John Wands

John, from Rosyth in West Fife, came into the sport as a runner and competitor on the professional games circuit.   Many from Fife ran as professionals – partly because of the county’s traditional circuit which was as well established as the Border Games and the Highland Games but possibly also because of the difficulties of linking up with any amateur club.  It may simply be that there were a number of pro schools in his area and he went along with some of his pals..   Whatever the reason, John was a well-known athlete on the professional circuit where he won a number of prizes and has been described as a formidable competitor.    The photograph below shows him running in a handicap event at Braemar with other competitors such as Alastair Macfarlane from Bannockburn and the Murray brothers from Kilmarnock.   He competed throughout the 1960’s and his career as a runner gradually moved into one as a coach.

 

Braemar handicap mile: John is on the right

.Like many ex-professionals, he went in to coaching with an amateur club.   In his case this was with Pitreavie AAC where he started coaching in the early/mid-70’s.   He initially assisted other coaches but soon found his own coaching niche in middle/long distance and cross country and continued coaching in these events for the next 50yrs , even when latterly , he was not in the best of health.  He coached countless numbers of youngsters, many of them going on to win Championship medals at Scottish and British Championships.    One of them is below with a proud John in the middle of the back row..   Among his most successful athletes were 

Clark Murphy, who represented Great Britain on the track and cross-country ;

John Newson; who went on to win 9 medals in Scottish championships with 3 different clubs

Emily Nicholson who was part of the GB Junior team at the World Mountain Running Champs in Bulgaria in Sept 2016 , finishing 33rd.
 
Her sister , Zoe Nicholson represented Scot in the International Youth Cup , again for Mountain Running in Italy in both 2017 & 2018 ( at Lanzada)

Kathryn Pennel; ranked 14 times at distances between 800m and 3000m

Siobhan Coleman; aan outstanding distance runner for Pitreavie and Villanova University, USA

Ben Potrykus, who was twice placed third in Scottish championships and ran for Pitreavie and Bradley University, USA

 

A very good club coach but more than that – John became Scottish Staff Coach for 5000m and 10,000m in the 1990s.    This involved working with the Scottish squad at training days and in competition, filling a similar role with the Development squad (ie U17 and U20 athletes) and in coach education.   I remember that on one warm weather training camp in Portugal, John noticed Steve Ovett’s coach, Harry Wilson, at a nearby table in the cafeteria.   He approached him, introduced himself and asked Harry if he would talk to the members of the Scottisg endurance squad.   Harry obliged and the squad benefited from the session the following afternoon.   The full complement of coaches for the national squad at the time included Brian McAusland (Group Coach),  Mike Johnston (800/1500), John Wands. (5000/10000m), Gordon Crawford (steeplechase), and John Graham (Marathon).   Not bad company to be in.   .

He was listed in the Pitreavie AAC Coaching set up as a Performance Coach working with two Development Coaches in Euan Miller and Bill Lindsay who were Assistant Coaches.   His involvement did not stop there however.   He had grown to love the Highland Games and Gatherings all over the land and was involved in the main as an announcer, and as an announcer he was one of those who knew the events, who knew the competitors and had enough knowledge the traditions of the various meetings to be able to fill in the blanks in the programmes – and even the ‘down time’ between events.   The talent did not go unnoticed  and he developed the role into being a commentator at Scottish championships in arenas across the country, such as the Emirates indoor arena in Glasgow.   

As an indication of the esteem in which he was held, he was elected a Life Member of Pitreavie in 2003.   Knowing John, though, despite all the various things he was involved in, he was happiest among his athletes and mixing with the competitors.   At Pitreavie, the comment of another club member was simply: 

 “He’ll be sadly missed around the place as he’s always been there, seemed to never be a club training night that he wasn’t there.”

 

 

George Noremac: Part 3

Noremac’s competitive career lasted for at least another 15 years during which he kept up his fierce competition record.   Obviously we can’t cover them all in this brief profile but we can look at some of them and note his progression.   His best performances were behind him, but he kept on competing – he obviously enjoyed it, he often represented the walkers in the pre-race negotiations about prize money and race conditions  he had already done what was to be his best ever 6 day Go-As-You-Please total and his 5,100 miles in 100 days in 1884/5 would stand as a world record into the twenty first century.   It only really remains to show some evidence of his continuing involvement in the sport.  We can start by giving an indication of his year by starting on 1st January, 1890.

January 1st, 1890: A six day race started in Pittsburgh with all the usual runners taking part.

March 1890: The Pittsburgh Dispatch gave a preview of 6 day Go-As-You-Please in second week of April.   All the usual suspects: Noremac, Herty, Hegelman, Cartwright, Horan, Guerrero, and Golden would be competing on a track of 19 laps to the mile.

April 15th, 1890: Challenges of various sorts were also a way to make money, and simultaneously build a reputation.   These were often, but not always man-on-man, something that you wouldn’t see now unfortunately.   One such was when George Cartwright challenged Noremac in April 1890.  We quote: “Cartwright challenges Noremac to 72 hour race for $500 or $1000 a side: Noremac stipulates not less than six or eight weeks thereafter,”    After some coming and going the following appeared in the Pittsburgh Dispatch of 16th April 1890.

This was followed on 26th April by a paragraph in the San Francisco  ‘Morning Call’ paper which read “George D Noremac, the pedestrian, has left a forfeit of $50 with the Pitsburgh Dispatch with a challenge to run any man in the world twelve hours a day for six days for $500 or $1000 , the race to be run six weeks after signing articles.”   This same para was run in the Wheeling Daily Intelligencer of the same date.   $%00 – $1000 were not small sums of money and the fact of them being offered is an indication of th type of living standard enjoyed by the peds.   

Wednesday 15th October: Another 6 day Go-As-You-Please in Altoona, Pennsylvania

This was no doubt followed by more races up to the Christmas period.   Into 1891 and we see that he raced at least as follows.

1891:   Among the interesting, and maybe educational from the point of view of the 21st century athlete, are the following from 1891.

The St Paul Daily Globe of January 25th, 1891:  There was a very, very long preview of the Six-Day Challenge which was to start the following day with lots of information about the competitors, the organisation and anything else that could be conceivably be classed as relevant.   What is interesting about it for us is the note about the meeting of the competitors to decide on how the money would be divided among the runners.   

 

There was another 6 day race on Tuesday, February 24th, 1891 and again Noremac was one of the competitors..   The arena had seating for 700 spectators and a bridge had been built above the track for  those who did not care to be seated could stand within the sawdust area.   3,842 people entered the Saturday before the competition began to see the peds.   It was advertised as the first professional race to be seen within the city of St Paul.    At the finish, Hegelman, who won, received $592:16,  Frank Hart  $370:04,  Cowboy Smith  $222:06,   Henry Messler, $177:09, Sammy Day $118:43, Old Sport Campana  and  Noremac  ” were paid  salaries”.    

The ‘Helena Independant’ of 14th March 1891 gave pen portraits of all the top runners of the day and had this to say of Noremac:   “George D Noreman (or to call him by his right name, Cameron) is a plucky, stocky little Scotchman who may be depended upon to stay on the track until the walk is over and to make the man just ahead of him keep going.   He is not as a rule a first prize winner but he usually wins some prize and is never the last in the hunt.”

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer of March 16th, 1891, in an article dated 2nd March, announced “$10,000 Walking Match in Madison Square Gardens”   And it was indeed to be a great race – there were 43 entries on that day of the article – and was to be held on 15th March.   The track was to be a ‘tan-bark elipse’ and it was a determined effort to revive interest in six-day walking contests.  Black Heart, the Sioux chief was also running. (Los Angeles Herald, March 16th)    A Turkish Prince was also said to be taking part. There would be a belt, made of gold or silver, studded with diamonds and valued at $1500, for the winner, and the winner would receive $5000.      Bob Fitzsimmons the boxer would start the race and be paid $11 for it.   Each runner had to put up $300 and pay an entry fee as well as give evidence that they had done at least three weeks training.   All runners  were guaranteed some money reward at the end of the race – so some entered without paying the entry fee, saying that it could come out of their money for finishing!   

The races continued and the money was made – albeit at an apparently reduced rate – but the popularity of the event was waning and coverage in the Press was reduced.   No races were covered at a national level in any of the newspapers covered by the American Library of Congress between 1882 and 1899 with only one covered in the laast of these (a 72 hours event in New York in September of that year with all the usual suspects (Day, Guerrero, Noremac, Hegelman, Geary, Glick, etc.).   There was slightly more coverage in the early years of the 20th century with most the same contestants – Hart, Cox, Degan – along with some newcomers such as Spotty Clifford were forward for a six-day event in Pennsylvania in September, 1901.   Other events were being held, but not covered although some reference was made to them.   

In 1902 the  Butte Inter Mountain newspaper of 6th January 1902 reported on the 100 miles Go-As-You-Please in St Louis where the race ended after 97 miles with Noremac third (324 miles) behind Harry Shelton, the coloured pedestrian (361) and George Tracy (335).     November 9th saw the start of the 6 day world championship race in Pittsburgh with more than 40 contestants.   

A year later, as reported in the Waterbury Evening Democrat of 14th November, the race would again be held but with a variation: the variation  was that the race would not be in 6 twelve hour stints, it would be non-stop with competitors being allowed to take as much or as little rest as they wanted/needed to.   This was not legally permissible so they were going to compete as teams.   Note the following.

He would be 50 years old in 1904 and his career as an athlete was almost at an end.   He had been racing since the 1870’s and PS Marshall had this to say of him in ‘King of the Peds’: “In his formative years as an up-and-coming “pro”, Cameron proved himself as a handy runner at shorter distances. Winning prize money of up to £20 at a time, he consistently finished in the frame in races ranging from one mile handicaps to 4-hour events over six days all over Scotland, which included events at the Aberdeen Recreation Grounds, the Powderhall Grounds and Royal Gymnasium in Edinburgh, the Shawfield Grounds in Glasgow and the Drill Hall at Perth.”   

He had raced all over Scotland, in England and then took his talents across the Atlantic to the USA where he had a long and successful career in the sport – undoubtedly one of Scotland’s best ever endurance athletes.

Neil Donachie

Neil Donachie was born on 27th July, 1933 and died on 2nd September, 2021.   Runner, official, and administrator at club, national and international level, nothing that aided athletics was ever turned down.   He had filled just about every post possible in the Scottish Athletics League over many decades.    

He was one of the longest serving members of the men’s league committee – for some time it was Neil as President, George Duncan as secretary and Hugh Stevenson as treasurer and these were probably the golden years of the league –

for a spell in the 1990’s there were five divisions, four of eight clubs and one of varying numbers. 

 It was also a time when Edinburgh AC had two clubs competing, but with separate athletes for each team

There were annual League  v  SAAA Select team matches

The AGM in the nineties was always lively with the perennial topic of ‘second claim members’ competing beong debated

Neil was a key figure in all of the big discussions and decisions at the time.   He was also the League Representative on the Scottish Athletics Federation Committee after the re-organisation of the sport’s governing body in 1995.    Another point of interest is one experience that he shared with Kenny Phillips of Beith Harriers.    After success at a British Trades Union competition, in 1953 he was selected to travel to Bucharest to compete in athletics at the World Youth Festival, a pro-democracy anti-war event that attracted 30,000 participants from 111 countries. This was a landmark experience for Neil who from the train en route from Vienna marvelled at the beauty of the Carpathian mountains and the fields of sunflowers and maize while a later visit to the Black Sea was “magical”. Despite evident poverty, he was impressed by the warmth and hospitality of his hosts.    You can read more about this Festival as Kenny remembers it at this link .  Kenny went in 1957 when it was held in Moscow but it was essentially the same big event.

But we should start at the beginning.   Like most officials or administrators in the sport, Neil ran for his club, the Edinburgh Rover Scouts club.   This was not a kind of ad hoc group of youngsters who had an enthusiastic officer – it was a properly set up club, affiliated to the SAAA and SCCU after the War with memberes competing in national championships.  The well known and highly respected Claude Jones, later Edinburgh AC, was another member in the post-war period.   He first appeared in the cross-country results in February, 1950 when he finished 11th in the East District Championships where as a member of the Youths team, he won gold, defeating Edinburgh Southern, Gala Harriers, Edinburgh Eastern, Dundee Thistle and all the rest.   In the Youths National that year, he was 31st and last counter in the Rover Scouts team that finished fourth of twenty clubs competing.   In the Districts the following year he was 14th and the medal was silver, and in the National the club went one better than the year before with Neil being 21st and the team winning bronze behind Hamilton and Gala.   The team won gold in the East Districts the following year but Neil was absent; he did run in the Junior National though and finished 35th with the team eighth.   In the National in 1953, the Rover Scouts had become Braidburn AAC and Neil was running for the team that finished fifth in the Senior/Junior race in the District Championships.  In the National cross-country championship that year,the Braidburn Junior team that ran at Hamilton was third and won bronze in their first outing.   Neil was second scoring runner in 22nd place.   In the National in 1953-54, je was first club runner home but the team was down in sixth place.      In the East District event in Februray 1954 there was no Braidburn team running but Neil ran as an individual and was 38th.   Still a Junior in 1954, he was 34th in the national championship and led the team which finished sixth.   

Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay start, 1958: Neil was number C1

Neil was a good, solid cross-country runner who would have been welcome in any club in the land and he also supported his club on the roads.   If we look ta his running in the Edinburgh to Glasgow eight stage relay, we note that in 1953 as a first year Junior he ran for Braidburn in their first ever appearance in this pretigious, invitation only, event.   He ran on the second stage which is known to be one of the two most difficult stages of the race.   Run over six miles, all the top clubs run their top men on it and young Neil lined up alongside, Emmet Farrell (Maryhill), Jim Ellis (VPAAC), Harry Howard (Shettleston), Chick Robertson (Dundee Thistle) and the like that he only dropped three places represents a very good run for a first year junior athlete.   The following year, he went to the other end of the race and ran on the eighth stage where he moved the club up from 17th to 13th. with the fourth fastest time of the day on the stage.   In 1955 he was on the fourth stage and again moved the club up – this time he picked off two places going from 16th to 14th.   We have commented already on the difficulties of the sixth stage and in 1956 Neil was asked to carry the baton over that stretch, the longest stage of the race at 7 miles, he did well to limit the drop to one place being overtaken by Andy Brown of Motherwell YMCA on a stage that included other notables such as Ian Binnie (VP), Graham Everett (Shettleston), Gordon Nelson (Bellahouston) and other top men.   He was given that stage again in 1957 and held his place (top men that year were Ian Binnie (again), Harry Fenion (bellahouston), George King (Wellpark Harriers) and Alec McDougall (Vale of Leven).   The Braidburn team that day included Bill Walker (third stage), andJohn Hamilton (fourth stage ).    In 1958 he was given the first stage to run and he finished down the field in 14th.  The club dropped out of the race in 1960 but was back in 1961 and Neil was back on the sixth stage where he kept the 18th place in which he took over the baton.   That was the last year in which Braidburn took part in the Edinburgh to Glasgow.   Neil had run well in the event – best run probably the second time he was on the sixth leg – but he was by then firmly establiehed as a half miler.   In 1964, running for the young Edinburgh Athletics Club which had been formed in 1962, he had second fastest time on the last stage and picked up two places to help the club finish eighth.  All stages in the E-G were hard races against good runners but for most of us, the quality of the men on the sixth stage made his run in 1956 stand out.   The 1964 team taken from the programme is below and on the day the team in running order was Ramage, Carse, Convery, Carcas, Clark, Henderson, Pryor, Donachie.   

 

It was however as a track runner that Neil is best known.  His event was the half mile but he was also a good man over 440 yards and real asset in any relay team.   His appearances in the national rankings are below. 

Year Event Time Ranking
1959 880y 1.54.6 6
1959 1M 4.25.4 29
1960 440y 51.2 23
1960 880y 1.58.0 21
1962 880y 1.54.6u 10
1963 880y 1.54.2 9
1964 880y 1 .56.4 23

1955 was an interesting year for him.   At the end of  July he was ranked number six in Scotland over 880 yards with a time of 1:57.2 – which was the same time as John Hume of Clydesdale Harriers.   The times were recorded in the same race, the half-mile at the Scottish championships on 23rd June at Meadowbank, and both were in the Final.   In a very close finish both men crossed the line apparently together but Neil got the nod, and Hume didn’t complain.   Neil  won his first national championships medal as a senior.   

Later that summer, in the Edinburgh Highland Games he was second in the half-mile.   The Games were held at Murrayfield on a grass track with short laps and invitation only international events as well as open events for domestic competitors.  In 1955 there were athletes from England, Switzerland, Belgium, Australia and Luxembourg.    Neil was second to Mike Farrell of the Midland Counties Select and ahead of J Power from Australia.   It had been a good year for him.   He continued to race for the club in open competition, in inter-club events, in championships, in relays as well as over the country and on the road in the Edinburgh to Glasgow.   One of his stories involved the time he was back marker in the half-mile at the Strathallan Gathering; the race had just started and the announcer announced the back marker as H Cherry of Bellahouston.   Helen Cherry was back marker in the women’s event and the announcer had the wrong race before him!   In May 1958 at Meadowbank he won the East District Championships he won the half-mile from AB Burns of the Royal High School.     His track running was rewarded with another bronze in the SAAA championships in 1959 when at Meadowbank on 27th June he was third in a very good race with Ayr Seaforth’s Jack Boyd defeating Anglo John Wenk in 1:53.9 with Neil third in 1:54.6, ie less than a second back.   Prior to that he had been second in the East District Championships.   It was a time when the standard in the Districts was also high and Neil went one better than second when he won the East 880 yards from Aberdeen’s Hunter Watson in 1960.   1964 was a good year for Neil who ran well in the Strathallan Gathering on the good grass track in Bridge of Allan on the first Saturday in August when he finished second to Craig Douglas.   The season led in to the winter where he had the first rate run in the Edinburgh to Glasgow relay in November.  

We have seen that Neil was a better than average athlete on the track, on the road and over the country and he followed this with an even longer spell serving the sport as an official and administrator.  By 1980 he had become a Grade 2 Judge for Track and also for Jumps as well as being a qualified Wind Gauge Operator.   As a matter of interest Barry Craighead, Claude Jones were also Grade 2 Track Judges at the same time.    After serving time on the club committee, he was elected to the SAAA Esat District and General Committees at the AGM in 1981.    By 1990 he was an administrator and  on the Eastern District Committee representing Western Edinburgh Harriers with Barry representing Edinburgh AC.   Why  Edinburgh Western?   It was basically a way of getting more than one man on to the Committee.   For instance, in the West there were three men from the same club on the committee – one representing the club, one representing Lanarkshire Amateur Athletic Association and one representing another club of which he was not a member.   It was a way of getting two good men from the same club working for the benefit of the sport.   As an official he was by now a Grade 1 track official, he was a step above that as a Field official being a Field Events Referee – Jumps and Throws – a wind gauge operator and a course measurer.   Quite a range for any official.    By 1995 when the new Scottish Athletics Federation was set up to replace the seven bodies previously responsible for organising the sport, Neil was on the Track and Field Commission as representative for the Scottish Athletics League in addition to keeping all his official qualifications..   It  should maybe be noted that administrators and officials fill very different kinds of function – the officials are the people who stand out in the middle of the arena timing and judging on the track, measuring and organising the field events and making the events run smoothly on the day.   Administrators are those who are in the background hiring the ground, inviting the officials, providing all the necessary equipment and so on which are required by the officials and the competitors.   Neil was able to fill both functions and do it well – working as an official in meetings in mucky fields at a highland games or in an international function such as the Commonwealth Games in 1986 in the decathlon  but also as an administrator dealing with all sorts of problems, predictable of unforseen.   eg.  I have seen him listen to an international athlete incensed at the conduct of his event, talk to him quietly and send him on his way a calmer and nicer person.  As an indication of the fact that he was prepared to do whatever his club or the sport needed him to do,   look at his work for the Scottish Athletiocs League where, latterly on match day, he was to be found in the officials report room with the team sheets allocating duties to the various levels of official representing the clubs competing that day. No glamour, no drama, just a job that had to be done.  The room doubled as the tea and sandwiches room for officials, with each official entitled to, say, a packet of sandwiches, a piece of fruit, and a chocolate biscuit.   Neil kept an eye on them too.   Some regular officials tried to slip an extra KitKat into their pocket for after, but if he saw them (or rather when heould tell them quite clearly that it was one per official.   He also knew who tried to sneak an extra pack of sandwiches into their bag for the journey home after the match too.   It meant that there was always enough to go round with a few over.   

Neil Donachie gave a lot to the sport over more than 70 years involvement –

  • As a runner, he won medals and trophies at club, district and national levels as well as in open and invitation meetings;
  • As an administrator he worked on committees at all three levels and was president and chairman of his club, of his district and of the national governing body; 
  • As an official he worked at meetings from small local gatherings, at national championships and at international meetings..    

The following is an obituary written by Jack Davidson.   It is a comprehensive, sympathetic, well-written and rounded account of Neil’s career.:

Neil Donachie was a well known, popular and prominent figure in the world of Scottish athletics over many years in his roles as athlete, official and administrator. A versatile runner who competed at cross country, on the road and the track, his forte was the latter where in his main event, the 880 yards, he twice finished third in the Scottish Championships and won the East District title twice. Other highlights included a second place in a high quality invitation race at the 1955 Edinburgh Highland Games at Murrayfield and representing Edinburgh in the biennial contest against Munich.

Over the country he competed regularly in national and district championships while on the road he ran 11 times in the country’s premier event, the Edinburgh to Glasgow relay, achieving the distinction in 1964 of running the second fastest time of the twenty athletes on his leg of the race.

He was President of the Scottish Amateur Athletics Association, Chair of Edinburgh Athletic Club and the Scottish Athletics League, chief decathlon judge at the 1986 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games and a member of the Jury of Appeal at the 1990 Auckland Commonwealth Games, while at the same time making a considerable contribution at grassroots level.

As a 15 year-old he started running with the Edinburgh Rover Scouts Club at Spylaw Park, Colinton before joining Braidburn Athletic Club where he won his first trophy, a cup for cross country followed shortly after by winning the Scottish Boys’ Club mile championship at Aberdeen. After success at a British Trades Union competition, in 1953 he was selected to travel to Bucharest to compete in athletics at the World Youth Festival, a pro-democracy anti-war event that attracted 30,000 participants from 111 countries. This was a landmark experience for Neil who from the train en route from Vienna marvelled at the beauty of the Carpathian mountains and the fields of sunflowers and maize while a later visit to the Black Sea was “magical”. Despite evident poverty, he was impressed by the warmth and hospitality of his hosts. On the track Neil was able to watch his hero Emil Zatopek as he himself had the thrill of warming up alongside the Russian great, Vladimir Kuts, with whom he claimed to be on “nodding terms”!’

Cornelius Donachie was born in Mungle Street, West Calder, the younger son of parents Charles and “Pat”. His mother was Dutch, Pietertje her full name, who in 1919 had come with her parents to Dundee where her father worked as foreman in a jute mill. Neil was named after his Dutch grandfather and remained proud of his Dutch roots. With elder brother Peter the family lived initially in very basic accommodation with only cold water, no electricity and shared use of an outside toilet. Due to the Depression Neil’s father had periods of unemployment but after a spell as a miner found work at nearby shale works. Initially Neil attended the local primary school and then West Calder St Mary’s Secondary where he demonstrated ability at essay writing, technical drawing and a love of poetry, the latter encouraged by his mother. The allocation of a new council house in Polbeth made a huge difference to the family’s living standards.

On leaving school at 15, Neil attended the Edinburgh School of Building, taking the first steps in a successful career as a building surveyor with various organisations. His first job was as apprentice painter and decorator after which he attended night classes at Heriot-Watt College, later studying for a Higher National Certificate in Building.   

Before that he undertook National Service in the RAF. based at Turnhouse Airport, Edinburgh where he met lifelong close friend and running rival Jack Boyd, one time 880 yards Scottish record holder. Neil and wife Marion would spend many happy times together with Jack and wife Jess at Culzean  in Ayrshire where they enjoyed the use of an old boathouse for breaks, with the men training in the lovely Castle grounds.

Neil married Marion Macaulay at Harwood Church, West Calder on 30 January, 1960 and enjoyed over 61 years of happy marriage together during which they had son Andrew. Marion was also an accomplished athlete who later became an official, with much of the couple’s life revolving round athletics events where their presence and contribution was always highly appreciated. Another interest they shared was walking holidays many of which were spent happily at Oberau in Austria while they also made several trips to Australia to visit old athletics friend Bert Carse.

Initially they lived in Corstorphine and East Calder while Neil was employed by local councils. The couple then moved to Hamilton when he secured a post with Strathclyde University before moving back east to Currie when he began employment with the Scottish Institute of Agricultural Engineering at the Bush Estate, Roslin after which he worked for a period with Scottish Homes before retiring. In his working life he was professional, highly thought of and dedicated.

Central to his life was his love of athletics, the many friendships it afforded and the opportunity for travel. He competed in Toronto in 1975 in the first World Masters Championships, visited many athletics venues throughout Europe, and attended Commonwealth Games in Auckland in 1990 and Victoria in 1994.

His personal qualities were recognised in the important positions to which he was appointed, bringing to them his integrity, experience, encouraging and gregarious nature as well as his passion for athletics at all levels. An extremely likeable gent and excellent company, he enjoyed a long life well lived.

Neil and Marion Donachie

George Noremac : Part 2

Noremac and some of his contemporaries in Americs: from Washington World, May 6th 1889.

We have looked at the start of Noremac’s athletics career and been impressed with some of the feats recorded there but how would he have fared in today’s athletics world?   For instance, just how good was his six-day record?  Willie Sichel (below) is indisputably one of the all time great British ultra distance runners with victories and, records set over many ultra long distance events.    He had several attempts to take Noremac’s Six-Day record but never quite managed it.   When we spoke to him about it he said – 

You’re correct I didn’t manage to break his record unfortunately.   I first broke the 500 mile barrier in Monaco in 2007. After that I started to research records in these longer distances.   I’m not sure how I stumbled across Noremac but possibly the initial information might have come from Andy Milroy.   His story obviously caught my imagination and his record was one I seriously tried to break.   My best ended up at 532.56 miles in Hamm, Germany in 2008. The thing with a 6 day race, is that so much can happen to both enhance or detract from your performance.   Whether the race is indoors (like Noremac’s) or outdoors like mine, there are pros and cons.   My Hamm run was on a cinders track in summer and I had to cope with scorching temperatures with occasional downpours that flooded the poorly drained track.   

I ended up doing ten, 6 day races, exceeding 500 miles in 4 of them.   The 6 Day event requires a fascinating blend of speed, endurance, time management and resilience.   I believe Noremac’s record is safe for a long time to come.”

What Willie says is very interesting: 500 miles in 6 days iss considerably good running: almost 84 miles per day, and his best run of 532.6 miles in a race (which he won) at Hamm in Germany in 2008. which is just short of 90 miles a day.     The fact that he does not think Noremac’s record will ever be beaten is testament to the quality of the mark.

Noremac did a phenomenal amount of racing – reported to be over 5000 miles per year.   We can’t cover them all in a profile such as this but we can look at some of the highlights.   1884 was a very good year for him with a fine effort at the very end .   Among the races he had that year before then were .

On 28th April, Daily Kennebec Journal reports on The Great Race in Madison Square Gardens in New York, and the Six Day Go-As-You-Please in Chicago during the week of the Democratic National Convention.   These and others during the year led, for what was to  me, arguably the real highlight:  came between November 3rd, 1884 and between then and  February, 1885. Read this short preview from the New York Clipper of 1st November, 1884 –

“George Noremac – The attempt on the part of George Noremac, the long distance pedestrian, backed by Capt. Paul Boyton, to excel the feat performed in England by EP Weston by walking fifty one miles daily for one hundred consecutive days, on a time limit of fifteen hours daily, will commence at 10 am, Nov. 3, at the Midlothian Arms, 466 Eight Avenue.”

The event started on time and three days later The New York Sun reported – “George D Noremac who is trying to beat Weston’s record of 5000 miles in 100 days was circling the track in Midlothian Hall last night.   He has to go round the track 44 times to make a mile.   He walked and ran at a rapid rate  and completed the third stage of his long journey about midnight, when he had made fifty-one miles during the day.   He then retired.   He will resume his tramp at 9 this morning.”    He started well, and stopping after the exact 51 miles required for the day, he was disciplined eough to stop for his nine hours rest.  Fitness and discupline servied him well for we read in the Mayville, Kentucky, Evening Bulletin at the start of January the following under the heading ‘SCOTLAND’S PLUCKY PEDESTRIAN’

“New York, Jan 3rd – George D Noremac has passed over the summit of his great tramp of 5.100 miles to be made in 100 days.   This is the fifty-third day of his journey.   He has 2,601 miles to his credit.   His task is 51 miles a day, over a track of forty-four laps to the mile  in Midlothian Hall, Eighth Avenue, near Thirty-fourth Street.   Norman Taylor, the pie-eating pedestrian from Vermont, keeps the score, and enough spectators are always on hand to detect errors.   Noremac himself watches the figures closely.   His ambition is to make an honest record that will lead the best previous performance of fifty miles.”

At 44 laps to the mile. that would be 2,244 laps a day to get his 51 miles every day.   It would be done in a Hall with abour 100 spectators present – more at particular times of the day or at special points in the walk (eg halfway) and towards the end.   Nevertheless he continued and we are told in the Democratic Advocate of 28th February, 1885,    “George D Noremac who has been walking at Midlothian Hall for the past 100 daysfinished his 5100 miles Thiursday night last.   Thje pedestrian was in good ocndition.   The walk grew out of a wager of $2000 that Noremac could walk 100 days in succession and score 51 miles each day.”   And the  Abbeville Free Press of 11th March, said that – “George D Noremac, a professional pedestrian, has finished a long tramp in New York City, having covered 5,100 miles in 100 days on a wager of $2000.”   The New York Times says that he finished at 11:10 pm.   

The cartoon below is from the Sundat Star, Washington, of June 13th, 1920 as part of the Ripley series of sporting wonders.

 

The public loved these events and most of the participants had their own supporters and backers, and many had their own trainers travelling with them.   They were colourful characters – Noremac had changed his name) some of whom were quite eccentric – “Old Sport” Campana from Bridgeport was a real favourite because of the unusual antics he performed on-track. Gus Guerrero from Mexico was on occasion referred to as “The Greaser”, Frank Hart, the “colored” champion from Boston also “wowed” the crowds because he was “different”, Nitaw-Eg-Ebow was a Kickapoo Indian, Winston H Burrell ‘a coloured man’,  and the Irishman, John “Lepper” Hughes, also created quite a stir because of his passionate attitude.   They were well rewarded for their efforts – rewards for the most successful “peds” were huge: eg for winning just two races in New York, the “Cambridge Wonder”, Charles Rowell, from England, managed to secure prize money totaling an incredible $50,000! 

Noremac continued racing and appears over the years as George Noremac (New York), George  Noremac of Philadelphia and he is even described as ‘the Scotsman’ or George Noremac (Scotland) and even as George D Noremac (Cameron) – the latter in the Caldwell Tribune (Idaho) in February 1887.   He criss-crossed the continent throughout the year competing against the same opponents over and over again in races of all sorts, some as short as 12 hour man-against-man challenges, all the way up to the 5100 miles in 100 days challenge.   The rewards were what made it worthwhile of course.   That the races were popular there is no doubt.   For instance in May, 1888, 44 contestants took part in the World Championship six-day championship in Madison Square Gardens.  Each entry paid $350 and had to and had to make 100 miles in the first 24 hours to stay on the track.   The entry fee was high but the prize money was also good with any man breaking the record receiving $10,000.  The scene at the start as described by the Fort Worth Daily Gazette – “Nearly 10,000 people were gathered outside the gate by 9 0’clock awaiting the opening of the doors, and a mad rush followed as the gates were swung back.   One hundred policemen on duty were for a time powerless to prevent serious over-crowding.   The announcement that John L Sullivan would start the contestants was the drawing card but the crowd sought him in vain.   At 12  o’clock the contestants were all on the track and Jack Dempsey vaulted over the railing to start the race instead of Sullivan.”.   

 1889: A Typical Year

Given the amount of racing and travelling that he did, and that many of his races were covered only or in the main by local papers, they can’t all be covered but it is interesting to try to follow 1889 as a typical year.

*7th March, 1889: 50 hour pedestrian contest at the rink in Parkersville, West Virginia from 8 o’clock on Thurday to 11 o’clock on Saturdau

*Beginning on the first Monday in April, there would be a six-day Go-As-You-Please in Kansas City.   There would be special prizes for breaking 24 hour, 48 hour, 72 hour and 142 hour records.   Won by the little Scotchman with 501 miles and 9 laps from Hegelman who covered 487 miles and 1 lap.   Noremac won $1,100 and was a popular winer.

*20th April, Pittsburgh, 12 hour race between George Cartwright and George D Noremac and a notice appeared in the  Dispatch saying “George Cartwright and George D Noremac appeared before Police Magistrate Gripp yesterday and made affidavit to the effect that their 12 hour race on Saturday, 20th April, is legitimate, and that each would try to win.”

*On May 6th, 1889, the New York Evening World advertised the Grand Six-Day  Go-As-You-Please  with ‘Every Civilised Nation on the Face of the Globe Represented’   The final paragraph of the preview said that “Mr and Mrs Noremac were there: George Noremac, attended by his devoted wife is in, as usual, “to get a piece of the boodle”, and having set out at a dog trot at midnight, will continue to the end.”   And he did well in the race: on the Wednesday he moved from ninth place to second.   The “dog trotting little Scotchman” had two hours rest and then started off ‘as slick as grease’ according to his admirers.   On the final day, when he passed the 500 miles, the band playing to entertain the crowd played “The Highland Fling.”

*June 29th – Nine-Day (12 hours a day) race at Sea Beach Palace Hotel, Coney Island.   This one had some novel features – (1) Ghost Sullivan Arab Stout, an Indian from the Catterangus Reservation in full war paint; (2) A special gold medal to be competed for by New York newsboys.   This would be over two miles for the Police Gazette Championship of |New York;  (3) Special prizes for short races which will also took place during the nine days. eg there would be a five mile race for the mail carriers for the gold medal and championship of the New York Post Office.; (4) A Niagara Falls of running water to keep the place cool, (5) The track was a good one and five laps to the mile.   The novelties were partly because it was Coney Island but also because the 9 days included the 4th July and two Saturdays.   Dates carefully organised to maximise crowd attendance and profits for the organisers – half of the takings was going to prize money.   

*In early October there was a six-day event in Waterbury  and it was commented that “Noremac is proving it correct that as the days increase, so do his running powers.”    The same issue of the ‘Waterbury Evening Democrat’ has an interesting couple of open letters.   The first reads: “GUERRERO ISSUES A CHALLENGE.   To the Editor of The Democrat:- A report has been issued since I left the track at the six-days race here that I had no heart and was pushed so hard I was not able to stand the strain.   Some people have also sneered at the statement that I am not the 48 hours champion of the world.   I have records to prove my statement and proofs sufficient to satisfy anyone.   I therefore issue the following challenge:- I will run any man now on the track for $200 to $500 from 1 hour to 142 hours.   I will also run on this track two local peds 5 miles, each to run 2 1/2 miles.   This challenge means business.   Now let the sneerers squeal or shut up.   Gus Guerrero.”

This was followed in the same edition by the following:- ” A NUT FOR GUERRERO TO CRACK.   To the Editor of The Democrat:- It having come to our knowledge that Gus Guerrero is to issue a challenge in your paper today to run any man now on the track, for 1 hour to 142 hours for any amount of money, we desire to make our statement and acceptance at the same time.   Dan Herty will run Guerrero six days , twelve hours a day, George Noremac will run him twelve hours, and Jack Spicer will run him twenty miles, for any sum he wishes to put up.   As a guarantee we have deposited $25 with The Democrat.   Respectfully, Dan Herty, George Noremac and Jack Spicer.”

*The year finished in Pittsburg from December 23rd to 28th, $1000 in prizes and as an example of how seriously the events were taken see the extract from the Pittsburgh Despatch for 3rd December below.   Tracks had to be exact if big cash prizes were at stake for records set, and note also that runners could and did bet on themselves.

When the race came, Noemac finished eighth with 212 miles, well behind Hegelman  who won with 398 miles and 1610 yards.   That was the end of 1989.   

We started this section comparing his best six day race distance with the best of the twenty first century Scots, went on to the wonderful feat of 51 miles a day for 100 days and ended with a typical year’s competition for him.   We can stop this section here to catch our breath and start another page for the final third of his walking career – he went on racing into the twentieth century and we can follow that next.

 

 

George Noremac : Part 1

Noremac was a professional Scottish pedestrian (ie professional runner) in the late 19th century called George D. Cameron.   He was a lithographer and like many very good distance runners he was a relatively small man – 5ft.3½ inches and approximately 8st.10lb.    Born in Edinburgh on the 18th of May 1854, he decided when he was a fairly young runner that if he were to stand out in the ranks of professional runners, he needed a distinctive name and chose simply to spell his name backwards.   He went on to stand out from the others by becoming a very successful ultra-distance runner and walker who competed successfully on two continents, wining huge amounts of money as well as commemorative championship gold belts.

The American Edward Payson Weston, of Providence, Rhode Island, the “father of pedestrianism” sparked off the “Pedestrian Mania” which reached its peak in 1879. Unlike the jogging and running boom of the 1970’s and 80’s which started in New Zealand with Arthur Lydiard and travelled across the globe to the USA where its main protagonist was Bill Bowerman, the long distance pedeatrian athletes started in the USA and spread from the Pacific West Coast of America to Europe and New Zealand.   It was one of the great sporting  of the Victorian age.

In his formative years as an up-and-coming “pro”, Cameron proved himself as a handy runner at shorter distances. Winning prize money of up to £20 at a time, he consistently finished in the frame in races ranging from one mile handicaps to 4-hour events over six days all over Scotland, which included events at the Aberdeen Recreation Grounds, the Powderhall Grounds and Royal Gymnasium in Edinburgh, the Shawfield Grounds in Glasgow and the Drill Hall at Perth.   For example, he raced in a six hours per night, seven-day “pedestrian contest” in Nottingham, which commenced on February the 7th 1880.    Then, it was back to London again, when, along with another notable Scottish pedestrian, William Smith, and as the 4/1 race favourite, Noremac starred in the six-day, twelve hours per day, go-as-you-please “Championship of the World” race at the Agricultural Hall, Islington, London, in September.  Noremac’s enforced retirement through injury would mean that the race would be won by George Littlewood, the “Sheffield Flyer”, who would later go on to beat the best in the world.

The reports that appeared in the dailies were fairly detailed as this one from halfway through his record setting Glasgow run in February 1880 indicates.

Glasgow Herald, 28/2/1880

But it wasn’t till the spring of 1880 when his long-distance career really started to take off. In late February, March and early April of that year, Noremac somehow managed to muster a straight hat-trick of victories in 72-hour (12 hours a day “go-as-you-please”) competitions beginning at Newsome’s Circus in Glasgow with a score of 357 miles,    The races were usually 6 twelve hour days with results published by the local, and at times national, papers daily.   The final result of the race at Glasgow was as in the following extract from the Glasgow Herald.

I

‘Smith’ is mentioned above and he was a most interesting character whose story is told by Alex Wilson at http://www.anentscottishrunning.com/william-cutty-smith/  –  and the race is told from his point of view as follows: 

“On 28 February 1880 Smith took part in his fourth 72-hour race in as many months at Newcome’s Circus in Glasgow, but this time he failed to reproduce the form he had shown towards the end of 1879. With a total score of 337 miles, he had to settle for third place behind Edinburgh’s George D. Cameron (aka Noremac) and Peter McKellan, who made 357 miles and 348 miles respectively. With the six-day craze now in full swing, Smith did not have to wait long for the next competitive opportunity to come along: a 72-hour go-as-you-please at the Edinburgh Royal Gymnasium on 29 March. There were eight participants competing for total prize money of £70 and the winner was to receive £40. The track measured a 125 yards per lap or 14 laps to the mile. Suffice to say that Smith was unlucky: during the first two days he suffered not only constipation but also unbearable pain in his right leg, necessitating the application of a cast. Despite all this, he still managed to cover 158 miles before finally discretion prevailed over valour. Consequently, he played no part in the best 72-hour race ever, a thrilling encounter in which Noremac triumphed over Davie Ferguson in front of a home crowd with a sensational score of 384 miles”

.

In March  he ran in Perth, in a race under the same conditions, where he won again, covering 344 miles, and won easily.   From there he went to Edinburgh where  he was a competitor in a similar even held between March 29 and April 3.   And won again , in a new world record of 384 miles, Ferguson was second, with 376 miles (the track being 125 yards in circumference – ie 14 laps to the mile –   he ran 3728 laps).   

His next race was on 5th June in Arbroath at the Arbroath Recreation Grounds, in an eighteen-hour go-as-you-please race, running three hours every night, when he again took first prize, with a record of 120 miles.  He was in action again later in the month when be was a participant in a twenty-six-hour, go-as-you-please, race: four hours a night at Aberdeen, again finishing first, with 204½ miles.   Then in July of the same year Noremac ran in a twenty-one-hour go-as-you-please contest, three hours a night, at Falkirk, and again he won again,  having run of 160 miles. Then he took in a twelve-hour run at Agricultural Hall, London in September and scored another victory, completing 73 miles 1 lap in 10 hours 58 minutes 36 seconds.   Heading back northwards, he went to Birmingham,  and took part in a seventy-two-hour, go-as-you-please race of twelve hours daily, between September 27th and October 2nd, winning again, with 380 miles 308 yards covered; Cartwright was second with 368 miles 1,720 yards: and S. Day third, 357 miles 412 yards. 

Cameron then travelled down to Bristol where, at the Rifle Drill Hall in October, he won a 14-hour, six-day, go-as-you-please race   The Bristol Mercury of 18th October tells us that there were 20 starters in the race which finished on the Saturday in front of 2000 spectators.   First prize was £50, second £20, third £10, fourth £5 with £3 going to every competitor who had covered 360 miles.   The result was: 1st Noremac 383 miles,  2nd  Day  380, 3rd Vanderpeer  346 miles, 4th Carless  320.   There were nine finishers.   

Back to Scotland and in a sixty five hour race, go-as-you-please, at Cook’s Arms, Dundee, Scotland, December 4 to 11 following, Noremac finished second, with 333 miles before finishing the year by making a new 72-hour world record of 384 miles in the Show Hall at the Royal Gymnasium in Edinburgh.    Noremac’s last mile, which was timed at 6m.30s. would secure him the £40 first prize money.   

In March, 1881, Noremac competed in the “Astley Fifty Miles Running Championship Challenge Belt” at Lillie Bridge Grounds, London, before setting sail for America (where his professional career was to really take off) accompanied by his trainer, George Beattie, the pair arriving in New York in June.   As a farewell competition, it was not a very successful one as this piece from the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic Life of 19th March indicates.

 

Alex Wilson tells us that “Like many Scots of the era, he left these shores to begin a new life in America. He settled in New York City and ran an inn called the Midlothian Arms not far from Madison Square Garden, which was then the centre of North American six-day racing. Shortly after arriving on American soil, Noremac showed his prowess in a six-day race with big prize money at New York’s American Institute Hall, commencing at midnight on Boxing Day 1881. Thanks to a consistent performance, he improved from seventh place at the end of the first day to finish second behind American Pat Fitzgerald with a Scottish record of 567.4 miles, winning $800 for his efforts. His daily totals were: 110, 213.2, 292.4, 398, 505 and 567.4 miles. To give an idea of the caliber of this accomplishment: no Scotsman has ever surpassed it, indoors or out.”

A few months later, Noremac was in the starting lineup for a major six-day race at Madison Square Garden that began at midnight on February 27, 1882. It would go down in history as one of the greatest six-day races of all time. It began with a phenomenal performance by Charley Rowell on the opening day. The Englishman thrilled spectators by beating his own world record for 100 miles with a fantastic time of 13 hours, 26 minutes and 30 seconds, and then covering an amazing distance of 150 miles and 220 yards in 22.5 hours. 

Noremac had won some big money prizes back home but what was to come was just in a different class of earning altogether.  In six days, in a hotly contested event in February/March of 1882 at Madison Square Garden, George Hazael from London, became the first man to break through the 600-miles in 6 days barrier winning $18,380 while Noremac earned a staggering $2,251.39 for finishing in third place.      Five months later, and on  31st July, 1882, he took part in the six-day go-as-you-please contest for the “Police Gazette Diamond Championship Belt” at the Casino in Boston, Massachusetts.   7000 people were there for the start of  the race.   Noremac also impressed in that one too. 

Noremac’s next big race, again at Madison Square Garden, took place in October, 1882. He again bettered his personal best by scoring 567 miles and 4 laps – a Scottish indoor record which still stands.   In modern times, the amazing Willie Sichel had several attempts at beating it but did not succeed – a measure of how good the run was.   

More about Sichel’s attempts at the start of Part 2 – along with some coverage of his 100 days challenge, with the end of his athletics career in  Part 3  .

Ireland in the Cross Country International, 1930’s

From the Western Mail, 25 March, 1933

I once heard an Irish runner at the cross-country championships whether she ran for Northern Ireland or Southern Ireland.   “There’s only one Ireland!” was the rapid response.   This was not always the case and for a short time in the 1930’s there was only one in ‘the international’.   It was a good time for the Scottish team with 7 team medals (3 silver and 4 bronze) and 4 individual (1 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze), but not so good for Ireland.   It could have been better though but we should perhaps look at the situation that prevailed.   

1933 was the key year but a look back at the Irish team that competed in the event in 1932 would help.   There was an Irish team competing in 1972 which was made up of 7 runners from the NACA Championships and one from the NIACCA.   NACA was the National Athletics and Cycling Association which existed between 1922 and 2000 and was a federation of athletics and cycling clubs.  It affiliated to the IAAF on 11 January 1924, and sent teams to the Olympics of  1924,  .’28 and ’32.    It also sent 5 athletes to the 1930 Empire Games, in Canada.  In each case, the team was claimed to represent “Ireland” rather than the Irish Free State.   There was a separate body – the Northern Ireland Amateur Athletic, Cycling and Cross Country Association (NIAAA) – which was affiliated to the AAA’s and there was some animosity between the two Irish bodies.   In the 1932 International at Brussels, the NACA cross-country championships were held on 7th March and afterwards the team to compete in  Brussels was chosen.   It consisted of runners from (mainly) NACA and runners from NIAAA (including the first to finish for them – H McFall from North Belfast).   So far so good but ..

Early in 1933 problems started to arise.   There was a move to enter a separate Northern Ireland team in the championship while keeping the NACA selected team as an Irish Free State team.   Articles such as the following appeared

The Irish Press reported on the team to represent Ireland after the NACA Championships, and the hotel in which they would stay in Newport when they travelled to Wales for the International fixture.   The decision announced above to accept the NI entry was not without consequences –

How would the cat jump?   What would the International Board decide?   The Press continued with the build up to the race and the Welsh Western Mail had a long report in which it said that The Scots had high hopes for James Flockhart but it was asking a lot from a first year internationalist, and Scotland had Robbie Sutherland.   They concluded with a not of the festivities attached – 

A day later and the map reproduced at the top of the page was printed – an interesting map for what it shows of the nature of cross-country at the time.   Road crossings, stiles to negotiate, a hurdle, gates – vastly different from today’s manicured courses which at times resemble extended bowling greens.   The arguments were still going on in the back rooms though.   This was now the day of the race – 25th March – both Irish teams were in Newport and had completed their preparations for the event.    That morning there was an article, written on the 24th, in the ‘Northern Whig’, a Belfast newspaper headed “WILL NORTHERN IRELAND COMPETE IN TODAY’S CHAMPIONSHIP?”   and it began

“The Northern Ireland … team has left Belfast for Newport (Mon) where they intend competing in the international cross-country championships today.   A meeting of the International Federation is to be held before the race and the Free State body intend to oppose the admission of the Northern Ireland body.   Should the Federation admit the Northern Ireland Association to membership or permit their team to run in the contest, the Southerners will withdraw from the race.   

“France will vote for the Irish Free State”, said a French official to a reporter at Paddington yesterday when the French team together with the Southern members of the English team left for Newport.   “Our delegates have been instructed to press for the withdrawal of the Northern Ireland team on the ground that Ulster runners are included in the English side.”

“It is understood that the AAA (England) will have difficulty in obtaining the admission of the Northern Association to the Federation as membership can only be granted by a two thirds majority.   Only 12 delegates, representing 6 countries, will be entitled to vote on the matter, and if only one other association, besides the Free State, votes against it, England’s motion will fall.”   

The teams from both Irish Associations were listed, both were ready to run but it was up to the men in suits to decide.   On the day of the race, the meeting took place. This report is from the Northern Whig.

THE BOARD’S MEETING

When the Internayional Board met prior to the race the English delegate moved – ‘That the application of the Northern Ireland Association for membership of the Union be deferred for a year.’   The Free State representatives proposed a direct nagative, wn when the vote was taken the Free State, France and Belgium voted for the amendment, and England, Scotland and Wales against it.   The Chairman gave his casting votein favour of the latter and moved out of order a protest by a Free State representative that a two thirds majority was necessary to carry the original motion.

It was then proposed by England that Wales should invite Northern Ireland to compete in the race, and with France and Belgium abstainingfrom voting, the motion was carried by six votes to two.   It was then that the Free State intimated that their team would be withdrawn from the race.   It is understood that an appeal was made to them to allow their team to face the starter but they declined to depart from their decision to withdraw.   The official announcement issued after the meeting of the board:-

The International Cross-Country Board decided to defer for twelve months the question of the affiliation of the Northern Ireland Amateur Athletic Association.   It was further decided that they should be allowed to run today in the international race without prejudice to the future.”

The results were good for Scotland – Individuals first and then the team:

Where did the championships go from there?   There was only one team from Ireland from 1933 right up to 1938 when there were two teams.   That meant two trials – reports from the Belfast News-Letter:

and

How did the teams fare on 2nd April?   They were last and second last BUT – had they run as a sibgle team with the six best men scoring, they would have beaten Scotland for fourth place.   Reports said that there were two Irish teams for the first and only time – but there were two teams in 1939 just before the War started.  They were again last and second last – but after the War there was indeed a single team from Ireland and in 1946 it was one place and 65 points ahead of Scotland.

A Famous Club by A Ross Scott

The photographs and the article by A Ross Scott on this page were discovered by Hamish Telfer in The Athletic Field and Swimming World, 30th April, 1910, p269.   The pictures are among the earliest available of Scottish athletics clubs and Ross Scott was one of the timekeepers at the London Olympics and officiated at the Halswell race fiasco.   His watch is on display in the Sports Village in Aberdeen.   

This last is a very interesting picture indeed – note the men wearing the sashes – the pack leader, the ‘pace’, wore the green sash and the pack whip the red sash.   A ‘muster run’ usually meant a joint run with several other clubs, usually at the start of the cross-country season and this might be the case here – there is also the possibility of course that it is simply a joint run of all the club’s sections given the date and how few clubs there were active at that time.

Thanks, Hamish.

Ayrshire Harrier Clubs Association: 1956 – 59

Having followed the AHCA from its beginnings in 1924 up to the War and then for the 10 years immediately thereafter, it might be right to look at the ‘product’ –  the development of the Association through the careers of some of the runners who were brought into the sport and up to national, and maybe international prominence from 1956.   There were many of them and they performed on track (John Boyd, Tommy Cochrance, Jim McLatchie, etc) on the road (Ian Harris, Danny McFadzean, etc) with distinction.   

Ian Harris (Beith):  Ian, pictured above,  joined Beith Harriers as a Youth (ie Under 17) and his first training run was in a thunderstorm on a dark night.   Then on his first race at West Kilbride he tried to jump one of those Ayrshire barbed wire fences when he came off the road and cut himself badly but surprised everybody by coming in first.  Beith was a strong club at the time and he was a near contemporary of Tommy Cochrane who won the South West District  Cross Country Trophy so often that when the association folded up he was given the trophy to keep.   Incidentally his first Senior victory was in 1960, the year before Ian’s first win in the event.   Ian’s career included a victory in the South West District Cross Country Youth Championships in 1953 and victories in the Senior event in 1961 and 1963.    He had a third place in the Scottish Youth Cross Country Championships behind Peter McPartland (Springburn) and after finishing seventh in the SCCU Championships, ran for Scotland in the 1961 international cross country championships.   Ian joined the British Army and had a wonderful career in athletics there too: read the full story  here.    He appears in the Scottish rankings in the 1960’s as follows:

1959

2 Miles 9.35.0 14

1963

Marathon. 2.25.32 1

1963

3000m S/c 9.15.8 2

1964

Mar 2.30.28 3

1966

3000m S/c 9.36.8 9

Jack Boyd (ASAC)   John Robert Boyd was born on 30th July 1933, won gold and silver at the SAAA championships, set a national half-mile record and won in a British vest .

1959

440y 51.4 20

1959

880y 1.52.4 2

1961

880y 1.56.2 16

1962

880y 1.57.9e 29

1962

440yH 60.5 19

Jack’s story can be read  at this link .

 

Danny McFadzean (Beith):  Danny was a member of Beith Harriers from 1957 who ran well but after joining the Royal Navy he really started to improve – his progression in the marathon was as follows.

Year

Event Time Comment

1964

Marathon .2:31.57 4th ranked Scot

1966

Marathon 2:23:52 Kosice 6th/GB team

1967

Marathon 2:22:06 Boston 9th

1968

6 Miles 30.19.6 Ranked 15

1968

Marathon 2.32.27 Ranked 9

1969

Marathon 2:30:54 Boston 21st/Team 1st

1969

Marathon 2.31.01 Ranked 14

Danny ran in the Kosice Marathon where he was sixth in 2:23  and also went to Boston with a Royal Navy team which won the team race in 1969 with the runners being Phil Hampton (9th, 2:23:46), Joe Clare (17th, 2:29:16) and Danny (21st, 2:30:54).   Danny went to the race in 1967 when he was ninth in 2:22:06, then in 1968 when he finished 9th again in 2:32:27; he next went to Boston with a Royal Navy team which won the team race in 1969 with the runners being Phil Hampton (9th, 2:23:46), Joe Clare (17th, 2:29:16) and Danny (21st, 2:30:54).

Tommy Cochrane (Beith): Tommy was a top class runner over the country where he won Scottish international honours and on the track.   His two years National Service were spent mainly in Germany and he did a lot of racing on the continent.   He was a very highly respected athlete on both sides of the Border and eventually settled in the south of England where he was a very successful coach.

1963

3 Miles 14.37.8 25

1964

2 Miles 9.16.01 9

1964

3 Miles 14.32.8 17

1966

3 Miles 14.22.8 22

1966

3000m S/ch 9.31.2 8

Jim McLatchie (Muirkirk, Ayr Seaforth):  Very tall for a distance runner, he ran well on the roads and country but excelled on the track.   He became a top class coach working with Olympic athletes from Europe and the United States.   He has done so much in the sport you need to read his individual profile as a runner  here  and as a coach at  this link.   

Those are just some of the runners  who have started in AHCA races and gone on to really wonderful running careers.   If we look at some of the races organised after 1955, we get 

1955-56

District Relay 7/11/55 Wellpark Harriers T Stevenson

1955-56

Ayrshire Relay 26/11/55 Beith Harriers I Harris

1955-56

Ayrshire Championship S 14/1/56 Irvine YMCA I Harris***

1955-56

Ayrshire Championships Y 14/1/56 Irvine YMCA W Thomas***

1955-56

District Championships S 28/1/56 Wellpark H T Stevenson

1955-56

District Championships Y 28/1/56 Wellpark H W Thomas

1956-57

District Relay 3/11/56 Wellpark Harriers A Small & G King=

1956-57

Ayrshire Relay 24/11/56 Irvine YMCA S Cuthbert

1956-57

Ayrshire Championships S 12/1/57 Kilmarnock Harriers S Cuthbert

1956-57

Ayrshire Championships Y 12/1/57 Beith Harriers W Thomas

1956-57

District Championships S 26/1/57 Wellpark Harriers A Small (Plebeian)

1956-57

District Championships Y 26/1/57 Irvine YMCA W Thomas

1957-58

District Relays 2/11/57 Irvine YMCA W Thomas

1957-58

Ayrshire Relay 23/11/57 Irvine YMCA W Thomas

1957-58

Ayrshire Boys Championship 23/11/57 H Cameron (Doon) First running of this race

1957-58

Ayrshire Championships S 11/1/58 Irvine YMCA W Thomas

1957-58

Ayrshire Championship Y 11/1/58 - R Gray

1957-58

District Championships S 5/1/58 Beith Harriers W More Kilmarnock

1957-58

District Championship Y 5/1/58 - Race declared void

1958-59

District Relay 5/11/58 Beith Harriers I Harris

1958-59

Ayrshire Relays 26/11/58 Beith Harriers T Cochrane

1958-59

Ayrshire Championships S 10/1/59 Beith W Thomas

1958-59

Ayrshire Championships Y 10/1/59 Beith Harriers T Gilbert

1958-59

District Championship S 24/1/59 Wellpark Harriers T Stevenson24/1/59

1958-59

District Championship Y 24/1/59 Wellpark Harriers C Shepherd

1958-59

District Championship B 24/1/59 Doon Harriers E Hyde

***   Race run in a blizzard.

If we pause the results there and look back over the scene in Ayrshire, we see that the sport was in very good condition with honours being won by Beith, Kilmarnock, Irvine and Doon  and the first three always challenging at District level.   In the five years just covered, a Boys Championship over a mile and a half had been added to the Senior and Youths Championships and now in 1958 South West District had entered a team in the Inter-District Championship being held in Edinburgh.   First  SW runner to finish was WJ More of Kilmarnock who finished sixth.   More was another very good runner to come from the county: a tall, strong athlete he was fast on the track, often invited to run in short-limit handicap events such as a race at Carluke designed to set up a Scottish record for Graham Stark of Edinburgh, and a good steeplechase athlete.    He also ran for Glasgow University for several years.   A highly respected athlete.