MEMORIES OF A SPORTS PROMOTER
By William Maley
“Just by way of a foreword. This is not a biography. Business as usual still finds place in my itinerary. Tell how I got involved in athletics? A short story. Pride of place must be given to the lads of the village – Cathcart the village. You will notice that I am cutting out the hereditary stuff. We lads used up all our spare time of athletics. My strong suits were football, quoiting and running. I had even a short lived reputation as a cricketer.
One of the chiefs in my office further advanced me. He was a big noise in the Clydesdale Harriers – Andrew Dick. My all round abilities, no doubt, convinced him that I was a suitable subject for his club, which had fast been gaining fame for the infinite variety of its publications. I found myself among the starters for a junior cross country race. I enjoyed the novelty: was rather pleased at being placed. Despite the fact that I had touched wood and missed the water, I was soon able to walk normally.
To the track was the next command. On the Abercorn ground, Paisley, I appeared with other sprinters and carried off the prize. Cathcart was en fete that night – having no Band or Provost, neither turned out. Pot-hunting I have ever abhorred, so I confined myself to winning an odd prize here and there. As a matter of fact I kept on doing that sort of thing until one breezy afternoon I varied things by winning the 100 yards championship (SAAU). I mustn’t go ahead of the pistol. As I had been pushed into it, so I pushed my brother Tom, and right well he responded. He made his debut at the Queens Park Sports and collared the Open 100. That is how we celebrated the Jubilee Year (1887).
Celtic the new football club absorbed me and my time ever since. Hence the foreword. Why not sports for the new club? Why not, indeed! The MacLeans had their own boat, we will have our own sports. Hard work it was to convince the Committee, but ably backed up by my brother Tom and the late J.H. McLaughlin I succeeded. Some audacious deed was that. Our old enclosure at Dalmarnock Street was all right as a football ground, but as a sports holding enclosure it left much to be desired. Willing workers had made the ground; they did their best to produce a track. Certainly it did look well – so long as it was not used. It bore strong kinsmanship to a garden path. I am mindful of course that there were very few good tracks at that period. In the Western area, Hampden stood out as the best.
At Westmarch, Paisley, then St Mirren ground, Bob Hindle had brought the track to a pretty high state of perfection. Two Saturdays had been allotted for my first venture as sports promoter. Filling the bill was the next problem. The five-a-side stuff for junior and senior players was all right, so too the confined events for the players; but what of track events? Would the cyclists face the risks that our primitive track presented? Could we induce the cyclists to patronise our maiden effort? The answers were in the affirmative.
Just when the difficulty of apportioning the events had come into being, came a message of help from a good friend of mine in the Manchester area, a member of Salford Harriers. “’Sonny Morton, Kibblewhite and Parry will run at your preliminary meet if you can arrange an event.” “Arrange an event? Most surely; come along with them” was my reply. I am constrained to say that the visit of this famous trio was the forerunner of circumstances of like nature which made our sports the great feature they were. Great success were these runners. Morton’s wondrous finishing sprint simply carried the crowd off their feet and made the doubting Thomases on my committee have faith. A picturesque wee figure was Morton, and his colour scheme of green and gold delighted.”
So much for the first sports held at Celtic Park; the second were equally successful with Secretary being Willie Maley and Clerk of the Course Tom Maley. Reel forward to 1892.
“Our sports of 1892 were – well mammoth is the best term of description. I best remember them by the trick the weather clerk worked on us. Opened the day, sultry and warm. Trooped through the ‘stiles in their thousands the spectators. What a bill of fare was to be at their disposal! Out of the heat came an electric storm – as the Yanks call a severe lightning and thunder storm – mercilessly the clouds let loose their contents, and it was a badly soaked crowd which saw the sports from this intervention until the end. It was simply unbelievable the grip that the sports had on them, for despite the weather they waited to the end. No words are necessary to tell of the fare and the men – tribute enough was thus given.
I can never forget our first meeting on our present ground. Here is the bill of fare for the second. A galaxy of talent: Charlie Bradley, EC Bredin, FE Bacon, Geo. Crossland, Godfrey Shaw, AJ Gould, J King, C Pearce, Teddy Messenger, with the home talent supplying Alf Downer, DR McCulloch, Tom Donovan, A Hannah, S Duffus, H Barr, JR Gow, J Campbell, J Rodgers together with cyclists of the best type from all three countries.
I have set out to tell you how I came into the sports vortex as competitor and as sports promoter. My appearance as legislator and President I may not tell, that is with the members of the SAAA.
If in such capacity I fell short, or in any way lacked the brilliance of former occupants of that high office, I can at least claim that gave of my best for the best and for the general good of amateur athletics.”