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.



Ralph Erskine

Ralph Erskine

Ralph Erskine

Ralph Erskine is not a name well-known to athletics supporters whether the casual observer or to the aficionado.   The few who do know have only a scanty knowledge of the man and his career.   He was a member of Clydesdale Harriers and won medals in Scottish championships as well as running in the Triangular International against Ireland and England.   He was also part of a family which hadmore than its share of tragedy linked to the 1914-18 war.    He is just one of the hundreds of young sportsmen who died during the First Great War, just one of dozens of Clydesdale Harriers who were sacrificed.    The club had two joint secretaries when the war started, his brother Tom and Harold Servant,  neither survived the conflict, nor did most of the club committee of the time.   This is Ralph’s story.

Ralph Erskine was born on 10th March 1893 in Camlachie, Glasgow, the younger son of Captain James Erskine, Gordon Highlanders, and Janet (Jenny) Penman Barrie. His brother (Thomas Barrie Erskine) was three years older, his two sisters (Margaret and Agnes, known as Nancy) were respectively two and four years younger than Ralph.  Margaret died of tubercular meningitis at eighteen months, when Ralph was three. When Ralph was just eight years old, in 1901, his mother Jenny died of consumption.  That year the census return shows James and his two sons (11 and 8) living at Tollcross, Glasgow.  The little sister was being looked after by an aunt, and she spent most of her childhood with an aunt and uncle in Wales.   His father had been a founder member of Clydesdale Harriers when it was formed in 1885 and both boys would become very active members of the club in their turn.   This was however only part of his sporting achievements and possibly not the greatest.

Ralph was educated at Allan Glen’s school, Glasgow, as was his brother.  He was a gifted athlete and boxer, featherweight boxing champion of the world at age 17.  Sporting success reported at the time included the Public Schools’ Boxing Championship of England in 1911, and the Feather-weight Amateur Championship of Scotland in 1912.  Anent the former, the ‘Glasgow Herald’ of 5th June 1911 contained the following paragraph in its ‘Sports Miscellany’ column: “Professor G Ramsey, on hearing of Ralph Erskine’s success in the Public Schools’ boxing championships, sent the following congratulatory letter to Dr Kerr:- ‘I cannot tell you how pleased I am to see the old school in an important contest taking first place among the great public schools of England.   I congratulate you with all my heart, knowing how you have cared for the physical as well as the intellectual side.”

He also won the European championship at Paris.  In May 1911 Ralph sailed to New York for a fight for the (unofficial) Amateur World Featherweight Title.  He fought at the famous National Sporting Club on 27th May 1911 and the following day the New York Times reported: “The star of the lot was Ralph Erskine, the 17 year old boy who fights in the 125 pound class.  He fought Alfred Roffe, the Canadian champion, and simply toyed with his opponent all through the three rounds.  He had all the actions of an experienced performer and the speed of a Jem Driscoll”.  He easily outpointed Roffe.” * (A famous featherweight champion from Cardiff who fought his way from poverty to the British Championship before dying of consumption at the age of 44.)    The Harriers yearbook for 1911-12 reported “One of our youngest members, Ralph Erskine, has achieved great success in the Boxing World during the past season.   Amongst his numerous victories may be mentioned those in the English Public Schools Championship, the Scottish Championship, the World’s Amateur Featherweight Championship at New York and the defeat of the French Champion in Paris.”     Ralph returned from New York to Liverpool in 1911 on the SS Lusitania.

Once back home he gave several exhibition bouts – one being at the Rangers FC Sports on 5th August 1911 against his cousin, George Barrie.   “It was much appreciated  and proved an interesting variation to the proceedings.”


British boxers including R Erskine (2nd from right) with E T Calver, Secretary of the Amateur Boxing Association (ca.1910)

Back at home, he was a committee member in season 1911-12 but while brother Tom became joint secretary and member of the finance committee, Ralph left after only one season.   While his brother won several prizes at club level and took part in open meetings, Ralph seemed to race less frequently but with more success.   Slighter of build than his brother, he had been a more ‘natural’ athlete and distance runner at Allan Glen’s.

 If we look at his preparations for the championships where he won his first SAAA medal, 1913, he does not seem to have raced much. In the Clydesdale Harriers Sports on 31st May at Ibrox, he ran in the second heat of the 880 yards and, although beaten by George Dallas of Maryhill, qualified for the final where he was unplaced.   On 21st June 1913 the Inter University Sports were held at Aberdeen and Erskine was out in the  quarter- and half-mile races.   He finished second in both – in the 440 yards to N Gibson who won in 53.4 secs and in the 880 yards to R Thorp whose time was 2:04.5.   Then it was the championship where he was second to DF McNicol at Celtic Park on 28th June.   There were two heats for the championship and twelve men taking part with McNicol only taking the lead off the last bend and winning by about 10 yards in 2:04.8.   The international was held in Ireland on 19th July and Erskine was unplaced..

His lead in to the Scottish championships in 1914 was an interesting progression – and featured more races and a different pattern from the previous year.   Not noted as a long distance runner, nevertheless he turned out in a two miles team race at the Greenock Morton Sports on 23rd May at Cappielow.  Then as he neared the championship he came down via the mile to his favoured distance of 880 yards.   At the start of June he ran 2:12.2 in Glasgow University colours at Anniesland.   Then the University Championships were held the week before the SAAA event – on 20th June 1914 – and Erskine was out in the half mile and mile.   The preview of the event reported that he had run inside 2 minutes 12 1-5th.   The report read: “Both the mile and half-mile were won by R Thorp (Edinburgh University).   In the longer race, Ralph Erskine of Glasgow led for half distance, when JA Young, Edinburgh, went forward.   At the bell Erskine was overtaken by the winner, who ran neck-and-neck with Young for 50 yards when the holder shot out and won by ten yards, the Glasgow man being a bad third.   Erskine was seen to greater advantage in the half-mile, in which he was hardly a couple of yards behind Thorp at the tape.”           

In the national championships, Erskine was second again, this time to clubmate Duncan McPhee in 1914 at Powderhall.    He was only two yards behind the winner at the finish who won in 2:05.2 with George Dallas of Maryhill Harriers third.   This of course earned him selection for the triangular international to be held at Hampden Park on 11th July.   Erskine led this one early on but was soon overtaken and, the pace was clearly too much for him with the winning time being 2:00.2 and he was again out of the first three.


When war broke out in 1914 Erskine, a medical student at Glasgow University, was an athletics blue and had served as sports secretary and secretary of the athletics section.   On a hiking holiday in Arran with his friend Charles Higgins when war broke out and they immediately headed back to Glasgow to join up.   Ralph was given a Commission in the Royal Scots Fusiliers, and, having landed at Boulogne on 9th July 1915, he was promoted to Captain and after some heavy fighting in France, fought in the Battle of Loos (25 September – 18 October 1915).

In July 1915, not long after Ralph had landed on the continent,  his brother, Captain T Barrie Erskine MC, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, was killed in Flanders.   Serving in the 1st Gordon Highlanders he was killed at Hooge.

In December 1915 Ralph relinquished the temporary rank of Captain, and joined the Royal Flying Corps, forerunner of the RAF (first spending some time with the Australian Forces Royal Flying Corps, probably for training). Given the nature of warfare on the Western Front, it is not difficult to imagine why men would seek to transfer into the Flying Corps.  Many had experienced the misery and squalor of the trenches.  Those who knew they would face danger as long as they were on the ground, preferred to face it in a corps which offered the promise of independence and glamour, as well as a degree of comfort unknown to the men in the trenches.  Men who had already served in the ground forces reasoned that if they survived the day’s flying they would at least have the chance to sleep in a comfortable bed.  Posters like the one below would have proved attractive to the young men.

Many of those who joined the squadrons on the Western Front had prior service.  Many were recommended for admission by their commanding officers on no other ground than their good record as soldiers in the line. Many pilots were killed in accidents long before they could join a line squadron.  Pilots who survived training were posted to operational squadrons where the thought of meeting the enemy in the sky was enough to give even the bravest men pause for thought. There was eight-months’ training before being sent to the front.  The days when enemy airmen waved to each other on reconnaissance flights were long gone.  Aircraft now carried machine-guns as standard equipment, and interrupter gears, developed in 1915, enabled pilots in single-seat fighters to fire straight ahead through their propellers.

By 1918 aircraft were being used in a variety of roles: some as fighters, others for reconnaissance or artillery spotting, and others for bombing operations inside enemy territory. The famous Sopwith Camel could reach 12,000 feet in 12 minutes, fully loaded with weapons and ammunition.  Pilots and observers sat exposed to the elements in noisy open cockpits. Ralph Erskine served for a considerable time as an observer in France, where he was wounded, and mentioned in despatches.

On 9th March 1917, Captain Ralph Erskine RFC was married at St Columba’s Church of Scotland, Pont Street, by the Rev. J. C. Higgins, B.D., minister of Tarbolton, uncle of the bride, to Jane Lennox, only daughter of Mr and Mrs William Higgins, Glenafton, Church Road, Wimbledon.


Ralph and Lennie on their wedding day, March 1917
with James Erskine (left)

After getting his “wings” Ralph returned to France with 66 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps from 22nd September 1917 as a pilot.  He was flying a Sopwith Camel, B6414.

Ralph was killed at the age of 25 when his aircraft was shot down in Northern Italy – the first British airman to fall there.  “Force-landed in front line trenches near Flers.  Aircraft destroyed by artillery fire.”  According to information in a later family letter, he didn’t have a parachute.  He was wounded in the leg, but died in captivity on 1 January 1918 and was buried at the British military cemetery in Tezze, near Venice. His former headmaster at Allan Glen’s spoke of Ralph as “a modest, kindly, courteous gentleman as finest quality as student, athlete and soldier, and probably the brightest spirit the school had ever known”.

Just two weeks after he was killed, on 16th January 1918, Ralph and Lennie’s son was born.  He was baptised Ralph Barrie Erskine on 4th May at Trinity Presbyterian Church, Wimbledon by the minister, Dr Macgregor.  Ralph junior was also killed at the age of 25 during WW2 at the battle of Longstop Hill, Tunisia.


 Sopwith Camel

An obituary was printed Presbyterian Messenger (Local Supplement April 1918) as follows

Missing since the 1st January, 1918, now unofficially reported killed in air battle on that date, Ralph Erskine, captain, R.F.C., younger son of Captain James Erskine, Gordon Highlanders, and beloved husband of Lennie Higgins, Glenafton, Wimbledon. Captain Erskine, who was married to Miss Higgins little more than a year ago, had been for some weeks on the Italian front, and had highly distinguished himself on several occasions.  After an engagement on New Year’s Day he was reported missing, and some weeks later news was received, through a neutral country, of his death.  Captain Erskine was a man of splendid physique, one of the finest athletes perhaps in the whole Army, a complete master of aircraft, extraordinarily cool, resourceful, and courageous.  His Major – himself killed since – bore the strongest testimony to his brilliant services.  We can but think of him as true and faithful to duty to the last.  The deepest sympathy is felt with his young widow and her little boy, with Mr and Mrs Higgins, and with Captain James Erskine, Gordon Highlanders, the fallen officer’s father, who has now lost both his sons and his son-in-law in the war.


Tezze British Cemetery, Italy (Ack. CWGC) Plot 6. Row C. Grave 16

Back in Glasgow, the Clydesdale Harriers had suspended their activities for the duration of the War and held their first post war meeting on 31st January, 1919, and present at the meeting and among the Honorary Presidents elected was Captain James Erskine.

That seems an appropriate place to stop.   The information for the above came from

The Clydesdale Harriers Archive,

The Glasgow Herald’,

The University of Glasgow Story ( http://www.universitystory.gla.ac.uk/ww1-browse/?start=20&max=20&o=&l=e )

the ‘Trinity Remembers’ website ( https://trinityremembers.wordpress.com/2014/06/23/ralph-erskine-1893-1918/  ),

Allan Glen’s Club Newsletter ( http://www.allanglens.com/images/newsletters/Mar2011.pdf )

the Erskine family/Lee family history ( https://leefamilyhistoryarchive.wordpress.com/category/erskine-family/

Clydesdale Harriers novice championships 1913 (1)

 Clydesdale Harriers October 1913 – how many fought/died in the War?

Jimmy Duffy. Marathon Runner


Scots such as Mike Ryan (New Zealand) and Paul Bannon (Canada) have run wonderfully well in colours other than the blue of Scotland, they were not the first to do so and the photograph above is of another earlier Scot who built on domestic success to go on to success at a higher level.   

On April 23 1915 Scotland lost one of its greatest distance running exports with the death of Private James Duffy.   Jimmy Duffy, as he was known, was born James McNiff in Liscoghil in County Leitrim, Ireland, on 1 May 1890 and came to Scotland with his family in 1897 and settled in Edinburgh.   They lived in the Cowgate district, an area known as Little Ireland and home to some 14,000 Irish people living in mostly overcrowded slum tenements.  Later, for reasons unknown, the McNiffs changed their name to Duffy.   A stonecutter by trade, Jimmy Duffy made his first public appearance in the 16 Miles Edinburgh Exhibition Marathon Race from Linlithgow to Edinburgh on 24 October 1908.    He was then only a youth of 18, and, although not on the prize list, succeeded in gaining a standard medal.   Duffy was spotted by a local talent scout and asked to join Edinburgh Harriers, where under the auspices of the club’s trainers he rose through the ranks with meteoric speed.

Within a few months of taking up serious training he finished tenth in the 1909 Scottish Cross Country Championship held on 13th March at Scotstoun Showgrounds over a distance of ten miles.  There he won the special medal awarded to the first junior.   He was also the only runner from outwith Glasgow to finish in the first ten.   Selected to run for Scotland in the International Cross Country Championship at Derby one week later, he acquitted himself well to finish seventeenth, third counter in the bronze medal-winning Scottish team.   During that first season with Edinburgh Harriers Duffy won the club’s challenge cup for 10 miles cross country, a trophy which he held for three years in succession.

The following year (1910), he was runner-up to Alex McPhee, of Clydesdale Harriers, in the National at Scotstoun and the ‘Glasgow Herald’ reported it as a good race with about 50 yards between the two and “Duffy is to be complimented on his very excellent appearance.”   Selected for the international – held that year in Belfast, he was fifteenth and second Scot to finish after GCL Wallach had failed to finish: looking every inch a winner, Wallach tore his shorts on a barbed wire fence, was tackled and taken out of the race by a policeman because he was offending public decency!  During the summer season, his most notable success on the track was gained at Powderhall on 4th June , when, in a five mile team race, he set a Scottish native record of 25.52.0.    A man of light build, he stood 5’ 1/2” and ran with a “free swinging stride”. Also in 1910 , Duffy gained his first and only S.A.A.A. track medal when he finished a close third behind Alex McPhee and Tom Jack in the SAAA 4 miles championship in 20.40.0.   With seven runners in the race, Duffy actually led until the penultimate lap when “McPhee went to the front.   Duffy made a dash and led for 100 yards only, however to be dropped by McPhee and Jack, both of whom were running for position and it was just at the crucial point that the Paisley man shot to the front, warmly pursued by Jack.   Reaching the finishing straight both nerved themselves for a great effort, and some idea of the intensity of the contest will be gained when it is stated that McPhee only won by a yard.   Jack in the last five yards, when he saw that the task was impossible, slackening pace somewhat.   The first mile was done in 4 min 57 2-5th sec, the second in 10 min 06 sec, the third in 15 min 26 2-5th sec and the full distance in 20 min 35 sec.   Duffy finished third in 20 min 40 sec, the others being outside standard time.”   The standard time for the distance was 21 minutes.

The 1910/11 cross country season again saw him finish runner-up in the National at Pollokshaws.   100 runners from eight clubs made up the field for the race at Sheep Farm Park and it was won by Sam S Watt of Clydesdale Harriers by 50 yards from Duffy – second year in second place for him but he did lead the Edinburgh Harriers club to victory  in the team race.   Selected again for the Five Nations International at Newport, Wales, he could finish no higher than thirty fifth and was not a scoring runner for the Scottish team.

Duffy’s promising running career in the colours of the thistle ended in the summer of 1911 when he emigrated to Canada, settling in Toronto, Ontario. Here, he found work as a tinsmith and continued his running career by joining the Central Y.M.C.A. Athletic Club.   Emigration at that time was not at all unusual.  Canada was a favoured destination, and those leaving included a fair number of athletes.   Just two examples of this:

“Local athletes will be sorry in one sense and pleased in another to hear that A Stephen of the West of Scotland Harriers sailed for Canada a few days ago – sorry because a genial and high minded sportsman has left the city … “

“William Hamilton of Maryhill Harriers leaves shortly for Canada.   One of the most promising of the younger school of runner, Hamilton’s departure is a distinct loss to Scottish athletics.”

 These appeared within a fortnight in March 1910 and there were many more in  the years leading to the First Great War but Duffy was to have one of the best athletics careers in his new home.   When he left Scotland, his departure was also noted in the Press but at slightly greater length than most and the following extract is relevant here:

“During his first season with Edinburgh Harriers Club he won the Edinburgh Harriers Challenge Cup (10 miles cross-country), a trophy which he has held for three years in succession, viz: 1909, 1910 and 1911.   His most notable success however was gained at Powderhall on 4th June last year when, in the five miles team race, he established the Scottish native record for the distance of 25 minutes 52 seconds.   On 13th June, 1910, Duffy was first in the one mile open handicap held in connection with Falkirk Victoria Harriers Sports, and followed up this success the following week in the invitation team race at Queen’s Park FC Sports.   With youth on his side, Duffy should gain further honours in the new country.”

In October 1911, not long after his arrival in Canada, he made a name for himself by finishing second  in the “J.J. Ward Marathon” of 19 ¼ miles in Toronto.   The following month he finished third in the prestigious Around the Bay Race at Burlington, completing the 19 mile 168 yard course in a fast time of 1h 51m 16s

1912 Around the Bay Race Hamilton James Duffy

Duffy in the 1912 Round the Bay race

Duffy switched allegiances to the Eaton Athletic Club in the spring of 1912 and came under the expert guidance of star Canadian coach Billy Cumming. In that year’s Olympic try-out over the Hamilton Bay course in the Spectator Bay Marathon he finished second to Harry Jensen of New York in a race with 25 starters but only eight finishers.   This fine run earned a place in the Canadian team for the 1912 Olympic Marathon in Stockholm. The fierce Swedish midsummer heat claimed a string of victims, including the life of Portuguese runner Lazaro, but Duffy was unfazed and ran a beautifully judged race to finish fifth in 2h 42m 18.8s What a shame he wasn’t wearing a British vest because the best Briton, Harry Green, finished well down the order in fourteenth.

1912 OM _358 J. DUFFY

1912 Olympic Marathon: Duffy is 358

Later that season Duffy won the J.J. Ward Marathon and was a run-away winner of the Around the Bay Race in a fantastic time of 1h 46m 15s – a course record destined to remain unbeaten until 1936, when the course was shortened.  1913 saw Duffy lead home a quality field in the Yonkers Marathon, completing the 25 mile course in 2h 39m 29s, while also making a successful defence of his Around the Bay title in 1h 48m 38s.   The Yonkers Marathon, held in October each year,  is the second oldest marathon in the USA after the Boston race and is known for being a tough and hilly course.

After the Hamilton Bay race, Duffy joined the Hamilton Ramblers Bicycle Club where he received full-time coaching from Tommy Thomson.  Subsequently Duffy won no fewer than seven consecutive marathons including Yonkers.   Boston was probably to be his greatest triumph when he defeated French-Canadian runner Ed Fabre by 15 seconds to win the 1914 race in 2h 25m 1sec.    He was so well known before the event that he was not only the favourite to win, but Boston bookmakers would not take bets on him.   Fabre matched his pace all the way to the final mile when Duffy edged ahead to win by the slight margin.

Duffy was not your clean living type; he was an inveterate cigarette smoker and loved his pint of Bass.    After the Boston race his first request was for a cigarette and after his post-race medical he asked for a bottle of beer!   His amateur career ended only month after his Boston triumph when he was suspended by the Canadian AAU on allegations of professionalism.   He kept running and in his first race as a pro he was beaten by Fabre.


Duffy winning the 1914 Boston Marathon

When the WW1 broke out, Duffy ditched his plans to meet the big pro runners and joined the Canadian contingent with the 16th (Canadian Scottish) Battalion. Three months after joining the war effort news came that he had died of wounds received in the Canadian offensive at Ypres and Langemarck on April 15th, 1915.   At the time of his death Duffy was the fifth Scottish athletics international to be killed in active service. An obituary in the Toronto Daily Star described him as a “hard man to train and handle”, concluding: “If Jimmy Duffy fought the Germans as he fought out his many bitter road races then more than one Hun preceded him to the happy hunting grounds.”

His death was noted in Scotland under the heading  “Scoto-Canadian Athlete Dead” and read  “The death is reported to his mother in Edinburgh of Private James Duffy, 16th Battalion Canadians, who has died of wounds.   Private Duffy, who went to Canada three or four years ago, joined the first Canadian contingent on the outbreak of war, and went to the front in January.   He is the fifth Scottish athletic international to die in active service.   He never had the good fortune to win a Scottish championship but was runner-up in the Scottish Cross-Country Championship to A McPhee in 1910, and SS Watt in 1911.   There was no denying his pluck and stamina but his lack of speed in finishing barred him from gaining the highest honours in this country and it was only when he essayed the marathon distance in America that he showed what was really in him.”

Wikipedia points out that his death came eight days before his twenty fifth birthday and four days after Edouard Fabre had won the 1915 Boston Marathon.

There is a short clip of the 1912 Olympic Marathon at http://player.bfi.org.uk/film/watch-stockholm-the-olympic-games-1912-1912/ in which Jimmy can be seen: he’s the Canadian in the Tam O’Shanter.

All photographs are from Alex Wilson.

Frank Clark

 POWDERHALL 1910 Clark leads Price

Clark leads Price, Powderhall 1910

Prior to Frank Clark’s breakthrough into the top flight of marathon running, Scotland was bereft of elite marathoners. The first Scot home in the 1909 Powderhall Marathon had finished only seventh in a time several minutes outside three hours. Overseas in Canada, a Scottish expatriate called Alex Rowan had in fact broken the three-hour barrier, when he finished second in a professional marathon race of 26 miles 385 yards at Vancouver on 21st August 1909 in 2:55:32. However, no-one in Rowan’s native Scotland would have been any the wiser. Frank Clark’s performance in the 1910 Powderhall Marathon was the real groundbreaker.

 Frank Clark (this was almost certainly an alias) was a miner from the Fife village of Glencraig near Lochgelly. We know that he was of Irish extraction, having been born at Ballina in County Mayo. He may well have worked at the Glencraig Colliery, although there were several working pits in the immediate area.

 A relative newcomer to marathon racing, Clark supposedly discovered his own abilities as a long-distance runner while training with Alex ‘Sandy’ Haddow in his race against John McCulloch of Strathmiglo from Glenfarg to Cowdenbeath in November of 1908. A former winner of the Powderhall Mile, Haddow was a miner from Mid-Calder living at the time in nearby Ballingry.

Prior to making his marathon debut on 1st January 1909, Clark had been prominent at distances ranging from the half-mile to twenty miles. His first major taste of success came at Tynecastle Park, Edinburgh, on 6th January 1905, when he took advantage of a 145-yard start to win the mile handicap in 4:25.0. Whenever possible, Clark competed in both the one and two mile handicaps at the many local highland gatherings, which were a huge attraction. When Clark won the mile handicap at the Thornton Highland Gathering on 26th July 1907, he did so in front of an estimated 50,000 spectators.

 There was a proliferation of “marathons” in Scotland in 1909 after the dramatic Olympic Marathon in the summer of 1908. All but one (the Powderhall Marathon) was less than the “full” distance of 26 miles 385 yards, this being the distance covered by the runners in the Olympic Marathon. Some were as short as five miles, but to the uninitiated it would have felt like a marathon. In those days the longest race in a highland gathering was the mile or the two miles.

After failing to finish the inaugural Powderhall Marathon in gruelling conditions, Clark had his first taste of success in a 12-mile marathon at Methil on 5th April 1909, when he came in first ahead of his mentor Alex Haddow in 1:14:09.4. Shortly after that, on 19th June 1909, he finished a highly creditable second behind the British Marathon Champion Charlie Gardiner (Lewisham) in a 20-mile track marathon held in conjunction with the Glasgow Police Sports at Celtic Park. The Fifer gave the Londoner more than he bargained for, keeping pace with Gardiner throughout and conceding defeat by only six yards in 1:58:05. He was the first Scot to run sub two hours for twenty miles.

 The following week, at the Blairadam and District Games, Clark continued his run of success by winning the ten miles marathon ahead of Haddow and Davie Butchart of Kirkcaldy. For good measure, he also entered the two-mile handicap and finished runner-up. He next won an 18-mile championship race at Strathaven in 1:57:00, and a few days later met Gardiner again in another 18-mile race from Riccarton to Ayr. The race ended in a virtual dead heat, both men finishing in 1:50:16. At the finish the judges gave Clark the verdict, but when he came out of the stripping hut he found that the decision had been reversed and Gardiner declared the winner. Only six days later, on 26th July 1909, Clark beat Haddow and William Swan, Catford, in the £7 marathon race at the Kinross Games, where he completed the 10 mile course in 57:00. A month later, Clark and Gardiner again crossed swords in the 14-mile Perth-Birnam road race held in conjunction with the Birnam Highland Games on 25th August. In a close finish, Gardiner again had the upper hand, staving off challenges by Clark and Haddow to win a close race in 1:21:00. Returning to the track for the winter pro racing season, Clark showed a decent turn of speed when he ran 4:28 from a start of 80 yards to take second in the mile handicap at Powderhall Grounds on 30th October 1909.

MAR Powderhall start 1909

The line up for the Powderhall Marathon, 1910.   Clark (17) beside Haddow (in black)

A successful summer of marathon racing augured well for the Powderhall Marathon on 3rd January 1910. In addition to a large Scottish contingent, the 39-strong field included entries from England, France, Ireland, Italy, Switzerland and Wales. The star of the show was Charlie Gardiner, who only 16 days earlier had sensationally defeated Dorando Pietri in a indoor match for the “Marathon Championship of the World” at the Albert Hall in London. The canny Edinburgh bookmakers were, however, of the opinion that Charlie Gardiner would not be a danger so soon after his last marathon, which he had finished with his feet badly blistered, and made Clark their evens favourite. The runners set off at 10 a.m. in cold and windy conditions before a bumper crowd of 15,000 spectators. After allowing Gardiner to set the pace for the first twelve miles, Clark forged ahead and led the way through fifteen miles in 1:27:54, with only England’s Jack Price to worry about. Gardiner retired hereabouts after being lapped, proving the bookies spot on. Price actually caught Clark just before passing the twenty-mile post in 1:58:47. The race thereafter consisted of Clark churning out the miles 21 to 25 with Price tucked in behind sheltering from the fierce crosswind. Not once did the Englishman volunteer to take over the pace-making duties. There was an air of inevitability when Price surged past Clark two laps from home, opening up a gap of some 200 yards on his spent rival to break the worsted in a new British record of 2:40:07.5. After passing the winning post, Price waited for Clark to arrive, and the pair sportingly shook hands. Clark was rewarded for a gutsy performance with a Scottish record of 2:40:54.0, an absolute world-class time in 1910. Also worth noting is the fact that Clark’s intermediate times at 21 miles (2:05:20), 22 miles (2:12:00), 23 miles (2:18:53) and 24 miles (2:26:07) were British records. He was only a second worse than Len Hurst at 25 miles (2:33:44).

 How could a coal-miner run 2:40 for the marathon in 1910? Not only that, in an icy wind, on a hard cinder track and wearing heavy spikes. When asked by the Dunfermline Journal about his training after the Powderhall Marathon, Clark revealed that he usually walked about two miles before breakfast. In the afternoon, after coming home from the pit, he would do between five and six miles not too fast, and fifteen miles about twice a week. To answer the question: sixty miles a week on top of a strenuous job!

 Clark among the runners invited to compete in the prestigious International Marathon Derby at New York on 2nd April 1910. This was, basically, the professional championship of the world. He arrived in New York on 4th March and was initially scheduled to compete in a twenty-mile race at Madison Square Garden on 14th March. However, for reasons unknown he scratched from this and all other races in America. It appears likely that illness or an untimely injury ended his meteoric rise from the coalfields of Fife to marathon fame.

 Clark returned to competitive action later in 1910 and tied with Alex Haddow in a marathon race at Coldstream, but, alas, he never managed to re-scale the heights of his former glories.

The highlights of a short-lived career were his Scottish records for 20 miles and the marathon. These performances are still seen as aspirational by many a runner today, and are all the more remarkable when you consider the nature of his employment and the conditions in which he worked, not the mention the primitive, heavy footwear and apparel which runners of his day had to make do with.

The above profile was written, and the photographs provided, by Alex Wilson and should maybe be read in conjunction with the one on Alex Haddow.

Alex Haddow


Alexander Williamson Haddow (b. 03.10.1873, Mid-Calder, Midlothian. d. 30.04.1915, Winchburgh, West Lothian)

Few people will have ever heard of  “Sandy” Haddow, but for many years he was one of the greatest professional runners in Scotland. An exceptionally popular personality just over a century ago, Haddow lit up the tracks of Scotland with his fearless racing style and performances.    Alexander Williamson Haddow was born in the village of Mid-Calder on 3rd October 1873, the son of Elizabeth and Walter Haddow, a shale miner. Haddow, like his father, also became a shale miner. Mining was not a particularly well-paid occupation, but for many in this area it was the only occupation they knew. Haddow was employed by the Oakbank Oil Company Ltd., one of the leading shale oil companies in Scotland. It also provided its workers with everything from cheap housing to iron frames for the beds, not to mention amenities such as an institute, a bowling green and a football pitch. Sport was a very popular leisure activity in the mining villages of West Lothian. This was the Qatar of Alex Haddow’s day. It witnessed the world’s first oil boom after the discovery here of oil-bearing shale in 1850, nearly a decade before the first oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania.

 As was typical in those days, Haddow did not take up foot-racing seriously until he was in this early twenties and was identified very early on as having exceptional potential. He made his first major appearance in 1896, and what a debut it was! The event was the Powderhall Mile Handicap on New Year’s Day 1896. Haddow did not feature in the pre-race odds. There were 50 starters, including Craig, the scratch man, and W. Williams, Edinburgh, 15 yards, both of whom retired early in the race. Taking full advantage of a 150 yards’ start, Haddow took the lead on the third lap and won as he liked in 4:14.0. He took home a first prize of £12, not to mention his bookmaker’s winnings. To give an idea of how much money this was, the average coal miner took home about £2 a week at the time.

 The aforementioned “Craig” was, incidentally, one of the brightest stars of the Scottish pedestrian scene in those days.  His real name was George Blennerhassett Tincler.  The son of a Dublin solicitor, he lived in Inverness and belonged to that rare breed of runner with a scratch mark.  Then again, Tincler was arguably the number one miler in the world at the time.   In 1897 he ran 4:15.2 mile in the USA and unofficially accomplished a staggering 4:08 for the same distance in a time trial.

Haddow’s handicap was slashed after winning at Powderhall, but that did not stop him scoring a sequence of wins that season over two miles at Thornton, Bridge of Allan and Crieff – where the annual Highland Games could draw as many as 50,000 spectators.   “Wee Haddow”, as he was called by his fellow “peds”, became a familiar figure at the “gemmes”. Most of his races were handicaps. They were typically untimed and decided on rudimentary grass tracks. One of the few foot-racing venues in Scotland where a bona fide mark could be achieved was Powderhall Grounds in Edinburgh, then under the management of a Mr. W.M. Lapsey, who always ensured that the quarter-mile cinder track was kept in excellent condition. Haddow raced here often, where main fixtures on the annual calendar were the New Year promotion and the Queen’s Birthday meeting in May.

On New Year’s Day 1897, he returned to Powderhall and took the third prize in the mile, finishing 9 yards behind G. Smith, Colinton, who won in 4:22.2 off 130 yards.   Haddow’s handicap was now down to 75 yards, bringing him closer to the backmarkers.   His time is the equivalent of 4:16.6 for 1500 metres, which is a useful benchmark by which to judge his many handicap performances.

On 20th May, 1898, at the  Queen’s Birthday meeting, he was fourth running off 70 yards.   No time was given as it was a handicap  although the winner was given  4:20.5) . Like many handicaps at that time the field was expected to be big but with an entry of 95 it must have been difficult weaving his way thgrough from the 70 yard handicap.      Less than a month later, at the Tranent Fair and Sports on 16th June Haddow showed off his fitness by running second in both the half-mile and mile handicaps, before taking third in the two-mile handicap.   In the latter he finished one place behind Stirlingshire veteran Paddy Cannon, holder of the world three and four miles records and still a regular feature on the Highland Games circuit at the age of 41.

The prize money on the games circuit was good and an elite runner could earn quite a bit of money during the summer months, although of course the competition was fierce and the fields big enough to keep even the best foot-racers on their toes.

At the Dunfermline Highland Games on 18th July Haddow came fourth in the mile off 65 yards, once again finishing one place behind Cannon (off 140 yards), although later in the day he gained the first prize in the one-and-a-half mile handicap off 100 yards ahead of J. Darwin (65 yards).   Darwin (whose real name was James McDermott) also hailed from Mid-Calder and was one of Haddow’s rivals, a prolific winner of middle-distance races on the games circuit in Scotland and Ireland between about 1892 and 1906.  On 31st August 1901 he notably beat the ex-amateur champion James Duffus over a mile at Wishaw in 4:35.0. His life was snuffed out in 1910 when he sustained horrific injuries while trying to board a moving train.

On 20th May, 1899, at Powderhall, running in a handicap mile at the Queen’s Birthday meeting Haddow was first, off 95 yards in 4:14.5 [equivalent to 4:10.8 for 1500m] which was a definite improvement on his previous form.

The P&P report read: “The one-mile event produced a very hot performance from A. Haddow, Mid-Calder, who won that even in 4 min. 16 sec. from 95 yds, giving a glimpse of talent still to be developed among the ranks of the middle-markers.” The time was actually 4:14.5.

The oldest foot race in the world, the Red Hose Race, is held at Carnwath in Lanarkshire at the end of July each year although in Haddow’s day it was run in mid-August.     The race dates from 1508 and is a real classic event.    It is run under the jurisdiction of the Crown Authorities whose permission must be obtained before any alterations are made to the race.  Alex Haddow won the race twice – in 1899 and in 1901.   This would be impossible now since rules were changed in 1966 that restricted contestants to those living in eight local communities.   On 16th September 1899 Haddow was one of the pacemarkers who helped pace Harry Watkins to a professional one-hour world record of 11 miles 1286 yards at Rochdale.   Although Watkins was successful in the attempt, the Press at the time was a tad less optimistic.   The tale of the race build up is encapsulated here.

“When FE Bacon made his successful attempt on Deerfoot’s hour record in June, 1897, he was most admirably paced by Harry Watkins, the old Southern cross-country champion, who led Bacon for nearly two-thirds of the long journey.   This wonderful performance by Bacon on that occasion naturally attracted attention to Watkins’s fine running, and the latter has since justified the high opinion then formed of his capabilities by beating Leonard Hurst at ten miles for £100; GB Tincler, the world professional champion for two miles, for the same stakes; and later Bacon at ten miles for the championship and £200.   Ever since the last-named race was decided in April last, Watkins has been anxious to have an opportunity afforded him of setting up fresh figures for an hour’s run and, failing to obtain an offer of a prize, he has decided to make the attempt on the Rochdale track this afternoon for the gate money alone.   Bacon had a much greater incentive to success as he was guaranteed £250 plus half the gate receipts if he beat record.   Watkins has been in strict training at Blackpool for several weeks and is very fit and confident.

He will be paced by Hurst, Haddow and Walsh on foot, and H Brown, the well-known racing cyclist, will accompany him on a bicycle.   Of course, much will depend on the weather, the pace-making and the state of the track, but given the most favourable conditions, it is doubtful whether Watkins will succeed so difficult is his self imposed task.   With the exception of Hutchens’s 300 yards in 30 seconds, and WG George’s mile in 4 mins 12 3-4th secs, there is probably no running record to beat as Bacon’s 11 miles 1,243 yards in 60 minutes, and Watkins is a greater runner than his most ardent admirers consider him to be if he succeeds in wiping it out.”   He did get the record – albeit by only 43 more yards but the assistance given by the three runners and the cyclist (I’m doubtful about the aid of a cyclist in record attempts but it didn’t affect the runners or officials on the day or afterwards.)

On New Year’s Day 1900 Haddow finished third in the Powderhall Mile Handicap off 55 yards, covering 1690 yards in 4.12.5, a time equivalent to 4.05.1 for 1500 metres. This was superior to the officially recognised world-leading time that year of 4:06.2 by Charles Bennett.    The full result: Powderhall, Mile handicap, 1st January, 1900:  1, E. Fleming (Uphall, 175y) 4:11.2; 2, A. Shanks (Airdrie, 150y) 10y; 3 Alec Haddow (Mid-Calder, 55y).

In 1901 Haddow, at Keswick on 5 August, ran a 4:24.0 mile off 15 yards, the conversion having been done as it always had to be with handicaps,this being equivalent to 4:08.2 for 1500m.   Only nineteen days later he posted a world-leading 2 mile time of 9:39.2 in Glasgow.

There were many gaps in results available for Wee Haddow and we have to jump almost a year before the next appearance.   He must have been racing and training well for in 1903 Haddow scored double victories over former mile and hour record holder Fred Bacon.  The first was in an international 4 mile race at the Cupar Highland Games on 27th June, which was billed as ‘The Greatest Footrace ever held in Scotland’ .   Competing for prizes of £5, £3, £2 and £1 were

*Harry Watkins, England, Champion of the World 4 to 15 Miles

*RF Hallen, America, holder of World’s Record 21 to 25 miles

*JJ Mullen, Champion of Ireland

*FE Bacon, England, 1 to 10 Miles Champion

*Alex Haddow, Champion of Scotland

*Len Hurst, England, 15 to 20 Miles Champion

*J Collins, Champion of Essex, and

*R Young, Mid-Calder.

Haddow won in 21.04.5 so there had to be a rematch.  This was for the “Four Miles Championship of the World” and was held at Powderhall on 25th July the same year, and again Haddow was the victor, this time in 21.01.2. In both races a soggy track prevented faster times.

He disappeared at this point for five years and Alex Wilson comments that he had a few fallow years, before rediscovering his form in late 1908.   1910 was his last competitive year (he was 37 then) and Wilson reckons it was his best.

When marathon running became popular after the Olympics in 1908, Haddow turned to the longer distances and proved that, even at 35, there was still plenty of life left in his legs.   On November 21, 1908 Haddow defeated John McCulloch (Strathmiglo) in a “marathon” race from Glenfarg to Cowdenbeath, the first of its kind in Fife, for a stake of £50. He won by over quarter a mile, covering the 15 mile course in 1:24:13.   “Great importance was manifested in the race along the route,” wrote the Dundee Courier, “and an estimated 4000 spectators lined the street at Cowdenbeath.”   The actual race report read:



A Marathon race for a stake of £50 was run on the Great North Road between Glenfarg and Cowdenbeath, a distance of fifteen miles, on Saturday afternoon.    The competitors were those well-known runners, John McCulloch (Strathmiglo) the winner of the Dalkeith to Edinburgh race, and Alex Haddow (Mid-Calder).  

 The men ran together for one mile.   Then Haddow gradually bore ahead and by the time Milnathort was reached the distance between them was 400 yards.   Haddow improved his position and finished with a lead of 700 yards.   The time taken was:- Haddow   1 hour 24 minutes 13 seconds; McCulloch   1 hour 26.5 minutes.   Great interest was manifested in the race along the route and at Cowdenbeath there would be over 4000 people lining the street.”

It is an interesting comment at the end of the article – a race between two men over 15 miles and interest was such among the population that Cowdenbeath could provide 4000 spectators.   In the twenty first century in what is said to be a sport loving nation, there are years when there are fewer than that at our national championships.

MAR Powderhall start 1909

The 1909 Powderhall Marathon start: 17 is Frank Clark, and the man in black beside him may well be Haddow

His road running career had started with a victory and that led into two very good years for him on the roads.   They started on the very first day of 1909 in the Powderhall Marathon which was the first run  over the full marathon distance of 26 miles 385 yards and went from Falkirk to Powderhall.    He set a very fast pace, leading the race until 16 miles before blowing up in the thick mud on the course.

The race started from the Victoria Public Park in Falkirk and finished in the Powderhall grounds.   Prizes totalled £100 and the possession of a silver cup for one year.    Right up to the last minute it looked as though the weather would have made the race very difficult but the weather cleared up enabling the race to be run in reasonable conditions but the underfoot conditions had been severely affected and they made it hard for the runners.   The runners gathered in the Victoria Public Halls where they were examined by a doctor who pronounced them all fit and in good condition.   They were also provided with stimulants and food, and then 54 men faced the starter.   Provost Christie of Falkirk was the starter but after the men had lined up on the track in the park, he took time to address the runners and the large crowd that had turned up before raising the flag to start the event.   Haddow led the way until half a mile past Kirkliston when he dropped out complaining of pains in his ankles and his thighs.   H Saint Yves of London was the man who took the lead, plodded on gamely and eventually won in 2:44:47, T White of Dublin was second in 2:47:55 and P Hynes, also from Ireland was third in 2:50:55.   Saint Yves was a 20 year old Frenchman from Paris who had come to London to run in the professional marathon there but was to late to enter.  The times seem very good bearing in mind the distance and the conditions but it was not a good day for Haddow.

Also running in the race as a professional from Glencraig in Fife  was Frank Clark who had been encouraged by Haddow, living in Lochore, to take up the marathon: a wise decision as Clark set a Scottish record of 2:40:54 a year later.

1910 AGRICULTURAL HALL DERBY AF&SW 26.03.10 close up

The illustration above is of the start of the 1910 Agricultural Hall Marathon.   Held on 26th March, 1910, it as the first of a series of marathons organised by the United Sports Syndicate, which would lead to the presentation of a grand challenge belt – a deliberate return to those presented in the past to some of the great champions.   The competitors were A Aldridge (England), L Bouchard (France), W Swan (Wales), P Fegan (Ireland), L Lynch (Ireland), A Haddow (Scotland) and CW Gardiner.    The public was assured that ‘each man was thoroughly trained and possessed the credentials to compete in any championship.   The Agricultural Hall had long been used for professional meetings and this marathon was an indoor event.   After a ‘flashlight photograph’ had been taken for the Press – see above – the race got off to a fair start.   Haddow went straight into the lead and covered the first mile in 5:08 and got to two miles in 10:27, already lapping Lynch.   Fegan was second, followed by Gardiner and Bouchard.   Haddow ‘making the pace too warm to last’ came through three miles in 15:53.4 and five miles in 26:45 ‘Haddow, who has been doing a lot of short distance running lately, ran as if to finish at ten miles.’    At 10 miles in 54:17 the Frenchman Bouchard was looking like the winner but Haddow was still in front with Gardiner third and Aldridge, Fegan and Swan all running well.   Haddow was still in the lead at eleven miles in 60:03.4 but another half mile on ‘Haddow was now paying the penalty of his rash pace at the start and was forced to retire with stomach trouble.’    He stepped off the track but returned and was running in third for a while but he wasn’t the only one having trouble and Gardiner had his legs rubbed with whisky to help him on his way – to no avail however as he, Haddow and Lynch all retired from the race won by Bouchard in 2:36:18 from Aldridge in 2:48:58 and Swan in 2:53:10 with Fegan the last to finish in 2:58:33.

Bouchard’s splits were given as 1:06:8 for 12 miles,   1:11:52 for 13,   1:17:53 for 14,   1:23:36 for 15, 1:29:22 for 16,  1:35:23 for 17,   1:41:34 for 18,   1:47:53 for 19,    1:54:13 for 20 miles,   2:00:35.4 for 21, 2:07:14.4 for 22,   2:14:15.4 for 23,    2:21:05.4 for 24,    2:28:17.4 for 25 and 2:35:01 for 26 miles.    It was pointed out that, if the times were correct, all the times from 20 miles were world records.

Although many long distance races were held indoors – just look at the career of Arthur Newton for example – with the six day and 24 hour races being quite popular, it does seem strange in the twenty first century to have an indoor marathon.   Newton complained at times of the nature of indoor tracks and on several occasions asked for square tracks for his races.   In the circumstances, the winning time of 2:36:18 was actually very good.

Haddow wasn’t finished with long distance running though and just three months later, on June 20, 1910, he defeated Gardiner and Hefferon to win a 15 miles championship at Ibrox Park in, a time slightly slower than Bouchard recorded for the same distance en route to the marathon victory in March.    The report in the ‘Aberdeen Daily Journal’ for Wednesday June 22nd read as follows:

“A 15 mile championship race for £150  between G Gardiner, England, FC Hefferson, champion of South Africa and Alex Haddow, Mid-Calder, was decided on Monday at Ibrox Park, Glasgow, The weather was fine, but a fair breeze was against any of the competitors coming near record time, the wind strengthening as the race proceeded.   The three men got away to a fine start, and for the first two miles kept well together, Haddow and Gardiner taking the lead alternately.   After four miles Hefferon started to fall behind, being half a lap in the  rear at the end of the sixth mile, lapped at seven and a quarter miles and at nine and a half miles the South African had to give up.   Gardiner and Haddow continued to run off the miles at a fair even pace, there never being more than a yard between them.   Entering on the last mile Haddow forced the pace and led by 20 yards.   This he maintained to then last lap when Gardiner put on a fine spurt and reduced the Scotsman’s lead to five yards.   In the straight the Englishman made another great effort to get ahead, but the Scotsman was equal to the call, and in a magnificent finish Haddow won by a foot.   Gardiner’s splendid spurt in the last lap to catch the Scotsman roused the crowd to a high pitch of enthusiasm, and before the men had reached the tape, they swarmed the field, cheering both men enthusiastically.   Haddow’s time for the full distance was 1 hour, 24 minutes 17 3-5th seconds of which he covered ten and three quarter miles in the hour.” 


Haddow with the 15 miles trophy

Five days later, at the Glasgow Police Sports, he trounced a veritable “who’s who” of professional distance running to win a world championship 12 mile race in It was a Scottish record, as was his distance at one hour of 11 miles 200 yards.   ‘Lloyd’s Weekly News’ reported on the race:


Gardiner Beaten In Glasgow

At Celtic Park, Glasgow, yesterday, the principal event in the Police Sports was a 12 miles level running race.   Result:   A Haddow  (Mid-Calder) first;   P Fegan (Dublin) second; CW Gardiner (Lewisham) third;   Louis Bouchard (Paris) fourth;   C Dinning (Cashel) fifth;   J Price (Birmingham) sixth.   Gardiner led at the end of the first mile in 5 min, but then fell back, the leaders being alternately Bouchard, Haddow and Fegan.   At 5 miles in 26 min 40 sec, Bouchard began to  fall away.   Haddow drew ahead and covered ten miles in 53 min 45 sec, a furlong ahead of Fegan , and he eventually won by 350 yards in 64 min 52 sec.   Gardiner beat Bouchard for third place by a foot.”

The ‘Scottish Referee’ said afterwards that ‘Haddow’s win in the fifteen miles at Ibrox Park’ , coupled with his performance on Saturday, stamps him as one of the best distance runners in or out of Britain, and this after so many years on the track.’

A few weeks later, on July 11, 1910 Haddow again beat off Charlie Gardiner in an hour race at North End Park, Cowdenbeath, winning by a quarter of a mile with a distanceof 10 ¾  miles.   Thereafter he continued to compete in 1911 and 1912 but the races seemed to be few and far between.

It had been a very interesting career – starting out running the Mile and Two Miles, racing against some of the ‘greats’ such as Tincler – a name known to few now but a very good athlete indeed and one worth researching by any student of endurance running –  and concluding with long distance racing on the road, on the track and even indoors on the track.   After he retired from professional running, he was working as a fireman at the Duddingston Mine in Winchburgh.   It was shale mining and not an easy option for anyone: if you want to know more about it then the website   http://www.scottishshale.co.uk/index.html has a history of shale mining in West Lothian.

Then in May 1915, the newspapers carried reports such as this one from the ‘Surrey Mirror and County Post’.

“Alex Haddow, 41, of Winchburgh, who for many years as one of the greatest of professional runners in Scotland from half-a-mile upwards, died in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary from injuries received in a burning accident sustained while at work as a mine foreman.”

Such a gas explosion was an occupational hazard in shale mining. He was aged only forty-one.

Alec Haddow’s best track performances:

1500m 4.05.1 [extrapolated] Powderhall (hcp) January 1, 1900
2 miles 9:39.2 Glasgow August 24, 1901
3 miles 15:30.2+ Powderhall July 25, 1903
4 miles 21.01.2 Powderhall July 25, 1903
6 miles 32.10i+ Islington March 19, 1910
10 miles 53.45+ Glasgow June 25, 1910
11 miles 59.22+ Glasgow June 25, 1910
1 hour 11M 200y Glasgow June 25, 1910
12 miles Glasgow June 25, 1910
15 miles Glasgow June 20, 1910

 Alex Wilson’s work on the above profile must be acknowledged here – the original framework, both photographs and additional information was willingly given and gratefully received.   He has also passed on a comprehensive list of Haddow’s marathons between 1908 and 1911 which is below

21.11.1908 Fife Marathon (15 miles) 1 1.24.13
01.01.1909 Powderhall Marathon (26 miles 385 yards) DNF (retd. 16 miles) 1 – Henri St. Yves (France) 2.44.40
05.04.1909 Methil Marathon (12 miles) 2 (1:14.09.5) 1 – Frank Clark (Lochgelly) by half a yard in
05.06.1909 Cowdenbeath, Marathon (9 miles) 2 1 – Davie Butchart (Kirkcaldy)
19.06.1909 Glasgow Police Marathon, Celtic Park (20 miles) DNF 1 – Charlie Gardiner (Lewisham)
26.06.1909 Blairadam Marathon (10 miles) 2 1 – Frank Clark (Lochgelly)
17.07.1909 Strathaven Marathon (18 miles) 2 in 1:57.30 (£5) 1 – Frank Clark (Lochgelly) 1.57.00
26.07.1909 Marathon (Lochgelly-Kinross) (10 miles) 2 1 – Davie Butchart (Kirkcaldy)
01.08.1909 Greenlaw Marathon (5 miles) 2 1 – Archie Revel (Falkirk)
25.08.1909 Birnham Marathon (Perth-Birnam) (14 miles) 3 in 1:21 (£1) 1 – Charlie Gardiner (Lewisham) 1.21.00
03.01.1910 Powderhall Marathon (26 miles 385 yards) DNF 1 – Jack Price (Halesowen)
19.03.1910 Agricultural Hall Marathon (26 miles 385 yards) DNF (retd. 12 miles) having led at 11 miles in 1 – Louis Bouchard (France) 2.36.18 (world record)
07.06.1910 Lumphinans Marathon (10 miles ) 1
20.06.1910 15 mile championship, Ibrox Park 1 (Scottish record)
25.06.1910 Glasgow Police Marathon, Celtic Park, 12 miles 1 (won by 350 yards) (10 miles 53:45.0)
11.07.1910 Cowdenbeath, North End Park (1 hour match against Charlie Gardiner) 1 10 ¾ miles (47 laps 25 yards); won by half a lap
02.10.1910 Coldstream Marathon (6 miles) 1= Tied with Frank Clark
20.07.1911 Methil Marathon (10 miles) 2 (£2) 1 – D. McKeever (Airdrie)

The Robertson File

There are so many really good photographs of Arthur Robertson during his meteoric career that it felt wrong to show only a few of them in the profile.

These photographs are all shown courtesy of Alex Wilson, Kevin Kelly and Wilf Morgan, Birchfield Harriers historian

 It was decided to have a separate page with the pictures in chronological order for interest and for information.   The first photograph is a news clipping though which tells of one of his cycling victories and seems to indicate that he was  more than a moderately successful racer on two wheels.   It is from the ‘Northampton Mercury’ of 6th August, 1897.


This next one is from the AAA Four Miles Championship in 1906: Robertson is Number 4


The AAA Mile championship at Fallowfield, Manchester, 1907

1907 AAA mile Fallowfield


Above is the Birchfield Harriers team before the race against Racing Club in Paris in January 1908

Below is a picture from the race with Robertson in black behind the leader, Keyser




Above: Keyser finishing ahead of Robertson

Below: Robertson and E Green of Birchfield

Paris 26.01.1908 A.J. Robertson & E. Green (Birchfield)


English National champion, 1908


International Cross-Country Start, Paris, 1908

Below: Robertson, International Cross-Country Champion


Below: AAA’s Ten Miles Championships, 1908

AAA 10m CHAMPS 18.04.08


British Three Miles Team at the 1908 Olympic Games

Olympic Steeplechase: 1.  Russell;  4.  Robertson

1908 Oly steeplechase final _1 Russell _4 Robertson

1908 Oly steeplechase finish

Olympic Steeplechase finish: Russell from Robertson

Below: Start of AAA’s 10 Miles, 1909.   Robertson marked with a cross plus report on the race

1909 AAA 10 miles

1909 AAA 10 miles SL

J.A. Robertson, cycle merchants, 1911

The original bicycle shop: he came from cycling, he returned to cycling – everything seems to go in cycles!


Arthur J Robertson

… and just for interest …

Birchfield membership card Arthur Robertson (1)

… his Birchfield membership card …

Arthur Robertson


Winning the English National, 1908

Were you to ask a Scot who knows about distance running to name the Scotsman who won an Olympic gold medal, set a world record and won the individual international cross country championship, you might get a guess but more likely a blank look would be the result.   If you then said that he had never won either SCCU or SAAA title, nor had he ever represented Scotland, well I suspect that there would be total bafflement.   Who was this man?

Arthur James Robertson was born on 19 April 1879, at Harthill, Sheffield and died on 18th April 1957 at Peterborough.    The son of a Glasgow doctor, Robertson was educated at Kelvinside Academy, Glasgow, before moving to King’s School, Peterborough at the age of 14.  Keddie tells us that his father was a ‘golfer and a curler of Fife’ and had been born at Dalziel, near Motherwell.   A brilliant all-round sportsman, Arthur initially concentrated on cycling and only took up serious athletics at the age of 25, after a cycling injury.    Had it not been for the injuries sustained, he may have competed at the London Olympics as a cyclist – as his brother David did. 

He only took up running seriously in 1904 specialising in endurance running on the track and over the country.  His first racing was in August and September 1905 when he took part in three handicap races, all over a mile and won them all.   It is interesting to note that the times were all good and the handicaps were slashed after each of them.  At Ely on 2nd August he won in  4:19.6 off 130 yards, at Cambridge he won in 4:18.6 off 110 yards and at Leyton on 9th September the time was 4:21.2 off 80 yards.  

In 1906, representing Peterborough AC he ran in his first AAA’s championships on 7th July at Stamford Bridge.   It was over the Mile and he was fifth in the race in an estimated time of  4:21.6, with George Butterfield winning in 4:18.4 from Scotland’s John McGough in his fastest ever time of 4:19.2.   On 21st July he moved up to the Three Miles at Chelmsford where he finished second in an estimated time of 15:20.  Back to Ely for the mile handicap, he was second, off 42 yards, in 4:15 for the full distance.   His final race in 1906 was at Pershore on 23rd August where he won the Three Miles in 14:53.2.    These had been two outstanding seasons for Robertson with his mile time down to 4:21 and his Three Miles at 14:53.   Little wonder that at the end of that year, he signed for Birchfield Harriers and the higher level of competition which that would open up for him.


Robertson (4) makes his debut in the AAA’s Mile at Stamford Bridge in 1906

His first race on the track for Birchfield was at Abergavenny on 2nd April where he won the Three Miles team race – unfortunately there is no time available for this one as it would have given a useful benchmark against which to measure the remainder of his season.   Eleven days later, on 13th April, he ran in the AAA’s Ten Miles Championship at Fallowfield where he finished just out of the medals in fourth place 54:34.2, but on 4th May at Small Heath, Birmingham, he won the Midland Counties AAA Ten Miles in the slightly quicker time of 53:25.4.   Fourteen days later (18th May) at Derby he was back down at the Mile in the Midland Counties championships and finished third.   The races were now coming quickly and three days later he won a Two Miles at Cambridge in 9:47.2, followed after only four days by a victory in the Midland Counties Four Miles at Nottingham in 20:09.0.   This was a good win from British and English internationalist Adam Underwood by 20 yards.   After a short break he competed in not one, but two events in the AAA Championships at Stamford Bridge on 6th July: the Four Miles where he finished fourth and the Two Miles Steeplechase where he was second in 11:26.0.   On 20th July he ran in the Three Miles at Chelmsford and won but his time this year was 14:34.4 compared to his 15:20 of the previous year.   The strength of the man showed in the number of hard races fought out in relatively short periods of time – four races in 21 days including three in 7 days in May for instance.

Running only three One Mile races in 1905, a mere two years later he was racing over the Mile, the Three Miles, the Ten Miles and the Steeplechase and winning two Midland Counties titles with a second in the AAA championships too.   It was a remarkable start to his career in the sport but by any standards, 1908 would be quite amazing.

1907 AAA mile Fallowfield

Robertson (8) in the AAA’s Mile in 1907 at Fallowfield, Manchester

1908 was to be his year of years with almost unbroken success at the very highest levels, it would be the kind of year that every runner dreams of.   Starting with a second and two firsts in cross country events, he went on to track success at Olympic level and ended with a triumphant tour of Scandinavia.   It is difficult to think of any Scot in any event who has had such a remarkable 12 months.


26th January, 1908: Racing Club de France v Birchfield Harriers, Paris 

Robertson was a very good cross-country runner – so good that he won the International Cross-Country Championship at  Colombes, outside Paris, at the end of March.   There was a snag from the Scottish point of view though.   Let Colin Shields tell the story:  

“A Scotsman won the Individual Title at Colombes!   But unfortunately he was not a member of the Scottish team.   Arthur J Robertson, an Anglo-Scot running for Birchfield Harriers who had earlier won the English National title, now won the international at his first and only attempt when competing for England.   ….  The most versatile and successful Scottish distance runner of the first decade of the century, Robertson started as a moderately successful racing cyclist  –  in a similar manner to James Flockhart almost thirty years later – before taking to track and cross-country racing.”   There it is – a Scot won an international championship but in English colours.  The first Scot to win the event, one of very few to win at the first attempt, he was not at all well known to the Scottish public at this time and the result may have been a bit of a surprise to them.

To those who were aware of the cross-country scene however, his win did not come as a surprise.   He had started the year taking part in a competition in Paris between Birchfield, Union St Gilloise of Belgium and Racing Club de France on 26th January.   It was to all intents and purposes a race between the English and French clubs as the Belgians were totally outclassed.  Several talented runners such as Adam Underwood (at that time the AAA’s 10 miles champion) fell and dropped out on the difficult and slippery course where Robertson finished second, one place behind Keyser the French Cross-Country Champion.   He proceeded to win the English national at Newbury in March before returning to Paris for the International.   It was a brilliant start to Olympic year.  


The 1908 International Cross-Country Starting Line: Robertson marked with the red cross

The international cross-country was held on 26th March and his next race was a Three Mile invitation team race at Stamford Bridge on 17th April where he emerged victorious in 15:02.2.   On the very next day he was fifth in the AAA’s Ten Miles Championships in 53:46.0.   He again won the Midlands Four Miles Championships in mid-May and on 23rd May he won an inter-club Two Miles Steeplechase at Manchester in 11:05.0, then on 26th May he was second in a Mile at Shepherd’s Bush to Joe Deakin who won by 6 yards in 4:29.8 with Robertson’s time being an estimated 4:30.   At Shepherd’s Bush on 30th May, he ran in the Five Miles Olympic Trial race.   In this, his third race in seven days, he was second in 25:26.6 to Emil Voigt who only won by half a yard in 25:26.5 after they had come through four miles in 20:29.4.    

Robertson ran in Scotland for the first time on 5th June, 1908, at Powderhall in the Edinburgh Harriers Sports.   ‘The Scotsman’ reported that “the best run of the day was that run by that noted long-distance man, AJ Robertson of the Birchfield Harriers, in winning the three miles handicap from scratch.   This was Robertson’s first appearance on an Edinburgh track.   His father was a native of Dalziel in Lanarkshire, so that Robertson is able to compete in the Scottish championships and it is hoped that he will do so.”  

Robertson’s time was 14:53.8 and his reputation had clearly gone before him as he was conceding 60 yards to Sam Stevenson who was an international cross-country and track runner who would join him in the British Five Miles team for the Olympic Games, but he won all the same with splits of 4 min 50 sec, 9 min 53 and 14:53.   It was not his only run at the meeting – he had turned out in the half-mile (which had 44 runners, while the three miles only had 38 starters for him to weave his way through!) but was unplaced.    On 20th June he turned out in anther Three Miles, at Crewe and finished third in an estimated 14:43 behind Emil Voigt.  

On 4th July he was back at Stamford Bridge in the AAA’s Four Miles where he was second in 19:52.8 behind his regular rival Emil Voight who had run 19:47.2 .   The report read: 

Conway led off at a good pace, the first quarter (62.6) being only a fifth of a second slower than in the mile.   The order was Conway and Duncan, together, Wilson next.   Time 4 min 45 sec.   Robertson now passed Conway, then Svanberg went by; but at two miles Duncan led from Hefferon and Coates.   Time 9 minutes 50.4 sec.     Wilson had retired and Deakin was beginning to flag; Coates now forced the pace for a mile, and led at three miles (15 min 1.6 sec) with Robertson and Voigt next.   Now AE Wood took up the running, and the pace increased.   At the bell Voigt went by, and running the whole lap in grand style, lapping some of his opponents, he won by quite 30 yards from Robertson, who in turn beat Woods by 12 yards.”   The times were 19:47.4 for the winner, 19:52.8 for Robertson and Wood was ‘well inside 20 minutes’.   The breakdown at the finish was last lap in 64 seconds, and last half mile 2 min 11.2 sec.   

1908 Oly steeplechase final _1 Russell _4 Robertson

Olympic steeplechase final: 1  Russell, 4 Robertson

It was on to the Games Just nine days after the AAA’s championships.Most countries were allowed to enter up to twelve competitors in most events In the Olympic Games,but in the team events – the medley relay and the three miles team race, only one team was allowed per nation.   Robertson was entered for three events: the Three Miles team race, the Five Miles and the 3200 metres Steeplechase.   It was a lot but the timetabling was savage.   Even with his history of running three races in a week or four in a fortnight, it was a daunting task.  If we look at his time table it was as follows: 14th July: Three Miles Team Race Heats; 15th July: Three Miles Team Race Final  plus   5 Miles heats;  17th July: 3200m steeplechase heats;   18th July:  Steeplechase Final  plus  5 Miles Final.   Six races totalling 19 racing miles in five days.  How did Robertson fare then?  

First of all there were the Three Mile Team Race Heats.   The rules for this race stipulated that each country could run 5 athletes but only 3 of them would count.   The British team ran in the first heat and their top four men finished hand-in-hand: William Coales, Joe Deakin, Arthur Robertson and Harold Wilson were the men and the team total was 1 + 2 + 3 = 6 points.   

On the next day (15th) in the final of the Three Miles the first three finishers were Deakin (first in 14:39.6), Robertson (second in 14:41.0) and Coales (third in 14:41.6).   This was Robertson’s gold medal as part of the winning team, and set him up nicely for the heats of the Five Miles.   Robertson along with Sam Stevenson was in the fifth heat and qualifying was the heat winners and the four fastest runners-up.  Coales dropped out of the first heat and Svanberg (Sweden) won in 25:46.2 from Hefferon (South Africa); Voigt (GB) won the second heat (26:13.4); Landqvist (Sweden) won the third (27:00.2), Murphy (GB) the fourth heat in 27:59.2 and then in the fifth heat Robertson broke away after the first mile and won in 26:16.2 with Fitzgerald of Canada second.   Both qualified while Stevenson in third and not a runner-up, failed to qualify.   The sixth heat was won by Edward Owen (GB) in 26:12.0.  

After a day without races, the distance runners were out again on the 17th July in the heats for the 3200m steeplechase.   There were twenty four competitors for this one with no fewer than eleven coming from Britain.   There were six heats and Robertson won heat four in 11:10.4  – the second fastest qualifying time behind the 10:56.2 set by countryman Arthur Russell in the first heat.   On 18th July, there were two finals: the steeplechase and the 5 Miles.  Robertson  was out in the steeplechase with five other competitors.   Trailing for most of the race with Russell (GB) leading, Robertson only moved into second place at the bell but did not have enough left to catch his team mate.   It was a British 1-2 and a silver medal to add to his gold.   The 5 Miles was contested by a tired Arthur Robertson with Emil Voigt, his British rival throughout 1908 not having taken part in any other event at the meeting.   Also in the final were Owen (GB), Svanberg and Landqvist (Sweden), Hefferon (SA), Fitzgerald and Meadows (Canada)and Bellars of the United States.   Leaders at the successive mile points were Owen at one mile in 4:46, Hefferon at two miles in 9:54.2 (5:08.2) and three miles in 15:05.6 (5:11.6), Svanberg at four miles in 20:19.2 (5:07.6) before Britain’s Voigt sprinted into the lead and led all the way to the finish in an Olympic record of 25:11.2.   Owen was second in 25:24, Svanberg third in 25:37.2 and Robertson back in fifth in 26:13.0. 

It had been a good if strenuous Games for Robertson with one gold and one silver medal to show for it.   Given the year’s racing up to that point he could have been excused had he called it a day at the end of July.   But not a bit of it.   If anything he used the Olympics as a springboard for two more months of excellence.   Two weeks later, on 1st August, after the Games were over, he was back in Scotland competing at the Rangers Sports where he smashed McGough’s record for the Four Miles with a time of 19:45.2.    It was a magnificent meeting with many of the Olympic stars from several countries competing and although Robertson ran well, he could only finish second to   –   Emil Voigt again who won in 19:40.2.    The ‘Glasgow Herald’ commented “ER Voigt of Manchester AC   ran with superb judgment in the Four Miles finishing with a dazzling sprint of 300 yards amid a perfect hurricane of applause.   It was a brilliant piece of running and has not been surpassed in the city since A Shrubb charmed supporters of amateurism.   Voigt did the Four Miles in 19:40.2 and as conveying some idea of his speed resources we may note that the last quarter was done in 64.2.   Only one in the first flight of runners could do that.   JA Robertson (Birchfield Harriers) was second, 25 yards behind, his time being 19 min 45 sec.”  

McGough’s record had been 20:06.2 and had been set in August 1905 and also at the Rangers Sports.   Voigt incidentally was younger than Robertson (Date of Birth 31/1/83) and had been born in Manchester to German parents . His first big win had been in the AAA’s 4 Miles in 1908.   He won more AAA titles in 1909 and 1910 before emigrating to Australia in 1911.   His Olympic record still stands since the 5 Miles was not held again, being replaced by the 5000m and 10000m.   He was a considerably good athlete over a range of distances.   

1908 Oly steeplechase finish

Olympic Steeplechase Final:   Russell from Robertson 

Robertson started his run in to the Scandinavian trip with a Four Miles at Stoke on Trent on 3rd August which was won by Emil Voigt; this was followed by a Three Miles at Windsor on 19th August which he won in 14:27.2.   These were very goodtime, done on cinder tracks which cut up more with every lap that passed, many club runners in the early twenty first century would be reasonably happy with them.   The important thing though was that these two races led in to a series of 9 races in 15 days interspersed with travelling from city to city across Norway  and Sweden.  

The racing started on 28th August at Oslo (then Christiania) when he won a 1500m in 4:17, followed by a victory over 5000m the very next day in 15:35.8 and an 800m on 30th August where he won the handicap race in 2:02.0.   The longest race in Norway was a 10000m on 1st September where he single-handedly beat a five-man relay to set a world’s best time for the year of 31:52.0.   After travelling to Sweden, Robertson was second in a 1500m at Stockholm on 12th September in 4:07.2 behind four time Olympic gold medallist Jim Lightbody (4:06.4).   In the 5000m on 13th September he won in 15:01.2 from Svanberg, the local boy, beating him by 27 seconds in a world record for the distance.   This was 12.3 seconds better than the existing world record and, Arnold Black reminds us, 15 minutes was not beaten until Hannes Kohlemainen did so in the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games final.   Not content with that, Robertson had a go at Shrubb’s world record for the hour.   He won the race with Svanberg second.   Shrubb’s record was  18742m, and Robertson’s run was 18479m with Svanberg 18276m.   It should be noted that this race was run on a banked concrete track.   It really was an exceptional run and it is reported that Robertson had difficulty walking for some days after because his feet and ankles were so sore.   We shouldn’t leave this race without pointing out that in the course of his hour’s work, he had set personal and Scottish bests of 30:26.0 for Six Miles and 31:30.4 for 10000m, not to mention obliterating Tom Jack’s   native ten miles record with an intermediate time of 51:44.8.

He finished his season at Stamford Bridge on 19th September with a 14:54.1 victory in a Three Miles race.   It had been a truly outstanding season whether you look at the times, at racing records or performances in the Olympic Games and in Scandinavia.   His race record (counting metric distances as their imperial equivalents) was 22 races with 15 wins, 7 seconds and one third.   Scottish records were set at one, four and ten miles distances  plus of course the world record set in Sweden.   Plus the English National and the International cross-country championships.  Plus Olympic gold and silver. 

The successes of 1908 would have been almost impossible for any athlete to follow.   Robertson had passed his twenty ninth birthday.    Younger men like Voigt were forcing the pace.   How would he do in 1909?  

1909 AAA 10 miles

1909 AAA’s Ten Miles: Robertson marked with the red cross

He started with a defence of his English Cross-Country title and finished second.   The race was run in a snowstorm and generally severe conditions with 163 runners starting the race.   It was over a ten miles course which was run in four laps and Coales led for the first lap followed by Robertson and Murphy of Hallamshire.   Murphy, the Northern champion, went to the front after three laps and held on to win in 62 minutes from Robertson by 20 yards with Coales 100 yards further back.   Robertson had some slight revenge when Birchfield won the team race from Hallamshire by 52 points.   He then did what all runners do as they advance in years and stepped up the distance and ran in the 15 miles road race at Cheltenham on 10th April where he finished second to Jack Price in 1:32:30.    Still heavy legged after his exploits at Cheltenham, he failed to finish in the AAA’s Ten Miles at Stamford Bridge the following weekend.  The ‘Sporting Life’ commented that he ‘was feeling the effects of his race on Easter Monday and could not get comfortable.’A month later, fully recovered, he travelled to Stoke for the Midland Counties 10 Miles track race which he won in 52:27.   This was not only faster than he had run when winning the same race two years earlier, but also 13 seconds quicker than the time posted by AAA’s Ten Miles Champion AE Wood at Stamford Bridge.    

He then at the end of May came back down to his normal track racing distances and on 22nd  May ran a Three Miles handicap at Manchester where he finished second to Voigt by 25 yards with the times being 14:37.6 and 14:43.0e.    He came back up to Scotland and ran at Powderhall on 5th June in another Three Miles handicap which he won from scratch in 14:53.8    This was at the Edinburgh Harriers Sports – the same meeting where he had first  run in Scotland in 1908 – and 38 ran.   Robertson’s splits were given as 4:50, 9:53 (5:03) and 14:53.8 (5:00.8).   As in the previous year he also turned out in the handicap half-mile: this time there were 44 runners and he was running from the 18 yards mark.   The report is that he “failed to make any headway and stopped in the finishing straight.”   At Crewe on 19th June he ran his third 3 miles in five weeks and was third in an estimated 14:42.0 with the winner again being Voigt who was timed in at 14:32.6 – 50 yards up on Robertson.   

The countdown to the AAA’s on 3rd July was now on and he stepped down another distance on 26th June to race over two miles at Wolverhampton where he won in 9:44.4.   His next meeting was the AAA’s championship where he would be racing in the Four Miles and Mile.   In the Four he finished second to ‘that man again’ Emil Voigt in 19:59 with the difference being only 5 yards, and in the Mile he was also second, this time to Eddie Owen in 4:23.4 with Owen winning by only half a yard.    Despite his wonderful record and marvellous career up to this point, Robertson had never won a AAA’s championship and that must be down to luck as much as the ability of others – for example to lose a Mile by only half a yard has as much to do with chance as with anything else.  

He went back up again to long distance on the road and raced in the 13 Miles marathon at Dorking which he won in 1:16:31.8.   The Essex Atalanta Cup was a trophy presented at the Essex cycling and athletics championships.   It was first presented in 1900 and the first winner of the ‘huge, new, 50 guinea Atalanta Cup’ for the Three Miles was Alf Shrubb.   It was to Essex that Robertson went on 17th July and he won in 15:07.6 from AE Wood.   It was maybe some consolation for the lack of AAA’s gold.  

On 24th July it was another ‘marathon’, this time over 10 miles on the road at Bristol and he won in 57:22.2.   Then he jumped back down a distance or four to the mile handicap at Pontypridd where he was second off the 5 yard mark before going back up to 10 miles handicap event at the same meeting which he won off scratch in 57:36.4.   Having run in England and Wales, he returned to Glasgow on 9th August to run in a 1.5 miles race.   Several of the big Scottish sports meetings had double sessions – there was the big Saturday meeting and then there was another supplementary session on the following Monday night and it was at the Monday session of the Rangers Sports that Robertson ran in the mile and a half race and broke Shrubb’s Scottish record in a time of 6:48.2.   It is of interest to note that this was a handicap race with Robertson finishing only third behind William Scott (Broughton Harriers) and Tom Jack of Edinburgh, both of whom had handicaps.   Then on 28th August 1909 he ran his last race.   It was, fittingly, with a victory.   The race was over Three Miles, run at Eastbourne, and he won in 14:34 defeating in the process the AAA Ten Miles champion, EA Wood, by half a lap. 


1908 Olympic Three Miles Team

He retired from athletics after 1909 season and returned to cycling. Later, together with his brother, he ran a sports shop in Peterborough, and then passed it over to his son.

Robertson was posthumously inducted into the Scottish Sporting Hall of Fame in 2004.   In January 2010, a new JD Wetherspoon pub in Perry Barr, Birmingham, (close to Perry Barr, Stadium, the former home of Birchfield Harriers) was named ‘The Arthur Robertson’ in his honour.  

J.A. Robertson, cycle merchants, 1911

The original cycle shop

 Thanks are due to Alex Wilson for lots of help with statistics and to Alex, Wilf Morgan and Kexin Kelly for the photographs.   All of the photographs received, including some not used in the profile, have been put up on a separate page which can be accessed  here .  Wilf also told Alex that he had made a mistake when writing the Birchfield Harriers history in saying that Robertson was called ‘Archie’, and error that has since been propagated by many historians including those employed by the BBC.   He was apparently called ‘Artie’ and not ‘Archie’.

There is an excellent three page article on Robertson in the BBC ‘A Sporting Nation’ archive at  http://www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/sportscotland/asportingnation/article/0016/

There is very good article on the first race for the Essex Atalanta Cup at


Alex Duncan

AAA 4m CHAMPS 1907 Alex Duncan 1st from DEAKIN Joe, Fallowfield

Alex Duncan in AAA’s 4 Miles in 1907

Alex Duncan was born on April 24th, 1884 in Grayrigg, Kendal, Cumbria, worked in the family business (Minto Feet Nurseries, a market garden and florists) and died on January 21st, 1959 in Kendal at the age of 74, yet we are told that ‘by his own affirmation he “had not a drop of English blood in him.”    He stands out in group photographs of runners because of his height – he stood 5’11″+ (1.82m) and weighed 164 lb (82kg) when most distance runners are on the small side.

 Starting out in athletics as a track runner in 1902, on 26th July 1902, at Belle Vue, as a member of Kendal Welcome Harriers, Duncan won the mile handicap off 111 yards (running 1507m) in 4:22.8.  A year later on 6th June 1903, at Halifax, he covered 1674 yards (1530m) in 4:19.2 and in a two miles team race at Lancaster on 1st July,  he ran the  fastest time of 10:26.8.   In 1904 on 1st August at Barrow,  he covered 1691 yards (1546m) in 4:16.2, and returning to Lancaster on 24th May, he again had fastest time in the Two Miles team race this time 10:14.0.   He was in Lancaster again in 1905 (13th June) when he ran faster yet in the Two Miles team race – 10:09.6.

In 1906 he won the Four Mile race at Royton Sports on 1st August in 20:38.0 to win the Northern Counties AAA title for the distance and later that year joined Salford Harriers where he was a member until his membership lapsed in 1910.   A week later, at Fallowfield in Manchester on 7th August, Duncan ran the half-mile in an estimated 1:58.8 off 20 yards.

1907 NCAA 4 miles

1907 Northern Counties Four Miles – Duncan won but look at the quality of runner there.

Having made his northern breakthrough in 1906, he came to the attention of the national athletics public when, in 1907 he ran second to Adam Underwood of Birchfield Harriers in the AAA 10 Miles at Fallowfield in Manchester in 54:06.1.     1907 was to be one of his best years ever.    He made a successful defence of his NCAAA Four Miles title on 18th May in 20:01.2.  Then at Ibrox Park on 27th May, Duncan ran in the Clydesdale Harriers Sports and, although he did not win the handicap Three Miles race, his running was very impressive.  Although he was already a very good runner and a Scot, he was almost unknown to the Glasgow athletics public.   The ‘Glasgow Herald’ reported on the race: “A Duncan (Kendal) who won the Northern Counties  four miles championship at Leeds the previous Saturday, was the guest of Clydesdale Harriers.   He put in some capital work in the Three Miles race but was unable to pull in R Patterson (Motherwell YMCA) and G Culbert (Motherwell Harriers).   The winner’s time was 14 min 50 2-5th sec and Duncan’s was 14 min 59 1-5th sec which shows that he gave of his best.   He is of Scottish extraction and will probably come North for the Championships next month, and if he does he will run under Clydesdale Harriers colours.”

Duncan did run in the SAAA Championships and despite what they had said about his club affiliation, the ‘Glasgow Herald’ said in its report of 24th June:   “All the six entrants turned out.   Stevenson led for the first mile.   Duncan, the Kendal runner, went to the front in the second mile.   In the third mile Duncan spurted and although Stevenson made a bold effort to hold him, the Anglo-Scot by degrees shook off his rival and with a mile to go was fully 30 yards in front.   At the bell the winner was leading by almost the length of the straight, and putting in a fast finish, he won by about 150 yards, his time is some six seconds outside McGough’s Scottish record.”   The winning time was 20:12.4 with Stevenson timed at 20:28.

In its comments section, the paper went on to say –   “A Duncan (Salford) justified all that has been said of him here since the Clydesdale Harriers Sports.   He will run in the AAA’s championships and expects to get inside 20 mins for the Four Miles.   There was no sparkle in Sam Stevenson’s running and Jack was also a little disappointing.”   The victory gained him selection for the Scoto-Irish International the following Saturday but he did not travel up for it with Jack accompanying Stevenson in the Four Miles instead.   Jack actually won the match race in 20:22.


1907 AAA Four Miles

The AAA’s race was held on 6th July and Duncan won the Four Miles – and inside 20 minutes too.   He was the second Scot to run inside 20 minutes for the distance, Henry Acland-Munro being the first away back in 1895.   Read the report: “A brilliant effort was that of A Duncan (Clydesdale Harriers) in the Four Miles, 19 min 51 2-5th sec having only twice been bettered at the English Championships.   We remarked recently that A Duncan would improve on his Scottish championship time and he has done so to the extent of 21 sec.”    These championships were held at Fallowfield in Manchester and it was to be the last time for 80 years that they would be held outside of London.

He was back in Scotland for the Rangers Sports Meeting on 3rd August.   Probably the biggest annual athletics festival in the country with stars from the world of athletics competing and big crowds (in 1907 there were 18,000 spectators) it was where you went if you wanted to be seen.   Duncan came for the Four Miles handicap race and finished second.   The race was ‘won easily’ by Somerville of Motherwell YMCA from a mark of 350 yards while Duncan was second, running from scratch with the winning time being 20 min 16 1-5th sec.  Later in August he was racing in Stockholm where he won the 1500m on 17th August in 4:11.0 and then ran second to John Svanberg  over 5 Miles in 25:36.8 and followed it with 5000m in 15:38.4 the next afternoon.  John Svanberg was a double Olympic silver medallist from Athens and in 1907 he ran the fastest times in the world for 5000m (15:13.5) and 10000m (31:30.9).  No disgrace in finishing second to such an athlete. What was the competition in Stockholm?  Several Swedish athletes were competing in the AAA’s championships and it is possible that some invitations were issued there.  In any case, it was an international meeting with two Britons competing:  Alec Duncan and E.H. Montague.  Duncan ran THREE races in the space of  three days.   

 Into September, and is season was still flourishing with 15:05.0 for a Three Miles handicap at Belle Vue.

AAA 10m CHAMPS 18.04.08

1908 AAA 10 Miles Championships

1907 was very good year for Duncan and his target for 1908 was  bit higher yet – he wanted to run in the Olympic marathon.  He started his season however with the Clydesdale Harriers Sports at Ibrox Park where he ran in the handicap Three Miles but was unplaced in the handicap but recorded a time of 15:19.2 from scratch.   He next appears when he runs in and wins the AAA’s 10 miles championship on 18th April  at Stamford Bridge after a close fought race in 53 min 40 3-5th sec with the second man on 53 min 41 2-5th sec and Tom Jack of Edinburgh Southern Harriers third in 53 min 42 sec.   The first six were within 15 seconds of each other.

For the Olympic marathon there were six ‘trials’ to be held and Duncan ran in the 19 Miles Trial at Warburton on 21st March where he finished fifth in 2:01:05.   The winner was Fred Lord in 1:50:23 with Wyatt, Perkin and Day being between them.   He then ran almost exactly a month later over a longer trial which went from Windsor to Wembley Park and was a distance of 22 miles 1420 yards.   This was his his third race in as many weeks.   The relative distances were over 19 miles on the road, 10 miles on the track and then this Olympic trial organised by Polytechnic Harriers over 22.5 miles.     The first six finishers in the race on 25th April were to be selected for the Olympic marathon.   66 runners took part and the weather has been described as appalling.   Rain, sleet and snow all fell during the race and the road surface was described as ‘terribly heavy underfoot.    James Beale of Poly Harriers led at 10 miles in 55:19 from Fred Lord (Wisbey Park AC) and Duncan, with Fred Appleby (Herne Hill Harriers)  about a dozen yards further back.   These three were together at 15 miles in 1:25:55 before Beale moved off and established a lead of about 50 yards.   He was caught and passed by Duncan about a mile from the finish and Duncan won the trial by almost 400 yards.    Duncan won in 2:15:45, Beale was second in 2:17:00, then came Lord (2:18:04,  Tom Jack (Edinburgh Southern Harriers – 2:18:42) Harry Barrett (Poly Harriers – 2:18:46) and Fred Thomson (Ranelagh Harriers – 2:20:05).    As the first six finishers in this race were picked for the Olympic marathon, Duncan was selected with Tom Jack and Sam Stevenson also being selected as part of the team to run.   With the Olympic event not until the end of July, it was now back to the track for Duncan.

Alex Duncan Health & Strength 1908

In Glasgow on 13th June, at the West of Scotland Harriers Sports, Duncan turned in what was described as a commanding performance in foul weather.   “A Duncan made ample amends for his disappointing performance in the Clydesdale Harriers Sports.   It was only in the last 50 yards however that he got on level terms with G MacKenzie and it is not often that one witnesses such close finishes in a distance handicap.   In good going Duncan might have got inside McGough’s record.”   Duncan’s time was 20 min 18 2-5th sec, Graham ran from a mark of 230 yards and the winning distance was two yards.   A week later Duncan raced at Crewe to record an estimated time of 14:42 for three miles.   It is interesting to note a comment in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ of 22nd June, 1908, in their preview of the SAAA Championships that “The Four Miles should go to S Stevenson (Clydesdale Harriers)  as T Jack is said to be keeping his resources up for Marathon purposes at the Olympic Games.”   Three men, three very different methods of preparation for a major event – Duncan racing a lot, Stevenson racing frequently and Jack barely racing at all.   On 4th July, Duncan was out in the AAA’s 4 miles championships and could do no better than 6th in a time estimated to be inside 20:40.   Presumably he had stepped up the training distances with the Olympics in mind.   Then it was time.

On 24th July at 2:30 pm the Olympic race started and straight away Tom Jack went into the lead and came through the first mile in 5:01, a really crazy pace but he did not let up coming through 4 miles in 21:18 (the SAAA Four Miles championship had been won that year in 21:52 by  –  you’ve guessed it – Tom Jack!).   At five miles he was clocked at 27:01 and was almost exhausted.   After stopping for a drink he never started again.   His compatriot Alex Duncan (27:07) also dropped out at that point complaining about sore legs.   They were not alone in failing to complete the course: of the 71 named starters, only 27 finished while 44 dropped out.    The race was of course not won by Dorando Pietri in 2:54:46, it was Hayes of the USA who emerged victorious in 2:55:18.

 The trio of Duncan, Stevenson and Jack were to meet up again when they represented Scotland against an Irish- American team at Edinburgh on 19th August over the shorter and more familiar distance of Four Miles.   “The Scotch representatives gradually drew away from the only Irish-American competitor, GV Donagh, and a grand race ensued in the home straight.   Jack eased up nearing the tape.   Won by two yards.”   Duncan was the winner in 20 min 52 3-5th sec from Stevenson with Jack third.

By 1909, Duncan’s career as an athlete was almost over.   A year after the London Olympics, he settled down into married life and joined the Kendal Police Force.    In 1910, he took up a post as a police constable at Stoke-upon-Trent and joined North Staffordshire Harriers for a short spell before hanging up his racing shoes for good.   It had been a good career in which, apart from the experience of the London Olympic marathon, he took on the best and came out on top more often than not.   The London Marathon  is noted for all the wrong reasons and one of these is the controversy over  the distance which turned out to be further than originally intended or announced but that does not account for the early pace set by Jack and pursued by Duncan among others.   Nerves maybe contributed but they had all run enough Four and Ten Mile races to know a bit about pacing.  It was the only real blot on an otherwise excellent copy book.      What’s missing from this account?  What’s missing is anything about cross-country running at a time when the cross-country internationals were big fixtures.   Strangely enough there is little trace of Duncan as a cross-country runner although he did finish third when running for Kendal in the North Junior Cross-Country championship in 1906 but even after he joined Salford he cannot be traced as a country runner.

In the course of his career he ran many very good times for distances between three and 20 miles:

Three Miles: 14:42.0e  at Crewe on 20th June 1908.     5000m: 15:38.4 at Stockholm on 19th August, 1907.    Four Miles: 19:51.4 at Manchester on 6th July, 1907.

Five Miles: 25:36.8 at Stockholm on 18th August 1907;   Six Miles:  31:26.2 at Stamford Bridge on 18th April, 1908;  Ten Miles:  53:40.6 at London 18th April, 1908;

Twenty Miles:  1:56:26  at London on 25th April, 1908.

 Alex Duncan(DailyMail), Kendal Welcome HarriersIn the beginning: Wearing the Kendal Welcome Harriers strip

I would like to thank and acknowledge the research done by Alex Wilson which he passed on more than willingly;

the excellent illustrations are from Alex and his colleague Kevin Kelly.


HT Jamieson

H.T. Jamieson , 1908

HT Jamieson

Henry Tonkinson Jamieson was born in Edinburgh in 1885 and was to become a first class athlete who won two Scottish championships.   Educated at George Watson’s College and then at Edinburgh University where he graduated as a CA , Jamieson had very short athletics career with mst of his running done in and around the capital.    His father William Keir Jamieson was a fruit merchant who died in 1890 aged only 34.   Henry was only five years old at the time and was sent South to live with his wealthy aunt in Sunderland, returning later to start his education at Watson’s.

One of the meetings that was a regular feature of the Edinburgh athletics scene at the turn of the century was the Edinburgh Northern Harriers Sports.  Generally held at Powderhall, Jamieson contested the Open handicap mile there on 29th July 1907.   Running off 65 yards in the colours of Watson’s College AC, he lined up with ten other men.   The ‘Scotsman’ report tells us that Rennie of Edinburgh Northern Harriers led at the bell but ‘Jamieson was among his men and working to the front down the back stretch, he eventually came home leading by ten yards.’   

McGough of Bellahouston Harriers was by far the top miler in the country having won the Scottish title in the past six years and in 1908 he was having problems with a bad ankle injury.   Keddie in his centenary history commenting on McGough in the 1910 season, says, ” In the two previous years however (1908 and 1908) McGough met his match in HT Jamieson (Edinburgh University AC) who won the Scottish Mile Championship in both those years..”   Gough had problems in those years and this has to be admitted, but it does not do to write Jamieson down at all.   Compared to McGough, he raced very sparingly indeed but he usually delivered the goods.   In June that year though, he raced a bit more than usual.   The SAAA Championships were decided at the end of June and Jamieson was certainly in good condition.   On 13th June at the Edinburgh University Sports he beat a good field including Tom Jack for the championship mile.   The ‘Scotsman’ report read:

1.   HT Jamieson;  2.   T Welsh.   Time 4 min 48 sec.   T Jack who finished third led practically in the first three laps but on entering the last lap, Jamieson went to the front, closely followed by Welsh.   The race was then left between these two.   Welsh made a strong effort at the last bend but Jamieson kept his lead and won by about six yards.”     Jach went on to win the three miles title.

Another fixture was the ‘Edinburgh Shop Assistants Sports’ which in 1908 were held on 17th June, just four days after the university championship.   The introduction to the report on the meeting said that there were many interesting finishes, ‘especially the Mile.’   The ‘Scotsman’ again: “One Mile Handicap (Open).   1.   HT Jamieson (Watson’s College AC – 35 yards); 2.  JB Maclagan (Edinburgh Northern – 105); 3.   G Inglis (Edinburgh Northern – 115).   Twenty nine ran.   Contrary to expectations McGough turned out notwithstanding his bad ankle, and he and Jamieson ran side by side for the greater part of the journey.   Halfway round Jamieson made his effort and McGough could not respond to it, retiring before the bend for the straight was reached.   The Watsonian had to put in a great finish to catch McLagan, Inglis and GH Peddie, and he only managed it by a yard.   It was a great race, and caused great excitement.   Time:   4 min 33 2-5 sec.”

Three days later, on 20th June, he avoided the Heart of Midlothian Sports in favour of the Inter-University Sports at St Andrews which were held on ‘the beautiful recreational park which was gifted some years ago to St Andrews University by their late rector Mr Andrew Carnegie.’   This time, his third race in seven days, he did not come out victorious.  The race was won by G Twort of Aberdeen in 4:47.6 with A Gray of Aberdeen second and Jamieson in third.   It was only a week before the SAAA Championships.

1908 Edinburgh University team (Tom Jack, H.T. Jamieson etc)

The Edinburgh University team of 1908:

Jamieson is second from the left, middle row, Tom Jack on the left in the middle row

From 29 competitors in a race to three.   The opposition, despite the absence of McGough was stern.   Sam Stevenson of Clydesdale Harriers was there – many track medals, cross-country championships an international caps and Olympian, he was not to be treated lightly.   The result was a win for Jamieson in 4 min 33 4-5 secs.   The third runner was AJ Grieve.  “The three runners were practically together throughout throughout until the last lap when Jamieson started drawing out.   At the last bend Stevenson challenged strongly, but entering the home straight Jamieson had four yards in hand.   This lead he increased in a fine staying finish and he won by six yards.   Grieve was a poor third.”

The ‘Herald’  further commented: “Watson’s College has given us some of our finest amateur runners and the name of HT Jamieson who won the Two Miles Handicap at the Edinburgh Harriers meeting the other night falls to be added to this list.   This was his first appearance in public and the feat of covering the distance less his concession, in 9 min 25 2-5th sec shows that he is gifted with all the qualities of speed and brains that got to make one eminent in the realms of pedestrianism.   It is said that in his initial private effort over the mile his time was 4 min 45 sec.  Evidently Jamieson is a very promising runner and it will be interesting to watch his career as it develops under the influence of systematic training.”

Winning the national title granted him selection for the international match against Ireland which took place on 11th July.   In this one, Jamieson was up against McGough and the Irishman Morphy.   Morphy had already run and won the half-mile when he faced the two Scots so it was probably not surprising that “the Watsonian set a surprising pace from the outset and got in well in front of McGough”   His winning time was 4:34.   The following week it was back to Edinburgh for the St Bernard’s FC Sports – an event celebrating 25 years of promoting such meetings and the event in 1908 was a well organised affair.   The report indicated the Jamieson ran in both the half mile and mile and , although beaten in both, ran well.    Given the handicap  system and the big fields in evidence then it was not surprising that he did not win every time out.   The ‘Scotsman’ report on the half-mile read: “Half Mile.   1.  JW Bruce (Edinburgh University AC – 20 yards);   2.   HT Jamieson (Watson’s College AC – 10 yards).   There was a numerous field for this event.   The champion got in well among the others before covering a lap, and coming round the last bend he came away nicely and seemed as if he would just manage home first.   The University man who had gained slightly won by about half a yard.   Time:  2 min 01 1-5 sec.”

He was not quoted in the first four for the Mile.  Into August and he travelled furth of Edinburgh to compete in the Celtic FC Sports in Glasgow.    This was a big meeting with several Americans competing but he turned out in the open handicap half mile where he was first in 2:00 off a mark of 12 yards and reported to be ‘finishing in great form.’   To end the season he ran in an international against   the Irish-Americans on 19th August.

This was a great occasion – The Scotsman reported

The meeting of the Scottish and  Irish-American athletes at the sports enclosure  of the Scottish National Exhibition last night was productive of all-round excellence.   Apart from the interest excited by the international character of the meeting, the arrangement was specially attractive because it brought to Edinburgh a number of athletes now famous in the athletic  world who figured recently at the Olympic Games – notably Mel Shepperd, the world’s champion half-miler and record holder, and JB Taylor, the coloured runner, who participated in the now famous race in which Halswelle ran in the Stadium.”   Clearly an exciting meeting – as far as the Mile was concerned, the initial comment read, “A splendid Scottish victory was that of HT Jamieson in the Mile.  J McGough also ran well in this event but Jamieson put in one of the best finishes he has given and won splendidly.”    The actual race report gave a bit more detail:

The Scottish champion led for a couple of laps, when McGough took the lead, and ran very strongly, and afterwards JP Sullivan, the Irish American, came into second place with Jamieson third.  This order was retained until the third lap when Jamieson entering the last bend sprinted grandly, and putting in a great finish, won by about nine yards from McGough who finished about three yards od Sullivan.   Jamieson was accorded a splendid reception.”   The winning time was 4:36.8. outsprinted McGough on the last lap of a tactical race to win by 10 yards to the delight of the 6000 or so spectators.   Less detail in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ but it did say that at the end, “Jamieson came away with a terrible burst.”

Jamieson seemed to race less often in 1909 than he had done in 1908.   There was no appearance at all in the Edinburgh Northern Harriers Sports where he had competed the previous year, nor was he in evidence at the Edinburgh University Sports, and he was absent from the Inter-University Sports where Welsh and Gray each had a first and each had a secone in the Half- and Mile.

His repeat victory in the SAAA Championships in 1909 was a much harder race.   The ‘Glasgow Herald’ said that there was less than a yard dividing McGough and Jamieson, adding that the defeat of McGough was a sore disappointment to his Ibrox admirers but the fact of him running so well should bring some  consolation as it show that with a little more practice he will get back his form of two seasons ago.   The actual report merely said though, that it was a splendid race all the way, and won by less than a yard.  The ‘Scotsman’ report said:   “Ten of the eleven entrants competed and the excitement began when the last lap was  entered on.   The holder (Jamieson), McGough, McNicol (Polytechnic Harriers) and J Welsh were all together.   Later it was a duel between Jamieson and McGough.   It was a great finish.   First Jamieson went to the front  but McGough passed him, and coming down the straight the western man looked a winner, but Jamieson had found something in reserve and amid great excitement, won a splendid race in  the excellent time of 4 min 29 1-5th sec.   McNicol was third and Welsh fourth.”

As was the practice, he was selected for the Irish International at Balls Bridge  on 17th July.   The ‘Glasgow Herald’ was not in its sunniest mood when reporting on the fixture.   The extract covering the Mile which featured Jamieson and McGough gives the flavour: “Had the Mile been run with the same judgment, Scotland might have recorded a point.   The time, 4 min 33 3-5th sec, was quite within the reach of both Jamieson and McGough, and in addition both Morphy and Fairbairn-Crawford had previously taken part in the half-mile.   Perhaps the track, which measured 3 2-3rd laps to the mile, upset their calculations, for it was quite evident that neither  Jamieson, who went off at 480 yards to go, nor McGough, who tried to hold him, could sustain their effort to the tape.”       The judgment referred to was that shown by the Scots in the half-mile, the point that might have been scored was that for the winning athlete (matches were determined by the number of victories recorded) as McGough finished second to Morphy.

He was indeed racing very seldom in 1909 and he had missed the St Bernard’s FC Sports the week before the international – it might be that another race on a ‘normal sized’ track the week before the international would have helped his judgment in Ireland.     Alex Wilson says in his excellent profile of McGough that Jameson retired after the Scoto-Irish contest ‘owing to limited opportunities for training.’

He did run in 1910 – for example at the start of June he ran in a 1000 yards handicap race at the Edinburgh Harriers Meeting and was unplaced – admittedly the first three had handicap marks of between 38 yards and 65 yards which are not inconsiderable in such a short race, while he himself was back on 5 yards.   The ‘Scotsman’ did say that he made a great effort but could not raise a sprint at the finish.  But to all intents and purposes his athletics career was over.

Having graduated as a CA from Edinburgh University, he emigrated to Canada before the first world war ‘to practise his profession’ and immersed himself in the life of his new community.  He died in 1983 at the age of 98.   The Canadian Who’s Who tells us that he was President and Managing Director of the Composers, Authors and Publishers Association of Canada (which had been the Performing Rights Society), he was vice-president of the Federation Inter-americana de Sociedades de Autore y Compositores as well as being a member of many clubs sporting and otherwise-

the Toronto Hunt Club,

the Royal Canadian Yacht Club,

the Arts and Letters Club,

the Rideau Club, Ottawa,

Empire Club,

Canadian Club.

The clubs?  The Toronto Hunt Club was founded by the British Army officers of the Toronto Garrison in 1843, the Royal Canadian Yacht Club is one of the world’s largest yacht clubs and was founded in 1852, The Arts and Letters Club is a private club founded in 1908, the Rideau Club is ‘ the club of Canada’s ruling political elite’ and was founded in 1865, the Empire Club is a speakers club and was founded in 1903, and the Canada Club was founded in 1897 and meets to hear lunchtime speeches by local, national and world leaders.   Covering horse riding, sailing, arts and letters, politics and world affairs his various memberships had no hint of any connection with athletics.

His obituary written by the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto reads as follows:

“Harry Tonkinson Jamieson died on December 27th, a few days before the Club’s Christmas Dinner.   Those two events, so close together, immediately bring to mind the many occasions when Harry carried the Boar’s Head in the processions at earlier Christmas dinners.   His health prevented him from being at the club for the last several years.

Born in Edinburgh where he qualified as a CA, Harry came to Canada before the first world war to practise his profession.   He joined the Club in 1920 and immediately became involved in Club matters.   In the Archives is his first handwritten audit report for 1920.  Harry personally or his firm, under his direction, continued to audit the Club accounts for half a century.

Although Harry was not one to dwell upon the past, he once gave a most vivid description of the celebration of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1897 as seen through the eyes of a boy of 12.   Harry had been in recent years the oldest living member of the Club.   He was, in his student days, the best mile runner in the British Isles for three years.   Very tall, holding himself erect, he could be rather awesome to a junior member until one saw his eyes reflecting a great sense of humour.”

 Jamieson was a credit to himself, his family and his education, but his battles with McGough reflected society at the time.   McGough was the son of Irish immigrants who had come to Scotland to find work and escape poverty.   Brought up in the Gorbals, he became the local postman and a wonderful athlete who founded an athletic club for Catholic boys – the St John’s Young Men’s Catholic AC – and continued to be involved in sporting interests such as athletics, football (Celtic and Manchester United) and Gaelic football.   The comparison between these two men, both fine athletes who competed side by side for Scotland, could not have been greater, and it is one of the fine things about the sport at the time that men from such widely differing backgrounds and life styles could get together.

I am grateful to Alex Wilson for much of the information used in the profile including the photographs and would encourage you to read his profile of John McGough.