Hugh C Maingay

Hugh C Maingay

Hugh C Maingay was born in Scarborough in 1906, graduated in medicine at Edinburgh University in 1930 and died in Norwich in September 2001.   His obituary says:

He was the son of a GP surgeon.   His love of athletics, fostered at Sedbergh School, developed at university, where he was Scottish half mile champion for three years.   As an Olympic trialist he trained with Eric Liddell and ran in a Paris international match.

After house jobs in Norfolk and Suffolk, he combined general practice with part time anaesthetics before joining the navy.   He saw service in the West Indies on merchant cruisers.    Discharged in 1944 because of shortage of Norfolk doctors, he obtained the rank of colonel in the Home Guard.    He served as president of the Norfolk and Norwich Medico-Chirurgical Society, and was very active in BMA affairs.

An enthusiastic but self professed mediocre golfer, he insisted that frequent visits to the rough encouraged his hobby of ornithology.    He subsequently officiated as captain, and later president, of the Royal Norwich Golf Club. 

Following retirement, his interest in athletics centred on the development of the East Anglia University athletic track and vice presidency of the Norfolk Olympiad Athletic Club.”

That encapsulates his career and also contains many interesting pointers to his running.   “Scottish half mile champion for three years:,   “Olympic trialist”  and  “trained with Eric Liddell.”   You could dine out for years on any one of these!     Further to his time in the Navy, he started his Naval time in HMS Chitral, an armed merchant cruiser,  but spent  most of his naval career in HMS Despatch, a Danae-class light cruiser,and latterly at Seaforth naval hospital in Liverpool. He was unusual in the later years of the war. in being both a RN Surgeon Lt Commander, and also a colonel in the Home Guard!

Hugh Courtney Maingay was born in Scarborough on 03.03.1906, son of Harry Maingay, House Surgeon at Scarborough Hospital.    His father was also mainly a GP, a successful one, who kept his patients so healthy that the undertaker across the road abandoned his business, and went into the manufacture of sailplanes!   It seems to have been a privileged upbringing in a house with nurse, a cook and a housemaid.    He and his brother attended Sedbergh School – a highly regarded boarding school – from 1919 to 1925 before going on to study medicine at Edinburgh University.   Sedbergh had several links with Scotland and formal dress on Sundays was suit or kilt.  He took part in athletics at school before going on to Edinburgh University.   Taking athletics fairly seriously, he was one of the founders of the Atalanta Club, which was a kind of Scottish version of the Achilles Club in England, founded in 1920.  Where the latter was confined to students and graduates of Oxford and Cambridge Universities, Atalanta covered the four ancient Scottish universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, St Andrews and Aberdeen.    His time at the University did overlap very slightly with that of the more famous Eric Liddell who had started there in 1920.

He first appears at the Edinburgh University sports at Craiglockhart on 5th June, 1926, where he was second in the half-mile to RB Hoole who won in 2:06.  The mile medley relay race was a major feature of most meetings and at the Border Common Riding meeting on 12th June, the Edinburgh University team won with a squad of RB Hoole (440 yards), RD Allison, RD McDonald (both 220) and Maingay (880 yards) and it was supposed that the same four would contest the National championship.   In the Inter-University Sports at Aberdeen on 19th June, Maingay ran in the Mile as well as the half-mile: finishing third in the half behind Graham (Glasgow) and Hoole (Edinburgh), he was second in the Mile 30 yards behind Murnell of Aberdeen who won in 4:33.2.   Unplaced in the half-mile at the SAAA Championships  (noted as an ‘also competed’) he was a member of the team which won the relay by 15 yards from Maryhill Harriers gaining him his first SAAA gold medal.   The team was as noted above with Maingay running first over the 880 yards distance.   His next appearance in reports was on 31st July in the Atalanta Scottish Universities v Achilles match.   I quote: The match took place at Hampden Park, Glasgow, on Saturday afternoon in fine weather and before an estimated attendance of 5000.   The representatives of the Scottish club did not win a single event, being defeated by 25 points to 8, but despite the disparity in in the respective strengths, several of the events were keenly contested. ”     Maingay was second in the half mile to Douglas Lowe who won in the scratch time of 1:57.4, 20 yards ahead of Maingay.   Achilles turned out athletes such as DGA Lowe and Lord Burleigh and were more than firm favourites from the start.

In 1927, the relay at Queen’s Park Sports on the first Saturday was expected to produce a tense battle between RB Hoole and JD Hope on the final (440) leg but “… the withdrawal of HC Maingay from the Edinburgh team robbed this promised trial on even terms in the quarter and and also that of RD Allison and R McLean in the furlong …”   His place on the half mile stage was taken by his predecessor CD Mein, who had run this first stage for several years for the University before Maingay came along who they reported, was not fit.   Second year at the University and Maingay was already a key man.   The Scottish |Inter-Universities Sports were held on 18th June at Craiglockhart and Maingay competed in the 880 yards, which he won by 10 yards in 2:02.4, and the relay which was won by Edinburgh, McDonald, Macpherson and Hoole making up the rest of the team.

He did not run as an individual in any event at the SAAA Championships on 25th June, but ran the first stage in the relay where Maryhill Harriers defeated the University’s regular quartet by three yards.   He did compete in the first of the Atalanta v Irish Universities matches on 28th June however.   This was an important match – at a time when representative events were few and far between and the universities provided a large percentage of the international team, this addition to the Universities calendar mattered a lot.  The Achilles club in England was already established with matches between Achilles and the AAA on an annual basis, as well as meetings such as Oxford v AAA and Cambridge v AAA.   The official report on the match against the Irish read:

The inaugural athletics match between Irish Universities and the Atalanta Club, the combined Scottish Universities Select team from Edinburgh, Glasgow, St. Andrew’s and Aberdeen, took place on the sports grounds of University College Dublin in Terenure. The Irish Universities team was selected by the Irish Inter-University Committee which organised and ran the Intervarsity Championships. This new international event in the athletic life of both countries was mooted as a fixture that would strengthen the ties between Ireland and Scotland. The Scottish team included R.D. Allison, the Scottish Universities 100y and 220y champion and ex-440y champion, A.F. Clark, Scottish 120y hurdles champion, R.B. Hoole, the Scottish 440y champion, and Dr A.P. Spark in shot putt and discus who was a member of the British Olympic Team in Paris in 1924. Based on Irish, British and world records, the Irish Times had commented the day before this contest on the backward condition of athletics in Ireland in that there were few men capable of holding their own with the front rankers of other countries. The newspaper welcomed the inauguration of the international inter-universities contest as “an important and marked advance in the development of athletics in Ireland”. In its report on the contest the Irish Times further commented: “Athletics and various other branches of sport have always received a considerable amount of attention in our universities and colleges, which have given to sport athletes whose feats of skill, courage and endurance have reflected credit on their institutions… The successful launching of the [international inter-universities] contest should act a great stimulus to all who have the welfare of athletics in Ireland at heart… Thus we have in this inter-universities contest a strong incentive for our ‘Varsity athletes to redouble their efforts on the training ground... And who can at the moment doubt that out of this modest beginning may emerge a regular international University contest.” The outstanding performance of the Irish Universities team was that of Sean Lavan in winning the 220y and 440y, placing 2nd in the discus and anchoring the one-mile relay team to victory. The Irish and Scottish teams were entertained to supper. While the contest was scored on number of wins across the 11 disciplines, had the contest been scored as 2 for a win and 1 for the runner-up as in the next contest in 1929, Ireland would still have won by 18 pts to 15 pts.”   

How did Hugh Maingay do in this match?   He was second in the 880 yards, ten yards down on the winner but only the winner’s time was given.

The second match was against English Universities, excluding Oxford and Cambridge.  Maingay did not appear in the first two in any event and was not in the relay team either, but the comments in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ about Atalanta read as follows:   During their short life the Atalanta club have shown considerable enterprise.   A year ago they introduced the famous Achilles club to the Glasgow public, their first ambitious effort as a club, and this season, having found their wings, they fixed up a programme which comprised three fixtures.    The first, against the Irish Universities, took place at Dublin; the second, at Ibrox Park on Saturday afternoon, when a team from the IUAB, as the combined athletics strength of the Universities of England and Wales, outside Oxford and Cambridge is termed; while the third, with the Achilles club, will take place in August.   All this pioneer work is bound to have its effect on University athletics in Scotland, as there is nothing which tends to improve the standard more than matches in which the contestants compete on a level footing.” 

Maingay leads 1928 WSGMaingay leading the final of the World Student Games, 1928.   Paul Martin, 242, won 

Maingay won three consecutive SAAA half mile titles.   The first of these was in June 1928, a season that started on 9th May at the Glasgow University OTC’s meeting in which Main gay ran the opening leg of the inter-university relay and won comfortably.   Then on 12th May in the Edinburgh University championships at Craiglockhart with a very good time of 1:58.   “Maingay’s running in the half-mile was easily the most outstanding performance at the meeting, as he was timed as covering the distance in 1:58, better than anything previously recorded at these meetings, and only one fifth outside CB Mein’s Scottish record.   The grass track at Craiglockhart is fast but nevertheless the performance coming as it does so early in the season, is a very fine one.   During last season, Maingay was troubled by a leg injury, but never had he approached this time in any of his public appearances, and if he intends to specialise at this distance, as he evidently does – he did not defend his title in the Mile – there is every hope that he will even improve on Saturday’s figures.   These were accomplished against moderate opposition and he had to make his own running for most of the distance.”  The Press were noticing Hugh Maingay.    He was in action a week later, on 19th May,  with a victory in the Inter Varsity Athletic Board Sports in Sheffield.   He won the half mile in the slower time of  2:03.4.

He was then first in the Scottish Universities Championships were held on 2nd June at Westerlands in Glasgow and Maingay had a headline and a paragraph or two about the half mile.   Under the heading “A Fine Half-Mile” it waxed eloquent about the race.   “Everything in the flat events paled, however, before the running of HC Maingay in the half-mile.   At Craiglockhart three weeks ago he covered the distance in 1 min 58 sec, after making all his own pace, and under exactly similar circumstances, he repeated that excellent time on Saturday.   Maingay ran so easily that the announcement of the time – a new Inter-University record – came as a surprise, and we are now looking forward to see what he can do with a really good field of half-milers.   Given good conditions there should be nothing to hinder him improving on these times.”   

In the Hawick Common Riding meeting on 9th June the Edinburgh University team ‘had no difficulty’ in retaining the relay title that they had won the year before.   A week’s rest before the Scottish championships on 23rd June at Craiglockhart and he was ready to go.  He won the 880 yards in 2:01.4 and “justified all the good things expected of him by his appearances at University meetings.”   Second was Donald McLean of Maryhill who was reported as letting Maingay get too far ahead at the start of the race.   However in the Mile medley relay, Maryhill Harriers won gold from Edinburgh University who had Maingay running the opening leg.   Still, a gold and silver at the championships was a good day’s work.

The relay team was more successful the following week at the meeting organised at Tynecastle by Hearts FC, Edinburgh Northern Harriers and Edinburgh Harriers.   That they won was due to the ten yards lead handed over by Maingay (from WH Calderwood of Maryhill Harriers) on the first half-mile leg.

The World Student Games were held at the start of August and Maingay was chosen to run in the 800 metres.    He ran well enough to figure in the final and actually showed at the head of the field as can be seen in the photograph above.   The race was won by Paul Martin of Switzerland in 1:57, with Fredy Muller of Germany second (1:58.4e) and Francis Galtier (France, 1:58.6e).   It was nevertheless a great experience for Maingay who had had a very good season: one which started with Edinburgh University Championships, took in the Scottish University championship, the Inter University Championships, the Scottish Championship  and a trip to the World Student Games in Paris.  There was one more representative match before he had his well-earned end-of-season rest: on 22nd August in a match between the SAAA and the Canadian Olympic team, Maingay was our top man in the 880 yards.   “the half-mile saw Maingay depart from his usual custom of forcing the pace and he was unable to cope with either B Little or A Wilson, the two Canadians, and was a good 13 yards away.

What would 1929 bring?

EUAC 4 x 440, 1929EUAC 4 x 440 relay team, 1929: Maingay on the left

The Inter University Competition was held at St Andrews on 1st June 1929 and Maingay was initially expected to break the meeting record for the half-mile but was beaten by the slow track and the report added “HC Maingay, although not so convincing as usual, was yet too good for his opponents in the half-mile.”   He won in 2:01.4.   A week later at the Hawick Common Riding meeting he ran in the individual handicap 880 yards for the first time and ran an estimated 1:59.6 to be second.   On 17th June he appeared at the Glasgow Police Sports for the medley relay: “The Edinburgh students returned 3:37 in the relay, which is 3 sec faster than their championship time of 1922, when Eric Liddell was a member of their team.    This accomplishment was mainly due to the fine running of HC Maingay in the half-mile and DC Paton in the first of the furlongs, but both RL Howland and FP Reid contributed their quota. …. Maingay clearly showed that he had lost none of his running since last year, and that in his public appearances this year he has been running well within himself.   Opposed by J Calder of Beith, who has shown himself to be the best of the Western half-milers, Maingay let himself go and was timed as doing 1:59.”   


was the headline in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ after the SAAA Championships on 22nd June, 1929.   “In the half-mile Maingay made our other runners look a very ordinary lot indeed.   Running the first quarter in 56 seconds, he had thoroughly demoralised his field, and although in the later stages he was not moving as strongly as usual he broke the tape in 1 min 58 1-5th sec, fully 30 yards ahead of his nearest rival, PJ Gaffney of the St Peter’s club, who ran a much better judged race than some of the more fancied competitors.   The Yorkshire man is a good champion and his time has only been equalled once in the history of the race.   That was when WR Seagrove, the Glenalmond master was opposed by Tom Riddell in 1926”   He also won a gold in 1926 as part of the winning mile relay team.   Two races and two more for the collection.

 On 29th June Maingay travelled to Manchester to represent the Atalanta Club against the IVAB (the Combined English and Welsh Universities) and for the first time since its formation, the club won.   Of Maingay, it was said that he had not run as freely as usual but was consistent in that he was again under two  minutes for the half-mile.   In fact he was timed at 1:59.8 and won by 15 yards.   The mile medley team won too to make it a very good meeting for the Atalanta club – and HC Maingay.

The Atalanta v Irish Universities meeting had been such a success in 1927 that a repeat was held in 1929.   This time Atalanta was the host club and the meeting was held on 3rd July at Westerlands.   The Irish report read:

“The second meeting between Irish Universities and Scottish Universities was an evening event hosted in Hampden Park, the biggest terraced stadium in the world at that time with a 130,000 capacity, extended by 1937 to 183,000, and only to be surpassed in 1950 by the Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro. A heavy shower about one hour before proceedings started possibly affected the attendance adversely, but the weather was fine during the contest. For several of the Irish track athletes this was their first experience of running on a cinder track. Dr Pat O’Callaghan and Michael Moroney made a clean sweep of the field events O’Callaghan failed by a couple of feet to throw the hammer clean off the grass onto the cinder track. The “Flying Scotsman” H.C. Maingay ran away with the half-mile in an excellent time. While the result of the contest was never in doubt by the time of the last event on the programme, the meeting closed with an epic battle in the mile relay with Patrick C Moore (IU) and Ian H. Borland (Atalanta) on the final leg fighting stride for stride down the home straight all the way to the tape, Moore winning by inches.”

His winning time was 1:58.6 which was a meeting record.   Then it was on to another representative match.   As Scottish champion he had been selected for the team to compete in the Triangular match against England and Ireland, to be held at the Athletics Grounds in Cork on 12th July.   Maingay was third in the half mile behind Cyril Ellis and Reg Thomas.   Ellis, an Englishman, ran in two Olympic Games (1924 and 1928), won the AAA’s mile title three times and had a pb for 880 yards of 1:53.3; while Thomas was a Welshman who won gold (mile) and silver (880y) in the Hamilton Empire Games, turned out in two Olympics (1928 and 1932) but was prevented from competing in the 1934 Empire Games by an English protest.   So Hugh was running in very good company indeed.   They met up again in France on 29th July in a match between France and a British team captained by Lord Burghley.   The half-mile was won by Thomas in 1:53.6 – well beyond Maingay’s capabilities at that time – and Maingay (according to the French publication “Athletisme”) finished sixth.

 The Inter Universities meeting was at Aberdeen in 1930 and Maingay again won the 880 yards comfortably – “HC Maingay had his usual practice spin, which he won without being stretched in 2 min 2 3-5th sec”.    The winning margin was 10 yards this time.   On 16th June the students from Edinburgh competed in the big inter-club meeting that was the St Peter’s Sports at Celtic Park.   It was a big meeting with many relays – 4 x 110, 4 x 220, 4 x 440, 4 x 880 and a medley on the programme; at different times it included a 4 x 1 mile and even a 4 x 440 yards hurdles relay.   Maingay made the headlines again with “MAINGAY’S FINE RUNNING    The finest race of the afternoon was by all accounts the Two Mile Relay (ie 4 x880)in which Maingay was head to head with Donald McLean of Maryhill over the last half-mile.   McLean took over 30 yards up on Maingay – “the Scottish champion however was not dismayed.   He went  after McLean in fine style, caught him in the back straight of the concluding lap, and entered the straight a yard or two ahead.   The effort, however, had taken too much out of him, while McLean had something in reserve, and Maingay was beaten in the final burst by three yards.  Maingay was timed as doing 57 1-5th for the quarter, and 1 min 59 1-5th for the full distance.”    He was back in Glasgow a week later for the Glasgow Police Sports but this headline remarked that Maingay had disappointed.   “Either he was under form or he had underestimated the finishing powers of J Hood, the Shettleston runner, for he was content to remain in the ruck until the finishing straight, and when he did go out, he was unable to peg back Hood’s lead, being beaten by five yards.  Maingay’s big swinging stride   demands plenty of room, and had he gone into the lead straight away there would have been a different story to tell.   He was obviously cramped, moving away from the head of his field.    Hood’s time for the half mile was 2 min 2 sec, and only last week at the St Peter’s meeting Maingay was returned as doing 1 min 59-1-5th.”   

In the Scottish AAA Championships on 28th June at Hampden, Maingay won his third 880 yards title in 2:00.6 after spread-eagling the field with a first lap inside 55 seconds!    But the “what if …” question dealt with the question “what if Tom Riddell (who had won the Mile) had also contested the half mile?”   An inkling of the answer, said the reporter,  was to be found in the relay where Riddell ‘decisively defeated’ both Maingay and WH Calderwood.

On July 5th at the Lochwinnoch Games Maingay ran the first stage of the Mile relay which he won easily – it was his only race of the afternoon and his main opponent J Hood had already run two fast half miles.

A week later (12th July) he competed in the Scotland v Ireland v England at Hampden where he faced Tommy Hampson.   Hampson, an Oxford graduate, was the English winner of the 880 yards at the 1930 British Empire Games in Canada, and winner of the 880 yards in the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, where he set a new world record of 1:49.7, becoming the first man to run  inside 1:50 for the distance.   In the half-mile at Hampden he won in 1:58.0 with Maingay back in fifth place prompting the ‘Scotsman’ to say:

“Although it had hardly been expected that HC Maingay would have much chance against record breaking T Hampson, the time of 1 min 58 sec is one which Maingay has several times accomplished, and it was disappointing that he could finish no better than fifth well behind the leader.  He seemed to be struggling all the way.”

On 31st July at Bedford in the UAU Championships he won the half mile in 2:03.3.   He was one of six Scots then selected to compete in the World Student Games at Darmstadt between 7th and 10th August.   The final was won by Fredy Muller of Germany in 1:58.2 from Francis Galtier of France (1:58.3) with Maingay sixth.

Reg Thomas, Colombes, 28.7.29Reg Thomas winning the 800m at the Stade Colombes in July 1929

The summary of Maingay’s subsequent career and war service at the top of the profile covers his medical career but also mentions his service in the second great war.   It is however pleasing to note that he maintained an active interest in the sport in Norfolk throughout his life.

As a student he had been a popular President of the Union and also served as secretary of the University Athletic Club.   As an athlete he competed at every level other than the Olympic; he represented his school, his university, Scottish Universities, Scotland, Great Britain and British Universities.   He ran in small meetings (such as Lochwinnoch) and in grand international Games.   He ran against club and university athletes as well as Olympians such as Thomas and Hampson.   And, although an Englishman he did it all under the banner of Edinburgh University Athletic Club.   We were lucky to have him.

I should like to thank Alex Wilson for help with results, with passing on information and for all the photographs of Maingay as a student athlete.   Thanks, Alex.