Seven years after the first SAAA Championship took place at old Powderhall Grounds – 1890 to be exact – a deputation of three gentlemen deeply interested in amateur athletics – one of them being the late Mr Tom Fraser – visited Inverness to confer with some well-known North country sportsmen on the state of athletics in the North, and with a view to establishing a body to govern this branch of the sport in their district.
At that time there resided in Inverness Mr JD Finlayson, who, while resident in Glasgow, was one of the best distance runners in the South, and Mr CFR Thomson, a very good all-round athlete. These gentlemen, with Mr HD Thomas, of the Inverness College, and a few young men of considerable potential athletic ability, issued a circular to schools, clubs and individuals interested in amateur sport, with the result that the heartening replies led to the formation of the North of Scotland AAA, which has since that time, with the exception of the Great War period, functioned very successfully.
The objects of the Association as stated in the circular were briefly as follows: “For the purpose of encouraging pure athletics amongst amateurs, to rid them of all abuses by the holding and promoting of purely amateur sports in which only amateur competitors will be allowed to enter, and also for the purpose of regulating amateur athletics in the North which has hitherto been without a guiding body.”
That such action was necessary is evidenced from the fact that for nearly half a century prior to the formation of this body a race of the middle-distance type was held at the Northern Meeting in Inverness for “gentlemen amateurs”. Six competitors entered, and the winner was a Mr Douglas Moffat, an excellent all-round sportsman.
The Association was fortunate in having for its first President Mr J Douglas Fletcher of Rosehaugh, who was a keen sportsman, and interested in many branches of physical development. He presented a Challenge Cup to be given to the competitor securing the greatest number of points in flat and field events. Following Mr Fletcher as President were the following gentlemen: Messrs JD Finlayson, Alex Sanderson, WG Mackay and Mr D Fraser.
Among others who have held office in the Association and who have worked whole-heartedly in its interests are: Messrs W Reid, Major HR Dewar, JM Reid, WR Christie, CGH Greaves, RG Stewart, Angus McIntosh, RG Cameron, JP Brodie, AS Brodie, Jas Christie, DF McDonald, Harry Wynne (Hon Treasurer)and Archd McGillivray, who acted as Hon Secretary from 1893 to 1914.
It says much for the whole-hearted interest in athletics of the aforementioned gentlemen that the Association still flourishes, for it lies in the centre of Highland Gatherings, whose amateur sports are rare. The inducement for country lads to have a “try out” against famous itinerant athletes, especially the heavy-weight men, is great : but there is the corresponding disadvantage that having committed themselves as professionals, they find themselves debarred from competing as amateurs in the South. The Association has thus done much in keeping many lads out of the ranks of professionalism.
From among the many athletes whpo have competed at Inverness mention may be made of the following, and this not solely on account of their personal prowess, but also for their long and valued assistance: Donald Ross, now of Glencannich, who was an SAAA hammer champion; WA Ogilvie, Dingwall, who was a capital leaper and hammer thrower, Angus McIntosh, now resident in Thurso, a first class all-rounder, Geo T Cornet, and excellent sprinter and an Olympic water-polo player, Alex Carter, a good half-miler, W Dewar of Dingwall, A Grant, now of Elgin, Andrew Gordon, Dan Munro and Willie Crawford, all distinguished in their several ways. Finally there is Donald Dallas, who in ’98 won aHalf-Mile Challenge Cup, open to Scotland, in the fine time, considering the heavy grass track, of 1 min 59 1-5th sec. For years he has been the official starter, and his services are still cheerfully given to the Association.