George Dallas


Taking Up athletics when I did in the mid-1950’s, I first associated the name of George Dallas with the Monday athletics reports in the ‘Glasgow Herald’.   They were comprehensive, easy to read and you could rely on them.   He was the best reporter the paper ever had until Doug Gillon came along.   He was at all the cross-country meetings, easily recognised and always easy to speak to.   But he was much more than that.   One of the best and longest serving of officials he had been a very good runner himself and knew what was in the best interests of the competitors.   There are two profiles of his career that I will reproduce here to start with.

The first is Colin Shields’s very perceptive profile of the man in his centenary history of the SCCU and I start by quoting it extensively.

“To those who knew him, George Dallas was the administrative rock on which the National Cross-Country Union of Scotland operated.   For twenty five years, between 1921/22 and 1946/47, he held the post of joint Hon. Secretary and Hon. Treasurer, and then remained as Hon. Secretary for a further period of 15 years until 1961, with Duncan McSwein having taken over the separate post of Hon. Treasurer in 1946.

But Dallas was also a very successful competitor on both the track and country as well as being and able administrator and reporter of the sport in most of Scotland’s newspapers.   It was general for runners to turn to distance running and competition over the country after a period of track competition over shorter distances.   But Dallas was different in his approach to competition.   Returning from Army service in the First World War he was in the peak of physical fitness after a year in the army of occupation in Germany had given him plenty of time for training.   In his first summer home he ran 52.0 seconds to win the SAAA National 440 yards title at Powderhall Stadium in Edinburgh.  

This short distance sprint victory came, unusually, after a pre-war period of cross-country running.   In 1910 Dallas won Maryhill Harriers 9 mile club championship, bettering the course record by 2 minutes with three other clubmates inside the old record.   This run established him as favourite for the Western District Junior title and he justified this position by winning the 7 miles race in 41 minutes 05 seconds.   In a close finish he was three seconds clear of A Austin (Greenock Glenpark Harriers) with D Peat (Motherwell YMCA) third, one second behind.   Dallas led Maryhill to their first ever team victory in the championship.”  

This summarises his career well and Colin elaborates on it in the course of the book.   James Logan of Victoria Park AAC wrote to me at one point to say that the troops at the end of the War in 1918 had time on their hands and, to employ them profitably, the Army establishment decided that they had to take part in sport and PE.   George was one of those nominated to organise and carry out the fitness training and the sports programme.  The troops came home in 1919 and 1920 ‘bursting with fitness’ and ready for action!   George certainly was as his athletics showed.

Nowadays, many young athletes know the name through the George Dallas Trust which was set up by his family in 1982.

Scottish Athletics in writing about the Trust produced the following for the IFAC Conference in Glasgow which again outlines his career but adds to what is above and explains the nature and purpose of the Trust.

Becoming a member of Maryhill Harriers in 1906, George Dallas was an athlete of unsurpassable versatility, winning races at all distances from 100 yards to 10 miles at the highest level. He was equally at home on the track and over the country – a highlight of his career being his win in the Scottish Championships at 440 yards. He was also a prolific winner of handicap events, more often than not running from the virtual scratch mark.

After serving in the First World War in 1914-18 in the Royal Garrison Artillery, George, as Brigade Sports Officer, won the Second Army Cross Country Championships in Cologne from over 1000 competitors.

On returning to “Civvy Street”, George then turned his hand to the administrative side of the sport and swiftly became the Honorary Secretary of the Scottish Cross Country Union, a post which he held for an unprecedented period of 40 years. During this time, George organised no less than 6 International Cross Country Championships, which brought great credit to Scottish Cross Country running. At the same time, for a period of 26 years, he was also Western District Secretary of the S.A.A.A.

George’s tremendous contribution to Scottish athletics was also recognised when he was elected President of the S.A.A.A in 1950, the S.C.C.U in 1961 and the International C.C.U in 1952. George was also the athletics correspondent for many newspapers, including the Glasgow Herald.

His effort were finally crowned by the award of an M.B.E in 1962 for services to Scottish athletics.

To keep alive George Dallas’s name and honor, his Daughter, Mrs Nancy G. Dallas Crane initiated the George Dallas Memorial Trust in 1982.

The purpose of the trust was, initially, to help provide assistance to deserving young Scottish athletes, male and female, for training, coaching, travelling or equipment. Towards this end, many individual grants were awarded to athletes covering the length and breadth of Scotland. In order to comply with the role of a charitable organisation (a status achieved by the Trust in 1994), the Trust had to change the thrust of its awards. And individual grants to athletes were phased out, replaced by grants supporting more general education and coaching matters, training of officials, etc, and organising participatory courses for physically and socially disadvantaged young athletes.

Such events have been funded (in whole, or in part) by the Trust in all areas of Scotland, from Stornoway to Dumfries, and further events including the Coaches Conference and Disability Education Courses are in the pipeline in conjunction with scottishathletics.

In addition to the above activities, the Trust annually awards the George Dallas memorial Trophy to the person or persons who in the judgement of the Trustees, have achieved distinction in, or made a material contribution to, cross country, road running, track and field or hill running in Scotland in the preceding calendar year, whether they be athletes, administrators, coaches or otherwise involved in the sport. Previous recipients of the awards include Allan Wells, Yvonne Murray, Liz McColgan, Tom McKean, Tommy Boyle.

scottishathletics remains extremely grateful to the George Dallas Memorial Trust for its continued support of Coach Education in Scotland, and this weekend, for their support of the Coaches Conference in particular.

Anyone requiring further information or wishing to make a donation to the Trust should write to Mr R.L.McSwein, 56 Atholl Drive, Giffnock, Glasgow G46 6QP.

I can only further exhort any reader to get in touch with Bob if they can help out at all.

In addition to the posts of Secretary/Treasurer and Secretary of the NCCU for 40 years, George was Secretary of the West District Committee of the SAAA from 1922 – 1948 and held the posts of President of the SAAA in 1950, of the International CCU in 1952 and of the NCCU in 1961/62.   And the organisation of six international championships.  Then of course there was the officiating at track meetings and at cross-country races.   Then of course there were the club commitments.

He really was the rock of so many associations and committees as Colin said at the start of his comments on George and yet I never ever heard him be rude to any athlete and he always found time to reply to any query that came his way in the course a meeting.   A marvelous man and a great official and administrator.

George Dallas’s running career is covered at these links:   Before 1915   After 1918