1930-39 Races

The story of the origins of the race and the first races are fascinating for all interested in the development of the sport in Scotland and are also of interest to the general running population.    Des Yuill of Maryhill Harriers and Cambuslang Harriers wrote a series of articles for the Scottish Marathon Club magazine in 1985 and 1986 covering the 1930 to 1939 period.   It would be a shame for the information to disappear from the public domain so I am reproducing them here as they appeared in the magazine.   

The races of 1930 and 1931 were published with an introduction by Des in October 1985.  



by Des Yuill

“April 1932 and Gordon Porteous comes home to win the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay for his club the Maryhill Harriers.”   These are the words that opened a television documentary about veteran athletes and featured Gordon and his great friend, clubmate and rival John Emmett Farrell.   It’s a wonderful little film and I have it recorded for my video and never tire of watching it.   It came about three years ago and at that time I was the convener of the Edinburgh to Glasgow relay and because of that I noticed a mistake that probably most of the other viewers missed.  

Maryhill Harriers didn’t win the race in 1932.   They were third in 1930, they were second in 1931 and they were third again in 1933.   It wasn’t in fact until 1939 that Mayhill Harriers achieved what was to be their one and only victory in the race so the photograph of Gordon running through the finishing tape that opened the TV film was from 1939 and not 1932.  

It appears that the first two races were jointly organised by the Scottish AAA and the Scottish National Cross Country Union but nothing happened in 1932.   When the 1933 race came round, both these bodies were again involved but a third party had appeared because even in those days our sport sought and welcomed sponsorship.   The sponsor in this case was “The News Of The World” and their link with the race was to last until the mid-1970’s.

The result of this is that the “News Of The World” Trophy which bears the names of the winners would lead one to believe that last November’s 1984 race, won by Falkirk Victoria, was the 44th but historically there have been in fact 46 races in the series.  

Another glaring error comes to light if you possess a copy of one of the excellent programmes which for many years were produced by “The News Of The World” on race day.   They list as the first winners of their trophy Plebeian Harriers in a time of 4 hours 7 minutes 5 seconds.   This was not the case.   Plebeian, having won the 1930 race in 3 hours 54 minutes 7 seconds and the 1931 race in 3 hours 50 minutes and 39 seconds faced a head win in completing their hat trick in 3 hours 59 minutes 17 seconds.  

So there you are, the research is hardly started and yet mistakes and errors are coming to light but surely this gives us an opportunity to set the records straight.   Colin Youngson who started the ball rolling with his two really excellent articles has obviously got more to come and I’m sure that many of you could pitch in with stories and facts to keep the series running.   I’ve got a lot of accurate information about the early races and to follow up Dave Taylor’s excellent suggestion we should attempt to trace the history of this last great point to point race in Scotland.   By Dave’s reckoning two races per quarterly magazine would keep the E-G saga running to the end of the century.   OK, if two per magazine is too slow, we could double up with two from the thirties and two from the sixties.   We could watch the records unfold.   Which club has won it most?   Who holds the most stage records?   Who has run it most?   I fancied it might be Hugh Barrow but Hugh thinks Brian McAusland has run it over twenty times for Clydesdale.  

I’m prepared to start with reports of the early races but I will more than welcome reports, photographs, anecdotes from all sources, so come on club historians, dig out the material.   Has Colin Youngson competed for most clubs or is it Davie Lang?   Which stage has had its record broken most?   Which stage has altered most?   That’s easy – the seventh but don’t forget the stories and if I’m starting the history, I’m also starting the tales!

Having been race convener several times and officiated numerous times let me surprise you by telling you that I’ve also run in the race (one).   It was in the early sixties and I ran the fourth leg for Maryhill.   I handed over to John Emmett Farrell who although in his fifties was still able to command  a place in Maryhill’s team.   In those days of few cars the bus for the runners was parked half a mile beyond the changeover.   Just as Dick Hodelet and myself (name dropper) reached the bus we had to assist another athlete on board.   Yes it was John Emmett Farrell injured and out of the race.   Guess who was waiting at Barrachnie to run the last leg and perhaps break the tape and have his photograph taken?   Got it?   It was Gordon Porteous.

Well I don’t know who won in 1932 but I sure know who didn’t win in 1962 but that is not why I started this story!

[That’s Des’s introduction – the whole of what follows is his and I heartily recommend it in its entirety.]


1930     1931