Before Strava

All athletes keep records.   Certainly all serious athletes keep records and most have their training diaries kept for decades after they stop running.   Nowadays runners have things strapped to their arms, wrists or ankles that keep their records for them in so much detail that it is pretty well meaningless to them.   But we can look at that kind of thing separately.   We are talking here about race results.   Race results issued on the day were a rarity – the ‘News of the World’ used to have results of the Edinburgh to Glasgow typed out and reproduced on a Gestetner available to all wanted a copy after every two stages of the race.   Years later such events as the Balloch to Clydebank and Clydebank to Helensburgh had race results posted out to those wanting them the following Tuesday or Thursday and this was developed by the Tom Scott and Allan Scally Relay races.   

Before that, runners had to wait till after the last man had finished and the results posted on a board in typed or, more often, hand written form.   Then the runners copied out what results they wanted and either transcribed them into a training diary or pinned them up in the clubrooms the following Tuesday.   Often enough, one runner was designated to wait and ‘get the results’ while the remainder of the club team disappeared off home.   What was wanted differed with the club and the individual.   Most athletes wanted to know what the result of the race (team and individual was), they wanted the results of all of their own club members and teams, and usually they wanted the results of their own close rivals from other clubs.    Just for reference.   But there was one runner from a Glasgow club who wrote out all his main rivals and targets-to-beat in order on a piece of paper and then on the night before the race stuck a pin in the top name and screwed it in and round about.    I don’t know how often it worked but the runner became a minister of religion!

What we have here are results that were taken home and transcribed into a notebook at home by Springburn’s Danny Wilmoth.   First there are his track races: competition was real and earnest and runners competed as often as possible over the summer months and travelled to wherever the race was to be held.   The picture above is Danny coming out of the water jump at the steeplechase at Ibrox.

Now for the cross-country results where teams counted, possibly even more than individuals in some cases and these details were noted.   There were not as many races on the calendar but they all counted.  Clubs held trials to pick teams for the major races such as the McAndrew Relay (the VPAAC trial for places in that relay were said to be harder than the race!) and the Edinburgh to Glasgow.   Results for the E-G trial are included here.

 We can look at the road and cross country results for winter 1963 and 1964.

The International Athlete: Volume 2, number 4

I’m not sure how long the magazine lasted but it was not long after this one.   In it Walter looks forward to publishing it at a rate of one a month but although many of the original features were still present, there were some changes to be seen.   First of all, the pages were not stapled together as in the ‘Scots Athlete’ and the ‘International Athlete’ up to this point.   Second the cover was of paper rather than the shiny card of all previous issues and third, the content was a bit thinner with the only Scottish items being the articles by John Emmet Farrell and Dale Greig.  There were no results, no previews of upcoming races or profiles of Scottish athletes.   The photographs were still of a high quality but the line drawings were poor representations of the subjects and took up space that would, in the opinion of many, have been better filled with domestic items.   The advertisements are of great interest now with the number of books, and the price, taking a large part of the magazine.

The International Athlete: Number One

Issue number one had a shiny white card cover with title and good photograph on the front and advertisements on the back – a pattern that would last beyond the first twelve issues.   Since most effort would have gone into the production of this issue above all others, we can get an idea of what Walter wanted it to be.   He actually talks about it on p21 where he calls it ‘the natural successor to the Scots Athlete’ and says he got the idea from Percy Cerutty.   Anyway, here is the magazine, a few comments below.

And that’s the magazine that Walter wanted to produce.   It’s pretty well what Scotland needs in the 21st century.   There are contributions from far and wide with regular contributions from Emmet Farrell and Brian Mitchell, book reviews, coaching information, a letters page and a supplement with Scottish results in it.   The comment about Percy Cerutty suggesting the production of such an article in Walter’s own comments on p21 is an interesting one.   Was Walter ahead of his time?   Probably!

Dave Cooney as a runner

Dave, second from the right, running in some good company – John Graham and Bill Yate leading the field

1500M 4.12 1977
3000M 8.55 1974 AND 1976
5000M 15.22 1974
10,000M 32.49 1977
10 MILES ROAD 52.03 1986
10 MILES TRACK 53.49 1973
MARATHON 2.44.59 1981

Year Age Group Event Medal Award
1989 M40 5,000M Gold
1994 M45 10,000M Bronze
2001 M50 10K Road Bronze
2010 M60 5K Road Bronze
2014 M65 5,000M Bronze
2015 M65 1,500M Indoors Gold
2015 M65 3,000M Indoors Gold
2016 M65 3,000M Indoors Gold
2017 M65 3,000M Indoors Gold
2019 M70 5K Road Gold

1990 M40 Road Relay Silver
1991 M40 Road Relay Bronze
1997 M40 (M45 My Age) 10K Road Gold
2001 M40 (M50 My Age) 10K Road Silver

1999 M50 5k Road Bronze
2018 M65 Cross Country Gold

1994 in the M45 Age Group

1972 Most Meritorious Performance

1972 1
1973 6
1974 4
1975 4
1976 1
1977 7
1981 7

1976 Cross Country Championships Bronze
1981 Cross Country Championships Silver

1973 Lanarkshire 10 Mile Road Race Silver
1974 Lanarkshire 10 Mile Road Race Silver
1975 Lanarkshire 10 Mile Road Race Bronze
1976 Lanarkshire 10 Mile Road Race Gold
1977 Lanarkshire 10 Mile Road Race Silver

1972 Lanarkshire Road Relay Bronze
1985 Lanarkshire Road Relay Bronze


By David Cooney

I joined Cambuslang Harriers age 21 in January 1971 after having been spotted by Robert Anderson when out running with my younger brother Frank. I had no real background in running apart from playing non competitive football and regularly running from the house to catch a bus or a train.

The harriers were a small club then with former Scottish Marathon Champion Gordon Eadie and Robert Anderson being the 2 most prominent runners. Unfortunately they had been disqualified in the 1970 Edinburgh to Glasgow event for falling 30 minutes behind the leading club. The club’s fortunes were at a low ebb with Robert valiantly trying to hold the club together.

I started training with the club and built up my experience by competing in a number of local Highland Games which were then popular. My first appearance on the track was at Airdrie Highland Games which always attracted a large audience. I lined up at the start with 37 other hopefuls and then it was hell for leather once the gun went. I could say I settled in at the back but it would be truer to say I was shunted to the back by the brisk pace of the field. I got into a rhythm and was pleased that I was not last. Later during the race a huge cheer went up as I was coming off the far side bend. I naively thought the cheers were for a popular local runner who was about to catch me up. Before I knew it 3 runners, 2 of them local, came flying by me – Ian McCafferty, Jim Brown and Ronnie MacDonald! I was being lapped by the elite of Scottish distance runners! Undaunted I kept to my pace and finished 31st out of 37 runners. Being a glutton for punishment I ran the 1,500m handicap 10 minutes later and finished 2nd last. I persevered with some other Highland Games running on either grass or ash tracks and was pleased to record 9.20 for a 3,000m in an inter club event with East Kilbride.

I gained further valuable experience by competing in the road and cross country relays and open races during the winter season of 1971-2 in events such as the McAndrew and Allan Scally Road Relays. These events attracted the top distance runners from the west, east, north and south of Scotland which helped to raise the standard of distance running and greatly fostered team spirit and competition. Unfortunately today with the proliferation of so many different races being held at the weekends top runners can easily avoid one another.

I was delighted to gain my first team medal success in January 1972 when I was the 2nd counter in the Cambuslang team which took the bronze medal in the East Kilbride 6 miles road race. I continued to improve my times during the summer of 1972 competing again in the Highland Games and in inter university competitions. My highlight that summer was taking 46 seconds off my 5,000m pb to record 15.52 on the Westerlands ash track. I also made my 10,000m track debut at Bellahouston clocking 33.12.

November 1972 saw Cambuslang along with other 19 clubs being invited to compete in the Edinburgh to Glasgow 8 man road relay which was the blue ribbon event of Scottish road relays. To be invited was a great honour for the participating clubs especially for Cambuslang considering their disastrous performance in 1970. This was to be one of the best days in my running career both personally and from a team point of view. Although ranked the slowest runner by time on the opening leg I finished strongly in 12th spot and the club ended up in that position to be awarded the most meritorious performance. Cambuslang had exorcised the ignominy of their 1970 performance.

Over the next few years I was pleased to help Cambuslang Harriers achieve team medals in various events such as double bronze medal in the prestigious Tom Scott 10 miles road race, double bronze in the Lanarkshire road relays, gold, silver and 2 bronze medals in the Clydebank to Helensburgh 16 mile road race, gold and silver medals in the Clydesdale 6, double gold in the Mamore 16 miles hill race, double gold in the Cathkin Braes hill race and also gold in the Neilston Pad along with team prizes in a number of Highland Games.

On a personal level I continued to improve my times and lowered my 3,000m track time down to 8.55, my 5,000m time to 15.22 and 10,000m to 32.49. I also ran 53.49 for 5th place in the Scottish 10 miles track championship at Meadowbank.

The midweek Lanarkshire 10 mile road race invariably held over undulating country roads became a favourite event for me in which I finished 2nd to Scottish internationalists Alan Partridge in 1973 and to fellow internationalist Alastair Macfarlane in 1974, 3rd in 1975 again behind Alastair and Davie Lang, first in 1976 ahead of Robert Anderson, Hugh Forgie and David Fairweather and 2nd in 1977 being sandwiched between clubmates Robert and Colin Feechan.

Mamore Hill Race 1975 – team victory

Cathkin Braes 1975 – team victory

1976 was another important landmark year in my running career and in Cambuslang’s progression when I led the club, with back-up from Peter Preston and Robert Anderson, to its first ever podium place – 3rd- in the historic Nigel Barge road race. This was followed shortly by the club achieving its first ever senior team medal (bronze) in the West District cross country championships. On my least favoured surface I was the 6th counter behind Peter Preston, Robert Anderson, Gordon Eadie, Alec Gilmour and Robert Inglis. 5 years later the club went one better and lifted team silver thanks to the efforts of Rod Stone, Eddie Stewart, Peter Preston, Colin Feechan , Robert Anderson and myself.

With the emergence of such talented athletes as Rod Stone, Eddie Stewart and Alec Gilmour and David McShane, Jim Orr and Charlie Thomson in the junior pipe line, allied to the arrival of my first son and increased professional pressures, my contribution to team success naturally diminished but not so my celebration of their growing achievements. While continuing to run my energies were focussed more on team management in road, country and track competitions and on club management having taken up the post of club president in 1980. I occupied the post until 1986 when I stepped down when my 3rd son was born although I continued to serve on the committee. I resumed my post as president in 1992 for a further 27 years only to step down in September 2019. In total my presidency spanned 33 years. In addition, I post regular reports on the club website and in the local papers on the club’s successes. Previously in the early to mid 80s I had been one of the Scottish correspondents for Athletics Weekly. This was an unpaid job albeit I received a free weekly magazine. While I am no longer president I am continuing on the committee and hope to contribute to any future club success in any way I can.

My contribution to team success kicked off again when I turned a vet 40. I was a member of our 8 man team which won silver and bronze in the Alloa to Bishopbriggs road relay in 1990 and 1991. I was also pleased to gain 2 Scottish vets 10K team medals, gold in 1997 and silver in 2001. On an individual basis I took the M40 5,000m gold medal in 1989, a bronze M45 10,000m track and a bronze M50 10K road medal. I also represented the Scottish vets as a M45 in the Cross Country International in 1994 and gained my first UK team medal as part of the M50 Cambuslang Road 5K bronze medallists in 1999.

McAndrew Relay 1989 – winning M40 team

During my running career I had been mainly fortunate in avoiding any serious injuries until I turned 53 years of age. However, long before that I was involved in an accident which could have ended my running career or worse when I was hit from behind by a motor cycle in April 1981 during the Glen Nevis 10 mile road race. With only 1 and ½ miles to go I was lying a close 6th when the incident occurred. I was oblivious to what had happened. According to Lochaber’s Ronnie Campbell, who witnessed the event unfold from behind, a young Lochaber motor cyclist in his eagerness to get back to the finish misjudged overtaking a car which he collided with. He and his bike bounced off the car and smashed into me propelling me high up in the air in summersault style before landing on my head and bouncing along the rough road surface. I must have lost consciousness for a few seconds and was unsure of what had happened until I heard someone groaning nearby. I was struggling to see as my glasses had been knocked off and then I saw this blurred image of someone pinned under his motor bike with the wheels still spinning. Not surprisingly I gave him a mouthful. While the young lad was waiting for an ambulance to come Ronnie kindly took me to A&E where I was examined and discharged despite the large Tom and Jerry like lump at the back of my head. Fortunately the point of impact had been my left buttock rather than my spine. The next morning I found it very difficult to get out of bed and came down the stairs on my bottom as my whole body had stiffened up as a result of the impact. Later that night when it got dark I went out for a one mile very slow hirple thinking that this would hasten my recovery. I persevered with this for the rest of the week. The following weekend I was called back into action much sooner than planned. when doing my team manager at a Scottish Athletics Track League meeting someone did not turn up and I duly stepped in as a replacement and surprised myself with a 16.12  5,000m performance so soon after the accident.

Going back to the theme of injuries I developed problems in my right knee in the late summer of 2002 which eased a little after some rest and physio. I was determined to appear in my 32nd consecutive McAndrew Relay and toed the line. However, 2/3rds of the way round my knee gave way but rather than drop out I hobbled on to the finish. I now found walking even difficult and had no chance of competing in what would have also been my 32nd consecutive Scally Relay. To cut a long story short I had keyhole surgery in that knee in May 2003 and then the other knee required the same treatment later in November. My sabbatical from competition was to last until I was 61 in 2010 when I finished 3rd M60 in the Scottish Vets 5K road champs at Clydebank. During the interim period I was only doing very light jogging while continuing my roles as team manager and as club president.

When turning M65 in 2014 I was 3rd in the Scottish 5,000m track championships and then the following year picked up double gold indoor medals over 1,500m and 3,000m in spite of suffering from shingles and repeated my 3,000m indoor success in 2016 and 2017. The icing on the cake as a M65 came in 2018 when Frank Hurley, Barnie Gough and I narrowly won the UK team gold just pipping Inverness by 3 seconds. I was still recovering from flu and had not run at all for 2 weeks and had only started some tentative jogging in the days before the race. I was still feeling weak but it was a case of finishing for the team on the very testing 2 lap Forres course. After coming off the hills for the second time I knew I would finish and was able to dig in for the final ½ mile on the short parkland grass.

I turned M70 in April of this year and had been training for the Scottish 5K road championship at Silverknowes, Edinburgh, in May. Unfortunately I suffered an ankle injury which greatly interrupted my build up. If I ran one day I had to take the next 3 to 4 days off to let the swelling go down. I had made up my mind not to run and on the Tuesday before the Friday race I phoned Adrian Stott to tell him I was withdrawing if he wished to re-allocate my number. The following day Scottish Athletics announced that there would be individual medals for the various masters age groups. I phoned Adrian again to ask if my number was still available and he said yes. I told him I would try a warm up and then hope to participate. On the night after a very limited warm up I lined up at the back of the field and started cautiously. My strapped-up ankle held up reasonably well until the 3K mark and thereafter it was just a matter of shuffling on one good leg to the line in a personal worst of 24.38. I did not know how I had fared in my category as the entry list had not indicated ages. However, I hoped I might have been in the first 3. The individual computer printout gave me first M70. My painful effort had been worthwhile. Shortly afterwards I discovered that I was the only M70! If I had known that I could have walked round and saved myself from aggravating my injury and which has resulted so far in a 5-month enforced rest from running.


Presentation at Silverknowes in 2019   (Bobby Gavin’s photograph)

(David also ran well in 1974-75, as several result sheets prove: well in front of old rival Brian McAusland in the Nigel Barge Memorial Trophy, who he also defeated in the Balloch to Clydebank; a second-class certificate (behind Brian) in the Tom Scott; and in 1975 a strong run in the Glasgow University 5, in front of young Fraser Clyne (Aberdeen University) and Martin Craven (ESH).)

Interview in 1986 Scottish Marathon Club Magazine, 1986

David Cooney: Team Manager   What others say about him

David Cooney: What they say

First and most comprehensive is by Colin Feechan (above with Paul Doran, Clydesdale Harriers)

When one looks at the Scottish road and cross country record books over the last 40 years there is one club whose team achievements stand over all others, namely Cambuslang Harriers. Whilst some clubs have come and gone (literally), and others are presently dominating, it is a remarkable achievement that a club with an average total membership over all age groups of less than 130 runners has managed to punch above its weight for 4 decades. Whilst no single person can take all of the credit, two ever presents during this period are Robert Anderson (featured elsewhere) and David Cooney, whose running career, and contribution and influence in many roles is now highlighted to show how pivotal he is to this ongoing success story.

With 2018 being the 70th anniversary of the founding of Cambuslang Harriers, David Cooney had been club president for 32 of those years, as well as being a committee member for another 11 years. David joined Cambuslang Harriers as a promising runner in January 1971 and was a major contributor to the growth of the club as an endurance force in Scotland. As an athlete he contributed to early club success in the 1970’s and then in 1980, whilst still competing and having served as a committee member for 6 years, he started his first stint as club president. He withdrew from the role of president for 5 years but continued to serve as a committee member while he and wife Anne spent time with their young family and he then resumed in the role in 1992 when he was re-elected before eventually returning to the “committee back benches” in 2019 after a total of 33 years in the presidency role. It is quite remarkable then that he has also forged a successful haul as an athlete. On top of that David has been the Seniors’ team manager for almost 3 decades, a vital role in which he excels and relishes given his athletics knowledge, experience and commitment to the role.

As an athlete David was always more comfortable on the road and track than over cross country and he was a key member of many of the successful road relay teams of the 1970’s including the 1972 Edinburgh to Glasgow relay team that won the most meritorious award, with David running the first leg and his brother Frank running the last leg. This was the first of six successive outings in this prestigious race, with his final selection being in 1981. David picked up a number of individual awards such as Lanarkshire 10 mile road race champion in 1976, after winning silver and bronze in the 2 preceding years, whilst another silver was forthcoming in 1978 after a great tussle with his aforementioned clubmate Robert Anderson. David enjoyed a fair amount of success throughout the years and as a masters athlete won the M65 Scottish Indoor 3000m championship in 3 successive years from 2015 to 2017, as well as picking up another gold for the 1500m in 2015. His most recent success was the Scottish M70 5k road title in May 2019.

Team prizes are too numerous to remember and recall, however some early ones worth mentioning, as Cambuslang Harriers were on the way up, include the 1972 Lanarkshire road relays bronze alongside Bobby Inglis, Gordon Eadie and Robert Anderson and shortly after his many Senior team victories were recorded in races such as the Neilston Pad and the Clydebank to Helensburgh road race.

The club’s upward momentum continued in early 1976 with bronze team medals in the prestigious Nigel Barge Road Race thanks to David, Peter Preston and Robert Anderson. Another team title Gold medal was secured by David, this time as a masters athlete, in April 1997 at the SAF championships with the aid of teammates John Bates, Sandy Eaglesham and Murray McDonald.

Although not his favourite terrain, David was a member of a bronze winning team for the club in the West District cross country championships in January 1976 and in an M65 Gold medal winning team at the British Masters cross country championships in 2018 alongside Frank Hurley and Barnie Gough. The 1976 result was significant in that it was a breakthrough achievement for the club at the time, the club’s first ever district senior team medals. His fellow team members that day were Peter Preston, Robert Anderson, Gordon Eadie, Alex Gilmour and Bobby Inglis. What happened over the country in the in-between years!! Clubmate Colin Feechan insists the quickest he saw David run over the country was when they were approached by a herd of young inquisitive cows while out on a club training run organised by then club captain Robert Anderson in the late 1970’s, it ended up as “every man for himself” to escape from the cows as David put in an Olympic level effort to reach and jump over the safety of the fence first, whilst Robert casually caught up laughing his head off at the antics of his grown up clubmates!

David’s commitment to the club and to Scottish athletics has always also gone above and beyond the basic role of president/committee member. In the 1970’s and 1980’s he was a regular contributor to both Athletics Weekly and the Scottish Runner magazine. David wrote an interim history of the first 50 years of Cambuslang Harriers in 1998. He also completed an extensive article on the club’s masters athletes achievements for the Scottish Veteran Harriers Club magazine December 2017 edition. He continues to keep the club in the public eye with his legendary race reports on social media and the local newspaper Rutherglen Reformer, and he publishes a monthly updated list of individual and team achievements to club members from success at county level through to national success and national selection for all age groups, which by the end of each season usually numbers more than 20 pages in total which in itself reflects on the continuing success of the club.

As well as administration duties within the club David has also for many years been the main link to club sponsors; the Regional Sports Council; The Cambuslang Rugby and Sports Club and the South Lanarkshire Athletics Partnership.

In his 48 (almost 49) years as a Cambuslang Harrier, David has overseen and driven (along with the likes of Robert Anderson and Mike Johnston) the transition of the club from a local niche mainly senior club to a nationally recognised male and female club successful over country; road; track; trail and hill across all age groups from under 11’s to over 70’s. The cornerstone of the approach has been to develop a family friendly club catering for all levels of participation from health and social to international. David’s emphasis and direction for the club is on participation, competition and the team element of running, and in particular supporting and targeting club participation and success at district and national level and above over all terrains, distances and age groups.

However there’s much more to David’s spell as president than that. David has always striven to ensure that Cambuslang Harriers have the right processes and volunteers in place to develop and support the athletes whether it be local; national or even international level. He is always quick to acknowledge the role of others – his many committee members over the years, some of them very long term like Owen Reid, Dave Thom and Colin Feechan; club stalwart Robert Anderson and Des Yuill who was president from 1986 to 1992; the coaching team led by Mike Johnston; the many volunteers and whilst it doesn’t happen without support equally it doesn’t happen unless somebody is driving it all forward.

David was shortlisted by Scottish Athletics for the Volunteer of the year award in 2018, and he was presented with the SALSC Services to Sport Award in 2019.  The photograph below shows Dave receiving this award.

It is as senior team manager that David comes into his own. He always has a finger on the pulse of athlete’s fitness and persuades/encourages/cajoles the best possible team onto the start line for the major races. In the 1980’s and 1990’s he remarkably kept a strong and competitive track team participating in the Scottish Track leagues Division 1 and 2, a remarkable feat for a club with no home track.

The key to David’s incredible success as team manager includes all of the little important tasks that he does consistently to make a difference, but is sometimes very difficult to articulate i.e. alerting athletes to key race dates well in advance, keeping in touch with non local athletes, ensuring our race entries include these athletes where appropriate, submitting entries on time, providing athletes with important race day information, team declarations and number distribution, making sure the club is not misrepresented via results (accuracy, clubs running ineligible athletes etc.). On race days he provides encouragement and motivation to all competing athletes. This is followed up post-race with acknowledgement to all athletes and volunteers, individually where possible, on their efforts and contribution on the day, and of course his extensive race reports. All of the above, whilst easily stated, involves extensive planning, commitment and time. To do this consistently over a period of almost 4 decades shines a light on why the name Cambuslang Harriers appears so often on the medal table at district and national team championships.

Beyond district and national participation, David was also the driving force behind the club competing in the European Clubs cross country championships in the 1980’s and 1990’s, the regular appearances at the English 12-stage road relays, and of course British Masters team/relay races where team victories have been picked up at every age group, much to the disdain of some English race commentators, although the club is warmly welcomed by athletes and race organisers alike who appreciate the commitment and logistics required to compete at these events.

Whilst a variety of factors come into play to explain why a relatively small club has enjoyed such lasting success, David looks for all athletes to share a sense of ambition imbued with a strong club spirit. This has now become a very important club tradition which is evident for all to see on race day. Loyalty from athletes to the club cannot be overlooked, but has to be earned, and the athlete testimonials below say it all.

His period in charge of the club incorporates great success across the age groups for individuals and teams from Under 13 to M65 Masters on road; trail; track and hills. A few highlights of club achievements during his stewardship include:  

  • AT Mays Trophy for the top male cross country club across all age groups at the National Cross Country Champs awarded 23 years out of the 31 years it’s been contested
  • National Cross Country Champions 16 times including 8 in a row (plus 8 silver and 7 bronze)
  • National male and female age group champions 43 times
  • West District Team Champions 23 times.

David’s unwavering commitment, passion and knowledge of athletics, plus the fact the “red and white” of Cambuslang Harriers runs through his DNA is something that has played a vital role in putting this club on the athletics map. David has taken immense pleasure and great satisfaction in witnessing the rise of Cambuslang Harriers from being a small parochial club to becoming one of the leading Scottish clubs on road, country and trail.  48 years and 8 months later he admits that he still gets the same buzz and sense of pride when a Cambuslang Harrier athlete or a Cambuslang Harrier team does well in competition, and the bad news for any rivals is that he has no plans in standing down from his Team Manager role anytime soon.

Quotes from club athletes

Robert Gilroy “Coming from Burnkank I’ve known David for many many years. What a great guy he is and what he has contributed to Cambuslang Harriers is unbelievable! When you’re in races or relays you always hear his shouts of encouragement and it gives you that extra gear. I think you can pick out David’s shouts from a mile away and it gives you that extra push to the finish. As others will testify when you’re injured he emails you regularly to see how you’re getting on and how you are doing and that means a lot. He has done so much for myself including taking me to/from races often, and he has never complained when I ask him to stop at the bookies on the way home!! I am so lucky to be part of a great running club Cambuslang Harriers, take a bow Mr David Cooney.”

Stevie Wylie “I have known David for almost 34 years and it is fair to say he has played a major part in keeping me involved in athletics throughout that time. He welcomed me into Cambuslang Harriers and he has been an inspiration to myself and many others in the club. His commitment to the club always makes you try that wee bit harder in races as you know he takes great pride in all that the club achieve and to me he is what Cambuslang Harriers is all about. He never forgets his athletes even when they are out with long term injuries, he takes time to give you a call and to offer advice and encouragement. David is just a guy who gets the best out of everyone in the club. To me he is Cambuslang’s Alex Ferguson .”

Jamie Reid “Memories of David Cooney – well, where do we all start? I’m sure the historical aspects of David’s time will be well covered by others. My main discussions with David have been on team selection and races to target and more general racing.

With regards to team selection, David has no axe to grind with any member – the only thought is what is best for Cambuslang Harriers. This, of course, can ruffle a few feathers but if you’re honest it is absolutely the correct approach. This has been tried and tested over the many years and I can’t honestly remember one team decision that he has gotten wrong. All he asks in return is honesty as to your fitness levels, and I have always taken this on board and tried to show form in advance of any race selections.

When I joined Cambuslang, I had a broken bone in my left foot which was in plaster. David was regularly on the phone during this time, encouraging me and letting me know he was thinking of me and wishing me well. The value of this support cannot be overstated to what that did for me and for the countless others over the years. I’m also sure he has kept many athletes in the sport – simply because he cared and kept in touch by being proactive.

After that, there was a regular phone call – probably once a week – to have a chat. Again, this was hugely motivating and was sure to help get me out of bed at 6am the next morning. This was a fairly regular pattern for me and I looked forward to a chat, as I wasn’t making it up to the club as often.

When I was fortunate enough to have a family, the chats weren’t as frequent – getting kids to bed became priority – and now the odd email is enough to keep me going. Quite simply, if it wasn’t for David, I don’t think I’d still be getting out for a run, let alone racing for the best men’s cross country club in Scotland.”

Eddie Stewart “Dave is one of these ‘backroom guys’ who you very rarely hear or read about but, without his tremendous enthusiasm and desire for perfection, the sport would never survive. He always amazes me with his memory of races, times, positions of runners etc from 20 or 30 years ago. He knows where I finished in events that I can’t even remember running in. I’m not only talking about Cambuslang runners, but all clubs! He has been one of the backbones of Cambuslang for the last 40-odd years and has always been there at races collecting and distributing numbers, phoning round club runners, trying to make sure that Cambuslang will have the best possible team turned out on the day. This is very often a thankless task, when you get late call-offs due to illness or injury. I think he has probably contributed a great deal to BT’s profit margin over the years.

He has been a tireless worker for the sport all the time I have known him. He loves to see Cambuslang being successful but, at the same time, he’s one of the first to congratulate other club runners or teams if we are beaten. He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of rules and regulations regarding the status of runners competing for first or second claim clubs, and will scrutinise entry lists to see if any club is fielding an athlete who doesn’t have the required clearance. Apart from his love of athletics and, of course, his family (his wife Anne and their three sons with their families), Dave’s other passion is Celtic FC and I’m sure he has a second encyclopaedia in his brain, containing all the football facts and figures for the last 40 or 50 years Quite an amazing man!”

Club captain Iain Reid “My memory of David is the time when team selections and decisions to race were done over the phone instead of email. You had decided not to run for whatever reason. David would phone you up. You would be brave and tell David “I’m going to give this race a miss”. There would then be a very long awkward silence (it always felt longer on the phone). It was like Russian Roulette! You then speak up first and give your justification and before you know it you’ve been entered for the race. Cambuslang Harriers are therefore better off!!”

Kerry-Liam Wilson

“David Cooney: If clubs didn’t have someone like DC they simply wouldn’t survive. 



Always gets the best out of his guys.

Tells shit jokes!”

Dave Cooney as a Runner   David Cooney: Team Manager


The International Athlete

Walter Ross was a real athletics enthusiast.   A publisher he was responsible for the remarkable ‘The Scots Athlete’ that appeared in 1946 and wss published through to 1958.   It was a valuable document and much appreciated at the time but it did not make money – in fact it cost him money to keep it going.   Partly to the post-war austerity regime ( a real and necessary regime, not at all like the Cameron/Osborne version) athletes tended to borrow other folks’s copies.   Reluctant to stop publishing an athletics magazine he tried to get a wider audience by starting ‘The International Athlete’ from autumn 1958.   It was – I would guess – less successful than the original magazine.   He still published all the championship results in detail, and still covered the doings of top Scots athletes, he still had Emmet Farrell writing the running commentary and Dale Greig was reporting on the women’s scene but the colour had gone from the cover, there were fewer photographs  and coverage of races such as the McAndrew Relay and the Nigel Barge road race was minimal and the magazine only lasted for three years.   

It’s presence should be recognised however and having borrowed the bound copy of Volume One (ie 12 issues) from Danny and Molly Wilmoth I reproduce the covers of the magazine here and may copy some individual issues to give the flavour of the magazine.   I also had three of the four copies of the second volume that I had in my possession and they are here too.

Number 1: November 1958 – Graham Everett winning the AAA’s Mile from Murray Halberg in 4:06.6

This entire magazine is available  here

Number 2: December 1958

Arthur Rowe

Number 3: January 1959

John Wrighton, Southgate Harriers, winner of the European m in 46.3 seconds

Number 4: March 1959

Stan Eldon, winner of the International Cross-Country Championship

Number 5  May 1959

Fred Norris leading from Basil Heatley and Derek Ibbotson in his record breaking 10 miles. 

Number 6: July 1959

Decathletes Valeriy Kutznetzov and Rafer Johnson, world record holder and former world record holders

Number 7: September 1959

Galina Popove, Russian Sprinter 

Number 8: November 1959

Malcolm Yardley, Birchfield Harriers, 440 yards champion 

Number 9: February 1960

Gerry North, Lancashire, Inter Counties CC Champion

Number 10: April 1960

Basil Heatley winning the English CC Championship

Number 11: May/June 1960

Don Bragg (USA, vaulting 15′ 0″ to set a new British All-Comers Record

Number 12

Gordon Pirie winning the 3000m at the British Games

Volune 2, Number 1: October 1960

Glenn Davis (USA) World Record holder, 400m hurdles 49.2 seconds, Olympic champion.

Volume 2 Number 2: February 1961

Not noted in the magazine but it’s Herb Elliott, right, running with Mike Turner while at Cambridge

Volume 2 Number 4

Robbie Brightwell, fastest British sprinter of all time when the picture was published: 46.1 seconds.

The compete issue is to be found  here

An indication of how the magazine was doing is the fact that the cover, which had to start with been stiff card had been changed to paper which meant that th cover picture was not as clear as it had been.  In addition, the many photographs that had adorned the ‘Scots Athlete’ were much fewer in number, their place taken by line drawings and sketches. It would be good to have a copy of Vol 2, number 3 to complete the set.   As we noted at the top, we will scan in the entire first number of the magazine to give an idea of what Walter had in mind when he started the ‘International Athlete’,  the first edition of any publication is always seen as a shop window for future issues, and probably another two or three.

Tony McCall’s Pictures

The following photographs all come from Tony McCall’s collection: it is only fitting that we start with Tony leading the way up a hill in the Luddon Half Marathon.

We follow that one with four pictures from the Glasgow 800 Road Race in 1986

In the Vets Championship with Roddy McFarquhar

Glasgow Marathon 1986

.Glasgow Marathon, ’86

Hugh Barrow, in the traditional Victoria Park AAC vest

.The wonderful athlete that is the multi  talented Mel Edwards, MBE

Warming up with Bill Scally at Strathallan


Scottish Vets Team in 1988

Jamie McLeavy

The following excellent account of Jamie McLeavy’s career has been written by athletics historian and well known authority on the subject, Alex Wilson.   He has also come up with all of the illustrations as well.   Over to Alex.



Ask anyone in the Dumbartonshire town of Bonhill today to name their most famous athlete, chances are you’ll they’ll tell you it’s Lachie Stewart, the Vale of Leven runner who became a household name in Scotland after winning the 10,000 metres at the 1970 Commonwealth Games. Chances, too, are that they’ll never have heard of Jamie McLeavy. However, it’s well worth taking a closer look at the life and career of this runner who in 1927 was described in The Old Vale and It’s Memories as “a shining star, of whom the Vale might well be proud”.

Jamie McLeavy was born on 26 October 1852 in Bonhill as the son of Irish immigrants.
When the Scottish census was taken in 1871, the McLeavy family were living on Dalmonach Road, and young James was employed as a printer at Dalmonach Printworks.

Textile finishing was the lifeblood of Bonhill and neighboring Alexandria, where most of the inhabitants earned their living by dyeing and printing fabrics.

A street scene from Bonhill around 1900 (with thanks to

In the 1860’s more and more Highland Games meetings were popping up all over Scotland, giving sporting talent a never-before-hand chance to shine. Many talented sportsmen would have been unaware of their greatness had they not been given the opportunity to measure themselves against others. In 1866 talented local athletes from in and around Alexandria would have the chance to emerge from the shadows when the thriving local economy prompted local printworks owners to give their support to the first Vale of Leven National Games on Saturday, 15 September 1866. The highlight of the meeting was the appearance of the famous strongman Donald Dinnie, who hurled the 16-pound wooden-shafted Highland Hammer 93 ½ feet or 28.5 metres. The event was so well attended by the townspeople of Alexandria and Bonhill that it was almost a matter of course that it would become an annual fixture.

McLeavy made his first public appearance at the third annual Vale of Leven Games in 1868, when he won the boy’s race.

The following year he won the U-19 300-yard race at the age of 16.

He was an inconspicuous youth, standing only 5”4’ (1.62m) and weighing only 120lb (55kg), but he had already attracted the attention of investors looking to back a future champion.

Soon he would be competing further afield and rubbing shoulders with the crème de la crème of Scottish pedestrianism: the likes of Bob Hindle, William “Cutty” Smith, Willy Park and Bob McKinstray.

On 17 July 1869, he won the third prize in a half-mile handicap off before 85 yards at the recently opened Kelvinside Recreation Grounds.

On 6 November 1969 he finished third behind the famous ped Steve Ridley of Gateshead in a Mile Handicap off 75 yards in Edinburgh; in the athletic hall of the Royal Patent Gymnasium, which had been in operation since 1865.

His daily training on the roads around Bonhill should soon pay off. A year later, McLeavy had already developed into a winner. The race was a mile handicap at a meeting promoted by Bob Hindle at Greenhill Cricket Grounds, Paisley, on 29 October 1870. With a start of 60 yards, McLeavy, it is reported, “rapidly overhauled his men” and easily won the £3 first prize.

On May 18 1871 McLeavy scored his first big success in Edinburgh; in a 1 ½ mile handicap off 45 yards at the Powderhall Grounds, where he defeated, among others, such well-known men as Cutty Smith and Willy Park.

In the summer of 1871, he was in action at Highland Games meetings every weekend. It was hardly necessary to work full time anymore because he was raking in the money at the “gemmes” where he could make more by winning a single handicap race than he could earn slaving away for 60 hours a week at the printworks. In July alone he made appearances at Greenock, Campsie, Johnstone, Stirling and Kelso, typically competing in two or even three events per meeting. At the Johnstone Highland Games on 15th July, for example, he took third place in the 2 miles behind “Cutty” Smith before winning the 4 miles ahead of Willy Park and Smith.

Bob McKinstray having retired in 1870, McLeavy was considered a worthy successor to the former British Champion. To truly follow in the Ayrshireman’s footsteps, however, he would have to go south of the border and take on England’s finest on their home turf.

McLeavy made his first appearance in England on 18 November 1871 when he won the first prize of £8 and a beautiful trophy in a mile handicap off 75 yards at Royal Oak Park Grounds in Manchester. In doing so he beat Jim Nuttall and several other first-class runners.
It will be remembered that Bob McKinstray also made his English debut in Manchester in 1865, where he defeated a first-class field in a world record half-mile time of 1:56.5.

McLeavy first came before the London public at the Lillie Bridge Ground, West Brompton, on Boxing Day 1871, when, with a start of 300 yards, he handsomely won a four-mile handicap in 19:35.0, beating John Mellor, George Hazael and Billy Mills and netting himself £20.

He was only 18 years of age, a youth prodigy.

On 4 February 1872 he placed fourth in a 4-mile handicap off 100 yards at the Prince of Wales’ Ground in Bow, London. Here he ran 420 yards short of 4 miles on heavy ground in 19:26.0.

On March 2nd, McLeavy returned to the Lillie Bridge Ground. The race was a 1000-yard handicap with £40 prize money for the winner. Even at this short distance, he had the speed to win comfortably in 2:17.4 off 35 yards and beat Billy Mills and Jim Nuttall, among others.

Four weeks later he visited Lillie Bridge again to compete in the Four Miles Championship for Tom Senn’s Four Miles Challenge Cup, a beautiful silver trophy worth £120. The race attracted a large crowd of 4,000 spectators to the enclosure in West Brompton. This time it was of course a scratch race, but even without a handicap McLeavy made light work of the difficult conditions and won by almost 200 yards from George Hazael in 21:13.0. However, Hazael was dissatisfied with his defeat and was keen to make amends.

To take absolute possession of the challenge cup, McLeavy had to defend it against all-comers for 18 months: no easy task. If challenged, the holder had to meet his challenger within six weeks.

To put McLeavy’s win at Lillie Bridge into perspective, George Hazael, whom he had easily defeated here, was already a three-time British 10-mile champion. Hazael won his first British 10-Mile Championship on 15 May 1869 in Manchester at 55:32.5. After losing his title following illness, he retained it on at Hackney Wick November 8, 1869 in 53:55.6. He won the championship again in Hackney Wick on 18 June 1870 and on 17 December 1870 made the challenge cup his absolute property in Manchester.

Like in the previous year McLeavy spent the summer racing weekly at Highland Games meetings. These races weren’t timed and so numerous, it’s not worth listing them. As was typical for a Scottish ped, the summer was dedicated to the “gemmes”, so that the championship races took place in spring and autumn/winter.

McLeavy defended the Four Miles Championship for the first time in a match for 50 pounds against George Hazael at Lillie Bridge on 27 May 1872. The weather was good, the track was in fine condition, and the runners did not disappoint. Hazael threw everything at McLeavy and dashed through the first mile in 4:33. But it was not enough to shake off the young Scotsman who led in 9:31 with 2 miles – the fastest time ever run for two miles in London. Hazael was back in front at 3 miles in 14:45 but had no chance against McLeavy’s finishing sprint and gave up 300 yards from the tape. McLeavy “cantered in” alone to the finish in a Scottish record time of 19:52.0 – the fastest seen in Britain since the titanic 10-mile battle between Bill Lang and John White at Hackney Wick in 1863.

After a summer of racing at Highland Games meetings McLeavy lost narrowly to George Hazael over 2 miles at Lillie Bridge on 12th August after giving the latter a 10-yard start. The times were decent enough: 9:39.5 for Hazael, 9:40.2 for McLeavy.

George Hazael

On 24th August McLeavy and Hazael met again and together with “Cutty” Smith and Billy Mills they fought out the Six Miles Championship for £50 and a silver cup at the Powderhall Grounds. McLeavy was once again in the ascendency, winning 350 yards from Smith in an excellent 31:28.0, while Hazael and Mills dropped out.

After again defeating Hazael over two miles at the Star Grounds in Fulham on 16th September, McLeavy concluded his 1872 season a fortnight later at Gateshead Borough Gardens where he was competing for Tom Senn’s Mile Challenge Cup worth £50 and £35 in prize money. Despite the heavy conditions there were 4000 spectators present to watch one of the more interesting races to be decided in the north east. Among the 14 entries was local hero Steve Ridley, but he was ill and forced to scratch. McLeavy was now the favourite but found the finishing speed of Paisley’s Bob Hindle too hot for his liking, Hindle winning by 6 yards from McLeavy in 4:31.5. McLeavy in turn finished a dozen yards ahead of another Paisley ped, “Cutty” Smith.

Bob Hindle, a cloth-lapper by trade, was generally regarded as a short-distance specialist, often competing in sprint handicaps at Highland Games meetings. However, he was no push-over at distances up to a mile and was particularly dangerous at the half-mile, where he had an official best of 1:58.0 but had covered the distance in 1:52 in a time trial on a straight road.

After a year-long ceasefire, Hazael challenged McLeavy again for the Four Miles Championship. A match for £25 a-side was arranged for 11 April 1873 at the Prince of Wales’ Ground in Bow. The Sportsman reported that McLeavy had “taken his breathings with James Stewart, at the Rob Roy Tavern, Glasgow”, and weighed 8st 9lb. The attendance of 2,000 was impressive for such a small ground, which had a 400-yard grass track that was not conducive to record times. Hazael did all he could to get rid of McLeavy, but the latter refused to be shaken off. After mile splits of 4:47, 9:55 and 15:13, Hazael, who was still leading, gave up in despair 700 yards from the finish and complained – albeit in vain – that McLeavy had fouled him. McLeavy meanwhile finished the race at his leisure in 20:59.0 and with this win made the Challenge Cup his absolute property. The Sterling silver challenge cup was an enormously valuable prize and McLeavy must already have been a wealthy young man. However, young also usually means inexperienced, and professional sport back then was a veritable shark pool.

On 11 October 1873 McLeavy returned to the Gateshead Borough Gardens to compete again for the Mile Challenge Cup. This time it was a three-way sweepstakes for £25 a-side, in which he faced local hero Steve Ridley and the holder, Bob Hindle. The 600-yard track was in good condition, and McLeavy rose to the occasion by delivering of the best performances of his career. After a ding-dong battle with Ridley on the last lap, McLeavy prevailed by three yards in a superb time of 4:21.0. Only Bob McKinstray among Scots had ever run the mile faster.

In the mile handicap at the 1874 New Year’s Gala at Edinburgh’s Powderhall Grounds, McLeavy proved that his mile performance at Gateshead was no flash in the pan by passing upwards of forty men to take third place from scratch in 4:26.8.

Unfortunately, after making such a promising start, 1874 was to be a quiet year for McLeavy. It was reported in The Sporting Life that he had inexplicably “lost all form”.

It would be some time until his next race of any note, and it wasn’t a bad comeback by any standard.

In August 1875 McLeavy lined up against George Hazael among others at Hackney Wick in a four-mile handicap race for a champion belt and £50 in prize money. Hazael took full advantage of a generous 50-yard start to win by 100 yards in 20:07.0. McLeavy produced a strong finish to beat H. Hescott (180y start) by 10 yards. His time of around 20:24 was well outside his best, but after such a long absence still a very respectable effort.

On September 4 McLeavy made his first appearance at Springfield Recreation Grounds, which had opened on London Road in early 1875 at the original site of Celtic Park.
As Scotland’s largest port and most populous city, Glasgow was at the height of its commercial and industrial prosperity. Springfield was the third enclosure to open in the city after Stonefield Recreation Grounds in 1861 and Kelvinside Recreation Grounds in 1869.
The race in question was a mile handicap for a silver champion trophy worth 50 guineas. Champion belts and cups were notoriously hard to win outright. This particular trophy had to be held for nine months and won three times in succession, and the holder had to defend it every six weeks if challenged.
5,000 spectators found their way into the enclosure to watch the race. McLeavy, who started from scratch, was in a class of his own, but just failed to catch the leaders. Taking third in 4:25.6, he finished five yards behind the aspiring Alexander Clark from Glasgow and three yards behind Willy Park, both of whom had a 120-yard start.

After challenging Hazael to defend the four-mile champion belt, McLeavy met the Londoner at Springfield Recreation Grounds on 3rd October before a huge attendance of 20,000 spectators. However, McLeavy’s many supporters would go home disappointed because their man suffered an “off” day and gave up at 3 ¼ miles when trailing Hazael by 50 yards.

What did the 1876 season hold in store?

McLeavy opened his account with a 3-mile match against Henry Hescott for £15 a side and, of course, a challenge belt. The match was decided at the Royal Oak Grounds on 22nd January. It was a handicap, Hescott having received a start of 195 yards. This turned out to be too much for McLeavy, who made up some ground, but could not catch Hescott and lost by about 60 yards in a mediocre time of 15:36.0.

Then, on 18 March, he met the much-improved Alex Clark over a mile for £50 at Springfield Recreation Grounds. As in Manchester, however, he was unable to make up the start he had given his opponent (30 yards) and lost by about a yard in 4:35.4. Clark, who was 23 and a butcher by trade, was of course happy to collect the stakes

Then, on 1st April, McLeavy launched an attempt on the professional mile world record at Lillie Bridge at the invitation of the Amateur Athletic Club. Bill Lang and William Richards jointly held the record after they had both run the distance in 4:17.25 at Manchester in 1865. McLeavy, by way of an inducement, was to receive £50 and half the gate money should he be successful. Depending on his finishing time, this amount decreased down to 10 shillings and quarter gate for a time of 4:25. He had his great rival George Hazael and his trainer, Jack Taylor from Glasgow, as pacemakers to help him. About 2,000 spectators were present. Paced quarters of 1:01 and 1:07 took him to half-way in 2:08, but a 1:11 third quarter ended all hopes of a record and slow fourth quarter of brought him home in 4:28.6 – a fast time by any standard, but well outside the record.

So far that season, McLeavy had been below par. It was therefore to show what he really had in him. On 10th June he renewed his rivalry with George Hazael in a three-mile match for £50 before a bumper crowd of 10,000 spectators at Shawfield Recreation Grounds, which had opened in 1875 on the south side of the Clyde near the old Rutherglen Bridge. McLeavy immediately took the lead and covered the first mile in 4:46.25 and the second mile in 9:44.5. Hazael stayed in his slipstream until a lap to go when he suddenly cracked and came to a standstill. McLeavy completed the distance at his leisure in 14:45.25, while Hazael was booed for his apparent failure to make a race of it. McLeavy’s time was superb, but the manner in which he achieved it suggested he could have gone considerably faster had he been pushed all the way. Hazael, who had won a 10-mile race at Springfield Grounds in a sensationally fast 52:05.0 a month earlier, had been expected to provide McLeavy with a sterner challenge.

On 4th November, McLeavy took on Alex Clark again, but this time they were matched on level terms over a mile for £50 and the Championship of Britain. The match was contested under the scrutiny of between 3,000 and 4,000 spectators at Springfield Recreation Grounds. The report in the New York Clipper tells the tale of this exciting duel: “They went away at a terrific pace, McLeavy cutting out the work, and in this way they passed the referee for the first lap in 59 sec, Clark half a yard behind. Going down the backstretch, Clark went up to McLeavy’s shoulder, and rattled the champion along at his best pace, offers of 6 to 4 now being made on Clark, who seemed able to leave the champion at any time, and, coming into the straight for the half-mile, the men passed the post for the second time abreast (time 2min. 7sec.). Going for the third lap, Clark went to the front, but McLeavy, with one of his grand rushes, repassed him, and held the lead once more until coming into the straight for home, when Clark, with a splendid sprint, raced alongside to within fifteen yards from the tape, where Clark was run to a standstill, being then two yards behind, McLeavy completing the distance in 4min. 25 ¼ sec.”
McLeavy’s winning time was the fastest that year in Britain and the second fastest mile ever witnessed in Scotland, just a shade slower than the 4:25.0 posted by Steve Ridley at Powderhall in 1870.

The following week, McLeavy returned to Springfield Recreation Grounds to defend the four-mile championship against James “Treacle” Sanderson, of Whitworth, for £50 and a silver cup worth 60 guineas. Sanderson, who in the 1860s had been one of Britain’s leading distance runners with a two-mile best of 9:12.5. These records had been set many years previously, but he was still a force to be reckoned with. It was reported that McLeavy had been under the care of Bob Hindle. The conditions weren’t great: the track had to be cleared of snow, and it was cold and windy. McLeavy set off at a fast pace, zipping through the first mile in 4:39, but this was no problem for the Whitworth veteran, who led at 2 miles in 9:45 and 3 miles in 15:02. However, McLeavy had the measure of Sanderson in the last mile and won easily in a superb time of 19:58.0. The Sporting Life commented, “Considering that the race was run in a snowstorm, with the wind blowing a perfect gale, it must be reckoned to quite equal to the best time on record.”

After the victory over Sanderson, McLeavy simultaneously held all British championship titles from 1 to 4 miles inclusive.

On 18th November, McLeavy contested his third race in just as many weeks at Springfield Recreation Grounds. It was a match over 10 miles against Jim Bailey, an emerging force from Sittingbourne, whom McLeavy had given a start of 200 yards. This one did not go the full distance, though, as McLeavy caught his opponent at five miles and was awarded the win after covering six miles in 33 minutes exactly.

All augured well for his final engagement of 1876, a six-mile match against Hazael for the British Championship and £50 at Glasgow’s latest enclosure, the Vale of Clyde Recreation Grounds on Govan Road on 23rd December. McLeavy, however, showed up in a bad way physically and had to give up at 4 ½ miles after throwing up, leaving Hazael to canter to victory in 31:44.0.

After forfeiting the 4-mile championship to Hazael on 3 February 1877, due to illness, McLeavy was soon back at full strength. He proved this at Shawfield Grounds on 10 March by defeating Hazael over 5 miles for £80 in 26:06.0.

On 30th June he again took on Cutty Smith over 10 miles for £60 and a champion belt at Shawfield. The ground was uneven after recent trotting races, so a fast time was out of the question. It came down to a sprint finish, which McLeavy won with 2 yards to spare in 56:10.0.

After his usual frenetic summer of racing at the Highland Games, McLeavy tackled Tranent’s James Wood, a mile specialist, over a mile at Shawfield Grounds on September 30 1877.
McLeavy had been training under Davie Ferguson, of Pollockshaws, but had stopped training after the death of his father ten days earlier. Nonetheless, the 6,000 spectators were treated to a fine race which saw Wood emerge the winner by six yards in 4:30.0.

A week after losing to Wood, it was back to business as usual. McLeavy returned to Shawfield and contested another Championship of Britain match against George Hazael, the distance on this occasion being six miles for £100. A 10,000 strong crowd watched their man win by 200 yards from the bull-faced Englishman in 32:16.5.

Two weeks later, however, Hazael turned the tables on McLeavy in a six miler on a heavy grass track at Dundee, winning in a slow time of 35 minutes.

On 3rd November McLeavy met the up-and-coming Billy Cummings over 2 miles for £50 at Shawfield. He had conceded the 19-year-old from Paisley a start of 20 yards but had no trouble beating him in 10:07.0.

The following week, McLeavy returned to the same venue to defend his 10-mile title against Cutty Smith. Unfortunately, Smith fell ill with gastric fever and scratch, resulting in a walk over for McLeavy. To be eligible for the prize money, however, the rules required that he complete the distance or run until stopped by friends of his opponent. Seeing as nearly 1,000 persons had paid admission, he decided to try for a fast time against the clock. However, shortly after covering the first mile in 4:43, it began to pour down, ruling out all possibility of a fast time. Smith’s backers were however satisfied and refrained from asking McLeavy to go the full distance.

On 17th November McLeavy got his chance to avenge his earlier defeat by James Wood, when they met over a mile for £75 at Springfield Recreation Grounds. It was by all accounts a great race and McLeavy had to pull out all the stops to win by a slight margin of 2 yards in a fine time of 4:28.75.

McLeavy’s backers, after seeing that their man was in top form, quickly organized another race against George Hazael. This time it went over a distance of 10 miles (not McLeavy’s best distance) and took place at Shawfield on 1st December. Despite receiving a start of 250 yards, McLeavy was unable to hold off Hazael, who caught and passed him on the last lap and won by 15 yards in 54:32.0.

The following weekend, at Campfield Running Ground in Falkirk, however, McLeavy was again able to savour the taste of victory by defeating Billy Cummings (30y start) in a close-run 2 miles from scratch in 9:52.0. For his efforts he collected £30 and a silver cup.

McLeavy concluded the year with two races at Shawfield Ground. On 29th December he engaged in a three-way mile race for £50 and a silver challenge cup. The race was so slow that the runners were booed out by the crowd of 1,000 spectators. Missiles were even thrown at them to make them go faster! It came down to a final sprint where he couldn’t handle James Wood and Alex Clark and gave up on the home straight. The winning time, a slow 4:49.5. On New Year’s Eve, he was unplaced in a five-way match over three quarters of a mile for £20 and a champion belt, 34-year-old Bob Hindle rolling back the years to win a good race in 3:22.5.

In early 1878 McLeavy’s foot-racing career took a new direction when wealthy sporting patron Sir John Astley announced a six-day go-as-you-please race for a champion belt and cash prizes totalling a mouth-watering £750.

Six-day walking races had been in vogue for a while, but there had been mounting criticism of the farcical walking styles employed by some competitors. Astley, who had already sponsored several such contests, decided to resolve the knotty issue by allowing the competitors to walk or run as they pleased – hence the name “go as you please”.

McLeavy had so far taken no interest in these contests but was powerless to resist the allure of big money. Despite his track pedigree, success was by no means guaranteed. Six-day races required both extraordinary mental tenacity and a high tolerance for pain and sleep deprivation.

As he had never raced beyond ten miles before, he knew he was entering unknown territory.

To prepare for upcoming contest, he undertook a rigorous regimen of daily training runs and walks during the cold winter months. On 9th March he pitted himself against Cutty Smith in an 8-hour go-as-you-please match for £50 at Shawfield Recreation Grounds. Walking throughout, he retired after completing 35 miles (56.3 km) in 6 hours 51 minutes 43 seconds (Smith was over four miles ahead at this point).

The big six-day race commenced on 18th March in the Islington Agricultural Hall, which was packed with spectators despite the ungodly hour of 1:03 am. McLeavy got off to a good start by covering 28.3 miles (45.5 km) in the first 4 ½ hours. He completed his first 50 miles (80.5 km) in just over 9 hours and had completed exactly 100 miles (160.9 km) at the expiration of 24 hours. He was unable to maintain this pace, however, and fell well behind the more experienced long-distance experts such as American Daniel O’Leary, who won 520.2 miles. After six days McLeavy finished 9th overall with 250.6 miles.

After recovering from the gruelling six-day race, McLeavy initially confined himself to the shorter distances again.

On 11 May 1878 he took on Cutty Smith and George Hazael in a championship race over 6 miles at Springfield Recreation Grounds but lacked sharpness and dropped out at 5 ¼ miles. Smith posted a fine time of 31:29.25 – one of a string of excellent performances by the Paisley man that year.

Then, on 1st June, McLeavy took on the much-improved Willie Cummings over 2 miles at the Springfield Recreation Grounds. The Paisley running sensation scorched to victory in a fabulous 9:20.5, McLeavy dropping out at 1 ¼ miles after finding the 4:35 opening mile too hot for his liking. Cummings was destined go onto even greater things. He would win the British Mile Championship in the Lillie Bridge as a rank outsider a month later and would finish the year as Britain’s #1 miler after posting a 4:19.5 at Springfield Recreation Grounds on 5th October.

In 1878 Scottish professional runners were preeminent at nearly every distance from one to 10 miles. McLeavy had his hands full trying to assert himself against his fellow countrymen. There was no need to travel south to compete. The situation was quite the opposite in fact: his great rival George Hazael would make the long journey north to Scotland again and again in his quest for worthy opposition.

A week after losing to Cummings, McLeavy rediscovered his best form in a match against Cutty Smith for £50 and the British Six-mile Championship at Springfield Recreation Grounds. Despite subdued expectations of a good time due to the rainy conditions, McLeavy and Smith had a great duel, McLeavy winning by a narrow margin of only 2 yards in an excellent time of 31:34.5 minutes after mile splits of 4:47, 9:52, 15:10, 20:35 and 26:19.

McLeavy’s 1878 summer schedule was again jam-packed with appearances at Highland Games meetings, including several performances of note. On 20th July he won, from scratch, a 10-mile race for a prize of 100 shillings at Barrack Park in Dundee in 54:57.0. On 3rd August he ran third in an hour race at Forfar behind Cutty Smith (10 ¾ miles) and David Livingstone. Then, two weeks later, he took second 30 yards behind Livingstone in a 4-mile flat race at Springfield Recreation Ground in 20:41. Livingstone, a coal miner born in Tranent in 1856, a rising force in Scottish pedestrianism. Earlier that year he had defeated Billy Cummings over a mile at Glasgow in 4:25.0.

On 23rd November, McLeavy, with the benefit of training at the Old Tree Grounds in Paisley under the supervision of Bob Hindle, defended his 6-mile title against Cutty Smith in 32:10.0 at Shawfield Recreation Grounds where soft ground and unfavourable weather militated against a faster time. Willie Cummings and George Hazael had also entered but failed to put in an appearance.

On 21st December McLeavy once again tool on Billy Cummings over 2 miles for £50 and the World Championship. Despite there being snow on the track, Cummings set a fast pace covering the first mile in 4:31. McLeavy held on for as long as he could but eventually had to let Cummings go, the Paisley man winning by 40 yards in 9:44.0.

During the early months of 1879, McLeavy turned his attention the ultra-long distances again. On 29th March he teamed up with Cutty Smith in a 24-hour walking match against well-known Edinburgh ped Peter McKellan for £25 a-side at Shawfield Grounds. Both Smith and McLeavy were to walk for 12 hours, while McKellan was tasked with doing the whole thing on his own. As good as McKellan was, the outcome was a bit of a foregone conclusion, McLeavy taking over from Smith with a comfortable lead which he never relinquished. Smith and McLeavy won by three miles, covering 55 miles and 53 miles respectively.

On 19th April McLeavy donned his running shoes again to compete in a 4-mile handicap at Shawfield Grounds. After months of long-distance training, however, he lacked his usual leg speed and wound up third in around 21:57 off scratch.

About a month later he departed for the USA, where long-distance running was in vogue and lucrative prizes beckoned.

He contested his first major race stateside on 13th June: a 150-mile match against Jeremiah Murphy of Chicago in the Chicago Exposition Building. However, his American rival was not quite up to the task, retiring after 88 miles. McLeavy was eventually declared the winner after completing 120 miles in 31 hrs. 45 min.

On 6th October of the same year, McLeavy took part in a big six-day race at New York’s Madison Square Garden, where the competitors (the crème da la crème of the USA) were chasing a first prize was $5,000. After two days and 150 miles, however, the race was over for McLeavy after contracting a bad cold in the chilly and damp quarters that had been provided by the management.

The six-day race at Madison Square Garden gets under way (National Police Gazette)

In late April 1880 McLeavy competed in a 72-hour walking match at Philadelphia but finished well down the order. Then on 7th June he ran 10 miles in Toronto against the Indian White Eagle and another two runners, winning in 59:30 and earning himself $40. On 4th September he teamed up with White Eagle and Charles Price for an unusual 30-mile race in Chicago; they were matched against a horse ridden by the celebrated pedestrian Daniel O’Leary. McLeavy was the first to run and completed his 10-mile stint in a rather slow 1:09:20. The race, the Chicago Tribune wrote, “afforded plenty of amusement to the crowd” but the runners had no chance against the horse which galloped home with almost 3 miles in hand.

It is difficult to quantify how many races McLeavy contested in the USA, as reports are few and far between. To keep his head above the water, however, he must have competed often and for at times trivial sums of money. On 1 October 1881, for instance, he defeated Charles Price in a 5-mile “exhibition run” on the fringes of a six-day race at the Aquarium in New York in a slow time of 35:30. McLeavy spent about three years in the United States but failed to achieve much in the way of success or make his fortune. The big money was in six-day races, but McLeavy, it appeared, was not particularly cut out for this type of contest.

Miserable inexpensive living conditions may have been responsible for the onset of tuberculosis which forced him to return home in 1882. After returning to Scotland he was reportedly in “enfeebled health”. Back in those days, tuberculosis – or phthisis or consumption as it was known – was considered an incurable illness. The only hope of recovery was a protracted period of rest in a sanatorium with plenty of fresh air and wholesome food – luxuries which McLeavy could ill afford.
Despite his ill health, he continued to compete, albeit with diminishing returns. A six-day go-as-you-please race at Sheffield in December of 1882 he retired after covering only 14 miles. A four-mile race against Alex Clark for the Championship of Scotland at Bolton on 24 March 1883 ended in a disaster when McLeavy gave up after only two miles, already hopelessly beaten. Another match against Clark at the Recreation Grounds in Aberdeen on 21st April ended with McLeavy lapped twice.

No longer in a fit state to compete against top-notch opponents, McLeavy tried his hand at promoting meetings, but failed on account of his ill health. The last months of his life must have been horrific, a living hell, as the disease spread throughout his body, destroying his lungs and shutting down his immune system. In December of 1883 one of his feet had to be amputated after experiencing paralysis.

On 19 January 1884, McLeavy passed away at Glasgow Royal Infirmary at the age of 31.

His funeral was announced two days later, on the front page of the Glasgow Herald.

That was the rags-to-riches-to-rags life of Jamie McLeavy, a youth prodigy, who was fortunate enough to discover his talent for running at an early age and make his mark at a time when professional foot-racing was immensely popular in Scotland; a time before football came into the limelight; a time when people from modest backgrounds could aspire to fame and fortune; a time when 20,000 people would flock to a running ground just to see Jamie McLeavy in action.

Sadly, Jamie McLeavy was also a mere mortal and no match for one of the oldest and deadliest diseases known to mankind.

Janice Eaglesham

Like everyone else in Scottish athletics I was taken totally by surprise when I heard of Janice’s death at the end of July this year (2019).    I had known he since the early 1990’s when I asked her if one of the athletes in myclub could join Red Star.   Janice never turned anyone away and encouraged me to send the athlete along to the Red Star club.    She went, she trained with both clubs and gained immensely.   The girl in question had been very quiet and shy, almost an introvert, and hardly spoke to anyone.   With Red Star she ran all over Scotland and the United Kingdom – then went further afield and raced in Greece, Spain, France and the Netherlands.   The change wrought in her was amazing and the extent of the change was evidenced one night when I was leaving the Kelvin Hall.   I met the athlete’s employment adviser who stopped me and said that the girl, well a woman by this time, was not only speaking to her but phoning her at home and talking for ages.    This was down to Red Star Athletics Club, set up by Janice.   She later asked me to speak (along with Bill Scally and Willie Sharp) at a day in Crown Point.    When Jimmy Sands needed a time to qualify for the paralympics, she asked if he could run with some of my athletes: we et it up and they paced him to the appropriate time.   The work that she put in was repaid manyfold by the changes for the better in the athletes in the club.    She was only 60 years old when she died and should have had many more years ahead of her.   

There were obituaries and tributes aplenty paid to her in the Press and elsewhere and the following tribute is based on that from the ‘Herald’ of 8th August 2019.

Janice with three of her athletes

Janice Eaglesham, MBE, who died suddenly aged 60 was one of the most influential individuals in disability sport in Scotland along with her husband Ian Mirfin.   Janice, who initially planned to be a PE teacher but did not feel cut out for it, became involved in disability sport in 1983.    She was already involved in the sport as an athlete with Edinburgh AC and nationally tanked for 1500m (5:01.4 1973), 3000m (11:47.4  1974), 400mH (70.2  1974) and again at 3000m in 1979 with a time of 11:44.8).

After that spell as an athlete , Janice’s subsequent dedication to disability sports was decisive and life changing, not only for her but for hundreds of athletes and their parents and loved ones.   This all started in 1977 as a  guide runner to a visually-impaired athlete, and she was later a volunteer at the Special Olympics.    Over the years she worked tirelessly to change attitudes and to change lives as a passionate athletics coach who fought hard for the inclusion of disabled people within sport.   Her involvement with Scottish Disablility Sport started in 1985 and she was part of the organising committee for the Association’s Silver Jubilee celebration sports in 1987. 

In 1990 partially sighted athlete Sam Howie was interested in findoing out how he could get involved in athletics at a competitive level.   He was put in touch with Janice who, together with Ian, began to organise training sessions after realising that no club or local authority offered this kind of support anywhere in Scotland.   In December 1990, the Red Star Athletics Club was born, the first club of its kind for athletes with a disability.   From the first informal meetings with just a handful of athletes grew an organisation recognised as the leading club in the UK for athletes with a disability and boasts an impressive Roll of Honour including Paralympic and World championship medallists.   

In 2011 Janice and Ian were awarded the BBC Sports Unsung Hero gong at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year for their contribution to sport, joining the country’s sporting elite at a glittering ceremony in Salford.    Janice was typically modest about the achievement, but appreciated the award as recognition for the work of everyone involved, saying, “For every one person who gets an award like this, there are hundreds of others – coaches and helpers – who turn up, week in, week out.”   

In 2014 she was appointed Chairwoman of Scottish Disability Sport (SDS) leading the association through the development of its current strategic plan.   She was involved in all aspects of SDS life and delivered education and training courses across Scotland.   Janice was active at both a national and international level, opening up access to coaching and competition to hundreds of disabled athletes over the years and acting as team manager and head coach to Scottish squads competing on the world and European stage.   She was heavily involved in RaceRunning, in which athletes use a running bike consisting of a three wheeled frame with a saddle and body support but no pedals, and promoting it as a competitive sport.   

In 2016 the work of Janice and Ian was further recognised when they were both awarded MBE’s in recognition of their services to disability sport .   Janice was also board member and vice-chairwoman of the UK Sports Association for People with a Disability, and was active on working groups with both Scottish and UK Athletics.   

Tracey McCillen, Chief Executive of the UK Sports Association for Ppeople with a Learning Disability, said she was an “athlteics coach, mentor, educator and guide”, adding “Quietly and without presumption  or expectation of acknowledgement, she did it all because she loved it

Given all her talents and dedication, Janice had the perfect partner in Ian Mirfin.   Ian had come into the sport in the mid 1980’s at the time of the ‘running boom’ and was a big, good natured, easy to like character.   He was married to Janice for 33 years and they were a great double act.   If anyone matched her dedication he did.   He worked with athletes from all disciplines and built up a great expertise in wheel chair events.  An excellent coach in his own right, Ian is currently Scottish Coaching’s Event Lead for Paralympic athletes.   The photograph above is of Ian when he received the Scottish Athletics Disability Coach of the Year in 2014

Part of the citation for the award read “Dedicated Ian was recognised for his tireless work with disabled athletes, and especially his success with a trio of female athletes over the past 12 months.   Both Sammy Kinghorn and Meggan Dawson Farrell participated for Scotland in this year’s Commonwealth Games while Shelby Watson is already enjoying success at junior level.   Ian has been identified as a coach on the UK Sport para coach to Rio programme and was part of the Inspire Programme for Glasgow 2014.   Although he works with beginners, Ian has been instrumental in producing the best crop of young wheelchair athletes Scotland has ever seen.”

His double act with Janice however was something quite special and it was recognised several times including 2012 when they   carried the Olympic torch through Rutherglen in Glasgow.

Training with McLatchie: 7

Justin Chaston: Steeplechaser

The range of athletes that Jim McLatchie has worked with or brought all the way through to international honours is very wide – we have already seen some of his work with mile and marathon runners as well as with cross-country champions.   This section is on his work with steeplechasers.   By far the best man he worked with in this event was Justin Chaston (pb 8:23.90).   Chaston ran in three Olympic Games (1996, 2000 and 2004), World Championships (2004), Commonwealth Games (2004), Universiade (1995) and the World Cross in 1987.   A remarkable record by any standards.   The workoits that he did before the Olympics in 2004  are detailed  here   for you to see.   When I contacted him he reckoned that Jim had kept more detail on him than he had recorded himself!

This is what Jim has to say about training good class steeplechasers.


Workouts described below are for steeplechasers with examples using 3K and 5K as the base for establishing workout times. 

8 Weeks Build-Up (September – October)

  1. 1 Hour easy run
  2. Hill work –     short hills plenty of reps with short rest

10 x short loop (150M with 2 hills) 30 sec rest/ jog 5 min/ repeat

Build up to 8 x 450M with 90 sec rest

  1. 1 hour easy
  2. Tempo Runs   e.g.: 2 mile easy/ 1 – 5k pace/ 1 – 10k + 20 sec/mile/ 1 – 10k pace/ 1 – 5k/

Cool down. Note any combination to equal 8 miles of continuous running.

  1. 1 Hour easy
  2. 45 min easy
  3. Long run start at 1 ¼ hours add 15 min every 2 weeks until 2 hours is reached

November – December

  1. 2 hours easy
  2. Track work – Long repeats: 2 x mile 30 sec rest between/ jog 5 min/ 4 x 800 30 sec rest

4 (mile 1 MR 200 quick) 3 min between sets

2 x 3000M 4MR          Try and do

3 x 2000M 3MR           at today’s

4 x 1500M 3 MR          5K pace

6 x 1000M 2 MR

  1. 1 hour easy with 2 x 5 min pick-ups during the run
  2. 10 mile Tempo run. Any combination of pace per mile to equal 10 miles

warm up/ 2 mile – 10k pace/ 1 mile 10k pace + 20 sec/ 1 mile – 5k pace

1 mile 10k pace + 20 sec/ 1 – 5k pace/ cool down

  1. 1 hour easy run
  2. 30 min easy if racing tomorrow else 45 min easy
  3. Race or Hill/grass work – long reps e.g. 3 x mile 3 min rest/ or 6 x 800 3 min rest/

or mile: 2 x 800: mile 3 min rest between

January – February

  1. 2 hours easy
  1. Track work – Variable repeats: 16 x 200 30 SR between/ Jog 5 min/ 800

                                                or            10 x 300  30 SR between/ jog 5 min/ 800

or              6 x 400 30 SR between/ jog 5 min/ 800

or              2 ml/ 2 MR/ 2 x mile 1MR/ 4 x 800 30 SR

or               3 x 1000 30SR/J 400/ 2 x 1000 30SR/ j 400/ 1000

  1. 1 hour easy with 3 x 4 min pick ups during the run
  2. 10 mile Tempo run. Any combination of pace per mile to equal 10 miles

warm up/ 2 mile – 10k pace/ 1 mile 10k pace + 20 sec/ 1 mile – 5k pace

1 mile 10k pace + 20 sec/ 1 – 5k pace/ cool down

  1. 1 hour easy run
  2. 30 min easy if racing tomorrow else 45 min easy
  3. Race or Hill/grass work over hurdles.     E.g.     1000M 3MR/ 2 x 500 90SR/ 1000M

Or 3 x 1000M 3 MR

Or 500M 90SR/1000M 3MR/1000 3MR/500

March – April

  1.  Two hours easy.
  2.  Track work – Long repeats: 4 x mile 2MR


          3000M/2 x 1000/ 2 x 600/ 3 MR between

or         2000/ 5MR/ 1000/ 3MR/ 500

or         4 x 800 2MR/ jog 5 min/ 4 x 800 1M

  1. 1 Hour easy with 4 x 3 min pick-ups during run
  2. Track work- short reps 200:400:600:400:200 3MR between

Or        10 x 200 200 jog between

Or        2x(4 x 400 2 MR) 5 min between sets

Or        4 x 400 rest = 3M/2M/1M/ jog 5 min/repeat

  1.  1 hour easy run
  2. 30 min easy if racing tomorrow else 45 min easy
  3.  Race or Hurdle work on track.  E.g.   Water jump drills

Hurdle drills


May – June

  1. 1 hours easy
  2. Track work – emphasis on pace:  2 x mile 8 MR over hurdles

or         1600/1200/800/400 3MR over water

or         6x 800 3MR change up: 2 @ 2.12:2.04/2.10 no hurdles

  1. 1 hour easy.
  2. Track work- variable reps 400:1200:400 4MR over hurdles no water

Or        1600:800:1600 4MR over hurdles every 2nd lap

Or        400/ 60SR/800/2MR/400? Jog 10M/ 400 fast. No hurdles

Or        1000/ 1MR/500 3MR/ 500/ 1MR/1000 over hurdles

  1. 1 hour easy run
  2. 30 min easy if racing tomorrow else 45 min easy
  3. Race or Hurdle work on track. E.g.   Water jump drills

Hurdle drills


10 Day – Pre Big Race

  1. 1 hour easy
  2. 1500M race
  3. 10 miles easy
  4. 1600:1200:800:400 3MR over water only (4.28/3.18/2.10/58)
  5. 1 hour easy run with a 5 min pick up in middle
  6. 400:1200:400 4MR over hurdles no water at race pace
  7. 1 hour easy
  8. 30 – 40 min easy with a few strides
  9. Heats – 3000M S/C
  10. Final – 3000M S/C