George Dallas as a Runner: After the War

After the War broke out, there was the well-documented attitude that “It’ll be all over by Christmas'”   Initially life went on pretty well as before until the casualties started to pile up, and Christmas came and went.   Some clubs, such as Clydesdale Harriers, suspended activities ‘for the duration’ but in practical terms, the athletic season continued pretty well as before with the same sports meetings on the same dates in summer 1915.   George Dallas missed some of the early season meetings but was in action by  the end of June.   The following appeared in the Glasgow Herald of June 26th, 1915.

 “SAAA (Western Districts)

In ordinary times the Scottish Amateur Athletic Association hold their championship meeting on the fourth Saturday in June, but this year it was decided at the annual meeting of the Association that the championship should be held in abeyance, and the date was appropriated by the Western District Committee for a meeting in favour of one or other of the war funds.   Later it was decided to devote the surplus to the fund organised by the Glasgow Corporation for the relief of Belgian refugees, and the patronage of the Lord Provost, Magistrates and Town Council having been secured, the meting took place at Celtic Park on Saturday afternoon.”    

The meetings held in 1915 often contained races or competitions confined to serving members of the armed forces and unusual events were held – stretcher carrying races by men in full uniform, team races on the track, etc, but this meeting took the idea a bit further – a military marathon race open to teams of twelve.   Starting from Celtic Park, the teams made their way by London Road to Barrachnie, Dykehead and Tannochside, thence to Mount Vernon and back to Celtic Park by London Road.   Six teams were entered and the conditins were that each team consisted of an officer, a non-commissioned officer and ten men.   Full military equipment was worn and each team had to travel and finish as a unit, with a minimum of ten of all ranks, with kit in good order.  The distance was about 13 miles.”

George Dallas competed at the meeting in the relatively tame 100 yards, off a mark of 4 1/2 yards, and finished third, inches behind the winner.   He had won both heat and semi-final en route to the final.   The Military Marathon was won by 4th Battalion Scottish Rifles, B Company, in 1 hour 58.6 – a creditable time for what was basically a half marathon in full military kit in company with eleven others.

On 3rd July, at Hamilton Academicals Sports, again in the 100 yards Dallas was second in first heat, but unplaced in the final, off 4 yards, then in the half mile first in first heat  (listed in the programme as G Dallas, Maryhill and West of Scotland Harriers), from a mark of 14 yards, he was unable to beat the handicapper and was unplaced.   At Ayr United F & AC Sports on  July 17th, he ran first in the 220 yards,  where he qualified for the final as fastest loser from 6 heats, and was second in the Final.   He also turned out in the half mile where he was first as G Dallas, Maryhill H, running from 14 yards he won  by inches in  2:02.4.   In to August and as usual the Rangers Sports were the first big event.   Held on the seventh of the month he won the half mile off 12 yards in 1:58.6.   The Celtic Sports were the following week but he was not mentioned in the results – the first three were from marks of 46, 41 and 60 yards respectively so the handicapper might have been the problem there.   On 14th August at Celtic Sports, he was not among the results but the first three in the half mile were off 46, 41 and 60 yards respectively.

By 1916 reality had set in and what sports there still were, had programmes that were scanty when compared with previous years,   eg The Rangers Sports had only five running events and a five a side tournament.  The open events were 100 yards, 220 yards and Mile, and there were two military handicap races over 100 and 220 yards.   Top runner was WR Applegarth who won the military 220 yards.   Otherwise they were purely domestic races which nevertheless attracted a crowd of 15,000 spectators.   Dallas was by now taken up with military duties.   

Colin Shields says in his excellent history of Scottish cross-country ‘whatever the Weather’ :  “ 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. ” 

It may have been his first summer home when he won the 440 yards, it was not the first SAAA championship after the war.   There was a One Mile Relay race held on Saturday, 24th May at the Eglinton Harriers Sports and although the team was not named, it is possible that Dallas was a member of the winning Maryhill team.   He was certainly in action on 31st May, one week later, when Edinburgh University AC held their sports.   Several Open events were included and Dallas won the half mile off 8 yards in 2:00.4.   He also ran the first stage of the Mile relay for Maryhill which won in 3:50.0 with Goodwin, Hamilton and Colberry making up the team.   At Hampden a week later the same relay team won the Mile relay in 3:47.5 by 20 yards from Edinburgh University AC.   Another week, another relay: this time it was at the West of Scotland Sports at Ibrox on 14th June and the same Maryhill Harriers squad won from Greenock Glenpark Harriers in 3:51.4.   Then at Tynecastle on 23rd June he again competed in the double of open handicap half mile and relay.   In the former he was third, running this time from scratch and in the relay Maryhill was beaten for the first time that year – their team had one change from the usual and that was Dobbie in for Goodwin – and by Edinburgh University AC.   

On 28th June 1919, the SAAA Championships  at Celtic Park included a One Mile Medley Relay and with five wins from six relays, Maryhill Harriers had to turn out a team.   Reverting to the Dallas/Goodwin/Hamilton/Colberry quartet they defeated Greenock Glenpark in 3:53 in what was described as one of the most interesting relay races ever seen in the district.    Dallas also ran in the championship half mile where he was second to Hector Phillips of Greenock Glenpark who won in 2:05.   The next Saturday he was out in the Kilmarnock FC meeting where he won the half mile in 2:00.2.   Partick Thistle held their Sports at Firhill on 12th July and Maryhill again won the Mile medley relay with a team of Dallas, Hamilton Cook and Colberry and Dallas was second by half a yard in the half-mile handicap.   There was no half mile at the Ayr United FC Sports on 19th July but there was a Mile Relay which Maryhill ‘won easily’.   Unplaced in the half mile at the Glenpark Harriers Sports on 26th July he was again a member of a winning relay team when the four of Dallas, Goodwin, Hamilton and Colberry beat Glenpark Harriers by a yard in the fast time of 3:44.2.   That was probably their hardest fought win of the summer – record so far – 10 relays, 8 firsts, two seconds!   The next relay was at Celtic Park for the Celtic FC Sports where, having been given 45 yards start on London’s Polytechnic Harriers, they finished second having turned out their best team.   The Londoners’ time was 3:32.8 which was cut above the best that any Scots team had done.   It should be noted that the Polytechnic Harriers team were almost professional athletes during the summer months touring all over the English regions and Scotland as well – they had even been on the Continent and at one point at least the AAA had asked about how they were financing their activities.   They were undoubtedly a good squad and it was no reflection on Maryhill that they had lost to them.   Their record that summer must be one of the best ever run by a club team.   

SAAA 440 yards championship, 1920

The first open athletics meeting of the season was held by Paisley Junior Harriers and there was a relay race on the programme.  “Of the five teams entered for the relay race, only three appeared, but the event lost none of its picturesqueness on that account.   It was seen early in the race that Maryhill Harriers, the holders of the national championship,  were likely to win, and they maintained their reputation.West of Scotland Harriers however pushed them all the way finishing a creditable second.   The third team, Shettleston lost a lot of ground  quite early on and thereafter their position was hopeless.”   

Kilmarnock Harriers held their first Sports on 22nd May at Rugby Park before a crowd of 4000 and Dallas was out in the half mile running from 8 yards.   In the final he finished third behind Crawford of Olympic Harriers (46 yards) and Morrison of Eglinton Harriers (45 yards).   Shettleston Harriers held a Sports on 29/5/20 at Celtic Park and Dallas was in action in the half mile.   The report read: “The feature of the half mile was the fine running of George Dallas (Maryhill Harriers) in both heat and final.   From the short mark of 8 yards, he contented himself with second place in the heat, which was the fastest of the four, but the final was run at a much hotter pace and he was beaten by A McGilp of Bellahouston Harriers who was in receipt of 52 yards.”   

The Queen’s Park Sports were held on the first Saturday in June and Dallas was in action  twice that afternoon.   Not in the 880 yards did he run but he turned out in the invitation 440 yards handicap which he won from the mark of 5 yards from Edinburgh’s Robertson (8 yards) and his team mate Colberry (6 yards.   He won by 5 yards in 50.8 seconds.   He then joined Colberry, Bell and Cook in the club relay team which won in 3:48.8, 15 yards in front of Edinburgh Northern Harriers.  Three relays, three victories – but that was about to change.   West of Scotland put the Wyoming Cup (won outright before the War at Hawick) up for a relay at their Sports at Ibrox on 12th June.   And West duly won their own trophy with the Maryhill team of Bell, Colberry, Cook and Dallas second, beaten by a single yard.   This was nevertheless a good performance with the West leading off with Scotland’s top middle distance runner, D McPhee, on the half mile leg.   Report said that the contest for the Wyoming Cup now stood at one each for Maryhill and the West with the Cup going to the club which won it three times, not necessarily in succession.   

The SAAA Championships were held as usual on the fourth Saturday in June – the 26th -at Powderhall where Dallas won the 440 yards in  52 secons defeating Maryhill team mate and a man who had featured in many a winning relay team with him, JB Bell.   He only won by a yard though.   The Maryhill team then won the medley race in 3:47.2 with a squad of Dallas,  Goodwin, Bell and Colberry.   The second team was the West of Scotland team.   Into July and Dallas was back at Kilmarnock FC’s Sports where he won the half-mile.   According to the report he showed fine judgement in winning his heat without difficulty and had an easy journey in the final.   Running from 8 yards he won in 2:06 with second and third runners off 55 and 32 yards respectively.   West of Scotland held a sports meeting at Rothesay on 17th July but Dallas was nearer home at West Kilbride where he won the half mile from 4 yards while second and third ran from 50 yards and 55 yards.  He was said to have ‘won easily’ in 2:03.   Race entries at this point were very big in all races, particularly the sprints – eg in the Celtic Sports in 1920 there were 22 heats of the 100 yards.   The Herald commented “The season of 1920 will be remembered more by the extraordinary number of competitors than by the high quality of performances recorded week by week.”     Look at this picture of a mile handicap at Ibrox – not sure of the date but fields of this size and even bigger were not uncommon.   The result was that the back markers had a big job to get through the field which often meant max effort in the heat and again in the final.   Even the 100 became a test of strength with heat, second round and then the final.   So when Dallas and other half milers had to run a heat from four or five yards where they gave the limit man up to 60 yards, then a final as well, it was not easy.   Often made harder by having big numbers on the track to wend their way through as well.   

“The National Cross-Country Union of Scotland held their first amateur sports meeting at Celtic Park, Glasgow on Saturday afternoon, when a varied and interesting programme was submitted.   Entries in all events were large but the public attendance was somewhat disappointing.”   [Glasgow Herald 23rd May, 1921]   Dallas ran in the medley relay with Bell, Goodwin and Colberry and they won easily in 3:48.4.   On 4th June the Queen’s Park Sports were held and Dallas was part of a Glasgow Relay team consisting of Duncan McPhee, JB Bell, Dallas and HJ Christie which defeated an Edinburgh team of EH Liddell, L Robertson, T Ritchie and WJ Ross. 

If we take a moment to look at the quality of this Maryhill Harriers Relay team, the quality was very high.   Dallas we know about,

  •  JB Bell (who later went on to represent Glasgow University as well as the club) won the SAAA 220 yards and 440 yards in 1919, was second in the 440 behind Dallas and third in the 220 in 1920, was again third in the 220 and second in the 440 in 1921.
  • AH Goodwin won the SAAA 100 yards in 1919 and was a finalist in almost all sprints at all major domestic meetings.
  • S Colbery was most unfortunate in not gaining any championship titles.   He was a member of relay teams from the start of 1919 to the end of 1921.
  • G Hamilton who ran with Dallas for Maryhill an West of Scotland pre-war was another fine runner whose only Scottish medal was a third in the 1919 100 yards championship.   

But no matter how good they were, they were all relay specialists of the highest order and the teams of which they were members were the best in the country at the time.

At the West of Scotland Sports at Ibrox on 11th June, the host club defeated Maryhill in the relay by a yard in 3:49.6.   Whether Dallas ran in the open half mile or not we don’t know – the first three were from marks of 58, 45 and 45 yards and the paper was ambivalent about the value of the big numbers of entries for most events but especially the 100, the half mile and the mile.   However, the most interesting race on the programme was the relay with Duncan McPhee and George Dallas facing each other in the half mile opening stage, “McPhee ran a great race, finishing a yard ahead and securing the Wyoming Cup for the promoting club.”   If the reigning  SAAA champion ran a great race to finish a yard ahead, surely Dallas must also have run a great race to hold him to a single yard?   The SAAA Championships were held on 25th June at Celtic Park before 5000 spectators and with more competitors than at any previous championship.   Dallas ran in the quarter mile which he had won the previous year but without that success.   He won his heat in 53.8 seconds. but in the final the bets he could do was third behind GT Stevenson of Shettleston Harriers and JB Bell, his Maryhill club mate who was also third in the 330 yards.   The Maryhill team was out in the relay looking for the third successive victory and the team looked good enough to win – Dallas, Bell, Colberry and Black – but the Edinburgh University team of Eric Liddell, JM Davie, GI Stewart and EW Cormack proved to have the better of them   The winning time was a very good 3:43.   

On 2nd July Dallas preferred the Glasgow Police Sports at Ibrox to the Hearts FC meeting at Tynecastle and ran in the quarter again.   Running from 4 yards he was a’good third’ with the gap between first and second only ‘a foot’.   ‘A Dallas’ ran in the half mile where he was fourth from the generous allowance of 57 yards.   A week later, 9th July, Maryhill Harriers held a sports at Hawthorn Park, Springburn  when ‘A Dallas’ was second to A Boyd of Bellahouston Harriers who won in 2:00.8, a yard in front.   Again the mark was 57 yards.   Was A Dallas a relative?   Or a misprint?   I would think the former since the name was very well known in Scottish athletics, since 57 yards seems a big start for one who had been third in the SAAA quarter-mile and since the programme had managed to get G Dallas right for the quarter at Ibrox.   On 23rd June there were several sports meetings being held but the Eglinton Harriers meeting at Saltcoats saw the next generation of Maryhill Harriers talent on display when WH Calderwood was second in the half mile.   None of the great relay teams of 1919, 1920 or indeed 1921 were on parade that day.   On 30th July George Dallas ran in the invitation 300 yards race at the Greenock Glenpark meeting at Cappielow in almost continual rain.   He finished second to GT Stevenson (Shettleston  2 yards) who won in 33.4.   Stevenson had been one of the ‘finds’ of the season, a surprise winner of the SAAA title he won the international at Belfast beating both Englishmen and both Irish runners.   The new generation was coming through.    At the Rangers Sports, the only member of any of the relay teams in which Dallas had appeared, to figure in the results was S Colbery (12 yards) who was second in the invitation 300 yards ahead of Eric Liddell (4 yards).   Colberry was a very good runner who had been unfortunate not to win a national title and here with 8 yards start from Liddell over 300 he held him off, being beaten by HJ Christie (West of Scotland  10) only on the tape.   

Dallas had been racing since 1908 and had been unfortunate that the War hindered his progress as an athlete.   He had been involved in athletics administration for several years and in 1921 he was elected Honorary Secretary/Treasurer of the National Cross-Country Union of Scotland, a post he was to hold until 1946  and in 1922 he was elected Secretary of the West District of the SAAA.   He was on two national governing bodies simultaneously, holding responsible positions on them both, and something had to give.   He may have continued to run in 1922 but he was nowhere to be seen at his old stamping grounds – not Queen’s Park, Hamilton, Rangers or Celtic Sports, nor was the relay team in evidence.   However he was not finished with athletics by a long chalk – he was a capable administrator and official for more than four decades: in 1962 he received an MBE for services to athletics.   

 

 

George Dallas as a Runner: Before the War

George Dallas, far right, 100 yards, Celtic Park, 1915

Photograph from Alex Wilson

George Dallas’s career in Scottish athletics has been summarised elsewhere on this website but it is not generally recognised how good an athlete he was before he became an official.   A top grade official, recognised as a more than efficient administrator, an excellent reporter on matters to do with the sport first of all for the Daily Record under the pen-name of Ggroe and then for the ‘Glasgow Herald’, George had been a Scottish champion and an international runner before any of that.   His running career, as for so many of his generation can be split into before and after the 1914-18 War. 

Joining Maryhill Harriers in 1906, George first started to appear in results columns in 1908 and on 9th May 1909 in the Clydesdale Harriers Sports at Ibrox he won the half mile running from a mark of 35 yards in 2:01.4.   The races were almost all handicap races and winning a handicap meant that you were given a less favourable mark next time out.   That and the sheer numbers competing meant that the sprinters often had two round of heats before the final.   Making the first three was not easy.  George’s next notable prize was on 17th July 1909 at the highly rated Ayr FC Sports where he was second in the  half mile won by Rodger of Paisley in 1:59.8 off 30 yards.    

Dallas ran cross-country races, as indeed did almost all middle distance track me, the difference was that at this point Dallas was running the 440/880 yards races with the occasional outing over 220 yards.   In his book ‘Whatever the Weather’ Colin Shields says: “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.”   The Glasgow Herald described the race, in which there were 21 teams of 12 men,  thus:  “on entering the home straight, Dallas of Maryhill Harriers was to the fore but he was closely followed by Aitken of Greenock, with Peat of Motherwell behind him.   The finish was exciting and the leader, with a final dash, won by a couple of yards.”   Dallas’s time was 41 minutes 05.8 and his club won the team race from Glenpark Harriers and Garscube Harriers were third.   Came the National, and Dallas was unplaced but was nevertheless finished far enough up the field to be picked for the Scottish team in the international to be held at Belfast on 26th March.   He was unfortunately unable to run in the race itself and the chance was not to arise again.   It was now on to the track season of 1910.  

Having won his first cross-country championship medal George, on 25th June, 1910, in the SAAA Championships at   Powderhall was third in the  440 yards to G Anderson who was timed at 53 seconds.   A week later, on 2nd July at the Beith FC Sports he won the first heat of the invitation 220 yards, off 8 yards, in 23.2.   In the Final he led all the way to win in 23.4.  The biggest meeting of the summer other than the SAAA Championships was the Rangers Sports at the start of August (6th) and he ran in the invitation 440 yards from a mark of 13 yards.   He won the third heat and went in to the final where Burton was a clear winner being 3 yards ahead of Dallas and Hepburn of the West of Scotland Harriers who almost dead heated for second.    A week later and on 13th August at Celtic Sports he was unplaced in invitation 220 yards.   

*

Despite his specialising in the 440 yards with races at 220 also on his programme, he continued to run cross-country, and in the National Cross-Country Championships on 4th March, 1911 there was no team entered from Maryhill Harriers but Dallas ran as an individual.   Well  up early on he fell away and was unplaced at the finish.    But the track was where he did most of his running.

Known later in his career as a good first leg runner in the medley relay, Dallas went up a distance from 440 yards to 880 at the Clydesdale Harriers Sports at Ibrox on 27th May, 1911,  and won his heat 2:01.4 by three yards from a handicap of 8 yards.   He was however unplaced in the final which was won by A McPhee of Clydesdale Harriers from a mark of 12 yards in 1:59.8.   On 10th June, Bellahouston Harriers held their sports, as an experiment, at the ‘picturesque’ ground of Pollok Football Club.   The ground turned out to be not really suitable for an athletics meeting but George Dallas turned out in the half-mile off a mark of 8 yards.   Second in the second heat, he was again unplaced in the final.   Next up was the Beith Football Club Sports on 1st July where he again ran in the half-mile.   The Glasgow Herald remarked that “George Dallas (Maryhill) registered his first win for the season in the half-mile handicap, in which he ran with something like his old fire.   He finished in great style, beating RF Gilbert (West of Scotland) when the latter looked an easy winner.”   Dallas was running off 12 yards and won by three yards from Gilbert who had a mark of 130 yards.   In the report on the Ayr FC Sports on 15th July, the reporter remarked that George Dallas seems more at home on grass than on cinder tracks; at all events, his recent successes would seem to support this conclusion.   He won the event, running from 10 yards this time, in 2:01 from Edward Miller of Newcastle (50 yards) and WR Holman (Clydesdale Harriers – 48 yards).   There were 35 starters out of 40 entries for this race but at the start of the second lap there were only ten still running!   At this point Dallas was well behind but running well within himself and at the last bend put on ‘a brilliant spurt’ and beat Miller by inches.   This meeting was held on the same day as the Scoto-Irish international where Scotland had first and second places in the half-mile thanks to Burton and Soutter.   At the Rangers Sports, Dallas had a mark in the Invitation 880 yards of 18 yards   It was a very high quality race with the American HE Gissing (a sub 1:57 runner), Soutter and DF McNicol all in the line up but Dallas did not run on the day.   Dallas did run in the Monday supplementary meeting of the Rangers FC Sports where he won the 300 yards off 10 yards from Christie (West of Scotland – 6 yards) in 32.2 seconds.   

On August 14th at the Celtic Sports, Dallas ran in the open half mile – it had been expected that Gissing would run but he was not on the starting line and Dallas was third (off 25 yards) behind Stoddart (West of Scotland 55 yards) and Campbell (Garscube 65 yards).   Gissing ran in and won the invitation half-mile in 1:58 from DF McNicol of Polytechnic Harriers.   With the football season starting on 21st August, there was no Monday supplementary meeting at Celtic Sports.   

Dallas had a quiet year in 1912 but on 3rd August he turned out in the invitation half-mile at the Rangers Sports which featured Meredith, Sheppard of the USA and Braun of Germany and qualified for the half mile from a mark of 40 yards.   In the Final none of the three Olympians mentioned ran anywhere near their form, with the race going to McGuire of Glenpark Harriers with Sheppard finishing third in 1:58.2 against the race winner’ 1:53.8.   A week later  at the Celtic Sports the invitation 880 yards was won by the three Olympians in a disappointing race but Dallas was off virtual scratch in the open handicap race and qualified for the final.   The first three were running from 62, 67 and 70 yards in a large field and neither Dallas nor Sam S Watt of Clydesdale Harriers managing to work their way through the field.   

Into 1912/1913, and on 3rd May He ran at the Paisley Junior Harriers Sports at the St Mirren FC ground on a very unpleasant and rainy day.   Running from 12 yards he won the third heat in 2:10 and qualified for the Final but was unplaced with the first three running from marks of 26, 50 and 60 yards.   There was an interesting article in the Glasgow Herald on 19th May following George’s win in the 1000 yards at West of Scotland’s meeting the previous Tuesday (13th).   It read:   

George Dallas was scratch in the 1000 yards, and, running with admirable judgement , won comfortably from JS Matthew while Norman MacLean was third.   This was a fine race crowned with a brilliant finish.   Dallas and Hamilton, both of Maryhill Harriers, have joined the “West”, whose racing ranks are in consequence greatly enriched, as the former is the best half-miler in Scotland, while George Hamilton is one of the best short mark sprinters.   It is just possible, however, that Dallas and Hamilton will continue to run in their old colours, though by doing so, they deprive themselves of the privileges which are only shared by those who compete regularly in the pale blue and black stripes of the “West” Harriers.”

On 31st May at the Clydesdale Harriers Sports Dallas ran well in the heat of the half-mile and according to the reports he ran with great judgement.   In the Final however he left it too late to figure among the prize winners with the race going to Carmichael of Garscube who was running from 52 yards.   The papers looked forward to the Hawick Common Riding meeting the following week end and particularly the mile medley relay for the Wyoming Cup.   Relays were quite popular at the time although Maryhill very seldom turned out a team in any of them.   The Wyoming Cup had been donated to the Hawick meeting by a group of ex-pats living in Wyoming and the rules stipulated that any club winning the trophy three times would be entitled to keep the trophy thereafter.   In 1913 the race had been won twice by West of Scotland and twice by the local Hawick club, Teviotdale Harriers.   If either won this time round, they could keep the valuable cup.   On the day, the first Saturday in June, West of Scotland won with a team of JH Rodger, RC Duncan, HJ Christie and George Dallas.   They claimed the cup.   Teviotdale felt very hard done by.   Dallas had never run for West before this, he was known as a Maryhill Harriers of great ability and the feeling of disappointment lasted for over a century.   Nevertheless the Glasgow club reported in their annual handbook: ‘The club has competed this season in several Relay Races. At Hawick we won the Wyoming Challenge Cup for the third time, and this now becomes our absolute property.”   What happened next to the trophy?   West took it home to Glasgow and put it up for competition at some of their meetings.    

George did run in some meetings in the West colours but by no means all.   eg on 8th July, 1913, Dallas ran in the Maryhill Harriers Sports as ‘G Dallas, Maryhill Harriers.’  Jump to August and in the Rangers FC Sports on the first Saturday,  Hamilton was listed in the results as ‘G Hamilton, Maryhill and West of Scotland Harriers’, then a week later he was at Celtic FC Sports as ‘G Hamilton, Maryhill Harriers’.   At the Celtic meeting, Dallas was a member of the West team which finished third in the Invitation Relay although he did not appear in the results anywhere else at the meeting.   At the Maryhill Harriers meeting on 8th July   (as G Dallas, Maryhill)   

There is no note of him running in the SAAA Championships on 28th June but he was named as reserve to DF McNicol and R Erskine for the international against Ireland on 19th July.   Before that however he competed at the Maryhill Harriers Sports on the eighth of the month at Ibrox.   He ran in the half-mile from a mark of 10 yards and was third in his heat behind Adam Veitch of Garscube (45 yards) and Sans Unkles of West of Scotland (25 yards).   In the final he was unplaced with first place going to A Smith of Falkirk Victoria Harriers who had an allowance of 35 yards.   Pollok Football Club held a Sports meeting on 12th July at Haggs Park and Dallas was third in the half mile there behind Smith of FVH and SS Watt of Clydesdale Harriers.   In the International in Belfast, Ireland on 19th, he ran in the 800y and was first Scot to finish when he was second.  

As we have seen, relays were popular events and at the Rangers Sports on the first Saturday in August, a Glasgow Select faced off against Polytechnic Harriers from London.   The Southerners won ‘by a small margin’  in 3:33.4 with Dallas running on the first (880 yards) stage for the Select.   He ran another relay for a Glasgow Select against Polytechnic Harriers and Salford Harriers – this time he ran the last (440 yards) stage for the Glasgow team that was third.   His main event however was the 500 yards invitation in which Nicol of the Poly Harriers was trying to beat the British record.   He didn’t quite make it but Dallas, running from 18 yards, won by a yard in 58.4.   The Glasgow Herald described the time as a second and a half outside the British record.          

  

West of Scotland Relay Team, 16/5/1914:  McPhee, Christie, Hamilton, Dallas

On 16th May, 1914 George Dallas was a member of a relay team that defeated an English club team – but the team he was running for was West of Scotland and the English team was Broughton Harriers.   It was held at the joint Celtic and West of Scotland Harriers Sports at Parkhead with, in running order, Duncan McPhee (who was still a member of Clydesdale Harriers) on the first stage, G Hamilton (a Maryhill Harrier running as a second claim West man), HJ Christie and Dallas (who was still a Maryhill Harrier) on the final quarter mile.  Winning time was 3:43.8 and the winning distance ten yards.   

The following week, the Glasgow Herald started their Sports Miscellany column with the following: “Relay racing should receive more recognition from sports promoters.   It is an excellent substitute for scratch events, which are practically unknown in connection with everyday athletics.   Besides, it is a departure from conventionalism and anything removed from the beaten track is always acceptable.   The relay race at Parkhead the other day was the most arresting event in the day’s proceedings, inasmuch as it brought to the surface qualities of judgement and speed which are not often seen in handicap running.   Unfortunately West of Scotland Harriers are much stronger in this department than other clubs ; but by way of encouraging relay racing we would suggest that the handicapping principle might be introduced as it was by the Rangers at their meeting last August when Polytechnic Harriers were asked to concede a start to the Rest of Scotland.   he race on that occasion was strenuously contested and there is no reason why the same principle should not be introduced at all our sports functions.   Hawick are putting up a relay race in connection with the Common Riding celebrations and West of Scotland will be represented by their famous quartette, Messrs McPhee, Dallas, Christie and Hamilton.”

Meanwhile Greenock Morton FC held their sports at Cappielow Park on 23rd May and Dallas ran in the half mile from a mark of 14 yards and won his heat but was unplaced in the final which was won by HD Soutter of Greenock Glenpark off 35 yards in 2:04.4 from JM Lindsay (Edinburgh Harriers) off 40 yards.   On 30th May at Ibrox in the Clydesdale Harriers Sports Dallas (14 yards) and McPhee (scratch) both contested the half-mile.   Interestingly Dallas was listed as Maryhill and West of Scotland Harriers, and McPhee was listed as Clydesdale and West of Scotland Harriers!   Dallas won the first heat, McPhee was second in the second heat with three to qualify, and in the final Dallas won by five yards in 1:59.2.   On 6th June, the famous West of Scotland team travelled to Hawick for the Mile Relay and the team of Dallas, Hamilton, Christie, McPhee (listed in the order which might well have been the reverse running order).   

The SAAA Championships were held on 27th June at Powderhall and the half mile was won by McPhee (West of Scotland in the programme) from Ralph Erskine (Clydesdale Harriers) and George Dallas (Maryhill in the programme) in third place.    The West of Scotland Relay team was in action once again on 25th July at the Greenock Glenpark Sports and they won again in 3:50.4 leading all the way after McPhee led the first half mile stage home.   At the Monday supplementary meeting for the Rangers Sports on 3rd August, Dallas ran in the invitation 1000 yards from a mark of 32 yards.   The American Homer Baker was also running and broke the Scottish record, set three years previously by American HE Gissing, for the distance by one fifth of a second with his time of 2:16.4.    

Less than a week later, the world was at war.   Less than a year later – in July 1915 – T Barrie Erskine, the limit  man in the 100 yards invitation race would be dead, killed in action at Hooge in Flanders.   

 

Hunter Watson

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Hunter Watson qualifying for the final of the SAAA Junior Mile in 1954

Hunter Watson did not realise that he had any talent for running until, at age 15 in 1951, he won the half mile for fourth year pupils at the East Lothian inter-school sports. He had been surprised to be selected to represent North Berwick High School at this event because not only had he never run in a half mile race previously but he had not even finished in the top three in any race at the school sports in which he had competed!     He assumes that he was selected to run in that half mile race as a consequence of getting back to the school first when on one occasion the fourth year boys were asked to run round North Berwick Law during a games period. Presumably that made the games master confident that Hunter Watson would not make a fool of himself, and hence the school, in a half mile race.

 Having been given no advice about how to run the half mile, he had no race plan. He simply ran round with the other boys in the race. However, something odd happened half way down the back straight of the second lap: out of nowhere came a sudden urge to sprint for home and that Hunter did, winning in a time of 2:27.  He himself says of this period: “Prior to winning the half mile for fourth year pupils at East Lothian’s inter-school sports in 1951 I had only competed in sprint races and had never finished in the first three since I had no great talent for sprinting. However, after winning that half mile I began regular training and trained for the full range of events at the school sports and not only for the middle distance events. That regular training does make an enormous difference to performance was proved at the school sports in my sixth year. In those sports I finished second in the 100 yards race but won each of the other races, i.e. the 220 yards, the 440 yards, the half mile, the one mile and the 100 yards hurdles. I also won the three jumps: the long jump (19 ft 6 ins = 5.94 m), the triple jump (39 ft = 11.88 m) and the high jump(5 ft =1.52 m). I was unplaced in both the shot put and the discus. Being greedy, that rather annoyed me!”

Wondering whether, if he could win an inter-schools half mile without doing any training, what he might capable of accomplishing if he did do some training. Three years later he found out.

As a student at Edinburgh University, Hunter had a very good cross-country season in 1953/54.   He says that on the Wednesday afternoon of the first week of term there were trials for various sports. He was tempted to go to the trials for the rugby team since he had been rugby captain at North Berwick High School. However, he decided to go to the cross country trials instead. That decision had happy consequences since, during the 1953-54 cross country season, he won the Eastern District Youth Championship on 6th February and subsequently finished second in the National Youth Championship.   In the February issue of the excellent ‘Scots Athlete’ magazine, Emmet Farrell commented that the National Championship in that age group would probably be between Gordon Kerr of Victoria Park and Ian Cloudsley of Shettleston but added, “yet there are good reports from the East of WH Watson (Edinburgh Varsity) ..”  Hunter lived up to the billing by finishing second in the race to Cloudsley, being only two seconds down on the winner. and four seconds ahead of the third man in a very close finish.  The 1954 track season was to be a good one and Hunter has no doubts that the training he did for the cross-country benefited him greatly.

Hunter did not win any individual events during the 1954-55 cross country season but was invariably a counter in the Edinburgh University Hare and Hounds team that did win several team titles then. As a consequence Hunter was awarded a blue from Edinburgh University for cross country.

In summer 1954 Hunter not only won the Scottish Junior Mile Championship but he also finished fourth in the AAA Junior Mile too. His time in that event was 4:21.6, a time which put him tenth equal on the list of the ten fastest British Junior Milers of all time. (At the same age Roger Bannister’s fastest time was 4:23.4.)   The season had started well with a match against Victoria Park AAC at Craiglockhart in which Hunter won the Mile in 4:34.1  and when he won the SAAA Junior Mile at Westerlands on 3rd July, James Logan wrote in the ‘Scots Athlete: “The Mile was won easily by W Watson, the Scottish Youths cross-country runner-up, who strode out very strongly in the last lap.   With developed confidence he is capable of a much faster time than his winning one, which was very good considering the wintry conditions.”   The September issue of the same magazine listed Scottish best performances and Hunter was fifth for the Mile with 4:21.6, a time run at Birmingham on 31st July.

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Finishing in first place for the University at the East District Relays in 1954

On 6th November 1954, all the Districts held their relay championships and the East District event was at Galashiels over a total distance of 10 miles.   The team of Jackson, Horne, Miller and Watson won by 15 seconds from Falkirk Victoria with their second and third teams in fifth and seventh in a field of 19 teams.  Later that month he ran in his first Edinburgh to Glasgow eight-man relay.   The University had a good team out and Hunter was on the first stage where he finished sixth.   The team finished fourth.  Incidentally, between 1954 and 1971, Hunter ran for four teams in the Edinburgh to Glasgow – Edinburgh University Hares & Hounds, Edinburgh Eastern Harriers, Edinburgh AC and Aberdeen AAC.   He remembers the race with affection and comments

I have fond memories of the early races which were sponsored by the News of the World. That sponsorship permitted 8 buses to be provided, one for each of the stages in order to transport the 20 runners who represented their clubs over these stages. There was very little traffic on the roads then so there were no hold ups and the buses had no difficulty getting to the start of each stage in plenty of time. This permitted runners who had already competed plenty of time to support incoming runners. When I began competing, each race began in St Andrew’s Square in Edinburgh and finished in Ingram Street in Glasgow. Eventually, because of the traffic, both start and finish had to be changed though I am not certain when that happened. When I first ran in 1954 there were still tram cars operating in Edinburgh and cobbled streets. In the early days after each race all the competitors and officials were treated to a meal by the News of the World in a large restaurant in Buchanan Street called Ca’d’oro.   Unfortunately it was destroyed by fire in 1987.”

 The University team in 1954 with runners like Hunter, Adrian Jackson, Horne and Miller was very successful winning the East District cross-country relay in November and the championship in January 1955.   Came the National championship at Hamilton and Hunter was eleventh in the winning team in the Junior race.

During the 1955 track season Hunter’s principal achievement was his win in the mile at the East of Scotland Athletic Championships. His winning time was 4:18.1, a time that bettered the previous best performance of 4:23.3 by just over 5 seconds.

Between 1951 and 1953 there had been a steady improvement in Hunter’s performances which was a consequence of regular training. Perhaps the most significant accomplishment during that period was his win in the junior mile handicap race at Edinburgh Highland Games on 22nd August, 1953.   Running from a handicap of 100 yards, his time was 4:26.9.   Prior to that race, Hunter had not been a member of any club. Within minutes of his win, however, he was invited to become a member of Edinburgh Eastern Harriers. The invitation was accepted.

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Hunter, second from right in the front row, with the Edinburgh University team which had been Inter-Varsity Champions and Eastern District champions in 1956

Injury had curtailed his participation in the 1955/56 cross-country season but he did finish eighteenth in the National Junior championship.   The subsequent 1956 track season was to be Hunter’s best.

On 12th May 1956 in the regular match with Victoria Park, he again won the Mile, this time in 4:24.8 and a week later, 19th May, in the University championships at Craiglockhart, “WH Watson, a former Scottish Junior Mile Champion, returned a Mile record of 4 min 19 secs.”    At the Scottish University Championships he won both Mile and Three Miles titles.

The performance which gave him most satisfaction, however, was the one in Manchester on 28th May when he finished second to Martin Walmsley, British Universities Mile champion,  in a mile in a time of 4:14.6.   That was a new Edinburgh University AC record and might have been the fastest mile time ever at that time by a student at a Scottish university.   The purple patch continued when he had an excellent run in the Scottish championships on June 23rd when he was second to Graham Everett recording a time of 4:18.3.   The report on that race read –

“In the much-publicised Mile, the less fancied men must have been surprised to find themselves in the company of the giants at an advanced stage of the race.   With a very fast ‘half’ to his credit earlier in the season, JR Cameron, Thames Valley Harriers, might have been expected to make a very strong final challenge, but Everett commanded affairs immediately the break was made at the second last bend, and, indeed, it was WH Watson who came on in determined fashion to take second place..”      The winning time was 4:16.1 and Cameron ran 4:21.0.   It was indeed a very good run by Hunter if we note that Cameron had run a 4:07.0 Mile on 21st September 1955, and Everett had set a new Scottish record for the distance on 9th June, 1956.

Hunter’s performances on the track while representing Edinburgh University in 1956 led to his being awarded an athletics blue to be added to his cross country blue.

At the start of the winter in the East District league match at Dr Guthrie’s School on 20th October, the first three to finish were Jackson, Watson and JV Paterson and the team won comfortably from Braidburn.   Paterson, Horne, Watson and Jackson also won the East District relay on 3rd November in Perth before the Edinburgh to Glasgow relay at the end of the month.   Hunter ran the first stage, finishing seventh this time and again it was a forecast of the team’s final placing – seventh.   Meanwhile in the same race, Edinburgh Eastern Harriers (whom he had joined in 1953 before starting at Edinburgh University) were making their first appearance, finishing fifth and picking up the medals awarded to the most meritorious performance by an unplaced team.   Hunter missed the closing championships of the cross-country season – District and National – due to injury.  He again represented the University in the Edinburgh to Glasgow in 1957 when he ran the difficult second stage against some of the very best men in the race.

By 1956 Hunter was gaining experience of committee work as a consequence of having been elected to the club committee of Edinburgh Eastern.   When, on 27 March 1961, Edinburgh Harriers, Edinburgh Northern Harriers and Edinburgh Eastern Harriers amalgamated to form Edinburgh Athletic Club, Hunter was elected unopposed to be Edinburgh AC’s first cross country captain and hence to be a member of the Edinburgh AC committee.

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Finishing third in SAAA 880y in 1960

In 1957 Hunter graduated from Edinburgh University with a First Class Honours degree in mathematics. and in 1959 he graduated from that university with a Master’s degree in education. He then taught secondary school mathematics for six years before moving to Aberdeen in 1965 in order to become a lecturer at Aberdeen College of Education.   While in Edinburgh however he kept on running, and running well, over the country with Edinburgh Eastern Harriers and then Edinburgh AC.  On the track the two medals in the East District championships were noteworthy.   In May 1960 he was second in the 880 yards, behind Neil Donachie and in May 1962, second again, this time in the Mile which was won by Chris Elson.   In the SAAA championships at the end of June there was another very good run when he was third in the 880 yards behind Morrison and Clark.

While in Edinburgh, Hunter had become a qualified coach – and an advanced coach at that.   Under the system used at that time, this was equivalent to the Senior Coach award that came shortly thereafter.   When he moved to Aberdeen, he relinquished the qualification since his new post as lecturer at Aberdeen College of Education allowed no time for coaching.     While teaching at Ross High School in Tranent, he had further evidence that regular systematic training brought real and lasting improvement.   He says of this time:

“While a school teacher I observed other boys who apparently only had a modicum of talent blossoming after they also started regular training. These included Billy Donaldson and Gavin Hay at Ross High School, Tranent, the school in which I first taught. In 1961 the best that Billy could do in the school sports was to finish third in the 220 yards for second year boys. I cannot recall Gavin, who was a year younger than  Billy, being placed in anything. In 1963 Billy won the National Senior Boys Cross Country title and also the first of the Scottish Schools Cross Country titles for his age group. At the National he and Gavin helped Edinburgh AC to win the Senior Boys Cross County title at the National Championships. In the East Track and Field Championships, Billy won the Youths half mile and Gavin the Senior Boys half mile. Gavin’s time, which I do not have to hand, was a new championship record. (It was around 2:08, I believe.)”

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Billy Donaldson (the winner) 22 and Gavin Hay 29 in the Boys National at Hamilton in 1963

Fortunately for the sport and for Aberdeen AAC, he did eventually find the time to continue coaching youngsters interested in middle distance and cross-country events.    He did no courses for athletic official status, either track or field, but he has in his time so far officiated at every event on the calendar except the pole vault.   He has even acted as starter and on one occasion officiated as such at a Young Athletes League final at Meadowbank.

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Aberdeen AAC Men and Boys, taken in 1976

Hunter is extreme right of second back row.   Also in that row are Fraser Clyne, 8th right, and Graham Laing, 3rd right,  both ran in the Commonwealth Games: Graham in ’82 and Clyne in ’86.   Also in the picture is Mel Edwards, 6th right.

By 1974 Hunter’s elder son was displaying an interest in athletics and that led directly to him beginning to organise events for youngsters within Aberdeen AAC, a club which he had joined immediately after moving to Aberdeen.  Of this period he says:

“That led to me organising a few events for youngsters at Linksfield Stadium where the club trained. On two occasions I also, without club support, took youngsters to compete in events at some distance from Aberdeen. Their performances were such that it seemed obvious that much could be gained by establishing a Young Athletes Section within Aberdeen AAC. The club secretary gave me the go ahead provided that this section could be self-financing. On that basis I took the necessary steps to establish a Young Athletes Section. Parents were willing to assist me as were two senior members of the club.

On behalf of Aberdeen AAC, I applied to join the Scottish Young Athletes League. My application was accepted and, to the surprise of some clubs in the League, Aberdeen AAC won the North East Section and finished third in the League Final.”

The following year he was elected club secretary.   He remained in that post for twenty years. After he stepped down as secretary he was made an honorary member of the club and he continues to take an interest in it though no longer plays any active part. While club secretary, however, Hunter spent a vast amount of time on club business. He not only performed the normal secretarial duties but he also coached athletes, acted as a team manager, helped to organise road races and convened both athletic and cross country meetings. As far as he was concerned, being secretary of Aberdeen AAC was as much a competitive activity as was being an active athlete.

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1979.  Coaching some colts (Under 11 years) in discus throwing: preparing to throw the discus is Duncan Matheson who represented Scotland in the Commonwealth Games in 1990 (decathlon) and 1994 (long jump)

Aberdeen AAC had several noteworthy successes during Hunter’s time as secretary and also produced some outstanding athletes, including some who gained international recognition and two who broke Scottish native records.    However, while these successes gave him much satisfaction, he gained even more from the fact that the club thrived during his time as secretary and became far and away the largest athletic club in Scotland.  SAF data reveals that, as at 12 March 1994, Aberdeen AAC had 493 members aged eleven or over whereas Scotland’s second largest club, Pitreavie AAC, had 337 members. (Edinburgh Athletic Club at that time had 312.)  Aberdeen AAC numbers had peaked in 1988 when the club had a total of 606 members of whom 517 were aged eleven or over.   (The club’s number of senior athletes fell slightly when several road runners left Aberdeen AAC to form a separate road running club.)

In 1991 the City of Aberdeen presented Hunter with an engraved rose bowl which is now displayed in his home.

Bowl

That the work was appreciated is evidenced by comments from club mates Mel Edwards and Bob Masson.    Bob says

“My first definite memory of Hunter was at a committee meeting in 73 or early 74 where Hunter had been invited to put forward his suggestion for a Young Athletes section in the club.  At that time AAAC had a pretty small membership (probably no greater than 50), predominantly composed of seniors and mainly interested in running, generally of the long distance variety.  His proposal was accepted and Hunter became the secretary of the YA section.  In 1975 he was elected to secretary of the full club, a post he was to hold with distinction for 20 years.

Our paths almost crossed a few years earlier, as Hunter is fond of mentioning to others when we meet at the track.  We both came to the  fourth leg on the E to G relay in 1971 from opposite ends of the distance spectrum.  Hunter was running for AAAC and I was representing Aberdeen University.  We never saw each other during the race but Hunter recalls that we ran identical times for the four mile leg that day.

Over his tenure the club was to grow (about 500 members at its peak) and become more of track and field club and AAAC would regularly qualify for the Young Athletes final.  The men’s team went on to win the Scottish Athletics League finally in 1995, much to Hunter’s satisfaction. On the team bus to the final match at Meadowbank that day went a team of athletes ( not a single one of whom was doubling up in an individual event), substitutes (just in case) and Hunter.  When victory was confirmed, there was an overwhelming desire that it should be Hunter to whom the cup be presented.  I seem to remember that we couldn’t find him in time but there will be a photograph of Hunter and cup surrounded by the entire team somewhere around.

Possibly his most important legacy will be that he managed to persuade Aberdeen City Council that a Track and Field club our size in a city of our size couldn’t hope to develop without an eight lane all-weather track.  The University track at Balgownie had fallen into disrepair and had only been built with seven lanes anyway.  The argument we hadn’t had a home match in the first fifteen years of the Men’s League, amongst others, seemed to have some force and the surface at Chris Anderson stadium was opened in1989.

Aberdeen AAC yearbook no 4 (1993) records that Hunter held several  AAAC veterans’ club records.  These were M40 bests for 800m (2-01.1) and 1500m (4-08.0) set in 1976 and 1977 respectively and the M50 800m of 2- 14.7 set in 1986.  He did show me one of his training diaries, where he recorded the miles covered running (no surprise) but also interestingly  in addition the distances he covered cycling and walking.

After retiring from his post as Secretary, Hunter continued to take a great interest in the activities of the club and in recognition of his many services  he was to become one of the first four inductees as Life Members at the AGM of 2007.  He still frequently attends home league matches, the latest the first meeting of the Scottish League just yesterday (06/05/2017).  He would often cycle from home to the meeting (I’m not sure whether he still does), but if one were to look around the stadium and spot a yellow fluorescent jacket topped with a shock of silver hair then the thought would be “ Hunter’s here again”.

Words to describe the man?  Enthusiastic, dedicated and meticulous aren’t really enough.

The times for the E-G fourth stage in ’71 was 32:47 .   All sections of the club appreciated his work: Bob was very much a track and field man: a decathlete who for many years was Scottish national coach for the event while Mel was a top class road, country and hill runner who won what was probably the best cross-country race I ever saw   Mel says clearly that Hunter deserves an MBE for his work.  He speaks with some knowledge here – the club has two members with the award – Mel himself and Donald Ritchie.  Mel points out that Alastair and Jean Wood ran the club and then Hunter set up the young athletes section before becoming secretary.   “What a work he did”, says Mel, “His phone probably never stopped – and this was when he was still a Maths lecturer!   He was also secretary and I remember many a well organised meeting with lots on the agenda.”

Denis Shepherd elaborates on Mel’s comments about Hunter as a committee man saying:

“Hunter kept a tight rein on the club’s finances in conjunction with the Treasurer.   When preparing the agenda, he scrutinised past minutes and made sure that everything that needed to be decided or organised was brought up in good time.   Everything he said or wrote was carefully considered before he said it: someone said that even when he spoke, his sentences seemed to be coming from a carefully constructed written document.”

More generally, Denis says of Hunter that “he was very pro the club and the athletes he coached.   He was known to try to persuade team managers who had already selected their team to ask a selected athlete to give way to his athlete.   At one Young Athletes League meeting he was appalled that a track official representing the club had done his job properly and disqualified Aberdeen for an illegal change-over.”   The last bit makes him sound like any coach in that situation!

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Hunter beseiged by youngsters at the end of a primary schools sports meeting in Aberdeen in 1994.  He had initiated this event several years previously in order to interest youngsters in athletics.

That this reaped a bigger harvest than just bringing athletes to the club is seen by the recruitment of parents as top class officials.   For instance one of those who joined as a consequence was Mark Davidson who was a silver medallist in the 1990 Commonwelath Games 4 x 400m relay.   His own event was the 400m hurdles where he won the Scottish title three times,  he also won the indoor 400 metres flat twice and set many records.   His father – Jim Davidson – became a grade one timekeeper who officiates at local meetings.   Similarly when Duncan Matheson (six Scottish titles outdoors, three indoors, 2nd  AAA’s indoor heptathlon plus the two Commonwealth Games) became a club member both his parents got actively involved: father Miller is still a coach at the club, and his mother became a grade one field judge.   She officiated at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.   When Hunter stepped down, the club president Trevor Madigan took over the task of organising the Primary Schools Athletic Meeting, and this year (2017) Hunter’s daughter-in-law Ruth Watson, kept the family connection going when she was responsible for it.

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At the conclusion of a girls international match in 1976.   Hunter had persuaded the Aberdeen and Grampian Regional Councils to jointly make available the sponsorship.   It went on to become the Celtic International.   Hunter is standing beside the timekeepers stand.

Although Hunter was heavily involved with club organisation and administration after he became club secretary in 1975, he did manage to put in some useful performances at competitions.   For instance on 12th August, 1973 at the age of 37, he ran 1500m in 3:59.5 which ranked him twenty second senior in Scotland.  This was done while representing Aberdeen AAC in Division 1 of the Scottish League where he finished third A String and fourth overall – among those who finished behind him was Hugh Barrow of Victoria Park.       

Thereafter, notably in 1976 he had a series of good runs. In that year, on 30th May, and having turned 40, he won the Scottish Veteran’s 800m title in a championship record time of 2:01.1.    In the world rankings for 1976 that time of 2:01.1 placed him 9th equal in the 40-49 rankings for the 800m. It stood as a Scottish vets best for the distance until 1993 when clubmate Denis Shepherd ran 2:01.0 in Dundee.   Now, in 2017, 41 years later, it remains the second best time by an Aberdeen AAC M40 for the distance.   Later that summer he won the British Veteran’s 800m title in a time of 2:01.5.    That season he also ran 55.7 for 400m at Balgownie on 4th April, and 4:12.2 for 1500 on 9th May in Dundee.

In 1977 he won the Scottish Veteran’s 1500m title  on in a championship record time of 4:12.6.   He ran 4:12.2 on 9th May 1977 when representing the club in a meeting of the North Eastern League and this placed him 19th equal in the 40-49 rankings for the distance.  This was an official time but on 12th June 1977, he ran 4:08.0 in a Scottish League Division 1 Match at Coatbridge on 12th June.  Here he finished out of the first three and the time is an unofficial one, taken by a club member.  This, of course, meant that it did not count for world rankings.

Because of injury niggles he did not compete again in a championship event until 1986. In that year he won the Scottish Veteran’s 800m over-50’s title in a time of 2:14.7 at Dundee on 29th June.  In ’86 he also ran a 1500m in 4:37.8 at Balgownie in the club championships on 30th August.

We have then three Scottish and one British veteran championship victories – three of those in two summers, and two of them in record time.   One of the interesting things about these is that they are at the same distances as he was running as a schoolboy of 15 in 1951.   Most endurance athletes tend to go up a distance or several as they grow older but Hunter must have looked after himself throughout his career to be able to set records at his original distances.   In the picture below, we see him at the age of 47 in a race where he finished 23rd in a strong field of veteran cross-country runners.

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Scottish Vets cross-country in Aberdeen in February 1983.

Although injury problems in 1987 led Hunter to conclude that it would be prudent to stop competitive running, he remained active. In particular, he continued cycling and was pleasantly pleased to discover that at 80 years of age he was still capable of going for cycles of up to sixty miles, albeit at a much slower pace than when he was younger.

The ability to still be able to cycle significant distances well after joining the ranks of the elderly is only one of the things that gave Hunter satisfaction. Another is that not only is his elder son, Bill, still an active athlete but Bill’s wife and both of his daughters are also. In fact, Bill’s wife, Ruth, is also a coach as is Bill’s younger daughter, Rachel.   Athletics, therefore, remains one of Hunter’s great interests.

We finish with more comments from two of his club mates.   First comes from Lynda Bain, former Scottish women’s marathon champion and record holder:

“Hunter takes a genuine interest in athletes.  He took his position as secretary of Aberdeen AAC very seriously and made the effort to encourage me when I joined the club.  He took the time to keep informed about athletes from the club and their performances.  I have met him recently and he hasn’t changed a bit!  He still looks pretty fit.”

Colin Youngson, former Scottish marathon champion, says

When I was a student at Aberdeen University, Hunter Watson once beat me in a mile race on the chunky cinder track at Linksfield, Aberdeen around 1967. He simply trailed me unobtrusively until unleashing a tremendous sprint! After that tactical lesson, I ran the first three laps as hard as I could and moved safely out of his reach. He had of course been a Scottish One Mile medallist in the 1950s; and won Scottish and British Veterans track titles when he turned 40. I remember him advising me to breathe only through my nose as I raced. However I continued to use mouth and indeed ears as well! As a middle distance coach of AAAC, he organised many track repetition sessions for athletes who performed very well over 800m and 1500m – but few had the stamina for 5000m! He was a well-respected long-time Secretary and had considerable influence on the club, due to his meticulous organisational skills and encouraging journalism in the club newsletter. Largely due to his influence, AAAC developed into a marvellous club for young athletes; the seniors won many national road and cross country team medals; and had great success in track and field leagues. In his early 80s, Hunter remains fit, healthy, clever and determined.

PJ McCafferty

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Pat McCafferty, 1903, number 19 (obscured)

The relationship between Scotland and Ireland has always been a close one in many respects including athletics with many Irishmen living and racing in Scotland – such as JJ Barrie and Cyril O’Boyle in the post-war era.  During the 30’s such as Hans Noble who was one of a group who came to work in Scotland on the ‘Empress of Britain’, ran over here, then returned to Ireland when the job was done, then returned to work on the Queen Mary.  Hans ran for Ireland in the 1933 International in Wales   After the War he settled in Scotland.   But there was often a problem keeping track of their racing and even their whereabouts!   One of the most intriguing careers in this respect was that of PJ  McCafferty who ran internationally for Ireland but who also won the SAAA 10 miles championship.   This profile is incomplete – we have been unable to track down all his running, or even to know where he was living at any one time.   

He appears in the above photograph which was supplied by Alex Wilson who says that “This is the only picture I have of McCafferty, taken at the inaugural international Cross-Country championship in Hamilton Park Race Course. He’s wearing #19 though partly concealed. He’s a bit of a shrimp compared to big John Daly #17. The most famous face here would be Alf Shrubb. Unfortunately the Scots haven’t pinned on their numbers yet!”    

PJ’s brother JJ McCafferty, who was also a very good runner and he features largely in this profile, was the first to come to the notice of the distance running fraternity.   He appeared in 1899 when he won the West District cross-country championship while running in the colours of Celtic Harriers, and Colin Shields in ‘Whatever The Weather’ recounts the race:  “John McCafferty, 10 mile club champion of the three-year-old Celtic Harriers, won the 7.5 mile race over a difficult course around Hamilton Park Racecourse.   He finished in 45 minutes 20 seconds  with W Lawson, Whiteinch, runner-up 23 seconds behind.   …    McCafferty was richly rewarded for his victory, receiving three medals, one from the SCCA, one from Celtic Harriers and one from Mr F Lumley of the well known sports shop.”     On 25th November 1899 he ran in the Clydesdale Harriers Open Handicap and Team Race where he finished second to DW Mill who would go on to win the national cross-country championship in two consecutive years.

By 7th April 1900, he was still running well and finished third in the SAAA Ten Miles Championship behind J Patterson (57:32.2) and DW Mill.    The thing about this is that he appears in the results as ‘JJ McCaffrey’ although it is undoubtedly the same athlete.   Then on 30th June at Cliftonville in Belfast, JJ McCaffrey (spelling from the official results) running for Ireland was second in the annual Scoto-Irish match over 4 miles behind Gibb of Scotland.   The Glasgow Herald report comments that “It is an interesting fact in connection with this race that second-placed J McCafferty, who was running for Ireland, of which he is a native, is a member of the West of Scotland Harriers.”

Later that year, he ran in the steeplechase at Parkhead on Monday, 13th August at the Monday supplementary meeting to Celtic FC sports he was entered in the six laps steeplechase where he was unplaced.

The first big race of the following winter was on 24th November, 1900, and was the Clydesdale Harriers 7 miles cross-country team and individual race at Scotstoun and it was won by JJ McCafferty (spelled McCaffrey in the Harriers handbook) from Thomas Bennie of Whiteinch Harriers.   The  West of Scotland Championship was held on 18th February, 1901, and JJ McCaffrey, running for West of Scotland Harriers, won the West of Scotland Championship from his brother PJ McCaffrey (Celtic Harriers Club) by the slender margin of ten yards.    (Life gets complicated – Colin Shields, who was meticulous in his research, has the winner as J McCafferty).   He did not have it all his own way however since PJ was West District champion in the same year.

The question of name spelling keeps coming up with the brothers.   We know they were brothers – eg reports on the Junior Championships refer to J McCaffrey leading his brother by ten yards – and that they both ran at different but overlapping periods for Celtic Harriers and West of Scotland Harriers but the same papers spelled the names as both McCaffrey and McCafferty.    Alex Wilson, when consulted, about this said that he had checked out the census returns and could not find him in either the 1901 or 1911 census.   He may well have been living in Ireland at these times.   There was a reference to him living at Tighnabruaich though and Alex suggested that he worked there during the summer.   However we will refer to him henceforth as McCafferty for the purposes of this profile.

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On February 19th, 1902, he was again running in the National Junior Cross Country Championship and finished ninth overall, but seventh in the team race which made him the first runner home for West of Scotland Harriers who were second in the team race.   I lost track at that point but Alex managed to find one race he ran in Ireland. He notes that PJ won the 1903 Irish Junior Championship but was disqualified under controversial circumstances.   I quote Tony O’Donohue “The winner of the race was P.J. McCafferty, originally from Claremorris but presently based in Scotland and running in the colours of Clonliffe Harriers, by a margin of ten seconds. The Cork City Harriers lodged a protest  on the grounds of McCafferty’s racing record in Scotland (which was held to be irrelevant) but also that he had failed to comply with the residency requirements and had not participated in the stipulated number of club runs. On those grounds McCafferty’s disqualification was upheld…”

He won the Scottish cross-country championship at Scotstoun on 14th March that year and the ‘Glasgow Herald’ reported as follows:   “There was a large attendance of athletes generally and cross-country followers particularly at Scotstoun Showground on Saturday on the occasion of the eighteenth ten miles cross-country race for the championship of Scotland.   Eight teams entered and all ran with more or less full teams.   Edinburgh Harriers ran 12 but one had as few as three runners and had a correspondingly The course was heavy but the overhead conditions were very pleasant and there was just sufficient nip in the air to cool the competitors somewhat.   Racing was keen with the exception of the winner who had an easy victory, winning by fully 150 yards in 63 min 07 sec.”   Running in the colours of the West of Scotland team, McCafferty won from J Ranken of Edinburgh Southern Harriers and DW Mill of Greenock Glenpark Harriers, who had won the two previous championships as a member of Clydesdale Harriers.   Since he was eligible for the Junior championship, which was run in conjunction with the senior race, McCafferty won both Junior and Senior championships.

McCafferty chose to run for Ireland in the first international cross-country championship to be held at Hamilton on 28th March.   England were a bit sticky about taking part in such a fixture: first of all they refused to take part because they feared that such a fixture would detract from their own championships and only agreed when they saw that the other countries were determined to go ahead with or without them, and then they insisted that the event take place on the 28th rather than on the 21st (which had been the proposed and agreed date among the others) because their champion, Shrubb, was racing on the Continent on the 21st March.   However, the event went ahead, Shrubb won with ease and England won the team race from Ireland and Scotland.   McCafferty finished back in twentieth position while J Crosbie of Larkhall was first Scot home in tenth.

On to the track and the SAAA Ten Miles Championship was held at Ibrox on 3rd April.    The preview in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ on 30th March read: “The 10 miles SAAA Championship will be held at Ibrox on Friday evening and, in view of the running of certain members of the Scottish team at Hamilton on Saturday, the races promises to be more interesting than it has been for some years past.   It is feared however that DW Mill will not be able to compete: he met with an accident last week and had to withdraw from the international contest.   McCafferty, of the West of Scotland Harriers, is much fancied for this honour.   He was a little disappointing at Hamilton, where he ran for the Irish team.   McCafferty has done good cross-country work this season and it is no secret among his club friends that he means business in the 10 miles this week.   Crosbie of Larkhall enhanced his reputation greatly on Saturday, and if he is as much at home on the track as he is over ‘moor and fen’, he will not be the last to finish.   It is expected Ranken, of Watsonians, will run and he is certain to make a good appearance.   Like Crosbie he trains methodically.   Scotch runners do not train as systematically as English pedestrians.   Shrubb, for example, puts in as much exercise in winter as he does in summer.’

The report  on the race indicates that it was not as good an event as the build-up had led us to believe.   Mill had recovered enough to be able to race and made a contest of it for the first eight miles.   There were only four runners on the starting line, all from the West of Scotland, and only McCafferty finished, winning the title in 57:07.2.    It had been a very good cross-country season with his Irish Junior, Scottish Senior and twentieth in the international and the track season proper was about to start.

At the start of May, Thursday 14th, the West of Scotland Harriers held a meeting at Ibrox and the ‘Glasgow Herald’ preview said that the two mile match between John McGough, the mile champion, and PJ McCafferty who was so successful last cross-country season would be one of the highlights.   Pointing out that the distance was  too short for McCafferty and that if McGough were in anything like his normal form, he would win comfortably.   Alex Wilson has a profile of McGough on this website with a description of the race which notes that in 1903 that   “It wasn’t much of a contest, though, because McCafferty retired at two miles and McGough finished alone. McGough’s time of 20:21.8 was another personal best and brought him to within 11 seconds of the Scottish native record.”   Follow the link to the McGough article and the full description of the race.

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Despite a fairly thorough look through newspaper reports and checks with some well-known historians,  McCafferty disappears from the records between 1904 and 1909 when Alex Wilson has tracked him down to finishing sixth  in the Powderhall Marathon, and third in 18 miles Strathavon Marathon.   He comments:  “After his run at Strathaven there was a report in the ‘Hamilton Advertiser’ that a Peter John McCafferty , I quote from my notes “slipped and fell down six or seven steps while running down the stairs at Hamilton Central Station to catch the late train, knocking himself unconscious and sustaining bad cuts”. He was taken to Glasgow Royal Infirmary, but considered well enough to be released next day.”  This interest in road running came at a time when the ‘marathon’ was enjoying something of a surge of interest in the country, following the dramatic Olympic marathon the previous year.   McCafferty was unplaced in both of these events and his career, in Scotland at least, seems to have ended there.

He was clearly a very good runner – he had run in the cross-country international and won the Scottish championships – who was highly rated by the athletics cognoscenti of the time.   It would be good to have more information on this athlete, one of the first of our Irish visitors to make his mark in Scotland.

Alex Wilson’s Gallery: 1 Half Milers

Gallery 2  Milers      Gallery 3  Distance Runners  

Alex Wilson has one of the best collections of photographs of Scottish athletics history that you could find anywhere.   He has been kind enough to pass many of them on for the various profiles that are on the site but I feel that they are too good to be hidden away.   Hence these galleries. The first of several is this one with mainly half milers.   The others can be accessed via the links at thetop of the page.

ROBERT BURTON

SAAA Half Mile Champion 1908, 1909, 1910
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JJ SOUTTER

SAAA Half Mile Champion  1911, 1912

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1912 AAA Half Mile

DUNCAN MCPHEE

SAAA Half Mile Champion 1914, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923

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Duncan McPhee, 1914

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Duncan McPhee, 1914

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Olympic Games, 1920, 3000m team race

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4:30.8 Mile, Hampden, July 1914

HUGH C MAINGAY

SAAA Half Mile Champion 1928, 1929, 1930

Founder member of the Atalanta Club

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1928 World StudentrGames: Maingay Leading

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1929 Edinburgh University team, Maingay on the left

CHARLES B MEIN

SAAA Half Mile Champion, 1925

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WR SEAGROVE

Half Mile Champion 1926

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1920 Olympic Games 5000m.   Seagrove third from the right.

JC ‘HAMISH’ STOTHARD

Scottish half mile champion 1934, 1935 and 1937

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Stothard running for Atalanta v Glenalmond College

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Archie Craig, Junior

My beautiful picture

Scottish Cross Country Team, 1949: Archie Craig in centre, sixth from left and beside Emmet Farrell (51)

It is less usual for  a runner’s son/daughter to take up the sport than one might expect.   Athletes like Glen Stewart or Susan Partridge are not very common in the sport.   Archie Craig is probably unique in that both of his sons became runners, better still international runners albeit for a different club.   Older son Archie junior was mainly pre-war and younger son George had a career that lasted until 1951.    It is with Archie junior that we are concerned here.   All three raced sparingly and none of them competed much during the summer at all, and they were not ever-presents in the short relays at the start of the winter either..

Unlike his Dad, who was a member of Bellahouston Harriers, young Archie ran for Shettleston Harriers – the two clubs are based quite close to each other and there have been talks at various times of mergers, but the rivalry was intense.   Archie, senior had  a wonderful career winning medals both individual and team, as well as running for Scotland, with his last international cross-country event in 1924.   As for the boys, the younger son, George, won the Scottish Youths championship in season 1934/35 as Archie, Junior, ran in the senior race.   That season he ran in the Midland District championships where he was 63rd and in a Shettleston team that finished sixth.   In the National later that season he was 59th and the team was fourth.    It is with Archie that we are concerned here.

Archie was 77th in the Midland District championship at Hamilton in 1934 for the team that finished sixth but there was no mention of him in other races that winter or the following summer.   The first mention of Archie in 1935 is in January when he ran in the club team in the eight man relay between Edinburgh and Glasgow in January 1935.   Here he ran the fifth leg, maintaining the leading position that he had been given: unfortunately the following runners could not hold on to it and the team was fifth at the finish.   In the national that year, he was 59th and fifth counter for the team that was fourth.

In winter 1935/36, Archie Craig did not run in either of the teams representing Shettleston Harriers in the Midland District cross-country relay.   However when the District Championships came along, the  report said that the winner ‘J Kelly (Springburn) ran with rare judgment to defeat young A Craig (Shettleston), son of a former National champion by 100 yards in 41 min 12 sec.   R Simpson (Motherwell YMCA), a hot favourite, was third another 70 yards behind.   Over the first lap of 1 1/2 miles the leaders were JE Farrell, Maryhill, WG Black, Plebeian,  and A Craig, Shettleston.   Neither R Simpson, Motherwell, nor Jack Gifford were among the leaders.   On the next lap, Farrell and J Kelly, running neck and neck, drew away from the others, and Kelly with arms low and running comfortably, showed more reserve.   Over the final circuit Kelly piled on the pace and speedily left Farrell.   Craig came into the picture again, and actually made ground on the leader over the last mile. “

Craig led the team home but it could do no better than finish fifth in a race surprisingly won by Shawfield Harriers.   The team did better in the National, finishing equal fourth with Plebeian Harriers, but they did it without Craig.   The Edinburgh to Glasgow was held on 4th April in 1936 and the Craig-less team was second.

That summer, despite being in good condition, and despite his club having teams in various two and three miles team races on the track (Firhill, Hampden, Ibrox, etc)  there was no sign of Craig.    His father and brother were said to ‘race sparingly’ and it may have been a family thing but for such a good country runner he seems to have been posted missing during the summer months.    It was then on to the winter 1936/37 season.

When the Midland District relay was held on 30th November, there were two Shettleston Harriers teams out, and one of them won the title, but the eight men running did not include Archie Craig.    In the Midland cross-country championship, however, Craig did turn out and finished seventh, second club man to finish for the winning team.    In the National he did even better, finishing 13th, 10th in the team race, second Shettleston runner – and winner of the SCCU Junior cross-country championship.   Again he missed the Edinburgh relay in April.   The Shettleston Harriers history “One Hundred Years of Shettleston Harriers” tells us that

“On July 10th a squad of Shettleston runners did not have far to travel when they took part in the fledgling Carntyne AC’s first track and field venture at Greenfield Park in Shettleston.    The two mile team race trio of Jim Ross (6),  Archie Craig (8) and Alec Hill (10)  could manage only third place, suggesting that the competition was formidable.   ….   The West of Scotland championships in Dunoon stuck with yards, feet and inches and brought the Craig brothers together in the final of the 1,365 yard race (the mile) in which Archie was first and George second. ”     The Two Mile Team Race at Carntyne was won by Edinburgh Northern with with 8 points, Plebeian Harriers were second with 13 points against Shettleston’s 24 and as far as the District Championships were concerned, the mile is usually 1760 yards so it was a bit short but the result would probably have been the same.

In winter 1937/38 the Shettleston club 5 miles championship was held on 23rd October, 1937, the first championship was the District Relays in October where there were two Shettleston Harriers teams in action but Craig appeared in none of these.   Nor was he in evidence at the District Championships at Hamilton where Bellahouston emerged victorious.   He did turn out, however, in the biggest race of the year: the National on 5th March 1938 at Ayr,  Craig finished seventh – second team member to finish after Flockhart (fifth) and two places ahead of Ross but despite that, the team had to take second to Maryhill whose Emmet Farrell was champion.   Archie Craig was selected for the international championship.   In that race at the Balmoral Showground in Belfast, Craig was second Scot to finish (24th individual) with Flockhart eighth and the team fifth.

Season 1938/39 and the first winter championship was the Midland District relay with Bellahouston Harriers and Shettleston Harriers joint favourites for the title.   The Shettleston quartet was led off by Craig on the first stage who finished second, two seconds behind Maryhill Harriers man, W Nelson, in 13:22 with Bellahouston’s GM Hunter well back on 14:01.   W Sutherland went into the lead on the second stage but on the last lap, Emmet Farrell of Maryhill pulled in 80 yards and won the race for his team.   Craig was fifth fastest on the day, only 19 seconds slower than Farrell in first.   Well out of the medals in the District championship with a very weak team (minus Craig, Flockhart and Sutherland) they headed into the National.   The championship was held on 4th March at Lanark Racecourse and was won by the outstanding athleteof the year, R Reid of Doon Harriers.   Craig was fourth overall but third in the team championship and Shettleston was third team to finish.   He was of course automatically selected for the international.   It was the last national championship before the war and Craig had acquitted himself well but unfortunately in the international he failed to finish.

Four weeks after the international, Craig was part of the Shettleston Harriers team that finished third in the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay Race.   He ran on the tough second stage and pulled the club up an amazing seven places – from twelfth to fifth – with the third fastest time of the day.   He was followed by teenage brother George on the third stage who went from fifth to third with second fastest time of the afternoon.   Between them, the brothers had taken the club up nine places.   On Tuesday June 6th, with war imminent, there was a strong Shetleston Harriers contingent at the St Vincent de Paul sports meeting at Maxwell Park in Baillieston.   We are told that Archie Craig competed but f it was in the ThreeMiles team race, he was fourth club man – no disgrace when the  first three were W Sutherland, JC Ross and J Flockhart.

That was to be one of the last meetings before the war started and Archie Craig served as a dispatch rider in the RAF.   There were no championships during the war and the sport was run on a ‘maintenance’ basis by the Scottish Cross Country Association with unofficial championships being held wherever possible.   There was, for instance, a Midland District event held in March 1940 in which Archie Craig finished second to Emmet Farrell of Maryhill Harriers – see the photograph below which is reproduced courtesy of Alex Wilson.   But Archie Craig’s competitive career was effectively over – he ran in none of the post-war championships, the family banner being carried by brother George while father Archie forged a notable career as an administrator.

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Archie Craig

 A Craig founder0002

Archie Craig of Bellahouston Harriers won the National Cross Country Championships in 1913, second four times, was selected seven times to run in the international cross-country championships, and won two silver and one bronze medal in the SAAA track championships.   He had two sons, Archie and George, who were both cross-country internationals but his total number of vests was higher than theirs combined, this despite the fact that his career was disrupted by the War of 1914 – 1918, and  he was racing some of the finest ever to take part in the sport – eg Jim Wilson and GCL Wallach.   Craig seems to have been a cross-country specialist who could run very well on the track – as his SAAA medals show – but he ran sparingly on the latter surface and most years he did not appear in either the ten miles or four miles SAAA championships.   His name was also absent by and large from the results of the Rangers FC and Celtic FC sports.   Although we know that he ran in handicap races as wide ranging as 880 yards and three miles, they are far between and so his track running, other than in championships, has been omitted from this profile.

He first appeared in the championship results in 1911 when he was third in the West District championships but did not come to the attention of the public at large until he won the SCCU title in 1913.   Not a prolific racer, Craig did not appear in any of the major races of the summer in 1912 – there were nine men forward for the 10 miles championship but he was not among them, nor was he present at the SAAA Championships in June.   Came winter 1912/1913 and the first race of any consequence was the Clydesdale Harriers 7 miles handicap and team race at the beginning of November.   Craig was not mentioned in the results but by the start of December the sports writers were lamenting the fact that there had been little in the way of any races since then.   This did not mean there was no action, of course, as inter-club runs were the rule rather than the exception with the clubs organising joint fixtures pretty well on a weekly basis and with the occasional ‘muster run’.   A muster run was a major undertaking for the host club which invited five, six or, occasionally even more, other clubs to come to their headquarters for a mass cross-country run, usually in three packs.   Clubs often travelled quite a long way for these athletics and social occasions – the extreme maybe being Broughton Harriers joint run with West of Scotland Harriers on New Year’s Day.

The national cross-country championships were held on 1st March, 1913, at Scotstoun, where Bellahouston retained the team title and Craig won the individual title from Sam S Watt of Clydesdale.  The race was reported by Colin Shields in his history of the SCCU:   “Seven teams entered the national championships, including first time entrants Gala Harriers.   Archie Craig (Bellahouston) moved into the lead after just a mile with defending champion Sam Watt and George McKenzie leading a chasing group of runners.   Craig was challenged for the lead up to half distance in the 10 mile course, but finished strongly to win by forty yards from A McDonald (Monkland Harriers), who came through strongly in the final mile to finish runner up two seconds ahead of Watt.” 

This gained him automatic selection for the international  where he was 14th.  The international board discussed the requirements of a cross-country course in response to comments from the British delegates that there was too little real country in some events and too much racing track surfaces where speedy runners had it all their own way, and the strengths of cross-country specialists was not given a real opportunity.   The Board did not closely define the conditions but left it to each country to provide ,as natural a course as possible and the course should provide some hill, natural or other obstacles such as ditches, gates or hedges, and a little road if the same cannot be avoided.’   Colin Shields observed that the French in 1913 had provided a well varied 10 mile course, including flat meadow land, ploughed fields, and long stretches of hilly woodland paths through private parkland.

Clearly in excellent form he went on to be second in the SAAA 10 miles track championship on 5th April to GCL Wallach in a time just outside 54 minutes (Wallach ran 53:01)   The race report: “Under the auspices of the Scottish Amateur Athletic Association the ten miles championship of Scotland was run at Celtic Park on Saturday afternoon.   There were 13 entrants of whom 12 started.   T Jack the holder has now retired from racing and did not run.   At the start A Semple, Shettleston Harriers, took the lead, but in the second lap GCL Wallach, Bolton United and Greenock Glenpark, went to the front.   In the third lap, A Kerr, Bellahouston Harriers, led, but in the fourth quarter mile circuit Wallach was the first to pass the timekeeper and from this point to the finish he continued to gain ground.   At half distance he had lapped the field, and in the sixth mile only five runners were left – Wallach, A Smith, Falkirk Victoria Harriers, D Honeyman, Bellahouston Harriers, A Craig, Bellahouston Harriers, and AB Lang, Greenock Glenpark Harriers.   Craig, the Scottish cross-country champion, ran very consistently eventually finishing second, but Wallach continued to draw away from the others and at eight miles broke record, doing 42 min 13 1-5th sec as compared with the previous best of 42 min 14 set by T Jack in the championships of 1907.   In the next mile Wallach was no fewer than three seconds inside record and he maintained this advantage to the finish.”   

Craig picked up another second place medal in the SAAA championships over four miles, again won by Wallach in 20:44 who, apparently, looked a winner all the way with Craig as ‘his most formidable opponent.’.

After a summer of competing in the various sports and games meetings, and in which he won his two silver medals, it was back on to the surfaces of the sport in which he excelled, cross-country.

The 1914 national was held on a testing course on 7th March at Carntyne Racecourse in Glasgow.   Craig was second  to Wallach in the national by 50 yards after leading for the first half of the race with his Bellahouston team mate G Stephens third   Since Wallach was running as an individual not a team member, Craig was counted as first with Stephens second and other club runners third, fifth, sixth and twelfth for a comfortable victory.   The international was held at Chesham, in Buckinghamshire, and Scotland, with five Bellahouston Harriers in the team, finished second with Craig in twelfth place.

The following summer, Craig was active on the track in preparation for the SAAA Championships over a variety of distances – on 23rd May in the Greenock Morton Sports at Cappielow he ran in the half mile where he won his heat in 2:06 .2 from a mark of 35 yards but was unplaced in the final.   On June 13th Bellahouston Harriers won the Three Miles Team Race at East Kilbride with a team of J Lindsay, A Craig, G Cummings and J Smith.   These led to the SAAA Championships at Powderhall on 27th June  where he was third in the four miles to Wilson (first) and Wallach (second) both of whom ran for Greenock Glenpark.

The First World War then intervened and among the lesser tragedies was that there was total cessation of athletics championships in the UK.   Track championships resumed in 1919 and cross-country in 1920.

In 1920 the first post-war national was held on 6th March at Rouken Glen in Glasgow.  Craig was third behind another Anglo, James  Wilson, who was to wear the colours of Greenock Glenpark Harriers, and Dunky Wright.      The international championship was held at Belvoir Park, Belfast and Craig was third Scot to finish when he crossed the line in twentieth place.

The national championship was held on 5th March, 1921 again at Rouken Glen, and JH Motion of Edinburgh won the race from Wallack with Lawrie of Garscube third and Craig fourth.   When the squad of twelve for the international at Newport was chosen, Craig was named as the team captain for what looked like a good team, but unfortunately they could only finish fourth with Craig 32nd finisher.

4th March, 1922, saw the national held at Musselburgh Racecourse, where Craig was second and the report in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ read: “The Scottish National Cross-Country Championships, individual and team, were decided on Saturday at Musselburgh over a course of between nine and ten miles.   Sixteen clubs sent teams of 12, and there were also five individual runners.   By courtesy of the Lothian Racing Club, the racecourse grandstand with its fine range of stripping rooms and sightseeing accommodation, was put at the disposal of the committee.   

All the teams turned out and a start was made before a big attendance of the public in a hailstorm.   After the racecourse was covered, the leaders were JG McIntyre, Dumbarton, (the four miles Scottish track champion, GCL Wallach, Greenock Glenpark, winner in 1914, and WGS Moor, Edinburgh University, this year’s novice champion.   These were in a bunch.   Their time was 6 min 14 sec.   Before leaving the race course for cross-country work, the field had spread out for about a quarter of a mile, and men were beginning to drop out.   After the cross-country tour had been made by Inveresk, Dalkeith Road, Edenhall and Levenhall – rather more than half the journey – in 31 min 30 sec, the leaders were:- Wallach going steadily about 200 yards ahead of S McMillan, Greenock Glenpark, who was about 300 yards ahead of his clubmate D Cummings.   There was a fine struggle going on for the team championship by Shettleston, Greenock Glenpark, Maryhill and Garscube.   The cross-country tour was made again before the finish on the racecourse straight.   It was seen that Wallach was ahead and he romped home quite fresh.”

The result was Wallach first in 58:52 2-5th, Craig second in 60:03 and Riach, Maryhill Harriers, 60:07.   The international was held from Hampden Park in Glasgow, starting at half-time in a football match where admission was 1/- and 10,000 programmes for the race at 3d each were sold to the spectators.   The cross-country race was won by Guillemot of France (winner of the English cross-country championship a few weeks earlier), with Wallach fourth, Craig (vice-captain) tenth and Dunky Wright eleventh.   Scotland was third behind England in second and the winners were France.   France had earlier complained about the course being too rough and hilly, but withdrew the protest after winning the race.

 

The national in 1923 was held on  3rd March, at Bothwell Castle Policies, outside Glasgow.    Craig was fourth and so was Bellahouston.  First three individuals were Dunky Wright, JG McIntyre and A Lawrie, first three clubs were Greenock Glenpark Harriers, Garscube Harriers and Shettleston Harriers.   Chosen for the international in Paris on 23rd March, he was thirteenth.   JGF McIntyre finished a close-up second to Blewitt of England and Shields commented that ‘apart from near veteran Archie Craig the rest of the team disappointed badly’ and the team finished last.

In 1924 the date was 1st March, the venue Musselburgh Race course.   In what was to be his final run in the national championships, he finished second.   The ‘Glasgow Herald’ had the story: “over 200 runners were engaged on Saturday in the Scottish National Cross-Country Team and Individual Championships.   Besides 15 clubs there were seven individual entrants.   Boisterous and cold, the weather was quite favourable for a tough race, for it was dry and bright.   A novelty was introduced as far as the choice of track was concerned.   Except for three little breaks over farm fields, the running was all done on circuits of Musselburgh Racecourse, the fine springy turf of which favoured the going.   The race started and finished at the Lothian Racing Club’s grand stand.   Mr J Howieson, Shettleston Harriers, president of the National Cross-Country Union of Scotland, was referee and starter, and the time keepers were William Struthers, honorary president, George Hume, GM Grant, J McCulloch, JW Miller and D Taylor.   The race was a fine one and was witnessed by over 2000 spectators.   The runners were out of view for three little spells of a few minutes, and thus the interest was well maintained and the officials were able to form a useful opinion of the quality of the runners in view of the choice to be made in Glasgow this week of the international team to compete at Gosforth Park, Newcastle.   Shettleston Harriers early established a lead which brought them into the winning place.   They were particularly well served by D McL Wright, the holder of the individual championship which he won a yera ago when running for Clydesdale Harriers.   Wright kept in front all the way, taking it easily for a third of the distance, before drawing away to a 30 yard lead from WGB Moor at half distance.   Moor is an old Gala Harrier, an Edinburgh University student, and now running for Edinburgh Harriers.   At halfway the third man was RB McIntyre, West of Scotland Harriers, who was a candidate for the Scottish Junior National Championships which was also being decided.   In the end Wright finished fresh fully 50 yards ahead of A Craig (Bellahouston Harriers).   RB McIntyre was placed third, some 50 yards behind Craig.”

 Another very good run by Archie Craig who was of course selected for the international in England.   Not only selected, the 42 year old Bellahouston runner was the captain who led his team home when he was sixteenth finisher.

This was his final fling in the international but Archie Craig continued to serve Scottish athletics.   Colin Shields again:

“This was Craig’s farewell appearance for he announced his retiral from competitive running after the race.   He acted as trainer to future Scottish cross-country teams, became President of the Scottish AAA in 1937/38 and watched his two sons Archie junior and George run five times for Scotland between them in the immediate pre and post Second World War period.   “

As Colin says, Craig was president of the SAAA in ’37/’38, but it was as a member of Lochwinnoch – a small club in Renfrewshire located to the west of Glasgow which provided many athletes for Bellahouston Harriers, including the wonderful Harry Fenion.   Undoubtedly a class act, Craig, like many others, had his sporting career blighted by the effects of the hostilities between 1914 and 1918 which took six years out of his career when he should have been at his best.   Given that he was placed in the national when in his 40’s and ran in the international at 42, we look at his athletics and ask, “What if …?”

Sam S Watt

www.rastervect.com

Sam Watt, his brother and his father were all members of Clydesdale Harriers in the period immediately before the First World War.   They lived at Lenzie Moss Farm outside Cumbernauld.   Sam was easily the best athlete in the family and on five international cross-country vests as well as winning the SAAA Four Miles title.

He first won major races in season 1908/09.   The annual Clydesdale Harriers 7 Mile Handicap and Team Race was held from Scotstoun Showgrounds and was one of the biggest events on the calendar.  In 1908 it took place on 14th November and the report in the Glasgow Herald read: “The annual team race and handicap promoted by Clydesdale Harriers took place from the Glasgow Agricultural Society’s Show Grounds at Scotstoun on Saturday afternoon.   The former event was open to all who are eligible to take part in a district championship and the latter to all amateurs.   Twenty one of the best clubs in Scotland were represented in the team race.   Each team comprised six runners.   The first three men home counted in the lowest aggregate for their club.   For the handicap the record entry of 118 was secured – scratch men in the handicap evets were A McPhee, jnr, Clydesdale Harriers, Sam Stevenson, Clydesdale Harriers, and George McKenzie, West of Scotland Harriers, who conceded handicap starts up to seven minutes.   The distance of the race was seven miles, and over the double course.   The trail was laid by members of the Garscube Harriers who were familiar with the topography of the district.   About half an hour after the advertised time, the stewards marshalled the runners (over 200 in number) and a start was soon made, and as was natural in such a crush, there was some jostling before they spread out.   Racing was keen in the leading division.   A McPhee headed the pack on leaving the grounds and on the first round being complete McPhee, Watt and Rodger were in the lead side by side.   The finish caused great excitement and the first three past the post were:   1.   A McPhee, jnr, Clydesdale Harriers (time 45 mins  35 secs),  2.   SS Watt, Clydesdale Harriers (46 min 01 sec), 3.   WG Rodger, West of Scotland, ( 46 min  07sec).  Actual placings, etc, were made known at the social event after the meeting in Glasgow YMCA Institute in the evening.”

The club championship was held over 9 miles in January 1909 and here again he finished second to McPhee with Olympian Sam Stevenson third.   This was followed by the club confined two miles flat race in which he finished second (to RP White this time) with Sam Stevenson again third.   These set him up nicely for the national cross country championship in March which was won by McPhee with Watt in eighth place which was good enough to earn selection for the international.   This was his first appearance in the event and with the team finishing third, he came home with a bronze medal.  It might have been brighter for McPhee fell early on and finished thirty fourth with Jack three places behind him and Stevenson lost a shoe shortly after the start and had to drop out.   Nevertheless it had been a good year for him.

Into the 1909/10 winter season and his first noteworthy appearance was on November 13th in the 7 Miles handicap and team contest at Scotstoun where he was second – again to McPhee with John Templeman of Bellahouston Harriers third.   On 20th  November in the club 5 miles handicap, although unplaced in the handicap, he was the fastest man over the course.   In the nine mile club championships and team race at Thornliebank, he was  the clear winner, taking his first club championship title beating McPhee and fellow Scottish internationalist Alex Mann in the process.   He also led home the winning team.   It was now on to the national championship where he had a bit of an off-day and finished won in 21st place.   There was no international race in 1910 for Sam Watt.,

The national was held that year (1911) on 4th March in Pollok and Watt won for his first national winners medal.   Shields reports on the race:

“Watt … won the national from 100 competitors representing eight clubs at Sheep Farm Park in Pollok where a large and enthusiastic crowd lined the track.   Watt won by 50 yards from J Duffy who finished runner-up for the second time.”

The Glasgow Herald gave more description of the race: “The preliminary circuit of the ground was completed at a fast pace and the crowd passed out of the grounds almost as closely packed as at the start.   J Duffy (Edinburgh H) was in front, closely followed by A McPhee (Clydesdale) and RF Gilbert (West of Scotland).   Reaching Pollokshaws Road the competitors turned northwards to the old tramway terminus at the Round Toll.   Here, turning into the Barrhead road, they faced a strong westerly wind, which proved very trying on trhe hevy cross-country ground which was immediately entered upon.   The course extended as far to the south west as Kennishead, when the men turned northward joining the River Cart and entering the Pollok grounds at the western extremity of the Pollok Golf Course.   On passing Pollok House the leader was S Watt, Clydesdale Harriers, fully 50 yards in front of J Duffy with Templeman, one of the individual competitors, in third place.   Here it was learned that Alexander McPhee, Clydesdale Harriers, the individual champion for the last two years had retired.   The leaders however seemed to be travelling comfortably, also as it turned out that there was no change to the first three places excepting that the distance between first and second was considerably increased with Watt eventually winning by about 200 yards from Duffy.” 

The international that year was held at Caerleon Park in Wales and both Rangers FC and Celtic FC helped to send the team to contest the international.   Shields again:

“In 1911 snow had fallen heavily for several days prior to the race but a trail of colpoured paper had been laid over a thick cover of snow.   However just an hour or two before the race started, a snow storm covered the laid trail.   The organisers immediately recruited a number of Welsh cross-country runners who were present as spectators, provided them with running kit, and stationed them as stewards with hand flags at strategic points around the course to guide the competitors round the trail.”      Watt finished, as Shields says, ‘a disappointing fourth’ with GCL Wallach being first Scot home in third place.   The team was again third.

Summer 1911 saw Sam collect two SAAA track championship medals, one of which was gold.   On 7th May at Hampden he won the Ten Miles championship from A Kerr and WA Ramsay in 54 min 56.4 sec.    He raced sparingly but he saw no difficulty in turning out for the club on 22nd June at Portobello in Edinburgh in  a one mile team race.   The report said that “West of Scotland athletes had cause to plume themselves on their successes at the Edinburgh Harrier Clubs’  Coronation Sports held at the Marine Gardens, Portobello on Thursday.   A Mann, Clydesdale Harriers, probably the best road runner in Scotland over long distances, won the 11 1/2 mile Marathon race by nearly half a mile , and the Clydesdale Harriers, who were represented by SS Watt, A McPhee, G Findlay and A Loch secured the Mile team race after an exciting tussle with their oldest of opponents, the Edinburgh Harriers.   Watt, who beat WG Dawson by inches for first place, disclosed surprising form and great power of finishing; G Findlay, the old Glasgow High School boy, performed most creditably in gaining fourth place, just behind T Jack, the 10 miles record holder, and some yards ahead of McPhee.” 

Just two days later in the Four Miles at the SAAA Track and Field Championships at Hampden on 24th June, he was third behind GCL Wallach (Greenock Glenpark Harriers) and J Duffy (Edinburgh Harriers), Wallach’s time being 20 min 41.4 sec.   As a consequence, he was selected along with Wallach and Duffy to run in the Scoto-Irish International at Ball’s Bridge, Dublin on 15th July.   Here he finished fourth with Wallach taking the victory.   Reports at the time said that Wallach just did enough to win because he was saving himself for another race: whatever the reason, there was only bronze for Watt this time.

There were races all over the country at this time of the year and at a meeting in Beith, organised by the local football club, on 1st July, Watt was one of the back markers along with Wallach  in  the Three Miles Handicap race.   “1.   H Hughes, West of Scotland Harriers, 170 yds;   2.   A Loch, Clydesdale Harriers, 170 yds;   3.   GH Ramsay, Edinburgh Harriers, 170 yds.   There were 25 starters in this race.   Wallach, the champion was scratch, but he did not put in an appearance.    The back markers, including SS Watt, Clydesdale Harriers, made very little impression on the placed men, and retired at different stages.   Hughes in the last lap fell, but recovered quickly and maintaining an easy pace won by 15 yards, While Loch just got the better of Ramsay to win by a foot for second place.   Time: 14 min 33 sec.”

Clearly running well, Watt did not turn out in any of the remaining important meetings that summer – not even the Rangers Sports or the Celtic Sports saw him in action.

Watt’s second club championship victory was on 20th January 2012 in the race which was held at Paisley Pavilion.   He won from Alex Loch and Robert Findlay – Watt and Frew would go on to represent Scotland in the international championship later that year.      The club’s seven miles confined handicap was held on 10th February with an East race at Gartsherrie and a West Race at Clydebank.  Watt won the Gartsherrie  race from Alex Loch and Robert Frew and went in to the National Championship on 2nd March with two good wins behind him.

It should be pointed out that at this time, Clydesdale Harriers had a policy of not using their best runners in the West District cross-country championships, preferring to use it to give experience to younger and up-and-coming runners so that athletes like Watt who were among the very best when they were young men, never ran in the District championships at all.   The championship was held at Scotstoun and Watt led for the first lap of the two lap course.   Tom Jack from Edinburgh took over in the second lap and in what was described as ‘the closest finish ever seen in a national championship’ with only four seconds covering the first three runners.   Result:  1.   T Jack;   2.   A Kerr (Motherwell);   3.   SS Watt.   The other Clydesdale men to finish were Loch (4), Findlay (12), Mann (15), McPhee (20) and Frew (28) and the total of 81 points placed them second.   Watt and Loch were chosen for the Scottish team to compete in the international championship at Saughton Park in April on 30th March.   Bouin of France won the race and the Scottish team was second behind England: unfortunately for Clydesdale, Watt did not finish and Loch in 25th was out of the scoring six runners so that no international silver came the way of the club!

There was almost certainly some connection between that poor run  and his non-appearance at Hawkhill Grounds on 7th April to defend his 10 miles track title as the ‘Glasgow Herald’  noted that he had been ill and unable to train.   That fact plus the absence of Wallach who was ‘unable to travel’ undoubtedly robbed the event of some of its attraction although it was won by Tom Jack, albeit in a much slower time than the previous year.   Absent for most of the first part of the season, he also missed the SAAA championships on 15th June but by August he was racing again and won the half-mile handicap at the Rangers FC Sports from a mark of 55 yards beating Thomson of Bellahouston Harriers off 69 yards, and Alex McPhee, who was now running for West of Scotland Harriers) off 60 yards.   The winning time was 1:54.2 after a hectic race with all three fighting it out up the finishing straight.   Interestingly enough, he missed the Three Miles despite the fact tan Hannes Kolehmainen was taking part, and the Mile which was won by Duncan McPhee.   On 10th August at the Celtic FC Sports he was again out in the half-mile where he failed to qualify for the final – nor did George Dallas of Maryhill, the other on the same mark.   He was entered for the two miles invitation race on the following Tuesday but however well he ran, he wasn’t in the first four in that race.   He went into winter 1912/13 in good form.

Watt was absent from the annual seven miles handicap and team race on 9th November (the course went round Scotstounhill, Knightswood, Anniesland, Crow Road and Jordanhill) but on 23rd November 1912 he won the club’s 5 miles open handicap at Anniesland from a youngster called Duncan McPhee.   McPhee was the younger brother of Watt’s old rival Alex and would go on to become club captain before leaving the club for some reason and joining up with West of Scotland.   McPhee was fourth in the club championships and team race held on 18th January at Maryhill where Watt was again victorious with Findlay second and JC Thomson.   Watt, McPhee and Peter McGregor were drawn in the same team which finished second.   In the seven miles confined handicap held on 15th February, Watt had the fastest time in a race won by William Henderson, which set him up for the national championships on 1st March at Scotstoun.   Archie Craig of Bellahouston Harriers won by 40 yards from A McDonald, Monkland Harriers, with Watt only two seconds away in third.   Juvisy Aerodrome in Paris was the venue for the race in 1913 and Watt finished seventeenth for the Scottish team.

Again absent for the first half of the season and missing both the Ten Miles in April and Four Miles in June he made a winning appearance at the Rangers Sports on 2nd August when he won the Open Handicap mile off 40 yards in 4:35.4.    Nor was he prominent in the winter 1913/14 season but he led the club team home in the national and did well enough personally to qualify for the international team.   This was held at Chesham in Buckinghamshire and Watt in twentieth place was last scoring runner for the Scotland team which finished second.

Watt’s career, like that of so many others, ended with the 1914/18 War .    It had been a good one with gold, silver and bronze individual and team medals at club, Scottish and international levels and with international vests won on the track and over the country.

AP Findlay

Lanark Racecourse Lanark Racecourse where the first cross-country championship was held.   Racing was conducted here until 1977 and for several years the course was walkable: it is now country park.

AP Findlay was the first Scottish national cross-country champion and was a stone mason from Ayr (Home address: 66 Main Street, Ayr).   A football player and runner, he won titles over the country and on the track, and when the Ayr Section of Clydesdale Harriers became independent of the parent club, it was marked with a joint run at which Findlay represented the new club as its first president.

Clydesdale Harriers had been founded in May 1885 and Edinburgh Harriers in September of that year and it natural that some kind of inter-club contest be arranged.   It was set up and organised by a sub-committee of the SAAA to be held at Lanark Racecourse on 13th March 1886.   Eleven runners took part – seven from Edinburgh and four from Clydesdale.    The race started at 4:15 in pouring rain and Colin Shields tells us that total gate receipts were 2/- (ie 10p).    With admission charges of 6d, there must have been four paying spectators watching eleven men who were running for over an hour passing before then three or four times!    Findlay, who was at that time mainly a football player, led the field through 10 miles of heavy grassland and won in 62:57 with DS Duncan of Edinburgh second.   There were complaints that the course was under-distance – a charge rebutted in no uncertain fashion by DS Duncan who said that “the course was over 10 miles and up to a dozen Scots runners could cover 10 miles in under an hour.”   When news of Findlay’s win reached his home town of Ayr, preparations were made to meet him off the Glasgow train which would arrive at 9:12 pm.   He was not on that train so an even bigger crowd turned out to meet the next train at 11:20 pm, but again there was no Findlay so the crowd just went home.   Next morning Findlay arrived at 7:40 having walked from Barrhead to Kilmarnock to catch the first train to Ayr on the Sunday morning.

On 28th June 1886, Findlay won the SAAA Ten Miles Track Championship at Powderhall Grounds in Edinburgh in 55:16.8.   He was the only competitor to finish.   This was the first ever national title race over the distance and in the course of the race he set national records for 3 miles (15:54), 5 miles (26:41.0), 6 miles (32:12.0), 7 miles (38:03.0), 8 miles (44:01.0), and 9 miles (49:53.0) as well as for 10  miles with the winning time.   This record lasted until 1891 and John Keddie in his centenary history of the SAAA commented:   “The first SAAA 10 miles championship was held in 1896.   On the Monday after the championship meeting, at Powderhall, the Ayr footballer, AP Findlay, who earlier in the year had won the first Scottish cross-country title, padded round the track forty times to win in total isolation as no other competitor finished.   The next week he was down in London for the AAA race and finished a brave third behind WH Coad (SLH).   On only one other occasion did a Scot place in the first three of the AAA 10 miles before the end of the century and that was when Andrew Hannah (Clydesdale H), like Findlay placed third.” 

He did not run in the National Championship in season 1886/87 but won two SAAA track titles in 1887.   Running as he often did during the summer under the banner of Ayr Football Club, Findlay won the inaugural championship over Four Miles on 25th June, 1887,  at the SAAA Championships at Hampden Park in 21:30.   John Keddie has this to say about the race (and about Findlay): “The first four mile champion was AP Findlay (Ayr FC).   He was already the 10 miles champion and record holder for all distances from 3 miles to 10 miles, except, oddly enough, the 4 miles, but his records had all been set in a 10 miles race, whereas the four miles record (21:16.6) had been set by WM Gabriel (EUAC) in a 4 mile race.   By the next championship Findlay, a small even paced sort of runner, had emigrated to the USA.”   Findlay won the Ten Miles for the second successive year on 27th June at Powderhall in 55:21.6 from W Henderson.

The Scottish Cross-Country Association was set up in season 1887/88 and immediately set out to curb the Clydesdale Harriers power.   The club had set up sections in various parts of the West of Scotland – five in Glasgow alone – and attracted members from all over the country.   Their top men from the various sections all ran as Clydesdale Harriers in the national.   The new Association immediately set three rules on the topic:

1.   Only athletes who lived within a 20 miles radius of the club headquarters would be eligible to run for that club;

2.   Athletes must have completed 5 qualifying Saturday runs from club headquarters before being eligible to represent the club in National championships.

This was seen by Clydesdale Harriers as unacceptable and they set up their own body – the Scottish Harriers Union – and held their own championships with sections racing against each other but refused to join the SCCA.    They did however run in the SCCA championships since this was the only real race of the winter.   In season 1887/88, the club championships were held at the Racecourse Paisley and Headquarters ran against all sections with the exception of Falkirk fielding teams of 10 (5 to count).   It was intended to be over 8 miles but after the first mile was covered in 5 minutes, the trail was accidentally lengthened to 12 miles.   Findlay won by 2 seconds from R Graham with W Henderson 2 minutes behind him.     The official national championships were held at  Hawkhill Park in Leith and again Findlay won.   Shields describes the race as follows: “An excellent event was held at Hawkhill with seven of the runners in the inaugural 1886 championship competing.   Four clubs contested the championship – Clydesdale, Edinburgh, West of Scotland and Kilmarnock – covering a varied 2 lap nine mile course.   The runners covered 600 yards of the cinder track, onto Restalrig Road, across ploughed fields to Craigentinny Farm passing by St Margarets Gasworks and Lochend Road to enter by the main gate.   AP Findlay led from the start, being closely followed by a pack of 6 Clydesdale Harriers and A Robertson (Edinburgh).   Findlay eventually finished a clear winner with Clydesdale scoring an overwhelming victory with 23 points.”   Andrew Hannah was second and J Campbell third.   A bit more detail about the race was given by George Dallas in ’50 Years of Athletics’:    “When Findlay won again in 1888 all the runners went off the trail and Findlay was blamed (probably unjustly) for leading the field astray.   He could keep going indefinitely and the competitors ran about 16 miles that day – some arriving back in cabs and other conveyances.   One or two had to have their shoes cut off in the main streets of Ayr and finished barefooted in the snow and slush and darkness.”   An interesting description – especially the bit about runners in Ayr when Shields tells us that the race was run in Leith!

He continued his good form into the summer and again won the Ten Miles title – the third successive win..   This was won on 7th April at Powderhall in 55:33 from DS Duncan and P Addison.   Unfortunately, when he was running well again, as has been noted above Findlay emigrated to America and Scotland lost another talented distance runner.

James Campbell

James Campbell

James Campbell

James Campbell won the Scottish Cross-Country Championship in 1887 – the second man to do so.

James Campbell came from Helensburgh and had the nickname ‘Teuch’, meaning tough.   Having run in the first ever Scottish Cross Country Championships in 1886 at Lanark Racecourse which was won by AP Findlay (also Clydesdale Harriers) he won the title himself in the second Championships in 1887 run from Hampden Park in Glasgow.    He already had a good record: in 1886 he had been second in the Clydesdale Harriers first ever club championships.   In the words of Colin Shields in the official history of cross country running in Scotland, ‘Whatever the Weather’, “Clydesdale Harriers held their first championships from the Ranfurly Hotel, Bridge of Weir through heavy snow with thick mist limiting their visibility to just 30 yards.   The course was seven miles in length – three miles less than originally intended and WM Thomson won the championships by just ten yards from James Campbell.”

 The race for the second National Championships was held on 19th March 1887 and was held over 12 miles.   A grand football match between East and West was held during the race and the announcement that the half time and full time results of the international between England and Scotland would be announced helped to attract 600 paying spectators.   The race started in Hampden Park, which at that time was in the middle of the country, and went four times round the track, out of the stadium to the country over Mount Florida, past Hundred Acre Park into Castlemilk Estate, back through Rutherglen to the stadium, then one lap of the stadium completed the first of four laps.   The race was won by James Campbell in 1 hour 14 minutes 24 seconds from his club mate W Henderson.

 James was a good club man too and worked on the Dunbartonshire Section Committee.   He lived at this time in Sinclair Street in Helensburgh which had almost all of the club’s members – 16 of the 20 in the Dunbartonshire Local Section lived there, the other four being from Dumbarton.   The speed with which the sport was spreading in all parts of the country was partly evidenced by the fact that in two years the section had grown to 62 members from the whole of the county.   By 1889/90 he was section captain.

His competitive record over the next few years was good.   In season 1887/88 his track record included 2 firsts and 2 thirds in a scanty programme.   In 1889/90, there were three first places and three seconds.

Clydesdale Harriers split from the Scottish Cross Country Association in 1889 over what it saw as discriminatory legislation and set up the Scottish Harriers Union in which its own sections competed against each other with virtually all of the best men in the country involved.   Before the split was healed, there were parallel Scottish Championships.   In 1890 Charles Pennycook won the SHU Championship from Andrew Hannah in February and then two weeks later the ‘official’ SCCA Championships were held and the race was reported thus by Colin Shields in his history of Cross Country Running in Scotland: “A fast start by the Clydesdale pair Andrew Hannah and James Campbell spread-eagled the field.   The Clydesdale runners together with A Robertson and D McKinlay (both Edinburgh) led at half distance, and it was with just two miles to go that Hannah raced clear of the leading group to win in 52 min 56 sec over 120 yards ahead of Robertson with 1887 champion James Campbell in third place.”

 By 1890/91, having been local captain for three years, he was the Dunbartonshire local vice president. He had one first, two seconds and a third to his name in summer 1891.   Came the cross country season he was first in the Dunbartonshire section cross country championship and third in the National Cross Country Championship won by team mate Andrew Hannah.

By 1891/92 he held no office on the Committee and his racing record was one first and four thirds. He did not return to the committee but his summer racing was as good as ever.   In 1892/93 he had three firsts, seven seconds and a third.   The club stopped printing the athletes’ racing successes that year in an effort to save printing costs but he appears in the club handbook as a club member until 1900 when the handbook ceased to print names and addresses of members.

James Campbell was a doctor by profession – a fairly stark contrast to his predecessor as national cross country champion AP Findlay who was a stone-mason to trade.   You can see from the portrait photographs that he was a professional man.   Nevertheless he was a hard, hard racer who lived up to his nickname, never being afraid to go with or even set the pace against opponents of all standards.