The Spence Boys

George, Cammie, Lawrie, Jim and Gordon Spence.

No account of the importance of families in Scottish athletics could be done without covering the five Spence brothers from Greenock.   As you see from the picture above, three of them ran for Greenock Glenpark Harriers and two of then wore the colours of Greenock Wellpark Harriers.   Jim was the first to appear in the national rankings in 1964 and Cameron was the last in 1988.   They covered distances from 800m through to marathon, they ran track, road, cross-country and hill races.   The five between them produced excellent runners, good coaches, quality officials and top grade administrators.   They had been brought up in a sporting family – father was a very good football player who turned down the offer to play as a professional – but oldest brother Jim was the one who started running first and, although Cammie did play football for a while, the five were all involved in running.   Jim is the oldest with George just two years younger.   Then comes Gordon with Cammie almost five years later and finally there is Lawrie.  We can look at them individually in order to start with.

Jim ran in all the events and all surfaces in the country in the 1950’s and 1960’s He ran in at least 15 District championships, his first run in the national cross-country was in 1957/58 as a Junior Man and his last run out in the event was in 1969/70; he ran in 14 Edinburgh to Glasgow relays on 6 different stages.   His main successes however came in the longer road races and he was a member of the Scottish Marathon Club and the following information has been gleaned from the club’s Minute Book.

JA Spence of Glenpark Harriers joined the Scottish Marathon Club in early Spring 1968. By 19th August, Committee Meeting minutes confirmed that, in his first season, Jim Spence had become Club Champion!   The Championship consisted of a member’s best three runs from four races which had to include the SAAA Marathon Championship,   The others were the Cambuslang 12, the Clydebank to Helensburgh 16, the Strathallan 20 .  

Jim did not compete in the 12 mile event at Cambuslang on 20th April, and Andy Brown (Law and District) was first SMC man home, gaining six points.   On 27th April, Jim Spence finished fourth, and second SMC, in the 16 mile Clydebank to Helensburgh race, which gave him four points. His time was well inside SMC First Class Standard. However Andy Brown was second and first SMC – so far his total was 12 points for the season.   The 1968 SAAA Marathon took place at Grangemouth on 22nd June.   Jim ran well to finish fourth in 2.39.42, which was inside the SAAA National Standard and SMC First Class target. He was second SMC man home and gained another five points, which gave him nine points so far.   On 3rd April the final counting race took place: the 21 mile Strathallan Highland Games road race. After a very close battle with his SMC club rival Don Turner (Pitreavie AC), Jim finished fourth, just eleven seconds in front of Don, which gave him another five points as first SMC.

The final SMC Championship positions were: First Jim Spence (14 points); Second Andy Brown (12); and Third Don Turner (10 points).   In addition that season, Jim Spence showed his strength by finishing well up in further races over 14 miles (Babcock & Wilcox, Renfrew); 18 miles (Bute Highland Games); and 20 miles (Largs to Irvine).   Don Turner was a very good runner indeed with lots of good victories to his credit.   Scottish marathon man Colin Youngson has this to say about Jim’s SMC win: “1968 was arguably Don Turner’s best year ever.   He was a close third behind Don Ritchie’s tired second in the SAAA marathon and in August came through strongly to win the Two Bridges.   So Jim did well to outkick him or  fend him off in the crucial Strathallan 21 miler and thus secure the SMC title.   If Don had beaten Jim that day, I believe that Don would have been the SMC champ.”

He remained a member of the SMC and continued to run well in its fixtures but this was his only club championship.   When he stopped enjoying his running, Jim retired but he was also a coach.   I remember going to the West District Track Championships at Westerlands in Glasgow and meeting up with him again after many years.   He was, he said, coaching his young brother Lawrie.  He had however worked in that capacity with all his brothers at one time or another.

Cameron was the only one who followed his father’s football example and left the sport to play football for four years.    He came back in 1970 and trained with Jim to start with before deciding to train according to his own methods.

A group photograph with George Spence third from left in the back row, Jim Spence second from left in front row and Gordon Spence fifth from left in front row.

Photograph from club website

George  was a cross-country runner for the club, and first ran in the national cross-country championship as a Youth in 1958/59 when he was sixty sixth, as a Junior in 1958/59 and 1960/61 when he finished down the field.    George is better known as an official by the present generation.   He was an administrator with the SAAA and the Cross-Country Union.   As a competitor he had done some long jumping on the Games scene so it was no surprise to see him involved with the “Heavies”  at many Highland Games both as an official and as convenor. A Greenock man, he specially enjoyed Bute and Cowal as well as the local one at Gourock.   He had had to stop running because of his knees. He was very active in the district events.   He had a particular involvement in the anti-doping and drugs control issues.   Latterly he gradually stepped down from his various posts. The last of these were Bute and Cowal.  



Greenock Glenpark Harriers Youths team that did so well in the National Championships of 1964:

Tom Dobbin, Ronnie Arthur, Gordon Spence, Teddy Walker and Clive Turner

Picture from Glenpark website

 Gordon, born in 1945, showed talent as a school boy when he was runner-up in the school championship in second year then, a year later, was third year champion winning all the running events including the hurdles!   He followed this with the Renfrewshire schools Under 15 half-mile title.   With Glenpark Harriers, Gordon first appeared as a Boy in the District Championships in 1960/61 when he was third, leading the team to second place.  Two years later as a Youth (U17) in 1963/64 he was third behind team mates Tom Dobbin and Ronnie Arthur to provide the winning team for Glenpark on a day when Jim was a member of the winning Senior team.   Later that season in the National Championship, Tom was seventh, Teddy Walker 39th, Gordon 42nd and Ronnie 45th to be fifth team.   It was a really good team – Tom was one of the best half-milers in Britain in his age group, Ronnie was another half miler and a solid club runner and Gordon had a great deal of potential as these results showed.    After winning the Greenock District Junior Cross-Country Championship but after that problems with knee and leg injuries he dropped out of the sport.  

All the brothers, except Lawrie at that time, joined IBM(as it was known at the start – it later became IBM Spango Valley) athletic club in 1973.    Started as a result of local athletic politics, it attracted a lot of interest locally.   Gordon raced occasionally for IBM.   WHe was a good club runner but kept getting injured.   Knees were the problem, as Cammie says, it was a bit of a family trait.    Gordon stopped altogether in the ’80’s. but bas been cycling to keep fit and has been averaging about 5000 miles per year.

 In 1961 Cameron appeared in the District results for the first time, being ninth in the Boys one and a half miles and part of the second placed Glenpark team, launching a great career in the sport as runner, organiser, administrator and coach.

 Cammie running in the Six Stage Relays

Cameron, known to everybody as Cammie, was born on 19th July in 1950 and ran for five Scottish clubs (with an affiliation to one Irish outfit).   The Scottish clubs were Greenock Glenpark Harriers, Greenock Wellpark, Spango Valley, Inverclyde and in the summer of 1973, Shettleston Harriers.   On the track he was ranked nationally from 1972 to 1988 in 3000 m, 5000m and 10000m with personal best times of 8:22, 14:10 (at the RAAA Championships) and 30:00.84.   On the road there are times of 64:18 for the half-marathon and 2:28 for the marathon.   All good times and he was really competitive whatever the surface.  He hated the track because “it was so bloody hard” but he did run it in championships and in Highland Games.  Nevertheless, he is better known as an international cross-country and road runner.   

He started as a boy with Glenpark between eleven and fifteen years of age, then departed to play football.   It was not really surprising given that he was living in the West of Scotland where football is almost a religion, and that, probably more important, his father was player.   He played at the top level as an amateur before coming back into athletics in 1970.   His first national was in 1960/61 when as a Junior Boy he was fifth in the District championships and 63rd in the national.     After the football period, he came back to athletics in 1970 and trained for a while with younger brother Lawrie, coached by big brother Jim.   With encouragement from brother George and his wife Pat he joined Greenock Wellpark Harriers.   His first run in Wellpark coours was in 1970 at Bute Highland Games.   It was in the Mile Handicap,  he was the back marker.  Jim and George complained to the handicapper because Cammie was a novice. It was his first race in 5 years and he shouldn’t be the back marker. The handicapper would not change his mind. Cammie, however, finished 4th. At the following weeks Cowal Games he finished third on the Friday and, it being the age of the amateur,  won a plaque. He still has it.

 Cammie became a senior athlete in 1971/72 and Lawrie in 1976/77 – by that time Lawrie was attending Strathclyde University and racing for Shettleston.   Both quality cross-country men, they had some real battles over the years with Lawrie generally coming out on top.   For instance in the national of 1979/80 Lawrie was fifth with Cammie tenth.   The following year Lawrie was fourth with Cammie 12th, and so on with the gap being about 200 yards at the finish.   When Lawrie finished at Strathclyde Unversity he returned to Greenock and joined Cammie at Spango Valley AC.   Spango was a new club, formed in 1976/77 which included the former Greenock Wellpark Harriers formed in season 1973/74- you can read its story here


Lawrie (78), in Strathclyde University colours, racing Lachie Stewart and Alistair Blamire

The brothers were both international cross-country athletes but Cammie was running for Ireland in the World Championships while Lawrie wore the dark blue of Scotland.   Asked how the Irish connection came about, Cammie said: 

It started in 1979 when I fell out with the Scottish selectors.  I won the International race at Stirling University grounds running for Scotland in 1978.  Won it quite easily and was picked to run in Belfast  (which was cancelled due to the Troubles), and San Sebastian on the back of that win. Then went to Spain and picked a bug up (likely on the plane) and ran poorly. When I got home I had a chest infection. Missed training for a number of weeks and as a result missed the National but asked the selectors to consider me for the Worlds.   They didn’t.  

Meanwhile Rod Stone (Cambuslang Harriers) from NI asked Lawrie and I if we would like to run for Annadale Striders at the NI Senior Cross-Country Championships. We had Irish qualification through our father who was born in Belfast (and how did they find that out?).  We both agreed and joined the Striders.    Lawrie finished second  and I was sixth. They offered us places in the NI team for the Worlds. I said yes and Lawrie said no.  I got International clearance quickly. I went to Limerick for the Worlds and beat half the Scottish team. I had proved a point. It was the best move I ever made.”   

But the story doesn’t end there.   In reply to a query about whether they ever raced against each other at international level and if they did, how often, He went on to say

” Yes – at the Worlds and various other events. I have stories about us and our battles over the country. Now here is a question for you. Who are the only brothers to captain different nations at the World Cross-Country Championship. And what year and place? Yip, Lawrie and myself were the captains of Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively at New York in 1984. What a honour for us. Pity our dad had died two years previously.”

In the 80’s the marathon was the thing.   Everybody ran the event – young people, old people, very old people – and there are no prizes for knowing that Cammie ran the event.   He says:

 “I hated marathons. 20 miles and body switched off. Every time except…………………in 1984. Ran at the Cowal Games on the Saturday in the 5K. 2nd to Lawrie in 14.53. Then it was 8 pints of lager and Chinese meal after. The wife got me up at 9.30am on  Sunday morning saying you had promised to run the Inverclyde Marathon with Terry Wilkie. I just remembered after the 5K he asked me. So I had a cold shower to wake and sober up and get a entry on the day(morning)and got to the start line just in time. Off we went. Time passed by in a sort of blur. We stopped for water, we stopped for sponge fights, we stopped to get our picture taken. Our last stop was just before the mile to go mark.

“Terry was struggling. I wisnae bad.   Didn’t have a clue about time, but there were two  Kilbarchan runners coming and I said to Terry we can’t let them beat us. He told me to go away. He just wanted to lie down. I wouldn’t let him, Got him going. And we finished with a time of 2.35. I couldn’t believe it. Could have been 2.34 but we stopped again to pose for pictures before the finish. There is no justice. Didn’t train for it. Raced the day before. Drank too much the night before. Still don’t know how I managed it.”

Clearly a quality athlete with that wonderful story about captaining Ireland in the World Championships with his brother captaining Scotland.   What about Lawrie?

Lawrie Spence is by the best of the brothers competitively and many consider hiim the most complete Scottish distance runner ever with best times ranging from under 4 minutes for the mile  to  2:16 for the marathon.   He has also captained the Scottish team in the world cross-country championships succeeding the great Jim Alder.    He won his first cross-country championship as a Senior Boy in 1967/68 when he won the South West District championship and he finished sixth in the National championships at Hamilton that year too.  The cross-country career was quite outstanding and led to Lawrie having no fewer than eight appearances in the world championships, as well as many really excellent domestic races – eg in the national, although he never won it, he had several races where he was second, third and fourth.

He was coached by big brother Jim and says   I was coached by my brother Jim who took me from the boys’ age groups through to senior international level..   During the break through years I was lucky to have Lachie Stewart as a mentor which gave me a great foundation in the sport.  In the early eighties I had a spell with Stan Long who was Brendan Foster’s coach but due to him being based down in Gateshead, the distance proved to be difficult before the age of our modern communications like email and mobile phones.   As time went by I became more in control of the detail of what was in the sessions and what the  plans were to be, but always keeping Jim as a rock in my training.”   

On the track Lawrie had many successes and his list of personal bests is impressive.

One Mile:   3:58.8

2000m:   5:03.8

3000m:  7:52.82

5000m:   13:37.73

10000m:   28:11.85

Marathon:   2:16:01

Lawrie has won medals at the AAA’s championships, has 7 gold and 2 silver medals from the SAAA championships, run in the Commonwealth Games and was ranked almost every year from 1970 to 1986 inclusive.   Over the country he has run 8 times for Scotland in the world championships as well as in many smaller representative teams.  For the complete story of his fine career in the sport, follow the link at the top of this section, just below his photograph.   

There is one more Spence to be mentioned: not a boy and not a Spence by birth but Pat Spence was very much a member of the family.   As Pat McCluskey she was second to Dale Greig in the SWCCU Championships in season 1959/60, and won it from Dale in 1960/61.  In ’61 she followed the Scottish run with 9th of over 200 runners in the English national.  In each year she was in the winning team – Tannahill Harriers in ’60 and Greenock Rankin Park in ’61.   Pat married George Spence and they have two daughters, Gwen and Lorna.   She was the life and soul of Greenock Rankin Park Harriers and helped develop them into one of the top cross-country clubs in the country.  Rankin Park came from nowhere to being one of the top cross-country clubs in the country during the 1960’s – eg. first in the National in 1961, second in the National in ’64, and in ’65, third in ’66.   Pat herself was a talented athlete winning District as well as National cross-country titles.  She was just as much at home on the track: in 1959, aged 19, she was ranked seventh in Scotland in the half-mile with a time of 2:30, in ’61 she was fourth in the Mile with 5:31.1.   

She retired from competition  after marrying George Spence but kept the club running and performing at a high level.  But when she came back in 1970/71 she was maybe even better – certainly she won several SWAAA championship medals – second in the 3000m and third in the 1500m in 1971 and third in the 1500m in 1972.   In ’71 she also won the West v East 1500m, and was second in the East v West 3000m and in the West 3000m.   ie in 1971 she won the West 1500m, and was third in the national 1500m, was second in the West 3000m, the E v W and the National 3000m.  In that year she was ranked 7th in the shorter distance and fifth in the longer 3000m event.   

On the country she was seventh in ’71/72 and 16th in ’73/’74 but the real achievements in the early 70’s was the development of the club team: 5th, 3rd, 3rd, 2nd with runners in every age group.   eg in 1971/’7 the Seniors were third, , the Inters ninth, the Juniors twelfth and the Minors ninth.   Names like Duncan, Langan, Brown, Lafferty were becoming known as the started to move through the ranks.   In the national rankings for 1974 Alison Brown was ranked 14th in the 800m and 9th in the 1500m, Lesley Langan was 26th in the half mile and Pat herself was 16th in the 3000m.   Note: that was the Senior rankings and the younger women had come up through the age groups.   

With things going so well, it was tragedy in every sense of the word when she died in hospital in September 1976.   Most of all for George and the entire family but also for Scottish athletics.   A very popular, talented athlete with a great future in the sport taken from us.


Helen Donald


Helen trailing Barbara Tait


Helen Cherry was an excellent endurance runner from the late 1950’s and early 1960’s who was never properly recognised after she stopped competing.   Winner of medals in British as well as Scottish championships and cross-country internationalist and medallist she and her Edinburgh counterpart Barbara Tait dominated the Mile in Scottish women’s athletics from the late 50’s to mid 60’s.   Unfortunately Helen retired at the relatively early age of 23 when she married Ian Donald who was himself a very talented athlete from Shettleston Harriers.   She went to all the cross-country races and always turned up at road races or hill running events where she was competing.   They were a very popular couple on all circuits.  

Helen was a pupil at Bellahouston Academy when she was taken along to Bellahouston Harriers track at Stanalane in Glasgow by her school friend Mary Symon and tried various events over the summer.   Her introduction to middle distance running came when Dale Greig, who was a member of the club at the time invited her to run with her from the Pollokshaws Baths.    This was the start to Helen’s endurance career but she was always a versatile athlete as we will see later.    There was no sign of her in any of the SWAAA or SWCCU championships in 1956 – unless you looked at the Intermediate 100 yards and long jump where the 16 year old Helen was entered.   At that point the excellent young Barbara Tait and the slightly older Aileen Drummond of Maryhill were winning all the Mile races and picking up the medals over the country.   In the West trials, Aileen won the Mile and the 880 yards, in the East Barbara Tait won; in the Inter-area Drummond won the Mile and in the SWAAA Championships Tait won from Drummond.   Between 1959 and 1963 the three women dominated the Mile in Scottish women’s athletics.   Helen first appeared competitively in the winter ’56-’57 cross-country season.   

In the first cross-country championships of 1957 on 16th March, Morag O’Hare (Maryhill) won in 12:50 with B Rodgers (Shotts) second in 12:57, 40 yards down, and Helen Cherry in 13:12,  80 yards further back.   The report by Dale Greig in ‘The Scots Athlete’ read,The Scottish Women’s Cross-Country Championship was held on March 16th on a rather picturesque setting at Craigie Estate in Ayr.   From an entry of 25, only 16 started, the smallest field for many years.   Right from the start a small group including O’Hare, Boyes, Fulton, Rodger and Webster broke away from the field and although there was some inter-changing of positions during the first half, Morag O’Hare who had dictated the pace from the start, moved away strongly to gain her first national title and bring her home in first position yet again.   There was a keen tussle for second place with Betty Rodger just holding off Helen Cherry (Bellahouston) who had moved up in the latter stages in a very close finish.   This suggests that there may have been some error in the time recordings.   The first six to finish were selected to represent Scotland at the International with England at Musselburgh on March 30th.   Mrs Williamson was elected team manager.   Details:   1.   M O’Hare   12:50;   2.   B Rodger   12:57;   3.   H Cherry   13:12;   4.   D Fulton (Springburn)   13:13;   5.   D Greig (Bellahouston)   13:17;   6.   M Campbell (Maryhill)   13:22.    Reserve – J Thursby (Ayr).   Team Race:   Maryhill Harriers (M O’Hare 1, M Campbell 6, K Boyes 11.)  18 points;   2.   Ayr   33 points.”  

Came the day of the international and the result was unfortunately a clean sweep for England with the first six places going south of the border.   The Scottish positions were – 7th D Fulton (13:10), 8th M O’Hare (13:26), 9th B Rodger , 10th H Cherry (13:41), 11th D Greig (14:02, 12th M Campbell (14:15).   Then it was into the summer season and the first notable fixture was on 4th May at Scotstoun in the West District trials where 17 year old Helen won the Mile in 5:54.   Exactly a week later in the East v West fixture she was second behind Barbara Tait of the East.   Less than a month later, on 8th June at Pitreavie, in the SWAAA Championships Helen was again second to Barbara Tait over the Mile – Barbara’s time was 5:18.3.   Unfortunately many of the popular Highland Games of the time (eg Gourock and Strathallan) only had two events for women – the 100 yards and the 220 yards, so there was not a lot happening on that front and the poor reporting of women’s athletics in the Press did nothing to alter that situation.   Two examples – in most women’s inter-club or local fixtures, only the first across the line was given and even in the SWAAA Championships when the first four were recorded only the winning time was noted.   When the men travelled to the AAA’s Championships their places and performances were were all given on the Monday and in most years the entire event was reported on – for women only the notable performances were commented on.   After listing the six or eight who were travelling to the fixture, the single or even double paragraph report, would maybe only comment on doubles by English women or mention a Scots woman who had won a medal.   Hardly even handed reporting. 


Race Invitation; Programme

On 8th March 1958, Isobel Mooney of Jordanhill TC wom the SWCCU Championships from Dale Greig who was only one second ahead of Helen Cherry.    Again the first six were selected for the international but there was no report of the event in the Glasgow Herald although there was an extended article on the men’s event.   The local paper contained the following article at the start of the season.   “Helen who is 16 years old was educated at Bellahouston Academy where she was a swimming instructress.   She also played for the girls hockey team and took part in track racing.   She joined the Bellahouston Harriers club when she left school last year.   Her first big competition was at Ayr in March when she gained third place in the Scottish cross-country championship.   The international followed and she was chosen for the Scottish team.   Last week she travelled to Westerlands to compete in a one mile event, being a few seconds behind Scottish champion Miss Tait who was out to make a record.   Helen goes forward to meet the champion again in the mile event at Meadowbank in June.   It takes a lot of training to be a good runner and Helen spends two nights a week at the club’s track.   She also practises on a Saturday afternoon when she is not away at a competition.”


The first race of any consequence in the summer was the West Trials for the match against the East and Helen was in action twice.   Second in the 880 yards to Isobel Mooney she won the Mile in 5:45 from Dale Greig.   A week later the headline in the Glasgow Herald was ‘West Win At Jordanhill.’   Helen and Dale had done their bit by being first and second in the Mile with Helen eleven seconds faster than the week before.   The lack of races must have been frustrating for the middle distance runners – individual university championships, inter university championships and even the Scottish University championships only had races up to440 yards, and in one case up to220 yards.   The highland gatherings and local sports meetings were also sparing in their races at longer distances – there were women’s 880 yards handicap events at Ardeer, Strathallan and a few more but they were the exceptions rather than the rule.   Came the SWAAA Championships and Helen was in the Mile where she finished behind Barbara Tait (5:33.2) and in front of Dale Greig.   It was reported in the Glasgow Herald as follows: The highlight of the Scottish Women’s Championships at Meadowbank on Saturday was the mile event when Barbara Tait (Edinburgh Harriers) regained her title with a fine tactical race.   Lying second to Helen Cherry (Bellahouston Harriers) for three laps, she put in a sprint, 15 yards to go, forged ahead and broke the tape two yards in front of the Bellahouston girl.”   Later in the year in the Round The Bridges Race at Musselburgh it was a different story.   “The women’s one and a quarter miles race was well supported.   Miss H Cherry, the Bellahouston Harriers club champion, led from the start and won in a satisfactory time of 6:08.   Miss B Tait, the Scottish Mile Champion, and Miss D Greig, the Scottish cross-country champion were second and fourth.”   And that seemed to be it for the summer season.

Summer 1959 would be a good one for Helen although she did not feature in the National Cross-Country Championships of 1959.   On 16th May in the West District Championships, Helen Cherry was first in the Mile in 5:35.3 with Dale Greig in second.   Unfortunately in the East v West the Herald headline read, ‘Comfortable Win By East Women.’   Helen was led in by Barbara Tait in 5:21.0 – a new native record that beat her own time in the East Championships by 3.6 seconds.   The result was similar in the SWAAA Championships on 13th June where the Mile was won by Barbara in 5:18.3 with Helen second and Dale third.   The report said that Barbara was going to compete in the WAAA Championships in England but the report of that meeting in the Glasgow Herald gave only the winners and their performances.   Nowadays they might do that but then add in the Scottish athletes with a note of their performances.   By the end of season 1959, Helen was ranked second in both 880 yards and Mile with times of 2:22.2 and 5:24.7.   Not in the first three at the National Cross-Country Championships in 1960, Helen started the summer with a victory in the Mile at the West District Championships at Scotstoun on 6th May with a time of 5:46.7 over R O’Hare of Maryhill.   This was the fourth successive year that she had won this event.   She missed the West v East match on 21st May and was not placed in the SWAAA Championships.   At the end of summer 1960 she was number three in Scotland but with a time 24 seconds slower than 1959 – 5:48.7.  

1961 seemed to represent a switch for Helen in that after a winter with no cross-country races reported, she targeted the shorter, faster 880 yards.   On 6th May in the West District Championships the Glasgow Herald report read, “Miss H Cherry (Bellahouston) succeeded Miss Reilly as holder of the half-mile title with a time of 2:26.2, almost four seconds faster than last year’s winning time.”   Helen did not run in the Mile which was won by Dale Greig in 5:46.4.   Into the East v West Match on 20th May where she won the 880 yards in 2:26.7 and was also a member of the winning Mile Medley Relay team of H Cherry, M Carmichael, M Brown and I Bond who ran in that order. Helen also turned out in the Renfrewshire Championships which she won in 2:22.4.   In the SWAAA Championships on 10th June, Helen won the 880 yards in 2:22.1 from S Lofts (Anglo Scottish Club) and Pam Brown who had already won the 440 yards and Doreen Fulton who had won the Mile also competed in the half mile .   “Both Fulton and Brown tried later for victory in the half-mile – but neither could match the devastating running of 24 year old Helen Cherry of Bellahouston.   Helen finished like a sprinter in 2:22.1 well ahead of her nearest rival, Sheila Lofts.   Pat Brown had to be satisfied with third place.   Helen, who is an accounting machine operator ran in the half-mile because she was fed up taking second place in the mile for three years in succession to Barbara Tait.   The change was worth while.”    Apart from getting her age wrong, the irony in the report is that this time round, Barbara Tait was third in the mile.  Her versatility was also mentioned earlier and on 1st July she travelled all the way to Kinlochleven Highland Games where she had entered 100y, 220y, 880y, mile, high jump and long jump!   She only managed to compete in three – she won the 880 yards and the mile and was  second in the long jump.   To complete the day, Ian Donald won the Mamore Hill Race.    In the annual rankings at the end of the summer, Helen was third in the 880 yards with a season’s best of 2:19.5.   Ahead of her were two Anglos – Sheena Lofts of Aldershot (2:17.7) and Margaret Easson of Birchfield who led with 2:17.2.     

In summer 1962 Helen started off as she meant to continue with a second victory in the West District 880 yards when she recorded 2:26.5 and then missed the West v East.   Helen won the Mile in the SWAAA Championships at Pitreavie after finishing second in the 880 yards.   The mile was won in a native record of 5:08.4 which was 9.9 seconds faster than the previous time set by Barbara Tait four years earlier.   She just took the bull by the horns and ran away from the field with laps of 71.5 seconds, 2:30, 3:49.1 and a finishing time of 5:08.4.   The report simply said, “Miss H Cherry  misjudged her running in the half-mile and gained only second place to Miss S Lofts (Anglo-Scottish), who is 19, but she comfortably won the mile.   Miss B Tait, the record holder, was outpaced and finished fifth.”    Coverage of women’s athletics is a source of constant annoyance to me!   In the 50’s there was hardly any serious coverage in the National dailies and what there was in the 60’s was incredibly biased against the distance runners.   The jumpers and sprinters were likely to get several column inches at a time, more often than not with a picture attached, while the longer distances were covered with a comment.   Look at the sentences above – Helen had only broken the four year old Scottish record by almost exactly 10 seconds and yet two races were reported on in one sentence.      The best was yet to come.   On 7th July at the White City, in London, at the WAAA Championships Helen finished third.   You would not have noticed in Scotland – the report in the Glasgow Herald gave the meeting five short paragraphs and not one Scots woman was mentioned .    Maeve Kyle, Dorothy Hyman and Barbara Moore all had coverage but they were two English and one Irish women!   Helen had been third in 5:02.5, the fastest time run by  a Scot that year, behind  J Beretta (Australia) and Madeleine Ibbotson (England).  There were some reports however, one highlighting an injustice done to her by officialdom.   The first report read:  “HELEN CHERRY PROVES QUEEN OF SCOTS.   Helen Cherry of Bellahouston Harriers, 21 year old Scottish mile champion, was top performer of the seven-strong Scottish team competing in the Women’s AAA Championships at White City, London.   She finished third in the mile in 5:02.5.   Although way behind winner Joan Beretta of Australia, who returned 4:57, fastest in the world this year, it was a plucky run by Miss Cherry who was lying fourth at the bell.   She very nearly caught Madeleine Ibbotson who finished second.”   The second report read: “HELEN’S WONDER RUN CAN’T BE RECOGNISED.   Heroine of the day was small, dark-haired Helen Cherry of Bellahouston Harriers, Scotland’s Mile Champion and half-mile runner up.   The Ibrox girl brought the London Scots to their feet as she raced her way to third place in the mile behind England’s Mary Ibbotson and Australia’s J Beretta.   It was announced that the race had been won in the fastest time in the world this year.   Beretta’s time was a magnificent 4:57 – 12 seconds short of Dian (Leather) Charles’s official world best.   England’s Ibbotson clocked 5:00.4 and Helen 5:02.5.   Helen Cherry had scythed 14 seconds off the Scottish record but since  it was raced on a ‘foreign’ track it will not be taken as a national record.”.   The season of 880 yards racing seemed to have paid off with one gold and one silver at the Scottish and one bronze at the British.   In the end of the year rankings, Helen was fourth in the 880 yards with 2:17.2 and first in the Mile in 5:02.5.   I asked statistician Arnold Black what the real standing of Helen’s record time was and he replied that the 5:02.5 hadn’t been officially recognised but they had listed the record of 5:08.4 jointly with Helen (1963) and Georgena Craig (1966).   Then in 1969 they only listed metric records.   Unofficially, Helen’s time leasted until 14th June 1969 when Margaret McSherry ran 4:56.3 at Leicester.

1963 produced another WAAA’s medal at the White City after she had won the SWAAA Mile and this time the Glasgow Herald did report on the meeting and actually said, after reporting that it had been held in appalling conditions, “Miss HM Cherry was Scotland’s best performer.   The Bellahouston Harriers girl took third place in the Mile with a time of 5:15.5.”   Another report read Helen Cherry was Scotland’s heroine in the mud in the British Women’s Athletic Championships at London’s White City.   The Bellahouston Harrier finished third in the Mile in 5:17.5 to win Scotland’s only medal.   Courageous Helen led the field for more than halfway – but the strength-sapping track took its toll and eventually she was passed by the winner Pam Davies (Selsonia) and Madeleine Ibbotson (Longwood).”  So she had been timed at 5:17.5 behind Pam Davies (5:10.8) and Madeleine Ibbotson (5:14.0).   The weather clearly influenced everyone – Ibbotson had run 5:00.4 the previous year.   Nevertheless, Helen was the only Scots medallist but most coverage was given to the sprinters and long jumpers with of course the obligatory photo of a long jumper!  Helen had already won the West District Mile and the SWAAA Mile.   At the end of the year the statistics read 880 yards, third with 2:20, Mile first with 5:08.4 plus the medals of course.

The Mile at White City, 1963!   57 (J Williams) and 67 (SA Westlake) finished without their shoes.

What happened next?   What happened next was that Helen married Ian Donald of Shettleston Harriers and moved to Old Kilpatrick.   Willie Diverty reported in Athletics Weekly under the heading WEDDING BELLS: “Ian Donald, the well-known Shettleston Harrier, has married Helen Cherry (Bellahouston Harriers), the SWAAA mile champion and record holder who was third in this year’s mile at the WAAA Championships.”

Helen and Ian

Her serious running career just stopped there although she did do several races thereafter.    How good could she have been?   She had won the two previous SWAAA Mile titles and medalled in the WAAA in the same two years.   She was clearly the best in the country at the time.   Let’s look at the statistics in tabular form – first the competitive record.

Year West District 880y West District Mile SWAAA 880y SWAAA Mile WAAA Mile
1959   1st   2nd  
1960   1st      
1961 1st   1st    
1962 1st   2nd 1st 3rd
1963   1st   1st 3rd

Helen appeared in the national rankings every year from 1959 until her early retirement in 1963.   Until she dropped down to the half mile in 1961, her best Mile time was 5:24.7 when ranked second in 1959.   After 1961 her best times 5:02 in 1962 and 5:08 in 1963.

Year Distance Time Rankings
1959 880y 2:22.2 5th
  Mile 5:24.7 2nd
1960 Mile 5:48.7 3rd
1961 440y 61.2 6th
  880y 2:19.5 3rd
1962 440y 62.2 14th
  880y 2:17.2 4th
  Mile 5:02.5 1st
1963 440y 62.0 12th
  880y 2:20.0 5th
  Mile 5:08.4 1st

There really is no way to assess how good she could have been – coming from 5:24.7 in 1959 to 5:02.5 in 1962 is quite remarkable, and the race she ran in 1962 almost catching world ranked Madeleine Ibbotson indicated competitive nerve and determination.  

She retired in 1963 after marrying Ian and in reply to the query about why, her answer was that they had bought a house in Old Kilpatrick that needed a lot of work doing to it.   She couldn’t do both run and work on their home.   No doubt her priorities were right but if only ……………………

The Scally Dynasty

Allan Scally (extreme right) with the winning McAndrew Relay team of 1945.  The runners were Barney Cairns, Harry Howard, Willie Connor and Charlie McLellan

The Shettleston Harriers Centenary History says “It is impossible to overestimate the importance of Allan Scally to Shettleston Harriers.”  The information that follows is from the Shettleston Harriers Centenary History by John Cairney.    Allan – who was born in 1904 which was the year that Shettleston Harriers was founded – had two sons who took up the sport, Bill, Frank, and a third son, Allan, who emigrated to America.   Allan’s son, Sean, competed at High School in America at long jump.    Bill had two children, Brian and Elaine, who were very good athletes in their own right, and Elaine had a son and daughter; Allan who was an international shot putter and discus thrower and won the Scottish shot putt title in 2008, and his younger sister, Nicola, who won age group national titles at shot putt.   Four generations between them winning honours at club, national and international level.   Bill’s wife was also involved in the running of the club – if you can’t beat them, join them!   She herself started running in her 40’s and became one of the first female members of the club in its centenary year in 2004.

Nicola, the youngest of the dynasty

Allan was born in Camlachie in the East End of Glasgow and his family moved to Broomhouse soon afterwards.   At Broomhouse, his father and later Allan and his three brothers all worked in the local pit.   He was a good runner, a fact not missed by his workmates, and he was sponsored by them to compete at various sports meetings.   His first Powderhall race was in April, 1925, when he won the mile handicap off a mark of 125 yards in 4:32.    Running as ‘Scally of Broomhouse’ he earned enough to donate some of his winnings to provide food for miners’ families, especially during the strike of 1926.   Part of his training was done on a track on the banks of the Clyde.   His major successes include

  •   The Powderhall 10 mile marathon in 1927, ’28, ’29, ’30, ’31, ’32
  •    World Professional 10 Mile Championship in 1931 and ’32
  •    The Red Hose race at Carnwath: the oldest footrace in the country. 

Allan also had a second (1933) and third (1934) at Powderhall.   It was at his point that he really became focused on coaching.  He had been appointed as a coach to the club in January, 1928, while he was still running and racing at the top of his game,  but now that his running career was over he could devote his time and energy to the club, to the schools I the locality and to Scotland.   He could not become a club member since he had been a professional runner and Shettleston was an amateur club.   

Allan Scally with the women from Lewis’s in 1947

As a coach he was at least as good as he had been a runner.   Among his top distance men were Jim Flockhart, international cross-country champion, and Joe McGhee Empire Marathon champion in 1954.   In addition to his coaching at club level, he was an official acting as a starter at several meetings, and a coach with Scottish teams for several years.   When he was invited by Tom Millar, Clydesdale Harriers secretary, he was delighted to go and give a lantern show, talk about training and take questions.   He also followed up with a letter of appreciation for the reception that he had received.   A wonderful and successful coach wit top class athletes working for and with him, he also continued to work in the community.

For instance, the photograph of Allan with the women employed with Lewis’s, tells a story.   Lewis’s store in Argyle Street in Glasgow had an athletics club for its employees.   The Lewis’s chain throughout Britain had an annual competition between them and the Glasgow store was keen to do well.   They asked Allan to help them train for the big match and after he had been training them for two afternoons a week, realised that they were not the most talented.   His solution was to ask the management to employ some club members, including some who had just come back from the Forces.   The suggestion was taken up.    The result was victory at Belle Vue with the Victor Ludorum trophy brought back to Glasgow.   Always active in the community, he also trained the St Bridget’s church running team and worked with local schools.   If we look back at his early days as a pro and his actions in donating hard won prize money to the miners, his whole record in this regard is exemplary.   

Bill Scally (left) passing the baton in the Edinburgh to Glasgow to Les Menelly

Although he could not himself run for Shettleston Harriers, his two sons could.   Bill was the better known and ran in club colours

  •  in the National cross-country championships 15 times between 1959 and 1984, running in gold, silver and bronze winning teams;
  • in 16 Edinburgh to Glasgow races between 1963 and 1986 winning 3 gold and 2 silver team medals and running fastest (1969) and second fastest (three times) on his stage;

  • in the District championships winning many gold, silver and bronze team medals.

Over the period in question the club was extremely strong with many international runners turning out for the club.  eg in the 1959/60 national team were Alastair Wood, Graham Everett, Joe McGhee and Eddie Bannon; in the 1970/71 team were Dick Wedlock, Lachie Stewart, Norman Morrison and Tommy Patterson.   It was not just in Shettleston that the quality was high – the three Edinburgh clubs of Southern, Athletic Club and University were outstanding for most of this period – and it was in this context that Bill ran some of his finest races such as the fastest time on the on the fifth stage of the Edinburgh to Glasgow.  

Although he is best known as a road and cross-country runner, Bill was no mean track runner.   Although he never won a Scottish medal on that surface, he was nationally ranked twelve times between 1964 and 1984 in six events.  

The track events were 3000m steeplechase (best of 9:45.2 in 1972), 3000m (8:44.2 in 1969), 5000m (14:40.8 in 1969), 6 Miles (31:33.2 in 1965) and 10000m (31:11.0 in 1970).   Bill was born in 1941 and became a veteran in 1981 and his best two marathons were as a veteran.   Having run 2:31:21 and 2:35:08 before his 40th birthday, he then ran seasonal bests of 2:32:59, 2:25:00 and 2:24:05 in 1982, ’83 and ’84.

Bill had a very good career as a veeran runner too.   in 1988 and 1992 he was second in the 25K event at the World Vets championships.

Peter McMahon, Jo and Bill Scally, Brian, Elaine and John MacKay

Bill was an out-and-out one club man.   I remember in the 1970’s when many Scottish clubs were using ‘second claim’ runners from other clubs to bulk up their teams for league competition Bill and I were always on the same side.   I remember one year in particular when we sat together in the Meadowbank cafeteria before the meeting agreeing to move and second opposition to the notion of English runners being regarded as ‘first claim in Scotland.’   He was adamant that it should be one man, one club.   Everything he did was with the interests of Shettleston Harriers in mind.   He ran for the club, he managed club teams, he coached club members and was club president between 1989/90 and 1992/93.   Even as team manager for club teams, he was at times seen running an event to complete the team.    He was also an excellent administrator whop helped organise national championships, convened open graded meetings and was treasurer, as well as a founder member, of the Glasgow Athletic Association.   For his work in the sport he was awrded life membership of Shettleston Harriers and of Scottish athletics.   A great club man, a hard runner and the right kind of club man.   You can read more about Bill’s running at

Bill running in the Scottish Veterans Cross-Country Championship in 1985

Bill had an older brother, Frank, who ran for several years but although he did what Bill didn’t and won a club (junior) championship, he never ran in the Edinburgh to Glasgow teams.    He was nevertheless a good runner who was, perhaps, unfortunate to be running in a club with an abundance of top quality runners such as Eddie Bannon, Clark Wallace, George Craig ,  Joe McGhee, Hugo Fox and Ben Bickerton.   Just missing out on Edinburgh to Glasgow selection, he was nevertheless good enough to run in no fewer than three London to Brighton races.   He ran in most races on the Scottish circuit.   Frank ran in the National as a Junior in 1952, and in 1953 when, finishing ninth, he was part of the team than was second.   Slightly further down the field in 1954, he again won team silver.   As a first year senior in 1955, he was not a scoring runner for the winning Shettleston team, but he was in good company – neither was Harry Howard!   Frank ran in the National in 1956 and in 1957 he was, for the first time, a counting runner for the club team when he finished 49th, but unfortunately they were fourth and just out of the medals.   That was to be his last run in the cross-country championship.   In the District championships he was part of the second placed team in 1953/54 as club third scorer ahead of Hugo Fox and Tommy Walters and that was to be his only medal despite running in the event throughout the 50’s with his last recorded run there in 1960.   It was a similar tale with the relays – with Shettleston usually turning out four teams, and on one memorable occasion there were teams down to Shettleston Harriers H team, Frank ran as often as not in the B team with a couple in the C team.    The standard at the top of the club was very high indeed and at a time when Scottish distance running was on a real high with the great Victoria Park road and country team (Forbes, Binnie, et al) and Bellahouston Harriers challenging everything, Frank was unfortunate.   At another time he would have had his share of the spoils of victory! 

Elaine at European Uphill Championships

The Scottish team finished second

Just as Bill ran for the club, so did his two children – Brian and Elaine.   Elaine was a year older than Brian and was a good all round athlete.   Before the age of 18 Elaine was ranked in Hurdles, High Jump, Javelin, 400 Hurdles and Pentathlon.   After a gap of nine years she returned to athletics and was ranked at 800m, 1500m, 3000m and 5000m at various times.   On the country Elaine ran well with the best years maybe being 1993, when she finished seventh of 200 finishers, and 1994 when she was eleventh with Shettleston Harriers Ladies winning the team race.   This allowed her to compete in the European club championships events in Portugal.   She also won the Scottish half marathon title by over a minute  in 1993, won silver over 10 miles in the same year, and silver over 10K in 1994.   At that time the club had a very strong hill running section and Elaine also competed for Scotland in European Uphill Running championships, s well as on the road and over the country for Scotland.   


Brian, second from the left, in the SAAA 1500m final, 1985.   Other runners include Alistair Currie (37), Adrian Callan (1), and John Robson (17).

Brian was the second family member to win a Senior Scottish national title when he won the marathon in 1998 but he had been known on the Scottish running scene since the early 1980’s.   His career had two phases.  Initially he had successful career as a young athlete from 1980 to 1989 running distances from 800m to 300m on the track, and then after a gap of several years he was ranked at national level in distances between 5000m and the marathon between 1996 and 1999.

As a young athlete at club level, he won every cross-country age group title from the Junior Boys in 1980/81 through to the Junior Men in 1985/86 for a total of six in all.   He ran in the National championship in 1980 and in every following title race through to his second year as a Junior Man in 1986 winning gold, silver and bronze team medals and finishing in the top six individuals no fewer than five times.  He ran in the Senior race in 1987 and 1989 when he was first scoring runner in the team that finished third.  

On the track at this time his best performances were 1:54.4 for 800m in 1988,  3;50.7 for 1500m in both 1984 and ’85 then dipping below 3:50 with 3:49.33 in 1989,and  8:21,33 for 3000m in ’85 and 8:19.46 indoors in 1989.   As a youth he had won the West District 800m and 1500m in 1983 but his biggest championship win was when he won the AAA’s indoor 1500m in 1985.   His first Scottish championship medal in 1987 when he was second in the indoor 3000m.   

When he returned in 1996, he immediately ran a 10000m in 30:36.2 which ranked him sixth in Scotland and then in his marathon debut at Inverclyde was third in the national championship in 2:31:37 for ninth best time in the country at a time when the standard in the event was high. Over the next few years he won and performed well in many distance events, eg he won the Newtonmore 10 miles, he won the Argyll Half Marathon and finished third in the Speyside Way 50K in the excellent time of 3 hours 21 minutes.   As a team runner he was part of the sextet that won the Scottish six stage road relay in 1996 and also ran in the team that was second two years later.   His best year at the longer distances was 1998 when he won the Scotttish marathon, again held at Inverclyde, in 2:29:32 which ranked him seventh in the country.   He also turned in times of 30:58.33 for 10000m and 14:55.9 for 5000m.   There was another championship medal the following year when he was third in the Scottish indoor 3000m in 8:38.58.

Currently a very active Over 50 veteran, Power of 10 lists 20 events for 2016 between 800m and 10K, he competed in the World Vets in South Korea this year (2017) and won bronze in the individual 3000m with a time of 9:41.89 and team gold in the cross-country event where he was fifth individual.   

Scottish 6 stage road relays, 1985.   Brian (84) fifth from left, in leading group

It was another distinguished career by a member of the Scally dynasty – surely more than just a ‘family connection’ by now – in the blue and gold colours of Shettleston Harriers.   As runners Frank, Bill and Brian had all run for the club and there was a rather unique record here too: Frank ran in the London to Brighton Road Relay in 1952, ’53 and ’55, Bill had run in it in 1961 and Brian turned out in the AAA 12 stage road relay in 1998.   

Elaine and John

The dynasty continues.   Elaine married international track runner John Mackay from Clydebank and both their son Allan and daughter Nicola are Scottish shot and discus internationalists, and national title winners.   Allan and Nicola won titles as noted above, and Nicola competed in the London Olympic Stadium in the UK Schools Games and in the Celtic International.   Elaine’s husband John (just in front of Brian in the photograph above) went on to win the first stage that afternoon.   First Elaine and then Nicola have followed grandfather Allan and father Bill into coaching making it four successive generations involved on that side of the sport.

Above is Allan Mackay in 2008 and to finish where we started, we have a photograph of the man who started it all with two of his star athletes, Graham Everett and Joe McGhee.


Hugh Barrow’s Milers …

Hugh leading Gaston Roelants at the White City

Hugh Barrow, himself a top class miler in the 1950’s and 60’s, has brought together a collection of photographs and memorabilia on the event from many sources including his own collection, from the internet and from other magazines and cuttings.   It is maybe appropriate to have many of these on the same single page.   Since many of the top men in the 50’s were Australian and New Zealanders, including such as Elliott, Landy, Lincoln, Snell and Davies, there is to start with a preponderance of antipodeans.   We should maybe start with the sentiments of Nerv Lincoln who was the second best runner of the distance (behind Herb Elliott) in his era: at any other time in the history of the event he would have been top dog by a mile (!),   Note his comments here.

It’s a merciless review of his own career and one which I can’t imagine many of the current top domestic milers taking of their own life athletic achievements.    While we are on the subject of sportsmen of a recent era, easily within living memory, there is nothing that needs to be added to this cutting which takes the form of a letter to another Australian, John Landy by a witness to an incident on the track. 

This is how close Merv (on the left) got to Herb – maybe a bit hard on himself in his comments above …

Coach Percy Cerutty and athlete Herb Elliott have a cup of tea …

From New Zealand – he world 4 x 1 mile relay record team …

One of Perce’s books …

Now for John Landy with Roger Bannister after the excellent race in Vancouver in 1954

Landy again – this time as a schoolboy:

And another of the schoolboy Landy

Lining up ..

Outside the fast pack …


more to be added


The Wright Brothers

Jack Wright

Jack Wright

The Wright family of Clydesdale Harriers was a three generational dynasty which produced runners who won national titles, football players and coaches as well as much-in-demand football trainer and physio.   Clydesdale Harriers was founded in May 1885 and the three Wright brothers (Jack, George and William) were founder members.   Jack’s sons Harold ( a sprinter) and Willie (a runner of modest talents but a first rate traainer, masseur and physio) carried on the family traditions and Harold’s son John won the Scottish Junior Championship  twice (1956 and 1957).

In Season 1889/90 the club handbook reported that “The past year was very fruitful in the bringing out and developing of cross-country talent of the very highest class, the best probably being JW McWilliams (cross-country champion of Scotland), C McCann (Scottish CCA Champion), C Pennycook (Scottish One Mile Champion) and Jack Wright (the ‘crack half miler’ but who was prevented by illness from taking part in any of the championships).”   This was no small praise when the Annual Report also said that “At present the Clydesdale Harriers are immensely stronger athletically than any other Scotch organisation.”    By 1890/91 he was the Local Captain for the Dumbartonshire section and was listed as having won one first prize and five seconds in the year as against brother George’s seven firsts, one second and one third.   This was the time of the split between the club and the Scottish Cross Country Association and one of the innovations brought in by the club was the running of a Junior Cross Country Championship of Scotland.   The Annual Report again: “The Scottish Harriers Union held a Junior Championship at which eleven teams competed.   Teams were entirely from our various sections.   The individual cross-country championship was won by Jack Wright in 48:50.”   As far as the SHU Junior Cross Country Championship was concerned his brother George had won it a year earlier.

George was a year older than Jack and won several notable victories in England.   I quote from an article in the ‘Widnes Weekly News’ from 1933:

“Forty years or more ago it is interesting to recall that George Wright was at the zenith of his athletics career.   Born at Rainhill he was one of a family of athletes.   He ran as a boy but was not successful though he was not daunted.   The first race he ever won was the one mile at Preston Pleasure Gardens.   He was then 19 years old.  Hr followed this by beating the late Tommy Burns in the four miles race at Farnworth and was third in the District mile.   A week later he won the mile at St Helens beating Bill Snooks – at this time a prominent runner.   Other successes included the mile at Sutton when he beat Kibblewhite; at Runcorn, Liverpool he beat Frank Lackey, at Woolton where he won the first of many gold medals, and two years in succession at Crompton.   Turning his attention to Scotland he had many great victories, the outstanding one being the winning outright of the Abercorn FC Sports Cup when he beat McWilliams and Gavin Stevenson.   His first victory in Scotland was in February 1889 when he was the Dunbartonshire Cross Country Championship over 10 miles.   At Clyde FC Sports he beat Andrew Hannah in a two mile race and won the mile at Greenock Morton FC meeting covering the distance from a short start in 4 minutes 28 seconds.   Many other successes came his way in Scotland and he was a member of the winning team in the Scottish Cross Country Championships with Clydesdale Harriers.   At Kirkintilloch he was first in the mile and second to his brother in the half mile.   He trained the Dalmuir FC Team for the Buchanan Cup.   Returning to pursue his winning career in England he won the mile at Widnes three times in succession, the two miles Junior Harriers at Manchester in a field of 100 runner4s and the mile at Chadderton, Poolstock and Rainford.   At Widnes in the Open he beat Jennison and at Warrington he beat Massey; he also won the mile at Blackburn Rovers FC Sports.   The Farnworth Harriers eight mile handicap fell to his prowess and he helped the Farnworth team to win the Liverpool District Cross Country Championship.”

 When so long ago as 1898 a representative of the ‘Football Express’ called to see George Wright he found his home almost furnished with his prizes.   He had a bedroom suite and many articles of furniture.   He had gold and silver medals, a dozen marble clocks, half a dozen watches, several cases of cutlery and many Gladstone bags.”

 The runners mentioned above such as William Snooks, Kibblewhite, McWilliams were all noted athletes who are well known to track statisticians.

Jack died in December 1934  and the finest tribute paid to him was by club president Jock Kirkland who said, “Copy him – because in his age and your youth, it was hard to tell who was the younger.”

Willie W

Willie Wright

Harold Wright joined the club in October 1927 and Willie soon after.   Harold was a sprinter and a good one, while Willie, although being a solid club runner, was mainly a committee member and a trainer of athletes and football teams.   He had been vice captain in 1929 but was mainly a General Committee member rather than an office holder.   At the meeting on 2nd May 1932 he was appointed trainer to the club. After training the club runners for a time he resigned the post – but not his club membership – to train the Duntocher Hibernian FC and then Clydebank Juniors and Yoker Athletic Football Clubs.   A good Committee Member and trainer he resigned on 15th September 1933 and Tom Millar said in the ‘Clydebank Press’: “Not so good news item is that trainer Willie Wright is leaving us.   He takes up an appointment with Duntocher FC.   The Wrights have had a lengthy connection with the club.   Mention Jack Wright to an old Harrier and he will tell you the rest.   His two sons have naturally followed in his footsteps – Harold is our champion sprinter and Willie has given good service as a Committee man and trainer.   We are still assured of Willie’s best interest and I know I express the good wishes of the club in saying ‘success in your new job, Willie.’”   That he left on the best of terms was confirmed when it was noted three weeks later that “During the season our enthusiastic trainer Willie Wright took up a new post as trainer to Duntocher Hibernian FC.   In his letter of resignation he mentions that if at any time a member of the club is in need of treatment, he will be very pleased to do all he can for him.” 

 The club then went through several trainers, some of whom stayed for less than a full year.   The club was hungry for success and when they had a good group of athletes together and the trainer left, they again turned to Willie.   It was suggested at the August 1937 Committee Meeting that they approach him to take on the job of trainer.   The Minute of the September meeting reported that “a letter had been received from Mr W Wright accepting the position as trainer to the Harriers.   Mr Wright made a personal appearance at the meeting to discuss arrangements for the following cross country season.   The main features of discussion were: 

  • Each Harrier to supply his own oil for massaging;
  • Mr Wright gave the Committee a list of requisites for training kit;
  • In the event of any difference between him and a club member, the member be referred to the Committee.

 He had clearly worked with committees and sportsmen before and knew what he wanted and needed.   This arrangement carried on until the War started, and the information gives an insight into what was regarded as necessary for the running of a local club.   How many clubs nowadays have this kind of provision for their athletes?

After the War at the Committee Meeting held on 28th September 1945, it was reported that Mr W. Wright had been asked to be the club trainer.   “He will consider filling the post unless any football club asked for him.   He would come along until then.”  He appeared again in the Minute for 12th February 1947: “Trainer’s Expenses and Gratuity: It was generally agreed that a gratuity be given to the trainer (W Wright) at the Presentation Social.   Amount to be £5.   Trainer to be asked to send an account for current expenses.”   

Wright H

Harold Wright

He was a good sprinter but reports indicate that he was an unlucky one.  seems to have been an unlucky one.   The top club sprinter – referred to in the Minutes as our champion sprinter – and winner of many club sprints and track events, he was unlucky that the club had no trophies for track running at the time or he would surely have won several.    He was trained by his father in Clydebank.   They used a farm track off the Great Western Road Boulevard at times where he sometimes ran against a greyhound in training.   As for races, he was a bit unlucky as the race at Monkland Sports indicated.   The ‘Press’ said that Harold had very hard luck in the Open 100 just being pipped in his Heat but ‘his time is only delayed.’   But how unlucky can you get?   A report on the Queen’s Park FC Sports in June 1932 (just one week later) reads as follows: “Harold Wright waltzed through his Heat in the hundred and appeared to do the same in the semi final by at least a foot.   The judges decided otherwise however and the crowd on the terracing were not slow to let them know of their mistake or whatever it was.   The runner who was awarded the race protested to the judges in favour of Wright but it seemed beneath their dignity to change their decision.”   This was not the only case of Harold reaching the second round of the sprint and then losing out to a doubtful decision.

The ‘Press’ report of 17th June 1932 joked that he was maybe wasting his time trying 100 yards handicaps.   He won the 880 yards off 35 yards easily.  This was maybe confirmed two years later when in June 1934 he was second in the half mile off 26 yards behind J Ewan (off 3 yards) and ahead of Tommy Arthur (off 6 yards).   Half miles seem to be a kind of family tradition!     Two weeks later and at the Lochwinnoch Sports Gala he won his Heat of the 220 yards but was unplaced in the Final.   A month later and at the Darvel FC Sports Harold was again in the Final of the Men’s Sprint but failed to qualify being beaten by the ultimate winner of the Final.  All summer he was a regular in relay teams.  

 At the start of the 1933 season he  won his Heat of the 100 at St Peter’s Sports and Excelsior in the ‘Press’ commented that qualifying and not winning was becoming a habit.   Two weeks later Harold ran in the British Legion Sports and had three first places.   He started by winning the invitation 100 yards, then won the handicap 100 yards and then took first in the handicap 220 yards!   1934 was his last competitive season and in the first club confined meeting of the year he was second (off scratch) in the 100 yards to D Strachan (of 2 yards and ahead of H Anderson who was off 5 yards.   In the half mile he was second – off 26 yards this time – to J Ewan (3 yards) and in front of Tommy Arthur (6 yards).   Came the 120 yards in August he won the first Heat, Tommy Arthur won the second and in the Final they dead heated and shared the points.   The only other race reported in the ‘Press’ was the 100 yards at the British Legion Sports (a fairly big local meeting) he as third in the 100 yards, a race so close that it was said only the judges could separate the runners.   The result of the club’s points contest was a win for J Ewan and J Martin on 43 points with Harold third with 39.

Harold’s son John, trained by Willie, won the Scottish Junior (Under 20) Cross Country Championship twice – an entirely Wright Dynasty project.   The parent, coach, athlete triangle being entirely within the family!

Wright Govan

John Wright behind George Govan of Shettleston at Hamilton

John is primarily known as a cross country runner who took up the sport as a Youth (Under 17) in 1954.   In his first run in the National Cross Country Championships was a tenth place in the Youths race – good enough but the following year he was second – only 14 seconds behind Billy Goodwin of Bellahouston Harriers and five ahead of J Ewing of Victoria Park.   The team was also second.

The Bible of Scottish athletics at the time was the ‘Scots Athlete’ magazine produced by Walter Ross and one of its top features was John Emmet Farrell’s Running Commentary which dealt mainly with Scottish athletics in a very knowledgeable way but also covered the international scene.  He previewed the race and then reported on it in some detail and it is his words that are used below.

‘The race for the Junior Cross Country Championship of Scotland appears to be, at least on paper, to be the most open of the races. …………………..Strictly on the basis of the showing at Lenzie, P McParland of Springburn and Geo. Govan of Shettleston who came to the tape in close proximity may be installed as co-favourites with that grand little Clydesdale runner John Wright lying handy.’   (Running Commentary by J Emmet Farrell) was how it was previewed and in the next issue the following report appeared.

‘At least half a dozen runners were forward to win the title but before half distance it was apparent that only P McParland (Springburn) and John Wright of Clydesdale would contest the issue.   The latter running very sweetly indeed stuck to his rival closer than a brother but could not quite cope with his rival’s stronger finish.   A grand win for McParland and a good showing for Wright’s chances next year as he is still a Junior.’

Result:   1.   P McParland (Springburn)     31:26   2.   J Wright        (Clydesdale)     31:36

 John kept working away and was by now one of the stars of the future in Scottish Athletics – indeed he was a ‘star of the present’ and after another year of sterling performances, he was once again a favourite for the National Junior Cross Country title by January of the following year.   Emmet Farrell again previewed the event:

 ‘Slim, consistent John Wright of Clydesdale Harriers looks at the moment a hot contender for this year’s Championship.’      His report of the race in the next issue was the kind that most runners can only dream about:

May 1957:  ‘Slim, immaculately stylish John Wright of Clydesdale running with machine like precision trounced his rivals in the Junior Championship and emerged the easiest winner of the day, an ample compensation for last year’s runner up position.    His form overshadowed the competent running of Edinburgh Eastern’s D. Togwell and Springburn’s J Rooney who finished in front of the more fancied Geo. Govan of Shettleston’.


  1.   J Wright    31:50
  2. D Togneri 32:2
  3. J Rooney   32:52
  4. G Govan     33:02                                                                                  

The following year it was held again at Hamilton Race Course but over a different trail.   In previous years it had been three laps of the race course proper but this time the course left the race course and went down past the Mausoleum and along the banks of the Clyde before coming back up to the course again.   He won again by an even larger margin – this time from Joe Connolly of Bellahouston Harriers leaving many good men such as Tommy Cochrane and Ian Harris of Beith behind him.    He went pn training and racing and went into 1958/59 in good heart.

One of the questions that any athlete would/should be asking at this point would be about the training he was doing to get these results.   Well, he was training six days a week, never training on a Friday.   His week went as follows.

Saturday: A race or an inter club run.

Sunday:    12 laps of the perimeter at the Recreation Ground at Mountblow in Clydebank.   The perimeter was a fairly accurate half mile and his coach, Willie Wright, always believed in a fast start to be right up with the race.   This meant a first lap in about 2:07 followed by another in about 2:12 before settling in to laps of 2:20.   In other words a mile in 4:19 followed by five in 4:40.   It would be a very good session to-day.

Monday:  He would usually run from his home in Linnvale, Clydebank, out to Anniesland Cross (going round the outside of the toilets at the furthest point to make sure the distance was always the same) and back.   This was just under 5 miles and took a bit over 23 minutes.   It was again a fast run.

Tuesday:   It was a club night so he would train from the Baths in Bruce Street with the pack over distances of 10 or 12 miles most nights.

Wednesday: Willie Wright was friendly with Allan Scally the Shettleston Harriers coach so on Wednesdays he would go to Helenvale track in Glasgow and train with Graham Everett.   Where Willie usually got John to do repetition 400’s with 400 jog recovery (which was pretty standard for the time) Scally kept the 400’s in 58 or 59 seconds and progressively reduced the intervals until they were doing 15 x 400 inside 60 seconds with 60 seconds recovery.   (Graham was also an excellent cross country runner but was better known as seven times Scottish One Mile Champion and British Mile Champion who defeated Murray Halberg (New Zealand) for the title).

Thursday:   Another club night but he would only do an easy 4.5 or 5 miles if he was racing on the Saturday.

Friday:   He never ever trained on a Friday.

In 1958, like every other top athlete in the country he wanted to make the team for the Empire Games in Cardiff but only just failed to do so.   The trials were at the Scottish Championships and he ran in the Six Miles on the Friday night where he finished third in 30:22.8 and with three to go he should have been selected.   But the selectors decided instead to take only the first two finishers and add in Ian Binnie who had run but dropped out.   On the Saturday John could do no better than sixth in the Three Miles in 14:40.2.   The track at Meadowbank was very poor and cut up dreadfully so that after the first couple of laps, the runners were running in the third lane.   Most of the athletes signed a letter of protest to the SAAA’s about it.    It was a disappointment but nothing compared to the disappointment the following year over the country.

Although known as a country specialist he was clearly also a considerably good track runner with wins in many open and highland games meetings such as    Shotts, Strathallan, Bute and Cowal.           On one occasion he ran the first stage in the Scottish Medley Relay Championship at Cowal and although not an 800 metres specialist he was barely two metres down on Mike Rawson of Birchfield at the changeover and ahead of some top class half milers such as JP Paterson and Neil Donnachie.

After a good season he finished a very good ninth in the National Cross Country Championship of 1959 in a bunch of three with Connolly (Bellahouston), Ross (Edinburgh Southern) and John being seventh, eighth, ninth.   The selectors decided to take only seven to Lisbon and John and Ross were told they were reserves but not travelling.   The runners spoke to each other and agreed to pay their own fare out to Portugal.   Their clubs put up most of the money and then they were told that there was only room on the plane for seven.   They couldn’t come.   It was finally revealed that most of the plane seats were taken up by officials.   On the day one of the selected seven athletes couldn’t run and John’s name was actually printed in the official programme.   It was this event that led to him joining the Army to do his National Service – all 18 year olds had to do two years of National Service but like many others John had had his deferred because he was doing an apprenticeship in Singer’s Factory and could have had a further extension but he was so peeved that he decided at that point just to go and do it then.

When he reported to Oswestry for six weeks square bashing (ie basic training) he saw that they had a running track and asked one of the regulars if he could do some running.   The guy happened to be the regimental cross country champion and John didn’t get the permission.   After basic training he was posted to Germany and won the regimental championship despite going off the course and then represented the regiment at the Area Championships where he beat the much more fancied runner from the Gordon Highlanders.   They soon approached his regiment asking if he could be transferred to their Unit where he would be expected to train and run and could have every facility to do so.   Without asking him, the offer was turned down and he stayed with the regiment.   He won the Divisional Championships and went to the BAOR Championships at Dusseldorf where he finished second to Ben Grubb – British International cross country and steeplechase runner.   He ran regularly thereafter with such as Ernie Pomfret (another GB Internationalist), Tommy Cochrane of Beith and other high quality athletes.

He also joined a German club – MTV Celle – and ran for them regularly with good results with his friend Terry Wells who had not been a runner before joining up.   He enjoyed this time and combined the club running with Army duties.   When he left the Army he was running really well after training and racing with guys such as Pomfret and Grubb.  He ran a time trial over 3 Miles and was inside 13:30 which looked good for future athletics.

John returned after his two years National Service intent on taking up where he had left off but unfortunately he injured himself on one of the local tracks and despite several years of trying to get back in business of running at the top level had to retire from the sport with his undoubted talent unrealised or tested to the full.

The McPhee Family

Alex McPhee, 1910, SAAA 10 Miles champion

Clydesdale Harriers uniform: White Vest with black trim, club crest on left breast

Students of Scottish miling in particular and middle distance running in particular will be familiar with the name of Duncan McPhee who dominated the distance in Scotland in the 1920’s.   Few will know that his brother was a Scottish champion on the track and over the country, and only a very select few will know that their father was also a top class athlete.   They formed probably the first Scottish distance running dynasty spanning more than one generation.   The Vallance brothers (Tom and Alex were Scottish champions and record holders, Tom and Willie Maley were also great sporting brothers and along with brother Alex all became football managers, and there were other noted siblings but none of them had parents or children who followed in their footsteps.

Alex McPhee, senior, and Flora his wife had nine children: Alexander was a blacksmith of Nethercraigs, Paisley.  The smithy was on Corsebar Road next to the toll house.  All his elder brothers including Alex were evidently in the  blacksmith trade.   His dad, Alex, was himself a well-known runner in his day and competed against the likes of Robert Hindle, Cutty Smith and William Park; some of the biggest names in Scottish pedestrianism.    

Alex Wilson pointed out an article in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ of 8th April, 1872, of a race involving Alex McPhee, Snr.


On Saturday a number of foot-races took place in the Cattle Market.  The weather being very favourable, there was a large turnout of people, the majority of whom were from the neighbourhood.   …   The chief feature of the meeting was a Six Mile race which was very well contested, and excited considerable interest.   The following were the prize-takers:  

Six Mile Race:   1st William Smith, Paisley;   2nd Alex McPhee, Paisley;  3rd Allan Strachan, Galston.  

Two Mile Race:  1st Robert Hindle, Paisley;   2nd William Smith;   3rd Alex McPhee.”

Alex McPhee with the 1908 International Cross-Country team

Alex, junior (born in 1887) won two Scottish cross-country titles (1909, 1910) and  Cross-Country International vests in 1909, 1910 and 1911.  He first appeared on the national cross-country scene in 1907 when he won the District championship in the colours of Paisley Junior Harriers.   Colin Shields in “Whatever the Weather” says: “McPhee, running for Paisley Junior Harriers, won the Western District title.   After this success, McPhee was quickly signed by the powerful Clydesdale club to strengthen their team and he won two National titles in their colours.”   He showed that this running was to be expected of him when he finished second in the National on 8th May 1908.   Shields again: “Alex McPhee looked the likely winner, only for Jack to catch him on the final lap of the cinder track in the Stadium and snatch victory by less than six inches.   McPhee had the satisfaction of winning the Junior title.”   Tom Jack was one of the all-time great Scottish athletes – seven 10 miles championship titles to his name, six were consecutive and be slipped back to thir before winning his seventh title eight years after his first.      He also won national cross-country titles and represented Scotyland Britain in international competition.  It can be seen that McPhee was running well against the best.   In 1909 he went one better and won the Scottish championship by 130 yards from Templeman of Bellahouston Harriers with Jack third.   In the international that year he had a bad fall at a water-jump and fell back winded to finish 34th.   The following year, 1910, he won the national by 70 yards from Duffy of Edinburgh Northern Harriers and Tom Jack again in third.   Contemporary description was that Alex McPhee was

“One of the best runners Scotland has given to amateur athletics”

In the international that year he was first Scot to finish when he was eighth.In 1911, he dropped out of the national championship but was nevertheless selected for the international where he was thirty first.

Not just a cross-country man,  he also competed in Scotland’s first ever “marathon” race, the Scottish Marathon of 24th October 1908 from Linlithgow to the National Exhibition in Edinburgh.   He finished the 15 miler in 21st place of the 60 runners who finished the race.   In winter 1908/09, as well as being Clydesdale Harriers captain, he won the SCCU Championship and also won it in 1909/10

Despite all this success over the country and prowess on the roads, he was more of a track man who was second in the 1909 SAAA 10 miles at Ibrox on 3rd April in 54:04.0, beaten by a yard by the great Tom Jack.    In 1910 he again finished runner-up to Jack, this time finishing 5 yards adrift in 53:47.4, and ahead of GCL Wallach.    Two silvers were good but in the shorter track distance of four miles, he won two gold medals.   On 26th June 1909 at Ibrox he won the four miles in 20:36.6 from Tom Jack and on 25th June 1909 at Powderhall he won again, again from Tom Jack, in 20:35.0.   Note that in 1909 and 1910 he won two cross-country championships, two SAAA 4  miles titles and had two silvers for the 10 miles.   Not bad running at all.   For these and other races, he was selected for the match against Ireland on 9th July 1910 he won, again from Tom Jack with the two Irish runners unplaced, in 20:29.4 helping Scotland to a win by 9 events to two.

 I have a 9:48.8 2 miles at Hampden on 18th June 1910.    At  Hampden on 18th June, in the Queen’s Park FC Sports 2 miles  team race on 18th June he ran 9:48.2 – and a J McPhee, jnr, of Paisley Junior Harriers, was second to T Jack in the handicap half-mile.

That the junior Alex McPhee was a top level runner is in no doubt – track and cross-country champion, international victor and cross-country internationalist who led the Scottish team home, able to take on such as Tom Jack and GCL Wallach on equal terms and a series of good victories in handicap races.

Duncan McPhee, 1914

According to the 1901 census, Duncan was at the time the second youngest of 9 children.   Brother Alex was six years his senior and all his elder brothers were in the  blacksmith trade.   But the 1911 census reveals that Duncan was earning his crust as a clerk in a threadmill, the Ferguslie Mills Thread Works of J&P Coats being just a few streets away.

Duncan McPhee was the dominant 880 yards/1 Mile runner in Scotland in the 1920’s.   He won the SAAA  880 yards in 1914, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, the mile in 1913, 1914, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923; AAA’s Mile Champion 1922, and represented Britain in the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp in the 1500m and 3000m team race.   A considerably good record.   He came from a good athletics background and was in many ways the best- or atleast most successful of the trio.   If there was any chink in his armour, there seemed to be a propensity to avoid difficult races.   He was maybe just highly strung.   Judge for yourself at the complete Duncan McPhee profile at   In any case in 1913/14  both Alex junior and Duncan moved from Clydesdale Harriers to West of Scotland for reasons unknown.

Be that as it may, it was a very talented family and it may be that others of the 9 siblings were good runners, but even if it were not so the three mentioned here were enough to make them contenders for Scotland’s top athletics family.

All in the Family

Bellahouston Craig

The picture above is of Archie “Baldie” Craig, Bellahouston Harriers – a great athlete, a loyal club man and a long standing servant of the sport in Scotland who was also father of two sons, Archie junior and George who both ran for Scotland.   There have been several families that produced top class athletes and they should may be recognised here.    The Craigs have been covered individually and the links will be included but we can start with the McPhees – father Alex ran in the 1880’s and his eldes son Alex was a member of Clydesdale Harriers who ran prior to the first world war and his younger son Duncan ran initially for Clydesdale but switched to West of Scotland Harriers after 1918.   Others will be covered as time goes on, the criterion is simply that there are three or more runners (male of female) from two or more generations.   ie the Hasketts from Dundee would be included because there are three runners from two generations – Charlie and Christine and their father Charlie, but the Robsons would not be because there are only two of them and they are of the same generation.   The exception is the Spence family – all of the one generation but there were no fewer than five of them, and in addition George’s wife Pat was a noted runner in her own right.

[ The Craigs ]   [ The McPhees ] [ The Spence Boys ] [ The Wrights ] [ The Scally Dynasty]

The Craig family


Archie Craig, senior, founder of the dynasty. 

The Remarkable Family Craig have all been profiled elsewhere and this page provides a guide to these pages.   It does not make them any less noteworthy but they can’t be omitted from here.

Archie Craig was a Scottish cross-country runner from 1913 to 1924 – it doesn’t take a genius to note that he lost several of his best years to the 1914-18 war, but nevertheless he was good enough to captain the team and to run well on the track, over the coumntry and on the road for Bellahouston Harriers and he went on to become the president of the national governing body for the sport.   His profile can be found at

His older son, also Archie, ran for Shettleston Harriers and also ran for Scotland over the country in 1938 and 1939.   Again, like his father he missed out on a very good career because of the War – in his case the Second War: the family had good reason to resent these goings -on on the continent.   His career is the subject of a profile at

George was the younger of the sons and also a very talented athlete, but one whose career was not blighted by any war.    Running just before and after the Second War, he won the Scottish AAA 6 Miles championship in 1947 and ran cross-country for the country in 1948, ’49 and ’50.    His career is detailed at

Scottish International Marathon Men 1979-90


Start of the Enschede Marathon: note Willie Day, Sandy Keith, Jim Dingwall, with others like Ron Hill and Dave Cannon also present.

[This list concentrates on marathon runners who, between 1979 and 1990, were selected for small Scottish teams which contested international matches within city marathons. Excluded are Commonwealth Games performances (by Jim Dingwall, John Graham, Graham Laing and Fraser Clyne) since these have been noted already in the complete Scottish International track and field records by the Scottish Association of Track Statisticians – SATS.]


8/7/79 – the B.L.E. marathon (held at Tullamore in conjunction with the Scotland v Denmark v Ireland Track and Field contest), featured a Marathon International match with two man teams from Ireland (1st), England (2nd), Wales (3rd) and Scotland (4th).

For Scotland, Dave Clark was 2nd in 2.18.01; and Colin Youngson 22nd in 2.30.42.


14/9/80 – The Glasgow Marathon included an international team match for the first time – England won from Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Scotland did not finish.

Jim Dingwall of Scotland won in 2.16.07. Alastair Macfarlane and Colin Martin did not finish. The next two Scots to finish were Aberdeen’s Graham Milne (7th in 2.24.47) and Clyde Valley’s Joe Small (9th in 2.25.57.)

28/9/80 – The Aberdeen Marathon featured, in finishing order, England v Scotland v Wales v Northern Ireland. Three to count.

For Scotland, Graham Laing won in 2.19.33, Don Macgregor was 7th in 2.26.48 (1st Veteran), and Evan Cameron 9th in 2.30.13.


Alastair Macfarlane, Colin Youngson and Don Macgregor


27/9/81 – The Aberdeen Marathon featured, in finishing order, England v Scotland v Wales. Three to count.

For Scotland, Don Macgregor finished 3rd in 2.21.52 (1st Vet); Evan Cameron 7th in 2.26.23; and Graham Milne 9th in 2.27.13.

18/10/81 – The Glasgow International Marathon included a match between (in finishing order) Scotland v Wales v Northern Ireland v Eire.

For Scotland, Colin Youngson was 4th in 2.19.12, Des Austin 5th in 2.19.19 and Alastair Macfarlane 6th in 2.21.01. All three counters were required. The Scottish team was presented with specially inscribed SAAA gold medals.


19/9/82 – The Aberdeen Marathon featured a match between (in finishing order) Wales v Scotland v England v Northern Ireland. Three to count.

For Scotland, Fraser Clyne was 3rd in 2.19.58, Colin Youngson 4th in 2.21.03 and Peter Wilson 10th in 2.26.20.

5/9/82 – The Edinburgh Marathon included a match between (in finishing order) England 7pts, Scotland 23 and Netherlands 25). For Scotland, Lindsay Robertson was third, Sandy Keith 8th and Craig Ross 12th. Three to count.

17/10/82 – The Scotts Porage Oats Marathon in Glasgow, which was billed as the first Scottish People’s Marathon, included a match between (in finishing order) England v Scotland v Wales. (Northern Ireland, Eire and Spain also ran.) Two counters were required.

For the official Scotland team, Jim Brown finished 4th in 2.20.38; Evan Cameron was 9th in 2.21.58; and Don Macgregor 10th in 2.22.06.


13/3/83 – Barcelona Marathon. The Scottish team won, in front of Catalunya and Spain. Three to count.

For Scotland, Lindsay Robertson finished 6th in 2:2:18:02, Andy Daly was 10th (2:20:09) and Craig Ross 17th (2:22:26).

11/9/83 – The Glasgow Marathon included a match between (in finishing order) Scotland v Wales v England v Northern Ireland v Eire. Three to run, two to count.

For Scotland, Peter Fleming won in 2.17.46, Colin Youngson was 4th in 2.19.18 and Andy Daly 6th in 2.19.30. For the first time, due to sponsorship by a Japanese firm, a Scotland tracksuit, shorts and vest were given to each of the three team members; and later on, engraved glass trophies were handed over. John Fairgrieve was team manager. (Later in the decade, sponsorship was given by an American firm, and Scotland wetsuits as well as tracksuits, shorts, teeshirt and vest were handed out liberally).

18/9/83 – The Aberdeen Marathon included a match between (in finishing order) England v Wales v Northern Ireland v Scotland, but we did not finish a team, since Graham Laing dropped out at 18 miles after leading to 14 miles.

For Scotland, Peter Wilson was 6th in 2.21.53 and Don Ritchie 9th in 2.25.20.

Glasgow Marathon 1985 - The Scots..

Glasgow Marathon, 1983, with Murray McNaught , Jim Brown , Andy Daly, Charlie Haskett, Evan Cameron and Don Macgregor


18/3/84 – The Barcelona Marathon included a match between many nations. The first three to finish were: Catalunya, Spain and Scotland. Three to count.

For Scotland, Lindsay Robertson finished 6th in 2.16.15, Peter Wilson 21st in 2.21.42 and Colin Youngson 28th in 2.26.04. John Fairgrieve was team manager.

30/9/84 – The Glasgow Marathon included a match between (in finishing order) England v Scotland (did not finish) v five other countries. Two to count.

For Scotland, Jim Dingwall was 5th in 2.16.44 but Peter Wilson did not complete the course.

16/9/84 – The Aberdeen Marathon included a match between (in finishing order) England v Scotland v Eire v Northern Ireland.

For Scotland, George Reynolds was 2nd (and SAAA champion) in 2.21.04, Charlie Haskett 4th (2.21.37) and Colin Youngson 6th (2.23.36).


17/3/85 – The Barcelona marathon featured an international team match against top continental opposition. Scotland finished first team with three runners in the top six.

For Scotland, Paul Kenney finished second in 2.18.34; Tony Coyne was third in 2.21.33; and Mike Carroll sixth in 2.22.31.

1/9/85 – The Edinburgh Waverley Market Marathon included a match between (in finishing order) Scotland, Wales, Eire and England. Three to run, with two to score (with positions added for a cumulative total).

For Scotland, Mike Carroll won in 2.18.41; Scott MacDonald (Swindon) was second in 2.22.01; and Murray McNaught tenth in 2.27.54. [Certainly, as far as the Welsh team was concerned, this was an international match and Scotland won clearly with a total of 3 points (1st and 2nd places)].

15/9/85 – The Aberdeen Marathon included a match between (in finishing order) England v Wales v ‘Europe’ v Scotland. Three to run and three to count.

For Scotland, Colin Youngson finished 2nd in 2.23.58, Craig Ross was 12th in 2.38.14 and Don Ritchie 36th in 2.57. 43. Craig and Don got into considerable difficulties and did well to finish on the new, tougher course.

22/9/85 – The Glasgow marathon included a match between (in finishing order) England v Wales.v Scotland.

Mike Carroll from Annan & District (2.18.24) finished 6th, with Don Macgregor (2.19.36) 10th (and first veteran yet again). Those two beat all of the official Scotland team: Jim Brown (12th in 2.19.50); Graham Getty (24th in 2.23.25); and Evan Cameron (39th in 2.26.39).


18/5/86 – Wales hosted a four nation fixture at Bridgend, which incorporated the Welsh Championship and a match between (in finishing order) England v Catalonia v Wales v Scotland. Two counters were needed; and a cumulative time.

For Scotland, Frank Harper finished 7th in 2.29.49; the other Scots were Doug Hunter and Keith Lyall. This was a two-lap, extremely hilly course.

25/5/86 – The Aberdeen Marathon featured a match between (in finishing order) England and Scotland. Four to run, three to count.

For Scotland, Colin Youngson finished 4th in 2.27.56, Allan Adams was 5th (and first veteran) in 2.29.10, Doug Cowie 8th in 2.34.37 and Don Ritchie 9th in 2.36.53.

21/9/86 – The Glasgow Marathon included a match between (in finishing order) England v Wales v Scotland.

For Scotland, Frank Harper finished 4th in 2.18.44; Allan Adams was 15th and first veteran in a ‘lifetime best’ 2.23.03; and Murray McNaught 23rd in 2.26.04.

Glasgow Marathon

Glasgow Marathon


24/5/87 – The Aberdeen Marathon included a match between (in finishing order) England v Scotland v Wales. Four to run, three to count.

For Scotland, Rob Hall was 3rd in 2.29.54, Doug Cowie 6th in 2.30.49, Bobby Ronald 10th in 2.31.09 and Don Ritchie 11th in 2.34.27.

5/7/87 – The Bridgend Marathon, which was the Welsh Championships over a tough course, included an international team contest. The finishing order was: Wales, Scotland, Catalonia.

For Scotland, Davie Watt was 2nd in 2.28.50, Craig Ross 6th in 2.43.46 and Samuel Graves 7th in 2.50.27.

20/9/87 – The last Glasgow Marathon did not include a true International team match. Glasgow (Daly and Robertson) won an Inter-City contest, beating Cardiff and Dublin. First Scot was Terry Mitchell (2nd in 2.19.40) and 3rd was Hammy Cox (2.19.43). Brian Carty finished 17th and first veteran in 2.25.18.


22/5/88 – The Aberdeen Marathon included a match between (in finishing order) Scotland v England v Wales. Four to run, three to count.

For Scotland, Hammy Cox won in 2.21.15, Frank Harper was second in 2.22.20, Doug Cowie 6th in 2.26.21 and Colin Youngson 10th (and 1st Veteran) in 2.28.38. Engraved plaques were the team prizes.

18/9//88 – The Anglesey Marathon included an international contest, featuring (in finishing order) Wales v Northern Ireland v Scotland v Spain. The island course was a tough, undulating one.

For Scotland, Sam (or Ian) Graves finished tenth in 2:34:22; John Duffy 12th in 2.37.12; and Rod Bell 18th in 2.40.55.


20/3/89 – The Barcelona Marathon included a team result (in finishing order) of Wales, Scotland, and Catalonia 3rd. However no mention of the Scottish runners can be found. Welsh runners were: 13 Tegid Roberts 2:24:40, 18 Arwel Lewis 2:27:02 and 24 Dic Evans 2:29:29.

28/5/89 – The Aberdeen Marathon included a match between (in finishing order) England v Scotland v Wales. Four to run, three to count.

For Scotland, Terry Mitchell was 2nd in 2.24.53, Rob Hall 2.29.35 and Colin Youngson 7th (and first veteran) in 2.31.23. Alan Robson did not finish.

10/9/89 – The Anglesey Marathon included the Welsh Championships and Commonwealth Games Trial. Included was an international contest (3 to run, all 3 to score) between (in finishing order) Wales (1,3 and 9), Northern Ireland (4,6,7) and Scotland (dnf – 2, 5).

For Scotland, Charlie McIntyre finished 4th in 2.31.56 (but 2nd in the team contest) and Doug Cowie 8th in 2.39.06 (but 5th in the team contest. There is no record of the third Scot who dropped out, unless Scotland only sent two runners.

Enschede 2

Another from Enschede 1977: Sandy Keith, Willie Day and Colin Youngson (47) are the easy ones to spot


27/5/1990 – The last Aberdeen Marathon included a match between (in finishing order) England v Wales v Scotland. Four to run, three to count.

For Scotland, Charlie McIntyre finished 4th in 2.26.50, Don Ritchie 7th in 2.31.00, and Doug Cowie 10th in 2.32.55. Colin Youngson did not finish.

22/7/1990 – The Luton Marathon included a match between (in finishing order) Wales and Scotland.

For Scotland, Charlie McIntyre finished third in 2.30.00; Frank Harper 7th in 2.33.34; and Doug Cowie, who unfortunately twisted his ankle on the morning of the race, 14th in 2.45.07. Three counters were necessary so, against advice, the brave lad felt that he had to run.

6 Marstars

London 1995: Allister Hutton, Lindsay Robertson, Jim Dingwall, Andy Daly, Don Ritchie,Fraser Clyne and Rab Marshall


(Not including Commonwealth Games performances)

Allan Adams            1986 (2) = 2

Des Austin               1981 = 1

Rod Bell                    1988 = 1

Jim Brown                1982, 1985 = 2

Evan Cameron        1980, 1981, 1982, 1985 = 4

Mike Carroll              1985 (2) = 2

Dave Clark               1979 = 1

Fraser Clyne            1982 = 1

Douglas Cowie       1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990 (2) = 6

Tony Coyne             1985 = 1

Hammy Cox             1988 = 1

Andy Daly                 1983 (2) = 2

Jim Dingwall            1980, 1984 = 2

John Duffy               1988 = 1

Peter Fleming          1983 = 1

Graham Getty          1985 = 1

Sam Graves             1987, 1988 = 2

Rob Hall                    1987, 1989 = 2

Frank Harper           1986 (2), 1988, 1990 = 4

Charlie Haskett       1984 = 1

Doug Hunter            1986 = 1

Paul Kenney            1985 = 1

Sandy Keith             1982 = 1

Graham Laing         1980, 1983 = 2

Keith Lyall                1986 = 1

Scott MacDonald    1985 = 1

Alastair Macfarlane1980, 1981 = 2

Donald Macgregor 1980, 1981, 1982,1984  = 4

Charlie McIntyre     1989, 1990 (2) = 3

Murray McNaught  1985, 1986 = 2

Colin Martin             1980 = 1

Graham Milne          1981 = 1

Terry Mitchell           1989 = 1

George Reynolds   1984 = 1

Donald Ritchie        1983, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1990 = 5

Lindsay Robertson 1982, 1983, 1984 = 3

Alan Robson           1989 = 1

Bobby Ronald         1987 = 1

Craig Ross               1982, 1983, 1985, 1987 = 4

Lawrie Spence        1984 = 1

Davie Watt                1987 = 1

Peter Wilson            1982, 1983, 1984 (2) = 4

Colin Youngson     1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984 (2), 1985, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990 = 11


28/8/88 – The Livingston Half Marathon included an international match, featuring (in finishing order): England v Scotland v Northern Ireland v Wales. Three to run, two to count.

For Scotland, Peter Fleming finished third in 65:13; Charlie Haskett fourth in 66.26; and Hammy Cox 13th in 70.16.

NB  Apparently, there was also a Half Marathon international at Livingston on 30 Aug. 1987.

Dave Clark

DC Arc


Just behind him is the Admiralty Arch as he strides out down The Mall

Colin Youngson writes this tribute to one of Scotland’s best ever but least known marathon runners. Dave Clark came to marathon running comparatively late in his running career but had an amazing and swift impact and Colin covers his career in detail.

David R Clark (Born 7th October 1943) developed rather late as a marathoner.   He first broke 2:20 at the age of 35 in 1978, and for the next nine years had an outstanding career.   Born in Aberdeen he went to Aberdeen Grammar School – as did Mel and I – and went straight to Aberdeen University from there.    Arguably he became the most successful Over 40 marathon runner Britain has ever produced.   When I joined Aberdeen University Hares and Hounds in October 1966 he had already graduated and moved South.   His team mates had included Scottish International runners like Mel Edwards and Bill Ewing, and I knew that Dave had won a ‘half-blue’ for cross-country running.    We first met after the British Universities Sports Federation Cross-Country Championships on Saturday 4th February 1967.   This was my very first trip to London and nothing had prepared me for Parliament Hill Fields!   After struggling through six miles of mud and hills, and finishing 77th from 270 (but second Aberdonian), I hope that I showered before we headed off downtown.   Our guide was spectator Dave Clark, who made us walk ‘miles’ through the strange city before introducing us to his favourite Indian restaurant.   There he encouraged us to sample curries hotter than hell.   When we failed to clear our plates he did so with relish.   Had he been born in India?   Did he have a cast-iron stomach?   Obviously a hard guy, despite his medium height, trademark spectacles and otherwise civilised demeanour.

Ten years later we met for the second time!   Dave was living in St Albans by then.   He fills the gap thus:

“I enjoyed running from an early age.   At school it was not only an escape from team games involving balls but something that I was surprised to find myself quite good at.   For most of my career I had survived on a theory based on the benefits of rest.   A training run on a Wednesday for a race on Saturday was enough.   However having done a 10 miler around 1970 and suffered in the last five, I was aware that longer distances needed proper preparation.   So it was in 1975 that, encouraged by team mates who felt I could do it, I got it into my head to run a marathon before I retired from the sport.   With a steady job in London the obvious way to increase the mileage was to use this journey to good advantage.   So it was out at 7:20 am, then on the train to West Hampstead, Cricklewood or Hendon, and a run into Piccadilly Circus (via a patisserie) , a quick shower and ready to go at 9:00 am.   Then in the evening, the same in reverse.   I also extended my Sunday morning runs with my Verlea team mates, finding parts of the county I never knew existed.   With confidence I tried an all-the-way-home run.   John Dryden (Shaftesbury Harriers) took me his favourite route through Regent’s Park, Primrose Hill, Hampstead Heath, Golders Green to near his house in North London, leaving me to finish the run on my own.   The route was as rural as possible and pathfinding was tricky but I made it and thereafter tried to do this run once a week if I had no serious race at the weekend.   This regime, with additional runs through Hyde Park at lunchtime, eventually led to (one) week of 130 miles.   But one of the first effects of this new regime was improved results at shorter distances – even when there was no easing up for the race.   One early success – possibly because of the rural nature of most of the training – was a fourth place in the Orion 15 in March 1976, only a minute behind the winner.   This is a wonderfully muddy cross-country course in Epping Forest which I have always loved.  

I had decided to make my marathon debut in Milton Keynes, the RRC Marathon in July, so the training was geared to that – the other races being part of the build up.   So I was not disappointed in tenth place over 16 miles in the Clydebank to Helensburgh in April or 52:35 in the Hampstead 10 in May.   By this time the temperature was rising and we were due to have a real barbecue summer.   My plan for the marathon was to acclimatise myself by running the Welwyn Half Marathon the previous weekend without drinking any water.    By ten miles I was in third place.   My memory of finishing is hazy.   I almost lost consciousness and was ill for the rest of the day, but later found out that I was fifth in 76 minutes.   But the message was clear, drink early and drink often!   This paid off the following week: the temperature was 33 degrees C (91 degrees F) but I loved it.   Running with a club-mate, we agreed to start slowly and run together as far as we could.   We were around thirtieth at 10K but still running steadily and seeing other runners drop out.   I was eighteenth at 20K, tenth at 35K and finished ninth in 2:34:53 , tired but elated.   The atmosphere was way beyond that of a normal road race – we were all survivors of a shared experience and I was hooked – the marathon was going to be my event.

Later that summer I was a very close second to Graham Milne in Inverness to Drumnadrochit Road Race and then sixth in the Achmony Hill Race about  an hour later.   This crazy regime continued until September when I ran the Ben race as a training run the week before the Poly Marathon at Windsor.   I was not too concerned about finishing 40th on Ben Nevis.   Having dropped from the first ten at the summit, I was inhibited from running fast downhill due to a desire to remain alive with a full complement of limbs.   I started the Poly full of confidence and felt very easy in fifth place in 53 minutes for 10 miles.   At 20 I hit the wall.   My eleventh place in 2:28:48 was respectable but in my first year I had learned a great deal about marathon running – and my own limits.   From then on the event was not only in the blood but in the brain as well, and every waking hour was spent on working out how to improve my performance.

At work there was one of these new devices called a computer and I arranged to come in early and wrote a program which would take my daily food intake and calculate its value in terms of carbohydrate, Fat, protein and dozens of vitamins and minerals.   I read running books – Arthur Lydiard was particularly valuable –  and discussed training methods with my club-mate John Steed.   We developed a method called ‘modelling’ which involved running three miles very easily as a warm-up, then a fast sub-5 minute mile, followed by 5 miles of tempo running at 5:30/mile, finishing with 100m sprint and a few warm-down miles.   This was intended to replicate race conditions and build an ability to sprint to a finish line when totally shattered.   I read Ron Hill on carbo-depletion and resolved to try it next year.”

1977 started well for Dave Clark with a fourth place in the Hampstead 10 in April in 49:53 (his first time sub-50) as a build up to the AAA’s marathon in Rugby.   On 7th May, 1977, representing Verlea, he finished a solid tenth in 2:21:54, two places behind Jim Dingwall who did have a cold.   This led to his first GB vest for a 25Km road race in northern France.   The GB team filled the first five places and Dave was fourth.   Then he turned up on 25th June for the SAAA Marathon in Edinburgh.   This was the year that Jim Dingwall broke my championship record by 45 seconds reducing it to 2:16:05.   Willie Day recorded a very good 2:17:56 and Sandy Keith 2:18:52.   After running with Dave for a long time I managed to get away to finish in 2:19:35 while he slowed a bit to fifth in 2:21:18.   And that, I suspect, is the only time I have finished in front of him in a marathon.   Not content, Dave actually recorded his first marathon win (in 2:22:50) on a return visit to Rugby on 4th September 1977.   He ended the season with a fourth place in the Northwood half marathon in 1:03:40 on a course which he hopes was the correct length and 34th position in the UK marathon rankings.

M4 DC 2

Dave on the left with GB team mates Greg Hannon (NI), Sandy Keith, Bernie Plain (Wales), Paul Eales (England)

at the Karl-Marx-Stadt marathon, 1/9/79

So far so good but there was a good deal more to come from Dave Clark.   In April 1978 he was second (1:42:52) in the prestigious Finchley 20 (beaten by a fast finishing Tony Simmons who, ironically, had not entered the Inter-Counties Championship, allowing Dave to collect the winner’s cup.   Both had been using the ’20’ as preparation for the AAA’s at Sandbach on 7th May which was the selection race for the Commonwealth Games and European Championships.   Simmons won but Dave, who had been second Scot behind Jim Dingwall, developed a foot injury and fell back to finish 29th in 2:20:26, still a personal best.   On holiday in Finland in the summer, he recorded 2:27:57 for fourth place in Jakobstad, and on returning to Rugby had to concede victory finishing second in 2:22:25.   On 14th October he was fourth (53:55) in the famous Paris to Versailles race over 16.3 km.   Two weeks later Dave finished second in the Unigate Harlow Marathon breaking 2:20 easily to record 2:17:55.

1979 was even better with Dave Clark showing real consistency at a high level.   On 3rd March for Aberdeen AAC, he was fourth (51:32) over a hilly course against a classy field in the Edinburgh University 10; a week later he ran a brisk 49:10 in the Tonbridge 10; and then on the 25th March produced another PB (2:16:01 for eighth on the Scottish all-time list) when, representing Great Britain he finished second in the International Essonne Marathon in France.   Dave wrote about this race in the SMC magazine.   He took an early lead but at 13km his GB team mate, Paul Eales, shot off and by half way was 350 metres in front of Dave, the French champion Kolbeck and Go Tchoun Sein, a Korean who had won the classic Kosice marathon.   The Korean escaped at 26 km but Dave Clark managed to move away from the Frenchman at 30 km.   Eventually Paul Eales slowed down allowing Dave to pass him.   He wrote “The Korean, Go, had gone and was nowhere to be seen.”     Go went all right – on to win in 2:13:34 but Dave had worn the British vest with distinction finishing well in front of good English competitors like Paul Eales, Barry Watson and Mike Gratton, although North Korea won the team race with Britain second.

Dave Clark showed impressive powers of recovery by running 2:18:29 for forty third in the world class Boston Marathon on 16th April 1979.   Jim Dingwall was fifty eighth in 2:20:18.   This was another salutary learning experience – at this time fields of thousands were unknown in Britain, and to be left in the cold for half an hour without one’s tracksuit  resulted in two hours of agony.   Back home the AAA’s marathon was at Coventry with Dave finishing tenth in 2:25:56, the time reflecting Dave’s caution in the sweltering conditions.   Then on 8th July, I learned only too well how Dave had improved.   The two of us were selected to run for Scotland in the BLE (Eire) marathon championship at Tullamore which was held at the same time as a triangular athletics contest between Scotland, Denmark and Ireland.   English and Welsh teams competed in the marathon too.   I believe that, running into a headwind, a large group of about 20 reached halfway with Graham Dugdale of England ahead.   After the turn the race speeded up and I was left grovelling to finish a miserable twenty second in an exhausted 2:30:42.   Dave, however, who had impressed me before the race with his immaculate preparation for the race, involving the use of a humidity meter, came very close to winning but eventually finished only second, only 15 seconds behind Ireland’s Pat Hooper whose time was 2:17:46.

A British vest and a Scottish one, plus three sub-2:20’s in less than four months.   Characteristically, Dave battled on remorselessly.    On 1st September, running for GB once more, he finished third (2:18:22) in the well-known Karl-Marx-Stadt marathon in East Germany.   Then he rounded off a great year with fourth place in the Paris to Versailles (52:36) and second in the Pol-de-Leon to Morlaix, France.   By now Dave Clark had become an experienced and well-respected international marathon runner.   He was ranked eighth in the Athletics Weekly UK Merit Rankings for the Marathon in 1979.   Surely this had been his finest hour?

Not at all.   Although injuries might have intervened to restrict Dave’s racing, he ran for Scotland in the Swintex 25km, and for GB in Le Quesnoy, France, in July before spending the summer in Switzerland and doing mountain races including twelfth place in the tough Sierre-Zinal 28 km race with 1900 feet of climbing.   At the international  30km at Lillois, Belgium, in August he wore the GB vest for third place in 1:36:20.   On 28th September 1980 he finished second (2:19:33) in the Berlin marathon, running by now to a highly controlled even pace regime of 16:30 per 10K.

M4 DC 3

On Sierre Zinal, 1983

1981 did not start well due to a number of injuries.   On 29th March 1981 he was 29th (2:21:37) in the first London marathon, then on 10th May, sixth (2:20:01) in the AAA’s, seventh 2:18:42 at Sandbach in June and on 27th September, third (2:20:10) at Berlin, again after another summer in France and Switzerland racing every weekend.

1982 produced Dave’s fastest times.   On 14th March 1982 he was seventh in a sizzling 2:15:06.   The event was the Romaratona marathon in Rome and the course may have been 120 metres short.   However Dave provided crystal-clear proof of his fitness on 9th May when he finished seventh once again, but this time in the London marathon, to record a permanent PB of 2:15:28.   Even in late 2010, this makes Dave Clark 14th on the Scottish all-time list  (plus 125th on the British one and 18th on the British M35 one).   Dave ran two more marathons that year: on 8th August he won the Col de Lumiere race in France in 2:22:22, and following a win in the Luton 10, on 26th September he recorded  2:18:36 for eleventh (for GB again with Jim Dingwall as team-mate) in Beijing, China.

1983 started with third place (2:19:14) in Hong Kong on 22nd January, won by Jim Dingwall in 2:15:48, followed by 45th (2:16:06) in London on 17th April.   Then on 29th May, fifth (2:18:19) in Geneva; on 3rd July a win in (2:21:51) in the Pennine marathon for which the prize was a trip with entry to the New York marathon.   Only two weeks later he won the Caithness marathon in 2:20:34.   Dave Clark was three months short of his fortieth birthday!   Not content to rest he finished seventh (2:24:27) in the Adidas British Marathon in Bolton on 21st August.   His veteran adventure was about to begin.   He would prove to be a true ‘Master’.

What a start!   On 23rd October 1983 in the classic New York marathon, Dave Clark finished 40th and first Master in 2:17:30.   This performance places him sixth on the all-time British M40 list, but certain of the people in front of him may well have benefited from short or downhill courses or substantial tailwinds but the NYC course is tough!   Of those around Dave, only Donald Macgregor (six seconds faster on the list) and Alastair Wood actually won a World Veteran title….

Dave Clark’s success continued for four more years.   By the time he had worked out that race promoters attended all the main events, and that it was relatively easy to pick up a promise of an invitation (with flight and hotel)  to a race of one’s choice by doing reasonably well and talking to the right people.   This resulted in some crazy choices such as Marseille (sixth in 2:26:49 on 11th March 1984) and Barcelona a week later (19th in 2:21:36).   On 13th May 1984 he was 48th in the London marathon recording 2:18:38, 32 seconds behind first Master, Barry Watson.   He followed that on 27th May with tenth in Geneva (2:20:02) feeling somewhat weak, having experimented with a vegetarian diet.   He was back for another go at the Pennine on 1st July but this time had to settle for second place behind the Northern Irishman Malcolm McBride.   On 23rd September he he took seventh place (2:20:27) in the Montreal  International Marathon, Canada, running with Graham Laing as a British team; and on 28th October seventeenth (2:21:04) in NYC winning $2,200.   Indefatigably Dave finished the year with a (possibly) short course fifth place 2:18:07 in Florence.   What is it about these Italian course measurers?

On 21st April 1985, Dave Clark ran 2:18:10 for 37th (and second Master, only six seconds behind Gunther Kopp of Germany who used to run with Victoria Park AAC’s Hugh Barrow in Glasgow).   26th May produced second place (67:49) in the first 22km Royal Sandringham Run in King’s Lynn, Norfolk.

Sunday, 9th June, 1985 was the day that Dave Clark became a World Veteran Champion, with a clear win in the IGAL 25km event in Lytham St Anne’s recording 80:03 with prominent ex-international athletes Allan Rushmer second (80:49) and Tim Johnston third (81:15).   Six days later the amazing Dave Clark finished fourth (2:18:51) in a marathon some distance away – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil!   20th July 1985 saw Dave win the Belgrave 20 in London recording a time of 1:43:41 (which is either first or second on the British All-Time M40 list.)   It was the first time in the 34 year history of the race that it had been won by a veteran.   Then he went off on a couple of so-called ‘holidays’ in the USA.   On 3rd August he was second in the Kelly-Shaefer race in New London; followed by 14th (first M40) in 2:18:57 in the Twin Cities marathon in St Paul on 6th October.

On 8th Match 1986 Dave Clark was forty second (and third M40) in in 48:11 in the 15km River Run in Jacksonville, Florida.   He flew over to Bruges in June for a third place finish in the popular international veterans 25km, then on 20th July he finished eleventh (first M40) in 2:26:04 in the San Francisco Marathon.   A fast 10K (31:47) gave him fourteenth place in the well-known but hilly Barnsley event on 28th September.   And then Dave finished the year in real style!

First on 12th October he won $3000 for thirty third (and first Master) in the Twin Cities marathon in 2:22:32.   Then Dave picked up another $3000 on 2nd November when ending up 65th (but first Master) in the New York City marathon (2:25:35).   This result hit the headlines as, at the awards ceremony Dave was presented with the award for the second M40 only to discover a few weeks later, that the ‘winner’ had not been seen by race cameras at key points.   He was told the result by a national newspaper while at work in London.

The obsession with racing continued into 1987 with a trip in March to the World Veterans Championships.   David had been flown over for the Tel Aviv marathon a few days later so he ran only the 10K (5th in 32:01) and the 8km cross-country as preparation.   He posted 2:27:36 for second place (and first M40) in the marathon.   In Spring 1987, Dave at the age of 43, rounded off his outstanding career as a world class ‘Masters Marathoner’ by finishing first M40 in the Boston Marathon in 2:21:37.     But there was one more: an obscure 2:46:06 in the Honolulu marathon in Hawaii, nursing a groin injury and finishing the race only by splashing the iced water offered at the drinks stations on to the aching tendon.

Thereafter injuries took their toll.   Dave Clark took up cycling – touring but also competing.   Nowadays he lives with his wife Genefer in Oxford, and is running once more – racing over rad and cross-country for his club, Herts Phoenix.   The M60 and M65 trophies have begun to take their place on his shelves – but not for the marathon.

Started 50
Finished 48
Won 4
1st M40 10

Aberdeen is proud of him.   Thank goodness he didn’t win a ‘full blue’ or who knows what he might have achieved!


Colin’s profile of this remarkable athlete finishes here and it really amazes me that we do not know more about him.   Top class times on all five continents, GB and Scottish vests in both Senior and veteran events, on the road and in the Mountains,  and I didn’t know very much about the man at all.   I would hope that his inclusion here would help redress the situation somewhat and let more people know about his achievements.