Clydesdale Harriers Sports 1901 – 1905

John McGough

The Empire Exhibition was held in Glasgow between May and November, 1901, It took place in Kelvingrove Park and the Art Gallery and Museum in the park was opened in 1901.   It was a huge affair and over 11,000,000 visits were made to the various attractions.   You can read more about it here

The Clydesdale Harriers handbook said that  “The annual Sports were held in the athletic grounds of the Exhibition, the Club receiving a subsidy for conducting the meeting.   A most attractive programme was submitted, and it is satisfactory to state that the confidence of the Executive was not misplaced, as both a good crowd and a good sport were the outcome.” 

Held on the 6th July, 1901, the Glasgow Herald of two days later began its report: “The annual athletic amateur sports of this old and important body of athletes was held at the Empire Exhibition Grounds on Saturday afternoon.   The arrangements were excellent, and there was a good attendance, while the weather conditions were all that could be desired. ”   

The quality of the athletics was in keeping with the occasion and the trophies awarded were of the highest order.   In this instance, the results of the athletics events are reproduced, although it should be noted that there were also a number of cycle races.

100 yards:   1.   RY Auld, Maryhill H 8 yards;   2.  W Steele,  Claremont AC  6 yards;  3,  W Smith  DH  9 yards.   Time  10.2 seconds

300 yards:   1.   RY Auld  Maryhill H   18 yards;  2.   J Alexander   QPFC  13 yards:  3.  F Turnbull,  Bellahouston  12 yards.   Time  38.8

880 yards:   1.  J McGough (Bellahouston 40 yards);  2.  A Grant (EUAC  38 yards);  3.  JJ McCaffrey (West of Scotland  20 yards).   Time: 2:00.2

One Mile:   1.  JC Lindsay   Clydesdale  75 yards;   2.  R Reid  Rosebank  85 yards;   3.  A Wright Wellpark H  45 yards.   Time  4:27 

High Jump:  1.  J Gallon unatt  9 1/2 inches;   2.  AL Graham,  Arlington Baths  2 inches;  3.   RL Murray  Clydesdale  scr.  Winning height: 6′  1 1/2″

Obstacle Race (scratch):   1.  W Bell,  Clydesdale;  2.  DW Mill, Clydesdale Harriers;  3.  JJ Watson,  Glenpark.

Exhibition Cup Team Contest:  three teams took part – Edinburgh (2nd 26 pts), Paisley (1st 14 pts) and Burnbank Harriers (dnf).   

The half mile was probably the race of the meeting with McGough one of the all-time greats of Scottish middle and long distance running and McCafferty a Scottish cross-country champion.  The half mile here had a very big field and McGough won by 6 yards.   Good weather, good close competition, fewer races than usual to organise plus a subsidy – a good day all round.   

Finally, although it was a shorter programme, there were numerous heats for most races.   The 330 yards for instance had 73 competitors and the half mile cycle event had eight heats.   

It is maybe time for a wee diversion.   Clydesdale Harriers, West of Scotland and Edinburgh Harriers were pioneers in the field of amateur athletics and were praised for their work.   But professional athletics had not gone away.   There were hot spots of professionalism in the Borders and in Fife, there were sports and games held all year round by smaller football clubs, works sports clubs, charities; several of the bigger sports meetings were professional – Glasgow Police meetings were professional until 1919, Shawfield held weekly professional meetings for decades and the Clyde FC Sports were professional until well into the twentieth century.    Even Rangers and Celtic dabbled in professional athletics.   A couple of examples:

Celtic for instance held a professional meeting on Coronation Day in 1902 – “Undeterred by the limited success of previous professional ventures , the Celtic FC have decided to hold a pedestrian function on Coronation Day, and it is to be hoped that they will be rewarded, as they have not yet been, for their enterprise.   Professional sport of the pedestrian cult is in bad odour in Glasgow, and has been for the last quarter of a century.   In fact we question in even the Celts with all their influence will remove the stigma from which it suffers.   They have worked persistently with that object in view during the past five years, and the conditions are no better now than they were then.   To be candid, the sprint racing last weekend was honeycombed with all that has made professionalism such a despised sport.   The final was certainly a genuine race due to the fact that all were tryers, but in previous rounds honest effort was at a premium.”   

Celtic also had the occasional mid week professional meetings

Rangers had their Highland Gatherings: “It is a great transition from the prosaic earnestness of an amateur championship to the gaiety of a Highland gathering.   Yet Ibrox, which was the centre of the one on Saturday, will be the centre of the other this weekend, Rangers by their enterprise having arranged to provide the public with a national gathering which in point of spectacular effect will equal some of the great classic functions of the Highlands.   No expense has been spared to make the meeting what it is certain to be – a huge success provided the elements are favourable.Most of the clan societies will be represented, and the delegates will be arrayed in national garb, and this in itself will add a picturesqueness to the scene.   In addition to dancing and piping, there will be a number of athletic events …. wrestling which is in great favour at the moment has a place in the programme.”   [Glasgow Herald, 22 June, 1903]

The meeting was successful enough to be repeated the following year where we are told that ‘valuable money prizes were offered’ at a meeting which started at 1:30 and lasted until after six o’clock.   

There were professional meetings every weekend and the sporting public had a choice whether to watch the amateur variety provided by the likes of Clydesdale Harriers, Maryhill Harriers, West of Scotland, Edinburgh Northern, etc or the professional kind with money prizes and often enough betting at the trackside.   There was pressure on the clubs to make their sports as attractive as possible, hence the boxing matches, the cycling, motor cycling at Parkhead and so on.    The question of professional and amateur athletics at this time is intriguing enough to win some student a PhD!

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The Clydesdale Harriers Sports were held on 4th July, 1903, at Meadowside Park, the ground of Partick Thistle.   The handbook tells us that they were very successful with good weather and a splendid entry.  A profit was made which enabled the club to pay expenses and still have a ‘nice sum’ left over.   In the quest for a good attendance the club had added a five-a-side tournament, a boys’ race and cycle races.   In the 5-a-side Petershill defeated Yoker Athletic 2-0.   The meeting was a long one and the ‘Herald’ said that the football could have been dispensed with and that the boys’ race was neither “a thing of beauty” for the spectators, nor a “joy forever” for the runners.   Entries were prodigious – 25 heats of the open 100 yards, five heats in the half mile, six heats for the boys’ 100 yards, the 330 yards had nine heats.   There were entries from all over Scotland including Saltcoats AC, Grange Harriers, Rutherglen Harriers as well as all the major national clubs.   Many close finishes delighted the spectators but there were no big names on show.   

It was back to Meadowside on 28th May 1904 for the Annual Sports and the handbook reported “We received a splendid entry and were favoured with a dry day, but unfortunately a wrestling contest at Ibrox Park and other attractions spoiled the attendance.   We were however able to clear expenses and have a small sum to the good.”   

Events included a 100 yards handicap with 22 heats, 2 semi-finals and a final which was won by McEwan of Bellahouston in 11.2 a 300 yards handicap with eight heats, and a final won by D Burdett, Garscube Harriers in 34.2 seconds; a 1000 yards handicap won by Sam Carson of Garscube who was off 57 yards and broke the tape just ahead of John McGough who set a new all-comers record of 2:17; a Two Miles Walk won by James Boyle of St Aloysius FC; a Two Mile Handicap in which all three prizes were won by members of CH – Sam Stevenson, W Robertson and James Reston, won  in 9:26; a high jump and two amateur bicycle races.   On the same day, there was a professional sports meeting at Celtic Park organised by Mr Fred Lumley which was a great success.  There were two races – 120 yards and half-mile handicaps with 57 entering the sprint and 58 for the half-mile – and the winners of the various heats were listed along with their starting prices.   eg 120 yards, Heat 1 Richards, Betting 3 to 1 on;  Heat 2 McGhie, Betting 7 to 1 agst; etc .  Note that this was not organised by any of the football clubs but by Fred Lumley who was a great patron of amateur sport and awrded the shield still presented to the wining team in the national cross country championship.    

Sam Stevenson

“Our Annual Sports this year took place at Celtic Park on 27th May, 1905.   Although we had a special attraction in a Four Miles handicap in which A Aldridge who won the International Match in Dublin and the AAA 10 Miles championship, competed, along with Sam. Stevenson who won the event, we did not get the support that we merited.   This could be accounted for by the fact that the Charity Cup Final was played that day at Ibrox, Celtic and Third Lanark being the finalists.   We were however, able to show a Balance Sheet with a few pounds to the good.

After a lengthy correspondence, we were granted the use of Dunoon Town Council’s Athletic Ground for Sports to be held there with the local club, on Fair Saturday and Monday, 15th and 17th July,    Unfortunately the weather on the Monday was of the most miserable description, and we lost heavily on the venture, but the work of the club will not be hampered by this, as the Committee have struck on a novel idea, whereby, it is anticipated, the money will eventually be raised – the pressing demands will be met by means of a loan.”

There its in a nutshell.   Annual Sports  which were expected to make a profit and often did, plus other work to spread the amateur gospel.   There were almost always sports in addition to the main event – at one point there were Wednesday evening meetings in May, at another there were meetings in places where hitherto there had been mainly professional sports and so on.    They did not always make a profit, but the Committee persevered with new meetings in new places.   But back to the 1905 Annual Sports meeting  …..

The Glasgow Herald had this to say about the Four Miles handicap:   “A Aldridge, the 10 Miles English champion, honoured the Clydesdale with his presence, and if he did not quite come up to expectation, he at all events created a very favourable impression, and when he comes North again, as he has promised to do again soon, he will perhaps put in an even better performance than he did in the Four Miles handicap.   The winner of this was S Stevenson, the ten miles Scottish champion.   He had but 80 yards from Aldridge, which was a most reasonable concession, and yet the Englishman was unable to give that start.   It was an educative race as far as tactics are concerned, and the Scotsman has nothing to learn from Aldridge in this respect.   Every time the latter tried the forcing game, Stevenson responded, and when the crucial stage was reached supremacy lay with the Scotsman who finished the distance in 20 min 18 2-5th sec. “   and the article went on to praise Stevenson as the best runner over 2 miles that the country had produced.

The programme had two bicycle races as well as the following:  100 yards had 24 heats, 4 semi finals and a final won by JP Stark (photo below) who had won the SAAA 100 yards in 1904 and would win the 100/220 yards double in 1905, the two miles walk won by Quinn of Motherwell who had won the SAAA title in 1904 and would do so again in 1905, 1000 yards handicap won by Tom Jack from Edinburgh who was already a medal winner in the national championships and would go on to dominate the distance events for several years, a 220 yards handicap with ten heats and a final which was won by Mair of Bellahouston in 22.8 seconds.   

 

 

Sports in 1919

Willie Maley

The war was over and Scottish athletics was ready to start up again.   The SAAA realised that life had changed for all, including athletics, and set up a committee – the Reconstruction Committee – to make recommendations for the development of the sport.   These recommendations were themselves reviewed by a committee chaired by Willie Maley of Clydesdale Harriers and Celtic.   He presided over a meeting in Edinburgh in 1919 to review the recommendations of the Reconstruction Committee referred to above.   There were seven recommendations to be approved:

  1. Applications for reinstatement from pre-war professionals were to be decided on their merits;  applications from amateurs who may have forfeited their status during the war be viewed sympathetically;
  2. The Scottish Police Force, still outside the Association should be approached with a view to getting them into line with those forces affiliated with the SAAA.
  3. That an endeavour be made to persuade the Executives of Highland Gatherings to hold their sports under SAAA laws.  
  4. To ask clubs to hold events for schoolboys in their sports programmes, and in the case of clubs with grounds of their own to allow for training facilities and to endeavour to get old athletes to attend the leading grounds  to coach boys in field and other events;
  5. Give greater encouragement to field events;
  6. To approach the railway companies with a view to getting reduced fares for competitors at athletic meetings;
  7. To circularise all Higher Grade and Secondary Schools to hold sports wherever practicable and to send a similar circular to clubs whose one time annual sports have been allowed to lapse.

Other recommendations included (a) the setting up of a organisation with a subscribing membership in each county; (b) the promotion of county championships for track and field, cross country, elementary schools championships, secondary schools championships; (c) to form similar organisations in each county and burgh, rural and urban districts; (d) “believing that prizes of large intrinsic value are prejudicial to true amateurism, the Committee recommends that the limit of value for an individual prize shall be £1”: in this respect I quote from the Clydesdale Harriers Committee Meeting Minute of 24/2/20, “Mr McGregor reported that he had attended a meeting of the SAAA and that the motion to increase the prize limit from £7:7:0 to £10:10:0 had been passed unanimously”  (e) a manual for the organisation and management of athletics should be prepared for circulation.”

Athletics clubs generally were picking up the reins after having closed down for the duration of hostilities.   Clubs in existence before 1914 had suffered terrible depredations – many members had been killed in action, many who had survived the war found facing the empty pegs in the dressing rooms too much to face.  On the other hand some clubs emerged from the war relatively unscathed and many new clubs sprung up.   1919 was the first real test of the athletics community’s will.   The recommendations were clear enough, the desire to get the sport moving at national and club level was evident so it is worth looking at what the sport looked like in 1919 for the average athlete.

James Wilson

The first SAAA championship after the War was the 10 Miles track championship held at Celtic Park on Saturday 5th April when there were 15 entries but only 12 starters.   One of the absentees was George Wallach.   It was nevertheless a good race with W Ross of Edinburgh Northern Harriers winning from James Wilson of Greenock Glenpark with Dunky Wright third.   Edinburgh Academy Sports were held the same day at Raeburn Place and a full programme of events was carried through.  

On May 3rd in 1919 there were two meetings held and they were both connected with schools – the Glasgow Academical Club had their annual sports day at Anniesland and Dollar Academy had theirs at the school.   The former for the first time since 1914  events for Academicals (Academicalss were Former Pupils)were included in the programme.   There were seven track events – 100 yards, 120 yards hurdles, quarter mile handicap, mile handicap (all for the school), 100y handicap, 200y handicap, half mile handicap for the Academicals as well as throwing the cricket ball, broad jump, high jump, tug o’war and inter-house relay.   There was also a place kick competition.   Dollar, which took place before a ‘large and fashionable crowd;, had a more extensive programme with more variety in the events – eg as well as the place kick, there was a drop kick competition, there were also the old stand bys of sack race and obstacle race and more ‘normal; athletics events included 100y, 220y, 120y hurdles, quarter mile, half mile, mile and relay as well as high jump, long jump, putting the weight and tug o’war.   

There were also events held at Powderhall on the same day where the professionals in action included the very well known George McCrae who was scratch in the distance events.   

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The following week, 10th May,  it was the turn of two more schools – the Royal High School held their sports at Corstorphine, and Stewart’s College held their event at Inverleith.   Royal High had ten events for pupils and two for former pupils – the ten included throwing the cricket ball and the drop kick 100 yards, 120y hurdles, quarter mile and relay with putting the weight and long jump.   What they had that most others did not, was standard times and distances for all events.   Stewart’s had results listed for the events counting towards the school championships plus an open mile handicap.   They also had two events for FP’s and there was also a 300 yards race open to members of the FP’s football club.   Incidentally, these events were actually listed as ‘for FP’s’.   Again there were events held that day at Powderhall but no amateur meetings.   

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The Inter-Scholastic Sports were held on 17th May at Inverleith and organised by the SAAA.   The Inter-Scholastics were the early form of what is now the Scottish Schools Championships.   Events were in three categories – Under 14, Under 16 and Open.   On a wet afternoon, eighteen schools took part – two more than the previous highest number, and there were some good performances.   The most notable was Dollar Academy’s high jumper RD Watt winning the high jump with 5′ 3 1/2″.  The events for each group included 100 yards, 120 yards hurdles, quarter mile, mile, relay (both won by Royal High) throwing the cricket ball, putting the weight, high jump and long jump.   

Kelvinside Academy held their own sports that day at Balgray with all the above events plus the drop kick and a mile handicap.   In the relay Blue House won from White House.   

The professionals were in action at Powderhall where there were 30 preliminary heats of the 130 yards handicap with the limit being 29 yards.

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With the schools’ sports pretty well all over, it was the turn of the clubs and senior athletics to take the stage and on 24th May the biggest was that of the North British Diesel Locomotive Association to hold their meeting at Scotstoun Showground.   Not just athletics, but also boxing, wrestling and highland dancing were on the agenda with 100y, 220, 880y, mile handicaps, relay, Hammer and tossing the caber making up the athletics programme.   There was also a five a side of course which was won by St Mirren who defeated Dumbarton 4 – 0.   The relay was won by Edinburgh University from Bellahouston and Shettleston.

The other meeting was the annual Glengarnock Sports organised by Eglinton Harriers.   They too had a mile relay which was won by Maryhill from Shettleston and Eglinton Harriers.   The programme had 100y, 220y, half mile, two miles, invitation 75 yards and invitation Mile.

The professionals were at Powderhall with 24 preliminary heats of the 75 yard dash plus a one mile handicap.

On 31st May there were enough meetings to suit every taste.   Edinburgh University held their sports at Craiglockhart with school championship events plus some open events including a medley relay which was won by the Maryhill team of Dallas, Goodwin, Hamilton and Colberry from Shettleston and Edinburgh University.   Dallas also won the open half mile and the University championship was won by WI Watson by ‘a huge margin.’   Meanwhile in the West, Vale of Leven held their meeting with three 100 yards races (boys, open handicap and confined to football players), relay race (won by Bellahouston from Clydesdale and Dumbarton), 220y, half mile and mile (all handicaps), and a five a side won by St Mirren over Dumbarton Harp by 1 goal + 1 corner to one goal after extra time.   All the solid club runners were there, the men who turned out every week and won handicap prizes almost every week – HJ Christie (West of Scotland, S Small (Bellahouston), D Martin (Maryhill), McIlree (Garscube).   

The St Vincent Home had sports at Celtic Park in front of 3000 spectators and was notable for the five a side result where Clydebank defeated Celtic by 1 goal to nil.   George Heriot’s School held their championships and events open to FP’s  at Goldenacre.   Bellahouston Academy held their championship meeting at Ibrox Park where G Drummond won four of the five events contested for the school championships.   

And of course there were multiple heats (26) of a sprint (100y) at Powderhall where G MacCrae was scratch man in the two miles – unplaced behind the winner who won £7 running from the 450 yards mark.

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June is always the high spot of domestic athletic competition and the month started in 1919 with the Queen’s Park Sports – “Queen’s Park, probably the outstanding organisation in amateur sport in the country, resumed the function of sports promoters on Saturday after a lapse of nine years.   This fact has aroused the keenest anticipation as to the quality of the fare, and possibly high expectations led to disappointment at the end of proceedings.   The various events failed in intensity and the whole competition did not get beyond the commonplace. … ”   So started the Glasgow Herald review of the meeting.   The actual sports inside Hampden had several very good races such as the medley relay won by Maryhill Harriers from Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities.   Largely down to George Dallas on the first (half mile) stage, the report referred to the passing of the ‘silken token’ – a baton is not usually referred to as a ‘token’ and it is certainly not ‘silken’ – which was not described further.   Further west, at Boghead Park in Dumbarton, Bellahouston Harriers and Dumbarton FC hosted their own sports meeting.   Ayr Academy Sports were held at Somerset Park.   The school championship included, as well as the drop kick and throwing the cricket ball, a golf drive competition.   There were also events open to FP’s at this one.   Back in Glasgow, Shettleston District Schools had their own meeting at Celtic Park.   There was no drop kick, but there was a place kick competition and the relay was invitation and won by Whitehill School.   Interestingly, the competitions were divided into Higher Grade and Lower Grade reflecting the academic and non-academic split in education where the brightest pupils all went to the Higher Grade Schools.    Still in the west, the annual sports ‘connected with’ Larchfield School took place at Helensburgh where, in addition to school and old boys events there were two extra competitions for boys from the local naval training school.   There was also a ‘Sisters Race (Senior) on the programme and Larchfield was the only school which incuded the Hammer Throw on the programme.   Were all the less usual events put together we could have had a programme including place kick, drop kick, throwing the cricket ball, golf driving, races for sisters and throwing the hammer.  

The Ardrossan Academy Sports were carried through at Saltcoats and the Bedlay Games programme included one, two and three mile bicycle races.   Bedlay Colliery was situated in the Chryston part of North Lanarkshire.   There was a professional meeting at Hawick, as well as the weekly meeting at Powderhall.

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From ‘The Glasgow Herald’ Monday 15th June, 1919:

“During the past week or two a good deal of discussion has taken place in amateur athletic circles on the question of the inclusion of five a side football in the proceedings at sports meetings.   Few are found to favour it on its merits, but there is a widely held conviction that athletics cannot be made to pay without it.   As a help towards financial success  the question hardly admits of doubt.   At Hampden a week ago, where five a side football appeared on the programme, there was a crowd estimated at not less than 7000,   Last Saturday there were 3000 at Clydebank, where also a football  tournament was held, while at Ibrox Park on the same day the West of Scotland Harriers had an attendance of barely half that number.   Their programme was arranged on lines that offered attractions to all interested in athletics, but it contained no football and the contrast goes some lengths to indicate that football, even of the limited and shadowy kind,  is a strong draw.   The five a side variety is not real football, it is seldom played well, and to the spectator who is not a partisan it offers few attractions.   Football however numbers its partisans by tens of thousands and where the name of a prominent club appears there will the crowd be found.   The game possesses one merit apart from its financial aspects in that it enables a programme of sufficient duration to be drafted without imposing an undue strain on the individual competitor taking the place in this respect of the bicycle racing that in former days diversified the proceedings.   A man can hardly be expected to take part in the open half mile, perhaps running in the heat and final, to take part in a relay race, and to turn out in the mile and do himself justice on each occasion.   The football tournament therefore fulfils a useful purpose: though it might be argued that the object could be achieved by embracing the athletic events that appeal to different schools of competitors.”

So ran the argument that persisted from the 1880’s right up to the 1960’s.      Emmet Farrell argued against it in the ‘Scots Athlete’ in the 1950’s for example.   The fact that many of the sports meetings at the start of the last century were organised by football clubs made the event pretty well mandatory!

The West of Scotland Sports at Ibrox mentioned above was, athletically speaking, a great success and not far away Allan Glen’s School Sports took place at Hampden.   “The school has produced many distinguished athletes and during the current session evidence has been furnished that athletic eminence is being studied as sedulously as ever.”   Their relay teams in particular did well bit this particular event was for junior pupils only.  However the comment was passed  “that athletics is almost a part of the curriculum of the school is shown by the large entry of 423.   Of course this total necessitated a preliminary meeting last week when the heats of many events were decided.”

There was also a meeting at Clydebank “with a pronounced football flavour.”   Eight teams took part in a five a side tournament and there was also a wrestling tournament which further removed the event from the usual athletics meeting.   Across the country a meeting was organised by the Edinburgh Institution, Cambuslang Rangers held a sports meeting at Somervell Park and in Dumbarton, at Boghead Park, the Works Athletic Section of Babcock & Wilcox held their own meeting with a proper athletics programme and a five a side match between Dumbarton and Vale of Leven.  

The Selkirk Common Riding held a well attended sports day where the main item of interest was a three miles challenge race between George MacCrae (Banknock) and H Malcolm, the Powderhall Marathon winner.   MacCrae won.   There were also sports held at Scotstoun where the principal items of interest were a wrestling competition and a five a side tournament.   There was a total of eight meetings held that weekend.

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Football reared its head again the following week – on Saturday, 21st June the Junior Cup Final had taken place and because it was a drawn game, would have to be replayed on the 28th which was the date that the SAAA championships were being held in Glasgow.   The Herald: 

“The result of the junior football match at Hampden is a misfortune for the Scottish Amateur Athletic Association who were looking forward to a well-filled enclosure at Parkhead next Saturday.   The replay at Hampden will seriously affect the attendance at Celtic Park, and the conjunction of the football match with the national athletic championship meeting is very regrettable.   Had time permitted, arrangements might have been made to transfer the championships to Edinburgh but that is not now possible.”

Note that we are talking about a junior football match here – what would have happened had it been a senior game.   Note too that we are talking about the month of June – whatever happened to the close season?   The Herald itself said that it is difficult to associate football with the longest day of the year.   The two teams were Rutherglen Glencairn and St Anthony’s.   ‘Upwards of 40,000 spectators’paid £1400+ to see the 1 – 1 draw.

The meetings held on the twenty first however were good ones.   Clydesdale Harriers held their annual sports at Ibrox before 3000 spectators and revived the 440 yards race which had been popular several years earlier.   The fashion had been for most sports meetings to have two sprints – 100 and 220 yards – and two distance events.   By re-introducing the quarter, two new combinations were opened up to athletes – 220/440 and the quarter and the half double.   There was also an amateur boxing final between J Brown (Hamilton Amateur Athletic Club) and J Johnstone (Parkhead School of Physical Culture).   Brown won.

Meadow Park, Dumbarton  was the scene of an athletic meeting held by Dumbarton Harp FC, Lanarkshire Constabulary held a sports meeting at Fir Park,  Motherwell and a meeting in aid of the Sick Children’s Hospital Fund was held at Tynecastle in Edinburgh.   This last included a one mile relay race – interesting because there would be one for the first time at the SAAA championships the following week – which was won by Edinburgh University from Maryhill Harriers.    The Clydesdale Harriers meeting was the only one without  five a side competition.

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At the championship the following week, there was an attendance of ‘almost 4000’ compared with the Junior Cup Final across the city (Rutherglen Glencairn won 1 – 0) where the crowd was estimated to be 35,000.    It was nevertheless a good meeting and Maryhill Harriers won the relay championship from Greenock Glenpark Harriers whose half miler Sgt Hector Phillips not only won the 880 yards title but led off the relay race finishing one place ahead of George Dallas in both.   The only other sports held that day was organised by John Brown and Company in Clydebank before ‘ a large crowd’.   

A week later and all the top talent went to the AAA’s championships at Stamford Bridge but there were several good meetings in Scotland.   Kilmarnock FC held theirs at Rugby Park and featured ‘competitors of the best class’ including several of the newly crowned Scottish champions.   The best performance however was probably that of George Dallas who won the half mile in 2:00.2, apparently with plenty in reserve.   The biggest event however was the first Glasgow Police Sports to be held under SAAA laws: here there were 15,000 present to witness the proceedings but the absence of the back markers who were all in London detracted somewhat from the attractiveness.   

There was a very interesting afternoon at Celtic Park that day (5th July) where 16 events were witnessed at the Scottish Inter-Works Sports:

“An innovation in recent years is the inauguration of welfare clubs in the larger industrial establishments.   These institutions, wisely managed, have almost unlimited potentialities for good, and there is reason to believe that as a rule they are so conducted.   It is right that athletics should have a prominent place in the curriculum of these bodies, which are charged with both the physical and the mental welfare of the rising generation.   There was a great gathering of members of various welfare clubs at Celtic Park on Saturday when a varied athletic programme was carried through, and when it is mentioned that there were 464 competitors it will be realised that the study of athletics has taken a firm hold in the engineering and shipbuilding establishments in our midst.   The proceedings went smoothly, and during the afternoon much promising young talent was displayed in all the age classes into which the competitors were divided.”

There were events for 14 to 16 year olds, 16 to 18 year olds, 18 to 21 year olds, and Over 21’s.   It seems a pity that events like this have no place in present day sporting circles.

There was also a sports day at St Ninian’s, Stirling, which had some athletic events but there were 14 teams contesting the five a side tournament …   The Nobel Explosive Works held sports at Saltcoats, Games at West Calder and also at Kirkconnel, all attended by ‘a large crowd’.    There were six meetings in all as well as the professional events at Powderhall.

*

The Glasgow Herald column on Monday 15th July, 1919 began:

“So many years have elapsed since the Partick Thistle Football Club last held sports that the use of the word “inaugural” in connection with their meeting at Firhill Park on Saturday was not without justification.   The meeting was a departure in a densely populated district of Glasgow, and that it was appreciated was proved by the magnitude of the attendance.    A moderate estimate of the crowd at 15,000 which equals that attracted to the Glasgow Police Sports at Ibrox the previous Saturday, and it is justification, if any were needed, for the club’s enterprise in tapping this north western district of the city.   It is true that the proceedings were not altogether pure athletics.   Five a side football figured prominently on the programme, the eight clubs concerned providing seven games, and it is to be added that these were not the least attractive part of the afternoon’s sport in the eyes of a large section of the onlookers.   The club had reason to be satisfied with the support accorded by the runners who entered in greater numbers than for any previous meeting this season.   Thus,  there were 105 entrants for the 100 yards handicap, 108 for the 220 yards, 86 for the half mile and 57 for the mile; while for the boys race, there was an entry of 86.”

The quality was as high as could be expected after the war with the handicap 100 yards being won in 10 seconds (McTaggart of Shettleston off 7 1/2 yards, and the invitation race in 10.2, Cook of Maryhill off 1 1/2.   The half mile was also a close run thing with George Dallas leaving his run late and finishing second to clubmate JW Riach.

Other meetings that day included Irvine Harriers Meeting before a crowd of 5000, and in Edinburgh at Tynecastle ‘under the auspices of Heart of Midlothian FC and the harrier clubs of Edinburgh’ a very successful sports meeting was held.  At Shawfield in Glasgow William Arrol and Co. held their sports and one of the attractions was a wrestling display in which D Munro (10 stone wrestling champion of Scotland) undertook to throw M Martin and James McNair in 15 minutes.   He threw in five minutes and McNair in 2 minutes 30 seconds, after which he gave a demonstration of ju jitsu.     This is of interest in that sports promoters were always looking for ways to bring in the crowd – 5 a sides, lifeboat demonstrations, boxing matches, etc were featured on many programmes.   

In addition there were Highland Games meetings at Crossford, Saltcoats, Alva and Blantyre Celtic FC also had a sports day.   Eight meetings, all successful within their own terms on the same day.

*

19th July saw a series of meetings of which the Ayr United Football Club’s was, with 10,000 spectators the most successful.   It was well supported with Dunky Wright of Clydesdale Harriers running and the all-conquering Maryhill Harriers relay team competing.   The Royal Navy Torpedo Factory had their sports at Battery Park in Greenock and George Watson’s in Edinburgh, Morrison’s Academy, Sanquhar, Dysart, Arbroath and Montrose all had their own sports.   Aberdeen Harriers had a well supported meeting (5000 crowd) but almost all events were won by athletes from the central belt: 100 yards Stracham from Dumbarton, 220y Strachan; Half mile Williamson of Motherwell; Mile Williamson with virtually all second and thirds coming from Kilmarnock, Glasgow YMCA and Maryhill.   There was also a Masonic Lodge (Paisley St Mirren No 129) at Paisley which was restricted to a five a side competition, a place kick competition and a footballers 220 yards.

*

Greenock Glenpark Harriers meeting was undoubtedly the big one the following week with a crowd of 7000 and competitors from England, New Zealand and Canada  “whose running imparted distinction to the meeting which otherwise could hardly have reached the standard usually associated with Greenock.”   The club had taken advantage of the war and invited the ‘Colonials’ to take part.   Eglinton Harriers had their sports at Victoria Park in Saltcoatsbut could not compete with the meeting at Greenock.   Meanwhile Clyde had their annual professional sports meeting at Shawfield before 20,000 spectators.

A Black Watch meeting at Thornton, Kilsyth Games, and West Calder Games completed the day’s activities.

*

The Rangers FC Sports on 2nd August was described as ‘one of the most successful ever with one English and three Scottish champions taking part in front of a crowd of 15,000 spectators.  The Englishman AG Hill was the biggest name on display.   In the half mile he won his heat without effort, in the final against the second heat winner Sgt Mason of the New Zealand Army, he let Mason (off 5 yards) lead the whole of the first lap and Hill only went in front 50 yards from the tape.   George Dallas, running from 25 yards did not make the final.   The mile was won by WB Ross of Edinburgh, the Scottish champion    There was a sports meeting held at Holytown in connection with a war memorial for the fallen, and the Strathallan Meeting at Bridge of Allan was, as always a success.   

On 9th August the Celtic Sports were held at Parkhead and there was a huge crowd of 30,000 spectators.  Several of the Englishmen entered did not turn up, or did turn up and not run in the invitation event.   Hill did not run in the invitation half mile where Sgt Mason lowered the national record and Hill turned out in the open mile where he set a new mile record.   Mason had an allowance in the half of 10 yards but preferred to run from scratch and took 0.4 from Homer Baker’s 1:55.8.   There was also a first in the mile relay – the Maryhill team having a 45 yards start on the Polytechnic team – which was won by the English squad.   Good as it was, the Celtic meeting was not the only event that day in August.   

At Alexandria in Dumbarton there was a meeting in aid of the Discharged Sailors and Soldiers Federation and it was well supported by athletes and spectators.  There were also Highland Games at Perth, Saughton, Condorrat and Carronshore.   The war was over and despite the cessation of activities for the duration, the sport was clearly in good health.   The Celtic meeting effectively brought the season to an end – football started up properly within a few weeks and the crowds flocked in that direction.   There were some more meetings to come though:

On 15th August there were local Games and Sports hosted by Ardrossan Winton Rovers, The Buchan Gathering (crowd 9000), Cambuslang Highland Gathering, Tarbrax Games, Cleland and Crieff.   Not all were amateur but the appetite of the public for athletic sports was obviously still there.   On the 22nd there were meetings at Glenisla, Strathardle, Laurencekirk (4000), and of course Powderhall.   These were largely local occasions with Solo Piping and Pipe Band competitions, five a side between local teams and highland dancing.    

The war had taken its heavy toll of athletes – running, jumping, throwing had all lost fairly large numbers as had the minor events on the calendar.   The sport itself however continued with the Partick Thistle, Clyde, Queen’s Park, Rangers and Celtic all restarting their large meetings and works such as Babcock & Wilcox promoting their own events.   While the SAAA and Maley’s Committee were pointing the way forward.

 

Distance Running History: An Overview

DISTANCE RUNNING HISTORY: AN OVERVIEW 

(Maybe this article will intrigue some to read more about the fascinating history of their wonderful sport.) 

Pre-History

Primitive Man: Born to Run – nuchal ligament, Achilles tendon, springy foot arch – a ‘weak predator’ that can hunt by distance-running after prey animals until they collapse.

Nowadays, in the rough canyons of the Sierre Madre Occidental, Mexico, the Tarahumara (pictured below) still maintain their tradition of persistence hunting, running down deer and wild turkeys.

 

The Olympics

Olympia, Greece. The Games began in 776 B.C. Only men were allowed to compete. In 720, the Dolichos, or long foot-race, was added. Less than a Parkrun. Starting and finishing in the stadium, with the race course winding through the Olympic grounds, passing by the statue of Nike, the Goddess of Victory, near the Temple of Zeus. Acanthus of Sparta won the first Dolichos laurel wreath, and his statue was built in Olympia.

Ultra-marathons

490 B.C. The Persian Fleet approaches. (According to the historian Herodotus), Athens sends Pheidippides, a professional long-distance running messenger, to ask Sparta for help. 150 miles over rough hilly country in 30 hours. Immediate aid is refused; so he runs all the way back with bad news (the Spartans actually arrive two days after the battle) and good (the God Pan appeared to the exhausted Pheidippides and promised to help). Athenians are victorious at Marathon and their city is saved from destruction.

In 1983, the first Open International Spartathlon Race took place. The route had been pioneered the previous year by Englishman John Foden and two other R.A.F. officers.

Barclay Allardyce – often simply known as Captain Barclay

Pedestrianism

In Britain, from the late 17th Century, aristocrats often employed footmen who ran and walked long distances, carrying letters and bringing back replies. Some employers boasted about the speed and stamina of their servants and placed bets on who would prove superior in a race trial.

Foot racing and walking evolved into Pedestrianism: professional distance running.

During the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this was a popular betting spectator sport in the British Isles. Pedestrianism became a fixture at fairs – much like horse racing.

Famous pedestrians included Captain Robert Barclay Allardice, called “The Celebrated Pedestrian”, from Stonehaven. His most impressive feat was to walk 1 mile every hour for 1000 hours, which he achieved between June 1 and July 12 1809. The feat captured the public’s imagination and around 10,000 people came to watch, over the duration of the event. In 1864, Emma Sharp became the first woman to emulate the feat. Ada Anderson was named Champion Lady Walker of the World in April 1878, after covering 1500 miles in 1000 hours – at Leeds, England.

Sir John Astley M.P. founded a “Long Distance Championship of the World” in 1878, staged over six days, which became known as the “Astley Belt Races” (or ‘Wobbles’, because of the erratic progress of knackered runners). These events allowed a wide interpretation of rules, with walking, jogging, and running allowed. The competition was partly inspired by a desire to clean up the perception of the sport as corrupted by gambling interests and led to a push amongst some to codify pedestrianism as an amateur sport. The same process was happening to British track and field athletics and gave rise to the modern Olympic Movement.

Famous Six-Day racers included: Edward Payson Weston, Daniel O’Leary, Charles Rowell and George Littlewood, who in 1888 created a new world record of 623 miles 1,320 yards—a world record that wasn’t beaten for 96 years.

 

In 1984 Yiannis Kouros (above) from Greece ran over 1,022 km (635 miles) setting a new world record that would stand until 2005, when he improved to 1,036 km (644 miles) at the Cliff Young Australian 6-day race in Colac, Australia.

The women’s world record was broken by Australia’s Dipali Cunningham in 1998 when she covered 504 miles (811 km). In 2001 she improved this to 510 miles (820 km).

  • Middle Distance

 

W.G. George: Walter Goodall George (1858 –1943) was a runner from Wiltshire who, after setting numerous amateur world records [between one mile and one hour (11 miles 932 yards)], went professional in part to challenge the mile record-holder William Cummings, defeating him in several highly publicised races. On 23 August 1886, he set a mile record (4 minutes 4:12¾ seconds) which was not surpassed for almost 30 years. (In a 1885 handicap race he had run 4:10​1⁄5 – which was not beaten until 1931.)

  • Long Distance

 

Alfred Shrubb (1879–1964), known as Alfie, was an English middle and long-distance runner from West Sussex. During an amateur career lasting from 1899 to 1905 (when he was barred from amateur competition for receiving payment for running) and a professional career from 1905 to 1912, he won over 1,000 races from about 1,800 started. At the peak of his career he was virtually unbeatable at distances up to 15 miles, often racing against relay teams so that the contest would be more competitive. He won the International Cross-Country Championships in 1903 and 1904. On 4 November 1904, at Ibrox Park, Glasgow, he broke the world record for the one hour run as well as all amateur records from six to eleven miles, and all professional records from eight to eleven miles, running eleven miles, 1137 yards (18.742 km). Altogether he set 28 world records.

  • Scotland: Powderhall

 

The great annual professional meeting on 1st January, which has taken place every year since 1870, was for many years known simply as Powderhall, since that was where it took place. It is now known mainly as the New Year Sprint and although it is a real festival of sprinting, there have been races at half mile, mile, two miles and long distance. In the era of Open Athletics, amateurs have been permitted to enter since 1993.

Scotland’s greatest ever sprinter George McNeill won the Centenary running of the race in 1970. For the illustrious history of this event, do look up the website: www.newyearsprint.com

You will also find an article about Powderhall under ‘The Games’ in http://www.anentscottishrunning.com/the-games/.

Cross-Country

“Tom Brown’s Schooldays” by Thomas Hughes, was a very successful novel (published 1857). It is set in the 1830s and includes a marvellous description of a paper-chase cross-country run for senior pupils at a top fee-paying residential public school. Adults do not seem to have competed in this sport until Thames Hare and Hounds (the oldest cross-country club in the world) organised events from 1868. Such a steeplechase involved ‘hares’ starting ahead of the main pack, marking their route with a trail of paper. The pack of runners would then follow the trail, the first to catch the hares being the victor.

In 1879 the use of paper trails was banned in Wimbledon Common. 1883 was the year when the English Cross-Country Association was founded. The Scottish Cross-Country Union followed in 1890.

Before that, many cross-country races had taken place in Scotland. In Carnwath in Lanarkshire, the ‘Red Hose’ XC race dates back to the early 19th C. Public Schools and Universities encouraged cross-country running. Clydesdale Harriers was formed in May 1885; as was Edinburgh Harriers (that September). Colin Shields’ invaluable centenary history of the Scottish Cross Country Union (“Runs Will Take Place Whatever The Weather”) gives fascinating details.

This book, combined with the on-line archive of the Scottish Road Running and Cross Country Commission, anentscottishrunning.com and scottishdistancerunninghistory.scot will tell readers a great deal about top Scottish cross country runners, male and female. The articles (in SDRH) about ‘Women’s Cross Country’ are particularly interesting. Between 1931 and 1957, there were only five International XC matches for Scottish women. The modern era began in 1967. However Scottish National championships were run between 1932 and 1938; and from 1951 onwards. The men were much luckier, since Scottish National Championships started in 1886, and the International Championships in 1903, at Hamilton Park Race Course, Scotland.

A Scottish Veteran Harriers Club Group

The Scottish Veteran Harriers Club began in 1970. Our cross-country champions include the following.

Dale Greig, Janette Stevenson, Tricia Calder, Sandra Branney, Trudi Thomson, Christine Haskett-Price, Liz McColgan, Sonia Armitage, Lynn Harding, Sue Ridley, Jane Waterhouse, Angela Mudge, Fiona Matheson, Melissa Whyte, Joasia Zakrzewski, Lesley Chisholm, Janet Dunbar, Hilary McGrath, Claire Thompson, Betty Gilchrist, Anne Docherty, Ann White, Katie White, Linden Nicholson, Jennifer MacLean

John Emmet Farrell, Gordon Porteous, Davie Morrison, Andy Forbes, Willie Marshall, Tom O’Reilly, Bill McBrinn, Bill Stoddart, Charlie McAlinden, Alastair Wood, Andy Brown, Hugh Gibson, Hugh Rankin, Ian Leggett, Walter McCaskey, John Linaker, Donald Macgregor, Dick Hodelet, Jim Alder, Brian Scobie, Bill Scally, Brian Carty, Allan Adams, Donald Ritchie, Davie Fairweather, Bobby Young, Pete Cartwright, Doug Gemmell, George Mitchell, Archie Duncan, Colin Youngson, George Meredith, Charlie MacDougall, Ian Elliot, George Sim, Brian Emmerson, Archie Jenkins, Brian Kirkwood, Frank Barton, Gerry Gaffney, Fraser Clyne, Keith Varney, Simon Pride, Ed Stewart, Colin Donnelly, John Duffy, Gerry Fairley, Andy McLinden, Brian Gardner, Ian Stewart, Iain Campbell, Neil Thin, Tommy Murray, Bobby Quinn, Kerry-Liam Wilson, Robert Gilroy, Jamie Reid, Andy McLinden, Frank Hurley, Tony Martin, George Black, Paul Thompson, Alex Sutherland, Les Nicol, Stephen Cromar.

Highland Games: Running

The Highland Games probably go back to the 14th century but, in their modern form, are about 150 years old. The ‘boom’ in Highland Games was due to: the development of the railway system in the middle of the 19th Century; and Queen Victoria’s summer residence in Scotland. At first, all the Games were professional; but since 1993 have been open to every athlete. Two of the most famous are Braemar (picture below) and Ballater, both with hill races.

A series of Amateur Highland Games were introduced eventually – many of them in the Lowlands. Although the ‘Heavy’ Events: caber, hammer, shot put etc are most famous, grass track middle distance races (scratch or handicap) also featured, as well as hill and road races.

For example, Forres Highland Games used to include the finish of the Inverness to Forres Marathon. Nowadays it has a 10k road race and most events have been axed or shortened drastically. Many Games had road races: Strathallan 22 mile; Bute 18; Glenurquhart, the Inverness to Drumnadrochit 15; Glasgow the hilly Drymen to Scotstoun 15; Gourock 14; Dunblane 14; Shotts 14; Carluke 12; Bearsden 10. Kinlochleven had the Mamore Hill Race, with at least a third on the road. Alva had another hill race. Achmony hill race at Glenurquhart is one that survives.

Running those traditional events over non-standard distances was great fun; and the road races were excellent preparation for aspiring serious marathon racers.

Amateur Outdoor Track

From 1865, the Amateur Athletic Club held track and field championships in London. One mile and Four miles races were included. However, entry was restricted to ‘gentleman amateurs’. In 1880 the Amateur Athletic Association took over and the sport was open to anyone who had never been a professional athlete.

The Scottish Amateur Athletic Association was founded in 1883; and the first championships (for men) that year included 880 yards and one mile; ten miles track featured in 1886; and four miles in 1887.

The Scottish Women’s Amateur Athletic Association was formed in 1931: 880 yards was the longest distance run. One mile was added in 1952; and 3000m in 1971.

The Scottish Association of Track Statisticians archive is a superb resource, listing championship winners, statistical profiles of individual athletes, records, Scottish International matches etc.

Scottish Distance Running History and Anent Scottish Running, both contain many more detailed profiles of top Scottish athletes.

Hill Running

Legend has it that King Malcolm III of Scotland, in the 11th century, summoned contestants to a foot race to the summit of Craig Choinnich (overlooking Braemar). Several Highland Games (e.g. Ballater and Braemar) hosted hill races. Nowadays the Scottish Hill Runners online calendar includes over a hundred challenging annual events.

At the beginning of September is the Ben Nevis Race. Britain’s highest mountain tempted athletes to run up and down it from the late 19th Century. William Swan was the first to break 3 hours in 1895. The first race (ascent only) was in 1903; and shortly afterwards Ewen MacKenzie won the first run (in a record 2 hours 10 minutes) from Fort William and back, via the summit. Races took place intermittently until 1951, when the modern era began. The Ben Nevis Race website has all the results right up to 2017. Lots of SVHC members tried it at least once. (The writer, aged 21, a couple of months after completing his first 26 miler, ran the Ben Race in 1969, hated the dangerous downhill and for the next 30 years stuck to safer marathon running!)

Famous Scottish Ben racers include: Jock Petrie, Duncan MacIntyre, Brian Kearney, Eddie Campbell, Jimmy Conn, Pat Moy, Allan MacRae, Bobby Shields, Brian Finlayson, Colin Donnelly, Mark Rigby, David Rodgers and Graeme Bartlett.

The Ben Nevis Race

Modern Olympic Games

Although the Cotswold Games ‘Olimpicks’ took place from 1612-1852; and the Wenlock Olympian Games (which influenced Olympics reviver Pierre, Baron de Coubertin) from 1850; the 1896 Olympic Games in Athens were inspired, not only by tales of the Ancient Olympics but also by the Amateur Athletics movement. In fact, the AAA Laws for Competition were adopted by the International Olympic Committee (1894) for the first Modern Games. In 1896, the middle-distance races held were: 800m and 1500m, both won by London-born Edwin (Teddy) Flack of Australia (‘The Lion of Athens’) who also led the Marathon for some time but had to drop out three kilometres before the finish. Female athletes were excluded from the Olympics in 1896 but took part from 1900. However, 800m for women was not introduced until 1928; and (very unfairly) not reintroduced until 1960. Sheer male chauvinism.

 Marathon

In 1878 the great English poet Robert Browning wrote “Pheidippides”. In a dramatic fashion, he amalgamated two stories about the legendary/mythical Greek runner: Herodotus’s account (written in 450 B.C., 40 years after the Battle of Marathon) of the 300 miles trek to and from Sparta; and, 600 years later in 120 A.D., Plutarch’s tale about Eucles, who (in full armour, just after the battle) was supposed to have run to Athens, gasped out news of the victory and dropped dead.

Browning’s poem includes the lines:

“‘Rejoice, we conquer!’ Like wine through clay,

Joy in his blood bursting his heart, he died – the bliss!”

Roger Robinson wrote: “Presumably it was Browning’s poem that Professeur Michel Breal had in mind, when he wrote to the Athens Olympic Committee in 1894 to propose ‘a race from Marathon’ on the route of ‘the Greek warrior’.

As runners interested in the history of the marathon race will know, the 1896 Olympic event was won by the Greek Spiridon ‘Spyros’ Louis, over a distance of around 40 kilometres (25 miles). The 1908 London Olympic Marathon established the official distance as 26 miles 385 yards (42 kilometres, 195 metres).

Scottish runners completed several ‘marathons’ over a range of distances before the first official Scottish Marathon Championship (for Men) in 1946. (The first Scottish Women’s Marathon Championship did not take place until 1983). The first two men’s events were won by Donald McNab Robertson, who had been AAA Marathon champion six times between 1932 and 1939; a silver medallist in the 1934 British Empire Games in London; and had finished a valiant 7th in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. (He had also been selected, as AAA champion, for the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics but could not go because of work and family commitments).

Second in the 1946 Scottish Marathon was ‘the Daddy of them all’ – Duncan ‘Dunky’ McLeod Wright, who had been AAA champion in 1930 and 1931; 1930 British Empire Games victor in Hamilton, Ontario; and a close fourth in the 1932 Olympics.

The Scottish Marathon Club was founded in 1944, by stalwarts like Dunky Wright, Joe Walker and Jimmy Scott. The SMC helped to organise umpteen road races (often linked to Highland Games); liaised with the SAAA to ensure that the Scottish Marathon championship went well; and to nominate a runner to receive the Donald McNab Robertson Memorial Trophy (for Scottish Road Runner of the Year). Certainly, the SMC helped considerably to raise the standard of road running in Scotland. Our current SVHC President Alastair Macfarlane (1979 Scottish Marathon champion and Robertson Trophy winner) was the last SMC President.

 

Dunky  Wright (centre) in Hamilton (note the casually crossed legs)

Bill Stoddart, the 1969 Scottish Marathon Champion; won the second SVHC cross country championship in 1972; and was a World Veterans champion and record holder several times, including gold medals in the 1992 M60 10km and 25km in Birmingham.

Aberdeen’s Alastair Wood was Scottish Marathon Champion six times; finished 4th in the 1962 European Marathon at Belgrade; and in 1974 became a runaway M40 World Veterans Marathon winner in Paris, leading SVHC to the World Vets Club gold medals.

In the 1972 Munich Olympics, Donald Macgregor finished an excellent 7th. He was later to win three Scottish Marathon titles; and the 1980 World Veterans Marathon in Glasgow.

Gordon Porteous, a truly great SVHC member, was World Veteran Marathon Champion many times. He won World Veteran Marathon gold medals in Toronto 1975, Coventry 1976, Berlin 1978, Hanover 1979, Glasgow 1980, New Zealand 1981 and Rome 1985. Gordon set World age-group marathon records at: M60 (2.51.17); M65 (2.57.00); M70 (3.11.45); M75 (3.23.12); and M80 (3.47.04).

Scotland’s greatest female marathon runner was Liz McColgan (World and Commonwealth 10,000m champion and winner of the first World Half Marathon championship in 1992.) Liz won marathons in London and Tokyo and, seriously hampered by an insect bite which poisoned her system, finished 16th in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

Modern ultra-distance

After professional 6-Day events lost favour in the 1890s, and marathon fever took over, ultras were ignored. Arthur Newton, born in England but in 1922 a 38-year-old South African farmer, is considered the founding father of modern ultra-running. Between 1922 and 1934 he averaged 20 miles a day of running and walking. His victories included four Comrades Marathon wins – this 54 or 56 miles epic remains the world’s leading ultra – and new records for the London to Brighton 52. Newton broke amateur world records at 50 and 100 miles; and, as a professional, covered 152 miles 540 yards in 24 hours – a record which remained unbeaten for 22 years. The 24-hour mark was set in 1931 on a 12-laps-to-the-mile track in the Ice-Hockey Arena at Hamilton, Ontario. The wooden surface was softened by a layer of felt and paper.

A little known fact is that, on 1st January 1929, the recently professional Newton set a record of 6 hours 39 minutes 50 seconds for running from Glasgow Pavilion to Edinburgh and the Powderhall track (on which he finished by circling four and a half miles). Conditions were atrocious – freezing cold, snowy and slippery in the West and thawing with deep puddles in the East.

In England and Wales, the ultra-marathon scene held many events, encouraged by the London-based Road Runners Club. The RRC also recognised the Tom Scott 10 and the Scottish Marathon, plus the most popular Scottish ultra – The Two Bridges 36, which was run between 1968 and 2005. Many of the best ultra-racers in the world took part and Scottish winners included Alastair Wood (who also won the London to Brighton), Alex Wight, Jim Wight, Don Ritchie, Andy Stirling, Peter Baxter, Colin Hutt, Simon Pride and Alan Reid.

Trudi Thomson finished first woman in the 2 Bridges three times and set an unbeaten women’s record. As well as running for GB in many marathons, she won a silver medal in the World 100km championship. In addition, Trudi won Scottish Marathon titles and the British Veterans Cross-Country Championship.

Then there was the Edinburgh to Glasgow ultra (not the famous 8-man road relay). This 44-mile challenge was run between 1961 and 1972; plus a 50-miler (Meadowbank to George Square) in 1984. Scottish winners included Gordon Eadie, Andy Fleming, Hugh Mitchell, Bill Stoddart, Alex Wight and Jimmy Milne, with Don Ritchie victorious in 1984.

Although these great Scottish races are no more, Scottish Championships have been held over 50km from 1996; and over 100 km since 1992, when the main man mentioned below fittingly became the first champion.

Donald Ritchie (above) of Lossiemouth, Moray, Scotland, has undoubtedly been the greatest ultra-distance runner the world has ever seen. This was the verdict in 1995 of Andy Milroy, a journalist who knows more about this branch of athletics than anyone. Milroy compared Don’s achievements with those of past greats like Charles Rowell, George Littlewood and Wally Hayward; and with his contemporaries Yiannis Kouros and Bruce Fordyce. On the basis of the length of his world-class ultra-running career and his amazing accomplishments, Donald Ritchie is considered to have been the very best.

Do read Don’s full profile on Scottish Distance Running History – you can find it by clicking on ‘Marathon Stars’ and then on his name under ‘The Marathon and Beyond’. Better still, buy his autobiography “The Stubborn Scotsman” on amazon uk. No one has ever run harder than Don Ritchie.

Perhaps his finest performance took place on the 28th of October 1978. At the Crystal Palace track, he ran 100 km in 6 hours 10 minutes 20 seconds. Imagine: 62 consecutive miles, averaging almost precisely 6 minutes per mile! Unsurprisingly, this remains the world record in 2018.

Indoor Track

Peter Lovesey, in his AAA Centenary History, wrote that Indoor Athletics originated in 1863 at the Ashburnham Hall, Chelsea, where the London Rowing Club held their sports indoors by gaslight. Other London venues included Lambeth Baths and the Agricultural Hall, Islington. New York staged America’s first indoor meet in 1868.

Peter Lovesey was also a fine detective novelist. Read ‘Wobble to Death’ for a real insight into corrupt ultra-distance challenges in the Victorian era.

The AAA held Indoor championships from 1935-1939, at the Empire Pool, Wembley. They did not return until 1962 at Wembley and subsequently R.A.F Cosford.

However, amateur indoor track became really popular in the U.S.A, between the First and Second World Wars. ‘Running on the Boards’ featured as Winter and Spring training for college athletes; and the most famous meeting took place at New York’s Madison Square Gardens.

Scottish athletes were successful at AAA Indoors events; but the first SAAA Indoor championships did not take place until 1973-1976. The venue was Bell’s Indoor Sports Centre in Perth: this had a 154 metres long banked track comprising compressed cork with lino strips on a wooden base. Twice Scottish Indoor 1500m winner was Adrian Weatherhead, who later became the fastest Scottish M40 Veteran in 10k road races.

Scottish Indoor Championships were not resumed until 1987 at Ingliston. From then until 2012, the competition was held at Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall, where Scottish Veterans and British Masters championships regularly took place. From 2013, the Championships were held at Glasgow’s new indoor venue, the Emirates Arena.

The Wyoming Cup

Teviotdale Wyomi0001

The Teviotdale Harriers team which won the Wyoming Cup in the medley Relay at Hawick Common Riding Games in 1910.

WR Sutherland and AJ Grieve standing, and JS Turnbull and RH Burton 

Have a look at those spikes!

Scottish ahletics fans always liked relays.   Maybe because of the opportunity to see a baton dropped – the same reason for the clustering of spectators at the water jump at a steeplechase – mabe because of the discipline required not only to get the baton to your team mate without mishap, but to do so within a confined space.   That was and is true of both 4 x 100 and 4 x 400.    But if they liked relays, they loved the medley relay, sometimes called the mile relay which was a bit confusing because the 4 x 440 was also called a mile relay at times.   Teams needed an 800m runner, a 400m runner and two 200m men.   The mix of distances, the changes of pace and the final shoot-out over a serious distance rather than a quick dash up the track as in the 100 metres/yards.   The Scottish way of doing the event was to start with the half mile, follow that with two furlongs and finish with a quarter mile; the English way was to have the quarter first and the half last.   There are arguments in favour of both orders but in recent years Scots seem to have given way to the foreign method – much to the irritation of some of us!

Although there was no SAAA Championship for the medley until 1919, the event was hotly contested since before 1909 when the Wyoming Cup was first competed for at Hawick.    What follows explains the title but because it was originally featured at the relatively small Hawick amateur meeting, there were results when the result was not published nationally.   However it was written up, the first race was on 12th June 1909 and was previewed in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ as follows:   “Hawick FC are giving a £20 cup for a relay race on June 12th, and from this district West of Scotland Harriers and Bellahouston Harriers will send teams.   The distances are two 220 yards, 440 yards and 880 yards.   John McGough will run the half-mile distance for Bellahouston, and either J Fairbairn-Crawford or J Hepburn will represent the West of Scotland Harriers.”

reported in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ on 14th as follows:

“HAWICK.   One Mile Team Relay Race for the Wyoming silver challenge cup (presented by Hawick Callants in Wyoming, USA).   1.   West of Scotland Harriers (RC Duncan, John Miller, George Hepburn, D Fairbairn Crawford); 2.   Heaton Harriers.   Crawford finished grandly for the winners, and there was a rare run in between Jameson of Heaton, and Grieve of Teviotdale for second place.   The winning team each received a prize worth 20/-.”

In 1910 Teviotdale Harriers, third the year before, won the trophy with a team of AJ Grieve, WR Sutherland, JS  Turnbull and RH Burton.   Then before the race in 1911, the ‘Glasgow Herald of May 15th, 1911, said: “The Hawick “Callants” who form quite a colony now in Wyoming, and who two years ago gave a handsome challenge cup for the one mile relay at the Hawick Common Riding Sports, are sending home this year £20 as a further donation.   In consequence, the Committee have decided to double the value of the prizes for this race.   The winning four will receive awards of the value of  £2:02:00 and the runners-up and third team prizes will be worth £1:01:00 and 10/6 respectively.   The sports will be held on Friday, June 9th, and Mr James Thomson, ex-President of the Scottish Border AAA is again the secretary.”   

Came Friday, 9th June and the cup was won by West of Scotland Harriers from a Teviotdale team which was basically the same as the year before, the only change being JM Ballantyne for Turnbull.   The Centenary History of Teviotdale Harriers elaborates on the origins of the Trophy as follows.

“Between the years 1909 and 1913 a star attraction at the Common Riding Games was a one-mile team relay for the Wyoming Silver Challenge Cup presented by the Hawick Callants in Wyoming, USA.   Valued at 22 guineas, the solid silver cup, weighing over 70 ounces, was supplied by Mr FE Rutherford, jeweller, Hawick, and was according to the rules “open to all amateur harriers clubs in Great Britain and Ireland/”   Intimation of the handsome 18″ high cup in the form of a loving cup with three handles, was sent by ‘Teri’ exile Mr Frank Deans who had taken a great interest in athletics when in Hawick.   His initiative in procuring 20 subscribers was evidence of the interest he and other exiled Teries had of their native town. “

The trophy was won almost exclusively by either West of Scotland  Harriers from Glasgow and Teviotdale Harriers – after three races it was West two wins and Teviotdale one but the score was evened out on 8th June, 1912 when the Glasgow Herald reported: Amateur Sports at Hawick.   Team Relay Race for the silver Wyoming Cup and prizes. – 1.   Teviotdale Harriers (T Bell, JM Ballantyne, WR Sutherland, RH Burton); 2.   West of Scotland Harriers (JH Rodger, RC Duncan, HJ Christie, WS Unkles).   Time: 3 min 48 sec.

Robert Burton, 1910

Robert Burton: the trophy can perhaps be seen more clearly in this one.

Records of the West of Scotland Harriers at this time tell that the entry fee was four shillings and sixpence per team, and the importance of the event was shown in their willingness to pay travelling expenses from Glasgow to Hawick for the runners.  eg 1914’s fares and expenses amounted to £2:08:4.    In 1913 the situation was complicated.   It was a time when it was not unusual for a team which won a trophy three times, or more usually three times in succession, was allowed to keep it for their own use or trophy cabinet and there was a variation written into the rules for the Wyoming Cup.      The Teviotdale history again:   “the situation for 1913 was that each club had two wins to their credit and the rules stated that three wins would give absolute custody.   That year it once again went to West of Scotland and so they claimed permanent possession.   Teviotdale’s team of Bell, Ballantyne, Sutherland and Burton were runners-up.    Investigation since has revealed that the West team (JH Rodger, RC Duncan, HJ Christie and G Dallas), contrary to the rules laid down for the competition did not comprise a full complement of first claim members, the last named being from Maryhill Harriers, and so in actual fact should have lost the cup by default.”

George Dallas was well known in Scottish athletics and was never anything other than a member of Maryhill Harriers and he was an easy man to recognise as well as being a talented athlete at distances from 100 yards to the half mile.   However, the following passage had appeared in the ‘Sports Miscellany’ column of the Glasgow Herald of 19th May, 1913:

“Dallas and Hamilton, both of Maryhill Harriers, have joined the “West”, whose racing ranks are in consequence greatly enriched, as the former is the best half-miler in Scotland, while George Hamilton is one of the best short mark sprinters.   It is just possible, however, that Dallas and Hamilton will continue to run in their old colours, though by doing so, they deprive themselves of the privileges which are only shared by those who compete regularly in the pale blue and black stripes of the “West” Harriers.”

It looks as though there was a kind of second-claim connection with the West of Scotland Harriers:  eg on 8th July, 1913, Dallas ran in the Maryhill Harriers Sports as ‘G Dallas, Maryhill Harriers.’  Jump to August and in the Rangers FC Sports on the first Saturday,  Hamilton was listed in the results as ‘G Hamilton, Maryhill and West of Scotland Harriers’, then a week later he was at Celtic FC Sports as ‘G Hamilton, Maryhill Harriers’.   At the Celtic meeting, Dallas was a member of the West team which finished third in the Invitation Relay although he did not appear in the results anywhere else.   Was the run at Hawick  legal by the standards prevailing?      That depends on (a) whether the rules stipulated first or second claim runners only, and (b) what Dallas’s status actually was.  The West of Scotland handbook for season 1913/14 reported that ‘The club has competed this season in several Relay Races. At Hawick we won the Wyoming Challenge Cup for the third time, and this now becomes our absolute property.”   What happened next to the trophy?   West took it home to Glasgow and put it up for competition at some of their meetings which were held frequently over the summer season and. like other Glasgow clubs, they held the occasional meeting at Dunoon.

In 1914 the Hawick Common Riding Sports took place on 6th June and there was a one mile relay – but the Wyoming Cup was not mentioned in the results.   The race was won by West of Scotland with a team of  J Dallas, G Hamilton, HJ Christie and D McPhee.   McPhee had been a Clydesdale Harrier who had joined West in May 1914 and J Dallas is probably George Dallas, again running for the West.    Later in the 1914 season at the Celtic FC Sports meeting on 10th August, 1914, George Dallas was entered in a 1000 yards handicap as  “G Dallas (West of Scotland Harriers) 35 yards ”   However the West club’s handbook for that season pointed out their relay successes: “Our Club has again been very successful in Relay Racing. At Hawick, Greenock (Glenpark Harriers) and our own meeting we won easily over the 880, two 220 and 440 yards, and at Edinburgh Northern Harriers Meeting we were again successful in winning their Challenge Trophy over the four laps’

 

The West of Scotland Sports at Ibrox on 14th June, 1919, had a relay race which was won by Maryhill Harriers (Dallas, Goodwin, Hamilton and Colberry) over Greenock Glenpark Harriers.   There was no mention of the Wyoming Cup but the report on the meeting the following year seems to indicate that it was indeed up for competition.   On 12th June 1920 in a report on a West of Scotland Harriers meeting at Ibrox Park, the report credited Duncan McPhee with helping  West win the invitation relay over Maryhill saying: He had not a little to do with the winning of the relay race for his club, the West of Scotland Harriers, who thus checked the career of Maryhill Harriers.   The latter won the race last year and the two clubs now own one share each in the Wyoming Cup, which becomes the property of the club winning it three times, not necessarily in succession.”   The West team was Christie, Todd, Kavanagh and McPhee and the Maryhill squad contained Bell, Colberry, Hamilton and Dallas.

G Dallas 1

The 1921 race at Ibrox was a joint promotion between West of Scotland and the Glasgow Tramways and was held on 11th June.   The report mentioned that the most interesting race on the programme was the mile relay which resolved itself into a duel between West of Scotland and Maryhill Harriers.   Dallas and McPhee were the respective half-milers, and the latter ran a great race, finishing a yard ahead and securing the Wyoming Cup for the promoting club.” 

10th June 1922 was the date for the next joint West of Scotland Harriers and Glasgow Corporation Tramways AAA meeting at Ibrox and “chief place was given to the relay for the Wyoming Cup, and the West by winning having made the trophy their own for the second time, thanks mainly to the fine running of JCS Ponsford of Glasgow University.”   JG McCall, HJ Christie, D McPhee and JCS Ponsford made up the winning team with Shettleston Harriers (Dunbar, Brown, Stevenson and Annand) second.   The comment about the West having made the trophy their own indicated to the public that they had won the relay in three consecutive years.   This did not stop them putting it up for competition the next year: the race was again held at Ibrox Park and the ‘Glasgow Herald’ in its ‘Notes on Sports’ column of 11th June, 1923, had a special paragraph headed

THE WYOMING CUP

The Harrier clubs in the West who promote open meetings are, of necessity, optimists of the first degree, otherwise the apathy of the public would have cured them of the habit long ere now.   Not even the relay race for the Wyoming Cup nor the opportunity of seeing a quarter-mile over hurdles could induce more than a meagre sprinkling of spectators to line the ropes at Ibrox Park, where West of Scotland held their meeting on Saturday.   Yet the racing throughout was of the honest description and the times returned in most of the events were quite good.   The chief feature did not provide a thrilling race – the superiority of the promoting club when the final quarter was entered was too pronounced for that – but two of the competitors ran very well.   These were George Malcolm of the Edinburgh Southern Harriers, who exhibited a fine burst of speed against McPhee in the half-mile and was only beaten by a few yards, and AH Graham of Maryhill Harriers whose effort in the final quarter was worthy of a better fate.   AM McKay of Leith ran for Edinburgh Southern but his display over the furlong clearly showed that the Inter-Scholastic champion’s best distance is the quarter.   West’s victory, their fourth in succession, was gained by 10 yards from Maryhill Harriers, the other two competing clubs, Edinburgh Southern and Bellahouston Harriers, finishing well down.”

The Inter-Scholastic Championships referred to were the fore runners of the Scottish Schools championships but contested mainly by the fee-paying schools pupils.   In the results column, the Cup was again referred to as the chief event in the programme – Scots did and still do like their rrelays and the Mile medley (880, 220,220, 440) had a special place in their affections, and for the clubs concerned it was a magnificnt piece of silverware that FE Rutherford had crafted all those years before.

1924 was Olympic Games year and with selection for the British team important, the SAAA Championships were brought forward to the second Saturday in June – the date of the West of Scotland meeting.   With almost every Saturday already being the focus for one established meeting or another (eg Queen’s Park FC, Greenock Glenpark Harriers, Glasgow Police, Partick Thistle all had their regular dates in June or early July) there was no week end sports put on by West of Scotland.

There was no meeting held by West of Scotland in June 1925, either on their own or in tandem with the Tramways or Shettleston, although on June 22nd at the Glasgow Police Sports at Ibrox the mile medley relay was won by Maryhill from West of Scotland Harriers,  Calderwood, Duncan, Graham and McCrae making up the team.

On Tuesday June 15th, 1926, the relay for the Wyoming Cup was held once again.  This time at the joint Shettleston/West of Scotland Harriers meeting at Ibrox Park.   It was won by West of Scotland, represented by McIntyre, Burns, Urquhart and Hope from Shettleston Harriers who had Tom Riddell on the opening half-mile stage, followed by Crawford, Harrison and Stanley.   The report commented: “Riddell ran again for Shettleston Harriers in the relay race for the Wyoming Cup and the five yards lead he gained from RB McIntyre gave his side a lead which was maintained until the final quarter.   Here JD Hope running very strongly finished an easy winner by 15 yards.”   

11th June, 1927 at Celtic Park, the intro read “the chief event of the meeting, the Wyoming Cup for the one mile relay, was won by West of Scotland Harriers after an interesting struggle with Maryhill Harriers.”   The team was made up of Mcintyre, Burns, McLean and Hope and the winning time was 3 min 42 3-5th sec.

On the second Saturday of June 1928 most meetings in the West were cancelled because of the weather, only those at Clydebank (Singer’s Sports) and Glasgow University OTC went ahead – although the Hawick Common Riding Sports were ‘ carried through under favourable track conditions as the times returned in various events would suggest.”   The one mile relay there was won by Edinburgh University AC from English team, Gateshead Congers.   1928 also saw the birth of a series of annual big inter-club meetings organised by St Peter’s AAC at Scotstoun in Glasgow.

These meetings consisted of a whole series of relays from 4 x 110 yards to four miles relay and including the half mile relay, 4 x 440 yards hurdles relay, mile relay and two miles relay as well as the mile team race, the three miles team race as well as many standard field events.    These were held in the middle of June and they may have been a factor in the virtual disappearance of the West of Scotland Harriers meetings.

This is where things get complicated however: although the trail goes cold as far as newspaper reports are concerned, the West of Scotland archive has some information.   These contain dates for the “cleaning and engraving of their trophies: in 1920 they specify the Wyoming Cup.   In 1928 the relays were mentioned and the engraving was carried out by James McMenamin, engraver.   As is the way with different secretaries, details of items such as “engraving and cleaning” are more or less detailed from year to year but after several years of this entry, the note for June 16th 1933 mentions the engraving of the Wyoming Cup at a cost of 7/-.   What does all this tell us?   It tells us that the cup was in circulation at this time but not what it was awarded for or to whom it was awarded,

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As an indication of the research that went in to this article, we followed several tracks, not all equally productive but all met with genuine assistance from those approached.   First of all, back numbers of the Glasgow Herald were searched; then we contacted  Alan Inglis of Teviotdale Harriers who gave us some information and a copy of the club history which had lots of detail on the early years of the club; athletics historian and former West of Scotland member Hamish Telfer gave us lots of information about West of Scotland for their help with this page.  He took lots of trouble and searched though old documents for references to the cup (see the note below); Arnold Black, official Scottish athletics historian did some work too.   These people are thanked for their help – the quest goes on but, for now, the trail has gone cold.   Finally as an indication of the effort taken I quote from just one of Hamish’s emails, his source was the second club cash register:
 
Wyoming Cup: 
Apart from the entries in the members books which I read out in earlier chats, the Cash register has the following:
June 1912: Entry Hawick Relays 4/6
August 1912: Expenses for the team for Hawick 9/6
June 1913: Entry Hawick Relays 4/1
June 1914: Entry Hawick Relays 4/-
                   Fares and expenses £2/18/4
June 1920: Cleaning and engraving Wyoming Cup £1/0/6
September 26th 1924: Engraving Wyoming Cup 3/6
1928 – Relays mentioned but not Hawick so must have died a natural death.  Mention of ‘insuring cups’ but nothing about the WC specifically. James McMennamin the engraver
Nov10th 1930: Engraving and cleaning Wyoming Cup 12/6
Sept 17th 1931: Engraving and cleaning Wyoming Cup 4/-
Jan 16th 1933 Engraving Wyoming Cup 7/-
 
After this date there is no further mention of the WC
 

Queen’s Park Sports: 1926 – 1929

CB Mein winning a handicap

The Queen’s Park Sports of 1925 had been very successful with many of the top athletes participating.   The meeting of 1926 also had several top men in action across the board.   Held on 5th June in brilliant sunshine and before a crowd of approximately 7000 spectators, Tom Riddell was the top performer – or the ‘feature of the meeting’ as the Herald report had it.   He finished second in the half-mile and defeated CB Mein  (above)in the first stage of the inter-city relay race.   This played no small part in Glasgow winning the event for the first time.   The Two Miles Harriers Race was won by Walter Calderwood of Maryhill Harriers with Frank Stevenson of Motherwell second, Charlie Freshwater and Dunky Wright of Caledonia AC third and fourth.   Caledonia AC was set up to be a ‘club of champions’ with W Sans Unkles and Dunky Wright the main protagonists.   It only lasted for the one season – Charlie Freshwater had signed up from Clydesdale Harriers and Wright had come from Clydesdale by way of Shettleston before going on to jon Maryhill when the Caledonia adventure came to naught.   The club won the team race from Maryhill Harriers.   Celtic beat Rangers in the final of the five-a-sides by 2 goals to none.   In the open events, Walter Lawn won the 100 yards and was third in the 220 yards – Lawn went on to have a printing business that provided numbers for the SAAA championships for many years as well as for most open meetings of any size.

In 1927 the club sports were held on June 4th and the report in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ read:

The weather and ground conditions which prevailed at the Queen’s Park club’s annual sports on Saturday afternoon were not of the kind conducive to to exceptional performances, yet the sport throughout was interesting and the times recorded were distinctly good.   The outstanding event at the meeting, both in point of competition and on merit, was the invitation quarter-mile, and in winning from two yards in 51 4-5th sec, RB Hoole gave a glimpse of better form than he has hitherto shown in the West.   He had to fight all the way for his victory against RT Hollinger of Plebeian Harriers and JC Hamilton the Glasgow University champion, and the manner in which he secured victory on the tape from the first named, was  a tribute to his pace, stamina and judgment.   

JD Hope, the champion, was not suited by the conditions.   He is of a build better suited to calm than storm, and he was never concerned with the ultimate issue.   Hoole and Hope were down to meet later in the afternoon in the inter-city relay race, but the withdrawal of HC Maingay from the Edinburgh team robbed this promised trial of skill on level terms in the quarter-mile section, and also that of RD Allison and R McLean in the furlong, of much of their interest, as CB Mein, who sportingly stepped to the vacancy was obviously not fit and accordingly not able to hold RB McIntyre who ran the half-mile for Glasgow.   The ground lost there was never regained by Edinburgh and we will have to wait untl the championships to have the merits of these opponents accurately tested.   Enough was seen, however, to suggest that both furlong and quarter-mile championships will prove exceedingly interesting.

As is usual, the student element was strongly represented in the prize list.   In addition to Hoole, AF Clarke and GPS Macpherson occupied first and second places in the hurdles; R Patience of Glasgow won the Mile with something in hand, and A Tindal, also a Gilmorehill student, took second place in the open hundred.   Tindal’s achievement in the hundred was somewhat unique, as he has hitherto been regarded as a distance man, and not only did he win the Mile at his University competition, but he took part in the SAAA 10 mile championhip in mid-April.   Patience, a strongly built lad,  was suited by the conditions in the Mile, but apart from that it was apparent that the handicapper took too lenient a view of the ability which several good judges are convinced he possessed.

T McLean, the Rover Scout, is running well at present. as his victory in the 220 yards following upon his third in the hundred suggests, and another genuine runner, J Calder of Beith Harriers, added another win to the series he has at his credit by capturing the half-mile off 30 yards in 1 min 59 sec.   Under the conditions this time was much better than it reads on paper.    The three miles revealed a very level degree of merit between Maryhill Harriers and Monkland Harriers, the first named being winners by one point only, and the issue depending on the efforts of the third man in each team.   It was all the more rgrettable therefor that the race should be marred by a series of incidents which were, to say the least, not creditable to the runners concerned.   It was all the more welcome that Donald McLean, the Maryhill Harrier who was first man home, was not in the trouble and his win was decisive enough to suggest that he is to be a strong candidate for a title at the championships in three weeks hence.”

  There was no meeting reported for 1928 but the event was only resting and it was back on the usual Saturday in 1929.

On 1st June 1929, J Suttie Smith from Dundee wanted to attempt a new Scottish record: he was a top class internationalist on the track and over the country with several national titles to his credit and Queen’s Park regulars were keen to see him in action.   “Chief interest in the meeting of Queen’s Park at Hampden lay in the attempt made by J Suttie Smith upon the existing Scottish native record for two miles.   A special handicap had been framed for the occasion, and had the champion been able to head WJ Gunn , who ran off 85 yards, he might have been able to accomplish it, the Plebeian Harrier’s winning time being 9 min 31 1-5th sec.   As it was Smith failed to do this, his time for the distance being 2 3-5th sec seconds worse than McLean’s existing figures of 9 min 31 sec.  

Smith did not appear to be moving too freely in the first three laps, but ran well in the closing stages.   The times in the open races were fast, and it appears now that to win an open sprint even-time is necessary, judging by what happened at the Maryhill meeting and also at Hampden.   Two juniors of last season figured successfully in these events.   AD Turner of Maryhill Harriers who had almost a monopoly in his class last year, made a bright debut as a senior, as he ran second in the 100 yards, and won the furlong in 22 4-5th sec, while R Davie of Springburn Harriers, in his first public essay over the distance captured the half-mile in 1 min 58 3-5th sec.   Both will win further races.

Donald McLean again turned out in the Mile, but again ran indifferently.  His clubmate WH Calderwood ran well bth in the first class mile and in the relay.   The latter event was won by Beith Harriers, who triumphed over Maryhill Harriers and West of Scotland Harriers.   The Ayrshire club has two excellent runners in J Calder and TJ McAllister, and this pair contribted largely to their success.”

 There were ten track races plus an obstacle race, a high jump and a five-a-side competition won by Partick Thistle from Rangers by two goals to one afterextra time.   Because of the very large numbers, the mile was divided into two races – the first class mile for the best runners (ie those with low handicaps) entered, and the second class mile for those with higher handicaps.

1883: June

1883-Peterkin

WA Peterkin: Winner of the first ever SAAA 100 yards and 440 yards championships

There were four meetings on 2nd June, 1883, two in Edinburgh, one in Glasgow and one in Kilmarnock.   The Glasgow one was at the Shawfield grounds amd was a professional meeting.    It occurs to me that in the early 1950’s the Clyde Football Club Sports, held at Shawfield, were professional in nature and the amateur meeting there was the Lanarkshire Police Sports.    Were the Clyde Sports a continuation of these nineteenth century pedestrian events?   Whatever the situation, there were 1000 spectators on this first Saturday in June to see the 130 yards sprint and the half-mile handicap.  There were fifteen heats of the sprint.  I quote from the report: “The contests in the sprint were somewhat disappointing , and in several of the heats the non tryers were conspicuous, but the half-mile eas really a capital race, upwards of 32 pedestrians facing the starter.   …   Half-mile handicap prizes were £10, £1:10:00 and 10 shillings.   1st  T Stott, Newton, 70 yards;  2nd A Bird, Glasgow, 80 yards;  3rd G Wilson, Glasgow, 70 yards; 4th A Young, Falkirk, 30 yards.”

“ATHLETIC GATHERING IN EDINBURGH:   About 60 persons assembled at Edinburgh Royal Gymnasium on Saturday to witness the contests for a number of events which were announced to take place under the auspices of the “Scottish Athletic Society”.   Being the first championship meeting of the Society, most of the visitors anticipated that the ‘best records’ in the various arrangements would have been beaten.   The meeting was very tame, and was prolonged to a wearying extent – the performance lasting from four o’clock until half past seven.  ”    There were about sixteen events, most being field events, track consisting of 100 yards, quarter-mile, Mile and Two Miles.

“EDINBURGH INSTITUTION SPORTS: The annual sports in connection with the Edinburgh Institution came off on Saturday at the Institution’s grounds at Warriston, Edinburgh, and the weather being fine were witnessed by a large concourse of ladies and gentlemen.  ”     There were thirteen events, all but one confined to either pupils or former pupils.   The exception was a half mile, open to amateurs which was won by a Canadian from Montreal AAC.

“KILMARNOCK:   Sports under the auspices of the Kilmarnock Bicycle Club were held at the Rugby Park on Saturday.   In the bicycling competition, Barton of the ESBC carried off no fewer than three first place honours.   Fortunately the weather was very favourable and the track everything that could be desired.   About 2000 spectators were present.”   The programme was entirely made up of cycle races except for a tug of war, 100 yards and quarter mile.

Four meetings. one professional, two amateur and one mainly a cycle meeting.

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There were four meetings on on the following Saturday, June 9th, too but the only one at the same venue as the first week in June was at the  Shawfield Grounds where the events were the  130 yards and the One Mile handicap where the prizes were £10, £1:10:0 and 10/-.

Ayr was always a good athletics venue and the Ayr Academical Club’s Annual Sports were held on this Saturday.   It was a very big meeting and popular with competitors and spectators alike.   “These sports took place at Springvale Park on Saturday and were highly successful.   The arrangements were of an elaborate description, and the programme was an excellent one.   The weather was very fine and there was a large crowd of spectators – a greater number than had turned out for anything of the kind for a number of years and every seat in the grand stand was occupied.   The programme comprised twenty two events, of which four were bicycle races, and the bicycle races were probably the most exciting on the card. ”   The lengthy report went on to detail many of the events completed on the day when there were many competitors from all the University Athletic clubs, former pupils clubs, plus several football clubs such as Queen’s Park FC, Vale of Leven FC, West of Scotland FC, and other clubs like 1st LRVAC and so on.   The winning competitor in the Two Miles Flat Race handicap was A Findlay of Ayr FC who would go on to win the first ever Scottish Cross-Country championship in the colours of Clydesdale Harriers.

The Hawick Borders Games always drew a good number of athletes but these were mainly local from the other Borders towns with some few athletes coming from further afield.   Most events were running events and there was not only a mile race, there were two races over the mile and a half distance.   No times were given although distances were noted for the throws and jumps.

There were several meetings held over the summer that called themselves ‘National Games’.   This particular weekend, it was the Greenock National Games.   “Favoured by splendid weather the seventeenth annual tournament of national games at Greenock came off with great success at Academy Park on Saturday afternoon.  The arrangements made by the committee were most complete and everything worked smopothly.   It was estimated that 5000 people were in the park at one time.   There were in all 27 “events” on the programme including exhibitions of tasks with sword, bayonet, Indian clubs and quarter-staff. ”    It continued with comments on several events with the two miles race with 16 runners  written up as the race of the afternoon.   No teams, clubs orother organisations were listed – only the competitor’s town after the fashion of the professionals.

It can be seen from the meetings so far that there were plenty of openings for amateur athletes to get good competition before decent sized crowds.   With no affiliation essential before competing, any grouping, be it a football club, a military regiment, a cycling or cricket club, could enter its members for these sports and games.   It was not a situation that would last for much longer – the first ever SAAA championships would take place on 23rd June 1883.

DS Duncan

DS Duncan: Winner of the Mile in the first ever SAAA Championships

On 23rd June, 1883 there was the usual weekly meeting at Shawfield Grounds plus two meetings organised by Pollok FC and Kilbirnie FC  but the real story was the first ever National Championships organised by the Scottish Amateur Athletic Association.   The report read:

“The first championship meeting under the auspices of the Association was held on Saturday afternoon at Powderhall Grounds, Edinburgh, and proved a very successful meeting.   The weather being all that could be desired, about  ? ladies and gentlemen witnessed the proceedings, which were greatly enhanced by the band of the Gordon Highlanders dispensing a splendid programme of music.   Most of the events passed off without a hitch excepting the pole jump in which Mr Hodgson while attempting to jump 9′ 9″ came to grief, the pole he was using snapping when he was almost over.   He fell heavily on his shoulder but soon recovered.   The final of the 100 yards was a splendid sight.   A capital start was effected, and Smith about half-distance was leading by a yard.   Here Peterkin crept up and gradually reducing the space passed him just at the tape and won by 5 inches.  ….   ” 

 The complete results with a note on the events contested can be found at www.anentscottishrunning.com/track-championships.   The amateur era had pretty well arrived although it would be another two years before amateur clubs were to take part.

Nevertheless on this day ‘an unusually large crowd of spectators’ attended the professional event at Shawfield where there were only two events on the programme – the sprint whose first round was held a week earlier (prizes £15, £2:15:0, £1:10:0 and 10/-) and a one mile handicap (£20, £5, £1 and £1) race.   Given that the amateur movement was driven in part by the abuses of the pro system which included professionals impersonating amateurs, non-trying in races, betting while the races were in progress, it was clearly far from dead.

At the Pollok FC fixture where there were 700 spectators, the prize winners all came from football clubs – Queen’s Park FC members were the biggest winners, but others were Dumbarton FC, Abercorn FC, Johnstone Athletic FC, Govanhill FC and, of course, Pollok FC.    And at Kilbirnie, no club affiliation was quoted, simply where the athlete came from which seems to indicate a professional meeting.

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The month ended with a Saturday fixture at Shawfield but this time there was a difference.   “The West of Scotland National Games and Athletic Sports took place at Shawfield Grounds on Saturday.   The weather was splendid and between five and six thousand spectators were present.   A very varied programme was provided, which in addition to the national games of quoiting, wrestling, hammer throwing, pole-vaulting, dancing, etc, also included a more than usually seen number of athletic events.”   So far, so good but then it spoils things by saying that the prizes for the 120 yards hurdles were £3, £2 and £1.    It would have fourteen heats with the final to be run the following Saturday.   Read on through the report and the meeting, which was indeed varied and interesting, and you will see prize money listed for several of the races with the going rate seeming to be £2, 15/- and 5/-.

The only other meeting on the last Saturday in June was the Arthurlie Cricket and Football Club Amateur Athletic Sports.   Unlike sports quoted earlier which featured the drop-kick for distance with a football, this sports had a place-kick which was won by D Cunningham of rthurlie with a distance of 154′ 9″.   There were also several names on the programme who would feature as club members in another couple of years – eg W McAuslan from Dumbartion who would be a member of the Clydesdale Harriers Dumbarton section.   Many football teams were represented and the furthest travelled prze winner came from Granton.

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Was there a demand for athletics from the public in 1883?   Certainly, we only have to look at the thousands who turned out to watch some of the meetings, whether they were amateur or professional.   Was there a demand from the competitors for such meetings?   With over a dozen heats in some meetings, een over two dozen in others, there was a clear demand for them.    Now in 1883 there was a national amateur championship run by the SAAA.  The competitors came from Universities and fee-paying schools, from football, cricket, cycling, rowing and other sports clubs.    It was only a matter of time before purely athletic clubs would appear on the scene.

1883: May

WHB Drop Kick

Trophy for the Drop Kick (football) for distance at the Glasgow Academicals Sports of 1886

The first Saturday in May, 1883, was the fifth of the month and sports/athletic meetings were held at Shawfield Running Grounds, at Kelvingrove where the Glasgow Police Sports took place, at Kelvinside where the Glasgow Academical Club held their meeting and at the Dollar Institution.   Despite the heading being ‘Athletics’ the Shawfield programme contained two events:  the final of the peds 300 yards, the preliminaries of which had been held the week before, and a One Mile Handicap.   The Police Sports included, in addition to a selection of athletic events, Highland Dancing (won by John McCallum from Lanarkshire), wrestling, a ‘catch the thief’ race for policemen dressed in day uniform, three legged race and tug of war. The Police Sports were one of the very last to adopt the amateur code, being professional right up to the late 1940’s.

The ones most like current meetings were the two school sports meetings –  all amateurs completing a programme of purely athletics events.   The Glasgow meeting had many open races in which some university and cricket club members took part.  The report on the Glasgow Academy Sports read: “The annual sports of the Glasgow Academical Club came off on Saturday at the ground of the club at Kelvinside.   In consequence of the heavy rain in the forepart of the day the ground was in a soft condition – unfavourable for the work in hand.   A large and fashionable gathering graced the field the whole of the afternoon and the various events were watched with evident interest.   The band and pipers of the 51st Highlanders were present and dispensed selections of music between the various items on the card.   At the conclusion of the meeting the prizes were presented to the winners by Mike Cross.”

There were over 20 events including several open events with competitors coming from as far afield as the Ulster Cricket Club and including such as 1st Lanark Rifle Volunteer Club AC and University and Old Boys clubs.   The Academy Sports are one of the longest running in the country, having been started in 1866, only Edinburgh Academy (1858) and Royal High School (1864) with Merchiston also starting up in 1866.

In Dollar, other than a half-mile for FP’s, the events were all for school pupils.   It should be noted that the programmes for the latter meetings were the longest while, true to form, the Shawfield meeting only had a couple of events but a crowd of approx 2000.

WHB GAC tkt

The Academicals Sports are one of the oldest in the country.

Several of the Academicals took part in the Glasgow University Sports at Gilmorehill on 19th May – they even had one of the four teams in the tug of war with the University, the Junior Clyde Yacht Club and the Southern FC, an event which the host team won.   Events included a drop kick (football) for distance with the winner clearing 130′ 10″, putting the cannon ball, pole vault, two mile bicycle race, high jump, throwing the hammer, 100 yards flat, quarter mile flat, half mile flat, one mile flat, 120 yards hurdles and tug of war.   All of the running events as well as the two miles cycle race had open races and confiend races.   It looks like a very interesting meeting indeed.

At Shawfield, the professional meeting, there was the final of the 120 yards from the previous week, a half mile and a quarter mile race for a first prize of £18.   The crowds at Shawfield are always given – this meeting had 3000 in attendance – but no figures are given for University or Schools meetings.   Three events at Shawfield but around two dozen at Gilmorehill.

*

The last weekend in May had the Helensburgh Larchfield Sports and the Annan FC Sports.   Organised by the Helensburgh Academical Club at Ardencaple, these were attended by a large and fashionable crowd.   21 events, all athletic events that we would recognise, were contested and the Bonhill Band played in the intervals between events.   The annual Annan FC Sports were being contested for the second time and one might have expected the drop kick to be on the programme, but no,  there were only running events plus a running high jump.

1883: April

IMG_7561

Before Clydesdale Harriers and Edinburgh Harriers were founded in 1885, the only amateur clubs were approximately a dozen Former Pupils and University clubs.   But the arrival on the scene of the open athletics clubs was not the start of amateur athletics in the country.   Not by a long way.   Little is known of the sport pre-1885 and it might be instructive to look at athletics in Scotland before that.   We can start with a look at athletics in 1883, before the clubs were gleams in the eye of anyone in either Glasgow or Edinburgh.   Given that meetings were held on most weekdays as well as Saturdays, we can look at coverage in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ of Tuesday and Saturday events for that summer beginning with the month of April.

IMG_7562 (1)

On April 7th there were three athletics meetings reported including the Inter-Scholastic Games, under the auspices of the ‘Edinburgh University Athletic Club’, took place at Corstorphine in the presence of ‘ a large and impressive assemblage.’   In addition to the Edinburgh schools, there was representation from Blair Lodge, Polmont, Trinity College, Glenalmond, Morrison’s Academy, Crieff and the Dollar Institution.  It was reported that ‘as in former years, a large proportion of the prizes went to Loretto .   There were 25 events contested including pole vault, hurdles and a bicycle race.   There was a mile handicap race at Manchester in which many Scots were involved including W Cummings of Paisley (scratch) and it was won by the limit man (off 150 yards), J Morgan of Manchester.    Cummings was absent for the simple reason that he was racing in a meeting at the Shawfield Grounds and making an attempt on the Mile record.   Approximately 5000 were present to see ‘the great match against Time’ by Cummings who held every British title from one to ten miles.   He was attempting to break Lang’s and Richards’s record of 4 min 17 2/5th sec and bets of £20 to £40 were taken against him.   Four timekeepers were appointed – one for each quarter and one for the final time.    At half distance, odds of 3 to 1 were laid that he would break the record.   His third quarter was a bit slower than required, and despite being loudly cheered in the finishing straight, he had paced himself too much in the first half (I quote) and returned a time of 4 min 21 sec.   There was also a 130 yards handicap with five heats and a final – the odds against each runner were quoted for readers.

*

 The following week – 14th April – the biggest meeting was the West of Scotland Amateur Sports.   Not to be confused with the West of Scotland Harriers which appeared later in the 1880’s, this meeting was

“The promenade and amateur athletic sports held annually under the auspices of the West of Scotland Amateur Cricket Club came off on Saturday afternoon on Hamilton Crescent Cricket Ground, Partick.   The weather, the all important matter in out-of-door proceedings, was dull but not unfavourable, and the turnout of spectators was numerous.   The car was, as usual, a very attractive one and embraced a great variety of athletic work.   The events included throwing cricket ball, broad, pole and high jumps, one mile and two mile bicycle races, hundred yards, quarter, half and mile races, wheelbarrow race, hundred and twenty yards hurdle, tug of war over water, and a steeplechase with four water jumps.   

The sports were on the whole quite up to the standard of former years.   Nearly all the crack amateurs were present, and some excellent athletic work was accomplished.   The various races were timed, as usual, by a cronograph kindly supplied by Messrs George Edward & sone, Buchanan Street. “

The other meeting that aftrernoon was the Royal High School Sports in Edinburgh, held on the  School Ground at Holyrood.

*

On April 21st, there were no meetings reported under the ‘Athletics heading’ but there was a single entry under the ‘Pedestrianism’ heading.   This was a meetimng at the Shawfield Ground that had only one race.   This was a 600 yards handicap with four prizes – £12, £2, 15 shillings and five shillings.   These were to be competed for by some well known English peds as well as the local ‘cracks’.   There were to be nine heats but a wee problem developed.

“Everything promised to pass off pleasantly until the final heat came up for decision.   It was then apparent that something was amiss, and several of the bookmakers asserted that Hodgson of Hatton was running under an assumed name.   This was positively denied and the race went on, but just when the competitors were nearing the goal the cry came that “the Englishman wins”.   The crowd then swarmed onto the track, the tape was broken and the race declared void.   The large prizes given by the proprietor have hitherto induced pedestrians from all parts of the country to enter the lists, and the running has been proportionately improved.   It would therefor be cause for regret if these contests should cease owing to unfairness on the part of spectators towards strangers.

As far as the final heat was concerned, Hodgson was running and we read:

“Pye of Morpeth had brought Hodgson from England for the purpose of lifting the handicap and when heats were run off it was clear that the latter had the race at his mercy.   When betting on the Final was opened, the Englishman was made a hot favourite at  2 – 1 on.   But even this price was only taken for a short time and the bookmakers stopped further business.   Latterly however a few bets at 3 – 1 were taken, when a rumour was circulated that Hodgson was not the pedestrian’s name.   Mr Hanratty cautioned him that if he was not properly entered and passed the post first, he would be disqualified.   Hodgson replied that he had just returned from America and that he was running under his own name.   In these circumstances the men went to their marks and were sent on their journey with a capital start, Wilson leading the field for half the distance.   At this stage it looked as if the Englishman had a poor chance of winning.   On entering the straigh for home however, Hodgson gained considerably on his opponents and 60 yards from the post was almost certain of victory.   But the crowd then broke in and considerably interfered with him; and the referee, Mr D Speirs, considering the state of matters, at once broke the tape and declared it no race.   The proprietors took the same view and ordered the final heat to be run over on Saturday first.”

*

The following week, the last in April, at the same venue, there were preliminary heats of a 300 yards handicap and a three-quarter mile invitation sweepstake for which the prizes were £25, £3, £1:10:00 and £1.   These were then augmented by 10/- for each acceptee.   Cummings was entered for this race.   The final heat of the 600 yards carried over from the previous Saturday, A Baird of Glasgow won with Hodgson not in the first three.   Despite the big money, Cummings was again an absentee but there were eleven runners in the handicap.  The report contained many details of betting odds throughout the afternoon and of the prize monery for the various events.

The preliminary heats of a 220 yards race were run off at the Royal Gymnasium in Edinburgh.

Aberdeenshire Harriers Marathons, 1903-1933

1909 ABERDEEN MARATHON TROPHY

1909 Aberdeen Marathon Trophy

The Association of Road Running Statisticians website (with the intentionally humorous online address of www.arrs.net) includes, along with a vast range of information, race histories, including that of the Aberdeen Marathon, which was run twelve times (1979 to 1990). (Click on Race Histories, then Marathon, then Scotland, then Aberdeen Marathon (or directly to: http://arrs.net/HP_AberdeenMa.htm

An appendix lists the results of the much earlier Aberdeenshire Harriers so-called marathons run annually from 1909 to 1913 and from 1920 to 1925. Then there was a gap until 1928. These events covered a number of distances (15 to 20 miles) and routes, starting from small towns such as Banchory, Inverurie and Oldmeldrum, but always finishing in the city of Aberdeen itself, often at Central Park, Kittybrewster. The only true marathon was the 1923 race, won with considerable difficulty by Duncan McLeod Wright (who later took part in three Olympic marathons), only 37 seconds in front of local athlete Jim Ronaldson.

The Aberdeen Marathon was conceived at the height of the first marathon boom inspired by the epic Marathon race at the Olympic Games of 1908 (which will forever be associated with the tragic figure of Dorando Pietri). The promoting club, Aberdeenshire Harriers, had, among other activities, been holding road races since their inception in 1888 so when marathon running became the “in” thing to do, they dived in with hungry enthusiasm.

A more in-depth explanation of how the event originated is given by the Aberdeen Daily Journal: “Enterprising and up-to-date in all matters pertaining to sport, Aberdeen caught up what may aptly be termed the “Marathon craze”, and with the conception of the idea by the Aberdeenshire Harriers Club, the management did not allow the grass to grow under their feet. The club is strong in numbers and strong in talent, and when the notion was first mooted at an “at home”, the members received the suggestion with such indications of hearty approval that those at the head of affairs immediately determined to carry out the bold suggestion. Mr. William Jamieson, the hon. president of the club, made the first practical move by presenting a handsome silver cup and gold medal to stimulate interest in the competition, and his lead was early and enthusiastically followed by other gentlemen interested in the club, with the result that there was soon an attractive list of awards to entice the best talent of the club to come forward. The club management evidently felt that it was incumbent upon them to do something of a similar nature, and hence the presentation of bronze medals for all competitors who showed ability to cover a long distance. With such inducements everything was in favour of the projected “marathon”, and the running members of the club evinced the greatest enthusiasm and readiness to carry out the idea. On due consideration regarding the question of a route, it was decided to fix upon Deeside. Banchory was ultimately selected as the starting point, so that a distance of 18 miles would be covered.”

The “Aberdeenshire Harriers’ Marathon” was, therefore, well short of the 26 miles 385 yards “standard” set at the Summer Olympics eight months earlier (a distance that would eventually be codified by the IAAF in 1921). But, at 18 miles, it was still very much a journey deep into uncharted territory for the club’s members, none of whom had ever raced beyond ten miles, a sentiment echoed by the Aberdeen Daily Journal, according to which “it was felt that the run from Banchory to Aberdeen would be quite sufficient as a severe test of the powers of endurance of the club members”. Moreover, it was a good deal longer than the vast majority of that year’s ubiqitous so-called marathons, such as the mere five-mile jaunt which constituted the “Marathon Race” at the Dalbeatie Gala.

1909 ABERDEEN MARATHON MUNRO

1909 Aberdeen Marathon, Joe Munro

The first Aberdeenshire Harriers Marathon was decided on Saturday 23rd March 1909 when twenty intrepid members were bundled onto charabancs and taken to Banchory where they were given a rousing send-off by a crowd so large it must have accounted for about the entire population of the town and surrounding area. An exciting 18 mile race saw the lead switch back and forth several times before reaching its dramatic conclusion in Aberdeen, when Joe Munro wrested pole position from Jim Hall on Anderson Drive and opened up a good gap by the finish at the junction of St Andrew’s Street and George Street where he was besieged by clammering well-wishers. His winning time: 2hrs. 5mins. Jim Hall had to fight his his way through dense crowds to salvage second in 2hrs. 10mins. ahead of Walter Reid, who was third in 2hrs. 13mins. In the “do” held that evening at The Rest, Munro was awarded the “Marathon Cup” to keep for one year and a valuable gold medal donated by club benefactor William Jamieson. The second prize was a timepiece, the third a gold medal of lesser value and the fourth a medal with a gold centre, with all finishers (twelve in number) receiving a commemorative bronze medal.

1910 ABERDEENSHIRE MARATHON START

1910 Aberdeen Marathon start

The second race for the Aberdeenshire Harriers’ Marathon Cup promotion was a toughish 16 miler from Inverurie to Central Park, Kittybrewster, held on Saturday 26th March 1910 in dry but windy conditions and contested by 22 members. The previous year’s winner, Joe Munro, was prominent until the 13th mile when he suddenly gave up owing to stomach cramp brought on, it was reckoned, by his ingesting dust (widespread paving of public roads did not begin until the 1920’s). Munro’s exit left the way clear for Jim Greig (a member of the ‘Shire since 1900), who won the 16 mile contest by about quarter a mile in a time of 1hr. 39mins. 35secs. George Davie (1.41.02) finished second and club captain Harry Russell took third (1.43.02) ahead of Walter Reid (1.45.00). ‘Shire trainer Tom Knowles expressed his satisfaction with the result and acknowledged that his men had “trained well” for the race. He had, it was reported, been making his charges do 13 or 14 miles on Tuesdays and shorter spins on Thursdays.

1910 ABERDEENSHIRE MARATHON WINNER JIM GREIG

1910 Aberdeen Marathon Winner: Jim Greig

Variety being the spice of life, as they say, the ‘Shire once again chose a different route for the third edition of their now annual fixture, a distance of 18 miles from Oldmeldrum to Central Park, Aberdeen. The race was scheduled about a month later than previously, on Saturday 22nd April 1911, and started from the 18th milestone on the Aberdeen road, where 16 members set off at about 4 p.m. each accompanied by an official cyclist carrying refreshments not to mention a goodly retinue of spectator cyclists. The race marked a return to form for Joe Munro who reclaimed the Marathon Cup in a time of 1hr. 45mins. 15secs., albeit with great difficulty after being pressed hard all the way by talented 17-year-old novice Alick King (1.45.40). Jimmy Gray was a distant third in 1hr. 58mins. 45secs. and Walter Reid again finished fourth in 2hrs 1min. 14secs.

The fourth edition of the race on Saturday 27th April 1912 was again run from Banchory to Central Park, Aberdeen, but by adding a bit at the end the Aberdeenshire Harriers contrived to extend the course to 20 miles, making this the longest race yet. 16 of the 21 entrants faced the starter, a notable absentee being the previous year’s winner Joe Munro. This race marked the rise to ascendency of the runner Munro had beaten in 1911, Alick King. The youngester shrugged off windy and dusty conditions to win easily in 2hrs. 14mins 38secs., having belied his age and inexperience by holding back in the early stages before launching a decisive attack in the 14th mile. George Mackenzie, a recent new recruit, showed good judgement to take second in 2hrs. 21mins. 29secs. ahead of Jimmie Gray (2.26.49) and Harry Russell (2.27.25). Finishing down the order in 11th place was another Russell, Billy, who in 1924 was appointed trainer of Aberdeen Football Club.

www.rastervect.com

Alick King

Two months after his win in the Aberdeenshire Harriers Marathon, Alick King was 7th in the Scottish Marathon Trial for the Stockholm Olympics at Glasgow. This is, incidentally, the only occasion on which the Scottish Amateur Athletics Association has ever held such a trial, which in any case turned out to be a rather pointless exercise because not even the winner was deemed worthy by the B.O.C. selectors in London.

Preparations for the fifth Aberdeenshire Harriers Marathon race got under way early in the year when the club organised a number of Saturday practice runs in which the members were divided into paced and whipped slow and fast packs, the fast packs regularly being led by Alick King. The club’s Marathon Race Committee voted at a meeting in January for the 16-mile course from Inverurie to Aberdeen, the second time the race had been run from the northern town since 1910. Whereas in former years the race had been confined to members of the Aberdeenshire Harriers, on this occasion the members of the fledgling Aberdeen Y.M.C.A. Harriers were invited to compete (on certain undisclosed conditions), and several took part. Altogether, 17 men faced the starter at Inverurie Town House on Saturday 5th April 1913. The weather was fine but a troublesome crosswind meant that runners had to contend throughout with clouds of dust raised by the attending army of cyclists. Alick King once again showed maturity beyond his years by holding back in the early stages (in fact he was still 400 yards behind the leader at 9 miles) before forging ahead in the 12th mile and running out an easy winner. His time of 1hr. 39mins. 54secs. was just 19 seconds outside Jim Greig’s course record set in better conditions. Fred Stewart was second in 1hr. 43mins. 26secs. and the ever-consistent Walter Reid third in 1hr. 43mins. 50secs. Jim Barron, 5th in a respectable time of 1hr. 45mins. 40secs, was the first Y.M.C.A. runner home. It is also worth noting that there was not a single retirement, all 17 starters taking receipt of the coveted Aberdeenshire Harriers Marathon finisher’s medal.

1913 ABERDEENSHIRE HARRIERS MARATHON MULTISCAN

After Alick King’s second win in the Aberdeenshire Harriers Marathon the question of northern supremacy arose when King was challenged to a race by John Tosh the well-known professional from Arbroath. A 20 mile race for the “Championship of the North of Scotland” and a side stake was decided at Pittodrie Park, Aberdeen, on Saturday 6th September 1913, King emerging victorious in 2hrs. 10mins. 00.4secs. It is not clear if dabbling with professionalism would have affected Alick King’s amateur status because he emigrated to Canada shortly after, and all was forgotten.

The Aberdeenshire Harriers’ Marathon had to be cancelled in 1914 owing to the large number of their members that had emigrated, but Aberdeen Y.M.C.A. Harriers at least ensured some continuity by staging their own race on Saturday 18th April over a 16 ½ mile course from the club’s headquarters at Kepplestone to the Y.M.C.A. building in Union Street. The race was decided at Mannofield when Charles Howie, the club secretary, took the lead from Jim Barron, the club captain, and finished strongly to take custody of the Y.M.C.A. “Marathon” Cup for one year with a winning time of in 1hr. 57mins. Barron finished second in 2 hours exactly and Charlie Watt came third in 2hrs. 3mins., ten of the twelve starters (all Y.M.C.A.) completing the course.

Harrier activities were suspended completely throughout the war, which also took its toll on the membership of both the ‘Shire and the Y.M.C.A. clubs, whose casualities included marathoners James Gray, who was seriously wounded and lost an arm, and Jimmie Rice, who was shot in the neck.

There was good news for the Aberdeenshire Harriers when Alick King, who had served in the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force during the war and represented Canada in the Inter-Allied Games, returned to his native Aberdeen after the war. He was a prominent competitor in the Victory Sports held by Aberdeenshire Harriers at Pittodrie Park on 19th July 1919.

Having established their own Marathon races before the war, the Aberdeenshire Harriers and the Aberdeen Y.M.C.A. Harriers continued where they left off when they reformed after the war, with the result that, from 1920 to 1922, Aberdeen hosted not one, but two, marathons!

www.rastervect.com

1920 Aberdeen YMCA Marathon: Oliver Coutts and Charlie Watt

The Y.M.C.A. race was held on 6th March 1920 when a field of 16 runners braved wretched weather during their 18 mile run from Banchory to Manofield. In a close-run race Oliver Coutts emerged triumphant in a time of 1hrs. 48mins., with Charlie Watt (1.48.30) and Alan Sutherland (1.49.10) filling the minor placings. At the prize-giving that evening Coutts took custody of the Y.M.C.A. “Marathon” Cup for the year, a gold medal and another prize valued at two guineas. Meanwhile Watt was presented with a silver medal with a gold centre, a palm stand and a Chinese vase, Sutherland taking home a silver medal and set of Army surplus hair brushes.

On 17th April 1920 the Aberdeenshire Harriers successfully revived their annual Marathon race after a seven-year hiatus. This was a bigger event that the rival Y.M.C.A. race, attracting 40 entries (of which 33 started) including several members of the Aberdeen City Police, who had been invited to compete. In the run-up to the event the ‘Shire membership had, said the Evening News, undergone “strenuous training such as long walks, distance road running and finishing up with skipping rope and punch-ball”. There had been large turnouts for the trice-weekly pack runs from the club’s King Street headquarters culminating in a 16 miler in the preceding week. Many handsome prizes had been forwarded by patrons of the club, and as a special inducement for everyone to accomplish the distance it had been arranged to have a special bronze medal engraved and awarded to those who finished. As had been the tradition since the inaugural race, the principal prize was the Marathon Cup, which was donated by hon. president William Jamieson. The route chosen for the 1920 race was, as in 1912, a distance of 20 miles from Banchory to Aberdeen. Keith Rennie, a sixteen year old boy, came close to causing a sensation by leading to within a mile of the finish, when he was overhauled by the experienced Charlie Watt, who, it will be noted, was a member of both the ‘Shire and Y.M.C.A. clubs! Watt won in a time of 2hrs. 17mins. 30 secs., thus missing the record set by Alick King in 1912 by about three minutes. Rennie (who collapsed after passing the finishing post and had to be carried off) was second in 2hrs. 19mins. 10secs. and Oliver Ward third in 2hrs. 28mins. 10secs. The runners who completed the course included two seasoned veterans of the first Aberdeen Marathon, Walter Reid and Jim Greig, who finished 8th and 12th respectively.

Medal -Aberdeenshire Harriers Marathon Race 1920 (2)

Aberdeen Marathon Medal, 1920

The third edition of the Aberdeen Y.M.C.A. Harriers Marathon Saturday 23rd April 1921 was contested by 10 members and run was over a 20 mile course starting and finishing at the Y.M.C.A. sports ground in Linksfield Road. On this occasion, unlike in the previous year, youth would prevail over experience, debutant Ted Lawson finishing in great style to deny Charlie Watt a successful defense of his title in the closing stages. His winning time of 2hrs. 14mins. 4secs. was good going considering the blustery conditions and the fact the he had only been with the club since the start of the season. Watt (2.16.30) settled for second ahead of another youngster, Daniel Gibb.

The Aberdeenshire Harriers’ race, held the following weekend, featured Alick King making a long-awaited comeback in their annual “Marathon”, which was run in unseasonably warm conditions over a 17 ¼ mile course starting and finishing Pittodrie Park where several thousand spectators at the Scottish League match between Aberdeen FC and Albion Rovers awaited the arrival of the runners. First man through the gate was the indefatiguable Alick King, who picked up seamlessly where he left off in 1913 with a commanding win which earned him a rousing ovation. He even had the time to complete the final two laps of the ground before the next runner put in an appearance. In addition to the usual array of handsome prizes a special bronze medal was presented to all who completed the course inside 2 hours 6 mins.

Results:

Alick King, 1hr. 55min. 4.6sec.;

Duncan 2.00.27;

Leslie Smith 2.04.15.6;

James Dey 2.06.06;

Walter Reid

The fourth and – as it transpires – last of the Aberdeen Y.M.C.A. Harriers’ Marathon races on 15th April 1922 was run over a 15 mile course from Kintore to Pittodrie. It featured a neck-and-neck battle between the holder Ted Lawson and Alan Sutherland which culminated in the most thrilling finish yet to any Aberdeen Marathon, Lawson prevailing by less than 10 yards in 1hr. 30min. 10secs. Jim Ronaldson finished a distant 3rd, with 11 of the 13 starters completing the course.

City rivals the ‘Shire held their eighth annual Marathon over a distance of 16 miles starting and finishing at Pittodrie Park on Monday 1st May 1922 when the runners encountered windy conditions and heavy roads to Belhelvie and back. The entire membership had been coached by Alick King and so it showed as the first 10 men all finished inside two hours. They were led home by pre-race favourite J. Duncan in a time of 1hr. 46min. 00.4sec., followed by Eddie Watson (1.46.43) and William Angus, with old hand Walter “Wattie” Reid finishing in 7th, one place ahead of an unfit Alick King.

In 1923, with the usual inter-club cross-country fixtures out of the way, the ‘Shire and the Y.M.C.A. Harriers joined forces to organise a Marathon race over the classic distance of 26 miles 385 yards from Fyvie Castle to Aberdeen in the hope that such a race might in the words of the Press and Journal “reveal obscure talent that could worthily uphold the country’s name in the competitions at the Olympiad”. Duncan “Dunky” McLeod Wright was not exactly an obscure talent. The previous month he had become the ten-mile cross country champion of Scotland and had competed in his fourth consecutive International Cross Country Championship race. The organising clubs provided all but three of the starting line-up of eleven runners. Wright was representing Clydesdale Harriers and the other two non-Aberdeen entrants – James Walker and David Ritchie – came from Dundee Thistle Harriers. There was great disappointment at the absence through injury of top local runner Alick King, so it was left to Ted Lawson, William Angus, Jim Ronaldson, Joe Tastard, Harry Russell, James Davidson, Reggie Jones and Walter Reid to carry the Aberdeen banner in this, Scotland’s first full-length amateur marathon. The race started at the gates of Fyvie Castle, some 26 miles north west of Aberdeen on a day in which the runners faced a stiff and cold headwind, not to mention heavy roads still sodden after recent rains. Wright set off at a brisk pace, having taken the ridiculous advice of his coach, Dick Vickers, to get away as fast as he could. At the halfway mark the pocket-sized Glaswegian (1hr. 20mins.) was over quarter of a mile ahead of his closest pursuer, Ted Lawson (1.21.55), who in turn was followed at intervals by Walker (1.25.32), Ritchie (1.26.16), Ronaldson (1.28.35), James Davidson (1.31.16) Angus (1.32.13) and Russell (1.32.35). On his arrival at the Parkhill feeding station at about 19 miles, Wright (2hrs. 4mins. 35secs.) was beginning to show signs of distress. Shivering with the cold, he asked for brandy and tea, but when informed by an apologetic marshal that no tea was available he settled for some brandy and ran on. The next to arrive at Parkhead was Jim Ronaldson, who had moved up into second place after the retirement of Lawson and Walker, but he was almost eight minutes behind the leader. The outcome looked to be a foregone conclusion until Wright began resorting to walking breaks, unlike Ronaldson, who by maintaining a steady trot began to make inroads on Wright’s seemingly unassailable lead. Excitement grew as the runners entered the city and it became obvious that Ronaldson was capable of catching the race favourite. Hundreds of people lined the streets and cheered on the local man as Wright’s lead was whittled down to 300 yards with little over a mile to go to the finish at Advocates’ Park. A final effort by Ronaldson along King Street reduced Wright’s slender advantage still further, but the Glaswegian dug deep and somehow held on to win by 150 yards. Inside the ground, both men were given a tremendous ovation by several thousand wildly cheering spectators. Wright’s winning time of 3hrs. 12mins. 12.4secs. was modest even by the standards of the day, but it provided him with some valuable lessons while giving an early indication of the steely resolve that would stand him in good stead for the rest of his successful career.

 The full result was:

1 – Duncan McLeod Wright, Clydesdale Harriers, 3.13.12.4;

2 – James Ronaldson, Aberdeen Y.M.C.A. Harriers, 3.13.59.4;

3 – William Angus, Aberdeenshire Harriers, 3.51.10.2;

4 – Harry Russell, Aberdeenshire Harriers, 3.57.54.2;

5 – David Ritchie, Dundee Thistle Harriers, 4.00.58.6

Jim Ronaldson’s training was idiosyncratic. In preparation for the ‘marathon’, which was held in March, April or May, he would stop smoking and drinking on January 2nd and would run 16 or 17 miles three times a week until the race. Then after four months training, he would start smoking and drinking again!

Dunky Wright’s club, Clydesdale Harriers, was the most important in Scotland at the time. Training there concentrated on nightly pack road runs of five or six miles, with Friday off, followed by a race or a steady club run of anything between 7 and 15 miles over the country. Sundays might be the occasion for a seriously long hillwalk.

The Aberdeenshire Harriers Club celebrated the 10th running of their annual Marathon race on Saturday 3rd May 1924 when 12 members tackled a 15 mile course starting and finishing at the club’s headquarters in King’s Crescent and run in what were described as “extremely adverse weather conditions”. Wind and rain were against the competitors over the greater part of the course, while the ground was so heavy the cyclists had trouble keeping up with the runners! J. Duncan eventually ran out a clear winner in a time of 1hr. 35mins. 7.2secs. to take custody of the Marathon Cup for a second time ahead of William Angus (1.37.28.4). One of the remarkable features of the race was the success of veterans such as Harry Russell (3rd in 1hr. 38mins. 3.8secs) and Walter Reid (8th in 1hr. 48mins. 6secs.). 11of the 12 starters completed the course, all within the standard time of two hours, for which each received a special bronze medallion.

The 11th edition of the Aberdeenshire Harriers Marathon was staged on Saturday 9th May 1925 and run over a 16 mile route from Banchory to Mannofield, the course being by the North Deeside Road from the eighteenth to the second milestone. There were only six starters, the smallest number ever, but they included Alick King and the up-and-coming James Shearer, as well as nostalgic favourite Walter Reid and a good race for the Marathon Cup presented by W. Jamieson was expected. As usual, the conditions were awful, a torrential downpour and a headwind conspiring to make the race a “severe test of stamina”. From the start Shearer, an 18 year old of promise, took the lead, closely followed by King, now 31, who bided his time until a mile from the finish before unleashing a spurt which carried him to his fourth win since 1912. He finished 80 yards to the good in a time of 1hr. 48mins 33secs. to 1hr. 49mins 3secs for Shearer. H.T. Robertson followed a mile behind in 3rd and finished comfortably ahead of Walter Reid, whose remarkable record in this event now read:

1909 –3rd, 1910 – 4th, 1911 – 4th, 1912 – 12th, 1913 – 3rd, 1920 – 8th, 1921 – 6th, 1922 – 7th, 1924, 8th, 1925 – 4th.

The officials were: Starter – Mr. W. Jamieson; timekeeper – Mr. J.C. Watson; judges – Messrs. J.S. Gray, J. Smart and R. Duncan.

Despite the theory that these races were ‘annual marathons’, they do not seem to have taken place in 1926 and 1927. Perhaps the number of entrants became too small. James Shearer seems to have tried his luck as a professional athlete for a while. However the Aberdeenshire Harriers Club ran their 1928 ‘marathon’ race on Monday 7th May. The route was from Banchory to Mannofield in Aberdeen, by the North Deeside Road. There were twelve entries, all of them ‘first season men’ apart from James Shearer (a reinstated amateur, who had been second in the 1925 race over the same course). A bus took the competitors and officials from Gordon’s College to the start, outside the Burnett Arms Hotel.

At 11.15 a.m. the race commenced, with nine men taking part. The Aberdeen Press & Journal described events in their edition published on Wednesday 9th May. “W. Hall led from Banchory, followed closely by James Shearer and W. Stuart, who ran side by side until entering Culter, with W. Chapman fourth. Stuart gradually fell behind, allowing Hall and Shearer to maintain supremacy. Misfortune, however, befell W. Hall at Cults Square, where he fell over a stone on the road. This allowed James Shearer to take the lead. The placings then became – Shearer, Hall and Stuart, with Chapman and Sutherland close behind. This position remained until a mile from home, when Shearer increased his pace, and W. Stuart then passed Hall to run Shearer a close race to the finish. The winner’s time was 1 hour 48 minutes 30 and two-fifths seconds. Stuart’s time was 1.49.52. W. Hall did well to recover after his fall. The officials were: starter, Mr F.G. Glegg, hon. president; timekeeper, Mr J.S. Greig, SAAA; judges, Messrs W. Russell, sen, R. Duncan and W. Simpson.” The club’s bronze medallions were presented to competitors who finished within a specified time.

1929 Aberdeenshire Harriers Marathon E[1].G. Marshall (cropped)

Aberdeen Marathon in 1929: niote the starting point is the same as in the 1913 picture above

A fascinating article from a 1929 ‘Evening Express’ was written under the nom-de-plume of “Chuck”, who was clearly enthusiastic and knowledgeable about fitness. The headline is “With The Cyclists, Harriers and Walkers in Aberdeen and District” and the subheading is “Suggestion for Gymnastic League”.

He begins with some excellent advice for cyclists on the topic “How to Avoid Fatigue”. There is an analysis of problems with wrists, shoulders, back, chest and thighs, with ideas about how to relieve discomfort. One is led to expect, after 50 miles hard cycling, “a peculiar benumbed sensation over the heart”! No need to panic, however, since a change of position may be “as good as a rest”.

Chuck moves on rapidly to “Next Week’s Big Walk”, which mentions that “a splendid entry has been received for the North Eastern Harriers Association five-mile scratch walking race on Aberdeen Links”. The favourite was T. C. (Clarence) Andrews, who later won the Shire Harriers Three-Mile Walking Championship. Also rated was twenty-year-old E.(Ernest) G. Marshall of the Shire Harriers, who later finished second in the 3 mile race. Chuck reckoned that “these two lads are coming along very nicely in the walking game”.

Shamrock Athletic Club’s half-mile and quarter-mile open novice races are also mentioned; and the Wheelers Cycling Club Sunday morning two-mile handicap races. Chuck’s favoured cyclist was A. Cruden, who was described as “a rare good boy”. The journalist adds “These events are proving a great attraction to devotees of the early Sunday morning walking exercise. They walk out to the starting point on the Skene Road, view the race, then proceed on their way to where their fancy leads.”

Chuck ends his article with a rallying cry to make Aberdeen once again “one of the greatest gymnastic centres in the kingdom” by forming a Gymnastic League.

The overall impression given by Chuck’s writing is of Aberdeen and district athletes engaging in a range of “cross-training” in search of fitness, fun and competition. Surely such a philosophy should be welcome if reintroduced in the 21st century!

Indeed, the aforementioned young race-walker Ernie Marshall went on to demonstrate his versatility by completing two Shire Harriers running ‘marathons’: the 1929 17-mile Inverurie to Aberdeen; and the 1930 18-mile Oldmeldrum to Central Park, Kittybrewster, Aberdeen. In preparation for the challenge, he ran a club 7 mile road race on 16th February 1929, finishing first (from 15 starters) in 41.18.

Alexander Allan won both long-distance events. In between the last ‘marathon’ in 1925 and this one in1929, Aberdeenshire Harriers running section had moved their training accommodation to a hut in King’s Crescent. There the athletes had been overshadowed by the boxing fraternity, so that no long road races had been held from 1926-1928.

However in early 1929 James Greig, the 1910 record-holder for the 17mile Inverurie to Aberdeen route, generously offered to present a gold medal to any runner who could “smash his record” of 1.39.35. The winner would also become the holder of the William Jamieson silver challenge cup. At 2.30 p.m. prompt, on Saturday 20th April 1929, the race started and the route went from The Square, Inverurie, via Kintore, Blackburn, Bucksburn, Woodside, Anderson Road, and Clifton road, concluding with four laps of Central Park, Kittybrewster. The Bon-Accord Cycling club acted as clerks of the course, to ensure that there was “no pacing in the race”. However it was Alex Allan of Aberdeenshire Harriers, running “a faultless, well-timed race”, who easily broke the record with a finishing time of 1.38.28 and two-fifths seconds; and, not far behind, John McRobb also beat the previous best with 1.39.01. James Shearer was third (1.40.25.6). He was followed by Alex Sutherland (1.41.43); William T. Stuart (1.45.29); John Troup (1.46.04.4); young Ernie Marshall was seventh (1.46.55.6); Harry Chapman (1.55.58.8); Angus Allan (2.04.38); and finally, Robert Smith tenth (2.17.45). The only non-finisher was W. Hall. Medals were presented to those under the standard time of two hours. The presentation of the season’s prizes took place at the Shire Harriers Annual Whist Drive and Dance in the Bon-Accord Hotel, Market Street, Aberdeen on Friday 26th April.

A further report in the Evening Express, which certainly sounds as if it was written by Chuck, included the following. “I warned my readers Allan would be the surprise packet, and he did not belie my confidence in him. He ran a magnificent race throughout. To me it was an inspiring tribute to the school of young runners in the city. Alex Allan is one of the best boys I have ever seen on this particular course. He joined the ranks of the Shire only ten weeks ago and soon proved himself to be a chip off the old block, viz Jamie Allan, who was a fine runner years ago. Alex is only 22 years of age and a fine specimen of manhood. Thanks are also due to Dod Fraser, the club’s trainer who has worked so hard since taking charge this season. The club has prospered beyond my wildest dreams.”

The route for the Saturday 12th April 1930 Oldmeldrum to Aberdeen 18 mile ‘marathon’ was from the Square at Oldmeldrum via Dyce to the railway bridge. From there it continued to Bankhead and Woodside, along Anderson Road and Clifton Road and into the final four laps of Central Park at Kittybrewster. The ‘P and J’ account is as follows. “Nine runners faced the starter under ideal weather conditions, which prevailed until Dyce, when heavy rain fell until the finish of the race.   The rain undoubtedly spoiled the efforts of Alex Allan to reduce Joe Munroe’s record of 1 hour 45 minutes 15 seconds, created in 1911, for up to this point in the race, Allan was going strongly, and high hopes were entertained of his putting up a new record.   Right from the start, Allan forced a hot pace from W. Begg (also a race-walker) and J. McRobb. At Whiterashes only seven runners were on the road, Angus Allan and Alex Wallace dropping out near the Post Office.   At Newmachar, Allan was leading by 300 yards from Begg, with McRobb in close attendance, the remainder being strung out.   At half distance, Allan increased his lead to 600 yards from McRobb, who displaced Begg of his second place.   At this point it was seen than Marshall, who had been lying well behind, was gaining rapidly on the leaders, forcing his way up to fourth position.   Nearing the city, Allan still held the lead from McRobb, with Marshall running strongly into third place.   Hall and Begg dropped out with leg trouble, thus reducing the field to five runners.   Allan’s battle against the rain told its tale, and on entering the Central Park, he contented himself to keep going at a slow pace to complete the distance and win his second Marathon race.   McRobb entered the Park in a similar way and, hanging onto his lead from Marshall, he too completed the distance.   E.G. Marshall apparently had a big reserve in hand, for he ran the last mile in a very convincing manner.

 The full results were:

1          Alex Allan, 1 hour 50 minutes 25 seconds

2          John McRobb, 1 hour 54 minutes 1.5 seconds

3          Ernie G. Marshall, 1 hour 56 minutes 36 seconds

4          Peter Burnett, 2 hours 3 minutes 51 seconds

5          Alex Gordon, 2 hours 4 minutes

(Medals were presented to all finishers, since they were faster than the standard time of 2 hours 15 minutes.)

Starter and timekeeper – Mr Fred J. Glegg; Judge – Mr Charles C. Russell. The Aberdeen Wheelers supplied the stewards, and accomplished their work in an admirable manner.”

 

On Saturday 18th April 1931 Jack McRobb exacted revenge on Alex Allan for previous defeats. “Ten runners faced the starter at the Aberdeenshire Harriers annual “Marathon” race (18 miles) from Oldmeldrum to Central Park, Kittybrewster.   Weather conditions favoured the competitors, a heavy following wind greatly assisting the first four men to return good times.    Alex Allan (winner of the last two races over the distance) set up a hot pace right from the pistol shot, and was closely followed by J. McRobb and H. Gordon.   The first five miles saw Allan clinging to his lead by three yards from McRobb, Gordon having dropped back 150 yards in the rear.   Nearing the ninth mile McRobb displaced Allan. H.Gordon was then making headway and on nearing Stoneywood passed Allan to occupy second place.   Passing through Stoneywood McRobb held 250 yards lead from Gordon, and both were going strongly. Keen disappointment was expressed at this stage as Allan, owing to stomach trouble, retired from the race, leaving A.Gordon, who was gradually creeping up to take third position. Woodside was reached with McRobb holding on to his lead from the other two.   Entering the Central Park, McRobb held his lead, but only with a super effort did he manage to stave off the apparently fresher H.Gordon, who tried hard to catch the leader, but failed to do so by about 110 yards. McRobb’s victory was highly popular, and he received a great ovation from the large crowd of spectators. Four men duly qualified for standard time badges, which were given to those who accomplished the distance in two hours.

Results:

Jack McRobb 1 hour 46 minutes 35 seconds;

Harry Gordon 1.46.53;    Alex Gordon 1.48.03;

David Stewart 1.55.04;    Frank Yeoman 2.24.45;

Arthur Mair 2.27.58;    James Peter 3.18.15.

Frank Yeoman won the special prize for the youngest competitor to finish in the prize list. Starter and timekeeper: Mr Fred J. Glegg. Judges: Messrs J.S.Greig and J.K.Smart. Stewards of the course – Wheelers Cycling Club members.”

 

            On Saturday 9th April 1932 there was a final Oldmeldrum to Aberdeen race. The ‘P and J’ reported as follows. “Eight men lined up for the start. A stiff wind was against the runners, and hopes for a record time being accomplished were not very bright. From the pistol shot last year’s winner Jack McRobb went to the front, closely followed by H.Gordon and James Shearer.    After four miles had been covered, these three were running abreast. Passing through Newmachar the same order was maintained. Yeoman and Aitken dropped out hereabouts, leaving only six competitors.   Nine miles was accomplished in 58 minutes by the leaders, McRobb, Shearer and Gordon, who were clinging together. A.Gordon was lying fourth about 400 yards in the rear. Andrew Raeper fell out with leg trouble at this point, leaving only five men on the road.    At Stoneywood H.Gordon and McRobb had broken away from J.Shearer, both running strongly.   At Persley McRobb opened up and shaking off Gordon took the lead. At Woodside McRobb increased his lead from Gordon by 200 yards.   Entering the Central Park McRobb had a clear lead and finished the course just as Gordon appeared. McRobb’s victory was highly popular, considering the wind and showers of rain. He improved on his last year’s time by 13 seconds, failing to beat Joe Munroe’s record by 37 seconds. Only four finished the journey.

Results:

Jack McRobb 1 hour 46 minutes 13 and one-fifth seconds;

Harry Gordon 1.51.41 and two-fifths seconds;

James Shearer 1.56.50; Alex Gordon 1.58.14.

Officials: Starter and timekeeper, Mr F.J. Glegg; Judges Messrs J.S.Greig, C.C.Russell and J.K.Smart.”

 

On 1st May 1933 there was a final Aberdeenshire Harriers ‘marathon’. This time the sixteen-mile road race started and finished at Advocates’ Park. The route went out to Dyce and back again. The event was covered in detail in a newspaper report.

“Alexander Gordon, Aberdeenshire Harriers, sprang a big surprise in winning the open sixteen miles road race organised by his club at Aberdeen yesterday. His time – 1 hour 31 minutes 42 seconds – was a brilliant performance.   Eleven competitors faced the starter in the enclosure at Advocates’ Park in ideal weather conditions. From the start, Gordon, Beattie, Clark, McRobb, Chapman (all of ‘Shire), Brown (YMCA) and Cumming (‘Varsity) went to the front in a bunch and kept together until near Scotstown Moor, when Gordon and McRobb pulled away.    At Parkhill, Gordon and McRobb had a lead of 200 yards from Brown, with Clark and Chapman a similar distance in the rear.   At Dyce, Gordon, running with perfect ease, came away strongly from McRobb, who appeared to be labouring. Brown also was feeling the gruelling effects of the hot pace, being third.   Nearing Don Street, Woodside, Gordon held a 400 yard lead from Chapman, who had moved into second place. McRobb, still labouring, being third, with Clark fourth. Coming down St Machar Drive, McRobb collapsed and retired.

Entering Advocates’ Park, Gordon had a comfortable lead of over 500 yards, and finished the two laps before the second man appeared. Chapman came next, with Clark at this heels, and a thrilling duel took place between them, with Chapman gaining second place by about 20 yards. The first three home gained standard medals for accomplishing the distance in the time limit of 1 hour 35 minutes.   Gordon’s victory was his best performance in five years participation in harrier activities.

Results.

1 Alex Gordon 1.31.42;

2 Harry Chapman 1.34.43;

3 Edward Clark 1.34.45;

4 Robert Forbes (Shamrock Sports Club) 1.35.4 and three-fifths seconds;

5 George Brown 1.36.46.

Starter and timekeeper – Mr Fred J Glegg; Judges – Messrs CC Russell and JS Greig.”

 

In 1934 there seems to have been no ‘marathon’, although there was a 16 mile Banchory to Aberdeen walking race (won by 1923 marathon finisher William Angus). Officials from Aberdeenshire Harriers helped with this event, which included a Women’s walking race, won by Miss Chrissie Webster of the Aberdeen Ladies’ Hiking and Athletic Club, who won by only seven seconds from Miss Ella Cumming.

 Probably due to a lack of entrants, the Shire Harriers ‘marathons’ did not continue. However these reports give a real flavour of Aberdeen long-distance running at the time. Aberdeenshire Harriers continued to encourage the sport helping to organise a host of other promotions, including their annual seven-mile cross country championship, North-Eastern Harriers Association championships, the Round-the-Town 20 miles relay race, miscellaneous sports meetings, Xmas and New Year handicaps and inter-club cross-country matches against the YMCA, Aberdeen University Hare & Hounds and new rivals like Shamrock Sports Club.