Draft outline:

1, Background in athletics.

  1. Influences of other’s theories and ideas

3, Learning to Coach and Self coaching.(parental involvement.)

4.Self  Coaching whilst still an active athlete.

  1. Coaching individual athletes as part of a coaching team.

6 Spotting talent and helping develop potential

  1. Being realistic about what you can offer as a coach.
  2. Keeping up with the pace in the practice and science of coaching.

9.. Recognising the time to hang up the whistle, and WATCH!.

  1. Rewards and Awards.
  2. My background to athletics started in a Welsh field chasing a rabbit. The outcome was a grumbling appendix that burst and much concern to my family in NW London. I spent 6 weeks in a hospital in Builth Wells. This meant that I started late at my Secondary School in North London where PE was compulsory everyday in 1st year, overseen by a strict ex Sgt Major. As I was not allowed to run there was no alternative, he made me walk round and round the playground for the duration of the lesson. As my strength grew I started to jog and by the following summer I entered in the County Scout Sports to run the half and quarter mile. I finished 2nd and 1st respectively and received my first trophy, a cup my father had won at his work sports day.   The following winter aged 13 I won the County Scouts cross country race against boys 2 years older than myself.  I was ‘spotted’ by a QPH (Queens Park Harriers) official and invited to train at Paddington Recreation track. The rest is history as they say. Twice I ran at the White City Stadium, in 1953 and 1955, setting a Club record of 2m0.2 sec for the 880yds and finishing 4th in both the Middlesex Schools and Youth Championships. A meritorious award medal for QPH in the London to Brighton Club relay with a course record for the 11th Third place in the London Universities Cross Country Champs in 1961

 National Service as a ‘Conchie’, followed by University, led to a career in Social Work, marriage and the arrival of a family, saw an end to serious running until 1979. Unfit and overweight, I started to train for my first Marathon in 1981 in London and broke 3 hrs.  After 13 years, 29 marathons, 35000 miles of training and racing in various parts of the world. The results were, a PB Marathon of 2hrs 39m in Dundee in 1984 aged 45. A Scottish 10k track championship in 1991 aged 53 in 34m50s and two gold medals in the Scottish Veterans Championships over 1500 and 800m the same year.

  • Influences of other people, their theories and ideas.

Running has been my basic incentive to take up coaching. Getting a daily ‘Fix’ of a run, walk or cycle was crucial and still is, now that I can’t run, with two replacement knees and a diagnosis at 80years old of Parkinson’s disease.

There have been many influences on my running career that relate to my own coaching practice. My PE teacher, Sgt George Addey, whose son was a GB Olympic cyclist, highlighted the importance of dedication. He had me playing soccer and boxing as well as running and made me School Athletic Captain, Ted Hodgeman, our Youth Coach, who met with  us on Sundays and Thursdays at the King Edwards Track in Willesden, where Thames Valley now train under Linford Christie. Franz Stampfll, who brought Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher along to our Pacemaker Youth Club in Kilburn in 1956. And took us out for a training run. Percy Ceruty, Coach to Herb Elliot, whose book ‘How to become a Champion’ I read several times and whose schedules I first tried to use for my own training. The athlete I admired most at that time was Emil Zatopek, Particularly for his runs in the London Olympics in 1948 and his 10k, 5k, Marathon, epic triple gold in Helsinki in 1956. Running in army boots in the mud was his secret, but not possible in NW London, except maybe at the Welsh Harp Reservoir near Neasden where Hugh Jones trained and who was also the County Scouts Champion in his day.

Over the past 40 years I have collected a considerable number of coaching manuals and athlete biographies and autobiographies. Many of them I have read in detail, others, more selectively.

Among the most read books, have been those by New Zealand’s Master Coach, Arthur Lydiard, who I had the pleasure and privilege to meet and interview at the Commonwealth Games held in Auckland in 1990. He invited me to his home and in turn I was able, with the help of Scottish Athletics, to sponsor his visit to Scotland in 1991. His Lecture at Meadowbank Stadium is still viewed regularly on You Tube. The basics of his theories have been updated and illustrated by Kevin Livingston in his book ‘Healthy Intelligent Training’.

A key factor in Coaching of all descriptions is to keep the mind open to new ideas and to asses them against your own basic model. A recent book I have dipped into has been Dave Martin and Peter Coe’s book on ‘Brain Training for Distance Runners’ highlighting that mental fitness has to match the physical fitness to reach maximum potential.

For myself, like Lydiard, I found it is best to test results out on myself, if possible. If that was not possible, then to test the theory against several experiences. One thing is certain in athletics, is that there is no ‘One Fix for ALL’. Every athlete is different.


Learning to Coach: Parental Coaching,

Running is the most natural thing we do after we learn to walk. Why do we need to learn how to run? The reality is that we are all different in size and shape. Athletes compete in a wide variety of events that require different strengths and skills. When I started coaching groups of young athletes for the ‘Run Jump Throw’ Programme in the early 1980’s, I only had the BAAB Introduction to Coaching manual to help me look at anything outside simple running techniques. I decided to undertake the Multi event Decathlon training programme in 1986. It has proved a very solid base over the years. It included having to set up a 2-day Decathlon for 6 athletes at Meadowbank, which is still remembered by some fellow coaches of that era.

Getting help to provide training opportunities for young athletes has always proved difficult especially recruiting other athletes, who are pre-occupied with their own training. Hence the most effective resource for coach helpers has been parents. This not only requires setting up some initial basic training but also getting police checks. (PVG) All of which takes time and management.  The difficulty is that if the child in question loses interest or wants to undertake some other sport, then the parent’s involvement and interest is lost. However, there is a hope that from the residue, that some recruits, thankfully, some remain and develop as coaches.

For an athlete to develop their full potential they need parental and family support. For some the parent becomes the key coach and this can be very successful as seen in Peter Coe, Liz McColgan, and Carol Sharp who have taken their off spring to Olympic standards. However, parents who offer such support at a club level need help and support from the local club coaches to help them progress.

  1. Self Coaching whilst still an active athlete.

Senior athletes who progress beyond the basic stage of group learning and want to improve, turn to books or magazines that provide general outlines for training in various events. Possibly the most used resource in this modern age is the Computer which offers a wide range of expert opinions along with videos on You tube for exercises and techniques.

What then is the role of the individual coach in a one to one situation with an athlete? Much will depend on where the individual wants to progress to in their short, medium and long-term outcome. If general fitness and recreation is their individual goal, then the general training manuals and articles would suffice.

One of the greatest innovations over the last decade, in my view, has been the growth in the weekly 5k ‘Park Runs’ which offers an opportunity for all levels of athletes to measure their performances in a simple but quite sophisticated way, giving accurate details which show improvement in different categories in age and gender.

Athletes who wish to progress tend to join a local club and attend the regular training nights offered. If interested, they will take part in team events at various levels of competition up to club, district and national level. Such activities can be most beneficial by the sharing of training experiences with other athletes in the club and as a consequence developing their own ideas as how to improve. However, there comes a time for an individual athlete when they feel that they must seek the guidance, advice and experience of a qualified coach if they are to progress. Most Clubs have their identified and affiliated Coaches who have a registered qualification with their governing body or association. They will also have a specialisation in a specific discipline such as Sprint, Middle Distance, Endurance, Hurdles, Jumps or Throws. Some clubs have their athletes in groups based on ability in a discipline, others will have a more general approach and where a talent in a particular discipline is identified an individual coach is identified.

Arthur Lydiard


Coaching individual athletes as part of a coaching team.

Arthur Lydiard in his lecture at Meadowbank in 1991 stated that he had only coached 22 athletes individually. Five of whom reached Olympic medal or world record standard and a further dozen reached Commonwealth or New Zealand national championship level. (Extracts from Henry’s interviews with Arthur are added after this article.)

He claimed that none of his athletes sustained serious injury because he advocated the maxim: ‘Train don’t Strain’. He based a large proportion of his basic training on building an endurance base for all his athletes whether in middle distance or longer endurance events

 He had little support from the New Zealand Athletic Association at the start and certainly did not have access to medical and scientific support in an age that was purely ‘Amateur’ with little or no financial support.

Lydiard developed many of his ‘revolutionary’ ideas in Finland before being recognised in New Zealand.

Why mention this? Simply to say that what Lydiard offered to his ‘Boys’ was a belief and commitment in his coaching methods that had been tested on himself, such was his dedication.

I met very recently an attendee at his Meadowbank Lecture in 1991, who proclaimed that it was the most inspiring 3hrs he had ever spent listening to or talking about athletics. He has recently set a world best time for 10k at 80 yo!!

My brief time with Arthur in New Zealand and in Scotland in 1990/91 was very inspirational. I wrote two articles in 1991 for Scotland’s Runner magazine called, ‘Arthur’s Black Magic’ following interviews with him and some of his ‘Boys’ at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland. They included, Murray Halberg, Barry McGee, Bill Ballie, and Jeff Julian, plus John Davies in 1986, and Jack Foster when I was in Rotarua.

Most of my career in Coaching has been with Young athletes in Groups and in late 1980s with athletes with a disability.

I have coached/advised/ supported about a dozen individual athletes at various stages in their careers.

On one of the level 4 Coach training courses I attended, along with Tommy Boyle, was on becoming a Mentor to your athletes.

 The model used was one I have developed with prospective athletes I have coached individually, which is the GROW model;

G= GOALs short, medium and long term. Not just in athletics but more holistically to life.

R= REALISTIC.  Helping the athlete face reality for their Goals and how they are achieved.

O= OPTIONS.   What if Goals set can’t be achieved what are the Options that can replace,

W= WILL POWER:  What is the commitment level that is required to obtain the Goals set.

As an athlete’s potential develops it is important to utilise other professionals in the team approach, such as physiotherapy and gym specialist for core development aspects.


  1. Spotting talent in individuals and helping to develop their potential.

The most memorable athlete I have been involved with, was a young teenager who went on to win a full set of European and Commonwealth Games medals from 1986 to 1994 and a bronze medal in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. Yvonne Murray was coached initially by Bill Gentleman at Musselburgh Grammar school and whose attention to detail was unique.

My role was to ‘chum’ her on some of her lunch time runs and take her over the Haddington golf course for cross country practice. Most importantly it was to be pair of ears to listen to her when she needed help. Those aspects of a Coach are crucial.

Perhaps the most frustrating athlete I have coached is a lady that had fantastic potential in distance running but missed out through over training after deciding she wanted to ‘self coach’ She qualified to compete for her native country in the World Championship Marathon after a magnificent run in London but missed out through injury. Her satisfaction has been her success in ‘Alternative Events’ such as Tough Mudders.

The most difficult aspect of coaching individuals is to see athletes with talent who do not apply themselves to the task or try various unrealistic options that lead to injuries.

On the positive side has been seeing potential develop. Either gradually over several years, or in another, seeing the danger of impatience and the risk of doing too much too soon.

One aspect of individual coaching is when you recognise that an athlete is not realistic about their goals and how you can help them come to terms with setting new achievable targets.

The most important factor in a Coach is, in my view, to be a MOTIVATOR. To find a way to help the individual, at whatever level, be the BEST that they ultimately can be.

Helping an athlete maximise their potential has to be seeing them ‘move on’. Back in the mid 1980’s Haddington (HELP) had several very good runners among their Senior men and the team qualified for the Edinburgh to Glasgow 12 stage relay by finishing 5th in the National Cross-Country Championships. Despite some brave efforts by individuals there was never the pool of talent required to maintain the standard needed.

 Under Alan Robson, brother of Olympian John Robson, a sponsored elite club was set up in the late 1980’s: ‘Leslie Deans AC’ and later ‘Mizuno RC’ although there was considerable criticism from the establishment this club provided opportunities for athletes with potential to take part in high class events.

The club disbanded in the early 90’s but in my view offered opportunities that a local club could not offer.


  1. Being realistic about yourself as a coach and what you can offer.

An important part of any Coach’s career is to recognise what it is you have to offer others.

A Coach has to be several things to an athlete whether individually or in a group.

Firstly, there has to be respect. That doesn’t mean fear. Some coaches try to be over familiar with their athletes and lose their basic authority. Others can become disciplinarians and athletes fear to question what they are being told. Personally, I have adopted a simple approach of explaining at the start of any session to a group or individual, what the plan and purpose is for the session, and what we hope to achieve. At the end of a session I have always tried to encourage feedback and questions. Essentially, a Coach must be a motivator and enabler. However, a Coach must be realistic about an individual’s potential and not build up false hopes or dreams. The Coach also has the role of confidant with the individual and recognises when things may not be going well elsewhere in their lives, at home, school or work all of which impacts on performance.  Essentially a Coach needs to acknowledge when it is time for other kind of help such as moving from a junior to senior group or to a more specialised coach in a particular discipline.  In particular, is the need to emphasise R&R (Rest and Recovery). Overtraining can often lead to injury or break down if not managed properly.

I have used the analogy of EDUCATION as a model for an athlete’s developmental progress. At primary school you learn the basics of reading and writing and need a Primary School teacher. At Secondary school you are developing the building blocks of your future education with exams and tests in different subjects, When you are at University you are applying what you have learnt to your future goal subject and need a Professor to help you achieve your best graduation level, It could be a PASS A SECOND or a FIRST. The outcome is what you have put in. So it is in Athletics and a Coach must not be afraid to help their protégé on to the next level of their development. Not to do so could stultify potential.

  1. Keeping up with the pace of science and technology in Coaching.

After three and a half decades of coaching, the advance of science in sport in general has improved dramatically. The digital age has enabled both coach and athlete to improve performance. The performance video is now a slim, hand held device that has instant play back rather than the once cumbersome camera. The watch, that just recorded time, now shows heart beats, pace, distance plus recovery. Not only when you are awake, the digital watch can record your sleep patterns. The athlete and the coach can be directly linked and recorded, no longer requiring manual records. Schedules can be written, and modified even if they are in different countries, provided the apps and data are synchronised to do so.

In the gym new machinery can be adapted to your programme by your hand set.

If you have an injury or illness it can initially tell you what to do and how to do it,

Balanced dietary programmes can be set up to suit your energy output.

In fact, technology could take over the need for an individual or group coach. Just plug into the Wi-Fi connection, switch on the speaker. Let the music match the vocal output and the Coach is redundant!!

Feasible as this may be, I believe the role of the personal coach is still the main motivating factor for improving personal performance. Whether standing with watch in hand at the trackside or on a dark street or at a cross country venue.  Having someone, to call your name, telling you to ‘keep going.  Saying ‘Well done’, especially if it has resulted in a medal or personal best performance or even a comforting hand or hug when things have not gone well., That in my book is both the agony and the pleasure of being a Coach.

  1. Recognising the right time to hang up the watch and whistle,.

Under UK Athletic regulations for Coaches, licences to Coach are reviewed and renewed every 3 years through the local governing body such as UK Athletics.

Coaches are required to demonstrate that they have done something to update or develop their personal coaching skill. It may be attending a training course or conference.  It may be related to their own club or event group,

Over the years I have tried to initiate seminars, or discussion groups. I have worked with events such as the Edinburgh Marathon Festival. Also I have written discussion papers or training sessions where local coaches can share ideas and sessions with their own athletes.

However, there comes a time when physically you cannot do what you used to do.

Age and health take their toll. The eyesight deteriorates. Maybe driving in the dark has its problems, and the cold nights at the track are not so enjoyable.

Why wait for an accident to happen or a mistake to be made or your judgement questioned?

The service given by Coaches all over the world is honoured and valued and like Arthur Lydiard, listened to by others. Lydiard at 84 years old, just hours before he died in December 2004, was addressing a group of coaches in Texas.

Putting down one’s recollections and thoughts can be a constructive way of continuing the experiences you have had for helping generations of athletes, young or not so young, to maximise their potential.

              The watch and whistle have had their day.

             The time will come to just sit back and ENJOY watching the events and comment on others.

  1. Rewards and Awards.

Looking back over the last 40 years, particularly since ‘returning’ to athletics in general and running specifically I have to ask myself ‘what have I gained and what have I lost out on?’

Certainly, on the positive side I regained my health. On a holiday to Oban in 1979 when we lived in West Yorkshire I suffered from chronic back pain and was overweight. I took a run/jog/walk with my Springer spaniel around the loch of Ben Nevis and came back covered in mud but a feeling of joy and fun that led to my training for the first London marathon in 1981. It led to meeting so many people, not least members of the Scottish Veteran Harriers Club and I became the Secretary for 9 years and President in 1990. At that stage Veteran athletes were not recognised by the SAAA (Scottish Amateur Athletic Association) or the SCCU (Scottish Cross Country Union). Together with stalwarts like Henry Morrison and the late Ian Steedman we campaigned for Age Group Athletes over 40 to be included in Championships and also the inclusion of female athletes over 35 to become members of the SVHC. 

However, when we fought for the inclusion of former ‘professional’ athletes such as George McNeil (winner of the New Year Sprint and Stawell Gift sprint) it proved a step too far for some of the traditionalist and I resigned from my Presidency of SVHC on principle.

To have seen World Athletics advance in the last 40 years has mixed ‘rewards’. Certainly, Athletics has now become a career path for both athletes and administrators.

As an example, Seb Coe has ‘progressed’ from double gold medallist in 1980 and 1984 to President of IAAF now called World Athletic Council. The Olympic Games and World Championships now provide the incentive for athletes to excel in their event, but sadly many take the risk of cheating through drugs or corruption in administration.

Having the opportunity, through the East Lothian Press to attend six Commonwealth Games plus 2 Olympics, 2 Paralymics and one European Championship is reward in itself.

Personally, I have never won a cash prize for winning an event or received a fee for coaching able-bodied athletes. My work with people with a learning or physical disability was financed by East Lothian Council and Enjoy Leisure. The coaching I have done for young athletes and individuals I received travel expenses for coaching but not attending events.

When I was appointed Course Director for the Gsi Edinburgh Marathon in 2006/7 I received a fee for my professional and administrative services.

Following operations on both knees prior to the formal setting up of Team East Lothian

I decided not to apply for either the Athletic Development Officer or Endurance Coach posts.

Prior to this, with the help of East Lothian Council I made a successful application for a ‘Sport for All Award’ which enabled me to visit every Primary and Secondary School in East Lothian with a short ‘Introduction to Athletics’ programme which saw Young Athlete Clubs develop in Dunbar, Haddington and Musselburgh. These Clubs have now provided the ‘source’ base for the now successful Team East Lothian Athletic Club based at Meadowmill Sports Centre in Prestonpans and opened in 2012 after a 20 year battle to get the funding through East Lothian Council and Scottish Sports Council and Scottish Athletics PL.

Although many clubs now have the funds to pay their qualified coaches, perhaps there should be a standardised way of remunerated athletic coaches whether they are club based or offering their services in a personal or private capacity. A subject for both National and International bodies to consider.

In 1991 I was awarded the Scottish Sports Council Award and, in 2012, I received three awards for Voluntary Service to Athletics from East Lothian Council, Scottish Athletics and the UKA award presented to me by Lynn Davies Olympic Gold medal long jump champion.

It has been a wonderful life and I am sure that there will still be something round the corner.

My long-term hope for the future is that there will be a strong male and female senior group of athletes in East Lothian that can compete successfully at Scottish District and National Levels.





A problem faced by many club athletes, including veterans, is over-committing themselves in terms of races.

Lydiard is quite emphatic that the basic conditioning that is undertaken by an athlete in the eight to twelve weeks build-up period has to be at what he calls “a steady state pace”. This is a pace that you can sustain comfortably without getting into oxygen debt – but is not what many interpret as Long Slow Distance.

The formula is different for each athlete and Lydiard warns that it is vital that athletes do not get themselves into a group where they go faster than their bodies tell them. This is why during the conditioning phase Lydiard is more concerned with ‘time on your feet’ than how many miles you have run. In the main, a glance at the kitchen clock is much better than wearing a stopwatch, which tends to make you pay more attention to time than how you are feeling.

What is more, during this conditioning period, Lydiard does NOT advocate mixing in speedwork, although he is very much in favour of what he calls ‘resistance work’ on hills or heavy terrain. However, heavy terrains, unlike more even surfaces, do not provide enough traction to allow increased understanding of pace judgement, which is so crucial to his training methods. Therefore, a lot of road training is necessary.

The conditioning period produces the base of the fitness pyramid – the broader the base, the higher the peak that can be attained. Next phase is speed training, including bounding and high knee exercises, even for marathon runners! Getting athletes to peak fitness on the most important race day is essentially what Lydiard’s methods are all about.

He feels that a highly tuned athlete can maintain their peak for at the most six weeks if they are lucky – and that current demands to take race for months in Grand Prix events will inevitably lead to racing tired and post-peak. Even club and veteran athletes, rather than racing too often, should set themselves realistic goals and targets to reach, followed by an important period of recovery and re-building.

Regular ‘Time Trials’ were another ingredient, but not necessarily flat out efforts. He claims that if the body does something often enough it will acclimatise to the task more efficiently. His criticism about athletes who rely on interval training is that they don’t really test the body under race conditions. Hence his time trials are geared to teach the athlete even pace running over a given distance. Weekly Time Trial targets can start off six weeks before the big race and, for example, the first one might be three minutes slower than PB time, and then be reduced by 30 seconds every week.

In September 1991, Arthur Lydiard visited Henry in Scotland. They toured the country, visiting Edinburgh, Glasgow, Fort William and Mallaig. Naturally, coaching was a frequent topic of conversation.

Arthur’s finest athletes all had very supple ankles (and Achilles tendons), as a result of hill work, some sand work and speed drill sessions. “You must become like a ballet dancer,” he constantly told people. Flexibility reduced the likelihood of injury.

Arthur knew Gordon Pirie well, since he had spent time in New Zealand. Arthur had great respect for Gordon but felt that he, along with a large number of other runners who tried the long-distance training techniques, got one important aspect wrong. Don’t mix it! Speed training and endurance training during the conditioning phase are counter-productive, he strongly argues. The way to build up the foundation of strong heart and leg muscles with an improved oxygen uptake level is NOT as some commentators think of Lydiard’s method being long slow distance – it is actually optimum steady state running, which is quite different.

Arthur visited Meadowbank Stadium and met the Athletics Coach Bill Walker, who did so much to help prepare for Arthur’s seminar. Watching the runners warm up, Arthur said that athletes should run as they walk, with low arm parallel to the body and shoulders relaxed, tall with buttocks underneath the trunk. “If athletes don’t concentrate on good posture in their warm up, they will not do it naturally when running.” He was impressed by one coach who had his youngsters doing their step runs. Step running, he felt, was an excellent exercise, both in warm up and training, and helped to build flexible and strong feet, ankles and tendons.

He quotes the Swedish coach that developed fartlek running: “If you would allow youngsters to run freely and not race until they were fully developed, you would have the makings of a future champion.” He feels that parents and over-enthusiastic coaches drain our true potential for top senior athletes by making youngsters over-race during their developmental period.

Lydiard also has some harsh words to say about processed food, most of which he believes has many of the essential trace elements for an athlete’s development removed, before we even put them in the cooking pot. Consequently, he believes that most serious athletes and every youngster should be supplementing their diet with some form of multi-vitamin, many of which are essential to help basic metabolism for absorbing high energy foods. Most youngsters, he believes, are needing additional calcium while they are growing. He was able to give examples of athletes who had to have the hair from the back of their necks analysed to establish exactly what essential trace elements were missing but, sadly, this facility was not available for most coaches of athletes.

At the press conference, receptions in Edinburgh and North Berwick and at the Saturday Seminar, everyone who met Arthur Lydiard became captivated by his charisma. Whether or not everyone agreed with all his views and concepts, what came through was enormous respect for a self-made man who knew his subject inside out.

(On YOUTUBE there are videos of ‘Arthur Lydiard Lecture Meadowbank Stadium Parts 1 and 2. Well worth a look and a listen!)







Henry in the 1985 Tom Scott race.



( Club Athlete,Coach and Journalist.)

( Reflections on Life and Athletics from 1938 to2020)


Prologue: Reaching the start line:

  • A birthday bike for the Olympics 1948 London,
  • Run Rabbit Run 1950
  • Winning Ways 1952 (Helsinki)
  • Belonging to a club QPH.1954- Rome)
  • Running after the kids 1964-1968 (Olympics Tokyo /Mexico)
  • Rugby for Fun and Fitness 1972 -1976 Olympics (Munich/Montreal
  • Denholme Straw Race, London Marathon 1980 (Moscow Olympics)
  • Haddington ELP, 1984 to 2012( Olympics LA; Seoul;Barcelona;Atlanta)
  • Too many miles on the clock 2000-(Olympics: Sydney; Athens;Beijing)
  • Arthur to the rescue 1990
  • Coaching Young and Old 1986 -2020 Olympics Rio 2016 ? Tokyo2020
  • Following the Games
  • Time to hang up the Whistle, and Watch! 2020.
  • Epilogue: How far to the Finish Line?
  • SCOTLAND AT THE GAMES 1986 to 2018:

Commonwealth Games: ; 1986;1990;1994; 2002;2006; 2010;2014; 2018;

Olympic Games: Sydney 2000;Athens 2004;Beijing 2008; London 2012.Rio 2016

 European Games: Gothenberg Sweden 

Paralympic Games 1992 Barcelona: Sydney 2000; 


PROLOGUE: Reaching the start line 1938

I was born in St Mary’s Hospital Marylebone, just out of hearing for London’s Bow Bells, on Wednesday 10th August 1938. Life had been tough. There were rumblings of WW2 in the near future.

The British Empire Games were held in Sydney Australia that year. It was Scotland’s lowest ever medal tally, not a single gold medal in all sports and only one athletic medal, a silver, for David Young in the Discus. There was room for improvement all round.

 In September 1939 I had a baby sister, September 2nd. WW2 started the day after! Our sojourn in London was brief. Along with my sister and mother we travelled to my Grandparent’s farm in Angus, Scotland, where we stayed for 3 years. We returned to North West London for the last 18 months of the war. My father was working on the Merlin engines for the new Spitfire planes. I started school at Princess Fredericka Church of England Primary School in September 1944 when I was 6 years old. Primary school was memorable only for the boring Church services we all had to attend. Joining the Boy Scout Cubs at the local Methodist Church certainly was not, and I found I had skills that I could develop. I gained my badges and stars and qualified as a ‘Leaping Wolf’ to join the 8th Willesden Boy Scouts at the age of 11. Complete with uniform, brimmed hat and stave, I started on my Scouting journey; as the Scout song says:  ‘Now as I start upon my chosen way, to be the best, the best that I can be.’




Looking through the photographs taken around 1945 to 1950 it is clear that my sister Muriel (Marie) and I were often photographed at my father’s photo graphic club called Hammersmith Hampshire House Photographic Society, quite a mouthful. We would go there by car or on the bus and sometimes with ‘Uncle Mac’ a friend of Dad’s who was a plain clothes policeman but very interested in photography and lived  very near the King Edwards Park. The evidence shows that we were used as models and told to pose for the cameras and lights. Some looking interested at models of trains, some posed in various costumes. It took us out, and we often were given small cash tokens for modelling.

My father did his own developing in the small toilet and bathroom which he had fitted out with a home-made enlarger and developing trays. On a Saturday you had to go to the loo by 7pm, or wait for at least two hours until he had finished. Sometimes, I would go to help and was fascinated to work in the amber light, and see the pictures emerge from the developer. It took time and patience.

 As I approached the 10th August 1948, my 10th birthday, and It wasn’t the London Olympics that were my priority, but the thought of having my own bike! I had dreamt about being able to ride a bike, but it had been a rule that I was not allowed one until I was ten years old, and I never questioned this.  It was a black single gear bike and the moment I got on I could balance.

I was off in a flash to meet up with my friend Roy Westbrooke, who had had a bike for some time. I think, if truth be remembered, I had had several trial goes on his bike that my mother never knew about. After a few days practice, we took off to cycle all the way to the old air force base at Northolt near Hanger Lane. It was the best part of 10 miles and involved crossing the busy North Circular Road. Time flies when you are young and enjoying yourself. When we started back for home the light was starting to fail. Roy had just one head lamp, I had none, but there was a cycle path. We were stopped by a policeman, who accepted our story and directed us to stay on the cycle pathway. We were met by anxious parents, but glad we were safe. My father bought me an additional present. No, not a ticket for the Olympics, but a set of lights for my bike!

By the end of 1945 WW2 was over and Britain was getting back on its feet. There was still some rationing but sport was getting back in the picture. The war had seen the cancelation of the 1940 and 1944 Olympic Games, and 1948 was to be the year of the postponed 1944 London Olympic Games. Now to be held at Wembley Stadium, less than 10 miles from our front door.

I am sure that there must have been considerable publicity for this event and I would love to say I had a vivid recall, especially about the track and field events, involving Fanny Blankers-Koen’s four gold medals (100m Hurdles. 100m and 200m plus anchor relay leg in 4 x 100m. The Dutch ‘Flying Fanny’ she was described as, by one newspaper.  Plus the grimacing face of the Czech distance runner Emil Zatopek, winning gold and silver in the 10,000 and 5000 metres. Both were to become heroes for me as I grew older.

The ‘Austerity Olympics’ was the title of Jane Hampton’s record of the 1948 Olympics. She records a number of incidents in her book. One is the role of a young medical student, Roger Bannister who made a mad dash, not on the track, but to find a Union flag for the Great Britain team to carry into the stadium as the host nation. Another is the identity of the ‘handsome’ unknown athlete, clad in white who carried the torch into the stadium and lit the Olympic flame. Chosen in preference to the British world mile record holder, Sydney Wooderson, who was small, dark haired, and bespectacled, A tall fair haired, 22-year-old Cambridge medical student, from Surbiton, John Mark!

CHAPTER 2  RUN RABBIT RUN. 1950 (British Empire Games-NZ. European Champs.Belgium.)

In the May of 1950, I had a short spell in the Central Middlesex Hospital; with what was described as a ‘Grumbling Appendix’, but it came to nothing, and I was discharged fit and well.

 In the summer of 1950, I was full of excitement and anticipation about going to my first Scout camp in Wales. Donnie Owen, a neighbour’s son, was enlisted to help me acquire the kit I would need, most of which would come from the recently opened Army & Navy Shop along the road, which specialised in surplus army stock. It was certainly not a rucksack, but a traditional ‘pack up your troubles’ kit bag, the sleeping bag was new as was my billy can, tin plates and camp cutlery set. We were due to leave a week before my 12th birthday, so an added bonus was to have my birthday at the camp. Parents and siblings all gathered at Paddington Station, along with 24 Boy Scouts, several Senior Scouts, a Rover Scout and ‘Boss’ Spring our intrepid Scout Master.

We were not going to have a carriage with seats, but this was the night mail train to Merthyr Tydfil. This meant that the trek cart carrying all the tents and other camping gear, could be loaded straight onto one of the rear wagons. Most of the juniors were perched on top of the mail bags, which proved fairly comfortable, and must have reduced transport costs. I am fairly certain that the senior scouts did have more comfortable transport. What happened if someone needed the toilet or felt sick, I don’t know. I do have a vague recollection that we had to change trains at Crewe and maybe that was our ‘comfort stop’ on a rather long journey.


 On arrival at Builth Wells a large lorry had been hired and this took all our equipment and again I think we were perched on top of the kit bags and tents. So much for current day ‘risk assessments’ and seat belts!

We arrived at the camp site on the river Wye just outside Llandidrod Wells in the Brecon Beacons late morning, and the next few hours saw the magic of setting up camp. The large brown bell tents made a circle. The camp kitchen, plus the digging of the latrines, all had to be completed before we could unpack our kit bags.

After such a long journey and the excitement of setting up camp, our first meal was provided by the Seniors. Bangers and mash never tasted so good, along with a mug of cocoa, gave a warm glow inside and outside as we sat round the camp fire. Boss gave us one of his wonderful yarns; said the Scout Prayer. We sang ‘Now the Day is Over’ and crawled into our sleeping bags.

Needless to say that on the first night there were ‘larks’ played on some of us ‘tenderfoots’, who had various initiations to go through, such as finding various objects in your sleeping bag, or being made to run outside. It was boyish fun, and thankfully I complied with the ‘tortures’, such as the cold bucket shower, and was accepted, others had a tougher time such as being boot blacked on various parts of their body, or given a mud bath down by the river when we took our morning wash.

Each patrol had their duty days which meant rising at about 6.30am, getting the fire going and the breakfast prepared. I had the honour of taking ‘Boss’ his morning cup of tea, and was allowed into the inner sanctum of his tent which actually had a proper camp bed, a lamp and looked so much better than our large tent.

Breakfast over, the site had to be spick and span before any of the day’s adventures began, which included getting sufficient wood for the fire and water from the farm.

During that first week a day out was organised to the seaside, I can’t recall exactly where we went, but I vividly recall a trick that was played on me by two of the seniors.

There was a machine that was to give you a ‘Penny’ shock; which involved you holding the two handles after putting a penny in the machine. In itself the shock would have been mild, and you would quickly let go of the handles. I agreed to have ago. However, when I put my hands on the handles, two seniors each held my hands to the handles and put about three pence in the machine. They laughed at my reaction, as they were only holding one hand each, but I can recall the convulsion quite clearly. Of course, I never complained, it was just another joke, but years later I wondered if this incident had some repercussions for events that were to happen later in the camp.

The first week of the camp seemed to whiz by, and I recall having a great 12th birthday, which included a chocolate cake, and a game entitled ‘Catch a Rabbit’.

There were hundreds of rabbits in the nearby fields, and the novice scouts were given the

‘impossible’ task of trying to catch a rabbit. This game was to have a number of repercussions and consequences in my life. It was the realisation for me, that although I was not very good at ball games, I could run, and run I did, across the field carrying a small stick. It may also be that one poor rabbit was either injured or slow, because I not only caught it up, but delivered a hefty blow which killed it instantly.  Picking up my trophy I came back triumphant. Much to ‘Boss’s surprise, presented him with the dead rabbit. He took one look, and told me it was no good to cook, as it had a broken gall bladder, and would have to be thrown away.


The second repercussion to this event was that I had over exerted myself, and that evening complained to my Patrol Leader that I had a sore stomach. He was convinced it was just the consequence of my exertion, or maybe some camp food. The consequence was that I had severe diarrhoea for two days. The leaders then thought I had been stealing the laxative chocolate from the grub tent store. The pain grew worse, and finally after three days ‘Boss’ decided that medical help was needed from a doctor. One look at me convinced the Welsh Doctor that I needed to be admitted to hospital urgently. An old village ambulance took me over the rough field and road to the cottage hospital at Builth Wells. Acute appendicitis was diagnosed I was operated on that night.

My mother and father were notified initially by telegram and made a telephone call to the hospital. It was clear that my condition was serious, so my father set off in his black Riley Falcon saloon, registration number UF7749, to come over night to the campsite in Wales where he met up with Boss and came to see me in hospital.

 Next day the situation deteriorated, and that night I hallucinated in the bed, and had what I later learnt was as an ‘out of body experience’. Whereby, I was on the ceiling of the hospital ward looking down on myself and calling out ‘I’m going to heaven to have a bath’ I obviously woke the other patients! The night nurse came with haste, to find my hands gripping the side of the bed and refusing to let go. I was given some sedation, because the next thing I knew was being taken back into the theatre to have a second operation for peritonitis, as the burst appendix had spread.

In all I spent six weeks in the hospital at Builth Wells. I remember my mother coming with my baby brother, Aubrey, who was now just six months old. Gradually I was allowed up, and visited the Surgeon and his family, to whom I will be ever grateful, as I realised later how near I was to dying.

 In modern day scouting, a risk assessment would be done, especially if a child had recently undergone a hospital admission. Maybe the fun electric shock, and the rabbit chase all contributed. Maybe ‘Boss’ should have taken action sooner than he did to call for medical advice. The reality is that another 70 plus years have gone by, and I am still able to record the tale.

My father did the long trip down to Builth Wells again in early September, along with his policeman friend who we called Uncle Mac, and drove me home. I remember feeling sick on the way and asking to sit in the front of the car. I recieved a warm welcome from my brothers and sisters, as well as the scouts in my patrol, but I did not return to my new school for another couple of weeks.

My father subsequently became Assistant Scout Master for the next 9 years up to his death in 1959.

What was happening at the major athletic Games during that period?:

1950 saw the resumption of the British Empire Games held in Auckland New Zealand with Scotland winning gold in the Hammer with Duncan Clark. Alan Patterson won silver in the High Jump as did Andrew Forbes in the 6 mile event.

At the 4th European Athletic Championships in 1950 in Brussels, Britain won 17 medals 8 gold medals including Brian Shenton (200mt) Dereck Pugh (400mt) John Parlett (800mt) Scot Alan Patterson (HJ); Jack Holden won the Marathon after finishing 36th 2 years earlier at the London Olympics. Plus the men’s 4 x 400mt relay. GB’s women won the 4 x 100mt relay and Sheila Lerwell the High Jump. Emil Zatopek won both the 5k and 10k races and Fanny Blankers-Koen won the 100mt; 200mts and the 80mts Hurdles

Forty year later in 1990 I attended the Commonwealth Games in Auckland New Zealand.



WINNING WAYS (Olympic Games 1952-HELSINKI)

With the tender loving care of my mother and the family around me,I quickly regained my strength. Dr Essex our family GP signed me off as fit to go back to school, but NO exercise until after New Year 1951. This also was to have an influence on future events. Having ‘failed’ my 11 plus exam, I learnt that I was to be in the A stream at Pound Lane County Secondary School, and although I was about a month late in starting, I enjoyed being back with both old and new friends.

Mr Palmer was the name of my form master, a kindly man who had been in the Air Force during the war, and seemed genuinely interested in his pupils. I had to start learning French. it was also compulsory for all students to do one lesson of PE (Physical Education) a day. Our PE Master was a Mr George Addy, another ex-military man from the Guards. His curt commands left you in no doubt that his ‘orders’ were to be obeyed without question.

Needless to say, I presented him with a problem, that I could not do PE until after Christmas on the Doctors orders. ‘Well that maybe so’ he said ‘but you are not sitting here watching everyone else during the lesson.’ My instructions were that I should WALK around the playground at my own pace until the 40 minute lesson was complete. This I did every day, and each day I went a bit further. How many laps could I do in 40 minutes? Towards the end of the Christmas term I even tried a little jog! By the time I returned to school in January 1951, I was ready willing and able to join the PE class.

What was really good was that I was getting stronger and fitter, and starting to enjoy school. I really enjoyed Maths and English. Miss Cosgrove was our English teacher and she would have us involved in poetry and plays. I recall being given the part of the Owl to recite in Graham Green’s The Owl and the Pussycat- Sheila Francis was the Pussycat. It was great fun and led on to my doing a lot of drama at school.

I played the part of Fagin in Oliver Twist and frightened Bill Shiran who was Oliver when I hovered over him with a carving knife when he woke to see me counting my precious jewels.

I recited a speech of Shylock from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice at the Willesden Schools Drama festival starting with ‘Senior Antonio… and ending with. …and if you wrong us shall we not revenge!’ Msr Mannete from the Tale of Two Cities was another famous role with the lines ‘One hundred and five North Tower’ in answer to question ‘what is your name’.  All helped to build up my self-confidence.

In June 1951, less than a year after my operation, I was chosen to run in both the 880yds and 440 yds events at the Willesden Scout Sports (The Half and Quarter mile). Photographs of the event show me in rather baggy shorts a T shirt and a pair of Woolworth’s plimsolls. I had finished second in the half mile to a boy from the 28th. My father had arrived at the stadium just as I finished, and told me that in my next race, the quarter mile, I was to wait until he waved his handkerchief, at which point I had to shorten my stride and sprint like the wind – it was my first WIN. The following winter in January 1952, at the Willesden Scouts Cross Country Championships at Eastcote at the age of 13 and a half I won, running over 2miles, and beating boys 2 years older than me, and leading the 8th team to victory. I was to win that event five times.


Looking back at old school reports, I note the following: I was 27th in the class at the end of 1951 following my late start, and was 7th in 1954 just before I left. My general subjects of interest were Maths and English, plus Geography and History. Not so good were art and science. I had special mention for my drama and P.E especially athletics and boxing. I was both house captain for Nelson House and Boys Athletic Team Captain. I was twice winner of the Willesden schools half mile championship in 1953 and 1954, resulting in my competing in the Middlesex Schools Championship at the White City Stadium in 1953, where I tripped when in the lead, just 50 yards from the finish line. In 1954, I finished fourth, but it was not held at White City that year.

My boxing career at school consisted of just 3 fights. In 1953 and 1954 I was eliminated in the first round of the Willesden Schools Championships. In 1953 by a boy called Cream, and in 1954 by a boy called Mutch. However, just before I left school in 1954, I competed at an inter schools event between a School from Stepney, East London and Pound Lane. I managed to beat the reigning East London Champion, a boy called Kemp, over three rounds. No one was more surprised than me. I was watched by Mr Jenkins the milkman I worked for, and he gave me ten shillings after the fight. However, my badly damaged nose made me decide to take the doctor’s advice and give up boxing and concentrate on my running.

In February l952 I sat and failed my Technical College exams. The most memorable thing about them was that when we finished, we were all summoned to hear the news that King George VI had died. Along with many thousands I went with our scout group to pay our respects and queued until 2am to see his coffin lying in state at Westminster Abbey. I will never forget it, as the guards were just changing, as one of the four guardsmen turned on his heels he caught his spur and it fell off onto the dais. I arrived back home at 4 am, but still got up at 6am to do my milk round, before going to school at 8.30am.

Most days I would cycle to school, and go to the running track two or three times a week to train, with Ted Hodgeman our coach. along with Martin Hine. and other athletes from Willesden. From time to time I would train at Paddington. On a regular basis they would have inter club athletic matches with clubs such as Thames Valley Harriers, and Shaftesbury Harriers. Sometimes, these events would include a cycling event, as a concrete cycle track surrounded the cinder track.

During winter months we would travel to Eastcote where the annual Willesden Scouts Cross Country Championships were held.

During my whole school life, once I was fit, I helped Mr A.J Jenkins, who owned a local dairy shop, delivering milk seven days a week, for three years. Apart from having time of to go to Scout Camps my only ‘day off’ was on Boxing Day, we delivered milk from two hand carts. I would get these from the shed at 6am, and have them loaded with the crates by 6.30am. ‘Mr Jenks’ as I called him, would make a cup of tea, and we would set off at 6.45am. I would deliver on one side. and he on the other. We would get back by 7.45am. I would then re-load the big cart before I went home, had my breakfast, and cycled to school. ‘Mr Jenks’ would do a second round after I had gone to school.

On Saturday and Sunday I would help to collect the money. Tips helped, but my weekly wage was just ONE POUND or twenty old shillings. However, back then milk was 6d a pint that’s equal to 2.5 new pence.


On several days when the ice was bad, there were accidents. I still have the scars on both my wrists where I fell with bottles in my hand. I had my own form of weight training. I could lift three crates of 20 pint bottles, onto the cart.

 Just before I left school in July 1954, Mr Jenks asked me to help him with a mid week round. This was unusual. It was the first Wednesday in June. In those days it was known as Derby Day. Thousands would go to Epsom Downs to watch the world’s most famous horse race. It meant skipping school, or ‘hopping the wag’ as we called it. However, I agreed on two conditions. One: that I could go with him, and also he would give me my wages to have a bet. He did both.  On arrival once we had parked the car, we found ourselves a spot on the heath, near to the stands, opposite the one furlong to go post. The Bookies had their stalls. It was time for the first race. Prince Monalooloo was walking round in his African head dress shouting ‘I gotta a Hos!!’ ‘Jenks’ had a bet and won! We celebrated by buying a bowl of jellied eels. I did not get carried away by the razzamatazz, but waited for the big race. A young 18 year old jockey had hit the racing world. He was Lester Piggott, He was rather tall for a jockey, but could ride like the wind. Other famous jockeys of that era included Gordon Richards and Eph Smith.

Lester was riding an outsider called ‘Never Say Die’, it was 25 -1, but I backed it with five shillings each way (25p) that was half my wages!  It WON! I picked up over £6. This was more than my father earned in a week! I bought Mr Jenks a bowl of jellied eels for a shilling, and took the money home and gave it to my mother. But I had to keep quiet at school as to where I had been that day!

My mother used the money, together with her sixpenny weekly Provident Club, to buy my first suit to start work at A.W.Aylett and Company, Chartered Accountants in Victoria Street London on the Monday after I left School on the Friday.

I collected my last wage from Arthur Jenkin’s Dairy, along with some good ‘tips’ on the Saturday.

 I just had the Sunday as my ‘Gap Day’ between leaving school, and starting work!


My interest in athletics, as a sport, was becoming more serious, and Helsinki was the venue of the 1952 Olympics. For me, the outstanding athlete was the Czech distance runner Emil Zatopek. He won the 5000 mt in an Olympic record of 14m6.6s; The 10,000mt. in an Olympic record time of 27m17s.and the 26.2mile marathon in 2hrs 29m19.2s, a world record.

Britain’s Gold medal hope, Roger Bannister, came a frustrated 4th in the final of the 1500mts.

Zatopek went on to do the ‘double’ of 5k and 10k at the 1954 European Championships in Brussells, and started to prepare for 1956, when the Olympics were to be held in Melbourne, Australia.

I bought a treasured book on Emil   Zatopek, with pictures of both his training and racing. In more recent times I have read of his true ‘endurance’ when he suffered under Communism for his political and personal beliefs. Also in 1954 the British Commonwealth Games were held in Vancouver Canada. There was one particular Scottish athletic gold medal that will be remembered not for the winner, but the brave loser.

(* ‘Endurance’ Rick Broadbent; ‘Today we Die a Little’ Richard Askwith.)


The British Empire and Commonwealth Games of 1954 in Vancouver, Canada, is always remembered for two rather spectacular events.

‘The Miracle Mile’ brought together the track heroes of the year. Roger Bannister of Britain, who in May became the first man to break the four minute mile barrier and John Landy of Australia who smashed the barrier by 2 seconds just one month later. Now the titans of the track would duel in the final of the mile. Bannister had won the European 1500 mt title in Berne, Switzerland  in 1952 after a tactical struggle which demonstrated his superior speed over the last 200metres of a race.

 From the gun Landy ran the only way he knew, all out. Bannister a master of pace judgement, was not tempted to go with Landy and at the start of the last lap Landy had a comfortable lead, it seemed impossible task, but step by step, Bannister’s enormous stride pulled Landy back. With 150 yards to go, on the crown of the final bend, Landy turned his head to see where Bannister was, and swoosh, Bannister went past and headed for the tape. There was nothing Landy could do. Bannister had won what many called the ‘Miracle Mile in which both men broke the magic four minute mile barrier.

The other memorable event of the Games, came at the very end, the final event, the 26.2 mile Marathon. It had been incredibly hot in Melbourne, and the Marathon was being run in the middle of the afternoon. It was planned to finish in front of the royal box where the Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh, was to greet the finishers. The long time leader, by some distance, was England and Great Britain’s world record holder, Jim Peters, the gold was his for sure, or so it seemed. The heat had taken its toll on all the athletes, including Peters. When he came into the Stadium, he only had 385 yards to run to the finish.  He was exhausted, and started to wobble and stumble. Officials knew they could not help. Visions of the 1908 Olympic marathon in London came to mind, when a tiny Italian named Dorando, was in a similar plight. Helping him to the finish, resulted in disqualification. Peter’s did not want the same to happen to him, so he staggered on, but it was in vain. A blue vested runner came into the stadium. Joe McGhee of Scotland, was first over the line. Jim Peters was picked up and given urgent first aid. He never ran another marathon. However, he was given a meritorious award by the Duke of Edinburgh for his brave run

The European Games of 1954 saw Great Britain win 2 other gold medals plus a silver and bronze. Thelma Hopkins won the high jump. Jean Desforges won the long jump. Chris Chataway took silver behind Vladimir Kuts in the 5k and Frank Sando the bronze behind Emil Zatopek in the 10k.

In the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff,Wales. Ian Black was Scotland’s hero, with a double in the swimming, but nothing to show for the athletics team medal wise. A young 19-year-old Scot, Mike Lindsay came 4th in both shot and discus. He went on to pick up Scotland’s only athletic medals, both silver, in the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth Australia.

Perth, was the home town of golden boy, Herb Elliot,  who won the mile at the Australian championships in under 4 minutes and would go on to dominate middle distance running up to the 1964 Olympics, never having been beaten in a mile or 1500mt event in his career.



After winning my second Willesden Scouts Association Cross Country Championship in 1953 at Eastcote, the HQ of the Queens Park Harrier (QPH) athletic club, I was approached by the Club Secretary Frank Pettit, who asked me if I wanted to join the club,and train on a regular basis with other young athletes, at Paddington and Willesden athletic tracks. I asked my father, who agreed. Training sessions were on a Sunday morning, and Thursday evening at Willesden, plus Tuesdays at Paddington if I could make it.

To begin with Sunday was OK. However, in February 1954, I attended a Billy Graham Campaign meeting at Earl’s Court in London, and became very involved with the local church on Sundays.

About the same time, I had read a book entitled ‘A Man called Peter’ that included the story of Eric Liddell, the famous Scottish athlete and rugby international, who was selected for the 1924 Olympics in Paris. He was selected to run in the 100mts, for which he was one of the favourites. However, as the heats were to be run on a Sunday. He refused to run based on his religious beliefs, but went on to win the 400mts in a world record time. A story that in 1981, became a famous film ‘Chariots of Fire.’ Contrasting the life of a young Jew Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell.

For several years as a Youth and Junior athlete, I adopted this philosophy, and was influenced to consider training for the Congregational Church ministry. This included conducting Church Services at many churches in the Middlesex, and South of England as a Lay Preacher.

In consequence, with hind sight, I recognise, that whilst I trained regularly during the week and raced on Saturdays, I missed out on the longer club pack runs on a Sunday morning, and maybe missed much of the endurance work needed for my main events, which were the one mile and half mile.

As a youth I gradually reduced the QPH club Youth half mile record to 2m 6s and the Junior club record to 2m.02s when I finished 4th in my heat of the London Championships, held at the famous White City Stadium at Shepherds Bush.  Although I twice did the double (Mile and Half mile) at the Willesden/Brent Championships as a Youth and Junior, getting a podium place in the Middlesex Championships was frustrating, with 4th place being my best. The Junior record stood for several years until a neighbour’s young lad Mike Bunday broke the magic 2minute barrier. My best race over a mile came when I was 18 in 1956, when I ran 4m 29s at Chiswick Stadium.

Cross Country running was my favourite event. I continued my regular run for the Scouts championships, winning five times. It was for QPH that I had my best runs, with a second-place team medal in the 1956 Middlesex Club Championships, and a team winning medal in the ‘Bert Ives’ trophy. I was both QPH Club Youth and Junior Cross Country Champion from 1956 to 1960.

Perhaps the highlight of my time with QPH came when I was selected for the famous London to Brighton Road relay. It was only open to the top 20 clubs in the south of England.  QPH had won the right to be there with success in the Leyton to Southend Relay in 1956. I was selected to run the penultimate 11th leg over 4.5miles. My father came to support me and took photos.


 It was a memorable day. I was handed the baton to run the 4.25mile penultimate leg, from Elmar Salnajs, in 12th place, and handed it over to our final leg runner, Tom Harwood, in 10th place,who went on to finish 9th. I ran the 4th fastest time for the leg, and set a Junior record for the leg. QPH were awarded the ‘Meritorious Award medal’ for the club best performance outside the top 3 clubs.

However, although we competed in the event for the following 2 years in 1957 and 1958, we never reached the same standard, and, to my disgust in 1958, I ran the slowest leg! ‘The dust of defeat!!

In 1956 I reached my 18th birthday. With it came the documents requiring me to serve my country for 2 years for National Service. I considered applying for dispensation, as I was hoping to go to College to train for the Christian Ministry. However, under the influence of our local Minister, I decided to apply as a conscientious objector.

This required my attendance at a formal Tribunal in London, to which I had to give evidence of my beliefs, and produce witnesses to testify on my behalf. The basis of my argument was that, I did NOT object to National Service for my country, but not for military service. The outcome was, that they accepted my case. I was ordered to undertake my National Service in farm work, food distribution, or hospital work. The first two were impossible; so with the Country under a threat from a Poliomyelitis epidemic, I was taken on as an Orderly/ Porter, (Dog’s body), at the local fever hospital, just 5 miles away from my home. The system was shift work of 8 hours (6am-2pm; 2pm-10pm; 10pm-6am). I did a bit of everything on the wards, assisting with various therapists, plus, looking after the mortuary! I landed the graveyard shift of relief night worker, which involved 2 night shifts each week plus 3 day shifts. Although this gave me more time for my studies, which included opportunities for some night time reading, it did nothing for my physical fitness, and training routines. Running had to take a back seat, at least for the moment.

I finished my National Service at Neasden Hospital in November 1958, just after my 20th birthday. My GCE A level exams had not gone too well. I had to find a job. During my time at Neasden I had taken particular interest in helping the Physiotherapists rehabilitate people with polio. I sought a position at a rehabilitation centre near Woking in Surrey. The Rowley Bristow Hospital had a variety of patients with various injuries and illness that made them incapacitated. Many lay in plastercast jackets.  My main task was to attend to their basic needs, including ensuring they did not acquire bed sores. I had accommodation on site. I had bought myself a 50cc NSU motorbike, (advertised by Emil Zatopek). I came back to my home in NW London, 25 miles away, quite frequently on my days off. I managed to fit in the odd run round the common, but it was winter, and I spent long days on my feet, lifting heavy men.

 Winter turned to Spring in 1959. I came home for a few days at Easter and learnt that my father, despite having retired at 65, had taken on another job as a caretaker. He had bought a mini moped bike, similar to mine, but with the engine located at the rear, made it heavy for him to lift over the high doorstep, My mother was worried ,and wanted me to tell him to give it up. He was delighted to be mobile and had some extra money. On my return to Woking, he came down the stairs to see me off on Friday 10th April . As I waved goodbye, I never realised that it was the last time I would see him alive. He had spent the weekend helping at the Scout’s Jumble sale, and mending my sister’s bike. On Sunday he had been involved with his photography and had gone to bed as usual. On Monday 13th April, he had a severe coughing fit, which led to a heart attack and almost instant death. He had been a heavy smoker all his life, as many were in those days.

 I had been for an early morning run, and whilst showering, I heard banging on my door. I opened it, wrapped in a towel, to be told by an insensitive porter. ‘You are needed at home, your Dad’s died.’


I returned instantly to home and joined my shocked mother and family. I spent the week organising the funeral along with our Scoutmaster Ernest ‘Boss’ Spring .He arranged for the Scouts to provide a Guard of Honour at his funeral the following  Friday.

My Father had been my biggest supporter to my running, and losing him dampened my enthusiasm for competitive athletics for while. In August 1959 I celebrated my 21st birthday with some local friends, in the same room, albeit redecorated, as my father had died in.



Russia was now starting to have a strong influence in athletics. Amongst their newest athletes was a soldier named Vladimir Kuts. His tactics, in both the 5k and 10k events, was to keep putting in surges, which upset the rhythm of other athletes, including Britain’s Gordon Pirie who finished 2nd and Derek Ibbotson who was 3rd in the 5000mts final. His tactics proved successful and he won both the 5k and 10k titles in Olympic record times. The USA took 13 gold medals, including all the sprints. An Irish athlete, Ron Delaney, was the surprise winner of the 1500mts leaving Britain’s hero Roger Banister, among the also rans. Britain did have a winner. Chris Brasher, he had been a pacemaker to Bannister in his epic 4 minute mile in Oxford in 1954. He won the tough 3k steeplechase but not without, initially, being disqualified. The British appeal was successful. John Disley took the bronze medal. He subsequently, went on to help Brasher set up the London Marathon in 1981

 Eight Olympic records were set on the track plus a world record by USA in the 400mt relay. Seven Olympic and one world record were set in the field events. The standard of athletics was rising dramatically. Was this through more structured and systematic trainng methods or other means?

The 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, Wales is rather forgotten from an athletic point of view. There was not a single Scottish medallist on track and field. The nearest was a young 19 year old based in USA, Mike Lindsay a member of my London club QPH who finished 4th in the Shot and Discus. Scotland did have success in swimming diving and boxing.

 The Willesden Chronicle, had a back page sports report mentioning my winning the QPH Junior Cross Country Championship. This appeared just beneath a headline report on local Neasden golden girl, Judy Grinham, who broke the world record for the Breast Stroke at the Games.


After leaving school in July 1954, I attended regular training at King Edward’s Park in Willesden and Paddington Recreation track in Maida Vale. I did not start keeping any record of my training until I wrote a 10 week schedule for training in 1956, and a daily diary of training and racing in 1957. I still have the rather battered log book, which I maintained up to 1965.

As previously mentioned, coping with the shift work hours of my National Service, and the death of my father, disrupted any regular or serious training. I note from my diaries, that I seldom ran further than 10 miles in any endurance training, and most of the track work was intervals over various shorter distances. Most of the cross country races were 3-6 miles with the exceptions being the Southern Counties over 7.5 mile and the senior national 9 miles! However during this period, I won the club Junior cross country championships in 1959/60 season, and had my best season on the road culminating in the London to Brighton relay run for QPH.


My concentration now was linked to my application to go to New College Theological training for the Congregational Church ministry. As well as my studies for New Testament Greek and Church History, I conducted services at local churches on Sundays and had to prepare for these as well as my work as an accounts manager for a local engineering firm. With the help of local tutors, I managed to gain entry to new Collage for the start of term in October 1960.

It was a totally new experience, I had had a car, a Riley Kestrel with pre select gears and although I had managed to save some money, I was reliant on a grant and a bursary from my church. The car had to go, but I did get back to doing some running on nearby Hampstead Heath with a couple of other students. In February 1961 I competed in the London Theological Colleges Cross Country Championships at Northwood Hills over 4.75miles. After leading for most of the way, I was overtaken at the finish by two runners from the Spurgeon’s Baptist seminary. One being an international 400mts athlete called Ted Sampson. My time was 26m55s.  My training on Hampstead Heath was more recreational, and my energies had to go into my studies. In the summer vacation of 1961 I worked in a large Psychiatric Hospital near Eastbourne, and had some enjoyable runs along the south coast, but again mainly for therapy as a contrast to the work I was doing.

My second year at College included taking on responsibility for a small church at Hook near Basingstoke. This involved travelling down every two weeks on my 75cc Scooter that I had bought. The college did have a squash court, and I enjoyed a regular game with fellow students.

1962 was a tough year. I was doing better with my studies and was enjoying my Pastoral work at the church. However, I started to question my belief in my vocation. I spoke with the Principal and he agreed that I should take a year out. It was difficult, and I took up doing some paid Youth Work. That led to my becoming a Residential Child care Officer in a Working Boys Hostel in Southhall, Middlesex. I found that this proved to be a more satisfying career. I was invited to return to New College after a year out but I decided to train as a Child Care Officer for the new London Borough of Hounslow. The time out also led to my taking up rugby for nearby Osterley Park Rugby Club, mainly for the Xtra B side.


The Rome Olympics had many highlights. The events that stood out for me were the events that I was most interested in, albeit they were in metric measurements, the 800mts, 1500mts and 5k. My hero was, and still is, Herb Elliot from Perth Australia. He was the current world record holder of the mile 3m54.2s ran in Dublin. Elliot was never beaten over the 1500mt or the mile and won the 1500mt Olympic title with consummate ease, in a world record time. However, a fast-talking Coach from New Zealand, had a small squad of 3 athletes that would light up tracks throughout the world in the coming decade. Arthur Lydiard watched his favourite protege Murray Halberg win the 5000mts. Then, he told a hesitant Peter Snell, that he could win the 800mts by biding his time. So it proved, Snell snatched victory in the last few strides setting a new Olympic record. Arthur’s day wasn’t finished. The Rome Coliseum had seen gladiators fight. That evening they witnessed the first African gold medallist from Ethiopia, Abebe Bikila win the marathon running in bare feet, in an Olympic record time of 2hrs 15m16.2s. Taking the bronze medal that evening was Kiwi, Barry Magee, one of Arthur’s most dedicated athletes. I had the pleasure, in 1990 at the Commonwealth Games in Auckland, to meet with Arthur Lydiard and some of his ‘Boys’ and published those interviews in the Scottish Veterans magazine. (See attached)

Britain’s only success in Rome was Don Thompson nicknamed ‘The Mouse’ who set an Olympic record of 4hrs 25m for the 50k walk.


I first met my wife to be in 1959, when I was doing my National Service at Neasden Fever Hospital.    I was asked to take a Christian Fellowship Group at the hospital. She attended my 21st birthday party with two other nurses. After my Dad died in April 1959, we became friends, but it did not last beyond the new year when her sister got married. I was able to help as taxi driver. In April 1960 her father was killed in a motor bike accident and this brought us together again for a short while, but I was going to College and she was off to Glasgow to do her midwifery training.

Over three years was to pass before we met again. The hand of fate took us to the Alter in 1964. I was taking up my post a Child Care Officer with Middlesex County Council. As well as my official title I also assumed a more practical one when we were blessed with the arrival of our son. Middlesex County Council was to be divided up and joined with the new London Boroughs. I was now working for the London Borough of Hounslow. I was offered the chance for formal Home Office 2 year training in Child Care which I under took in Ipswich from 1966 to 1968, by which time we had a ‘pigeon pair’ a son and daughter. The training involved several practical placements in residential and community based settings. The final of which was in the east end of London in Poplar. Although we had a small flat in Kilburn to return to, we managed to save enough for a deposit on a mortgage on a house in Wokingham. I had to travel each day to my area office in Chiswick.

During this time I had managed to keep fit by playing rugby for the Ipswich College and after we moved, I played for Reading Rugby Club. I also had the odd game of Squash to help me keep fit.

Two healthy youngsters kept me on my toes, as well as running groups for teenage boys who were in the care of the Local Authority. I recall taking them on a training course to North Wales, where they were offered climbing, sailing and various survival activities, some of which had me in fear of my life!

In 1970 I applied for a specialist post linked with the Juvenile Court, providing programmes for such youngsters. However, I was not successful. Having completed my two year return contract with LB Houslow. I was successful in applying for a post as Child and Family specialist worker in City of Norwich. This delighted my wife as this was the home town of her mother, who had supported us throughout our early years. We sold our house in Wokingham, and moved to Sprowston on the outskirts of the city in April 1970.


Two men, not permanently resident in Scotland, were responsible for holding Scotland’s head up in athletics at the Commonwealth Games In 1962 in Perth, and in Jamaica in 1966. Mike Lindsay was born in Glasgow but was at School in Marylebone in London took two silver medals in the Shot and Discus just missing out gold by 3cm in the Discus. In Jamaica in 1966 it was Morpeth based, Jim Alder who achieved the 6 mile bronze and Marathon gold medal, overcoming extreme heat conditions.


In Tokyo Olympics of 1964 the USA dominated the track in all but two events. Those were the 800mt and 1500mt double won by NZ’s Peter Snell. Billy Mills (USA) a Sioux Indian was the surprise winner of the 10k. Mary Bignal Rand set a world record in the Long Jump, clearing 22ft. for first time. Lynn Davies (GB) a Welshman surprised both favourites in the Long Jump. Abebe Bikila again won the marathon, this time wearing running shoes, in a world record time of 2hrs 12m11s. Ken Mathews of GB won the 20k walk.


As you enter the outskirts of the City of Norwich, the sign says ‘Welcome to Norwich a Fine City’. And so it was. I settled in to the Norwich City Children’s Department, and felt warmly welcomed by all the staff. With the help of other professionals in Health, Education, Housing and Welfare Departments, we set up regular meetings with local officials, to monitor vulnerable children and families. I also set up joint training programmes, which covered these aspects, which was entitled in those days as ‘The battered baby syndrome’.

 As a family, my wife enjoyed being near her mother and the children had a loving grandma to spoil them from time to time. Such was the success, that I was asked to take on the function of Training Officer for the City. I developed staff development programmes in conjunction with the staff from Norfolk County and the Universities of East Anglia and Cambridge. However, Local Authority reorganisation was afoot. I had been there before, in 1964, it proved to my advantage.

In 1974 it was different. The County dominated the City and I faced the prospect of ‘Demotion’, in the sense that I would be subject to the Norfolk County structures. I chose to take a chance to look elsewhere, and was offered the post of Senior Training Officer with the new Calderdale Authority, which took over from the old West Riding of Yorkshire.

My wife was not happy with prospective upheaval, and neither were the children and in particular, my mother in law. Looking back I wonder whether I did the right thing.

Sport wise I played squash, and the occasional games of rugby. Plus the odd run on Mousehold Heath. I had lost a lot of fitness generally. After a delayed move north, we were close to the Yorkshire Moors, the Bronte country and the fells. I actually tried the odd fell race, but found it harder coming down than going up!! We bought a Welsh Springer Spaniel, and she gave me a lot of exercise, mostly walking. I also took up golf, and had the odd game with a colleague. We had a large garden, and keeping it in order, including growing vegetables, was also good exercise.

My wife was a qualified Health Visitor. On a course she attended in Huddersfield, she met up with Madeline Ibbotson the wife of Derek Ibbotson, former world mile record holder. I was in the crowd at the White City Stadium in July 1956 when he broke Landy’s mile record clocking 3m57.2s. My hand stopwatch recorded the same time and I did not reset it for months after!

My wife accepted an invitation for us to go to dinner with the Ibbotson’s at their home in Huddersfield. I took with me a copy of his brief autobiography including his time in the RAF.  I hoped he would sign it for me. The evening turned out very different from what I expected. He asked if he could keep the copy I had brought, as he did not have one of his own. What could I say but- ‘Of Course!’ It was mid 1980’s and ‘Ibbo’ as he was affectionately known, was rather portly, but an excellent squash player, and an agent for Puma sports shoes and clothing. Half way through the meal, he disappeared to watch a soccer match and returned in a very angry mood, as one of the players he had sponsored had blacked out the logo on his boots. Our dinner party was not the delight I had hoped for, but I admired his running when he was at its best in the 1950s.

 In 1978 I started to suffer from a strained back. I was overweight, and sought medical advice. I was told that I needed a special test, which involved putting dye into my spinal column, to identify the blockage. However, there was a long waiting list.

We chose to have a holiday in Scotland, and took a large flat near Oban. We visited most of the tourist spots. I played tennis with the children as well as going for walks. On our penultimate day, we visited Fort William, with the initial intention of climbing Ben Nevis, but it was a poor day, and there had been a lot of rain. My wife and the children were not keen on the idea, but I decided to try going on my own with Bella our spaniel. I set off with great intent, but quickly realised that I was not going to get to the top, so cut off at the lake, half way up. The rain came on, and we seemed to find the muddiest route back, but we made it, and I felt a ‘high’ that I had not had for ages.

On our return home, I found a letter from Bradford Royal Infirmary with an appointment for the spinal check operation. On telling he surgeon what I had done on holiday, he simply put down his pen, and told me he would not continue the investigation. I was to take up running again. His predication was that I would succeed or become permanently disabled in five years. I chose to go back to some running. My competitive athletic life lasted until 1993, after needing knee surgery.

It was about this time in 1979 that Chris Brasher, one of Bannister’s pacemakers, came back from participating in the New York Marathon, to announce that he was going to set up the London People’s Marathon in 1981. This became my incentive to train regularly. I met up with a member of Bingley Harriers, Gerry Spinks, an international veteran runner at the local sports centre, and subsequently, I joined Bingley Harriers, and ran in a couple of races. The first of which, was a One Mile UP HILL race in which I managed to run 5m 55s!

I also persuaded a neighbour Dave Allen, to run with me on the local roads and moors. Although I found a new lease of life in running, my work was frustrating. I had taken on the post of District manager for Halifax, at the request of the Director, but it was not satisfying me. I had for a long time yearned to go back to Scotland, my mother’s country and where I spent early days of my life.

 I applied for a post in the Scottish town of Musselburgh, East Lothian, which was part of Lothian Region. All the staff were qualified, and I was stepping into the shoes of a highly respected leader. My interview was in December and following a successful meeting with the local Director I was asked to start in January 1980. There was much to consider, not least my children’s schooling and my wife’s post as a district Nurse. Despite the drawbacks, I said yes, and life changed dramatically in 1980. Another upheaval for the family! Was I making the right move?


OLYMPIC GAMES 1972,1976;1980:

The decade from 1971 to 1980 was, in many ways, the high point of British Athletics.             Edinburgh hosted the 1970 Commonwealth Games at the newly built Meadowbank Stadium, Scotland came away with a total of 8 medals. Four Gold, 2 silver and two bronze. Rosemary Wright won the women’s inaugural 800mts.  Rosemary Payne the women’s discus. Lachie Stewart had stirred the Brave Hearts on the opening day by winning the 10k. It was the 5k race that was the most thrilling, Australian World record holder Ron Clarke was very much the favourite. He was out sprinted on the last lap by two Scots and an African. Ian Stewart just held of his fellow countryman Ian McCafferty. They heard the stadium erupt. Jim Alder the hero from Jamaica, took silver in the marathon. William Sutherland took bronze in the 20k walk as did Moira Walls in the high jump.

In The Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, New Zealand in 1974 it was a very different story with just one silver medal for Rosemary Payne in the discus. At The Commonwealth Games 1978 in Edmonton Canada, it was the Scottish sprinters that raised the Scottish flag. Alan Wells won the 200mt and the silver medal in the 100mt. Then, together with Cameron Sharp, David Jenkins and Andrew Mc Master, won the 4 x 100mt relay. John Robson won bronze in the 1500mt, as did Bryan Burgess in the High Jump, and Chris Black in the Hammer.

The Olympic Games of 1972 in Munich will be remembered for the terrorist attack on the Israeli team. However, there were many sporting highlights. In the pool Mark Spitz from the USA won 7 gold medals, and broke 7 world records. On the track, Valeri Borzov of Russia won both sprints. USA’s Dave Wottle came from last, with 200mts to go, in the 800, to win in what they called, the ‘Wottle Throttle’. Finland’s Lasse Viren fell in the 10k, but got up to win and also won the 5k. Kenyan, Kip Keino won the Steeplechase, and Ugandan John Akii-Bua won the 400m hurdles.

In 1976 in Montreal, Lasse Viren did the double double, in the 5k and 10k.  Sadly the African nations boycotted the Games over South Africa’s regimes. Britain’s highlight came in 33year old Mary Peter’s from Northern Ireland, winning the Pentathlon. Possibly the outstanding moment for most people, was the Rumanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci’s perfect 10, never before achieved!

1980 saw the Olympic Games come to Moscow, but this time it was the USA that boycotted the Games. Scotland’s Alan Wells won the 100 mts, and was just beaten in the 200mts. The duel between Seb Coe and Steve Ovett, was the highlight of the middle distance events, with Coe the favourite for the 800mts, being beaten by Ovett, and then the reverse came in the 1500mts, with what was called ‘Coe’s Revenge’


It took over a year for us to sell the Bungalow in Denholme. As the school year in Scotland was different from that in England, both of my children had only a 4 week summer break, rather than 6 weeks, before starting their new schools. It also meant I had to find lodgings. We were given temporary accommodation in August, on the banks of the River Tyne. This interim, provided me with an opportunity to continue my running. The Observer newspaper announced that they were backing Chris Brasher’s idea for a ‘People’s Mass marathon’, based on the New York model, to be held in the Spring of 1981. It would be the longest distance I had ever run 26.2miles!  I was travelling back to Yorkshire after work on a Friday, and returned on a Monday morning. Dave Allen and I continued our regular runs on the moors. I managed to get up to 10 -12 miles in about 60 to 90minutes. As summer came, I was able to explore the East Lothian coast line. After we moved into our temporary  flat in Haddington, I met up with a couple of locals who had also been successful in getting an application to run London. One was a Insurance salesman, another a window cleaner and a younger guy who owned a small café in the High Street, and had run the distance for charity. We started to meet regularly during the week, and on a Sunday morning, when we did our ‘Long’ runs of 18 to 20 miles, taking 2 and a half to 3hrs.

On my last week-end before moving to Haddington, Dave Allen and I joined up as a team to compete in the Oxenhope Straw race, over 3 miles, in which between us, we had to carry a 50k bale of straw, and drink a half pint of beer at each mile marker. It was very warm, but out of 150 starters we finished 9th.


My membership of Bingley harriers was short and sweet, but I had made links with several members including, Terry Lonergan a sub 2h 20min marathoner. He was a salesman for new running shoes and sportswear. I agreed to bring some to Scotland and would get 20pc on anything I sold. I did ok once I started to make contacts in East Lothian, but ended up buying several pairs for myself! At one stage I had about 20 pairs of shoes, including spikes and studs for road, track, and cross country courses. I tried various events, including fell and hill races, plus cross country and road races, as far afield as Manchester in the west, and Darlington in the north east, and a variety of events throughout Scotland. I met up with the SVHC (Scottish Veteran Harriers Club) when I took part in the World Veteran Road Championships in Glasgow in August 1980. I ran in the 10k event, and finished in 39m40s but ended up in hospital with heat exhaustion.

From January to December 1980, I had run 500 miles, an average of about 50miles a week. I had got my weight back down from over 12 stone to 10st 12lb, almost the same as when I was 21.  I was now 42 years old!  In October, I ran in the SVHC Half marathon and finished in 1hr 25m, with which I was pleased, as it meant that I could set my target for London in March 1981 at under 3hrs.

As I was not travelling back to Yorkshire once the bungalow was sold, I joined Edinburgh Southern Harriers (ESH) and competed for them in various cross-country events, together with my new training partners, John, Alistair, Murray and Joe. We had regular training sessions off road, at the Tyningham estate, home of the Duke, as well as the roads around Haddington.

 I also went to train at Meadowbank Stadium, on the tartan track which was used for the 1970 Commonwealth Games, and where they would host the 1986 Games. The facilities to train were great, on the track, as well as quiet country roads, forest glades, and sandy beaches.

By the end of December 1980 I had run over 1000 miles since I restarted running in October 1979. I spent Christmas 1980 with our extended family in Dorset, and trained every day over Christmas.

Over the next three months, I had eight races to prepare for London, over road and cross country, and apart from minor injuries to my leg ,I felt very fit, having clocked 61 minutes for a tough 10mile race over 2 laps, with a steep hill. The London Course was going to be twisty but flat. I also ran the Scottish East District CCC, and the Carnethy 5 hills race in February, so I felt the only thing that was going to catch me out would be the distance, so we set to, and planned a 2- mile run on a Sunday morning with John and Alistair. My last race before London, was to compete for the ESH Vets team in a 4 x 5.6mile relay. I ran the 4th leg in 32 m 56s. I felt I was ready. Many of my solo training runs, especially in the country, or near the sea were with my faithful spaniel Bella. She just loved running.


Looking back as I write in March 2020, the London Marathon was due to have started for the 40th time, but due to the Corona virus (Covid 19) that has hit the world, it has been postponed until October. I had put in well over 1000 miles of training, but did not properly taper in the 2 weeks before. We travelled to London on the Friday, and I met up with Chris Brasher that evening. He asked me to organise a small group of runners to meet the favourites, Joyce Smith and Hugh Jones, for a publicity run over Westminster Bridge at 11 am on Saturday. We arrived, but none of the favourites, so we jogged over the bridge for the photographers. That photo was to appear on the front page of the Sunday Observer on the morning of the race March 29th 1981!


The weather was overcast with light rain, ideal for the 6000 plus starters from Greenwich. I pressed the button of my sport watch as we crossed the official start line and steadily got into a comfortable stride. We passed the Cutty Sark at 6 miles, and crossed London Bridge at 12 miles and ran round the Isle of Dogs at 18 miles then came back through the Tower of London at 20 miles with its covered cobble stones, along the Embankment, where the crowds grew thicker, ran down the Mall at 25 mile, finally we crossed in front of Buckingham Palace, to reach the finish line in Birdcage Walk. My two brothers Gordon and Aubrey had followed the race and taken several photos. As I came to the finish, I could see that the clock above the Gillette sponsored gantry, still showed 2 Hrs 5? minutes. I pressed my wrist stop watch, which showed 2hrs 56m46s, and I had finished 1062nd place. I could see a runner in a red and white striped vest (QPH), and it turned out to be Neville Rees, one of my old QPH running buddies.

My three companions all ran well, and we celebrated that evening before returning to Edinburgh the following day. A new friend from the OU featured on BBCTV, in a distressed state. I was determined to try again and do better. Also to see if I could help organise a similar event in Edinburgh in 1982.


In 1984 the Games went to LOS ANGELES, USA. Daley Thomson was the toast of the British team retaining his Decathlon title, with a world record performance. Seb Coe again took silver in the 800mt, but retained his 1500mt title. A young Steve Cram reached the final, but it was a backward step for Steve Ovett, who ended up in hospital.  Mike McLeod finished 4th in the 10k, but was subsequently promoted to the bronze medal after a drug test on the third placed Russian.

In the women’s events USA’s Evelyn Ashford, was Queen of the sprints. Tessa Sanderson and Fatima Whitbread (GB) battled for gold and silver medals in the javelin, and Wendy Sly ran a well judged finish, to take silver in the 3k.   Phil Brown took the silver medal in the 50k Walk. Daley Thomson retained his Decathlon title, and with it set a new world record with 8847 points.

In !988 The Olympics came to Seoul the capital of South Korea. The sprint events for both men and women were the headlines, but for very different reasons. Americans Carl Lewis and Florence Griffiths Joyner (Flo Jo) were favourites for the 100mts.  However, in the men’s final, Canada’s Ben Johnson spoiled the show by taking gold in a world record time of 9.79s. Lewis was second, and Britain’s Linford Christie dipped for the bronze. Just two days later Johnson was disqualified for drugs being found in his system. In the women’s final, Flo Jo set her long standing OR of 10.54s.       

Both Lewis and Christie were promoted. Lewis was beaten again in the 200 by fellow countryman Joe Deloach, but the result stood this time. Christie anchored the GB squad to a silver medal in the 4×100 relay. Peter Elliot took the bronze in the 800m and silver in the 1500m. Mark Rowlands was 3rd in the 3k SC. It was very brave run by Scotland’s Yvonne Murray in the 3k, that earned her the bronze medal, having made her bid 450 mts from the finish, but beaten by two drug suspects from Russia and Romania. Subsequently the Russian was proved a drug cheat, but Yvonne never received her deserved silver medal. Liz McColgan also had a fine race, taking the race from the front but again beaten by a Russian sprint on final lap.

Liz and Yvonne were two great Scottish female athletes of that era and earn their place in both the Scottish and UK Sporting Hall of Fame.  Fatima Whitbread again took silver in the Javelin.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  


The Commonwealth Games of 1982 in Brisbane. Scotland brought home 10 athletic medals, 3 gold one silver and 7 bronze. Both gold medals were won by Allan Wells in the 100 and 200mts Fellow sprinter Cameron Sharp took bronze in both races. Both men added a bronze medal in the sprint relay. Meg Ritchie won gold in the discus. Anne Clarkson won the silver medal in the 800mt. Chris Black won bronze in the Hammer as did Graham Eggleston in the Pole vault. Sixteen year old Lindsay McDonald anchored home the Scottish team in the 4 x 400 relay. Yvonne Murray had just turned 18 and finished 10th in the final of the 1500mts.

Edinburgh was the venue for Scotland’s next chance to host the Games in 1986.

Being directly involved with a major World Games has been a great experience. I had a particular interest, as I was now writing a weekly athletic column for the local newspaper, East Lothian News. I had met a local Musselburgh athlete, by the name of Yvonne Murray, and had done a profile on her for Athletics Weekly. Hence, I not only had a job as an official on the warm up area and marathon, but was able to have access to the Press Tent. On the last day of the Games, none other than the notorious Rupert Murdoch bought me a glass of Guinness! With the words ‘So, you’re the local hack, are you?’

The 13th celebration of the Commonwealth Games proved to be disappointing for athletic fans.  There was only one gold medal for Scotland at Meadowbank Stadium. Liz Lynch in the 10k. Tom McKean took silver in the 800mts, Geoff Parsons also silver in the high jump. Yvonne Murray was favourite for the 3k race, but was out sprinted by two Canadian girls, and ended with a bronze medal. Bronze medals were also won by Sandra Whittaker in the 200mts and the 4 x 100mts men’s relay squad. Winning just six athletics medals in front of your home crowd was very disappointing.

CHAPTER 9. HADINGTON E.L.P.1980 -2012.

The excitement of having successfully completed the London Marathon in under 3hrs, spurred me to make enquiries as to how an Edinburgh marathon could be organised by 1982. Needless to say, Glasgow was also keen to develop a mass marathon themselves. In the meantime, my training continued with ESH. I became more involved with the SVHC in bringing events to Haddington. The outcome was the setting up of a 5 mile road race during the Haddington Festival, on the first Saturday in June 1982. I organised a Half marathon on behalf of the SVHC in August. Both events proved successful.

By the Spring of 1982 I had started 4 more Marathons, in Newcastle in August where I missed the start but ran 20 miles in 2hrs 6m; Bolton 2 weeks later in extreme heat I clocked 3hrs 9m; Glasgow in October again only 20 miles in 2hrs 9m.

In the SVHC Championships at Bellahouston in March I dipped under 2hr 50 mins. Just six weeks  later, I returned to London and ran with George Brown in ESH club colours, as it was a  UK National Championship, this time breaking the 2h 45min barrier. I was now 45. In the space of just 14 months I had started 6 marathons, and completed 4 in gradually improved times. Looking back, I can see that I did too much.

The prospects of an Edinburgh Tartan Marathon on 5th September 1982 were now very promising, and although I was involved initially in the promotion with Dave Farrer.


 I was not fit enough to race. Instead I agreed to push a woman in a standard wheel chair around the course, starting at the very back of the 3000 starters. The outcome was we crossed the line in 3hrs 49 mins, overtaking 2000 runners, completely exhausted. We raised £500 for Sport for Disabled People. However, Five weeks later, I lined up again at the start of the Glasgow People’s Marathon on October 17th 1982. There were over 7000 starters. I finished in 103rd place in 2hrs 45 mins. I had a few cross country races in November. My mileage dropped from over 250 miles per month to 165 at the end of the year and my diary notes that I had several visits to a physiotherapist.

I had an eight-month break from Marathons, then ran five in five months. Three under 3 hrs, and two under 2h 50m, including the BVAF Championship –The Flying Fox at Stone in Staffordshire.

My goal was to run under 2hrs 40m, if possible, at 6m mile pace. My target race was London 1984. However, a long-standing problem I had physically, was the subject of haemorrhoids!

My Training diary for the 3 months from October to December 1983 shows that I had ran over 600 miles in training, plus  8 races, including the World Veteran (IGAL) Road Championships in the heat of Perpignan France, where I finished the 10k in 35m44s. I was 1st V45 Scot to finish, the following day the 25k (15,5 miles), where again I was 1st V45 Scot in 1hr 35min.In both of these races I was running at my desired marathon pace of 6m mph. I had 4 XC races and a one mile TT in 5m17s.

I was admitted to Roodlands Hospital in Haddington from 5th to 12th December 1983 for the operation, but all did not go well. I had a haemorrhage, and had to have a blood transfusion.

Over Christmas, I had some very easy walks and jogs.  1st January 1984 I went with the club to line up for the Morpeth to Newcastle New Year Race (14.5miles), and clocked 90m 42s, (6m 15s per mile), finishing 507th from 3000 starters. I felt I was back on target for my London Marathon in May.     From January, I gradually increased my mileage to nearly 1200 miles in 4 months some weeks clocking the magic 100 miles in 7 days. I felt I was flying!  Or thought I was! From January 1st to 29th March 1984 I had 14 races, which included 2 marathons, as part of my preparation for the London Marathon on 13th May 1984, which was my planned race to run 6 minute-miles (2h36m).

I had several cross country races including the Scottish Champs in February; The Balloch to Clydebank (12.5m). Two ten mile races, including the Edinburgh Uni, 10 and the Tom Scott 10m, plus an Open Graded 1500m clocking 4m48s. On 1st April (All Fools Day)I I ran the SVHC Marathon, as a ‘Long’ training run in 2hr 56m.  In honour of my mother, whose birthday was 2nd April, I had planned to run the Dundee Marathon for the British Heart Foundation. Also as a ‘Long Training Run’.

In the changing area at Caird Hall Dundee, I got chatting to Don Macgregor, the Scottish Olympian from Fyfe. I told him of my plans for London. His comment was  today the forecast is for a ‘sea haar’ which with light wind make it an ideal day for a marathon- you don’t know what London will be like.- Put your racing shoes on and give it a go!!’  Wearing the BHF vest and bonnet, I started nearer the front than I had planned and at the 5,10;15 and 20  mile marks I was running at just on 6mph; Just 10k (6.2 Miles) to go! I had heard a loud speaker announce that, Don Macgregor and Terry Mitchell were battling for lead. There was only one other Veteran runner ahead of me.

I put my head down and went.! It was tough, and slightly up hill. As I rounded the last corner I could see the timing clock was saying 2h 30m? As I got closer, it was ticking away at 2hr 39 mins. I crossed the line with arms aloft in 2hrs 39m31s.  I finished in 25th place from nearly 2000 starters. Don had won in 2hrs 18m but I was 2nd vet to finish and received the Vet’s award and a voucher.


I returned home as high as a kite!! Surely I will achieve my goal in London!, I had also raised over £500 for the British Heart Foundation. Thanks Mum!!

 Instead of resting up completely, I started the Edinburgh to North Berwick 22mile race just a week later. With my HELP pal, Joe Forte, who was 20 years my junior, and aiming for sub 2h 30m in London. We ran 18 miles in under 2hrs, plus a 10k TT in 35 mins. I ran a total of over 80 miles in the 2 weeks before London. We stayed with my brother in Watford, and we had a 36 min run on the day before London. The outcome was that I ran well for 15 miles but into a head wind and in a warm sun. At 20 miles, I had lost over 3 minutes on my Dundee times, and by the finish over 7 minutes, resulting in a time of 2hrs 46m24s. I took 43 minutes for the last 10k compared with 38 minutes in Dundee. A big disappointment as Joe had run his sub 2h30. Don Macgregor’s prediction was right! A hard lesson to learn as an athlete and a coach. Listen to your body! Recovery is crucial !!

In 1988 I was to reach my 50th birthday, and I had great intentions of doing well in my new Veteran or Masters Age group.

London in May 1984 was my 16th start in a Marathon. Only in 2 marathons had I failed to finish, due to mix ups.  In 1984 I had 4 marathon plus 2 that used as training runs. In September in Glasgow and Edinburgh. I returned to Dundee in May 1985 not fully fit, and in bad weather I ran the marathon again, but this time I ran a very conservative 2h55m. I had a much more controlled year. In October I went to Dublin as an invited ‘Fast For Age’ veteran. I had the new shoes that I had won previously, but the night before the race I changed the insoles, as I knew there was a lot of concrete to run on.   I started on the elite start. My 5 mile splits were on target at 5 and 10 miles going through in 59m09s. It was the same for the next 5m, just 5 seconds over 90min for 15 miles. However, the concrete section between 15 and 20 miles took its toll and I lost 3 minutes. I could feel a blister on my right foot. I was determined not to limp but at 22 miles, I had to stop.  The blister was bleeding badly, and I took 5 minutes to try and repair the damage and carry on. I dropped to running at over 7 mph, finishing 2hr 53m, and having taken over 50 mins for the last 10k.

I took six months before starting my 4th London marathon, which I finished in 2h 55m. I was involved in helping organise the 1986 Commonwealth People’s marathon in June. I had a steady run in the June heat, finishing in 2h 46 min. I had the pleasure of beating Ron Hill.

The Glasgow City Link Coaches Marathon was a disaster for me. I struggled for the 2nd half and took nearly 3hr 30 mins!! I decided to have a  break from running Marathons.

 With my 50th Birthday year ahead my aim was to compete in NEW YORK USA in November.

In April 1988, I ran the SVHC Championship, and ran a steady 3h09m and was 1st in the V45 age group. In September, I was now 50, I ran in the NALGO ‘New York’ marathon at Whitley Bay, staying with my old QPH friend Martin Hine. I ran a comfortable 2h 52m, even paced, 1h 26m at half way. This really set me up for the NYCM. Flights were booked with HELP companions Jim Baird, running his first marathon, and 18 yo Steve Chalmers, who I had coached as a junior in the club.

We were met on arrival and hosted by anther QPH old boy Mike Dale, and his wife Mary in there New Jersey luxury home. Mike was deputy head of Jaguar cars. It was luxury, and we had a day touring the City prior to the race. I took part in the WHO Fun Run .and attended the famous Pasta Party in the evening, which was great, but I missed the last subway tube, and had to walk about 50 minutes to my back ‘pack’ digs on 42nd Street. Excited and a little too full, I did not sleep well. By 6 am I was clad in my tartan vest and shorts, off to meet the transfer bus to the Verrazano Bridge.


The start was over 2 hrs away. Jim and Steven were quite relaxed, as we were near to the start. When eventually, the gun went, there was a mad rush. Our plan was to run at 6m30s pace. This was thwarted by a group of French and Italian runners holding hands, and blocking the way. Jim and I took nearly 8 minutes for the first mile. Then we ran under 6mph for the 2nd mile, to try and make up time by the end of the bridge. It was a great spectacle and experience, but the start had its effect on us. Crossing all five bridges was an added distraction. Although back on target time at 5 miles, each subsequent 5 mile split got slightly slower.  By the time 18 miles came up we were reaching Central Park. I was not feeling good and told Jim to run on, while I tried to find a spot to spend a ‘penny’. The spectators were great, and not keen to see me stop, but I had to. At 2h12m for 20 miles I still had a chance to get under 2h 55m, but the legs felt bad, I was running on empty! As I reached the final corner, I could see the clock approaching 3hrs. I just made it, in 2hrs 59m59s. Whereas, Jim clocked 2h 52m a time that would have put me in 2nd place for the Masters V50 award. Steven ran well for an 18 yo about 3hrs 30mins.

On returning to Mike and his family, he gave us an incredible surprise, an individual flight in his twin seater Biplane. We saw all over NY State, a memorable trip, on what was to be my penultimate marathon.

1989 was to be a crucial year, with a planned trip to Australia and New Zealand for Christmas.

New Year was spent with my wife and her sister and brother in law. The bonus was to stay on for the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland in January, and tour NZ South Island.


Hindsight is a benefit most of us do not fully comprehend, until it’s too late to take advantage of.

 As I look back now on my training schedules and training diaries, I have come to realise several important facts. First I never applied the concept of the GROW model to myself as a young athlete. Partly, because training was not seen as crucial. as it is now to young athletes with high potential. I note that I did try out modified versions of Franz Stampfl and Percy Cerutty (Coaches to Bannister and Elliot) training programmes. I did not set realistic goals or options. Also education, work, national service and university all took priority. Ultimately, marriage and family were more important than fitness. Then at 40 years old, I had a second chance to do what I always wanted, with the added stimulus, of the first London Marathon arriving in 1981.  I had the chance of laying down a foundation of cardiovascular fitness, that was to be the base of my training and racing, I read several training and coaching programmes. The most influence coming from Manfred Steffny, the German Coach who helped top female athletes, and Veteran or Master runners over 40 years. I also came across Arthur Lydiard the New Zealand coach to Peter Snell, and Murray Halberg, and his books on distance running. Both of these men laid down the basis of my own training and racing plans. It also came at a time, when I needed to review my own fitness. My lifestyle was mostly sedentary. I was overweight, and starting to suffer from back problems, was an incentive to get fitter for life in general. My run in 1979, half way up and round Ben Nevis, with my spaniel Bella was the start. Regular runs with a local friend over the Yorkshire moors, and joining Bingley Harriers, to do some cross country running again, all helped get me back into the mood and commitment for competitive running.  A change of job in January 1980, brought me to East Lothian, where, after nine months of travelling and resettlement, I started to meet up with new running companions.


The build up of training and racing between 1980 and 1981 are detailed earlier, but the period that followed from 1981 onward is worth reflecting on.

 From 1981 to 1989 I started 29 Marathons in England, Scotland, Ireland and USA. In five, I either failed to finish, or used the event as part of my training for a subsequent race. Of the 24 I finished, 18 were under 3hrs; 5 were under 2hrs 50min; and my best was under 2hr 40m.  I ran 16 marathons in 4 years between 1981 and 1984, and 6 between 1985 and 1989. I covered over 30,000 miles in training, including some cycling. when I could not run. Within 2 weeks of running my best marathon in Dundee in 1984,  for which I had run over 1000 miles in training in the 3 months (Jan to March).     I tried again in London, and fell short by 7 minutes. The basic reasons were twofold. I did not properly taper, and did not allow enough recovery time between the two. The outcome was to acquire hip and knee injuries that needed rest and treatment.

At the age of 50 in 1988, I tried again. with a carefully planned build up. (see pages 21/22).

 Looking back at my detailed training records I see that whilst I had enthusiasm, determination, and no small ability, as a veteran athlete in his 40’s. I did not follow my own advice to other athletes, ‘listen to your body’ and focus on my set goals!

In 1989, I had a full year at V50, I competed in 42 races over road, cross country, and on track.  I finished first V50 in 14, and 2nd V 50 in 7.   Half of my placings in that age group category were in the top two.

 On December 7th we set out for Australia and New Zealand, with my wife’s sister and brother in law. It was to be an adventure of a lifetime. After travelling together all over North Island, I left the family group to stay with an old friend, prior to the start of the Commonwealth Games in Auckland.

It was a time for deciding which road my future should take on my return to Scotland at the end of February.


The athletic world over the 30 years between 1990 and 2020 changed dramatically, with the introduction of individual athlete funding and sponsorship on a much bigger scale than ever before.

Over were the days spoken about by Gordon Pirie, in 1950, (Running Wild) plus others, with regard to  finding ‘money in your shoes’ and the ‘Shamateurism’ that was abundant in the sport. Particularly against those athletes who had been denied their place on the world stage of the Olympics, such as sprinter George McNeil.

I played a small part during my tenure as Secretary, and subsequently President, of the SVHC (Scottish Veteran Harriers Club). Along with two other stalwarts, Henry Morrison and Ian Steedman we tried to change the constitution of the club to allow former professional (‘Peds’) to compete in national and international events. Initially we had success, but at a subsequent AGM in 1991, after I had been President for just one year, the decision was reversed. I felt I had no choice but to resign, as did my two companions.



Two top women distance runners were the Scottish toast from Auckland in 1990. Liz McColgan (Lynch) won the 10k and took bronze behind Yvonne Murray’s silver in the 3k event. Geoff parsons took bronze in the high jump. Brian Whittle, David Strang, Tom McKean and Mark Davidson won silver in the 4 x 400 relay.

The Olympics in 1992 was in Barcelona and was also the first Paralympics to follow directly on. Linford Christie won the 100m in 9.96s and Sally Gunnell the 400m Hurdles. Liz McColgan won silver in the 10k, and Steve Backley Bronze in the javelin. Kriss Akabusi Bronze in 400h, as did the 4 x 400 Men’s squad.

I attended the Paralympic Games in Barcelona in 1992, as a BBC World Service reporter. I had the pleasure of meeting several other correspondents who were trying to raise the profile of the Paralympics. Australia was the only country giving daily reports. Britain was having a one hour round up, once a week. I did two reports on the Games, but the main interest was on the use of ‘DRUGS’! My personal highlight was meeting BBC Journalist, Helen Rollinson, who lent me her voice recorder for my second session, in which I emphasised the high standard of the athletes.  I found out on return to Scotland, that it was broadcast at 3am on a World Service sports programme.

Sadly Helen died of cancer, but her legacy is the Sports View Personality award for an athlete with a disability. My other recollection was having my new camera, with a zoom lens, stolen whilst dining in the Rambles after the opening ceremony.

At the Commonwealth Games In Victoria, Canada in 1994 Yvonne Murray completed her full set of medals. Having won bronze and silver previously, she won the 10k gold medal. Geoff Parsons took another bronze in the high jump.

The 1996 Olympics were in Atlanta USA. The highlight for me was Michael Johnson (USA) 200mt world record, and 400mt Olympic record double. GB athletes won no gold medals.  They picked up 4 silvers with Roger Black 400m; Jonathan Edwards Triple Jump; Steve Backley Javelin and the 4 x 400m Men’s squad, Denise Lewis took bronze in the Heptathlon.

In Sydney the 2000 Olympics was an impressive show for the millennium. GB had a total of 6 medals. Two gold: with Jonathan Edwards, Triple Jump and Denise Lewis in the Pentathlon. Steve Backley was thwarted again for top spot in the javelin. Colin Campbell was runner up in the 200m, and Katherine Merry and Kelly Holmes took bronze medals in the 400mt and 800mts respectively.

I attended the 2000 Paralympics on a Press Media pass with the Bulgarian Newspaper ‘Sofia Echo’, as I followed the fortunes of five Bulgarian Disabled athletes during my time as a VSO worker. Four were weight lifters and one woman was a shot putter. After the opening ceremony, I was called to the Press Conference the following day to be told that three of the weightlifters had failed initial drug tests and were banned. The single female shot putter did win gold in her classification. It proved to be a front page headline, but not one in which I was pleased to write. A major review of the selection process was my recommendation on my return to the Bulgarian capital Sofia.

The Commonwealth Games in 1998 in Kuala Lumpar and the 2002 Games in Manchester had small pickings for Scotland. Allison Curbishley was the only medallist in KL with a silver in the 400mts. In Manchester 2002, Lee McConnell that took silver in the 400 mt and Jamie Quarrie bronze in the Decathlon.


I was very lucky being given tickets by my son, for the 2004 Olympics in Athens. It was the site of the original modern Games  in 1896. GB won a total of three golds!  Two for Kelly Holmes, in the 800mts and the 1500mts. It was fantastic to have been a witness. The bonus was the GB Sprint relay squad managing to hold off the crack USA squad for gold. That really made it a memorable experience. The saddest moments were in both the Marathons. The interference with the Brazilian runner near the finish of the men’s marathon. Thankfully he held on for bronze. For GB’s Paula Radcliffe, it was a stomach upset at 35 km that saw her brave effort for an Olympic title come to grief.

In 2006, together with my sister, I went on a tour of USA, Australia, New Zealand and Thailand. This Included attending the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. It was an enjoyable and exciting experience, However, not so memorable as far as the Scottish athletics team were concerned. Chris Baillie won silver in the 110 H. and Lee McConnell the bronze in the 400mH.

In 2010 the Commonwealth Games went to Delhi. I was nominated to take part in the Closing Ceremony and went along to the first dress rehearsal in Glasgow. However, the restrictions meant that I would not see any other part of the Games, plus the fact that the health risks were too high.     I pulled out and watched at home, but still have the sponsor’s bag as a souvenir. The outcome for Scotland in Delhi was the same as Melbourne, just a silver and bronze. This time it was Eilidh Child in the 400H and Steph Twell in the 1500mts.

The Commonwealth Games came to Glasgow in 2014. This was the chance for Scotland to shine in track and field, as they did in 1970.  The result was No Athletic gold medals. Two silver. Another for Eilidh Child in the 400H and also for Lynsey Sharp in the 800mt.  Mark Dry won bronze in the Hammer.  It was the Swimmers that really shone with 3 gold, 3 silver, and 4 bronze medals. Reporting for the local East Lothian News, the highlights were for Prestonpans Boxer, Josh Taylor, taking gold. Alex (Tattie) Marshall, from Tranent, picked up 2 Gold medals in the Bowls.

I was able to attend my sixth Commonwealth Games in 2018 with a Press Pass for the East Lothian Courier on the Gold Coast of Australia. I linked up with my son, who also had a media pass for his radio show for Mental Health (Beyond Blue). He had booked accommodation and transport which made it very enjoyable. However, I had some dizzy spells and was glad of his support. On my return to Scotland, I was tested and brain scanned, and subsequently diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.   A shock to the system! Now I’m managed by medication. It will certainly limit any future long distance travels.

The Games proved poor pickings in track and field for Scotland. Jake Wightman won bronze in the 1500mts as did Robbie Simpson in the Marathon. A terrible ordeal was experienced by Callum Hawkins, who collapsed from exhaustion with not far to go in the Marathon. Eilidh Doyle won silver in the 400H, and local East Lothian girl from Dunbar, Maria Lyle, won silver in the T 35 100mts

  Mark Dry took bronze in the Hammer but was subsequently disqualified for a drug infringement. It was the Cyclists, Swimmers and Bowlers that were Scotland’s heroes. Scotland had their highest total of 44 medals away from home with 9 gold, 13 Silver and 22 Bronze.

Bejing, China with its ‘Birdsnest Stadium’ was the spectacular venue for the 2008 Olympics. Christine Ohuruogu won the 400mt with a fantastic finish, and Natasha Danvers won silver in the 400mH. Kelly Sotherton took bronze in the Heptathlon. Both men and women’s 4 x 400 mts squads took bronze medals.


London hosted the 2012 Olympics. With tickets for home supporters a premium, it was my son in Australia who procured 2 tIckets for the last two days of the athletics. The price was £500 per seat!     It was a spectacle not to be forgotten.  Seeing Usain Bolt run the final leg for Jamaica in the sprint relay. Mo Farah won the 5k race, just a week after he had won the 10k on ‘Super Saturday’. That same evening Greg Rutherford won the long Jump, and Jessica Ennis won gold in the Pentathlon.    Christina Ohuruogu won silver in the 400mts, and Robbie Grabarz won bronze in the high jump.

Rio was the venue for the 2016 Olympics.  Four bronze medals was GB’s total in track and field, with Sophie Hitchen in the hammer. Greg Rutherford Long Jump, and both the Men’s 4 x100 and 4 x 400 relay squads.

European Athletic Championships 1934 to 2019: (Outdoors)

The European Athletics Championships started in 1934 in Turin Italy The medal table shows that over the years, the countries that dominated the Games were, the Soviet Union / Russia 331 gold; Germany East and West combined 559 gold. and Great Britain 304 gold. There have been some outstanding performances over the years, but with the USA not included, it will always be at the Olympics and IAAF World Championships that provides the ultimate testing ground.

 Details from 1934 are limited but in 1938 the event was split into two venues, with the men in Paris in early August, and the women in Vienna in mid August. Highlights for Great Britain, were Sydney Wooderson winning the 1500mt, and a silver medal for the 4 x 400mt squad. The flying Fins took 3 golds in 5k,10k and 3k Steeplechase.  In Vienna, Fanny Blankers-Koen (Holland) won 4 gold medals and 2 silver!!

The WW2 affected sport including athletics. It was in 1946 that the next European Games was staged in Oslo. GB won 7 medals. Two gold, John Archer won 100m. Sydney Wooderson won the 5k. Scotsman, Alan Patterson won silver in the High Jump. The Men’s 4 x 400 mt team also won silver. Henri Forbes won silver in 50k Walk, The Flying Fins Heino and Perala took gold and silver in the 10,000m race. Squire Yarrow improved his marathon time by 9 minutes from Paris to 2h39m40s; but could only finish 7th in Oslo.

1950 Brussels. GB won a total of 17 medals, 8 gold, 5 silver, and 6 bronze. Gold included Brian Shenton 100m; Derek Pugh 200m; John Parlett 800m;Men 4 x 400m Women 4 x 100m. Roger Bannister was 3rd in 800m.  as was Bill Nankevile  in the 1500mts. Peter Hildreth was 3rd in 110H, and Harry Whittle also 3rd in in 400H.    Jack Holden won the marathon and Alan Patterson the High Jump. Maureen Gardner won silver in 100mt Hd. half a second behind Fanny B K. Sheila Lerwill and Dorothy Tyler-Odam won gold and silver in High Jump. June Faulds took Bronze in 100mt as did Dorothy Hall in 200mts. Bertha Crowther was 2nd in the Pentathlon.

In 1954 the venue was Berne Switzerland. GB had another good haul of medals.  14 in total, 3 gold, 4 silver and 7 bronze. In men’s events, a gold medal was won by Roger Bannister 1500m; Chris Chataway was beaten by Vladimir Kuts (USSR) in 5k but beat Zatopek. He was to have his revenge over Kuts at the White City Stadium London. George Ellis took bronze in both sprints. Frank Sando won bronze in 10k behind Zatopek. Jack Parker was 2nd in the 110H. as were the GB men’s sprint relay squad. Jeff Elliot took bronze in the pole vault. The women had success in both high and long jump with Thelma Hopkins and Jean Deforges. Diane Leather had broken the 5minute mile barrier in May, was 2nd in the 800mts (the longest permitted distance for women). Bronze medals were won by Anne Pashley 100mts; Shirley Hampton 200mts and Pam Seaborne 80mH.


In 1958 in Stockholm.  GB were 3rd in the medal table with 17 medals 7gold 5 silver and 5 bronze.   Gold medals were won by John Wrighton 400mt; Mike Rawson 800mt; Brian Hewson 1500mt; Stan Vickery 50kW; Arthur Rowe SP; Heather Young 100m; and Men 4 x 400 relay* (Ted Samson 1st leg was the guy who beat me in the 1961 Theological Colleges XCC). Silver medals were won by David Segal 200mt; John Salisbury 400mts; Diane Leather 800mts; Men’s 4x 400m and women 4 x 100m. Bronze went to Peter Radford 100mt; Gordon Pirie 5k Molly Hiscox 400mts; Dorothy Shirley H Jump.

1962 Belgrade GB won 13 medal 5 gold;3 silver and 3 bronze. Fibreglass poles were introduced for the first time in the pole vault. Britain’s gold medallists were Robbie Brightwell 400mt; Bruce Tulloh 5k; Brian Kilby, Marathon; Ken Mathews, 20k W and Dorothy Hyman 100mt, also silver in 200mt. Joy Grieveson won silver in 400m as did the GB men’s 4 x 400 team. Roy Fowler won bronze in 10k, as did Don Thompson 50k walk, and the Men’s 4 x 100mt (Jones’s squad).

In Budapest 1966 there were only 2 gold medals Lynn (The Leap) Davies, with championship record o7.98mts and Jim Hogan (Ireland) in the Marathon with 2hrs 20m04s.* (Igor Ter Ovanesyan had broken the 8mt LJ barrier in 1962 with 8.19mts but with a 3.2mt tail wind.).

In 1969 there was a change of structure, with a two year Championship between 1969 and 1971. It reverted to a 4 year cycle in 1974 in Rome. The start of an European Indoor event began in 1970.

Athens was the venue for the 1969 outdoor championships in April. GB won a total of 17 medals, 6 gold, 4 silver and 7 bronze. John Whetton 1500; Ian Stewart 5k; Ron Hill Marathon; Paul Nihill 20kW, and Lillian Board 800mt; The GB Women’s squad won the inaugural 4 x 400mt relay were gold medallists. Mike Tagg 10k; David Hemery 110H; John Sherwood 400H. won silver medals.  Bronze medals were won by Alan Pascoe 110H; Andrew Todd 400H and Jim Alder in the Marathon. Anita Neil !00m and Val Peat 200mt won bronze individually and also in the sprint relay.

Helsinki was venue for 1971 Games. GB won 10 medals but just 1 gold with David Jenkins 400m with Championship best of 45.45s. Trevor Wright beat Ron Hill for silver and bronze in the marathon and Paul Nihill was runner up in the 20kW. Pat Lowe and Rosemary Stirling took silver and bronze in the 800mts.

1974 in Rome was the return to the four year cycle of the championships. GB won 11 medals 4 gold 3 silver and 4 bronze; Brendan Foster 5k; Alan Pascoe 400H ; Ian Thompson Marathon and the 4 x 400m men  took gold.  Tony Simmons 10k; Steve Ovett 800m; and David Jenkins 400mt were runners up. Joyce Smith 3k won bronze. *In 1981 she was first woman in the London Marathon.

1978 in Prague there was only one gold medal. Steve Ovett  ran a championship best of 3m 35.59s for the 1500, followed by silver in the 800mt, holding off Seb Coe, but both being beaten by the East German, Olaf Beyer. Dave Moorcroft took bronze in the 1500mt. Daley Thompson won silver in the decathlon as did Tessa Sanderson in the javelin and the Men’s sprint relay squad.

1982 the Games were back in Athens where GB took 9 medals. 3 gold. Steve Cram in 1500mt, Daley Thomson Decathlon and Keith Connor in the Triple Jump. Seb Coe was runner up in the 800mt, as were Cameron Sharp 200mt and Kathy Smallwood 200mt. The Men’s 4x 400 and women 4x 100 took silver, and Dave Moorcroft won bronze in the 5k

 28Stuttgart 1986 was a memorable year for the British Team with 15 medals, 8 gold, 2 silver and 5 bronze. Gold medals were won by Linford Christie 100m; Roger Black,400, Seb Coe 800m; Steve Cram 1500; and Jack Buckner 5k; Daley Thompson retained his decathlon title and Fatima Whitbread won Javelin. The bonus was the Men’s 4 x 400 relay squad. Silver medals went to, Seb Coe 1500mt and Tom McKean 800mt; Steve Cram’s bronze in the 800mt made up a full set.. The Men’s sprint relay team took bronze as did Judy Simpson in the heptathlon. Yvonne Murray took bronze in the 3k.

1990 in Split- Yugoslavia  before it was broken up, resulted in a famous video of British Athletics entitled ‘GOLD RUSH’.  Britain won 18 medals 9 gold;5 silver and 4 bronze. It was a memorable week. East Germany  won 34 medals 12 gold;12 silver and 10 bronze. Linford Christie retained his title in the 100mt with John Regis 3rd. The table was turned in the 200mt, with Regis taking gold ahead of Christie third; Roger Black won the 400m and Tom McKean (Bellshill Bullet) won the 800 with David Sharp silver. Colin Jackson despite an injured knee held off Tony Jarrett in the 110H. Gary Staines 5k and Mark Rowlands SC both took silver medals. Kriss Akabusi won the 400H and Steve Backley the javelin. Yvonne Murray demonstrated the art of surprise attack, when she started her sprint 500 mts from the finish, and held on to win. The men’s relay squads took gold in 4 x 400 and silver 4 x 100m. Both women’s relay teams took bronze medals. The men’s 1500mts turned out a bit of a disaster. Peter Elliot was pushed over in his heat but reinstated along with Steve Cram in the final but despite being favourites finished 5th and 6th in the final.

1994 HELSINKI Was the venue.  GB collected 13 medals, 6 gold 5 silver and 2 bromze. Linford Christie took his 3rd 100mt title, and Colin Jackson retained his 110H title, closely followed by Tony Jarret again. Duane Ladejo beat Roger Black in the 400mt. The women’s team captain Sally Gunnell, won gold in the 400mHurdles. Steve Backley retained his Javelin title, and the 4 x 400m relay squad also repeated their triumph in Split. Yvonne Murray made it a full house of European medals with silver in the 3k. Kelly Holmes took silver in the 1500mt. Silver also went to Steve Smith in the high jump.

BUDAPEST 1998. Great Britain collected 16 medals, equalling their Split tally of 9 golds plus 4 silver and 3 bronze. Darren Campbell won the 100m beating Dwain Chambers. Douglas Walker won gold in the 200mt, making a clean sweep for GB, with Doug Turner and Julian Golding filling the other podium places. Iwan Thomas won the 400m with Mark Richardson taking bronze. 

Colin Jackson won his third 110H title in grand style. Gold also went to Steve Backley for the 3rd consecutive championship, followed by Mick Hill. Jonathan Edwards won the Triple jump and Denise Lewis the Heptathlon. Dalton Grant took silver in the High Jump and both the men’s relay teams took gold. The women 4 x 400 took bronze. *: Sonia O’Sullivan, representing Ireland won both the newly introduced 5k and also 10k titles,

2002 MUNICH. GB won 12 medals 5 gold 2 silver and 5 bronze. (Russia 24 and Germany 19)  Highlight performances have to go to both Colin Jackson for his 4th 110h win and to Steve Backley for his 4th Javelin title. Paula Radcliffe won the 10k just outside the 30m time barrier and Ashia Hanson won the triple jump. Jade Johnson took silver in the Long jump, Silver also went to Darren Campbell in the 100mt. Bronze medals were won by Mark Devonish 200mt; Daniel Caines 400mt Jonathan Edwards TJ; Lee McConnell 400mt and Kelly Holmes 800mt. GB Men retained their 4 x 400 relay title.


2006 GOTHENBERG SWEDEN Was the venue. Along with two fellow athletic enthusiasts, I attended the whole week. Although GB won 11 medals in total, only one was gold, 5 were silver, and 5 bronze. Sitting behind the Carolina Kluft supporters group provided sufficient alternative interest to the track and field performances! The men’s sprint relay squad won the only gold medal, but not without internal strife between Duane Chambers and Malcolm Campbell over who was cleanest, drug-wise.

Silver medals went to Mo Farah in the 5k with a final mile in 4minutes but beaten by a Spaniard. Nathan Douglas TJ; Greg Rutherford LJ and the 4 x 400 squad. Bronze medals went to Marlon Devonish 200m; Sam Ellis 800mt Andy Turner 110H; Rhys Williams 400H and Rebecca Lynne 800 mt  An enjoyable birthday week. but no comparison to the Athens Olympics in 2004.

2010 BARCELONA. Great Britain outscored both Russia and Germany in the total number of medals won, with a total of 20; 6 gold, 10 silver. and 4 bronze. Russia and Germany both took 17 medals.

Mo Farah was a double winner of both 5k and 10k events, supported by Andy Turner 110H; Dai Greene 400H and Phillips Odowu TJ. Silver medals were won by Mark Lewis Francis 100m; Christian Malcolm 200m; Michael Bingham 400m; Rhys Williams 400mH; Jenny Meadows 800m; Hatti Dean 3kSC; Chris Thompson 10k; Both Men and women 4 x 400 m relay squads; Bronze medals went to Martin Rooney 400m; Michael Rimmer 800m; Martyn Bernard HJ and Chris Tomlinson LJ.

It was also decided by the European Athletic Association to hold the Championships every two years from now on.

HELSINKI 2012. GB Total of 7 medals 4 gold 2 silver and 1 bronze.

Mo Farah retains his 5k title. Lynsey Sharp won gold in 800mt; Rhys Williams 400H, and Robbie Grabarz HJ.  Silver was won by Jo Pavey 10k, and Danny Talbot 200mt, with Goldie Sayer taking Javelin bronze.   

2014 ZURICH SWITZERLAND Produced a bumper crop of medals for Great Britain 23 in total; 12 gold 5 silver and 6 bronze, their best haul ever.

Gold medallists were: James Dasaolu 100m; Adam Gemili 200m; Martyn Rooney 400m; Mo Farah 5k and 10k; Greg Rutherford LJ; Jo Pavey 10kW; Tiffany Porter 100H; Eilidh Child 400H; Relays Men 4 x 100 and 4 x 400; Women 4 x 400m:

Silver medallists were: Men : Mark Hudson Smith 400m; William Sharman 110H; Andy Vernon 10k; Women Lynsey Sharp 800m; Jodie Williams 200m; Bronze medals went to: Harry Aikines-Aryeetey 100m; Chris O’Hare 1500m; Laura Weightman 1500m; Ashleigh Nelson 100m ; Andy Vernon 5k, and Women 4 x 400m relay.

Note: *Great Track results, but not a single throws medal and only 1 jump medal. Greg R in the LJ.

2016 AMSTERDAM. Great Britain won 16 medals; 5 gold; 3 silver and 8 bronze: The Russians were absent, following problems with their doping control procedures. Some were allowed to run as. ‘Neutral Athletes’. Poland and Germany were the nearest rivals with 12 gold and 11 silver medals. GB Golds were won by Martyn Rooney 400m; James Dasaolu 200m; Greg Rutherford LJ; Robbie Grabarz HJ, and Women 4 x 400m relay; Silver medals went to Jasmin Sawyer LJ; Women sprint relay. Bronze medals were won by Chris Baker HJ; Steph Twell 5k; Anyika Onuora 400m; Julian Reid TJ;  Elliot Giles 800m; Daniel Talbot 200m; Tiffany Porter 100H; Women 4 x 100 relay.


2018 BERLIN: Again no Russian team as such, but AA  (Authorised Athlete)Drug Free Competitors. Great Britain won a total of 18 medals. 7 gold, 5 silver and 6 bronze: There were a number of new British names on the team list. Gold medallist were Zharnel Hughes 100m, with 9.91s Championship record; Mathew Hudson Smith 400; Dina Asher Smith did the sprint double with 10,85s and 21,89s; Laura Muir 1500mt put Scotland back on the map. Relay Golds went to both men and women sprinters. Silver medals  went to Eilish McColgan, following in her mother’s footsteps in 5k ; Mitchell Blake 200m; Reece Prescod  100mt, and (KJT), Katherine Johnson Thompson Heptathlon; Men’s 4 x 400 relay. Bronze medals went to Jake Wightman 1500; Laura Weightman 1500W; Holly Bradshaw PV; Sharon Proctor LJ; Megan Beasley 400H; plus Women 4 x 400 relay squad, All eyes were set for 2020 in Paris in April for the European Champs, and in July, for the Olympics in

Tokyo. BUT along came the Corona Virus Covid 19 and put the WHOLE WORLD ON LOCK DOWN.   




Although Mo Farah may have won more spectacular races over 5k and 10k at Olympic and World Championships I would argue that Liz McColgan’s 10k World Championship race in Tokyo 1991 was the bravest. The only other medals won by Scottish athletes were won by two Scottish women competing in 4 x 400mt relays, and a solitary Scotsman, who was part of the BG 1997 4 x 100mt relay bronze medal squad, Douglas Walker


For any athlete a medal at the Olympic Games is the zenith of one’s athletic career.

However, various disasters such as Munich, and the boycott of several nations for political reasons meant that not every medal has been won against the opposition that could be a challenge. From early in the 20th Century the IAAF wanted to have a separate World Athletics Championship. After an experimental games in 1980, it was in 1983 that a full Championship was set up in Helsinki. It was set up as a biannual event, so that it did not clash with the Olympic 4 year cycle. As well as track and field championships there are also cross country and road racing championships. All of which include Junior as well as senior events. I have concentrated on track and field. There have been 17 World Athletics Championships up to 2019 in Doha. The 2021 event will be cancelled due to the re-arranged Olympics.

The early years were dominated by Russia and Eastern Europe. Ever since 1991, the USA have been

the dominant force, winning a total of 381 medals, nearly double any of its rivals.  Great Britain ranked 6th in the overall medal table with 104 medals up to 2019 in Doha. 30 were gold; 36 silver, and 38 bronze.

Scottish athletics have their female athletes to thank, as they have only won one gold individual medal. It was won in 1991 in Tokyo by Liz McColgan, in the 10,000mts. An incredible solo front running effort, described by Brendan Foster, as the most courageous run ever by a British athlete.

in Athens. The Scottish women were Lee McConnell in 2005 in Helsinki; 2007 in Berlin 2009 in Osaka  

and 2011 in Daegu. In 2013 Eilidh Child helped the BG  4 x 400 squad to silver in Moscow, and took

bronze in 2015 in Bejing and London in 2017.

A total of 10 medals by Scottish athletes; 1 gold individual and 1 silver and 8 bronze in relay events.

At the time of writing (April 2020) the world is locked down with the Corona Virus pandemic and the Olympics schedules for Tokyo in July have been postponed for a year. All sport is on a ‘back burner’.



Copy in Article from SVHC Newsletter Christmas 1991.

Arthur Lydiard in his lecture at Meadowbank in 1991 stated that he had only coached 22 athletes individually. Five of whom reached Olympic medal or world record standard and a further dozen reached Commonwealth or NZ national championship level.

He claimed that none of his athletes sustained serious injury because he advocated the maxim ‘Train don’t Strain’. He based a large proportion of his basic training on building an endurance base for all his athletes, whether in middle distance or longer endurance events.

He had little support from the New Zealand Athletic Association at the start and certainly did not have access to medical and scientific support in an age that was purely ‘Amateur’ with little or no financial support.

Lydiard developed many of his ‘revolutionary’ ideas in Finland before being recognised in New Zealand.

Why mention this? Simply to say that what Lydiard offered to his ‘Boys’ was a belief and commitment in his coaching methods that had been tested on himself, such was his dedication. I met very recently an attendee at his Meadowbank Lecture in 1991, who proclaimed that it was the most inspiring 3hrs he had ever spent listening to or talking about athletics. He has recently set a world best time at 80 yo!!

I found my brief time with Arthur in New Zealand and in Scotland in 1990/91 very inspirational.

I wrote two articles in 1991 for Scotland’s Runner magazine called, ‘Arthur’s Black Magic’ following interviews with him and some of his boys at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland. They included, Murray Halberg, Barry McGee, Bill Baillie,and Jeff Julian, plus John Davies in 1986, and Jack Foster when I was in Rotorua.

In 1991 I was awarded the Scottish Sports Council Award, and in 2012 .  I received three awards for Voluntary Service to Athletics from East Lothian Council, Scottish Athletics and the UKA award presented to me by Lynn Davies Olympic Gold medal long jump champion.

It has been a wonderful life and I am sure that there will still be something round the corner



My first marriage ended after 26 years in 1991. I went to live in the seaside village of Gullan. I was able to get back into some training on the sand and up the hills. It was here that I invited Arthur Lydiard to come and stay with me for a holiday. I introduced him to the local runners and took him on a tour of Scotland, where he met other club runners. He agreed to give a lecture on his life and training methods at Edinburgh Meadowbank Stadium. It was sold out. He spent 3 hours sharing his story.* (You Tube Video.) He returned to New Zealand with an open invitation for me to visit him again, which I did on two subsequent occasions, after he had had a stroke, which limited his movements, but not his talking!

It was in October of 1991 that I won my last individual race. The SVHC Club 10k track V50 Championship, in 35m.40s. It was great to be first over the line for a change. I gained selection to represent Scotland in the UK international Masters Cross Country Championship in November at Amphill in Glasgow. Just one week after my win, I went for a run on the Gullane dunes with a local pal, stepped in a rabbit hole, and twisted my left knee. I did not realise it at that moment, but it was to prove to be the beginning of the end of my competitive running career! I did not run as well in Ampthill. Over Christmas 1991, I had my first knee keyhole surgery. Mr McNicol, a renowned knee and hip surgeon, said these classic words to me.  ‘Mr Muchamore, your engine is fine, but I am afraid your chassis is starting to creak’. Despite further physio, and surgery in 2012, I needed two new knees. I was never able to reach my full potential as a Veteran/Master athlete again. In 1993 I remarried, and went to live in Roslin and then to Gorebridge. I ran intermittently over the local terrain and roads. I gradually regained some basic fitness. It took ten years to get both knees replaced.

The consultant who saw me in Bradford in 1979 was right! I managed to get 12 years competitive running and a further 10 social running, before I had to stop after surgery.

After my second marriage started to fall apart in 1998, my running was for ‘Therapy’.

 I applied to VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas). I was accepted to work as a Social Work Consultant in a remote part of Northern Bulgaria. I lived near the local Roma community.   My running was very restricted, as the area was infested with mad dogs that chased you.       I ended up doing three tours of duty over a 3 year period 1999 to 2002. On my return, in August 2002, I ran in a 10k mass event in Edinburgh, aged 64, in 43m50s, over 8 minutes slower than in 1991. My very last race was in April 2003 in the Dunbar Boundary race.        My final 10k race was the Dunbar Boundary race in December 2003 with Bob Peacock and George Armstrong clocking over 50minutes. That was the final realisation that my time to run had RUN OUT!!

Not being able to run I turned back to coaching mainly the local youngsters in Haddington but thanks to a ‘Sport for All’ grant I was able to visit all the Schools in East Lothian with a ‘Run Jump Throw’ introduction to athletics programme. Alongside lobbying with the local East Lothian Council to have our own athletic track based at Meadowmill, Prestonpans.

The surgery on both my knees limited my mobility for a while but the completion of the athletic track was a privilege to be a part of the development. In September 2012 the track was officially opened.

Team East Lothian, TEL which I had promoted for several years as a concept in which all three of the East Lothian athletic clubs could develop became fully operational for junior athletes under the guidance of the new Athletic Development Officer Jamie Bowie.

 I retained a link with my own club HELP, and the juniors. In 2013 I had difficulties getting about. Also the club wanted to change its focus and concentrate on Ultra running rather than Cross Country or Road team races.

The name was changed to Haddington Running Club (HRC) and the Juniors set up their own structure linked to the new Team East Lothian development structure.

In 2016 I was approached by the ADO (Jamie Bowie) to provide some help in coaching a young 15 year old ex swimmer who had basic talent but had had eating problems. Over the next 4 years I coached this girl to the point where she represented Scotland at Home international events and subsequently representing GB in the Junior European Cross Country Championships in Lisbon where she was part of the winning team and finished a creditable 17th. Lack of training partners for her led me to seek the help of another coach with a squad of young female athletes at Edinburgh University.

In December 2019 my health was not good having been diagnosed with the onset of Parkinson’s Disease. I was finding it difficult driving in the dark and attending events in the cold. Hence by circumstance and fortune decided to handover the coaching responsibility to John Lees, but would retain a mentoring role in supporting her athletic career. She has now gained a place at Edinburgh University for the coming year and fits in naturally to the University squad.

My long-term hope for the future is that there will be a strong male and female senior group of athletes in East Lothian that can compete successfully in Scottish District and National events.

              HENRY MUCHAMORE



Campsie HG Programme

After the Campsie Highland Games page was uploaded John MacKay of Shettleston Harriers told us that he had a copy of the programme for the Games of 1946.   Unfortunately the Shettleston Harriers names had been highlighted but no matter.  It is possibly the only copy of the programme extant.   Well worth a good look.   Apart from any international stars in the pages, a look at the open events will show names like George McDonald (SAAA Sprint Champion), Ian Panton (SAAA 440 champion), Frank Sinclair (SAAA Mile champion and cross-country internationalist), Allan Watt (international sprinter) and many more.   Even among the officials were Willie Maley, WS Lawn, George Dallas and Duncan McSwein.   Have a good look.   Look also at the number of competitors from the local St Machan’s!


George Sutherland

George and Beryl 2019

All successful magazines have a driving spirit whose name is synonymous with the publication – eg “The Scots Athlete”  (1946 – 1958) and “The International Athlete” (November 1958 – 1961) with Walter Ross, and Scotland’s Runner” (1986 – 1993) had three editors in Stewart McIntosh, Allan Campbell and Doug Gillon.   George Sutherland was responsible for “Athletics in Scotland” which appeared from 1973 to 1976.   George is not as well known as the others nor as well-known as he should be.   

This is partly because he is not one for pushing himself forward.  The other magazines mentioned above had photographs, on some occasions with the “Scotland’s Runner there were cartoons, of the editors.   Unlike many producers/editors George’s own picture never appeared in the magazine.    Nor was there a ‘From the Editor’   or ‘The Editor Speaks’ article to give a clue about his own standpoint.   It was all about the sport, unfiltered, with no opinion of his own ever expressed.   

Nor did he seem to have an athletics pedigree that we could relate to – no one ever talked about their rivalry or races with him.   What was the man who was responsible for it like?   

George describes his own involvement in the sport as modest.   A pupil at Robert Gordon’s College in Aberdeen, he was a member of the athletics team with the high spot possibly when the 15 – 17 years age group 4 x 220 yards relay team of which he was a member was second in the Scottish Schools relay in 1953.  It had been a good day for the College with the 17 – 19 team winning the relay in their age group.   There were also three more golds for them when Bobby Yuill won the 17-19 100 yards, and Bill Ferguson won both shot and discus in the 15-17 age group.    He remembers that on the day he shook the hand of Eric Liddell’s brother .   When he got home to Aberdeen that afternoon, his Father told him the story of Eric Liddell.   

The involvement in the sport continued and after leaving school he joined Aberdeen AAC.   He turned out for the club in the 440 yards and the half mile where he was a sub-2 minutes runner.   It should be noted that this was a good time for a club runner, running on a cinder track in the  1950’s.   Like many a middle distance athlete at the time his heroes included Roger Bannister and Chris Chataway, and like many others probably admired Herb Elliott and Peter Snell.  It was a time when athletics featured on the black and white television screens with races such as Chataway versus Kuts under the floodlights at the White City.   It was an inspirational time.   He was a member of Aberdeen AAC into the early 1960’s.   George was not however fixated completely on athletics, he also played rugby.   Of his involvement there he says: “I continued in athletics until about 1962.   During that period I played mediocre rugby with Gordonians (second XV) and afterwards in Edinburgh with Bruntsfield, which merged to become Murrayfield RFC where I continued at coarse rugby until 1973.”

When George was asked how the magazine came about, why did he produce it, his response was as follows: “My wife Beryl and I started the magazine to encourage as many people as possible to take part in athletics”.   It was produced entirely by George and Beryl, there were no other staff involved.   Beryl did all the typesetting.   It was a very good magazine but to think that it was run by husband and wife with no other paid or employed staff adds to the admiration.   It was packed with information – see the page below from issue number 34 as an example – at a time when such information was not easily available to the ordinary club athlete.

Why did it cease publication?   George says, when asked, that “the reason I had to stop producing the magazine was the fact that I became Managing Director of Ivanhoe Printing Co. Ltd. of Musselburgh (he was a 50% shareholder) and had to concentrate on that.”

For some further comment, we turn to Peter Hoffmann, one of the country’s best 400/800m runners, who was a friend of George’s and sheds some light on these questions when he says:

“George lived at Durham Square Portobello Edinburgh round the corner from me. I seem to recall he printed the magazine in his attic at home. He was a lovely chap, tall, bespectacled and balding.   He lived with his wife and two daughters. I was at their house on a few occasions mainly with EAC stalwart Dougie McLean who was friendly with George.   I helped to distribute and sell a few editions of the magazine. Thinking about why it stopped, I wonder whether his job and therefore home circumstances may have changed which had implications for the demise of the magazine. I mention him once or twice in my diaries.” 


Although it posed no threat to the mass circulation press, its success was noted in more than one quarter.   The two major dailies the country at the time were the ‘Glasgow Herald’ and the ‘Scotsman’.   They both noted the existence and success of the periodical though.  On 29th October, 1973, Ron Marshall’s article appeared in the Herald. 


That was from the Glasgow paper, the Scotsman had a much shorter piece in April 1974.   Below a mini-reproduction of the April 1974 cover featuring Ann Cherry and Ian Murray, it simply said:

Athletics in Scotland is one year old and the publisher-editor, George RF Sutherland, is to be congratulated.   The 16 page publication, which in its first year has carried thousands of results, has been run on a shoe-string Budget.   But it is viable, much of the work being done on a voluntary business.   “The purpose of this labour of love,” writes the editor, “is to encourage athletes of all ages to participate and strive for improvement in their sport.”   The venture is a sensible piece of self-help. 

What we have said so far begs the question of whether there was any direct inspiration or model in the beginning.   When asked, George says, “The format of my magazine was copied from a journal that I used to buy at the time.   This was “Athletics World” published and edited by the famous McWhirter twins, Norris and Ross, later much more famous after the huge success of their “Guinness Book of Records”.   “Athletics World” seemed to be type-written, plus bold headlines – a format which suited me.   Also they had a formidable connection with contributors world-wide.   Sadly their lives came to an end far too quickly.   They wrote to me once or twice.”   These illuminating comments add to and complete the story of the mag.azine

Where is George now?   He still lives in Edinburgh, he and Beryl have two daughters, three grand children and two great grandchildren.  His late brother was Lord Stewart Sutherland of Houndwood was Principal of both London University and Edinburgh University.   

George says, ““I still take a great interest in athletics.”   We all wish him well and thank him, and his wife Beryl,  for the magazine which was the right magazine at the right time for Scottish athletics.




West of Scotland Harriers and the William Pearce Cup

 Scottish harrier club histories contain a relatively rich seam of information of cups and trophies donated by patrons and benefactors as well as former members. Indeed, one of the reasons for enticing members of parliament, civil dignitaries and the like to become patrons, was often in the hope that some item of silverware might be forthcoming.  The Pearce Cup was one such example albeit a fortuitous windfall for one harrier club.

The West of Scotland Harriers were formed in 1886 following on from Clydesdale Harriers and Edinburgh Harriers. In the mid-1880s, membership of sports clubs was something of a collector’s hobby and the new harriers’ clubs had members from a range of sports, principally amongst them were rowers, cyclists and footballers. The West of Scotland Harriers in particular contained a strong, active membership of both cyclists and footballers as did Clydesdale Harriers. John Meikle was a member of both the West of Scotland Harriers and Bellahouston Cycling Club.

John Meikle

Meikle was a founding member of the West of Scotland Harriers in 1886 and had experience of both cross-country running and cycling before helping form ‘The West’. As ‘The West’s’ membership grew, so too did engagement with other clubs for fixtures and of course prizes for special ‘challenge’ races. The peculiarity of the Pearce Cup was that it served two functions in its lifetime. Initially a cycling Cup, it was taken into ownership by a harriers’ club through the influence of Meikle with the harriers’ club continuing to put it forward for cycle races which it staged until the club used it for cross-country purposes. The trophy was titled the ‘West of Scotland Cyclists Meet Association Challenge Cup’, a title which in itself challenged the engraver to be able to fit it all on one aspect of the cup. The trophy stands (without plinth and top) at 56 cms. high, 21cms. in diameter and weighs 3.2 kilos and is of silver gilt.

Funds for the trophy were donated by William Pearce to the West of Scotland Cyclists Meet Association in 1886. However, the Association soon became defunct, presumably as a consequence of the developing schism in cycling at the time relating to issue of the National Cyclists Union and the twin issues of racing on roads and Scotland wishing to run its own affairs. The West of Scotland Harriers took over some of the duties of the West of Scotland Cyclists Meet Association by virtue of John Meikle being appointed a ‘pro tem’ secretary of the Meet Association in 1887 as it struggled to continue amongst growing ‘animus’ between clubs and individuals. Meikle, seen as a known and politically safe pair of hands in the continuing war of words in the struggle for oversight of cycling in Scotland, was therefore in a position to acquire the trophy in 1888 for the West of Scotland Harriers (who had significant numbers of cyclist members) on the demise of the Association after the first Pearce Cup race in 1887. Given that by 1888, there were only about 20 Harrier clubs in existence, the Pearce Cup remains one of the oldest Scottish Athletic trophies still in existence. The first winner however, is recorded as Lanarkshire Cycling Club.

A note about Sir William Pearce helps.  It is clear from the press of the day that he was a great benefactor of a range of social and civil activity. His connections and philanthropy extended from another Pearce Cup donated to Bellahouston Baths Company for swimming competition and to the Glasgow Agricultural Show for the best 2year-old filly. He also funded the Pearce Lodge of Glasgow University which then was used for students of naval architecture. Born in Kent in 1833 he trained as a naval architect and moved to Scotland when appointed manager at Napier’s shipyard in Govan. He rose steadily into partnership and then sole owner and the company was renamed the Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Company, specialising in large vessels such as passenger liners and warships employing at its height some 5,000 people. Like many successful businessmen of the day, he felt the draw of politics, as this would be where he could be close to decision-making and help shape the industry in which he was a key player. He was elected as the first MP for Govan in 1885 (Conservative) and created a Baronet in 1887. However, he died suddenly in 1888 aged 55 years. He was also a Grand Master of the Provincial Lodge of Glasgow another social institution which gave opportunity to mix and mingle with civic figures of Glasgow.

The inscription on the trophy reads William Pearce rather than Sir William Pearce and given the social niceties of the day, it therefore seems likely that the funds donated for the cup just predated the first 1887 competition and were given whilst still plain William, but just before his award of the Baronetcy. By all accounts he could afford his philanthropy. His estate at death was valued at £1,069,669 which in 2020 is worth just under £140m. His widow, Lady Dinah used the inheritance to help the local community of Govan, in particular donating funds to build the Pearce Institute still in operation today as an events venue on Govan Road. There is a statue adjacent to the Institute erected in 1894.

The trophy itself is now missing its top and plinth, but is still an unusual and impressive trophy although no longer in use. The original races became the foremost cycle races in the west of Scotland cycle racing calendar and were to take place in June of each year over not less than 25 miles and not more than 50 miles. It was a team race of 3 cyclists.  From the outset the race was promoted as a road race and not a path race, a detail which ultimately led to its demise as a cycle race due to safety considerations. From the first winners in 1887 of the Lanarkshire Cycle Club, there was an unbroken run until 1895.

Accounts of the race day of the cyclists’ border on the chaotic. By 1888, when Meikle himself was selected for the Bellahouston CC for their Pearce Cup team, the local press in a kind, but probably honest appraisal of him, talked of him as ‘having practically given up training’ but ‘clearly (able to) demonstrate his latent powers’ as ‘a man out of training’. In the account given of the Pearce Cup race of 1888 it is easy to see how his condition mitigated against a decent performance.

‘The usual amount of false alarms took place while the men were away. First of all, in came J Meikle, at a whacking pace, who was thought to have done the distance in record time. Great, indeed, was the disappointment felt when we were informed that John had dismounted to smoke a cigarette which had been given to him on the road. After smoking for a bit he thought the men had got rather too much of a lead, so did not try to catch them, but came home instead.’

Race day at Lanark was clearly carnivalesque. At the Clydesdale Hotel, Lanark there was ‘a most severe feed’ but described by the dining cyclists as ‘only a bit of steak tea’. Passing the time while the cyclists were away, the spectators indulged in foot races for wagers and betting on the result of the cycle race with sums of up to £3 being offered on a Motherwell victory by a drunk Motherwell supporter who then resorted to wanting to ‘rin ony man a hunner yards fur a boatel o’ whiskey.’ John Meikle seemed in good company. Meikle later took up yacht racing.

Despite the rather ‘loose’ approach to race preparation and organisation, the early years of cycle competition saw Maybole CC achieve an outstanding ‘3-in-a-row’ with one rider, WN ‘Wumphy’ Allan riding in all three victories; never again achieved.  The Maybole team of 1890, the last of their three victories, was made up of the three Allan brothers, RF Allan, WN Allan and TK Allan. In their first win in 1888, Lees rode a trike. In the period from 1887 until the last cycle race for the Cup in 1899, six teams won the trophy. The achievement of the Maybole club was due in part to the huge interest in sports at that time.  There was certainly evidence that in Maybole and in Ayrshire more generally, both cross-country running and football was part of the fabric of recreational activities of young men and Maybole had its own history of runners such as Robert McKinstray and James Rodger who was a founding member of Carrick Harriers formed in November 1889. A full list of cycling club winners is appended at the end of this piece.

As the cycling fraternity became more organised and the sport grew and with the technical advances in cycle engineering and construction (eg. pneumatic tyres), other races soon took precedent. In 1895 the West of Scotland Harriers took the decision to suspend the race after the Scottish Cyclists Union forbade licensed riders of the SCU to compete. The date had been changed from a May/June race to September and it may well have fallen foul of the new SCU calendar (Scottish Cyclists Union formed in 1889) as well as cycling politics of the day. However, it was resurrected in 1897, but with only 5 entries it struggled to gain a foothold amongst the cycling fraternity. By 1899 the final cyclist’s winners of the trophy were Wishaw Cycling Club. The cycling world had moved on from Harriers clubs offering cycle races. The trophy which at the outset was ‘the absolute possession’ of the West of Scotland Harriers was intended to keep the trophy in the possession of the club as it was customary at the time for any individual or club winning any trophy three times in succession, to be able to lay claim to keep the trophy. The ‘absolute possession’ phrase thus prevented Maybole Cycling Club, winners in 1888, 1889 and 1890 from keeping the trophy and would also prevent any future three-time trophy winners likewise.

The trophy now became part of the fabric of the West of Scotland Harriers to be awarded annually to the club champion for winning the club cross-country championship over 8mls. The first winner in 1900 was JJ McCafferty, one of two brothers who joined the West of Scotland Harriers (the other brother PJ McCafferty joined ‘The West’ later from Celtic Harriers). Of particular note was the prolific ‘West’ harrier, George Mackenzie. A slight man, he was to become one of the stalwarts of the Scottish International team between 1904 and 1914, competing in nine International Championships. He won the Pearce Cup (club cross-country championship) five time including a treble in 1908, 1909 and 1910. Mackenzie was also part of the West of Scotland Harriers team that won the NCCU of Scotland Championships in 1905 for the first time. He went on to win 3 further National team championships with the ‘West’ but the individual title eluded him. Mackenzie contributed to the war effort by training troops on Musselburgh beach and when he finished his running career, opened a sports’ outfitters in Edinburgh. The picture below depicts Mackenzie with a substantial array of prizes and trophies and the William Pearce Cup is on the far right at waist level with a figurine on the top.

Only three other athletes of the ‘West’ would win the Cup three times or more; GH Davidson, A Spencer and AL Spencer (who won it 4 times) and only Davidson and AL Spencer managed ‘3-in-a-row’.

As was the case with many clubs, the fortunes of the club waned after World War 2.  The Pearce Cup was only sporadically put up for competition after the war as membership was relatively low, and by the early 1960s numbered only a few dozen. Both RJ (Bob) Smith, a former member in the 1930s, and Johnny Todd, who coached the youngsters, were energetic in keeping the club going and there was a mini revival in the early to mid-1960s. Despite some noted runners (and indeed a few internationals), there was insufficient competition to merit individual club championships although in 1966 there was an attempt to run a track and field championship for the younger members but this only numbered 6-8 members. In cross-country any attempt to assume the mantle of club champion was by placing in the National Cross-Country Championships thus the Pearce Cup had effectively disappeared from 1945. Senior membership numbered literally only a handful of active runners and the only notable success over the country was in the form of a Youth team that placed 6th in the national cross-country championships in 1967.

However, in the 1970s the Pearce Cup re-appeared with Davie Wyper the recipient. David was a superb marathon and ultra-runner and in 1972 he placed second in the Edinburgh to North Berwick road race over the marathon distance (2hrs. 24mins. 50secs) and then went on to win the race in 1976 and 1978 over a shorter distance with a time of 2 hrs. 01min. 50secs in 1976. David received the Pearce Cup from 1972 until 1979 when it was handed back to the club on its disaffiliation.  

The West of Scotland Harriers effectively disaffiliated from all county and national bodies in 1978 with the records showing a fee paid to Renfrewshire AAA of £1.50 on 26th November, 1977 for season 1977-78. Some members continued to pay subscriptions in order to keep the name alive, but the club effectively dissolved in the 1980s. In what was the last act of the (very few) remaining members, an approach was made to the then SAAAs to take the club trophies (and with them a significant chunk of Scottish athletic history) in order that they be re-used. While the SAAAs took the WG Wylie Cup for an indoor Octathlon championship, the Sir John Ure Primrose Cup for indoor pole vault and the Warren Challenge Cup for the men’s 60metres indoors, they opted not to take the William Pearce Cup. Presumably, with the others being of silver and the Pearce Cup gilt, there was not the same incentive. The trophies were handed over at a ceremony at the Scottish National Championships at Crownpoint, Glasgow in July, 1989. The William Pearce Cup is still in the possession of a former West of Scotland Harrier.

Appendix 1

William Pearce Cup winners – cycling

1887 Lanarkshire CC 1888 Maybole CC

1889 Maybole CC 1890 Maybole CC

1891 Cathkin CC 1892 Northern CC

1893 Northern CC 1894 Cathkin CC

1895 No competition 1896 No competition

1897 Carrick CC 1898 Wishaw CC

1899 Wishaw CC


Appendix 2


William Pearce Cup – West of Scotland Harriers Cross-Country Champion

1900 JJ McCafferty 1901 JJ McCafferty

1902 WT Marshall 1903 PJ McCafferty

1904 Thos. Mulrine 1905 Geo. Mackenzie

1906 Thos. Mulrine 1907 Wm Bowman

1908 Geo. Mackenzie 1909 Geo. Mackenzie

1910 Geo. Mackenzie 1911 Harry Hughes

1912 Geo. Mackenzie 1913 Geo. Mason

1914 David Peat 1915 No competition

1916 No competition 1917 No competition

1918 No competition 1919 No competition

1920 GH Davidson 1921 GH Davidson

1922 GH Davidson 1923 BS Passmore

1924 CH Freshwater 1925 RB McIntyre

1926 RB McIntyre 1927 BS Passmore

1928 A Spencer 1929 A Spencer

1930 SK Tombe 1931 WS Fisher

1932 A Spencer 1933 AL Spencer

1934 AL Spencer 1935 AL Spencer

1936 A Spencer 1937 no record found

1938 no record found 1939 no record found

Ackowledgements and sources

The Maybole history group and Rich Pettit in particular were a good source of sporting (and other) history and made valuable suggestions.  https://www.maybole.org/history/books/carricks%20capital/sport.htm

As always, the British Newspaper Archive was invaluable in both bringing to light further material as well as substantiating sources and information

Membership handbooks of the West of Scotland Harriers were used to gather more detailed information up to 1939 (possession of the author).

Norrie Dallas provided photographs of the cup from photographs in his possession, plus further information and support for this article

The etching of John Meikle is taken from The Scottish Umpire, Sept 6th, 1887. The Scottish Umpire was accessed at the Mitchell Library, Glasgow.

The photograph of George Mackenzie forms part of the author’s materials on the West of Scotland Harriers.

The material on William Pearce was accessed largely at Glasgow City Archives number GC 920. 04. BA

Further material on Pearce was accessed at the University of Glasgow, the University of Glasgow Story at https://www.universitystory.gla.ac.uk/biography/?id=WH0159&type=P


Hamish Telfer

Hamish Telfer’s Scottish Harriers Histories

Hamish Telfer was a member of West of Scotland Harriers and a good club runner who trained under John Anderson.   He went on to become a high quality coach and  has maintained an involvement in the sport ever since.   He is particularly interested in the Harrier movement in Scotland.   This interest is not just to do with the current scene or even yesterday’s harriers.   It goes back to the days before organised harrier clubs existed and he has done, and is doing, considerable research on the topic.   His work is invaluable to any serious historian and is of interest to all who are involved, even peripherally, in Scottish endurance running.   The articles located at different points through this website can be seen at the links below.   

[ Harrier Clubs Before 1885 ]   [ Harrier Clubs Before 1900 ]   [ The First Scottish Harrier Clubs ]

[The William Pearce Cup ]

The Race to Sub 2



The race to become the first Scottish amateur to run the half mile (804.67 metres) in under 2 minutes began in earnest on June 26, 1867. The occasion was the second annual sports of the Edinburgh University Athletic Club, founded in 1866. The venue was Greenhill Park, Edinburgh, where a quarter-mile grass track had been – we will assume correctly – marked off with small red flags. On the first day of the two-day event, a large and fashionable assemblage witnessed a sensation when 20-year-old law student William Kinross Gair scorched to victory in the half mile in a sensational time of 2:01.0. For good measure, Gair also turned out the following day and took the quarter mile in 53.25 sec. A gifted all-round athlete who also excelled at cricket and golf, Gair probably achieved these performances with only a modest amount of training. On graduation, he became the Procurator Fiscal for East Stirlingshire and held this post continuously until three years before his death in 1932.

Incidentally, the University of Edinburgh Athletics Club was not only in the vanguard of Scottish amateur athletics in the 1860s, but also, it would appear, the first sporting organisation in Scotland to use a stopwatch to record performances. The stopwatch in question would probably have been the Benson’s Chronograph, developed in 1861 by the royal watchmaker James William Benson of London. Advertised as “an invention for the timing to the fraction of a second and for the registration of minute observations”, the early models had an accuracy of a quarter of a second and retailed at £42 in silver and £52 10s in gold. These were exorbitantly expensive timepieces. To put it into a proper perspective, in 1867 a Benson’s Chronograph would have set you back twice as much as the average worker earned in a year. Only wealthy individuals or affluent organisations like Edinburgh University A.C. could afford themselves the luxury.

It was not until the 7th edition of the Edinburgh University Athletic Club Sports at Greenhill Park that another amateur would come close to Gair’s mark. On June 19, 1872, after seeing off the persistent challenges of Edinburgh medical student Reginald Mapleton, 18-year-old David Henry Watson of the Glasgow Academical Athletic Club passed the finishing post in a superb time of 2:01.75. Watson later took up a career as a stockbroker at the Glasgow Stock Exchange and was capped three times for the Scottish rugby team. In 1877 he delivered the decisive pass that enabled Malcolm Cross to drop the winning goal for Scotland against England on the playing fields at Raeburn Place.


We will have to turn the clock forward another eight years to the 14th edition of the Edinburgh University Athletic Club Sports on July 9, 1880 until another amateur athlete comes within a sniff of the two-minute mark again. Here on the grounds of the Royal High School in Corstorphine, 22-year-old Alexander Stephen Paterson (E.U.A.C.) was credited a good time of 2:03.8 when finishing third from scratch in the handicap race.

The following year, Paterson passed up the opportunity to defend his half-mile title at the E.U.A.C. Sports, making way for 20-year-old Malcolm Tod (Edinburgh Wanderers’ F.C.) who won from scratch in a lifetime best of 2:03.5. Both Paterson and Tod quit athletics at the end of that season and, like many Scots of that era, set their sights on the colonies, the former eventually settling in New Zealand and the latter emigrating to Canada. Paterson was a founding member of the Scottish Amateur Athletic Association in 1883 and served as Hon. Treasurer and Hon. Secretary of the new federation until 1885. A barrister by profession, he emigrated to Wellington in 1888, where he passed the English bar and practiced law until his health broke down a year before his early death in 1898. Having been a popular figure in his native Edinburgh, he had been poised to stand for the New Zealand parliament.

By now, the pattern was becoming a familiar one: young, mostly middle to upper class student-athletes would appear like comets out of nowhere and light up the tracks with their dazzling performances before disappearing without a trace. The reason may be found in societal norms around social standing among the educated elite and the role of sport as a rite of passage on the road to graduation and a career in the making. After the public schools and universities had paved the way and codified key aspects of amateur athletics, the first clubs began to emerge outside of academia contributing to the groundswell that would eventually lead to the formation of the Scottish Amateur Athletic Association in 1883.

The fastest Scottish amateur half miler in 1882 was the 20-year-old Douglas R. McCulloch, of Helensburgh Athletic Club, who on 27 May covered the distance at Kennyhill Park, Glasgow, in 2:03.5.

15 years after William Gair had brushed with the 2-minute mark, the race to become the first Scot to go sub 2 was still wide open.

One of the highlights of the inaugural S.A.A.A. championships at Powderhall Grounds on June 23, 1883 was the half mile race in which the Scoto-Canadian Tom Moffatt (Montreal A.C.) triumphed by 20 yards from Tom Ireland (E.U.A.C.) in a Scottish record time of 2:00.75. Moffatt, who was born in Whitehill near Edinburgh in 1859, ran with a long, graceful stride and a handkerchief covering his head, drawing comparisons to his great American contemporary Lon Myers. He spent the summer of 1883 touring Scotland before returning to Canada, where he won the first Canadian half mile championship at Montreal in 2:07.5 on 6 October. On September 27, 1884, he defended his Canadian title over the half mile at Montreal in 2:05.8 and also won the quarter mile in 52.5. To cash in on his fame, he subsequently turned professional.

Alas, the ensuing years brought no further progress towards the grail of the sub-2-minute half mile which shimmered tantalisingly on the horizon like an untouchable desert mirage.

The fastest Scottish amateur over the half mile in 1884 was Telfer Ritchie (St George F.C.), who covered the distance in 2:02.4 minutes when he won the S.A.A.A. championship at Powderhall Grounds on 28 June. Ritchie made a valiant effort to defend his S.A.A.A. title on 27 June 1885 at Westmarch Ground, Paisley, but could do no better than 3rd place. Victory went to James Logan (Vale of Leven F.C.), who won by a foot from Reginald “Reggie” Morrison (E.U.A.C.) in a Scottish best for that year of 2:03.6. Though being of Australian birth, Morrison was selected and played for Scotland at rugby in their matches against England, Ireland and Wales in 1886. He also held the post of S.A.A.A. Hon. Treasurer in 1885-86, but he eventually gravitated back Down Under and became a medical practitioner in Melbourne.

In 1886 James Logan was again the fastest Scot over the half mile courtesy of a fine 2:01.8 at Hampden Park on 21 August. Three years after the formation of the S.A.A.A., more and more working-class amateurs, of which Logan was exemplary, were now coming to the fore. Logan, born at Bonhill in 1863, was employed as a printfield worker, dyeing and printing calico fabrics for a living. Telfer Ritchie, having joined Watson’s College A.C. and Edinburgh Harriers, rediscovered his best form after a year in the doldrums and posted several good times that year: a 2:02.0 at Powderhall Grounds on 17 July, a 2:02.3 behind James Logan at Hampden Park on 21 August and a 2:02.6 at Kinning Park on 14 August. The four-time S.A.A.A. champion over the mile, David Scott Duncan (Edinburgh Harriers), also showed a good turn of speed over the “half” when he clocked a 2:03.5 at Hampden Park on 21 August. Duncan really needs no introduction here, and his invaluable contribution to Scottish amateur athletics is amply documented elsewhere. However, none of the above-mentioned featured in the S.A.A.A. half-mile championship, which was decided at Powderhall Grounds on 21 June, the 18-year-old Watsonian Simon Henderson winning easily ahead of two other lesser-knowns in a modest 2:04.8.

There was little for Scots to celebrate in 1887 either. John Braid, a teacher at Stanley House, the former public school in Bridge of Allan, provided the outstanding performance of the year when he won the S.A.A.A. championship at Hampden Park on 23 June in 2:02.4. However, there was at least some quality in depth, with Stephen Nobbs (Royal High School F.C.) finishing second in 2:03.2.

Fast times over the half mile were again in short supply in 1888. There was, however, a solitary ray of hope when Alex Marshall (Dumbarton A.F.C. & Clydesdale Harriers) romped to victory in the S.A.A.A. half-mile championship at Powderhall Grounds on 23 June in 2:02.6. David Macmichael (Edinburgh Harriers) produced a similarly good performance at Powderhall Grounds on 19 May, when he won the half-mile handicap from 10 yards in 2:01.4. It was clear, however, that Scotland desperately needed an injection of fresh blood in this event.

As if on cue, a new star emerged in 1889: Robert “Bob” Mitchell. Born in Paisley in 1870, Mitchell joined St. Mirren F.C. (and also, subsequently, Clydesdale Harriers) in 1888 and trained at Westmarch Ground under the watchful eye of the former professional champion, and latterly “Saints” trainer and groundsman, Bob Hindle. Mitchell had an easy, graceful running style but he also possessed frightening raw speed (he could sprint the 100 yards in under 11 seconds) allied to solid endurance, both of which Hindle was careful to cultivate. After running 2:01.5 off 10 yards at Kilmarnock on 4 May and 2:02.2 at Hampden Park on 30 May, Mitchell stormed to victory in the Scottish half mile championship on 22 June 1889, again at Hampden Park, in a near-record time of 2:01.0. Waiting until the home straight before unleashing his finishing sprint, he won easily by 10 yards from John Wright (Dalmuir Thistle F.C. & Clydesdale Harriers), with Alex Marshall, the holder, third in about 2:05.0. Mitchell concluded the 1889 season by setting a Scottish 600 yard record of 1:15.6 at Ibrox Park on 3 August and posting a 2:02.2 for the half mile at Paisley on 10 August. There was no doubt that he was capable of going sub 2 in the right conditions, and under more auspicious circumstances he might in fact have achieved it during his rookie year – but, alas, he didn’t. The Glasgow Herald in its June 23, 1889 edition reported a rumour that he had done 1 min 59 sec in practice. Old-school peds like Bob Hindle were hard taskmasters who ascribed to rigorous training and all-out time trials, but a rumour was a rumour, regardless of its credibility.

After comfortably defending his Scottish Half mile Championship at Powderhall Grounds on June 23, 1890 in 2:03.2, Mitchell turned his attention to breaking Tom Moffatt’s Scottish half mile record of 2:00.75 and, specifically, or more importantly, to becoming the first Scottish amateur to officially beat 2 minutes. At the St. Mirren Sports on Westmarch on 19 July he took advantage of perfect weather to win the half-mile handicap by 4 yards from his training partner John Hindle (37y). He succeeded in lowering the Scottish record to 2:00.4, making him the first Scottish amateur to intrinsically beat 2 minutes for 800 metres, but failed to achieve what was probably his real goal. A week later, in any case, he was back at Westmarch with the declared intention of trying to break the record again. Unfortunately, he was facing an unwieldy field of 26 participants and sub-optimal conditions. The actual time of the race was 1:59.2, and Mitchell, who was 4th, was credited with doing it in a fraction over 2 minutes. This time, however, varies with different accounts from 2:00.4 to 2:00.8, so he could not be credited with equalling the record. After two near misses, Mitchell made no further serious attempts at the sub-2-minute half mile over the remainder of the season. Meanwhile, over in Dundee, Charles Niven Cation (Hawkhill Harriers) put in a flawless performance on 19 July when he won the scratch handicap race at a Bon Accord meeting in 2:01.8. However, Cation was another of those highly promising athletes who materialised like a genie out of a bottle and then vanished into thin air.

On June 20, 1892, Bob Mitchell secured his third S.A.A.A. half mile title in a row at Hampden Park with a time of 2:03.6. On this occasion, however, he was pushed all the way by Walter Malcolm (Morton F.C. & Clydesdale Harriers), who finished just 3 yards behind. While Mitchell failed to get beyond 2:03.4 for the 880 that year (at Ibrox Park on 25 July), Malcolm emerged from the Paisley man’s shadow, graduating to scratch and inching ever closer to that elusive sub-2-minute clocking in the weeks following the national championships. At the St. Mirren F.C. Sports at Westmarch on 25 July he won the quarter off 10 yards in 51.2, running on to complete the full 440 in 53.0 seconds. Then he took second place in the half-mile handicap in 2:00.6 off 5 yards (which equates to 800 metres). On 15 August he went one better when he ran second in the half-mile handicap at the Morton F.C. Sports at Cappielow Park in his native Greenock in 2:01.0. A ship draughtsman by trade, Malcolm trained under the direction of John Ferguson on the cinder track at Cappielow Park. Like his great adversary from the Paisley school, he was a stylist with an impressive turn of speed. With Mitchell looking to win his fourth S.A.A.A. title and Malcolm determined to strip him of his crown, the next season promised to be exciting. And, of course, the question of who would be the first Scottish amateur to beat the 2-minute barrier was still on the table. Mitchell or Malcolm? Gentlemen place your bets!

When Walter Malcolm and Bob Mitchell crossed swords again at Hampden Park on 4 June 1892, the Paisley man won without turning a hair in 2:01.6. In fact, Mitchell could not resist casting a mocking glance back to the Greenockian, who finished 3 yards behind in 2:02.0. At the S.A.A.A. championships in Dundee on 25 June, Mitchell again came out of top, scoring his fourth successive victory, albeit minus the gamesmanship this time, for he had to pull out all the stops to win by half a yard from Malcolm in 2:05.8. A week later at the Clydesdale Harriers Sports at Hampden Park on 2 July, it was Walter Malcolm’s turn to make a serious attempt on the half-mile record. Regrettably, he was running in the absence of Mitchell, who had inexplicably declined the invitation. In this race, unusually, the winner’s time was not taken because all the watches were on Marshall! And he didn’t disappoint when he sprinted across the finishing line in 2:00.2, a new Scottish record by a fifth of a second, missing the 2-minute mark by a hair’s breadth. As neither Marshall nor Mitchell were able to make any further gains that season, the “jackpot” rolled over to 1893.

In 1893 the signs were set for a breakthrough in the matter of the sub-2-minute half mile, but would it come to pass? One real breakthrough worth mentioning that year was that of John Hindle, Bob Mitchell’s training partner. Hindle, a scourer and finisher in the Paisley cloth industry, had improved steadily under his father’s guidance and joined the top echelon of Scottish half milers. Mitchell was out due to injury and had to forgo the S.A.A.A. championships at Hampden Park on 17 June. Even in Mitchell’s absence, though, the race for the half mile championship was a memorable one, Walter Malcolm (2:01.8) winning by a yard from John Hindle (2:02.0), who in turn was a yard ahead of the talented young Watsonian Andrew Muir (2:02.2). Malcolm and Hindle two also had a great race over 1000 yards at the West of Scotland Harriers Sports at Hampden Park on 12 June, where both competed from scratch in the half-mile handicap as part of an arranged attempt on the 1000 yards record. After both men passed through the half mile just behind the placed runners in 2 min 2 sec, Malcolm got away from Hindle over the last 120 yards and won by 4 yards in a new Scottish record of 2:21.0. Surprisingly, the 2-minute bastion managed to withstand all assaults once again. In fact, the fastest time by a Scot that year was not credited to Malcolm, but to Hindle, who was timed at 2:01.2 at Ibrox Park on 8 July.

This lantern slide image dating from 1893 shows a 600-yard scratch race at Cappielow Park, Greenock, featuring (from left to right) Tom Robertson (Clydesdale H.), James Rodger (Carrick H.), John Hindle (St. Mirren AC), Robert Mitchell (St. Mirren AC) and Walter Malcolm (Morton F.C.). © McLean Museum and Art Gallery, Greenock.

A shift in the balance of power occurred in 1894, when Walter Malcolm made his exit and John Hindle fell away after promising so much. Meanwhile, Bob Mitchell returned from injury and James Rodger came to the fore as a half-miler. At the S.A.A.A. Championships at Powderhall Grounds on 23 June Mitchell secured a record 5th win in a slow race devoid of his toughest opponents. Despite that, he could not get near 2 minutes for the half mile, his best effort that year being a 2:01.6 at Ibrox Park on 30 June. The fastest Scot over 880 yards in 1894 was in fact James Rodger (Carrick Harriers), who just missed the national record when he clocked 2:00.4 at Underwood Park, Paisley, on 21 July. Rodger, a watchmaker from Maybole, was a two-time winner of the S.A.A.A. mile championship. Another bright spot was the rapid rise of Robert Langlands (Clydesdale Harriers), who won the half-mile handicap at Hampden Park on 9 June in 2:01.0 off 20 yards and saw his starting allowance slashed.

You may be asking what happened to Walter Malcolm? After the 1893 track season he sustained what only was described as a “career-ending injury”. However, things would go from bad to worse for Malcolm. On 23 April 1895 he died of phthisis pulmonalis after suffering a ruptured blood vessel. He was only 24 years of age.

The 1895 season marked a changing of the guard in the half mile as Robert Mitchell finally lost his stranglehold on the event. It also saw the secession of the western clubs from the S.A.A.A. and the formation of the S.A.A.U., which, in turn, meant that there was now not one, but two, national championship meetings. From the outset it was clear that Robert Langlands would go on to great things that year when he ran the half mile in 2:00.8 off 12 yards at Partick on 20 April. Robert Langlands was born at Govan on 27 April 1870 and worked as a surveyor for Lloyds of London. He was one of four brothers from Dumbarton whose father was Postmaster in Dumbarton.   Unlike the rangy Bob Mitchell, he ran with a short, choppy stride but nevertheless he was able to cover the ground very quickly. On 1 June he improved to 2 minutes dead off 10 yards at Alexandria. While Langlands was making all the news, James Rodger made his season’s debut at the annual sports of the Victoria Bicycle Club at Underwood Park, Paisley, on 4 June. And what a debut it was! Having only recently recovered from injuries sustained in an accident, he won half mile flat race from scratch in a magnificent 2:00.0 – a new Scottish record. However, it would appear Rodgers’ performance was a footnote lost in the white noise of the ongoing dispute between the east and west, and it was never recognised as a Scottish record even though the result was published in miscellaneous newspapers. That notwithstanding, the sub-2-minute half mile was now so close you could almost touch it.

At the S.A.A.U. Championships at Ibrox Park on 22 June, there was unfortunately no showdown between Langlands and Rodger over the half mile as Rodger opted to run the quarter mile, winning in 54.4 sec. There were only two competitors in the half-mile championship – the two Bobs, Langlands and defending champion Mitchell. This, according to Scottish Referee, is how the race went: “Attended by the Paisley master — Mitchell — Langlands set off on a race which nobody but those in the innermost “know” could have thought him capable. The pupil of Danny Friel made all the running, and this to such purpose that he ran Mitchell to a standstill and got home alone in the phenomenal and record time of 1 min 59 3-5 secs. This is a new Scottish native record, and it was made in such circumstances as to warrant us expecting even better things from Langlands. To beat Mitchell’s record of 2 mins 2 secs, to rub out Malcolm’s of 2 mins 0 1-5 secs, and to get within measurable distance of Bredin’s 1 min 58 secs, stamps Langlands’ performance as one of the most wonderful in the history of Scottish athletics.”

So that was it. 28 years – and countless failed attempts – after William Kinross Gair had come within a second of breaking 2 minutes, a Scottish amateur had finally done it. After Langlands had shown the way, another two Scottish athletes would emulate the feat by the end of the century: Willie Robertson (1:59.8 in 1898) and Hugh Welsh (1:59.4 in 1899). Even half a century later, a sub-2-minute half mile on cinders was still considered a quality performance. Today in fact, it’s a time many club runners still aspire to over the shorter 800 metre distance, and that’s on synthetic tracks. In 2019, 80 Scots bettered 2 minutes for the 800 metres, but only 65 managed the time required to beat 2 minutes for the half mile (1:59.2).

At the end of the memorable 1895 season, Langlands hung up his spikes for good, having achieved his lifetime goals of winning a Scottish title and setting a Scottish record. Work commitments brought his career to an early end.

One unfortunate figure in this story, James Rodger, managed to get his name into the record books after all when he lowered the Scottish 1000 yards record to 2:20.2 at Ibrox Park on 3 August 1895. However, there was to be no happy ending for Rodger for both he and Mitchell were suspended from the S.A.A.A. in 1898 for betting. One is only left to wonder if they had perhaps once betted on themselves to go sub 2 when they were in their prime.


The Iain Robertson Interview

After 20+ years of coaching, Iain retired from the sport and is now living in Kirkcaldy.   He says retired – but he still acts as a consultant to  other coaches and gives advice when he is asked for it.   Coaches come from a variety of backgrounds – some are ex-athletes, some start as a parent who is dragged along by a child and ends up supervising then coaching, and some come from other sports.    Iain is in the latter category.

He started after being a good standard amateur football player.   He had been at school with Brian Scobie and they both played for the school team.   Brian found his way into athletics but Iain was mainly a footballer.   Like other young players of a good standard, there were times that he was playing three games at the weekend – for the school,  for the scouts, for a local amateur team and so on.   He joined the local Killermont Amateur Football Club for whom he played in most positions over the years.   When the team coach moved away to another club, Iain started taking training sessions, and became a player coach.   The high spot was probably when the team won the West of Scotland Amateur League Division One championship in 1963-64.   He was interested in coaching but was coming into it as a player with no real knowledge of training other than from his own experiences.   

In 1963 two Scottish football team managers, Jock Stein of Dunfermline and Willie Waddell of Kilmarnock, went to see how the great Helenio Herrera of Inter Milan went about training his squads.   Ahead of their time, they would probably be ahead of their time were they to do so today.   They came back and talked about what they had learned.   Iain was interested in their findings.   Herrera looked at training, saw how different players reacted to the same training, and understood them as individuals.   Iain took on board the lessons about working with individuals as well as groups and teams and this affected how he worked with the football players he was training.

But he then wanted to take things a bit further and this led him into athletics.   How did he get into athletics?   He had friends participating in the sport, he had done some sprinting at school and he had also been friends at school with Brian Scobie who went on to do great things in athletics.  So the contacts were there.  At that time, with the publicity being given to the upcoming 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh with all the pre-Games hype, he decided to give up football and took up athletics.   Friends encouraged him to  join Maryhill Ladies AC where he met Jimmy Campbell and started out with a few athletes and started on the coaching ladder.

If we stay with the facts we see that his coaching career started like many others but then as his abilities and attitude were recognised, progressed further and maybe faster than most.   At the time there were three grades of coach – Assistant Club Coach, Club Coach and Senior Coach.   He came into coaching in 1970 and in 1974 he took his Senior Coach examination and qualified with the highest mark ever awarded by Great Britain Chief Coach Bill Marlow.   

 It was a rapid rise through the various stages.   At that early point in his career he was already working with people in the club who were running in international fixtures.   There were not many internationals at that time but through the mid 70’s he was asked by Frank Dick to go with some Scottish teams to small international fixtures in Norway and other countries.   He was also working on the educational side of athletics with Frank and that also helped him to progress his coaching skills.    

The Coaching structure in Scotland at the time was a simple but effective pyramid system with the National coach at the top and Group Coaches for the event groups (sprints, endurance, throws and jumps) below and answerable to him.   Each group coach had Event Coaches for whom they were responsible.   Iain became Group Coach for the Sprints in 1981 and Staff Coach for all sprint events.   He held these posts until 1987.   There was a considerable responsibility in both these posts.

His worth was quickly recognised and from 1982 – 84 he was the UK National Event Coach for both Men and Women 400m and the 4 x 400m relay.   This was followed immediately by appointment as UK National Event Coach for Women’s 100m and 200m from 1984 to 1990.   It had been a meteoric rise and was rewarded when at the  National Coaches Conference in 1990 he was awarded the status of Master Coach.   

 With the GB Men’s and Women’s Sprint Squad: Iain is standing beside Linford Christie and in front of John Regis.

Having looked at the outline of his career as a coach, we should maybe look at his philosophy of coaching and what made him so successful.   

The coaching structure that he operated within, as outlined above, has changed irrevocably now but he has no doubts about its efficacy.   In his opinion, one of its main virtues was that good coaches came together and worked together.   They spoke to each other as coaches and learned from each other.   They read about their events, they attended courses and conventions and brought the information back.  It was a way of bringing all the knowledge together, assessing it and sharing it.    Iain is adamant that you have to listen to people all the way through, you don’t have to agree with them but you have to listen to them and the structure was good at ensuring a two way flow of information.   

The information exchange with everybody at all levels he sees as vital but who were the main influences on him?    Undoubtedly some seeds were sown by what he read of Helenio Herrera (above) and his thoughts on the sports person as an individual.    Given how early in Iain’s coaching career Herrera came along, we can have a quick look at what Wikipedia has to say about him.   It says:

“Herrera pioneered the use of psychological motivating skills – his pep-talk phrases are still quoted today, e.g. “he who doesn’t give it all, gives nothing”, and “Class + Preparation + Intelligence + Athleticism = Championships”. These slogans were often plastered on billboards around the ground and chanted by players during training sessions.

He also enforced a strict discipline code, for the first time forbidding players to drink or smoke and controlling their diet – once at Inter he suspended a player after telling the press “we came to play in Rome” instead of “we came to win in Rome”.   

It was about working with individuals – each individual reacts differently to the same training – and to do with motivation.   If you look at some of the comments on   this page   you will see how much of a motivator Iain was when working with Glasgow AC some decades later.

 When he joined up with Maryhill Ladies AC there was the influence of the livewire Jimmy Campbell – a wonderful coach with a lifetime of involvement in sport (football as well as athletics) and experience of working with athletes at all levels.   As a mentor, Jimmy (on the right above) was in the very top class.   A Scottish and British international coach he was always on the go, always keen to help other coaches – and always interested in the individual athlete or coach to whom he was talking or with whom he was working.   

When Iain was working through in Edinburgh he travelled through to Glasgow three and four times a week – but he also did some work with George Sinclair and his athletes – another source of information and ideas.   Add in Bill Walker at Meadowbank too.   But from the mid 70’s he was influenced by National Coach Frank Dick (above) whom he thinks was outstanding at bringing to Scotland what was happening in the whole world of athletics.   Iain found himself thrown into situations by Frank that challenged him and assisted him to develop even further.   When one of his athletes (Val Smith) won the WAAA’s Junior 100m, Iain was invited to make a presentation at the International Coaches Convention presenting immediately after David Hemery – pretty daunting as a young coach, facing an audience of hundreds of experienced coaches in a packed hall who had just heard from an Olympic champion.     

Then there was the trip to Bad Blankenberg in East Germany in 1989 as a member of the UK delegation to the XV Congress of the European Athletic Coaches Association in the middle of the cold war.   Even the journey to get there was educational in many ways – through the infamous Checkpoint Charlie, travelling thereafter in a coach with blacked out windows and so on.   Travelling with the top coaches, sharing information, techniques and knowledge was a tremendous experience for Iain and the information which he gained was shared with others back home in Scotland because he was not selfish with the knowledge.    Frank had him involved in coach education from early on and he was a regular speaker at the SAAA/SWAAA courses at Inverclyde.  

When  we look at the many successes Iain had with many athletes at international, Commonwealth, European, World Championships and Olympic Games, we really want to see how he went about his work, what his guiding principals were in practical terms..   

The attention to the individual athlete is always in any conversation with Iain about coaching.   He also says that it is not always the international standard athlete who is the highlight for the coach at any given time.   You succeed best when you help each individual performer to maximise what they can achieve with their own ability whatever their level.   Certainly those who have seen him coaching at club level know that the range of talents with which he worked was wide – he was not a coach who only operated in the upper echelons of athletics.   

As far as dealing with athletes is concerned, it is vital that the athlete understands what the session is seeking, what the session is teaching and/or what the activity is working to achieve.  The coach can see the movement patterns but only the athlete can sense/feel the kinaesthetic cues ie the feelings/sensations in their neuromuscular system.  Learning to ‘feel’ the movement patterns and report appropriately is where the athlete helps the coach.  This effective interaction is vital in getting technique precise, for that athlete, allowing the athlete to ‘feel’ the performance, and continually seek to replicate optimal sensation to underpin optimal performance outcomes. The old adage ‘if you can’t do it right slowly you won’t do it right at speed’ should advise the journey to optimal technique supporting optimal performance.

Coaches have athletes come to them at varying stages of their career and when you have been as successful a coach as Iain, sprinters of a high standard come looking for  whatever will give them a bit extra, lift them up to a higher level of competition.   In that case, the coach fulfils a different function.   He becomes an advisor or a consultant.   After all, he says, the coach does not necessarily know what it is like to step on to the track, in front of 1000’s of spectators at an Olympic Games – the athlete learns.   The coach wants the athlete to fulfil his ambition and they work together to do that.   Of course, that depends on the coach having the knowledge in the first place.   

Sandra and Iain at the Olympics in Los Angeles

That Iain had the skill and pedigree to assist any athlete in the country is shown in many ways but probably best by Sandra Whittaker’s career.    An extract from her own account of training with Iain (seen in its entirety at the link above) reads

“When I joined Glasgow Athletic Club I was fortunate enough to be placed in the sprints training group which Iain Robertson coached.   Within the first year Iain had quickly recognised my potential and approached my parents to ask if they could bring me to training more than once a week as he said he felt he could really make something of me.  After discussion, my parents committed to taking me out to Scotstoun three times a week and Bellahouston one day a week.  This was the start of great things to come.”    “Our training programmes were very challenging, but with Iain’s support and encouragement we got through them, sometimes on our knees by the end of a session.”

Early recognition, get the parents not just on-side but prepared to help in an active fashion, and being able to make the athlete work hard.   From these beginnings Sandra went on to perform at the very highest level.   Maybe her best performances were

(a)  in the World Championships in Helsinki in 1983 when she was eliminated in her Heat of the 200m by just one one-thousandth of a second in a talent packed race with Merlene Ottey, Florence Griffith, Angela Bailey and Marisa Masullo in front of her.   It was four to qualify regardless of times and she ran faster than 12 (twelve) of the 16 who qualified for the semi-finals.     It should also be noted that Sandra’s quarter-final was run into a -0.3 m/s headwind while the other three races benefited from wind assistance that was never less than +1.0 m/s.


(b) in the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984.   She was third in her Heat in 23.22, fifth in the quarter final in 22.98 and failed to qualify for the semi-finals.   Runners in front of her were Bacoul (France) in 22.57, Brisco Hooks (USA and the ultimate winner) in 22.78, Bailey (Canada) and Davis (Bahamas) both in 22.97.    Another ferocious Heat, less than 2 tenths behind second and only 1 one hundredth behind third and fourth.   Faster than 7 of the sixteen who qualified for the semi-final. she was most unfortunate.   

She had been very carefully prepared, racing against the very best in the world there was no one better prepared physically and she certainly did not ‘blow it’ mentally.   It says a lot for her and for Iain’s preparation.   

It was a time of course when athletes from many countries were involved in drug abuse and the athletes from the Soviet bloc countries were particularly understood to be experimenting with various substances and combinations of substances.   When Sandra twice missed out on progressing by the narrowest of margins one has to wonder.   Iain is quite philosophical about it and none of his athletes were using anything illegal.   There was one regret though.    The Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in 1986 saw Sandra come away with a bronze medal in the 200m behind Angela Issajenko of Canada and Kathy Cook of England.    After the Ben Johnson doping scandal and the Canadian Dubin inquiry in Canada, Issajenko confessed under oath to doping offences and gave chapter and verse on what she had been taking and when.   The period encompassed the ’86 Games.   Iain wrote to the governing body requesting that  the result of the Women’s 200m be looked at again in view of what had been admitted at the Dubin investigation but nothing was done about it.   In view of the fact that several such cases have resulted in athletes places in championship races being upgraded after doping offences were discovered, there is a clear case for the situation to be reviewed.  

None of this of course takes away from the remarkable coaching career of a remarkable man – or of the wonderful running of his athletes who all worked hard for him as well as for themselves.




The Iain Robertson File

..Iain, front right, with City of Glasgow AC group at Grangemouth

Like all coaches at the time, no matter how good or how much involved in athletics, Iain had a day job and had to work hard at it.   Nevertheless his time spent track side was considerable and it did not diminish as his responsibilities to coach education or his international duties increased.   Very few, if any, coaches in the 21st century realise how much time and effort was put in by their predecessors.   Some of the very best Russian coaches on a visit to the country were astonished at how much a Senior coach in the 1980’s was supposed to know and that they were all holding down ‘day-jobs’.     Iain’s load was much more than most coaches even then had to carry but it is worthwhile looking at just how much quality work he crammed in.

First on the Athletics Coaching front (remember he only started coaching in 1970):-

1973 – ’76: Scottish Schoolgirls Residential Course at Dunfermline College of Education.

1974:  As a delegate to the UK Sprints Conference: Iain was the Group Leader in a group researching into “increased leg speed” which involved the introductory talk and then leading the discussion involving some of the country’s very best sprints coaches.

Then at the International Coaching Convention in Edinburgh:-

1973: ‘Coaching the young girl athlete’;

1974: ‘Teaching and learning the skills of sprinting’;

1976/’82/’83: Group Seminar leader and Chairman of discussion on all Group feedbacks;

 1986: ‘Development of a Sprinter’. This paper was picked up by and published in ‘Track Technique’ the official technical journal of the Athletic Congress (TAC) of the USA, in the Fall 1987 issue.

On National Coaching:-

1983: At the National Athletic Coaches and National Event Coaches Conference at Crystal Palace, his presentation was on ‘The Work, Duties and Complexities of National Coaching’.

On Sponsorship:-

1988: He presented a paper entitled ‘A Case Study – Lessons for others’ dealing with club sponsorship.   This was at the Glasgow Sports Council’s Forum day at the Kelvin Hall .   (It was the result of his work with Glasgow AC where he had been instrumental in gaining sponsorship of £24,000 over three years from the McLaren Group.  This was not the only sponsorship activity undertaken by Iain – for instance, the photograph below was taken after a successful trip to the WAAA’s championship where as a result of his activities the group could fly to London, stay in the tower at the venue, have a night after the championships were over before flying back home.)

On International Events:-

1990:  He was the Director and Co-ordinator of the Third Workshop of  the European Coaches Association which was held in the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow in association with the European Indoor Championships.

As an organiser:-

1984 – ’93: Iain was a member of the Executive Organising Committee of the Glasgow Marathon, which became the Great Scottish Run,

Also for the same period of 11 years he was the Chairman of the Technical Committee and Primary Finish Controller of the Marathon/Great Scottish Run

1993 – ’98: Member of the Glasgow Marathon Board.

1988 – Manager of the Glasgow team to the Nuremberg Marathon, which won the team prize.   

1986 – ’98: Chairman of the Kelvin Hall Sports Arena Trust

1986 – 2007: Chairman of the Kelvin Hall Sports Education Trust (1986 – ’98), and after stepping down as Chairman of the Trust, he remained as a Trustee until 2007.

 Some other activities which impacted on athletics (and other sports).   

In 1993 Iain went to work at the Scottish Sports Council, which later rebranded to sportscotland, where his role as Director of Finance and Support Services gave him the opportunity to further impact across the broad spectrum of sport.

1993 – 2009: as director and Company Secretary of the Scottsh Sports Council Trust Company he contributed to the operations of the three National Sports Centres – Glenmore Lodge, Inverclyde and Cumbrae. 

1998 – 2009:  As Director of Finance and Support Services at sportscotland he was involved in creating and responsible for setting up the company structure for the Scottish Institute of Sport and acting as Company Secretary to the S.I.S. 

1993 – 2009:  Iain was Trustee and Treasurer of the Scottish Physical Recreation Fund which awarded grant assistance to sports participants, clubs and bodies.

1995 – 2009:  As Director of Finance and Support Services he was involved in the structuring of a new division, with separated accounting functions, when sportscotland was appointed the distributor of the Lottery Sports Fund in Scotland to the benefit of all sports bodies, facility providers and participants.

 2002:  Involved with the creation of the Scottish Sport Hall of Fame and at the inaugural induction ceremony Iain was liaison and host for the family of Eric Liddell, and for Allan Wells and Ian Stewart looking after them on the day of the ceremony.

Much of that might not have happened though.   We came close to losing his services on at least two occasions.   First of all, he applied in 1979-’80 for the post of Director of Coaching for New South Wales. He had family in Australia – his sister was living in the country.   He was interviewed in London for the post by the Executive Director of the New South Wales AAA.  Iain did not get the job but there was a follow up.   He was going to Australia in late 1980 and was asked to go and see the Executive Director again.   It was explained that the person who had been appointed had the same qualifications as Iain but he was Australian working in the country in education so had something to fall back on if the job didn’t go as planned.   However there was an immediate job for Iain – the Armed Forces Championships were being held the following day in Sydney.  Could Iain help?   He could and did and at the meeting he was Chief Track Judge on a searing hot day (he reckons that it was so hot that his leather belt absorbed so much sweat that he could have wrung it out at the end of the afternoon!)   The starter at that meeting had been appointed the chief starter for the Commonwealth Games to be held in Brisbane’s QE11 Stadium in 1982. Iain drank in all the information he could about the starter and his command timings and the challenges athletes faced in the Australian conditions.   He then travelled with his sister to see the facilities in Brisbane and photographed the stadium, the warm up track, alternative preparation areas, the living accommodation, the training facilities and as much detail as he could.   It all came in very useful in the lead-in to the Games, briefing this own and the Scottish Squad on what to expect and therefore prepare for before even leaving Scotland and for the team to use during the Games themselves.   The QE II Stadium is pictured below.  

The second time was in 1981 when Iain was interviewed for the post of BAAB Coach for the North of England West of the Pennines.   He was chosen to fill the post but after he had carefully weighed up the situation, he decided not to take up the offer.

It was a happy ending but his services could have been lost to Scottish athletics altogether.   

Cross Country or Harrier running prior to Clydesdale Harriers: i.e. before 1885

 The beginnings of harrier running in relation to Scotland are difficult to pin down. Much of the research and history seems to start rather abruptly at 1885 on the formation of Clydesdale Harriers.  Apart from fleeting references to a Towerhill AC in the north side of Glasgow prior to that and other references to hares and hounds activities of the universities (specifically in England), there is virtually nothing to guide us as to how the first clubs came to be formed in 1885. Runners simply could not have emerged spontaneously from the ether! What emerges is a complex of influences and traditions that at times stand alone, sometimes change and alter as a consequence of changes in civil society, and of course merge and diffuse.  Quite probably (although by no means certain) they arise from the following areas or sources of activities.

In the first instance, the societal groupings of the clan system and their running footmen and races between these footmen, plus the emergence later of Games and traditions associated with Fairs, contributed in the nineteenth century to a sense of ‘National Games’.  Highland regiments also played a key role in re-defining Scottish sporting traditions as a major part of the Scottish contribution abroad to the emerging Empire.

Secondly, the new sports clubs were, in part, a consequence of rapid urbanisation and influenced by the new Public Schools and their subsequent development and invention of new ‘sporting forms and traditions’. In amongst this, the nineteenth century witnessed political and social shifts that came to be reflected in the various sporting forms.  From ideologies such as ‘athleticism’ and the ‘muscular Christian‘, to shifting values around ‘respectability’ such as drink and temperance, pleasure grounds and ‘acceptable’ sporting engagement. Clubs of all sorts (and belonging to them) became a hallmark of the Victorian young male.

Scottish running traditions are assumed to have their roots partly in the traditions of clan systems and running footmen. There is the reasonably well-known historical tradition of running footmen kept as retainers as message carriers with references as far back as Malcolm Ceann-Mor in the eleventh century and the hill race up Creag Choinneach race.  Changes in local traditions and the nature of local Games also changed with variations to events and structure reflecting local and eventually area variations. In this regard races on foot, although usually to a local well-known vantage point and back, also changed.  Societal changes, especially in the eighteenth century also meant changes in leisure time pursuits. Games of villages and the Games associated with Market and Fairs Days took on greater significance with races over ‘rough terrain’ for prizes of goods such as tea and cloth as well as (in some cases) money. Highland Regiments (deployed mainly abroad) also played a significant role in maintaining the notion of a Scottish ‘tradition’ through regimental Games, and competition was encouraged between regiments with running races over different distances a feature of inter-regimental competition.

(One fascinating piece of related history, although it is not connected to any particular Harriers Club, is the ‘Red Hose’ Cross-Country race, which claims to date from 1508! This takes place annually in Carnwath, Lanarkshire. The Guinness Book of Records recognised the event in 2006 as ‘The oldest road race in the world’. Well, it was certainly cross-country back in the 16th Century – and recent photos (do check for more details online) show runners starting on grass. This traditional 3 Miles race has a pair of long red socks (or hose) as the prize. It was originally held around the Feast of St John the Baptist in June, but has now been absorbed into the Carnwath Agricultural Show in July. This is a well-loved local event and organisers are keen to keep the tradition alive. 

James IV, King of Scots, in 1508 gave a Charter of the Lands of Carnwath to John, third Lord Somerville, in the following terms: “Paying thence yearly….one pair of hose containing half an all of English cloth at the feast of St John the Baptist, called Midsummer, upon the ground of the said barony, to the man running most quickly from the east end of the town of Carnwath to the Cross called Cawlo Cross…” There was probably a military reason for imposing this duty on the owners of Carnwath. A fast runner could bring news of any approaching invasion from the South to Edinburgh, and the Red Hose would be the insignia by which he would be recognized. In olden days the event was so prestigious that the name of the winner was cried from the Mercat Cross in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. Although the lands of Carnwath have been sold down the years, the local Laird Angus Lockhart of the Lee must still provide a pair of red stockings as the prize.)

From the early to mid-nineteenth century, ‘Balmorality’, Highland Games and Highland regiments, alongside new urban forces, created greater leisure time and modified activities better suited to the new urban classes. The impact of Victoria and her fascination and regard for everything Highland was to encourage the continuation of old ‘traditions’ as well as the invention of new ones. Her visits to Scotland and the acquisition of the Balmoral Estate in 1842 marked a turning point in the visibility of Highland Games. Victoria and Albert attended the Braemar Gathering in 1843 and her subsequent visits gave an impetus for the invention of the ‘romantic’ landscape of Scotland as a place and site of physical endeavour in accord with the rugged landscape. The illustration below (of ‘The Laggan Games’), one of the earliest of its kind, is a good example of this new and often exaggerated activity.


(Illustration supplied by Hamish M Thomson)

  1. In 1847 Victoria and Albert stayed at Ardverickie House (the setting for the TV programme ‘Monarch of the Glen’) on the shore of Loch Laggan for 3 weeks as a guest of the Marquess of Abercorn who had leased the property. Abercorn was ‘Groom of the Stool’ to Prince Albert. There is no record of there ever being a ‘Laggan Games’ but it would have been reasonable to assume that the host would have put on some form of ‘traditional’ activities during their stay, of which ‘The Race’ would have been one. Victoria and Albert are depicted on the right of the picture.

By the beginning of the nineteenth century, there was a growing leisure ‘industry’ based on the new work/leisure balance. Betting and wagering in sporting activities had become well established by the eighteenth century. Walking and running races (Pedestrianism) became popularised as part of this as sites of not only physical endeavour, but also speculation. The Games of Scotland attracted large crowds to local Games to see ‘names’ with the attendant ‘evils’ of betting and wagering (also by the competitors themselves).

At the same time, emerging from the ‘Enlightenment’, gentlemen’s clubs and other homosocial groups also contributed to a sense of sporting traditions. It is here that we start to get distinctions in the forms that races took.  Steeplechases were popular and took the form of short (sometimes very short) races from one point to another by any route (and also by return).  It is suggested that a distant local church steeple lent its name to the form.  Hares and Hounds also started to become popular sometimes called Paper-Chasing or Paper Hunt.

A few examples of these clubs are The St. Ronans Border Games at Innerleithen whose third meeting in 1829 featured a ‘Steeplechase ….. a race up The Curly and back’. The Ettrick Border Games also featured at this time in what appears to be a relatively rich cross border development and according to one source, ‘although cotters and the rustic population engaged in them, the large majority of competitors belonged to the upper classes, and the lairds were oftener prize takers than their tenants.’ Associated with the Ettrick Games is James Hogg (The Ettrick Shepherd) and both Christopher North (aka John Wilson – Professor of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh University).

A further final example of these emerging clubs and their interest in ‘Scottish Sporting Traditions’ and runs over open country, is that of the Edinburgh Six Foot Club. Founded in 1826, the club included many of the literary figures of the day (despite not being six foot tall). Members included Sir Walter Scott, Christopher North (again), James Hogg, Adam Wilson, Henry Glassford Bell and Lockhart (Scott’s biographer).  Its object was to ‘practice the national games of Scotland and gymnastics’. In addition to their town gymnasium first in East Thistle Street and then later at Malta Terrace, it also met at an Inn at Hunter’s Tryst some five miles outside of Edinburgh on the Oxgangs road to take part in field and outdoor events.


In 1828 there was a Steeplechase of one mile for a silver watch. Eight competitors took part and M. Wilkie won in a time of ‘three minutes and a half’ (sic). Apparently, there were many ladies present.

Some of the associated practices around the Six-Foot Club Club resonated later in the formation of the Harrier clubs. Firstly, there was a distinct class base which is unsurprising given the time constraints of ordinary working men of this period. Secondly, there is the fondness for trappings and trimmings of nineteenth century clubbable men. Medals and cups, membership levels of ordinary members and honorary members with meetings in club rooms and at the gymnasium. Also, there was the uniform of the club of ‘the finest dark green cloth coat, double breasted with special buttons and a velvet collar. The vest was of white Kerseymere. Trousers were black. On special occasions a tile hat was worn.’ The Six-Foot Club clearly had influence as they were appointed ‘Guard of Honour to the Hereditary Lord High Constable of Scotland’ in 1828. The Harriers clubs were to adopt Patrons with the same enthusiasm, vying to attract the great and the good in positioning their club within sport and civil society. The Six-Foot Club has been described as the ‘thinking man’s fitness club’!

The 19th century therefore began to see developments in sport alongside the growth in industrialisation. Increases in leisure time (for some), new class divisions with the attendant aspirational activities designed to allow ‘getting on in life’ and increasing mobility of population enabled new sporting forms to develop and flourish.  Pedestrianism was one such popular form and is well documented and was key activity in bringing feats of running prowess to a wider public through a growing interest in both the national and local press of the day.  Betting and gambling based on many of the emerging sporting forms included feats associated with endurance running and attention soon turned to combatting the ‘evils’ of gambling (associated with the lower classes) while wagering (more acceptable) was associated with the new middle classes.  The need to organise and manage these new sporting forms therefore became of critical importance for a variety of reasons and it was in 1850 that a key catalyst emerged in relation to running.

The expansion and formation of many sports and clubs occurred from 1850. Up until then the life of the ordinary person was such that they were unlikely to travel on any regular or semi-regular basis outside of an immediate radius of where they lived and worked. The expansion of the railway system and the eventual half day non work time every week (one hesitates to say half day ‘holiday’), were key drivers in the development of leisure time activities. The 1850s therefore, was probably the moment when the sports and pastimes of the middle and upper classes began to feel the interest of those with new leisure time. The tensions between those sporting forms based on the gentlemanly ethos of manliness, athleticism and the young male as a muscular Christian with service to Queen, country and Empire (ensuing largely from the Public Schools from the 1830s), started to attract the attention of those whose backgrounds were not as privileged. Steeplechasing, paper-chasing and hares and hounds all gathered interest from those new industrial classes. Sporting activities were to become codified and organised on a more formal basis in order to exercise greater control and ‘police’ developments. Sport was to serve a purpose.

The social context for sport in the nineteenth century emerged from a mix of political upheaval and the extension of voting rights and an emerging new class structure. The development of amateurism (mainly an ethos of both the old and new public schools) was seen as masculine, militaristic and patriotic.  Sport was a place that defined true heterosexual men; ‘making men’ in effect.  The influence of ‘traditional’ sports was declining. By the nineteenth century there was also a new nationalism sweeping across Europe which used athletic activities as a way of inter-twining sport and nationalism.  Britain was developing its ‘Games ethos’ while Germany had its Turnverein (Turnen) movement (overtly nationalist) of Guts Muths and Friedrich Ludvig Jahn (‘Turnvater Jahn’). In Sweden, a similar movement to restore Swedish culture and national pride was led by Per Henrik Ling with ‘exhibitions’ known as ‘Lingiads’. The Czech based Sokol movement was also part of the nationalist sporting movements of Europe. With new social conditions emerging from industrialisation and urbanisation, a new focus to produce men (not women) of the right calibre to serve the Empire refocused sports; leaving some behind, while other forms developed. George Roland’s fencing and gymnasium rooms in Edinburgh was one such example of absorbing different sporting forms.

Harrier activity as one of those sporting forms was, by the 1830s, embedded in most English Public Schools with versions of running races, variously Steeplechases or forms of Hares and Hounds. Shrewsbury by 1819 had a Hares and Hounds run known as The Hunt, Rugby had its Crick run by 1837 (hares and hounds) and Eton had a Steeplechase by 1847. At Wellington it was Charles Kingsley himself who instituted the run and the course. Other schools such as Winchester and Harrow also developed runs.  The evidence (so far) of Scottish Public School equivalent school runs at this time, is negligible.  The Scottish system differed, but there were schools of long standing such as the High School of Glasgow (pre 1124), the Royal High School Edinburgh (1128), Hutchesons Grammar School (1641) and both Edinburgh Academy (1824) and Glasgow Academy (1845). It may well be that further work is needed to establish whether these schools had their equivalent run.

Source: The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News. March 1st, 1879 p57 


 Many of these young men took those traditions into the Colleges of the universities they attended and while the Crick run of Rugby School is associated with the earliest form of cross-country running, it is the students of Exeter College, Oxford who arguably get the credit for the modern version of Cross-country with a College ‘Chase in 1850.  While much of the foregoing is Anglo-centric, it allows for a certain understanding of the diffusion of the sport and given the relationships that existed in the structure and governance of the two countries at the time, there is substantial evidence to suggest that some diffusion occurred through university educated men teaching in schools in Scotland and contributing to the culture of the school by encouraging running.

More frequent reporting in the press and an increasingly literate 18-35 age group, meant that young men were able to engage with the new forms of ‘acceptable’ activities. There are examples emerging by the 1860s of sports days held by former pupils of Edinburgh schools. Edinburgh Academy then Merchiston Castle, followed in 1864 by the Royal High School all held Sports Days and some included ‘strangers’ races’. The schools themselves soon followed suit and by 1866 the first Edinburgh Inter-Scholastic Games were held, witnessed by ‘thousands of spectators’. Glasgow Academy soon followed and the Glasgow Academicals Club were formed in 1866. This was what would be termed today a multi-sport club which practised runs over the country and they held at least two ‘Paper Hunts’ early in 1870. Athletic events were held each spring by other schools and clubs on the banks of the Clyde.

St Andrews University held a paper-chase in 1870. In 1871, some 5 years after forming their University Athletic Club, Edinburgh University held a Spring Steeplechase and by 1872 had formed its own Harriers club.  Edinburgh University in particular had a tradition of games going back to the 15th century when Regents used to supervise students playing on the Borough Muir. There is also an account of RL Stevenson commenting on medical students running up Arthur’s Seat.

One detailed example of the influence of the Edinburgh schools in encouraging running activities comes from an account from George Watson’s College. The school itself did little to formally encourage such activities, most of the activities being pupil led. WL Carrie, a Master at the school (Head of English) seems to have been a particularly powerful influence at in the early 1870s. During the period of the 1870s to 1880s, the boys played games on the Meadows of Edinburgh where the recollection of John Patterson (winner of three successive cross-country titles from 1898 to 1900) is that of ‘sixty-a-side soccer with a threepenny rubber ball ….. and Hares and Hounds through the Grassmarket.’  Attire was eclectic; ‘Long stockings with tight garters above the knee, and our short breeks were puckered with another elastic round the knee’. There were at least eight public schools in Edinburgh at this time who may have adopted and practiced a form of hares and hounds from time to time. The influence of Tom Brown’s Schooldays and the proselytising Head Teachers such as HH Almond of Loretto near Edinburgh, made the case for the importance of certain sports in order to produce ‘a race of robust men, with active habits, brisk circulations, manly sympathies and exuberant spirits’ for purposes of Empire. To be part of these new, respectable sporting forms was aspirational for many young men.

Into this however, fed the Victorian obsession with vice. This was partly in response to what was seen as a need to control and civilise the new urban masses as much as it was about defining ‘respectable’ behaviour and activities. There was of course much debate about what constituted ‘respectable’ behaviour but the strong anti-vice campaigners of the day, mainly the new middle classes, were skilled in using movements such as the Nonconformist ‘conscience’, the Quaker movement (anti-gambling) and the temperance reformers. Sporting activity came under scrutiny and so gymnastics, games, rowing, swimming and eventually cycling all came under the gaze of respectability. Harrier activity, arising from the runs at public schools and subsequently universities, then became one of a number of ‘acceptable’ sports often attached to ‘Athletic’ Clubs (multi-sport clubs of today) or gymnastic, football, rowing, swimming, cricket and cycling clubs before taking off in their own right by the mid-1880s. A number of harriers by the 1880s came from gymnastic clubs who had harrier sections as well as from harriers sections of other sports such as football, rowing, cycling and cricket (the West of Scotland Cricket Club was a particular adherent of ‘athletic meetings’). The scene was set for the aspirant male of the late nineteenth century to see sport as one of the more respectable and acceptable ways of making one’s way in life.  Attachment to a sports club brought a cachet (if one could join) and meant connections to ‘get on’ in life which chimed with the ‘Self-help’ ethos of the time.

Harrier activity (or paper-chases, Hares and Hounds or Steeple-chasing) in Scotland was occasionally used as an alternative to a game in adverse weather or as an adjunct to expand the ‘portfolio’ of a club’s activities, it is clear from the reporting in local newspapers in Scotland that although certainly known, it was considered a peripheral activity.  Reporting in the press to satisfy public interest was intermittent and haphazard until the 1860s.  Newspapers largely relied on this kind of information being fed to them by an interested party and even then, usually attached to an identifiable organisation such as a school, university or club. The main sports encouraged were cricket, football (both codes) and Sports Meetings or ‘Athletic’ Meetings which were usually grand occasions, with large crowds and held under the patronage of some civic notable.

One of the earliest references is that of the Maryhill Grand National Games in 1866.  In the same year the Glasgow Academical Club was formed at a meeting in May. In 1867 there were ‘Athletic Games’ under the auspices of the Glasgow Athletic Club at the Stonefield Recreation Ground, south Wellington Street, Glasgow to which 800-900 attended. In 1866 there were references to the annual ‘athletic sports on the banks of the Clyde’ such as those at Abingdon House the home of Sir Thomas Edward Colebrooke MP. Athletes included ‘professionals’ as well as ‘amateurs from the surrounding parishes’ and ‘trained athletes’. The afternoon was rounded off with a 6 mile race.

In 1870 Queens Park FC had a harrier run between members in October of that year, while in the same year the Glasgow Academical Club held a paper-chase from Bishopbriggs and back to their Club HQ. The first overt mention of a ‘Hares and Hounds Club’ comes in 1872 with the Glasgow Hares and Hounds Club who held a run over 7 miles from Regents Park on the Dumbarton road and finishing the day with a tea courtesy of a Mr Matthew Wilkes.

Harrier running (or paper-chasing) was also popular with football clubs who were also ‘Athletic Clubs’ in name (to be an Athletic Club perhaps made more of a statement than a Football Club). Alexandra AC was set up to ‘practice athletic and field sports’ but was principally a football club. This was no bunch of lads coming for a kick around. They had enough behind them to be able to lease land adjacent to Alexandra Park in Dennistoun (then a leafy suburb of Glasgow), and also erect a ‘house’ for members for inclement weather. It had the patronage of the Earl of Glasgow. By 1877 they were engaged in Hares and Hounds with a 5 mile run on July 9th. Queens Park Football Club were still sufficiently involved in Harrier activity to earn the nomenclature of ‘Hampden Harriers’ in 1880. By 1879 Edinburgh University were inviting footballers to run with them (27th December, 1879).

Interest in Harrier running/Hares and Hounds was clearly filtering through the school systems in Scotland at this time too. In an address to the Stewartonians at their 10th annual reunion in the Albert Hall in Bath Street, Glasgow in 1875, Thomas Young (chair), a merchant in Stewarton, reminisced about his boyhood days and how he ‘played at ‘Hares and Hounds’ o’er Corsehill Braes, the Thornefa, the Merry Greens and Bessie’s Braes’. Herbertshire Castle School at Dunipace held ‘Sawdust Chases’ for a number of years after opening in 1877.  JW Reid teacher of classics, chemistry and mathematics at the school was also a ‘gymnastics gold medalist’ so may have been a key facilitator in ‘Sawdust-chases’. He was a vice-president of the Dunipace Temperance Association with another master of the school a trustee (Thomas R Wilson). Paper-chasing was one of the ‘traditional’ activities by now of a public school and was part of the active ideology of the day and therefore fitted the temperance principles. The fondness (or otherwise) for the activity was often caught in the form of poems by the boys. In one poem published in 1880 titled Adieu to School, the pupil is keen to appear wistful and in stanza three he says


Farewell my tops and peeries too

Whose whirring hum my fancy drew!

Adieu the nimble steps and bounds

That served me well at ‘hares and hounds’!

Near the end in stanza 7 there is the hope that

… On other ‘grounds’ perhaps we’ll meet

In life’s untrodden field.

(A.M. in North British Advertiser and reprinted in The Fife Free Press, Saturday 31st July, 1880, p6)

Herbertshire Castle School

Of further interest are the various forms of hares and hounds that were part and parcel of other clubs such as the Ardgowan and Inverkip Hares and Hounds Hunt. In a series of detailed accounts from 1876 until at least 1883, there were a series of runs at Inverkip on the Clyde. The first race in 1876 was over 6 miles for a silver cup and was part of the New Year’s Day celebrations. Some two hundred people turned out to watch the race depart from the Old Kirk, the starter and judge being the owner of the Inverkip Hotel, Mr James French. There was also intimation of a further run the following week. The Ardgowan and Inverkip Hares and Hounds met the following year New Year’s Day and there is a detailed account of the race with attendant explanation as to what a Hares and Hounds race was since ‘this field sport is not indigenous to Scottish soil, being imported from the sister country’. The 1877 race benefitted by the attendance of the local estate owner, Sir Michael Robert Shaw Stewart and his wife Lady Octavia. By 1879 the race was clearly a major event as the prizes had grown from a cup and a handful of prizes to a silver lever watch, 3 monetary prizes, a woollen jacket, leather leggings, silk handkerchief and a silver mounted pocket knife. The recipients ranged from two gardeners, two quarrymen, a gamekeeper, saddler, stableman and a ‘second’ horseman all presumably employed by the Estate.

Such occasions however are seldom without local commentary and misunderstanding. It is recorded that in conversation with a friend on the Inverkip Road and old man was entreating his friend not to go further as ‘the lunatics had broken out of Smithton and were flying across the fields in a cluster … pursued by a man on horseback.’ He could not be persuaded that this was a race. The 1882 account of the race records the fact the many of the gentry and their wives accompanied the race on horseback and there were 19 ‘hounds’ who had been in training for the race. There was clearly a developing awareness in the district of paper-chasing since Aldergrove FC of Port Glasgow held a paper-chase in April, 1880 with the intention of a further race to which other clubs would be welcome.

While at first glance, there may seem a ‘head of steam’ in interest for paper-chasing, which might have resulted in more clubs being formed, paper-chasing was still generally an adjunct activity or at best a section of an Athletics or football club. By 1881, hares and hounds activity as part of the Alexandra FC club had died out. Contemporary commentary recounts that ‘Cross-country has never found favour north of the Tweed. It is essentially an amateur sport, and amateur athletes, until a very recent period, were a small minority of the population.’ It goes on to confirm that it is essentially a winter activity only indulged in to keep in condition as it ‘improves the wind.’  It also talks of ‘wheelmen’ who are precluded from their sport due to the heavy state of the roads who would benefit from the formation of a paper-chasing club. A further report in the press talks of getting up a club for ‘hares and hounds hunts’ which were ‘great fun’ in the public schools and mentions the influence of Tom Brown’s Schooldays. It goes on to make the case for the ‘ease of getting into the countryside around Glasgow’ such that ‘when the ground is too hard for football and the ice too thin for skating … it would amuse both spectators and those taking part.’

It was Towerhill AC however, a football club, that is most commonly mentioned immediately prior to the formation of Clydesdale Harriers in 1885. Towerhill, as has been mentioned in relation to other football clubs, staged hares and hounds runs from time to time from their ground at Hopeton Park, Springburn, Glasgow. Towerhill were one of the west of Scotland’s oldest football clubs and there is mention of them in relation to a match in 1874 having just recently formed as ‘adopting association rules’ and ‘a uniform of blue cowls, two-inch orange and blue ringed jerseys.’  There were other attempts in the 1880s to develop an ‘Athletics club’ for Glasgow with a meeting at the Athlone Hotel, Glasgow on 6TH October, 1882 signed by TG Connell, A McCorkindale and AD McGillivray and a further meeting on 13th October with ‘a membership of 30’ under the presidency of RC McKenzie (Glasgow Acad.). Nothing seems to have transpired from either of these attempts and they may well have been more related to Athletics Meetings than Hares and Hounds. In Edinburgh St George Football Club (Rugby) and the Northern Cycling Club both had runs of a hares and hounds nature in the early 1880s and it was the initiative of the St George club that ultimately led to the formation of Edinburgh Harriers in 1885. Peter Addison of both Edinburgh Harriers and Edinburgh Northern Harriers is known to have been a harrier member of St James FC (Edinburgh) one of a number of ‘football’ clubs practising other sports prior to the formation of the Edinburgh clubs.

In attempting to draw threads together to gain an insight as to the nature of harrier running prior to the formation of our oldest surviving club, Clydesdale Harriers, it has not just been an issue of investigating the clubs themselves, but also delving into the contexts too. There were not only societal influences, but also sporting forms changed to suit the new emerging social and political fabric of the day. Some further thoughts emerge. One of the reasons for a potential lack of development much earlier (along with other sports) could have been the lack of a fixed venue or home for the activity (by definition). Added to this is the large-scale betting industry of the nineteenth century which found pedestrianism attractive (often fixed venue, ability to advertise events and often very large crowds), but hares and hounds less so. Scottish soccer has been described as ‘a big business’ by the 1880s and spending on sport in late Victorian Britain was estimated to be about 3% of gross national product. Harrier running, by its very nature, over large tracts of land and therefore hidden from spectator view was perhaps less appealing and less under this new commercial leisure control compared to the track (athletic) meetings. From its historical roots through to its partial resurgence as one of the ‘Scottish Pastimes’ and into the public school era as a tool for moulding young men in the image of Empire and respectability, running over the countryside evolved by the 1860-70’s as a form of sporting engagement firstly as part of the ‘new’ athletic clubs and as an adjunct to existing sports clubs, to full view as a sporting activity in its own right.  By 1885, Harrier running was now part of the sporting cultural capital of aspiring young men.

Sources: The following is a list of some of the sources which were used and can be followed up for more detail.

Brander, M. (1992). The Essential Guide to Highland Games. Edinburgh, Canongate. (for brief history of development of Highland Games)

Collins, T (2013). Sport in Capitalist Society, Routledge, Abingdon p 41 taken from Marshall, F (ed) (1892). Football: The Rugby Union Game. London p55 (for the quote by HH Almond)

Collins, T. (2013). Sport in Capitalist Society. London, Routledge. (for a brief critique of changes to society in nineteenth century Britain and how they affected sport)

Gibson, J. (1903). The Lands and Lairds of Denny and Dunipace (for the illustration of Herbertshire Castle)

Huggins, M. (2004). The Victorians and Sport. London, Hambledon and London. (for attitudes and values associated with sport in nineteenth century Britain and the sports themselves)

Huggins M. (2016). Vice and the Victorians. London, Bloomsbury. (for the relationship between ‘respectability’ and sport)

Jarvie, G. (1991). Highland Games. The Making of the Myth. Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press. (for a more critical review of Highland Games)

Radford, P (2015) Six Feet Club, Edinburgh. An extended note (as pdf) in Athlos www.athletics-archive.com

Smith, CJ (1979). Historic South Edinburgh, Vol 2. Edinburgh, Charles Skilton. (for Six Foot Club)

Sports Quarterly Magazine No 15 for sources on Six-Foot Club and Sports Quarterly Magazine No11 for sources on the St Ronans Games and other Border Games. National Archives of Scotland G-D445/4/15

stronansgames/history.org (for information of St Ronans Games and Border Games)

Telfer, H (2006). The Origins, Governance and Social Structure of Club Cross Country Running in Scotland, 1885-1914. Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Stirling.

Wilkinson, HF (1875) Modern Athletics 2nd edit. London, Warne. (for early Scottish athletic sports of 1860s and 70s)

Wilson, Alex. (2020) Profile of Peter Addison. Accessed at anentscottishrunning.com

I am indebted to The British Newspaper Archive for access to the following:

The Evening News; North British Daily Mail; Greenock Telegraph and Clyde Shipping Gazette; The Greenock Advertiser; The Glasgow Daily Herald and The Glasgow Herald; Evening Citizen; The Hamilton Advertiser; The Daily Review; The Evening News and Star; Falkirk Herald and Linlithgow Journal; The Dundee Advertiser; The Fife Free Press; The Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald; The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News.

Also indebted to sources provided by Hamish M Thomson (National Union of Track Statisticians) for first clubs and first runs as well pictorial material.