Rangers Sports: 1895 – 1899


President of The Rangers and Vice President of Clydesdale Harries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Mile Flat Race:   W Robertson 4:33.6  

Half Mile cycle race:R Crawford   1:09.6

One Mile Bicycle Race:  AH Duncan 2:25.6

Five Miles Bicycle Race:  W Robin.   NTG

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

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

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

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

100 yards won by G Barclay (KNH)10.6 sec

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

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

Three Miles:  Lamb from Duffus.

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

Alf Downer, Scottish Pelicans

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

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

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

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

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

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

DS Duncan

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

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

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

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

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

The Scottish Referee, 7th August 1899


Rangers Sports: 1890 – 1894

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

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

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

Andrew Hannah

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Stewart Duffus and his brother JS

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

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

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

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

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

Celtic Sports: 1890 – 1894



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Miles Bicycle Race Handicap:  CP Glazebrook (Manchester)

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

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

880 yds flat handicap:  D Caw (MH)

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

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

Mile handicap:  FE Bacon (Salford)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Clyde FC Annual Sports: 1911 – 1918

Shawfield Stadium with the dog track added.

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

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

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

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

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


Donaldson’s Grand Running

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

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

Jack Donaldson

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

George McCrae

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

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

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



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

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

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


Clyde FC Annual Sports: 1885 – 1895

Cycle racing at Barrowfield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Note the crowd size)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Lanark Rifle Volunteers


Burnbank Grounds from Part Circus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Cathkin Park

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

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

“3rd LRV Regimental and Clubs Athletic Sports

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

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

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

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

“Athletic Jottings”

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Without criticising the content of the sports in any way whatsoever, the meeting was not an athletics meeting like those of Queens Park FC, the Rangers FC, Celtic Fc or St Mirren FC.    There is enough here to show what the club could have been in terms of athletics success and the results achieved by their athletes wete at time quite superb.   What is manifest however is that the Thirds Sports were not at all athletic events as such.   This does not mean that there were no athletics meetings held at Cathkin Park.   Far from it, but these were held by organisations other than the football club.   For instance the Glasgow Police Sports which was a major meeting right up into the 1950’s is associated with Ibrox Park but they were held at Cathkin for several years – eg in June 1897 they were at the Thirds ground and included running events, field events such as high jumping, pole vaulting as well as piping, dancing and tug of war.  Glasgow University held their Sports there in June 1906 as preparation for the Inter-Varsity Sports. Thirds themselves had their five a side football tournament at the end of August and they were very successful too but as for open athletics – not organised by them.

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

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

Clydesdale Harriers Sports 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!


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.   


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.   


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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


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/.


“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.


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.