Relays: SAAA Medley Relay 1935 – 1939

The available SAAA records for the championship for this period is scanty but we will put up what we have and if/when more information comes to hand, it will be added.   Over this period the relay was run at the SAAA Championships which had instituted a Friday evening session consisting mainly of heats of the sprint events.   In this context it maybe made sense for them to run the medley final since all the sprinters were already at the venue.   It meant that having run no finals the runners would be fairly fresh.   They could hardly be expected to run a relay between heat and final, and if it were held after the final then the athletes would be rather tired and in any case the relay would not be their main event of the afternoon.   But that’s reading a lot into a little information!   The point is that they were held during the evening session on Friday.

The Queen’s Park Sports on 1st June 1935 had a wonderful cast of athletes taking part, noted in the Press as possibly the best ever, and the events included an Inter-City Medley Relay.   Edinburgh defeated Glasgow in 3:35.4,   “It was curious to find Glasgow on the losing side mainly because of the failure of AD Turner and Robin Murdoch on the furlongs,   Neither the Scottish Champion nor Turner were fully fit, and poor exchanging gave Edinburgh an additional pull.”   The Glasgow team might have been better using some of the Springburn Harriers who were in action that day.   “Springburn Harriers have gathered together a very useful lot if Saturday’s meeting is any criterion.   They had a regular field day in the open events securing three firsts in the open and youths sprints, a victory in the mile and seconds in the half-mile, high jump, obstacle race and 440 yards. ”   

A week later St Peter’s AC held their eighth annual sports meeting and it was one which was well known for its relay content – they had 440 yards relay (4 x 110), 880 yards relay (4 x 220), Mile Relay (4 x 440) , two miles relay (4 x 880) and a four miles relay.   There was no place unfortunately for a medley relay.   Anyone looking for clues as to the result at the SAAA would have noted that Garscube won the 440 yards relay, Bellahouston won the 880 yards relay, Maryhill won the One Mile relay and also the Two Miles relay.   Maryhill could only finish third in the two shorter relays so there was not a lot to be gleaned there.   The Police Sports were held on 15th June and the relay race was noted as less good than in previous years.   Maryhill Harriers won in 3:41.8 from Springburn and Bellahouston,   They were reported to have “won easily.”   

As it turned out, the other clubs should maybe have taken a closer look at the Springburn squad because on Friday, 21st June at Hampden Park, they were the ones who won the SAAA Medley Relay title in 3:40.8.   This was the first time that the Friday evening session had taken place and it was voted a great success.   

The Friday night experiment was voted a great success and was repeated at the  SAAA Championships held on  26th June.   However at the Queen’s Park FC Sports of 6th June, there was a medley relay in which Glasgow with a team of CF Campbell, DA Brownlee, DM Pearson and C France, defeated Edinburgh (JC Stothard, RR Wylde, R Forman, GD Malcolm in 3 min 46.4.   Campbell and Brownlee were both Springburn Harriers with Campbell having contested a hard fought half mile against Stothard earlier in the afternoon, being beaten only by one and a half yards.   

Only two weeks later, on 20th June, the Glasgow Police Sports were held at Ibrox and of course the programme contained a medley relay.  It was the only event of the afternoon that produced a record.   The report read:  “There was one performance of the gathering demanding minute reference and that was the win of Bellahouston Harriers in the one mile medley relay race, which they won in the new Scottish record time of 3:34.2, 0.2 faster than the time put up by Glasgow University at the same sports four years ago.   It was half miler Jack Gifford who really did much to help Bellahouston achieve this performance.   He went round the half-mile at the heels of Robert Graham, always appearing to have an abundance of pace, while it seemed that the joint mile record holder (whose record was broken by SC Wooderson in Saturday’s Southern Championships),  was in front trying hard to get clear of Gifford, but the latter refused to be shaken off and became the challenger-in-chief, with the result that Bellahouston enjoyed the slight advantage of a change-over so close was the struggle; and the time for the half was 1:58.2, the sign of a record in the making. ”   The remainder of the team – G Young, J Bone and Charlie France – all did their bit and the race was won and a record set at 3.34.2.     Maryhill was second and Springburn third with the winning margin being 20 yards with a further 20 yards between second and third.  

A week later at the opening Friday night  meeting, held on 24th June. of the SAAA championships was a very similar event with Bellahouston Harriers emerging triumphant in a time of   3:41.2 The time was a full eight seconds slower than at the Police Sports but the medals were the thing at  the championships and so began a marvellous spell of SAAA titles for the Glasgow club.   

On 28th May, 1938, at the Monkland Sports, there was a medley relay held in which the favourites, Bellahouston Harriers, were beaten in the heats by Glasgow Un iversity and both defeated by Springburn Harriers in the final in a time of 3:37.8.   The final result was Springburn (Kinloch, Carson, Campbell and Waddell), first, Glasgow University second (Livingston, Young, Muir and Sinclair) and Bellahouston (Bell, Murdoch, Gifford and France) third.   Babcock & Wilcox held their annual sports in Renfrew on 11th June and they too included a medley relay but there was no mistake by the national champions this time.   Bellahouston Harriers won from Springburn Harriers in 3: 42.5 with a team of Gifford, Smith, Thomson and France.   Gifford on the half-mile and France on the final 440 yards stage were the key men in all of the Bellahouston victories in the event over many years.    The Scottish championship in 1938 was for the first time not held at the National championships but at the Glasgow Police Sports held at Hampden Park on 18th June.   The race was a really good one and led the reporter at the Glasgow Herald to say:   “Relay racing – most exhilarating of all athletic spectacles – provided the highlight at the Glasgow Police Athletic Association sports at Hampden Park on Saturday.   The feat of Bellahouston Harriers who established a new Scottish one mile relay record of 3:32.9 in winning the SAAA medley relay title for the third successive season was emphatic approval of the wisdom of the Association’s step of divorcing this event from the championship meeting proper.”    

It is not clear to me how such a decision on its success could be made after only one race.   However, Bellahouston won in a record time with a team of  Gifford, Murdoch, Smith and France, from Glasgow University  and Edinburgh University.   It as wn by three yards with ten yards separating the two University teams.  

Successful as the Herald reporter felt the divorce between the race and the national championships had been,  came 1939 they were run at the SAAA Championships on 24th June.     The Monkland Sports at Coatbridge on 27th May saw Maryhill win the event there.   “Maryhill, who included R Graham and RTH Littlejohns, the respective Scottish mile and half-mile champions, won the mile medley relay after a thrilling tussle with Springburn.   Even after Littlejohns had given his mates a useful lead at the end of the first ‘leg’ , Graham was unable to hold Campbell (Springburn) on the third leg, and it was only a magnificent finish by RR Mahlanghele which won the event for Maryhill.”   Result:  1.   Maryhill (Littlejohns, Little Graham, Mahlanghele)   2.   Springburn Harriers.  Time:   3 min 35.2.   

One meeting down –  Maryhill 1, Springburn  2.   At the Babcock Sports on 10th June, there was a medley relay on the programme and the Bellahouston team of Gifford, Nisbet, Ross and France was victorious in 3:41.8 with Springburn second.   It should be noted that the nine year old Victoria Park was already winning many medals and at this meeting won the Empire Exhibition Trophy for the club with most points overall.   The Police Sports which had hosted the SAAA Medley Relay Championships the previous year went past without a relay at all and it was on to the national championships on 24th June at Hampden.   Quality told and Bellahouston won their fourth successive championship.   Result:

  1.   Bellahouston Harriers   (Gifford, Murdoch, Bone, France)
  2.   Springburn Harriers (Kinloch, Canon, Waddell, Campbell)
  3.   Glasgow University (McGlone, Rankin, Sutherland and Wright).

 Winning time: 3:57.6

It had been a superb run by Bellahouston – four championships and two Scottish records – but let’s not forget the excellent Springburn Harriers team which contested every relay and every championship with only one set of gold medals to show for it.   How would they do after the War?   The coming team was Victoria Park from Scotstoun, Maryhill had been a good competitive team for decades and the Universities were always liable to be a threat depending on who was ‘comin up’ to the Varsity in any particular year.


Relays: SAAA Medley Relay 1948 – 1958

The medley relay remained a very popular event after the war and many sports and athletic meetings had it in their programme.  There were inter-club races,  there were medleys for senior men, senior women,  junior men, inter-area, inter-city, inter-works relays and various others.   Then there were the SAAA Championship events that the crowds had flocked to see.   Unfortunately, the new governing body did not want to have them at the SAAA track and field championships.   They were farmed out all over the place – to Helenvale for the Transport Sports on a midweek evening, to the Police Sports at Ibrox, to Shotts Highland Games, and to the Junior Championships.   They were run on proper tracks – but also on narrow tracks with no lane markings.   The way they were shuffled around was nothing short of a disgrace.   The current situation is that there is no official list of dates or venues  of these championship events.   What is noted here is what I have been able to dig up from the internet, from old ranking lists and back numbers of newspapers.   Apologies for the gaps which will be filled as the information becomes available.   

1948’s SAAA Junior Championships were held at New Meadowbank which pleased just about everybody who had been to the 1947 version at Rugby Park, Kilmarnock.   Both senior relays, 4 x 110 yards and the medley (800, 200, 200, 400) were contested – the 4 x 110 being won by Edinburgh University from Victoria Park and Shettleston in 43.8 seconds.   The winning team was AT Bruce, St C Taylor, JL Hunter and DD MacKenzie.  

For the longer one, James Logan commented on the medley relay for ‘The Scots Athlete’ “In the Mile Medley Relay J Smart confirmed his position as Scottish champion by laying the foundation of Edinburgh Southern Harriers victory with a fast ‘half’ and the other members of the team carried on the good work.   The time 3 minutes 36.8 seconds was first-class as this event was run in a rain storm.”   The winning team was J Smart, HW Mercer, J Thomson and J Crow.   Victoria Park was second and Glasgow University third.  


The medley relay championship in 1949 was moved to Helenvale Park and held on on 27th June.   It was a Wednesday evening and the occasion was the Glasgow Transport Sports and was notable because a new record for the event was set by the winnng Glasgow University AC team (T Begg, RM Ward, JPH Paton and DK Gracie) of 3:31.7 which was 1.2 seconds inside the time set by Bellahouston in 1938. 


They were back at the  SAAA Junior championships when they were held at New Meadowbank on 8th July in 1950 and both sprint and medley relays were held in the course of the afternoon.   The medley relay was won by a good Glasgow University team of T Begg, RM Ward, R Dow and DK Gracie in 3:32.4 and Edinburgh University won the 440 yards relay in 43.4 seconds.


New Meadowbank was the venue on 7th July, 1951, the SAAA Junior Championships the occasion, when the medley relay, along with the 4 x 110 yards was contested.   Victoria Park’s team of W Jack, R Quinn, W Kennedy and W Christie (pictured above) won the shorter race from Garscube Harriers and Edinburgh University in 45 seconds.  This was the start of something big.   It was the start of a series of relay triumphs that is unlikely, even 60 years later, to be beaten.  Nine wins in succession and ten out of eleven.   Astonishing.

In the longer race, the Scotstoun team had to give best to Edinburgh Southern Harriers who won in 3 minutes 31.7 seconds with a team of J Smart, J Pearson, J Hardmuir (?) and J Crowe.   Victoria Park was second and Glasgow University third. 


The medley relay plus the sprint relay were back again at Helenvale on 12th July, 1952 and incorporated into the SAAA Junior track and field championships.   Both were won by the same club – Victoria Park AAC from Scotstoun on the other side of Glasgow.   In the 4 x 110 their squad was G McDonald, R Quinn, N Wilson and R Whitelock and they won in 44.2 seconds from Garscube Harriers in second and Shettleston Harriers third.   In the Mile Medley, their squad consisted of F Sime, R Quinn, R Whitelock and R Mill.   They won from Garscube Harriers in second and Bellahouston in 3 minutes 36.8 seconds.


The senior relays were again held at the Scottish Junior Track and Field Championships on 4th July 1953, but this time at Westerlands in Glasgow and both sprint and medley relays went to Victoria Park AAC.   In the 4 x 110 yards the team was M Wilson, R Whitelock, H Quinn and R Quinn and they defeated Heriot’s  AC and Shettleston Harriers in a time of 44 seconds dead.   In the Medley relay, JS Hamilton, R Whitelock, H Quinn and R Quinn defeated Bellahouston Harriers and Maryhill Harriers in a time of 3 minutes 33.9 seconds.   


The medley relay was held for the third time at the SAAA Junior Championships in 1954 at Westerlands with Victoria Park determined to hold on to their two senior relay titles.   This they did with some style.   Read this from the Glasgow Herald:  “A feature of the meeting was the dual success of Victoria Park AAC in the 4 x 110 yards and medley relays.   They have thus won all five championship relays , a record which cannot be beaten and probably never be equalled.”   

WS Breingan, W Kennedy, A Archibald and R Quinn won the sprint relay in 44.5 seconds, and T Begg, Breingan, JA Herron and R Quinn took the medley in 3:37.5.

Whitelock, Quinn, ? , Henson

The events had been successfully held at the Junior Championships.   Well organised, on good tracks that were accessible – so they were moved to one of the biggest meetings in the country.   Glasgow Police Sports a Ibrox in 1955 were held a week earlier than usual and probably as a consequence, none of the University teams took part  because it was the date of the Universities Championships.   The winners of the medley were again  Victoria Park AAC whose team of D Henson, JV Hamilton, A Archibald and R Quinn recorded 3 minutes 32.5 seconds.   The club’s sprinters, needless to say – they were a class apart in the 1950’s –  took the 4 x 110 yards again.   This was the fourth time in succession that they had taken the medley title but their record in the shorter sprint relay was incredible – they first won it in 1951 and they won it every year from then until 1959, missed a year when Glasgow University won it, then went on to win again in 1961!   10 wins in 11 years. 


June 9th, 1956 at the Glasgow Police Sports, held at Ibrox, was the date of another victory for a University team – between the wars the university teams from Edinburgh and Glasgow were key players in the event and were still a force to be reckoned with after the second war.   Their victory was largely due to the running of JV Paterson who ran the fastest half mile of his career.   Their time of 3:50.5 was not a record since CAR Dennis, who ran the last stage, was not a Scotsman; it could only be recorded as a championship best performance.  Victoria Park was second and Bellahouston Harriers third.

The 1957 Medley relay was held at the Glasgow Police Sports for the third time, again at Ibrox Park,  on 15th June.   Edinburgh University won the title from Bellahouston Harriers.   There was some controversy about the result which had been hinted at the year before:

“In winning the Scottish one mile medley relay championship Edinburgh University put up new record figures of 3 minutes 27.2 seconds.   The foundation of their success was laid by JV Paterson who returned the fast time of 1 min 52.4 sec for the half mile.    The students time will not be accepted as a national record for CAR Dennis is not Scottish.   Bellahouston Harriers whose team clocked 3 min 30,2 sec and beat Glasgow University’s previous best time of 3 min 31.7 will be the new record holders.”

The result:

1.   Edinburgh University AC (JV Paterson, RA Robertson, I Sutherland  and CAR Dennis);

2.   Bellahouston Harriers (DL Fraser, P McPherson, GR Fleck and KA Fleck)

3.   Shettleston Harriers.



Relays: SAAA Medley Relay 1959 – 68

The Victoria Park medley relay team after the AAA’s championships at Kirkby in 1957

The relay had been farmed out to the Shotts Highland Games held on the first Saturday in September in 1959.   It was an unfortunate date and venue for the event and looked more like a desire to get the event away from the national championship in June.   Why so?  Well, the time of year was not one where the warm weather needed for good championship standard racing would be very likely.   Nor was the choice of venue one that would maximise spectator numbers: Shotts was always a good meeting and one that was well supported by runners from the central belt and often from the north of England but very difficult for athletes from such places as Dundee, Aberdeen, and so on to get to.   The track was a narrow one where getting more than three teams to run in lanes would be virtually impossible, the consistency of the track was variable and it sloped won in the back straight and up in the home straight.  But Shotts had always been a popular meeting and it had for some time featured a medley relay.   In 1957 it had been won by a Glasgow University team ed off by Scottish half mile champion J Boyd and in 1958 the winners were a well balanced Clydesdale Harriers team of Bobby Clark, John Aird, George Rodger and Bill Purdie.  


lThe first national championship there was held on 5th September, 1959, and the winners were Shettleston Harriers.   Given a substantial lead by Graham Everett, the team also had to runners who had been members of the club team that had been runners up in the AAA junior sprint relay championship.   The result was a win for the Glasgow club in 3:41.2 from Edinburgh Southern Harriers and Victoria Park AAC.   

It was, however, held on 3rd September, 1960, and the reigning champions, Shettleston did not run.   The race was won by Edinburgh Southern Harriers whose lead runner over the half mile was Kenny Ballantyne  who handed over a five yard advantage from Bellahouston Harriers and Victoria Park which the remaining team members –  RD Cockburn,   J Togher and C Watson – were able to maintain.   The winning time was 3 minutes 36.2 seconds.   It was not much faster than when they had previously won it in 1948 (3:36.8) and slower than the best pre-war time of 3:32.9 run by Bellahouston Harriers in 1938.   


Southern were back the following year (1961) when the relay was held again at Shotts and faced fairly strong opposition.   The report in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ read as follows:   “One of the closest races at Shotts Highland Games held at Hannah Park was the Scottish Mile Medley Relay championship.   Bellahouston Harriers won by two yards in the good time of 3 minutes 38.8 but their success was by no means assured until the final lap.   With Bellahouston third and 12 yards behind the leaders,  Ayr Seaforth AC, at the three-quarter mile mark,  young R Greig  made such good progress that he overtook and beat the runners ahead of him including JR Boyd (Ayr) the holder of the half-mile record.   Some watches showed that young Greig had returned his personal best time of 50.3.”   The order at the finish was 1.   Bellahouston Harriers (J Currie, R Rae, R Steele, R Greig);  2.   Edinburgh Southern Harriers; 3rd  Ayr Seaforth AC.

Jim McLatchie

Number 7 in the Ayr Seaforth vest

There were many outstanding athletes at Shotts in 1962 including WM Campbell, JP McLatchie, John Anderson and JJ Hillen (of Saltwell), Hugh Barrow, JP McLatchie and many more when the Medley Relay Championships were again held at Hannah Park.   Victoria Park AAC had won the event in four consecutive years between 1952 and 1956.   The club were generally good relay runners with SAAA titles in all varieties – 4 x 100, 4 x 440 and medley.   This year they had a very good team out led off by the prodigious young Hug Barrow against strong tams from Ayr Seaforth and Bellahouston.   On the first stage McLatchie beat Barrow home and Ayr led the field until the final quarter-mile stage when A Ballantyne caught and passed the very good young Ayrshire runner JC Stewart who was the reigning Junior 440 yards champion.   Finishing order was Victoria Park from Ayr Seaforth with Bellahouston Harriers third.   Winning time was 3 minutes 34 seconds.   


7th September 1963, saw the Shotts Highland Games host the medley relay championships for men and women once again but this time, it was pointed out by the Press that the defending champions Victoria Park had turned out a weakened team because their leading half-milers were engaged elsewhere.   After coming so near to winning in 1962. the Ayr Seaforth team made no mistake this time round.   They led throughout and defeated Bellahouston Harriers by three yards in 3 minutes 38 seconds – four whole seconds slower than the VP team of the previous year.   Their team consisted of J Davidson, C Stewart, R McCrindle and R Billson.   Bellahouston were second and the Edinburgh team of Octavians was third.   

In 1964, the title was won by the Glasgow University team that was really flying high and with a team containing Brian Scobie and Ming Campbell won the title for the first time since 1950.   It was a slightly different scenario in 1965.     On another wet afternoon in Shotts – the weather over the years had not been kind to the meeting – the University squad of Scobie, Campbell, McGeoch and Barclay Kennedy had to give best to the Bellahouston Harriers team.   Mike McLean was the lead off runner for the Harriers and was 20 yards plus upon Scobie at the end of the half-mile stage.    H Robertson, W Robertson and Hugh Baillie maintained the lead and the University had lost the title.   They won by 25 yards with Dumbarton AAC third.   

In 1966, once it was known that Scotttish 440 yards champion Hugh Baillie was not running for Bellahouston the club was regarded as joint favourite with Edinburgh’s Octavians club.   W Robertson, normally a 220 yards runner, stepped up to the quarter mile leg and the club won from Octavians and Edinburgh AC.   The winning time was 3:32.1 and the team was composed of M McLean, J Williams, W Carmichael and W Robertson.   

In 1967,  Baillie was back in the team and maybe wished he weren’t.   I quote the report in the ‘Glasgow Herald’.

“One Scottish title was settled – and in the most frustrating manner possible for the former holders, Bellahouston.   Victoria Park, having been second in the AAA’s Championships earlier in the year, were favourites even without the services of P Hepburn, one of their 220y runners.   An unconvincing first leg (880 yards) by WH Barrow left Victoria Park with only a slight lead, and as the last leg (440 yards) was about to begin, they had at most a yard in hand over Bellahouston, although – enough we thought, for H Baillie (Bellahouston) to catch RT Laurie.   In a scrambled changeover, however, Baillie was knocked prostrate on the track by an incoming opponent, Laurie was gone, unaware of his rival’s bad luck, and he raced home a clear winner.

The blame really rests with an association which can award the holding of a national event to a meeting whose track has no lane markings, and is approximately 17 feet wide instead of at least 24. “

The final result was first, Victoria Park AAC in 3:4.8 with a team of WH Barrow, A Wood, J Duguid and RT Laurie from Edinburgh AC in 3:36.8 and Bellahouston in 3:37.3.   

Whoever was responsible for Baillie’s tumble, The outcome for Shotts Highland Games was a bad one.   This was the last year that the SAAA One Mile Medley Relay was held at Hannah Park.   Complain as the reporter might, it was the longest period since the War that the relay had been held at the one venue – nine championship races in all.      The 1968 relay was won by Bellahouston in a time of 3:37.8 to give them three championships in four years – it might so easily have been four in four.

1968 was also the last year in which the medley relay was an imperial mile distance: with the Empire and Commonwealth Games coming in 1970, all track distances became metric.   The medley relay was now a 1600m event and the first was won by the quartet at the top of the page in 1969.




Relays: SAAA Medley Relay 1930 – 1934


Tom Riddell, Shettleston

Maryhill and Edinburgh University AC might have swapped the title for the first 11 years of its running, but they were only to win it once each in the ten years from 1930 to the outbreak of war in 1939.  

The SAAA championships were held on the last Saturday in June but one week earlier, on 20th June 1930, there was an invitation relay at the Glasgow Police Sports at Ibrox which gave the main contenders a chance to test their team against the opposition.   Glasgow University, Maryhill Harriers, Shettleston Harriers and Edinburgh Harriers were all n the starting line, and all had their top men out.  The race went to Glasgow University whose team of N Morison, JL Smith, R Murdoch and I Borland was too good for their Edinburgh equivalents, represented by HC Maingay, RA Howson, FP Reid and GM Wells, winning by five yards in 3 minutes 39 3/5th seconds.   Maryhill Harriers were third.   The headline on the article reporting the race was “Borland’s Great Effort in Relay Race”, and the report said:

“The best running of Crawford and Borland on Saturday was accomplished in the mile relay race, one of the most interesting events, by the way, of the season.   Crawford, running one of the furlongs for Shettleston, exhibited all his wonted smoothness of action, and he was much better here than in his heat in the sprint where he appeared to have some trouble opening up.   The intervening week however should see him properly tuned up for the Championships.  

The disappointment of the race was HC Maingay.   Either he was under form or he under estimated the finishing powers of J Hood, the Shettleston runner, for he was content to remain in the ruck until the finishing straight,  and when he did go out he was unable to peg back Hood’s lead, being beaten by almost five yards.   Maingay’s big swinging stride demands plenty of room, and had he gone into the lead right away there would have been a different story to tell.   He was obviously cramped, moving away from the head of his field.   Hood’s time for the half mile was 2 min 2 sec, and only last week at the St Peter’s meeting Maingay was returned as doing 1 min 55 1/5th sec.   The Glasgow University’s winning time was 3 min 38 3/5th sec – 1 3/5th sec outside the record created by Edinburgh University at the same meeting last year.”

The same four clubs contested the national championships but with a much different result.   Shettleston switched Hood from the 880y opening stage to the 440y last leg, and ran Tom Riddell on the first stage against Maingay and Calderwood.   Maingay had won the half mile but on the half mile leg of the medley relay he had to give best to Riddell and Shettleston went on to win the event for the first time and break the duopoly of Edinburgh UAC and Maryhill Harriers.   They won by 12 yards in a time of 3 minutes 45 seconds from Edinburgh with Maryhill third and Glasgow University fourth.  

The Police Sports in 1931, held on 20th June at Ibrox before a crowd of 15000 spectators, again held an invitation relay in which the Maryhill Harriers team of Calderwood, Hamilton, Turner and P Dolan won by 20 yards from Shettleston Harriers, Glasgow University and Dublin Metropolitan Guards in a time of 3 minutes 40 seconds.   Came the championship the following week and there were some significant changes in personnel.   Maryhill ran D McBride in place of Hamilton, and Shettleston ran sprinter Crawford who hadn’t run the week before, and J Hood, who had won the half mile, on the 440 yards leg of the relay.  Going in to the race, Tom Riddell had won the mile easily (by 30 yards) and James Hood had won the half mile by inches from Wells (EUAC) and Calderwood.  The Glasgow Herald report read:

“James Crawford did not defend his title in the 100 yards, but he turned out for Shettleston in the relay.   He was obviously far from his best, but with Riddell returning 2 min 1 3-5th sec in the half mile sector, and Hood running the quarter in 52 sec, the champions stalled off Maryhill’s challenge.   This was one of the best relay races seen in the championships, the margin between the two teams never large, and the issue in doubt until the last few yards.   The time – 3 min 40 1-5th sec – has only once been bettered in the championships, and that by Edinburgh University in 1922.”

R Graham

In 1932 the report on the Glasgow Police Sports at Ibrox on 18th June began 

“If it were for nothing else than the fact that it produced the finest relay race seen in Scotland for many years, the Glasgow Police meeting held on Saturday must be written down as one of the most successful in a long series extending back for almost half a century.   It is a coincidence that the existing native relay record of 3 min 37 sec  was made by the Edinburgh University team at the same meeting three years ago and that new figures should have been set up at the Police meeting again and also by a students team, this time from Glasgow.   There was some criticism on the last occasion of admitting the Edinburgh performance as a native record on the grounds that RL Howland, an Englishman, was a member of the team.   There can be none this time, for N Morison, M Stone, I Murdoch and IM Borland , the winning quartette on Saturday, are all Scottish born.

“After the opening half mile sector of the race, a new record was always in prospect, and it was no surprise that the time, 3 min 34 3-5th sec,  2 2-5th sec faster than the old time,  was announced.   This represented excellent racing on the part of all four students, and also by all four Maryhill men, as the national champions finished only inches behind the winners and well inside the record also.   Figures on the record book are there, they say, for all to read, but what will matter to Saturday’s twenty thousand spectators is not so much the time, excellent though it is, but the memory of a magnificent race by both teams redolent of the highest courage.

“So evenly were both teams matched that the decision was in doubt from the time the half=milers started racing seriously, 300 yards from the first changeover, until the tape was broken.   Where all did well it is possibly dangerous to to select individuals for special mention, but it is an undoubted fact that the two men who contributed most to the excellence  of the race as a spectacle were Neil Morison in the half mile and FW Brown in the quarter.   Morison has been well known as a miler for the past few seasons, and has recorded many good performances over that distance, but few, even among his Westerlands admirers realised that he could get the half mile under even time as he did on Saturday.  Nor was it expected of Brown, already regarded as a sprinter, would concede Ian Borland three yards over a quarter and come very near to springing the surprise of the season.   Yet both things happened with the result that the race was intensely exciting.”

What a build up to the SAAA Championship the following Saturday!   The facts of the result: 

1,   Glasgow University (Morison, Stone, Murdoch and Borland)  2.   Maryhill Harriers (Calderwood, McBride, Turner and Brown)  3.   Springburn Harriers   

In the championships, an experimental holding of the heats for the sprints on the Friday night was declared a great success and the racing in the short sprints of the highest quality – but there was no reporting of the relay with only the result being given.   This was possibly because of the absence of a strong Glasgow University team despite the fact that all of their men from the previous week were competing.    In their absence, Maryhill Harriers won with a team of Calderwood, McBride, Hamilton and Brown in a time of 3 min 37 sec.   Second was Shettleston Harriers (Riddell, Kennedly, McLaughlin and Buchan) and third Springburn Harriers (Scott, Carson, McKee and Keill).   A very weak Glasgow University team was noted as having ‘also competed’.   This was Maryhill Harriers’ sixth victory in the event.


In 1933 the Glasgow Herald report on the Police Sports Meeting was headlined ‘EXCITING RELAY AT POLICE SPORTS MEETING’.   15,000 spectators were present on what was described as a cold, blustery windy day with showers of rain to see what was a good day’s athletics.   The report on the medley relay went on –

“The outstanding feature of the afternoon, as last year, was the Mile Relay and although the time recorded by the Glasgow Police team was slower than the record of 3 min 34 3-5th sec set up by Glasgow University a year ago, conditions were much worse on Saturday.   As a race it was the keenest relay seen on a Scottish track for many years, and the three teams that finished first, second and third were so evenly balanced that interest was maintained from the pistol to the tape.   Each of the three teams led in turn, Glasgow Police at the first changeover, Maryhill at the end of the first quarter, Glasgow University at the final change over and the Police came in again at the finish to win by a bare two yards from the students.

“In the half-mile sector run in 2 min 3 sec J Scott had the measure of WH Calderwood who has yet to find his best form.   The furlongs provided some good running.   AD Turner and Robin Murdoch ran impressively.   Murdoch, called upon to concede PW Brown three yards, overhauled his man and led him a yard at the change over.   SE McKinnon, the ex-Shettleston man now with the Police, also ran excellently against the wind and it was this that gave R Davie his chance in the quarter mile.   

Davie is running better than ever and much more consistently, and on this showing must possess an excellent chance of winning over this distance at the Scottish championships.   He defeated both NM Glen, the inter-University champion, and R Graham after being behind at the final change over.   He was unofficially timed as being slightly under 50 sec.   Glen ran  a good race but despite the fact that he spiked himself at the first bend, a wound that necessitated three stitches when he went to the Western Infirmary afterwards for treatment.   The toll that his recent operation has taken on his strength was noticeable in R Graham’s running.   He was with Davie and Glen until 200 yards from the tape but failed to last home.”

The result   1.   Glasgow Police (J Scott, M Shaw, SE McKinnon and R Davie)   3 min 40 1-5th sec;   2.   Glasgow University (N Morison, I Borland, R Murdoch and NM Glen);   3.   Maryhill Harriers  (WH Calderwood, AD Turner, PW Brown and R Graham).   Won by two yards.

Edinburgh University AC won the SAAA Championships in 3 min 37 2-5th sec.    It is a bit ironic that at a time when the public were avid relay enthusiasts and when the events were hotly contested by the clubs, the national championships were scantily reported upon.  In 1933 neither the Glasgow Herald nor the Scotsman reported this event at the championships and we have only the results available.   These are as follows:

  1.   Edinburgh University AC     GA Smith, SE Martin, RA Howieson, RB Wylde   3 min 37 2-5th sec   Won by three yards
  2.   Shettleston Harriers   TM Riddell,  J McRoberts, W Kennedy, J Hood
  3.   Glasgow Police AC       J Scott, M Shaw, E McKinnon, R Davie

Maryhill Harriers, the holders did not compete.    


The Wyoming Cup

Teviotdale Wyomi0001

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

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

Have a look at those spikes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robert Burton, 1910

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

G Dallas 1

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Queen’s Park FC Sports: 1930 – 38

Donald McLean, headshot

Donald MacLean

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Riddell

Tom Riddell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bob Graham

R Graham

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

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

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

Jackie Laidlaw: Shettleston: 10 July 1937

Jackie Laidlaw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Peter Allwell, Emmet Farrell and Alex Dow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Queen’s Park Sports: 1926 – 1929

CB Mein winning a handicap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

J Astley Cooper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1930 Empire Games Events

CG 30 team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hamilton 1930


1930 Empire Games

Bobby Robinson

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

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

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

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

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

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

CG 30 departure photo

The team at departure

Events and Scottish placings   John Astley Cooper