University Track & Field: 1937

The first of the Scottish University runner to capture the headlines in 1937 was GM Carstairs who on 15th May won the UAU Championships in a new record time.    The ‘Glasgow Herald’ said: “GM Carstairs, of Edinburgh University established one of five new records set at the Universities Athletic Union Championships at White City, London, yesterday.   With a time of 14 min 36 4-5th sec, Carstairs was a comfortable winner in the three miles event, taking the lead at the end of the first mile-and-a-half and maintaining it right to the finish.” 

The individual university championships were held in May with St Andrews being first off the mark when they held their annual sports on Saturday 15th May .

The Sports at St Andrews were a but different in 1937 from those of earlier years.   The Scotsman explained it thus: “For the first time the Annual Sports of the students of St Andrews University, points being awarded according to performance.   Each competitor had to compete in at least five of the thirteen events and the maximum points allowed for each event was 1100.   The Pentathlon Cup, presented by Lieut. A Stark, the ‘Varsity Physical Instructor, was won by JSA Forsyth with a total of 2976 points , AD McLean being second with 2875 and WA Smith third with 2809.”   

It was also interesting to note that the women’s events, normally restricted to 100 and 220 yards, long jump, hurdles and maybe high jump, included the cricket ball throw which was won with a distance of over 158 feet.   Results:

The Glasgow University preliminaries were held at Westerlands on Wednesday 19th May when four finals were held in addition to six preliminary rounds for various events.  Two records were set – JAH Lees beat IN Lapraik in the Mile in a new University record of 4:35.8 and WF Forrester won the discus with another new record of 115′ 2 1/1″ to beat AN Lapsley by 5′ 2 1/2″.   The other winners were AN Lapsley who avenged his defeat in the discus with a win over Forrester in the Hammer with a throw of 121′ 1″, Miss A Sutherland won the women’s 440 yards in 66.7 seconds and Miss NB McIntosh won the women’s Broad Jump with 15′ 6″.

The remainder of the events were held on a fine, sunny day, perfect for good performances on 22nd May when the results were as follows:

Both Aberdeen and Edinburgh held their main sports on the last Saturday of the month with preliminary rounds of the sprints and a field event as well as the Three Miles earlier the same week.  The first session of Aberdeen University Sports was on the evening of 25th May, 1937 when AWC Lobban won the Three Miles in  15:37.9.   The 220 yards was also held and went to JRW Catto who won in 22.6 seconds.

There were more events held on Thursday 27th May when two events were decided – the half mile was won by NR McLean in 2:04.8 – one of the best ever recorded by any Aberdeen student – from AWG Lobban,   and the Hammer by JG Wilson who threw a distance of 101′ 7″ to win from GA Milne.   The qualifying round of the Shot were held and   “AJ Witt, without knowledge of technique and without practice, gave a splendid display and qualified for the final of the event.

The event when it came on Saturday 29th, May, was no disappointment with three records going by the board and an exciting four team relay race to boot.  Results:


The Edinburgh University Sports were also held on Saturday 29th May and the standards were high – a headline in the ‘Scotsman’ lamented that “GM Carstairs and RB Wylde fail to return new figures”.   Not enough that they win but expected to set a new record!   Carstairs however had almost set up this headline when he did set up a new record for the Three Miles at the Wednesday first round of the event.   On that occasion he set a time of 14:50.8 breaking the previous record by JH Motion of 15:18.75 by over 28 seconds.   His fellow former Watsonian JW Martin was only about 200 yards behind so he must have been close to the former time.  The other events on the night were heats of the 100- and 220-yards.  


Of course the athletes needed more competition than just the university’s own championships and there were inter-university meetings and open meetings and invitation events and so on for them to compete in.   For instance on 5th June in the Queens Park FC Sports at Hampden, WMO Rennie of Glasgow University & Bellahouston represented Glasgow on the last leg of the invitation relay and third in the invitation 440 yards, in the women’s relay Edinburgh University was second and Glasgow University was third.   Others like IM Young of Glasgow University (2nd in 100 yards) took part in the open events. 

The championships themselves were held on 17th June at St Andrews and the local paper report reads :


As expected Carstairs had a good day winning the Three Miles and setting a new record for the distance; SEO Williams continued to excel in his specialist events and Glasgow’s JAH Lees took not only the championship but also the event record for the half-mile held by Edinburgh’s Hugh Maingay, in 1:57.7.    In the field events the performances of AN Lapsley with two first places, one second and a third confirmed his place as a great Universities all-rounder, while DW Boyd with a first and a second in the throws events confirmed his abilities there.   Lees not only won the half mile but also took the Mile championship from Lobban and McLean of Aberdeen.   SEO Williams won the 120 yards hurdles, the 440 yards hurdles and the Long Jump.   

Results in full:

1937 was a good year for Scottish University athletics – athletes like Ian Lapraik, and GM Carstairs were among the very best that the country has produced.   Had it  not been for the War which started in 1939 interrupting their careers the two men, particularly Carstairs, would have been better known to following generations.   Field events men like Lapsley and Forrester were also among the best while others like SEO Martin and RB Wylde competed in Empire Games.