Singers Sports

The stand at Singer’s Recreation Ground, Clydebank

The Singers Sports was a regular fixture on the SAAA Calendar after the Second World War and was held on the first Saturday in June with some of the very best athletes in the country competing there.   Its history goes back well before the war however and the picture of the stand above, situated on the north side of the track, dates from the 1930’s.   Many factories and manufacturing firms had their own sports sections and, even as recently as the 1960’s, Babcock & Wilcox (Renfrew), Dirrans (Kilwinning) and Singers had their own sports.   Singer was a massive factory: read the following from ‘Glasgow Live’.

The factory came into being thanks to Scots born George Ross McKenzie, who, while serving as General Manager of The Singer Sewing Machine Company, the first successful American multi-national company in the world.   …   Benefited from a location both next to a railway line and the Forth and Clyde canal, then Vice President McKenzie breaking ground on it in 1882 in a construction that lasted three years and required 20 million bricks before it opened in 1885.   Originally featuring two main buildings 800ft long and 50ft wide and 3 storeys high connected by three wings, it was designed to be fire proof with water sprinklers making it the most modern factory in Europe at that time.   And barely a decade later, the Kilbowie factory would become Singer’s flagship factory, with a workforce of over 5000 strong manufacturing 80% of the world’s sewing machines.   So big was the factory that it had its own train station (still present today), with production levels so high that two-and-a-half miles of railway track were laid to link up assembly lines, foundries, tools hops, storage and distribution centres.   And so productive was the factory that in 1905 the US Singer Company set up the Singer Manufacturing Company Ltd. as a UK registered company, with demand so high that each building in the factory  (then the world’s largest) was extended upwards to 6 storeys high.

With 11,500 workers employed at the plant at its peak, in 1913 Singer shipped 1,301,851 sewing machines from its factory doors to households and businesses around the world.”

The Singer clock was the world’s largest four faced clock, five feet bigger than Big Ben

was a massive operation and encouraged its employees to take part in all kinds of sports – there was a football team, a cricket team, a bowls club, an athletics club and it also catered for indoor sports.   The bowlers had their own green and clubhouse and the others took place at the recreation ground.   Among the thousands of employees, were many members of Clydesdale Harriers, based in the town, many of whom were in promoted positions.   Therefore when the idea of an annual sports and gala day came up, they helped with the organisation.    

Clydebank and its environs always a sport loving community and there had been several athletics meetings held over the years.   In 1919 there had been a good one held at Old Kilpatrick with many athletes from Clydesdale Harriers as well as repr3sentatives of all the Glasgow clubs.   The first Singers Sports reported in the Glasgow Herald on 6th June 1921.   The report in its entirety is below.

The reference right at the start to ‘their annual sports’ seems to indicate that there had been similar sports previously but there is no indication for how long.   They also seem to have been exclusively for employees and local schools.   Note that the High School w as HG   which was Higher Grade (or Senior Secondary) as opposed to Dalmuir School which was not Higher Grade.   George McQuattie was a member of Clydesdale Harriers but the club affiliation was not given.    The Sports were always on the same weekend – the first in June.   This meant a clash with Queen’s Park FC Sports and the Scottish Universities Championships as well as several of the major schools events.   But, given that it was at this point a ‘closed’ meeting with a restricted range of events, this would not have been a factor in their calculations.

The following year, on 3rd June 1922, the events were largely the same with a Ladies Race as well as a ladies relay – women’s athletics were just starting to appear in the country and this was an interesting venture.   There were also boys races and relay.   There was also a tennis tournament and a five a side football competition.    This was the pattern for the 20’s – confined races, races for local schools as well as tennis and the almost mandatory 5-a-sides.   The origins of the Sports – or Sports Gala as it was sometimes referred to – were not reported on at the time but the report on the 1927 meeting started by saying: “In showery weather, the twelfth annual sports gala in connection with the Singer works was held at the Recreation Ground, Dalmuir on Saturday.”   So 1915 was the first year.   Names that appeared in the results included A Gailey (later a member and treasurer of Clydesdale Harriers before he emigrated), G McQuattie and in the women’s 75 yards race the winner was Peggy Ellison who was a prominent member of the Clydesdale Harriers Ladies when it started up in 1930.   

They were always trying new ways to entertain the  crowd and in 1929, there was a children’s pageant with historical tableaux, songs and dancing, there were also gymnastics exhibitions by members of the YMCA.   The pageant would develop to the crowning of the Singer Queen with her retinue of the 1950’s.  There were also the usual athletics events and the piping was also a feature although the tennis and 5-a-side seemed to have disappeared by then.

The first sports of the new decade was on 9th June 1930 and the pageant led to the crowning of the Queen of the Fair (Margaret Pattison).   One of the other innovations during the thirties was the introduction of a relay for the school girls as well as the existing one for boys.   This was however the format until the war started in 1939.

During the War, the factory was devoted to making equipment and supplies for the war effort and there was no time or room in the year for such niceties as the Sports Gala.   During this period the factory received over 5000 government contracts, made 303 million artillery shells, shell components, shell fuses, aeroplane parts as well as grenades, rifle parts and 361,000 horseshoes.   The company labour force of 14,000 at the end of the war was 70% women.

After the war the sports started up with a difference or two.   The ‘Glasgow Herald’ report read as follows:   “Singer Recreation Club’s Sports were distinguished by the performance of Any Forbes (Victoria Park) who won one of the Mile handicaps from the small allowance of five yards to win in 4 min 24.6 sec over a course of six laps to the mile and against a strong wind.   Other winners:   100 yards  W McDonald (Clydesdale Harriers) (8 1/2) 10.9 sec; 220 yards:  J O’Kane (Garscube) (14)  23 sec; 880 yards: W McCrimmon (Vale of Leven) (44)  2 min 1 sec;  Mile B:  J Stirling (Victoria Park) (105)  4 min 34.9 sec.”   There were several points to take from that report, brief as it is.   First is the fact that there are no results of the confined events although there were still many to be seen on the day.   Second, there was a full programme of open events which were well supported and which, in the eyes of the reporter, took precedence over the confined races.

Not mentioned:  1.   The pageant was still a feature of the sports and would be there until the sports came to an end in the late 60’s.   2.  The tennis had gone altogether from the Gala and 3.  the football was held away from the meeting too.   It had in fact become a genuine open sports meeting albeit on a short grass track.   The Recreation Ground was also used by other community groups – the photograph below is of the invitation half mile race in the mid 1950’s at the Clydebank High School Sports which were held there.

Photograph by Jim Young, leading above

A year later and again, it was a short report but the papers were only 6 or 8 pages long, there was a full spoprts programme and a local meeting was maybe fortunate to have the results printed at all.   This time the man mentioned first was George McDonald of Victoria Park who was second in both open and confined 100 yards races.   The winners of the sprints were J Wilson of Clydesdale in the 100 yards from a mark of 7 yards in 10.1 sec and the 220 by DT Clark of Garscube, also off 7 yards in 23.2 seconds.   Jim Young of Clydesdale won the 880 in 1:58.6 from 45 yards and Ben Bickerton of Shettleston took the Mile from a mark of 40 yards in 4 min 38.5.   The Junior one lap race was won by R Whitelock of Victoria Park in 36.9 from 17 yards and the Women’s 100 yards was won by I Irving (Clydesdale ) 11.3 sec from a mark of 8 yards.   

The sports were becoming a bit better known and the calibre of athlete was getting higher.  This was helped by the Guest of Honour in 1951.   Like many other local sports meetings and highland gatherings, Singer Sports and Gala Day had a guest of honour – the best known of there was Dorothy Lamour who came along a few years after this but in 1951 it was Olympic sprinter June Foulds from London.   She had come to prominence as a 16 year old and would go on to run in the 1952 and 1956 Olympics.   After opening the Sports she took part in both 100 yards races (open and invitation) with the results seen below.  Scots M Carmichael and Willie Jack were also international athletes.     

Things just continued to progress.   The meeting in 1952 provided a big shock in the women’s events where two British International athletes came face to face.  One was Pat Devine of the Q Club in Dundee who would be the first Scottish woman to compete in the Empire Games, the European Games and the Olympic Games.   She and her clubmate Elspeth Hay were the first Scottish women ever to be selected for a GB team.   Of course, the handicaps had something to do with the final results but the winners in both 100 and 220 yards were off quite short handicaps.    Wotherspoon of the YMCA would go on to become a good, medal winning, member of Shettleston Harriers.


The competition between meeting organisers on the first Saturday in June was fierce, coming as the date did a mere three weeks before the national championships and with the short track and grass surface, Singers Sports were at a disadvantage.   In 1954 for instance, they were competing against the big budget and 440 yards track at Shawfield where the Lanarkshire Police were holding their sports,    The Scottish Universities were big players in the sport in the early 50’s and they had their national championships on the same date, and on this date in 1954 the new cinder track at Caird Park was having its grand opening meeting with home girls Pat Devine and Elspeth Hay taking part and Joe McGhee of Shettleston Harriers taking on local hero Chick Robertson over 13 miles on the road.   There were many schools championships being held too     The draw at Singers however was star long distance runner Ian Binnie who was taking his chances over the half mile distance as a test of how his speed work was coming along in the run-in to the SAAA event.   As it turned out, he won his heat but could only come fourth in the final behind W Gall of Maryhill Harriers off 68 yards in 1:58.6 seconds.   Binnie had won his heat in 2:00.4.   The meeting went as well as usual but Binnie was the only star name that yea.   There is a clip of the meeting which is more of a general interest programme with the emohasois on the pageant and the Gala Queen than on the athletics  at 

   Watch Singer Sports and Gala 1954 online – BFI Player

The 50’s were good for Singers Sports Gala the 60’s were better.   The programme grew – in 1960 there were the events that we know of already – open races, schools races and confined races ,but there were also more field events, more women’s events (there were open relays as well as confined for instance) and Inter-Works competitions against such as John Brown’s shipyard.   And there was the pageant which was something that none of the other meetings of the summer could equal – if a sewing machine factory could not produce elegant dresses, who could?

In 1961 Ronnie Whitelock won his heat of the 100 yards off half a yard and was beaten by that much in the final by Gibbons of Vale of Leven who was running from 6 yards.   Whitelock’s time was 9,8 seconds.  The works relay which was won by Babcock & Wilcox was run over stages of 3 laps, 1 lap, 1 lap and 2 laps on a track that was 6 laps to the mile.   The women’s events were dominated by the Ardeer Recreation AC who won the 100 yards and the relay while Moira Carmichael took the 220 yards.

The 1963 event is summarised in the results above – top quality athletes all through the programme.   Tom Cochrane from Beith was a superb runner who won the South Western District Cross Country championship 7 times and was a Scottish international runner, Bill Purdie who competed in open races, scratch races and invitation events all summer, every summer and the women who took the prizes above were all international or international class.   Note particularly Anne Wilson, Sheila McBeth and Georgena Buchanan.   1964 was even better, see below

And Colin Martin and Jim Brennan were not even mentioned in the report.   

John Maclachlan (4) just beats Pat Younger (2) in the confined half mile.

The 1965 meeting was certainly the one with the biggest celebrity roll call of them all -Ian McCafferty, Graeme Grant, Cyril O’Boyle, Ian Logie, Avril Beattie, Jinty Jameson, Linda Carruthers  were all winners and there were other down the field in many of the events.   Have a look at the report.    

Nearly 40 runners in the Mile on a 6 lap to the mile grass track!   This had previously been the longest race on the programme but by now there was a ‘Round the Factory’ race which was won by Cyril O’Boyle.   The pole vault was relatively new to the sports and was won by Ian Logie who was an SAAA Internationalist and championship medallist.   The entire Western Ladies team was almost certainly all international in make up.    Unfortunately it was probably the last ever.   It is the last one that we have found reports on.   

Any other sports organising committee having the success of this meeting would have been happy to keep it going –  the sport was good and the crowds were coming every year.   It was a successful community event. The factory was starting to have a hard time however – read about it on google and many cuts were being made all the way through the factory and it closed finally in 1980.    It was a pity that a factory which, true to the spirit of the time was interested in and catered for the welfare of its workers and the community in which it found itself.   The Burgh still has the Singer Bowling Green and the Singer Hall, donated by the firm, however to thank the company for in addition to all its great memories.


Tom Vallance

Tom Vallance was a sporting giant: Scottish long jump record holder, Rangers FC first captain and rower.   Away from the sports field he was a first rate artist who had two paintings accepted for show by the RSA, he was also a prize winning breeder of dogs and birds.   His story can be read at this link    On this page we are looking at his athletics career – or what we can find of it.  

Not only was he the Rangers first  captain  he was one of the founders of Clydesdale Harriers, Scotland’s first open athletic club.   .Born on 27th May, 1856, he was born in Succoth Farm, north of Helensburgh and the family moved to Helensburgh.   By the time he joined Clydesdale Harriers he was living in Craigmaddie Terrace, Glasgow while brother Alex lived at Rose Street in Garnethill.   By now Alex was competing and winning prizes mainly as a hurdler – he was SAAA hurdles champion in 1888 but Tom does not appear in the results columns at all.   In season 1891-92 the brothers moved in together to a house at 26 Paisley Road in Glasgow – to be their address for the rest of the century.   The family back in Dunbartonshire kept up the athletics tradition with first of all a young Thomas Vallance starting in Shandon then moving to Helensburgh and later an Adam Vallance competing from the Shandon farm address.   All four were members of Clydesdale Harriers.   Alex was a club member until his death in 1898.   

As an athlete, Tom was a big man – 6′ 2″ at a time when the height of the average Glaswegian was 5′ 7″ – and this gave him a tremendous advantage in many events.  We will come back to his build and strength later when we look at his activities in 1881.   


The first competition to look at was when he competed on 24th August, 1878, at the  Parkgrove FC Amateur Sports held at the club grounds,  Trinidad Park in Copeland Road on the south side of Glasgow.   The ‘relevant parts of the ‘Glasgow Herald’ report reads: 
“A novel feature of the gathering was a four a side football competition, the first ties of which were were played off on the Saturday previous. Six teams were left to struggle for first honour, and after the ties had been gone through the final contest lay between a team from the Rangers Football Club, consisting of WG Struthers, Moses McNeil, H McIntyre, and Alexander Vallance, and a team from the Parkgrove Football Club comprising A Watson, W Cooper, W Docherty and W Campbell. A somewhat unequal game took place between two teams , the representatives of the ‘light and speedy’ securing an easy victory by two goals, and, according to the rules of the four a side game, two touchdowns to nothing.” (ie Rangers won).   Meanwhile in the athletics competition Tom Vallance was very active.    He won the Broad Jump with a clearance of 21’ 1” and was second in the Final of the 120 yards hurdles after winning his Heat.

Two weeks later, on 7th September, 1878, at the Queens Park FC Sports,  Tom won the ‘Running Long Jump’ with another 21’’ + .   He didn’t seem to compete the following year but at the Queen’s Park Sports on 4th September, 1880, he won the Broad Jump with a leap of  21’ 3”.  


1881 was his big year though.   The first Rangers Sports were held on 20th August, 1881.  Tom took part in and won four events:= 
1. Devised by and won by T Vallance., the tug-of-war was different from the usual contest. Instead of teams facing each other and pulling one rope in opposite directions to force their opponents over the mark, the new method consists of two ropes of equal length with loops at either end and securely tied together in the centre. Four only compete at a time, each putting the fixed loop over his body and standing at opposite corners where flagstaffs are fixed in the ground about two yards behind. All pull in opposite directions, the first who seizes his flagstaff and drags it from the ground to win. The contest was most amusing.   He had two rounds of this competition.  
2. Broad Jump: Won by T Vallance, 21’ 6”  with brother Alex second having a best leap of 19′ 5″
3. Hurdle Race: Won by T Vallance, 18 seconds
4. Obstacle Race.  Won by T Vallance. For the obstacle race (about 400 yards), 24 entered, who were set off in three heats and a final, and as the difficulties proved rather trying to the competitors, few completed the distance. At the start the men ran about thirty yards backwards, turned round and got over the first barrels by leap frog, the next were crept through, the hurdles were crawled under and leaped over as best they could, where fresh difficulties had to be overcome. The first of these consisted of poles placed at an angle and resting on the top of horizontal bar about 10 feet high, from which ropes were suspended, the poles were clambered up sailor fashion, the ground being reached by sliding down the ropes. Further on, young trees, divested of branches, and supported at either end by trusses about 2 feet high had to be walked along, and as they were placed at a distance from each other, and about 35 feet long, the vibration in the centre caused most of the competitors to lose their equilibrium when they had to try again or give up. The last obstacle was a horizontal bar over which the men had to throw a somersault. When this was reached the best gymnast both in the heats and the final, was 30 or 40 yards in front, when he had an easy finish.   There were Heats and a Final in this event and he won his Heat as well as the Final.   

This was a prodigious afternoon’s work by any standards – two rounds of the obstacle race, two rounds of a strenuous tug o’war, two rounds of the hurdles and a long jump competition.   He would have needed all his strength for such a feat.   Had there been a multi events competition such as a pentathlon, heptathlon or decathlon, he would have been a fearsome opponent.  Meanwhile, young brother Alex was third in the confined half mile – this was the longest distance that we have found for either brother.

Two short weeks after this demonstration performance, on 3rd September, 1881, he was back at the Queen’s Park FC  Sports which he seemed to like.   Both brothers were in action that afternoon.   In the 120 yards hurdles race, Alex was second in the first Heat and Tom was first in the second Heat.   Into the Final with four runners, one fell and was out of things but Tom won the race in 21 seconds  with Alex third.   In the Broad Jump, Tom won with a leap of 21′ 11″, defeat in the Englishman Charles Cunliffe from St Helen’s who had a 20′ 2″ clearance.   This was  Scottish record for the distance and it significance was later recognised by the SAAA: John Keddie in the Centenary History of the Scottish Amateur Athletic Association comments: “An International footballer, Tom Vallance (Rangers FC), had cleared 21′ 11″ (6m68) … a performance which, though ante-dating the SAAA, was passed as the initial Scottish record.”   The record stood until 27th June 1895 when Hugh Barr of Clydesdale Harriers did 22′ 01″.   He was not finished for the afternoon though – he was also fourth in the high jump.   

This seems to be the end of his competitive career.   On 22nd February in 1882 he left Scotland for Calcutta to become involved in tea planting in Assam.  He was back a year later after contracting black water fever.   He was not the same man when he returned and his football was almost non existent.   

Heart of Midlothian Sports: 1885 – 1890

The contribution of Scottish football to the development of amateur athletics in the early days was vitally important to the development of the sport and this has been well documented on this website already    One of the major contributors in this respect was the Heart of Midlothian FC whose annual sports were well attended and generally very successful. 

In 1886, the Heart of Midlothian Football Club Annual Sports took place over two Saturdays – 29th May and 5th June.   The first day was largely Five-a-Sides.   First team were to receive gold medals and the second team silver medals.   Twenty teams had entered and the first and second rounds were decided at this meeting.  There were other items and they were a 120 yards handicap race (confined to members of the club), a quarter mile handicap (confined) and half mile handicap (confined).    The following week saw Edina Hearts No 2 win the football gold medals from Northern by one goal and 2 touches to 1 touch.   As far as the athletics were concerned, there were some well known names taking part.   The events and results were as follows:

120 Yards:  4 heats and a final:  1.   Allan (St Georges FC) 1 yard;  2.  Jenkinson (HMFC) 5 yards;  3.  Phillips (Northern FC) 2 yards

Dribbling Race: 1.  D Riddoch (St Bernard’s); 2nd D Aitken (HMFC)

Quarter Mile Handicap: 1. TED Ritchie (Edinburgh H) Scr;  2.  T Jenkinson (HMFC) 13 yards; 3.  TD Cameron (EUAC)  2 1/2 yds

Half Mile handicap: 1.  JA Wilson (EUAC) 58 yards;  2.  TED Ritchie (Edinburgh H)  Scr;  3.  WF Arnot (St George FC) 80 yards.   

Place Kick:  1. Alex Vallance (Rangers FC); 2ndD Aitken (HMFC)   Distance 160 ft  6 in

One Mile handicap: 1.  P Addison (Edinburgh H) 125 yards;  2. JG Grant (Edinburgh H) 20 yards; 3.  D Syme (EFA) 113 yards.

Hurdle Race:  1. A Vallance (Rangers); 2.  R White (Hamilton Academicals FC)

Twenty minutes go-as-you-please race: DS Duncan (Edinburgh H);  2.  WM Jack (Edinburgh H) 3.  P Addison (Edinburgh H)

Consolation Race:  WA McLaren (Edinburgh H).

It was an interesting and varied programme with two sprints, two middle distance races, a go-as-you-please, a place kick and a dribbling race all on the programme with several very talented athletes such as Alex Vallance, David Duncan, Peter Addison and WM Jack all competing.   It was just a year since the first open athletic club had been formed (4th May 1885) and only nine months since the birth of Edinburgh Harriers in September 1885 and although the Edinburgh team was represented, there were many competitors from football teams.

Alex Vallance

In 1887, the sports were again spread over two Saturdays with both being in June.   Again, the first part was almost entirely devoted to an invitation eleven -a-side football tournament.   There were three handicap races confined to members of the football club and the preliminary rounds of the football.   As for the football: “This was robbed of a great deal of its interest by the action of the Hibernians who elected to go to Dundee rather than fulfil their engagement at Tynecastle.   In order to prevent disappointment, the ground team got together a scratch eleven to contest the first tie with the Bo’ness and a hard tie resulted in favour of the visitors.”   

The following week, the programme was much as before with several of the same athletes from 1886 competing.   The handicapper was Mr W Lapsley – owner and convener of meetings at Powderhall Grounds who really knew his job, and, more importantly, knew the athletes.   The results on the day were as follows:

120 yards handicap: HE Trussett (St George’s FC); 2. A Mates (WSAC); 3. T Kitchen (Kilmarnock H)

Dribbling Race: 1. J Taylor (St Bernards FC); 2. MA Greig (HMFC)

440 yards handicap: 1. A Mason (WCAC) 15 yards;  2. E Henderson (HMFC) 25 yards; 3. J Brown (Melrose VC) 22 yards

880 yards handicap: 1.  A Wilson (WCAC) 12 yards ; TED Ritchie (K Harriers) Scr;  3.  TM Imlach (HMFC) 70 yards).   ” min 06 sec

One Mile Handicap: 1.  J Young (Edinburgh H) 25 yards); P Addison (Edinburgh H) 60 yards;  3. K Wareham (Edinburgh H) 90 yards.   4 min 30 3-5th sec

Hurdle Race: 1.   W Whitelaw (Edinburgh H)2.  Sime (unattached).

Four mile handicap: W Henderson (Clydesdale Harriers) 50 yards;  2. WM Jack Edinburgh H) scr.   30 min 42 sec

Place kick: K McKenzie (Burntisland Thistle) Distance 149 feet

No really big names jump out but there were several who were talented, international runners and popular in their day – TED Ritchie had won the SAAA 880 yards in 1894, Henderson was second in the 10 miles to Alex Findlay in 1897, and Addison was a very good runner, a favourite with the crowds for his never-say-die spirit and he had his reward when he was picked for the Irish International.

The 1888 versions of the sports were again on the first two Saturdays in June  –  June2nd was the first day and it was again mainly football.   They were not so favoured by the weather “owing to the state of the weather the only event which came off was a football match between the St Mirren and the Mossend Swifts.”  St Mirren won 2 – 1.

The report on Saturday 9th June began by saying that “during the first Heats rain began to fall.   When the fourth event on the programme was reached a heavy downfall took place.   After that however the rain ceased altogether.”   

Dribbling Race:  1.   T Murray (HMFC) ; 2  J Wood.

440 yards handicap: 12 runners.   1.   J Adams (HMFC) 14 yards; 2. W Whitelaw (EH) 10 yards) 3. FD Cameron (SCAC) 18 yards;  Time  59 sec.

120 yards handicap final: 1. W Bernard ; 2. G Erskine ; J Adams (St G FC).   Time 12 2-5th sec.

880 yards handicap: six ran.  1. G Hume (EH) 25 yards;  2. FT Rae (EH) 15 yards;  3. JJ Archibald (St B FC) 20 yards.  Time  2 min 16 1-5th sec.

Place Kick: 1.   Ferguson;  2.  Carruthers (HMFC)   Distance 135 ft 7 inhes.   

One Mile Handicap: 1. WM Jack (EH) 30 yards;  2.  DS Duncan (EH) scratch; 3.  W Heathcote (St Bernards FC)  Time 4 min 44 sec.

Hurdle race.   4 runners.  W Whitelaw (EH); 2.  JH Allan (St George FC)

Two Mile Handicap: Four entered – a capital race!  1.  WM Jack (EH) scr;  2. P Addison (EH) 115 yards;  3. W Heathcote (St Bernards FC) 170 yards.   No time taken.

Despite the weather it was another fairly successful Saturday’s sport – not as big a fixture as some of the Glasgow meetings, it had nevertheless some very good races if the reports are to be believe – particularly the Two Miles Handicap although it would have been interesting to have seen the time.


The sports of 1889 followed more or less the same formula with the first Friday night, which had a crowd of approximately 3000, having the three confined track events and the football preliminary rounds. this time it was again a five-a-side.   The weather was a bit better and all scheduled events took place. 

The report for the meeting of 8th June 1889

After the traditional first Saturday on 31st May, 1890, the weather for the second Saturday, report below) was described as ‘charming’ and there was a large attendance of spectators.   The first event was the 100 yards sprint which this year had ten Heats .   The Heats were followed by the Dribbling Race which had four Heats, the final being won by W Taylor  (HMFC).    After the final of the confined 120 yards, the second round of the open 100 took place with two Heats to be run.   

There is no doubt that the Sports were successful – the football domination of the first night – the tournament plus confined athletic events only – was always well supported and the second session a week later was usually contested by good class athletes.   The Glasgow meetings went on in the 1890’s to attract international star athletes and the question is whether the Hearts Sports could do the same. 

Shrubb at Ibrox: A Contemporary Report

On 4th November, 1904, Alf Shrubb ran at Ibrox Park in Glasgow and broke the world one hour record + all amateur records from six to eleven miles  +  all professional records from eight to eleven miles + running a distance of 11 miles 1137 yards in one hour.   Read any of the periodicals of the time and the magnitude of what he achieved will maybe sink in.   He was not a Scotsman but he provided one of the great nights of Scottish athletics.   Hugh Barrow has provided the following clippings about the event and they have a place on any site devoted to the history of distance running in Scotland.

NB:  The run made a great impact on Scottish distance running for decades to come.   His intermediate marks became targets for any Scottish runner with pretensions to class.  They were noted in club handbooks – see this one for West of Scotland Harriers, one of the top clubs in the country at the time.    Link .

West of Scotland Cricket Club Sports

The West of Scotland Cricket Club ground at Hamilton Crescent, Partick, Glasgow

When looking at the start of amateur athletics in Scotland and the organisations that helped it grow and thrive and develop into the major sport that it became, many see the great contribution made by football clubs right up into the 1960’s, and assume that that is all there was.   Not True.   Other sports played a part and cricket was one of them.   Their contribution should not be forgotten: in the 19th century it was a major sport in Scotland with many top class clubs operating right across the country.   Pages were devoted on Monday mornings in the Press to their weekend matches.   They all had their own grounds, they had top class athletes competing for them and it was natural that they put on a sports meeting.   One of the biggest, if not the biggest, was the one put on every April by the West of Scotland Cricket Club at their Hamilton Crescent ground in the west of Glasgow.   The club was formed in 1862. and their sports were usually, but not always, held on the third Saturday in April.   This may seem a strange time to hold a summer sports meeting but given that cricket was at the time the major summer sport in the country, it would have been sensible to have it at the start of the season when their men were in good condition for the battles ahead.   


The results for the earliest days are not at present available so we will start then in 1870 and the event was held on the 2nd April that year and the Herald tells us that the events held were throwing the cricket ball, the running high jump, running long jump, the 440 yards for school pupils, 100 yards, 440 yards handicap confned to WSCC members, Garrison race. mile race, three legged race, 200 yards race, steeplechase over four fences and four water jumps, and consolation stakes.    The report from the ‘Glasgow Herald’ read, under the heading


“On Saturday afternoon the annual athletic sports and promenade in connection with the WestOf Scotland Cricket Club took place n the club’s ground at Partick.   The weather in the early part of the forenoon was bright and clear, but gradually several clouds made their appearance and a slight shower fell just about the time when the Games were to commence.   For some time there was every appearance of a wet afternoon, but about half past three o’clock the dulness cleared away, and the sun shone out brightly so that the sports were brought to a close without anything having occurred to mar the enjoyment of the day.   This annual meeting has been very much appreciated in former years; and on Saturday afternoon there was a very large and brilliant assemblage within the enclosure, and these seemed to take a deep interest in each race.   The programme was all timed and carried out leisurely.   The arrangements of the sewards was excellent and everything went off with great eclat.   Some of the races were very exciting and the great event of the day was the steeplechase where within 760 yards, there were four hurdles and four water jumps to clear.   For the honour of gaining this race, five competitors started.   After a fair start, they ran well together until the first water jump, when four cleared it and only one got himself wet but, nothing daunted, he got out, and quickly caught his competitors.   At the second water jump some of them went a header but scrambled out and got on good terms with the leaders.   The exitement was now rising as it became evident that the next round would be the grand test.   One runner retired, leaving four to fight for the laurels.    At the third water jump, only one cleared the leap, but, not jumping the next hurdle was out of the race.   At the fourth water jump they all went in, to the ausement of the spectators.   Not withstanding the applause, another gave in within 160 yards of the winning post.   This left only two to contend for victory, viz. Smith and Neilson.   At the last hurdle, Neilson,  who looked all over like winning, made a mistake and let in Smith who won by two yards – thus securing his second victory.   By the kind permission of Colonel Bartley and the officers of the Regiment, the band of the 5th Fusiliers was present and played several excelent selections during the afternoon.   Mr John Pattison efficiently discharged the duties of the starter, and the decisions of the various judges gave perfect satisfaction.   We have also to thank Mr Penman for his attention to the members of the Press.   Mr Robert Graeme also officiated as time keeper.”   

This meeting was held thirteen years before the SAAA was founded and fifteen before the establishment of Clydesdale Harriers, Scotland’s first open athletics club.   In the steeplechase, the four water jumps and four hurdles came in a race of less than half a mile and the water jumps were 12 feet across.   At the end of proceedings, where Mr Peter White thanked the ‘assemblage’ for attending and the organisers for giving them a pleasant day’s ‘outing’ in a very pleasant spot.   The prizes, reported to be very costly, many being ‘silver cups, jugs, etc’ , were presented by Miss Margaret K Brown.   

In 1872 the Sports were held on 13th April and The Scotsman report appeared on the Monday.   (It is maybe unfortunate that the coverage of the Glasgow club’s sports were covered better and more often by the Edinburgh paper than by the Glasgow Herald).   

The Scotsman report on Monday 15th April, 1872, began: ” The The usual athletic sports which inaugurate the cricket season in the West came off on the ground of the West of Scotland at Hamilton Crescent, Partick, on Saturday.   Unlike last year when the weather becessitated seven postponements, the day was all that could be desired, a refreshing breeze tempering the sun’s rays.   This combined with a capital day’s sports and the performance of the Band of the 90th Regiment contributed to draw out one of the largest and most brilliant assemblages seen on this ground for a number of years, the ladies mustering in great force.   …  Mr J Buchanan acted as starter and Messrs Evans and Ferguson as judges, Mr Anderson acting as Clerk of the Course – the whole arrangements reflecting great credit on the club’s committee.

The events this time included thr cricket ball throw, high jump, vaulting with the pole, 100 yards, 200 yards, quarter mile schools race, quarter mile challenge cup race, half mile race, mile,  hurdles race, three legged race and the popular steeplechase which had seven starters this time round.   Most events were won by West of Scotland CC members (5) with Edinburgh and Glasgow University athletes having four wins each.   Among the excellent athletes taking part were G Hunter (GU – sprinter) and RW Mapleton (EU – victor in mile and steeplechase) who both had very successful careers as University athletes.


“A better day could not be wished” was the verdict after the meeting on 19th April, 1873, when the range of competitors was wider than before.   In addition to the Cricket Club and the two Universities, there were athletes from Queen’s Park FC, St Andrew’s University, Royal High School, Glasgow Academy, and the quarter mile challenge cup was confined to members of Glasgow University, Clydesdale, Drumpellier, Academical, Western and West of Scotland cricket clubs.   There were again many good athletes competing – including TM Cotterill of EUAC who won the cricket ball with a throw of 111 yards: he was the reigning Scottish Universities champion at the event with a very high reputation.   Results are given as an indication of the standards at the meeting:

Cricket Ball: JM Cotterill (EU)  111 yards;  Quarter Mile Schools Race: JS Kay Glasgow Academy 58 sec. Quarter Mile Handicap confined to members of WSCC and FC: JF Tennent, scratch, 55 seconds;  Broad Jump: DM Brunton MD (GU) 20′;   100 yards (Heat + Final): JP Tennent; Quarter Mile Challenge Cup: RTW Thomson (GU);  Vaulting with Pole: JJ Thomson (QP)   9′;  200 yards confined to members of WSCC and FC: G Heron 20 1/2 seconds; Sack Race:  JW Kidston (WSCC): Half Mile: F Lord (EU): 2:08; Garrison Race, 300 yards: McRorie; Steeplechase  T Spence (EU) 2 3/4 minutes; Consolation Race;. 200 yards,  JT Taylor (QP).

The presentation afterwards was done by Miss Jamieson and the comments were that “the great success of the Games that day, could hardly expect to be xcelled by the club.

Bearing in mind that the SAAA did not appearon the scene until 1883, it was clearly an idea whose time had come.   All the ingredients were here at the Cricket Club Sports (and at football club sports)

  1.   They were amateur athletics;
  2.    Despite the fact that there was not a standard size fr the arena, the standard distances were used – 100 yards, 200 yards, quarter mile, half mile, mile.   There were the high jump and the long jump plus throwing the cricket ball.   Given that it was a cricket field, there were good reasons for the absence of shot putt and hammer throw!
  3.    Handicap racing was included in the proramme.
  4.   They were attracting  large crowds who were ‘deeply interested’ in the events.


The due date in 1874 was 18th April:   “As a sort of finishing to their football season and preface to their cricketing campaign, the West of Scotland cricket club held a series of athletic sports at the Hamilton Crescent Grounds on Saturday.   It would be difficult to bring together in one field such an array of athletic talent as that which put in an appearance.   The champions of the Glasgow clubs mustered in full force, while the Edinburgh Academy and Loretto sent their best men as representatives.”    The weather was not too good – drizzly showers we are told – but the programme commenced at 1 o’clock before 4000 spectators.   It was largely the same list of events, but the competition was the thing – in addition to the competing teams as noted above Queen’s Park, Dublin University, Dumbarton, and the same clubs as in 1873 were in the quarter mile challenge race.   Cotterill, JJ Thomson, JW Kidston were among those who were successful for the second year in succession.   


Despite the comments in 1873 about the success of the Games that year could hardly be excelled, those of 1875  were “more than usually successful, this being partly due to the beautiful weather which was quite summer like.”   Held on 17th April, “As a preclude (sic) to their cricketing campaign, the members of the Westt of Scotland Cricket Club held their annual sports at Hamilton Crescent on Saturday. ”   The number of spectators was given as twice that of the previous year, 8000, which maybe a testament to the weather.   To the list of competing clubs could now be added Trinity, Glenalmond, Rangers FC and Clydesdale CC who had previously only competed in the Challenge Cup quarter mile who all produced first or second placers in the various events which were won as in the past by members of the WSCC, the Universities, the Schools and football and cricket clubs.   Where the previous year the Inter-Scholastic Sports were held on the same day as the Games, this year that was not the case and seven prizes were won by school athletes in open events.

There was on top class all-round sportsman to be seen in action on 15th April, 1876,    Tom Vallance (above) of the Rangers Football Club won the long jump with a leap of 18 feet.   Vallance had a wonderful career as a sportsman and was to be the first ever holder of the SAAA record for the long jump.   He was not the only SAAA record holder on display that afternoon: JW Parsosns would win the SAAA Long Jump titles in 1885 and 1886 and would be the first ever holder of the SAAA high jump record when he cleared 6’0″ in 1884.   The meeting started at 12 noon and on a dull, but not unpleasant day the following events were carried through (with winner noted):

One Mile, School: JJ Tait, Loretto, 4:52;   120 yards hurdles, School: WH Valdwell, Loretto; Throwing Cricket Ball, open:   N McLachlan, Loretto, 104 yards 2 1/2 ft; Btoad Jump:  T Vallance, RFC, 18′ 0″; Quarter Mile, School: AG Dixon, Loretto, 56 sec;  Quarter Mile Flat Race, members of WSC: W Wilson 54 sec;  High Jump, open: JW Parsons, Fettes College  5′ 6″; 100 yards, open (Heats and Final): McDonald, AAC 10 3/5th sec; Quarter Mile, open: RC MacKenzie, GAC,  54 sec;  Pole Jump, open: WH Caldwell, Loretto, 9′ 4″; 120 yards hurdles: A Peterkin  18 sec ; One Mile Flat Race, open: George Phillips, Rangers FC, 4:36;  200 yards flat race, handicap: H Moncrieff, GUAC  23 sec;  Sack Race: S Taylor, GAC;  Half Mile Flat Race: RC MacKenzie, GAAC  2 min 9 sec; 100 yards, School: WH Minnoch, Loretto;  Garrison Race (300 yards):  Pte Behan;  Steeplechase: F Lord GUAC; Consolation Race (200 yards): J Taylor, QPFC.

Many of the athletes took part in more than one event – Parsons was second in the hurdles and Lord was second in the mile  for instance, but it had been another very good day for the Cricket Club – and amateur athletics.


There was no doubt about the top performer at Hamilton Crescent on 14th April, 1877, version of the Sports.   JW Parsons of Fettes College won the open high jump again, and added first place in the Schools 100 yards and second in the hurdles, while fellow Fettesian E Storey won the schools quarter mile and as second in the open quarter mile.   There was no confined race for the challenge cup this year but otherwise the programme was the same with the prize winners coming from West of Scotland CC and FC, Fettes, Loretto, AAC, GAC, Merchiston, GUAC, EUAC, and 1st LRV.  

13th April 1878 was the date when the sports did not happen.   Instead there was a single paragraph in the sports pages saying that because of the weather, they had been postponed for a week.   One week later and the even shorter single para said that these sports had again been postponed for another week owing to the unfavourable weather.    The event finally took place on 27th April and the Scotsman began its report like this:  “The sports with which the WSCC open their cricket season, after being postponed from the 13th to 20th inst.,  and from that to the 27th on account of unpropitious weather, came off on Saturday at the club grounds, Partick.   The weather was favourable and the spectators numerous.   The proceedings were enlivened by the presence of the pipers of the 79th Highlandeers and the band of the 31st Lanarkshire Volunteers under Signor Barri.”    Other than the results that was the extent of the report.   The prize winners list revealed the return of representatives of several football clubs – G Phillips of the Rangers returned to win the Mile once again defeating ten runners with JD Finlayson of QPFC in second place.   There was a victory for J Pinion of Windsor AC of Belfast, in both quarter- and half-mile open races as well as in the steeplechase.    Phillips was third in the latter event.   The programme this time included a three mile walking race – a new venture.   The double postponement did not harm either the quality of the sport or the number of spectators.

)n 12th April 1879 there was no question of pushing the sports back a week despite the rough nature of the weather – there were several snow showers during the afternoon – and they took place before approximately 7000 spectators.   Parsons was again in action but the Glasgow University sprinter WW Beveridge was also in action.   A formidable competitor with a great reputation, he won the 100 yards and the quarter mile; Phillips again won the mile and was second in the steeplechase.   But the man of the match was  fought out between two superb athletes – Wauchope and Parsons: ARD Don Wauchope won the cricket ball throw, the school quarter mile race, 100 yards school,  while Parsons won the broad jump, high jump and was second in the 100 yards.   A word about these two remarkable athletes.

Wauchope is one of Scotland’s most outstanding sportsmen of all time.   Burke’s  Who’s Who in Scottish Sport lists his sports as rugby, cricket, golf, billiards, croquet, cycling, bowls, hockey, lacrosse, lawn tennis, shooting, skating and fishing.   Initially Fettes then Trinity College, Cambridge, he was a double blue (athletics and rugby).   He played twelve times for Scotland at rugby and represented the country at cricket.   It is rather strange that he never won an SAAA title, finishing second several times in different events.   Before the appearance of the SAAA Parsons pretty well dominated the Scottish scene as far as long and high jumping were concerned.   In 1880 he was second in the AAA’s championship long jump, he was also one of the first men in the world to clear 23 feet in the long jump.   As far as Scottish championships werre concerned, he won the Long Jump in 1885 and was second in the high jump and won both events in 1886.   

The 1880 Sports took place on 17th April and the list of competitors was arguably the best yet seen at Hamilton Crescent.   Results of the principal events first, then comments.

“Broad Jump: JW Parsons 20′ 1 1/2″; High Jump:  JW Parsons 5′ 2″;  Vaulting with Pole: 1.  DJ McFarlane, Loretto  10′; 2nd  AGG Asher;  Throwing the Cricket Ball: D Wauchope 106 yards; 100 yards Flat Race:  JW Parsons; 200 yards handicap:  SF Pret  21 sec; Quarter Mile: WW Beveridge  57 4/8th; 2nd JA Crerar; Half Mile open: AP Reid  2 min 10 2/5th sec;  Three Mile Walk:  J Harvie 24 min 10 sec; One Mile:  AT Paterson 4 min 56 sec; 120 yards hurdles: 1st JW Parsons;  2nd D Wauchope; 18 sec.; Steeplechase: AS Paterson.”

We have now looked at the Cricket Club Sports over a ten year period and can see clearly that the standard soared from an initially good standard of competition to one where many of the best athletes in the land entered.   Still three years away from the first ever SAAA championships, it is worth looking at how many of the competitors mentioned above won medals in the first championships held at Powderhall on 23rd June, 1883.   

WA Peterkin won the 100 yards and the 440 yards;  J Harvie won the Three Miles Walk; ARD Wauchope was second in the 120 yards hurdles (the event for which he won his Cambridge blue), and also for throwing the cricket ball;  WA Peterkin was second in Putting the Weight.   But we should not forget such as WW Beveridge and JA Crerar who were top drawer sprinters whose career was just a bit too early for the SAAA, and certainly not forget  Tom Vallance winning the long jump.   Looking ahead a bit, Parsons started winning his titles in 1885 as did AGG Asher, another very fine field events athlete.   Detailed results below:

Queen’s Park Sports: 1896 – 1901

1896 saw a continuation of the SAAU/SAAA split and the Heart of Midlothian Sports were conducted under the rules of the SAAU.   Indeed the reports were that Hearts was the force encouraging the Edinburgh clubs to affiliate to the breakaway body. There was however no Queen’s Park Sports in 1896: the principal event in Glasgow was the Govan Police Sports at Ibrox and in Edinburgh the Hearts Sports led the way.   On the second Saturday of the month the Glasgow Police Sports and the Clydesdale Harriers Sports took place in Glasgow, and the Edinburgh Harriers held their sports in Edinburgh under the SAAA rules.   However there appears to have been no Queen’s Park event that year.   That doesn’t mean that Hampden was out of athletic action: while the SAAU championships were taking place at Ibrox, the SAAA championships were taking place at Hampden.   

But a year on, on 5th  June,1897,   they did take place and the Glasgow Herald report read: “The decision of the Queen’s Park executive to again cater to the tastes of amateurs was happily received in Glasgow and the West.   The fact that Saturday’s programme contained over 500 entries, accompanied by a large and fashionable attendance of ladies and gentlemen proves conclusively that our amateurs are still a body worthy of attention despite the recent inroads made by those who only participate in athletics when pounds, shillings and pence are at stake.”   

The programme included the following events (with winners):

100 yards:  17 Heats, four second round races and a final: RM Goldie, Airdrieonians FC

220 yards:   9 Heats: J Muir, QPFC

Half Mile:  T Robertson, Olympic Harriers 

One Mile invitation, 50 yards limit handicap: JC McDonald, Edinburgh

120 yards hurdles:  4 heats, 2 semi finals: AAG Stronach, Glasgow Academicals

High jump:  TR Milne, Dundee Harriers

Broad Jump:  W Bain, Maryhill Harriers

There were also three bicycle races.

4/6/1898  and the Queen’s Park Sports were back on the calendar.   “In some respects the fare provided by the Queen’s Park on Saturday was the best and most varied that has been served to the athletics loving public this season,and yet the attendance numbered only between four and five thousand, or little more than a fourth of the assemblage that graced the recent cycling carnival of the Northern CCC.   Even the Govan Police Sports, which are not to be compared in many ways with those of Queen’s Park, drew three times the number that were at Hampden Park.   Without stopping to enquire into the cause or causes of the disparity, we can only regret that the public are not a little more discriminating in their patronage.   The meeting at Hampden on Saturday was a model in point of management,  and there was not a break in the continuing of enjoyment which the different events contested with more than ordinary vigour produced.   If the sport was not strikingly brilliant there was at least a uniform excellence in all the events which accentuated public interest.”

The ‘Scottish Referee’ commented on the numbers competing and echoed the Herald’s compliments on the excellent management of the proceedings:   “In tackling a programme that contained over 730 entries the Queen’s officials had a Herculean task set them last Saturday afternoon.   It is most creditable to the management that in spite of this big handicap the meeting was run to the minute without a wait.   As a sample of the smart timing, we may mention that the twenty one heats in which the hundred yards flat was decided, was run off in twenty five minutes.   To the officials concerned in this excellent result, all prise is due, and they may stand as example for all others to copy and follow.   If not brilliant individually or generally the sport was of all round excellence.   An outstanding figure in the sprints was Hugh Barr, who is presently in excellent form.    His strong physique aided him no doubt, but his pluck and speed assisted him nonetheless to the tape.”    

There were certainly some talented and popular Scots in competition along with some English competitors.   Hugh Barr the long jump record holder and prolific title winner and international sprinter has been mentioned already, RG Murray title winner and record setting high jumper and W Robertson, title winner and cross-country internationalist from Clydesdale Harriers were all competing.   There was also a host of dignitaries fit to grace any meeting in the country.   The Referee lists Arthur Geake, William Sellar, William Maley, DS Duncan, Humphrey Jones, Alexander Blair, JA Crerar, Andrew Hannah, Andrew Rennie and the handicapper was Bob Livingstone.   

The sprints were the main thing according to the Referee.   The 100 was won by Barr who did not participate in the 220 because he entered the long jump where he was second..   Popular winners of their heats in the 220 (which only had nine heats) were AS Maley and J Muir but neither were in the hunt when it came to dishing out the prizes.   AAG Stronach won the hurdles easily but how about the Mile?   There was a field of 78 runners on the track at the same time.   “there is no doubt that the sight was a pretty one to see the kaleidoscopic changes in the multi coloured costumes of the aspirants for honours as they moved round the track.  The scratch men had no earthly chance of getting through the multitude and they gave up long ere the finish.”   It was won by David Rennie of Whiteinch Harriers (155 yards) from Brown of Bellahouston (120 yards).  There was also an invitation mile (26 entrants, 13 starters) , won by Robertson in 4 min 25 3-5th sec.   The half mile handicap was won by Bell of Airdrie.  

The Herald also tells us that it was the ‘largest programme in the history of the club.’   Another successful sports meeting for Hampden.

Andrew Hannah

Held on 3/6/1899 , the report on the meeting started: “the Queen’s Park FC Sports on Saturday were replete with interest.   There were no individual achievements of an outstanding character, the excellence was more general than special, and from this point of view the meeting will rank as one of the best of the long and brilliant  series of functions held by the Queen’s Park.”

The ‘Scottish Referee’ added that a ‘good crowd was induced to attend’.   

There may have been no individual achievements of note but there  were individual of note competing.   One was the reigning British one mile champion WH Welsh who won the mile in 4:27.2 and the article pointed out that the time is a better performance than it looks.   Welsh’s best for the season up to that point was run on a heavy track with a ‘heavy breeze’.   None of the short limit men in that race ran in the open mile so the men on the big handicaps had it all their own way.   There were 58 in the race – all on the track at the same time – which was won by Robertson of Maryhill Harriers, off 125 yards, who was 30 yards clear of the second man, Parlane of the Rangers FC who was off 130 yards.   Hugh Barr and RG Murray competed in the field events.   Murray also ran in the 100 yards (20 heats), winning his heat but nowhere in the final which was won by Buchanan of Rothesay AAC who also won the 220 yards.   The half mile as won by Dunn of Clydesdale Harriers in 2:01.2.   The 120 yards hurdles was unusual that AAG Stronach won his Heat but was unplaced in the final which was won by D Carr of Maryhill.   Murray and Barr were second in the high and broad jumps, although they each put in the best performance of the day.   The broad jump was won by Blaney of a club called Dunaskin AC.     

There were also the usual bicycle races.

RS Stronach, standing, right.

The 1900 meeting was held on 2nd June: 

This important amateur meeting was held at Hampden Park under most favourable weather conditions on Saturday afternoon.   There was a large and fashionable attendance and the music supplied by the Glasgow Highlanders was much appreciated.”   The athletics was as enjoyable as the weather with many close finishes.    Events and results:

100 yards:   J Ford, Motherwell Harriers, 4 1/2 yards,  10 1/5th sec

220 yards:  J Geackie, Springburn Harriers, 15 yards,  23 1-5th sec

half mile:  HL Allan, Ayr Parkhouse, 55 yards  2 min 2 4/5th sec  

one mile: J Paterson, Watsonians, 20 yards (back marker), 4:28 3-5th sec

120 yards hurdles:  AAG Stronach, Glasgow Academicals

Broad jump:  RS Stronach, Glasgow Academicals, 21′  (+ 2′ handicap  =  23′)

high jump:  Dead heat: JB Milne, Dundee and RG Murray, CH, both scratch, 5′ 9″

There were also four bicycle races.

In 1901, the position vis-a-vis the back markers and high handicap men was reversed with the back markers doing relatively well.   Results:

100 yards: Dead Heat:  J Ford, Motherwell, 1 yard and JA Campbell, Watsonians, 1 yard    1 seconds

220 yards: J Steel, Clydesdale Harriers, 10 yards, 23.6

Half Mile:  PM Marshall, Clydesdale Harriers, 20 yards,   2:02.6

One mile:  A Wright, Wellpark Harriers, 50 yards, 4:27.6

129 yards hurdles:  RS Stronach, Glasgow Academicals,  18.6 sec

High jump:  JB Milne, Dundee, scratch

Broad jump:  D Carr, West of Scotland, handicap of 3′ 3″

In 1902 the sports were held on Saturday 6th but the rain in the morning was only one factor leading to a poorly attended function.   The ‘Scottish Referee’ had this comment to make.   “At Hampden Park where the last sports to be held under the auspices of the premier club but £80 was drawn.   Whilst the weather accounts to some extent for the poor patronage, still it has to be feared that the public interest in athletics is not what it used to be.   Since the decay of cycling, there has been a lack of novelty in our sports and in order to revive interest it may be well dor club committees to consider whether or not they can invent some royalties that will add a spice of variety and relieve the sameness of the pedestrian events.

Another factor which is acting against athletics is the want of men like Downer, Auld, Welsh,Hannah, Duffus and Robertson.   Our present day sprinters and distance men are not of the class of these once famous athletes, and they fail to thrill the public by their performances.  ….  Time was when Queen’s Park introduced many leading Irish and English athletes, but for the past few seasons they have relied on native talent.   This, however as we say, is presently so mediocre that it is difficult to be enthusiastic over it.   In the sprints on Saturday they had a resident “foreigner” in SP Watson of Edinburgh University, an ex-London Hospital athlete.   He was virtual scratch man in both 100 and 220 but  showed no particular brightness in either event.   …  The winner of the 100 was found in JP Stark of the High School who had 5 yards.   He ran with power and judgment and followed up his victory in the school event by taking this open event.”

Further down in the article he commented on the need of Queen;s Park as a club to recruit new men for the committee, concluding “never in the history of the club, since its institution in 1868 has it stood in greater need of leaders.”   The article is one that it is worth reading in its entirety.   However the sports themselves were very good.

There were twenty four heats of the 100 yards, four semi finals and the final which was won by JP Stark, the 220 had nine heats. and was won by Hutcheson of Kilbowie Harriers.   The half mile was won by Small of Paisley Harriers from John McGough,  with WH Mill, West of Scotland, winning the Mile.    In the field events, RG Murray won the high jump from scratch.

JP Stark

It might be of interest to note some of the achievements of some of the competitors at the sports and their track performances in this decade:   

Hugh Barr:  7 times Scottish Broad Jump champion; one 100 yards championship; two international victories.

Andrew Hannah: once mile champion, three times four miles champion and five times ten miles champion; five times cross-country champion.

James Paterson: twice Scottish one mile champion, four times four miles champion, once ten mile champion; two international victories

H Welsh: Twice 880 champion, twice mile champion.   Six international victories including twice winning both half and mile v Ireland.   

The reporter from the Scottish Referee might have been right about the poor standard of athletics in 1902 but the Queen’s Park meeting had at least two who would go on to great things in the sport.   JP Stark would win many national titles and compete in international athletics; John McGough (below) would also win many SAAA titles at various distances and compete in the Olympics.   But this would be the last QPFC Sports until 1907 – and even then there were committee members against holding them.  

Queen’s Park FC Sports: 1891 – 1895

“The Queen’s Park Sports held on Saturday at Hampden were a great success.   At the start there was a small attendance, but as the afternoon wore on, the numbers were largely augmented.   It was indeed estimated that between 8000 and 10,000 persons were present.   The weather was delightfully fine from a spectators point of view, but from a competitor’s, the high wind had an influence on the running, only the men in the best of training being able to cope with it.   The entries amounted to a record, the aggregate being 348.   Mr James Allan was convener of the Sports Committee which consisted of seventeen members.   The judges were:-  Messrs AM Donaldson, Thomas Fraser, Thomas Lawrie, A McNab, F Matheson and John Mellish.   Referee of Foot Races: Mr AM Hunter; Handicapper: Mr R Livingstone; Timekeeper: Mr AG Rennie; Starter: Mr Robert Hindle; Clerk of the Course: Mr Stewart Lawrie.   The proceedings were enlivened by the band and pipers of the Scots Fusiliers.”   

That is the entire report of the Sports held on 6th June, 1891 – apart from the results of course.   There were twelve Heats of the 100 yards and there were several well known names among the Heat winners.  eg Finlayson of Queen’s Park (4 yards), Alf Downer of Watson’s (6 yards), W Maley of Celtic (5 yards), T Maley of Celtic (2 yards), JS Weir, Milngavie Club (2 1/2 yards) and H Espie, Glasgow Academicals (5 yards).  There were four semi finals and the first three in the final were Lander (EUAC), Carswell (Clydesdale FC) and Young (WSH).   27 started in the mile with holder, ‘the veteran Duncan’ off scratch.   It was won by J Hindle of St Mirren off 70 yards from JS Morrison of Edinburgh Harriers 40 yards, and Charles Pennycook, Clydesdale Harriers off 25 yards.   The 440 was an interesting race in that John Blane of Clydesdale Harriers, a noted miler, was was running off 15 yards. The final was won by Woodburn (WSH)from Currie (unattached) and Young (WSH).   The half mile was won by Morrison of Edinburgh (15) from Malcolm of Clydesdale Harriers (10).   J Gow of Rangers won his Heat of the 120 yards hurdles but as he ‘skipped a hurdle’ he was disqualified, the race going to Carswell of Clydesdale Football Club.   The 600 yards race was won by Hindle (St Mirren) running from 15 yards from T Blair (QPFC) who was scratch man.   The high jump was won by R Williams of EUAC,    There were also several good cycle races with top men such as RA Vogt competing.

It had been a good day and takings amounted to £170 and the attendance was a record for an athletic meeting.   

AR Downer

In 1892 the “Scottish Referee” reported that “Never in the history of QP has such a successful meeting – financially and as regards the quality of the sport – been held by the premier club than that of last Saturday at Hampden.   Despite the wet weather, between nine and ten thousand spectators braved the elements,  and eagerly watched the various events.   Public interest of late has developed to a   remarkable degree in athletic matters.   Principally this is due to the the great performances of our crack cyclists, one or two of whom are every now and again smashing records.  …   We heartily congratulate the QP on their successful meeting and a word of praise is due to the admirable manner in which all the arrangements were carried through by the officials,  not a moment being lost in facilitating the progress of various events.”   

Some of the track running highlights:

  • Hugh Barr, Clydesdale Harriers,  international long jumper, won the 100 yards.  NA MacLeod was second and the comment was that all three had physiques far above the average.
  • George Woodburn (WSH) won the 440.
  • Two runners were conspicuous by their absence: JR Gow (Rangers) missed the 120 yards hurdles because he felt a bit stiff, and sprinter McCulloch missed the train from Helensburgh.
  • Mitchell beat Malcolm in the 880 yards, both of scratch, in 2 min 01 3-5th sec.
  • Pennycook we see has resorted to hils old style of throwing his head back.  This means a loss of about 30 yards in the mile.  and we would advise him to  adopt the style he was running in early in the season.

The handicapper also came in for some criticism: the winner of the miles was Gavin Stevenson and Pennycoock had said it was useless to try to beat him.  The ‘Referee’ said this showed wisdom: apparently they had both started off scratch earlier in the season and now Stevenson was off 40 yards.   “It seems inexplicable,” said the reporter.   Although the sports had been a success, the club itself came in for some criticism: the pavilion was quite inadequate to accommodate all the participants and the recommendation was that the tent should again be called into requisition.   


June 3rd, 1893, and another successful meeting at Hampden.    Over £300 taken at the gate, glorious weather, a good programme and the “classic slopes” were packed.  A crowd of almost 15,000 was in attendance on the day, and the stand was particularly patronised by youth and beauty.   Records were set in the cycling and although Alf Downer could not make it, McCulloch from Helensburgh, the favourite was beaten in the 100 yards.   RA Vogt was unquestionably the most popular of the top cyclists and, just returned from racing in Paris, he turned out here to the delight of the crowd.   Lacaille was one of the top cyclists and he was the source of some controversy – which could well have repercussions later in the season.   I quote from ‘The Scottish Referee’:

An incident of the meeting was Lacaille being handicapped on the ground and allowed to start in the mile handicap by Judge Kettles, who probably allowed his sportsmanlike feelings to override his judgement and the Union’s rules.   The judge of the Three Miles was AM Donaldson, whose more legal mind could not brook the inconsistency of opening the entries for the sake of one man, which would not have been tolerated had he been a second rater, and he requested Lacaille not to start in that race.   It is all very well to ask the permission of the other competitors, but the usually have the choice of saying “yes” or appearing unsportsmanlike, and their good nature should not be taxed to that extent.   Rules, especially those of a Union, were not made to be broken, and those who conform to them should not be placed at the mercy of those who do not.”

The acceptance of late entries by ‘big name’ athletes in competitions or road races is still at times a source of controversy more than 125 years later.   As far as the track was concerned, one of the best English cyclists was quoted as saying it was a good track but would be better if it were banked.   Although it was somewhat narrow it compared favourably with some of the English tracks.  Cycling was indeed having a purple patch as far as sports meetings were concerned but it would not last and ten years or so later the tale would be different.   Some of the 1883 results from Hampden:

100 yards:  D Vass,  Ayr FC,  9 yards,  10 3-5th sec; 220 yards:  DR McCulloch, Clydesdale Harriers, scratch, 23 3-5th sec

120 yards hurdle race:  1. J Lander, EUAC, 15 yards;  2. J Gow, Rangers FC, 25 yards;  3. A Graham, 1st LRV, 18 yards

Quarter Mile:  R Shandley, Celtic FC, 25 yards,  50 4-5th sec; Half Mile: J Hindle, St Mirren FC and Clydesdale H, 10 yards 2:02

One Mile:  A McDonald, Abercorn FC, 50 yards,  4 min 33 sec; 

Broad Jump:  1.  Don C Sillars, QPFC, 22′ 1″;  2.  Peter McCallum, QPFC, 21′ 6 1/4″  ([Sillars was QP team captain, and McCallum was ex-President]

High Jump: Murray, Rangers, 10″ handicap, 5′ 9″

The top cyclists of the 1880’s-90’s

2nd June, 1894 and again the ‘Scottish Referee’ and other papers were looking forward to another successful QPFC Sports.  BUT

  “All the work of the past month , the care bestowed on the track by Mr Geake, the perfect arrangements made by the secretary  and committee for the successful working of the annual carnival at Hampden, and the presence of a large number of the youth and beauty of Crosshill, Langside &c, had no effect on Jupiter Pluvius, who, at the worst possible hour of the afternoon, made his unwelcome appearance,  and succeeded in completely spoiling the financial success of the sports.   But although the QP executive were robbed of financial success, so well deserved, that not even J.P. could rob them of an athletic triumph achieved under conditions which might have damped the ardour of the most enthusiastic.   

“From the opening Heat of the 100 yards to the presentation of prizes by Mrs WH Berry, every item on the programme was carried out with that promptitude and accuracy which has all along characterised Queen’s Park meetings, and has made them so deservedly popular with the public.   AG Stronach, Glasgow Academy, competed in the high jump at the Queen’s Park Sports.   He got over 4′ 10”   

That’s twice in two meetings that the reporter has mentioned the ‘youth and beauty’ of Crosshill and Langside!

It was in many respects quite an amazing meeting.   For instance the committee had decided to run ten men in each heat of the 100 yards.   “It was a striking scene to see the sprinters tearing down the turf in such numbers.”    They were lucky in that the wind and rain were behind them; the final was won to everyone’s surprise by Gordon of Hamilton Academicals from Frame of Carluke Beagles.   49 men were on the cinder track, in the rain for the Mile, won by McMorrow of WSH and Celtic FC.   The Long Jump was won by WC Taylor (handicap allowance of 1′ 9″) from T Vallance, a nephew of the jump record holder.    AAG Stronach was second in the high jump to Carr of Maryhill Harriers.   

Despite the weather, the meeting was a success after all.   Apart from anything else, the sight of ten men sprinting side by side with the wind and rain hurling them down the track must have been wonderful.   Just to confirm how bad the conditions were:,the ‘Glasgow Herald simply reported “Unfortunately the weather completely broke down immediately after noon, and rain descended in torrents about two o’ clock thus completely spoiling the meeting, both from a sports point of view and the attendance of the public.”


But all was not well in the world of athletics and there was a split between the biggest and most powerful club in the land, Clydesdale Harriers, and the SAAA which led to the former setting up an opposition organisation called the Scottish Amateur Athletic Union.   There were rival meetings and there were two Scottish Championships held in Glasgow on 22nd June, 1895: SAAA at Hampden and SAAU at Ibrox.   There was also an SAAA sponsored meeting at Hampden on 3rd June.   If there was a separate QPFC meeting in 1895, it was not in May or June.   The assumption is that it was just squeezed out, a victim of a feud not of their making.   There does not seem to have been a QPFC Sports in 1896 either – the Govan Police Sports at Ibrox on the first Saturday and the Glasgow Police Sports on the second Saturday along with the Clydesdale Harriers Sports on the same day were the only meetings in Glasgow in the first half of the month.   


Queens Park FC Sports: 1886 -1890

From the ‘Glasgow Herald’ of 6th September, 1886:  “On Saturday afternoon the Queen’s Park FC held their annual sports at Hampden Park.   The weather was highly favourable and there was a large attendance of spectators.   The meeting being now regarded as the principal one in the West of Scotland, several famous athletes competed, together with some Englishmen, and the various events were upon the whole keenly contested.   In the one mile open handicap DS Duncan , the champion was defeated.   He gave up running at the end of the third lap, the pace being evidently too fast for him.   Stevenson and Anderson kept at it, the latter winning a good race by three yards.    During the day, Ray of Ulverston gave a good display of pole vaulting.   He endeavoured to defeat his record of 11 ft 5 1/4 in made at Whitehaven a fortnight ago, but in this he failed, only managing 10 ft 10 in.   The arrangements for conducting the events were excellent and altogether the sports were a complete success.   The band and pipers of the Royal Scots under the leadership of Mr SG Griffiths supplied excellent music.   At the close of the competitions Mr Cameron Corbett , MP for Tradeston, made a short speech after which Miss Scott presented the prizes.”

The events on the afternoon included a 100 yards open handicap with 6 Heats, 220 yards  open handicap, a 440 yards open handicap, 440 yards confined, 880 yards confined,  one mile open handicap, high jump, two bicycle races and a one mile tricycle handicap.   

DS Duncan

Withe the football season beginning on the first Saturday in September 1887, the Queen’s Park FC Sports were held on 4th June.   The clash with the established sports in Greenock and the Heart of Midlothian Sports in Edinburgh did not seem to affect the proceedings at Hampden for this preliminary meeting.   “The preliminary events in connection with the annual sports of the Queen’s Park Football Club was carried through on Saturday afternoon in presence of a fair gathering considering the unimportant character of the sports, which were only preliminary events to the excellent display to be made next Saturday when the programme proper will be gone over. ”   

The sports began with the Heats of the 100 yards confined, went on to an extended four a side competition featuring Rangers No 1, Clyde Strollers, Cambuslang Strollers, QP Strollers, Rangers No 2, Gordon Athletic, Rawcliffe, Vale of Leven, Abercorn, Partick Thistle, Royal Albert, Clyde, Kilmarnock, Rutherglen, Cartvale, Drumpellier, Cambuslang, Battlefield, St Mirren, Dumbarton Athletics, Cowlairs, Victoria and The Etceteras (QP).   Four of the above teams did not appear and the semi finals between Dumbarton and Dumbarton Athletics  and  The Etceteras (Queens Park) and Cambuslang would be played the following Saturday, as would the semis and finals of the confined 100 yards.

The weather the following Saturday was reportedly not of the best and there was not a big crowd at the start, either in the ground or in the stand.  The first event was the half-mile confined and when this was ‘got out of the way’ the 100 yards open handicap runners took to the track for one of the feature races of the afternoon.   The track was ‘in capital going order and fast’.   There were ten Heats of the race and many very good athletes were among them.   The Maley brothers, Willie (3 yards) and Tom (1/2 yard) both qualified for the second round, with Tom winning the final after a hard race against AS Blair by half a yard.    Queen’s Park Etceteras won their semi-final and then defeated Dumbarton in the final.   The athletics programme included all the usual events from 100 yards to one mile with some confined events mixed in with the open handicaps but the cycle races were regarded as the big draw with English champions competing, there was also a tandem race and a tricycle race.   

Tom Maley

The sports in 1888 ere held on 9th June in weather so bad to start with, there was torrential rain for an hour before the start, that there was talk of them being postponed.  There were no records in the races, nor were there any double winners but it was reported to be a good meeting.   The 100 yards open handicap was won by RA Taylor of EUAC from T Maley, Clydesdale Harriers and A Hastie, Clydesdale Harriers and the 120 yards hurdles was won by JT Ward, Clydesdale Harriers, from A Watt of Queen’s Park. .   JR Gow of the Rangers FC won his Heat of the 100  but failed to make the final. AT Symington won the 220 yards.  R Welsh of Ayr won the 440 yards, J Allan of Queen’s Park won the 600 yards from T Blair, also of Queen’s Park.   The one Mile was won comfortably by A Hannay, Clydesdale Harriers and Rangers FC 

The preview of the sports in 1889 was:   “The annual sports of the Queens Park FC come off on Saturday on their beautiful ground at Hampden – the best adapted enclosure for athletics in Scotland.   Great pains are being taken to have the cinder path in prime order, and with favourable weather the surface should be smooth and suitable for fast performances.   The cream of athletes and cyclists have entered, and the sports promise to rival all previous enterprises of a similar kind held by this club. ”   

Glasgow Herald, June 3rd, 1889

Quite the build up but would the sports live up to this billing?   Seven days later.

“Another instance of the apathy of the Glasgow public to athletics meetings was forthcoming on Saturday when the Queen’s Park held their annual sports.   The weather, it is true, was not very inviting but had it been a football match thousands would have suffered, without raising a murmur, any little discomfort that may have been caused through the rain.   We cannot comprehend why the Glasgow public should be so one-sided in their taste.   Football unquestionably is a great game but there are physical traits, if we may so speak brought to the surface as our athletic meetings which are every bit as interesting as the pluck and determination usually shown in a football match.   Last year the Queen’s Park dropped £70  on their meeting, and the loss on Saturday will not be much less than that amount.   We hope better times are in store alike for the QP , and all those clubs who are doing so much to give athletics a firm, solid footing in Scotland.”     So thanks to the weather  the attendance was poor.   The meeting itself, according to all the reports was a good one with the Mile being specially mentioned.   John Blane of Clydesdale Harriers and Maybole could not run, which was a real pity, but the race between Charles Pennycook, Clydesdale Harriers and Arthurlie FC, off 15 yards and AM Marshall of Irvine FC, off 20, was a good one with Marshall just winning,.   Robert Mitchell of Clydesdale Harriers and St Mirren FC won the 600 yards, DK Gow of the Rangers Fc won the 100 yards handicap, and JR Gow, of Clydesdale Harriers and Rangers FC won the hurdles.   Where the athlete had joint membership, both clubs have been shown to indicate that it was a time when no sport claimed exclusivity and all clubs had multi-talented sportsmen representing them in open competition.   


On the second Saturday in June, 1890, the report in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ read:

“Beteeen five and six thousand spectators assembled at Hampden Park on Saturday afternoon, in brilliant weather to take part in the annual sports held under the auspices of the club.      An interesting programme was named, and all the finals with the exception of the two miles safety race were keenly contested, the excitement was well sustained to the finish.   In the two mile bicycle race, Young, who rode a pneumatic tyre machine,  again demonstrated his  superiority, winning handsomely by about 20 yards in the good time of 5 min 44 sec.   ….     The 600 yards scratch race was looked upon as one of the events of the meeting.   Both Mitchell and Logan had kept themselves in it, and as Mitchell held the record at 1 min 52 secs, the contest excited great interest.     The race was at a good speed throughout, Blair of the Queen’s Park winning on the tape by a few inchesbut the time was 6 1-5th seconds slower than Mitchell’s record. … ”   Results: 

120 yards hurdles:  TM Duncan, EUAC, ; 2,  TW Young, Clydesdale Harriers; 3.  TE Maley, Clydesdale Harriers

400 yards open Handicap:  FD Watson, Stewart’s College  7 yards; 440 yards open handicap: W Martin, Newmilns, 26 yards

600 yards scratch race: 1.  T Blair, QPFC;  2.  R Mitchell, St Mirren FC;  3.  J Logan, Vale of Leven

880 yards handicap: J Taylor;   one mile open handicap:  A Hannah, Clydesdale Harriers, 20 yards.

T Blair, Queen’s Park FC 

Football Clubs and Athletics

Queen’s Park FC

Let’s get the question of whether the connection with football was good for athletics out of the way to start with.   A very large number of senior and professional football clubs was established in the 1870’s – Queen’s Park FC was set up in 1867 with Kilmarnock FC two years later, but we note that Dumbarton 1872, Third Lanark (1872), Rangers (1872), Hamilton Academicals (1874), Hearts (1874), Hibernian (1875), Falkirk (1876), St Mirren (1877), Arbroath and Airdrieonians (1878) all appeared within seven years of each other.   It might be a useful exercise to see what the Scottish athletics scene was in 1871 and compare it with 1879 to see what differences, if any, appeared.     

The summer season in 1871 starts for us with the Glasgow Academy Sports on the last Saturday in April and the Glasgow High School Athletic Sports one month later on 27th May.   Both were reported extensively in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ with some interesting comments in the latter on the place of athletics in the life of the pupils after they left school.   These events, like those at Dumfries Academy on 17th June, were not of course available to the general community.   However the Pollokshaws Star Quoit Club held a sports meeting on the 17th and a week later there was an athletic meeting held at Vale of Leven organised by a Committee which had some wee hiccups – I quote: 

“We append the results of the matches which came off, but about one third of what were on the programme were not gone on with, partly on account of the dissatisfaction of the committee with a number of the competitors from a distance, whom the supposed to be more anxious to get the prizes than to compete fairly for them, and partly, we understand, that the drawings at the gate did not sufficiently supplement the subscriptions which the committee had received.”

Into July and the 10th RRV organised the Greenock Highland Games where several noted athletes took part, and the following week saw the Dunblane Highland Games and the Campsie Athletic Games.   I have noted the various organising bodies as an illustration of the haphazard nature of the organisation of the sport at the time -schools doing their own thing,  a quoiting club, a local committee, the 10th RLV, and local Games Committees which were self perpetuating bodies.   This diversity in provision led not unnaturally to local distances and events – a 250 yards race at one venue, a 4 miles race at another, a Beaters Race, and throws events such as ‘throwing the sledgehammer for height.   The nature of the Games as a social event on the local calendar is perhaps best illustrated by the Balfron National Games and Horse Racing.    The National Games were traditional Scottish events including races for local boys (living within 5 miles of Balfron),     The competitors included top men such as Donald Dinnie, ove of the best Scottish throwers ever, and Alex McPhee (Paisley) who won many races around the country and was father of Alex, junior, and Duncan McPhee who were Scottish champions on the track and over the country for Clydesdale Harriers and West of Scotland Harriers.   The athletics were followed by the horse racing where the star turn was a beast named Snorter.   In August  there was a meeting at Milngavie organised by Sir George Campbell, Bart, on the same day as the Strathallan Gathering at the beginning of the month,  there were others at Paisley, Kilbirnie and Crieff in August.

The picture is anything but clear but what we can say is that whether an event occurred or not depended on the interest of a particular group or individual.   eg with hundreds of RLV’ in the country, what inspired the 10th RRV to put on a meeting?   Or later the 1st or 3rd RLV organisations?   Why a quoiting club?   The provision was patchy and irregular.   The events were staged in local fields.   The fields being of different sizes, the distances were often of different lengths – the 250 yards above was replaced by a 150 or a 300 or a 330 yards at other venues.   The middle distances were poorly represented although there were enough at one mile, four miles, two miles, or whatever to earn a fair amount for runners like Alex McPhee.   There was no standardisation of distances between venues and the measuring was almost certainly of variable accuracy.   There were for a few years in the 1870’s Inter-University meetings but there was a break after 1873 (held at St Andrews) and 1889 when they were resurrected at King’s College in Aberdeen.  Finally there is no description that uses the word ‘amateur’ in any of the reports on the meetings – nor do they use the word  ‘professional’ either.   Given the frequent mention of known professional athletes and the fact that we know meetings such as Dunblane and Strathallan were professional at the period (although they later ‘turned amateur’), it can be assumed that most meetings were professional.

There is a marked contrast with the 1879 season.   

Many clubs held athletic sports and not just the top level clubs such as Rangers, Celtic, Hearts, Third Lanark, etc: annual sports were held by Royal Albert FC, Parkgrove FC, Hurlford FC,  the Crescent FC, and Maybole FC among many others.   Parkgrove was based in Govan with headquarters in Copeland Road while the Crescent FC team hailed from Ardrossan.   Just looking at the fixture list for 1879 we see that the following teams hosted their own sports:

Arbroath FC (24th May), Kilmarnock FC (17th June – co-hosted with Kilmarnock Cricket Club), Hurlford FC (28th June), Johnstone Athletic FC (19th July), Parkgrove FC (16th August), Cartside FC (23rd August).   There may well have been more.   They were usually all well attended and included sports other than athletics, mainly variations on the football 5-a-side although some of the meetings held a single match between two local teams as part of the programme. eg at Hurlford,  Hurlford won from Kilmarnock Hibernians.  Confined races were also usually part of the programme with races confined to locals, or members of the sponsoring football team, but occasionally groups like carters  or ploughmen had their own races.   The prizes for these sports were not negligible either, at times they were better than many of those handed out in the second half of the 20th century!    For example the Sports at Ardrossan had among the prizes (these are just examples but typical of all events – including the three legged race, the sack race, the Mile handicap, etc)-

100 yards:  1st silver mounted crystal biscuit box;  2nd silver plated inkstand

Half Mile:  1st Gladstone travelling bag; 2nd silver mounted oak butter cooler

Football contest: 1st four gold badges;  2nd  four silver Maltese crosses

Given the amount spent on the awards, it is clear that these clubs valued what the event would bring to them in return.  Running a sports was not a small undertaking. 

In addition the standard of athlete was high (JA Crerar of Third Lanark, and J Finlayson of QPFC were among the prize winners at this meeting).   Obviously, the nearer the venue to any of the big cities, the more players from the big teams there were.   The Parkgrove FC meeting in Govan had competitors from QPFC (incl JW Harvie, BB Sykes, JD Finlayson), Rangers FC (A Watson) and LRV (JA Crerar, J McKay) as well as from assorted other football clubs noted only by their initials – JCFC, WPFC, and others.   The prizes awarded were often listed in reports but the only one noted at the Parkgrove meeting was for the 300 yards handicap (confined) and was a sterling silver cup worth 30 guineas – ‘presented by the ladies of Govan.  To be won three times.’   The last qualifier was important since many athletes thought winning a cup once meant you kept it.   Even stipulating three times was not a tight enough definition either – did it mean winning the trophy three times was enough or did it mean that it had to be won three times consecutively?   Nevertheless 30 guineas was a big sum in 1879.

The bigger clubs such as Kilmarnock FC, St Mirren  FC, St Bernard’s FC. Hamilton Academicals and Airdrieonians had their own meetings with their own variations on the format.   Hamilton Academicals had their sports over two consecutive Saturdays.  eg on 5th July 1884 they held the first day’s sports where the main events were the football competition which was won by Cambuslang, the place kick won by H Reid (Rangers FC) from H McHardy (Rangers), 100 yards heats with final the following week, and the confined 440 yards.    On 11th July, there were eleven events, 100 yards (open), 100 yards (confined), 440 yards open handicap, scratch half mile (confined to clubs from Lanarkshire), half mile open, one mile handicap,  120 yards hurdles, obstacle race, consolation race, one mile cycle race, two miles cycle race.   The prize winners were almost all from football clubs – Cambuslang FC, Dumbarton FC, Pilgrims FC, Rangers FC, Royal Albert FC, Vale of Leven FC, 3rd LRV FC and Hamilton FC with some athletes from the universities (a few) and other clubs such as Golfhill Tennis Club.   That same day, Airdrieonians had their own two day event with an amateur athletic sports on the 12th and was mainly composed of confined events plus a four a side football competition with the final to be held the following week.   Came the 18th and it was an athletics meeting that we would recognise as such today.   There were several names which were well known at these Sports around the West of Scotland – A McNab (3rd LRV) was a prolific prize winner, JG Cleland (Royal Albert) and “the sack race was an easy thing for ‘Tuck’ McIntyre’ who was a member of Rangers FC who, as well as being an excellent sprinter in open events, was making a habit of winning or being placed in the obstacle race and the sack race.  Before playing for Rangers, from 1883, he had been a member of Alexandra Athletic – a club that had a long history of promoting amateur sports back into the 1870’s.   Also on that afternoon were the St Bernard’s FC Sports at Powderhall and the West Kilbride Annual Sports at Seamill.   

When St Mirren opened their new grounds at Westmarch in Paisley on 23rd July 1883, they did so with an amateur athletic sports meeting.   Founded in 1877, theirs was one of the oldest annual sports meetings on the calendar, late July every year, having been started in 1881 and continuing from there.   Greenock Morton, founded in 1874, was there too with a first rate annual sports,usually towards the end of May, where the feature race was for many years the quarter mile with such as Eric Liddell racing at Cappielow for Edinburgh University as an individual and in the relay too.   

By 1880, there were many more athletic meetings available to the athletes of the country and a lot of that was down to the football clubs using their own grounds as a venue and making at times considerable amounts of money from them.  The increased number of clubs in the central belt meant that there were that many more meetings in a relatively small area and the regular runners became known and developed their own supporters.   The more they raced, the better they became as runners and the standard in the country rose.   In addition,  the fact that the clubs had standardised ground sizes meant that the running distances were also standardised which helped the runners judge their efforts more accurately.       In short athletics gained

* More Meetings

*Standardised Track Sizes

*Standardised Distances

*More and better publicity

*Because of the above, more recruits to the sport

Of course the football clubs also gained – money from the crowds that rolled up and fitter players among the benefits but the contrast between athletics provision in 1871 and 1879 was marked.



Rangers Sports: The First Meeting

Tuck McIntyre (left) and Tom Vallance (right).

Given that the Rangers Sports was one of the longest running sports promotions in Scottish athletics history – it ran from 1881 into the 1960’s – and the importance of its place in athletics particularly after the second great war, it is maybe appropriate to note the origins in a separate page.   Note that the meeting spoken of was in 1881, two years before the SAAA was founded and four years before the first open athletics club appeared on the scene.   The following is from the ‘Glasgow Herald’ of 22nd August, 1881.


The first annual amateur athletics sports held in connection with this celebrated football club took place on their grounds, Kinning Park, on Saturday afternoon.   Splendid weather and a most attractive programme induced a large number to be present, though the grand stand was but partially occupied.   The sports were in all respects a great success, the two mile bicycle contest being one of the chief features.   There were five competitors, including DD Bryson, the amateur champion of Scotland, who rides splendidly, and in the last two laps received round after round of applause.   For the obstacle race, 24 entered, who were set off in three heats and a final, and as the difficulties proved rather trying to the competitors, few completed the distance.   At the start the men ran about thirty yards backwards, turned round and got over the first barrels by leap frog, the next were crept through, the hurdles were crawled under and leaped over as best they could, where fresh difficulties had to be overcome.   The first of these consisted of poles placed at an angle and resting on the top of  horizontal bar about 10 feet high, from which ropes were suspended, the poles were clambered up sailor fashion, the ground being reached by sliding down the ropes.   Further on, young trees, divested of branches, and supported at either end by trusses about 2 feet high had to be walked along, and as they were placed at a distance from each other, and about 35 feet long, the vibration in the centre caused most of the competitors to lose their equilibrium when they had to try again or give up.   The last obstacle was a horizontal bar over which the men had to throw a somersault.   When this was reached the best gymnast both in the heats and the final, was 30 or 40 yards in front, when he had an easy finish.   In the half-mile open handicap, JD Finlayson (QP) was defeated by McCulloch of Helensburgh, and though entered for the Mile he did not run.   A large field entered for the 100 yards open handicap, the running in which was very good.   The tug-of-war was different from the usual contest.   Instead of teams facing each other and pulling one rope in opposite directions to force their opponents over the mark, the new method consists of two ropes of equal length with loops at either end and securely tied together in the centre.   Four only compete at a time, each putting the fixed loop over his body and standing at opposite corners where flagstaffs are fixed in the ground about two yards behind.   All pull in opposite directions, the first who seizes his flagstaff and drags it from the ground to win.   The contest was most amusing.  All the other events passed off well.   

The sports were under the patronage of the most noble the Marquis of Lorne, the Hon the Lord Provost of Glasgow, Dr Cameron MP, Mr A Crum MP, ex-Lord Provost Collins, and other gentlemen.   A source of attraction was the playing and singing   by the band of the 8th LRV.   Judges and Handicappers – Mt Livingstone and Mr Robertson.   Starter – Mr John Graham.   Timekeeper – Mr J Smith.   Clerks of Course – Mr McKay and Mr P McNeil.   Referees – The Sports Committee.   

The important thing in any sports meeting however was how the events worked out and who the winners were.  The events in order here were as follows:

100 yards (confined):   final heat:  G Gillespie, scratch, 11 sec.   Prize presented by Mr J Stewart, Ascog

Quarter Mile Handicap (confined):  AS Maitland,  15 yards,  59 seconds

Quarter Mile Race Open : FG Connell, WSFC,  55 seconds    5 ran

Broad Jump:  T Vallance, Rangers FC,  21′ 6″

100 yards Open Handicap:  DD McGillivray, Caledonian FC, 10.2 seconds

Hurdle Race Open:  T Vallance  Rangers FC, 18 seconds

Half Mile Handicap Open:  D McCulloch, Helensburgh FC, 10 yards, 

Obstacle Race Open:  T Vallance, Rangers FC, 

One Mile Open Handicap: AD McGillivray, Caledonian FC, 4:46.   14 ran.

Tug of War Open:   T Vallance, Rangers FC

Two Miles Bicycle Race Open: DD Bryson, Midlothian CC, scratch, 10 minutes 09 seconds

Place kick open: AH Holmes, QPFC, 183 feet.

Consolation Race:  P Logan, Vale of Leven, 

There was also a four-a-side football match won by QPFC who defeated Blackburn Rovers in the final.   The ‘Man of the Meeting’, had there been such an award, would undoubtedly have gone to that superb athlete Tom Vallance who won four events of widely differing natures.   He would go on to set the first recognised Scottish amateur long jump record a month later at the QPFC Sports with a leap of 21′ 11″.   At the inaugural Rangers Sports, his brother Alex was third in the half mile handicap and he would go on to win the SAAA 129 yards hurdles in 1888.

Mention has been made of Tom Vallance’s record long jump at the QPFC Sports on 3rd September, 1881.   It was not his only event that afternoon.    In the hurdles race, brother Alex was second in the first heat, then Tom won his heat by 6″ and then won the four man final from Turner (QP) and Alex was third.   He won the Broad Jump, as it was then called, in a new Scottish record of 21′ 11.   The high jump report comments that Vallance of the Rangers was ‘the first to succumb‘ but doesn’t specify which one it was.  The Games had their share of controversy too – JA Crerar of Third Lanark being second in the 440 and also in the 100 yards where many thought that he had been the winner, and even more disputation after Arthur Muir of Kilbarchan won the pole vault: he was alleged to be a professional competing under an assumed name with the result that the prize was withheld until the matter had been decided in Committee.   No doubt about either of Vallance’s victories though.   The star name was that of Englishman WG George who won the half mile and Mile.

The 1881 were the first annual sports but it is difficult to find a second annual sports.   There were several sports meetings every week that summer with Shawfield and Edinburgh Institution featuring every couple of weeks and at times every week.    The Glasgow Herald reported throughout the summer on Athletics and the chief sports each week were as follows:

Month First Week Second Week Third Week Fourth Week Fifth Week
May Kilmarnock FC Glasgow University Edinburgh Royal Greenock AA Alexandria AC
June Kilmarnock CC Ayr Academical Pollokshaws Kilbirnie FC
July Edinburgh Uni South West FC Balfron National Sports St Mirren FC Glasgow Police
August Nairn Games Bute HG Ayr Academicals -
September Queen's Park FC Dunfermline Paisley Cycle Meeting -

By the time of the Queen’s Park Sports took place, the football season was well under way and no real sports would be held thereafter.   An interesting sideways glance tells us that the great miler WG George took part in the Queen’s Park Sports of September that year winning the Mile (easily) and the half mile but could only finish second in the quarter mile.   Rangers and Celtic Sports in years to come would regularly invite champions from England and Ireland but Queen’s Park was there first.   The south side of Glasgow was also served by the South-Western Football Club Annual Sports which were held at their grounds at Copeland Park, Govan.   The number of running events was limited to a sprint and a middle distance event and the main event was a four-a-side but a good number of the runners were from the football clubs – Rangers and QPFC as well as the sponsoring club.   

The quest for the ‘Second Annual’ Sports can be seen at  this link .