Celtic Sports: 1900 – 1910


100 Yards race at Celtic Park in 1915

The difficulties faced by the organisers of Celtic FC Sports in the mid- to late-30’s which saw or accelerated the decline, and eventual demise of the once fine athletic meeting should not blind us to the fact that it had been running successfully since the end of the nineteenth century.   The Scottish athletic scene had many very good sports meetings, each with its own date on the calendar and this made it difficult to switch any one meeting.   Celtic’s date was the second Saturday in August and when the football season started a week earlier then there was a clash and the club had to move its sports.   Some examples of the other dates:

First week in June was Queen’s Park FC Sports, Third in June was the Glasgow Police Sports, fourth week in June was the SAAA Championships, First week in July was the Partick Thistle Sports, third week in July was Clyde FC sports – but they were for a time a professional games and they only reverted to the amateur code in 1935, first week in August was Rangers sports.    There were others – Monkland Harriers sports on last week in May, Greenock Glenpark Harriers were on the last week in July – an so on.   There was an opening on the second Saturday in July when the football season made the change necessary, but after the first CFC meeting, the organisers of the Triangular International changed the date of their fixture from June.   The Celtic meeting as a major fixture was almost certainly doomed from that date.   This page is to give some idea of the size of event that they hosted – for instance, they always needed a follow-up or supplementary meeting on the Monday after the Saturday; there were many heats in the sprints – over 20 was not uncommon and 25 were known.   We have only a brief coverage of each sports from 1900 here but they should give an indication.


In 1900, the Celtic FC Annual Sports Meeting was a major athletic fixture in Scotland.    Coming as it did the week after the Rangers Sports, it was the last big meeting of the summer before King Football started his winter reign.    The meting on 11th August 1900 was followed by a supplementary meeting there on the Monday evening with the same athletes from the USA, Ireland and England as well as Scotsmen.    There were also cycling events and five-a-side football.   These things did not happen by accident.   Willie Maley had been at the AAA’s Championships and ‘succeeded in inducing AF Duffy the 100 yards champion; W Long, 440 yards champion; John Flanagan, world’s record holder for hammer throwing; and John Bray, Canadian half-mile record holder, to compete at the Celtic Sports meeting on Saturday and Monday next.   This is a big catch, and all interested in athletic science must be indebted to the Celts, and through the Celts to Mr Maley for bringing such an accomplished quartette of athletes to Glasgow.’

The report on the meeting read:

“Bad as the weather was on Saturday, there was some really fine flat racing at Parkhead and in reviewing the proceedings, one can merely speculate what developments there might have been under more congenial conditions.   As it is, M Long’s remarkable running in the quarter handicap will go a long way to give the Celtic meeting this year an exalted place in athletics history.   To cover the distance in 50 seconds in pelting rain and on a sodden track is great work – the greatest perhaps that the American has put in since he came to England.   True he ran a shade faster at the English championships but the conditions at Stanford Bridge were very different from what prevailed at Parkhead, and it is when we bear this in mind that the dignity of Saturday’s performance is found.   Long now holds the “all-comers” 440 record, Bredin being the previous holder.   It was in his Heat that the American accomplished 50 seconds, and although he ran a shade slower in the Final, he had a punishing finish with McFarlane, Edinburgh Harriers  24 yards, for first place.   The invitation 100 yards handicap was the next most interesting item to Long’s record.   There were three Heats, two of which produced grand finishes, the third of which was spoiled through Tewkesbury anticipating the pistol.   The starter declared the Heat “no race” and though the American attempted to get a place, he failed.   The Final was an exciting clash.   J Ford of Motherwell Harriers, four and a half yards, beating M Long, scratch, by a foot, while Ballantyne, who comes from the Border counties was third off five and a half.    Ford never ran better than he did in this race, and the speed he disclosed in this event as well as in the 120, makes him the fastest amateur in the Western District.    The feature, or at any event, one of the features of the 120 handicap, which we may say was replete with exciting incidents – was Tewkesbury’s victory from virtual scratch, one and a half yards.   Long did not run, while both Duffy and Rowley were absent.   D Carr, an old stager, won the half-mile off 60 yards in 1 min 56 sec.   Even when in his prime, Carr has never been able to accomplish anything like this time.   Therefore we must regard this as the race of his life.  S Mitchell, another runner who has not blossomed into a winner for at least a couple of seasons, secured the mile in 4 min 25 sec off 105.”   

The supplementary meeting on the Monday was held in fine weather with a crowd of 10,000 spectators – an excellent attendance for an evening meeting and maybe a testament to the quality of the Saturday event in the rain.   The feature of the meeting was said to be the running of the American runner M Long but my attention was drawn to the winner of the fifth Heat of the open 100 yards – AS Maley (running for Celtic FC) off one and a half yards.    There were no fewer than thirteen Heats of the 100 yards, Maley was second his semi-final, and won the Final.   There were eight Heats in the 220 yards which was won by Long.    The runner who was third in the six laps steeplechase was also running for Celtic FC.    The programme also had men competing in the colours of Queen’s Park FC, Royal Albert FC and Annfield FC.

william Maley

On the Monday before the 1901 meeting, the ‘Glasgow Herald’ again remarked on Maley’s efforts.   “The Celts make their annual athletic appeal on Saturday first, and from the elaborate arrangements made by Mr William Maley, they are not likely to appeal in vain.   The American runners are the trump card this season, as they were last, and the recollections of Maxwell Long’s brilliant quarter-mile running last August should make all who saw him on that occasion anxious to see him again.   He does not come arrayed in English championship honours, as he did a year ago, but for all that his reputation is as great now as it was then.   Long is one of the pedestrian marvels of the present day, and so too is A Duffy, who has been described as “the greatest sprinter in the world for his inches”.   Duffy could not come to Glasgow last August but he is a certain starter this weekend.   He will run in the 100 yards open, while it is just possible the Celts will put up an invitation handicap for the American’s special delectation.   Duffy will teach Scotch sprinters how to start and if his example in this important matter is to be followed, we shall have faster sprinters than at present.   R Wadsley who is running at the Exhibition tonight, having arrived in the city from Manchester yesterday evening, may remain over for the Celtic Sports, and if he does, he and Long may meet in the quarter-mile handicap, in which case we will have the English championship battle all over again.   All round the entries are large and influential, even more so than in the case of Rangers on Saturday, and there should be some good sport.”   The report continued to list some of those who would be competing and in  general the article may well have helped attract at least part of the crowd.

Held on 10th August 1901, the Celtic Sports in the opinion of the reporter for the ‘Glasgow Herald’ would have had an even greater crowd than the previous year ‘but for the breakdown in the weather’ – as it was the attendance was estimated at 15,000!   Again there were Americans, Irish and English competitors as well as domestic Scots including the great John McGough of Bellahouston Harriers.    From early in the report: “It has been said by one whose opinion in athletic matters is valued highly that the Celtic meeting is the greatest in the country, and with the recollection of many fine gatherings which the club has celebrated, we are not inclined to question the verdict.”  What was in the meeting in 1901 to occasion that kind of remark?   A Duffy the American sprinter who had been invited in 1900 but had failed to turn up, was there and he beat Denis Murray of Dublin by half a yard in 10.4 – a disappointing time but he was running on sodden grass.   There were 23 heats (twenty three)  Heats of the 100 yards; the heralded American Maxwell Long won his Heat of the 440 yards but did not turn out in the Final ‘fearing a breakdown’; Baxter, the American high jumper gave an exhibition; N McIntosh (Maryhill Harriers) won the mile from John McGough who was conceding 60 yards.    McIntosh was competing the previous year as ‘Celtic FC’.     As before, there was a top-up meeting on the Monday evening with 9 heats of the 220 yards and last year’s 100 yards winner, AW Maley – was second after leading most of the way.   There were also several athletes racing in their football club colours, among them Clyde FC, Annbank FC, Hamilton Academicals FC.

“The directors of this club submitted an attractive programme, which brought together on Saturday athletes from all parts of Britain, whilst one or two well-known American sprinters &c were among the competitors.   The weather was perfect and there was a large attendance of 20,000 of the public.”


In 1902 the sports were on 9th August, the sports seemed to go off well, but there was only a vestigial report – they fell at the time of the Coronation of King Edward and the crowning of Queen Alexandra and the sports coverage was minimal with athletics possibly the most minimal of them all.   It could have been worse – the Rangers Sports were cancelled.  The papers were full of the coronation with pages of coverage, line drawings, diagrams, reports on all the celebratory activities.   The Herald for example had four or five broadsheet pages of reportage plus a couple of pages with short pieces covering the celebrations in many towns and villages throughout Scotland.   There was great competition for the attention of the ‘man n the street’.  Celtic had been hoping for Alfred Shrubb to come north but he had apparently already agreed to compete in fixtures nearer home.   The reporter pointed out that distance runners were very popular than sprinters in these parts “no doubt due to the fact that they give better value and more sustained excitement” than sprinters.

The 1903 sports were held on 8th August – 24 heats of the open 100 this times – with a total of six track events and four field and a total of £700 drawn at the gate.    The standard was high with, eg, Tom Nicolson against Denis Horgan of Ireland in both weight and hammer and an international high jump competition.    Coverage was limited to a couple of lines plus results but it was another very successful meeting.     The follow-up meeting was on Monday,  10th, and not only were there athletic events + cycling but there was motor cycling events in which the Scottish one mile record was broken.

The preview of the 1904 version of the club sports read, “By their ingenuity, liberality and enterprise the Celtic Football Club have created for themselves a very high ideal as sports promoters and the query on all hands is, “Will they maintain that ideal in connection with the forthcoming meeting?”   As far as we can gather they will.   In the first place it is only natural they should profit in many ways by the extraordinary exertions put forward by the Rangers FC and if they do we are at once ensured of an exhibition of athleticism equal at least to what was witnessed at Ibrox Park on Saturday.   And in the second place the Celts, possessing as they do the finest cement track in Scotland, will provide cycle racing of the very highest class.   …    Mr Maley is hopeful of inducing A Shrubb to come North for the mile handicap, and if he is successful, we will have a series of lively passages between him and John McGough.   Strange as it may seem, the Bellahouston crack has never done anything great at Parkhead and he does not like to be reminded of this by his Celtic friends.   But it is scarcely fair to upbraid him, even in a jocular way, for not establishing records at Parkhead, as by August he can hardly be at his best.”

On to the meeting on 14th August, “The Celtic Football Club on Saturday added another to the many splendid honours they have to their credit as sports administrators.   One, in fact, is left to wonder what the attendance would have been had the weather conditions been a little better.    It ruined more or less all ? , and at one time it looked rather bleak for any form of outdoor recreation, but about two o’clock there was a change for the better with the result that crowds flocked to Parkhead and it is estimated that attendance was not much under 30,000 which is a tribute to the stature of Celtic Sports.”    The fields were made up mainly of Scots with some good Englishmen taking part, many good races were held although  no records were set.   On the Monday meeting, held in better weather, also had some top class competition with the invitation 100 yards being won by the American AF Duffey ‘by inches’ from JW Morton of England in 10.6 seconds.    R Craig of Bellahouston Harriers won the 1000 yards race by about two inches in a field of 50 runners.      Duffey was considered the fastest man in the world at the time and had been encouraged to come to Scotland by William Wilton of the Rangers in 1903 for their Sports the previous week.      Duffey had been favourite in the 1900 Olympics but despite a  good run in the Heats had to pull up in the final with an injury.   American 100 yards champion in 1899, he won the AAA’s in England every year from 1900 to 1904.   He ran 9.6 for 100 in 1902, a world record, but after a quarrel with the AAU over his refusal to wear Spalding running shoes he was found guilty of breaking the amateur code.   There is genuine dispute over this verdict – the AAU President worked for Spalding Shoes and it was after the refusal to wear these that the President himself brought the accusation that Duffey had been accepting illegal expenses every year since 1899.   There seems to be little if any evidence that he did actually do a bad thing!   However, when he came to Ibrox in 1903 and Parkhead in 1904, he was still a world class athlete.   There were also cycle races and a motor bike race.   I don’t know of any other meeting during the period that actually had motor bike races at their sports but then maybe the aforementioned cement track was used for these.

What was it with Celtic Sports and the weather in August?   The weather on 12th August 1905 was again against good running.   “As luck would have it, Saturday was a bad day for athletics and while in many respects the Celtic meeting will stand out as one of the most successful of the long and brilliant series held by that club, nothing was achieved that will single it out as memorable in later years.   The sprinters had a strong wind to battle against and this very naturally had a prejudicial effect on form.   It was the strong men who in most cases carried the day, and this was perhaps more marked in the sprint than in the distance events.   Quite a number of the lighter men did not compete at all, any chance they had of distinguishing themselves being neutralised by the vigour of the breeze.   The invitation 100 yards handicap was won by  JW Morton, the English champion, in 10 3-5th sec and in  ordinary circumstances the time would have been 10 seconds.   Kitson was second with Stark third.   Lighter than the other two, undoubtedly Stark suffered by the conditions, and that he managed to even finish third, says a great deal for his pluck and determination.  JB Taylor, the American, did not break the record in the quarter.   No one expected he would in such conditions but many thought he would have done better than he did.   WD Anderson won in 51 2-5th sec off 10 yards, Blunden being a good second off 8 yards, while the American just succeeded in beating W Roxburgh for third place.   Again RS Stronach had a popular win over in the hurdles over E Amsler of America.   This is the fourth time in succession that the Scot has beaten Amsler.   On Saturday however he had less to spare than in the other races, the American running him to a couple of yards.   Where Stronach  excels is the facility with which he clears the lights.   A Shrubb lost the mile-and-a-half invitation race to G Butterfield and in view of the fact that McGough beat the Londoner a few days ago there should not be too much difficulty in allocating to each his position in the order of merit. The story of the race is that Shrubb led throughout and was overcome at the crucial stage – the sprint.   The first half-mile was done in 2 min 9 sec, the mile in 4 min 36 secand the full distance in 6 min 55 2-th sec.   The two open  sprints were won by J Smith of Bellahouston Harriers – the 100 yards off 8.5, the 220 off 15.   Smith would seem to be possessed of great sprinting resource as he won the first round in 10 3-5th sec, the second in 10 1-5th and the Final in 10 sec.   It is interesting to mention that Smith at the June meeting of the West of Scotland Harriers was in receipt of 9.5 yards from Morton and did not win, while on Saturday off a reduced mark, he carried off one of the great prizes of the year.   This is the first time this season that Smith has ventured beyond the initial stage of a handicap.   WH Mill, West of Scotland Harriers, won what, under better conditions, would have been the fastest half-mile of the season, off 35 yards: as it was the time has only once been bettered  and that was at an Edinburgh meeting.   The mile went to a stalwart Irishman, SS Lee, the Junior cross-country champion of Ireland, and the steeplechase, which provoked a constant ripple of laughter, was captured by A Russell of Walsall who enjoys a unique reputation for this class of pedestrianism.   One very marked feature of the track races, was the extraordinary success of the Bellahouston school.   Eight of the 100 yard Heats and three of the 220 yards were captured by members of that club while of the prizes they won three firsts, three seconds and three thirds.”

That is the report in its entirety and the preview of the Monday meeting concentrated on the Four Miles Handicap.  

“We are to have A Shrubb in a Four Miles Handicap  and that is something which is not seen every day.   Two years ago Shrubb ran a very fine race at the Celtic enclosure, the occasion being the summer sports of the West of Scotland Harriers, when he created record, 19 mins 32 2-th sec, which he afterwards lowered at Ibrox to 19 min 23 2-5th sec, in the historic ten miles race.   We are not likely to have either of these efforts repeated tonight, although we shall be surprised if the Englishman does not crack 20 minutes.   Last week on grass he was quite at his best, beating Alridge quite easily over four miles, and as this is the distance he favours most, we feel confident he will put in a performance worthy of the great name that he enjoys.   There are twelve entrants, distributed as follows: J McGough, Bellahouston Harriers 100 yards; S Stevenson, Clydesdale Harriers, 120 yards; PC Russell, Bellahouston Harriers, 230 yards; G McKenzie, West of Scotland Harriers 320 yards; T Robertson, Edinburgh Harriers 390 yards; J Reston, Clydesdale Harriers, 400 yards;  WJ Elliott, Herne Hill Harriers, 420 yards;    R Craig, Bellahouston Harriers, 430 yards;   WG Kerr, Clydesdale Harriers, 430 yards; T Stewart, Springburn Harriers, 450 yards; J Stewart, Maryhill Harriers, 450 yards; J Mullinch, Bellahouston Harriers, 470 yards.   In other words, Shrubb is asked to give away a lap and 30 yards which is a very formidable task.”   The 220 yards featured English and American runners as well as Scots and was also previewed fairly extensively.    It should be noted that among the runners in the Four Miles were two past or future Olympians in McGough and Stevenson and several Scottish cross-country internationalists including James Reston  who emigrated to the USA in 1920 and was the father of the great American political columnist James Scotty Reston.

After that the race had to be good.   The headline the following morning read: “SHRUBB AND McGOUGH IN GOOD FORM.”   and the article, although brief, reported on a good race.   The amateur athletic sports of the Celtic Football Club were continued last night in fine weather and before a large attendance attracted by the entry of several English cracks.  Principal interest centred in the Four Miles flat race handicap in which Shrubb, Butterfield and McGough met.   An exciting race was witnessed.   The London runner was in grand form, and starting at once to draw in his men succeeded in passing McGough when two miles had been covered.   Half a mile short of the distance, Butterfield had retired owing to the muscles in one of his legs stiffening.   After he had taken the lead of the Bellahouston man, Shrubb went straight ahead and got into first place at the end of two and three-quarter miles.   He won in 19 mins 34  seconds by fully 100 yards from McGough who completing the four miles put up a record for a Scottish runner of 20 min 6 1-5th sec, the previous best being 20 min 10 3-5th sec.”   The evening saw 16 heats of the 100 yards and 8 heats of the 220 yards as well as two cycle races.   Home Scots won the sprints.    

If 1905 was good, 1906 was better.   Held on 11th August, the report was headlined “CELTIC CARNIVAL”.    The headline act was Lieutenant Halswell but the reporter was in no doubt about the place of the Celtic FC meeting in Scottish athletics.

“All roads lead to Parkhead on the day of the Celtic FC Sports.   Glasgow people seem to have got it into their heads that all worth seeing in athletes and athletics are to be seen as they are seen nowhere else, at the meeting of the Celtic Football Club.   This is eminently flattering to the Parkhead management, though at the same time it is hard to say the least on such clubs as Clydesdale Harriers, West of Scotland Harriers and Bellahouston Harriers, all of whom in their own modest way have done, and are still doing incalculable service in the cause of athletics advancement in the city.   There was a great variety of events on Saturday: if anything the programme was a little too rich in good things.

An Epoch Maker Lieutenant Halswell was the “magnet” and it goes without saying that he rose to the dignity of the occasion.   He gave no fewer than three very noble turns, all of which were greatly appreciated, though of course the one that caught the fancy most was the 49 sec in the quarter mile, which is three-fifths better than his previous accomplished if we mistake not, in the West of Scotland Harriers June Sports at Ibrox Park.    Halswell on Saturday could have easily given the concessions that proved too severe for him at Ibrox, so full of life was he at the finish.   He was also second in the invitation 100 yards off one and a half yards, and was just defeated in the half-mile scratch by George Butterfield of Darlington Harriers in 2 min.   It was the brains of the latter that triumphed in this race and if Halswell knew as much of the science of running as the AAA mile champion, his efforts, great as they are, would be even greater.   Butterfield, for instance, would never have courted the jostling that ruined Halswell’s prospects in this race.    All the same, the Lieutenant is a fine athlete, and there is not, we are safe in saying, another runner, be he amateur or professional, who could do what he did at Parkhead on Saturday with apparently so little exertion.   Halswell’s 49 sec here is equal to 48 sec in England, and the magnificence, as well as the significance, of the performance can only be appreciated by those who are in a position to contrast the conditions in Glasgow with those in the South of England.   We are afraid Halswell will not succeed in breaking world’s record in Scotland, and for the fruition of his ambition he should go to London before the season ends.   One who has accomplished so much already should not stop till he has erased the present world’s record for the quarter.    There is a rumour that he is retiring from the path tonight, but this is not true as he has applied to the AAA for permission to run at Christiania, Norway towards the end of the month and it may be taken as certain that he will represent the rest of Scotland against Scottish Universities at Aberdeen on the occasion of the King and Queen’s visit to that city in September.   What will happen afterwards will be determined by military considerations.  

New Mile Record   Another very fine performance was John McGough’s mile record of 4 min 21 3-5th sec.   This is his second best public effort, the best being his 4 min 19 sec at the AAA’s Championships last month.   We have been expecting a new record from him for some time back; indeed, all his performances since the West Harriers meeting when he did the mile and a half in 7 min, have led up to this brilliant effort, and like every clever article, he keeps the best till last.   Being closely associated with the Celtic Football Club, McGough is naturally proud that Parkhead shares with him the glory of the record.   Tonight he will endeavour to improve on Saturday’s time and by way of aiding him,. the Celts are putting up an invitation handicap with G Butterfield, Darlington Harriers, scratch; JW Lee Heaton Harriers, 25 yards; Sam Lee, Bellahouston Harriers, 70 yards; and J Lambie, Bellahouston Harriers 80 yards.   In addition there is the 1000 yards handicap, which will be quite as interesting as the mile, from the fact that Lieutenant Halswell is to run.   Last Monday night, George Butterfield managed to slice a fifth of a second off  the all-comers record which had resisted every onslaught.     It was an excellent performance and will give the Rangers carnival a prominent place in athletics history.   Butterfields time was 2 min 16 4-5th sec with which he displaces the name of FE Bacon, one of the great athletes of the Victorian era.   Halswell has designs on the 1000 yards record and, if he can stay the distance, certainly has the necessary pace; but how he will negotiate the large field is another matter.   Vallance who won the open half-mile in 2 min off 13 yards is off 10 in the 1000 and the man who can plough through a field of seventy runners, as he did on Saturday, is possessed of greater speed and stamina than he has previously been credited with.   Taking the time of the open half, and that of the special invitation – 2 min – there was evidently not need for a special race over this distance, as the backmarkers would have been supreme in the one as they were in the other.”

The report continued with coverage of the sprints but the big events had clearly been the endurance races mentioned above.   As for the Monday session, the sport was good, the crowd was large and appreciative but no records were set.

McGough and Butterfield were again present and in action on both sessions in 1907 and, following the example of Rangers FC, a five-a-side tournament was introduced with four teams competing – Celtic, Rangers, Partick Thistle and Clyde – on the Monday evening.    Of the Saturday the report read – “Failure as a term has no place in the vocabulary of the Celtic FC.   All the years they have held sports, they have drawn immense crowds, and we should say that Saturday’s attendance will compare favourably with the past.   There must have been 20,000 people present, while the private enclosures were as well patronised as on the occasion of an important football match.   Nor was the large crowd sent away disappointed. With the exception of the world’s cycling champion, all who were advertised to appear, were present.     Throughout there was some excellent sport and there is a general impression that it would have been even better but for the negative effect of the wind which, in the case of the sprinters, was right in their teeth.”    The sprints were contested by Scottish, English and American runners, the invitation mile was won by an Englishman and ‘neither McGough nor Butterfield were seen to advantage’, and it was pointed out that Bellahouston Harriers had four wins to their credit.   There was an interesting comment that I will quote without adornment:  “The open 100 yards which has lost a lot of its monetary charm in consequence of the suppression of open betting, was won by GJ McNeil (Kilbirnie).”

 The Monday session attracted approximately 5000 spectators and the star was the American Nat Cartmell who won the invitation 120 yards plus the 220 yards handicap.   There were thirteen heats of the 100, necessitating semi-finals as well as final  and seven heats of the 220 which had no semi-finals.   In the 1000 yards, there were 36 runners with Butterfield and McGouch on scratch but they did not finish.    The weather of course played  its part – a torrential downpour just before the start affected the attendance and left some puddles on the track and infield

The crowd numbers quoted for these meetings generally are astonishing to the present day athletics supporters – in 1907 there were 20,000+ spectators over the Saturday afternoon and Monday evening events.    The numbers competing are no less surprising – at times over 100 in a mile handicap, 25 or more heats of a good 100 yards.    Some say that Scots today ‘love their sport’ but that generally means they love watching football.    This was the first time that Celtic had 5-a-sides at their athletics meetig and the crowds were not really appreciably bigger than in previous years.   Have we really more to do with our time these days?   Is the  publicity and ‘selling of the events’ less than it was then?    Is athletics less entertaining?

The Rangers Sports at this time also had two meetings – the big Saturday one and the supplementary on the Monday with a couple of featured races and a restricted programme of, in the main, local events.   The net result was a wonderful ten days when the Glasgow citizenry had the Rangers Sport on the Saturda and the Monday followed five days later by the Celtic Sports on the Saturday. Normally there would have been a fourth session – the Celtic Monday meeting – but in 1908 for some reason this did not happen.   The success of all these meetings in the London Olympics year of 1908 was noted in an article praising the efforts of both clubs to provide top-grade entertainment.


Last week was a memorable one in the sporting history of the city, [reported the Glasgow Herald of 10th August 1908].   On Monday the Rangers FC concluded what from every point of view had been the most successful meeting that they had held for a very long time, while on Saturday Celtic FC added one more to their brilliant list of triumphs.   Both are in the fortunate position of having money to spend, and money judiciously handled will yield, as we have just seen, as big a return from athletics as from most forms of public amusement.   That there was more lavish expenditure this season than previously is frankly acknowledged by the two managements and, without pausing to inquire how this sort of thing squares with official notions, we would merely mention that the Glasgow public has much to be grateful for to the Rangers and Celtic for introducing so many of those who distinguished themselves at the recent Olympic Games.  But for those clubs it is just possible that we might never have had the privilege of seeing Melvin Sheppard, Reginald Walker and others who, by their achievements at the stadium, have enrolled themselves in the lists of the immortals.   All are agreed that good as the racing was at Ibrox on the first day, it was infinitely better on Monday evening.   General excellence took the place of individual excellence for the greater part and, after all, there is a greater source of satisfaction in this   than in the creation of records, the one being the gratification of personal ambition, the other being the manifestation of universal competitive interest.   It is difficult to say whether Reginald Walker’s win in the open sprint or Sheppard’s win in the half-mile was the finer effort.   Both are monumental in that the time in the sprint is likely to be bracketed with JM Cowie’s record of 10 sec while Sheppard’s half-mile will rank as one of the finest ever witnessed in Britain and its significance is greatly enhanced by the fact that for a third of the distance he may be said to have cut out his own pace.  It was however a disappointment to many at Ibrox that that he did not run in the handicap specially prepared for him.   Those who saw Walker’s finish in the final of the 100 yards handicap will never forget it.   At 20 yards from home he seemed hopelessly beaten but with a supreme effort managed to break the tape first.    …..

As we have seen, the Rangers function scintillated with excitement and there was a renewal of this form of appreciation at Parkhead on Saturday afternoon.   If anything, however, the Celts programme was too large.   A start was made at 2:45 and it was seven o’clock when the last event was decided.   Roughly speaking there were four hours sport and, however interesting the proceedings, it was felt that for once, the limits of discretion had been exceeded.    No athletic meting should exceed two and a half hours, or at most three hours, and when a programme cannot be compressed within those limits there is a miscalculation  of public endurance.     Where the Celts erred was in combining a two days programme into one; but in this connection we are in a position to state that in another year there will be a return to the custom of a double meeting which, as we had occasion to remark recently, should never have been departed from, least of all this season when the country at large was extending hospitality to so many eminent American athletes …

Reginald Walker of South Africa, who had an excellent appreciation of everything Scotch except the climate, only ran in the 100 yards at Parkhead where he was third but Sheppard turned out in the half-mile.   “Perhaps the best performance of the afternoon was M Sheppard’s half-mile in 1 min 56 1-5th sec or a fifth worse than his time at Ibrox last Monday.   This is a marvellous performance when allowance is made for the fury of the breeze.   Under normal Glasgow conditions, it is believed Sheppard, paced as he was, would have come close to his world’s record time at the Olympic Games.   T Fairbairn Crawford is entitled to part of the honour as he ran a vigorous race.   Lieutenant Halswell did not run in the quarter which lost all of its interest on that account.   ….   the winner of the open mile, G Dallas, who is a good cross-country runner, finished quite fresh in 4 min 22 3-5th sec.”

There was a total of 11 running events plus cycle racing plus several field events on the programme.   The comments on the money available to the two clubs and the comment on how ‘money judiciously spent squares with official notions’ is a leading one.

The meeting on 14th August 1909 was held under a cloud: Mr McLaughlin, the Celtic chairman who had been a key figure in organising the sports had died and there was talk of cancelling the meeting.   It went ahead because there were several English runners who had travelled a long way to compete.   It was nevertheless a low-key affair with the top men being Cartmell, Rodger and Tom Jack.

Steeplechase, Celtic Sports, 1910  (Photo courtesy Eric Giacoletti)

“Glasgow Herald” Report:

In 1910, the story was very different and the report started: “Everything for the time being seemed to contribute to the magnificent success which the Celtic management scored in connection with their amateur athletic sports on Saturday: the weather was charming, the huge crowd were in excellent spirits, the running, if never sensational, was always interesting and often exciting and, all combined, gave quite a distinctive note to the meeting.   But amid so much of a congratulatory character, there was a pretty general feeling that the programme assumed pretty unreasonable dimensions.   Apart from motor-cycle flights, which cannot be described as sport by any stretch of the imagination, there were no fewer than 15 races, not to mention countless heats and a five-a-side football competition.”   There was much more about the length of the meeting and the need for a ‘pruning knife’  – similar to previous comments on the meeting and to several others such as the Glasgow Police Sports which were notorious for over-running.   In the sports themselves, EW Haley from London won three of the four invitation events – the 100 yards, the 220 yards and the 440 yards – with the other, the invitation half mile, being won by JC English (Manchester AC) in 1 min 57 1-5th off 20 yards but a new record 1 min 58 2-5th sec was set by R Burton, the SAAA Champion who was third finisher.   John McGough was defeated in the Mile by Owen (Broughton Harriers) who was giving him 20 yards.   After several years of criticising the organisation of the sports, the final sentence of the report read, Considering the magnitude of the programme, the arrangements were highly creditable to Mr W Maley who deserves special credit for the triumph which crowned his labours on Saturday.”

 Having come from 1900 to 1910, we will soon start a new page for 1910 to 1920 but it is clear from the little reported here that the Celtic FC Sports were major events that attracted some of the top athletes of the day to Parkhead.