I was recently given a bundle of copies of the Scottish Veteran Harriers Club magazine, printed by Walter Ross, for 1988 and 1989. This is the March 1989 version, which runs to 14 pages.
Sam Stevenson who featured in almost every Clydesdale Harriers Sports
“Our Annual Sports were held at Celtic Park on 26th May, 1906, and proved a great success; and it gives the Committee great satisfaction to report a favourable balance. We again held meetings at Dunoon on Glasgow Fair Saturday and Monday along with the local club, and we regret to state that, owing to miserable weather on the Saturday and Monday, there was a considerable loss on the venture. Had it not been for the weather we are certain that this meeting would have proved a great success. Junior Football Tourneys were included in both programmes, and proved to be most popular.”
The May meeting had a star studded cast which included Halswelle, McGough, Kitson, Mitchell, Sam Stevenson and others. The Glasgow Herald repost on the Monday started with the comment: “Are we to have a quadruple champion this season? Lt Halswell’s brilliant running at the Clydesdale Harriers sports on Saturday is responsible for this interesting query. The man who can do 600 yards in 1 min 12 4-5th sec is quite capable of winning the quarter and half mile, and 24 sec on a yielding, sodden surface is good enough to win the 220, while if it be true that Halswell in practice is covering 100 yards in ‘half second’, the quadruple achievement is not beyond the bounds of possibility on the part of that accomplished pedestrian. Perhaps it is physically impossible for anyone to win four championships in one afternoon, but if there is one more capable than another of such an achievement then Halswell is that man. He is a great runner in every sense of the term and it will be a disappointment to many if he does not leave the impress of his athletic genius on our national records over more distances than the 600 yards.
The 100 yards race was divided into 24 heats, all of which filled well. R Kitson, Bellahouston Harriers, won in 10 and 2-5th seconds and W Fairbrother of GYMCA (9 yards) was second. The final was a very fine race and the finish was as close as it was possible to be.”
After that build up, what had Halswell done to deserve it? He had won the 600 yards invitation, running from scratch to beat John McGough (15 yards) by three yards in 1 min 12 4-5th seconds, a new native record, the previous being held by R Mitchell, St Mirren, with 1 min 15 3-5th seconds. He also won the 220 yards in 24 1-5th seconds. G Perth of ESH (55 yards) won the 1000 yards from AM Matthews (EUAC 17 yards) and Tom Jack (25 yards). This race had 122 entries of whom 104 started but only ten per cent of that number finished. Needless to say, heats were required here too. It was a successful meeting in every way including the weather but the same was not true of their meeting at Dunoon in July.
Organised jointly by Clydesdale Harriers and Dunoon Athletic Club on 14th and 16th July, the first day was showery but the attendance was said by the Glasgow Herald to be ‘large’ and there were close contests throughout the programme. The best known competitor was probably A Turnbull of Clydesdale Harriers who won the half-mile from 28 metres – he would go on to be second in the SAAA 880 yards championship twice but was a better runner than that suggests. There were several local athletes competing and, maybe to hedge their bets, a 5-a-side football competition featuring Clydebank (the winners), Clyde, Dunoon Albion , Petershill, Benburb, Strathclyde, Rutherglen Glencairn and Maryhill. Given that it was the start of the Glasgow Fair fortnight, the preponderance of Glasgow teams was not surprising. There was also a two day sports meeting at Ayr on the Saturday and Monday,another popular destination for the holiday makers, organised by Ayr FC.. Ayr had attracted several very well known Scottish athletes, especially in the sprints where JP Stark and R Kitson featured At Dunoon on the Monday, despite the presence of Sam Stevenson and some good racing, the weather and attendance were both poor. An interesting comment in the Glasgow Herald was that ‘if Dunoon is to vie with Ayr athletically, the sooner a cycle track is laid down the better.’
Tom Jack from Edinburgh was a frequent competitor at all the big Sports in Glasgow
25th May was the date of the club sports in 1907 which were again held at Celtic Park. The programme was not as lengthy as it had sometimes been and there was again a 5-a-side tournament which was won by Port Glasgow from Clyde by 1 goal to 1 corner. Results of the main events were as follows:
100 yards: 1. HW Hepburn (WSH 6 yards); 2. JB Watson (CH 8 yards); 3. A Buglass ( ESH 7 yards). Time 10.2 Won by less than a yard
220 yards: 1. JD McVicar (unatt 22 yards); 2. D Johnston (BH 6 yards); 3. J Walker (BH 12 yards) Time 23.2 Won by a couple of yards.
880 yards: 1. JG Allan (Fettesian-Lorettonians 40 yards); 2. T Jack (ESH 28 yards); 3. G Chalmers (GACC 52 yards) Time 1 min 59 sec. Won with ease.
Three Miles: 1. E Paterson (MYMCA 220 yards); 2. G Culbert (Monkland 200 yards); 3. A Duncan, jnr (Kendal scratch) Time 14:50.4 Won easily.
Throwing the Hammer: 1. TR Nicolson (WSH scr); 152′ 1″; 2. R McHardy (Queen’s Edinburgh 41′ 0″) 147′
The club also held their sports on the new recreation ground at Dunoon on 13th July with a programme confined to flat racing and a 5-a-side competition. Only 20 turned up for the 100 yards, none of the back markers being present. Indeed neither sprint was outstanding although there were close finishes. The half mile was a bit different with 24 on the track and the first three finishing almost side by side. These were Adam Turnbull (CH 40 yds), R Koter (Maryhill 52 yds) and Sam Stevenson (CH 30 yards and Turnbull’s time was 1:59. The Mile was a quality race with a field of 20 runners. PC Russell (Bellahouston 95 yards) won but there was a real tussle between Sam Stevenson (50 yards) and Alex McPhee (75 yards) both of Clydesdale Harriers for second place which went to Stevenson. The 5-a-side was won by Maryhill over Vale of Clyde.
Lt Wyndham Halswell
In 1908 the sports were on 30th May and were back at Ibrox Park. The star attraction was Wyndham Halswell who had won four SAAA titles (100, 220, 440 and 880 yards) in 1906 and two in 1907 and held the Scottish record for the quarter-mile. In this meeting he won the Olympic Games trial 440 yards in 50.4 from GW Young of the High School and Bellahouston Harriers and also the 600 yards from scratch in 1:12.2. 1908 being Olympic year event trials were given to various sports meetings around the country and there were three here – the 440 yards and the broad and triple jumps won by Bryce W Scott (CH).
Among the other results, JL Reid of Clydesdale won the 100 yards and 220 yards for a double success; Quinn of Bellahouston won the two miles walking race from Justice of Clydesdale; R O’Connor won the half mile from Mann of Clydesdale (well known as a cross-country and road runner); and W McPherson of Motherwell (330 yards) won the three miles team race from R Craig of Dennistoun Harriers (220 yards).
George Dallas, right, started out as a sprinter but became one of Scotland’s best half milers
On 29th May in 1909 Ibrox was again the venue for the club’s annual sports and the handbook said “The annual sports were very successful from an athletics standpoint. Unfortunately the attendance was not up to expectations but the Directors of the Rangers Football Club, Ltd, very generously handed over the stand drawings, thus permitting us to make ends meet, and to them we extend our hearty thanks.” The Glasgow Herald agreed with the comment that the sports were very successful – read their report:
FINE SPORT AT IBROX PARK
If Clydesdale Harriers did not get all they merited in the shape of public support, they have the satisfaction of knowing that they maintained, and more than maintained their good name as providers of athletics. For all the races were well contested, and if there were no outstanding performance, this was due in some measure to the conditions, which were against a high rate of speed. Ian Dickson of Edinburgh University AC improved on his exhibition at Hampden Park the previous week by getting first in the 220 yards and second in the 100 yards. It was only in the last stride that he lost the latter, Stanley Jeffrey, who disposed of him in the second round of the West of Scotland Harriers sprint, beating him by inches in 10 sec. The better performance, however, was the 220 and it is evident he is a formidable competitor over this distance. With Lieutenant Halswell out of the way, championship honours appear to be within his grasp in the 220 and 440 as well. GW Young, Bellahouston Harriers, should be in the latter on last year’s form but so far he has not disclosed anything like the pace of which he was then possessed. The half-mile handicap was captured by George Dallas, Maryhill Harriers, and the winner at Hampden the previous Saturday, R Maguire, Glenpark Harriers, was second. The short mark men were anything but prominent in the three miles handicap, and it is just possible they were hampered more by the conditions than some of the others. Whatever the reason, McPhee, Stevenson, Bowman and others retired when they reconciled themselves to the hopelessness of their task. The winner was Kerr of Motherwell YMCA Harriers, who out in a very interesting finish. A Justice, Clydesdale Harriers won the walk handicap and IL Reid, another member of the promoting club, with his concession cleared 22 feet 5 inches which is a very good performance and it is hoped he will see his way to enter for the handicaps. The cycle handicaps were won by riders with biggish handicaps …”
Another good year for the sports if not financially: unfortunately that scenario was repeated the following year. The 1910 sports were held on 30th May at Ibrox and the club report said “the Annual Sports were very successful from an athletic standpoint. Unfortunately the attendance was not up to expectation but the Directors of the Rangers Football Club, Ltd, very generously handed over half the stand drawings, thus permitting us to make ends meet, and to them we extend our hearty thanks.”
To set the scene: in 1896 Clydesdale Harriers had split with the SAAA and the SCCU and were running their own competitions and championships. The championships of both SAAA and SAAU were both being held on 27th June which would have bee the date of the Clydesdale Harriers Sports. The sports were therefore brought back by two weeks. They were held at Ibrox Park on 13th June in 1896 and according to the club handbook only just managed to make ends meet owing to a very poor turn out of spectators.
The ‘Glasgow Herald’ reported: “Every sports holding club must after this steer clear of Lifeboat Saturday. If they don’t their experience will be as melancholy as that of the Clydesdale Harriers. No club, perhaps, has suffered more from demonstrations than the Clydesdale Harriers. Several years ago Mr Gladstone in one of his political pilgrimages visited the city on the same as Clydesdale Harriers were holding their annual sports with the result that Ibrox was almost deserted; while on Saturday, owing chiefly to the nautical spectacle, that ground presented an equally forsaken appearance. All this is very hard on the Clydesdale who have done so much in their honourable career to promote the best interests of athletics, and who, like other clubs of a similar kind, look forward to reaping some little return from their yearly sports. But of the attendance was disappointing, the Clydesdale have the satisfaction of knowing that they have presented one of the most interesting athletic dishes that has been submitted to the Glasgow public this season. There was not a wide finish the whole afternoon.”
There were many very good races that afternoon but the best was the victory of Andrew Hannah in the three miles handicap where, as scratch man, he was not thought to be able to work his way through the field. Seventeen men started but by halfway ‘the field was considerably reduced’. The handicaps were big ones with the second placed runner being off a mark of 300 yards. The task for all the back markers was such that internationalists and Scottish champions Duffus and Robertson gave up halfway through the race. Hannah ran hard all the way and the victory was hailed as the best run of his career up to that point, a view which was confirmed by the enthusiasm of the spectators at the finish.
By now the Rangers Sports had moved to the date which will always be associated, the first Saturday in August, and in the absence of any demonstrations plus a good programme of athletics and cycling, they attracted a crowd of 14,000+.
The Clydesdale Harriers handbook for the year went on to say: “On 20th July (Fair Monday), we introduced another innovation in the shape of a Sports Meeting on the Coast. After due consideration, Dunoon was chosen as the venue, it being the only place a suitable field could be obtained, and although a goodly number turned out to witness the sports, very little profit was made of them, owing to the expense of putting the ground in order. The experience gained may be useful on another occasion. ”
The club held several meetings each year, some on its own account and others in co-operation with other clubs. The big one however remained the one in July.
A year later, on 3rd July, 1897, at Ibrox there was another tale of bad luck. The handbook: “The weather was anything but favourable and had great effect upon the gate, in consequence of which the meeting incurred a loss. Interest was added to the meeting by putting up a Challenge Cup and Badges for Team Competition: and the club’s own Team was successful in winning. Special thanks are due to the Committee of Rangers FC for their generosity in handing over to us the sum of £10, being the major part of the drawings of the covered stand, which were to be retained by them.”
The Glasgow Herald waxed lyrical on the weather conditions on the day: “Ibrox Park is not by any means the best venue obtainable for a sports meeting when there is a wind on, and when, as was the case on Saturday, the breeze hails from the south-west, the enclosure of the Rangers FC gets the full brunt of it. Naturally therefore the racing at the Clydesdale Harriers Sports on Saturday afternoon suffered considerably from the gale that prevailed.”
There were several good races but none of the five English teams invited for the three miles team race appeared and the race was between Clydesdale and Watsonians with the CH proving victorious while Edinburgh Northern was third. There were many close finishes but the only athletics beneficiaries on the day were the 100 yards sprinters who were helped on their way and lots of good times were recorded. The list of officials does not include a wind gauge operator.
The bad luck and bad weather continued and on 2nd July, 1898 when Ibrox was favoured with ‘boisterous, showery weather’. The club secretary’s report said that ‘Ibrox Park was placed entirely at our disposal by Rangers FC’ He went on to lament the weather and said ‘The attendance was naturally of the most meagre description and income failed to meet the expenditure by about £25. Fortunately this sum was almost covered by a guarantee fund raised among the Committee and Members, so that very little loss on the Sports will be incurred by the club.’ It wasn’t just the sports that were affected of course – “the weather was all against cricket” for instance but that was small consolation to the club treasurer or to the athletes. The Glasgow Herald began its report on the meeting as follows: “This popular club, which for some years past had very bad weather for its annual gathering, was again on the shady side of fortune on Saturday last, the total drawings amounting only to £38 15s. The racing all over, however, was of a very high class, and the majority of the finishes of a most exciting description, the handicapping, especially in the flat events being very good indeed.”
There was the usual quota of bicycle races which were well supported – eg the half mile handicap had seven heats which sounds very good, and it is, but the athletes really supported the meeting. the 100 yards had twenty (20) heats, a second round of four heats and the final for the few witnesses on the terracing to enjoy. 25 100 yards races in the one afternoon! The standard was high – Hugh Barr was there again, for instance – and the race was won by Neil of Partick Harriers from Kirkwood of Clyde FC and Cooper of Ingram Harriers in 10.0. Not bad after three races on a bad day weatherwise. The two miles short handicap race was won by JS Duffus, from W Robertson and DW Mill. all of Clydesdale Harriers, all noted cross-country runners, in a time of 9:51.2. The half-mile was won by Lindsay of Vale of Leven AC from WW Mason (unattached). This is of interest to Scottish athletics buffs in that the Vale of Leven AAC that we know of as the home club of Lachie Stewart was only founded after the second world war. There were eight heats of the open 220 yards and the Mile was won by T Scott (EUAC) in 4:33. Interestingly, there were three cycle races of which two were for professional riders and one for amateurs.
In 1899, the club changed the date of the meeting from July to May 20th. Held as always at Ibrox, a profit was made that enabled them to pay all their expenses and still have a credit balance. “We had the honour of introducing to the Glasgow public the World’s Champion Hugh Welsh. A Five-a-Side Tournament (by some regarded as a relic of bye-gone days in so far as Glasgow is concerned) was also introduced, and judging by the enthusiasm evinced, could be counted as one of the successes. Vale of Clyde won the first prizes.”
A change of date, a top class athlete previously unseen by a Glasgow crowd and back to the future with a five-a-side brought the first profitable Sports for several years.
- The football competition was made up of Junior teams: the Junior football scene was well supported at the time – junior does not refer to the age of the players but to the fact that their leagues were only a little below that of Senior football. The teams involved were Vale of Clyde, Ashfield, Rutherglen Glencairn, Maryhill, Cambuslang Hibernian, and Glasgow Perthshire.
- Hugh Welsh was a genuine athletics celebrity. A member of the Watsonians club, he had won the SAAA half-mile and mile double in 1896 and 1897. setting a Scottish record in the latter of 4:24.2; in 1898 he won both half-mile and mile in the Irish international in Dublin; and would go on to do the triple in the SAAA championships in June 1899 of 440 yards, 880 yards and Mile. You can read more about him at this link
In the 1899 CH Sports, Welsh was running from scratch with fellow Watsonian JS Paterson off only 23 yards. Paterson was the reigning SAAA four mile champion and had been second in the four miles in the Irish international the previous year so it was no easy task for Welsh in the Clydesdale Harriers mile. He won in 4:30.2. It was “A grand race, the best seen in Scotland for many years, the champion showing excellent judgment. The time was certainly good considering the condition of the track.” Welsh and Paterson faced each other again in the half mile: Welsh started the half but did not finish because of an injury to his foot sustained in the Mile. Paterson won the race off 15 yards. Probably because of the CH Sports recent history, the ‘Herald’ reported that the drawings were: Gate £65 5s; Stand £10. The report ended with the remark that “The sport overall was of the best class and will do a lot to help athletics generally.”
“The Annual Sports of the Club were held on June 16th, 1900. For once the elements were in our favour yet, notwithstanding the strictest economy, we had difficulty in making ends meet. The programme submitted was much as in previous years, the novelty of a Boys’ Race and a tug-of-war contest having to be abandoned through lack of entrants.”
The Glasgow Herald report was also very brief commenting that the sports were conducted in a business-like manner and reflected great credit on all concerned but the attendance was ‘far from satisfactory’. The usual events were held minus the two events that had made 1899 such a success – no five-a-side and no really big name although there were several Scottish internationalists on display. Results in brief:
120 yards hurdles: 1. RS Stronach (Glasgow Academy 17 yards); 2. AAG Stronach (Glasgow Academy 17 yards) Time 12.2 sec
300 yards Handicap: 1. Rennie (Glencairn Harriers) 24 yards); 2. J Dobbie ( Kilmarnock FC 19 yards) Time 32 seconds
Half mile handicap: 1. John Laurie (CH 45 yards); 2. John Matheson (Dennistoun Harriers 60 yards) Time: 1 min 59 sec
One Mile: 1. J Thyne (CH 100 yards); 2. R Burns (Govan AC 60 yards) Time 4:26.6
A diversion that has nothing to do with Clydesdale Harriers. RS Stronach was one of the best ever Scottish hurdlers. He won the SAAA 120 yards hurdles six times. He had an elder brother who always appeared on the programmes as AAG who had been third in the SAAA 120 yards hurdles in 1899 and would be again in 1902; RS was to become a great favourite and he won the event in 1900, 1901, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1907. A noted athlete in his school days and won the prize for the best all-round athlete i the school. While still in his teens he played for Scotland at rugby as a flank forward. He was first noted as a hurdler in 1900 when he first won the SAAA title and then finished very close to the winner in the Scoto-Irish International. His career included winning the AAA’s hurdles title three years in succession and was nigh on unbeatable in Scotland or in the Irish internationals which he won in 1901, 04, 05, 06 and 08. He set a Scottish record for the hurdles of 15.8 – a record that stood for 43 years. A civil engineer he emigrated to Canada in the spring of 1908.
There was also another brother not yet mentioned – AS Stronach – who won the SAAA Shot and Hammer events in 1898. Mind you he was the only competitor in these years. After emigration, RS competed there in 1909, and possibly later although details are hard to come by.
All three represented Glasgow Academy and below we have an extract from the school sports programme.
Charles Blatherwick, President of Clydesdale Harriers from 1885 to 1897
Clydesdale Harriers was founded on 4th May, 1885. Their first track race was a 300 yards at Meadowside, Partick Thistle’s football ground, but their famous and highly regarded Sports did not begin until July 1988. Their first training track was at the Rangers FC ground at Kinning Park and when the club moved to Ibrox, the Harriers moved as well. There were many links between the clubs who had many members, indeed committee members, in common. Co-operation between clubs was not unusual at that time and Scotland at that point really was a sport loving country. The sports pages covered not only football, cricket, rugby and athletics but also bowling, cycling, shinty, chess, quoiting and others on an almost daily basis.
It was no surprise then that the first sports meeting held at Ibrox, on 7th July 1888, was a joint venture. Because it was the first, the report from the Glasgow Herald is reproduced below:
” The Clydesdale Harriers and Rangers Joint Athletic Meeting”
This important athletics fixture was held at Ibrox Park, the ground of the latter, on Saturday afternoon. Between 5000 and 6000 persons were present and the large stands were almost filled, but the cold weather doubtless prevented any great display of gorgeous dresses by those of the fair sex present. A very heavy programme was arranged and but for the fact that several of the events were run off at once instead of in heats, the proceedings would have been protracted until a very late hour. The fact that the five miles and one mile Scottish bicycle championships were to be decided, brought a large contingent of noted wheelists to witness the contests and gave great interest to the sport. Wilson of Edinburgh, last year’s champion, rode in rare form, not only retaining the honour of champion for another year, but also winning the three miles handicap. He then won his heat in the mile open handicap but, as he had beaten Bruce on level terms, he did not start in the final. Vallance was again unfortunate in the hurdles race for after winning his heat in fine style, he fell at the third hurdle in the final and gave up. The steeplechase and 440 yards handicaps which concluded the programme, were among the most exciting of the programme. “
The report went on to the results of a meeting that included many events that look a bit strange at this distance – a four-a-side football match featuring 3rd LRV, Rangers, Partick Thistle and Queen’s Park in which the 3rd LRV defeated Rangers in the final by 4 – 1. The comments on the football matches were of interest to those of us who thought that they were just tougher versions of five-a-sides: eg “First tie: Rangers beat Queen’s Park by one touhc down to nil after a fine game; Second tie: 3rd LRV beat Partick Thistle by two goals and one touch down to one goal.” Touch down implies carrying the ball in the hand, does it not?
For the ‘wheelists’ there were the two championships. plus one mile and five mile tricycle races; there was also a sack race and an obstacle race. There were the cycle races of course and track races at distances ranging from 100 yards to the three miles steeplechase handicap.
John Mellish, and leading figure at the organisation of the first joint sports
Mellish was President of Rangers and of ClydesdaleHarriers
Many well known sportsmen took part, maybe the best race in this respect was the 120 yards hurdles which was won by JR Gow (Rangers and CH), from TE Maley (CH) with A Vallance (CH and Rangers) falling in the final. All three competed in other races with varying degrees of success. Since it was the first one, the results of the main track races will be given:
100 yards: Six heats. Heat winners: A Gillespie (CH and Falkirk FC); A Hastie (CH), TE Maley (CH), K Thomson (Larchfield Academicals); . TW Young (CH); in the fourth heat there had been a tie between R Neil Battlefield FC and DR Gow (CH). There was a run over in which Gow won by a yard. Final: 1. Gow; 2. Thomson; 3. Maley. Time: 10.4 seconds
One Mile Handicap: 23 started in this race. 1. AW Fullarton (Irvine FC 90 yards); 2. AB McKenzie (CH and Rangers 80 yards); 3. James Erskine (CH 80 yards) Time: 4:28.6 “The scratch man, Blane of Maybole, was never in it .” Blane was also a Clydesdale Harrier who won the SAAA Championship and set Scottish records for the One Mile.
120 yards Hurdles Handicap (Open): First heat: JR Gow (CH 8 yards); T Maley (CH 8 yards); Second heat: R Vallance (champion, CH and Rangers 13 yards) R White (CH and Hamilton AFC 6 yards). Final: 1. Gow; 2. Maley; 3 R White Time 19.4 seconds
660 yards Scratch Race: 1. J Logan (CH and Vale of Leven FC); 2. T Blair (QPFC); 3. JB Green (CH) Time 1 min 16.4 (this cut down previous record which was 1:17.2)
Half Mile Handicap (open): 1. John Anderson (CH) 35 yards; 2. JH Ferguson (CH) 55 yards; 3. J Rodgers (Montgrennan CC) 50 yards. 29 started. Time 2:00.0
440 yards: Heat winners and seconds: First Heat: R Welsh (Ayr Section, CH 22 yards), MJ Ferguson (CH 35 yards); Second heat: JB Green (Clydesdale Harriers 6 yards), MJ Gilmore (Irvine FC); third heat: JT Ward (CH and Rangers 20 yards), TW Young (CH and Rangers 5 yards); fourth heat: G Ramsay (CH 40 yards) TE Maley (CH 12 yards). Final: 1. TW Young; 2. JB Green 3. TE Maley. Time 52.0.
The three miles steeplechase handicap was won by Andrew Hannah, junior (CH), from A Saunders (London) and R Graham (CH). Saunders with a handicap of 440 yards was leading by 200 yards at the end of two miles. Hannah, off 20 yards, won in 16:03.8.
The day was indeed a success and the following year they were advertised as the Rangers and Clydesdale Harriers Annual Sports and were held on 6th July, 1889. The Harriers at that time had members who were cyclists, boxers, skater and swimmers as well as runners and football players. On the day of the sports it was announced that the club had fixed up a football match with the Preston North End at Ibrox on September 6th who would go on to open the new Aberdeen FC ground the next day. To take this a wee bit further, the club handbook for 1889/90 contained the following: “Grounds with a cinder track have repeatedly been spoken of, but so long as the resent friendly relations with Rangers FC , the Committee feel that there is no necessity for moving in this matter.” It went on to say that a Football team had been spoken of and the club had defeated Preston North End, Third Lanark and Celtic but the ‘time was not yet ripe for keeping up a permanent organisation.’ However we should return to the Sports of 1889.
The meeting was again a success – held in fine weather but with a choppy wind that affected times in the track events, the crowd was a good one when the meeting started at two o’clock and steadily increased in size until there was a very good attendance. Top performance on the day was by TE Maley of ‘the Celtic’ who won the 100 yards and the won the 220 in 23.4 ‘which is as good as the Scottish record. In favourable weather, Maley could slice a second or two off that record.” JR Gow was the other stand out performer on the day – easily winning the hurdles race and finishing a close third in the 220 yards. The 660 yards scratch race was won by J Logan of Vale of Leven and Clydesdale, T Blair of QPFC was second and R Mitchell of St Mirren and Clydesdale was third. There were the usual cycle races and the four-a-side tournament was held again, Cowlairs defeated St Mirren in the final and again there were touchdowns involved in the scoring.
Ibrox, 5th July, 1890, saw the third Clydesdale Harriers and Rangers Annual Sports: “The Clydesdale Harriers and Rangers Football Club had a most successful sports on Saturday. Finer foot racing has not been witnessed for a long time than which took place at Ibrox Park. The final in the 100 yards was blemished by an unfortunate accident to Lindsay who lost first place through his feet getting entangled in the strings; but otherwise the finishes in the sprints were most exciting, and it would be difficult to conceive finer races than the two heats of the second round of the 100 yards. The 220 yards heats and final alike produced some keen competition; and the half-mile and mile, after some severe exertion, were just won on the tape. But it was reserved for A Hannah, of the Clydesdale Harriers, to create the sensation of the meeting by breaking the two mile record. Mr Duncan was the last holder, his time being 9:48.2, while on Saturday Hannah got home in 9:43.4. Two safety records with the pneumatics out were most interesting and the finishes of last year were recalled when Lees, Allan and Collins got home in the one mile handicap in a bunch. Regarding the pneumatic machines we are informed that the St Mirren and Maybole clubs have decided not to accept entries from those that use them and other clubs will no doubt follow the example of these two. The finishes in the ordinary races were not such happy handicapping efforts as the others; but the racing in these, and also in the other events, constituted an afternoon’s enjoyment greatly relished by all who shared in it.”
There was a good attendance – the large stand was completely filled and ’round the ring’ spectators were three and four deep. The strife caused by the use of pneumatic tyres rumbled on and for a while there were races in meeting programmes for solid tyres and for pneumatics separately and over the same distances. As for poor old Lindsay catching his foot in the ‘strings’ … Sprint lanes were divided one from the other by string at a height of about a foot from the ground supported at intervals by pegs all the way down the straight. The meeting this year had a six-a-side football tournament where results were by goals and points. There were no touchdowns this time round.
As far as the results are concerned –
*JT Weir (Milngavie FC) won the 100 yards from AR Downes (Rangers);
*120 yards hurdles won in a very close finish by D Robertson (Clyde FC 5 yards) from TE Maley (CH this year, 10 yards). Won by inches with spectators unable to decide who had won.
*W Murray, Jnr, (CH 27 yards) won the 440 yards handicap from MD Robertson (CH 24 yards) and TW Young (CH);
*Patterson of QPFC made the most of his 72 yards start in the handicap to win. nearly 40 competed, “when the long line of pedestrians were sent on their journey …”
*RM Walker (Ayr FC 82 yards) won the Mile from C McCann (CH 95 yards) “anther very big field demonstrated the difficulty the back markers had…”
*Two Miles handicap: 1st AG Colquhoun (CH 125 yards) from A Hannah, Jnr (CH scratch) by half a dozen yards.
The next annual sports were at Ibrox on 4th July, 1891. There had been another at Barrowfield Park in May which had been pushed back because of the weather and the re-dated meeting incurred a loss. The annual sports at Ibrox were held and they were “ a huge success numerically, athletically and financially, and enabled us not only to discharge all our debts but to leave a balance at the credit of the club.” The meeting was reported under the headline ‘CLYDESDALE HARRIERS SPORTS’. The report said that the weather was dull and gloomy at the start but brightened up later on when the largest crowd ever seen at an athletic meeting in Scotland put in an appearance. In the principal races, the Mile was won by Small of Cliftonville AC in Ireland after Hannah had dropped out – running from scratch, he started off with a great rush and reduced the gap on his rivals early one but called time when he had great difficulty getting through the ‘great crowd’ of competitors. In the 220 yards, where the meeting record stood to the credit of T Blair (QPFC), the winner was McLeod of Glasgow University, running from scratch, from Finlayson (QPFC, off three and a half yards) with Blair failing to finish.
In the twenty first century, football demands exclusivity and there are many examples of that: not least when this professional sport demands public money to develop their sport while they refuse to take part in many joint community sports forums. But the Harriers Sports, at one of the best football grounds in the country saw representatives from Rangers, Queen’s Park, Dunfermline, Morton, St Mirren, Killearn, Maryhill and Irvine football clubs. The ‘cross-fertilisation’ was good for both sports.
The Harriers had two sports meetings in 1892, in May and on the traditional date of the first Saturday in July. The report in the club handbook on the meeting reads: “Sports Meetings were held by the club in May and July at Ibrox Park and from an Athletic point of view were most successful but from a combination of causes – chiefly a a great Political Demonstration held on the day of our July meeting – we regret that the meetings resulted in a financial loss. The meeting on 2nd July will be chiefly remembered on account of the magnificent performances by WH Morton, of the Salford Harriers, who broke the Scottish records for the One Mile and Two Miles Flat Races, for NA McLeod’s record in the 220 yards, and W Malcolm’s record in the half-mile flat races, and also for the fine Exhibition of Bicycle Riding by E Leitch of the London Polytechnic Club. who succeeded in breaking the existing record for the half-mile.” The great political demonstration referred to was the visit to Glasgow of Gladstone who visited the Liberal Club, and also spoke at the Theatre Royal. It is maybe difficult to see a politician’s visit to Glasgow in the twenty first century adversely affecting attendance at a sports fixture. It was an excellent sports from the club’s point of view with most prizes being won by club members, especially in the half-mile where all three placed runners came from Clydesdale.
The following year the club sports were held on 8th July, 1893, Ibrox Park with a supplementary meeting on the following Monday. The report in the club handbook reads: Unfortunately the weather on both occasions, and especially on the Saturday, was of such an unpropitious nature as to almost completely spoil the attendance of the public. Great efforts had been put forth to make these Meetings worthy of the standing of the Club, the prizes being of exceptionally high value, but owing to the adverse weather conditions the club was involved in considerable pecuniary loss.; which however the club are hopeful of clearing off during the season. The athletic ability at these meetings was, as usual, of a very high order, but in consequence of the sodden nature of the track, record performances could scarcely be expected. … On the Monday evening TW Messenger of the Salford Harriers, and now a member of the CH, made a successful attack on the 220 yards record which he lowered by two-fifth seconds. All the events were ably contested.”
The ‘Glasgow Herald’ report referred to ‘the thunderstorm which broke over the city on Saturday forenoon’ and said that as the afternoon progressed the crowd reached 4000. Changed days when a crowd of 4000 at an athletics meeting is seen as a disaster by the organising committee. The competitors were indeed of very high quality – in the 100 yards were Hugh Barr (CH) Scottish long jump champion and international sprinter, JR Gow (CH and Rangers), Tom Blair (QPFC) but the winner was William Gibson (CH) from Gow. The Mile handicap was won by Hamilton of Maryhill Harriers from Robertson of Clydesdale, and the same duo finished in the same order in the half-mile. The Three Miles was won by Thomas from Ranelagh Harriers from G Stevenson from Ayr FC. There was quality all through the programme and the range of clubs was wide with Queen’s Park, Rangers, Clyde, and 3rd LRV among the Glasgow football clubs represented on the track.
In 1894 the sports were held on 30th June and at Hampden rather than Ibrox. The report from the club annual handbook (emphasis in the second para is mine) says:
“Our annual sports took place this year at Hampden Park – the Saturday meeting on 30th June and an Evening Meeting on the following Monday. The sport provided on both occasions was such as to ought to have secured one of the largest gates of the season, but notwithstanding a brilliant array of talent, and excellent weather on the Saturday, the attendance of the public was disappointingly small, the consequence being a financial deficiency. On Monday the conditions were most unfavourable, and any opportunity that remained of recouping ourselves for Saturday’s loss was completely spoiled by rain. This bad luck has now attended us for three successive seasons, but we trust that there are brighter days in store for us.
“One of the most interesting events in connection with the Saturday meeting, was the Inter-Club Team Race with the Newcastle Harriers (for the Silver Challenge Cup presented for competition by them last season), when our Team, consisting of Messrs A Hannah, W Robertson, A Russell and J McLaren, were successful in winning the trophy for the second time, which according to the conditions of contest, becomes our property.”
The Harriers won the silver cup for the two miles race against Newcastle by 21 points and Hannah won the individual race by 15 yards from Lyall of Newcastle.
In 1895 the Annual Sports were held at Ibrox Park again on 29th June an all that the handbook had to say about the meeting was that “although not quite so successful financially as anticipated, partly on account of the weather and partly to a counter-attraction in the form of a yacht race, we managed to have a balance on the right side.” It had been a successful meeting with very good athletes throughout the programme. Not always in their best events. For instance RS Langlands of Clydesdale Harriers won the 1000 yards handicap in 2:21.4 without exerting himself – Langlands would go on to be the first Scot to run under two minutes for the half-mile. Further up the distance scale, the Two Miles handicap was won by W Robertson from S Duffus with A Hannah dropping out with two laps to go. Fifteen men started but only two finished. It is of interest to note that Alex Maley won his heat of the 100 yards but was unplaced in the final. Tom Maley had been a top class athlete, Willie won the SAAU 100 yards and Alex was the younger brother of the three and like the others, he went on to become a football manager.
As I look through old periodicals, newspapers, programmes, etc, there are some items or quotes or pictures that are of interest because they are unusual, significant, quaint or of high quality but don’t exactly fit in anywhere. Some of them will find their way here, First on the link between football and athletics – note the ‘it is part of their mission to …’
“Hampden Park will not be complete until the cinder pah is in better order than it was on Saturday. Far too little attention has been given to this necessary and vital equipment, but now that the Queen’s Park have come to recognise that it is part of their mission to foster amateur athletics it is just possible they will overhaul the track before another season comes round.”
Glasgow Herald, 20th June, 1910
This appeared after a successful QPFC Sports meeting on 18th June.
“In the flat races, JW Struth, Clyde, was first for the quarter mile.”
Kilmarnock Police Sports, 23 July 1909.
“The new rector of Glasgow High School, who is a firm believer in the beneficent results of outdoor exercise, is bent on having a new recreation field. As it is, he has been promised a new subscription amounting to £300 from a few ‘old boys’. The idea is to purchase ground in the Anniesland District, and the Academical idea will be followed as closely as funds will permit. The undertaking is a big one indeed and the many wealthy citizens who owe so much to their educational associations with the High School, the Rector’s wish should be realised in good time.“
Glasgow Herald, 17/1/1910
Expenses are always a thorny subject ….
“The question of expenses is a burning one in athletic circles. There are inconsistencies which are difficult to argue away. For example, an amateur athlete may not ask for or receive expenses – not even his bare travelling expenses – yet a delegate of the AAA or SAAA may (and invariably does) receive his travelling expenses to go and vote against expenses being allowed to his fellow athletes.”
A Scotsman wins the AAA’s Mile – Graham Everett (Shettleston) in 1958
In the 1980’s there were several Scottish athletes studying and running at the University of Alabama. I had been coaching two of them – Susan Crawford and Pat Morris – and the group also included Liz Lynch and Elspeth Turner. The men’s media guide cover and middle page are below.
This profile is of a sprinter and not a distance runner which makes it unusual on this site but it is included because of the circumstances of a particular race. I had originally written it as one of a series of Clydesdale Harriers profiles and Ward is undoubtedly a man of his time. The race in question is a challenge race for a trophy specially commissioned and presented to the winner.
With a club as notable and as long lived as Clydesdale Harriers, the difficulty in any such work as this the question is who to include and who to leave out. Many champions, international representatives and hard working club men have been omitted. GT Ward had a very successful athletics career but has been included because in 1887 he was involved in a challenge match which represents an aspect of the sport that has long disappeared. When Clydesdale Harriers was formed one of the main athletics talking points for some time had been the challenge matches between WG George and J Cummings in England. Where their three challenge events covered three races at different distances, the GT Ward and T Blair match was a one race shoot out.
GT Ward was a founder member of the club who ran in the club’s first track race – a 300 yards handicap race at Meadowside. He came from the Parkhead area of Glasgow and his father had been an Army sprinter who won several races ‘open to the entire forces.’ His sons were reported to have inherited his ability and George who was the younger first raced in 1883 in the West of Scotland Sports where he was third in the 440 yards to AS Blair and followed this up with second in the 220 yards at the Vale of Leven Sports to Peter Logan. His best meeting that year was at the Abercorn Sports in Paisley where he was first in the 100 yards, first in the 440 yards and second in the 220 yards. He was clearly a runner of some ability when he was challenged by to a race over 220 yards by T. Blair of Queen’s Park FC.
The first blast of the trumpet was an article in the ‘Scottish Umpire’ at the end of September 1886. “We hear that T. Blair (Queen’s Park FC) is anxious to meet G.T. Ward (Clydesdale Harriers) in a 220 yards race, the Harrier to get 4 yards. If the start is authentic and Ward in form the issue should not be in doubt.”
Nothing more appeared in print until the 30th November of the same year when the ‘Scottish Umpire’ had this piece: “G.T. Ward (C.H.) thinks T. Blair (Q.P.) was only joking when he said he would give him 4 yards in 220, but if he really means it, he will accept his generous allowance or run level.”
The New Year came in and then things started to get serious. In the ‘Umpire’ of 18th January 1887 – “Some time ago we made reference to the probability of a 220 yards race being arranged between T. Blair (Q.P.) and G.T. Ward (C.H.). We are now in a position to state that the race has been finally fixed. Both gentlemen, with their friends, met in our office last Wednesday to draft conditions and suggest officials. The match will probably take place at the St Mirren F.C. Sports on 15th April.”
In the ‘Scots Umpire’ of 13th April it was announced that a £10 cup had been donated for the race which was billed as the star attraction at the St. Mirren F.C. Sports in and advertisement further through the same paper. A copy of the article is attached but the gist was as follows: “What promises to be a very interesting and busy athletics season in the West opens on Saturday when the St Mirren and West Of Scotland CC Sports are to be held. Regarding the latter of these we are unfortunately not in a position to say anything very definite never having been favoured with any particulars. The St Mirren Sports however are better advertised and will no doubt be better patronised by athletes. The principal item on the programme is the long talked of 220 yards scratch race between T. Blair (Queens Park) and G.T. Ward (Clydesdale Harriers) for a £10 cup. The event is the first of the kind in Scotland and originated in the desire of the friends of the two athletes to test their respective capabilities over the distance. Ever since it was announced it has created considerable speculation, widespread interest and much diversity of opinion as to the result. In some quarters G.T. Ward finds most favour. The distance is a favourite one with him and as he has, for the first time for him in his somewhat extended athletic career, put himself unreservedly in his trainer’s hands and is pleasing him in his trials it is expected that he will beat his time and win. Tom Blair on the other hand does not lack backing and his friends are confident that he will on the eventful occasion carry off the honours. We are inclined to regard the issue as a very close one and by no means certain on the one side or the other. We however expect a splendid race and a fast time and we believe there will be a large turn out to witness its decision. The St Mirren authorities are doing their best to have all the arrangements in connection with the race as complete as possible.”
The race itself was covered in the ‘Scottish Umpire’ of 19th April 1887 as follows.
“The fact that Ward reversed the result two weeks later at the Vale of Leven Sports was of little consequence – the challenge had been lost and Blair went on to a magnificent career as a sprinter. In 1886 he was second in the 440, in 1888 he won the event in 53.4 seconds; in 1889 he again won the 440, this time in 52.2 as well as taking second in the 100 yards; in 1890 he took his third 440 yards title in 52.8 and was again second in the 100 yards; in 1891 he was second in the 440; in 1892 he was down to third in the 220 but did not turn out in the 440. Three victories, two seconds in the 440 plus a second in the 100 and a third in the 220 make for a good career!”
Challenges such as that between GT Ward and T Blair were fairly common among the top men. As mentioned earlier it was at about this time for instance that WG George and J Cummings fought out their three race, two man challenges over various distances between one mile and ten miles. The challenge would be issued, the response made, seconds nominated, terms agreed and the match made. It seems strange to us in the twenty first century that athletes would put themselves on the line like this when so many of the top men (and women) avoid each other as much as possible, preferring to achieve qualifying times in Europe, America, England and not at home against each other. It might do more to improve recruitment and standards were the practice of man to man racing reinstituted. His favourite distance was said to be 100 yards and he would have been clear favourite to take the SAAA Championship title in 1888 had his ankle not been injured and giving him considerable difficulty. Although he won three races that year, the title was not one of them. “The Scottish Umpire” reported in 1890 that he had been very unfortunate due to accidents. Presumably ‘accidents’ = ‘injuries’.
The same report went on to point out that he had won over 80 prizes ‘yet he is modest and wears no trinkets.’ It was the fashion to wear medals on the watch chain across the chest and presumably he shunned the practice. It concluded ‘He recommends himself to you by his looks which are free and winsome, set off by the fairest of fair locks.’
Victoria Park AAC was formed in April 1930 and one of its first stars was the middle distance runner Jack Gifford. Born in Airdrie in 1915 he first appears as a good athlete at the SAAA Championships in 1932. He was the first club man to be noted in the results of the SAAA championships when, although unplaced, he won a standard medal for the Mile. His running was good enough for him to be asked to run in the invitation mile at the Rangers Sports in August where he was third behind Calderwood (Maryhill) and R Clarke (Plebeian). In winter 1932/33 he ran the first stage for the unplaced Victoria Park team in the Midland District relays and in the West District Championships at Hamilton he was second to JC Flockhart of Shettleston. Well don on Flockhart, he was fully 70 yards up on the third runner. He was absent from the team that ran in the National at the end of the winter season.
1933 was the year when the first Victoria Park senior man won a medal for the club, it was again Jack Gifford who was third in the mile. It had been a good season for him. On Monday, 22nd May at Hampden in the Maryhill Harriers Sports, he competed in a very good quality two miles race where off a mark of 45 yards he was second to Tom Blakely of the host club who set a new Scottish record for the distance. The Glasgow Herald commented that Blakely took the lead at a mile and a half in 6 min 59 sec and from that point there ensued a struggle with J Gifford, the youthful Victoria Park runner which lasted to the tape. Blakely apparently had the race won entering the straight but Gifford challenged boldly and in the end was only beaten by inches. He ran from the 45 yard mark so he too must have smashed the old record had he run the distance out.”
After Blakely, it was Tom Riddell that he tested himself against. On 17th June at the Glasgow Police Sports he was second to Tom Riddell in the One Mile Invitation Handicap Running from 16 yards he was leading the great man in the back straight of the last lap when he was overtaken, finishing ten yards down at the tape. He was running well at just the right time – the SAAA championships were just one week later at Hampden Park. Gifford ran in the mile and was only beaten by Tom Riddell and Jackie Laidlaw. Riddell was well away and the comment was that Gifford had enhanced an already growing reputation – had Riddell been absent either of the others would have been a worthy champion. His time that day was 4 minutes 24 seconds.
That winter he again ran the first stage of the team in the Midland relays and although he turned out in the District Championships he was outside the first ten and only his club’s second scoring runner. There was no Victoria Park team in the National cross-country championships but in January 1934 they had a team out in the eight stage Edinburgh to Glasgow relay for the first time. There was another first for Gifford – he ran the first stage for the club and was therefor the first Victoria Park runner ever to run in that wonderful event. He ran well enough to be fastest man on the stage – two seconds up on Ian Lapraik.
In January 1935 Gifford again ran in the Edinburgh to Glasgow but this time on the tough sixth stage. It may be that the seven miles on the road was a bit much for a half-mile and mile specialist who never seems to have tackled even two miles on the track but he was over a minute slower than the fastest on the stage although he picked up one place. In the District Championship that year he was again second Victoria Park finisher when he was tenth although the team finished second and a silver medal was his. There was however no senior team, indeed no senior runner, from Victoria Park in the national championships at Hamilton.
Summer 1935 saw the promising Gifford improve at both half-mile and mile. On Monday 20th May he was back at the Maryhill Harriers Sports at Ibrox where a competitive 880 yards he was timed at 1:57.7 from a handicap of only 8 yards. His next appearance was at the national SAAA championships at Hampden on 22nd June where he finished second to Tom Riddell but ahead of Donald Mclean of Maryhill Harriers in 4:34. Riddell won by 25 yards but second in the national championship was his best competitive race yet. The biggest race was yet to come: on 24th August 1935 he ran against the AAA for a Scottish team and finished fourth in the mile.
In the ’35/’36 cross-country season, Gifford did not run in the District relays but he did run in the Midland District Championship – but for Bellahouston Harriers and not Victoria Park. Fifth in the individual race, he could not be counted for the team championship, his change of club had been too recent for that, but he would run and help win many a medal for Bellahouston before his running career was over. He was however ineligible to run as a team member in the National that year but running as an individual he was 17th.
In the SAAA Western District v Atalanta match at the Glasgow University ground at Westerlands on Monday, 1st June he was timed at 4:33.0y for the Mile where he was second to Robert Graham.
Hitherto known as a half- and one miler, Gifford stepped up a distance to race successfully at three miles on 6th June, 1936, at Hampden in the Queen’s Parl FC Sports Meeting at Hampden. He turned out in the individual and team race over the distance and won in 14:49.6. The report had a special paragraph on the event headed PERFORMANCE OF MERIT. It read: “The other performance of real merit was that of Jack Gifford of Bellahouston in the three miles. He beat JC Flockhart (Shettleston) in a great race by three yards in 14:49.6.” Other runners who finished behind him were Donald McLean, Emmet Farrell and TW Lamb.
Gifford might not have been eligible for the cross-country season’s teams, but he could and did run in the club’s medley relay teams. On 20th June at Glasgow Police Sports a new Scottish medley relay record was set by the Bellahouston Harriers team of Gifford, Bone, Young and France. The Glasgow Herald reported: There was one performance of the gathering demanding minute reference and that was the win of Bellahouston Harriers in the one mile medley relay race, which they won in the new Scottish record time of 3:34.2, 0.2 faster than the time put up by Glasgow University at the same sports four years ago. It was half miler Jack Gifford who really did much to help Bellahouston achieve this performance. He went round the half-mile at the heels of Robert Graham, always appearing to have an abundance of pace, while it seemed that the joint mile record holder (whose record was broken by SC Wooderson in Saturday’s Southern Championships), was in front trying hard to get clear of Gifford, but the latter refused to be shaken off and became the challenger-in-chief, with the result that Bellahouston enjoyed the slight advantage of a change-over so close was the struggle; and the time for the half was 1:58.2, the sign of a record in the making. ” The remainder of the team – G Young, J Bone and Charlie France – all did their bit and the race was won and a record set at 3.34.2.
The SAAA Championships were held a week later with a Friday night session where the heats of the sprints were run off – as was the final of the medley relay championship. The successful Bellahouston team from the Police Sports were forward again and won the national medley title with Gifford on the first stage. The next afternoon, on 27th June at Hampden in the SAAA Championships Gifford confirmed his move up a distance when he ran in the Three Miles. In an excellent race where he faced opposition from Donald McLean, JC Flockhart, A Dow, I Lapraik and Emmet Farrell, he emerged victorious in 14 min 54 seconds from McLean of Maryhill. The Glasgow Herald correspondent seemed a bit confused as to Gifford’s club allegiance – the results had him as Bellahouston Harriers but the report read: “A fine spectacular race was the three miles, won by J Gifford (Victoria Park). It was veteran Donald McLean who made it a great race by compelling the favourite of Victoria Park to pull out all he knew to head the big smiling Greenock policeman in the good time of 14 min 54 sec.”
1937 Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay race start.
On 30th November, 1936, Gifford ran the second fastest time of the day to see the team finish second. In the District championships proper, he finished fifth although the team was out of the medals. Came the national and he was twenty eighth for the team that finished eighth. The Edinburgh to Glasgow relay was a bit later in 1937, being run on 3rd April, 1937, instead of January as in previous years. It was a more successful team outing and Gifford ran on the last stage where he pulled up one place for Bellahouston Harriers to finish in third and win him a bronze medal.
Wednesday, 12 May, 1937 was right in the middle of coronation celebrations which included athletics meetings in both Glasgow and Edinburgh. Gifford ran in the Hampden Park event and won the Three Miles in 14:44.4. The pace was made mainly by JC Flockhart and he and Emmet Farrell led into the home straight but neither could sustain a finish and Gifford won fairly easily. On 25th May in the Maryhill Harriers Monday evening sports he ran in the Two Miles but the handicapping was so ferocious that he was not in the first three but it was nevertheless another hard run for him. Given the successes of the Bellahouston Harriers relay team it was not a surprise that they were invited to, and duly won, the invitation six lap relay at the Monkland Sports at Coatbridge with Gifford part of the team that, and this is a quote, “won easily”. The annual SAAA West District v Atalanta was held on 1st June, 1937, at Westerlands, and Gifford was second to Robert Graham of Maryhill in a race won only by inches.
The races were coming thick and fast and on Wednesday 15th June Gifford ran in two races at the one meeting. He won the mile in 4:13.1 (a new record time) by ten yards and then won the three miles in 15:17.6 by 40 yards from Adam McLean of Glenpark Harriers. The big one was the SAAA championships at Hampden on 26th June and this year, Gifford passed up the opportunity for individual gold in favour of relay gold. The Bellahouston medley relay team of Gifford, Murdoch, Smith and France retained the title in a time of 3:41.2 from Springburn Harriers and Maryhill Harriers. The winning margin was 15 yards.
A week later, 3rd July, the relay team took part in and won the invitation relay at Ardeer Recreation Club’s sports meeting at Stevenston with a quartet of Gifford, Smith, Nisbet and France and “were never in danger of defeat.” And that was the end of the season for a successful Bellahouston team – and for Gifford too.
The Midland District Relays of season 1937/38 were held at Garscadden in the West End of Glasgow. Jack Gifford ran first stage for Bellahouston Harriers but at the end of the race was, not in top times although the team finished third. When it came to the District Championships however, the club won the event with Gifford back in 14th place of more than 200 starters. Unfortunately when it came to the National, Bellahouston were third team but there was no Gifford in the team. The Edinburgh to Glasgow relay took place on 9th April and Gifford ran on the first stage where he was third for the team which won the race.
Into the summer and the Monkland Sports were held on 26th May in 1938. There was a medley relay there in which the team (Gifford, Bell, Murdoch and France) was surprisingly beaten back into third place behind Springburn Harriers and Glasgow University. It was a good team and the defeat must have hurt the national champions and record holders. They put this right at the Babcock & Wilcox Sports at Renfrew on 11th June when they won the event from Springburn with a team of Gifford, Smith, Thomson and France. Hard on the heels of the Babcock Sports, two days later in fact on Monday 13th, he won the half mile at the Renfrew CC Association Track Championships on the previous night in 2:00.6. A week later, 18th June, at the Glasgow Police Sports at Hampden Park, Bellahouston did not only win the relay, but set a new Scottish record for the event. Gifford ran a most impressive first leg in 1:56.4 defeating international runners Graham and Carstairs. The new relay record was 3:32.9 and it was the club’s third title win in three years. This time the team was Gifford, Murdoch, Smith and France. The athletes were back at Hampden for the SAAA championships the following week and Gifford was out in the Mile. The report read: Until the last lap of the Mile, many of the spectators thought that young Jack Gifford, Bellahouston, would menace R Graham’s prospects of retaining his title, but it was obvious that Graham, in the lead and confident enough to remain there, had something in reserve, and when the champion did make his effort, he drew clear steadily and won by five yards.” Gifford’s time was a reasonable 4:28.0 to Graham’s 4:27.6.
The relay team ran several more times that season but Gifford was not always part of the squad after the SAAA title had been won. eg he wasn’t in the team which was second at Ardeer on the first weekend in July, but he was in the team that won in Dam Park, Ayr, on 9th July with Ross, Smith and France which won by 40 yards from Victoria Park. Individually, he ran at Largs on Monday, 18th July. The Scotsman reported “”The failure of Robert Graham to turn out in the three-quarter mile invitation was compensated for by the magnificent race run by J. Gifford, of Bellahouston. He won well by eight yards and his time of 3 mins 5.8 seconds for the full distance was only 1.2 seconds outside Graham’s Scottish record.”
Gifford was out running for Scotland again on 23 July 1938 in Dublin in a match against England and Ireland. The Scottish team were really outclassed on the day but Gifford ran well enough to finish second of the six runners in the Mile in a time of 4:22.0. He was eight yards behind CJ Emery of England (the international cross-country champion) and ahead of team mate PJ Allwell. It was a fitting way to bring down the curtain on a very good season.
1937 Renfrewshire cross-country champion: Jack Gifford
In the District relays that winter he ran on the third stage for the Bellahouston Harriers A team which finished third. The club’s second team was fifth which was a bit of a warning for the others with longer races coming up. For instance the winners, Maryhill, could only field one team and Shettleston Harriers, running on their own turf, were second and twellfth. Unfortunately appearances are sometimes misleading – the District title went to the Victoria Park team with their first six runners in the top 20 finishers. Incidentally the individual winner was Jim Morton who went on to be SCCU president and manager of the Scottish cross-country team for several years after the war. This relatively poor performance must have spurred the Bellahouston team on for they won the National at the end of the year with six men in the first 30 of the field of almost 200 runners. But Gifford did not appear on the team sheet that time. Nor was he in the club team that was second in the Edinburgh to Glasgow relay on 22nd April.
The Bellahouston squad won the SAAA Medley Relay title again at the national championships at Hampden Park on 23rd June, 1939 which meant that they had won it four years in succession. The winning team was Gifford, Murdoch, Bone and France and the beat Springburn by 30 yards in a time of 3 min 37.3 sec. They were so far ahead of any team in the country at the time that, had the war not intervened, they might have set a record for the number of wins. Gifford’s first individual victory was on 27th June in the Glasgow Transport Sports at Helenvale Park where he won the invitation 1000y in 2:12.8 off 16 yards. There was a medley relay which Bellahouston won without calling on Gifford’s services. The Transport Sports was a fixture that many did not want to miss – the narrow Helenvale track was known as a good one and many fast times were recorded there up into the 1960’s when they stopped holding meetings there.
He may have missed the Helenvale relay but he was back at Ardeer with his team mates on 8th July for that one and the squad of Gifford, Thomson, Nisbet and France was too good for Maryhill, with a time of 3 min 46 sec. The Rangers Sports on 5th August had many very good international athletes in action and Gifford ran in the 1000y off a handicap of 20 yards where he finished second to G Sears of Kent Beagles who won in 2 min 10 sec. Gifford was only half a yard down at the finish. His season was brought to a close at the Cowal Highland Gathering on 26th August, where he ran the opening leg in the relay. Given a lead on the opening leg by Gifford they were ‘sound winners’ in the good time of 3 min 39 sec. The team of Gifford, Wilson, Bone and France was too good for Springburn Harriers who were only five yards adrift at the tape.
Alex Wilson tells us that after the War started, he continued to do club runs and compete sporadically . On 14th July 1945 he won the mile handicap at Milburn Park, Alexandria, in the Vale of Leven District Sports in 4:28.2 off 45 yards. That equates to about 4:36 for the full mile, so he was still in good shape. There had been several medley relay races that year but the top teams were Victoria Park AAC and Garscube Harriers – the great Bellahouston teams had been broken up and it would be some time before they were again winning national titles. Victoria Park won every relay they contested and in August alone they won three relays including one against an SAAA Select at Lennoxtown at the end of the month. Gifford may have been running well but he did not appear in any more prize lists for the rest of 1945. Like so many others, his career as a runner was blighted by the war which came as he was running very well and his best years were taken from him. He had been a very good athlete with a fair range of ability: 880 yards to three miles on the track, fastest times on stages of the Edinburgh to Glasgow road relay, and team and individual medals over the country. His individual medals and achievements should not be forgotten in favour of his relay achievements.
[It is only right that I acknowledge the help and assistance given by Alex Wilson with this profile: he also supplied all the photos.]
In May 1975 Glasgow District Council started a new venture: the Glasgow Highland Gathering was held at Scotstoun with a mix of events for all age groups, for men and women, invitation events and some championship racing. Among these races was the SAAA Medley Relay championship. After several years of wandering around the country, and indeed three years when it was not held at all, it had come to Scotstoun. The Victoria Park, based in Scotstoun since 1930 had been very successful in relays of all types and distances so it was a natural fit. Unfortunately in its first year there, the medley title went to anther club from the west end of Glasgow, Garscube Harriers. Even then it was the Garscube B team that emerged triumphant from the race in a time of 3:36.0. It was an inglorious restart for the event. Colin Shields in the Athletics Weekly reported as follows:
“A farcical SAAA National 1600m Medley Relay Championship was won, after an undistinguished race, by Garscube ‘B’ with only two clubs competing. More importance should be accorded to National titles by clubs such as Edinburgh Southern Harriers, Edinburgh AC, Shettleston, Victoria Park and Bellahouston etc – none of whom bothered to compete!”
Result: 1 Garscube Harriers ‘B’ 3.36.0; 2 Garscube Harriers ‘A’ 3.45.2; 3 Falkirk Victoria Harriers 3.46.4.
At the second Glasgow Gathering, in 1976 Garscube Harriers was again successful, their A team this time, in 3:38.6, from Victoria Park in second and Paisley Harriers were third. It was a wet, windy afternoon at Scotstoun and the heavy track did not make for fast times. There was also a clash of date with a football match at Hampden Park leading to a smaller crowd than usual and several officials calling off. It could have been a reason to terminate the series after only two meetings but the Glasgow Council went ahead with the championship in 1977 when there was another name engraved on the trophy.
One of Scotland’s best ever middle distance runners was running really well in the mid seventies and Frank Clement took part in the medley relay championship on 21st May, 1977. The report in the Glasgow Herald read: “Barely 10 minutes after having won the City of Glasgow Mile at the Glasgow Highland Games at Scotstoun, Clement was again facing the starter to run the first leg of the Scottish Medley Relay Championship for his club, Bellahouston Harriers. Terry Young, a most promising young half-miler from Central Region AC with a time of 1 min 53 sec already this season was far too fresh for a jaded Clement and played a major part in bringing victory to his club in 3 min 30.7 sec – three seconds ahead of Bellahouston.”
On 20th May, 1978, there was yet another new name on the trophy. When Victoria Park last won the title, the man on the first leg was British international half-miler David McMeekin. He was again in action that year. “The new Scottish medley relay champions are East Kilbride AAC. After David McMeekin had given Victoria Park a lead of close on 20 yards over the opening 800 metres, East Kilbride pulled back only a little on the both 200m sprints, but on the final 400m Alan Cord tore holes in Ian Smith’s lead and just took the tape by inches, both teams clocking 3 min 34.3 sec.
After that near miss, Victoria Park were in action the following year. Between 1946 and 1971, the medley title had been completely dominated by Victoria Park AAC (9 wins) and Bellahouston Harriers (5) with the Edinburgh University squad the next biggest winners (4). But the 70’s had seen triumphs by Garscube, Central Region and East Kilbride. The entries in 1979 included Ayrshire AAC, Clyde Valley AC, East Kilbride AAC, Garscube Harriers, Shettleston Harriers and Victoria Park AAC. This was the day however that the old guard, as represented by the home team, re-asserted itself and Victoria Park won in a time of 3:38.2.
The Highland Games continued into 1980 and they retained the medley relay. This suited the runners – a regular venue, on a good track with decent changing rooms and ease of access. Victoria Park fought hard to retain their title but had to give best to a Glasgow University AC team from just up the road at Westerlands who won by 0.7 seconds in 3:31.2.
Below: Entries for the Medley Relay Championship in 1979
The Mile Medley Relay had been contested as an official SAAA championship since 1919 but with the coming of the Empire and Commonwealth Games to Edinburgh in 1970, all track measurements were changed to metric from imperial. It was now a 1600m medley relay and the distances were now 800m, 200m, 200m and 400m. The first winning time would therefore be a new record. Victoria Park had had a very good record in all relays over the years since their formation in 1930 but this team performance in 1969 must go down as one of their best ever. I quote from the Glasgow Herald of 26th May that year. The headline read “Victoria Park set formidable target.”
“The winning team on Saturday in the Scottish 1600m medley relay championship had things going for them. They knew that, no matter where the watches stopped at the finish, they would be creating a new Scottish national and all-comers record. The meeting was the Glasgow championships at Scotstoun Showground, and the first time the race was being run over the metric distances instead of the former mile medley. But Victoria Park were not content just to get their names first in the new record book. They made sure a formidable target would be set. Their quartet – Hugh Barrow, Robert Lawrie, Gordon Millar and Andrew Wood – covered the distance in 3 minutes 23.7 seconds, not only better relatively than the existing national mile medley record but more important, improving on the all-comers time of 3:25.9 that was set up in 1952 by a celebrated Jamaican team which included three of their four Olympic 4 x 400m gold medallists in Helsinki that year including Arthur Wint, Herb McKenley and George Rhoden.
Mike McLean, the Scottish 880 yards champion gave Bellahouston a tremendous start over the 800 metres leg, leading Barrow to the change over by about half-a-dozen yards in what was officially timed at 1 min 50.3 sec. The two sprint legs that followed kept Bellahouston still in the lead by all of 15 yards and this gave Victoria Park’s last man, Andrew Wood a chance to show just why he is Scotland’s national 440 yards champion. He chased Ronnie Wallace of Bellahouston at incredible speed down the back straight, passed him coming out of the crown of the second bend and positively streaked up the home straight for a great victory. His time was variously taken as something between 47 and 48 seconds but, as the athlete himself said, these times are so approximate in relays that you can’t be too specific about their validity.”
Although the Scots athletics public still loved relays, there were not as many on the programmes for the various sports meetings still in existence. This was maybe because it was a bit difficult to organise the change-overs what with boxes to be accurately marked out and officials/judges in sufficient numbers to be found, maybe also because many of the tracks used for the sports meetings and gatherings still extant were short and it would be really difficult to have two take over zones in the same place! Mainly of course the big show piece meetings at Ibrox, Hampden and Parkhead had ceased and the effect that that had on the whole athletics season, not just the relays, was massive.
One of the gatherings still held on a 400 metre track was at Dunoon where the District relays had been held over a number of years incorporated into their annual Cowal Highland Games. And so it was that on 29th August 1970, in Dunoon, Victoria Park retained the relay title after a thrilling race against Bellahouston Harriers. The team was depleted by the absence of Barrow, Lawrie and Millar but the replacements were David McMeekin on the 800m leg (a GB internationalist), Iggy O Muircheaetaig (an Irish international 200 and 400m runner), and Gordon Muir (a top class runner in his own right). Add them to Andrew Wood and you had a very strong squad indeed. They won in a time of 3:27.4 to Bellahouston’s 3:28.4.
The race was won in 1971 by Bellahouston Harriers in a time of 3:34.0, but that heralded three years when there was no national medley relay championship held at all. That’s right – no championship in 1972 or 1973 or 1974. A bit of a disgrace. Maybe because a meeting was abandoned or cancelled one year it would be possible to accept a ‘no event held’ but for it to happen three years in succession reflects poorly on the governing body at the time. The attitude to the trophy seems to reflect a growing impatience on the part of the SAAA championship organisers at the time to cater on championship day for any track race that did not simply require a starter, judges and officials. It was not held at a specific time of the year, not that the two reported on above were at opposite ends of the competition season. There was of course no regular venue – after many years at an unlined track in Shotts, it was at Scotstoun in May then Dunoon in August. Had they been seeking a venue accessible to all clubs, then the Argyll peninsula would not have been high on their agenda. It appeared that anyone bidding for it, or even prepared to host it, would get it on their programme.
That was about to change though. Probably because the 1969 event had been so successful, the event was awarded to the Glasgow Sports Promotion Council to hold it at their Glasgow Championships and Highland Gathering at Scotstoun in May. A good track, a decent crowd guaranteed, and easy of access from anywhere in the country. The first of these was in 1975.
or cancelled in
The available SAAA records for the championship for this period is scanty but we will put up what we have and if/when more information comes to hand, it will be added. Over this period the relay was run at the SAAA Championships which had instituted a Friday evening session consisting mainly of heats of the sprint events. In this context it maybe made sense for them to run the medley final since all the sprinters were already at the venue. It meant that having run no finals the runners would be fairly fresh. They could hardly be expected to run a relay between heat and final, and if it were held after the final then the athletes would be rather tired and in any case the relay would not be their main event of the afternoon. But that’s reading a lot into a little information! The point is that they were held during the evening session on Friday.
The Queen’s Park Sports on 1st June 1935 had a wonderful cast of athletes taking part, noted in the Press as possibly the best ever, and the events included an Inter-City Medley Relay. Edinburgh defeated Glasgow in 3:35.4, “It was curious to find Glasgow on the losing side mainly because of the failure of AD Turner and Robin Murdoch on the furlongs, Neither the Scottish Champion nor Turner were fully fit, and poor exchanging gave Edinburgh an additional pull.” The Glasgow team might have been better using some of the Springburn Harriers who were in action that day. “Springburn Harriers have gathered together a very useful lot if Saturday’s meeting is any criterion. They had a regular field day in the open events securing three firsts in the open and youths sprints, a victory in the mile and seconds in the half-mile, high jump, obstacle race and 440 yards. ”
A week later St Peter’s AC held their eighth annual sports meeting and it was one which was well known for its relay content – they had 440 yards relay (4 x 110), 880 yards relay (4 x 220), Mile Relay (4 x 440) , two miles relay (4 x 880) and a four miles relay. There was no place unfortunately for a medley relay. Anyone looking for clues as to the result at the SAAA would have noted that Garscube won the 440 yards relay, Bellahouston won the 880 yards relay, Maryhill won the One Mile relay and also the Two Miles relay. Maryhill could only finish third in the two shorter relays so there was not a lot to be gleaned there. The Police Sports were held on 15th June and the relay race was noted as less good than in previous years. Maryhill Harriers won in 3:41.8 from Springburn and Bellahouston, They were reported to have “won easily.”
As it turned out, the other clubs should maybe have taken a closer look at the Springburn squad because on Friday, 21st June at Hampden Park, they were the ones who won the SAAA Medley Relay title in 3:40.8. This was the first time that the Friday evening session had taken place and it was voted a great success.
The Friday night experiment was voted a great success and was repeated at the SAAA Championships held on 26th June. However at the Queen’s Park FC Sports of 6th June, there was a medley relay in which Glasgow with a team of CF Campbell, DA Brownlee, DM Pearson and C France, defeated Edinburgh (JC Stothard, RR Wylde, R Forman, GD Malcolm in 3 min 46.4. Campbell and Brownlee were both Springburn Harriers with Campbell having contested a hard fought half mile against Stothard earlier in the afternoon, being beaten only by one and a half yards.
Only two weeks later, on 20th June, the Glasgow Police Sports were held at Ibrox and of course the programme contained a medley relay. It was the only event of the afternoon that produced a record. The report read: “There was one performance of the gathering demanding minute reference and that was the win of Bellahouston Harriers in the one mile medley relay race, which they won in the new Scottish record time of 3:34.2, 0.2 faster than the time put up by Glasgow University at the same sports four years ago. It was half miler Jack Gifford who really did much to help Bellahouston achieve this performance. He went round the half-mile at the heels of Robert Graham, always appearing to have an abundance of pace, while it seemed that the joint mile record holder (whose record was broken by SC Wooderson in Saturday’s Southern Championships), was in front trying hard to get clear of Gifford, but the latter refused to be shaken off and became the challenger-in-chief, with the result that Bellahouston enjoyed the slight advantage of a change-over so close was the struggle; and the time for the half was 1:58.2, the sign of a record in the making. ” The remainder of the team – G Young, J Bone and Charlie France – all did their bit and the race was won and a record set at 3.34.2. Maryhill was second and Springburn third with the winning margin being 20 yards with a further 20 yards between second and third.
A week later at the opening Friday night meeting, held on 24th June. of the SAAA championships was a very similar event with Bellahouston Harriers emerging triumphant in a time of 3:41.2 The time was a full eight seconds slower than at the Police Sports but the medals were the thing at the championships and so began a marvellous spell of SAAA titles for the Glasgow club.
On 28th May, 1938, at the Monkland Sports, there was a medley relay held in which the favourites, Bellahouston Harriers, were beaten in the heats by Glasgow Un iversity and both defeated by Springburn Harriers in the final in a time of 3:37.8. The final result was Springburn (Kinloch, Carson, Campbell and Waddell), first, Glasgow University second (Livingston, Young, Muir and Sinclair) and Bellahouston (Bell, Murdoch, Gifford and France) third. Babcock & Wilcox held their annual sports in Renfrew on 11th June and they too included a medley relay but there was no mistake by the national champions this time. Bellahouston Harriers won from Springburn Harriers in 3: 42.5 with a team of Gifford, Smith, Thomson and France. Gifford on the half-mile and France on the final 440 yards stage were the key men in all of the Bellahouston victories in the event over many years. The Scottish championship in 1938 was for the first time not held at the National championships but at the Glasgow Police Sports held at Hampden Park on 18th June. The race was a really good one and led the reporter at the Glasgow Herald to say: “Relay racing – most exhilarating of all athletic spectacles – provided the highlight at the Glasgow Police Athletic Association sports at Hampden Park on Saturday. The feat of Bellahouston Harriers who established a new Scottish one mile relay record of 3:32.9 in winning the SAAA medley relay title for the third successive season was emphatic approval of the wisdom of the Association’s step of divorcing this event from the championship meeting proper.”
It is not clear to me how such a decision on its success could be made after only one race. However, Bellahouston won in a record time with a team of Gifford, Murdoch, Smith and France, from Glasgow University and Edinburgh University. It as wn by three yards with ten yards separating the two University teams.
Successful as the Herald reporter felt the divorce between the race and the national championships had been, came 1939 they were run at the SAAA Championships on 24th June. The Monkland Sports at Coatbridge on 27th May saw Maryhill win the event there. “Maryhill, who included R Graham and RTH Littlejohns, the respective Scottish mile and half-mile champions, won the mile medley relay after a thrilling tussle with Springburn. Even after Littlejohns had given his mates a useful lead at the end of the first ‘leg’ , Graham was unable to hold Campbell (Springburn) on the third leg, and it was only a magnificent finish by RR Mahlanghele which won the event for Maryhill.” Result: 1. Maryhill (Littlejohns, Little Graham, Mahlanghele) 2. Springburn Harriers. Time: 3 min 35.2.
One meeting down – Maryhill 1, Springburn 2. At the Babcock Sports on 10th June, there was a medley relay on the programme and the Bellahouston team of Gifford, Nisbet, Ross and France was victorious in 3:41.8 with Springburn second. It should be noted that the nine year old Victoria Park was already winning many medals and at this meeting won the Empire Exhibition Trophy for the club with most points overall. The Police Sports which had hosted the SAAA Medley Relay Championships the previous year went past without a relay at all and it was on to the national championships on 24th June at Hampden. Quality told and Bellahouston won their fourth successive championship. Result:
- Bellahouston Harriers (Gifford, Murdoch, Bone, France)
- Springburn Harriers (Kinloch, Canon, Waddell, Campbell)
- Glasgow University (McGlone, Rankin, Sutherland and Wright).
Winning time: 3:57.6
It had been a superb run by Bellahouston – four championships and two Scottish records – but let’s not forget the excellent Springburn Harriers team which contested every relay and every championship with only one set of gold medals to show for it. How would they do after the War? The coming team was Victoria Park from Scotstoun, Maryhill had been a good competitive team for decades and the Universities were always liable to be a threat depending on who was ‘comin up’ to the Varsity in any particular year.