Bobby Quinn

Bobby Quinn (left), SAAA Championships 1955

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

The Victoria Park website tells us of his early years: 

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

Bobby second from the right

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It had been a very good three years for Bobby.


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

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

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

Bobby Quinn and Willie Jack

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bobby Quinn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Willie Carmichael

Willie Carmichael0004

Willie Carmichael

Willie Carmichael was very influential in Scottish athletics for several decades and yet his name is hardly known in current sporting circles.   His  career in the sport began in 1921 as a member of Edinburgh Northern Harriers before helping set up Canon Amateur Sporting Club in 1922.    He was also a a champion wrestler who went on to manage the Scottish team at the 1934 Empire Games, and such was his involvement with that movement that he he was honoured with an OBE in 1971.  He had energy in abundance,  a vision equalled by few and was a great servant of Scottish athletics.

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1922, Hawkhill.   W Carmichael of Edinburgh Northern Harriers

In 1922 at the age of 17, Willie, who had started in athletics a year earlier in 1921 with Edinburgh Northern Harriers,  was a founder member of Canon ASC .   Although a runner, he was also already a committee man and, representing the club, he was the second man to hold the post of  secretary of the East District Cross Country League (which was established in 1924) from 1926 .  It was a post he held until 1928 when he went off to India to work.   On his return two years later,  he became League President from 1930 t0 1934, still as a member of Canon.   1934 was a significant year for Willie:  when Canon ASC became Edinburgh Eastern Harriers he was a founder member; and in that same year he was manager of the Scottish wrestling team at the Empire Games in London.   The Scottish Amateur Wrestling Association was formed in 1931.  By 1938 Kenneth Whitton was President and Willie Carmichael Secretary of SAWA and they were joint team managers at the 1938 Empire Games in Sydney, Australia.  (Kenneth Whitton was also an athlete and athletics historian who made several contributons to the official 50th anniversary history of the SAAA).   Willie was very active in both sports simultaneously and by 1938, at the age of 36, already had experience of three Empire Games.

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Final, Thomas Young Cup.   W Carmichael  v  J Cropper (winner)  1932

As an elected member of the SAAA, he was automatically on the East District Committee of which he was Secretary from 1937 to 1951.   President of the Scottish Cross-Country Union in 1937/38, he is better known for his work with the cross-country side of the sport before the War in 1939.      The War started in 1939 and athletics was the least of anybody’s problems with the sport on a back burner until 1946.

Even the War couldn’t hinder his interest in the sport.   Betwen 1944/45, while Director of Salvage for Northern Ireland, he was a member of the NIAAA committee and chaired the meeting of North and South which formed the Irish Amateur Athletic Board.

WC CASC 2Medal for winning the Canon ASC v Kirkcaldy YMCA 2 Miles.

After the War Willie is better known for his work in track and field athletics.   He remained on the East District and SAAA Committees and hard as he worked there, he still found time to serve the sport in a multitude of ways.   For instance in August 1947 it was decided to publicise the ‘Enterprise Scotland Exhibition’ by organising an Edinburgh to London Relay.   There were 26 runners involved and it was a mammoth undertaking – the logistics of providing transport, food, lodgings, etc were difficult enough but there were the added complications of ‘glad handing’ local dignitaries in every town and city they passed through and feeding information and publicity to the Press.   The team manager was Willie Carmichael.   He wrote about it in the ‘Scots Athlete’ magazine of October/November 1947 where, although he does not make it sound exceptional, it really was a first class piece of organisation and management.

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Edinburgh Eastern Harriers, winners of Heriot Athletic Trophy

‘Braw Lads’ Challenge Shield for Mile Relay Race at Galashiels.Braw Lads Sportr

Willie Carmichael, President

That magazine made a point of covering the top athletics meetings of the day in detail – the Rangers Sports, the Glasgow Police and the Edinburgh Highland Games being the major ones.   In the June 1947 issue,  below the accompanying photograph, it noted:

“William Carmichael (Hon Sec, Eastern District, SAAA) is doing his utmost to make Edinburgh a great centre for amateur athletics.   He is responsible for the big 14th June meeting at New Meadowbank, and Edinburgh Corporation Highland Games on Saturday 19th July at Murrayfield.”   

Willie worked for the Lighting and Cleansing Department and had organised, among other things, the Edinburgh Lighting and Cleansing Department Open Meetings.   When the Edinburgh Highland Games started out in 1947, who better to organise them than Willie Carmichael: I quote from the September, 1949, issue of the Scots Athlete:

A Bouquet for Edinburgh

W Carmichael who was the guiding light in this promotion once again proved his great flair for organising and it was grand to see such a resounding success.   The hard-working Eastern District Secretary has the gift of imagination and believes in doing things on a big scale.   For instance the appearance of Arthur Wint and Fanny Blankers-Koen would alone have drawn the crowd.   But an invitation was also extended to a select  British team of athletes and cyclists; and what a team Jack Crump had with him.     …………..   But at the end of the day in attempting to recapture once more the highlights of the meeting, perhaps the most striking feature of all was the magnificent enthusiasm of the spectators.   The warm sportsmanship of the Edinburgh audience remains a fragrant memory”.

Willie was not just an administrator either although he organised the Edinburgh Games for a total of 31 years.   He was a Grade One Judge for all three disciplines of track, jumps and throws and officiated latterly as referee at meetings big and small.  eg he officiated at the Rangers Sports from at least 1950 to 1962.   In 1948 he worked at the London Olympics as a track judge and as a wrestling judge. He thus officiated as a Judge or official at Scottish open, District, National and International events on the track and over the country.   He also officiated on the Edinburgh to Glasgow eight-man road relay.   As a reward for his work with the SAAA he was elected President in 1953.

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Mr Carmichael centre with Local Authority officials from the North of England

Not only was the man active on the Scottish stage, in 1952 he was a Scottish representative on the British Amateur Athletic Board – this was a three year appointment and it coincided ith his election as President of the SAAA.

So far Willie had had a good career in athletics, but the best was yet to come for Scottish athletics from Willie Carmichael.    SAAA triple jump champion Graham MacDonald recalls that as a young competitor in the 1960’s, ” I remember Willie when he was competing in the East District Championships at what was then called New Meadowbank.   That was the track constructed next to the Meadowbank Speedway Track used by Edinburgh Monarchs.   All gone of course when the Commonwealth Games stadium was built for the 1970 Games.   I didn’t know who he was but he looked very dapper and important in his Blue Blazer with a Commonwealth Games badge and wearing a soft hat. Later I realised who he was and at one meeting I overheard him saying to another official ‘we can do it you know’.   I guess he was referring to the 1970 Games and I think that he was a driving force if not the main driving force behind Edinburgh’s bid.” 
At that time Willie had been Chairman of the the Commonwealth Games Council for Scotland from 1950 to 1955 and followed that with Secretary of the Council.   He would hold that post from 1956 to 1979.   Willie was General Team Manager for the Vancouver Games in 1954 when Joe McGhee won the dramatic marathon and Bannister defeated Landy in the Mile.   There is a little-known story of delay of the return home flight while repairs were carried out to an engine and Willie took the whole team to the pictures.   ‘Three Coins in the Fountain’ was the film.   would probably inspire many and probably sharpened Willie’s desire to have the Games in Scotland.  The ‘hard-working East District secretary with a gift of imagination’ and who ‘believes in doing things on a large scale‘, as Emmet Farrell had it in 1947 was about to tackle his biggest task yet.

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The Commonwealth Games in 1970 was an undertaking the likes of which had never been seen in Scotland before: there had been two Olympic Games held in London in times of genuine austerity when Britain took on the Games at short notice, and the Empire Games had been held in London in 1934 and Cardiff in 1958, but they had never been held in Scotland.    Willie and Lord Provost Herbert Brechin fought hard to get the Games to Edinburgh.   It was not just one bid that they tendered.   I quote from the ‘Official History of the IXth British Commonwealth Games’:

“Scotland’s wish to be considered as a host country was presented to the British Commonwealth Games Federation in General Assembly at Melbourne in 1956, at Cardiff in 1958, at Rome in 1960, Perth, Australia, in 1962 (when Scotland was defeated in its quest by Jamaica by a vote of 17 to 16), at Tokyo in 1964, and eventually, successfully, by 18 votes to 11, over New Zealand at Jamaica in 1966, for the 1970 or IXth Games.   There the case for Scotland was presented by the Rt Hon Sir Herbert Brechin, then Lord Provost of Edinburgh, and Mr W Carmichael Honorary Secretary of the British Commonwealth Games Council for Scotland, and supported by Councillor Magnus J Williamson (Edinburgh Corporation), and Messrs P Heatly, GA Hunter and DM Wright (Council for Scotland).”

Statisticians Colin Shields and Arnold Black say in their book

“This was not at all just some happy accident. Nothing was left to chance. The meticulous planning began even before Edinburgh beat Christchurch for the right to host the Games at a vote at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, and the man responsible for so much of it was Edinburgh citizen Willie Carmichael. “More than any other single person, Carmichael brought the Games to Edinburgh,” Colin Shields and Arnold Black write in The Past Is A Foreign Country. “He was Scotland’s wrestling team manager at the inaugural Games at Hamilton in 1930 and had always had the guiding dream of bringing the Games to his native city. “Carmichael not only brought the Games to Edinburgh but organised them as well, acting as full-time director of operations. On a budget of £670,000, he produced the most thrilling and successful sporting extravaganza that Scotland had ever seen. His undoubted talent for organisation and stylish presentation resulted in the Games being judged an overwhelming success both in organisational and sporting terms. “It was by far the largest Games ever held, with 1,383 competitors and 361 officials from the record 42 countries taking part. Meadowbank Stadium, the host for the athletics events, had been constructed especially for the Games at a cost of £2.4 million, including a government grant of £750,000.”

Having learned something at all of these meetings and venues, the bid was sharper every time and by 1966 they must have had known exactly what was required.  The voting had been 18 votes for Scotland against 11 for Christchurch, New Zealand.  They now had the Games for Scotland.   In December 1967 the Appeal Fund was set up with the aim of raising £200,00 towards the costs of organising the Games.  Who better to oversee this mammoth task of previously unseen dimensions with the certainty of unexpected problems than Willie Carmichael.     The first task was to set up the overall organising structure and it appeared like this:

Willie was the Director of Organisation.   Oversight of everything, ex-officio on every committee and committees were set up to deal with Accommodation, Appeals, Catering, Ceremoinial, Queen’s Relay, Communications, Finance, Legal and Concessions, Main Stadium, Medical, Pool, Press and Public Relations, Sports Technical, Tickets, Traffic, Transport, Village, VIP Hospitality and Welcome.   19 sub-committees in all.   All had to be staffed, all had to be accountable and all had the responsibility of ensuring that Scotland was portrayed  in a good light.   All of Scotland’s sports clubs were involved, all interested in sport were involved and every local authority in the land was involved to a greater or lesser degree.   It was a massive undertaking.   Ultimately though, Willie Carmichael was at the heart of the whole structure.

The Village Committee below was only one of those set up to oversee the various aspects of organisation.

The success of these Games is legendary – from Lachie Stewart winning the 10000m in the rain from Australia’s Ron Clarke on opening night right the way through to Ian Stewart and Rosemary Stirling on the last day of athletics it was a triumph and the competitors from all over the Commonwealth reflected the exuberance of the Scottish hosts.   The same tale could be told from all sports – cycling, weight lifting, wrestling, etc all had their moment in the sunshine.

They had been the biggest Games with 42 countries taking part, and they were the first Games to be called the Commonwealth Games.   Scotland was fourth on the medal table behind the big countries of Australia, England and Canada.

1970 was run by sports people for sports people and captured the imagination of the whole country, of those interested in sport and those who had never attended a sporting event in their lives.   There is a piece of film at

which shows various key moments of the Games.   The description from Scotland on Screen says:    “This film features amateur footage from the IXth Commonwealth Games held in Edinburgh in 1970. In the film we see a number of key events from the ceremony, opening with pipe bands marching in front of crowds at the stadium, and the arrival and reception of Prince Philip. There is then Highland dancing, followed by the march past of the attending Commonwealth nations, before an athlete presents a scroll to Prince Philip and doves are released into the air. Various events follow, including a medal being presented to a female athlete. The first race takes place. Scottish athletes, Ian Stewart and Ian John McCafferty, take silver and gold in the 5000 metres. During the closing ceremony, we see the Queen going around stadium in horse drawn carriage before the lyrics of Auld Lang Syne are shown on the scoreboard.”

For those who wish a detailed look at the Games in print, there is a good paper under the title  ‘A Spectacular Tableau’ at  .

It is an academic publication, includes some gentle criticism and is worth at least a look.

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Lachie Stewart (317) tracks Clarke and Taylor in the 10000m

For his part in the winning and organisation of the Games, Willie Carmichael was deservedly awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1971 with the citation saying simply  ‘Director of Organisation, 1970 Commonwealth Games.’     Commandant of the Scottish team at the Games in New Zealand in 1974, he oversaw a very successful team performance that had clearly fed off the superb 1970 teams.   The team was just ovcer 60 strong and Carmichael announced at a dinner in October 1970 that it would be at a cost of £40,000.    In twenty first century terms of medals per pound sterling, it was one of the most successful ever!

Officials and administrators for the 1974 Games team

He was also in action in 1978 – his last Commonwealth Games as an official – in Edmonton, Canada and afterwards stepped down from the International Committee.   By then he was Honorary Vice-President of the Federation with Prince Philip filling the President’s post.He remained Secretary of the Commonwealth Games Council Scotland until 1979.    His interest in wrestling continued right into the 70’s.

But the Games was undeniably the summit of Willie Carmichael’s career in sport – everything he had done beforehand can be seen as preparation for it.

  • Experience of  managing sports teams at the Empire Games from the very first meeting
  • General Team Manager at the 1954 Empire Games
  • Experience of m ore than one sport at international level
  • Administration of domestic championships
  • Organising big international meetings such as the Edinburgh Highland Games
  • Albeit on a smaller scale, the multi-faceted and complicated logistics of the Glasgow to London Relay

Although the Games of 1970 were the undoubted apogee of his career in sport, he did not do, as many would have and some did, retire at the top of his game.   He stayed with the sport – was he not Secretary of the Commonwealth Games Council for Scotland until 1979?   He officiated at many meetings thereafter simply because his love of sport was part of his character.   Above all he remained involved with Scottish athletics.   At the 1974 Commonwealth Games in New Zealand, he was team commandant, and he was also with the team in 1978 – the year before he stepped down as Council Secretary.

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Publicity shot for 1978 Games in Canada

Scottish athletics were lucky to have had him as one of its more faithful servants.   When I stepped down from the SAAA Committee, Willie Carmichael was an Honorary Life Vice President having been elected as such in 1958.    Even without the 1970 Commonwealth Games he would have had a wonderful career.   The work done before during and after made it a totally unique career in the sport.

Some links to extra material:   Willie Carmichael’s Commonwealth Gallery : Some photographs from Willie’s career plus several Games pictures

   Extract from the History of the Edinburgh Games, 1970: 1.  Tasks facing the organisers once the Games were won    and

2.   Drawings from the various venues.   As an indicator of the difference between these wonderful Games and thc current bloated affair

Finally, thanks to all those who helped with this task: Alex Jackson and Graham McDonald who helped get it started and Karl Magee and Ian Mackintosh in the Archive Department in the Stirling University Library.   If you are at all interested in the Commonwealth Games of any era, they are a great source of information.   Thanks, folks.

WC Pre group

  Taken at a reception organised by Lothian Regional Council on 22nd August, after the Games which lasted from 3rd to 12th August, – and they’re waiting for a team photo to be taken.   Names so far:

Left in shades John Graham;  Jim Turnbull wrestler standing third left; Chris Black, hammer, back row with beard is talking to Peter Hoffman, runner;

Seated (2nd row):  Drew McMaster, sprinter, left, Allister Hutton, runner, 2nd left; Paul Forbes, runner, 3rd left;

Third row: Jackie Hynd, weightlifter 3rd from right, Brian Burgess, high jumper 2nd from right ; Willie Wood, bowler, in second row on the right.

Ronnie Hurst, diver,bottom far right;

Graham Sword

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Graham at the International Cross-Country in Edinburgh

Graham Sword has been involved in Scottish athletics for over four decades and is one of the most respected of administrators and officials.   I first met him when we both took our daughters along to Strathkelvin Ladies AC in the late 70’s.   Run by Mollie Wilmoth, Aileen Lusk and Lillias Gorman, it trained at Huntershill along with Springburn Harriers and was a good, well-organised, athletic club.   He himself had no running background but was keen to see Sally Ann and her sister Mandy do well and the family supported the club whole  heartedly.   Although he had no athletics or running bachground, he had been a good all-round sportsman.

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Graham came from a sporting tradition, his father played rugby in the Borders when it was the real hotbed of the sport in Scotland.  Graham was brought up in Forfar where he played football for a number of teams – the picture above is with the Forfar Renton Under 16 – they had just won two trophies in the season the picture was taken.   He also played cricket for the Strathmore club as a wicket-keeper and later as a member of the Bank of Scotland team which played all over the country with regular trips to Ireland.   Given that background, the girls were always going to be active in sport.

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Sally’s track career lasted longer than Mandy’s: she was a good runner who ran track and cross-country as a young athlete but became a very good sprinter who competed in open meetings, inter-clubs and championships.   As far as times go, she had personal bests of 12.6 seconds (100m), 25.96 (200m), 58.5 (400m outdoors) and 58.71 (400m indoors when finishing third in the Scottish championships in 1993) and was ranked at Scottish level every year from 1990 to 1995.

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Sally at Glenurquhart Highland Games: the final one of the season and

the one where all the prizes are presented

Competitively she was also a very successful highland games athlete, winning many prizes and awards and travelling to  Highland Gatherings all over Scotland.   Her husband, Gary Condie, tells us

“Sally took part in The Highland Games from 1982 to 1999 when she announced her retirement.
The Sword girls first entered Fort William Highland Games  in 1982 with Sally in the track events while younger sister Amanda ran the ‘Quarter Ben’ up Ben Nevis. This whetted their appetite for the Highland Games circuit meaning many weekends for their mum and dad around the country.  When she started out, Sally was able to compete on either the south HG circuit or the North HG Circuit.
In the south she regularly ran at Airdrie, Carluke, Shotts, Bute, Bridge of Allan, Dunblane, Falkirk, Cupar and at the Glasgow Show.    At Bute, track events shared with the pipe bands and one day the 400m set off.   As Sally entered the back straight in the lead the massed bands approached the track.    The race was not recalled and the girls had to negotiate the band as well as the bend to fight their way to the line.  Sal did not come out of the melee first. Well known West of District official, the late Brian Goodwin, who that day was track referee, decided that the result should stand much to the amusement of the athletes.   At Cupar Sally also did not always get the rub of the green when in the handicapped 100m, the front marker athletes got a flyer and were not recalled. When the track referee,  the late George Duncan, was asked why the race was not restarted he told them it was “only a slight false start!”
The most lucrative Highland Gathering in the South was Strathallan HG at Bridge of Allan.   There are only four events for women, Sal didn’t do the 800m, which attracted some of the best sprinters in Scotland.    Sally usually medalled and one year after a very successful day won ‘Athlete of the Day’.
Most of Sal’s success was on the Northern HG Circuit consisting of eight venues – Forres, Elgin, Fort William, Nethy Bridge, Newtonmore, Nairn, Inverness and Drumnadrochit.   At first she was seen as the southern invader and was handicapped out of events because of her successes at other events. Handicapping punished athletes who supported the Highland Games. In one 100m event she started behind a Scottish International.
In her Highland Games career she won the North of Scotland Highland Games championship at 100m, 200m and 400m championship and was overall Champion on 2 occassions. She also won various high jumps, long jumps and relays.   At Elgin while the ladies were competing at the Long Jump the 400m took place without most of the athletes.    Another race was hastily organised but with no medals or vouchers as these had been given out in the other 400m Sally sprinted away to win a bottle of the local sponsors whisky.   A prize she gave to her dad.
Whisky plays a big part in a Highland Games as many local distillers sponsor the events. In Inverness the prizes were a bottle for 1st, half bottle for 2nd and miniatures for third. As Sal won or was placed in the 100m, 200m, 400m, long jump, high jump shot putt and relay, they needed an extra bag to bring the drink home.
At the season’s finale at Drumnadrochit, the heavies, athletes – male and female – must wear a kilt to run a handicapped kilted 200m. While some of the ladies wore small children’s kilts Sally had to borrow a full kilt from the heavies officials while he wore her trousers to cover his modesty. Even when Sally was old enough to take herself to the games it was not unusual for her mum and dad to make a surprise appearance at Drumnadrochit, Nethy Bridge or Inverness as they were “just passing”

She married Gary Condie in 1992, competed for several years before she retired in 1999.  She returned as a Masters athlete and tried her hand at longer races with respectable times at 5K, 10K, Half and Full Marathons, the last of which was in 2014.  The sisters often ran in the same races and the picture below is a really good one.   Both women looking really happy doing what they’re doing, in each other’s company and an excellent advert for the sport.   Unlike many track people who go up to 26 miles on the road and are never  able to come back down, she has now returned to sprinting with an excellent 9.0 seconds for the indoor 60 metres.    Graham always enjoyed seeing the girls compete all the way through their athletics careers.

Sally and Mandy

Sally and Mandy finishing the Aviemore Half Marathon

Back home, Graham helped out as often as he could at the club and became a qualified time-keeper before moving to Kirkintilloch Olympians when Strathkelvin LAC folded.   As a time keeper he officiated at every kind of meeting imaginable: open gradeds, local meetings, District and National Championships and Highland Gatherings.   Good time-keepers are hard to come by, and Graham was always in demand.   He officiated at club league competitions for both clubs he has been connected with.   That was in summer, but where do timekeepers go in winter?   Cross-country and road running also need qualified officials and he was seen there too, doing his bit for the sport.   He still found time to encourage newer officials and Margaret Daly comments: “I worked with Graham as a time keeper (or assisted as a recorder) at several road and cross-country events both at District and National level.   Some of my fondest memories of my early timekeeping days were thoise working with Graham, Duncan McLaren, Duncan McSwein and Raymond Hutcheson.   Maybe that’s because they used to joke that I brought the average age of timekeepers down by 20 years!   They also referred to me as ‘the youngster’ which did my morale no end of good.”

16 07 July Aberdeen 10

Graham also worked as a timekeeper at various international meetings such as the Special Olympics in Glasgow from 2nd to 9th July, 2005, which offered 26 sports to the nations competing.   Then there were the Natwest Islands Games XI in Shetland in from 9th to 15th July, 2005.  The Games enconpassed 15 sports and these were contested by 24 islands or island groups including Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Rhodes, Faro, Gotland and St Helena.

  There were of course some other non-athletics benefits for a good time-keeper and one of these involved the UEFA Cup Final which was held in Glasgow in 2007 between Sevilla and Espanol.   The phone call came in to the offices for a driver for the occasion.   Graham was appointed and had the pleasure of driving a variety of dignitaries to and from their accommodation in East Kilbride and to the airport.   In return for their services, Graham and fellow drivers were allocated seats behind the dug-out for the actual game.

 His value was recognised by the winter enthusiasts as much as by the summer, as is shown by the fact that in addition to local and national races, open meetings and championships, Graham worked at international cross-country events, including European and World championships whenever they were held in Scotland: in Edinburgh, at Bellahouston and at Tollcross in  Glasgow, at Coatbridge and at Veterans internationals as well as at Senior and Junior matches.   International duty has also taken him to England as a team manager and to Greece.

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With Sally and Mandy

Like all quality officials however, his involvement did not stop at his first qualification or involvement in the sport.   His work as an administrator of the very highest calibre has been recognised nationally in Scotland and also at GB level.

Graham entered a new phase of his involvement with athletics in the early 1990’s.   Brian Goodwin of Bellahouston Harriers was Secretary of both the SCCU and SAAA West District committees and a semi-formal group consisting of Brian, Graham, Margaret Daly and Derek McGinley started working in the SAAA District offices in Glasgow dealing with the postal entries for championships.    Margaret recalls these experiences from the viewpoint of someone new to the sport at the time: “I was a latecomer to athletics, taking up jogging in my 30’s, and being well and truly bitten by the running bug.   That led to me being part of the group that founded Shettleston Harriers Ladies and within a few months taking on the role as secretary to the club.   I attended (with some trepidation) West District meetings, then held in the Boys Brigade offices in Bath Street.   At that time meetings were well attended and Brian Goodwin was West District Secretary.    I found Graham to be a committed and knowledgeable official.   He had the patience of a saint in my book, the way he handled entries for events, dealing with queries, last minute changes, gripes and complaints from clubs.   His home became an extension of the Scottish Athletics office at entry closing dates with his phone ringing at all hours of the day and night with club officials queries about entry forms.   He always struck me as very athlete-focused and would always try to ensure that if it were possible an athlete would compete in an event, applying rules fairly and with some degree of flexibility as long as it would not compromise an event or a result.”

When Brian moved on to become secretary of the new Scottish Athletics Federation Cross-Country Commission, Graham took over first as secretary of the West District Cross-Country and subsequently also of the Track & Field committees.  His contemporary in the East District was Alex Jackson who says: “For many years Graham was West District secretary and we worked in tandem on many things as I have been East Secretary since 1988.   Graham and Brian Goodwin spent many days/hours working in the SAL Edinburgh office around 2000 to 2005 .   This was in the early days of email and acknowledgments to athletes and other mail still had to go by post.   They used to camp themselves in the meeting room there doing boring but vital tasks like stuffing envelopes while listening to “real” music like Sinatra.”

It is instructive to look at how much work was involved at that time when all championship entries were on paper and sent by post.   For instance, for a championship meeting, they would meet three or four days a week in the Glasgow office.   The postal entries would all come in and had to be entered on ‘spreadsheets’.   These were not Microsoft Word Spreadsheets but large paper documents where every athlete, every club and every event had to be entered legibly by hand.   From these the programme had to be made up and Margaret, as the best typist, typed them up to go to the printer.   Meanwhile entry tickets and timetables had to be sent out to the athletes – the time spent stuffing the envelopes is incalculable.   In addition to that work, there were invitations to go to officials and accommodation and venue had to be booked well in advance.   Graham was still time keeping on the Saturdays while this was all going on.   Then came the day/days of the championship and the troops were back in action.   Graham was involved at many meetings taking the declarations at the meetings  or  taking entry money at the door   and/or  selling programmes.   And then of course, at the end of the meeting there was prize giving to be dealt with.   Often enough Graham had to present prizes.   Graham had done all that work prior to the meeting and on the day he did not see much of the action as he was doing the chores listed above but he still says that the job he liked least was when he had to come into the public eye and present the awards.

It is impossible to keep one with his talents a secret and in 2001/02: he was appointed Finance Officer for  the Scottish Athletics Track & Field Commission and subsequently Raod Running & Cross-Country Commission.   This post was significantly different from anything g he had done previously in athletics.  He held this position at a crucial time in the development of Scottish athletics from an amateur body into a professional one.   Leslie Roy, who has been involved with Scottish and British athletics for at least the whole of the twenty first century so far and with every Commonwealth Games team since 2000, says:

“Graham has held many roles over the years but as a retired Bank Manager his skills have mainly been used in Treasurer/Finance officer roles.  These roles have been with scottishathletics Track & Field Commission, scottishathletics Road & XC Commission, Scottish Young Athletes league and Scottish Athletics Indoor League. 

Graham has done a great job over the years managing the ‘books’ in his own quiet way but he is often seen at scottishathletics championship events taking entry money from spectators and selling programmes as they arrive at stadium.

He has kept finances in order, he is reliable, hardworking, always helpful and everything is done to ensure it is in the best interest of the athletes.  For a great many years he could be found in the scottishathletics office prior to Championships folding letters to athletes and putting these into envelopes ensuring that athletes had all their pre event information. Nowadays, this is all done via Email. Not many people would volunteer to do that or clean all the trophies prior to championships, Graham did.”

Molly Wilmoth tells us that in those days the officials at meetings were paid their expenses on the day and Graham often did that with the help of Brian Goodwin.   Nowadays the expenses are paid often months after the events.   Just another one of Graham’s tasks.

He held the post of Finance Officer until 2014/15.   His efforts have been recognised of course by the governing bodies, not only of Scottish athletics but also at British level.   He was made an honorary life member in the early 2000’s but the really big honour was when he was presented with the Tom Stillie Award in 2004.   This Award takes the form of long sword and is gor services to Scottish athletics.   The first winner was Allan Wells and other recipients include Cameron Sharp, Leslie Roy and George Duncan.   The headline afterwards read, of course, “Sword gets Sword!”

After following this with the Scottish Off Track Official of the Year, in 2006 he received the UK Off Track Official of the Year.   The presentation was made on 25th November 2006 at a glittering function attended by the great and the good of UK Athletics.   Alan Potts received the award for Volunteer Co-ordinator of the Year at the same function but neither man is keen on such high profile occasions and both had to be asked more than once to go down: although they had been nominated, neither thought that they would receive anything!   They both did because they both deserved to.


So far we have seen Graham as a parent-helper, time keeper and official, championship administrator and now finance officer.   The honours that have come his way have been well earned but when he was asked what he got out of the sport, what he enjoyed doing most, the reply came like lightning.   “Watching the girls running.”   After 50 years in the sport (and counting) what brought him into athletics is what still gives him pleasure.      Other than that he says he also gets satisfaction out seeing that jobs are done properly .

Typical of the many tributes to Graham from those who worked with him was the following from Clare Barr.

“I first met Graham Sword several years ago when I attended a West District Commission meeting as a rookie club rep, and somehow found myself, completely by accident, as the new District Convenor (I think I sneezed at the wrong moment or something, like when people unintentionally buy a Ming vase due to waving at their friend just as the auctioneer bangs their hammer.)

Anyway, Graham was the West District Secretary and he took me gently under his wing, subtly pointing me in the right direction and showing me the ropes, but he did it so tactfully that I did not realise at the time how much he was helping me.   Graham knows EVERYBODY, and has done for years, and all the District history, so he was brilliant for me as a total newbie – showing me how all the paperwork is processed, and introducing me to all the Officials etc.    Everybody likes Graham. 

At the start I did not realise how much work Graham did on behalf of the West District (on top of his work with the National Road Running & Cross-Country Commission), such as taking in all the West Cross-Country entries to his home address.   I bet the Postman loved him, squashing a mountain of big envelopes through his front door letterbox, but Graham had to sort out and process all the contents before inputting all the entries onto his trusty computer – all in a back bedroom, I believe – before then stuffing all the race envelopes with the bib numbers and declaration sheets etc.   Graham is one of those magic elves, doing all the work that everyone else assumes ‘just happens’, and he never once looks for praise or recognition.   He is truly an unsung hero, and a lovely, lovely, gentle man to boot, and it is always a pleasure to bump into him, when invariably he is ‘on the door’ at athletics events taking the entry money and meeting and greeting the masses.”

Clare’s predecessor as Convenor of the West District was Margaret Daly, herself a respected official who has been quoted above, and says:

“I think I can attribute my own involvement as an official in athletics to the dual persuasion of Graham and Brian Goodwin.  At District meetings, being a ‘new’ apprehensive face in a room full of knowledgeable athletics people, they quickly spotted a gullible potential volunteer and ‘cajoled’ me into turning up to record on the finish line of District Cross Country Championships, initially and soon I found myself at the Edinburgh to Glasgow Road Race, National Road Race Championships, Cross Country Championships and more.  Between them, they got me involved in helping out at track and field events, providing assistance with presentations and encouraged me into a wide range of roles, including timekeeping, administration and team management/selection. I will always be grateful for Graham’s encouragement and support, a support that often extended to him kindly providing a chauffeur service to events when my own transport arrangements fell through.”

Margaret’s last remark puts her in good company – one of Graham’s many functions at some internationals was to act as ‘driver to the stars’ as one correspondent put it!

Molly Wilmoth who organised the Strathkelvin Ladies AC where Graham first won his spurs has followed his career with interest and they are still the best of friends today.   In addition to the various tasks noted already, she points out that he was always available to assist Danny Wilmoth in oprganising the many veterans events in which he was involved as well as his involvement in track & field, cross-country, road running and disability athletics.   Molly lives in Kirkintilloch and Graham in Bishopbriggs, both are timekeepers and since they frequently officiated at the same meetings,  he frequently drove her to events.    It is a friendship which benefited Scottish athletics and that has lasted almost 50 years.

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Graham with Sally, Mandie and the next generation of Ewan and Alastair 

Very much a family man, he still has his interest in football and he likes watching Clyde and Blackpool with Grandson Ewan.   He has been known to get an athletic meeting started then nip off to pick up his grandson and head for the game.    He even ‘dragged’ son-in-law Gary on holiday to see Carlisle v Blackpool!

Although athletics was not his own sport originally, Graham has done a lot of seriously good work for athletics and contributed to the success of many, many events the length and breadth of the land.   Liked and respected in equal measure, a more-than-capable official, he needn’t hang up his watch for some time yet.   Finally –

Alex Jackson sent this video link – Graham appears talking to the camera at about 1 minute 15 seconds into it.   It is of the West Dsitrict Championships in 1996 and Graham appears several times in the course of it.

Leslie Roy


 Leslie Roy is one of the best known and hardest working officials in Scottish – maybe in British – athletics.   She’s always the same, always smiling and always doing her best for the athletes.   Leslie however started out in athletics as a very promising young runner, winning team and individual medals and trophies with her original club, Victoria Park AAC in the west end of Glasgow.  She went to Scotstoun one Thursday and the following Saturday she was in a team competing in Balloch Park where she finished sixth.    The following December she ran in the West District Championships at Bellahouston Park where she finished second in the Under 13 Girls race and then in the National cross-country championships she finished sixth.

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Leslie finishing behind Judith Shepherd at Coatbridge, 1978

Clearly a promising young runner she specialised in the 800m on the track where she progressed from 2:21 in summer 1974 to a best of 2:12.6.

If we start in 1974, Leslie was second in the West District Championships and shortly afterwards she was fourth in the East v West match at Meadowbank on 26th May in that pb of 2:21.   Leslie followed this up on 1st June, 1974,  in the SWAAA championships for girls, juniors and intermediates at Grangemouth where she was fourth in a 1500m 5:09.1.   In between times she won a 100m at the  Glasgow Championships in 13.8 seconds.

Her best 800m in 1975 was 2:20.0 which ranked her number 20 in Scotland.

Early in the 1976 season, on 28th April, in a match between Glasgow AC, Glasgow University and Shettleston Harriers Ladies she won the 800m in 2:24.5.  Then in the Glasgow Highland Games on 15th May, Leslie finished third in the 800m which was won by Evelyn McMeekin.   That was followed by a third in the West District Championships at Grangemouth in the 800m with 2:26.4.     At the national championships in June she was third in the Intermediate age group championship in 2:21.9.   These performances were such that she was selected for and competed in the first Celtic Games, held at Balgownie, Aberdeen, on 14th August 1976 for the 800m.   Scotland with 110 points defeated Wales (94), Republic of Ireland (84) and Northern Ireland (51).    Her best performance that year was 2:15.8 which ranked her fourteenth in the country.

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Leslie running at Scotstoun in 1980

A good club member she competed in several events in inter-club fixtures all over the country and was ranked every year from 1974 to 1983, usually in two events  with best performances of 2:12.6 for 800m,  3:01.3 for 1000m,  4:43.3 for 1500m, 10:58.3 for 3000m and 68.07 for the 400m hurdles.

 In 1977 in the SWAAA Championships Leslie ran 2:17.6.   In 1978 she ran even better: In the East v West competition she finished second in 2:14 and then on 3rd June the result for her was a 2:12.6 timing in the SWAAA Championships at Meadowbank.   This last was in a Commonwealth Games year and the standard was very high but the time ranked her eleventh among Scottish women that year: one place in front of Rosemary Wright (best of 2:14.1 with another future OIympian – young Lynne McDougall – further back again with 2:15 for the season.)

As a young senior she finished second to Christine McMeekin in the West District 1500m championship on 3rd May 1980.   Now, in the twenty first century, there are many leagues providing competition as well as demands from team managers for athletes to turn out as often as possible but there were few leagues in the 1970’s and athletes ran in sports meetings and highland gatherings all over the country.   Leslie was no exception and raced at such as Shotts, Carluke, Strathallan, Glasgow and Gourock.   Leslie won various events on the circuit  e.g. she won the 400m from scratch in the Gourock Highland Games in 67 seconds in May 1981; on 5th June 1982, Leslie won the 800m at the East Kilbride Games off a mark of 28 metres.    Still running well in 1982 Leslie won the 800m in the East Kilbride Games in 2:24 and finished the year with a 68.07 for 400m Hurdles placing her eighteenth in the rankings and in 1982 she ran 3000m in 10:58.0 and 400m H in 69.5 seconds.

Clearly a good athlete, Leslie said in response to direct questions on that part of her career in the sport that her training partner in the 1970’s was Alice Linton who was second in the SWAAA 800m twice and had a personal best of 2:06.   From about 1980 on she was coached by Iain Robertson and trained with Sandra Whittaker, Angela Bridgman and Yvonne Anderson.   Iain was in my estimation the best Scottish coach that I had the pleasure of knowing and working with and the athletes mentioned were all really top class runners with Sandra being a fairly successful Olympian.

Her best race, in her own opinion, was the 1978 SWAAA 800m at Meadowbank where in a top class field of Ann Clarkson, Evelyn and Christine McMeekin and Alice Linton among others, the field was bunched at the bell with Leslie right in there.   Then the athlete that she was tracking dropped out and she lost concentration.   Easily done – tactics are often keyed to another runner and when that athlete disappears from the track when you are travelling at speed there is always a temporary lapse.

   Roy at CG 76

Celtic Games, 1976: Leslie is in the back row, to the right of the flag.

Leslie’s athletic career came to an end because of injury problems and, having been club captain in the early 80’s, she became club secretary in October 1985.    This was a post that she held in Glasgow AC and then City of Glasgow AC  until October 1999.   She had already become involved in activities outside the club and from 1982 she had been officiating in admin roles such as presentations, helping with the preparations for meetings, getting to know the officials and generally learning the ropes.   In 1984 Leslie got her qualification as a field events official: unfortunately it was just too late for her to officiate at the 1986 Meadowbank Commonwealth Games but she volunteered and got a job as a fire steward in the main stand which, she says, was a great position from which to watch all the athletics.  From that date she has officiated at meetings of all standards: open graded, league meetings, championships at all levels and at UKA TV meetings.

Roy Presentations 1984

Leslie as presentations official in 1984

Like all good committee members she became a club representative.  In Leslie’s case she quickly became Division 1 secretary of the Scottish Women’s Athletic League (SWAL)  28th November 1989 until November 1992 when she was elected to the position of SWAL secretary.   Leslie held that post until 2008 – 16 years in all.    In addition to the club and league duties, Leslie had become the West District Representative on the SWAAA Executive Committee in 1990 and stayed there until the formation of the Scottish Athletics Federation in 1992.

   Halfway through this period Leslie’s abilities and willingness to work were recognised and more roles were put in her way:

  • In 1996 she was elected West District Track & Field Secretary, a post held until 1999; and again from 2006 – 2011;
  • More importantly she was first elected to the Scottish Athletics Track & Field Selection Committee in 1996 and is still a member of that body and has been chair since 2011;
  • Also from 1996 Leslie has been part of the Scottish team management.

You will note the number of roles running parallel at this point with responsibilities encompassing Scottish athletics activities at club, district, national and (via team management and selection) international levels.   All this in the short period since she had stopped running and racing.    This was the point when Scottish athletics was being reorganised; when the SAAA, SWAAA, SCCU, SWCCU and Hill Runners all came under the one umbrella of the Scottish Athletics Federation.   There were problems but it was generally a period of great excitement in the sport despite the inevitable teething troubles.   In addition to the changes in Scotland, there were changes in the other governing bodies in the British Isles and in the relationship with UK Athletics.

With her prodigious appetite for hard work, her administrative experience gained since she had retired from running and her can-do attitude Leslie was a natural component of the new order.   Her appointment on the Track & Field selection committee has already been mentioned and in 1999 she became chair of the Track and Field Commission and a member of the UKA Track & Field Advisory Group.    In 2000 she became a Scottish athletics representative on the UK Athletics fixtures meetings.   At the 2003 World Indoor Championships in Birmingham, Leslie was a technical official working in the technical information centre.   New responsibilities came her way in 2011:

  •  President of Scottish Athletics;
  • Chair of the Scottish athletics Track & Field Timetabling committee;
  • Member of UK Members Council;
  • From 2011 to 2013 was a Commonwealth Games Scotland Board Member;
  • From 2012 to 2015 was a Commonwealth Games Scotland Selection Panel member.

A considerable range of posts with a range of skills required do any of them properly.

Leslie presentation speech 2

Leslie at the scottishathletics awards presentation in 2015

Just as with the athletes, officials and administrators regard being involved in any major Games as a highlight of their career.   Leslie has been involved with these since 2000.   They can be easily listed:

  • 2000 – Commonwealth Youth Games as Assistant General Team Manager.   This was the first ever CYG and was held in Edinburgh.
  • 2002 – Commonwealth Games in Manchester – Athletics Team Manager;
  • 2003 – Part of the management team for the GB & NI Team for the European Under 23 team in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
  • 2004 – Commonwealth Youth Games in Bendigo, Australia as part of the General Team Management.
  • 2005 – Part of management team for GB & NI team for European Under 23 Championships in Erfurt in Germany.
  • 2006 – Commonwealth Games in Melbourne – Athletics Team Manager.
  • 2008 – Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune, Australia as part of General Team Management.
  • 2010 – Commonwealth Games in Delhi as General Team Manager for Transport and Logistics (for all 17 sports!)
  • 2011 – Commonwealth Youth Games at the Isle of Man as a Field Official.
  • 2014 – Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.   General Team Manager for Transport & Logistics (again for all 17 sports).
  • 2016 – Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast.   General Team Manager for Transport & Logistics (All 17 sports).

Ten major events: none of these is a straightforward task: the problems of organising transport for 17 sports over several weeks in Delhi, for instance, must have been many and varied.  To be involved at that level over a 15 year period represents a considerable dedication to the job.   Many would be incapable of doing these jobs at all, some would be able to do several of the jobs, and others while competent would be unable.   Leslie has always, as far as I am aware, had a good relationship with the athletes that she is working with.   Indeed one young athlete that I spoke to after his first Commonwealth Games compared Scottish officials most favourably with the English ones and mentioned Leslie in particular as being helpful.   The Gold Coast appointment is her fifth consecutive Commonwealth Games and must surely be some kind of record.

Roy CG 2002

Athletics team at the Commonwealth Games, 2002

Undoubtedly Leslie has many outstanding qualities but in the beginning, and maybe for several years along the way, she would have had examples of how to do the work and when asked she said that there were three main influences.

“Isobel Dunkeld:   was club Vice President and then President in the 70’s and 80’s and I learned a lot about club athletics from her.

George Duncan was my mentor.   He encouraged me and helped me to recognise my own abilities.   He and I ran the SWAL together for many years and were instrumental in making changes to the league.   We recognised that clubs were struggling to field full teams so instead of small clubs turning out with a handful of athletes we encouraged clubs to get together and form a composite team thus reducing the league down to one division which created better competition for the athletes.

In fact George and I introduced this long before it ever happened at UK level.   We would say that UKA got the idea from us.

Organisation of meetings was probably Margaret Brown.   I picked up a lot of tips when she was West District Secretary and I got to know all the officials, constantly asking “Who’s that?”

She has over the course of her career so far collected several honours and awards but three that mean a lot to her are the life-membership of her club City of Glasgow AC which was awarded on 25th October 2000, life membership of scottishathletics in 2008 and the Tom Stillie sword which was presented in 2002 after the Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

Leslie CG Group

Leslie (centre) at the Commonwealth Games 2006

Leslie started out in athletics in the mid-70’s  and started her officiating career in the 80’s – which are 30 and 40 years ago respectively, but she doesn’t seem to have lost either interest or momentum.   In fact she is probably doing more and gaining momentum with every passing year.

Rodger Harkins, Director of Coaching at Scottish athletics, said: “I have known Leslie for a number of years.   We first worked together on the Scottish Athletics Junior Commission in the early 90’s, as team managers for Scottish U15/U17 teams mainly Celtic Games, U20 teams at that time with the likes of Darren Ritchie, Sinead Dudgeon, Alison Curbishley, Lee McConnell, Ross Baillie, Andy Young, Ian Mackie and many others, U23’s and Senior teams.   

I have always had the utmost respect for Leslie and her ability to ensure that the right thing is done.   She is a very meticulous person in every detail and always manages to see things from various angles.   Leslie is a very passionate lover of athletics and that is probably why she has been, and still is, involved with so many aspects of our sport.”

Hugh Murray, National Coach Mentor for Throws, has also worked fairly extensively with her and says this.

“I had worked with Leslie on Team trips prior to 1999. But it was round about then that circumstances  brought our athletics involvement much closer together.

 Leslie had been deputy to George Duncan who I believe saw her as his successor, and his untimely death resulted in Leslie being appointed as the Convenor of the Track and Field Commission which back then was a very important role. This coincided with an invitation to myself to take on the role of Director of Performance and Excellence (sounds more important than it was), with Scottish Athletics, as a replacement  for John Anderson who was moving down South. So we sat on the Board of Management together.  Meg Stone was still National Coach at the time. 

It was a time of change at Scottish Athletics as they were in the process of becoming a professional National Governing Body and were changing from being a Federation to a Limited company which carried its responsibilities.

After a pretty lacklustre performance in Kuala Lumpur, we had a challenge. First of all we had to put together a fair and reasonable Selection Policy and process for Manchester 2002. We had to look at what progression over the next three years looked like for our athletes. The Bank of Scotland squads had not been going long but they were starting to produce some promising prospects, Chris Baillie, Richard MacDonald, Mhari Walters, Susan Scott to mention just a few. We also had to ensure that our promising athletes had the correct level of competition in their programme to prepare them for the big occasions. Leslie was key to all these decisions and to the work that went into it. Her organisational and logistical skills never failed to surprise me.

 Our first trip to Gothenburg to the European Athletics Calendar Conference resulted in what was to become an Annual event for our Juniors of a match with Cyprus. Israel and  Greece. We also achieved small team opportunities  through to many European countries including Russia, Hungary, Belgium, France, Estonia, Lithuania and Croatia. Leslie ‘Team-Managed’ many of these trips and I ‘Team-Coached’.

 Her organisational and management ability on these trips were second to none. I remember on one trip we had to do a transfer from one terminal to another at Heathrow airport.  One young athlete on her first trip was somewhat confused, and said to me, “Hugh how do you know your way from one terminal to another?”  As we stepped on an escalator I said to her, “I don’t – but don’t worry dear, when we think we are lost just look in front of you and you will find Leslie pointing you in the right direction.” We stepped off the escalator at the top and to her surprise, not mine, there was the smiling Leslie pointing in the right direction.

Roy and Hugh

Leslie with Hugh and team members in 2006

Whenever we did trips together Leslie was always the tour rep. In our down time, and that could be substantial after competitions abroad  Leslie could always be guaranteed to fix up a sight seeing trip to places of interest be it Red Square in Moscow, the old own of Tallin in Estonia or Reykjavik in Iceland and she was so well informed she could give you a guided tour without a tourist booklet.

 Her dedication to Team Manager responsibilities is also an example to others. In 2002 after 2 gruelling days of competition in Manchester at the test event 2 weeks prior to the Commonwealth Games it was 7 pm and I had just escaped the Manchester traffic and was about to hit the M6 for the long drive home. I had on board Leslie and the Team Physio when her mobile phone rang. The call was from one of our more experienced Senior athletes who had been pulled for a drugs test after the last competition of the day. “Do you want a chaperone” says Leslie.  I was already turning the car around by the time she told me we were going back. At 10 pm that evening the athlete finally peed. We were all grateful. She went on to team manage her first Commonwealth Games team two weeks later.

 Our next big adventure together came with her appointment as Team Manager and mine as Head Coach to the Commonwealth Games Team for Melbourne in 2006. Her Team preparation from 2 years out was meticulous. Melbourne unlike Manchester was an early Spring Games on the other side of the World. Preparing the Team was the biggest challenge either of us had ever faced. We had  had a practice with the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2004 in Australia and we drew upon that experience but this was something else. Together with Mary Anderson at Scottish Athletics Leslie spent hundreds of hours in advance looking after all the details such a trip requires. She worked closely with Commonwealth Games Scotland, Sports Scotland the Scottish Institute of Sport, our kit sponsors to mention just a few.

We had athletes leaving Scotland at different times to prepare for the Games in several different locations including Melbourne, Brisbane, and Johannesburg. I went out with the advance party but she made all the arrangements, and “Kept me right” until her arrival with the main party.

 In 2010 I was not working for Scottish Athletics and so made my own way to Delhi for the Games as I had athletes taking part. Quite a challenge. Imagine my surprise when clearing Customs at the airport  to look up and see Who?  That’s right – Leslie Roy, the first person I saw on my arrival in a country with a population of 1.4 Billion. She  gave me a hearty welcome and then guided me  to the area where my driver was waiting. It turned out she was at the airport as part of her role as Transport Manager for Commonwealth Games Scotland. For anyone who has ever visited the capital city of India you will be aware of the nightmare of travelling across the city. Who better then to have in charge than Leslie Roy. No sacred cow is going to stand in her way as she moves athletes from the Village to the Competition venues.

 I could give you so many more instances when Leslie has gone beyond the call of duty in the interests of our sport. The last one will be the cabaret act she put on for us at the Glasgow Games. At Major Championships like the Commonwealth Games there are often time when there is  lot of waiting around  especially at opening and closing ceremonies, and Glasgow was no different. About one and a half hours for each. To alleviate the boredom Leslie decided to single handedly entertain the troops. and what a great job she made of it. It included, singing, dancing and climbing high structures much to the delight of the Boxers and Rugby Sevens whose chant of ” Go Leslie” echoed in all our ears.

 I have known Leslie for almost 30 years I have accompanied her on numerous trips including Team Duties, Warm Weather Training and Official Meetings. Her contribution to athletics is immeasurable she has served the sport as Administrator, Manager with Scottish and GB Athletics as well as Commonwealth Games Scotland, as well as Official and Athlete. She is currently President of Scottish Athletics. But I think if you were to ask her which part of these duties is closest to her heart it would be the Celtic Games. Leslie competed as an athlete in the very first Celtic Games when it used to be an all female event. I don’t think she has missed one since.

 As the youngsters would say today  –   ” Leslie Roy” athletics legend.”

That’s where Hugh’s comments end but I should add that he knows whereof he speaks: his wife is a constant worrier when he travels without her to look after him.   He is quite forgetful and she knows better than anyone.   When she knows he is going on an athletics trip she asks who is going with him.   When he says it’s Leslie, she breathes a sigh of relief and says, “You’ll be OK then.”   They’ve never met but they have spoken many times on the phone.   That, for me, sums up Leslie’s reliability and reputation.

Roy 2015 officiating YAL

Leslie officiating at the scottishathletics Indoor Open, 2015

Several contractors say on their business cards and advertisements  “No job too big, no job too small” and despite all the committees, despite all the Games, despite all the honours Leslie could in all honesty say the same.   I have known coaches and officials say that they had outgrown working with young athletes, or with athletes who were not of international class: that could never be said of any really good official or coach and it certainly is not true of Leslie.   Two examples, the picture above shows her working in an open meeting in Glasgow in 2015 and until it ceased publication, Leslie could be seen walking round arenas selling copies of the Scottish Athletics Yearbook.

Leslie Glasgow 2014

 Leslie with athletics team staff, Glasgow 2014

Looking over this amazing career in the sport Leslie replied when asked what her biggest challenge so far had been:

“In some respects taking over from George Duncan as chair of the Track & Field Commission.    George was very respected within the sport and was extremely knowledgeable, not just from a Scottish perspective but on any athletic subject UK wide.   Due to ill health George was standing down so it was pretty daunting to take over from him.”   

“The Commonwealth Games – every Games has been different with different challenges.  From purchasing and arranging for 24 fridges to be delivered through security into the Glasgow 2014 village, making arrangements for 300 team Scotland members to get from the closing ceremony to the team party and not leave anyone behind in India and Glasgow and managing the athletics team on the other side of the world in Melbourne at the 2006 Games.”

What was her most rewarding experience as an administrator?

“Probably two things.   

The Celtic Games have always been close to my heart, probably because I competed in the very first back in 1976!   However it is always great to see the enthusiasm of youngsters starting out on their international journey.  

The Commonwealth Games – there have been many great memories, many challenges, lots of hard work and friendships made from the Games I have been involved in but overall it is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had.

 It has been a wonderful career in the sport – so far.   Who knows what the future will bring for Leslie Roy?


Arnold Black

Arnold Black 2

Arnold Black is probably unique in Scottish athletics.   Most of us start off as competitors and then move on to other aspects of the sport; many also come into the sport because they are parents of young athletes before they graduate to officialdom and many come in as competitors because their friends bring them along.   Arnold is in none of these categories and yet is one of the busiest and best respected: he is a statistician and administrator who came into the sport as such because that is where his interests lay.

He is also probably unique in that there is no obvious successor as custodian of the website and the provision of statistics to the sport’s officials, athletes, selectors and supporters.

When you think of athletics stats two names come to mind immediately: Arnold Black and Colin Shields.   He and his colleague Colin Shields are without doubt the best known statisticians in Scotland and also respected throughout Britain for their abilities.   Scottish athletics has been well served by the men – almost always men – who collect the figures, make up the ranking lists, keep records up to date and record everything to do with the sport.  Arnold and Colin  are among the very best of them

They were the mainstays of the Scottish Athletics Yearbooks for two decades and collaborated on the magnificent ‘The Past Is A Foreign Country’ book.   They are well suited with Colin being really well known for his work on cross-country and road running (his centenary history of the Scottish Cross-Country Union “Whatever The Weather” being published to great acclaim in 1990), Arnold is more involved in the track and field side of the sport.   Their collaborations have generally been of the highest order.   The SATS performance tables on the Scotstats website are much appreciated: clubs have started them in scoring their championships, they are used to decide the Scottish club championship and Arnold has been working with Scottish athletics to fit them into a new Thistle Awards scheme.

Although colleagues they are very different people with different backgrounds: while Colin was involved in the sport as a runner and official from the 1950’s, Arnold took a different route into the sport, never joined a club but has become a well known, respected and invaluable member of Scottish athletics.

Coming from the South Side of Glasgow Arnold Black was born in April 1955 and educated at the prestigious Hutchesons’ Boys Grammar School and later at Strathclyde University where he graduated with a degree in accountancy.   Thereafter he worked for a number of companies, becoming officially involved in athletics in April 2001 as a non-executive finance director and board director for Scottish Athletics Ltd for almost six and a half years until August 2007 while continuing to advance through his career as an accountant with Alexander Sloan, Chartered Accountants.   Currently self-employed he acts as consultant, accountant and adviser to individuals, and charities.   He has worked for over 30 years in this field for both business and in the not for profit sector.   He has been a mentor for Project Scotland mentoring volunteers with working placement in the charity sector.   Arnold is also a charity trustee with Positive Action in Housing and with the MS Weir Trust (which also sponsors some athletes).

Arnold has several awards:  in 2005 he received the Tom Stillie Award and he also has the honour of being a life member of Scottish Athletics.   He was nominated for this latter honour by the widely-known   and  highly regarded Leslie Roy and the citation read out on the night of the award at Glasgow’s Marriott Hotel read:

“Arnold is the scottishathletics statistician keeping all records up to date and producing all the documentation required for selection meetings. He has a website where athlete performances can be found as soon after they happen as possible keeping the athletics community up to date.

The Scottish Association of Track Statisticians has documented athletics performances in Scotland for 50 years through the publication of the Scottish Athletics Yearbook. 2009 was the last time the yearbook was published as SATS went online from 1/1/2010.  The website produces weekly performances, rankings, athlete profiles, records and documents the history of the sport in Scotland and all this work is produced by Arnold.

All coaches and athletes use the website as results can often be found on it prior to them appearing on powerof10.  The website also identifies if a performance breaks a record or if it ranks highly in the years performances.

Arnold is always willing to provide data to the Performance Team and he is and Adviser on the T&F selection committee and a member of T&F commission. He also attends T&F meetings where he can usually be found seeding events.”

Clearly a man of many talents, he is still not as well known in the wider world of Scottish and British athletics as he should be.   With this in mind we asked Arnold about his career in athletics and he was good enough to complete a questionnaire on his involvement in the sport as a statistician.

How did you get involved in the sport?   Were you a competitor at school?   Was there someone who encouraged you?   “There was no background in sport – I wasn’t talented although I played football (for enjoyment) and table tennis.   I came to the sport through the statistics side (as I learned later did Peter Matthews).  I always had a great affinity with numbers and was attracted to all sports – my parents I think were worried that I was going to become a professional gambler, as horse racing  attracted my attention for a while, but I settled on athletics and my interest was boosted around the time of the 1970 Games.”

Your Twitter account indicates that you are a Rangers fan:  – were you never tempted to be a football statistician?   “I keep football stats as well but I’m more attracted to the game than to the stats.   I found when I turned to athletics that there weren’t many people doing it.”

Can you give me some dates – when you joined SATS, when you became involved with Scottish Athletics (or was it the SAAA then?)   “I used to go to athletic meetings and take a note of the results and keep my own ranking lists.   I think I probably eased off when I was studying but picked it up again in the early 1980’s.   When Scotland’s Runner came out for the first time in 1986, you’ll find a letter from me in issue 2 bemoaning the poor coverage of results.   When they started including ranking lists (1988) it was for women (by Ian Steedman) and junior men (Jeff Carter).   When I asked about senior men, they asked if I would do it for them, and my first lists were published at the end of that year.

By that time (I’m a bit hazy on dates and sequences) Colin Shields had sought me out and I had joined the SAAA selection committee, under the chairmanship of the wonderful George Duncan.   In 1989, the SAAA formed a Records and Statistics Sub-Committee, convened by Colin, to update the SAAA records and Colin and Myself have been on that Committee to this day, currently with Graham McDonald.   Shortly after, I think I was appointed by the SAAA as their official statistician.

The SATS Yearbook had not been published since the 1983 edition and in 1992 I was part of a group who had expressed interest in reforming the SATS.   The membership of SATS at that time (as in the 1993 Yearbook) included Colin Shields, Dudley Brotchie, Ritchie Bunker, Robert Carrie, Fraser Clyne, Norrie Griffiths, Derek McGinley, Margaret McInally, David Morrison and George Young and we put ranking lists together to restart the Yearbook in 1993.

At the turn of the century, I attended a Scottish athletics AGM by request from Colin to ask questions on a rather dodgy set of accounts.   By that time (since 1993) I was a partner in the long-established Glasgow Chartered Accountancy practice of Alexander Sloan.   Following the meeting, the finance director resigned and I was asked by David Joy if I would replace him.   I acted in that (voluntary) role for a few years and stayed on the board for a year or so after.   I resigned in 2007 after I fell out with the board over new selection  procedures they were intent on bringing in.

Since then, I was on the track and field commission for a few years but came off that and reduced my work as an official (seeding).   I retain my roles as adviser to the selection committee and on the records committee.”

How much time do you spend on statistics?   “Varies – depends on what I’m researching.  I tend to get a bit obsessive when I’m doing it.   I guess it’s about 10 to 20 hours a week.”

Do you have a particular area of interest as a statistician?   “My main aim is accuracy so it doesn’t matter what the event is.   I also like researching the historical stuff – for the book and for the website.   If you were to pin me down to favourite events, then it has to be the 800/1500m.”

How did you get involved in the website?   Do you have a collaborator or army of collaborators to help?   “The sales of the yearbook were falling and the last yearbook (2009) sold only 200 copies.   The advent of the internet and the Power of 10 had taken away from the attraction of the yearbook and I really didn’t want to publish it when we were having such difficulty selling it.   But I didn’t want to give up what I was doing and so decided to do the website.   Alan Scobie helped set it up in 2010 and I’ve been doing it ever since.   Everything on it (apart from the occasional submitted articles) is by me.   No collaborators, although if someone was interested that would be great.   In 2015 the website got 33, 664 visitors, visiting 2.47 pages on average.   If this current January figures carry on, then 2014 will get over 40,000 visits.”

Why did you start the forum?   “Initially I didn’t want a forum as I feel they can be dominated by a few individuals.   I’d hoped people would be willing to submit articles but that never really took off.  When the Unofficial SAL forum announced last year that it was winding up, I thought that it was important that a vehicle like it be continued as a voice to question issues in the sport.   I had a look around the internet to see what was involved, found out that it was quite easy, and so offered to continue the forum on the scotstats site.   It would be nice if we got more people joining and more contributing, but I’m quite happy with the way it has gone.”

How did you and Colin get together?   How often do you meet up these days?   It would have been mid-80s when he approached me for the SAAA selection committee, I think.   We live less than a mile apart so it was easy to meet.   We worked closely on the book after which we both probably needed a break from each other.   I see him mainly for our quarterly records committee meetings but speak to him at other times.

 Any more books in the pipeline?   I’m hoping Colin and I can collaborate again later this year to put the book up on the website and continue to maintain and update it.   But nothing else planned.

Arnold Black 1

Nobody has a higher regard for Arnold than Colin Shields who said that their friendship goes back to the days of ‘Scotland’s Runner’: when the magazine folded they got in touch about SATS and the reintroduction of the annual yearbook.   Arnold took over the administration side being responsible for the production and printing of the yearbook (collecting stats, typing the whole thing out, getting the disk to the printers) while Colin did the summaries and did the advertisers since he knew most of the road race organisers.  They worked together on the content with Colin doing the summary of each event that appeared at the head of the statistics.   We speak of the ‘Scottish Athletics Yearbook’ but we also need to look at just what the two colleagues did.

The first statistical booklet that I bought was ‘Scottish Athletics 1964’ and it cost 2/6d (12 1/2 p).   It was smaller than A5 in size and ran to 22 pages plus the cover.   It had been produced by Simon Pearson and was the fifth consecutive booklet that he had compiled.   It covered only the top senior men and women and the depth in each event varied – for instance there were 33 in the 880 yards and 12 in the steeplechase.   It was a valuable booklet in that it listed the top domestic performers and also had the marks of Scots living abroad.   By 1967 he had enlarged it to 40 pages with a picture of Jim Alder on the cover.   It covered Senior Men, Juniors and Youths (U17), Senior Women, Intermediates and Junior Ladies and Scots living abroad.   The lists had one entry per athlete and the typical event section had (a) comments on the event; (b) results of championships; then for each athlete there was name, club, time/height or distance, position in the competition and date the mark was achieved.   But Simon was emigrating later that year and he appealed for someone to continue the project.

Arnold 64

It appeared the following year (Scottish Athletics 1968) thanks to the efforts of Dave Keddie, Ian Steedman and Ian Cameron.   The information for each athlete was as outlined above.     It was more of a book and ran to 83 page and was liberally illustrated with a host of advertisements.   Edited by Duncan McKechnie who noted that this was the 24th edition of the yearbook and thanked Ian Steedman, Jeff Carter and John Softley for compiling the lists and various others who had taken care of the production, advertising and photographs.   The content had expanded to include all-time lists. records and best performances, commonwealth games results, international matches results, league tables, championship results and of course best performances for 1982.   It really was a good production but there were no more after 1983 until Arnold and Colin set about producing the book again in 1993 following the demise of the ‘Scotland’s Runner’ magazine which had been assiduously printing ranking lists, etc, since 1986.

The first joint production was called ‘Scottish Athletics Yearbook 1993 – statistical review of 1992’.   It ran to 104 pages, by far the biggest ever, and included a lot of new material.   There were Scottish national, native and all-comers records (mark, athlete venue and date) for all age groups, rankings (men, Juniors, Youths and Senior Boys; women Intermediates, Juniors, Girls and Minor Girls).   For each event there was a comment on the event during the year and the standards within the event plus results of all district, schools and national championships,   and then the individual rankings.   This was another area where Black and Shields took a lot of trouble.   There were separate columns for performance, name, club, date of birth, place in the competition, venue and date.   Seven details for each mark.   But they also   began each list with the top 20 performances by Scots which meant that every good performance by any athlete could be seen, event dominance could be seen by the number of times a particular athlete appeared in the top twenty – eg in the 800m, Tom McKean had 12 times listed indicating a clear dominance.   The book was a real pleasure to read and contained so much information.   They went on in 1994 to turn out a book with a square spine that ran to almost 200 pages – almost double the size of the year before.   SATS that year consisted of those listed by Arnold in his reply above but his introduction contained the interesting phrase “we have compiled these lists by pestering meeting organisers in our attempt to obtain 100% accuracy”, giving a clear indication that their role was more than a passive pen and ink task in the comfort of their front room.   By now the yearbook included Commonwealth Games results, records, all-time best performances, 1993 Scottish champions, 1993 ranking lists, Veterans, Road and Cross-Country, 1993 international results, 1993 club competitions, indoor records and 1992/93 indoor ranking lists.   There were many photographs and a number of advertisements.

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The yearbook continued to grow – demand was high and it was eagerly looked forward to from about February.   I used to buy three copies – one because athletes always wanted to refer and would sit around before or after training scrutinising it – on warm weather training breaks it was always at any time of day being picked over by idle athletes – officials at sports meetings often wanted to look at it to check what the record for a particular event was, the second was to use myself, and the third was to sit on the shelf in case of emergency.   By 2009 it was 322 pages long with a glossy cover, it cost £6 (compared to £2 in 1993), contained colour photographs and many advertisements as well as the information sought after.   Contents by now included athletes of the year, club of the year, My Most Memorable Race (Lawrie Spence), The Vicissitudes of Olympic Year (Ron Morrison), Performance Trends 2002-2003, Scottish records, All time best performances, Scottish Champions 1989-2008, 50 years of Scottish Rankings, Guide to 2008 rankings, Senior and Junior Men’s Ranking Lists, Photograph Section, Senior and Junior Women’s lists, Scotland’s Jumping Wiomen, The Lessons of History (Doug Gillon), In Memory – John Innes, Masters Athletics, Road and Cross-Country, International Results 2008, Club Competitions 2008, Indoor Athletics, Index to Advertisers, Commonwealth Games 2010.   So much in there – note that from three advertisers back in the 60’s there were now so many that a special index had to be included!   The articles on the sport were always welcome but the guts of the book was always the performances by the athletes and this yearbook was the authoritative focal point for all of these.   It really was a wonderful production and real shame when it stopped.   A very good reference book had become in the hands of SATS, under the Black and Shields leadership an essential tool for anyone interested in athletics.

Arnold Past

As far as “The Past Is a Foreign Country” is concerned, both men wanted to put together a track and field book that would rival and complement the work done on ‘Whatever the Weather’.   When they sat down to draw up the list of 100 names for part three, they agreed that every track and field event should have at least one representative.  They each – separately – listed their own top 100: 86 names appeared on each list – a degree of agreement that it would take a statistician to calculate!   But we’re not finished – after looking at each other’s remaining 14, they then listed their own candidates and found that they had agreed, sight unseen, on ten.    Quite amazing.    Not surprisingly Colin, like others I have spoken to, finds Arnold very easy to work with.

An interesting fact about the yearbook is that every member of the Scottish team for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014was given a copy when the team assembled at their Kilmarnock HQ, courtesy of Scottish athletics: they saw what they had to live up to!

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Colin Shields (foreground)

So far we have only been looking at Arnold’s activities in Scotland but a statistician as good as he is will always being demand.   Arnold is a member of NUTS – SATS older brother – and supplies statistics to a number of  other bodies including Trackstats.   In this context he has been presented with the prestigious Richard Szretzer Award an international award for statisticians.    This was hosted by the NUTS at a Dinner in London and Arnold was invited down and the presentation was made there.   I asked his colleague, the highly-regarded international statistician Bob Phillips who stayed with Arnold at the time of the Commonwealth Games, said “Of course, I’d known about the excellent work that Arnold and Colin Shields had been doing regarding the history and statistics of Scottish athletics, now supplemented by the invaluable Scottish distance running website, but I had never met Arnold. In recent years, having moved to South West France to live, my contacts with domestic athletics in Britain had vastly decreased, but I still regularly attended major international meetings in various countries and I was determined to get to at least a couple of days of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, having first attended that gathering as a very youthful enthusiast in Cardiff in 1958.

Arnold generously provided me with accommodation at his apartment in an appealing residential area of Glasgow. Not only that, but he and Colin arranged a sociable evening at a nearby restaurant for visiting members of the NUTS. That same year the wittily entitled “The Past Is A Foreign Country” was published to add immeasurably to our knowledge of the sport in Scotland.”

Of course there’s more to Arnold than athletics as you will see when you visit his Twitter account: oh, yes, he’s well into the twenty first century.   It’s not just the website for scotstats – there is also a facebook page.   His twitter address is where he says he describes himself as “Rangers fan, athletics historian, chartered accountant.   My tweets will mainly be about Rangers and Scottish athletics, not so much about accountancy.”   He didn’t realise that he’d have fellow Rangers fans following him and tweeting about the club’s finances!    Go and have a look and check out the scotstats facebook page at – it is well worth a visit and has not just more information on the sport but different information with lots of photographs.

Arnold has other interests out side the sport of course – indeed athletics was a form of relaxation when he took it up while working as an accountant full time, and when he was younger he played table tennis: a sport in which his father was a good standard player who represented Glasgow.   Although he still does work professionally with selected clients, he reads a lot, mainly using his Kindle, and likes to travel.   Indeed he has a property in Spain where he spends some time every year.

Arnold will be a difficult act for anyone to follow.

Bob Dalgleish

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Bob Dalgleish

Bob Dalgleish was born in 1936 and died on 22nd October 1990.  He was only 54 and had only come into the sport in the early 1950s when he joined Springburn Harriers.   He achieved more in less than 40 years than many who had been involved for decades longer.   Writing this in 2015, it is very difficult indeed to realise that he has been dead for 25 years.   Always immaculately turned out, always pleasant and friendly, I don’t know of anyone who didn’t get on with Bob.

To start with a brief survey of his career I would like to reprint Tommy O’Reilly’s appreciation that appeared in ‘Scotland’s Runner for December, 1990.

It was with shock and a great sense of loss that I learned of the untimely death of Bob Dalgleish.   I first got to know Bob in the early 50’s when we both joined Springburn Harriers.   Bob represented the club as a sprinter and he would be the first to admit that he was never a star, but always ran with great determination and commitment.   In an administrative capacity, Springburn were indeed fortunate to have a man with the leadership qualities that Bob was to display time and time again over the years, both at club level and in the wider field of international athletics.   Bob will be remembered by many as the president of the Scottish Cross-Country Union, as the president of the Scottish Amateur Athletic Association  and also as the Secretary of the SCCU, a post he was to hold for ten years.  

But it is the ordinary man and woman in the street who will remember Bob more than most, the thousands who ran in the Glasgow Marathon and the many who lined the streets of Glasgow to cheer on their own particular heroes.    To them Bob has left a wonderful legacy of personal achievement and undiminishing memories of their day of days, but my own memories of Bob Dalgleish, MBE, are more humble and unpretentious.   They are of a hard working club secretary, a diligent treasurer and a very distinguished club president.”

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A Springburn club group, 1950’s: Bob Dalgleish second right, back row

Bob had come into the sport as a teenager and as a runner but the club quickly discovered his talents as an organiser and his predilection for hard work and he filled all the major offices in the club – secretary, treasurer and president.   These were positions that would hold for many organisations over the years to come.   The speed of his progress as rapid.

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Bob (far right) on a Sunday training session from Johnny Ballantyne’s house with

?, Danny Wilmoth, Johnny and Tom O’Reilly

Elected to the SAAA general committee in 1966, by 1970 he was Officials Controller for athletics at the Commonwealth Games and his progress through the ranks to Grade 1 Track Judge was equally swift and by 1976, ten years after election to General Committee he was President of the SAAA.    Simultaneously he had been working with the Scottish Cross-Country Union and from 1972 to 1982 he was Secretary of the Union, handing over to Ian Clifton in 1982, although he was not to become President until season 1989-90.  Before Ian took over as secretary, he and Bob went to the world cross-country championships in Dusseldorf in 1977 prior to the World Championships being held in Bellahouston in 1978.   Lessons were learned that helped make the 1978 occasion a great success.   So much so that in 1979 Bob was elected to the executive committee of World Cross.

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Springburn presentation, 1960’s: Bob, second right, front row

Bob held the post of Sports Promotion Officer for the City of Glasgow from 1978 until his death in 1990.   From what we know already, the late 1970’s were important, and very active, years for Bob.   Appointed to the sports promotion post in 1978, world cross championships in Glasgow in 1978, 1979 election to world cross executive, and in 1979 the first of the big Glasgow City Marathons took place with Bob very active in its planning and organisation.   It was the time of the ‘running boom’ with tens of thousands wanting to run the marathon distance of 26+ miles and the Glasgow event was one of the very biggest and best.   A lot of the credit for that must go to Bob, the committees he worked with and the structures that he put in place.

Bob was always affable and was so easy to get on with that many did not see the efficient organiser at work.   One of the essentials is getting the right people in place and delegating.   Alastair Shaw was one of his marathon team and he has this to say about his own experiences.

“In 1982 I was honoured to be asked by Bob’s right hand man in the Glasgow Marathon, Bob Stephen, if I would join the Marathon technical Committee to turn my organisational skills to running the watering stations at the first GM.   I happily agreed and am proud to have contributed to the first two of a very successful series of races before my relocation to Clackmannanshire precluded continued participation at my previous level (I did however continue to assist at the finish for another couple of years).   Although I’d been involved with the sport for around 15 years by then I’d only occasionally encountered Bob at mixed events as my involvement was mostly in the women’s side and his the men’s.   However we both worked for Glasgow City Council. So upon appointment my first action was to look him up in the internal phone directory to see what his job actually was and where he sat in his departmental hierarchy. ‘Recreation Officer’ is what I found. An apparently fairly junior position. However I was soon to find out what a meaningless title it was.

At our first meeting we very loosely discussed the time demands of my role and Bob said he’d have a word behind the scenes so my boss cut me a bit of slack.  True enough a day or so my very formal boss called for Mr Shaw and let me know that he’d been given to understand that I was involved in some way in the marathon and that he understood that I might disappear from time to time.
6pm about 3 weeks later, after I’d spent the whole day driving around the route with the BBC for them to work out their camera angles, I mentioned to Bob that I was slightly concerned that I was doing none of my real work at all.   Don’t worry says Bob.
First thing the next morning my office door just about burst from its hinges as my boss stormed in to tell me he did not appreciate being hauled in to the Deputy Town clerks office at 8:30am and given a dressing down.  He wanted to make it crystal clear that I could spend as much time on Marathon matters as I needed and that he didn’t expect to discuss the matter again.
Bob was probably the best ambassador the city could ever have had for sport and I felt terribly for him at the utter shambles that was the European Indoor Championships in 1990 organised by the Associations rather than his under his city remit.   It was possibly the most shambolic meeting I’ve ever attended and that includes Scottish and North-Western League meetings.   It was truly embarrassing and pretty much wrecked all the excellent work that Bob had painstakingly performed over many years and led to the BAAB advising Glasgow privately they wouldn’t be considered again for a major event for years.” 

As an example of the influence that Bob had at that time, this takes a bit of beating.  Remember that he was also a member of the IAAF at this time, he was involved in the build up to the 1986 Commonwealth Games as part of his role with SAAA.

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Bob, second left, watching leaders in an international 1K Road race that he had helped bring to Glasgow

A founder member of BARR (British Association of Road Races), Bob was also a member of AIMS.  AIMS was the ‘Association of International Marathons’ and became the ‘Association of International Marathons and Distance Races’, founded in London in May, 1982,  aiming at the establishment of a ‘World Circuit’ of marathons with representatives of New York, Honolulu, Boston, London, Frankfurt and many others including Glasgow.   

The Circuit idea eventually fell by the wayside but other reasons remained for Marathon directors to continue to meet, not least in order to formalise an administrative system for the measurement of marathons to ensure they were of the correct length. All members of the Association were to meet strict measurement criteria to prove that they were indeed of Marathon length.   Bob was the Glasgow man and he was so effective that he became the third ever president of AIMS.  Will Cloney of Boston was the first, Chris Brasher the second and  Bob took over from Chris Brasher in 1987.   The obituary posted by AIMS  said of Bob that “the Association owes much to the innovation, expertise, time and honesty he gave as President. He always had time to listen to every side of a discussion, and stood firm on the policies that have built AIMS to the position of respect and strength that it holds today”.  

It was at the 4th World Congress of AIMS in Manila where Chris Brasher handed over to Bob Dalgleish that the Association expanded to embrace road races of distances other than the Marathon. The Berlin 25km and the Gothenburg Half Marathon were two of the first non-Marathon events to join.   This was one of the changes that Bob had to supervise.   He held the post of president until his death in 1990 when he was succeeded by Hiroaki Chosa of the Fukuoka Marathon.   Achieving this position was quoted by AIMS as being Bob’s proudest and most treasured achievement in athletics.

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Bob on the right with Danny and Molly Wilmoth at Bonnybridge in 1954

Firmly established on the world stage was Bob did not forget Scotl and and was very active with the Glasgow Marathon and its successor the Great Scottish run.

Below – where it all started!   Bob as a runner in the early 1950’s, just after joining Springburn Harriers, back row on the left.   Tom O’Reilly is fifth from the left in the second row with Eddie Sinclair one place further along to the right and Tom Tracey in front.    Bob never really left the club and remained a member all his life.   For a time his affiliation was listed in the SAAA Handbook as ‘Bute Shinty AC’ – although the thought of Bob playing shinty seems a bit incongruous – this was purely a political move and to do with the rules of the association at the time.   There were several other examples of good club men representing other groups – eg Alex Naylor, as stalwart a Shettleston Harrier as you will ever find, represented Lanarkshire AAA, as did loyal Springburn man Eddie Taylor.    Clubs could not pack the SAAA and there was an upper limit of two per club and Shettleston were represented by Bob Peel and Eddie Taylor, when Bob came along Springburn had Jim Morton in place.   Nothing should be read into the ‘Bute Shinty’ connection: he was a Springburn Harrier!

Bob Hut

George Duncan

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I first met George Duncan in the mid-1980’s when I became team manager for the Clydesdale Harriers team in the Scottish Athletics League – it was a new venture for the club which went on to be a very successful squad over the following twelve or thirteen years.   George was a great help to me in all sorts of ways and I soon learned to respect in the highest degree the volume and quality of his work.   At a time when there were five divisions in the league, four of eight teams and one which sometimes had eight but often only six, and when all matches were held on a Sunday at two – or even three – different venues, George would have the printed results – individual positions and performances for every athlete in every division as well as team scores and league positions by Thursday morning’s post.   This was not a wee six-month flurry of enthusiasm, it went on match after match, year after year with seldom a break.   On its own that was a wonderful performance but there was much more to him than that.

To start at the beginning, George Duncan was not a lifetime athlete – in fact I can’t find any evidence that he ever ran a race in his adult life.   His involvement in the sport began when, in 1975, his daughter, Margaret, brought home a letter from Perth Strathtay Harriers containing a plea for volunteer help.   The club, as Doug Gillon said, “hit the jackpot, and so did the sport of athletics. Not only did George prove an outstanding club servant, becoming its secretary for 25 years, but he went on to coach a succession of outstanding competitors, and to hold just about every post of responsibility in the Scottish Athletics Federation.”   When he died in 2000, after a short illness, at the age of 63, Doug reported that “it will be keenly felt far beyond his own home and family. Few people are irreplaceable, but track and field will need to enlist a regiment to do what George did in addition to his day job as joint-managing director of the Tayside Grain Company in Perth.”  

GD 2008 001

Following on for a bit from Doug’s comment, George’s work-load was prodigious.  In reply to a query,  he once admitted to 40 hours a week was regularly done, unpaid, by his family on athletics business.   On another occasion he replied that he had once calculated his expenditure on the sport and reckoned that it came to approximately £2000.   But then like many officials, he was involved in the sport because he loved the sport.   An old club official in my own club once said that ‘you do what your club needs you to do.’   This was a precept that George, and many another official lived by.  His work went beyond the club and he did what his sport needed him to do.   But essentially he was a member of Perth Strathtay Harriers where he was committee man, coach, trackside helper – and whatever was needed.

Club mate Jim Hunter has this to say: “I joined Perth Strathtay Harriers in the late 1970s… George and Margaret Duncan were firmly established as willing parent volunteers in the club. Their three daughters, Margaret (jnr), Ialene and Morna were all members at one time or another. Margaret helped with coaching, George was already the Club Secretary – a role he held for the next 20+ years. George was tenacious in his approach to getting things done – if he couldn’t do it himself he knew someone who could help. He always put the athletes at the centre of what was important. His volunteering interests were wide ranging. He was involved in many youth organisations in Perth and Kinross: The Boys Brigade, Perth and District Badminton, Perth and Kinross Sports Council. As I embarked on gaining my athletics coaching qualifications alongside his wife Margaret Duncan – George went down an ‘officials’ route…. and ended up a senior Marksman with Scottish Athletics. Margaret developed a successful sprints group and ‘team Duncan’ supported coach and athletes all the way. Names like Graeme Lammie, Jimmy Nicoll, Richard McDonald all were helped by George to reach their full athletics potential. George seemed to be able to meet any challenge with ease: officiating, organising leagues, teams, meetings with local and national organisations… But he was always there for the athletes, sharing a joke at training or at competitions “.   Probably because of his deep involvement with his own club, George understood the feelings of members of other clubs – loyalty to Perth Strathtay did not blind him to the similar feelings held by others of their clubs.   One example of this.   Clydesdale Harriers started to take league athletics seriously in the mid 1980’s.   The club worked its way up to the first division of four (as it was at that time) and in that season finished sixth, seventh and sixth in the first three matches and were sixth, well clear of the seventh team, going in to the final match.   In that match, the club which was seventh ‘beefed up’ its squad by bringing in half a dozen athletes from a London club and so gained enough points to move up to sixth overall and we were relegated.   I’ve never seen so many senior men, including several Scottish internationalists so deflated.   George was not at that Meadowbank match but on the following Wednesday at an open meeting at Crown Point he put out a call for me to report to the admin room.  When I got there he said he was sorry for what had happened to our club, he thought what had happened was wrong and would bring it up at the AGM.   It was a thoughtful gesture.

George street

 Yet you could never call him one of the blazer brigade. More usually George would be found in his immaculate white shirt, with sleeves rolled up, mucking in wherever work had to be done.   He  was always a smoker: during any lull in proceedings, he would be found having a quick draw.  Jim Hunter says that it was his infectious laugh and a cigarette in hand that remain firmly in his memory.   Doug reports that ‘the once-fickle fire-alarm system at Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall was was believed to have been personally engineered for his convenience.’

George was perhaps best known to the athletics world as an administrator and official.  He was a grade one track referee who officiated at the highest levels within Scotland including the 1986 Commonwealth Games, where the rules are rigidly applied.  He cheerfully and diplomatically defused many heated moments, but his regard for the young was evident at one schools meeting where an Irish lad, on his international debut, stepped out of lane.   He should, indeed, have been disqualified, but George dismissed the protest rather than traumatise the youngster and perhaps lose him to the sport.   When the Scottish Athletics Federation replaced the former governing body, the SAAA, their first handbook had George noted in many categories: as an administrator he was convenor of the Track & Field Commission and secretary of Perth Strathtay Harriers, and as an official he was qualified as a Track Referee, a Wind Gauge Operator and Photo-Finish Film Reader.   Not noted in the book, he served variously with the national governing body as chair of the track and field commission, on the international selection committee, part of that also as chairman.   He was secretary of the Scottish men’s league for more than 20 years, chairman of the Young Athletes’ League for 13 years, treasurer of the Scottish Women’s League for 10 years, founder and secretary of the national indoor league, and a great friend of school athletics – most of that simultaneously.   He was grants co-ordinator for lottery awards, and a proponent of the grassroots Sportshall athletics programme for the very young.

George in stadium

Alex Naylor once described a member of an SAAA sub-committee as ‘an apology for somebody who couldn’t be there’.   We all know the kind of committee man he meant but George was far from that.   He always stood up for what he thought was the right thing to do, no matter who he was up against.   Some examples.  First I quote from an article in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ of 6th November 1993.

” NOT for the first time, UK athletics rules have been changed for the benefit of English competitors to the detriment of Scots — but this time the English may have over-played their hand.   George Duncan, convener of the Scottish Athletic Federation track and field commission, has appealed to the British federation, asking that a vote by the UK Women’s League last weekend be declared unconstitutional.   The league voted 15-13 to exclude secondary first-claim members — namely, those who are members of one club for the purpose of local competition, but who also join larger clubs to compete at UK level.

The rule prevents large clubs monopolising top athletes and allows the smaller clubs which nurtured them to benefit locally. It is of particular benefit to Scotland, who have just three clubs in the UK league.   An unsavoury whiff of sour grapes hangs over the vote which changed the rules, for it was aimed at City of Glasgow, who have just won the UK league for the first time.   The English believe many secondary athletes were used. In fact, Glasgow used only one.

Duncan believes the league rule conflicts with BAF legislation which permits secondary competition, and fears that if the women get away with such a change, the men’s league may attempt a similar move at their annual meeting shortly. If successful, it would prevent many leading Scots from competing for their Scottish clubs next summer.   The league also voted to become a senior-only contest, following the inclusion of female competition in the previously all-male McDonald’s Young Athletes League.”

That was George in one role, arguing on Scotland’s behalf with the UK Women’s League.  This next extract speaks for itself:

“Athletics facilities in Glasgow cost almost twice as much to hire as the national stadium in Edinburgh or comparable facilities at Grangemouth and Greenock.   ”The Scottish men’s athletics league has not hired any Glasgow track this year, because the prices we were charged for their other facility last season, at Crownpoint, were too expensive,” said league secretary George Duncan.   ”The women’s league, of which I am treasurer, was presented with a bill for more than #500 for our first meeting this year.   ”We finally settled for #461, but will not be going back. We can get cheaper facilities elsewhere. If the same price structure applies at Scotstoun, we will not be using it all – the leagues would go out of business.”   Duncan, also chairman of the McDonald’s league for Young Athletes, confirms however, that they will use Scotstoun track this weekend.

”We will decide afterwards whether to continue,” he said. ”McDonald’s put #8000 into the young athletes’ league, so they can afford the charges, but the bank’s sponsorship is not a full commercial one – #1200 – so the women’s league certainly cannot afford such charges.   ”With another sponsor, TSB, withdrawing from district, junior, and schools athletics next year, I can see very little prospect of events at Scotstoun.   Both men’s and women’s leagues will continue going to Edinburgh’s Meadowbank, because it is far better value.”

Note that that’s George in three different league posts simultaneously – Men’s League, Women’s League and Young Athletes League.   Many, indeed most, would shy away from any one of the three, it takes someone a bit different to take on three responsible posts and do them so well that at the AGM the comment is to recommend no change!   And it was not just league issues that saw George Duncan spring into action.     In the following report he is taking on the British Athletic Federation on behalf of Scottish officials.  The BAF was threatening to remove many Scottish officials from their list of approved officials because they had not officiated in any match south of the border for two years.

“George Duncan, who regularly works more than 40 hours a week, unpaid, in 10 different roles from selector to coach, says: ”BAF haven’t staged a meeting here in all that time. Why should Scots suffer because of their failures? Driving to a BAF event in Birmingham, with no living expenses, means a 17-hour day. If BAF do not relent, I will withdraw from officiating at all events and serve only my club and schools.”

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In Perth, on club coaching nights, he would be found with his clipboard, rain, hail, or shine. This continued even during the last months of his terminal illness.   Two generations of successful athletes have reason to be grateful to him, up to his most major success, Richard McDonald, whom he steered to the silver medal in the 400m hurdles at the European under-20 championships in 1999.  He was commended as Scottish Coach of the Year.   Richard was best known as a 400m hurdler with a best time of 50.7, but he also had a 110 hurdles time of 15.53, 47.67 for 400m flat and 1:51.48 for 800m.    Competitively, Richard ran in the Commonwealth Games of 2002, and domestically won the Scottish 400m Hurdles in 2002, was second in 2001 and third in 1997.   If we need more evidence of his coaching, then we need look no further than James Nicol from the mid 80’s.   James had a 400m pb of 47.11 and made the semi finals of the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games event at that distance.   James also had a 10.7 100m and a 22.02 200m.

It says something about George Duncan that he was twice (1991 and 1999) awarded the Tom Stillie Memorial Trophy, a massive claymore presented annually to the Scot deemed to have contributed most to Scottish athletics.    Only one other person has twice been the recipient – Olympic 100 metres champion Allan Wells.   Locally too, his contribution was not taken for granted: he was presented with the George Mortimer Memorial Trophy for lifetime service to sport by the Perth & Kinross Council.   He was himself a past chairman of Perth and Kinross Sports Council, and a driving force behind the establishment of the local sports medical centre.   He was a leading figure in the Boys’ Brigade, and was active as a youth club leader in Blairgowrie where he grew up, one of a family of three girls and two boys.

In 2008 when the new all-weather athletics facility was opened in the grounds of Perth Grammar School at a cost of one million pounds,  it was called the George Duncan Athletics Arena and a fine tribute to the man it is.   Eight lane track with facilities for all field events and as much equipment as such a centre needs.   Of course Perth Strathtay Harriers are proud to call it home.   To mark the opening an athletics event was held on 10th August 2008.   The Perth Common Good Fund Committee agreed to give a grant of £1000 to Perth Strathtay Harriers towards the cost of running the meeting – estimated to be about £7500, with a similar sum coming from the Corporate Financial Assistance budget.

George award 1

Many compliments and appreciations were published after his death and a few are reprinted here.   First, we have statistician Arnold Black’s tribute printed in the Scottish Athletics Yearbook in 2000.

“As this book goes to press, I have learned of the death of George Duncan.   For the second time in preparing this book for publication, I am filled with emotion as I type a page.   Everyone in Scottish athletics knew George Duncan.  In my relatively short involvement in the sport, I have never come across anyone who worked so tirelessly for the good of Scottish Athletics, without looking for anything other than to benefit the people involved in athletics, whether they be athletes, officials or sponsors.

He has been a great supporter of the Scottish Association of Track Statisticians, by speaking up for s when he felt it necessary, by providing us with information, by selling books for us, often paying us in advance before the books were sold.   e had no hesitation in  inviting George to be the first Honorary Member of the S.A.T.S.    I hope he would have enjoyed this book, which contains a foreword by one of the young athletes he helped progress in the sport, Richard McDonald.

There are people in athletics who work to some hidden agenda.   George was not one of them.  He was always fair, honest and supportive of good causes.   He was tremendously helpful to me personally and i consider it a pleasure and a privilege to have known him.

I will miss him.   I feel sure everyone in Athletics will miss him.   One thing is certain – Athletics in Scotland will not be the same without him.”

Doug Gillon said that   “I found George a marvelous and highly intelligent enthusiast for the sport, whose work was prodigious. At a personal level I found him most helpful, approachable and encouraging, and that resulted in, I believe, a heightened profile for the sport.”I

Charles Bannerman from Inverness had this to add:

“In 1988, Inverness Harriers finished second in the SYAL behind Clydebank. This was the first year that the Scottish champions were invited to compete in the English Auxiliary Final but Clydebank had to turn the invitation down because, due to the ineligibility of a large number of their English second claim athletes, they didn’t have a viable team.
The invitation then passed to Inverness who duly went to Birmingham armed, among other things, with 130 sprigs of white heater to distribute as gestures of goodwill. Immediately after that final George, in his SYAL capacity, had a letter in the Inverness Courier praising the manner in which Inverness had represented Scotlandat te event. That certainly did the club a whole lot of good on the local scene at a time when upgrading the Queens Park was an ongoing campaign.
My own recollections of George are that I simply could never understand how one man could put in so much top quality, high level voluntary work on behalf of a sport.”

Barry Craighead

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Barry Craighead is one of the best known, best liked and most respected figures in Scottish athletics.   Known to most of today’s athletes as a starter, he has in his career been a top class cyclist, a runner with Edinburgh AC, an administrator, and an official operating to the highest international standard.

B Craighead 1

Many very good Scottish athletes such as John Kerr, Hugo Fox and Hugh Mitchell started out as cyclists.   Several athletes have turned to cycling too but few have achieved as much as Barry has.  He was a cyclist for 18 years and a good one at that.   He won the Army cycling championships when he was doing his national service and rode for the Army in the Tour of Britain race.   We have a gallery of some of Barry’s souvenirs linked to this profile which contains some evidence of this.   Seeing himself mainly as an endurance cyclist cyclo-cross competitor, in 1958 he covered over 235 miles in 12 hours on the bike, in 1959 aged 21 he won the Scottish Cyclo-Cross championship and there is also in the gallery a certificate he received when he finished third in the East of Scotland Championship after covering distances of 25, 50, 100 Miles and 12 hours  at an average speed of over 21 mph.

Barry became involved in the organisation and administration of cycling and in 1970 was a member of the Cycling Technical Committee for the Commonwealth Games as well as being involved in athletics at the same Games.   Indeed, such was his enthusiasm that he remained on the Commonwealth Games organising Committee for both sports – 12 years for cycling and 15 years for athletics.

Barry Craighead topless

Barry was also the first Scot to become a Commissaire – an official in competitive cycling who equates pretty well to that of referee at an athletics meeting: he supervises the organisation of the race, briefing the riders and officials, checking that all equipment complies with regulations, is responsible for resolving disputes and complaints and so on.   In 1970 after the Games at Meadowbank, he acted in that capacity at the World Championships in Leicester.  A talent that probably nobody in athletics knows about, is that of cycle wheel changing – read on.

“When the Scottish Milk Race sets of from Glasgow next Tuesday, the 52 world class cyclists competing will be relying on one of the most important men behind the scenes to keep their wheels turning – Barry Craighead from Edinburgh.   Service operator Barry will be responsible for on-the-road repairs during the 5-day 55-mile event aided by a team of six cycle mechanics.   Barry holds the world’s record for a complete wheel change – 23 seconds .   The spare parts for the race could fill a cycle shop but competitors will be hoping they won’t be needed.”   The article continues but the important part for me illustrates another of his talents.

BC Worlds Leics 70

While he was in the Army with cycling as his real competitive sport, he started cross-country running as a means of getting fit for cyclo-cross.   He ran well, won the Scottish Army championship and started to take running a bit more seriously.    On demob from the army he joined Edinburgh Athletic Club – again the aim was to get fit for cyclo-cross events.   He always saw himself as an endurance cyclist.   Running, however, increased in importance.   Barry only ever had the one club – Edinburgh AC – and he raced in their colours in many races such as the Ben Nevis and other hill races, road races, the Musselburgh Festival and the National at Hamilton.   On the track he ran in the steeplechase – at Westerlands in the SAAA Championship in a field of 12 runners, he went to the front with a lap to go and then caught his spikes in the water jump barrier, tumbled into the water, and that was the end of the race for Barry.   On occasion when the club was short of a runner, he turned out in the 800m.   Others training at the same time were Eric Fisher and John Fairgrieve, both very active in Scottish athletics and known throughout the country.   Doug Gillon, athletics journalist, was also a member of Edinburgh AC at this time and says:

“I first met him when I joined Edinburgh Athletic Club in 1964. He had only recently joined EAC himself, previously having been involved in cyclo-cross. I think in the forces, but I am not sure about that. The late Jimmy Mitchell, Bert Mitchel, and Jimmy Carrigan were stalwarts of the club them. Younger guys who would have known him well from that era were John Convery (400m), Neil Donnachie, Bob Greenoak, and John Fairgrieve.    Barry and Margaret lived in Portobello at the time, and he worked as a carpenter, where much of his work was “chestings” as he put it. Chestings? “Aye, making coffins”.    More than once Jack Macfie (800m) and I would get a lift from Fords Road to Leith Links, sharing the back of his van with a coffin. As you might imagine, the banter was far from politically correct. But we never checked to see if any coffins had a resident.”

   His running career merged into his career as an official and eventually the officiating took over.

BC EAC Relay

Barry taking over in a relay for Edinburgh Athletic Club:

(Note Bertie Cox of Greenock Glenpark Harriers in the back ground, and Jim Keenan who started with Springburn Harriers before moving to EAC)

His running career merged into that as an official which eventually took over.  When he first became an official, there were not many starters about and his mentor was the highly respected Bill Fulton, and there was also help and encouragement from the legendary Fred Evans.  His first event as a starter was at a Forth Valley League match at Newhaven track in Edinburgh and he ‘served his time’ and honed his skills at many local events, before becoming a chief starter eleven years later.   Barry’s career as an official developed, and in 1971 he was appointed Chief Starter for Scotland.  A Chief Starter is qualified to take charge at all events of all standards up to and including Olympic Games.   At that time there was a Chief Starter and others graded 1,2 or 3.   There were approximately 25 starters in the country then.   But starting, although the main focus of his involvement in the sport, was not his only involvement.

As with all enthusiastic and talented individuals, he was soon on to the EAC committee and in 1975 was elected to the East District Committee of the SAAA.   A contemporary there of Oliver Dickson and Bob Greenoak he became District Secretary – a position which he still holds in 2015.   One of the genuine characters of the sport and a highly respected and capable man, Barry’s friend Claude Jones was a member of the national cross-country union and by chance they became Presidents of their respective bodies in season 1983-84 – Claude  the SCCU and Barry the SAAA.   This was the first time that two men from the same club  had held both offices simultaneously.

BC with CJ

Meanwhile his progress as the country’s top starter continued and grew even more.   He was soon officiating at 48 – 50 events a year,  sometimes over 50 races at a meeting.   He worked on the hill race circuit, at road and cross-country races but mainly in track, including some highland games meetings.   Not only was he in demand for national and district championships, he was officiating at British events.   In 1986 he was chief starter at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh which he counts as a great experience.    It is really impossible to list here all the internationals in which Barry has started but two will serve as examples of the standard.   At Meadowbank in July 1989, he was chief starter at the Miller Lite/IAC International meeting where runners such as Merlene Ottey, Kris Akabusi, Paul Ereng, Johnny Gray, Linford Christie, Denis Mitchell, Said Aouita, David Moorcroft and Sally Gunnell were all competing,  and at Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall in the McDonald’s International in February 1994, there were Kirsty Wade, Bev Kinch, Colin Jackson, Linford Christie, Jonathan Edwards (60m invitation), Katherine Merry, and others of similar calibre.

Between those events, Barry officiated at the Olympic Games in Barcelona, the only Scottish official to do so.   He had to go to Spain the year before the Olympics for three weeks to be checked for skills and competence, etc but also so that he could run the rule over the situation there.   Mainly involved in the rowing events, it was the first time in history that electronic timing had been used for rowing events.   The big events were happening with ever increasing frequency.

BC Miller Lite 890021

Barry has operated at local, Scottish, British, European, Commonwealth and Olympic levels.    A record that not many can match.

A list of events where he has been a key official would include –

* Chief starter at the Commonwealth Games in 1986;

* Chief starter at the World Cross-Country Championships in Edinburgh in 2008;

* Chief starter for the European Cross-Country Championships at Holyrood for several years;

* Chief starter for European Championships for People with a Disability;

* Chief starter at the Transplant Sport UK 3oth Anniversary event in 2007;

* Starter at numerous international fixtures – note the examples above.

* Among the top athletes who have ‘come under his gun’ but not noted already are  Allan Wells, John Walker, Ed Moses, Mary Peters, Michael Johnston, Calvin Smith, Carl Lewis, Sydney Maree, Seb Coe, Zola Budd, Liz McColgan, Yvonne Murray,  …    in fact virtually all of the top athletes for several decades would be included in any list pretending to be comprehensive.   When Oscar Pistorius set a world record in Manchester in 2010, Barry was the starter and as such had sign the record application form.

BC McDonalds Kelvin 94

Some incidents stand out – as when he recalled the field at the International Cross-Country race in Edinburgh in 2008!   When asked about it he simply says that there was no doubt that the Frenchman and the Spaniard broke the line.

Barry still operates at the National cross-country championships, helps organise and officiates on the day at the Traprain Hill Race and at the professional New Year Sprint.   One of his remarks, quoted in an article in ‘My Race’, a Scottish running magazine, was “Starting races for youngsters is most enjoyable … it’s great to see 300 kids in a line.”   Not surprisingly he has officiated at the Scottish Primary Schools cross-country championships since they started in the 1980’s.

BC Starter NY Sprint

But people like Barry are seldom involved in one role in any sport and Barry has proved himself a more than adequate administrator.   Currently on his club committee where he is Honorary President of Edinburgh Athletic Club in succession to Donald Gorrie, while Moira McGuire is chairman and working club president, having taken over from Barry who has been twice elected as President and Chairman of the club..

But there were several careers going on at once as far as Barry and athletics was concerned.   His position on the SAAA led to further international experience as a team manager.   In this capacity, he took a Scottish team to Budapest for an international fixture.   As a member of the Hill Running Commission set up when the SAAA was re-formed as the Scottish Athletics Federation, he was their East Area representative on the Federation from the very start.   In this capacity he managed hill running teams in Austria, Italy and Zermatt in Switzerland.

There have been other tasks undertaken too – many of long duration.   Barry looks after Scholarships and Grant Applications for Fife, East and West Lothian which while not as numerous as in the past, is important and not taken lightly.   When the Thistle Award Scheme started up in Frank Dick’s time as National Coach, Barry and Jeannette Heggie were involved right from the start.   It was a job that was to carry on for 24 years.


Like most of the officials of his generation, Barry had a working day well away from the sport that he loved and that was taking ever increasing amounts of his time.  Barry started out as a joiner but for the last 25 years he worked for the Northern Lighthouse Board which meant travelling all over Scotland and to the Isle of Man as well.   Back in East Linton, and a member of the Dunpender Community Council for 14 years, he is highly respected in the community where he has several responsibilities – he looks after the Community Hall, he is on the Police Committee (CAAP), helps with school sports meetings and works with the schools on Fairtrade Projects.   The organisers of the Musselburgh Riding of the Marches Festival are organising and exhibition to encourage children’s sport participation and will have Barry’s starter’s uniform and memorabilia on display.

BC Barcelona

Starters are such a common part of the scenery at athletics meetings that they are seldom given much thought.   If we take a minute and look at the demands made on them we look first at the most dramatic item of equipment in the entire arena – the gun.      The starter is not allowed to travel on public transport to the meeting and has to park his car as close to the entrance to the arena as possible.   He has of course to pay for the gun and the ammunition himself.   How much does a good gun cost?   Around £300, and remember that most starters have at least two because they often have to fire a recall gun.     He has to purchase his own guns and keep them safe.   The starter’s uniform until recently was red blazer, white shirt, tie, white trousers and white trainers, all purchased by the starter.   The rules have now been relaxed with dark trousers being worn with a red polo shirt, although Barry still likes to wear the red blazer at  track,  cross country and highland games   He also has to purchase wet weather gear which is essential in Scotland. On occasion Barry has been mildly twitted about wearing the full rigout to cross-country or hill races but that is what starters wear.   They wear it for a reason and there is no real reason NOT to have it at any meeting.

The reduced number of starters in the country gives Barry cause for concern.  There are now only 10 – 12 active starters.   When asked why this is so, he thinks that it is partly because of the increased bureaucracy but also because of the expense.   Remember that the new starter has to buy his own uniform,  buy his own gun,  buy his own ammunition.  There is a small fee from meeting organisers but that is small compared with what the new official has to pay out in hard cash to start with.  Barry does not make a big issue out of the expense, nor does any other official that I know, but it would be good were one of the sponsors of the sport take on the responsibilities of supporting the legitimate expenses of this dedicated body of men and women.   Field event officials for instance are seen with weighty bags of equipment which is necessary for efficient organisation but which is often in short supply or faulty at the venue, timekeepers have to have appropriate watches, etc.    These and other genuine expenses, including appropriate clothing should maybe have some priority in spending plans.

However, Barry’s contribution to the sport has been recognised by various bodies and the main awards have been

1996  Scottish Sports Council National Service to Sport Award

2008  Scottish Athletics Lifetime Achievement Award

2014  British Athletics Award

For the last one, the citation read that it was 40 years service – when in fact he had 54 years service behind him at that point.    He was also given the honour of carrying the Queen’s Baton for the Commonwealth Games in 2014 as the representative of East Linton.

Just reward  for a man who has been cyclist, athlete, administrator and official; as an official he has been starter,marksman, track judge, commissaire; he has filled the role of international team manager and also held various roles at club, district and national level.     Like others who have kept and keep the sport running, he demonstrates a level of efficiency and commitment across several roles without  demur.     You can see all Barry’s pictures at this link

Barry carrying the baton through Dirleton, East Lothian

Barry Baton

Kenny Phillips: the runner


 Kenny winning at Dam Park, Ayr, c1947

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lenin 100,000

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

Kenny Kiltie

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

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

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

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

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

Kenny Beith 2

Kenny second from the right

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Danny Wilmoth

DW Babcock 1958 half

[Not a valid template]Danny (22) at Babcock & Wilcox Sports

Danny Wilmoth is a fine example of the type of man that any club, in any sport, would be very fortunate to have in its ranks.   A tireless worker who always did what his club needs him to do and went on to serve his club and the sport at the highest levels of sport in the country.  

Danny, born on 9th January 1938, has an interesting story about starting in the sport which corroborates the tale told by Tom O’Reilly.   He says:  “I was brought up on a farm where my father was the ploughman at the Lumloch and we stayed in the farm bungalow.   When I was 14 years old, Tom O’Reilly came up to the farm and asked if we could shift some cows to another field on the Saturday as it was the Springburn Harriers cross-country championships.   The farmer told him to see me and I would do it for Springburn Harriers.   Tommy was always about on a Saturday morning and would let me know which fields if any he would require the following week.   He was always at me to come down to the club.   I finally agreed to do so.

When I arrived Tommy said, “You’re going to run in the club handicap tonight.”   I told him I’d never run before but he wouldn’t take no for an answer.   I started off with others – up through Auchinairn and was just holding on to two guys who were completely unknown to me and when I asked where the others had  gone, they just said that I had run the legs off them, they were all behind us.   We kept on until we came back to Auchinairn Road to the club house.   I got a bit cocky and ran away from the two guys to the clubhouse.    I never heard the end of it – everyone called me ‘the guy who can’t run’.    That was my entry as a Springburn Harrier in 1953.

DW 15 Xmas 53Danny in his first Christmas Handicap, 1953

  At that time, there were ten or twelve Saturdays in the winter (between October and March) when there were no races being held.   On these Saturdays, inter-club runs were often scheduled when two or three clubs met up to run in packs over the local territory.   Springburn was a popular venue – partly because of the trails they could offer but also because of the big plunge bath at the back of their clubhouse in Auchinairn Road.    Danny did his share of these runs and took part in all the championships too.   All clubs used all the talents of their members and Danny was a willing worker – very early on in his career he organised a whist drive in the club house along with Tom O’Reilly and Gary McKay to raise funds for the club.   On these occasions, tea and sandwiches were made for the players by several of the women members including Molly Ferguson.

Training at the time was mainly on Tuesday and Thursday nights.   Danny says that there was usually fast and slow packs:   “We would train over 6 miles on the roads.   Two packs.    The fast pack would give the slows 20 minutes start and try to catch them with a mile to go.   Regardless, with a mile to go it was every man for himself.   It was good fun as well as good training.   Everyone was wanting to know what pack they were in tonight: fast or slow.   There were usually about 20 in each pack during the winter months.”

The training clearly suited Danny and his performances in the two main winter events – the National Championships and the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay are noted below.   He joined the club in 1953 and his first real season was 1954/55.   The placings for the next ten years were :

National Championship                            Edinburgh to Glasgow

1954/55    Y   51st                                         Too young to run

1955/56     Y   29th   Team 1st                   Too Young to run.Stage 7.

1956/57     J   22nd   Team 3rd                  Stage 7.   Held 10th Position.

1957/58     J   57th                                        Stage 4.   Came from 14th to 10th.   5th fastest

1958/59     J   17th                                         Stage 3.   8th up to 7th

1959/60        –                                                 Did not run

1960/61     S   120th                                      Did not run.

1961/62     S   138th                                      Stage 1.   18th.

1962/63     S   105th                                      Stage 8.   17th up to 16th.

1963/64                                                           Stage 8.   Held 12th

1964/65                                                           Stage 8.   11th up to 9th.

He also ran in District relays and championships, county relays and championships and all the road races such as the McAndrew Relay and the Nigel Barge Race.     You will note of course that he never ever dropped a place on the fiercely competitive E-G relay.   Not many can say that.

Danny WJ

There were two years when he missed the E-G at the age of 21 and 22.   But almost everybody did at that time and that was because they were off doing their two years national service.   ie compulsory army service.

Danny was stationed at Newark for his time in khaki.  Newark was a training school and Danny was a Morse Code Instructor and did eight one-hour periods in the class room.   He worked with Gurkhas, whom he remembers as very keen to learn.   Being a good runner he was picked for the regimental athletics and cross country teams.   As with Springburn, he ran mainly half-mile and mile for the regiment.   Picked to run in Germany for the regiment 4 x half-mile team.   He recalls: “It was a beautiful cinder track in a beautiful stadium.   I ran the third leg where I took over a poor third and gradually worked up to third going in to the last lap.   I gave it everything and passed them all in the back straight and handed over easily 50 yards clear.   After the race we were presented with silver salvers.”      Danny also ran cross-country for the regiment and remembers when he was picked to run for the regimental cross-country team in the championships at Oxford.   He remembers that race well, because of a particular scalp he lifted that day.   The trail was mainly plough and the distance was all of nine miles.   A very tough course.   As he came in to the last 200 yards or so, the runner one place ahead was coming back fast.   One of the stewards called to Danny and said, “Go – that’s Herb Elliott!”   Danny got him and Elliott was out on his feet.    Elliott had of course retired from international athletics and was studying at Oxford.   His form had gone but that didn’t matter to anyone who passed him.   He was still Herb Elliott.   Danny says that the great man was a really friendly chap and easy to talk to and get on with.

DW West Champs 1962Danny at the front of the group: Midlands Championships, 1962

National Service was one thing that affected his career – the other was a major event that not only affected his running but altered his entire life.   There might have been doubts as to whether the Army was a good thing or a bad thing: there were no doubts at all about Molly’s effect on him.   They married in October 1960.    Molly, also a Springburn Harrier, which has been a mainstay of the sport in many capacities for several decades and her profile is at

Danny and MollyDanny and Molly

Danny’s track running with Springburn was also mainly half miles and miles and like all of us he ran at Highland Games, Sports meetings and District and National Championships.   His says of his track running:“I ran both events handicap races all summer.   I remember being entered for a half-mile at Edinburgh Highland Games and when I arrived they told me it was going to be a scratch race as there were not enough entries for a handicap.   I knew that there was to be a Two Mile Invitation for the runners who had broken the four minute mile the week before in England and when I went to change, they had a separate room for the Two Milers.   I met Gordon Pirie, Chris Chataway, John Disley and many others.   The Murrayfield track was five laps to the mile on grass. When the race came up, they started off going like trains and I struggled to hold on to Pirie who was last for four laps.   I could hear the crowd roaring at me not to get lapped.   I picked up, threw everything into it and crossed the line a foot ahead of Chataway, then struggled round the last lap.   Very tired, but very happy.”   A photo of Danny crossing the finishing line a foot ahead of Chataway would have been some memento!   These days are unfortunately gone, but it was a time when club runners could compete at the same ground, at the same time, and often in the same races as international track stars.   Herb Elliott, Chris Chataway, John Disley, Gordon Pirie running with a good class club runner – and Danny couldn’t be more emphatic that they were all really good guys who were easy to talk to.

DW Lanark Const 880 1955

 Danny at the Lanarkshire Constabulary Sports at Shawfield

Danny ran all over the country, week in, week out, mainly in handicaps, often in big football grounds, very often on grass but in inter-club and championship fixtures on grass.   The strangest was maybe the Lanarkshire Police Sports at Shawfield where there was regular dog-racing meetings and the runners ran on a grass track, inside the dog track!   You can see the dog track and its floodlights outside the marked athletic track in the photograph above.  He even took part in hill-races such as the gruelling Ben Nevis race where he ran well inside three hours for the course.

More recently Danny is better known as an official and organiser of quality.   The fact that he has been an athlete himself contributes to this success.   As an official he had worked at many, many events – all the cross-country championships, open races – anywhere that they ran a race, they needed an official and Danny filled as many of these positions as he could.   For example he was referee at the Lochaber Marathon in Fort William for many years.  After working his way through all the various committees – at club level, as a club representative on County, District and National Committees, Danny was elected President of the Scottish Cross-Country Union in 1991/92 – the second last President of the body before it was transformed into the Scottish Athletics Federation.  Danny was of course involved in numerous sub-committees over his time with the governing body and one of these was the selection committee where he was one of the four West District representatives.   This also involved acting as manager to Scottish international and representative teams and in November 1993 – a year after leaving office – he was in charge of a Scottish cross-country team competing in Turin.  He held this post for the last few years of the SCCU and first few of the SAF.  After stepping down Danny, who was now 40 years of age, joined the Scottish Veteran Harriers Club.   Technically he was second last President of the SCCU but in fact shortly after Robin Thomas took over that position, the body became the Scottish Athletics Federation and his reign was a short one.   Meanwhile Danny moved across to the Scottish Veteran Harriers Club and devoted his considerable energies to them.

DW SCCU Presidents medalDanny with the SCCU Presidents Chain of Office

One of the first things that happened was if he would become members secretary.   It wasn’t too difficult too difficult to persuade him – and then he discovered that there was a total of 999 members.   And in 1992 there were no computers, lap-tops or tablets and almost all phones were landlines.   Everything had to be done by mail.   It was, he says with a bit of understatement, a busy time.   Of course to be a good committee member it is not enough to just maintain the status quo – some initiative and imagination is required and Danny organised a race a month for veterans, sometimes more than one a month.   The big event with which he is associated is the Alloa to Bishopbriggs eight man relay, with each stage being between five and five and a half miles.   It was to be like the well established and much loved Edinburgh to Glasgow but for veteran runners only.   Unlike the E-G, it was not an invitation only race, any club with eight veteran runners could enter a team.   The story of the race is at      It started at the Town Hall in Alloa and finished at the Bishopbriggs Sports Centre.    Danny had a very good businessman friend from schooldays called Lex Gaston whom he asked to sponsor the race and medals were presented to the first three teams and to the fastest time on each stage.   A very popular race, there were at times 30 teams running.

Gaston RelayDanny with Ronnie MacDonald and Billy Black at the Alloa to Bishopbriggs

Then there were 5K and 10K road races from the Police Grounds at Lochinch where they managed to organise food and good post-race chat.

Although the main point of the SVHC was running and racing, there was a place for a good social life.   The President of the club at that time was Walter Ross of Garscube Harriers – I say Garscube Harriers and he will always be associated with the club, but like more and more veterans his club was being entered as ‘Scottish Veteran Harrier Club’.    The club grew as more and more members joined and more people were available to help organise events.   Danny’s connection with Lochinch enabled him to organise dances and sing-songs and other social events there.   Danny describes one of the most successful events: “I organised a Caribbean cruise from Glasgow.   We flew to Florida and on to a massive ship for two weeks in the Caribbean.   We had a crowd of 30 people.    They would run round the boat, everywhere the ship docked the vets were off running.   I also had a week in Benalmadena in Spain every year.” 

Back at home and there were still races to organise –  he organised a 4 x 4.5 mile relay at Strathclyde Park which is still going strong – proof of its popularity is the fact that there can be up to 40 teams at a time taking part.

A quick recap of the principal  events where his talents as an organiser were utilised:

Convener of the Scottish Championships

Convener of the Scottish Veterans Championships

Convener of the 5 Nations  International Cross-Country

Originator and Convener of the Veterans 8 Stage Relay

Even away from the athletics arena, he has been captain of the Campsie Golf Club and in that capacity he opened the new 18 hole golf club and organised one of the best attended Pro Am tournaments seen in the area in 1982 when Sports stars such as Crawford Fairbrother (athletics), Jim Watt (Boxing), Billy McNeill and Jim Baxter plus a host of other football players, media men such as Ian Archer, Cliff Hanley, Ron Marshall, showbiz people such as Paul Coia, the Alexander Brothers, Alistair Gillies and Larry Marshall were all there with many moe in attendance and the possibility of a car as a prize for a hole in one.   All organised by Danny.

President of the SVHC in 1993 and 1994, Danny spent 33 years in all on the Vets Committee and it is now more than five years since he was presented with a clock to mark the occasion.     That’s not the only or the biggest honour that he has for his time in the sport:  in 2004 he and Molly were presented with the Scottish athletics Joint Lifetime Award by Steve Cram on behalf of the organisation.

I mentioned the respect in which he is held by all in the sport, and this is typified by the following comments by very good Scottish runner, Colin Youngson who has this to say.

“My first contact with Big Danny was on 7th February, 1988, when I won my first Scottish Vets Cross-Country title over a course he had devised (and ‘measured’) in Clydebank.   Three laps.   The video showed: first lap, light snow; second lap, heavy, deep snow; third lap, most runners wearing tall ‘snow bunnets!’   I won in 39:14, so instead of 10K the course must have been over 7 miles.   Thanks, Danny!  

We got to know each other better down the years at championships, the annual International Five Nations Cross-Country International, and his brain-child, the  SVHC 8 man road relay.   In the latter Aberdeen AAC finished third in the Alloa-Bishopbriggs in 1990 but won in 1991 and again (Alloa-Twechar) in 1992.   Sadly this marvellous event was shunted off public roads on to private tarmac at Torrance, first eight man, then eventually a six stager.   Still a good well-attended event, all due to Danny’s imagination, determination and skills in motivating and organising.

My best run as a vet was as a new M45, in the Belfast International, where I won the age group easily but had to outkick a big English M40 for sixth place overall.   The late Bill McBrinn wrote in the SVHC newsletter: “It was eyeball stuff up the finishing straight with Danny Wilmoth going berserk shouting Colin home.”  

Danny was always a cheerful encouraging presence and, as an Aberdonian, I have only a slight idea of the tremendous amount of work he did as an official and organiser.   His wife Molly was always ready to chat, and worked very hard as an official too.   Without the Wilmoths, Scottish Veteran running would have been a pale shadow of itself.   Danny was never to be confused with a pale shadow!   He was the life and soul of the post race celebrations and no doubt at the annual January ‘training trip’ to Spain he organised as well.”

Thanks, Colin – a fitting testimonial to Danny and the work he and Molly have put in.

Extracts frm Danny’s race results book are  here