The Wyoming Cup

Teviotdale Wyomi0001

The Teviotdale Harriers team which won the Wyoming Cup in the medley Relay at Hawick Common Riding Games in 1910.

WR Sutherland and AJ Grieve standing, and JS Turnbull and RH Burton 

Have a look at those spikes!

Scottish ahletics fans always liked relays.   Maybe because of the opportunity to see a baton dropped – the same reason for the clustering of spectators at the water jump at a steeplechase – mabe because of the discipline required not only to get the baton to your team mate without mishap, but to do so within a confined space.   That was and is true of both 4 x 100 and 4 x 400.    But if they liked relays, they loved the medley relay, sometimes called the mile relay which was a bit confusing because the 4 x 440 was also called a mile relay at times.   Teams needed an 800m runner, a 400m runner and two 200m men.   The mix of distances, the changes of pace and the final shoot-out over a serious distance rather than a quick dash up the track as in the 100 metres/yards.   The Scottish way of doing the event was to start with the half mile, follow that with two furlongs and finish with a quarter mile; the English way was to have the quarter first and the half last.   There are arguments in favour of both orders but in recent years Scots seem to have given way to the foreign method – much to the irritation of some of us!

Although there was no SAAA Championship for the medley until 1919, the event was hotly contested since before 1909 when the Wyoming Cup was first competed for at Hawick.    What follows explains the title but because it was originally featured at the relatively small Hawick amateur meeting, there were results when the result was not published nationally.   However it was written up, the first race was on 12th June 1909 and was previewed in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ as follows:   “Hawick FC are giving a £20 cup for a relay race on June 12th, and from this district West of Scotland Harriers and Bellahouston Harriers will send teams.   The distances are two 220 yards, 440 yards and 880 yards.   John McGough will run the half-mile distance for Bellahouston, and either J Fairbairn-Crawford or J Hepburn will represent the West of Scotland Harriers.”

reported in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ on 14th as follows:

“HAWICK.   One Mile Team Relay Race for the Wyoming silver challenge cup (presented by Hawick Callants in Wyoming, USA).   1.   West of Scotland Harriers (RC Duncan, John Miller, George Hepburn, D Fairbairn Crawford); 2.   Heaton Harriers.   Crawford finished grandly for the winners, and there was a rare run in between Jameson of Heaton, and Grieve of Teviotdale for second place.   The winning team each received a prize worth 20/-.”

In 1910 Teviotdale Harriers, third the year before, won the trophy with a team of AJ Grieve, WR Sutherland, JS  Turnbull and RH Burton.   Then before the race in 1911, the ‘Glasgow Herald of May 15th, 1911, said: “The Hawick “Callants” who form quite a colony now in Wyoming, and who two years ago gave a handsome challenge cup for the one mile relay at the Hawick Common Riding Sports, are sending home this year £20 as a further donation.   In consequence, the Committee have decided to double the value of the prizes for this race.   The winning four will receive awards of the value of  £2:02:00 and the runners-up and third team prizes will be worth £1:01:00 and 10/6 respectively.   The sports will be held on Friday, June 9th, and Mr James Thomson, ex-President of the Scottish Border AAA is again the secretary.”   

Came Friday, 9th June and the cup was won by West of Scotland Harriers from a Teviotdale team which was basically the same as the year before, the only change being JM Ballantyne for Turnbull.   The Centenary History of Teviotdale Harriers elaborates on the origins of the Trophy as follows.

“Between the years 1909 and 1913 a star attraction at the Common Riding Games was a one-mile team relay for the Wyoming Silver Challenge Cup presented by the Hawick Callants in Wyoming, USA.   Valued at 22 guineas, the solid silver cup, weighing over 70 ounces, was supplied by Mr FE Rutherford, jeweller, Hawick, and was according to the rules “open to all amateur harriers clubs in Great Britain and Ireland/”   Intimation of the handsome 18″ high cup in the form of a loving cup with three handles, was sent by ‘Teri’ exile Mr Frank Deans who had taken a great interest in athletics when in Hawick.   His initiative in procuring 20 subscribers was evidence of the interest he and other exiled Teries had of their native town. “

The trophy was won almost exclusively by either West of Scotland  Harriers from Glasgow and Teviotdale Harriers – after three races it was West two wins and Teviotdale one but the score was evened out on 8th June, 1912 when the Glasgow Herald reported: Amateur Sports at Hawick.   Team Relay Race for the silver Wyoming Cup and prizes. – 1.   Teviotdale Harriers (T Bell, JM Ballantyne, WR Sutherland, RH Burton); 2.   West of Scotland Harriers (JH Rodger, RC Duncan, HJ Christie, WS Unkles).   Time: 3 min 48 sec.

Robert Burton, 1910

Robert Burton: the trophy can perhaps be seen more clearly in this one.

Records of the West of Scotland Harriers at this time tell that the entry fee was four shillings and sixpence per team, and the importance of the event was shown in their willingness to pay travelling expenses from Glasgow to Hawick for the runners.  eg 1914’s fares and expenses amounted to £2:08:4.    In 1913 the situation was complicated.   It was a time when it was not unusual for a team which won a trophy three times, or more usually three times in succession, was allowed to keep it for their own use or trophy cabinet and there was a variation written into the rules for the Wyoming Cup.      The Teviotdale history again:   “the situation for 1913 was that each club had two wins to their credit and the rules stated that three wins would give absolute custody.   That year it once again went to West of Scotland and so they claimed permanent possession.   Teviotdale’s team of Bell, Ballantyne, Sutherland and Burton were runners-up.    Investigation since has revealed that the West team (JH Rodger, RC Duncan, HJ Christie and G Dallas), contrary to the rules laid down for the competition did not comprise a full complement of first claim members, the last named being from Maryhill Harriers, and so in actual fact should have lost the cup by default.”

George Dallas was well known in Scottish athletics and was never anything other than a member of Maryhill Harriers and he was an easy man to recognise as well as being a talented athlete at distances from 100 yards to the half mile.   However, the following passage had appeared in the ‘Sports Miscellany’ column of the Glasgow Herald of 19th May, 1913:

“Dallas and Hamilton, both of Maryhill Harriers, have joined the “West”, whose racing ranks are in consequence greatly enriched, as the former is the best half-miler in Scotland, while George Hamilton is one of the best short mark sprinters.   It is just possible, however, that Dallas and Hamilton will continue to run in their old colours, though by doing so, they deprive themselves of the privileges which are only shared by those who compete regularly in the pale blue and black stripes of the “West” Harriers.”

It looks as though there was a kind of second-claim connection with the West of Scotland Harriers:  eg on 8th July, 1913, Dallas ran in the Maryhill Harriers Sports as ‘G Dallas, Maryhill Harriers.’  Jump to August and in the Rangers FC Sports on the first Saturday,  Hamilton was listed in the results as ‘G Hamilton, Maryhill and West of Scotland Harriers’, then a week later he was at Celtic FC Sports as ‘G Hamilton, Maryhill Harriers’.   At the Celtic meeting, Dallas was a member of the West team which finished third in the Invitation Relay although he did not appear in the results anywhere else.   Was the run at Hawick  legal by the standards prevailing?      That depends on (a) whether the rules stipulated first or second claim runners only, and (b) what Dallas’s status actually was.  The West of Scotland handbook for season 1913/14 reported that ‘The club has competed this season in several Relay Races. At Hawick we won the Wyoming Challenge Cup for the third time, and this now becomes our absolute property.”   What happened next to the trophy?   West took it home to Glasgow and put it up for competition at some of their meetings which were held frequently over the summer season and. like other Glasgow clubs, they held the occasional meeting at Dunoon.

In 1914 the Hawick Common Riding Sports took place on 6th June and there was a one mile relay – but the Wyoming Cup was not mentioned in the results.   The race was won by West of Scotland with a team of  J Dallas, G Hamilton, HJ Christie and D McPhee.   McPhee had been a Clydesdale Harrier who had joined West in May 1914 and J Dallas is probably George Dallas, again running for the West.    Later in the 1914 season at the Celtic FC Sports meeting on 10th August, 1914, George Dallas was entered in a 1000 yards handicap as  “G Dallas (West of Scotland Harriers) 35 yards ”   However the West club’s handbook for that season pointed out their relay successes: “Our Club has again been very successful in Relay Racing. At Hawick, Greenock (Glenpark Harriers) and our own meeting we won easily over the 880, two 220 and 440 yards, and at Edinburgh Northern Harriers Meeting we were again successful in winning their Challenge Trophy over the four laps’


The West of Scotland Sports at Ibrox on 14th June, 1919, had a relay race which was won by Maryhill Harriers (Dallas, Goodwin, Hamilton and Colberry) over Greenock Glenpark Harriers.   There was no mention of the Wyoming Cup but the report on the meeting the following year seems to indicate that it was indeed up for competition.   On 12th June 1920 in a report on a West of Scotland Harriers meeting at Ibrox Park, the report credited Duncan McPhee with helping  West win the invitation relay over Maryhill saying: He had not a little to do with the winning of the relay race for his club, the West of Scotland Harriers, who thus checked the career of Maryhill Harriers.   The latter won the race last year and the two clubs now own one share each in the Wyoming Cup, which becomes the property of the club winning it three times, not necessarily in succession.”   The West team was Christie, Todd, Kavanagh and McPhee and the Maryhill squad contained Bell, Colberry, Hamilton and Dallas.

G Dallas 1

The 1921 race at Ibrox was a joint promotion between West of Scotland and the Glasgow Tramways and was held on 11th June.   The report mentioned that the most interesting race on the programme was the mile relay which resolved itself into a duel between West of Scotland and Maryhill Harriers.   Dallas and McPhee were the respective half-milers, and the latter ran a great race, finishing a yard ahead and securing the Wyoming Cup for the promoting club.” 

10th June 1922 was the date for the next joint West of Scotland Harriers and Glasgow Corporation Tramways AAA meeting at Ibrox and “chief place was given to the relay for the Wyoming Cup, and the West by winning having made the trophy their own for the second time, thanks mainly to the fine running of JCS Ponsford of Glasgow University.”   JG McCall, HJ Christie, D McPhee and JCS Ponsford made up the winning team with Shettleston Harriers (Dunbar, Brown, Stevenson and Annand) second.   The comment about the West having made the trophy their own indicated to the public that they had won the relay in three consecutive years.   This did not stop them putting it up for competition the next year: the race was again held at Ibrox Park and the ‘Glasgow Herald’ in its ‘Notes on Sports’ column of 11th June, 1923, had a special paragraph headed


The Harrier clubs in the West who promote open meetings are, of necessity, optimists of the first degree, otherwise the apathy of the public would have cured them of the habit long ere now.   Not even the relay race for the Wyoming Cup nor the opportunity of seeing a quarter-mile over hurdles could induce more than a meagre sprinkling of spectators to line the ropes at Ibrox Park, where West of Scotland held their meeting on Saturday.   Yet the racing throughout was of the honest description and the times returned in most of the events were quite good.   The chief feature did not provide a thrilling race – the superiority of the promoting club when the final quarter was entered was too pronounced for that – but two of the competitors ran very well.   These were George Malcolm of the Edinburgh Southern Harriers, who exhibited a fine burst of speed against McPhee in the half-mile and was only beaten by a few yards, and AH Graham of Maryhill Harriers whose effort in the final quarter was worthy of a better fate.   AM McKay of Leith ran for Edinburgh Southern but his display over the furlong clearly showed that the Inter-Scholastic champion’s best distance is the quarter.   West’s victory, their fourth in succession, was gained by 10 yards from Maryhill Harriers, the other two competing clubs, Edinburgh Southern and Bellahouston Harriers, finishing well down.”

The Inter-Scholastic Championships referred to were the fore runners of the Scottish Schools championships but contested mainly by the fee-paying schools pupils.   In the results column, the Cup was again referred to as the chief event in the programme – Scots did and still do like their rrelays and the Mile medley (880, 220,220, 440) had a special place in their affections, and for the clubs concerned it was a magnificnt piece of silverware that FE Rutherford had crafted all those years before.

1924 was Olympic Games year and with selection for the British team important, the SAAA Championships were brought forward to the second Saturday in June – the date of the West of Scotland meeting.   With almost every Saturday already being the focus for one established meeting or another (eg Queen’s Park FC, Greenock Glenpark Harriers, Glasgow Police, Partick Thistle all had their regular dates in June or early July) there was no week end sports put on by West of Scotland.

There was no meeting held by West of Scotland in June 1925, either on their own or in tandem with the Tramways or Shettleston, although on June 22nd at the Glasgow Police Sports at Ibrox the mile medley relay was won by Maryhill from West of Scotland Harriers,  Calderwood, Duncan, Graham and McCrae making up the team.

On Tuesday June 15th, 1926, the relay for the Wyoming Cup was held once again.  This time at the joint Shettleston/West of Scotland Harriers meeting at Ibrox Park.   It was won by West of Scotland, represented by McIntyre, Burns, Urquhart and Hope from Shettleston Harriers who had Tom Riddell on the opening half-mile stage, followed by Crawford, Harrison and Stanley.   The report commented: “Riddell ran again for Shettleston Harriers in the relay race for the Wyoming Cup and the five yards lead he gained from RB McIntyre gave his side a lead which was maintained until the final quarter.   Here JD Hope running very strongly finished an easy winner by 15 yards.”   

11th June, 1927 at Celtic Park, the intro read “the chief event of the meeting, the Wyoming Cup for the one mile relay, was won by West of Scotland Harriers after an interesting struggle with Maryhill Harriers.”   The team was made up of Mcintyre, Burns, McLean and Hope and the winning time was 3 min 42 3-5th sec.

On the second Saturday of June 1928 most meetings in the West were cancelled because of the weather, only those at Clydebank (Singer’s Sports) and Glasgow University OTC went ahead – although the Hawick Common Riding Sports were ‘ carried through under favourable track conditions as the times returned in various events would suggest.”   The one mile relay there was won by Edinburgh University AC from English team, Gateshead Congers.   1928 also saw the birth of a series of annual big inter-club meetings organised by St Peter’s AAC at Scotstoun in Glasgow.

These meetings consisted of a whole series of relays from 4 x 110 yards to four miles relay and including the half mile relay, 4 x 440 yards hurdles relay, mile relay and two miles relay as well as the mile team race, the three miles team race as well as many standard field events.    These were held in the middle of June and they may have been a factor in the virtual disappearance of the West of Scotland Harriers meetings.

This is where things get complicated however: although the trail goes cold as far as newspaper reports are concerned, the West of Scotland archive has some information.   These contain dates for the “cleaning and engraving of their trophies: in 1920 they specify the Wyoming Cup.   In 1928 the relays were mentioned and the engraving was carried out by James McMenamin, engraver.   As is the way with different secretaries, details of items such as “engraving and cleaning” are more or less detailed from year to year but after several years of this entry, the note for June 16th 1933 mentions the engraving of the Wyoming Cup at a cost of 7/-.   What does all this tell us?   It tells us that the cup was in circulation at this time but not what it was awarded for or to whom it was awarded,


As an indication of the research that went in to this article, we followed several tracks, not all equally productive but all met with genuine assistance from those approached.   First of all, back numbers of the Glasgow Herald were searched; then we contacted  Alan Inglis of Teviotdale Harriers who gave us some information and a copy of the club history which had lots of detail on the early years of the club; athletics historian and former West of Scotland member Hamish Telfer gave us lots of information about West of Scotland for their help with this page.  He took lots of trouble and searched though old documents for references to the cup (see the note below); Arnold Black, official Scottish athletics historian did some work too.   These people are thanked for their help – the quest goes on but, for now, the trail has gone cold.   Finally as an indication of the effort taken I quote from just one of Hamish’s emails, his source was the second club cash register:
Wyoming Cup: 
Apart from the entries in the members books which I read out in earlier chats, the Cash register has the following:
June 1912: Entry Hawick Relays 4/6
August 1912: Expenses for the team for Hawick 9/6
June 1913: Entry Hawick Relays 4/1
June 1914: Entry Hawick Relays 4/-
                   Fares and expenses £2/18/4
June 1920: Cleaning and engraving Wyoming Cup £1/0/6
September 26th 1924: Engraving Wyoming Cup 3/6
1928 – Relays mentioned but not Hawick so must have died a natural death.  Mention of ‘insuring cups’ but nothing about the WC specifically. James McMennamin the engraver
Nov10th 1930: Engraving and cleaning Wyoming Cup 12/6
Sept 17th 1931: Engraving and cleaning Wyoming Cup 4/-
Jan 16th 1933 Engraving Wyoming Cup 7/-
After this date there is no further mention of the WC

Queen’s Park FC Sports: 1930 – 38

Donald McLean, headshot

Donald MacLean

The decade began with the club’s sports being held on June 9th, 1930.    It was a typcially busy June Saturday’s athletics with meetings being held in Edinburgh, Shotts and Alloa in addition to the sports held by Catrine AAC, Singer’s Factory and Falkirk Scouts.   There was also a whole range of Schools championships including Glasgow High, Hutcheson’s Grammar, Bellahouston Academy, Larchfield School, Hyndland Secondary, North Kelvinside, Jordanhill, Greenock Academy and Ardrossan Academy.  And always on the first Saturday of June, there was the Scottish University Championships – held in 1930 in Edinburgh.  They were all well supported and reported on in the pages of the ‘Glasgow Herald’ which said of the Queen’s Park FC Sports, held in front of a crowd of approximately 5000 spectators:

  The outstandingt feature of an excellent Queen’s Park meeting was the much improved form shown by Donald MacLean the ex-Mile champion.   Running in the two mile team race, he disposed of a field which included WJ Gunn, WH Calderwood and F Stevenson, in excellent style.   The pace he set and maintained in the  final lap was too much for even these experienced runners, and his winning time of 9 mins 30 3-5th secs was better than that of J Suttie Smith a week ago at Tynecastle, where MacLean only finished fifth, a long way behind the Dundonian.   So it is evident that MacLean has found some running in the interval, and a continuance of that will bring him right into the picture at the Scottish championships.   

The other two special events were not so satisfactory, as Duncan Wright had only local runners opposing him in the 13 mile road race, and, veteran though he is, he is still much too good for anyone in Scotland in an event of this kind.   The absence of the students from the Edinburgh team robbed the intercity relay of much of its interest, Glasgow winning very easily.  One would have liked, however, to have seen J Drummond, the Stewarts master, in better circumstances.   His running in the quarter was promising in face of an impossible task.

James Crawford made a fleeting first appearance of the season, running only in the heats of the 100 yards.   Here he was beaten out of a place behind two runners who dead-heated in 10 4-5th secs. and it was apparent that he was short of his best and had only turned out in loyalty to his club.   Open sprints are very hot races this season   , and in this particular one even time was recorded in five of the heats and also in the Final won by that sterling runner, AD Turner off 4 yards.   Turner also qualified for the Final of the furlong but failed to get through to a place.   In this event, W McLaughlin of Springburn ran a fine race, only being beaten off five yards in 22 3-5th sec.   As at Maryhill’s meeting, the Mile was divided into two sections, a much more sensible fashion than asking back-markers to plough through a crowded field.   SK Tombe of West of Scotland, who has been under something of a cloud this season, ran a well-judged race to win one of the heats in good time.   The final of the half mile was an exciting one, JB Donaldson of Edinburgh Northern, defeating J McKell of Springburn, only after a struggle which lasted over the last 80 yards.”

The names mentioned were all very good one – Dunky Wright had won the British Empire Games in 1930, Walter Gunn, Walter Calderwood, Sammy Tombe and Donald Maclean were noted distance runners and Scottish internationalists too while Crawford and Donaldson were national sprint champions.   Many of the Scottish football clubs had their own sports meetings – Rangers, Celtic, St Mirren and Queen’s Park were among those who held amateur meetings while Clyde FC’s Sports meeting was a professional one whch only became amateur after the 1939-45 War.   The big names tended to head for Ibrox and Parkhead where the expenses were probably better  but Queen’s Park had more than it’s share of international athletes competing.

Tom Riddell

Tom Riddell

There was no report at the end of May or start of June in 1931 of a club sports meeting – possibly because it was a Glasgow Civic Week Sports Day and many excellent events were organised in the course of the first week in June, but they were back in 1932.   On 30th May, the ‘Glasgow Herald reported on the meeting under the headline “NEW SCOTTISH RECORDS AT HAMPDEN:  RIDDELL AND SMITH RUN BRILLIANTLY ”  11 open events, six invitation events and a five-a-side tournament won 1-0 by Rangers over Third Lanark.   Held in ‘showery’ weather and before another 5000 crowd, the track was reported as being fast – it could hardly be anything else with two Scottish records and other fast races on the programme.   The report is accordingly a bit longer than the usual, and it reads:

“Although the rain made things somewhat disagreeable for the crowd at Queen’s Park FC meeting at Hampden on Saturday afternoon, it had little effect on the excellently prepared track, and when the blustery wind which blew at the commencement of proceedings died away the conditions were excellent for fast running and outstanding performances.   Both were forthcoming, for not only was fast time recorded in the track events without exception, but two new Scottish native records were created.    

The first of these fell to T Riddell, the Scottish mile champion who crossed from Belfast to run at the meeting.   Runnin g from scratch in the three-quarter mile handicap, he cobered the distance in  3 min 6 1-5th sec, this being 3 4-5th sec faster than the previous record made by himself at the evening meeting of the Shettleston and West of Scotland clubs on the same track three years ago.   Riddell ran a magnificent race, caught his men a furlong from home and went on to win by 15 yards.   He finished so fresh that the impression was left that had he been pushed in the last quarter his time would have ben even better.   He returned 59 sec in the first quarter, 63 sec in the second and 64 1-5th sec in the final lap.   Riddell’s races have been comparatively few on the Scottish tracks in the past three seasons but on each occasion he has demonstrated the loss sustained by Scottish athletics when he took up permanent residence in Ireland.

The three mile scratch race was in some respects the best of the afternoon as it provided the man-to-man duel that is always acceptable to the people on the terracing.   J Suttie Smith and JF Wood were the central figures and it was the rivalry between the pair that enabled Smith to slice 3 sec off the 14 min 44 1-5th recorded by Wood when running against Paavo Nurmi at the Rangers meeting last August.   During the past two seasons Smith has been somewhat over shadowed but on this occasion he was at his very best, running with an easiness and poise and with a confidence that was impressive.   He was content to let Wood do  the pacing practically throughout the whole journey, but when the final lap was entered upon he was within strikingdistance, and getting on terms halfway down the back straight, passed Wood to win by a good 10 yards.   Wood ran up to form.   He equalled his own record time, but for the afternoon he had met his master.   The revival shown by the Dundee man was a welcome one and a great race is promised when R Sutherland and Wood meet in the Scottish championships a month hence.   

FP Reid took part in two races, the 120 yards and the intercity relay, and ran well in both.   At the time the sprint was run off there was a troublesome head wind, and in the circumstances his time of 12 2-5th sec, altough slower than his two times at Ibrox last Monday evening was quite satisfactory.   His victory however was a narrow one, DA Brownlee, the inter-scholastic champion, disputing the verdict right to the tape.

There was an interesting  meeting in the second of the furlongs between Reid and AD Turner, the hope of the West.  The Maryhill man has been laid off with an injured muscle, but seemed to run with all his old power.  At the take-over Turner was about three yards ahead, but the chmpion was quicker into his stride and caught the Glasgow runner to hand over two yards in the lead.   His good race was, however of no avail, as CD Hume proved no match for Ian Borland over the quarter on this slender lead.   Borland ran an excellent quarter, probably as good as anything he has done in fully two years, and indeed the running all round in this race was distinctly above the ordinary, as the time 3 min 45 4-5th sec indicates.   This is 1 1-5th inside the Scottish record, but being accompished by a composite team, will not rank.   JP Laidlaw and J Hood had an interesting tussle over the half-mile section, and RHH Wallace of Stewart’s ran very well when opposed to PW Brown in the first of the furlongs.

The absence of WJ Gunn and M Rayne from the Plebeians team reduced the team race to a struggle between Maryhill and Shettleston, the former being declared winner by 21 points to 23.   It transpired afterwards that some mistake had been made in Maryhill’s placings and their total should have been 16.   The difference came through one man being omitted and it might have been serious if the first decision had been overturned.  

In all the open events run on the cinders, the times returned were very fast.   In the 220 yards 22 2-5 was recorded by the winner, in the 440 yards 50 2-5th, in the half-mile 1 min 57 1-5th, and in the two Miles (first and second class) 4 min 21 4-5th and 4 min 20 3-5th.   The outstanding performance in this section was undoubtedly that of R Graham (Motherwell) who  won thefirst class Mile of 25 yards.   This marks him out as running  inside 4 min 27 sec and that puts him right among the best in Scotland.   Since coming into prominence in the closing meetings of last season he has made rapid progress.   For a Youth his judgement in running is exceedingly good and his finishing shows perfect timing and stamina.”

The complete results are available in the Glasgow Herald and make for interesting reading – eg Rab Foreman from Edinburgh had the only double at the meeting and he went on to be President and Secretary of the SAAA and he was also team manager for the Empire Games team.

Bob Graham

R Graham

On 29th May, 1933  there was another record at the Queen’s Park Sports as well as a major upset when Tom Riddell was beaten by Jackie Laidlaw over 1000 yards.   Held in excellent conditions, the spectators again numbered about 5000.    The record was for the three miles and was set by Tom Blakely of Maryhill Harriers.   His time was 14:33 which was 5.2 secs faster than his own existing record, set at Parkhead a year earlier.   It was also his second record of the week: he had set the two miles record six days earlier at 9:19.8.   In comparison to Shrubb’s all-comers record, Blakely’s three miles was onl 5.8 seconds slower.    It was quite exceptional running.   Splits?   First mile in 4:45, second in 4:57.   Plebeian Harrierswon the team race.

Riddell was beaten by Jackie Laidlaw who was off 10 yards, but that made no difference as Laidlaw’s time was actually faster tan Riddells’ who was well beaten.   It was Laidlaw’s third victory in ten days: he won two miles at Monkland Sports the previous Saturday, and then won a half mile at Maryhill on the Monday.   Against that it was Riddell’s first race of the season.   Most of the sprinters from the previous year were in action – Reid and Turner were specially mentioned and the 440 yards for the Eric Liddell Bowl was another great race won by E Davis – formerly Springburn but now running for Glasgow Police.   Laidlaw ran the first (half mile) stage of the relay.   Calderwood of Glasgow was only five yards down however and  AD Turner, Robin Murdoch and Ian Borland saw the Glasgow team win.

It was a good afternoon with seven open events, six invitation events, one cycle race and a five-a-side tournament which Celtic won 1 – 0 over Partick Thistle.

Jackie Laidlaw: Shettleston: 10 July 1937

Jackie Laidlaw

There were no results of any QPFC meetng in 1934, so the next one to look at is the one held on 1st June 1935.    There were more consecutive reports of outstanding meetings held by Queen’s Park in the 1930’s than I can remember in any previous decade.   This one began (and I only quote the first two paras):

“The principal open meeting on Saturday was that of Queen’s Park, and it is questionable whether during its long and honourable history our premier club has staged as satisfactory and afternoon’s sport.   The class of competitor was the best that Scotland can produce, and if the conditions were not perfect – there was a strong breeze troubling the runners in the track events – the performances on the whole were of a distinctly good standard.”

There were four events chosen as of particular merit.   The first of these was the inter-city relay which was won by Edinburgh.   R Graham of Glasgow ‘won’ the first stage in 2 minutes but Turner and Murdoch lost a lot of ground over the two furlongs to Littlejohn and Blair.  Wylde of Edinburgh had a good eight yards lead on Murray of Glasgow at the start of the final quarter and, although he eventually caught his man, he could not maintain his effort and the resulting Edinburgh win was regarded as a bit of an upset.   Tom Riddell made his first appearance of the season in a ‘special mile’ invitation held ten years after hehad fought out a thrilling Mile against MacLean of Maryhill but this time, although he was running, MacLean was not able to figure in the race.   Riddell had forecast lap times and managed to hit them – 62 sec, 2 min 6 2-5th, and 3 min 13 25th – and won in 4 min 18 sec.   The third race highlighted was the 440 yards, won by Charlie Francis (the old Kelvinside Academy pupil) from CF Campbell of Springburn with back-marker Botha (scratch) third.   In the three miles, the sub-headline read ‘Laidlaw Wins Again’ and that was the story.   He defeated W Sutherland of Shettleston in 14 min 59 2-5th sec although Shettleston won the team race.

As for the other events, Edinburgh also won the half-mile relay and one of thes surprises of the meeting was the form of the Springburn athletes who won the 100 yards (A Campbell), 100 yards Youths (JJ Watters), 220 yards (A Campbell), Mile (A Montgomery) and had seconds in the half-mille (AE Nimmo) and high jump (EG Laird).

In the five-a-sides, Hamilton Academicals beat Rangers in the final by 2 goals to none.   Yet again were the Sports held in fine weather and yet again the crowd numbered approx 5000.

The first Saturday in June in 1936 was the 6th, and there was good news and bad news for the club.   First of all the meeting ‘was favoured with the presence of outstanding English athletes’  but on the other hand the spectators totalled only about 3500.   The weather was dry but apparently not conducive to good times although W Roberts of Salford and Sweeney of Milocarians performed well.    Bill Roberts was a top class 440 yards runner who ran at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin where he was fourth in the final of the 400m, and was a member of the gold medal winning 4 x 400m team.   He also ran in the 1948 Olympics but did not progress beyond the heats.   His best time in 1948 was 48 seconds but when he ran at Hampden in 1936 he had run 46.8 seconds.   He won comfortably in 49 3-10th secs, despite having to run wide on the two bends, from eight of Scotland’s finest.

As for Sweeney, the report read: AW Sweeney, the English 100 yards and Empire sprint champion, ran in the heat and semi-final of the open 100 yards besides appearing in the 120 yards.   Throughout he showed how superior he was to all on view.   He won his 100 heat from scratch in 9 8-10th sec, but went out in the semi-final.   The sprint, by the way, fell to JE Creegan, Uddingston, who conquered Sweeney in the cross tie and won the final in 9 6-10th sec from his mark of 6 yards – probably the fastest sprint ever run at Hampden.   

Sweeney qualified easing up in the second heat of the 120 yards in 11 6-10th sec, equalling RE Walker’s South Africa all-comer’s record of 27 years ago.   He just failed to hold RTE Littlejohn, Edinburgh Harriers, from four yards, in a tremendous finishing burst, also in the same time as his heat.  Robert Graham, Maryhill Harriers, turned out in the special one mile handicap and disappointed by only reaching fourth place, finishing about 30 yards behind the winner, G Andrews, Plebeian, in 4 min 27 4-10th sec.   Of course a strong breeze militated against fast times in this race.   In the inter-city one mile race, Glasgow beat Edinburgh by six yards in the slow time of 3 min 46 2-10th sec.

Jack Gifford of Bellahouston won the three milesfrom JC Flockhart in a great race  by three yards in the splendid time of 14 min 49 6-10th sec.   There was another innovation for the club sports: a Scottish Women’s Select Team wonthe women’s 4 x 110 yards relay race.   They returned the fast time of 52 8-10th to beat Bellahouston by ten yards.”

 Tere were six invitation events and eight open events plus two cycle races and a five-a-side tournament with all six Glasgow clubs (Queen’s Park, Rangers, Celtic, Third Lanark, Clyde and Partick Thistle) competing.


Peter Allwell, Emmet Farrell and Alex Dow

1937 was the first time that John Emmet Farrell appeared on the programme at Hampden – he ran in the Three Miles individual and team race where he finished second behind Laidlaw and led the Maryhill squad to victory.   No English runners this time, but there were lots of close finishes.   The following race descriptions are from the ‘Glasgow Herald’ of 7th June, 1937.

“The three miles was a keen race and the lead fluctuated many times.   First, JC Flockhart, the international cross-country champion, set the pace, and others took their turn leading the field, but the actual winner JP Laidlaw (Edinburgh Northern Harriers) waited until 60 yards from the tape and challenged JE  Farrell (Maryhill Harriers).   Runing on strongly, Laidlaw won with five yards to spare.   He held the three miles championship two years ago but sustained a serious injury last season and could not defend his title which was won by Jack Gifford (Bellahouston Harriers) .   Gifford never showed any signs of winning Saturday’s race and was a poor fourth although he will undoubtedly do better on championship day.

Result:   1.   J Laidlaw;   2.   JE Farrell;   3.   WG Black (Plebeian Harriers).   Winning Time:  14:56 2-10th.   Team Race:  1.   Maryhill 17 pts;  2.   Plebeian 17 pts.

One Mile Inter-City Relay.   Exceptionally fine form was shown by the competitors in the one mile invitation inter-city relay race between Glasgow and Edinburgh.   Murdoch’s injury weakened the Glasgow team, and W Millar of Ayr, who also has a connection with Maryhill Harriers, had to take his place.    Over the first part of the race, a half mile, Robert Graham, the Scottish mile champion and record holder, ran for Glasgow and his opponent, in the absence of JC Stothart, who was present but not fit enough to run, was Olaf Hoel, an upstanding Norwegian who is attached to Field Events Club.   Hoel accepted the task of pace-making and made the speed comparatively slow, while Graham allowed him to keep in front until the last bend.   It was there that Graham made his effort, but although he drew away momentarily, Hoel challenged powerfully, and the pair enjoyed a thrilling neck-and-neckl struggle up the back straight.   Whatever small advantage the Glasgow runner had was destroyed when JD MacKenzie took the lead against W Millar at the change-over.   MacKenzie ran out strongly,    and passed the baton to J Wilkie five yards ahead.   

DM Pearson, the Scottish champion, ran for Glasgow over the next furlong, but he made no impression on the Eastern man and WMO Rennie, the noted Glasgow University quarter mile champion, was fully five yards behind HG Giles when he started over the last lap.   Rennie now challenged his rival, however, and although Giles tried to match his pace in the straight, Rennie wore him down easily to win by six yards.   

The winning time was 3 min 39 1-10th sec.

There were only four invitation events in 1937 including a 4 x 110 women’s relay which was won by Bellahouston Harriers from Edinburgh University in 53 6-10th sec.   The Eric Liddell Trophy was won by JC Carson (Springburn Harriers) in 49 8-10th seconds.   He was off a mark of 22 yards.


There was no report of a meeting in 1938 – that was the year of the Empire Exhibition event and there were many events put on that summer.   Many events were also cancelled for the festival and maybe the Queen’s Park Games was one of them: maybe it was moved to another date or even included in another meeting.   Whatever the reason there was no Sports held by the club at the end of May or start of June that year.   Withe the War starting the following year, that was also a blank as far the meeting was concerned.


Queen’s Park Sports: 1926 – 1929

CB Mein winning a handicap

The Queen’s Park Sports of 1925 had been very successful with many of the top athletes participating.   The meeting of 1926 also had several top men in action across the board.   Held on 5th June in brilliant sunshine and before a crowd of approximately 7000 spectators, Tom Riddell was the top performer – or the ‘feature of the meeting’ as the Herald report had it.   He finished second in the half-mile and defeated CB Mein  (above)in the first stage of the inter-city relay race.   This played no small part in Glasgow winning the event for the first time.   The Two Miles Harriers Race was won by Walter Calderwood of Maryhill Harriers with Frank Stevenson of Motherwell second, Charlie Freshwater and Dunky Wright of Caledonia AC third and fourth.   Caledonia AC was set up to be a ‘club of champions’ with W Sans Unkles and Dunky Wright the main protagonists.   It only lasted for the one season – Charlie Freshwater had signed up from Clydesdale Harriers and Wright had come from Clydesdale by way of Shettleston before going on to jon Maryhill when the Caledonia adventure came to naught.   The club won the team race from Maryhill Harriers.   Celtic beat Rangers in the final of the five-a-sides by 2 goals to none.   In the open events, Walter Lawn won the 100 yards and was third in the 220 yards – Lawn went on to have a printing business that provided numbers for the SAAA championships for many years as well as for most open meetings of any size.

In 1927 the club sports were held on June 4th and the report in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ read:

The weather and ground conditions which prevailed at the Queen’s Park club’s annual sports on Saturday afternoon were not of the kind conducive to to exceptional performances, yet the sport throughout was interesting and the times recorded were distinctly good.   The outstanding event at the meeting, both in point of competition and on merit, was the invitation quarter-mile, and in winning from two yards in 51 4-5th sec, RB Hoole gave a glimpse of better form than he has hitherto shown in the West.   He had to fight all the way for his victory against RT Hollinger of Plebeian Harriers and JC Hamilton the Glasgow University champion, and the manner in which he secured victory on the tape from the first named, was  a tribute to his pace, stamina and judgment.   

JD Hope, the champion, was not suited by the conditions.   He is of a build better suited to calm than storm, and he was never concerned with the ultimate issue.   Hoole and Hope were down to meet later in the afternoon in the inter-city relay race, but the withdrawal of HC Maingay from the Edinburgh team robbed this promised trial of skill on level terms in the quarter-mile section, and also that of RD Allison and R McLean in the furlong, of much of their interest, as CB Mein, who sportingly stepped to the vacancy was obviously not fit and accordingly not able to hold RB McIntyre who ran the half-mile for Glasgow.   The ground lost there was never regained by Edinburgh and we will have to wait untl the championships to have the merits of these opponents accurately tested.   Enough was seen, however, to suggest that both furlong and quarter-mile championships will prove exceedingly interesting.

As is usual, the student element was strongly represented in the prize list.   In addition to Hoole, AF Clarke and GPS Macpherson occupied first and second places in the hurdles; R Patience of Glasgow won the Mile with something in hand, and A Tindal, also a Gilmorehill student, took second place in the open hundred.   Tindal’s achievement in the hundred was somewhat unique, as he has hitherto been regarded as a distance man, and not only did he win the Mile at his University competition, but he took part in the SAAA 10 mile championhip in mid-April.   Patience, a strongly built lad,  was suited by the conditions in the Mile, but apart from that it was apparent that the handicapper took too lenient a view of the ability which several good judges are convinced he possessed.

T McLean, the Rover Scout, is running well at present. as his victory in the 220 yards following upon his third in the hundred suggests, and another genuine runner, J Calder of Beith Harriers, added another win to the series he has at his credit by capturing the half-mile off 30 yards in 1 min 59 sec.   Under the conditions this time was much better than it reads on paper.    The three miles revealed a very level degree of merit between Maryhill Harriers and Monkland Harriers, the first named being winners by one point only, and the issue depending on the efforts of the third man in each team.   It was all the more rgrettable therefor that the race should be marred by a series of incidents which were, to say the least, not creditable to the runners concerned.   It was all the more welcome that Donald McLean, the Maryhill Harrier who was first man home, was not in the trouble and his win was decisive enough to suggest that he is to be a strong candidate for a title at the championships in three weeks hence.”

  There was no meeting reported for 1928 but the event was only resting and it was back on the usual Saturday in 1929.

On 1st June 1929, J Suttie Smith from Dundee wanted to attempt a new Scottish record: he was a top class internationalist on the track and over the country with several national titles to his credit and Queen’s Park regulars were keen to see him in action.   “Chief interest in the meeting of Queen’s Park at Hampden lay in the attempt made by J Suttie Smith upon the existing Scottish native record for two miles.   A special handicap had been framed for the occasion, and had the champion been able to head WJ Gunn , who ran off 85 yards, he might have been able to accomplish it, the Plebeian Harrier’s winning time being 9 min 31 1-5th sec.   As it was Smith failed to do this, his time for the distance being 2 3-5th sec seconds worse than McLean’s existing figures of 9 min 31 sec.  

Smith did not appear to be moving too freely in the first three laps, but ran well in the closing stages.   The times in the open races were fast, and it appears now that to win an open sprint even-time is necessary, judging by what happened at the Maryhill meeting and also at Hampden.   Two juniors of last season figured successfully in these events.   AD Turner of Maryhill Harriers who had almost a monopoly in his class last year, made a bright debut as a senior, as he ran second in the 100 yards, and won the furlong in 22 4-5th sec, while R Davie of Springburn Harriers, in his first public essay over the distance captured the half-mile in 1 min 58 3-5th sec.   Both will win further races.

Donald McLean again turned out in the Mile, but again ran indifferently.  His clubmate WH Calderwood ran well bth in the first class mile and in the relay.   The latter event was won by Beith Harriers, who triumphed over Maryhill Harriers and West of Scotland Harriers.   The Ayrshire club has two excellent runners in J Calder and TJ McAllister, and this pair contribted largely to their success.”

 There were ten track races plus an obstacle race, a high jump and a five-a-side competition won by Partick Thistle from Rangers by two goals to one afterextra time.   Because of the very large numbers, the mile was divided into two races – the first class mile for the best runners (ie those with low handicaps) entered, and the second class mile for those with higher handicaps.

J Astley Cooper

John Astley Cooper was born in Adelaide in 1858 but lived all of his adult life in England where he died in 1930.   He is listed in the Oxford Index as ‘a propagandist for athleticism’ and it is this role that affects the appearance of the British Empire Games.

CG Poster 1  In 1891, John Astley Cooper proposed the establishment of a periodic festival to celebrate the industrial, cultural, and athletic prowess of the Anglo-Saxon race.   He publicised his idea of a sporting event that would include the British Empire and include the United States wherever he could.  Notably he wrote letters and articles in ‘Greater Britain’ of July 1891, a letter to The Times in October of the same year, and articles in ‘Nineteenth Century’ in September 1892 and July 1893, suggesting a Pan Brittanic, Pan Anglican Contest every four years as a means of increasing goodwill and understan’ding of the British Empire.   The scheme was one of many designed to strengthen links within the Empire, but its uniqueness lay in the fact that although he saw it as having three aspects – industrial, cultural and sporting – the athletic portion soon overshadowed the other two aspects, and Cooper’s Pan-Britannic Festival concept was the first detailed plan of a multi-sport gathering for the Empire to appear in print.

When Baron Pierre de Coubertin was working up the concept of the Olympic Games, he asked for ideas and comments from many people and in England he visited Much Wenlock and discussed their version of the Olympics, and also visited and spoke with Cooper.   But where Cooper’s Games were ethnic in nature and had the aim of strengthening and celebrating the Empire, de Coubertin’s Games were much wider in concept.

In 1911, the Festival of the Empire was held at The Crystal Palace in London to celebrate the coronation of George V. As part of the Festival of the Empire, an Inter-Empire Championships was held in which teams from Australasia, Canada, South Africa, and the United Kingdom competed in athletics, boxing, wrestling and swimming events.   Cooper’s ideas were known throughout the Empire and this was especially the case with Australia where Richard Coombes in particular advanced the cause.   Coombes had been born and educated in England and moved to Australia in 1886.   He was heavily involved in athletics, helping to found the New South Wales AAA.   He wrote many articles supporting the notion of a Pan Britannic Festival under several different pen-names and his version included rowing, running and cricket.   Katherine Moore of Queeen’s University, Belfast, in a paper entitled ‘One Voice in the Wilderness: Richard Coombes and the Promotion of Pan-Britannic Festival Concept in Australia, 1891-1911′ sad of Cooper’s letter to ‘The Times’ in 1891: 

The Times published a letter in which Cooper sought to present his concept in a more precise form. The industrial and culture sections of the proposal were outlined in some detail, but this article will concentrate on the sporting suggestions. The future relationship of the various portions of the Empire, wrote Cooper, rested chiefly in the hands of the young men of the Empire, including young England, young Australia, young South Africa, and young Canada, and an Imperial athletic contest would be very attractive to most Englishmen whether settled in the United Kingdom or resident  beyond the seas.  This certainly proved to be true in the case of Richard Coombes. The proposed athletic contests initially included rowing, running, and cricket, that great Imperial link. The argument for Cooper’s Pan-Britannic Festival was strengthened by his perceptive comment that the cultural, industrial and athletic links already were in existence, and he was merely identifying some funding schemes whereby those ties could be made firmer by coming together periodically for a celebration of Imperial achievements”

Moore’s paper is easily found on the internet and anyone with interest in the genesis of the Commonwealth Games should maybe read it.

Bobby Robinson of Canada took up the cause fter the 1930 Olympic Games where he was incensed by the behaviour of the Americans and Germans and is the one generally credited with starting up the British Empire Games.   When the announcement of these Games was made, Astley Cooper claimed much of the credit but his aim had been ‘to show through a Festival of sport and culture that Anglo-Saxons ruled the world.   Americans would have been invited, there would have been cricket matches, and an Imperial Holiday.’  [The quote is from Brian Oliver’s book on ‘The Commonwealth Games’ , 2014]

Oliver continues: “Robimson, three years old when Cooper wrote his letter to ‘The Times’ to set out his plans, would have been intrigued by a report in ‘The Observer’ in 1929 looking ahead to the Games in Hamilton.   ‘Mr James Astley Cooper is known in diferent parts of the Empire as the pioneer of this project,” wrote the correspondent after interviewing Astley Cooper, then in his seventies.   Astley Cooper then said “I am satisfied with indirect results, as far as they have been obtained.   Though my scheme did not attain in fulfilment … as I planned, I have done some spade work for the idea of the Imperial Games for the British peoples.  He made no mention of Canada or Bobby Robinson.

British newspaper readers were left in no doubt after the Games, Canada had ‘cut herself loose from the American orbit, and given a lead to the Empire that should inspire British sportsmen all around the globe.’.   Harold Abrahams, the British sprinter who won Olympic gold in 1924 before becoming one of the most influential voices in athletics in the first half of the twentieth century put the record straight.   “But for the unbounded enthusiasm and persistency of Mr Robinson”, he wrote, “the whole thing would never have started.”

Despite all the articles and discussions, Astley Cooper did not live to see his dream fulfilled – he died six months before the inaugural British Empire Games were held in Canada in 1930.

1930 Empire Games Events

CG 30 team

The above picture, taken on the boat across the Atlantic, has a caption that is a bit misleading: eg JF Wood is kneeling on the left, and Dunky Wright is kneeling on the right of the front row.   The very first Commonwealth Games squad to represent Scotland.  Ten other countries took part: England, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Scotland, Wales, British Guiana and Ireland.   Teams are listed here in order of the number of medals won.  The Scottish medal tally was three golds, three silvers and five bronze.   This was across all sports.   The sports covered were Aquatics (Swiming and diving), Athletics, Boxing, Lawn Bowls, Rowing and Wrestling.  While the Olympic Games used metric distances, the British Empire used (what else?) Imperial Measure Distances.

The new competition needed a mission statement and this is what they came up with:

It will be designed on the Olympic model, both in general construction and its stern definition of the amateur. But the Games will be very different, free from the excessive stimulus and the babel of the international stadium. They should be merrier and less stern, and will substitute the stimulus of novel adventure for the pressure of international rivalry.

The opening of the Games was reported by Jamie Bradburn in The Torontoist as follows:

“Around 17,000 people attended the opening ceremony at Civic Stadium on August 16, 1930. Eleven teams paraded in, stretching from British Guiana (now Guyana) to New Zealand, with the Canadians decked out in dark red blazers, green ties, and white pants. Prime Minister R.B. Bennett relayed greetings from the King and other British dignitaries who couldn’t attend. Hamilton mayor John Peebles was peeved that no city officials were allowed to speak.

At 2:30 p.m., Governor-General Viscount Willingdon officially declared the games open, observing that “the greatness of the Empire is owing to the fact that every citizen has inborn in him the love of games and sports.” A Torontonian won the first medal of the games a few hours later. George “Spike” Smallacombe, who was based out of the West End YMCA, won gold for a 48.5 foot leap in triple jump.”

In the 100 yards, Canadian Percy Williams was first in 9.9 seconds while his team mate Fitzpatrick was third; they were split by an Englishman EL Page.  Roy Hamilton of Scotland was fourth in Heat two and did not qualify for the final, while team mate Ian Borland did not start.    Up a distance, in the 220 yards, the order was England (Englehart), Canada (Fitzpatrick), and South Africa (Walters) with Borland in heat three out of qualifying.   The quarter-mile Borland, third in the first heat, failed to get beyong the single race.   In the half-mile Tom Riddell failed to qualify and in the Mile, there was only Robert Sutherland who finished sixth.   Sutherland ran better in the Three Miles, finishing fourth and missing bronce by two fifths of a second.   Distance men are made of stern stuff and Sutherland was also fifth in the Six Miles, one place behind JF Wood for Scotland.   There were no Scots in the steeplechase, but Dunky Wright ended the medals drought when he won the marathon by over half a mile from England’s Sam Ferris.   There were no Scots in either of the hurdles races, nor were there teams in either of the relays.   In the field events, there were no representatives in the shot, discus or javelin but in the hammer Alexander Smith missed bronze by 6 inches and Archibald Murray was fifth, 5 feet further back.   There were no Scotsmen in any of the four jumps events.   The traditional Scottish strengths – distance running and hammer throwing with some sprinting – were to be seen in this, the very first Games.

Hamilton 1930


1930 Empire Games

Bobby Robinson

The first British Empire Games were held in Hamilton, Ontario in Canada between 16th and 23rd August in 1930 with a total of 400 competitors.    They were a great success and many of their innovations were adopted by the Olympic movement which watched this new competition with interest.   eg there hd never been a podium for the awards to be presented while the flag was unfurled for the winner.   The Olympics had the flags, but no podium and they first used a podium in 1932.   Where did the British Empire Games come from?   What were their origins?   My main source for what follows in “the Commonwealth Games” by Brian Oliver, although other sources have also been consulted.

Bobby Robinson, above, was born in Peterborough, Ontario in 1888 and was an important figure in the newspaper business and a well connected businessman.   He was known as a dynamic and aggressive campaigner who in 1929 first set out his plans for the Games.   He and a fellow businessman, Howard Crocker,  had been discussing ways to get their athletes more and better competition and Crocker had mentioned the Festival of Empire held in London in 1911 for King George V’s coronation; he also mentioned the ‘Pan Britannic Festival of Culture and Sport’  dreamt up by J Astley Cooper in the early 1890’s.    Robinson liked what he had heard and is said to have begun planning from then for the Empire Games.

He was further spurred on by the perceived treatment of Canadian athletes at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam.   Mainly by the Americans and Germans.    When Percy He was interviewed by the Toronto Star writer Lou Marsh who reported that “as a result of the dominance, real or imagined, by Germany and America at the Olympic meet, … Robinson finally boiled over and, after consultation with other Canadian officials, met representatives of the other British teams.”   Among his complaints were the Williams incident mentioned above, the fact that the Americans were allowed to train on the Olympic track while the Canadians were not, a disputed verdict in the women’s 100m which was given to the Americans when Canadians thought it should go the other way, and a direct insult by Avery Brundage of America to a Canadian official.   These comments of course only added fuel to the fire of rivalry between the two nations, and , maybe unfortunately, the official correspondence preceding the Hamilton meeting has been lost.

However, in January 1929, Robinson asked the Hamilton city fathers for $25,000 to run the Games and a further $150,000 to build the stadium and other facilities.   Other countries came on board, not without difficulty and the main supporters of Australia, England and New Zealand all stated their intention to be present.   In the event, there were 11 nations present.

 The sports included athletics, boxing, lawn bowls, rowing, swimming, and wrestling. The opening ceremonies and many events were held at the Civic stadium  in east Hamilton.   The games were opened by the Governor General of Canada, Lord Willingdon on the 16 August.   As at the Olympic Games, the competitors all marched in behind their national flag but the whole parade was led in by the Union Jack as an indication that they were all part of the British Empire.   the oath taken by Percy Williams, on the flag, on behalf of the athletes was “From many parts of the British Empire, we are here assembled as amateur athletes to compete in friendly competition.   We pledge our best endeavours to uphold the honour of our country and the glorious traditions of British Sportsmanship.”  

Once the games started, Scotland won 17 medals – 2 gold, 3 silver and 5 bronze which placed them fourth behind England (61), Canada (54) and South Africa (17) but ahead of New Zealand (9) and Australia (8).   Not bad.   There was only one athletics medal – gold for the marathon by Dunky Wright.  There was also a gold, a silver and a bronze from boxing, bronze from bowls and finally two silvers and three bronzes from swimming.

CG 30 departure photo

The team at departure

Events and Scottish placings   John Astley Cooper

Greenock Glenpark Harriers Sports: 1914-1919

GGH Hare

The Greenock Glenpark Harriers crest

Everybody knows something about the sports meetings held by the big football clubs – Rangers, Celtic, Queen’s Park, etc, and there are works meetings such as the Babcock and Wilcox Sports at Renfrew and Dirrans Sports in Kilwinning but knowledge of the Greenock Glenpark Sports in the athletics community is strictly limited.   Held on the last Saturday in July, it was the start of three weekends of athletics meetings that drew big crowds.   Rangers Sports were on the first Saturday in August and Celtic on the second Saturday.   Held at Cappielow Park, home of Greenock Morton FC, they drew crowds of up to 11,000 spectators and attracted athletes from England, Ireland and even further field at times.   In the 1920’s such athletes as Eric Liddell were annual competitors at the meeting, but in the period before that the 1914-18 war made athletics difficult but the committee of the club did well and the meeting was held every year of the war.   We start this section in 1914 with a report from the ‘Glasgow Herald’.

“An unusually varied programme and the presence of several well-known competitors from England and Ireland attracted fully 5000 spectators to the athletic meeting of Greenock Glenpark Harriers at Cappielow Park on Saturday.   The weather was fair but cold, a strong breeze prevailing throughout the afternoon.   The wind favoured the sprinters and fast times were registered in the Heats of the 100 yards handicap, while the Final was won from scratch in a shade under 10 seconds.   The Irish champion, FRS Shaw, was a popular winner in this event and he also qualified for the final of the 220 yards, but to the disappointment of spectators, he was prevented by sickness from competing.   HJ Christie, who won his Heat easily, secured a narrow victory in the Final in which he improved his earlier time by a second.   In the three miles invitation handicap, FJ Ryder, Clonliffe Harriers, gave a fine exhibition of staying power and speed.   Starting from scratch, and conceding starts up to 280 yards, he gradually overtook a large field and won by 10 yards from W Brodie, Paisley YMCA Harriers, the winner of the two miles handicap at Ayr the previous Saturday.   Along with Ryder on the scratch mark, were GCL Wallach, ex-champion at four miles, and James Wilson, the ex-champion.   The trio kept together for fully two miles when Wallack fell back, and a little later Wilson also lost ground.   In the last lap Ryder made his effort, and with a fine burst of speed, overtook the field finishing strongly, as stated.   E Glover, Hallamshire Harriers, was entered for both the mile and the three miles but he did not compete.   Duncan McPhee. the Scottish half-mile and mile champion, was also an entrant for the three miles, but reserved himself for the shorter distance  in which he secured third place from AG Lang, Greenock Glenpark, and WP Brown, Glasgow YMCA Harriers.   Wallach also ran in the Mile, reserving 30 yards from McPhee but he was unplaced, securing however the prize for the first Glenpark man home after the three placed men.   The relay race proved an easy victory for the West of Scotland Harriers.   More than ordinary interest was imparted to the two miles walk by the presence of the English champion, R Bridge.   With the limit man 350 yards away, Bridge walked at a very fast pace throughout and finished half a lap ahead of the Scottish champion, Alex Justice, and finished in the very fast time of 13 min 57 3-5th sec, only 2-5th sec outside the Scottish all comers record.”

Held on 25th July, the sports were a great success with more than ten events plus the usual five-a-side competition in which Rangers beat Celtic 1-0 in the final.   The local club did well – in the relay they were second to the West team with Clydesdale Harriers third, the winner of the handicap mile, and finalists in almost every event.

George Wallach

GCL Wallach

By July 1915 hostilities had been joined and the war was well under way but a sports meeting was held organised by Glenpark on 31st July.   Under the heading of  Greenock Glenpark Harriers, the report read:

“An athletic meeting was held in aid of dependants of soldiers and sailors was held at Cappielow Park on Saturday afternoon.   The promoters were the Glenpark Harriers, and the meeting was under the patronage of Sir Hugh Shaw Stewart, Bart; the Lady Alice Shaw Stewart, the Provost, Magistrates and Town Councils of Greenock, Gourock and Port Glasgow; the Directorate of the Morton Football Club; the military and naval officers stationed in Western Renfrewshire, and a large number of prominent people in the district.   The programme embraced no fewer than eleven events, in addition to races for the Boy Scouts and the Boys Brigade, and the open and invitation events were supported by nearly all the Scottish runners and a number of well-known English and Irish competitors.    The military marathon race, for teams of twelve, attracted an entry of thirteen teams.   Competitors were required to cover a course of about 10 miles in miltary equipment, each team travelling and finishing as a unit.  The winning team proved to be one of those representing the 8th Provisional Battalion, HLI, who also furnished the runners-up, there being less than a minute in the times of the two teams.   In the two miles walking handicap, R Bridge the English champion gave a good exhibition of his unique talent, conceding starts of up to 350 yards, and winning by fully 200 yards.   Two of the invitation events, the quarter and the halfmile were won by G Dallas, Maryhill Harriers, who was followed in the shorter distance by GH Gray, of Salford Harriers, the winner of the hurdle race.   The latter event was over a distance of 220 yards, instead of the more usual 120, and the English champion was able to concede 16 yards to HD Soutter and won y a yard.

Fine weather prevailed and there was a crowd of 8000, the drawings at gate and stand amounting to about £300.   To this is to be added the sum of £45:1:9d, being the amount of a subscription amongst the workers in the Greenock Torpedo Factory.”

It is surprising that such meetings were able to be conducted thorughout the war period, albeit that the fields were a bit restricted because of the numbers on active service, but every did their bit and the money raised was put to good use.   The military marathon was a bit more of a challenge tha some of the events restricted to serving personnel – some were normal events (100 yards for soldiers only), others were more specific to the cause (‘stretcher races with a ‘body’ strapped to the stretcher), and some were simply displays.   On the same day there were sports at Tynecastle in Edinburgh ehere there were 11,000 spectators and drawings were £270 which went to the Red Cross Society

R Bridge appeared on the programme as  ‘London Walking Club and Glenpark Harriers’, and FJ Ryder, again from scratch, was second to a Glenpark runner to who he was conceding 295 yards.

Wilson Slough Harriers

James Wilson

The 1916 version of the Greenock Glenpark Sports was held on 29th July and instead of a report as such on the meeting, the ‘Glasgow Haerld’ commented at length in its ‘Notes on Sports’ column.

“It says much for the influence of Mr William Struthers, of Glenpark Harriers, that he is able to attract to the annual gala of his club so many visitors from England and Ireland.   The presence of such notable performers as Corporal Gamble of the Irish Guards, Bridge, the champion walker of England, Lieutenant Taylor, the rival of Applegarth, Gray, the famous hurdler, and Ryder of Ireland gave distinction to a full and varied programme.   Of those mentioned, only Gamble met with any great success.   He ran a magnificent race in the half mile and won on the tape after finding himself rather curtailed for room at the bend into the home straight.   He is a splendid specimen of athletic manhood, big of body and lithe of limb, and his pace and action are a delight to the eye.   Bridge did not feel too well after a night of travelling, and had to retires owing to that vexatious athletic infliction commonly known as ‘stitch’.   In any case he would have had to make a supreme effort to overtake the Scottish champion, Justice, who walked with great determination and pace and ultimately finished an easy winner.   Then Gray did not seem enamoured of the line of hurdles running diagonally across the pitch and did well to finish close up to Soutter of the promoting clubin the good time of 15 sec.   Wilson, the Scottish champion, a slim and graceful runner, had a splendid victory from scratch in the three miles handicap, in which he had more trouble in disposing of Lance Corporal Ross, the winner at Ayr, than in defeating such notabilities as Wallach and Ryder.   The dapper little Salford Harrier, Shelmardine, shone at the shorter distances.   A very nondescript Celtic five were defeated by Morton, and a team of Royal Scots Fusiliers, captained by the well-known athlete Sergeant Gutteridge, won the military marathon.   In view of the enterprise displayed by the promoters, it was gratifying to find the attendance of 7000 present, so that the local war funds will substantially benefit.”

The military marathon had been cut in half from the revious year, being held over only five miles in 1916.   The William Struthers mentioned was a hard working and highly respected official throughout Scottish athletics: he had been president of the SCCU in 1912-14 and would go on to be president of the SAAA in season 1922-23.

D McPhee WoSH 1914

Duncan McPhee

There were three fixtures on 28th July, 1917 – Greenock Glenpark, Edinburgh and the professional meeting at Shawfield organised by Clyde FC.   As the war progressed so thenumber of events was reduced – partly because so many men were being sent to the front line to fight in the bloody battles of the 1914-18 War, partly because travel to meetings was difficult and partly because time was not available for training.    Nevertheless the Greenock meeting attracted a crowd of 5000 on a bright, sunny, July afternoon at Cappielow.   “Despite the absence of sporting celebrities from the fields of the south, the attendance was as large as ever and this was particularly gratifying in view of the subject to which the proceeds are to be devoted – The Greenock Sailors and Soldiers Families Association.   It was once more made evident that sporting interest does not so much depend on individual distinction as upon a certain equality of ability which ensures keen competition and engenders liveliness.   As so often occurs, members of the organising club figured prominently in the prize list: indeed they won three of the four open events.  LA Osborne was a double winner, and ran with great brightness and life in the hundred and furlong.   It was pleasing to find J Wilson, the Scottish four miles champion, successful in winning the half-mile, and for a time he looked like emulating Osborne’s feat by adding the two miles to the shorter distance, but a magnificnt finishing dash by Ross, the Edinburgh runner, deprived the local man of the double distinction.   Military items bulked largely in the programme, and as usual the aid of football was invoked to attract and entertain the crowd.   Our experience this season has been that these football tournaments are generally tedious because of their length, and uninteresting because of the incapacity of the average player to adapt himself to changed conditions. Most programmes would gain if the entries were limited to four or five teams as was the case at Cappielow. “

The programme was reduced to five events (heats for the sprints) plus the football, and the military marathon was now limited to the 3rd Royal Scots Fusilers, and run over six miles.   Winners were H Company, G Company and F Company; the five-a-sides were won by Celtic (1-0) over a Military Five, from Maryhill.


In 1918, still suffering from the exigencies of the war, the sports went ahead on 27th June.   There were several small scale meetings on that day and Glenpark’s was one of them.   “There was a large number of sports meetings promoted by a great variety of organisations.   For reasons connected chiefly with past history, the gala of Greenock Glenpark Harriers may be given pride of place.   It attracted a fine crowd, who were for the most part pleased that members of the home club figured so prominently in the prize list; for instance they monopolised all the laurels in the furlong.   It must be confessed that there is a tendency to sameness about athletic programmes these days – seldom is there any novelty in regard to the personel of the competitors or the nature of the competition, so that the appearance of GCL Wallach, a “pre-war Scottish champion” at Cappielow was a welcome variation from the ordinary. He ran well in the two miles but was unable to overtake Cuthbert, who finished in dashing style.   The Railwaymen’s Union had a successful gathering at Ibrox Park which should be of substantial assistance to the Orphan Fund.   The sport calls for little comment.”

There were five events (with heats in the 100 and 220 yards) and a five a side in which St Mirren beat Rangers 2-0.   The crowd totalled 8000 so the money raised for the families of serving members of the forces would have been considerable.   At Ibrox there were five events plus a tug o’war (won by Bargeddie and a five-a-side in which Vale of Clyde beat Benburb 3-0.   The Glenpark meeting with international runners taking part and lots of locals was clearly the meeting to be seen at.   It should be noted though that,as had been the case all along, the professional meeting at Shawfield, organised by Clyde FC had a much bigger crowd than any of the others with 20,000 in attendance on this weekend.   It also had the best five-a-side with Rangers beating Clydebank in the final by 2 – 0.


Cappielow Park, Home of Greenock Morton FC

After the war, on 26th July, 1919, matters were starting to get back to normal as was shown by the report in the ‘Glasgow Herald’.   Glenpark Harriers meeeting at Greenock on Saturday recalled some great athletic meetings of former days when the most famous amateur performers from England, Ireland and abroad came to the west of Scotland.   Among the competitors at Cappielow were two from New Zealand, one from Canada and several from England.   The presence of the Colonials in this country is, of course, due to the war, all three being members of the fighting forces, and it was an excellent idea of the Glenpark management to persuade them to compete.   Their running imparted distinction to the meeting, which otherwise could hardly have  reached the standard usually associated with Greenock.   The entries were not numerous, and some of the more prominent runners were engaged elsewhere but Sergeant Mason, Sergeant Lindsay, Sergeant Phillips and AM Nichols made amends for much and the meeting will stand out as one of the most interesting of the season.  Mason, who won the half-mile, is a commanding personality and a runner of exceptional ability.  

The first Heat had little more than started when it became apparent that none of the other runners could stay the pace he set.   He won as he liked in 2 min dead, and in the Final he improved to the extent of four fifths of a second, and left the impression that he could have done much better if necessary.   It is true that he was challenged in the straight by I Dobbie to whom he was conceding 35 yards, but the New Zealander found with no apparent difficulty the extra pace necessary to secure first position by a substantial margin.

No fewer than three Scottish champions were among the competitors – Sergeant Phillips, J Wilson and AH Goodwin.   The Canadian, who gained championship honours at Parkhead two weeksa month ago, did not start in the half-mile handicap but he rendered useful service to Glenpark, of which club he is a member, in the relay race, and he won the invitation quarter-mile from scratch, beating Mason narrowly in the last ten yards.   It was a matter for regret that the latter did not start in the invitation mile, as his running in the half-mile suggested that he would have given a good account of himself.   AH Nichols of the Surrey AC, was also a non-starter but he was reserving himself for the three miles in which he out distanced the field in the early stages  and ran the last lap like a quarter miler.   James Wilson, the four miles champion, and GCL Wallach, an ex-champion, ran together for a time but  the latter tired early, and Wilson had to go on alone most of the way.   Of the home competitors the most successful was A Forrester, of the promoting club,  who captured the 100 and 220 yards open handicaps.   Maryhill narrowly beat Glenpark in the relay race, though but for a faulty exchange in the furlongs, the Greenock team might have had the better of the champions.   The meeting was well handled and finished ahead of schedule with the final of the football tournament a win for the home five sending the crowd home in a good humour.”

Sergeant Phillips of Canada ran in the 800m in the 1924 Olympics in Paris.   The initiative shown during the period of the war and in its immediate aftermath would be shown to good effect in the 1920’s and would culminate in a match between Scotland and Canada at the Glenpark Harriers Games.

Greenock Glenpark Sports, 1920 – 1929

Greenock Glenpark Harriers Sports: 1920 – 29

GGH Hare

The Greenock Glenpark Harriers Sports was one of Scottish athletics most respected, best supported and longest running meetings in the country.   It attracted not only club runners from all over Scotland but also international athletes, including Olympians and world record holders, from many countries outside Scotland.   Although a variety of clubs held sports meetings on the same day, none of them lasted for any length of time; the only meeting that lasted for anylength of time on the same date as the Greenock meeting was the professional meeting organised by Clyde  FC at Shawfield which began in 1913.   This web page deals with the GGH sports for the years between 1920 and 1929.

Held on 31st July, 1920, the ‘Glasgow Herald’ reported on the sports as follows.  “The annual English invasion began at Greenock on Saturday when the names of n fewer than nine distinguished from south of the Border appeared on the programme of the Glenpark Harriers Sports.    They were not all present and those of them who did compete were by no means impressive.   The most successful of the visitors was CE Blewitt, the Four Miles champion, who with a start of 20 yards finished second in the one mile handicap.   RA Lindsay qualified for the final of the one lap race but the winner turned up in a local man, W Wallace, who also won the 220 yards, in which the Blackheath Harrier was unplaced in his heat.   Another double winner was JG McIntyre who secured the mile and the half-mile.   As at Saltcoats the previous Saturday, the most interesting personality on the track was James Wilson, the Scottish distance champion, who seems to improve with each successive appearance.   In the Thre Miles he started from scratch with Blewitt in attendance, the Englishman following him closely for about a mile, when Wilson’s superior speed told on his companion.   Wilson had another strong opponent in W Kerr, West of Scotland Harriers, but he too was eventually shaken off and the champion literally won as he liked.   On May 29th, Wilson was unable to do 15 min 52.2 sec, and three weeks later he was beaten in 15 min 7.4 sec, while on Saturday he won in 14 min 49 sec with no necessity for a fast finish.   These figures illustrate how Wilson has come on since the beginning of the season, and they encourage the hope that he will give a good account of himself in the Olympic Games.   At Antwerp he will compete in the 6000 metres and 10000 metres races, as well as in the cross-country championships.   He should be equally suited at both distances, and in the cross-country also he has a good chance of being in among the prize winners.”

The meeting was held at Cappielow Park and there were about 10000 spectators in attendance in fine weather and the times were generally good.   In the almost obligatory five-a-side football tournament, Morton won 2 – 0 against Ayr United.

James Wilson

James Wilson

If 1920 was a good meeting, 1921 was virtually a disaster.   The report on the meeting makes depressing reading about the sports held in the rain, with a ‘breeze’ and before a crowd o only 2000.

Glenpark’s Misfortune

Few places in Scotland escaped the rain on Saturday, and it is hardly necessary to say that Greenock was not one of them.   The Glenpark Harriers, who have hitherto almost invariably enjoyed good weather for their sports, were badly hit financially, the attendance being less than half what it would have been had the elements permitted.   They had an attractive programme and an entry list comprising all the eligible Scottish champions – that is to say, all for whom opportunities to compete were provided – and had the weather been fine it is safe to say that the capacity of the ground would have been taxed to its utmost.   As it was there were only a few hundreds on the open terracing, but the stand was filled.   The ground was sodden, and the combination of heavy rain, an east wind, and a holding track, seriously affected some of the competitors and accounted for the slow times returned.   Duncan McPhee, for example, found the conditions so unfavourable thatin the 1000 yards invitation handicap, the only event in which he competed, he could get no nearer the tape than 20 yards in 2 min 31 sec, while JG McIntyre, the four miles champion, was actually in arrears in the two miles  though he had a start of 35 yards.

Times in the sprint, which was run against the breeze, were slow, the best recorded being 10 4-5th sec, which was also the time of the final.   Another feature of the meeting was the non-success of the champions.   GT Stevenson, the quarter-miler, was second in the furlong.   EH Liddell, the sprint champion, had nothing to show for a strenuous afternoon’s work: he was third in the 100 yards invitation handicap, but trhere were only two prizes.   WA Hill won his heat in the open 100 yards handicap, but did not reach the final.   Kenneth Smith, the high jump champion, was unable to concede the starts asked, and did not compete in the pole vault, at which also he won the championship in June last.   RA Lindsay, the ex-Scottish champion, ran in the 300 yards invitation handicap without success.   There was an entry of six teams for the relay race but in view of the depressing circumstances, the event was abandoned.    As the afternoon advanced, some of the competitors became disinclined to turn out.   The 300 yards invitation handicap, for example, had an entry of 16 and was intended to be run as two heats and a final.   When the heats were called, only seven responded and no final was needed.   Again, in the 220 yards a single runner turned out for the third heat, and in the pole vault a total of two competed for the two prizes.   It would be unfair to censure those who called off, for competition in such circumstances was more heroic than pleasurable.   The drawings will not cover the expenses of the meeting, and with a view to making up the deficiency the club propose to hold an evening meeting next week.”

In the five-a-side final, Morton beat Rangers by one corner to nil.   There was no report in the papers the following week of a supplementary meeting the next week.   That doesn’t mean that none took place – it was probably that only local athletes would take part.   Such athletes as Eric Liddell, Lindsay and the rest would have found midweek travel difficult at that time.   It says a lot for the Committee however that they had managed to put together such an attractive programme in the first place.

1923 International Cross, James McIntyre #28

JG McIntyre

1922 was a bit better though.  The weather in the morning was threatening, but it cleared up and there were just over 5000 spectators at Cappielow to see the meeting.  “Greenock Glenpark Harriers scored another success with their sports meeting at Cappielow Park on Saturday.   No records were made, but competition reached a high level, particularly in the 100 yards handicap, in which even time was returned in both semi-finals and then again in the final.   The runners had the advantage of he wind but even so, the performances of Liddell and Gardner were very meritorious, as the breeze was, though favourable, not materially helpful.   The outstanding feature of the meeting was the two miles walk in which Colin McLellan, the Scottish champion, was matched against Robert Bridge, ex-champion of England.   It was understood that the latter had designs on the Scottish record.   He did not come near the long-standing figures of EJ Webb, who at Ibrox Park in 1909 completed the distance in 13 min 57 1-5th sec, but he gave a fine exposition of the walking art and left the Scottish champion far behind.   The absence of Duncan McPhee from the half-mile was a disappointment to many of the spectators.   The champion reserved himself for the 1000 yards in which he was unable to get a place, retiring 40 yards from the tape when he realised that further effort was hopeless.   EH Liddell also disappointed, standing down from the 300 yards invitation and the open furlong.   He won his heat and semi-final in the 100 yards but was beaten in the final by PR Gardner  who had the further distinction of winning the 220 yards.”   

The relay went ahead with Glenpark finishing third behind Maryhill Harriers and West of Scotland Harriere and Morton upheld local pride with a 5-3 victory over Alloa in the five-a-sides.


28 July, 1923 was the date of the next meeting when a ‘satisfactory’ crowd of 4000+ witnessed a meeting with Liddell, McPhee, McIntyre, Smith, McLellan and Jamieson all took part.   Liddell was a great favourite and competed all over Scotland every summer, always giving his best despite being probably the best sprinter in the country at the time; McPhee, on the other hand, often disappointed the crowd by entering two or three events and then only running one, on at least one occasion leaving the arena without telling anyone and even leaving the ground altogether.   He was a very good athlete indeed, the top man in the country for many years, but did not always leave the spectators happy with his performance.

“The recollection of EH Liddell’s achievements on the same field a year ago, and the glamour of his running at Stoke, must have been the cause of the satisfactory crowd which patronised the Glenpark Harriers meeting at Cappielow on Saturdayfor under no other conditions could the atmospheric conditions be said to be enticing.    The champion, who has been taking things easily since the International, was also probably affected by the depression, and his running ;acked much of its usual fire.   He won his heat in the open hundred in 10 3-5th sec, but a bad start in the semi-final saw him a good yard behind the winner who returned a fifth faster.   In the invitation 100, the winner of which, DE Duncan of Maryhill Harriers, was given as doing 10 2-5th off the four yards mark, Liddell was unplaced, although close up.   No doubt however he will be properly tuned up before the arrival of our visitors next week-end.   The open 100 was won by JG Scott, with nine yards, and this runner also won the furlong with greatest ease, as with a concession of 18 yards, he finished with at least five yards in hand.

The other champions present, with the exception of R Jamieson, met with as little success as Liddell.   Duncan McPhee, who ran in both the open half-mile and the mile invitation, never got on terms with his men, while JG McIntyre, at scratch in the three miles event, has also been seen to better advantage.   The distance events, despite the failure of the back-markers, were all interesting.   ME Anderson, of Shettleston Harriers won both the half-mile and mile, and the feature of his running in each race was the reserve whch he possessed when it came to the finishing straight.   It was his extra bit of pace there that secured him the verdict in each case.   J McFarlane of Maryhill, now approaching the veteran stage, ran the mile in something nearer his old form than he has displayed this season, and was unfortunate to be against such a strong finisher as Anderson.   The three miles race attracted a good field, and D Wright, the cross-country champion, and W Neilson, the West of Scotland Harrier, who has done so little since his breakdown in Paris, was much too hot for the rest, and the race lay between this pair.   Wright, who has had the tantalising record of finishing second so frequently, got home by a yard after an exceptionally interesting race.   C Freshwater, the youthful Clydesdale Harrier, took part in this event, and ran well, but it did not seem good management on the part of his mentors to allow him to compete over this distance in such company.   It must have been an extremely punishing experience for such a young runner.”   

There were many other sports meetings held that Saturday – apart from 10,000 spectators at the professional Clyde FC Sports, these were held at West Calder, at Strathallan (the Cadet sports), Lochmaben, Shotts and Newtongrange – but Glenpark had the best of them.

CB Mein winning a handicap

CB Mein

Glasgow Herald, July 28th, 1924:   “Chief interest in athletics in Scotland on Saturday centred in the international contest at Greenock, where the Candians beat the Scottish representatives by five events to four.   A new Scottish all-comers record was established in the pole vault by VW Pickard.   EH Liddell ran in the 100 yards, the quarter-mile and the relay race, and had an easy win in the quarter.” 

Yes, the greatest coup of the summer programme in Scotland was Greenock Glenpark Harriers getting an international against the ever-popular Canadians incorporated into their meeting.    The team was returning to Canada from the 1924 Paris Olympic Games and, although other sports meetings attracted individual athletes from the Games, Glenpark was the only one to have a team contest an international fixture where the home crowd could get behind their athletes.

“In bringing the Canadian Olympic team to Scotland the Greenock Glenpark Harriers Club showed commendable spirit of enterprise, and it is satisfactory to be able to state that the public so far appreciated it that they turned out in sufficient numbers to make the international meeting a financial success.   The team chosen to represent Scotland was the best at the Scottish Association’s call, and if the range of events was somewhat limited, the test was productive of some keen racing.   Of the nine events on the programme, Canada won five – the 100 yards, furlong, high jump, pole vault and two laps relay-  while the home successes were gained in the quarter-mile, half-mile, mile and mile relay.   Two of the victories secured by the visitors went to CR Coaffee who won the 100 yards in even time, and the 220 in 23 2-5th sec.   The Canadian champion, who has been credited with equalling world’s record over the shorter distance at home, is no stylist.   He runs the first half of the distance with a peculiar crouching gait that is very deceptive, for at this point he had gained an advantage that he held to the tape.   In this case, the challenge came not from Liddell as expected but from Scotland’s second string, Crawford, who developed a  great finishing burst to finish a yard behind the winner.   Liddell’s specialising over the quarter has evidently robbed him of his pace in the sprint, as though he hung a little on his mark to beging with, he was fairly and squarely beaten by both Coaffee and Crawford.

Liddell did not oppose Coallee in the furlong, and here the Canadian ran a much better race than the time gives him credit for.   He had the heels of Hester and McLean and on a good track can do much better.   In the quarter however we had a glimpse of the real Liddell and this, judging by the interest round the ropes, was the event in which the crowd most wanted to see the Olympic champion do his best.   His chief opponent here was AT Christie, the Canadian, who impressed as being a good man over the distance; but when it came to the finish, Liddell passed his man as if he were standing, and had nearly 15 yards in hand at the tape.   He has done better in Scotland than the 51 1-5th sec returned, but the experience which he has gained during the past month or two was manifest in the manner in which he ran his race.   He moved with confidence in his power to win that left a profoung impression on the crowd.    Good as was his race in the quarter, his effort in the one mile relay race was better.   Here bad changing over on the part of the home men left him with a leeway of 10 yards to make up, but he made light of this handicap, and wiped it off, enabling Scotland to win this event by four yards.   In the relay, Liddell was clocked to have run 445 yards in 50 1-5th secand his appearance on the Ibrox track next Saturday should be a memorable one.

In the half-mile, the two Scottish representatives finished in front of the Canadian Harris.   There was however a surprise here, as CB Mein defeated McRae for first place, thus reversing the championship placings.   McRae however does not take kindly to running on grass, if we can judge by his appearances since the holiday meetings began.   WR Seagrove, as expected,  finished first in the mile although the time, 4 min 48 3-5th sec, represents an amble, but the Cantab was always running well within himself.   A new all-comers Scottish record was created in the pole vault, the two Canadians, VW Pickard and JE Francis, easily outstripping the home men in this event.   The first named cleared 12 feet 4 1/2 inches which is over a foot better than EL Stones’ championship effort made as long ago as 1889.

In the open events, J Crawford, running from three yards scored his second sprint success within six days and it is clear that the Board of Control made a mistake in interfering with the handicapper’s method of dealing with the Queen’s Park runner.   His time on Saturday was a yard worse than evens, and as he clocked even time when running at the Police and Partick Thistle meetings, it would require something like a world record beater over the distance to to give him a concession like this.   Certainly Liddell on present form cannot do it.”

The last named, Crawford of QPFC, won the open hundred by half a yard from a mark of 3 yards from Bernstein of West of Scotland who had a mark of 8 yards.   The Canadian sprinter Coaffee was an interesting character – born in Edmonton in London, his family emigrated when he was eight years old to Canada.   He ran in the 1920 and 1924 Olympics and in  between times tied the world record of 9.6 seconds.


On 31st July 1926, there was a considerably good counter-attraction for the athletics aficionado in the form of a match between the brand new Atalanta Club, which was a team selected from the four Scottish Universities, competing against a full strength Achilles club.   There were 4000 spectators at Cappielow but 5000 at Hampden for the Universities meeting.    The report read:

“The annual sports meeeting of Greenock Glenpark Harriers at Cappielow Park on Saturday in brilliant sunshine and before an attendance of fully 4000 spectators.   The backmarkers met with little success, but in the half-mile there was a keen struggle between NJ McEachern, Clonliffe Harriers, the Irish champion, and TM Riddell, Shettleston Harriers, the Scottish mile champion for second place.   Neither of them could match McHattie ,of Mauchline Harriers, who had a handicap of 30 yards, but the Irishman managed to secure second place three yards ahead of Riddell.   In the quarter-mile invitation race for the Eric H Liddell Trophy, JD Hope, West of Scotland Harriers (the holder) only managed tto secure third place after a splendid race.”


Glasgow Herald, 1 August, 1927:

The heavy rain caused the sports meeting of the Greenock Glenpark Harriers to be postponed.”


If the rain in 1921 was bad, and the weather in 1927 was serious enough to have the meeting postponed, there was no such problem in 1928.   There was however another problem!

“Glenpark Harriers meeting at Greenock provided capital sport, but there was perhaps too much of it, as it was close to seven o’clock before the programme was completed.    Chief interest was attached to the race for the Liddell Trophy over 440 yards, and this produced a rare contest.   Fraser, who won last year, was forward to defend his title, and JM Miller, the Scottish quarter mile champion, was also a starter but the winner was found in Calder of Beith Harriers, who at the meeting promoted by his own club a week ago won the quarter and half-mile championships of Ayrshire.   He was off six yards and at the crucial part of the race it did not seem likely that he would win.   Calder however had something in reserve and with a final effort he won by a narrow margin.   Miller did not finish when he saw he had no chance of winning.

Donald McLaren also found his handicap too much for him and retired from the two races – the open half-mile and the two miles – in which he started.   The first named race was won by WH Calderwood of Maryhill Harriers, who, like Calder, showed fine judgment in making his effort and won cleverly.   It was a thrilling finish.   R Hamilton, winner of the 100 yards; F Green in the Youths half-mile; and DF McKechnie in the two miles, were others who distinguished themselves.   The Renfrewshire team race justified its inclusion for the first time, but the cycle races took up too much time, and with the football helped to prolong the meeting.”

So you can have too much of a good thing.   Despite reading so much about athletics history, I still find it difficult to come to terms with the notion that, if you’re not going to win, you just drop out.   It was a habit with some runners of talent and was usually noted.   In the five-a-side competition, Rangers defeated Morton B by one goal to nil, and still had a team out at the Clyde FC professional meeting where they also won, defeating Celtic by three goals to nil.


The headline after the Greenock meeting in 1929 told a different story.


The athletics season in Scotland has almost run its course.   Next Saturday, when Rangers FC present their usual varied programme with many of the Scottish and English cracks competing will mark the close as far as the amateurs are concerned.   Saturday was a quiet day for them, the only meeting of importance being that run at Port-Glasgow under the auspices of the Renfrewshire Cross-Country Association, including Auchmountain, Greenock Glenpark and Wellpark Harriers Clubs.   At this meeting all  the events, with the exception of the Eric Liddell Trophy quarter-mile handicap races, were County championships, or scratch contests open to members of county clubs.  

Six events constituted  the list of flat championships.   Roy Hamilton, the Scottish furlong champion, was a competitor as a Glasgow Harrier in the 100 yards which he won without difficulty in a slow time, due largely to the condition of the track.   Hamilton did not take part in the 220 yards championship, a race which fell to his clubmate, JM Bryans, in the slow time of 26 seconds.   

Glasgow Harriers won the one mile relay race in 4 min 7 sec, but this success was due to the great running of Roy Hamilton in the second furlong.   He wiped out a deficit of six yards and converted it into a lead of ten yards.

Ther Eric Liddell Trophy race failed to attract more than three competitors.   The back-marker was TJ McAllister, Beith, off six yards.   The winner was W McLaughlin, Springburn Harriers, who returned 53 1-5th sec from 14 yards – comparatively the best performance of the meeting.”

And there you have it.   From hosting the international against Canada in 1924 to a purely local meeting in 1926.   There was no report of a meeting at Greenock in 1930.  On 25th July 1931 however the Renfrewshire Cross-Country Association held their track and field events championships at the St Mirren FC ground in Paisley and it seemed to go well.   In 1932, 30th July, the 77th (Highland) Field Brigade, Royal Artillery held their annual regimental sports at Cappielow Park and among the athletes taking part were several members of Glenpark Harriers.  There were no reports of athletics meetings in Greenock on the last Saturday in July after that – at least none on a regular basis which was a real loss to Scottish athletics.

1883: June


WA Peterkin: Winner of the first ever SAAA 100 yards and 440 yards championships

There were four meetings on 2nd June, 1883, two in Edinburgh, one in Glasgow and one in Kilmarnock.   The Glasgow one was at the Shawfield grounds amd was a professional meeting.    It occurs to me that in the early 1950’s the Clyde Football Club Sports, held at Shawfield, were professional in nature and the amateur meeting there was the Lanarkshire Police Sports.    Were the Clyde Sports a continuation of these nineteenth century pedestrian events?   Whatever the situation, there were 1000 spectators on this first Saturday in June to see the 130 yards sprint and the half-mile handicap.  There were fifteen heats of the sprint.  I quote from the report: “The contests in the sprint were somewhat disappointing , and in several of the heats the non tryers were conspicuous, but the half-mile eas really a capital race, upwards of 32 pedestrians facing the starter.   …   Half-mile handicap prizes were £10, £1:10:00 and 10 shillings.   1st  T Stott, Newton, 70 yards;  2nd A Bird, Glasgow, 80 yards;  3rd G Wilson, Glasgow, 70 yards; 4th A Young, Falkirk, 30 yards.”

“ATHLETIC GATHERING IN EDINBURGH:   About 60 persons assembled at Edinburgh Royal Gymnasium on Saturday to witness the contests for a number of events which were announced to take place under the auspices of the “Scottish Athletic Society”.   Being the first championship meeting of the Society, most of the visitors anticipated that the ‘best records’ in the various arrangements would have been beaten.   The meeting was very tame, and was prolonged to a wearying extent – the performance lasting from four o’clock until half past seven.  ”    There were about sixteen events, most being field events, track consisting of 100 yards, quarter-mile, Mile and Two Miles.

“EDINBURGH INSTITUTION SPORTS: The annual sports in connection with the Edinburgh Institution came off on Saturday at the Institution’s grounds at Warriston, Edinburgh, and the weather being fine were witnessed by a large concourse of ladies and gentlemen.  ”     There were thirteen events, all but one confined to either pupils or former pupils.   The exception was a half mile, open to amateurs which was won by a Canadian from Montreal AAC.

“KILMARNOCK:   Sports under the auspices of the Kilmarnock Bicycle Club were held at the Rugby Park on Saturday.   In the bicycling competition, Barton of the ESBC carried off no fewer than three first place honours.   Fortunately the weather was very favourable and the track everything that could be desired.   About 2000 spectators were present.”   The programme was entirely made up of cycle races except for a tug of war, 100 yards and quarter mile.

Four meetings. one professional, two amateur and one mainly a cycle meeting.


There were four meetings on on the following Saturday, June 9th, too but the only one at the same venue as the first week in June was at the  Shawfield Grounds where the events were the  130 yards and the One Mile handicap where the prizes were £10, £1:10:0 and 10/-.

Ayr was always a good athletics venue and the Ayr Academical Club’s Annual Sports were held on this Saturday.   It was a very big meeting and popular with competitors and spectators alike.   “These sports took place at Springvale Park on Saturday and were highly successful.   The arrangements were of an elaborate description, and the programme was an excellent one.   The weather was very fine and there was a large crowd of spectators – a greater number than had turned out for anything of the kind for a number of years and every seat in the grand stand was occupied.   The programme comprised twenty two events, of which four were bicycle races, and the bicycle races were probably the most exciting on the card. ”   The lengthy report went on to detail many of the events completed on the day when there were many competitors from all the University Athletic clubs, former pupils clubs, plus several football clubs such as Queen’s Park FC, Vale of Leven FC, West of Scotland FC, and other clubs like 1st LRVAC and so on.   The winning competitor in the Two Miles Flat Race handicap was A Findlay of Ayr FC who would go on to win the first ever Scottish Cross-Country championship in the colours of Clydesdale Harriers.

The Hawick Borders Games always drew a good number of athletes but these were mainly local from the other Borders towns with some few athletes coming from further afield.   Most events were running events and there was not only a mile race, there were two races over the mile and a half distance.   No times were given although distances were noted for the throws and jumps.

There were several meetings held over the summer that called themselves ‘National Games’.   This particular weekend, it was the Greenock National Games.   “Favoured by splendid weather the seventeenth annual tournament of national games at Greenock came off with great success at Academy Park on Saturday afternoon.  The arrangements made by the committee were most complete and everything worked smopothly.   It was estimated that 5000 people were in the park at one time.   There were in all 27 “events” on the programme including exhibitions of tasks with sword, bayonet, Indian clubs and quarter-staff. ”    It continued with comments on several events with the two miles race with 16 runners  written up as the race of the afternoon.   No teams, clubs orother organisations were listed – only the competitor’s town after the fashion of the professionals.

It can be seen from the meetings so far that there were plenty of openings for amateur athletes to get good competition before decent sized crowds.   With no affiliation essential before competing, any grouping, be it a football club, a military regiment, a cycling or cricket club, could enter its members for these sports and games.   It was not a situation that would last for much longer – the first ever SAAA championships would take place on 23rd June 1883.

DS Duncan

DS Duncan: Winner of the Mile in the first ever SAAA Championships

On 23rd June, 1883 there was the usual weekly meeting at Shawfield Grounds plus two meetings organised by Pollok FC and Kilbirnie FC  but the real story was the first ever National Championships organised by the Scottish Amateur Athletic Association.   The report read:

“The first championship meeting under the auspices of the Association was held on Saturday afternoon at Powderhall Grounds, Edinburgh, and proved a very successful meeting.   The weather being all that could be desired, about  ? ladies and gentlemen witnessed the proceedings, which were greatly enhanced by the band of the Gordon Highlanders dispensing a splendid programme of music.   Most of the events passed off without a hitch excepting the pole jump in which Mr Hodgson while attempting to jump 9′ 9″ came to grief, the pole he was using snapping when he was almost over.   He fell heavily on his shoulder but soon recovered.   The final of the 100 yards was a splendid sight.   A capital start was effected, and Smith about half-distance was leading by a yard.   Here Peterkin crept up and gradually reducing the space passed him just at the tape and won by 5 inches.  ….   ” 

 The complete results with a note on the events contested can be found at   The amateur era had pretty well arrived although it would be another two years before amateur clubs were to take part.

Nevertheless on this day ‘an unusually large crowd of spectators’ attended the professional event at Shawfield where there were only two events on the programme – the sprint whose first round was held a week earlier (prizes £15, £2:15:0, £1:10:0 and 10/-) and a one mile handicap (£20, £5, £1 and £1) race.   Given that the amateur movement was driven in part by the abuses of the pro system which included professionals impersonating amateurs, non-trying in races, betting while the races were in progress, it was clearly far from dead.

At the Pollok FC fixture where there were 700 spectators, the prize winners all came from football clubs – Queen’s Park FC members were the biggest winners, but others were Dumbarton FC, Abercorn FC, Johnstone Athletic FC, Govanhill FC and, of course, Pollok FC.    And at Kilbirnie, no club affiliation was quoted, simply where the athlete came from which seems to indicate a professional meeting.


The month ended with a Saturday fixture at Shawfield but this time there was a difference.   “The West of Scotland National Games and Athletic Sports took place at Shawfield Grounds on Saturday.   The weather was splendid and between five and six thousand spectators were present.   A very varied programme was provided, which in addition to the national games of quoiting, wrestling, hammer throwing, pole-vaulting, dancing, etc, also included a more than usually seen number of athletic events.”   So far, so good but then it spoils things by saying that the prizes for the 120 yards hurdles were £3, £2 and £1.    It would have fourteen heats with the final to be run the following Saturday.   Read on through the report and the meeting, which was indeed varied and interesting, and you will see prize money listed for several of the races with the going rate seeming to be £2, 15/- and 5/-.

The only other meeting on the last Saturday in June was the Arthurlie Cricket and Football Club Amateur Athletic Sports.   Unlike sports quoted earlier which featured the drop-kick for distance with a football, this sports had a place-kick which was won by D Cunningham of rthurlie with a distance of 154′ 9″.   There were also several names on the programme who would feature as club members in another couple of years – eg W McAuslan from Dumbartion who would be a member of the Clydesdale Harriers Dumbarton section.   Many football teams were represented and the furthest travelled prze winner came from Granton.


Was there a demand for athletics from the public in 1883?   Certainly, we only have to look at the thousands who turned out to watch some of the meetings, whether they were amateur or professional.   Was there a demand from the competitors for such meetings?   With over a dozen heats in some meetings, een over two dozen in others, there was a clear demand for them.    Now in 1883 there was a national amateur championship run by the SAAA.  The competitors came from Universities and fee-paying schools, from football, cricket, cycling, rowing and other sports clubs.    It was only a matter of time before purely athletic clubs would appear on the scene.

1883: May

WHB Drop Kick

Trophy for the Drop Kick (football) for distance at the Glasgow Academicals Sports of 1886

The first Saturday in May, 1883, was the fifth of the month and sports/athletic meetings were held at Shawfield Running Grounds, at Kelvingrove where the Glasgow Police Sports took place, at Kelvinside where the Glasgow Academical Club held their meeting and at the Dollar Institution.   Despite the heading being ‘Athletics’ the Shawfield programme contained two events:  the final of the peds 300 yards, the preliminaries of which had been held the week before, and a One Mile Handicap.   The Police Sports included, in addition to a selection of athletic events, Highland Dancing (won by John McCallum from Lanarkshire), wrestling, a ‘catch the thief’ race for policemen dressed in day uniform, three legged race and tug of war. The Police Sports were one of the very last to adopt the amateur code, being professional right up to the late 1940’s.

The ones most like current meetings were the two school sports meetings –  all amateurs completing a programme of purely athletics events.   The Glasgow meeting had many open races in which some university and cricket club members took part.  The report on the Glasgow Academy Sports read: “The annual sports of the Glasgow Academical Club came off on Saturday at the ground of the club at Kelvinside.   In consequence of the heavy rain in the forepart of the day the ground was in a soft condition – unfavourable for the work in hand.   A large and fashionable gathering graced the field the whole of the afternoon and the various events were watched with evident interest.   The band and pipers of the 51st Highlanders were present and dispensed selections of music between the various items on the card.   At the conclusion of the meeting the prizes were presented to the winners by Mike Cross.”

There were over 20 events including several open events with competitors coming from as far afield as the Ulster Cricket Club and including such as 1st Lanark Rifle Volunteer Club AC and University and Old Boys clubs.   The Academy Sports are one of the longest running in the country, having been started in 1866, only Edinburgh Academy (1858) and Royal High School (1864) with Merchiston also starting up in 1866.

In Dollar, other than a half-mile for FP’s, the events were all for school pupils.   It should be noted that the programmes for the latter meetings were the longest while, true to form, the Shawfield meeting only had a couple of events but a crowd of approx 2000.


The Academicals Sports are one of the oldest in the country.

Several of the Academicals took part in the Glasgow University Sports at Gilmorehill on 19th May – they even had one of the four teams in the tug of war with the University, the Junior Clyde Yacht Club and the Southern FC, an event which the host team won.   Events included a drop kick (football) for distance with the winner clearing 130′ 10″, putting the cannon ball, pole vault, two mile bicycle race, high jump, throwing the hammer, 100 yards flat, quarter mile flat, half mile flat, one mile flat, 120 yards hurdles and tug of war.   All of the running events as well as the two miles cycle race had open races and confiend races.   It looks like a very interesting meeting indeed.

At Shawfield, the professional meeting, there was the final of the 120 yards from the previous week, a half mile and a quarter mile race for a first prize of £18.   The crowds at Shawfield are always given – this meeting had 3000 in attendance – but no figures are given for University or Schools meetings.   Three events at Shawfield but around two dozen at Gilmorehill.


The last weekend in May had the Helensburgh Larchfield Sports and the Annan FC Sports.   Organised by the Helensburgh Academical Club at Ardencaple, these were attended by a large and fashionable crowd.   21 events, all athletic events that we would recognise, were contested and the Bonhill Band played in the intervals between events.   The annual Annan FC Sports were being contested for the second time and one might have expected the drop kick to be on the programme, but no,  there were only running events plus a running high jump.