Hamish Robertson – Runner and Official

Hamish Robertson, future ESH Club Secretary and, between 1972-75 and 1984-86, ESH President, in athletics kit, standing on the far right of the photo.   

Hamish Robertson (Edinburgh Southern Harriers)

Father of Alex Robertson. Hamish ran Edinburgh to Glasgow Relays after the War, with a total of seven (May 1949, November 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955.) He raced stages 2, 5, 6, 7 and 8 – and was a member of the team that won bronze in 1953, when he tackled the long 6th Stage.

In the 1954 Senior National XC, he secured another team bronze. Hamish ran the National in 1950, 1951, 1952 (29th and ESH second counter), 1953, 1954, 1955 and 1956.

The career of his near namesake WA Robertson overlapped with Hamish’s and they ran in several teams together.  In 1952, Hamish finished 14th in the Eastern District CC Championship at Kirkcaldy and ESH secured team silver medals, narrowly behind Edinburgh University. Then, in 1953, Hamish was 16th and sixth counter in the ESH team that won the title comfortably!  

In the Eastern District Cross-Country League, Hamish was 5th in an ESH team that finished second at Kirkcaldy in November 1950. ESH won the league in 1950-1951

He was 9th and counted in a winning ESH team in January 1952 at Liberton, over six miles of snow-covered country and icy roads. ESH won the league overall that 1951-1952 season.

ESH won the title again in 1952-3.

Hamish counted in an ESH team that finished second to EU in an Eastern CC League race at Falkirk in January 1956.

Leaders at the five mile mark of in the 1957 Scottish marathon championship: left to right, George King (22), John Kerr, Andy Fleming (16), Hugo Fox, Hamish Robertson (4), not known, Harry Fenion (17), not known, Ronnie Kane (24).

As a marathon runner, Hamish finished seventh in the 1953 Scottish Marathon Championship (named as J Robertson), fifth in 1955 and sixth in 1957 (in his fastest time of 2.46.07, well below the Scottish Marathon Club First Class Standard).   However, I don’t think he ever joined the Glasgow-based Scottish Marathon Club.

In 1953, Hamish also ran: Shotts Highland Games 15 miles where he finished sixth.  In this annual event, he was sixth again in 1954 (14 miles); and fifth in 1955 (only six seconds behind George King of Greenock Wellpark).

 In 1955, on 25th June, Hamish was fifth in the Scottish Marathon, 2.46.58; on 13th August 1955, second in Atholl and Breadalbane (Aberfeldy) 13 mile road race, winning the handicap, prize (value £2); on 20th August 1955, fifth in the City of Edinburgh Highland Games marathon.

In 1956, Hamish was not as fit but, on 5th May, finished one place ahead of Jackie Foster in the West Calder AAA 10 miles.

In 1957, on 22nd June,he was sixth in the Falkirk to Edinburgh Scottish Marathon Championship in 2.46.07.   Twenty three runners started. 14 finished below the standard of 2.55, another three were too slow and six dropped out, including such able and well known runners as AH Fleming, Ronnie Kane and Gordon Porteous.  Hamish was in front of Emmet Farrell, JM Kerr and Tom Scott .   On the 20th July that year, he ran the Anster Fair 12.

In 1958, he dropped out of Edinburgh to North Berwick 22 miles and also failed to finish the 1958 Scottish Marathon on 21st June. However, he ran better on 26th July, finishing sixth in the Gourock Highland Games 14. Was this his competitive swansong? His son Alex remembers Hamish, who was born in 1928,  running as a veteran at several races, including one in Glasgow and the Kingsway Road Relays in Dundee.


Edinburgh Southern Harriers was blessed at this time with many able and willing administrators, officials and back room boys.   From the above photograph Ian McKenzie, an excellent team manager, was ESH President from 1975-77.  Ian Clifton, a very popular Scottish official, was ESH President from 1978-80, SCCU President from 1977-78 and SAAA President in 1986. Martin Craven, a GB and Scottish International runner, and a great team man, was ESH President from 1980-82. George Brown, another fine runner and invaluable team man, was ESH President from 1982-84. From 1975-1984, Hamish Robertson was a well-respected, very encouraging Secretary for ESH. He was  Club President from 1984-1986.

Jackie Foster was an ESH team mate. His very first marathon was the 1955 Scottish event, when Joe McGhee (the 1954 Vancouver Empire Games Marathon Champion) broke the Scottish Championship record with 2.25.50. Jackie recalls that Hamish Robertson advised him about preparation and tactics for this long-distance challenge. That morning, before the race, they went to Woolworth’s, where Hamish purchased a pair of black gym shoes – “the type worn by Brownies at the time, with a brown gristle rubber sole, costing five shillings a pair.” Hamish was almost running barefoot – years before Abebe Bikila!

Ian McKenzie wrote: “I first met Hamish in 1952, when he was an active athlete, and received his help with training along with Jackie Foster. Although he remained a club member he took a break from being actively involved when Alex and his sister were young.

When Alex took up running, Hamish became more involved as a committee member and progressed to Secretary.

I am not aware that he ever represented us on any governing bodies, but he certainly officiated at cross country and track and field meetings for many years. He was always prepared to take on many roles at the marathons and half marathons the club organized. He remained active until he was a good age. 

At all the races, such as the Edinburgh Marathon etc. he would record finishers, hand out medals and keep finishers moving through the funnels – each job was vital to the event. On the track he was often the starter’s marksman or raking the sand at the jumps.

As you will have gathered, he would undertake any duty he was asked to perform. 

An unsung, but important helper.” 

Alex Robertson said that his father Hamish was a hurdles steward during the 1970 Commonwealth Games at Meadowbank, Edinburgh.   Aged 15, Alex himself was a baggage steward. In 1972, Hamish was also a baggage steward at the Europa Cup. He was a great help to emerging athletes like Allister Hutton, Ken Harkness, John Gladwin and many more – on Sundays they often set off for a long run from his house.  He was a guest on the television programme ‘This Is Your Life – Allan Wells”. Hamish helped Stewart Miller to set out cross-country courses in the South of Edinburgh. In 1997, he arranged a sponsor to publish the ESH Centenary History book.  

The East District XC Relays were at Fernieside: in 1969, 1971, 1973. Hamish would have officiated.

The last time that  Fernieside was used as a cross-country venue was on 18th January 1975, when ESH won the East District XC Championship team title (1st Allister Hutton, 4th Colin Youngson, Nigel Bailey, Craig Douglas, Martin Craven, Alistair Blamire).

Brian McAusland wrote: Hamish was first voted as a member of the SAAA East District  and General Committee of the SAAA in 1990 having been elected for the first time in 1989.   Note that this was an elected position, members being voted for at the Annual General Meeting.   The clubs voted him onto the Committee.  Once on the General Committee, he was given the additional remit of being a member of the Thistle Award Scheme committee with Frank Dick, Barry Craighead and George Parrott. 

Alex Jackson wrote: “Hamish worked in the same building as I did at Edinburgh University, Kings Buildings.

I do remember he retired in 1988 as it coincided with me becoming East Secretary of SCCU.

He  didn’t officiate at any cross county after that I can see.

But as you know he was an ESH man and would go to great lengths to help with anything the club organised.

For the first Edinburgh Marathon of 1982, the Race Director was Dave Farrar, who was an ESH member and he brought in experienced hands, including Hamish, from the club to run the event. (He also helped with the second Edinburgh Marathon). 

The James Clerk Maxwell Building at Kings Building where Hamish worked had huge lecture rooms with literally hundreds of desks.

In the less busy summer university months, when undergraduate students were on holiday, before the first Edinburgh Marathon in 1982, Hamish used the lecture theatre desks to do the race registration administration work  for the race.

If you looked in the room you would see desks covered with registration paperwork. No computers (or very few) were around in 1982 to do all the admin registration work.”