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

Issue Number One

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 above had photographs, on some occasions with the “Scotland’s Runner there were cartoons, of the editors.   Unlike many producers/editors his own picture never appeared in the magazine.  The other magazines above had photographs, on some occasions with the “Scotland’s Runner there were cartoons, of the editors.   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 relay team of which he was a member won the Scottish Schools relay in 1953.   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.   

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.” 

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.   He 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.

https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/95796/scotland-rugby-team-1877

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.

and 

(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.

 

 

Peter Addison

 

Looking back to the beginnings of the Scottish Cross-Country Championship from its origins in 1886 to 1900, the name Addison keeps popping up.
This is the story of a stalwart club runner who co-founded two of Edinburgh’s seminal athletic clubs and still found the time to run his way into the Scottish athletics history books.   Back then, the careers of amateur athletes were short-lived and rarely lasted longer than a few years. These were among the earliest sporting idealists, zeitgeist surfers seeking self-fulfilment rather than self-enrichment. They were typically dynamic young men around the age of twenty. This of course made them prime husband material. After entering the safe haven of the marriage, the young runner would be gently but firmly advised to retire and devote himself to other more pressing commitments like work and family. In any case, competitive athletics was considered a young man’s game. Anyone over the age of 35 was a rare old bird whose efforts would elicit a mixture of concern and astonishment.
In comes Peter Addison, who was born at Aberlady in 1862 and made his debut with St. James F.C. in 1881. Reports describe him as the “little Edinburgh Harrier”, so it may be assumed that he was rather diminutive.   St. James F.C. was one of several harrier clubs operating in the Edinburgh area during the 1880s. This was before the formation, in 1885, of the Edinburgh Harriers, of which Addison was a founding member.
In 1889, feeling that there was room for another club in the city, Addison also co-founded the Edinburgh Northern Harriers.
Addison was the diametric opposite of a speed merchant. A habitual recipient of generous starts, he could do no better than 4:54 for the mile. But what he lacked in basic speed he made up for with sheer enthusiasm and work ethic.
I imagine he would have been an avid marathon runner had the event existed back then. The longest events at that time were the national cross-country championship and the 10 miles track championship, so there are no prizes for guessing what his preferences were.
When the going got tough, he nearly always came through. The name Addison graced every Scottish Cross-Country Championship from its inception in 1886 until 1899.

Scottish Cross-Country Championship

Date Venue Indiv placing
1886 27 Mar Lanark Muir 10
1887 18 Mar Hampden Park DNF
1888 10 Mar Hawkhill Recreation Grounds ?
1889 18 Mar Hamilton Park 8
1890 8 Mar Tynecastle 11
1891 14 Mar Cathkin Park 6
1892 12 Mar Tynecastle 10
1893 11 Mar Hampden Park 26
1894 10 Mar Musselburgh 21
1895 9 Mar Hampden Park 11
1896 14 Mar Inverleith Park 14
1897 6 Mar Paisley. 14
1898 5 Mar Musselburgh 35
1899 11 Mar Hampden Park 35

As can be seen from the table above, his best individual result was a 6th place finish in 1891. Three times he was on the winning team: in 1886, 1891 and 1892. In addition to this, he won a runners-up medal on three occasions: in 1889, 1890 and 1897.
Addison divided his affections evenly between Edinburgh Harriers, whom he represented from 1886 to 1892, and Edinburgh Northern Harriers, whom he represented from 1893 to 1899.

Edinburgh Harriers winning team in the inaugural Scottish Cross-Country Championship of 1886: 1 Tom Fraser, 2 David Colville Macmichael, 3 David Scott Duncan, 4 William Mabson Gabriel, 5 John William Lodowick Beck, 6 Peter Addison, 7 Robert Cochrane Buist, 8 John M. Bow

Even though cross-country was doubtless Addison’s first love, he was more successful individually on the track. He competed in the Scottish 10-mile championship four times and each time he was in the top three, thrice receiving the coveted standard medal for a time under 57 minutes. The absolute unequivocal highlight of his running career was winning the 1892 national championship at the Powderhall Ground in 56:06.4. Of course, the absence of the holder Andrew Hannah also played a part in this, but as they say, you have to be in it to win it.

Scottish 10-Mile Track Championship

Date Venue Placing Time
1888 7 Apr Powderhall 3rd 56:59.6
1889 12 Apr Hampden Park 3rd 56:55.8
1892 24 Mar Powderhall 1st 56:06.4
1896 4 Apr Powderhall 3rd 57:27.0

Addison was well liked for his pluck and spirit, as can be seen from this report on a meeting in Kilmarnock in 1897: “That old favourite, Peter Addison, the limit man in the mile and half-mile, was cheered loudly by the crowd to keep it up. Peter did his little best, and in the half-mile he had a good chance could he have sprinted.”
His performances tapered off towards the end of his career and by the late 1890s he was to be found among the stragglers but no less popular for it. During the 1898 national championship at Musselburgh the greatest ovations were reserved for Jack Paterson, who was first, and Addison, who I believe was last. That tells you more about the man than a thousand words.
In 1900, at the age of 38, Addison met Isabella and, presumably on her gentle but firm advice, he decided to hang up his racing shoes. The following year weddings bells were ringing and the Scottish Referee reported: “The veteran Peter Addison is to be testimonialised this week on the occasion of his marriage. Unassuming to a degree, the ten miles ex-champion has made friends of all, and thoroughly deserves recognition at the close of a long and honourable career, and on such an auspicious occasion. It is a far cry back to 1881, but that is the year in which Addison made his debut as a member of the long defunct St. James F.C. He ran year in year out for twenty successive seasons, and was in his 31st year when he won the ten miles championship at Powderhall in 1892.”
Addison lived in the Broughton district of Edinburgh and forged his trade as a blacksmith at a well-known printing firm on the north side of the town.
Following this retirement from competitive athletics, Addison continued to serve the Edinburgh Northern Harriers as a handicapper and starter for many years. His son Peter also competed for Edinburgh Northern Harriers in the 1920s and early 1930s.  As one of the few surviving founding members, Addison was a guest of honour at the dinner to commemorate 50th anniversary of the Edinburgh Harriers.
Having led a healthy lifestyle, Addison lived to very respectable age of 84.

Willie Robertson

 

The Clydesdale Harriers’ Handbook for the season 1893-94 lists among its members a certain William Robertson, living at 2 Apsley Place in Glasgow District No. 4, the Gorbals.

It also enumerates the prizes each member won during the previous season. Robertson had 24: 15 firsts, 6 seconds and 3 thirds.

The story of Willie Robertson marks a watershed in the early history of Scottish amateur athletics.   Late in 1898, only months after winning a clutch of S.A.A.A. titles, he was banished from the amateur ranks for life.   This is the tale of an avid distance runner who aspired to become a star only to be sucked into a black hole.   But, fear not, it has a redemptive ending.

Robertson was born to Janet and William Robertson, a draper, in Greenock, Renfrewshire, in 1871.

His sporting career began in Motherwell, where the family were living at the time. People tended to move around quite a bit depending on work prospects. Robertson was an apprentice pattern maker. He made his first public appearance in the colours of Motherwell Harriers in 1891.

On 6 February 1892, only a few months after joining Motherwell Harriers, he gave early proof of his precocity by finishing 16th in the Scottish Junior Cross-Country Championship at Paisley.

By the start of the 1892/93 winter season he was showing all and sundry at Motherwell a clean pair of heels.

 

On 4 February 1893 Robertson took a second swing at the Scottish Junior Cross-Country Championship over a gruelling six-mile course across heavy plough and turf at Musselburgh. This time he showed what he was really made of by taking second place in of a field of 120 behind another outstanding young talent, Stewart Duffus from Arbroath.

The overlords of the Western Districts must have seen Robertson as a potential reinforcement for their team fronted by multiple Scottish champion Andrew Hannah. The Clydesdale Harriers had developed talent recruitment to a fine art. With their unrivalled training facilities and a well-organised network spanning the entire Glasgow area, it would have been hard for an aspiring young athlete to turn down their solicitations.

After a few minor races to build up his form, Robertson scored a half / mile double at the Maryhill Harriers’ Sports on 27 May. “He is a cleanly built fellow, with a nice lift and taking style”, wrote Scottish Referee, adding prophetically that “Robertson … will yet be heard of.”

Two weeks later, in a two-mile handicap in Hampden Park, Robertson fulfilled this prophecy by demolishing a first-class field from 45 yards in 9:49.8. The race report in Scottish Referee was titled “ROBERTSON CAUGHT THE EYE”. It read, “The Motherwell man strode out from among the crowd with a stride like Triton, made mincemeat of the field, and paralysed everybody – handicapper included. There was no catching of him, and in disgust Hannah gave up a lap from home, but Duffus persevered, and got second place.”

The author also lamented that Robertson had not entered for the national championships. He need not have worried. Robertson, emboldened by his success at Hampden Park, submitted a late entry for the four-mile event, where he faced, among others, none other than Andrew Hannah. The Scottish Referee was in no doubt. “Robertson, Motherwell, is a cracker. He will stick the best men in Scotland at present”, it wrote.

The author did not omit to mention, however, that Robertson’s armoury lacked one vital tool – finishing speed. A chink in his armour. A vulnerability.

In the S.A.A.A. championships at Hampden Park on 12 June Robertson, as had been expected, gave Hannah a good run for his money. After having already run, and won, the mile earlier in the afternoon, Hannah was no doubt keen to conserve his energy for he settled on a tactical race where he was the predator and Robertson his prey. Despite his best efforts, Robertson could not do a thing, and on the last lap Hannah sprinted away and won by 20 yards in 21:36.4, with Robertson taking silver in 21:40.0.

Having represented Motherwell Harriers at the Scottish championships, Robertson transferred to the Clydesdale Harriers. His younger brother Thomas, a fairly good half-miler, also joined the Clydesdale.

The rest of his season was less spectacular – the genie was out of the bottle – but at least it yielded a few more personal bests and benchmarks for future comparison. Robertson wore the Clydesdale colours for the first time in a three-mile team race at Tynecastle Park on 24 June but could only finish fourth in 15:36.1. On 22 July he covered the mile from scratch at Larkhall in 4:45.0, and then did 2:02.2 in the half mile off 30 yards. Finally, on 29 July he finished his track season by running second to Hannah in an inter-club three-mile race at Gateshead in an estimated 15:40.0.

It was around this time that the Robertson family moved from Motherwell to the Gorbals. The Apsley Place of the 1890s was a side street which cut a swathe between rows of tenements a short distance from the south bank of the Clyde.

Having been elected Vice-Captain under Hannah, Robertson kicked off 1894 by winning the first of the season’s classic events, the Scottish Junior Cross-Country Championship, at Hamilton Park Racecourse on 3 February.

A month later, he finished a creditable seventh in the Scottish Senior Cross-country Championship at Musselburgh, where his clubmate Hannah extended his dominance over the plough by winning the title for the fourth time in five years.

Robertson performed consistently, if not spectacularly, throughout the 1894 track season. At the Glasgow Merchants’ Sports at Celtic Park on May 19, he finished second behind Stewart Duffus in the four-mile handicap off 60 yards. Here he covered 4 miles less 90 yards in 20:41.4, which equates to about 21 minutes for the full distance. On 2 June he ran 15:33.2 in a three-mile inter-club match at Tynecastle, where he was outsprinted in the straight by the young Watsonian Hugh Welsh. In another three-mile handicap at the West of Scotland Harriers’ Meeting in Hampden Park on 11 June, he finished third and improved to 15:07.0 for 4 miles less 50 yards, or the equivalent of about 15:17 for the full 3 miles. He missed the 1894 S.A.A.A. track championships at Powderhall where Hannah won the 4 miles from Duffus, in 20:48.8. Twice he competed against the English champion Fred Bacon and on each occasion he was on the receiving end of a hefty defeat despite a sizable start. In a three-mile race at Powderhall on 21 July, Bacon set a new Scottish record of 14:27.4, while Robertson finished third off 270 yards. The same happened at Celtic F.C. Sports on August 11th, where Bacon covered the mile in 4:21.6, while Robertson finished second off 90 yards. Robertson ran his best mile that year on 18 August in Arbroath, where he won the mile handicap from 15 yards in 4:35.0.

Despite missing the S.A.A.A. championships, his overall haul for the year earned him the Clydesdale Harriers’ gold medal for the greatest number of prizes won during the athletic season – 27 in total.

Robertson opened the 1895 season by finishing fifth in the Scottish Cross-country Championship at Hampden Park, where 19-year-old Robert Hay of Edinburgh Harriers was a surprise winner, 100 yards ahead of Stewart Duffus.

The following month Robertson showed a marked improvement in the Scottish 10-mile championship at Hampden Park. Running with an easy, graceful action, he led at 3 miles in 15:31.6 and was able to stay with reigning champion Andrew Hannah through 4 miles in 20:47.8 before having to let go of his clubmate, who went on to shatter the Scottish record with a time of 53:26.0. Robertson held his form well and finished second in 54:07.0, just missing the old record.

In the run-up to the Scottish championships Robertson continued to show impressive form, winning a two-mile handicap off 30 yards at Paisley on 18 May in 9:43.0 and a mile handicap off scratch at Ibrox Park on 5 June in 4:33.6.

But something important had happened in the meantime. At the Vale of Leven Sports in Alexandria on 1 June, some eyebrows were raised when Robertson finished a close second in the half-mile handicap to Robert Langlands, Scotland’s #1 half miler at the time. His time of 2:00.0 for 880 yards less 24 yards is the equivalent of about 2:03 for the full distance, which was great running for a long-distance specialist. Three weeks later, Langlands would become the first Scottish amateur to break the two-minute barrier for the half. Not done yet, Robertson then lined up against Andrew Hannah in the mile handicap, both on scratch, and held his clubmate to a yard in 4:35.2. Athletic News reported that Robertson had been “cultivating a sprint” and that “at all events, there is more fire in his finish than was the case a year ago”.

The 1895 national athletics championships had been preceded by discord over whether professional cycle racing should still be allowed in conjunction with amateur athletics meetings. With revenue foremost in the minds of some, there were strong positions in favour and against the motion. The ensuing deadlock over this contentious issue resulted in several western district clubs in favour of allowing professional cyclists to compete at their meetings – notably Clydesdale Harriers – seceding from the S.A.A.A. and forming the Scottish Amateur Athletics Union (S.A.A.U.). This meant that athletes competing in events run under S.A.A.U. rules were automatically debarred from competing in meetings held under S.A.A.A. rules, and vice versa. The consequence of this impasse was that the national championships of 1895 and 1896 were held under the auspices of two separate bodies – much like in Ireland. Of course, it was to the detriment of the sport, for it also meant that Duffus, Hannah, Langlands, Robertson & co. would not get the chance to represent their country in the Scoto-Irish International instituted in 1895 under the auspices of the S.A.A.A. The depleted Scottish team only narrowly lost the first match but would probably have won it if they had been at full strength.

Despite the absence of competition due to the above-mentioned split, Robertson still faced a tough battle at the S.A.A.U. Championships at Hampden Park on 22 June. His opposition in the mile included John Milroy (West of Scotland Harriers), James Rodger (Carrick Harriers), Stewart Duffus (Arbroath Harriers) and Robert Langlands. Although a close race had been expected, Robertson left his opponents floundering in his wake and won by a full 70 yards from Langlands in 4:28.4. Without anyone pushing him, he missed the Scottish record set by David Scott Duncan in 1888 by only four tenths of a second. As to this, the Glasgow Herald commented: “If any man in Scotland is capable of this it is W. Robertson, whose consistent running has been one of the features of the season”.

Robertson continued his good run of form throughout the summer, even if he suffered two narrow defeats over two miles at the hands of Stewart Duffus, losing by a foot at Ibrox on 29 Jun in 9:58.1 and by inches at Dundee on 13 July in 9:57.5. On 17 July he won the mile handicap at Kirkcaldy in 4:28.0 off scratch. It equalled the Scottish record, but since the time was achieved on a grass track, it was not eligible for record purposes. Only three days later he produced another superb performance in the mile at the Falkirk F.C. Sports where he won easily off scratch in 4:29.2. At the Rangers FC Sports at Ibrox Park on 3 August, he again came agonisingly close to the mile record, winning in 4:28.4 from scratch. The Glasgow Herald attested Robertson a “magnificent race” and suggested that the record would have been broken without the “indiscreet pacing of his companions” Stewart Duffus and James Rodger running alongside him.

Andrew Hannah and Stewart Duffus were among William Robertson’s toughest opponents

To sum up, the 1895 season had marked Robertson’s entry into the vanguard of Scottish long-distance running. His versatility that year had been particularly impressive. Not even the great Andrew Hannah could boast such a range from the half mile to ten miles. He had also won his first S.A.A.U. championship with a performance which had left no doubt as to his supremacy in Scotland over the mile. Finally, he had come tantalisingly close to breaking the native mile record, which, it had to be assumed, was living on borrowed time.

After suffering a heavy defeat by Andrew Hannah in the Clydesdale Harriers’ seven-mile open handicap on 1 February 1896 Robertson was not among the hot favourites for the 11th running of the Ten Miles Cross-Country Championship of Scotland at Inverleith Park, Edinburgh, on 14 March. The week before the championship, Scottish Referee predicted he would only come seventh. In fact, he finished third behind Andrew Hannah, who won for the fifth time, and Stewart Duffus, who had moved to Glasgow with his brother and switched allegiance from Arbroath to Clydesdale. Disappointingly, there were only 24 participants and Clydesdale was the only club to finish a team.

The inaugural S.A.A.U. 10-Mile Championship at Hampden Park on 10 April looked to be following the script of the previous year’s event when it developed into a two-way battle between Hannah and Robertson. This time, however, the outcome was up in the air until the last mile, when Hannah broke away from Robertson and won by 15 seconds in 54:56.8. For Hannah, it was title #7, which we know in hindsight was a record that would never be surpassed. A new native record had been hoped for, but the weather gods had other plans. The runners had to battle not just with each other but also with the wind. The first mile was done in 5:03.6, the second in 10:20.6, third in 15:41.4, fourth 21:04.2, fifth 26:33.0, sixth 32:10.4, seventh 37:47.6, eighth 43:26.4 and ninth 49:16.2. The rival S.A.A.A. Championship, which was decided in Powderhall on 4 April, was won by Robert Hay (Edinburgh Harriers) in a slower time of 55:56.6, but Hay put in a very fast finish leaving a question mark over his true ability. A national championship ought ideally to provide a measure of transparency, but the divide within Scottish athletics had only muddied the waters and needed to be urgently addressed.

Robertson renewed his rivalry with Hannah and Duffus in the St. Mirren sports at Paisley on 25 April and finally turned the tables on his rivals by winning the three-mile handicap off scratch in 15:20.0. On 9 May, he faced his principal rivals again at Tynecastle. After winning the mile handicap off scratch in 4:34.6, he stripped again for the four-mile handicap. In a thrilling race which ended in a near blanket finish, Duffus (20:52.0) won from Hannah (20:52.3) and Robertson (20:52.4).

Robertson produced a string of good performances in the run-up to the season highlight. After winning a mile steeplechase at Celtic Park on 25 May in a fast 4:58.0, he also took the mile handicap at Hampden Park on 30 May in 4:35.4. In a three-mile inter-club race at Tynecastle on 6 June, he came home a close third behind Duffus and Hannah in 15:25. A 4:31.0 mile at Ibrox on 13 June showed that he was peaking just in time for the S.A.A.U. Championships at Hampden Park on 27 June.

Despite being the firm favourite, Robertson had great difficulty defending his title in the mile from Charlie McCracken. The young Carrick Harrier, winner of the Scottish Junior Cross-Country Championship, ran the race of his life and pushed Robertson to a new native record of 4:27.2. McCracken (4:27.6) was also inside the old figures that had stood to D.S. Duncan for eight long years.

His absence was not as noticeable at that year’s international match against Ireland in Dublin as it was in the previous year. In 1896, despite wins in the half mile and mile by the outstanding Hugh Welsh, as well as wins by Robert Hay (4 miles) Hugh Barr (long jump), the Scottish team was no match for the Irish in the sprints and technical events, and lost 7-4.

Not being able to represent his country, Robertson entered the Kirkcaldy F.C. Sports on 15 July and despite being heavily handicapped, won the mile from scratch in 4:34.0.

Even as the summer drew to a close, Robertson showed that he had husbanded his resources well, for he was not showing any of the typical signs of staleness one would expect of an athlete towards the end of the competitive season. On 10 August he lined up against the Irish champion Jack Mullen on the scratch mark in a two-mile handicap at the Celtic F.C. Sports. Keeping well together throughout, they overhauled the lesser runners in the field and made a race of it on home straight. Here, according to the Glasgow Herald, Mullen “shot to the front, and won amidst great enthusiasm by about five yards” in 9:44.6. Despite failing to win, Robertson had the satisfaction of improving his personal best to 9:45.5. Among the Scottish amateurs only Andrew Hannah (9:41.0) and Stewart Duffus (9:41.2) had ever gone faster over 2 miles at the time.

This was, incidentally, to be Mullen’s last race as an amateur. He was immediately suspended by the I.A.A.A. for competing at a meeting held under S.A.A.U. rules. Within a week he had accepted an offer from Celtic F.C. to train their players, while continuing to compete as a pro for a few more years.

Robertson concluded his track season on Monday 18 August by winning two-mile handicap at Hampden Park in 9:54.0. The gathering was for the benefit of Robert Hindle, the old pedestrian and latterly starter at most athletic meetings in the West of Scotland. In his heyday Hindle won Scottish and English championship at distances up to a mile. The great William Cummings, holder of professional world records at a mile and ten miles, was his protégé. Hindle, who was the groundsman and trainer to St. Mirren Football Club, died from bronchitis a few months later at his Paisley home at the age of 50.

1896 had again been another successful year for Robertson. He had achieved a third place in the S.C.C.U. Championship, a second place in the S.A.A.U. 10-Mile Championship and he had defended his one-mile title at the S.A.A.U. Championships. He had once again set several personal bests. After many heroic attempts, he had finally claimed the native mile record in the mile. What did the future hold for him? In 1897 he would be up against the prodigious young Watsonians Hugh Welsh and Jack Paterson; as well as Stewart Duffus, now the holder of the Scottish 4-mile record (20:10.8). On the other hand, Andrew Hannah had hung up his spikes for good. He was no longer an obstacle on the road to success, which was arguably more open than ever.

Robertson got his 1896/97 cross-country season off to a good start by winning the Clydesdale Harriers’ Open 7 Mile Scratch Handicap at Maryhill Barracks on 5 December 1896. This was the second running of the event, which incidentally was the first ever open cross-country race to be held in Scotland. Four months of twice weekly club runs later, and Robertson was being touted one of the favourites for the 1897 Senior Cross-Country Championship Underwood Park on 11 March. In fact, he finished second. In a gruelling battle of attrition over heavy terrain, Stewart Duffus was the first past the post in 1 hour 12 minutes, half a minute ahead of Robertson. However, the storyline behind the result is that Robertson had torn his “knickers” while crossing a barbed wire fence, forcing him to stop to change them and losing valuable time. In more fortunate circumstances the outcome may have been different.

The rift which had divided Scottish athletics for two seasons had been resolved during the winter, with the result that, once again, the Scottish amateur athletics clubs were unified under the Scottish Amateur Athletic Association.

The first track championship of the season was the 10 Miles Championship of Scotland for the £25 challenge cup at Hampden Park on 9 April. Both Robertson and Stewart Duffus were back in action with points to prove: Robertson keen to avenge his defeat in the cross-country championship, Duffus determined to validate his position. Robert Hay, the holder, was a notable absentee. The lack of entries suggested, according to Scottish Referee, “a paucity of long-distance men in Scotland”. The race practically resolved itself into a match between Duffus and Robertson, who alternated the lead at a moderate pace just inside standard time (57 min). On the last lap, Robertson showed his superior speed and pulled away from Duffus, who, seeing he had no chance, gave up with 220 yards to go. Robertson finished alone in 56:19.0 and celebrated his first national 10-mile title at third attempt. The splits were: 1 mile – 5:20.2; 2 miles – 10:53.2; 3 miles – 16:28.2; 4 miles – 22:15.6; 5 miles – 27:51.6; 6 miles – 33:39.6; 7 miles – 39:18.6; 8 miles – 44:56.0; 9 miles – 50:44.6.

A couple of low-key races set Robertson up nicely for an attack on the three-mile record in the Abercorn F.C. Sports at Underwood Park, Paisley, on 15 May. Starting at scratch alongside Stewart Duffus, Robertson romped home first in a native record of 14:57.2 and became the first Scottish amateur to run 3 miles in under 15 minutes. His arch-rival Duffus had not only fallen and retired but also lost both his official and unofficial records. In 1896 Duffus had run a 15:06.4 at the Rangers F.C. Sports on 1 August and an unratified 15:04.8 at Airdrie on 15 August.

On 12 June Robertson met the Watsonian Jack Paterson, one of the rising stars in Scottish athletics, for the first time in a 3-mile inter-club race at the Edinburgh Harriers Sports and won by 4 yards in 15:15.4 after outsprinting Paterson. Having previously been known as a staid front runner, he had somehow metamorphosed into a fast finisher.

Jack Paterson

A 2:01.6 p.b. off scratch in the half mile win at Parkhead on 22 June confirmed that Robertson was ready take on the dual champion Hugh Welsh in the S.A.A.A. mile championship at Celtic Park on 26 June. It was a tall order. The young Watsonian was a firm favourite after making an impressive debut at Cockermouth on 6 June, where he won the half mile in 1:58.0 off 10 yards and the mile in 4:24.0 off 15 yards. Scottish Referee reported that “W. Robertson is to do special training for championships, and may be seen in auld Ayr shortly.” Robertson knew he would need to do something special to beat Welsh. This, according to the Scotsman, is how the race went: “The S.A.A.U. champion went off at a brisk pace and for most of the way led Welsh by a few yards. At the bell, however, the Watsonian reduced the gap, and soon got ahead of his opponent. Entering the back straight he was in front, and gradually increasing the distance between himself and his only rival, he had the issue beyond all doubt coming into the straight for home. Robertson did not relax his efforts, but success was beyond his powers, and he was thoroughly beaten.” Welsh won by a clear 10 yards in a new Scottish record of 4:24.2 and Robertson also bettered the old figures with 4:26.0. The track had reportedly been showing signs of “lifting”, and it was reckoned that Welsh’s time was worth two seconds faster in perfect conditions. Having completely run himself out in the mile, Robertson was forced to make an early exit from the 4-mile event won by Jack Paterson in 21:10.0.

The brilliant Hugh Welsh, seen here winning the 1899 A.A.A. Mile Championship, was the finest miler Scotland had ever produced and the nemesis not only of Willie Robertson.

After defeating both Duffus and Paterson in a three-mile team race at Ibrox Park on 3 July, Robertson was selected to run the mile and four-mile events in the upcoming international match against Ireland at Powderhall on 17 July.

On his first international assignment he finished second in the mile behind Ireland’s James Finnegan in 4:34.0 but dropped out of the 4 miles after leading for the first 2 ½ miles. Without Hugh Welsh to carry the half mile and the mile, the Scottish team lost by 7 events to 4.

Despite losing his national mile title and record to Hugh Welsh in 1897, Robertson was still able to look back on his best season yet. Highlights included: second place in the Scottish Cross-Country Championship, first place in the S.A.A.A. 10 Mile Championship, second place over the mile in the match against Ireland and a Scottish three-mile record, as well as personal bests over the half mile and the mile.

Robertson began the 1898 season by taking another tilt at the national cross-country championship, which was held that year on 5 March at Musselburgh. It was his fifth try. He had improved from year to year – from seventh in 1894, fifth in 1895 and third in 1896 to second in 1897 – and was eager to win it. Taking the lead early on, he delivered another courageous performance, but once again had to settle for being runner-up, this time to Jack Paterson, who won by 60 yards. Thanks to good packing by, among others, the Duffus brothers, Jim and Stewart, and David Mill, the Clydesdale had no trouble retaining the team championship.

The months of winter training for the cross-country season naturally also stood him in good stead for the S.A.A.A. 10-Mile Championship at Powderhall on 15 April. Making light work of a wet and heavy track, Robertson turned his title defence into a procession and lapped the entire field, finishing in 55:10.8. One observer was of the opinion that he had never run better. His mile splits were: 5:02, 10:21.8, 15:53, 21:15.2, 26:49.4, 32:24, 38:02, 43:45.6 and 49:49.2, his last mile taking 5:21.6.

In the run-up to the national championships Robertson tested himself over various distances. In a meeting in Celtic Park on 16 May, he managed to get through no fewer than 42 runners to win the half mile handicap off scratch in 2:02.6.

Then he went over the mile in the Queen’s Park Sports at Hampden Park on 4 June. Scottish Referee reported, “The one mile flat invitation handicap brought out 17 competitors, including W. Robertson, Hamilton Yuille, les Freres Duffus, and J.C. McDonald. Robertson, off 20 yards, was actual scratch man, and, starting with his well-known stride, he gradually overcame the men in front of him, and long before the finish the race was his. His time was 4 min 25 3-5 sec, which, considering that he latterly had no one to pace him or shield him from the breeze, was excellent. Pity it was that Hugh Welsh could not accept the invite. He would have started off scratch, and the finish between him and Robertson would probably have been a rousing one.”

On 11 June he crossed swords with Jack Paterson in a two-mile scratch invitation race at Powderhall, but lost narrowly to the fast-finishing Watsonian in 9:50.4.

Despite his feat against Paterson, Robertson went into S.A.A.A. Championships at Hampden Park on 26 June full of confidence. He had entered the half mile, the mile and the four miles! Could he seriously have been considering the fabled, never-before-seen “triple”? It looked plausible at least. The biggest stumbling block, Hugh Welsh, was absent readying himself for the A.A.A. championships the following weekend. The biggest hurdle was the ever-dangerous Paterson in the four miles, the last event. After winning the half mile (2:02.0) and the mile (4:38.8) without much trouble, he toed the line again for the four miles. However, it was not to be, a sore foot forcing him to retire and relinquish the title once again to Paterson.

On 9 July Robertson competed again over the half mile in Kilmarnock. Starting from scratch, he won a close race from W.C. Gudgeon, Ayr, who pushed him to an outstanding time of 1:59.8, just two tenths of a second outside the native record held by Robert Langlands. He was only the second Scottish amateur ever to have broken the two minute barrier for the half mile. It wasn’t the only sub-two half mile in Scotland that day, though. The Englishman Alf Tysoe also achieved the feat in Edinburgh, where he lowered the Scottish record to 1:57.8.

In the International match against Ireland in Dublin on 16 July, Robertson, despite his sub-two credentials, had to settle for third in the 800 yards behind Hugh Welsh and Ireland’s Cyril Dickinson in 2:05.0. In the mile he allowed himself to be lapped by Welsh and paced the latter to a new Irish record of 4:21.6. It was a generous, if not dubious, gesture on Robertson’s part as Ireland’s Faussett was still in the race, albeit at least 50 yards behind.

This group photo was taken during the 1898 Scotland v. Ireland match at the Ball’s Bridge Ground in Dublin. William Robertson is possibly the figure on the far left of the second seated row.

 

After winning a three-mile inter-club race at Berwick by a yard from the Duffus brothers in 15:12.4, Robertson finished his season with a string of indifferent performances suggesting staleness had set it. His last race of the year was at the Cliftonville Sports in Belfast on 13 August where he was unplaced in the mile handicap. However, this was to be a meeting that would come back to haunt him.

Shortly after the start of the winter cross-country season it transpired that the S.A.A.A. had set up a special subcommittee to investigate alleged professional activities by several well-known athletes. Following deliberations, it was announced on 28 December 1898 that Robertson as well as John and Stewart Duffus were to be suspended permanently for being implicated in the, quote, “personation of two amateurs by professionals at Belfast, and for betting”. Several other famous Scottish athletes, including the five-time S.A.A.A. half-mile champion Robert Mitchell (Clydesdale H.) and the 1894 S.A.A.A. mile champion James Rodger (Carrick H.), were likewise suspended for betting in conjunction with the meeting at Belfast.

The suspensions sent shockwaves through Scottish athletics. Particularly hard hit were the Clydesdale Harriers, who lost a number of high-calibre runners in one fell swoop. “Pace”, the athletics columnist for the Scottish Referee, wrote the following almost apologetic eulogy: “No matter what the Brothers Duffus and Willie Robertson have done on the track, and for which they have now suffered, they were shining lights in the world of cross-country running, and the determination shown by either of the trio has nerved young ‘uns to deeds over field and fen. Robertson was one of the best C.C. pedestrians I have known, and the manner in which he got over the ground in his awkward style was indeed marvellous. I should like to have seen Willie matched against Sid Robinson over a distance of ten miles, either over country or on the track.”

It was a harsh penalty for what many would have considered a minor infraction of the rules. Betting was, after all, a national sport. Scottish officialdom, however, saw otherwise.

Appeals were lodged and heard in May 1899 at a special meeting of the Scottish Amateur Athletic Association in Glasgow. It was reported that, “Mr. D. S. Duncan, secretary, read a report of the subcommittee giving the evidence which the appellants were suspended. The brothers Duffus and Robertson were called, and all admitted having taken part in the Cliftonville sports, where James McDermott (alias “Darwen”), of East Calder, a professional, who personated a Glasgow amateur named Stewart, was also a competitor. J.S. Duffus further admitted having congratulated Darwen on winning one of the events. The sports were held under amateur rules, but the appellants stated that betting was permitted to take place on the quiet.”

In the meantime, several papers had reported the arrest of McDermott for his role in the affair. “It is alleged,” the report read, “that McDermott did, on the 2nd August, 1898, at the sports of the Cliftonville Club, pretend that he was amateur, and did thereby obtain a gold watch and umbrella offered prizes by the club to bona-fide amateurs.”

Given such incriminating evidence, it goes without saying that all appeals were dismissed and the suspensions upheld. The banned athletes could not hold any office and could not coach or have any involvement in the sport thereafter. A permanent suspension was the death knell for an amateur sporting career. The Duffus brothers turned professional and spent the next years “making hay” at Highland gatherings. In 1912 Stewart Duffus emigrated to the USA to begin a new life. Robertson did not take the professional route like the Duffus brothers, although this would no doubt have been the easiest and most tempting one. As persona non grata in amateur circles, he could not be associated in any way whatsoever with the Clydesdale Harriers. There was, however, a loophole allowing him to lay the paper trail for the club’s pack runs during the winter months. Again and again he lodged appeals with the S.A.A.A.: again and again they were dismissed. Then, in early 1903, after four years in sporting oblivion, he was reinstated.

On 21 March 1903 the Scottish Referee reported: “Willie Robertson, the ex-distance champion of Scotland, who was suspended a few years ago, along with the Brothers Duffus, has been reinstated, and will represent his country in the forthcoming international. During the time he was suspended Robertson never took part in any professional races. The brothers Duffus did, and it is hardly likely they would be reinstated if wished.”

Robertson’s re-instatement came too late for him to run in the “national”. It was, therefore, something of a surprise when he was included in the Scottish team for the inaugural International Cross-Country Championship at Hamilton Park Racecourse on 28 March 1903. The Scottish Referee attempted to shed some light on this matter: “THE INCLUSION OF WILLIAM ROBERTSON will surprise not a few. He passed his re-instatement, however at the last committee meeting of the S.A.A.A., and has been in regular and well-worked training for some time past, and is said to be quite up to, if not, indeed, better, than his old form.”

What spoke for Robertson was certainly his successful track record in cross-country. However, his selection may also have had to do with the decision of the Scottish Cross-Country Champion Peter McCafferty to represent his home country Ireland, with the result that Scottish team was even more lacking in quality and depth than it already was. In the twilight of his career Robertson would once again have the chance to shine. Unfortunately, it was not to be. The strength-sapping eight-mile race was dominated by the English team led home by the indomitable Alf Shrubb. The home team only managed to finish third out of the four teams competing. James Crosbie was the first Scot home in 10th, followed by John Ranken 14th, James Ure 17th, Tom Hughes 21st, James Reston 22nd and Tom Mulrine 23rd. The Scottish champion McCafferty wound up 20th and was only the sixth counter for the Irish team. After four years in the wilderness and having been called up at short notice, it was perhaps no surprise that Robertson was a non-finisher.

The group photo was taken 15 minutes before the start of the inaugural I.C.C.U. championship at Hamilton Park Racecourse. The winner, Alf Shrubb, is seated at the front wearing #9. Most of the Scottish team is seated on the front right. Only three Scots are wearing race numbers. The yellow arrow indicates Willie Robertson, wearing #38.

The S.A.A.A. 10-mile championship was held just six days later at Ibrox Park. Of the 5 competitors, including Robertson, only Peter McCafferty made it to the finish. His winning time of 57:07.2 was one of the slowest since the inception of the championship in 1886 and not even enough for a standard medal. Another week of recuperation would certainly not have been a bad thing.

The remainder of the track season did not go particularly well for Robertson either, despite the fact that he was receiving starts. His best run of the season was probably his third-place finish in the mile handicap at Celtic Park on 13 June, where he posted a 4:25.0 for a mile less 76 yards. The scratch man in that race, Alf Shrubb, gave up but returned two days later to set a Scottish 4-mile record of 19:32.2. Robertson also figured prominently in the early stages of the S.A.A.A. 4-mile championship at Ibrox Park on 20 June but broke down and finished unplaced. New stars were in the ascendency now, most notably John McGough of the Bellahouston Harriers, who achieved the half mile, mile and 4 miles “triple” that had eluded Robertson five years earlier.

In the 1904 the Scottish Cross-Country Championship over the Glasgow Agricultural Showgrounds at Whiteinch, Robertson showed signs of a return to form by finishing 10th in a race won by the Watsonian John Ranken. This performance saw him nominated for the second running of the International Cross-Country Championship at Trent Bridge Ground, Nottingham, on 30 April. Again, the English team led by Alf Shrubb dominated the proceedings with all six counters finishing inside the first nine. The Scottish team led by John Ranken in 11th again had to settle for third place with Robertson outside the scoring six in 39th place.

Owing to his diminishing returns on the track, cross-country was where Robertson’s attention necessarily lay at this late stage in his career. In 1905 however he could only muster a 38th place in the Scottish Championships at the Scotstoun Show Grounds in Glasgow and was not nominated for the I.C.C.U. Championship in Dublin. Here the Scottish team took the second place thanks to good packing behind a sixth-place finish by Sam Stevenson.

A new generation of Scottish long-distance runners was now emerging as the old growth thinned out. The baton would be carried forth by John McGough, Tom Jack, John Ranken and Sam Stevenson et al.

The 1906 Scottish Cross-Country Championships at Scotstoun were to be Robertson’s last. The Clydesdale Harriers, led home by Sam Stevenson in first place, won the team championship for the first time in four years. In a fitting finale to a chequered career, Robertson finished 23rd and closed in the winning team.

That brings to a close the story of Willie Robertson, one of the prime movers in Scottish distance running during the 1890s. One could also call it the rise, fall and redemption of Willie Robertson. At the time of his retirement he one of only two men to have won national track titles at distances from the half mile to 10 miles. To this can be added two runner-up finishes and a third-place finish in the Scottish Cross-Country Championship. With six S.A.A.A. titles and two Scottish records to his name, he stands alongside Jack Paterson, Stewart Duffus and Hugh Welsh and Andrew Hannah as one of the pivotal figures of his day. The only blemish on his career, albeit a big one, was his permanent suspension for betting on a dodgy race in Belfast. Fortunately for his persistence he was able to make a comeback in 1903 and represent his country in the historic inaugural running of what is today known as the World Athletics Cross Country Championships.

 

Main accomplishments:

Scottish Junior Cross Country Champion, 1894.

Scottish mile record holder, 1896-1897.

Scottish three-mile record holder, 1897-1904.

Half-mile Champion of Scotland, 1898.

One-mile Champion of Scotland, 1895, 1896 (S.A.A.U.) & 1898.

Ten-mile Champion of Scotland, 1897 & 1898.

 

6x the bridesmaid!

Robertson was also 2nd in the Scottish Senior Cross Country Championship in 1897 and 1898, and 3rd in 1896. He also finished 2nd in the S.A.A.A. 1-mile championship in 1897, 2nd in the S.A.A.A. 4-mile championship in 1893, and 2nd in the S.A.A.A. 10-mile championship in 1895 and 1896.

 

Personal bests

Half mile 1:59.8 Kilmarnock 09.07.1898
Mile 4:26.01) Celtic Park, Glasgow, 26.06.1897
2 miles 9:45.51) Celtic Park, Glasgow, 10.08.1896
3 miles 14:57.2 Underwood Park, Paisley, 15.05.1897
4 miles 20:47.81) Hampden Park, Glasgow, 12.04.1895
10 miles 54:07.0 Hampden Park, Glasgow, 12.04.1895
  • estimate

Thanks to Kevin Kelly and Hamish Thompson