On 4th November, 1904, Alf Shrubb ran at Ibrox Park in Glasgow and broke the world one hour record + all amateur records from six to eleven miles + all professional records from eight to eleven miles + running a distance of 11 miles 1137 yards in one hour. Read any of the periodicals of the time and the magnitude of what he achieved will maybe sink in. He was not a Scotsman but he provided one of the great nights of Scottish athletics. Hugh Barrow has provided the following clippings about the event and they have a place on any site devoted to the history of distance running in Scotland.
The West of Scotland Cricket Club ground at Hamilton Crescent, Partick, Glasgow
When looking at the start of amateur athletics in Scotland and the organisations that helped it grow and thrive and develop into the major sport that it became, many see the great contribution made by football clubs right up into the 1960’s, and assume that that is all there was. Not True. Other sports played a part and cricket was one of them. Their contribution should not be forgotten: in the 19th century it was a major sport in Scotland with many top class clubs operating right across the country. Pages were devoted on Monday mornings in the Press to their weekend matches. They all had their own grounds, they had top class athletes competing for them and it was natural that they put on a sports meeting. One of the biggest, if not the biggest, was the one put on every April by the West of Scotland Cricket Club at their Hamilton Crescent ground in the west of Glasgow. The club was formed in 1862. and their sports were usually, but not always, held on the third Saturday in April. This may seem a strange time to hold a summer sports meeting but given that cricket was at the time the major summer sport in the country, it would have been sensible to have it at the start of the season when their men were in good condition for the battles ahead.
The results for the earliest days are not at present available so we will start then in 1870 and the event was held on the 2nd April that year and the Herald tells us that the events held were throwing the cricket ball, the running high jump, running long jump, the 440 yards for school pupils, 100 yards, 440 yards handicap confned to WSCC members, Garrison race. mile race, three legged race, 200 yards race, steeplechase over four fences and four water jumps, and consolation stakes. The report from the ‘Glasgow Herald’ read, under the heading
WEST OF SCOTLAND CRICKET CLUB ATHLETIC SPORTS’:
“On Saturday afternoon the annual athletic sports and promenade in connection with the WestOf Scotland Cricket Club took place n the club’s ground at Partick. The weather in the early part of the forenoon was bright and clear, but gradually several clouds made their appearance and a slight shower fell just about the time when the Games were to commence. For some time there was every appearance of a wet afternoon, but about half past three o’clock the dulness cleared away, and the sun shone out brightly so that the sports were brought to a close without anything having occurred to mar the enjoyment of the day. This annual meeting has been very much appreciated in former years; and on Saturday afternoon there was a very large and brilliant assemblage within the enclosure, and these seemed to take a deep interest in each race. The programme was all timed and carried out leisurely. The arrangements of the sewards was excellent and everything went off with great eclat. Some of the races were very exciting and the great event of the day was the steeplechase where within 760 yards, there were four hurdles and four water jumps to clear. For the honour of gaining this race, five competitors started. After a fair start, they ran well together until the first water jump, when four cleared it and only one got himself wet but, nothing daunted, he got out, and quickly caught his competitors. At the second water jump some of them went a header but scrambled out and got on good terms with the leaders. The exitement was now rising as it became evident that the next round would be the grand test. One runner retired, leaving four to fight for the laurels. At the third water jump, only one cleared the leap, but, not jumping the next hurdle was out of the race. At the fourth water jump they all went in, to the ausement of the spectators. Not withstanding the applause, another gave in within 160 yards of the winning post. This left only two to contend for victory, viz. Smith and Neilson. At the last hurdle, Neilson, who looked all over like winning, made a mistake and let in Smith who won by two yards – thus securing his second victory. By the kind permission of Colonel Bartley and the officers of the Regiment, the band of the 5th Fusiliers was present and played several excelent selections during the afternoon. Mr John Pattison efficiently discharged the duties of the starter, and the decisions of the various judges gave perfect satisfaction. We have also to thank Mr Penman for his attention to the members of the Press. Mr Robert Graeme also officiated as time keeper.”
This meeting was held thirteen years before the SAAA was founded and fifteen before the establishment of Clydesdale Harriers, Scotland’s first open athletics club. In the steeplechase, the four water jumps and four hurdles came in a race of less than half a mile and the water jumps were 12 feet across. At the end of proceedings, where Mr Peter White thanked the ‘assemblage’ for attending and the organisers for giving them a pleasant day’s ‘outing’ in a very pleasant spot. The prizes, reported to be very costly, many being ‘silver cups, jugs, etc’ , were presented by Miss Margaret K Brown.
In 1872 the Sports were held on 13th April and The Scotsman report appeared on the Monday. (It is maybe unfortunate that the coverage of the Glasgow club’s sports were covered better and more often by the Edinburgh paper than by the Glasgow Herald).
The Scotsman report on Monday 15th April, 1872, began: ” The The usual athletic sports which inaugurate the cricket season in the West came off on the ground of the West of Scotland at Hamilton Crescent, Partick, on Saturday. Unlike last year when the weather becessitated seven postponements, the day was all that could be desired, a refreshing breeze tempering the sun’s rays. This combined with a capital day’s sports and the performance of the Band of the 90th Regiment contributed to draw out one of the largest and most brilliant assemblages seen on this ground for a number of years, the ladies mustering in great force. … Mr J Buchanan acted as starter and Messrs Evans and Ferguson as judges, Mr Anderson acting as Clerk of the Course – the whole arrangements reflecting great credit on the club’s committee. “
The events this time included thr cricket ball throw, high jump, vaulting with the pole, 100 yards, 200 yards, quarter mile schools race, quarter mile challenge cup race, half mile race, mile, hurdles race, three legged race and the popular steeplechase which had seven starters this time round. Most events were won by West of Scotland CC members (5) with Edinburgh and Glasgow University athletes having four wins each. Among the excellent athletes taking part were G Hunter (GU – sprinter) and RW Mapleton (EU – victor in mile and steeplechase) who both had very successful careers as University athletes.
“A better day could not be wished” was the verdict after the meeting on 19th April, 1873, when the range of competitors was wider than before. In addition to the Cricket Club and the two Universities, there were athletes from Queen’s Park FC, St Andrew’s University, Royal High School, Glasgow Academy, and the quarter mile challenge cup was confined to members of Glasgow University, Clydesdale, Drumpellier, Academical, Western and West of Scotland cricket clubs. There were again many good athletes competing – including TM Cotterill of EUAC who won the cricket ball with a throw of 111 yards: he was the reigning Scottish Universities champion at the event with a very high reputation. Results are given as an indication of the standards at the meeting:
Cricket Ball: JM Cotterill (EU) 111 yards; Quarter Mile Schools Race: JS Kay Glasgow Academy 58 sec. Quarter Mile Handicap confined to members of WSCC and FC: JF Tennent, scratch, 55 seconds; Broad Jump: DM Brunton MD (GU) 20′; 100 yards (Heat + Final): JP Tennent; Quarter Mile Challenge Cup: RTW Thomson (GU); Vaulting with Pole: JJ Thomson (QP) 9′; 200 yards confined to members of WSCC and FC: G Heron 20 1/2 seconds; Sack Race: JW Kidston (WSCC): Half Mile: F Lord (EU): 2:08; Garrison Race, 300 yards: McRorie; Steeplechase T Spence (EU) 2 3/4 minutes; Consolation Race;. 200 yards, JT Taylor (QP).
The presentation afterwards was done by Miss Jamieson and the comments were that “the great success of the Games that day, could hardly expect to be xcelled by the club.
Bearing in mind that the SAAA did not appearon the scene until 1883, it was clearly an idea whose time had come. All the ingredients were here at the Cricket Club Sports (and at football club sports)
- They were amateur athletics;
- Despite the fact that there was not a standard size fr the arena, the standard distances were used – 100 yards, 200 yards, quarter mile, half mile, mile. There were the high jump and the long jump plus throwing the cricket ball. Given that it was a cricket field, there were good reasons for the absence of shot putt and hammer throw!
- Handicap racing was included in the proramme.
- They were attracting large crowds who were ‘deeply interested’ in the events.
The due date in 1874 was 18th April: “As a sort of finishing to their football season and preface to their cricketing campaign, the West of Scotland cricket club held a series of athletic sports at the Hamilton Crescent Grounds on Saturday. It would be difficult to bring together in one field such an array of athletic talent as that which put in an appearance. The champions of the Glasgow clubs mustered in full force, while the Edinburgh Academy and Loretto sent their best men as representatives.” The weather was not too good – drizzly showers we are told – but the programme commenced at 1 o’clock before 4000 spectators. It was largely the same list of events, but the competition was the thing – in addition to the competing teams as noted above Queen’s Park, Dublin University, Dumbarton, and the same clubs as in 1873 were in the quarter mile challenge race. Cotterill, JJ Thomson, JW Kidston were among those who were successful for the second year in succession.
Despite the comments in 1873 about the success of the Games that year could hardly be excelled, those of 1875 were “more than usually successful, this being partly due to the beautiful weather which was quite summer like.” Held on 17th April, “As a preclude (sic) to their cricketing campaign, the members of the Westt of Scotland Cricket Club held their annual sports at Hamilton Crescent on Saturday. ” The number of spectators was given as twice that of the previous year, 8000, which maybe a testament to the weather. To the list of competing clubs could now be added Trinity, Glenalmond, Rangers FC and Clydesdale CC who had previously only competed in the Challenge Cup quarter mile who all produced first or second placers in the various events which were won as in the past by members of the WSCC, the Universities, the Schools and football and cricket clubs. Where the previous year the Inter-Scholastic Sports were held on the same day as the Games, this year that was not the case and seven prizes were won by school athletes in open events.
There was on top class all-round sportsman to be seen in action on 15th April, 1876, Tom Vallance (above) of the Rangers Football Club won the long jump with a leap of 18 feet. Vallance had a wonderful career as a sportsman and was to be the first ever holder of the SAAA record for the long jump. He was not the only SAAA record holder on display that afternoon: JW Parsosns would win the SAAA Long Jump titles in 1885 and 1886 and would be the first ever holder of the SAAA high jump record when he cleared 6’0″ in 1884. The meeting started at 12 noon and on a dull, but not unpleasant day the following events were carried through (with winner noted):
One Mile, School: JJ Tait, Loretto, 4:52; 120 yards hurdles, School: WH Valdwell, Loretto; Throwing Cricket Ball, open: N McLachlan, Loretto, 104 yards 2 1/2 ft; Btoad Jump: T Vallance, RFC, 18′ 0″; Quarter Mile, School: AG Dixon, Loretto, 56 sec; Quarter Mile Flat Race, members of WSC: W Wilson 54 sec; High Jump, open: JW Parsons, Fettes College 5′ 6″; 100 yards, open (Heats and Final): McDonald, AAC 10 3/5th sec; Quarter Mile, open: RC MacKenzie, GAC, 54 sec; Pole Jump, open: WH Caldwell, Loretto, 9′ 4″; 120 yards hurdles: A Peterkin 18 sec ; One Mile Flat Race, open: George Phillips, Rangers FC, 4:36; 200 yards flat race, handicap: H Moncrieff, GUAC 23 sec; Sack Race: S Taylor, GAC; Half Mile Flat Race: RC MacKenzie, GAAC 2 min 9 sec; 100 yards, School: WH Minnoch, Loretto; Garrison Race (300 yards): Pte Behan; Steeplechase: F Lord GUAC; Consolation Race (200 yards): J Taylor, QPFC.
Many of the athletes took part in more than one event – Parsons was second in the hurdles and Lord was second in the mile for instance, but it had been another very good day for the Cricket Club – and amateur athletics.
There was no doubt about the top performer at Hamilton Crescent on 14th April, 1877, version of the Sports. JW Parsons of Fettes College won the open high jump again, and added first place in the Schools 100 yards and second in the hurdles, while fellow Fettesian E Storey won the schools quarter mile and as second in the open quarter mile. There was no confined race for the challenge cup this year but otherwise the programme was the same with the prize winners coming from West of Scotland CC and FC, Fettes, Loretto, AAC, GAC, Merchiston, GUAC, EUAC, and 1st LRV.
13th April 1878 was the date when the sports did not happen. Instead there was a single paragraph in the sports pages saying that because of the weather, they had been postponed for a week. One week later and the even shorter single para said that these sports had again been postponed for another week owing to the unfavourable weather. The event finally took place on 27th April and the Scotsman began its report like this: “The sports with which the WSCC open their cricket season, after being postponed from the 13th to 20th inst., and from that to the 27th on account of unpropitious weather, came off on Saturday at the club grounds, Partick. The weather was favourable and the spectators numerous. The proceedings were enlivened by the presence of the pipers of the 79th Highlandeers and the band of the 31st Lanarkshire Volunteers under Signor Barri.” Other than the results that was the extent of the report. The prize winners list revealed the return of representatives of several football clubs – G Phillips of the Rangers returned to win the Mile once again defeating ten runners with JD Finlayson of QPFC in second place. There was a victory for J Pinion of Windsor AC of Belfast, in both quarter- and half-mile open races as well as in the steeplechase. Phillips was third in the latter event. The programme this time included a three mile walking race – a new venture. The double postponement did not harm either the quality of the sport or the number of spectators.
)n 12th April 1879 there was no question of pushing the sports back a week despite the rough nature of the weather – there were several snow showers during the afternoon – and they took place before approximately 7000 spectators. Parsons was again in action but the Glasgow University sprinter WW Beveridge was also in action. A formidable competitor with a great reputation, he won the 100 yards and the quarter mile; Phillips again won the mile and was second in the steeplechase. But the man of the match was fought out between two superb athletes – Wauchope and Parsons: ARD Don Wauchope won the cricket ball throw, the school quarter mile race, 100 yards school, while Parsons won the broad jump, high jump and was second in the 100 yards. A word about these two remarkable athletes.
Wauchope is one of Scotland’s most outstanding sportsmen of all time. Burke’s Who’s Who in Scottish Sport lists his sports as rugby, cricket, golf, billiards, croquet, cycling, bowls, hockey, lacrosse, lawn tennis, shooting, skating and fishing. Initially Fettes then Trinity College, Cambridge, he was a double blue (athletics and rugby). He played twelve times for Scotland at rugby and represented the country at cricket. It is rather strange that he never won an SAAA title, finishing second several times in different events. Before the appearance of the SAAA Parsons pretty well dominated the Scottish scene as far as long and high jumping were concerned. In 1880 he was second in the AAA’s championship long jump, he was also one of the first men in the world to clear 23 feet in the long jump. As far as Scottish championships werre concerned, he won the Long Jump in 1885 and was second in the high jump and won both events in 1886.
The 1880 Sports took place on 17th April and the list of competitors was arguably the best yet seen at Hamilton Crescent. Results of the principal events first, then comments.
“Broad Jump: JW Parsons 20′ 1 1/2″; High Jump: JW Parsons 5′ 2″; Vaulting with Pole: 1. DJ McFarlane, Loretto 10′; 2nd AGG Asher; Throwing the Cricket Ball: D Wauchope 106 yards; 100 yards Flat Race: JW Parsons; 200 yards handicap: SF Pret 21 sec; Quarter Mile: WW Beveridge 57 4/8th; 2nd JA Crerar; Half Mile open: AP Reid 2 min 10 2/5th sec; Three Mile Walk: J Harvie 24 min 10 sec; One Mile: AT Paterson 4 min 56 sec; 120 yards hurdles: 1st JW Parsons; 2nd D Wauchope; 18 sec.; Steeplechase: AS Paterson.”
We have now looked at the Cricket Club Sports over a ten year period and can see clearly that the standard soared from an initially good standard of competition to one where many of the best athletes in the land entered. Still three years away from the first ever SAAA championships, it is worth looking at how many of the competitors mentioned above won medals in the first championships held at Powderhall on 23rd June, 1883.
WA Peterkin won the 100 yards and the 440 yards; J Harvie won the Three Miles Walk; ARD Wauchope was second in the 120 yards hurdles (the event for which he won his Cambridge blue), and also for throwing the cricket ball; WA Peterkin was second in Putting the Weight. But we should not forget such as WW Beveridge and JA Crerar who were top drawer sprinters whose career was just a bit too early for the SAAA, and certainly not forget Tom Vallance winning the long jump. Looking ahead a bit, Parsons started winning his titles in 1885 as did AGG Asher, another very fine field events athlete.
1896 saw a continuation of the SAAU/SAAA split and the Heart of Midlothian Sports were conducted under the rules of the SAAU. Indeed the reports were that Hearts was the force encouraging the Edinburgh clubs to affiliate to the breakaway body. There was however no Queen’s Park Sports in 1896: the principal event in Glasgow was the Govan Police Sports at Ibrox and in Edinburgh the Hearts Sports led the way. On the second Saturday of the month the Glasgow Police Sports and the Clydesdale Harriers Sports took place in Glasgow, and the Edinburgh Harriers held their sports in Edinburgh under the SAAA rules. However there appears to have been no Queen’s Park event that year. That doesn’t mean that Hampden was out of athletic action: while the SAAU championships were taking place at Ibrox, the SAAA championships were taking place at Hampden.
But a year on, on 5th June,1897, they did take place and the Glasgow Herald report read: “The decision of the Queen’s Park executive to again cater to the tastes of amateurs was happily received in Glasgow and the West. The fact that Saturday’s programme contained over 500 entries, accompanied by a large and fashionable attendance of ladies and gentlemen proves conclusively that our amateurs are still a body worthy of attention despite the recent inroads made by those who only participate in athletics when pounds, shillings and pence are at stake.”
The programme included the following events (with winners):
100 yards: 17 Heats, four second round races and a final: RM Goldie, Airdrieonians FC
220 yards: 9 Heats: J Muir, QPFC
Half Mile: T Robertson, Olympic Harriers
One Mile invitation, 50 yards limit handicap: JC McDonald, Edinburgh
120 yards hurdles: 4 heats, 2 semi finals: AAG Stronach, Glasgow Academicals
High jump: TR Milne, Dundee Harriers
Broad Jump: W Bain, Maryhill Harriers
There were also three bicycle races.
4/6/1898 and the Queen’s Park Sports were back on the calendar. “In some respects the fare provided by the Queen’s Park on Saturday was the best and most varied that has been served to the athletics loving public this season,and yet the attendance numbered only between four and five thousand, or little more than a fourth of the assemblage that graced the recent cycling carnival of the Northern CCC. Even the Govan Police Sports, which are not to be compared in many ways with those of Queen’s Park, drew three times the number that were at Hampden Park. Without stopping to enquire into the cause or causes of the disparity, we can only regret that the public are not a little more discriminating in their patronage. The meeting at Hampden on Saturday was a model in point of management, and there was not a break in the continuing of enjoyment which the different events contested with more than ordinary vigour produced. If the sport was not strikingly brilliant there was at least a uniform excellence in all the events which accentuated public interest.”
The ‘Scottish Referee’ commented on the numbers competing and echoed the Herald’s compliments on the excellent management of the proceedings: “In tackling a programme that contained over 730 entries the Queen’s officials had a Herculean task set them last Saturday afternoon. It is most creditable to the management that in spite of this big handicap the meeting was run to the minute without a wait. As a sample of the smart timing, we may mention that the twenty one heats in which the hundred yards flat was decided, was run off in twenty five minutes. To the officials concerned in this excellent result, all prise is due, and they may stand as example for all others to copy and follow. If not brilliant individually or generally the sport was of all round excellence. An outstanding figure in the sprints was Hugh Barr, who is presently in excellent form. His strong physique aided him no doubt, but his pluck and speed assisted him nonetheless to the tape.”
There were certainly some talented and popular Scots in competition along with some English competitors. Hugh Barr the long jump record holder and prolific title winner and international sprinter has been mentioned already, RG Murray title winner and record setting high jumper and W Robertson, title winner and cross-country internationalist from Clydesdale Harriers were all competing. There was also a host of dignitaries fit to grace any meeting in the country. The Referee lists Arthur Geake, William Sellar, William Maley, DS Duncan, Humphrey Jones, Alexander Blair, JA Crerar, Andrew Hannah, Andrew Rennie and the handicapper was Bob Livingstone.
The sprints were the main thing according to the Referee. The 100 was won by Barr who did not participate in the 220 because he entered the long jump where he was second.. Popular winners of their heats in the 220 (which only had nine heats) were AS Maley and J Muir but neither were in the hunt when it came to dishing out the prizes. AAG Stronach won the hurdles easily but how about the Mile? There was a field of 78 runners on the track at the same time. “there is no doubt that the sight was a pretty one to see the kaleidoscopic changes in the multi coloured costumes of the aspirants for honours as they moved round the track. The scratch men had no earthly chance of getting through the multitude and they gave up long ere the finish.” It was won by David Rennie of Whiteinch Harriers (155 yards) from Brown of Bellahouston (120 yards). There was also an invitation mile (26 entrants, 13 starters) , won by Robertson in 4 min 25 3-5th sec. The half mile handicap was won by Bell of Airdrie.
The Herald also tells us that it was the ‘largest programme in the history of the club.’ Another successful sports meeting for Hampden.
Held on 3/6/1899 , the report on the meeting started: “the Queen’s Park FC Sports on Saturday were replete with interest. There were no individual achievements of an outstanding character, the excellence was more general than special, and from this point of view the meeting will rank as one of the best of the long and brilliant series of functions held by the Queen’s Park.”
The ‘Scottish Referee’ added that a ‘good crowd was induced to attend’.
There may have been no individual achievements of note but there were individual of note competing. One was the reigning British one mile champion WH Welsh who won the mile in 4:27.2 and the article pointed out that the time is a better performance than it looks. Welsh’s best for the season up to that point was run on a heavy track with a ‘heavy breeze’. None of the short limit men in that race ran in the open mile so the men on the big handicaps had it all their own way. There were 58 in the race – all on the track at the same time – which was won by Robertson of Maryhill Harriers, off 125 yards, who was 30 yards clear of the second man, Parlane of the Rangers FC who was off 130 yards. Hugh Barr and RG Murray competed in the field events. Murray also ran in the 100 yards (20 heats), winning his heat but nowhere in the final which was won by Buchanan of Rothesay AAC who also won the 220 yards. The half mile as won by Dunn of Clydesdale Harriers in 2:01.2. The 120 yards hurdles was unusual that AAG Stronach won his Heat but was unplaced in the final which was won by D Carr of Maryhill. Murray and Barr were second in the high and broad jumps, although they each put in the best performance of the day. The broad jump was won by Blaney of a club called Dunaskin AC.
There were also the usual bicycle races.
RS Stronach, standing, right.
The 1900 meeting was held on 2nd June:
This important amateur meeting was held at Hampden Park under most favourable weather conditions on Saturday afternoon. There was a large and fashionable attendance and the music supplied by the Glasgow Highlanders was much appreciated.” The athletics was as enjoyable as the weather with many close finishes. Events and results:
100 yards: J Ford, Motherwell Harriers, 4 1/2 yards, 10 1/5th sec
220 yards: J Geackie, Springburn Harriers, 15 yards, 23 1-5th sec
half mile: HL Allan, Ayr Parkhouse, 55 yards 2 min 2 4/5th sec
one mile: J Paterson, Watsonians, 20 yards (back marker), 4:28 3-5th sec
120 yards hurdles: AAG Stronach, Glasgow Academicals
Broad jump: RS Stronach, Glasgow Academicals, 21′ (+ 2′ handicap = 23′)
high jump: Dead heat: JB Milne, Dundee and RG Murray, CH, both scratch, 5′ 9″
There were also four bicycle races.
In 1901, the position vis-a-vis the back markers and high handicap men was reversed with the back markers doing relatively well. Results:
100 yards: Dead Heat: J Ford, Motherwell, 1 yard and JA Campbell, Watsonians, 1 yard 1 seconds
220 yards: J Steel, Clydesdale Harriers, 10 yards, 23.6
Half Mile: PM Marshall, Clydesdale Harriers, 20 yards, 2:02.6
One mile: A Wright, Wellpark Harriers, 50 yards, 4:27.6
129 yards hurdles: RS Stronach, Glasgow Academicals, 18.6 sec
High jump: JB Milne, Dundee, scratch
Broad jump: D Carr, West of Scotland, handicap of 3′ 3″
In 1902 the sports were held on Saturday 6th but the rain in the morning was only one factor leading to a poorly attended function. The ‘Scottish Referee’ had this comment to make. “At Hampden Park where the last sports to be held under the auspices of the premier club but £80 was drawn. Whilst the weather accounts to some extent for the poor patronage, still it has to be feared that the public interest in athletics is not what it used to be. Since the decay of cycling, there has been a lack of novelty in our sports and in order to revive interest it may be well dor club committees to consider whether or not they can invent some royalties that will add a spice of variety and relieve the sameness of the pedestrian events.
Another factor which is acting against athletics is the want of men like Downer, Auld, Welsh,Hannah, Duffus and Robertson. Our present day sprinters and distance men are not of the class of these once famous athletes, and they fail to thrill the public by their performances. …. Time was when Queen’s Park introduced many leading Irish and English athletes, but for the past few seasons they have relied on native talent. This, however as we say, is presently so mediocre that it is difficult to be enthusiastic over it. In the sprints on Saturday they had a resident “foreigner” in SP Watson of Edinburgh University, an ex-London Hospital athlete. He was virtual scratch man in both 100 and 220 but showed no particular brightness in either event. … The winner of the 100 was found in JP Stark of the High School who had 5 yards. He ran with power and judgment and followed up his victory in the school event by taking this open event.”
Further down in the article he commented on the need of Queen;s Park as a club to recruit new men for the committee, concluding “never in the history of the club, since its institution in 1868 has it stood in greater need of leaders.” The article is one that it is worth reading in its entirety. However the sports themselves were very good.
There were twenty four heats of the 100 yards, four semi finals and the final which was won by JP Stark, the 220 had nine heats. and was won by Hutcheson of Kilbowie Harriers. The half mile was won by Small of Paisley Harriers from John McGough, with WH Mill, West of Scotland, winning the Mile. In the field events, RG Murray won the high jump from scratch.
It might be of interest to note some of the achievements of some of the competitors at the sports and their track performances in this decade:
Hugh Barr: 7 times Scottish Broad Jump champion; one 100 yards championship; two international victories.
Andrew Hannah: once mile champion, three times four miles champion and five times ten miles champion; five times cross-country champion.
James Paterson: twice Scottish one mile champion, four times four miles champion, once ten mile champion; two international victories
H Welsh: Twice 880 champion, twice mile champion. Six international victories including twice winning both half and mile v Ireland.
The reporter from the Scottish Referee might have been right about the poor standard of athletics in 1902 but the Queen’s Park meeting had at least two who would go on to great things in the sport. JP Stark would win many national titles and compete in international athletics; John McGough (below) would also win many SAAA titles at various distances and compete in the Olympics. But this would be the last QPFC Sports until 1907 – and even then there were committee members against holding them.
“The Queen’s Park Sports held on Saturday at Hampden were a great success. At the start there was a small attendance, but as the afternoon wore on, the numbers were largely augmented. It was indeed estimated that between 8000 and 10,000 persons were present. The weather was delightfully fine from a spectators point of view, but from a competitor’s, the high wind had an influence on the running, only the men in the best of training being able to cope with it. The entries amounted to a record, the aggregate being 348. Mr James Allan was convener of the Sports Committee which consisted of seventeen members. The judges were:- Messrs AM Donaldson, Thomas Fraser, Thomas Lawrie, A McNab, F Matheson and John Mellish. Referee of Foot Races: Mr AM Hunter; Handicapper: Mr R Livingstone; Timekeeper: Mr AG Rennie; Starter: Mr Robert Hindle; Clerk of the Course: Mr Stewart Lawrie. The proceedings were enlivened by the band and pipers of the Scots Fusiliers.”
That is the entire report of the Sports held on 6th June, 1891 – apart from the results of course. There were twelve Heats of the 100 yards and there were several well known names among the Heat winners. eg Finlayson of Queen’s Park (4 yards), Alf Downer of Watson’s (6 yards), W Maley of Celtic (5 yards), T Maley of Celtic (2 yards), JS Weir, Milngavie Club (2 1/2 yards) and H Espie, Glasgow Academicals (5 yards). There were four semi finals and the first three in the final were Lander (EUAC), Carswell (Clydesdale FC) and Young (WSH). 27 started in the mile with holder, ‘the veteran Duncan’ off scratch. It was won by J Hindle of St Mirren off 70 yards from JS Morrison of Edinburgh Harriers 40 yards, and Charles Pennycook, Clydesdale Harriers off 25 yards. The 440 was an interesting race in that John Blane of Clydesdale Harriers, a noted miler, was was running off 15 yards. The final was won by Woodburn (WSH)from Currie (unattached) and Young (WSH). The half mile was won by Morrison of Edinburgh (15) from Malcolm of Clydesdale Harriers (10). J Gow of Rangers won his Heat of the 120 yards hurdles but as he ‘skipped a hurdle’ he was disqualified, the race going to Carswell of Clydesdale Football Club. The 600 yards race was won by Hindle (St Mirren) running from 15 yards from T Blair (QPFC) who was scratch man. The high jump was won by R Williams of EUAC, There were also several good cycle races with top men such as RA Vogt competing.
It had been a good day and takings amounted to £170 and the attendance was a record for an athletic meeting.
In 1892 the “Scottish Referee” reported that “Never in the history of QP has such a successful meeting – financially and as regards the quality of the sport – been held by the premier club than that of last Saturday at Hampden. Despite the wet weather, between nine and ten thousand spectators braved the elements, and eagerly watched the various events. Public interest of late has developed to a remarkable degree in athletic matters. Principally this is due to the the great performances of our crack cyclists, one or two of whom are every now and again smashing records. … We heartily congratulate the QP on their successful meeting and a word of praise is due to the admirable manner in which all the arrangements were carried through by the officials, not a moment being lost in facilitating the progress of various events.”
Some of the track running highlights:
- Hugh Barr, Clydesdale Harriers, international long jumper, won the 100 yards. NA MacLeod was second and the comment was that all three had physiques far above the average.
- George Woodburn (WSH) won the 440.
- Two runners were conspicuous by their absence: JR Gow (Rangers) missed the 120 yards hurdles because he felt a bit stiff, and sprinter McCulloch missed the train from Helensburgh.
- Mitchell beat Malcolm in the 880 yards, both of scratch, in 2 min 01 3-5th sec.
- Pennycook we see has resorted to hils old style of throwing his head back. This means a loss of about 30 yards in the mile. and we would advise him to adopt the style he was running in early in the season.
The handicapper also came in for some criticism: the winner of the miles was Gavin Stevenson and Pennycoock had said it was useless to try to beat him. The ‘Referee’ said this showed wisdom: apparently they had both started off scratch earlier in the season and now Stevenson was off 40 yards. “It seems inexplicable,” said the reporter. Although the sports had been a success, the club itself came in for some criticism: the pavilion was quite inadequate to accommodate all the participants and the recommendation was that the tent should again be called into requisition.
June 3rd, 1893, and another successful meeting at Hampden. Over £300 taken at the gate, glorious weather, a good programme and the “classic slopes” were packed. A crowd of almost 15,000 was in attendance on the day, and the stand was particularly patronised by youth and beauty. Records were set in the cycling and although Alf Downer could not make it, McCulloch from Helensburgh, the favourite was beaten in the 100 yards. RA Vogt was unquestionably the most popular of the top cyclists and, just returned from racing in Paris, he turned out here to the delight of the crowd. Lacaille was one of the top cyclists and he was the source of some controversy – which could well have repercussions later in the season. I quote from ‘The Scottish Referee’:
An incident of the meeting was Lacaille being handicapped on the ground and allowed to start in the mile handicap by Judge Kettles, who probably allowed his sportsmanlike feelings to override his judgement and the Union’s rules. The judge of the Three Miles was AM Donaldson, whose more legal mind could not brook the inconsistency of opening the entries for the sake of one man, which would not have been tolerated had he been a second rater, and he requested Lacaille not to start in that race. It is all very well to ask the permission of the other competitors, but the usually have the choice of saying “yes” or appearing unsportsmanlike, and their good nature should not be taxed to that extent. Rules, especially those of a Union, were not made to be broken, and those who conform to them should not be placed at the mercy of those who do not.”
The acceptance of late entries by ‘big name’ athletes in competitions or road races is still at times a source of controversy more than 125 years later. As far as the track was concerned, one of the best English cyclists was quoted as saying it was a good track but would be better if it were banked. Although it was somewhat narrow it compared favourably with some of the English tracks. Cycling was indeed having a purple patch as far as sports meetings were concerned but it would not last and ten years or so later the tale would be different. Some of the 1883 results from Hampden:
100 yards: D Vass, Ayr FC, 9 yards, 10 3-5th sec; 220 yards: DR McCulloch, Clydesdale Harriers, scratch, 23 3-5th sec
120 yards hurdle race: 1. J Lander, EUAC, 15 yards; 2. J Gow, Rangers FC, 25 yards; 3. A Graham, 1st LRV, 18 yards
Quarter Mile: R Shandley, Celtic FC, 25 yards, 50 4-5th sec; Half Mile: J Hindle, St Mirren FC and Clydesdale H, 10 yards 2:02
One Mile: A McDonald, Abercorn FC, 50 yards, 4 min 33 sec;
Broad Jump: 1. Don C Sillars, QPFC, 22′ 1″; 2. Peter McCallum, QPFC, 21′ 6 1/4″ ([Sillars was QP team captain, and McCallum was ex-President]
High Jump: Murray, Rangers, 10″ handicap, 5′ 9″
The top cyclists of the 1880’s-90’s
2nd June, 1894 and again the ‘Scottish Referee’ and other papers were looking forward to another successful QPFC Sports. BUT
“All the work of the past month , the care bestowed on the track by Mr Geake, the perfect arrangements made by the secretary and committee for the successful working of the annual carnival at Hampden, and the presence of a large number of the youth and beauty of Crosshill, Langside &c, had no effect on Jupiter Pluvius, who, at the worst possible hour of the afternoon, made his unwelcome appearance, and succeeded in completely spoiling the financial success of the sports. But although the QP executive were robbed of financial success, so well deserved, that not even J.P. could rob them of an athletic triumph achieved under conditions which might have damped the ardour of the most enthusiastic.
“From the opening Heat of the 100 yards to the presentation of prizes by Mrs WH Berry, every item on the programme was carried out with that promptitude and accuracy which has all along characterised Queen’s Park meetings, and has made them so deservedly popular with the public. AG Stronach, Glasgow Academy, competed in the high jump at the Queen’s Park Sports. He got over 4′ 10”
That’s twice in two meetings that the reporter has mentioned the ‘youth and beauty’ of Crosshill and Langside!
It was in many respects quite an amazing meeting. For instance the committee had decided to run ten men in each heat of the 100 yards. “It was a striking scene to see the sprinters tearing down the turf in such numbers.” They were lucky in that the wind and rain were behind them; the final was won to everyone’s surprise by Gordon of Hamilton Academicals from Frame of Carluke Beagles. 49 men were on the cinder track, in the rain for the Mile, won by McMorrow of WSH and Celtic FC. The Long Jump was won by WC Taylor (handicap allowance of 1′ 9″) from T Vallance, a nephew of the jump record holder. AAG Stronach was second in the high jump to Carr of Maryhill Harriers.
Despite the weather, the meeting was a success after all. Apart from anything else, the sight of ten men sprinting side by side with the wind and rain hurling them down the track must have been wonderful. Just to confirm how bad the conditions were:,the ‘Glasgow Herald simply reported “Unfortunately the weather completely broke down immediately after noon, and rain descended in torrents about two o’ clock thus completely spoiling the meeting, both from a sports point of view and the attendance of the public.”
But all was not well in the world of athletics and there was a split between the biggest and most powerful club in the land, Clydesdale Harriers, and the SAAA which led to the former setting up an opposition organisation called the Scottish Amateur Athletic Union. There were rival meetings and there were two Scottish Championships held in Glasgow on 22nd June, 1895: SAAA at Hampden and SAAU at Ibrox. There was also an SAAA sponsored meeting at Hampden on 3rd June. If there was a separate QPFC meeting in 1895, it was not in May or June. The assumption is that it was just squeezed out, a victim of a feud not of their making. There does not seem to have been a QPFC Sports in 1896 either – the Govan Police Sports at Ibrox on the first Saturday and the Glasgow Police Sports on the second Saturday along with the Clydesdale Harriers Sports on the same day were the only meetings in Glasgow in the first half of the month.
From the ‘Glasgow Herald’ of 6th September, 1886: “On Saturday afternoon the Queen’s Park FC held their annual sports at Hampden Park. The weather was highly favourable and there was a large attendance of spectators. The meeting being now regarded as the principal one in the West of Scotland, several famous athletes competed, together with some Englishmen, and the various events were upon the whole keenly contested. In the one mile open handicap DS Duncan , the champion was defeated. He gave up running at the end of the third lap, the pace being evidently too fast for him. Stevenson and Anderson kept at it, the latter winning a good race by three yards. During the day, Ray of Ulverston gave a good display of pole vaulting. He endeavoured to defeat his record of 11 ft 5 1/4 in made at Whitehaven a fortnight ago, but in this he failed, only managing 10 ft 10 in. The arrangements for conducting the events were excellent and altogether the sports were a complete success. The band and pipers of the Royal Scots under the leadership of Mr SG Griffiths supplied excellent music. At the close of the competitions Mr Cameron Corbett , MP for Tradeston, made a short speech after which Miss Scott presented the prizes.”
The events on the afternoon included a 100 yards open handicap with 6 Heats, 220 yards open handicap, a 440 yards open handicap, 440 yards confined, 880 yards confined, one mile open handicap, high jump, two bicycle races and a one mile tricycle handicap.
Withe the football season beginning on the first Saturday in September 1887, the Queen’s Park FC Sports were held on 4th June. The clash with the established sports in Greenock and the Heart of Midlothian Sports in Edinburgh did not seem to affect the proceedings at Hampden for this preliminary meeting. “The preliminary events in connection with the annual sports of the Queen’s Park Football Club was carried through on Saturday afternoon in presence of a fair gathering considering the unimportant character of the sports, which were only preliminary events to the excellent display to be made next Saturday when the programme proper will be gone over. ”
The sports began with the Heats of the 100 yards confined, went on to an extended four a side competition featuring Rangers No 1, Clyde Strollers, Cambuslang Strollers, QP Strollers, Rangers No 2, Gordon Athletic, Rawcliffe, Vale of Leven, Abercorn, Partick Thistle, Royal Albert, Clyde, Kilmarnock, Rutherglen, Cartvale, Drumpellier, Cambuslang, Battlefield, St Mirren, Dumbarton Athletics, Cowlairs, Victoria and The Etceteras (QP). Four of the above teams did not appear and the semi finals between Dumbarton and Dumbarton Athletics and The Etceteras (Queens Park) and Cambuslang would be played the following Saturday, as would the semis and finals of the confined 100 yards.
The weather the following Saturday was reportedly not of the best and there was not a big crowd at the start, either in the ground or in the stand. The first event was the half-mile confined and when this was ‘got out of the way’ the 100 yards open handicap runners took to the track for one of the feature races of the afternoon. The track was ‘in capital going order and fast’. There were ten Heats of the race and many very good athletes were among them. The Maley brothers, Willie (3 yards) and Tom (1/2 yard) both qualified for the second round, with Tom winning the final after a hard race against AS Blair by half a yard. Queen’s Park Etceteras won their semi-final and then defeated Dumbarton in the final. The athletics programme included all the usual events from 100 yards to one mile with some confined events mixed in with the open handicaps but the cycle races were regarded as the big draw with English champions competing, there was also a tandem race and a tricycle race.
The sports in 1888 ere held on 9th June in weather so bad to start with, there was torrential rain for an hour before the start, that there was talk of them being postponed. There were no records in the races, nor were there any double winners but it was reported to be a good meeting. The 100 yards open handicap was won by RA Taylor of EUAC from T Maley, Clydesdale Harriers and A Hastie, Clydesdale Harriers and the 120 yards hurdles was won by JT Ward, Clydesdale Harriers, from A Watt of Queen’s Park. . JR Gow of the Rangers FC won his Heat of the 100 but failed to make the final. AT Symington won the 220 yards. R Welsh of Ayr won the 440 yards, J Allan of Queen’s Park won the 600 yards from T Blair, also of Queen’s Park. The one Mile was won comfortably by A Hannay, Clydesdale Harriers and Rangers FC
The preview of the sports in 1889 was: “The annual sports of the Queens Park FC come off on Saturday on their beautiful ground at Hampden – the best adapted enclosure for athletics in Scotland. Great pains are being taken to have the cinder path in prime order, and with favourable weather the surface should be smooth and suitable for fast performances. The cream of athletes and cyclists have entered, and the sports promise to rival all previous enterprises of a similar kind held by this club. ”
Glasgow Herald, June 3rd, 1889
Quite the build up but would the sports live up to this billing? Seven days later.
“Another instance of the apathy of the Glasgow public to athletics meetings was forthcoming on Saturday when the Queen’s Park held their annual sports. The weather, it is true, was not very inviting but had it been a football match thousands would have suffered, without raising a murmur, any little discomfort that may have been caused through the rain. We cannot comprehend why the Glasgow public should be so one-sided in their taste. Football unquestionably is a great game but there are physical traits, if we may so speak brought to the surface as our athletic meetings which are every bit as interesting as the pluck and determination usually shown in a football match. Last year the Queen’s Park dropped £70 on their meeting, and the loss on Saturday will not be much less than that amount. We hope better times are in store alike for the QP , and all those clubs who are doing so much to give athletics a firm, solid footing in Scotland.” So thanks to the weather the attendance was poor. The meeting itself, according to all the reports was a good one with the Mile being specially mentioned. John Blane of Clydesdale Harriers and Maybole could not run, which was a real pity, but the race between Charles Pennycook, Clydesdale Harriers and Arthurlie FC, off 15 yards and AM Marshall of Irvine FC, off 20, was a good one with Marshall just winning,. Robert Mitchell of Clydesdale Harriers and St Mirren FC won the 600 yards, DK Gow of the Rangers Fc won the 100 yards handicap, and JR Gow, of Clydesdale Harriers and Rangers FC won the hurdles. Where the athlete had joint membership, both clubs have been shown to indicate that it was a time when no sport claimed exclusivity and all clubs had multi-talented sportsmen representing them in open competition.
On the second Saturday in June, 1890, the report in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ read:
“Beteeen five and six thousand spectators assembled at Hampden Park on Saturday afternoon, in brilliant weather to take part in the annual sports held under the auspices of the club. An interesting programme was named, and all the finals with the exception of the two miles safety race were keenly contested, the excitement was well sustained to the finish. In the two mile bicycle race, Young, who rode a pneumatic tyre machine, again demonstrated his superiority, winning handsomely by about 20 yards in the good time of 5 min 44 sec. …. The 600 yards scratch race was looked upon as one of the events of the meeting. Both Mitchell and Logan had kept themselves in it, and as Mitchell held the record at 1 min 52 secs, the contest excited great interest. The race was at a good speed throughout, Blair of the Queen’s Park winning on the tape by a few inchesbut the time was 6 1-5th seconds slower than Mitchell’s record. … ” Results:
120 yards hurdles: TM Duncan, EUAC, ; 2, TW Young, Clydesdale Harriers; 3. TE Maley, Clydesdale Harriers
400 yards open Handicap: FD Watson, Stewart’s College 7 yards; 440 yards open handicap: W Martin, Newmilns, 26 yards
600 yards scratch race: 1. T Blair, QPFC; 2. R Mitchell, St Mirren FC; 3. J Logan, Vale of Leven
880 yards handicap: J Taylor; one mile open handicap: A Hannah, Clydesdale Harriers, 20 yards.
T Blair, Queen’s Park FC
Queen’s Park FC
Let’s get the question of whether the connection with football was good for athletics out of the way to start with. A very large number of senior and professional football clubs was established in the 1870’s – Queen’s Park FC was set up in 1867 with Kilmarnock FC two years later, but we note that Dumbarton 1872, Third Lanark (1872), Rangers (1872), Hamilton Academicals (1874), Hearts (1874), Hibernian (1875), Falkirk (1876), St Mirren (1877), Arbroath and Airdrieonians (1878) all appeared within seven years of each other. It might be a useful exercise to see what the Scottish athletics scene was in 1871 and compare it with 1879 to see what differences, if any, appeared.
The summer season in 1871 starts for us with the Glasgow Academy Sports on the last Saturday in April and the Glasgow High School Athletic Sports one month later on 27th May. Both were reported extensively in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ with some interesting comments in the latter on the place of athletics in the life of the pupils after they left school. These events, like those at Dumfries Academy on 17th June, were not of course available to the general community. However the Pollokshaws Star Quoit Club held a sports meeting on the 17th and a week later there was an athletic meeting held at Vale of Leven organised by a Committee which had some wee hiccups – I quote:
“We append the results of the matches which came off, but about one third of what were on the programme were not gone on with, partly on account of the dissatisfaction of the committee with a number of the competitors from a distance, whom the supposed to be more anxious to get the prizes than to compete fairly for them, and partly, we understand, that the drawings at the gate did not sufficiently supplement the subscriptions which the committee had received.”
Into July and the 10th RRV organised the Greenock Highland Games where several noted athletes took part, and the following week saw the Dunblane Highland Games and the Campsie Athletic Games. I have noted the various organising bodies as an illustration of the haphazard nature of the organisation of the sport at the time -schools doing their own thing, a quoiting club, a local committee, the 10th RLV, and local Games Committees which were self perpetuating bodies. This diversity in provision led not unnaturally to local distances and events – a 250 yards race at one venue, a 4 miles race at another, a Beaters Race, and throws events such as ‘throwing the sledgehammer for height. The nature of the Games as a social event on the local calendar is perhaps best illustrated by the Balfron National Games and Horse Racing. The National Games were traditional Scottish events including races for local boys (living within 5 miles of Balfron), The competitors included top men such as Donald Dinnie, ove of the best Scottish throwers ever, and Alex McPhee (Paisley) who won many races around the country and was father of Alex, junior, and Duncan McPhee who were Scottish champions on the track and over the country for Clydesdale Harriers and West of Scotland Harriers. The athletics were followed by the horse racing where the star turn was a beast named Snorter. In August there was a meeting at Milngavie organised by Sir George Campbell, Bart, on the same day as the Strathallan Gathering at the beginning of the month, there were others at Paisley, Kilbirnie and Crieff in August.
The picture is anything but clear but what we can say is that whether an event occurred or not depended on the interest of a particular group or individual. eg with hundreds of RLV’ in the country, what inspired the 10th RRV to put on a meeting? Or later the 1st or 3rd RLV organisations? Why a quoiting club? The provision was patchy and irregular. The events were staged in local fields. The fields being of different sizes, the distances were often of different lengths – the 250 yards above was replaced by a 150 or a 300 or a 330 yards at other venues. The middle distances were poorly represented although there were enough at one mile, four miles, two miles, or whatever to earn a fair amount for runners like Alex McPhee. There was no standardisation of distances between venues and the measuring was almost certainly of variable accuracy. There were for a few years in the 1870’s Inter-University meetings but there was a break after 1873 (held at St Andrews) and 1889 when they were resurrected at King’s College in Aberdeen. Finally there is no description that uses the word ‘amateur’ in any of the reports on the meetings – nor do they use the word ‘professional’ either. Given the frequent mention of known professional athletes and the fact that we know meetings such as Dunblane and Strathallan were professional at the period (although they later ‘turned amateur’), it can be assumed that most meetings were professional.
There is a marked contrast with the 1879 season.
Many clubs held athletic sports and not just the top level clubs such as Rangers, Celtic, Hearts, Third Lanark, etc: annual sports were held by Royal Albert FC, Parkgrove FC, Hurlford FC, the Crescent FC, and Maybole FC among many others. Parkgrove was based in Govan with headquarters in Copeland Road while the Crescent FC team hailed from Ardrossan. Just looking at the fixture list for 1879 we see that the following teams hosted their own sports:
Arbroath FC (24th May), Kilmarnock FC (17th June – co-hosted with Kilmarnock Cricket Club), Hurlford FC (28th June), Johnstone Athletic FC (19th July), Parkgrove FC (16th August), Cartside FC (23rd August). There may well have been more. They were usually all well attended and included sports other than athletics, mainly variations on the football 5-a-side although some of the meetings held a single match between two local teams as part of the programme. eg at Hurlford, Hurlford won from Kilmarnock Hibernians. Confined races were also usually part of the programme with races confined to locals, or members of the sponsoring football team, but occasionally groups like carters or ploughmen had their own races. The prizes for these sports were not negligible either, at times they were better than many of those handed out in the second half of the 20th century! For example the Sports at Ardrossan had among the prizes (these are just examples but typical of all events – including the three legged race, the sack race, the Mile handicap, etc)-
100 yards: 1st silver mounted crystal biscuit box; 2nd silver plated inkstand
Half Mile: 1st Gladstone travelling bag; 2nd silver mounted oak butter cooler
Football contest: 1st four gold badges; 2nd four silver Maltese crosses
Given the amount spent on the awards, it is clear that these clubs valued what the event would bring to them in return. Running a sports was not a small undertaking.
In addition the standard of athlete was high (JA Crerar of Third Lanark, and J Finlayson of QPFC were among the prize winners at this meeting). Obviously, the nearer the venue to any of the big cities, the more players from the big teams there were. The Parkgrove FC meeting in Govan had competitors from QPFC (incl JW Harvie, BB Sykes, JD Finlayson), Rangers FC (A Watson) and LRV (JA Crerar, J McKay) as well as from assorted other football clubs noted only by their initials – JCFC, WPFC, and others. The prizes awarded were often listed in reports but the only one noted at the Parkgrove meeting was for the 300 yards handicap (confined) and was a sterling silver cup worth 30 guineas – ‘presented by the ladies of Govan. To be won three times.’ The last qualifier was important since many athletes thought winning a cup once meant you kept it. Even stipulating three times was not a tight enough definition either – did it mean winning the trophy three times was enough or did it mean that it had to be won three times consecutively? Nevertheless 30 guineas was a big sum in 1879.
The bigger clubs such as Kilmarnock FC, St Mirren FC, St Bernard’s FC. Hamilton Academicals and Airdrieonians had their own meetings with their own variations on the format. Hamilton Academicals had their sports over two consecutive Saturdays. eg on 5th July 1884 they held the first day’s sports where the main events were the football competition which was won by Cambuslang, the place kick won by H Reid (Rangers FC) from H McHardy (Rangers), 100 yards heats with final the following week, and the confined 440 yards. On 11th July, there were eleven events, 100 yards (open), 100 yards (confined), 440 yards open handicap, scratch half mile (confined to clubs from Lanarkshire), half mile open, one mile handicap, 120 yards hurdles, obstacle race, consolation race, one mile cycle race, two miles cycle race. The prize winners were almost all from football clubs – Cambuslang FC, Dumbarton FC, Pilgrims FC, Rangers FC, Royal Albert FC, Vale of Leven FC, 3rd LRV FC and Hamilton FC with some athletes from the universities (a few) and other clubs such as Golfhill Tennis Club. That same day, Airdrieonians had their own two day event with an amateur athletic sports on the 12th and was mainly composed of confined events plus a four a side football competition with the final to be held the following week. Came the 18th and it was an athletics meeting that we would recognise as such today. There were several names which were well known at these Sports around the West of Scotland – A McNab (3rd LRV) was a prolific prize winner, JG Cleland (Royal Albert) and “the sack race was an easy thing for ‘Tuck’ McIntyre’ who was a member of Rangers FC who, as well as being an excellent sprinter in open events, was making a habit of winning or being placed in the obstacle race and the sack race. Before playing for Rangers, from 1883, he had been a member of Alexandra Athletic – a club that had a long history of promoting amateur sports back into the 1870’s. Also on that afternoon were the St Bernard’s FC Sports at Powderhall and the West Kilbride Annual Sports at Seamill.
When St Mirren opened their new grounds at Westmarch in Paisley on 23rd July 1883, they did so with an amateur athletic sports meeting. Founded in 1877, theirs was one of the oldest annual sports meetings on the calendar, late July every year, having been started in 1881 and continuing from there. Greenock Morton, founded in 1874, was there too with a first rate annual sports,usually towards the end of May, where the feature race was for many years the quarter mile with such as Eric Liddell racing at Cappielow for Edinburgh University as an individual and in the relay too.
By 1880, there were many more athletic meetings available to the athletes of the country and a lot of that was down to the football clubs using their own grounds as a venue and making at times considerable amounts of money from them. The increased number of clubs in the central belt meant that there were that many more meetings in a relatively small area and the regular runners became known and developed their own supporters. The more they raced, the better they became as runners and the standard in the country rose. In addition, the fact that the clubs had standardised ground sizes meant that the running distances were also standardised which helped the runners judge their efforts more accurately. In short athletics gained
* More Meetings
*Standardised Track Sizes
*More and better publicity
*Because of the above, more recruits to the sport
Of course the football clubs also gained – money from the crowds that rolled up and fitter players among the benefits but the contrast between athletics provision in 1871 and 1879 was marked.
Given that the Rangers Sports was one of the longest running sports promotions in Scottish athletics history – it ran from 1881 into the 1960’s – and the importance of its place in athletics particularly after the second great war, it is maybe appropriate to note the origins in a separate page. Note that the meeting spoken of was in 1881, two years before the SAAA was founded and four years before the first open athletics club appeared on the scene. The following is from the ‘Glasgow Herald’ of 22nd August, 1881.
RANGERS FOOTBALL CLUB ATHLETIC SPORTS
The first annual amateur athletics sports held in connection with this celebrated football club took place on their grounds, Kinning Park, on Saturday afternoon. Splendid weather and a most attractive programme induced a large number to be present, though the grand stand was but partially occupied. The sports were in all respects a great success, the two mile bicycle contest being one of the chief features. There were five competitors, including DD Bryson, the amateur champion of Scotland, who rides splendidly, and in the last two laps received round after round of applause. For the obstacle race, 24 entered, who were set off in three heats and a final, and as the difficulties proved rather trying to the competitors, few completed the distance. At the start the men ran about thirty yards backwards, turned round and got over the first barrels by leap frog, the next were crept through, the hurdles were crawled under and leaped over as best they could, where fresh difficulties had to be overcome. The first of these consisted of poles placed at an angle and resting on the top of horizontal bar about 10 feet high, from which ropes were suspended, the poles were clambered up sailor fashion, the ground being reached by sliding down the ropes. Further on, young trees, divested of branches, and supported at either end by trusses about 2 feet high had to be walked along, and as they were placed at a distance from each other, and about 35 feet long, the vibration in the centre caused most of the competitors to lose their equilibrium when they had to try again or give up. The last obstacle was a horizontal bar over which the men had to throw a somersault. When this was reached the best gymnast both in the heats and the final, was 30 or 40 yards in front, when he had an easy finish. In the half-mile open handicap, JD Finlayson (QP) was defeated by McCulloch of Helensburgh, and though entered for the Mile he did not run. A large field entered for the 100 yards open handicap, the running in which was very good. The tug-of-war was different from the usual contest. Instead of teams facing each other and pulling one rope in opposite directions to force their opponents over the mark, the new method consists of two ropes of equal length with loops at either end and securely tied together in the centre. Four only compete at a time, each putting the fixed loop over his body and standing at opposite corners where flagstaffs are fixed in the ground about two yards behind. All pull in opposite directions, the first who seizes his flagstaff and drags it from the ground to win. The contest was most amusing. All the other events passed off well.
The sports were under the patronage of the most noble the Marquis of Lorne, the Hon the Lord Provost of Glasgow, Dr Cameron MP, Mr A Crum MP, ex-Lord Provost Collins, and other gentlemen. A source of attraction was the playing and singing by the band of the 8th LRV. Judges and Handicappers – Mt Livingstone and Mr Robertson. Starter – Mr John Graham. Timekeeper – Mr J Smith. Clerks of Course – Mr McKay and Mr P McNeil. Referees – The Sports Committee.
The important thing in any sports meeting however was how the events worked out and who the winners were. The events in order here were as follows:
100 yards (confined): final heat: G Gillespie, scratch, 11 sec. Prize presented by Mr J Stewart, Ascog
Quarter Mile Handicap (confined): AS Maitland, 15 yards, 59 seconds
Quarter Mile Race Open : FG Connell, WSFC, 55 seconds 5 ran
Broad Jump: T Vallance, Rangers FC, 21′ 6″
100 yards Open Handicap: DD McGillivray, Caledonian FC, 10.2 seconds
Hurdle Race Open: T Vallance Rangers FC, 18 seconds
Half Mile Handicap Open: D McCulloch, Helensburgh FC, 10 yards,
Obstacle Race Open: T Vallance, Rangers FC,
One Mile Open Handicap: AD McGillivray, Caledonian FC, 4:46. 14 ran.
Tug of War Open: T Vallance, Rangers FC
Two Miles Bicycle Race Open: DD Bryson, Midlothian CC, scratch, 10 minutes 09 seconds
Place kick open: AH Holmes, QPFC, 183 feet.
Consolation Race: P Logan, Vale of Leven,
There was also a four-a-side football match won by QPFC who defeated Blackburn Rovers in the final. The ‘Man of the Meeting’, had there been such an award, would undoubtedly have gone to that superb athlete Tom Vallance who won four events of widely differing natures. He would go on to set the first recognised Scottish amateur long jump record a month later at the QPFC Sports with a leap of 21′ 11″. At the inaugural Rangers Sports, his brother Alex was third in the half mile handicap and he would go on to win the SAAA 129 yards hurdles in 1888.
Mention has been made of Tom Vallance’s record long jump at the QPFC Sports on 3rd September, 1881. It was not his only event that afternoon. In the hurdles race, brother Alex was second in the first heat, then Tom won his heat by 6″ and then won the four man final from Turner (QP) and Alex was third. He won the Broad Jump, as it was then called, in a new Scottish record of 21′ 11. The high jump report comments that Vallance of the Rangers was ‘the first to succumb‘ but doesn’t specify which one it was. The Games had their share of controversy too – JA Crerar of Third Lanark being second in the 440 and also in the 100 yards where many thought that he had been the winner, and even more disputation after Arthur Muir of Kilbarchan won the pole vault: he was alleged to be a professional competing under an assumed name with the result that the prize was withheld until the matter had been decided in Committee. No doubt about either of Vallance’s victories though. The star name was that of Englishman WG George who won the half mile and Mile.
The 1881 were the first annual sports but it is difficult to find a second annual sports. There were several sports meetings every week that summer with Shawfield and Edinburgh Institution featuring every couple of weeks and at times every week. The Glasgow Herald reported throughout the summer on Athletics and the chief sports each week were as follows:
|Month||First Week||Second Week||Third Week||Fourth Week||Fifth Week|
|May||Kilmarnock FC||Glasgow University||Edinburgh Royal||Greenock AA||Alexandria AC|
|June||Kilmarnock CC||Ayr Academical||Pollokshaws||Kilbirnie FC||–|
|July||Edinburgh Uni||South West FC||Balfron National Sports||St Mirren FC||Glasgow Police|
|August||Nairn Games||Bute HG||Ayr Academicals||-||–|
|September||Queen's Park FC||Dunfermline||Paisley Cycle Meeting||-||–|
By the time of the Queen’s Park Sports took place, the football season was well under way and no real sports would be held thereafter. An interesting sideways glance tells us that the great miler WG George took part in the Queen’s Park Sports of September that year winning the Mile (easily) and the half mile but could only finish second in the quarter mile. Rangers and Celtic Sports in years to come would regularly invite champions from England and Ireland but Queen’s Park was there first. The south side of Glasgow was also served by the South-Western Football Club Annual Sports which were held at their grounds at Copeland Park, Govan. The number of running events was limited to a sprint and a middle distance event and the main event was a four-a-side but a good number of the runners were from the football clubs – Rangers and QPFC as well as the sponsoring club.
The quest for the ‘Second Annual’ Sports can be seen at this link .
“There will be no Irish competitors at the Celtic Sports on Saturday but it is just possible that one or two prominent Irish athletes may figure in the flat events. They of course run the risk of disqualification if they compete under the rules of an alien Union, but that would seem to have little or no terror for them. The Celtic, as is well known, have a powerful influence on Irish athletic circles, and from the temperament of the people across the channel all the restrictions in the world will not prevent the men from competing if they make up their mind to do so, and can find the time to travel to Scotland. What influence the absence of the English party, whose presence has always been a commanding feature of the Celtic sports, will have on the attendance remains to be seen.” Yes indeed, runners like Bradley and Bacon were undoubtedly big attractions and also added a lot to the Scottish scene generally and they would not come to the SAAU rules Celtic sports.
Before we go on with the account of the Celtic Sports in 1895, we should maybe look at some Scottish athletics history. The top club in any sport, whether it be football, athletics or any other will be the subject of criticism and at times unfair discrimination. In 1895 Clydesdale Harriers was the strongest club in athletics and Celtic was one of the strongest in football. The Scottish Amateur Athletic Association was in dispute with the Scottish Cyclists Union which was allied to Clydesdale Harriers. One thing led to another and Clydesdale broke away from the SAAA. With powerful members of Celtic also members or former members of Clydesdale, eg the Maley brothers, PJ Gallagher, etc, the club left the SAAA and joined the Union. With the SAAA allied with the AAA in England and the IAAA in Ireland, it meant that no athlete of any club affiliated with these bodies could run at SAAU events without being disciplined by their governing body. Celtic were outside the SAAA pale and had cast their lot with the SAAU. Back to Scotland in 1895.
All the talent that the SAAU can boast will be at Parkhead on Saturday.” So said the Glasgow Herald of 6/8/95. Whether they did or not, the meeting was a great success. The ‘Scottish Referee’ of 12th August reported:
£440! This magnificent sum was drawn by the Celts at their sports meeting on Saturday. This total must be as much a source of joy to the Celtic as it must be the envy of other clubs. We said on Friday that the Celtic could draw admiring throngs even without the aid of Bradley, Bacon and co., and the monster attendance is proof of our estimate of their loyal patrons. It must be particularly gratifying to the Celts that whereas other clubs can barely make both ends meet they can do so with ease and leave a handsome balance to carry forward. Enterprise such as the Celtic have shown in enlarging and improving their model enclosure deserved success, and none will grudge them the reward that has now attended their labours. “
As far as the athletics was concerned, there was nothing really remarkable other than the revival of the steeplechase and after the interest and amusement it created on Saturday, it is certain to be an annual institution at Parkhead.” With an attendance of 20,000 lined round and round the arena, the events on the programme included 120 yards handicap invitation, 100 yards flat race (10 heats and three semi finals), 220 yards (8 heats), 440 yards (4 heats), one mile, and mile steeplechase handicap (29 ran). They were all good, close, club standard races and the point of the steeplechase seemed to be entertainment with one comment being that there were not enough water jumps. There were also a number of cycle races in which RA Vogt had entered as Celtic FC!
The Maley brothers were all famous athletes – Tom was maybe the most naturally talented, Willie worked hard for the successes he got, and AS was a regular competitor in the sprints at the Sports meetings round the country. Alex Maley was the third of the Maley brothers who all became football managers – he was manager of Clyde, Clydebank, Hibs and Crystal Palace, and Tom at Manchester City, Bradford Park Avenue and assisted at Southport.
1896 was to be Willie’s year – even if he had been a team manager for several years. There were two Scottish championships in 1896 and Willie ran in the SAAU version at Hampden on 27th June. His form coming in to the championships was not of the best but on the day he emerged triumphant as SAAU Scottish 100 yards champion with a winning time of 11 seconds.
In August however his mind was on the club sports meeting. The weekend before, on the weekend of Rangers Sports, the Celtic manager was nowhere to be seen. The ‘Referee’ remarked, “Secretary W Maley was at Brig o’ Allan negotiating talent for the 15th while AS Maley busied himself in the ring at Ibrox booking entrants for Saturday first.”
When the day came there was a sight seldom seen at any sports meeting: the team manager running in the competition and even winning a prize from a low mark. Willie Maley was second (scratch) in the first heat of the invitation 100 yards and second in the final, beaten by JB Auld (1 yard) with the first 4 all very close across the line. Winning time was 10.8 seconds. The One Mile handicap was won by G Graham (CH – 75 yards) from JS Duffus (CH – 50 yards) in 4:23.8. In the open 100 yards there were 20 heats with AS Maley (off 4 yards) winning the 11th heat but not progressing to the final. It was won by T Frew (Vale of Avon – 5 yards) in 10.6. There was a Great Novelty Race – This race was between D McFarlane, cyclist, and S Duffus, four miles champion, and W Robertson, one mile champion, foot runners. The cyclist, who was paced by tandems, had to cover five miles or 3800 yards, and the foot runners about 2 1/2 miles or 4310 yards. The race afforded considerable interest to the crowd. McFarlane, who smashed Vogt and Crawford’s records from two hours to five miles, won the prize.
There was a two miles steeplechase: “The competitors with the exception of Blews fought shy of the ditch. Judge Allison of St Mirren decided to award Mr Blews, Kirkcaldy FC, 250 yards, who finished third, the prize with the other two prizes to be retained by Celtic. Blews, without exception, cleared the hurdle and the ditch fearlessly every time. His time was 12 min 25 sec.”
The 300 yards was won by CF Meikle, Partick Thistle, who was a regular competitor at the various sports meetings. And finally, Conneff, the American champion, one mile flat race, ran an exhibition race, and was accompanied by Mullen. The event fell flat and the time was bad.”
It was a good meeting but again there was evidence of the continuing series of innovations by the club – the novelty race, the steeplechase and the invitation race. The spirit would continue into the Monday meeting too.
After the main sports meeting on Saturday, there was the Monday supplementary meeting. The ‘Glasgow Herald’ said “Celtic hold a supplementary meeting this evening when another interesting programme will be submitted. Instead of a 100 yards sprint there is one over 130 yards . This distance is more popular in the East than in the West but the race tonight should reveal that such men as Bell, Auld, Shanley, Mitchell and others who improve the further they go, at their best. There is an entry of 66 for this race and, except in the case of W Maley and Auld who start at scratch and 1 yard respectively, as in the shorter sprint, the principle of gradation has been carefully applied all round. Another Interesting feature is the introduction of a high jump handicap, and the fact that eleven entries have been received clearly shows that this and other miscellaneous athletic events only require such encouragement as the Celts are exhibiting tonight to gain in popularity, and develop results that will in the end add to our national prestige. ”
The article went on to say that there would also be a two miles handicap with A Hannah (CH) and J Lamb (Edinburgh) competing, plus a series of cycle races. The meeting on 10th August attracted 4000 spectators on a fine night, a;lthough the programme was said by the Herald to be a lengthy one. What was there on it? There was an open handicap 120 yards with 12 Heats: AS Maley, off 6 1/2 yards won the 9th heat and Willie Maley (scratch) tied with J Darque and in the run-off, Maley was the one to go to the final where he was unplaced, the winner being Cordner of Glenboig FC. The open handicap high jump saw a Maryhill Harriers 1-2: the winner was J Gillan from J McFarlane. The two miles flat race handicap was won by the scratch man, JJ Mullen of Elysian AC, from W Robertson of Clydesdale Harriers, also off scratch, in 9:44.6. The two ran together to the final straight when Mullen ‘shot to the front’ and won by 5 yards. Mullen was four times Irish AAA Mile champion between 1893 and 1896 and once GAA mile champion plus IAAA four miles champion in 1890 and five miles in 1896. There were three cycle races.
There was also notice of a professional cycle and athletic meeting the following Saturday ‘on a large scale.’
Alf Downer, Scottish Pelicans
Negotiations had been going on between the SAAA and the SAAU over the weeks and months since the split and agreement between the two was reached in the SFA Rooms at Carlton Place in Glasgow on 23rd April, 1897. New laws and rules were issued defining what was an ‘amateur’ as had been accepted in Leeds in February 1896 between AAA, SAAA, and Irish AAA. Summer 1987 saw the two factions again competing under the single umbrella of the SAAA. The SAAU cause was probably helped by the fact that the major clubs in athletics and football were united in opposition to the SAAA.
On 9th August, 1897, Scottish Referee said “W Maley was at Newcastle on Saturday looking for talent and secured not a few stars.” The Glasgow Herald, also of 9th August, started its preview of the event
The sports were on Saturday, 14th August in 1897. as follows. “Everything the Celtic do, they do well; there are no half measures with them. Since the institution of their sports it has been a rule with them to introduce eminent athletes from England and Ireland . Bradley, Bacon, Perry, Wittenberg and Kibblewhite, an others of less note, have all helped to throw lustre over meetings at Parkhead from time to time, and though the amateurs of the present day are made of different stuff from these men, there are several who stand high in public favour, one or two of whom we are to have the pleasure of seeing on Saturday first.” It went on to name some of them, starting by saying that Bradley was not a certain starter, FW Cooper ( superb sprinter and Welsh rugby international), W Elliott, AAA quarter mile champion would run in the 300 yards, and W Tysoe would turn out in the 1000 and mile handicaps. They had invited 12 to 15 men to take part in the mile, including the three prize winners from the Rangers Sports the previous Saturday.
After these comments and the big build up, came the day and the Herald said: ” Expectation in the case of the English runners who took part in the sports of the Celtic Football Club was scarcely realised. The fact is that both A Tysoe and JW Bradley were most disappointing, and their failure to rise to the dignity of their reputation is the only regrettable feature in connection with Saturday’s function which in other respects was one of the most interesting in the club’s history.
Tysoe’s running in the 1000 yards was indeed poor and the final was won by Jackson of Maryhill Harriers, and the same script was followed in the Mile with Jackson winning and Tysoe disappointing. There were 20 heats, 4 semi finals and a final in the 100 yards which was eventually won by A Cairney of St Gerard’s off 4 1/2 yards. The 300 yards had nine heats and a final. There were 3000 spectators at the Monday supplementary meeting to see the 120 yards open handicap where after 12 heats, a second round and into the final, AS Maley was nowhere in the final which was won by Celtic FC’s T Moore. The two mile flat race was won by T McMillan of Stirling off a mark of 200 yards. Both meetings (Saturday and Monday) had several cycle races on the programme.
Alf Tysoe winning the Olympic 800m, Paris 1900
The report of the meeting was in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ of 1st August 1898 . That means that the sports had been held on 29th June when the usual date had become the second Saturday in August. How so? Well, the second Saturday of August had always been pretty near the start of the football season and most years there were friendlies and trials being played by the clubs of whatever standard. This could at times make life difficult for any event taking place from the middle of August on. It would eventually mean the death of the Celtic Sports. In 1898 the season did start on the second Saturday and Celtic, reluctant to miss a year, and not wanting to hold them on the same day as Rangers Sports, went back two weeks from their normal date. Not being at home on the second Saturday, they held the Scottish 50 mile cycling championship at Parkhead that day. Hence the end of June for the sports. The meeting however was a good one – particularly for the flat racing, as reported in the ‘Scottish Referee’.
“Though blessed with ideal sports weather, it cannot be said that the Celts’ crowd answered to it or to the excellent programme provided. By three o’clock the vast terraces and stands were very sparsely occupied. In another half hour, however, they assumed a cheerier look, and so did the countenances of the officials. If not up to expectations, the gate in comparison with that of other sports was very goodand we doubt not that the Celts are duly thankful for their success. …
“We had no crawls from the cyclists, no ‘hanging back from the athletes. Caldow, a champion come but yet coming, and Goodman, Gascoyne set the crawlers an example they would do well to imitate always. For the athletes, Messrs Cooper, Wadsley, Auld, Tysoe, and MacKenzie all ran to the death. As a result the public were immensely pleased with the afternoon’s sport. So much so that had Celtic, as usual, ventured upon an evening meeting tonight, they would have the satisfaction of having the public with them.”
The meeting was a success and the papers would be talking about it two and three weeks later when the football season had started up. The race of a meeting full of good racing with close finishes was the half mile with Tysoee against the AAA’s champion Relf. They ran together, passing Robertson of Clydesdale who was the best of the rest, before Relf gave nest 80 yards out leaving Tysoe to run on and win if he could. His time off 7 yards was 1:57.1 (against 1:57.8 a week earlier from scratch at Powderhall.) The winner however was Gudgeon of Ayr United. Apparently Tysoe tried to come through on the inside but there was a lot of jostling and he eventually fought his way clear when, according to the reports, had he just gone round his man he would have won the race. He redeemed his poor running of two years previously. The 120 yards was another very good race with all five finalists very close at the finish, JB Auld of Ayr FC, a regular finalist at these meetings, winning from 3 1/2 yards from Cooper of England (scratch) in 11 3/5th. Other events included a 220 yards (won by Kerley of Dublin), half mile (won by J McKenzie of Dublin – 25 yards), One Mile won by S Young of Paisley (115 yards) and several field events. Horgan of Ireland gave a demonstration of shot putting and created a new Scottish record of 46′ 8″, in the high jump Leahy who had cleared 6′ 4″ the week before only managed 5′ 11″and was easily defeated in the handicap. Caldow and Gascoyne starred in the cycle races.
Denis Horgan won a total 42 shot put titles during his athletic career, including 28 Irish championships, 13 English championships (all for the 16 pound shot) and one American championship. Horgan was “usually so superior to his fellow competitors that he seldom trained in any sort of systematic way, yet he showed a marked consistency of performance, in all conditions, over a period of twenty years. [from his Wikipedia entry}
All in all a good quality meeting, a variety of events and everybody happy yet again at a Celtic Sports meeting.
In 1899, 12th August was the dat, the club returning to its regular place in the calendar. The ‘Glasgow Herald’ said:
“If records did not fall on Saturday at Parkhead like grouse on a Highland moor, the excellence of the sport was such as has not been equalled at any athletic function in Glasgow this season. Nor is this surprising when the eminence of some of the competitors is taken into account. Hitherto the Celts have culled from the rich athletic stores of England, but this season Mr William Maley has directed his attention to the not less wealthy resources of Ireland, several of whose more distinguished athletes accepted the invitation, and their presence more than anything else contributed so largely to the success of Saturday’s meeting. If there is any place in Scotland where those of Irish nationality are warmly received it is at Parkhead, which overflows with a kind of exile enthusiasm, making Irishmen feel thoroughly at home and inspiring them to lofty achievements.”
Denis Horgan of Banteer in the shot, Kiely of Carrick-on-Suir in the hammer and hurdles and Leahy in the high jump were all mentioned with Horgan setting a new .Scottish record of 47′ 1″ and Kiely doing like wise with 149′. The half-mile was won by J McCafferty, sometimes known as P McCafferty who won the Scottish cross-country championship and then ran for Ireland in the international. The Mile was said to be an interesting race with the winner being Clydesdale’s JC Lindsay although Clydebank’s A McDonald was jostled in the finishing straight when he looked like the winner and could only finish second, one place in front of McCafferty. The other races including the cycling events were close finishes but not up to the standard of those mentioned above. All round, it was a good meeting to end the millennium.
Mr JOHN MELLISH.
From ‘The Scottish Referee’, 3rd June, 1895:
“Rangers, we understand, have resigned their membership of the SAAA. This step has been forced on the club by the fact of their declaration to adhere to the new Union, and the other fact that under its auspices the club run a sports meeting on Wednesday evening. To run such a meeting and still retain the membership with the SAAA would have rendered the Rangers liable to be dealt with afterwards, hence the resignation. This is, we believe, the first of the withdrawals received by the SAAA officials, and we believe that Rangers have had official acceptance of their resignation sent to them.”
There is need of a little sporting history here. Clydesdale Harriers was the biggest and most powerful athletics club in the country at this point and as is usual, big clubs attract criticism. This is true whatever the sport but in this case the governing body were taking steps to ‘clip its wings.’ The club had ‘sections’ across the country – five semi autonomous sections in Glasgow alone plus Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire, Lanarkshire and Ayrshire. In addition they had members from outwith these areas attached to the nearest section. The first dispute in 1888 was because the SCCA wanted to (a) ban clubs from having sections at all – a direct assault on the only club to have such; and (b) rule that runners in championships had to have done at least ten training runs from the club headquarters during that season. With members in Stirling and other outlying centres who could not get to any of the HQ’s it was again aimed at CH. The Harriers broke away, set up the Scottish Harriers Union and ran rival championships and races and before long the dispute was resolved and among the chief negotiators for Clydesdale was John Mellish: described as ‘one of those who had brought the club to its resent high pitch of excellence’ by the Scottish Referee, a former pupil of Glasgow Academy, a member of the 1st LRV and secretary of a Scottish MP at Westminster, in 1889 he ‘permitted himself to be nominated as President of Rangers.’ There were many links between the two clubs.
In the club handbook of 1895/96 we note the following: “It has been thought advisable to sever our connection with the SAAA, and become affiliated with the SAAU, a new body which has come into being owing to the strained relations existing between the SAAA and the SCU.” The SCU was the national cycling body and there had been continuing disputes between them and the SAAA on the definition of professionalism in the sport. Clydesdale had members from a whole range of sports – cycling, swimming, skating, boxing, cricket and football – and were standing up for their own members. The CH then split from the SAAA and set up the Scottish Amateur Athletic Union.
The link with the Rangers led to the club allying itself with the Harriers and joining up with the SAAU whose rules were slightly different to those of the SAAA, and they had separate championships. That’s the background to the comments about the new Union and their leaving of the SAAA. The same issue of the ‘Referee’ (3 June, 1985) made the following comment:
“To get up a meeting in six short days may be taken as a fine example of smartness. Rangers have undertaken this and we do not believe that their enterprise will meet with disappointment. The committee, with Mr GP Hourston at its head, are gentlemen versed in the running of sports; an excellent management involves an excellent meeting. The entries, even on such short notice, are numerous and admirable in quality. Vogt, McLaren and Kyllacky will mount in the B class, and in the A Simpson and all the best men will be up. The foot racing will see all the Western “cracks” on the path, and altogether a good evening’s sport is promised. Rangers make their debut under the new Union, and as this is the first departure of the kind in the West on the part of one of the SAAA’s former adherents, the novelty of their position may help the attendance.”
Although this was not the club’s annual sports meeting, its significance for domestic athletics is hard to overestimate, whatever the outcome of the meeting. The ‘Glasgow Herald’ of Thursday 6th June reported: “RANGERS FOOTBALL CLUB. This club held an amateur athletic and cycling meeting at Ibrox Park, Govan, last night under SAAU and SCU rules. About 2000 spectators attended. ” Events and winners are noted:
100 yards: 8 Heats, three semi finals, final: G Browning 10 4-5th secs.
One Mile Flat Race: W Robertson 4:33.6
Half Mile cycle race:R Crawford 1:09.6
One Mile Bicycle Race: AH Duncan 2:25.6
Five Miles Bicycle Race: W Robin. NTG
It was on then to the Annual Sports in August. The officials on the day included J Mellish as a judge, and G Hourston as clerk of the course. The report in the Glasgow Herald’ simply said: “The annual amateur athletic meeting under the rules of the SAAU and SCU took place at Ibrox Park, Govan, on Saturday afternoon. Fully 7000 spectators were present. ”
There were 10 heats and two semis of the 100 with the eventual winner being D Cram of Rangers in 10 4-5th seconds. He took the lead at 25 yards and won going away. Cram had been a regular finalist in the sprints over the years but this was his first major win. The 300 yards was won by Auld of Ayr FC. A 1000 yards was won by L Ropner (Clydesdale) in 2:20.2 The Mile was won by Robertson of Clydesdale from scratch in 4:38.4 in what was described as a magnificent race. There was also a two miles in which, after Duffus and Hannah dropped out, H Yuill, Wishaw, won from 120 yards in 9:41.0. In this race there were 23 starters but only 3 finishers in the event.
“A glorious and pronounced success! Augury successfully defied! Enterprise rewarded! These and such like terms as these describe the Rangers revels at Ibrox. It is not gush but fact to say that these were the best sports of the season, and it remains for the Celts to show whether or not they can excel them. Unfortunately champion Maley was elsewhere, so that Auld Ayr and Clyde Wilson were robbed of the chance of showing him the way to the tape. Neither of these two cracks were placed in the final which went to Barclay, three and a half yards. ” That was the comment in the ‘Scottish Referee’ the Monday after the Sports of 1896. The Sports in 1896 was on 3rd August.
There had been two national championships in 1895 and again in 1896. In the 1896 SAAU championships at Hampden on 27th June, Willie Maley won the 100 yards in 11 seconds. (The previous year it had been won by Wilson of Clyde in 10.8 at the same venue). Remembering that there were seldom any field events at SAAU meetings, other athletic events at Ibrox in August, 1886, included
100 yards won by G Barclay (KNH)10.6 sec
Half Mile: J Quinn (Ayr FC) 2:00.2 (off 40 yards)
One Mile: J Barclay (WSH) 4:24 (Fine race with Jackson of Rangers FC)
Three Miles: Lamb from Duffus.
Meanwhile, in Stirlingshire, , “Secretary W Maley was at Brig’ o Allan negotiating talent for the 15th while AS Maley busied himself at a meeting in the ring at Ibrox booking entrants for Saturday 1st.” Who was competing in the professional Games at Bridge of Allan? Alf Downer for one and Gideon Perrie who was born in Lanarkshire but living in America and was the American professional champion for the shot, hammer and ‘other heavy events’.
Alf Downer, Scottish Pelicans
Negotiations had been going on between the SAAA and the SAAU over the weeks and months since the split and agreement between the two was reached in the SFA Rooms at Carlton Place in Glasgow on 23rd April, 1897. New laws and rules were issued defining what was an ‘amateur’ as had been accepted in Leeds in February 1896 between AAA, SAAA, and Irish AAA. Summer 1987 saw the two factions again competing under the single umbrella of the SAAA. The SAAU cause was probably helped by the fact that the major clubs in athletics and football were united in opposition to the SAAA.
The Rangers Sports in 1897 were held on 7th August and the Scottish Referee of 9th August again sang the praises loud and clear:
“RANGERS REJOICE” was the headline, followed by “Scotia’s darling club never had a more successful or pleasurable meeting than that of Saturday. In fact we take leave to say that it was by far the smartest and most interesting sports meeting of the season. There were no crawls and no crawlers, whilst spills and spillers were very few. Not in one but in every event the pursuits to the tape were fast and the finishes close, dead heats occurring in the 100 yards, whilst an almost unparalleled circumstance took place in the Mile flat between Mills and Duffus, the pair actually dead heating. The Committee, headed by JR Gow, deserves great praise for their management, and we expect tonight’s continuation meeting, under their supervision to be even more interesting and enjoyable, especially as football occupies a place on the programme. A word of commendation is due handicappers Hannah and Livingston, for the cycling and foot races were equally good.”
The Glasgow Herald’ of the same date read: “Since the season started no more pleasant athletic function has taken place than that held under the auspices of the Rangers at Ibrox Park, Govan, on Saturday. The weather was all that could be desired, , the heat of the sun being tempered by a fairly strong breeze, which told against good times being done. Fully 14000 spectators were present and they were entertained with a splendid afternoon’s sport. The bands of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders and Govan Police played selections, while a detachment of men from the above regiment gave an exhibition of musical drill and a military field display. Everything was run up to time and at the close Miss Caldwell presented the prizes to the successful competitors.”
What of the competition, then? First off, there were more officials listed than at any of the previous Sports and they included W Maley (not off at Bridge of Allan this year), W Sellar, JR Gow, W Wilton, DS Duncan and A Hannah. The 100 yards resulted in a win for JS Muir of QPFC, off 4 yards, by a foot; Half Mile: J Jeffrey (Irvine AC 55 yards) won; in the One Mile, DW Mill of Greenock Glenpark Harriers 60 yards) looked like winning it until Duffus (Clydesdale 55) came through strongly to make a dead-heat of the race: Mill would join Clydesdale and win the SCCU championships twice at the turn of the century); an there were also bicycle races for professionals and also for amateurs. The competition was continued on the following Monday evening.
On Monday, 9th August, 1897, there was what was termed the continuation of the sports but the programme contained a senior 5-)a-side tournament (featuring Rangers, Third Lanark, Hearts, and Hibernian), a Junior 5-a-sides (with Strathclyde, Parkhead, Cambuslang Hibernians and Glasgow Perthshire) and a 220 yards confined to registered professional football players. With four heats and a final it was won by Tom Hyslop (Rangers FC – 5 yards) from Andrew Holms (Renton – scratch) and N Smyth (Rangers – 9 yards) in 24.0 seconds. Held on a pleasant sunny evening, it was watched by a crowd of 5000 spectators.
The following year’s Sports were held on 6th August, and the Glasgow Herald on 8th August, 1898 published the details prefaced only by, “The gathering on Ibrox Park on Saturday afternoon was a successful one in respect of good racing, fine finishes and splendid management.” It was certainly well supported by the athletes – 20 heats in the 100 yards plus four semi finals and a final equalled 25 races over 100 yards in one afternoon. It was won by McLean of QPFC from Wardrop of QPFC in 10 seconds. The One Mile with an 80 yard limited handicap was won by TP Robertson (no club given) from R Brown (BH) in 4:20.4. The next race was the 120 yards invitation handicap won by Grant (CH – 5 yards) from PJ Kerley (MHFC) 1 1/2) in 12 seconds; Kerley then won the 220 yards handicap and in the half-mile A Morris defeated A McDonald (CH) in 1:58.4. There were also cycle races. both amateur and professional.
‘The Scottish Referee, 8th August, 1898, was a bit more eloquent: “Ye gallant Light Blues are to be congratulated on the success of their sports on Saturday. Favoured with a continuance of brilliant weather, tempered by a cooling breeze, competitors and spectators were in fine humour. A shadow hovered over the scene owing to the death of Dr John McLeod, the flags being lowered to half mast in respectful sympathy. … the raucous shouts of the ‘bookies’ of whom a numerous company were present. Beginning with the sprint, which was run off on the turf in front of the grand stand, the meeting proceeded with a smartness and despatch that made the sport most interesting and enjoyable, and secured for the meeting the verdict of being one of the best in the Rangers history and of the season. “
The paper went on to comment on the individual events but the extract above indicates the success of another meeting. The weather was not good on Monday night for what was now being called the Rangers tournament but before that started there was a One Mile handicap won by J Dickson (Edinburgh – 75 yards) from J Darwin (East Calder) and J Revell (Galashiels). As for the football, the rainy weather had made the ground wet and boggy and did not lend itself to scientific football, but what it lacked in science, it made up for in spirit. St Mirren won defeating Hibernian by one goal to two points.
Not finding a report on the Sports in August 1899 in either the Referee or the Herald, it may be that there were none that year. Note the following:
“Rangers, notwithstanding they are hurrying up the contractors for newer and greater Ibrox with all speed, find that they will have to draw upon the fields of their friends for a few weeks at the start of the season. Anxious to help each other in a time of difficulty, we are pleased to learn that the clubs have readily complied with the Rangers demand, and will accommodate them with dates until such time as Ibrox is ready for occupancy. Rangers patrons will bear with them in their little difficulty and turn out generously when the club is away, so as to compensate the clubs who are obliging the “Light Blues.”
The Scottish Referee, 7th August 1899
The Rangers had been holding sports successfully since their first venture into athletics promotion in 1881. When the Clydesdale Harriers came into being in May 1885, they trained at the Rangers grounds at Kinning Park and Ibrox. The clubs had members in common and they held joint sports for a while. This changed in 1890 when the clubs agreed to hold their separate meetings. The joint ventures had been held at the start of July but from 1890 the Rangers meeting was held on the first Saturday in August: this would be a fixture in the calendar right up into the 1960’s. The Herald commented upon this.
“For a couple of seasons past the Rangers and Clydesdale Harriers combined their meetings. This year however the Rangers courted success independently and met with their reward. Fully 6000 spectators were present at Ibrox Park on Saturday to witness the various events. The weather was all that could be desired, if anything it was too warm for the competitors in the various events, the football especially. The athletes were not numerous but a good day’s sport was witnessed nevertheless. Considerable interest was taken in the football tournament for which four clubs competed – namely Rangers, Dumbarton, St Mirren and Linthouse. [Glasgow Herald, 4th August, 1900]
The absence of the new club, Celtic FC, from the football was maybe explained by the fact that they had a tournament of their on on that day and had three 5-a-side teams competing there. Events contested at Ibrox in 1890 included quarter mile flat handicap confined to football section (J Henderson (30 yards) won by a foot from AH McKenzie off 10 yards; quarter mile flat handicap open won by D Wright Abercorn FC from CL Aitken, Clydesdale H; one mile flat race handicap won by W Henderson from AG Colquhoun, both Clydesdale H; three miles ordinary bicycle race; two mile safety bicycle race. Bicycle races were held at this time on machines with solid tyres, the pneumatic variety just being introduced. Some meetings would hold two races at a particular distance – one for bicycles with solids and the other for Bicycles with pneumatics. On the same day as this report was published in the Herald, the ‘Scottish Referee’ had a letter debating whether the pneumatic tyres should be banned. Among the officials on duty were John Mellish and Tom Vallance as Judges, and Alex Vallance as Time keeper.
In 1891 the Rangers Sports were held on Saturday, August 1st, and as might be expected many of the officials as well as competitors were from Clydesdale Harriers. Many of course had dual membership including John Mellish who would play a significant part in resolving the dispute that split Scottish athletics in 1885/86. Most sports had their special event, or even a novelty event, to draw in the crowds and one of the most popular events at this meeting was a 440 yards race confined to “bona fide playing members of Rangers FC.” It was won by Reid (30 yards) the goalkeeper, from Kerr (35) and AR MacKenzie (10). However the fact that football prevails even at the Rangers Sports was evident right at the start of the report in the ‘Scottish Referee of 3rd August, 1891:
“Long may this flag float over a vigorous club, and may remembrance of victory already achieved stimulate the club to greater exertions in future,” These were the stirring, cheering words that Councillor Primrose spoke after unfurling the Rangers Joint League Championship flag on Saturday. So far as their sports were concerned, the flag was honourably hoisted, and it is to be hoped that similar luck will follow the club so long as a tattered rag of the banner floats gaily in the breeze. One disappointment was experienced by the 10,000 people present, and that of course, was the non-appearance of FJ Osmond the English champion cyclist whose recent phenomenal performances have electrified the wheel world. ,,,,, “
The first Saturday in August, 1892 was the 6th of the month and like its predecessors it was a great success. The biggest crowd ever seen, 12,000 spectators, was present at the games and, financially, £259 was taken at the gate, £60 for the stands, and the total with entry fees etc came to over £350. Typical of the period the cycle racing was a big draw with Mecredy, the Irish champion proving to be a crowd pleaser. The ‘Scottish Referee’ commented ‘cycling is booming.’ Beveridge and Tom Blair were the top sprinters but they held the 440 yards confined to Rangers players again and A Mc Creadie who won it was reported to be all out at the finish. There were several close races, especially the 220 yards invitation: “Did McCulloch or McLeod win the 220 invitation? This is still a problem with most people although Judge McNab has it solved to his satisfaction by giving the race to McCulloch, The finish was certainly a close affair, and in the circumstances it might have been as well to have had a couple of judges on the men. McLeod led until ten yards from home, then McCulloch drew level with him, throwing upon his powerful rival that characteristic glance which implies that he has a grip of his man, but which almost lost him the race. On the tape McCulloch should conserve all his attention and leave those “glances” to the finish. The time was given 24 2/5 seconds exactly – the same as McCulloch did in his heat – and yet he did not run so strongly. Three watches were on the event and two of them gave the time as 23 2/5th seconds. If this really be the case then McCulloch has equalled McLeod’s record time for the distance made at the WSH meeting in 1891. ”
With a big crowd, quality athletics on display and a profit at the end of the afternoon, what more did a meeting want?
The meeting on 5th August 1893 was a well supported one – 12 heats, semi finals and a final of the 100 yards with Rangers player JR Gow (3 yards) making the final’ ; 8 heats of the 220 with Rangers man H Barr winning his Heat. The ‘Glasgow Herald’ reported as follows.
“Ibrox was the centre of attention on Saturday afternoon, the occasion being the annual sports of the Rangers FC, which were a great success in every respect. The sprints were capitally contested, ; indeed all the races – cycle and flat – resulted in very close finishes. We can only refer to one or two of the outstanding features of the day’s sport. First then TE Messenger created a small sensation by breaking the 600 yards record. He sliced 2-5th off the previous best, and had he been pressed to any extent, he would have done much better time. Messenger ran very smoothly and he displayed perfect skill from start to finish. Another feature of the meeting was the failure of AR Downer, the Scottish champion, from whom great things were expected. He was badly beaten in the 100 yards heat, the time for which was 10 2-5th sec; and in the 220 yards heat he was at least four yards worse than 23 seconds. DR McCulloch’s success appeared to give great satisfaction to all present. He just lost the 100 yards final by a breast after a most spirited finish with J Weir of Milngavie FC (6 yards). JJ Rice (Partick Thistle), 17 yards, had something to spare in the final of the 220 yards handicap. The mile was won in 4 min 28 2-5th off 60 yards which shows that J Stavert is a rapidly improving runner. The Clydesdale Harriers Mile was won in 4 min 23 sec. and Morton did his record 4 min 24 1-5th on the Rangers ground. Hannah did not run quite up to form on Saturday. At one time he looked like winning the two miles handicap, but he cracked badly when the supreme moment came. S Duffus, Arbroath Harriers (20 yards) won and T Mitchell, Paisley Harriers, who might have been first had he not spurted so soon was a good second. The cycling as usual called forth great interest. The gate money yielded over £200.”
At the end of the day’s sport the prizes were presented by Mrs Primrose, wife of Bailie Primrose.
Stewart Duffus and his brother JS
The ‘Glasgow Herald’ had an interesting take on the 1894 meeting when it began “The new professionalism had its beginning at Ibrox Park on Saturday and Rangers FC are to be congratulated on their efforts to popularise cycling in Scotland. Though the number of riders present fell far short of what was expected, still there was a fairly large contingent of what is known as the Paris crowd to make the racing interesting to the 15000 spectators who came there impelled as much by curiosity as much as by desire to see good sport. …” The meeting, which included a four-a-side football competition, seems to have been the only one held on the Saturday with the amateur athletics being held on the following Monday.
This Monday meeting contained many top names as well as several amateur cycle races. The same paper reported on Tuesday, 6th August:
“Following their professional tournament on Saturday, the Rangers last night held a meeting last night open to amateurs only. There was a good attendance of spectators and, considering that the weather was bitterly cold and that there was a strong breeze, the sport was excellent. Indeed the two miles flat race was the finest ever witnessed in Glasgow, and resulted in a very popular win for A Hannah .”
Events at the meeting included 100 yards handicap (10 heats, 2 semi finals, final), 600 yards flat handicap (third in this race was RS Langlands who would become the first Scot to run under two minutes for 880 yards), Two Miles flat plus three cycle races (half mile, one mile and five miles). It was a very short programme compared to the normal Rangers sports and for the athletics supporters being limited to three events on a Monday evening was not what they would have wanted.
It had been an experimental weekend, the least successful meeting for several years but 1895 would see a return to the normal format. However the pace in athletics events for their relative sports was being set, for the time being at least, my Maley of the Celtic who was inviting the top men from all over Britain, maybe especially Ireland, to his club’s meetings.