Hans Noble with David Bowman on the right.
Meeting of Clydesdale Harriers Committee held in Educational Rooms, Clydebank, 1st February 1946.
Members Present: T Millar, T Tait, H King, C Middler, D MacDonald, D Bowman, D Scott, J Gray, J Shields, A MacMillan, d H Noble (Coach)
Cyril O’Boyle was not the first top class Irish athlete to run for Clydesdale Harriers – Hans Noble had that honour. He was an Irish International cross country runner who came to Scotland to work on the ‘Empress of Britain’, a liner being built at John Brown’s Shipyard in the mid 1920’s, and immediately joined up with the club.
He was clearly a class athlete and raced frequently for and within the club. He probably joined the club in mid or late 1929 – the club minutes of the day were unique in that they only said that there were ’17 new members’ (27/11/28), 4 new members (9/1/28) and so on. Normally the new members were named. The report in the minute book of the time on the club championship in January 1929 reported “The event of the season from the club point of view was contested o’er the historic soil of Erskine (on this occasion a trifle muddier than usual) the distance being slightly less than the usual 7 miles. H Noble proved a worthy winner in the excellent time of 40 minutes 35 seconds while W Chalk was second 12 seconds behind Noble and J McShane third in 4:32. Truly as close a finish as might be desired.’ (The secretary at the time was often quite poetic in his reporting using words like o’er and ‘twas fairly often.) The same minute had the following remarks from President McNamara further through: “Mr J McNamara paid tribute to the admirable team spirit and the conscientiousness displayed by H Noble in training. The club was fortunate in having such a leader for their West District Team.” The team was duly chosen and the minute for the meeting on 4th March 1929 (below) had reports on both District and National Championships.
Clydesdale gained tenth position in this race which is one place better than last year. The counting six were Noble 17th, T McAuley 33rd, S Davidson 78th, W Scott 79th, W Chalk 102nd, J McShane 104th.”
Clydesdale fifteenth in this event. This was quite a good performance in the circumstances when one considers the nature of the opposition and the fact that some of our best runners were not available. Placings: H Noble 29th, W Scott 48th, G McQuattie 86th, J Gray 109th, C Middler 110th, M Logie 115th.”
Then in the Minute of 2nd April 1929 under the Heading ‘Balloch – Clydebank’ is the report: “From the grande finale to the cross country season, H Noble again emerged the victor. Not only did he win the race, he also established a new record for the course. 1. H Noble 65:45; 2. T McAuley 66:10; 3. W Scott 67:07.”
He had been elected to the Committee at the AGM in 1929 but when it came to the club committee meeting in January 1930, there were two vacancies to be filled. They were caused by the departure of H Noble and J Sleeth. They were both Irish and both were going home with the job at Brown’s done. It was a blow to the club after the fine running he had been doing and the leadership that Hans had been said to have shown. He went back home to Ireland and three years later in March 1933 he was selected to run for Ireland in the International Cross Country International in Caerleon in Wales. He continued running and returned to Clydebank four and a half years after leaving.
Back in Scotland to work on Job Number 534, which was to become the Queen Mary, he rejoined the club in September 1934 – it was the custom at the time for members leaving the District to resign from the club or be liable for the next year’s subscription. Anyone leaving the District was required to give notice of this and resign their membership. It seems a strange custom to us but that was the rule in most clubs at the time. This time he stayed in Clydebank, worked as a draftsman in John Brown’s, ran for the club and became the official club coach. He was welcomed with open arms. The ‘Clydebank Press’ of 14th September 1934 reported on the club AGM and started the report as follows: “There was a good attendance of the club at this important meeting. President John Kirkland occupied the chair and in the course of his remarks he said it was pleasing to see so many old faces and gratifying to see the new. He especially welcomed Hans Noble the ex club champion.”
However if anyone was expecting him to race immediately at the top level, they were destined to be disappointed. He turned out to start with in the odd inter club run almost immediately and there is a report of him running in one early in October. However pressure of work prevented him from training as he would have liked and he was more active in advising other athletes and in Committee work until the winter of 1936/37. He did not take part in club races or race in District or National Championships although he was mentioned as taking part in inter club runs and being ‘prominent’ in the pack on occasion.
He was elected back on to the Committee at the AGM in September 1936 and at the first Committee Meeting was persuaded to go on to the Handicapping Committee as well. Came the club championship in January 1937, Hans won from Charlie Middler with Tommy Sinclair in third place. He then devoted most of his energies to coaching and, when he lost his place on the Committee at the 1937 AGM, Dan McDonald suggested that he be made a member of the Handicap Committee. This was agreed to but he was ‘allowed’ to attend their meetings ‘in an advisory capacity.’ This is the first time that any club member is referred to as a coach: heretofore there had been many in charge of club training but they had all been referred to as ‘trainers’ – Mr Stewart, Mr Ballantine, Willie Wright and others had worked with varying degrees of success training the senior men. They had also been masseurs and the club paid for their massage tables, flannels and even on occasion flesh gloves – the runners however had to provide their own massage oil. They had been first aid men with the club supplying an ‘Ambulance Box’ for their use and had even been unqualified physiotherapists. When Willie Wright began working with Duntocher Hibs FC he said that he would be willing to give treatment to any Clydesdale Harrier who needed it. Hans, however, was the first to be described as ‘coach’. He was first so described in the club minutes in 1936 and had the description applied after the war as well when his appearance at Committee Meetings was followed by the word ‘coach’ in brackets: note the extract at the start. He ran, acted as coach and like all good Clydesdale Harriers recruited runners on behalf of the club.
He was reputed to be a very good coach and the word was next applied to Bobby Boyd who took over the post in 1947/48. There is no note in the Minutes of his departure but he returned to Ireland at the end of the 1940’s and the club lost a good man, coach and role model for younger athletes.