Tom Jack

T Jack

It always surprises me to see how many officials were very good athletes in their day.   You look at these guys on the judges stand or on the timekeepers ladder  and think that they were born looking like that or were always as nimble (or not) as they seem to you as a competitor.    The truth is usually – usually not just often – vastly different.   The subject of this profile is the exemplification of the official/runner interface.    Tom Jack won an SAAA title while he was President of the association.   It has come to me more and more forcibly as I have delved further and further into the subject that in many, many cases the official was a much better athlete than the runner complaining to or about him!!!   Bear that in mind as you read this, and generalise it to today’s officials.

 David Keddie says “Jack, born on his father’s farm at Brotherton, West Lothian, in 1881 won the first of his seven SAAA 10 miles titles in 1904, creating Scottish records for all distances above 4 miles in the 1907 race which he finished in 53:4.0.   He did not reproduce that form in the AAA’s race of 1907 but in 1908 improved to third place.   Tom Jack was an MA graduate from Edinburgh University and later headmaster of Castle Hill School.   He continued to show a keen interest in the sport, especially in the schools and amongst Boys Clubs, and was President of the SAAA in 1912, the year after he ‘retired’ from active competition.   He died in Edinburgh in October 1960 aged 79.”   

Most officials think of themselves as runners who have done as well as they could and have moved on to help current athletes and the sport in general.   Tom Jack was one of the best Scottish runners of all time.   He won the Ten Miles title six times in seven years (third in the other year), the Four Miles once with four seconds and two thirds.    The winning times were 57:09.8 (1904), 54:42.8 (1906),  53:04 (1907), 55:00 (1908),  54:03.8 (1909), 53:46.4 (1910) and, for four miles, 19:12 (55:21.4).   His track records were six miles – 31;18.8 and  ten miles – 53:04.0.   The time in 1907 was a Scottish record that stood until 1912 when George Wallach took 2 seconds from it.    If we look only at his track competition record this is the story that emerges.

In 1904 Tom Jack won the first of six ten miles titles in seven years (he was third in 1905) which added to his record of one first, four seconds and a third in the Four Miles, made him the most successful distance runner in the SAAA championships between 1904 and 1910 inclusive.     The 1904 victory was achieved on 1st April at Powderhall in Edinburgh and he was timed at 57:09.8.   “The flat season was opened on Friday night with the Ten Miles SAAA Championship at Powderhall where the course was in excellent order.   The only drawback was the wind which was rather gusty, and therefore of a somewhat trying nature.   Only four took part in the race, three from this District and one from Edinburgh.   Rankine, who won the cross-country championship, and who was the first huntsman to finish in the Grand National at Haydock Park, did not enter.   It was thought S Kennedy of Garscube Harriers, winner of the Western District cross-country championship, would win, and for a time he moved very freely, but when the pinch came, he was not able to hold out, the wind having contributed to his defeat as much as the want of stamina.   A comparatively unknown man in Jack  of the Southern Harriers won the race in 57:09.8  which is a very creditable performance when the conditions are taken into account.   He finished well and was fully 30 yards in front of Marshall of the West of Scotland Harriers, who just managed to beat his club companion Mulrine by inches.   Jack, the winner, is a valuable addition to the realm of distance amateur runners.”

In 1905, he won two championship medals but neither was gold.   The Ten Miles championship was again held on 1st April and this time the best that Jack could do was third behind Sam Stevenson of Clydesdale Harriers and PC Russell (Bellahouston Harriers).   The race was won by Stevenson – who would go on to run in the London Olympics – in the fast time of 53:31.4.   “This important fixture was run off in heavy rain.   The track was all against the runners, of whom seven faced the starter.   Russell forced the pace, and led the field until the seventh mile, when Stevenson got the lead and won a great race in the splendid time of  53 min 31 2-5th sec – only 5 sec outside of record.”

On 24th June he was back at Ibrox for the Four Miles at the SAAA championships.   It was clearly Sam Stevenson’s year and he won the title in 20:56.4 from Jack and A Wright, the defending champion.   Stevenson only won by four yards.

It was back to Edinburgh for the Ten Miles in 1906, held on 31st March.     Back in his home city, Jack turned the tables on Stevenson when he won in 54:42.2 .   The ‘Fifty Years of Athletics’ official history of the SAAA gave JM Guild third place.



This event was decided over the Heart of Midlothian Football Club’s  track at Tynecastle on Saturday evening in ideal weather.   Seven started including the holder, S Stevenson, Clydesdale.   The half distance was completed in 26 min 38 2-5th sec.   From this point the issue lay between T Jack, Edinburgh Southern Harriers, and the holder, S Stevenson, who led alternately until the last lap, where Stevenson sprinted 300 yards from home but failed to sustain the effort, and Jack coming away with a great burst in the last 100 yards won by sixteen yards from Stevenson.   W Lang, Edinburgh Harriers was third, RE Hughes, Edinburgh Harriers fourth and T Robertson, Edinburgh Harriers fifth.   JM Guild, Edinburgh Harriers, and N Cormack, Preston Harriers, gave up at three and four miles respectively.”

The last sentence corrects the official history (The First 50 Years) as far as third place was concerned.   Given the lap-about running between Jack and Stevenson, a pre-arranged ploy for a fast time maybe, the time was slower than the previous year in the rain when the Bellahouston Harrier forced the first seven miles.   Stevenson however gained his revenge at the championships at Powderhall on 23rd June when he won the Four Miles for the second year in succession.   Everything else was put in the shade by Wyndham Halswell’s four titles in one day – it would be pretty difficult o match victories in the 100, 220, 440 and 880 yards on the same afternoon.   There were only two finishers in the Four Miles.

Jack won the longer race for the third time in 1907 at Ibrox on 6th April, and he did it in some style.   “Record smashing in April is something of a novelty as far as Scottish pedestrianism is concerned.   Yet at Ibrox on Saturday, T Jack (Edinburgh Southern Harriers) not only won the Ten Miles SAAA Championship, but enhanced the distinction by setting new records from five to ten miles.   Jack as supreme from start to finish being fully 760 yards in advance of H Young (Monkland Harriers), who in turn was well ahead of W Bowman (West of Scotland Harriers).   Jack ran with admirable judgement and consistent speed.   He accomplished the first mile in 5 min 0 2-5th sec, and the last in 5 min 21 2-5th sec while his time for the full distance was 53 min 4 sec.   The previous record holder was Andrew Hannah who, at Hampden Park in 1895, did the distance in 53 min 26 sec which, in view of the reputed fastness of Ibrox, is little, if any, inferior to Jack’s performance on Saturday.   Twelve years is a long time for a record to remain in these days of high physical culture, and the fact that it has held the field so long goes to show what an exceptional distance runner Andrew Hannah was.   Jack has had a brilliant season, as he won the Cross-Country championship, and was first man home among the Scotsmen who ran in the international a few days ago, while on Saturday he added lustre to these achievements by winning the Ten Miles championship for the third time.”

The intermediate records which erased Hannah’s figures were  – 5 Miles  29:57.6;   6 Miles  31:18.8;   7 Miles  36:45.0;   8 Miles  42:14.0;   9 Miles  47:42.2.   In the Championships at Powderhall on 22nd June, Stevenson again finished in front of Jack – but A Duncan beat them both, winning in 20:12.4.

The following year, on 3rd April, 1908, at Powderhall Gounds, Jack won the Ten Miles title for the fourth time, and the third year in succession.   Not quite as fast as the previous year, he was timed at 55 minutes exactly.   That was probably down to the heavy going after a lot of rain that week.   The referee was Charles Pennycook, Clydesdale Harriers, former Scottish Mile and Cross-Country Champion and only four of the five entrants started the race.   Jack won from T Robertson (Edinburgh Harriers) in 56:24.8, and J Torrie (Gala Harriers) in 58:03.6.   The Four Miles was held on ‘a broiling afternoon’ at the championships at the Scottish National Exhibition in Edinburgh on 27th June, and, with Stevenson preferring to run in the Mile, Jack won the title from JB McLagan with A Paterson third.   The winning time was 21:52.4 – the slowest winning time in the history of the championship.

A year on to the day, 3rd April, 1909, Jack again emerged triumphant.   The ‘Glasgow Herald’ reported:

“For the fourth time in succession and the fifth time in all, T Jack (Edinburgh Southern Harriers) won the SAAA Ten Miles Championship on Saturday.   The race was run at Ibrox Park and, though the conditions were far from favourable, the time – 53 min 3 4-5th sec – has only been beaten on four occasions since the institution of the championships in 1895.   Jack is credited with the fastest time, 53 min 4 sec at Ibrox in 1907, A Hannah (Clydesdale Harriers) next 53 min 26 sec in 1895, S Stevenson (Clydesdale Harriers) third with 53 min 31 2-5 sec, and A Hannah fourth with 54 min 2 3-5th sec in 1894.   Five of the ten who started in Saturday’s race finished inside standard – 57 min – which is perhaps one of the most noteworthy features of the race.

Jack led all the way till the second last lap when A McPhee (Clydesdale Harriers) got in front but his stay there was short lived as the champion with 200 yards to go put on a fine spurt and won by a couple of yards.   It was a fine finish and it is just possible that McPhee might have won had he not forced matters until the last lap.   All the same he ran a very creditable race, which in con junction with his win in the cross-country championships, gives him a very honourable place among distance runners.   Jack ran with apparent ease, as he always does and he seems more at ease over cinders than he does over field and fen.   A Mann (Clydesdale Harriers) was the third to finish his time being 54 min 49 sec.   No one has displayed more consistent form over the season than Mann and his running at Ibrox on Saturday was a revelation to many.  …. ”

In the shorter distance, held on 26th June, it was another silver medal for Jack in a race won by Alex McPhee who, it seems, had finally got his tactics right as far as Jack was concerned.    He won in 20:36.6 and there was ‘less than a foot’ spearating them at the finish.

1910 was Tom Jack’s final victory in the championship again beating Alex McPhee – but he was again second to McPhee in the SAAA Four Miles later that year at the SAAA Championships.   The Ten Miles was held this time at Hawkhill Ground in Edinburgh on 2nd April in glorious weather with a really first class field forward.   Straight to the report:

“The opening of the Scottish athletics season took place on Saturday when under the auspices of the Scottish Amateur Athletic Association the ten miles championship was run  off at the Hawkhill Grounds, Leith, in glorious weather.   The entry was unusually large and out of the 18 entrants, 16 started.    From the start the race lay between the holder, T Jack, Edinburgh Southern Harriers, A McPhee, Clydesdale Harriers, GCL Wallach, Bolton United Harriers, and J Duffy, Edinburgh Harriers.   These runners kept in close company until the third mile, but at the next mile Duffy had dropped back 80 yards, and at half distance was practically out of the hunt.   The field at this distance was reduced to 11.   With three laps to go the Glasgow man tried to pull out from the others but before a lap was covered, Wallach and Jack had closed up on him.   Thereafter they ran neck and neck until 90 yards from the tape, when Jack rushed to the front an won a magnificent race by five yards from McPhee with Wallach third four yards behind the Clydesdale Harrier.

Result:   1.   T Jack, Edinburgh Southern Harriers;   2.  A McPhee, Clydesdale Harriers.   Time : 53 min 46 2-5th sec.   T Jack has now won the championship six times and five years in succession.   His best time, which is a Scottish record, was at Ibrox Park on April 6, 1907.

The following runners gained standard medals: GCL Wallach, Bolton United Harriers, third, J Duffy, Edinburgh Harriers fourth, A Mann, Clydesdale Harriers, fifth, RM Bruce, Edinburgh Harriers, sixth, JC Venn, Edinburgh Northern, seventh, W Laing Edinburgh Harriers, eighth.”

Mile times were: First 5:01.2;    Second 10:14.6;    Third 15:34;    Fourth 20:55.8;     Fifth 26:19.6;     Sixth 31:49.4;     Seventh 37:24.2;     Eighth 42:56.4;   Ninth 48:36.4;    Tenth  53:46.4

Given this record, he had to be selected frequently to run in the Scoto-Irish International match and his performances there were as good as might be expected, bearing in mind that the longest distance there was Four Miles.   His first appearance there was in July, 1905 when he finished second to Sam Stevenson in a match held in Edinburgh which Scotland won 8 – 3.   In 1907 he won from J Hynes of Ireland in 20:22 at Ibrox only to see Scotland lose 6 – 5.   In 1910 at Ibrox he was second to Alex McPhee and Scotland won 9 events to 3.   In Edinburgh in 1912 he was second to Ireland’s FJ Ryder in a drawn match – five and a half points each.

He was equally good as a cross country runner – he won the national championship three times, in 1907, 1908 and 1912 – with five outings in the Scottish team in the International Championships – every year from 1907 to 1910, then again in 1912.    In 1907 when he was the first Scot home when he crossed the line in fifth place, in 1908  he was thirty third, in 1909 he was thirty seventh, in 1910 he was twenty sixth and in 1912 he was twentieth.    A record to be proud of.

The best tribute to him was by Colin Shields who had this to say:

“Tom Jack was one of Scotland’s most distinguished and successful distance runners in the pre-first world war period.  Of West Calder farming stock, Jack was born in 1881 on his father’s farm in Brotherton and enrolled as a teacher at Moray House Training College with subsequent graduation as MA from Edinburgh University.   Joining Edinburgh Southern Harriers in 1900, his early running gave no signs of the future  greatness he was to display, finishing runner-up in four successive years in his club’s championships.   He blossomed forth as a national champion in 1904 when winning the SAAA track 10 miles title, a title he was to win seven times inside the nine year period from 1904 to 1912.   His best victory came in 1907.  …

Winning the Senior title in the 1907 National championships while still a Junior, he became the second athlete to win the Senior and Junior titles at the same time.   He repeated the Senior title victory the following year and again in 1912.   …

In the 1908 Olympic Games Marathon in London Jack represented Great Britain but, after leading the field for the first five miles at a suicidal fast pace, he was forced to drop out of the race with exhaustion. 

On the administrative side of the sport, after seven years as an SAAA Council member while still an active athlete, he became the only President (1912 – 13) while still an active competitor.   He became president of the Cross-Country Union in 1930 – 31, completing an administrative career which was every bit as distinguished as his competitive one.   He died aged 79 in Edinburgh in 1960 after maintaining his connections with the sport to the end.”


David Scott Duncan

50 David S Duncan

David S Duncan (Royal High School) was secretary of the SAAA from 1885 to 1925 – quite remarkable in itself.   He was only the second man to hold this post succeeding AS Paterson (1883-1885); he was also treasurer from 1898-99.   As a runner he won the inaugural SAAA Championship Mile in 1883 in 4:35.0, won it again in 1884, 1885, 1886 and 1891.   He set records for the Mile in June 1886 (4:32.2) and 4:28 (1888), for the Two Miles (9:48.2) in 1887 and for the Three Miles (15:32.8) in July 1888.   Like many of the sportsmen of his day, he was not a one-sport man, he was multi-talented, and away from the track he was also a scholar and successful journalist.   We can start his profile with the tribute paid to him in “50 Years Of Athletics” which was the Jubilee history of the SAAA in 1933.

David Scott Duncan, who for many years prior to his death was looked upon as the “father” of amateur athletics in Scotland, was born in Monkton House, Inveresk, where his father had farmed for many years .   Aftre a short term in Musselburgh Grammar School, he became a pupil in the Royal High School, Edinburgh, where he remained till he left for the University with a view to qualifying for a legal career.   While in the RHS he was looked on as a sound scholar, and left with a very good grounding in Latin, Greek, English and French.   He was proxime acessit for the India prize, and in this competition was awarded a special prize on account of the high standard reached.

While at school he competed successfully at the Annual Sports; but it was not till 1880 that he took up distance running seriously.   During the following eleven years, he won over 150 prizes, and in addition to winning the Scottish Mile Championship five times, he was runner-up three times and held for a short period record for two and three miles.   He competed in the AAA Championships and while never a winner, did faster time at Stamford Bridge than he had ever done in Scotland.   His record for the Mile (4 min 28 sec) stood for some years.

After a short business career in Leith he became the Scottish representative for The Field and continued in this capacity till the Great War.   He was a born journalist; his marvellous memory and intimate acquaintance with all branches of sport gave him a pre-eminent place in the journalistic world; indeed it could truly be said of him that in these islands for many years he stood without a peer in all-round knowledge of athletics.

Two years after the founding of the SAAA he took over from Mr AS Paterson, Advocate – a distance runner of distinction – the duties of secretary, and for the long  period of forty years, guided the destinies of the Association.   His legal training, scholarship and above all, his retentive memory fitted him in a high degree for the duties of secretary, and whether in furthering the athletic contest with Ireland, or in conference with sister countries he worthilt upheld the interests of his own.

He was a golfer of more than average ability, being a “scratch” player when he captained the RHS Golf Club, but he had a somewhat unorthodox style in driving; indeed his method drew, on one occasion, from a champion golfer and friend of his own, the following remark: “Man, David, if you hit the ball on the back swing, you would be the longest driver in Britain!”   For a time he was the captain of the ancient Royal Musselburgh Golf Club.   In the royal burgh by the sea members of the Club still recall his eloquence, fine diction, and humour when he presided at their annual dinner.

The Golfing Annual of which he was editor, stands as a memorial to his research and hard work.   In laying the foundation of his work, he met most of the great golfers of his time, many of whome became his fast friends.   But he was at his best during his visits to Ireland with the Scottish international athletics team, and while always anxious for a Scottish win, never failed to congratulate an Irish opponent on a brilliant performance.   As a timekeeper and judge he excelled, and one recalls his indignation when in 1908 at the Olympic Games in London an apparently pre-arranged attempt to shoulder Captain Halswell off the track in the memorable 400 metres race was made and failed.   It is no secret that in this race, which Duncan judged, it was he who broke the tape when he saw the foul, and “no race” was unanimously declared.

50 DS Duncan

Among all the areas in which he was involved, there were several that were very significant:

1.   Following several abuses of the amateur code, particularly by the cyclists who were represented by two unions – the Scottish Cyclists Union, set up to promote and foster amateur cycling in Scotland, and the National Cyclists Union, which had been founded in England.  The SAAA had set up joint championships with the NCU and this led to friction with the SCU and many meetings between the three followed.   The rather fraught situation led to many examples of dishonest practice including financial.   This will be covered in the Amateurism section of this website.    In 1893 a sub-committee was set-up to enquire into the various alleged abuses in Amateur Athletics and DS Duncan was the secretary of this body.

2.   He was one of the main men behind the setting up of the Borders AAA.    There had always been athletics in the Borders but they were professional gatherings.   The situation was described by JK Ballantyne in the book referred to above as follows: “Fifty, or even forty, years ago amateur athletics did not exist in the Scottish Borders.   Between Edinburgh, Berwick and Carlisle, the triangle that roughly includes the territory now administered by the SBAAA not a single amateur athletic meeting was held; professionalism had the field to itself.   Annual Games were, and still are, held in most of the towns and villages of the Borders, but it was only the pervading holiday spirit and the fun of the fair that made some of them even tolerable.   The presence of bookmakers shouting their cramped odds, and the fact that a few shillings might sway the result of a race, did not tend to hold the interest of the looker-on; nevertheless these games were the onlyoutlet for the budding aspirations of the young athlete, and whatever his first ambitions as to athletic glory might be, there were likely to become subordinate to the sordid consideration of £.s.d.   Many resented this but in the total absence of amateur meetings they were helpless, and drifted into the professional ranks    

Therefore in 1895, when Mr DS Duncan first cast his eyes on the Borders, as a prospective field, the ground was really ripe for some amateur effort.   What perhaps was at the back of the Scottish Secretary’s mind was the strengthening f his own Association, between whom and the seceding body, the SAAU, the quarrel was now at its height.   …   The meeting at which the SBAAA was formed was held in the Tower Hotel, Hawick on Saturday, 18th January 1896.   Mr Duncan himself took the chair and successfully launched the new venture.   There was a fair attendance and several of those present did yeoman service for the cause in the early days of the Association.”

The territory at that point included the counties of Berwick, Roxburgh, Peebles, Selkirk, Dumfries, Kirkcudbright and Wigton.   The entire article on the topic is well worth reading, but the involvement of DS Duncan was crucial in the setting up of the Association.

3.    The series of international fixtures with Ireland was also assisted on its way by the work of DS Duncan.   The original proposition was put b the Irish AAA in 1891 and a special meeting of the SAAA was held to discuss it.   The invitation was declined at that point despite the Irish offering to host it, provide the officials and the prizes.   The idea was felt to have merit and DS Duncan was instructed to open negotiations with them for the establishment of an international contest covering the championship events.   In December 1894 the IAAA again put forward a proposal, this time for a meeting on the lines of the annual Oxford v Cambridge contest.   This was readily accepted by the SAAA on these conditions:   (1) The first contest be held in Scotland;   (2) That a guarantee be given to the visiting team to cover their expenses;   (3) That the events should be the Scottish Championship events with the exception of the ten miles and that each country should have two in each event but three in the four miles;   (4)   That in Scotland the shot and hammer be thrown in the Scottish style, and in Ireland under Irish rules.      The contest took place on 20th July 1895.  The series ran unbroken until 1913 with Ireland winning eleven and Scotland seven.

4.   Inter-scholastic sports were organised by the SAAA in 1900 largely through the enthusiasm of the President of the SAAA, EJ Comrie Thomson, and of course the Secretary DS Duncan.

Various people and committees were of course involved in making all of these notable events a reality, but the real driving force on most occasions was DS Duncan.   No other single person was as active over the long period of his tenure of office.

Colin Shields

Colin Shields Chain

Colin Shields wearing the chain of office of President of the SCCU

I have known Colin for over 50 years.   We first met when we were running in the inter-club track meetings between our two clubs in the late 1950’s, weserved on the SAAA General and West District Committees together, and sharing an interest in athletics history, there has been almost continuous contact over past few decades years.   His range on interest and abilities is wide: as a runner he has run track, road and cross-country and even raced the Ben Nevis race three times.   As an administrator he has served on the committees of  two athletic clubs (Greenock Glenpark Harriers and Dumbarton AAC), two District Committees (South Western and Western), the Scottish Amateur Athletic Association (where he rose to the position of President) and the Scottish Cross-Country Union (again he rose to the presidency).    As an official he has worked at club, County, District and National Championships as well as at other meetings large and small around the country.    And of course as a historian he has produced one of the great reference works of Scottish athletics, the official centenary history of the SCCU.    This was not without its difficulties when some committee men felt that it should be shorter and tried to do just that by removing a handful of pages without reference to the content but it has proved its worth and is treasured by historians, be they club, national or individual.   The whole speaks of a man who loves the sport and his career is well worth examining in some detail.

Colin Shields Group

A very young Colin, second from the right in the middle row, with a Greenock Glenpark Harriers group in the 1950’s

His athletics career has been summarised at the start of ‘Whatever the Weather’ (his centenary history of the SCCU) as follows.   “Colin was born in Shanghai and educated in Greenock and Strathclyde University.   He is a qualified civil engineer and town planner who was in charge of transportation planning at Glasgow District Council Planning Department.   He has been involved with athletics and cross-country running since joining Greenock Glenpark Harriers in 1952.   He has been involved in all aspects of the sport – he has been a runner, official, administrator, historian, announcer and statistician with interests in events as disparate as the decathlon (for which he was championship convener for ten years) and cross-country running.

He has always been fascinated by statistics and the results of the sport being a member of the National Union of Track Statisticians and a founder member of the Scottish Association of Track Statisticians, assisting in the compiling, collation and publishing of annual ranking lists.   He has been convenor of the SCCU Rules Committee as well as the Records and Statistics Committee.

A past President of the Scottish Amateur Athletic Association he has been a member of the SAAA General Committee from the 1970’s into the twenty first century.   In cross-country, he has filled the offices of Secretary of the South Western and Western District Committees for over 16 years.

A long term fascination with the history and personalities of cross-country since its inception in 1885 has led him to carry out the lengthy and detailed research that led to the publication of his justly celebrated ‘Whatever The Weather’ – the centenary history of the SCCU.

He has also been a freelance contributor to athletics magazines such as ‘Athletics Weekly’ and produced the regular and much valued results service for the now defunct ‘Scotland’s Runner’.”

Colin Shields 3

In some American publications a fellow who could run pretty well, could work as a doctor and also write for a well-known athletics magazine was referred to as a ‘renaissance man’ – I always thought that that was a bit over the top but if it were true, what does that make Colin?

Let’s go back to the beginning: how did Colin get into the sport in the first place?    He was thirteen years old at the time and as a pupil in the second year at Greenock High School he went along to Greenock Glenpark Harriers with George and Jim Spence and Billy Murray.   Their PE teacher was really only interested in football and when George Spence kicked an opponent in a football match he was told he could just run round the football pitch for the rest of the period.   That encouraged the other Harriers in the class to lash out in the course of the match and a good training session became the norm.   They ran in the school summer championships on a grass 220 yard pitch and also in the ‘The Metropolis of Greenock’ championships encompassing the schools in Greenock, Gourock and Port Glasgow as well as in the Scottish Schools relay at Westerlands.   Colin’s best times at this period were

100 yards:   11.7 seconds;   220 yards:   24.6;   440 yards:   55.4;   880 yards:   2:09.6;   Mile:   4:39;   Two Miles:   9:28

Colin ran in club, county and National Championships.   His first run in the National Championships in 1957 when he was 76th in the Youths event.   It was a good team that year with Willie Murray and George Spence as the first two club finishers.   For the following three years he ran in the Junior Championships, finishing 71st, 115th and 68th.   He ran as a Senior in 1962 and 1963 finishing down the field but the notes on the 1963 championship say that among those who failed to finish that year, were Bob Wotherspoon (Shettleston), Charlie Meldrum (St Modan’s), Gordon Eadie(Cambuslang), Jim Alder (Morpeth Harriers), Graham Peters (VPAAC), John Kerr (Airdrie Harriers), Dick Penman and Jim Irvine (both Bellahouston Harriers).   So it wasn’t too bad a run.   On the road he had one run in the Edinburgh to Glasgow relay, and ran in the first ever Tom Scott 10 Road Race where he was timed at 63:06.   Colin was for several years a regular in the Gourock HG 14 miles road race and also took part in such events as Dirrans (13 miles) and Carluke (12 miles) road races.   The hill running scene also attracted his attentions and Colin ran in the Ben Lomond race and successfully tackled the Ben Nevis race three times.

At the age of 17 he was elected to the post of Assistant Secretary of Greenock Glenpark and his duties included writing the minutes of committee meetings and collecting training levies on Tuesdays and Thursdays.    However having gained his first professional qualification he moved to a job in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire.   This meant resigning as Assistant Secretary after just eight months in the job.   However you can’t keep a good man down and on his return he joined Dumbarton AAC where he was Treasurer for four years.    He kept his membership of Greenock Glenpark Harriers alive however and future service to athletics was done under their banner.

In 1958, Colin with some other Greenock Glenpark harriers went to Cardiff for the British Empire Games and after they were over stayed with relatives for another week’s holiday.   While there he went into the AAA’s offices and saw his first copy of ‘Athletics Weekly’.   he asked if he could keep it and was told he could take ‘that whole box’ if he wanted.   The box was filled with back numbers of AW’s that were to be thrown out.   Needless to say he took it and that was when he started collecting details of performances.   This led to membership of SATS – the Scottish Association of Track Statisticians – and he became one of the  key figures behind the now sadly defunct Scottish Athletics Yearbook which was a ‘must have’ for all genuinely involved in the sport north of the border.   It had ranking lists for each and every event at every recognised age group for both men and women with short notes on the state of the event at the top of each event’s rankings.   There were many other features – articles on various aspects by most of the great and good in the sport, pen portraits of selected athletes, historical records lists, results from championships and internationals and much more besides.   A closer look at this publication is taken below.

While on the subject of records, he was convener of the Rules and Records Committee for many years and at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh he was Chief Press Liaison Officer.   This led him into a story that was to be printed in all the national papers.   It concerned the decathlete Daley Thomson who won the event in typical style.   Clearly to my mind the best all-round athlete the country has ever produced, the word ‘mercurial’ has been used to describe Thomson’s style in public and there were many occasions when he was genuinely kind and prepared to sign autographs and pose for pictures.  He had another side and  was described by the Times as being  “Objectional, charmless and rude and “This is not a man destined to be a sports diplomat.”   The Sun said that he showed “over-powering arrogance and rudeness.”.    As for the incident itself, the Los Angeles Times described it as follows.   “”Thompson gives cold shoulder to officials: he wins third straight decathlon title then throws away sponsor’s bib.    For the second straight day, Thomson delighted the spectators but angered the officials with his behaviour.   When games press liaison officer Colin Shields requested him to attend a press conference, the decathlete replied ‘I bloody won’t‘”     The St Petersburg Times (in Russia) reported, “Thompson wins again: continues to defy officials.   When Press Officer Colin Shields requested him to attend a news conference for the medalists, Thompson said, ‘I bloody won’t.’   Shields said that he later complained to England’s Track and Field manager Gordon Wright about Thompson’s behaviour.”   A final comment was added by the Philadelphia Inquirer when it said “We know but can’t control him,” Shields quoted Wright as saying.”   

Colin’s view of the matter was covered in an article by Stewart McIntosh in ‘Scotland’s Runner of September 1986 and reads as follows.   “What is the truth about the fracas between Daley Thomson and SAAA official Colin Shields?   For a gleeful Press the story of Thomson telling an official to ‘piss off’ added an extra head of froth to the previous day’s antics about the Guinness logo.   Thomson defended himself by suggesting that Shields was out of order in approaching him immediately after the medal ceremony requesting him to attend a press conference.   But Shields insists that he approached Thomson much earlier and that the three-times Commonwealth gold medal winner breached an agreement about press procedures.  

To prevent athletes from being besieged by the press, the procedure had been agreed in advance.   Immediately after finishing their events, winning athletes would give the BBC a ‘flash’ interview before descending into the tunnel out of the centre of the arena.   If the written press wanted an interview, then it was Shields’s job to pass the request on to the athlete and request him or her to go to the press room immediately after the medal ceremony.   This arrangement gave competitors about half an hour to compose themselves and give some thought to what they were going to say.   Although every nation attending the games had agreed that their athletes would be available previous experience with the decathlete had made journalists sceptical about the prospects of Thomson meeting this obligation.  

Shields approached him immediately after his ‘flash’ interview where Thomson was obviously relaxed and in good humour as he joked with the TV journalist.   ‘I congratulated Daley on his third Commonwealth gold – and told him that I hoped he would break the world record in Stuttgart.   I then asked him if he would come to the press conference in about half an hour’s time after the medal ceremony’, says Shields.   Thomson’s answer was firm and to the point.   I’m not bloody well going to any press conference,’ he told the press liaison officer.   ‘I repeated the request saying that it was just 20 yards along the corridor and he would have about half an hour until after the ceremony to prepare for the press,’ says Shields.  

‘No, I don’t go to any bloody press conferences.   Don’t you understand the bloody English language?   Now piss off, said Thomson.    ‘I was shocked because no one else had refused,; says Shields, ‘Even some athletes like Fatima Whitbread who were a bit distraught agreed to come.   But it was the manner of his refusal which really took me aback.   I have no axe to grind for the press – if Thomson doesn’t want to give interviews that’s up to him, but there is no need for that kind of behaviour to someone whose job it is to pass on the message.’

Shields received an apology from the English team manager and an explanation that Thomson was difficult to control, but he was particularly wounded by Thomson’s allegations next day that he had not been approached until after the medal ceremony.   ‘Every athlete was approached at the same time – down in the tunnel right after their event and with half an hour’s notice of the press conference.   I have spent enough years watching and officiating at athletics matches to know that you have to be sensitive in your approach and that there are times when any athlete needs to be left alone.   But Thomson had plenty of time and had been joking and smiling with the TV reporter immediately before I went up to him, Shields explained.   Shields stresses that he remains a great admirer of Thomson’s athletic abilities – ‘I still hope that he gets that world record in Stuttgart, but I have lost some respect for him as a human being.’

And that’s that story of how Colin came to appear in the pages of the press all over the world from Los Angeles to St Petersburgh as well as throughout the Commonwealth.


He was also a member of the club group that travelled with Shettleston Harriers to the Rome Olympics in 1960 and in 1970 one of his Dumbarton clubmates, Alistair Lawson had a relative with a flat in Edinburgh.   Colin and some others went through for the duration and watched every single day’s athletics.   His list of Games attended is impressive and includes 1958  –   Empire Games in Cardiff;   1960   –   Olympic Games in Rome;   1970   –   Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh;   1972  –   Olympic Games in Munich;   1974   –   Europeans Championships in Rome;   1986   –   Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh;   1987   –   World Championships in Rome;   1987  –  Euro Juniors in Birmingham.    He also officiated at the inaugural Commonwealth Youth Games in Edinburgh and was responsible for records at the European Games in Glasgow in 1991.

When I asked him to say what was the high point from all the athletics that he had seen, he unhesitatingly said watching Herb Elliott win the Olympic 1500m in a new world record in Rome in 1960.   It was a really memorable trip and that particular event was the best of the best.   At home his top moment wasn’t as might be expected to do with middle distance running, or indeed any track event.   It was Ken McKay in 1985 doing a tremendous long jump on a nasty night at Edinburgh.   As soon as he landed he was leaping around and celebrating excitedly.   When Colin asked him about it Ken said that when a long jumper hits the board right, gets the jump right and lands going forward and not falling back, it’s a dream jump and he knows immediately.   It was a career best for the Pitreavie athlete.

Following the 1970 Commonwealth Games, he attended a course for track officials organised by Jim Morton at Bellahouston in Glasgow.   Jim pointed out right at the start that to be a track official, you needed concentration, good eyesight, keenness and ‘a strong bladder’ because you were out there for the duration of the meeting.   This led eventually to Colin being a Grade 1 track judge, a wind gauge operator, a marksman and the track referee qualification.

As a journalist, Colin had been a regular contributor to Athletics Weekly and Athletics in Scotland in the 1970s and Scotland’s Runner in the 1980s.    One little known fact about Colin is his radio reporting.   He did the first ever report on athletics on Radio Clyde in early 1975.   He had a total of three minutes to cover the Springburn Cup.   he also broadcast on other events such as the Scottish Schools.   These were of course in the days before mobile phones and the like.   On occasion there were no phones available and on more than one occasion he had to run up the road ‘chapping on doors’ asking if he could use their telephone.   When Dumbarton AAC started to do their relay from Glasgow (leaving George Square at 6:30 am) to Fort William in the 1960’s Colin was one of the two timekeepers, the other being Raymond Hutcheson.   His equally important task however was to phone in the team’s progress to Radio Clyde and to give them the final time.
Yearbook Lemon
Colin was Convenor of the SAAA Records Sub-Committee and on the Selection Committee for track and field international teams. Also on these committees in the late 1980s was Arnold Black and in 1991 they resurrected the Scottish Association of Track Statisticians (SATS) which had been dormant since the publication of the Scottish Athletics Yearbook 1983.
A membership was formed to assist with the publication of the Yearbook, with Colin as President and Arnold as Secretary/Treasurer, with assistance with results and compiling from Dudley Brotchie, Richard Bunker, Robert Carrie, Fraser Clyne, Norrie Griffiths, Derek McGinley, Margaret McInally, David Morrison and George Young. In 1993, the Yearbook was again published, a 104 page list of records and rankings, printed by a small co-operative in Govan, Govan Litho, and sold for £2.
The success and reception for the yearbook’s return saw it expanded the following year to 188 pages, incorporating advertisements to make the production affordable and viable. Colin would phone, write to and pester advertisers and achieved a success in raising funds that the compilers of the British equivalent had never even tried. He sourced articles for the yearbook and over the years wrote some of his own.
He added the observant event comments to the ranking lists which made the yearbooks all the more informative and readable, a great accompaniment to the statistics. Not everyone was enamoured by the comments though and even legal action was threatened on more than one occasion, although never forthcoming. Arnold edited the yearbook and Colin was less than impressed on occasion when some of his comments did not make the final publication for space reasons.
The yearbook continued until the 2009 yearbook was published. By then, the compiling team was down to just a few and, with the advent of internet rankings with their immediacy sometimes replacing accuracy, the demand for the yearbook fell away rapidly in the latter years until publication was no longer viable.
Colin and Arnold are continuing to work together on a long-standing (and long-running) project on the history of Scottish Athletics, through profiles of the great names in the sport. Colin’s deep knowledge of the sport and of the eccentricities of the times make him a great contributor to such a volume, and they hope to be able to publish the volume early in 2014.
Travelling frequently to England taking athletes to races and attending BMC and British squad gatherings, I know that it was a publication envied by the athletes and coaches south of the border who did not have a similar publication solely for England although all their results of note were included in the BAAB Annual which was not exclusive to England and which did not go as deep as the SATS annual.
Whatever the Weather
Colin is perhaps best known to the present generation as an administrator and official of some ability.   On his return from Hertfordshire, he lived in Dumbarton and joined the local club and ran for them in the District Relay Championships at King’s Park in Stirling.   he was still a Greenock man at heart though and represented the club on the Renfrewshire AAA Committee.   In 1967 George Pickering retired as secretary of the South West District and Bob McSwein moved up from being County secretary to inherit the role.   Colin was proposed and elected as secretary of the Renfrewshire AAA and this is a post that he has held for almost 50 years, being the current incumbent of the role with no signs of slowing down!     Colin, during this time, has also been secretary of the South-Western District and, its successor when the Districts were re-organised, the West District for a total of 15 years.    In these posts he organised the District Relays and the District Championships for 13 years, and as a member of the SCCU was responsible for organising the National Cross-Country Championship twice.
As a member of the SAAA, he has been President and vice president, Chairman of the Rules and Records Committee, organised the West District Track & Field Championships four or five times, was decathlon convener for 10 years taking the event to Aberdeen in the North to Annan in the south and several points in between and has been team manager for several Scottish teams.    His credo on these occasions was “Athletics is for the athletes, officials will work to serve the athletes.”
Probably the best ever reference book on any aspect of Scottish athletics is Colin’s centenary history “Whatever the Weather”, properly called “Runs Will Take Place, Whatever the Weather”.    It is clearly the result of a lot of work and scrupulous attention to detail.   When I asked him how long it took him, he replied that it was somewhere between three and a half and four years.   But that was full time research and writing.   He had been given early retirement because he required of serious difficulties with his feet and took the opportunity to get the history done.   His wife, Linda, would drop him at the Mitchell Library at 8:00 am and collect him no earlier than 8:00 pm.    The result was a longer volume than that which was finally produced.   Once it went to the printer and the chapters were sent to him for proof reading, many corrections had to be made and there were also decisions to be taken about cost, etc.   The book was finally sold at £5 a copy and made a profit!    However he incurred the wrath of the SCCU Committee and a disciplinary meeting was held in the North British Hotel in Glasgow, beside Queen Street Station.   He was accused of various illegalities, asked to leave the room while discussion was held behind closed doors, and summoned to be told that he was suspended sine die and asked to resign from all posts held within the organisation.   At his own expense, Colin hired a lawyer to examine the situation and the outcome was that the Union was asked to a meeting with a QC in Edinburgh to put their case, as was Colin with the QC’s decision to be taken as final.   The decision was that the SCCU had acted outwith their competence and ordered his immediate re-instatement to all posts.   The Union delayed implementation of this finding until the very last minute.   Almost three years later, in its final meeting which wound up the Union and transferred all its powers to the new Scottish Athletics Federation, he was re-instated to all the posts.   Regardless of all that, the book itself is an essential reference work for anyone involved in Scottish athletics.   The amount of detail as far as the running and racing is concerned is incredible, a separate section on the Edinburgh to Glasgow relay race for instance is worth the £5 price on its own, but he also gives an insight into the workings of the various committees and there are fine rounded portraits of the key people in the development of the sport.   I have three copies, I have given away a dozen and sold more than that.
He is still involved in the sport – he has been organising the DunRen meetings at Linwood with Stuart Irvine since the mid-90’s, they also started up the Run/Jump/Throw meetings at the same venue and, still with Stuart, organises the Tour of Clydeside – four races, at four venues, over different terrain and at different distances.    He is still secretary of the Renfrewshire association after 47 years in the post and as such is responsible with his committee for the organisation of the County Cross-Country Relays and County Cross-Country  Championships as well as the Road and Track & Field Championships.   But what I am waiting for is the next Colin Shields/Arnold Black production – a book entitled “The Past Is a Foreign Country” which will contain 100 profiles.   35 of these profiles will be for the period up to 1939 with the remaining 65 covering the period from 1946.    It has been years in the making and should be well worth the wait.
Little wonder that in 2006 he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by Scottish Athletics
Officials like Colin don’t come along very often   ….   unfortunately for Scottish athletics.

Brian Goodwin

Brian Goodwin Start of Edinburgh Glasgow 1964

I first heard of Brian Goodwin when I was travelling on the Scottish Marathon Club bus up to Kinlochleven Highland Games in the early 1960s.   The bus had stopped at the Green Kettle at Bridge of Orchy for a cup of tea or whatever and we were standing outside talking when one of the runners mentioned that Brian had run some exceptional times in Finland.   I first met Brian after running a good first stage of the McAndrew Relays not long after that – I had been in fourth/fifth up to the last run-in when three others passed me.   I had just stopped and was gathering my thoughts nd breath when Brian said to Les Meneely of Shettleston (both just in front of me, and Brian was one of those who had passed me in the straight, that they had better watch out for me that season!   An inaccurate prediction as it happened but we became friends there and then.   I soon found out that he was a bit carnaptious and often began a conversation with a pseudo-insult which was quickly followed by a question about some aspect of running or someone he knew in Clydesdale Harriers.

As indicated, Brian started out in the sport as a runner in the 1950’s.   Like his brother Billy, who had been Scottish Youth cross-country champion in 1955 and 1956, and Scottish Junior champion in 1959, he was a member of Bellahouston Harriers and remained so for the rest of his life.   I once walked with him from the train station in Airdrie to Rawyards Park for the meeting there and he was talking about a proposed union of Bellahouston and Shettleston – a union which never came to pass and which he opposed.   How good was   he?   His personal best times are in the table (below, left), together with its ranking in Scotland.

Brian also ran in the steeplechase early in his career and had a best of 9:21.2 in 1963 which placed him third in Scotland – his highest ranking in any event in his career.   He ranked 27 times for 9 different events over a period of eleven years at a time when the standard was very high indeed in the country.   Possibly as a result of that, he only had one National medal to show for it – a third place in the SAAA Six Miles in 1968.   After a hard duel, the winner was Lachie Stewart in 28:12.8, second was John Linaker in 28:17.2 and third was Brian in 31:10.4.

At club level he ran in 12 consecutive Edinburgh to Glasgow Relays (four on Stage One, three on Stage Two, four on Stage Six and one on Stage Three) and ran in the National Championships from the Senior Boy (U15) age through to Senior Man on a total of 10 occasions.

He was withou doubt a very useful athlete who seemed to move seamlessly  into officialdom and administration immediately on leaving competitive athletics






2 miles




3 miles




6 miles




10 Miles





















Doug Gillon in his obituary notice said of Brian’s running career:

“His best times were 30:24.6 for 10k and 14:47.6 for 5k. He never won a Scottish title, but these times would have won the national championships at both distances during recent years. His one national championship medal, bronze at six miles, was behind future Commonwealth champion Lachie Stewart and John Linaker in 1968. Goodwin and Pat McLaggan headed the pursuit, and McLaggan believed he had one lap left when the steward called: “Two to go.” Next time round, when McLaggan stopped to argue, Brian kept running and took the medal. Nine years earlier, his brother, Billy, another gifted runner, had medalled in this event. Brian ran a 2:26 marathon while working in Sweden, but his best on home soil was 2:29.56 for fourth in the Scottish championships, in an era when anything under 2:30 was virtually world-class.”


Ian Leggett, Brian Goodwin and Jim Irvine

The Scottish Post Office team for the PO International

Brian was a very good clubman: Jim Russell wrote the following about his own experiences within Bellahouston Harriers.

“When I joined Bellahouston Harriers in 1968 Jimmy Irvine started to give me advice on training and he told me that Brian Goodwin was the top distance man in the club and had been since he was a junior and that was because most of the best runners in the club had retired at the same time or were now past their best.

      He could be very abrasive and didn’t suffer fools but he always tried to help other athletes and would do anything for the club. He always wanted the club to do well in races and could become very passionate. An example of this involving myself came in my first year as a junior. I had had a good run in the McAndrew in the B or C team which resulted in being promoted to the first team for the Renfrewshire Relay running second leg. Jack Adair had an excellent run on first stage handing me a lead of 150 yards on Greenock Wellpark who had John Stevenson who was I think was  already a veteran on second. I set off round Bellahouston Park with Brian expecting me to increase the lead or at least hold it but whether I  let nerves get the better of me or I was just having a nightmare I was gradually pulled in by Stevenson and eventually staggered over the line about 100 yards down in 3rd place. As I hung onto a fence to stay on my feet I became aware of Brian standing next to me shouting and demanding to know what I was playing at. Suffice it to say that my reply started and finished with the letter F. Brian was pulled away by another club runner.  The team eventually finished in second.

      Brian had a hatred of deliberate dead heats and if he was judging at a race would make sure that the runners were split. An example of this came in the Glasgow Schools Cross country Championships in Pollok estate. Frank Clement was a runaway winner of the race winning by 96 seconds (still I believe the largest winning margin in the history of the championships). However the 2nd and 3rd places were close together all the way and were actually friends living close to each other but running for different schools. Towards the end of the race they came to an agreement to cross the line together holding hands but they had not reckoned with Brian being the head judge. Brian decided that they had not been level and gave the decision to the runner who had been in 3rd place most of the race. I would not be surprised if he was responsible for splitting George Braidwood and Peter Fleming when they tried to dead heat at The Luddon Half Marathon in 1983.

        Brian was no respecter of reputations either no matter who the person or persons were. I was not able to attend the World Cross Country at Bellahouston Park in 1978 (blame my sister for getting married) but I heard a story which involved Brian. Apparently Brian was in the room where the results were being collated and was keeping out anyone who was not involved in doing this job. While he was standing at the door he was approached by Ron Pickering and David Coleman who attempted to get past Brian into the room. Brian put his arm across the doorway and said Where do you think you are going. The reply was We are from the BBC and we are going to get the results. Brian told them they would have to wait for results like everyone else. Back came the reply Do you know who we are I am David Coleman and this is Ron Pickering. Not the best thing to say to Brian who again told them they would have to wait although I was told he was not as polite as before(something along the lines of my reply to him a few years before). I don’t know if this is true but it sounds like something Brian would have done.

As a runner Brian was one of the toughest around and was not scared to push the pace but if ever anyone lacked a finishing kick it was Brian. I remember at West London Stadium (now The Linford Christie Stadium) when Bellahouston made their only appearance in the British League Brian was running the 5000 metres and had built up a lead of about 80 metres with about 3 laps to go and looked good for the win. The Achilles runner in second place started to close the gap but at the bell Brian still had about 50 metres lead. We all thought that he was going to hold on but with 200 to go the Achilles man suddenly produced a fantastic finish to pull back the lead and despite Brian straining every sinew he was out dipped on the line.

      In training when I was younger  Brian was always trying to teach us younger runners pace judgement but when we got near to the finish of a run the impetuous youth took over and the pace would pick up and Brian would be unable to stop us due to his lack of acceleration.

When I was thinking of running the Scottish Marathon in 1975 Brian eventually persuaded me that I was too young and should wait a couple of years before doing it. I would have turned 23 a couple of weeks after the race. In hindsight I think I should have ignored his advice and run the race. At the Glasgow Marathon in 1980 the selected Scottish Team was Jim Dingwall, Alastair McFarlane and Graham Laing. Graham withdrew due to injury and was replaced by Colin Martin but unfortunately he also had to withdraw with injury and was not replaced. In the race I stopped about halfway with a couple of niggles not wanting to put myself out with injury. After the race Brian told me that he had been trying to get me in the team in place of Colin at the last minute saying that he had been called in after the selectors had looked at the result from the previous year and taking the first Scot to finish not already in the team. I had finished one place behind Colin the year before but the selectors refused to replace Colin and Scotland started with only two runners. If I had been in the team I would not have dropped out of the race. This was just another case of Brian trying to do what he could for an athlete.

        On a couple of occasions during the winter months when it had been snowing Brian suggested that instead of a road run that we should go over the country. Most said it would be too dangerous due to there being about 8 inches of snow and as it was dark we would not be able to see where we were going. Brian just said you can see for miles because of the snow and he would go himself.  On the first occasion I was the only one who went with him round Pollok Estate and adjoining Golf Courses and was wearing a full waterproof tracksuit. Brian was right and you could see a long way but the only problem was everything looks flat in the snow until you trip over it which I did on a number of occassions. At one point I tripped  fell and because of my suit slid along on the snow. When I eventually stopped I was looking down over the top edge into a bunker. Brian never tripped or fell once but had a good laugh at my misfortunes.

      Brian other than competing for the club served on the committee in various positions. During my time at the club he served as Secretary, Treasurer, Chairman and President and represented the club on various committees at County, Area and National level taking various posts on these committees.

At one club committee meeting there was a letter read out which was from a young athlete who wished to change from his present club in Greenock to Bellahouston. Brian stated that he did not think it would be in the interest of either club to allow this young man to change club and that the athlete should remain with his present club until he was older and possibly better placed to make this decision to change clubs. Brian persuaded a majority of the committee that this was in the athlete’s best interest and the transfer did not take place. The athlete in question was Tommy Murray around 18 years old at the time. For Bellahouston this may have been one of Brian’s worst moments.

        Brian was one of those people that dedicated themselves to the sport and did not look for thanks and his demise was a great loss to Bellahouston Harriers in particular and also Scottish Athletics.”

That’s what Jim had to say and if we look at Brian’s career as an official, we get a remarkable picture.    He was President of the NCCU in 1976-77 and SAAA West District Secretary from 1981 to season 1995-96, following up as West District Secretary of SAF and then SAL from 1996-97 to 2006-07.   If we take just one year   –   1995-96   –   and see his entries in the SAF Federation Handbook for that year we see Brian listed as Secretary of the Road Running and Cross Country Commission, Track and Field Commission West District Secretary and Delegate to the UK Road Running and Cross Country Federation.   He was also a life member of the Federation and was qualified as a track referee with Grade 1 Track Judge and Grade 1 Marksman qualifications plus Grade 3 time keeper.   He was also noted as being available for Administrative Duties for Drug Testing and as a Presentation Stewart.

Brian worked as a postman (see the picture above with Ian and Jim) and painter but like many of us he only really worked to feed his athletics habit.   As secretary of the West District for over a quarter of a century, he was to be found spending many hours doing relatively menial tasks in the Association’s offices – checking entry forms, labelling and filling envelopes, etc.    He was on a multiplicity of committees – when the first standards were set for the SAAA Championships the committee consisted of Brian, Alex Naylor and myself.   But while three years on the SAAA Committee were enough for me, Brian was there for decades.   Brian had a reputation for being direct and, not to put too fine a point on it, rude at times.   He really cared about the sport and wanted it conducted in its purity, as he saw it.   He had a very kind side though and in his obituary for Brian, Doug Gillon said in the ‘Herald

“He had a sharp tongue but a generous spirit. Many years ago, an under-13 youngster from Lanarkshire won the national cross-country title. But he had not been officially entered, and ran wearing another competitor’s number. He was disqualified. Two years later he was first across the line in the under-15 Scottish championship, but had been mis-directed by a steward, had run short of the full distance, and was again disqualified. Last year Brian inquired what had become of this lad. The East Kilbride club said it was still in contact, and the young man and his parents were contacted for a wee club soiree last December. During the evening he was stunned to be presented with two gold medals, quietly handed over to the club by Brian.”

There are many stories about Brian and I’ll come back and add some of them but to finish for now, Doug said in the obituary that Brian was an athlete of modest achievements but was a prodigious figure in the sport.




George Dallas


Taking Up athletics when I did in the mid-1950’s, I first associated the name of George Dallas with the Monday athletics reports in the ‘Glasgow Herald’.   They were comprehensive, easy to read and you could rely on them.   He was the best reporter the paper ever had until Doug Gillon came along.   He was at all the cross-country meetings, easily recognised and always easy to speak to.   But he was much more than that.   One of the best and longest serving of officials he had been a very good runner himself and knew what was in the best interests of the competitors.   There are two profiles of his career that I will reproduce here to start with.

The first is Colin Shields’s very perceptive profile of the man in his centenary history of the SCCU and I start by quoting it extensively.

“To those who knew him, George Dallas was the administrative rock on which the National Cross-Country Union of Scotland operated.   For twenty five years, between 1921/22 and 1946/47, he held the post of joint Hon. Secretary and Hon. Treasurer, and then remained as Hon. Secretary for a further period of 15 years until 1961, with Duncan McSwein having taken over the separate post of Hon. Treasurer in 1946.

But Dallas was also a very successful competitor on both the track and country as well as being and able administrator and reporter of the sport in most of Scotland’s newspapers.   It was general for runners to turn to distance running and competition over the country after a period of track competition over shorter distances.   But Dallas was different in his approach to competition.   Returning from Army service in the First World War he was in the peak of physical fitness after a year in the army of occupation in Germany had given him plenty of time for training.   In his first summer home he ran 52.0 seconds to win the SAAA National 440 yards title at Powderhall Stadium in Edinburgh.  

This short distance sprint victory came, unusually, after a pre-war period of cross-country running.   In 1910 Dallas won Maryhill Harriers 9 mile club championship, bettering the course record by 2 minutes with three other clubmates inside the old record.   This run established him as favourite for the Western District Junior title and he justified this position by winning the 7 miles race in 41 minutes 05 seconds.   In a close finish he was three seconds clear of A Austin (Greenock Glenpark Harriers) with D Peat (Motherwell YMCA) third, one second behind.   Dallas led Maryhill to their first ever team victory in the championship.”  

This summarises his career well and Colin elaborates on it in the course of the book.   James Logan of Victoria Park AAC wrote to me at one point to say that the troops at the end of the War in 1918 had time on their hands and, to employ them profitably, the Army establishment decided that they had to take part in sport and PE.   George was one of those nominated to organise and carry out the fitness training and the sports programme.  The troops came home in 1919 and 1920 ‘bursting with fitness’ and ready for action!   George certainly was as his athletics showed.

Nowadays, many young athletes know the name through the George Dallas Trust which was set up by his family in 1982.

Scottish Athletics in writing about the Trust produced the following for the IFAC Conference in Glasgow which again outlines his career but adds to what is above and explains the nature and purpose of the Trust.

Becoming a member of Maryhill Harriers in 1906, George Dallas was an athlete of unsurpassable versatility, winning races at all distances from 100 yards to 10 miles at the highest level. He was equally at home on the track and over the country – a highlight of his career being his win in the Scottish Championships at 440 yards. He was also a prolific winner of handicap events, more often than not running from the virtual scratch mark.

After serving in the First World War in 1914-18 in the Royal Garrison Artillery, George, as Brigade Sports Officer, won the Second Army Cross Country Championships in Cologne from over 1000 competitors.

On returning to “Civvy Street”, George then turned his hand to the administrative side of the sport and swiftly became the Honorary Secretary of the Scottish Cross Country Union, a post which he held for an unprecedented period of 40 years. During this time, George organised no less than 6 International Cross Country Championships, which brought great credit to Scottish Cross Country running. At the same time, for a period of 26 years, he was also Western District Secretary of the S.A.A.A.

George’s tremendous contribution to Scottish athletics was also recognised when he was elected President of the S.A.A.A in 1950, the S.C.C.U in 1961 and the International C.C.U in 1952. George was also the athletics correspondent for many newspapers, including the Glasgow Herald.

His effort were finally crowned by the award of an M.B.E in 1962 for services to Scottish athletics.

To keep alive George Dallas’s name and honor, his Daughter, Mrs Nancy G. Dallas Crane initiated the George Dallas Memorial Trust in 1982.

The purpose of the trust was, initially, to help provide assistance to deserving young Scottish athletes, male and female, for training, coaching, travelling or equipment. Towards this end, many individual grants were awarded to athletes covering the length and breadth of Scotland. In order to comply with the role of a charitable organisation (a status achieved by the Trust in 1994), the Trust had to change the thrust of its awards. And individual grants to athletes were phased out, replaced by grants supporting more general education and coaching matters, training of officials, etc, and organising participatory courses for physically and socially disadvantaged young athletes.

Such events have been funded (in whole, or in part) by the Trust in all areas of Scotland, from Stornoway to Dumfries, and further events including the Coaches Conference and Disability Education Courses are in the pipeline in conjunction with scottishathletics.

In addition to the above activities, the Trust annually awards the George Dallas memorial Trophy to the person or persons who in the judgement of the Trustees, have achieved distinction in, or made a material contribution to, cross country, road running, track and field or hill running in Scotland in the preceding calendar year, whether they be athletes, administrators, coaches or otherwise involved in the sport. Previous recipients of the awards include Allan Wells, Yvonne Murray, Liz McColgan, Tom McKean, Tommy Boyle.

scottishathletics remains extremely grateful to the George Dallas Memorial Trust for its continued support of Coach Education in Scotland, and this weekend, for their support of the Coaches Conference in particular.

Anyone requiring further information or wishing to make a donation to the Trust should write to Mr R.L.McSwein, 56 Atholl Drive, Giffnock, Glasgow G46 6QP.

I can only further exhort any reader to get in touch with Bob if they can help out at all.

In addition to the posts of Secretary/Treasurer and Secretary of the NCCU for 40 years, George was Secretary of the West District Committee of the SAAA from 1922 – 1948 and held the posts of President of the SAAA in 1950, of the International CCU in 1952 and of the NCCU in 1961/62.   And the organisation of six international championships.  Then of course there was the officiating at track meetings and at cross-country races.   Then of course there were the club commitments.

He really was the rock of so many associations and committees as Colin said at the start of his comments on George and yet I never ever heard him be rude to any athlete and he always found time to reply to any query that came his way in the course a meeting.   A marvelous man and a great official and administrator.

George Dallas’s running career is covered at these links:   Before 1915   After 1918