HT Jamieson

H.T. Jamieson , 1908

HT Jamieson

Henry Tonkinson Jamieson was born in Edinburgh in 1885 and was to become a first class athlete who won two Scottish championships.   Educated at George Watson’s College and then at Edinburgh University where he graduated as a CA , Jamieson had very short athletics career with mst of his running done in and around the capital.    His father William Keir Jamieson was a fruit merchant who died in 1890 aged only 34.   Henry was only five years old at the time and was sent South to live with his wealthy aunt in Sunderland, returning later to start his education at Watson’s.

One of the meetings that was a regular feature of the Edinburgh athletics scene at the turn of the century was the Edinburgh Northern Harriers Sports.  Generally held at Powderhall, Jamieson contested the Open handicap mile there on 29th July 1907.   Running off 65 yards in the colours of Watson’s College AC, he lined up with ten other men.   The ‘Scotsman’ report tells us that Rennie of Edinburgh Northern Harriers led at the bell but ‘Jamieson was among his men and working to the front down the back stretch, he eventually came home leading by ten yards.’   

McGough of Bellahouston Harriers was by far the top miler in the country having won the Scottish title in the past six years and in 1908 he was having problems with a bad ankle injury.   Keddie in his centenary history commenting on McGough in the 1910 season, says, ” In the two previous years however (1908 and 1908) McGough met his match in HT Jamieson (Edinburgh University AC) who won the Scottish Mile Championship in both those years..”   Gough had problems in those years and this has to be admitted, but it does not do to write Jamieson down at all.   Compared to McGough, he raced very sparingly indeed but he usually delivered the goods.   In June that year though, he raced a bit more than usual.   The SAAA Championships were decided at the end of June and Jamieson was certainly in good condition.   On 13th June at the Edinburgh University Sports he beat a good field including Tom Jack for the championship mile.   The ‘Scotsman’ report read:

1.   HT Jamieson;  2.   T Welsh.   Time 4 min 48 sec.   T Jack who finished third led practically in the first three laps but on entering the last lap, Jamieson went to the front, closely followed by Welsh.   The race was then left between these two.   Welsh made a strong effort at the last bend but Jamieson kept his lead and won by about six yards.”     Jach went on to win the three miles title.

Another fixture was the ‘Edinburgh Shop Assistants Sports’ which in 1908 were held on 17th June, just four days after the university championship.   The introduction to the report on the meeting said that there were many interesting finishes, ‘especially the Mile.’   The ‘Scotsman’ again: “One Mile Handicap (Open).   1.   HT Jamieson (Watson’s College AC – 35 yards); 2.  JB Maclagan (Edinburgh Northern – 105); 3.   G Inglis (Edinburgh Northern – 115).   Twenty nine ran.   Contrary to expectations McGough turned out notwithstanding his bad ankle, and he and Jamieson ran side by side for the greater part of the journey.   Halfway round Jamieson made his effort and McGough could not respond to it, retiring before the bend for the straight was reached.   The Watsonian had to put in a great finish to catch McLagan, Inglis and GH Peddie, and he only managed it by a yard.   It was a great race, and caused great excitement.   Time:   4 min 33 2-5 sec.”

Three days later, on 20th June, he avoided the Heart of Midlothian Sports in favour of the Inter-University Sports at St Andrews which were held on ‘the beautiful recreational park which was gifted some years ago to St Andrews University by their late rector Mr Andrew Carnegie.’   This time, his third race in seven days, he did not come out victorious.  The race was won by G Twort of Aberdeen in 4:47.6 with A Gray of Aberdeen second and Jamieson in third.   It was only a week before the SAAA Championships.

1908 Edinburgh University team (Tom Jack, H.T. Jamieson etc)

The Edinburgh University team of 1908:

Jamieson is second from the left, middle row, Tom Jack on the left in the middle row

From 29 competitors in a race to three.   The opposition, despite the absence of McGough was stern.   Sam Stevenson of Clydesdale Harriers was there – many track medals, cross-country championships an international caps and Olympian, he was not to be treated lightly.   The result was a win for Jamieson in 4 min 33 4-5 secs.   The third runner was AJ Grieve.  “The three runners were practically together throughout throughout until the last lap when Jamieson started drawing out.   At the last bend Stevenson challenged strongly, but entering the home straight Jamieson had four yards in hand.   This lead he increased in a fine staying finish and he won by six yards.   Grieve was a poor third.”

The ‘Herald’  further commented: “Watson’s College has given us some of our finest amateur runners and the name of HT Jamieson who won the Two Miles Handicap at the Edinburgh Harriers meeting the other night falls to be added to this list.   This was his first appearance in public and the feat of covering the distance less his concession, in 9 min 25 2-5th sec shows that he is gifted with all the qualities of speed and brains that got to make one eminent in the realms of pedestrianism.   It is said that in his initial private effort over the mile his time was 4 min 45 sec.  Evidently Jamieson is a very promising runner and it will be interesting to watch his career as it develops under the influence of systematic training.”

Winning the national title granted him selection for the international match against Ireland which took place on 11th July.   In this one, Jamieson was up against McGough and the Irishman Morphy.   Morphy had already run and won the half-mile when he faced the two Scots so it was probably not surprising that “the Watsonian set a surprising pace from the outset and got in well in front of McGough”   His winning time was 4:34.   The following week it was back to Edinburgh for the St Bernard’s FC Sports – an event celebrating 25 years of promoting such meetings and the event in 1908 was a well organised affair.   The report indicated the Jamieson ran in both the half mile and mile and , although beaten in both, ran well.    Given the handicap  system and the big fields in evidence then it was not surprising that he did not win every time out.   The ‘Scotsman’ report on the half-mile read: “Half Mile.   1.  JW Bruce (Edinburgh University AC – 20 yards);   2.   HT Jamieson (Watson’s College AC – 10 yards).   There was a numerous field for this event.   The champion got in well among the others before covering a lap, and coming round the last bend he came away nicely and seemed as if he would just manage home first.   The University man who had gained slightly won by about half a yard.   Time:  2 min 01 1-5 sec.”

He was not quoted in the first four for the Mile.  Into August and he travelled furth of Edinburgh to compete in the Celtic FC Sports in Glasgow.    This was a big meeting with several Americans competing but he turned out in the open handicap half mile where he was first in 2:00 off a mark of 12 yards and reported to be ‘finishing in great form.’   To end the season he ran in an international against   the Irish-Americans on 19th August.

This was a great occasion – The Scotsman reported

The meeting of the Scottish and  Irish-American athletes at the sports enclosure  of the Scottish National Exhibition last night was productive of all-round excellence.   Apart from the interest excited by the international character of the meeting, the arrangement was specially attractive because it brought to Edinburgh a number of athletes now famous in the athletic  world who figured recently at the Olympic Games – notably Mel Shepperd, the world’s champion half-miler and record holder, and JB Taylor, the coloured runner, who participated in the now famous race in which Halswelle ran in the Stadium.”   Clearly an exciting meeting – as far as the Mile was concerned, the initial comment read, “A splendid Scottish victory was that of HT Jamieson in the Mile.  J McGough also ran well in this event but Jamieson put in one of the best finishes he has given and won splendidly.”    The actual race report gave a bit more detail:

The Scottish champion led for a couple of laps, when McGough took the lead, and ran very strongly, and afterwards JP Sullivan, the Irish American, came into second place with Jamieson third.  This order was retained until the third lap when Jamieson entering the last bend sprinted grandly, and putting in a great finish, won by about nine yards from McGough who finished about three yards od Sullivan.   Jamieson was accorded a splendid reception.”   The winning time was 4:36.8. outsprinted McGough on the last lap of a tactical race to win by 10 yards to the delight of the 6000 or so spectators.   Less detail in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ but it did say that at the end, “Jamieson came away with a terrible burst.”

Jamieson seemed to race less often in 1909 than he had done in 1908.   There was no appearance at all in the Edinburgh Northern Harriers Sports where he had competed the previous year, nor was he in evidence at the Edinburgh University Sports, and he was absent from the Inter-University Sports where Welsh and Gray each had a first and each had a secone in the Half- and Mile.

His repeat victory in the SAAA Championships in 1909 was a much harder race.   The ‘Glasgow Herald’ said that there was less than a yard dividing McGough and Jamieson, adding that the defeat of McGough was a sore disappointment to his Ibrox admirers but the fact of him running so well should bring some  consolation as it show that with a little more practice he will get back his form of two seasons ago.   The actual report merely said though, that it was a splendid race all the way, and won by less than a yard.  The ‘Scotsman’ report said:   “Ten of the eleven entrants competed and the excitement began when the last lap was  entered on.   The holder (Jamieson), McGough, McNicol (Polytechnic Harriers) and J Welsh were all together.   Later it was a duel between Jamieson and McGough.   It was a great finish.   First Jamieson went to the front  but McGough passed him, and coming down the straight the western man looked a winner, but Jamieson had found something in reserve and amid great excitement, won a splendid race in  the excellent time of 4 min 29 1-5th sec.   McNicol was third and Welsh fourth.”

As was the practice, he was selected for the Irish International at Balls Bridge  on 17th July.   The ‘Glasgow Herald’ was not in its sunniest mood when reporting on the fixture.   The extract covering the Mile which featured Jamieson and McGough gives the flavour: “Had the Mile been run with the same judgment, Scotland might have recorded a point.   The time, 4 min 33 3-5th sec, was quite within the reach of both Jamieson and McGough, and in addition both Morphy and Fairbairn-Crawford had previously taken part in the half-mile.   Perhaps the track, which measured 3 2-3rd laps to the mile, upset their calculations, for it was quite evident that neither  Jamieson, who went off at 480 yards to go, nor McGough, who tried to hold him, could sustain their effort to the tape.”       The judgment referred to was that shown by the Scots in the half-mile, the point that might have been scored was that for the winning athlete (matches were determined by the number of victories recorded) as McGough finished second to Morphy.

He was indeed racing very seldom in 1909 and he had missed the St Bernard’s FC Sports the week before the international – it might be that another race on a ‘normal sized’ track the week before the international would have helped his judgment in Ireland.     Alex Wilson says in his excellent profile of McGough that Jameson retired after the Scoto-Irish contest ‘owing to limited opportunities for training.’

He did run in 1910 – for example at the start of June he ran in a 1000 yards handicap race at the Edinburgh Harriers Meeting and was unplaced – admittedly the first three had handicap marks of between 38 yards and 65 yards which are not inconsiderable in such a short race, while he himself was back on 5 yards.   The ‘Scotsman’ did say that he made a great effort but could not raise a sprint at the finish.  But to all intents and purposes his athletics career was over.

Having graduated as a CA from Edinburgh University, he emigrated to Canada before the first world war ‘to practise his profession’ and immersed himself in the life of his new community.  He died in 1983 at the age of 98.   The Canadian Who’s Who tells us that he was President and Managing Director of the Composers, Authors and Publishers Association of Canada (which had been the Performing Rights Society), he was vice-president of the Federation Inter-americana de Sociedades de Autore y Compositores as well as being a member of many clubs sporting and otherwise-

the Toronto Hunt Club,

the Royal Canadian Yacht Club,

the Arts and Letters Club,

the Rideau Club, Ottawa,

Empire Club,

Canadian Club.

The clubs?  The Toronto Hunt Club was founded by the British Army officers of the Toronto Garrison in 1843, the Royal Canadian Yacht Club is one of the world’s largest yacht clubs and was founded in 1852, The Arts and Letters Club is a private club founded in 1908, the Rideau Club is ‘ the club of Canada’s ruling political elite’ and was founded in 1865, the Empire Club is a speakers club and was founded in 1903, and the Canada Club was founded in 1897 and meets to hear lunchtime speeches by local, national and world leaders.   Covering horse riding, sailing, arts and letters, politics and world affairs his various memberships had no hint of any connection with athletics.

His obituary written by the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto reads as follows:

“Harry Tonkinson Jamieson died on December 27th, a few days before the Club’s Christmas Dinner.   Those two events, so close together, immediately bring to mind the many occasions when Harry carried the Boar’s Head in the processions at earlier Christmas dinners.   His health prevented him from being at the club for the last several years.

Born in Edinburgh where he qualified as a CA, Harry came to Canada before the first world war to practise his profession.   He joined the Club in 1920 and immediately became involved in Club matters.   In the Archives is his first handwritten audit report for 1920.  Harry personally or his firm, under his direction, continued to audit the Club accounts for half a century.

Although Harry was not one to dwell upon the past, he once gave a most vivid description of the celebration of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1897 as seen through the eyes of a boy of 12.   Harry had been in recent years the oldest living member of the Club.   He was, in his student days, the best mile runner in the British Isles for three years.   Very tall, holding himself erect, he could be rather awesome to a junior member until one saw his eyes reflecting a great sense of humour.”

 Jamieson was a credit to himself, his family and his education, but his battles with McGough reflected society at the time.   McGough was the son of Irish immigrants who had come to Scotland to find work and escape poverty.   Brought up in the Gorbals, he became the local postman and a wonderful athlete who founded an athletic club for Catholic boys – the St John’s Young Men’s Catholic AC – and continued to be involved in sporting interests such as athletics, football (Celtic and Manchester United) and Gaelic football.   The comparison between these two men, both fine athletes who competed side by side for Scotland, could not have been greater, and it is one of the fine things about the sport at the time that men from such widely differing backgrounds and life styles could get together.

I am grateful to Alex Wilson for much of the information used in the profile including the photographs and would encourage you to read his profile of John McGough.