAA marathon championship in 1978 with a time of 2:28:14.   The race was won by Anglo-Scot Ian Macintosh with Donald Macgregor second.   Eric told Colin Youngson and Fraser Clyne about his run that day for their book “A Hardy Race – The SAAA Championship 1946 – 2000.”   “He remembers that Willie Day, sensing a chance of Commonwealth marathon selection ‘went for it, despite the heat.   On the return journey, an EAC team mate told Eric that Willie was ‘coming back.’   However Eric couldn’t spot his rival on the long road ahead.   Eventually, at Joppa, a distant view was achieved, and Eric succeeded in passing Willie on the big hill up to Jock’s Lodge.   At the top of the rise, Eric finally dared to look back, and was relieved to find himself safe, 150 yards ahead.   Willie writes that he was impressed by Eric’s excellent run’ but does say that his left knee had become painful because the gristle in his new Gola shoes had snapped at the heel and was giving less support.   At the end, Eric followed tradition, unhygienically cooling his blisters in the steeplechase water jump, and sharing his race tales with the other marathon survivors.”

His marathon ranking appearances were 1972  2.48.53  ranked 25; 1975 2.38.41 Ranked 19th;   1976 2.42.34   23th;   1977 2.27.03   15th;  1978 2.28.14  18th;   1979 2.39.30  52th;   1981 2.36.07  61st and in 1978 he was Scottish Marathon Club champion.   The championship was decided over four races – the Clydebank to Helensburgh 20, the Strathallan 20, the SAAA Marathon championship and the Springburn 12.   It came down to the last race where Eric was battling Willie Day and Davie Wyper for the championship.   If Willie Day (FVH) beat Eric, he won the championship; failing that, if Eric beat Davie Wyper by two places, he won.   Willie Day  had problems  with public transport and missed the start and after the race, Eric and Davie (West of Scotland) were tied in points.   There wa only one champion and it was decided on who was first home in the SAAA marathon.   Eric had beaten Davie, so he was the proud holder of Scottish Marathon Club Champion, 1978!

He was inside 2 hours 30 minutes for the distance six times with a fifth place at Rotherham in 1977 where he was first Scot and finished in front of Jim Alder, Cavan Woodward and several other weel kent runners.   There was also another very good run as part of a large group of Scots at Enschede in Holland in 1971.   Abebe Bikila was there in his wheelchair to support his compatriot who was running in the race.

69 marathon start

Start of the 1969 SAAA Marathon from Meadowbank’s incomplete track: Eric is on the left with the hankie round his neck. 

The other measure of distance running talent on the road was the Edinburgh to Glasgow Road Relay.   Eric ran in five relays between 1967 and 1978.   This was the period when Edinburgh AC was seriously involved in Scottish championships on the road and over the country.   It was also the time when many Anglos were brought up from England for the major races, so to ‘make the team’ was no small feat.   How good was Eric?   Well in 1977 he ran on the eighth stage and turned in the second fastest time of the afternoon and the following year he had the third fastest time of the day.   Remarkable running at that point in Scottish road running history.   Of the 1977 race he says that he took over in the lead with Martin Craven breathing down his neck and Stuart Easton of Shettleston not far behind that.   Martin passed him after about a quarter of a mile but he didn’t hear Stuart getting closer until about the last mile.   He realised from the increasingly frantic pleas from the Shettleston supporters to Stuart to keep it going, not to give in, etc that Stuart had possibly started too fast and he determined to do his best to keep him at bay.  His best was not only good enough but actually gave him second quickest time behind Martin.  His only regret on the roads is not getting inside 50 minutes for the Tom Scott 10 miles, 50:11 was his best time there.

He also ran on the track for his club, where he remembers travelling with Bill Walker as part of a team trying to qualify for the BAL.   Bill doubled up the 400m, 400mH, steeplechase and 4 x 400 while Eric doubled up on the steeplechase and 5000m!   Best times on the track: 15:16 for 5000m,   32 min for 10000m.    

Before his racing days were over he started coaching and soon showed him to be a very good coach indeed.   How did he get into that aspect of the sport?

Coaching began like running with the Boys Brigade involvement.   On BB training night they had set training but Eric kept adding bits on until he was doing up to 3.5 miles.   He was then asked to take over the training.   He was by then a Staff Sergeant, aged about 17, and started doing BB training courses.   These courses were organised by Ron Small from Jordanhill College.   He would come to the BB National Training Centre at Larbert  on particular weekends.  The Saturday started at 3:00 pm but since Eric and some others were racing on Saturday they arrived at 5:00 in time for a lecture, there was a meal about 6:00 pm, gymnastics, box work and so on were covered and although the day was scheduled to end at 10:00 Eric and his friends kept it going for quite a while longer.   Then they carried on on the Sunday until about 5:00 pm.   He did this course for three consecutive years. 

He was also helping Claude Jones at the club but what really turned him on to coaching was the Commonwealth Games in 1970.   He worked on the marathon and long road walks.   He did the Assistant Club Coach award and was asked to help Alex Naylor at an Easter Scottish Schools training week.   Also on the course were men like Eddie Taylor, Sandy Robertson, Bill Walker and David Morrison.   He was given various tasks to carry out such as being asked to take the endurance group for a particular type of session and he could arrange the content himself.   At the end of the week, Frank Dick said that they had been testing Eric out, they were all satisfied and he had got his next coaching certificate!    Having trained with John Anderson and worked with Frank Dick, he has great admiration for both of them and thinks that it was a real pity that they never worked together – Frank’s organisational skills linked with John’s motivational gifts would have been pretty well unbeatable.   Frank was the man whom he credits with organising the Edinburgh parents into a very good coaching force.   He asked John for help when he was a runner and when asked what he wanted to do, said that he wanted to win a particular club race.   John replied that that was no good, aim for a Games medal in the steeplechase – if you aim low, you’ll fail.   Aim high.   Eric won his race and a cup.   

After the Games in 1970, Meadowbank was swamped with new young aspiring athletes while runners like Adrian Weatherhead were trying to get some training done.  So he and Bill Walker took a hand and Eric was working with the younger ones before passing them on to Bill Walker at 13 or 14.   One of the youngsters he was working with at that point was Paul Forbes and tells of the time when Paul as an under 13 Junior Boy won his first cross-country championship in the East District event at Grangemouth.   Paul crossed the line and kept running back to Eric and shouted “We’ve done it, we’ve done it!”  

He also coached Yvonne Murray to World Cross-Country Championships for Scotland, and then she went to the Brisbane Games.  It was after that when point Bill Gentleman, who was one of her school teachers, decided to take over since he could train her during the day at school.  Eric currently has a good group including Lauren Stoddart, Emily Strathdee, Joe Arthur (fourth in the Scottish Cross-Country Championship and Scottish Schools Champion Alex Carcus.   

Tributes about his work that have appeared in the public domain come from Jake Wightman, Brian Aitken and Martin Ferguson.   Currently listed on his club website as a middle distance coach, he is also noted as being a coach for Cross-Country, Road Running and steeplechase.   In a recent interview in Athletics Weekly in the ‘How They Train’ series, Jake Wightman says that over the years he’s been grateful to Eric Fisher and John Lees at Edinburgh.

Young Brian Aitken became involved in running via the Boys Brigade and took part in a race against Leith BB at Riccarton and says –

After the race, Edinburgh AC coach Eric Fisher invited me to come along  to Meadowbank to train. I never took him up on the offer for a number of months, too busy playing with my pals and trying other sports. My running journey was, however, about to become more time consuming and serious.

 

Eric Fisher’s training was tough but fun. The up-and-down the clock circuit in the underbelly of the main stand at Meadowbank in the winter months was painful as much as it was beneficial. The Monday evening was concluded with hurdles, a form of low level plyometric drills, mixed with sprints afterwards gradually developed strength, cardiovascular and muscle endurance. It was then out on the roads for a lap or two of the Meadowbank perimeter with a few nasty hills. I did not know why I was doing the sessions but  it was doing me good. Even though at times, I felt like a boxer in the last round of the thriller in Manilla. Often the intrepid training group would trot to Lochend park and with nearby road lights acting as floodlights to pierce the winter darkness we would do countless hills reps; the running style and muscles becoming more honed and toned.

The Thursday sessions include 12 slow fast 200  metres progressing to 20 as the winter months went by. Another session was a hill loop at the back then a jog to do a 300 m on the track. Eight or twelve of these had one concentrating on good technique to conserve energy and complete the session. The noise of the of the metal spikes striking  the road at transition from hill to track a welcome break from the concentrated effort of a most demanding  cold, dark evening session. Often the sweat could be seen evaporating and swirling off and above the working runners as they came together during the jog recovery. There was also the odd bit of banter to maintain moral and disguise the pain.

 Sometimes in the depth of winter the track would be iced up and the stride would have to be shortened coming off the final bend as you felt your heel skid on the unwelcome surface.

 

Spring was speed endurance time.- 2-3 sets 4 x 200m with 30 seconds recovery at 800m racing speed or up and down  the clock from 150 to 200 and back in 5 metre increments.. Then it was pure speed. 3 x 300m with 10 min recovery or 8 x 150m with a jog back recovery.

 A favourite tactical improvement session of Erics’ was when everyone in the training group was given a secret number. A number was called then from 400m to 150m to go the group would jog until the number called decided to put the throttle down. Cat and mouse would take place until someone kicked for home either from the front, middle or the back of the pack. The real speed merchants would wait until 160m and then put the foot to the pedal while the slower guys would wind it up from 350m. Eric always insisted that speed was king and should never be neglected at the expense of endurance, the simple reasoning that endurance could be developed at a later in life more easily than speed once it was lost.”

Martin Ferguson a great club runner over all distance races for many years was also influenced by Eric:   “On Saturday 6th February 2010 I fortunately won my first Scottish title after 30 years of trying!   But first let’s go back to 1980 when l was 15 and a first year youth.   I got knocked out of the 1500m heats and my coach at the time Eric Fisher (yes the same one) asked me why l had not entered the 2000m steeplechase.  I managed to finish 3rd in the young athlete’s final in 1979  when l was a second year Senior boy but being a first year youth  the following year l had not ran a chase  as there were two better runners who were second year youths, John Blair and Nikki Robertson. The Steeplechase is all about confidence as l had not ran one that year l felt it was too big a step running the Scottish final, Eric understood.”

Eric has also worked on the club committee, where he did a lot of work organising the Edinburgh to North Berwick for several years, but his big involvement in administration has been with the Forth Valley Athletic League.   He has been treasurer for the past five years. 

The one aspect that he has not tackled is that of qualifying as a technical official of any sort – which of course doesn’t mean he hasn’t worked in such a capacity at meetings.  

A high quality athlete who is now serving his club as a coach and serving on an area  league committee plus his work with the Boys Brigade, Eric Fisher is about the best role model for a club athlete as you can find and his club and athletes are lucky to have him.    Catherine, Eric’s wife of 40 years, has given her support: travelling in various cars along the route of the Edinburgh to Glasgow relay race, at water-stations on the North Berwick road race and races in Scotland and England.   Now with coaching and admin, she describes herself as ‘an athletics widow’ – a description that could apply to the wives of many athletes.  

Hugh Stevenson

Hugh standing with pictures

Hugh Stevenson is well known by sight to everybody whose club takes part in the Scottish Athletics League where he has been Treasurer for over 30 years,   He is always in the control room, usually as an announcer but he always helps out elsewhere if required.    At one point in the 1980’s he was announcing but taking time off to run in the sprint hurdles for his club, Victoria Park AAC, before returning to the announcer’s chair.   Well liked and respected, Mike Clerihew who has worked with him on the League committee says, “he was a great person to work with on the committee and a fine, extremely knowledgeable commentator at league and many other meetings.”     One of the best of club men, Hugh is well known all over Scotland.    He deserves to be better known, so we should maybe start by looking at his athletics career chronologically.   Much of the information below came from his club mate and athletics journalist Doug Gillon. 

He was educated at Daniel Stewart’s College in Edinburgh before it amalgamated with Melville College, Edinburgh College of Art and then at Edinburgh University where he gained an honours degree in fine art. A regular member of the University athletic club, he captained Edinburgh University AC in 1968.   He has however spent all his working life at Kelvingrove in Glasgow in the Museum and Art Gallery  where he became curator of British Art.  He also competed for Edinburgh AC, Octavians, Red Star Belgrade, Edinburgh Southern Harriers and Victoria Park.  Frequently his job involved international travel, as chaperone to works of art being exhibited abroad. He also studied for a year in Belgrade where he became fluent in Serb (of which more later).

Hugh in Germany

Hugh (right) running in Bislett in 1967

He competed in the hurdles in the Schools International in 1964  and as a schoolboy was ranked nationally in both high jump and sprint hurdles.    He was a very decent and stylish 110m hurdler, adept at (very exaggeratedly) aping the style of contemporaries.    His main events as an athlete were the sprint and one-lap hurdles races although he competed well in both high and long jumps.     How good was he then?   He was ranked at one time or another in all four events.   His winning time of 14.9w in the SAAA 120 yards hurdles in 1965 stood as a Championship Best Performance until the distance switched as metric.    He was eight times in the top ten and his personal best performances were:

120 yds Hurdles: 15.2 (1966, ranked 5th); 440 yds Hurdles:   56.7 (1967, ranked 5th);   110 m Hurdles:   15.6 (1969, 8th); 400m Hurdles:   55.9 (1969, 9th);  LJ: 6.60m (1966, 12th);  HJ:   1.78m (1965, 11th)

Away from the track, Hugh is also reliably reported to be an excellent vocal mimic, if not in the Rory Bremner class. Beside his gift for art, he lampooned many of his friends and colleagues. Some of his cartoons, as well as his paintings, hang on the walls of friends.   

He studied in Belgrade and joined the Red Star athletic club while he was there.   As a result, he was Yugoslav team attaché for the European Indoor Champs in Glasgow (1990) on account of his fluency (having studied in Belgrade).    He made such an impression that he was promised free accommodation if he went to the European outdoor champs and helped them that summer in Split.     However, the country was on the brink of civil war and in some disarray. Hugh’s billet in the Croatian coastal town was not forthcoming, but he managed to share with a friend.   Attempting to repay hospitality with beer, he stood at the bar, but was studiously ignored for at least 10 minutes.   When asked by another guest what one had to do to get served, the barman said words to the effect that he was not serving that “Serb b*sta**”.     Hugh’s accent was so perfect, he had passed as a Serbian native. Suffice to say, war broke out inside a year.  

Despite his history of athletics involvement including Edinburgh and Belgrade, he has been and is a loyal member of VPAAC since 1972.   He is the type of unsung volunteer without whom the sport would not survive.   His soup teas after the Edinburgh to Glasgow were famous and he also holds open house after the McAndrew Relay hosted by his club.   The entertainment at both of these inevitably included his performance using his excellent powers as raconteur and mimic.   Always witty and mischievous but never spiteful.

He is reported by all who know him to be very gregarious, with passions for real ale and cycling.    A member of CAMRA his knowledge of pubs around Scotland is said to be prodigious and he has recently made a beer tour of Belgium by coach.   The comments by some of his friends and club mates make interesting reading.   Alistair Johnston meets him regularly on a Tuesday night at The Three Judges, at Partick Cross – one of the best real ale pubs in Scotland.   He says that Hugh is an expert (among many other things) in real ale and pubs in general and cycles many miles since his recent retirement around local areas visiting their hostelries.    This is a thread that keeps coming through when Hugh is mentioned although Colin Young gives a slightly different perspective on this fact later.  Alistair, Hugh, Albie Smith, Dave McMeekin (and various guests from athletics from time to time) of course talk a lot about their running days and how the standard has fallen and how good we were in comparison!! 

Hugh also now travels to Europe a lot – particularly to the likes of Bosnia and Croatia (where he spent time as a student) and other ex-communist USSR countries – he also speaks some of their languages!    He visits their museums and art galleries, etc – at home he worked for forty years at Kelvingrove Art Galleries as an art  curator.   He did’nt like to talk about his work and when he did it was usually something negative about the management!    However, he must have been well thought-of in his field because he appeared occasionally in TV documentaries – it was always a bit of a shock, says Alistair, seeing him on screen wearing a jacket and tie and speaking eloquently about Scottish artists, history or whatever, compared to the ragged, beer-swigging eccentric (slightly exaggerated) we see at The Three Judges!    He can still be seen in this capacity on youtube in fact.

He is still very friendly with many of his ex Edinburgh University athletic pals – Alistair Blamire, Dave Logue, Iain Hathorn, Jack McFie, etc – whom he meets regularly including going with them to big athletic meetings abroad and rugby internationals at Murrayfield. .

A former member of the club and still at heart very much a Vicky Parker, Colin Young re-inforces the convivial Hugh Stevenson image and says –

“My main memory is going with Hugh  and several others – Ian Binnie is the only one I can recall –  to some of the interesting pubs in Glasgow after training. The Old Toll Bar  at Paisley road Toll and Kai Johansens  stick in my mind. This was due to Hugh’s interest in the architecture and stained glass had nothing to do with beer – the rounds were not expensive being mostly shandy! My own interest in art and antiquities was building up at the time so it was good to be with somebody like Hugh.

I was on and off the committee a few times in my later spell with VP and would guess that Hugh was too – but I am not sure! It was only relatively recently – in the last few years- that I learned from a casual conversation on a coaching course that Hugh was still very much involved with VP!

A man of many sports, we are told by Jim Preacher of a rugby playing incident:

In 1988 on an I.A.D.S. tour to Dublin Hugh was persuaded to don his rugby boots as the team were a man short in a match against Guinness RFC. He was asked to play on the wing but told nothing was expected of him and that should he receive the ball he should boot it into touch. 
 
We were up against it and eventually won a line out after fifteen minutes of play. We spun the ball through the three quarters where it ended up with Hugh. His brain went back twenty years and he tucked the ball under his arm and took off down the wing. I was yelling “kick it ! kick it out ! ” but Hugh ran into the covering Guinness back row, each one build like a keg of the product.
 
A crack pierced the air. Hugh had broken his shoulder in his first touch of a rugby ball for some years. He was taken to hospital, patched up and returned to join us in the bar where he led both teams in a rendition of Limericks that lasted over twenty minutes. The old theatre expression ” the show must go on” sprung to mind.

 But Hugh always had style and class – long-time friend Alistair Blamire comments

Re the stylish Hugh, he always won the “Style Prize” at the University Sports. We often make reference to this when we see someone showing a bit of “class” in any walk of life, whether lampooning them (in the Hugh way…) or giving them a stamp of approval.

 

 

Henry Summerhill

Henry SHenry Summerhill, second from right

Henry Summerhill,  a tall, easy-to-recognise runner with his spectacles and head to one side  running action, was an interesting athlete.    He never served on District or National committees, never held major office within his club but nevertheless was an outstanding clubman.   Henry Summerhill and Shettleston were synonymous.   It is common to assume that good clubmen are automatically also multi-task people.   This is not automatically the story – eg Doc MacPhail was never a top class runner, but he WAS a top class club man.    Henry was a runner, pure and simple but a superb and loyal  member of Shettleston.    He has earned his place in this section.

He spanned at least two generations of Shettleston Harriers and ran with the best of both generations of stars, earning his place with  them both.  He turned up at the club’s Christmas Handicap in 1955 as Eddie  Summerhill’s wee brother and went on to out-do Eddie as a runner.   He was  spoken of above as ‘spanning the generations’; for proof we only have to look at  his record in the Edinburgh to Glasgow where he ran 15 time including a streak  of fourteen right off the reel.

Year

Stage Run

Team Position

 

Year

Stage Run

Team Position

1959

Five

First

 

1967

Eight

Second

1960

Four (Fastest)

First

 

1968

Eight

First

1961

Four

First

 

1969

Seven

Fourth

1962

Two

Fifth

 

1970

Five (Fastest)

First

1963

Six

Fourth

 

1971

Eight (Fastest)

First

1964

Two

Six

 

1973

Eight

Six

1965

Four

Seventh

 

1975

Eight

Fifth

1966

Six

Seventh

       

15 runs; Six gold, One silver; Three fastest times on stage.

Over the country, he was the same reliable, hard working, club runner but it was  1962 before he broke into the top team and finished twelfth and second counter  (behind Joe McGhee) in the winning team.   In 1963 he was first counter when he  was tenth in a team that was fifth; in 1965, he was first counter when he  finished seventeenth in the fourth placed team; in in 1966 he again led the team  home (twenty sixth) into fourth; in 1967 the order was Summerhill 19th, Wedlock  21st … with the team again fourth; 1968, Henry was twenty seventh, third  counter and the team was fifth; 1969, he was twenty third, third counter in the  second placed squad; 1970, he was twenty first, fourth counter in the third  placed team; 1971 he was sixteenth in the winning team;   1972, twenty fourth  and the team won again; 1973, fifty seventh and last counter in the silver medal  team;    1974, nineteenth in the fourth placed team;   1975, twenty fifth in the  third team and in 1976, Henry was fortieth and the team third.   Thirteen races,  three golds, two silvers, three bronzes.   Not a bad haul.   And then there was  the quota of District and County awards.   And the four London to Brighton  relays.   And being in the winning team in the first Allan Scally relay, and in  the winning team in the third Scally Relay.   Oh yes, and he was club champion  five times!   Henry Summerhill was a very valuable member of several Shettleston  teams.

On the track Henry raced in many team and open races and was ranked eleven times  over seven years in the 60’s with best times of 9:20 (2 Miles), 14:29.0 (3  Miles) and 30:38.0  (6 Miles) with a third place in the SAAA Six Miles in 1962,  but it is as a cross-country and road runner that he will be remembered by most  of us.

When I asked around about Henry the word among those who really knew him was the same – a hard running, hard training, good guy.    First  John Wilson, who trained with Henry for a long time before he moved to England said that  Henry worked in a printers office, he thought it was somewhere off St Vincent street (or thereabouts) where he only got something like a 40 minute lunch break so he had a tight schedule if he was to fit a run in.    John worked in Dial House (next to the Kingston Bridge) and would jog down to meet Henry at his work place so that there was no waiting.    Henry would be on pace from the start.   The route was often up Argyle Street, turn at Kelvin Hall and loop back via Sauchiehall Street and finishing with a series of short sprints up several steep hills in the Heron House area.    Henry was relentless and if the streets were busy he’d zig- zag his way through people, cars but not slow up. Once a car nearly ran into them and, so the story goes,  Henry, placid as he was, almost punched the windscreen in to tell the driver off.   This could have been kind of hazardous given that you never knew who the driver was but Henry was undeterred as he was in the right!

John reckons that this gave him an insight into Henry’s commitment to quality training no matter what.   Limited time, traffic and pedestrian congestion, obnoxious drivers or the Glasgow weather as he always finished with the short hill reps even when there was ice or snow – no doubt he would also be running that evening whereas often for John the 3 miles with Henry was like a race and all he could reasonably do that day!

Then there is this comment from Tony McCall who trained with Shettleston Harriers for several years and was an admirer of Bill Scally as well as of Henry.   I reprint it as Tony gave  it to me:

I trained at Shettleston for a couple of years. Henry had been injured and started back a few months after i ahd been there, training with Bill and a few others.

Henry did not mess about; having been injured or no, he was into fast long sessions almost immediately. He  ran a pace I struggled to keep up with but being a gentleman he would wait for me (and others) if a significant gap had developed. From the hut at Barrachanie we covered Lenzie, Steppes, Chryston, Cambuslang, Dechmont, and bits of East Kilbride all at a good pace . Some of it on the road and some of it over the country. Most of time, these runs were at the weekend. Steady but fast; I certainly benefitted from them. The distance would vary  between 13 to 20 miles depending where we went.

During the week normally Tuesday and Thursday the runs would be between 8 an 10 miles and the last few miles were very pacy particularly if Bill was along. I was always blown away no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t live with them nor could anyone else.

Henry talked a fair bit on the run; mainly about running! one of his favourite expressions was – ‘Youv’e got to gut yourself in training to get the best out of yourself – always remember that’. He gutted me a few times.

Sometimes we would do a paarlauf arounf Barrachnie on a Tuesday. It was a mile circuit and there was two teams of half a dozen or so. Bill and Henry headed the teams. If my memory serves me it was 5 or 6 miles pretty well flat out. I was always in Bill’s team. Bill always paced it to keep the team together for as long as possible. Henry being Henry ‘gutted’ it from the start and his team were all over the place within a couple of laps. Some even gave up. ‘He’s murdering me’ was quite common. He never finished with a full team. Some of the boys called him Henry the Horse – but not to his face!

He always believed, like Bill, in a high mileage training regime. Hard sessions were always the order of the day. He took his cue from Andy Brown. He admired Andy a lot. ‘The first guy in Scotland who was running 100 miles a week’.

I remember once at the University race Bill and Henry were warming up around the track together. If they ran a mile they ran 4; the sweat was running off them like a wee stream. The laps got faster the longer they went. I watched this and thought to myself -‘your knocking lumps out of each other on a sort of personal I’m no giving in to you basis’. I thought ‘ Your leaving your effort behind on the warm up track’. But I was wrong I had a decent run that day but they ran a good race and finished pretty high up the field. Theri fitness levels had coped with what I thought was an excessive warm up. Henry was right about his ‘gutting theory’!

I remember the Western District Relays took place at East Kilbride one year in the early 80s. The Shettleston team was Henry, Nat, Laurie Spence and Bill and Shettleston won it with two vets in their team and won it well. Bill ran the last leg I always remember watching it and was really impressed. I was training with these two guys and they had just beaten some of the best runners in the west area and they were vets!

i can’t tell you much more about Henry. He was a very likeable guy, he admired effort from others no matter the level they achieved and gave out encouragement when he thought it was warranted. his attitude like Bill’s was nothing will be achieved without hard work and he certainly knew all about that. He didn’t have time for people with a half hearted approach to training or racing and he probably upset one or two along the way. But he was club man and always wanted the members to do their best for the club.

He never went near the track when I trained with him, neither did Bill. Road and country only. He eventually suffered from internal bruising  in his calves probably caused by his printer’s job as he stood at his machines all day. He never really got back after that; I’m sure he suffered from cramps quite a bit and then he had his heart problems as well. He reckons caused by running the E to G with a virus. ‘ I gutted myself but was 2 minutes slower than I expected’-. Because it was the E to G he ran because he didn’t want to let the team down – that was typical of Henry.”

The picture is of a man who would run anywhere, anytime, no matter how he felt at the time, for his club.    The expression “he would run through a brick wall for his club”  certainly applied to the outstanding Henry Summerhill.

Robert Anderson

Robert Anderson

When it comes to hard working clubmen, Cambuslang’s Robert Anderson has few equals.   The living embodiment of the “You do what your club needs you to do” philosophy, he has served as athlete, official, administrator, recruiting sergeant and anything else that required some action.    I was told once when I asked where a new club member had come from that Big Robert had signed him up when he was on holiday in the Highlands, and the information was quickly followed by “Don’t laugh, we’ve got three members in Barra from the time he went there!”   As a runner he was very good but as Percy Cerutty once said of one of his stars, “He might run faster, but he doesn’t run harder than me.”   Robert always ran hard, none of the stars who ran for the club ever ran harder.   And yet despite all the stories, he remains friendly and affable – the only time he ever ignores anyone is when Cambuslang is racing and he has a man to shout on.    He was profiled in a magazine in the 1980’s but I didn’t recognise the picture painted.   The following profile is a tribute to an excellent club man and a lot of help was receibed from Dave Cooney, Cambuslang Harriers team manager for over two decades (and counting!).

Born on 12th February, 1947, Robert joined the club in 1963 at the age of fifteen and has had 50 years in the club.    Given what has been said above it might be best to look at his involvement in the various areas in which he has functioned.

Robert A

AS A RUNNER

It should be noted that Robert worked for many years delivering coal for the family business, even on a Saturday morning before competing later in the day – hardly the ideal preparation.   It did however make him stronger than almost all of the opposition.    His first individual medal was in 1965 when he was second in the Midland District Youths Cross-Country Championship.    The first six were Eddie Knox of Springburn, Robert, Colin Martin of Dumbarton, R Colvin of Springburn, Alistair Johnstone of Victoria Park and Martin Mahon of Shettleston.   He was in very good company indeed!     He went on in the same season to be ninth in the Youths National.    Eddie Knox won that one too with John Fairgrieve (EAC) second and Colin Martin third.   Finishing in the top ten was nevertheless a noteworthy achievement with several good runners left behind – eg Alistair Johnston was twelfth n this one.   Probably needless to say but he won the Cambuslang Youth championship that year and also won the Junior title.   In fact his run of club senior titles took in Senior victories in 1968, ’70, ‘ 71, ’72 and ’73.     He continued running in the National – and County and District Championships until the 1990’s and then went on to run in the veterans championships.  The 60’s were a good decade for Robert and he also competed on the hills well enough to win the tough Ben Lomond Race 1967 and 1968.   On the track he ran 6 Miles in 31:43.0 to be ranked 25th Scot in 1968.

Of course the biggest event for endurance runners in winter, other than the national, was the Edinburgh to Glasgow eight man relay.   Robert ran in this for the first time in 1970 when the club ran an incomplete team, turning out on the hard sixth stage.   The club missed out in ’71 but were back in ’72 when their twelfth place was good enough to win them the medals for the Most Meritorious unplaced performance.   Robert ran on the sixth stage again.   He ran on the eighth stage in ’73 pulling the team up one place.   Back on the long stage again in ’74, he kept the club in 17th position with another solid run.   ’75 saw him again on the sixth stage but in ’76 Robert was on the third stage where he picked up one place.    The talk that day was all of John Robson who, when running the third stage stopped altogether and reportedly threw away the baton.   No fear of that with Robert who would always do his very best for the club.    In ’77 he was again on the final stage for the team which finished eleventh.   In ’78 the team finished sixth and Robert was on the seventh leg for a team which was getting stronger all the time with Rod Stone, Colin Donnelly and the Rimmer brothers wearing the colours.   ’79 saw the team further strengthened by the addition of Eddie Stewart and improvement to fifth – it was Robert on the seventh stage who picked up from sixth to fifth.   Missing ’80, when the team was second, and ’81, he was back on E-G duty in ’82 when the team, minus the Rimmers and Rod Stone but with Eddie Stewart and new man Alex Gilmour formed the backbone, Robert ran the final stage to bring the club home in tenth.   That was to be his final run for the club in the Edinburgh to Glasgow but it had a noble stint on behalf of the club.

On the country in the 70’s he was a member of the first Cambuslang team to win a District team medal when they were third in 1976 behind Shettleston and Victoria Park and two years later he won the Lanarkshire County 10 Mile Road Running Championship.

So he was adept at cross-country and road running, then there was track running where in the 1980’s he returned to the Scottish ranking lists for the first time since that 6 miles in 1968.   This time it was in the steeplechase where h recorded times of 9:59.1 in 1980, 9:54.1 in ’81 and 9:53.1 in 1982.   The ’80’s were in general another good decade for Robert.   In 1981 he was a member of the team that took bronze in the Scottish 4 man cross-country championship running first in a team with Lynch, Stone and Stewart.   Incidentally the Young Athletes team of Sam Wallace, Pat Morris and David McShane won their race.   Becoming a vet in February 1987, he was a member of the Cambuslang team that was second in the Scottish vets cross-country championships in 1988 and again in 1989.   Unfortunately from 1990 he suffered increasingly from niggles and injuries that curtailed what running and training he could do.   They were beginning to take their toll and although he kept on running an turning out for the club, his last notable race was when he was  National M65 cross-country championships in 2013.    It was a long career as a runner an he is probably not finished with the vets scene even yet … the latest open race result I have seen is for the Cairnpapple Hill Race in 2012 when he was first M65 and 35th overall.

Robert Anderson CambuslangRobert, third from the left, unusually for him, in the background

AS A COACH

It used to be a common thing to go to any club on a training night and see older runners standing with a group of younger athletes getting practical advice from his experience.   It’s not such a common sight any more and the sport is the poorer for it.   Robert was an excellent role model for youngsters – he had run on the road, over the country, up and down the hills and on the track, all with some success.   How does he rate as a coach?   Well, first and foremost he is dependable.   It does not matter if an athlete misses a session, or even two, over the winter.    If a coach misses one it is a cardinal sin.   Robert would be an ever present.   Mike Johnston of course is currently top man and there is a great deal of assistance from Owen Reid and Jim Orr.

His approach is said by a clubmate to be a demanding one but he leads by example.   His two maxims are “There is no such thing as pain” and “You can always find time to train if you want to.”   The first is maybe a bit overstated but there is no doubt about the truth of the second.   Has he been successful?   Over the years he has helped to coach and mentor many Scottish individual and team medallists and has contributed greatly to the national success which Cambuslang has enjoyed since 1979 when the Under 13 team won bronze medals in the Scottish Cross-Country Championships.   Let’s just list them:

U13 Boys Scottish Cross Country Champions 1992 -96 (runner up by 1 point in 97), 98 – 2000, 2006 and 2013 when his grandson Drew Pollock was a counting member.

U15 Boys Scottish Cross Country Champions 1979, 1992 – 96, 2002, 2005 and 2008.

U17 Boys Scottish Cross Country Champions 1982-85, 1991 -93, 1995 and 96, 2003 and 09.

U20 Boys Scottish Cross Country Champions 1983-85, 1987, 2000, 2002 and 03 and 2013

Senior Men Cross Country Champions 1998 -1995, 1997-2000, 2003 and 2004, 2006 and 2008.

AT Mays Trophy for the Best Male Club at the Scottish Cross Country Championships

Inaugural winners in 1989, 1991- 97, 1999-2006, 2012 and 2013.

Cambuslang has won the trophy on 18 out of 25 occasions.

That is quite a formidable list of medals.   Although others did their share of the work, Robert is almost certainly the main driving force.

AS A RECRUITING OFFICER

Robert is famous as a recruiting sergeant for his club.   Always on the lookout for new members, he will often just stop runners in the street and ask them if they are interested in joining Cambuslang.   Over the years he has been responsible for attracting many new athletes to the club – names such as David Cooney (team manager now for well over a decade), the best known duo in the club of Alex Gilmour and Eddie Stewart, Scottish internationalist Jim Orr who was better than he himself thought he was, hill runner Colin Donnelly, the brothers Joe and Kevin Kealy and Mark McBeth.   Involved in the local primary and secondary schools, he was quick to latch on to the new phenomenon of parkruns and now gives out club leaflets at these events held in Glasgow every Saturday morning.

AS A COMMITTEE MEMBER  

Inevitably a clubman such as Robert has done more than his share at Committee level and in organising social events, away weekend training expeditions, club relays, Christmas handicaps.   He even has a role that not many know about as a GROUNDSMAN, mapping out and maintaining two grass tracks in the summer nights on the rugby pitches at the club since there are no local track facilities available.

Robert 1

 Robert on the left at a team mate’s wedding   

It was mentioned above that in May 1988 “Scotland’s Runner” published a club profile of Cambuslang Harriers and included in it was a pen portrait of Robert Anderson.   This extract says a lot about him.

“He lives, eats, breathes and drinks the sport.   As a promising youngster in the club in the 1960’s he would spend a hard morning carrying coal sacks up closes on a Saturday morning, finishing work well after one o’clock, before rushing off to a race at a time when Cambuslang had little hopes of any real success.   Like many traditional harriers, he is now suffering the injurious effects of more than 25 years in the sport – many of them spent pounding the pavements in inadequate footwear, something that many youngsters tend to forget in these days of hi-tech footwear.

‘I still manage about 35 miles a week.   More than that and I seem to get injured.   Who knows, maybe next year … ?’ he says wistfully.   But despite the seemingly constant injuries, he has managed a run every day this year.   

Anderson never gives up.  A current Member of Parliament (and Cambuslang Harrier) claims that Robert gave him the hardest run of his life.   It was the day after the Mamore Hill race when a Cambuslang pack, under Robert Anderson’s guidance decided to do a 90 minute run through the mountains.   Robert had the watch.   But, being a ruthless coach, he stopped the watch each time any of the hungover lads was compelled to visit the bushes.   Unfortunately, being hungover himself, he got the timing wrong.   All too soon Robert was starting the watch whenever anyone had a call of nature and stopping it whenever the pack actually started running.   A massive commitment to the Scottish mountains had been made before the dreadful truth emerged … the denouement involved two hours more than scheduled and a chest high fording of a mountain current.   They still talk about it at Cambuslang (in hushed tones) with the sort of admiring horror that every true harrier reserves for those killing days when, somehow against all the odds, you make it home.

Yet the Robert Andersons of this world claim that it was all part of their master plan to take the club on to winning the Scottish Senior Cross-Country title four years later.   Without them, our sport would drop dead.”

To finish with a heartfelt tribute, John Wilson who has known Robert for decades and remembers when he first started at the club pays him this compliment:

I joined the club as a boy in the 60’s.    Though this period the club’s fortunes waxed and waned as football was the predominant sport in the area and a constant drain on younger members.  Often it was Robert’s due diligence alone (chasing everyone up, making travel arrangements and even paying fares to get kids to events!) that kept the club going and being represented at events. 
 
The older stalwarts were invariably injured (Andy Fleming, Willie Kelly) and Gordon Eadie tended to train on his own.    For most of the decade Robert did not have consistent club competition or training partners at his level.    Charlie Jarvie was about the same as Robert but he and others moved away, Davie Lang and George Skinner made guest appearances on some club nights but in the main Robert was left to train with boys, youths and juniors.
 
To get some quality training Robert started to attend the Tuesday session at Shettleston Harriers (which was often a fast 10 mile with Bill Scally, Henry Summerhill, Dick Wedlock).   Our own club nights were Monday and Thursday and on one miserable winter’s night I went to the club and I was the only one there!    We had had several weeks of numbers dropping off and the fear was the club would just simply fold. On the Wednesday Robert told me he was thinking of joining Shettleston.
Firstly had he joined Shettleston Harriers (this was around 1969/70) with the undoubted step up in high quality training, Robert would  have fulfilled his potential and become an even better runner and secondly , in my view, Cambuslang Harriers would have ceased as a club as the members had dispersed and Robert was the main driving force to get people out at club nights and into running events. (As well as driving the training sessions)
 
Following his decision not to join Shettleston, Robert seemed to launch himself into an out and out recruitment mode targeting lapsed members, schools, and anyone he saw running in the area.   Obviously he kept this practice going.   In those days there was nothing to suggest Cambuslang Harriers would ever attain the success it has done.    Robert was the driving force at the clubs most critical time and there is no doubt he sacrificed his own running development to ensure the continuity of Cambuslang Harriers. 
I asked Robert to complete the questionnaire – unusual for this section – because I felt he would add a lot to the profile himself.   The replies are below
Name: Robert Anderson
Club:  Ronhill Cambuslang
Date of Birth: 12:02:1947
Occupation: Owner/Driver HGV (Retired.)
Personal Best Times:  800m   2:00;          1500m   4:04;          3000m 8:42;          5000m   15:27;          10000m   32:25
How did you get involved in the sport initially:   School sports.
Has any individual or group had a marked influence on either your attitude to the sport or your performances?  First Coach – Andy Fleming
Can you describe your general attitude to the sport?   I love the sport but find young ones now do not want to put enough time or work into it.
What do you consider your best ever performances?   28th October 1967 in the Midland District Relays.   I ran on the third leg and brought the team from eleventh to fourth – 33 seconds faster than Gordon Eadie who was going really well at the time.
What goals did you have that remain unachieved?   Since the late 1960s, my ambitions have all been club based.   I do not think there is anything left to win.   We have had individual champions in every age group (male) and have won every team title.   I would like to go back to proper coaching but no one is at present prepared to take the kids coming in the door.   My wins with your help as coach:
Junior Men (Under 20): 1983, ’84, ’85, ’87.   Youth  (Under 17): 1982, ’83, ’84, ’85.     Junior Boys (Under 13):  1992, ’93, ’94, ’95, ’96, (1997 second by one point to Law), ’98, ’99
***
Thanks, Robert – a lot of the Scottish athletics fraternity would agree heartily with your comments about the present generation and their attitudes.   I reckon this is true of new athletes in all age groups.    Keep up the good work!

 

 

 

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John Morgan

John Morgan

John Morgan standing on the right.

Johnny Morgan, who joined Clydesdale Harriers in season 1936/37, was always easy to recognise because of his very small stature.  He maybe had to look up to Harry Fenion.   However his contribution was immense at a time when many such as Andy McMillan, James P Shields and David Bowman were also making big contributions.    John was one of the most respected men in the club when I signed up in 1957.   Like so many good club men of whatever outfit, he did some running but his main contribution to the club was as an official, an organiser and a coach – he was also the recognised club starter.   The club records for the period 1936 – 1939 have him turning out in only six races.   In October 1936 he was eleventh of eleven in the club Novice Championships, in October 1937 it was the same position (11th of 11), December 1937 he was twenty fourth of twenty four in the 5 Miles Handicap, on 25th December 1937 he was sixteenth of thirty in the Christmas Handicap, a year later he was fourteenth of 21 in the Christmas Handicap and in February 1939 he was sixteenth of twenty in the Seven Mile Handicap.   After the war started he was tenth of fourteen in the 1940 Christmas Handicap and that was his last race until he went into the Army in 1942.   What he was to do for the club and for athletics generally after the War cannot be over-estimated.

John was club secretary from 1939/40 to 1942/43 and 1946/47 to 1950/51.   The two spells in office were broken by his war time service in the Army.   John served in Burma with the Chindits so must have seen a lot of the action.   The Chindits were the Indian Division of the British Army in World War II and carried out guerrilla warfare on the Japanese in Burma (now Myanmar) under the command Brigadier General Orde Wingate.   The name came from the mythical beast half lion/half eagle that was placed at the entrance to Burmese temples to scare away evil spirits.   He also contracted malaria there and as is the case with the disease suffered off and on afterwards from recurrences.   Many other local athletes also served in the Far East: one of these was Alex Kidd a member of Garscube Harriers and well known and respected throughout Scotland.   He also came home suffering from malaria and although they made light of it, the disease had to be respected and showed itself from time to time.    After one race on a particularly bad day at the Woodilee Mental Asylum (as it was called at that time) in Lenzie, the Changing Room became flooded because of a burst pipe.    Alex was lying on a bench shivering and shaking and as the others all scrambled out with their clothes and gear leaving him there, he was saying, “it’s all right – it’s just the malaria!”

Although John joined the club as a runner he ran mainly in pack runs and inter club fixtures with no major trophies to his name.   His racing record has already been detailed.   His running after the War was seriously affected by the malaria but he used to turn out every now and then with Andy McMillan, James P Shields, Dan McDonald and Jim Murphy just for a run.   In my time in the club he was best known as the official club starter and kept the two guns and ammunition at his house.   He was an ever present at club fixtures and championships whether track, road or cross country

 His big contribution to the club and to the sport was as an administrator and official.   He attended a few committee meetings in the 1930’s before he was elected as club secretary a mere three years after joining the club.   This was not simply because no one else was capable of doing the job or wanted to do the job – it was because he was recognised as being a good administrator.   Came the war and he was elected as secretary to the war time committee whose job was to keep the club in good order until the cessation of hostilities.   He worked well in the job and only left the committee when his Army Service took him off to Burma.   This service left him as already noted with malaria and he had to take quinine for the rest of his life.   One story is that when he said he would have to go home to have some quinine, the others remarked that he meant “Queen Anne” which was a type of whisky.

As soon as he was back home, it was not long before he was back on to the committee and his second spell in the hot seat was possibly his best.  The club race results book opens a new page with the following:

SEASON 1946-47

In which it is hoped to carry out our full

Pre-war runs programme.

                                                                                                   (John Morgan, Secy)

 He was not only on the club committee but he was a member of the County Association and served on the Committee of the SAAA – the governing body of the sport in Scotland.   He not only sat on the Committee of the Dunbartonshire AAA’s but was one of the pioneers of the organisation and the club representative in the setting up of the association.   In addition to his committee work he did a lot of coaching and was the club’s official starter.  He had two guns of his own and the ammunition was supplied by the club.   The part he played in the organisation of the Clydesdale Harriers Youth Ballot Team Race when it started up in 1947 was such that the trophy awarded to the winner was named the Johnny Morgan Trophy and it is still in the club’s possession.    The picture below is of Eddie Sinclair winning the Johnny Morgan Trophy.

Eddie Sinclair winning the Clydesdale Youth race, 1954

Eddie Sinclair winning the Clydesdale Youth race, 1954

At that time he was always very helpful to the younger committee members and Alex Hylan said that he would come before the meetings and ask if he, in whatever capacity, needed any help in preparing for meetings.    John also donated the Zetland Trophy for the Ladies Track Championship and named it after the Zetland Estate where his parents worked – the earldom of Zetland was created in 1838 for Laurence Dundas (of Port Dundas fame).

In the mid 1950’s the club had a quite superb Ladies Section with many first class athletes including not only Scottish but also British champions and international athletes.   The section was led by Jean Struthers and John was the main coach.   Then in the late 1950’s Tom and May Williamson formed a new club to be called Western AAC and it would be based at Kirklee in Glasgow.   They attracted girls from all clubs and the effect on several clubs in Glasgow (Springburn Harriers Ladies, Bellahouston Harriers Ladies and Clydesdale for instance) was devastating.   When one of the best runners in Bellahouston Harriers joined up with Western, she was asked by her regular training partners in Maryhill Harriers Ladies why she had not joined them if she was leaving Bellahouston.   Her reply was that they had never asked her!   Virtually all the Clydesdale Ladies left en bloc to join this attempt to form a ‘club of champions’.   These outfits keep appearing – Sans Unkles’ and Dunky Wright’s Caledonia AC, the Robson brothers and their Edinburgh/Reebok/Leslie Deans/Mizuno Racing Club and so on – and seldom last long.   The damage inflicted on other clubs is at times considerable.   John Morgan was so upset that he gave up coaching on the spot and another coach had to be found.   He stayed to work for the club at Committee level and as starter and timekeeper at club and county races.

Runner, committee man, coach, official club starter – and one of the first class group of men who kept the club functioning after the war.   When he died in November 1967 the ‘Clydebank Press’ said: It is with deep regret that I have to announce the death of Mr John Morgan one of our older members.    Johnny as he was known to young and old alike served the club well in many official positions since the War and although he was dogged by illness in recent years he still turned out as an official SAAA starter when needed.   His services were not limited to Harriers activities as he was well known for the help he gave to local schools and Youth organisations and often at considerable expense to himself.   We in the club will miss Johnny greatly and extend our deepest sympathy to his family.”

 

David Bowman

David Bowman was a member of Clydesdale Harriers from 1935 until his death in 2007.   He held every important office on the committee and outwith the club he served on many national bodies.   At one point he was president of four athletics organisations at the same time.   David was my great hero in the club and there were two things he felt important: you always did what your club needed you to do, and the club should take its place in the wider world of Scottish athletics.   One of the best ever clubmen in any club in the land, what follows is a profile that I wrote as part of a book of club profiles.

David Bowman

David Moir Bowman joined Clydesdale Harriers in 1935 – exactly 50 years after the formation of the club and has had an unbroken membership since then with only a spell in London from 1937 – 1938 when he ran with Queen’s Park Harriers to interrupt things.  He had initially been invited to train with a group of runners from half a dozen clubs from the YMCA in Peel   Street in Partick in Glasgow with the large plunge bath in the basement as an added inducement.   The building had originally been part of HyndlandSchool and before the bare concrete bath was built in the basement four or five at a time would cram into an ordinary sized bath and scrub each other’s backs.   Eventually a wrap around shower was added to the big bath.    Starting as a sprinter, David gradually moved up through the distances until eventually specialising in the marathon.   He raced at County, District and National Championships as well as at all the local meetings and Highland Games at Shotts, Cowal and Strathallan.

It was in the mid-forties that he started ‘a wee bit of road running and this led to running in the Greenock to Ibrox Marathon in 1949 on the advice of Jock Semple.   On one of Jock’s visits they were out on a run when the good advice was given.   In the race itself he was sixth of twenty four finishers, defeating the club road race expert, Eric Paton.  The 1950 Scottish Marathon Championship was held at Meadowbank and was won by Harry Howard of Shettleston Harriers in 2:43:56 with David being tenth in his first marathon in 3:02:51.   The times were all slow by today’s standards but it should be kept in mind that apart from shoe technology, diet and clothing being much less well developed, the course organisers tended to look for tough courses in keeping with the marathon’s tough man image.   The Isle of Wight Marathon was notorious and the Scottish Marathon from Westerlands in Glasgow out to the Vale of Leven and back was a series of long difficult hills and climbs.   The 1952 SAAA Championship went from Methven to Dundee with the start being ‘beside a telegraph pole in the middle of nowhere ‘ according to the ‘Scots Athlete’ magazine.   In a star studded field including CD Robertson (the winner), Joe McGhee (from Hadleigh AC), J Paterson of Polytechnic Harriers, Emmet Farrell and others.

 

David was eleventh in 3:02:49.   The 1953 marathon from Laurieston to Meadowbank was his best where he was fifth in 2:48:18 – ten minutes behind the winner.   1955 saw the race go from Falkirk to Edinburgh with Joe McGhee winning by almost ten minutes in 2:25 and David finishing tenth in 2:52:22.  He picked up standard medals for the marathon on no fewer than six occasions and as an athlete is best remembered for his road running which included the Helensburgh to Clydebank road race – much harder than the more familiar Clydebank to Helensburgh version since it included the long drag and climb up from the start at the Pier Head in Helensburgh to Dumbarton.

From the club point of view, David was the ideal club member and official.   He was a first class ambassador for the club and the sport and great example to all members. He filled in wherever necessary and held every office on the Committee.   He was President for ten years and treasurer for twenty two.   He turned his hand to whatever the club needed whether the need were expressed or not.   For many years he produced on his own initiative a single sheet containing the list of Committee Members, trophy winners, fixtures for the coming year and any significant dates in the coming season.   This was neatly handwritten on a single sheet and folded to a size that would fit into a pocket diary.   At presentation time he would personally collect the club’s many trophies, take them to the engraver and collect them in time for the presentation.   In the 1990’s he added to the number by donating the David and Evelyn Bowman Trophy for the club’s top Field Events athlete.  He had already presented the Janice Moir Wright Trophy (in memory of his daughter) in 1978 for the top Youth/Junior in the National Cross Country Championships.   He also chauffeured many, many athletes to and from meetings and generally did as much as he could, often much more than could be expected, for the club.  A remarkable record but arguably his biggest single contribution to the club was his work with Andy McMillan and others on the war time committee.   The club had completely shut down during the 1914-1918 war for the duration of hostilities and lost out when the fighting was over because they had to start up again practically from scratch.   The war time continuation committee from 1939 to 1945  kept the club ticking over while the action was taking place and met officially to start up again on the cessation.   David was Vice Captain in 1945, Captain a year later and went on to be one of the longest serving of Committee Members.

 

YEAR

POSITION

YEAR

POSITION

1959

President

1973

Treasurer

1960

President

1974

Treasurer

1961

President

1975

Treasurer

1962

President

1976

Treasurer

1963

President

1977

Treasurer

1964

President

1978

Treasurer

1965

Treasurer

1979

Treasurer

1966

Treasurer

1980

Treasurer

1967

Treasurer

1981

Treasurer

1968

Treasurer

1982

Treasurer

1969

Treasurer

1983

Treasurer

1970

Treasurer

1984

Treasurer

1971

Treasurer

1985

Treasurer

1972

Treasurer

1986

Treasurer

1988 President

1989 President

1990 President

1991 President

Thirty two years in two of the big two positions in any club!   Quite exceptional and it is doubtful whether anyone will ever again hold the Treasurer’s post for quite as long.   He also held other offices in the club such as Vice President, Assistant Secretary, Captain and Vice Captain.   While president in 1960 he had the honour of replying to the Toast of ‘The Clydesdale Harriers’, proposed by Admiral Sir Alexander Cunninghame Graham, KBE, CB, Lord Lieutenant of the County at the club’s 75th Anniversary Dinner at the Grand Hotel.   In the course of his time in the club he attended the 60th, 70th, 75th, 90th and of course the Centenary Dinner where he proposed the Toast to ‘Kindred Clubs’

At National level he was recognised as a top class administrator and organiser.   He was on the Committee of the Scottish Marathon Club for fifteen years, a member of the DAAA Committee where he held the offices of President and Vice President and he also chaired the Inter-Counties Athletic Association.   At one point he was President of Clydesdale Harriers, the DAAA, the Scottish Marathon Club and the Inter Counties Association at the same time.  As President of the Marathon Club he was responsible for helping organise the SAAA Marathon Championship for a number of years producing superb maps of the courses with a chart of climbs and descents along the way directly below the relevant part of the map.   This championship was held separately from the Scottish Championships for many years and it was while David was President that it was re-incorporated into them.   It should be said that the Secretary, Jimmy Scott of the Glasgow YMCA, was the real driving force of the SMC but he and David made a very good team backed up by an excellent Committee.

The 1970 Commonwealth Games

The high spot of his administrative career however was probably during the Commonwealth Games at Edinburgh in 1970.   He was Assistant Manager of the Scottish team with special responsibility for the marathon.   His vast experience as competitor and official were responsible in no small way for the smooth running of the event which turned out to be one of the most exciting events of the Games, won by Ron Hill with many very fast times being recorded.   He is pictured with Scotland’s Jim Alder in July 1970 after Jim had finished second to Ron Hill in the marathon.

 David was of the calibre to hold the highest offices in the sport nationally but chose instead to serve the club: a forward looking official and key man throughout his time on the Committee. Efficiency and David were synonymous: when the Clydebank Half Marathon had problems immediately before the first running of the event, the organisers turned immediately to David who had a panicky phone call less than twenty fours before the race asking for assistance.   Despite being the best man for the job and having been ignored by the organising committee up to that point, he was courtesy itself and quickly sorted out the problems.

 When the club held a tribute dinner to David and George White in 1994 for all that they had done for the club and the sport over the years, there were over one hundred in attendance including members of all the local clubs and the written tributes from those who could not be there were sound testimonial to all that they had done.   Some examples:

  • From Doug Spencer of Garscube Harriers: “Looking forward to an excellent evening,      tell George to keep his elbows to himself, David was too much of a      gentleman to involve himself in the fine arts of aggression in cross      country races”.
  • From Graham Everett of Shettleston Harriers (eight times Scottish Mile Champion, AAA’s One      Mile Champion): “A little dedication and determination is  all that it takes to have fun and enjoy      athletics.   However to give a      ‘century’ to the sport is a milestone that you have both easily passed.   It is a great honour that Clydesdale      Harriers are giving you for the service to the club and Scottish      athletics.”
  • John Emmett Farrell of Maryhill Harriers: “David is a great servant to your club and      to the sport at large.   He      epitomises the real spirit of amateur sport and a really nice guy.”
  • Alex Kidd of Garscube Harriers: “I can testify to David being an excellent      organiser as I was a humble steward at the ’70 Commonwealth Games Marathon and also to the ferocity of gentle George      as a competitor having been beaten by George and David over track, road      and country.”
  • Ewan Murray Secretary of the SAAA’s and former      President of the AAA’s: “David      and George represent all that is best in amateur athletics.  Their enthusiasm as competitors and      their work as administrators for the sport in general and Clydesdale      Harriers in particular have contributed greatly to the success of      both.   All done in humility and      without thought for the honour they brought to themselves and to our      sport.” 

And there were many more in similar vein. 

Another feature of David’s personality that stood out was his courtesy and sense of ‘the right thing to do.’   That sounds very po-faced but David wasn’t like that, he did like things done properly though.   If as a Committee Member, whether as President or as an ordinary member, he felt something was not right, then he did his best to have it decided democratically.  If he lost the verdict – and it didn’t happen often – then he accepted it and there was no ill feeling.   He never ever imposed a decision unilaterally.    One of the aspects of his personality that made him such a superb ambassador for the club and the sport was the fact that everybody got their place and no one was ever treated with less than respect no matter how badly they had behaved.   His demeanour exuded dignity, efficiency, respectability and honour.

 

 

IMM ‘Doc’ MacPhail

MacPhail_1

The ‘Reader’s Digest’ used to have a regular slot for ‘The Most Unforgettable Character I’ve Met’ and all sorts of people were included in the series.   My own subject would have been, without much if any doubt, Doctor IMM Macphail.   He was our history teacher at Clydebank High School but much more than that.   He was also the mainstay of Dumbarton AAC for many, many years to the extent that at one point they were referred to in jest as Macphail’s Navy (a variation of the TV programme McHale’s Navy).    A conscientious objector during the War he volunteered for the bomb disposal squad and that’s how he spent his War.   Before going on to talk about his time with Dumbarton AAC, I’ll quote from the flyleaf of his book ‘The Crofters’ War’.

“With the publication of ‘The Crofters’ War’, Dr IMM MacPhail crowns a long and distinguished career.   An eminent historian, teacher, genealogist, mountaineer and athlete, he has made his mark in many areas of Scottish life.   It is however as a Scottish historian that he is best known: his two-volume History of Scotland for Schools, published in 1954 and 1956, and welcomed as ‘the book that Scottish schools have been waiting for’ is generally regarded as the  history which first brought to the attention of a wider public an adequate treatment of the clearances and to the history of the Highlands and Islands.  Other publications by Dr MacPhail include ‘Modern Times 1880 – 1955’, published in 1961, ‘Modern Scots’ (1965), ‘An Introduction to the British Constitution’ (1967)  and  ‘The Clydebank Blitz’ (1974).   Books and articles on the history of Dumbarton where he lives, and its surrounding countryside, have greatly enhanced the knowledge of that part of Scotland.   He has also been an assiduous contributor to the ‘Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness’ of which he is a past Chief.  

An expert linguist, his knowledge of and love for the Gaelic language came from his Lewis parents, and was strengthened by the links with the island he has cherished all his life.  

Graduating from Glasgow University with Honours in History, he continued his studies in Czechoslovakia where he gained his Doctorate of Philosophy at Prague University.   He ended his teaching career as Principal Teacher of History in Clydebank High School.   His teaching career was interrupted by service in the Second World War, where he volunteered for bomb disposal, spending much of his service in the badly bombed ports of Southern England.”

Add in his sporting interests of running, rowing, hill walking and mountaineering and you have a very full life indeed.

His full name was Iain Murdoch Macleod MacPhail and his father was in the Army and moved around a lot with Dr MacPhail being born in Hamilton but was and is known as a real enthusiast for the Town of Dumbarton about which he wrote many, many books and articles.   As a genealogist he was very interested in his own roots which were in the Outer Hebrides: The MacPhails from either Harris or North Uist and the Macleods from Shawbost in Lewis but the strange thing is that he did not have any historical connection with Dumbarton at all.    Be that as it may, after his death the Lennox Heritage Society had a stained glass window to his memory installed in the Dumbarton Library.

MacPhail_2

Iain MacPhail joined Dumbarton AAC in season 1930/31 and paid his first subscription of 2/- on 8th May 1931.   Actually it was a half-subscription, full sub being 4/- because there was less than half the season left.   His address was given as Carman Hill in the Renton and his brother William was also a member.   On 5th December 1931 he competed in the club 5 miles Handicap where, with a handicap time of 2:30 he finished thirteenth of eighteen runners – the handicap was probably a ‘novice mark’ of 30 seconds a mile and it is the first record of him taking part in a race at the club.   A year later, off 3 minutes, he was fourteenth of seventeen but it was a better run – the year before he was tenth fastest scratch time, this time he was fifth quickest over the course.   By 1933 his handicap allowance was 3:30 and he was fifteenth out of twenty with the eleventh time overall.   It is clear that even early on he was not going to be a star athlete but he was persistent and took part in races over the country and on the road   He disappeared from the racing scene for a while but he was back again after the war and competing in club races but he soon became the regular handicapper and time-keeper.    His post-race remarks must have been interesting for instance at the club presentation in March, 1959, the note in the race book said, “The Prize Presentation was held in the gym at the Brock Baths.   Club President was in the chair.   After speaking on current affairs, he asked Baths Superintendent J Donaldson to present the prizes.”    But he will be best remembered as President and Chairman of the club for almost quarter of a century.   He held no official post on the Committee before the War but was part of a small committee of four who were tasked with organising the first post-war races.   His first official position was that of President.

Doctor MacPhail became President of Dumbarton AAC at the AGM of 3rd September 1946 when the minute read, “Mr IMM MacPhail was nominated to the position of President on the motion of Mr Geo Stewart, seconded by H Smyth.”   Further down the list of elected members was a note that he, along with Jack Brown, was nominated as one of the club’s representatives o the NCCU (the National Cross Country Union)   The nominees to the latter post were not always nominated n the minute of the AGM but he was still a rep in the 1960s.   A note:   He might have been Doctor MacPhail to the world at large but he was Mr McPhail to the club and appeared as such all the time he  was on the Committee.    He stayed in the role for 23 years and resigned at the AGM of 28th August 1969.    The minute of the meeting read “Next came the news which we were all sorry to hear.   After 23 years a President of the club he had decided to call it a day, so that he could  devote more time to one of his other interests in life, namely the writing of books and, as he would be away for long periods at times, he had very reluctantly decided to give up the chairmanship of the club which he had held since 1946.   In doing so, he wished DAAC every success in the future.”   He was however prevailed upon to remain as a member of General Committee but his attendances were not as regular as heretofore.   What kind of President was he?

He was one of the most active of Presidents imaginable.    If look at some of the references in the club minutes during the middle years of his presidency we get the following.

16th September 1956:   Mr MacPhail suggested that a special effort should be made when negotiating fences, etc so that no damage would be caused to the wire or to the gates.

1st December 1956: The general feeling of the club was that we didn’t receive the full value of the extra fee imposed by the SAAA last year.   Mr MacPhail then intimated that Mr J Gardiner of the Vale of Leven AAC would bring the matter up at the next meeting.     [The SAAA had imposed a special ‘coaching fee’ on all clubs in membership and then the national coach, Tony Chapman, resigned and moved on but the fee continued to be levied and most clubs were more than a bit disgruntled.]

Messrs MacPhail and McMenamin were asked to revise the constitution.

12/1/57:   Messrs Timmins, MacPhail and Walker were asked to recce a trail for the club 8 miles championships.

23/3/57: Prizes for the club championships: It was agreed by the committee that an additional £3 be spent on prizes, thus bringing the total up to £12.    Once again our very generous donors, Messrs MacPhail and McMenamin, intimated that they would provide the prizes for the hill race.

Doc MacPhail was also asked to write to Dumbarton FC to ask for the same training facilities to be granted as last year.

28/8/57: Mr MacPhail said that he would draw up a list of fixtures for the committee’s approval.

“The chairman then read out the basis for the new constitution which had been drawn up by a club committee.  He said  copy would be pinned on the club notice board for members to see and any alteration they thought fit would be brought in at the next AGM”

30/11/57: Lapel badges to be ordered and he was asked to write to a firm which did “that type of work.”

15/1/58:   There were not enough members to fill a bus to Hamilton and he was asked to contact the Vale of Leven about sharing a bus.

19/2/58: No one had asked the Baths Superintendant or a representative from Vale of Leven to the club presentation and Mr MacPhail said he would attend to this.

28/8/58:   AGM.   There was a complaint about the cost of race entries when some of the runners did not turn up or even know they had been entered.  The chairman’explained’ that this was probably true but in most cases it was unavoidable as there were runners in the forces who always hoped to get home for these events, then there were the members who did not come along on club nights and they were not always available to ask.

Then “the money spent on the track did not justify itself.”    The chairman said that that was maybe right but lots of the club did not take advantage of it and anyhow it was a good medium for recruiting.

4/9/58:   Advertising for open races – Mr MacPhail said that this part of the business could be left to him.

30/11/58: Fund raising cards – Mr MacPhail to get them.

29/8/59: Re-nominated as club rep to the NCCU (with Jack Brown) and to the DAAA.

30/1/60: The chairman had now taken charge of the football cards from Mr J McMenamin who had a change of employment.   Boghead was not available for training, Mr MacPhail agreed to write to the Education Department and to the Vale of Leven FC.

10/9/60: On the subject of equipment the club agreed to buy a discus and ‘Mr MacPhail said he had purchased a 12 lb ball as his own property but he was quite willing for the club to use same.   This was appreciated by these present.’

‘Mr Brown moved a vote of thanks to Mr IMM MacPhail who had more or less run off the track season on his own.   This had proved a big job, especially with the added inter-club fixtures but Mr MacPhail had proved equal to the task.     Members duly responded.’

24/9/60:   Open races: Mr MacPhail let it be known that he had notified local schools and also sent them a poster.

2/3/61: In a discussion about the handicap system used within the club, he offered to investigate how other clubs organised their handicaps.

15/9/62: Officials: Our chairman said that he had had a talk with Mr D McL Wright who was upset at the shortage of officials for various events and he asked Mr McPhail to try to get some of the club interested.   After some discussion it was felt that we could not do too much as most of our lads were still active members.   Mr MacPhail agreed that his name should be nominated.

MacPhail_3

I have noted these particular items to indicate the range of things which he was asked to take on, and which he volunteered to take on, for the benefit of the club.    Laying trails for races, attending meetings of governing bodies, providing prizes for races, organising the track season and applying for lets, writing to politicians and officials, investigating the handicap system, posters to schools, drawing up fixture lists and letting his name go forward for training as an official are all noted in the extracts quoted.     Remember that these were in addition to his other interests of hill walking, mountaineering. writing, teaching, etc.   Furthermore they were usually carried out by various other committee members – letters by the secretary, handicaps and trail laying by the captain, etc.  Some of the club work took up considerable amounts of time and in addition to the committee attendances, he represented the club for a time at the SAAA and well as for many years being their man at the DAAA and the NCCU meetings.    His commitment over the period was astonishing: it is normal for a new president/chairman to dive in and work really hard for a few years – but Doc was the same right through to the end of his 23 year stint as President.

Standing left watching the Dumbarton runners in the Springburn Cup race, early 1960’s

He also tackled some big issues for the club – access to track facilities being one.   I note the minute of 28/3/61:

Mc MacPhail then read out a letter he had submitted to the Parks Committee via the Town Clerk asking them what they intended doing about a running track.   He pointed out that he had a letter from a previous Town Clerk pledging his support, and although this had been a number of years ago, we still awaited action on this matter.   He then went on to explain that neighbouring towns were better equipped and how some of the local athletes travelled there regularly to take advantage of the better facilities provided, and in some cases were lost to the club.   He also reminded them that this state of affairs was prevailing all over the country, and was no doubt responsible for Scotland’s poor representation at the recent Olympic Games.

And he followed this up with face-face-meetings with local officials and politicians.   eg “5th March 1964: The Chairman has done a lot of research on this matter – the suggested locations had come down to 1.   The Common; 2.   St James’s Park; 3.   Postie’s Park.”    1st September 1964 “we kept breathing down the neck of the council”    August 1966:  “track unlikely for the next two years.”   21/9/68: “The chairman explained the obstacles which had met the club’s proposals that the track should be sited on the Common.”   Various other sites were suggested.

It would be totally wrong to give him sole credit for the negotiations – such a big item for any athletics club has to be the work of the entire committee but what seems to come through from the Minutes is his efforts in investigating venues, writing and badgering those in positions of power and keeping it high on the agenda.

Although he resigned at President in 1969 (the same year as he retired from teaching at Clydebank High School after 20 years there) he was working for the club for many years after that.   For instace, the minute of 18th April 1974 said “Point to Point: The run went off very successfully, largely due to Dr IMM Mac Phail who had laid a very well marked trail.”    The trail was from the Whangie on the Stockiemuir Road, over the top of the Kilpatricks down into Dumbarton.    Not bad for a man in his seventies.

Doctor MacPhail was an energetic man who walked quickly with a lift in his step.   He always looked at the person he was talking to and fairly often when he was explaining something to any athlete or to the committee he is reported to have asked, “Now, d’you follow me?”   The energy seemed almost boundless and Dumbarton AAC and Scottish athletics possibly got more than its fair share.

MacPhail window 2

The stained glass window in Dumbarton Public Library