Clyde FC Annual Sports: 1911 – 1918

The 1911 Sports were decidedly not what we would understand as an athletic event today although there were some athletics involved.   Held on 29th July, 1911, the following extracts from the Scottish Referee give a flavour of the event.   First there were three big photographs of an exhibition boxing match between Jimmy Wilde, world 7 stone champion and local boy Billy Padden.   Then there was a note saying that “Third Lanark’s new trainer, W Biggins of Addieswell, was a competitor in the sprints at Clyde club’s sports.  He was not so successful as Tom Brandon, St Bernard’s trainer, who won his heat of the 120 yards and was second in the final.   Then – “Almost everybody who is anybody in football was at the Clyde club’s sports on Saturday.  There were Messrs Wilton (Rangers), W Maley (Celtic), H Low (St Mirren), T Moore (Hamilton), M Dunbar (Celtic), J Kelly (Celtic), James Brownlie (Third Lanark) and Herbert Lock (Rangers.) 

In 1912 the meeting was held on 27th July and the programme contained five-a-side football, a 15 mile race featuring Kohlemainen of Finland for a £25 a head stake, a penalty kick competition, and a footballers race in fancy costume.   The five-a-side tournament was held ‘for behoof of’ Billy McCartney, Clyde and ex-Hibs FC, and featured Hibs, Clyde, Partick Thistle, QPFC, Third Lanark and Hamilton Academicals.   The 15 miles race was run over 60 laps of the track and while it was making progress, the penalty kick competition was going on in the infield.   Popular comedian George Robey was allowed to take part.   The race resulted in a win for the Finn  in 1 hour 22 minutes.   

Move on a year and note this article from the Glasgow Herald of 21st July, 1913: 

“The Clyde Football Club are apparently “whole hoggers” as far as professionalism is concerned, and in this respect  they are at least consistent.   Instead of running amateur sports, as so many professional clubs do [amateurism in Scotland is practically subsidised at the expense of Association Football] Clyde are running a purely professional gathering on Saturday first.   Of course football is the trump card, but in addition they are introducing Jack Donaldson, the eminent sprinter, and a runner of his impressive accomplishments should attract many to Shawfield on Saturday.   Largely through the influence of Struth, several of the best professionals in Scotland will take part in the proceedings.   Professional running in Glasgow has been pretty low in the water for years, but the Clyde are serving up in an attractive manner on Saturday, and will no doubt be rewarded for their enterprise. ”   

Did their initiative pay off?   The ‘Scottish Referee’ of 28th July, 1913, led with the headline 

“CLYDE FC SPORTS

Donaldson’s Grand Running

The enterprise of Clyde Football Club, Limited, in promoting another professional sports meeting on Saturday was rewarded with a splendid attendance – an attendance we usually associate only with the Rangers and Celtic clubs.”

… and went on to comment on the fine weather with the track loose on the surface but in good order.   The events on the rogramme were 120 yards, 220 yards, 880 yards and One Mile, all open handicaps.   The one mile featured Kohlemainen of Finland and Hans Holmer from America which was won by the latter in 4:27 with Kohlemainen dropping out 20 yards from the finish.   Jack Donaldson was an Australia and touring Europe in 1913.   The ‘Dundee Courier’ of 28th July told us that Donaldson’s time for the 120 yards in his Heat was 21.25 seconds, a new world professional record run on a specially stringed course.   Clyde’s sports had an international dimension with Australians, Finns and even Englishmen competing.

Jack Donaldson

There was good coverage in the ‘Daily Record’ of  27th July, 1914 of the Clyde Sports which featured the world 7 stone boxing champion Jimmy Wilde in a six round exhibition bout against Billy Padden of Glasgow.   The report, by a reporter labouring under the nom-de-plume of The Brigadier, began “Why a professional sports meeting should attract so many thousands as attended the Clyde gathering at Shawfield Park, when amateur sports have to struggle for existence, might well serve as a subject for earnest debate.   I was officially informed that the drawings would total £500,   Of course it cannot be denied that particular features, such as the appearance of Jack Donaldson, the Australian sprinter, and Jimmy Wilde, the wonderful little Welsh boxer, were more potent than the sport viewed broadly.   People will always pay to seethe best. ….   Not so much was expected of W Kohlemainen, the Finland runner, yet he gave us the finest exhibition of running seen at the meeting.   This was in the three miles handicap. “

The three main contenders in this last (the three miles) were Kohlemainen, Hans Holmer (USA) and George McCrae of Scotland.   McCrae held a good second until the run for home when he dropped back.   All three had competed elsewhere earlier in the day and Kohlemainen  won on both occasions.   At Shawfield was close up with Holmer well back.

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In July 1915 the papers of all descriptions carried page after page of soldiers killed in action.   There were many photographs with simply the man’s name rank and regiment with the single word ‘killed’.   There were probably no sports in 1915.

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The ‘Sunday Post’ on 30th July 1916 reported on the  Clyde FC Sports.  Boxing was again on the bill of fare (Mick McAdam of Airdrie  v  Tancy Lee of Edinburgh), and WR Applegarth ran in the 100 yards.  ‘Scotsman’ of 31st July: “Although the weather was somewhat depressing, there was an attendance of 15,000.   Football was the chief attraction, although in the flat handicaps the presence of Applegarth, of London, probably attracted many to Shawfield.   He was beaten in his heat of the 120 yards by W Irons, Leith, 15 yards, and his attempt at record in the 220 yards was a failure.”   Events that year were 120 yards, 200 yards, half mile, Two Miles flat race open handicap.   The boxing seemed to be a novelty and would be repeated the following year.  

An attendance of 15000 was big, even for the days when Rangers and Celtic were pulling them in in even bigger numbers for their sports in August.   Football was always on the agenda and boxing had proved to be a good draw down through the years.   However the time used for the football tournament and for the boxing tournaments meant that there was less time for the athletics.

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1917 was a very interesting year for those following athletics at Shawfield.   First of all there was an Amateur Sports under SAAA laws on Tuesday 24th July which included sprinting, distance running, junior 5-a-side, boxing (McGurk v Beattie, Cameron v Lindsay over 6 x 2 minute rounds, and then on 28th July there was a professional sports with races over 120y, 200y, 880y, One Mile and Two miles with prizes of 60/-, 20/- and 10/-, the exception being the 120y where the winner received 100/-.     

The former was reported in the ‘Daily Record’ which said that the SAAA meeting was a warm up for the Pro meeting at the weekend.   Read it for yourself: As a preliminary to their annual sports meeting on Saturday first, Clyde FC sponsored a meeting under SAAA rules at Shawfield Park last night.   Entries for the handicaps had filled out in satisfactory style, and the pick of the Glasgow Junior League clubs took part in the five-a-side football.   A couple of boxing bouts completed an interesting programme.   Fully 2000 spectators attended but unfortunately heavy showers prevented the intending late-comers from completing their journey.”   Nevertheless, 2000 on a Tuesday night could not have been a bad evening for the club.

The events held were 100 yards (5 Heats and a Final), 220 yards (6 Heats and a Final), half-mile and one mile.   There were two 6 round boxing matches between McGurk and Beattie, and Cameron and Buchanan as well as the football.   Then it was on to the Professionals at the weekend.

‘The Daily Record’ had magnificent coverage of the second meeting under the headline ‘Double at Clyde’s Pro Gala: Ayrshire runner wins distance events”.   The report’s opening sentences (written by Cessnock) read: “Clyde’s professional sports gala will not be long ere it is regarded as a summer institution, if it has not already attained that dignified position.   That the meeting is popular we had further evidence on Saturday for there was a crowd of 17,000 at the Ru’glen Bridge enclosure, and their interest was sustained to the finish.   …   The feature of the meeting was the double victory in the distance races of J Lindsay, a Dreghorn runner who used to be associated with Bellahouston Harriers as an amateur.   Lindsay was not “expected” in either event, for Donaldson of Bathgate was “barred” in the Mile, and Glen of Edinburgh was made favourite for the longer race.  …  Jack Donaldson and Cyril Mears, both Australians, competed in the two short distance events.   Both were given too much to do in their present condition.”   There was a half mile race won by the Hearts assistant trainer, Tommy Barclay.   Other events were a 120 yards, a 220 yards, a One Mile and a Two Miles.   The obligatory 5-a-side was won by Clyde who beat Rangers 2 – 1.

George McCrae

Resources were scarce in 1918, the year the War ended, but on Saturday 27th there were several sports meetings held, albeit on a smaller scale than heretofore.   The ‘Daily Record’ gave over its back page to photographs, one of which was the finish of the Ladies’ Race at Ibrox in the National Union of Railwaymen’s sports.   The event was covered by the ‘Sunday Post’ however: most of the amateur clubs were represented (Bellahouston Harriers defeated Eglinton Harriers in the relay, and both clubs were well represented on the prize list) many of the prize winners were military men, there was a five a side tournament and an open tug of war.  The ‘Post’ also covered the professional sports at Shawfield.   Results only, probably because of the shortage of newsprint.   Events included 100 yards, 220 yards, half-mile and one mile, all open handicap races, and a five a side with Clyde, Clydebank, Rangers, Partick Thistle, Celtic, Third Lanark, Queen’s Park and Hamilton Accies.  Rangers beat Clydebank 2 – 0 in the Final.   Out of the city, Greenock Glenpark Harriers had their annual sports meeting at Cappielow Park.   

The ‘Scotsman; on  28th July, 1919, reported on that year’s Clyde FC Sports like this: “The seventh annual professional sports meeting was held at Celtic Park (granted by Celtic FC), Glasgow, on Saturday in brilliant weather and in presence of 15000 spectators.   J Donaldson (Australia), J Mears (Australia), and G McCrae (Edinburgh) competed.   A feature of the afternoon was an attempt by G McCrae to set up new figures for the Three Miles.   He failed, however, to reproduce his real form and finished fourth in only moderate time.  “There followed a list of what they called ‘principal results’.   There were 100 yards (won in 9.8 off  10 1/2  yards), 220 yards won in 22 seconds (off 22 yards), half mile (won in 1:57.2 off 60 yards), mile won in 4:22.4 off 100 yards and a three miles won in 14:45.4 off 100 yards.   Rangers beat Clyde in the 5-a-side by 3 – 1.   

The ‘Sunday Post’ gave it a much bigger spread but agreed with the ‘Scotsman’ that McCrae was the headline story.   It also pointed out that Mr William Struth was the handicapper.   He had been a professional sprinter himself in his heyday and was in 1919 employed by Clyde FC who were clearly maximising use of his talents.   

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40, 000 WATCH CLYDE SPORTS

Clyde struck a successful vein with their professional meeting at Shawfield yesterday.   The meeting was well managed, the sport good and the crowd exceeded 40,000.   The heats of the two mile motor scooter open race came first.   There were two heats with two in a team.   The event proved of great interest.   HJ Arrol and J Lawrence in a “Mobile Pup” machine ran to the final.   Lawrence made a good fight of it but he was unable to get speed up to beat Arrol and the finished:  1.  Arrol;  2.   Lawrence.”

The report then went on to cover the individual events in some detail – an account of each heat plus a detailed description of the Final.   Track events were 120 yards, 220 yards, half-mile, a One Mile event (in which McCrae did not start, reserving his powers for the bigger race to come), and the Three Miles.   The task set McCrae was beyond him with the winner, off 190 yards (ie nearly at the end of the back straight to McCrae on scratch), the second placed runner had a start on McCrae of 550 yards (ie one and a quarter laps) and third off 250 yards.   McCrae finished but was almost 200 yards behind the winner.   Rangers beat Clyde 4 – 0 in the football competition.

In terms of popularity and drawing in the crowds, the Clyde had seemed to get it right.   Minimal athletics involvement, boxing tournaments, 5-a-side football, motor scooter racing. penalty kick competitions – all the fun of the fair in fact.   The growth in crowd size when they decided to abandon amateur athletics and go for entertainment seemed to prove that – from a couple of thousand, to 10,000, to 15,000, to 17,000 to 40,000.   And that growth was secured while the awful carnage of the first world war was continuing on the continent, when papers were listing the dead at least once a week by the end of the war, almost daily at the start.   But if the formula was working so well, why did the club return to the amateur fold in the mid 20th century?