SAAA Ten Miles Track Championships: 1901 – 1910

This decade belonged to Tom Jack of Edinburgh Southern Harriers.   His record – ran 7, won 6, and third in the other.   The greatest Scottish ten mile runner since Andrew Hannah of Clydesdale Harriers.   We will come to him but first …

The 1901 Ten Mile Championships was won by David Mill of Clydesdale Harriers – who had been second to J Paterson the previous year  – in 55:16.4.   No other competitor finished the race which was held at Hampden Park, Glasgow, on April 6th.  Mill is an interesting character – a member of Greenock Glenpark Harriers, he joined Clydesdale Harriers at the peak of his powers and won the Scottish Cross-Country Championship in 1901.   He was also Clydesdale Harriers club champion that year but when he won the SAAA 10 miles, he was noted in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ as being from Greenock Glenpark.   The report read: “As if to show that there was no room for dubiety regarding the genuineness of his victory in the recent cross-country championship, DW Mills of Greenock won the ten mile championship of Scotland on Friday night.    Paterson, last year’s winner did not compete, but JJ McCafferty of West of Scotland Harriers, who has recently come to the front as a long distance runner, stripped, but six miles seemed to satisfy him.   Up to this point the race was interesting as such, and there was all the promise of keen competition, but when McCafferty retired Mills was alone in all his glory.   He maintained a neat, competent pace throughout and at no time did he disclose any signs of tear and wear.   The time was 55 min 16 2-5th sec, which is a most creditable performance, making Mills one of the best distance men we have turned out.   His style is pleasing and he has excellent judgment.   The win was very well received by the few people present, and this was only to be expected as Mills in one of the right sort of amateurs.   We hope he will be able to take part in the different athletic meetings this summer.”

McCafferty was a very good runner in his own right and went on to win the 10 miles championship himself in 1903 although a bit more slowly than Mill did in ’01.

Mill (not Mills!) won again in 1902 but he was a bit slower and was not alone – there were two finishers!    Mill’s time was 57:56.8 on the Powderhall track with W Marshall second.   There was not a lot of coverage because of the collapse of a stand at Ibrox (19 dead) which had pages of coverage, including lists of the names and addresses injured of crowd members treated by individual doctors and at what hospitals.

McCafferty’s turn came on 3rd April 1903 at Ibrox Park.   DW Mill was also on the line at the start and the report read “The Ten Miles SAAA Championship at Ibrox on Friday night was a one-horse affair, PJ McCafferty of the West of Scotland Harriers winning as he liked in 57:07.2.   DW Mill, Glenpark Harriers, who had completely recovered from the accident that prevented him running in the recent international contest, made a good show up to eight miles, at which stage, or thereabouts, McCafferty took the race in hand and won as he liked.   Four competitors started, all belonging to the Western District, and the absence of Eastern men, while much regretted, must be regarded as symptomatic of the declining interest there is in distance running.   McCafferty, what with club and representative honours, has had a brilliant cross-country season.   He won the Irish junior championship, the individual Scottish Cross-Country championship, was twentieth in the international contest on the Irish side, and these, along with club distinctions, constitute a record which gives him an honourable place among the best of Scottish distance performers.”    

McCafferty was the only one of the four starters to complete the distance.

in 1904 Tom Jack won the first of six ten miles titles in seven years (he was third in 1905) which added to his record of one first, four seconds and a third in the Four Miles, made him the most successful distance runner in the SAAA championships between 1904 and 1910 inclusive.     The 1904 victory was achieved on 1st April at Powderhall in Edinburgh and he was timed at 57:09.8.   “The flat season was opened on Friday night with the Ten Miles SAAA Championship at Powderhall where the course was in excellent order.   The only drawback was the wind which was rather gusty, and therefore of a somewhat trying nature.   Only four took part in the race, three from this District and one from Edinburgh.   Rankine, who won the cross-country championship, and who was the first huntsman to finish in the Grand National at Haydock Park, did not enter.   It was thought S Kennedy of Garscube Harriers, winner of the Western District cross-country championship, would win, and for a time he moved very freely, but when the pinch came, he was not able to hold out, the wind having contributed to his defeat as much as the want of stamina.   A comparatively unknown man in Jack  of the Southern Harriers won the race in 57:09.8  which is a very creditable performance when the conditions are taken into account.   He finished well and was fully 30 yards in front of Marshall of the West of Scotland Harriers, who just managed to beat his club companion Mulrine by inches.   Jack, the winner, is a valuable addition to the realm of distance amateur runners.”

The 1905 championship was also held on 1st April and this time the best that Jack could do was third behind Sam Stevenson of Clydesdale Harriers and PC Russell (Bellahouston Harriers).   The race was won by Stevenson – who would go on to run in the London Olympics – in the fast time of 53:31.4.   “This important fixture was run off in heavy rain.   The track was all against the runners, of whom seven faced the starter.   Russell forced the pace, and led the field until the seventh mile, when Stevenson got the lead and won a great race in the splendid time of  53 min 31 2-5th sec – only 5 sec outside of record.”

It was back to Edinburgh for the 1906 event, 31st March in Edinburgh.     Back in his home city, Jack turned the tables on Stevenson when he won in 54:42.2 .   The ‘Fifty Years of Athletics’ official history of the SAAA gave JM Guild third place.



This event was decided over the Heart of Midlothian Football Club’s  track at Tynecastle on Saturday evening in ideal weather.   Seven started including the holder, S Stevenson, Clydesdale.   The half distance was completed in 26 min 38 2-5th sec.   From this point the issue lay between T Jack, Edinburgh Southern Harriers, and the holder, S Stevenson, who led alternately until the last lap, where Stevenson sprinted 300 yards from home but failed to sustain the effort, and Jack coming away with a great burst in the last 100 yards won by sixteen yards from Stevenson.   W Lang, Edinburgh Harriers was third, RE Hughes, Edinburgh Harriers fourth and T Robertson, Edinburgh Harriers fifth.   JM Guild, Edinburgh Harriers, and N Cormack, Preston Harriers, gave up at three and four miles respectively.”

The last sentence corrects the official history (The first 50 years) as far as third place was concerned.   Given the lap-about running between Jack and Stevenson, a pre-arranged ploy for a fast time maybe, the time was slower than the previous year in the rain when the Bellahouston Harrier forced the first seven miles.

Jack won for the third time in 1907 at Ibrox on 6th April, and he did it in some style.   “Record smashing in April s something of a novelty as far as Scottish pedestrianism is concerned.   Yet at Ibrox on Saturday, T Jack (Edinburgh Southern Harriers) not only won the Ten Miles SAAA Championship, but enhanced the distinction by setting new records from five to ten miles.   Jack as supreme from start to finish being fully 760 yards in advance of H Young (Monkland Harriers), who in turn was well ahead of W Bowman (West of Scotland Harriers).   Jack ran with admirable judgement and consistent speed.   He accomplished the first mile in 5 min 0 2-5th sec, and the last in 5 min 21 2-5th sec while his time for the full distance was 53 min 4 sec.   The previous record holder was Andrew Hannah who, at Hampden Park in 1895, did the distance in 53 min 26 sec which, in view of the reputed fastness of Ibrox, is little, if any, inferior to Jack’s performance on Saturday.   Twelve years is a long time for a record to remain in these days of high physical culture, and the fact that it has held the field so long goes to show what an exceptional distance runner Andrew Hannah was.   Jack has had a brilliant season, as he won the Cross-Country championship, and was first man home among the Scotsmen who ran in the international a few days ago, while on Saturday he added lustre to these achievements by winning the Ten Miles championship for the third time.”  

The intermediate records which erased Hannah’s figures were  – 5 Miles  29:57.6;   6 Miles  31:18.8;   7 Miles  36:45.0;   8 Miles  42:14.0;   9 Miles  47:42.2s

The following year, on 3rd April, 1908, at Powderhall Gounds, Jack won the title for the fourth time, and the third year in succession.   Not quite as fast as the previous year, he was timed at 55 minutes exactly.   That was probably down to the heavy going after a lot of rain that week.   The referee was Charles Pennycook, Clydesdale Harriers, former Scottish Mile and Cross-Country Champion and only four of the five entrants started the race.   Jack won from T Robertson (Edinburgh Harriers) in 56:24.8, and J Torrie (Gala Harriers) in 58:03.6.

A year on to the day, 3rd April, 1909, Jack again emerged triumphant.   The ‘Glasgow Herald’ reported:

“For the fourth time in succession and the fifth time in all, T Jack (Edinburgh Southern Harriers) won the SAAA Ten Miles Championship on Saturday.   The race was run at Ibrox Park and, though the conditions were far from favourable, the time – 53 min 3 4-5th sec – has only been beaten on four occasions since the institution of the championships in 1895.   Jack is credited with the fastest time, 53 min 4 sec at Ibrox in 1907, A Hannah (Clydesdale Harriers) next 53 min 26 sec in 1895, S Stevenson (Clydesdale Harriers) third with 53 min 31 2-5 sec, and A Hannah fourth with 54 min 2 3-5th sec in 1894.   Five of the ten who started in Saturday’s race finished inside standard – 57 min – which is perhaps one of the most noteworthy features of the race.  

Jack led all the way till the second last lap when A McPhee (Clydesdale Harriers) got in front but his stay there was short lived as the champion with 200 yards to go put on a fine spurt and won by a couple of yards.   It was a fine finish and it is just possible that McPhee might have won had he not forced matters until the last lap.   All the same he ran a very creditable race, which in con junction with his win in the cross-country championships, gives him a very honourable place among distance runners.   Jack ran with apparent ease, as he always does and he seems more at ease over cinders than he does over field and fen.   A Mann (Clydesdale Harriers) was the third to finish his time being 54 min 49 sec.   No one has displayed more consistent form over the season than Mann and his running at Ibrox on Saturday was a revelation to many.  …. ”  

1910 was Tom Jack’s final victory in the championship again beating Alex McPhee – but he was second to McPhee in the SAAA Four Miles later that year at the SAAA Championships.   The Ten Miles was held this time at Hawkhill Ground in Edinburgh on 2nd April in glorious weather with a really first class field forward.   Straight to the report:

“The opening of the Scottish athletics season took place on Saturday when under the auspices of the Scottish Amateur Athletic Association the ten miles championship was run  off at the Hawkhill Grounds, Leith, in glorious weather.   The entry was unusually large and out of the 18 entrants, 16 started.    From the start the race lay between the holder, T Jack, Edinburgh Southern Harriers, A McPhee, Clydesdale Harriers, GCL Wallach, Bolton United Harriers, and J Duffy, Edinburgh Harriers.   These runners kept in close company until the third mile, but at the next mile Duffy had dropped back 80 yards, and at half distance was practically out of the hunt.   The field at this distance was reduced to 11.   With three laps to go the Glasgow man tried to pull out from the others but before a lap was covered, Wallach and Jack had closed up on him.   Thereafter they ran neck and neck until 90 yards from the tape, when Jack rushed to the front an won a magnificent race by five yards from McPhee with Wallach third four yards behind the Clydesdale Harrier.  

Result:   1.   T Jack, Edinburgh Southern Harriers;   2.  A McPhee, Clydesdale Harriers.   Time : 53 min 46 2-5th sec.   T Jack has now won the championship six times and five years in succession.   His best time, which is a Scottish record, was at Ibrox Park on April 6, 1907.

The following gained standard medals: GCL Wallach, Bolton United Harriers, third, J Duffy, Edinburgh Harriers fourth, A Mann, Clydesdale Harriers, fifth, RM Bruce, Edinburgh Harriers, sixth, JC Venn, Edinburgh Northern, seventh, W Laing Edinburgh Harriers, eighth.

Mile times were: First 5:01.2;    Second 10:14.6;    Third 15:34;    Fourth 20:55.8;     Fifth 26:19.6;     Sixth 31:49.4;     Seventh 37:24.2;     Eighth 42:56.4;   Ninth 48:36.4;    Tenth  53:46.4