Team Managers Reports – Women

Complete Team with assistant manager John Hamilton, John Brown, Men’s Manager, Hilda Everett,Women’s Team Manager and David Lease, National Coach.

ATHLETICS WOMEN   –   Mrs Hilda Everett   –   Section Manager

Preparation for the 1986 Games has been ongoing since Brisbane with a yearly warm weather training camp in Portugal, event squads during the winter months and international competition.   A commonwealth games squad was selected two years prior to the Games, each athlete in the squad achieving standards set by the Association in conjunction with the national coach.  This squad was the basis of the Scottish women’s team for the Commonwealth Games.   

Accommodation:   This was provided at the Pollock Halls, Edinburgh, five minutes from the main stadium at Meadowbank.   All Scottish team men and women were housed in Baird Hall.   The rooms were small with bunk beds in each.   Tea and coffee facilities were available as well as washing, drying and ironing.   There was a TV lounge with colour television.    As we were competing on home ground, the girls were given the opportunity of staying at home if they wished, thus giving them as near a natural environment as they were used to.   This did, however, present some problems for the Team Manager.   Food was plentiful, good and available when required by the athletes, packed lunches were also available when required. 

Training:   This took place at Meadowbank and Saughton and the coaches under the direction of the national coach attnded training sessions.

Illness and Injury:   After the selection date, Janis Neilson sustained a pulled hamstring during a club league match and she was seen immediately by the team physiotherapists who advised that the injury was not as serious as we had at first thought, and would be healed by the timeof the Games.   When she arrived in the Village she was seen by the physiotherapists daily.   However during a relay practise session, Janis pulled her achilles tendon and had to be withdrawn from the relay team.

Team Matters:   Diane Royal had to be withdrawn from the team at the eleventh hour for technical reasons and had to be replaced by Elizabeth McArthur.   Christine Price was an excellent captain and I thank her for the help she gave.   

Weather:   It was not too kind and towards the latter part of the Games it became rather cold  ……. typical Scottish weather.

Behaviour:   All the team behaved and co-operated well and were a credit to themselves and Scotland.   It was a pleasure to have been Team Manager to such a dedicated team.


Event, Name, Semi-Final, Final, Place

100m, S Whittaker, 11.60s, 11.59s, 5th,

-, K Jeffrey, 11.55, 11.59, 6th

-, J Neilson,   –  ,     -,   –

200m, S Whittaker, 23.41, 23.46, 3rd

-, A Bridgman, 24.13,   –  ,   –

-, J Neilson,   -,   -,   –

400m, D Kitchen, 55.52,   –  ,   –

-, F Hargreaves, 55.76,     -,   –

-, L McDonald, 58.26,   –  ,  –

800m, A Purvis, 2:02.47, 2:02.17, 4th

-, E McArthur, 2:04.40,   -,   –

1500m,  Y Murray, 4:11.82, 4:14.36, 5th

-, L McDougall, 4:13.07, 4:17.25,   –

– , C Whittingham, 4:33.01,  –  ,  –

3000m,  Y Murray,   –  , 8:55.32,  3rd

-, M Robertson,   –  , 9:51.33, 9th

10000, E Lynch,  –  , 8:41.42, 1st*

-, A Everett,  –  , 33:56.43, 9th

-, C Price,   –   , 33:59.90, 10th

Marathon, L Irving,   –   , 2:36:34, 5th

100m H, A Girvan, 13.60,  –   ,    –

-, P Rollo, 14.00,   –   ,   –

400m H, M McBeath, 64.03,   –   ,   –

High Jump, J Barnetson,   –   ,   –   ,   –

Long Jump, L Campbell, 5.65m,   –   ,   –   

Discus, M Bremner, 47.06,   –   ,   –

Javelin, S Urquhart, 48.04,   –   ,   –

Heptathlon, V Walsh,    –   , 5420 pts,   8th

The two relay teams were both placed fourth.   The sprint relay team of Girvan, Kelly, Bridgman, Kelly was timed at 45.84 seconds, and the 4 x 400 squad of Whittaker, Purvis, Kitchen and Hargreaves recorded 3:42.86.    

Team Managers Report, Men


Team Managers’ Reports – Men

After the Games, the Team Managers, John Brown and Hilda Everett, were required to submit reports on the Games.   Both reports were much better than might have been forecast given the problems with money and the boycott that were faced.   They are reproduced below.

Men’s Team: John Brown, centre front



26TH JULY – 13TH AUGUST 1986

Scottish team performance is summarised below:

3 – 1st places               12 – 2nd places               18 – 3rd places


ATHLETICS (Men)   –   John Brown   –   Section Manager

Travel:   All athletes assembled at the Games Village under their own arrangements and no difficulties were encountered.

Accommodation: In contrast to the previous Games held in Brisbane in 1982, the accommodation provided in the Edinburgh University Pollock Halls of Residence was ideal.   Team members shared, two per room, but with the athletes being allowed to determine their own extent of residence in the Village, and by making appropriate pairings, many enjoyed almost single room accommodation and this was very much appreciated by the athletes.

Training Facilities: The training faciities provided by the Organisers were found to be adequate for our requirements.

Medical Support: The mdical team of doctors and physiotherapists can only be described as superb.   They were always on hand to provide expert care and atention in a very warm-hearted way, and on behalf of the athletes I would like to pay them a special tribute.   Of the many athletes who consulted the Medical Team only Lindsay Robertson (marathon) was unable to compete.

Discipline: No member of the team required to be spoken to regarding discipline or behaviour in general, and all supported the various functions and meetings with Royalty.

Boycott: It was most unfortunate that the Games suffered from the boycott with a third of the competitors being excluded.   In athletics very few potential medallists did not take part.   The depleted fields however meant that a number of our athletes who would have benefited from an earlier round, were being thrown into semi-finals or finals of events.   A number were unfortunate not to qualify for further rounds by the narrowest of margins.   

Results   * Aditional Event

100 metres

Bunney   5th   10.37;   Henderson   8th   10.68;   Sharp   eliminated in semi-final   10.62

200 metres

McCallum   eliminated in semi-final   21.39;  Whittle   eliminated in semi-final   21.69

400 metres

Whittle   5th   47.10;   Johnston   eliminated in semi-final   48.57;   Nicoll   eliminated in semi-final  50.07

800 metres

McKean   2nd   1:44.80;   Forbes   7th  1:51.29

1500 metres

Currrie  eliminated in heat   3:44.82;   Hanlon   eliminated in heat   3:50.57;   Robson   9th   3:57.20

5000 metres

Muir   8th   13:40.92

10000 metres

Hutton   –   30:16.50

3000 metres steeplechase

Charleson   –   9:21.73;   Hanlon   –   8:53.56;   Hume   –   9:05.40


Graham   4th   2:12:10;   Clyne   10th   2:17:30;   Robertson   withdrawn on medical grounds

110 metres hurdles

Wallace   eliminated in 1st semi-final  14.23;  McDonald   eliminated in 1st semi-final  14.37;   Fraser   eliminated in 1st semi-final   14.28

400 metres Hurdles

Fulton   eliminated in 1st semi-final   57.90;   McCutcheon   eliminated in 1st semi-final  53.58;   Hardie   eliminated in 1st semi-final   55.68

Pole Vault

McStravick   8th   4.45m

High Jump

Parsons   2nd   2.28m

Long Jump

McKay   8th   7.39m

Triple Jump

Duncan   7th   15.68m


Black   8th   63.88m


Irvine   9th   16.73m


Patience   52.54m


Maxwell   –   62.34m


McStravick   4th   7563 pts

4 x 110 Relay

Henderson, McCallum, Sharp, Bunney    3rd    40.41

4 x 400 Relay

Johnston, Forbes, McKean, Whittle    4th   3:18.43

Women’s report and results are on a separate page which can be reached   here


Women’s 10,000m, Meadowbank, 1986

Liz Lynch first appeared in the national rankings in 1979 but she had been running for a long time before that having been spotted at School and then coached by Harry Bennett at Dundee Hawkhill Harriers.   By 1986 she was studying at Alabama University and her times were such that there was no doubt that she would be selected for the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.   She could have been picked for the 3000m (there was no 5000m for women at that time) but instead the selectors felt that she would do better in the inaugural 10000m race.   So it was that she lined up for the race on 28th July, 1986, against thirteen other athletes from five countries – Scotland, England, Wales, Canada and New Zealand.    

When the Commonwealth Games returned to Edinburgh, 16 years after the Scottish capital had last staged them, one of the new events was the women’s 10000 metres.   It was a stage ready-made for a Dundee Hawkhill athlete who had made her first steps to world class while at the University of Alabama for whom she won the NCAA indoor Mile that same year.   While the weather had been typically Scottish for the championships, rain and gloomy conditions never being too far away, Lynch brought rick emotion to the occasion with a tremendous and emphatic victory.   What made her stand out, and it remained such a glorious trait throughout her career, was this bloody-mindedness to dominate races just how she wanted.   If the rest of the field wanted to follow, then they knew they would be in for a tough afternoon, as the Commonwealth’s best women long distance runners discovered.   Cheered on by a packed crowd at Meadowbank Stadium with the blue and white flag of Scotland turning the event into a spectacularly colourful occasion.   Lynch ran to victory in 31:41:42, a British record and a triumph by nearly 12 seconds, with Anne Audain of New Zealand second in 31:53:31.    It was was the first of four times that McColgan would break the British record for this distance, and the lap of honour was something to behold, as Scotland celebrated their only gold medal winner of the Games.   

The result as shown in Wikipedia looks like this.   She was twelve seconds clear of second

Rank Name Nationality Time Notes
01 !1st, gold medalist(s) Liz Lynch  Scotland 31:41.42 GR
02 !2nd, silver medalist(s) Anne Audain  New Zealand 31:53.31  
03 !3rd, bronze medalist(s) Angela Tooby  Wales 32:25.38  
04 !4 Nancy Rooks  Canada 32:30.71  
05 !5 Susan Lee  Canada 32:30.75  
06 !6 Susan Tooby  Wales 32:56.78  
07 !7 Marina Samy  England 33:10.94  
08 !8 Carole Rouillard  Canada 33:22.31  
09 !9 Andrea Everett  Scotland 33:56.43  
10 Christine Price  Scotland 33:59.90  
11 Debbie Peel  England 36:03.79  
12 Chris McMiken  New Zealand 99:99.98 !DNF  
12 Jill Clarke  England 99:99.98 !DNF  
12 Debbie Elsmore  New Zealand 99:99.98 !DNF

In a profile published in the Scotsman in 2006, 20 years after the event, she said that she still remembered every step of the race.   She was quoted as saying

“It certainly doesn’t feel like 20 years ago, and I remember it as if it was yesterday,” said McColgan. “I was something of an unknown quantity, but I knew I was in great shape, running for the first and only time without any pressure on me, and I knew I had gold in the bag with 800m to go.

 “I was conscious of the huge crowd chanting, ‘Liz Lynch, Liz Lynch,’ and that carried me home, and the fact the entire stadium waited the 20 minutes of so for the presentation ceremony was amazing, and it was all very emotional.”

 Asked where her gold, won in a time of 13mins 41.42sec fitted in the pantheon of Lynch/McColgan achievements, she was clear. “Athletically, it wasn’t my best by a long chalk, but it got me known, got me top races at world class meets, so that was important, and it was certainly the emotional high point of my career.”

You can read more about her wonderful career at this link

Liz with some of the other Scots at the Games 


Scotlands Runner covers the Games

1986 was a very good year for Scottish athletics in several ways:   Despite the many problems associated with it, the Commonwealth Games was a real highpoint;   some new stars appeared on the international scene, mainly Tom McKean and Liz Lynch, who had been well-known beforehand but who really came good and launched wonderful international championship careers and the ‘Scotland’s Runner’ magazine appeared for the first time.    This magazine that went out of print in 1993 was a great source of information via the results pages obviously but also through the many ‘Upfront’ articles and stories by the editors Alan Campbell, Doug Gillon and Stewart Macintosh with regular contributors Lynda Bain, Fraser Clyne, Bob Holmes, Graeme Smith, Sandy Sutherland, Jim Wilkie and Linda Young.   The photographs were first class and the letters pages gave readers an opportunity to contribute to the debate.   Everyone was interested in and involved with the sport.   It was a real loss when circumstances led to it’s demise.    If you want to read the articles in their entirety or re-visit the magazine, just go to Ron Morrison’s website at’s%20Runner/Scotland’s%20Runner.html 

It was natural then, that they should cover the Commonwealth Games in more detail and with more insight than the daily press.    I’d like to look at the July to October issues of the magazine and quote from some of the excellent articles on the subject.

The first issue – cover above – was in July 1986 and among many articles of interest was one by Sandy Sutherland entitled ‘The Shoestring Games’, one by Fraser Clyne on marathon selection difficulties and an interview with Tom MacNab about Allan Wells.  

Elsewhere on this website I criticise the low number of athletes chosen to represent their country in the Games but there is an interesting item in the ‘Inside Lane’ page written by Alan Campbell.    It reads: “Nobody loves a selector.   Every jogger who ever stumbled blistered and leg weary towards a marathon finish  thinks he or she can do better.   So as the Commonwealth Games selectors brace themselves for the four yearly lashing, let’s set the record straight.   The Scottish team’s original allocation of 33 male and 23 female places is smaller in real terms than in 1970.   There were 35 men in Edinburgh 16 years ago and 21 women.   But since then four events (400m Hurdles, 3000m, 10000m and marathon) have been added to the women’s programme.   This allocation is given by the Commonwealth Games Council for Scotland who have consistently refused to increase the figure.   That despite the fact that in overall terms Scotland is a stronger athletic nation now than in 1970 (although it does not mean we will win more than the four gold we took then.)   

Pressure on the selectors to pre-select, especially in the marathon, was intense.    There has to be something wrong with a system that does not get our fastest man on to the start line.       But the selectors, with no room for passengers on a tight ship,  dared not choose any but certain starters.   Allan Wells and Tom McKean are among those over whom serious injury doubts have been raised on the run-in.   The fact remains that a domestic Games remains the cheapest opportunity to blood young talent.   Lack of funds, always the scapegoat when the Commonwealth Games are held overseas, should be less of a consideration now than ever before.   The reality is that in the race to stage the first commercial Games the people who matter most, the competitors, have been left at the post.    National Coach David Lease admits that there are good athletes who will not be in the team.   That is a disgrace.   But it is not the fault of the selectors, or the sponsors and public who have given generously, and who will give more before the curtain goes up on Scotland’s greatest show.”

So the small team was not down to the selectors, but to the Games Council for Scotland.   That doesn’t make it much more palatable.   The shortage of cash with which to run the show was dealt with later in the magazine in the ‘Up Front’ page.  The item read:

“The Commonwealth Games faces a substantial cash crisis after the Government’s snub to a request for financial aid.   Attempts to emulate the success of the Los Angeles Olympics by making the 1986 Edinburgh Games the first to be funded entirely by the private sector and public donations have failed.   A yawning gap of £1.5 million lies between the Commonwealth Games and financial viability, but on June 2nd the Government refused to make any contribution despite the international kudos which could accrue to such a prestigious international event if it works successfully.

After considerable press speculation, Games chairman Kenneth Borthwick conceded at the end of May that only £12.5 million of the required £14 million has been raised and wrote to the Secretary of State, Malcolm Rifkind, to ask the Government to underwrite the loss.    Mr Rifkind turned down the plea and reminded Mr Borthwick that when Edinburgh had bid for the Games, it had been on the basis that there would be no State funding available.   He expressed his confidence that the £14 million target would be achieved.   Games organisers hope that they have correctly detected a coded message between the lines of the Secretary of State’s reply where he asks to be kept informed of the situation.   They harbour hopes that if they fail to clear the £14 million hurdle, some sort of cushion might be provided by Mr Rifkind.

Current sponsors will be approached and asked to consider increasing their contribution and Scots will be asked to make further donations to the public appeal which has had its target adjusted upwards to £2.5 million.   Companies who have declined previous request for support and sponsorship will be contacted again and asked to reconsider.”

A sad and rather undignified situation in which to be placed – and the contribution to the discussion by the Secretary of State not at all sympathetic.    Sandy Sutherland further through the same issue commented in more detail on the financial aspect in an article entitled “The Shoestring Games” which had the opening paragraph: “Sun and gold medals will make the XIII Commonwealth Games shine in a way that no amount of glossy PR will.   And it certainly has not been sunshine and roses for the Games organisers who were faced with some unique problems and a whole new ball game compared to Edinburgh’s so-successful 1970 Games.   Yet the cost-conscious 1986 event may yet prove to have done sport a favour – in the long run.”   and continued (with a large illustration of the new scoreboard  which had been bought second hand from Los Angeles to save money) as follows:

“The 1986 organisers must be praying that we find some new local heroes but with just over a month left before the opening ceremony at Meadowbank, it has to be admitted the portents are not good as over 3000 competitors and officials from up to 50 countries prepare to descend on Edinburgh.   Venues, tickets fund-raising, South African rugby tours, Zola Budd, miniscule Scottish athletics teams – these are just some of the topics which have caused rows in the build-up period.   The projected Scottish team of 23 women and 33 men is a big let-down for the competitors.  

Money however has been the matter which has dominated these first commercial Commonwealth Games.   When Scotland was awarded the Games in 1980 in Moscow it was by default – Scotland’s was the only hat in the ring and that somewhat prematurely, as the bid had originally been intended for 1990 or 1994.   Edinburgh, the reluctant hosts, gave an assurance that no government money would be required to stage the event as no new facilities would need to be built, hence negligible capital expenditure.   But that assurance came back to haunt them,  particularly when   a new Labour administration was elected in the city.   They refused to go ahead with an ambitious project for the velodrome, but in the end however something approaching £400,000 was allocated to dismantling and rebuilding the old cycling venue.   But it is much the same style as in 1970 with new wood, but still open to the elements with all the attendant risks should rain fall during the Games.  

The city have also resurfaced the Meadowbank athletics track and spruced up the old stadium.   A huge new scoreboard dominates the West end (but perhaps not big enough to shut out the awful prevailing wind?) and a photo-finish box in the stand shuts out at least 150 seats.   Improvements totalling £4 million were budgeted for by the city, including some at the Royal Commonwealth pool, venue for the swimming events, and Balgreen, where a lot of bowls will be played and talked about.   But that expenditure pales beside the organisational budget which at the time of writing stands at £14.1 million.   Compared to what it might have been, that is quite small.   The budget in Brisbane in 1982 was £17 million and, allowing for up to 25% increase in competitors, that figure might well have reached £28 million.   Instead that has been halved.   

“That is a fine achievement,” says Robin Parry, managing director of the consortium of accountants, Arthur Young, and publicity agency, Crawford Halls, charged with the task of raising the bulk of the funds, through advertising, sponsorship and licensing and other deals.   Will they achieve their target?

“It’s finely balanced,” says Parry whose group will be fund-raising right up to the Games. “In particular, arena advertising tends to go at the last moment, but we have already definitely raised over £13 million and I’m optimistic  of closing the gap.”   The consortium’s conservative projection, from their various sources, including hospitality suites at the main arenas, is £8.5 million  while the public appeal is expected to raise £1.5 million.   TV rights – £500,000; tickets – £1.1 million; and programme sales, after sales of equipment and other items – £600,000; while £1 million was raised in early sponsorship.    The appeal includes the Lottery, which could prove quite  money spinner, and the “McCommonwealth campaign” which has had a lukewarm response in its initial stages at least.   The Commonwealth Games book and the special £2 coin are two of the items which come under Parry’s remit and are two of the hardest to assess in terms of return.

But tickets look like exceeding their target and, with the main sessions at athletics and swimming sold out within a few days of going on sale for postal applications last September, there could be quite a black market for these.   Part of the problem for the organisers has been that they did not know how many seats were actually going to be available because the stadium capacity had not been settled due to the Popplewell Report on crowd safety and the extra room taken by hospitality units.   It looks as if, despite the extra terracing, the Meadowbank capacity will be approximately 22,000 compared with well over 30,000 in 1970 when scaffolding doubled the norm.   Sadly a priority ticket scheme intended for the real athletics fans, which would have given athletics clubs and others a month’s advantage over the general public, was so mis-handled that the dates merged.   That is just another example of how the people in the sport appear to have been neglected in these Games.   So in the end who will benefit?  

Certainly the Games themselves.   the inflationary spiral which has gone on through Christchurch, 1974, Edmonton, 1978, and Brisbane has been broken, and Edinburgh in particular because of the massive television exposure and the income from tourism (which has been estimated at £50 million).   Certainly sport in general though rowing, back in the Games for the first time since 1958, with new purpose-built facilities at Strathclyde Park, could point to more obvious benefits than swimming or tack and field which have been short-changed on facilities (no warm-up pool or track for example) and competitors.   But short-changed or not, track and field will be the centre-piece and showpiece of the Games, and the making or breaking of them.   And our athletes have destiny in their hands.”

It’s a very interesting article and looking back Sandy’s comments towards the end of the penultimate paragraph about priority ticket schemes, is thought provoking.   In the collection of club memorabilia that I inherited from James P Shields is a letter from the organising committee of the London Olympics of 1948 asking of any of our club members would like tickets for the event.  nearer home, all clubs in Scotland were asked how many tickets they would like, where in the arena they were for and for what events.   Here again is the idea that those who are involved in any sport should have priority in the availability of tickets is mentioned.   It is worse than just a shame that this idea has been abandoned in favour of mass, elbows out, scramble for tickets at Olympic and Commonwealth Games.  

For now I will hold back from re-printing Fraser Clyne’s article – sections of it will appear elsewhere soon – on marathon selection but will say that his conclusion was that “the 1986 Commonwealth Games marathon team should have been picked by no later than the end of 1985.”

The above picture features Sandra Whittaker the quite outstanding sprinter, coached by Ian Robertson, who was one of the very best Scottish runners ever.   It is most unfortunate, to put it mildly that she has been virtually ignored in recent years.   A woman who in the Los Angeles Olympics set personal bests in the heats, and in the quarter-final has to be very special.  She is still the only Scotswoman inside 23 seconds for the 200m.    With talents like hers and her training partners and the Edinburgh group of the same period, there should surely be some website with profiles or tributes to our sprinters.   However, in the second issue of “Scotland’s Runner”, the middle pages full-colour spread was an article by Doug Gillon which took a look back at 1970 and had what was called an optimistic look ahead.   But first, in the very first page of the magazine was Alan Campbell’s ‘Inside Lane’ page with the dreaded news that many had anticipated but which no one wanted to hear: the boycott was now on.    The article read:

“On July 9th, the darkest cloud hanging over the success of the Commonwealth Games finally burst over mountainous political pressure.   Nigeria and Ghana announced their withdrawal over Mrs Thatcher’s attitude towards South African sanctions.    Just 24 hours earlier, new Games trouble-shooter, Mr Bryan Cowgill, had felt justified in announcing a record Games entry including a full African participation led by … Nigeria.   Yet no sooner were we digesting the good news in our morning newspapers than our kippers and toast were upset by the boycott announcement.     The news came just in time for Scotland’s Runner’s final deadline for this issue.  we cannot therefore give an in-depth analysis of the ramifications and repercussions.   By the time you read this, any amount of political machinations – ranging from a full Afro-Asian-Caribbean boycott  to  a compromise salvaged from Sir Geoffrey Howe’s seemingly ill-starred trip to Southern Africa will have decided the fate of the Games.   ……

The sanctimonious claptrap mouthed by Mrs Thatcher on the morality of sanctions against South Africa had already turned enough white stomachs – including ours – before Nigeria and Ghana took their precipitous decisions.   In the light of the worsening political climate which dwarf the problems of the Games, a far more delicate hand than Mrs Thatcher is capable of playing was called for if the original boycott threat was to be finessed.   Before returning to the subject of the boycott however let us not pass over the, now admittedly parochial, commercial and administrative problems which have bedevilled this Commonwealth festival from the outset.  

After 18 months of rumour, evasion and a permanent smokescreen of optimism from the Games organisers, the truth emerged.   The Games were on the brink of cancellation; the limited company, Commonwealth Games ’86 Ltd, was in danger if trading illegally, and Scotland would have become an international laughing stock.   Part of the blame must lie in Canning House, the Games HQ, where a bewildering series of some 40 committees was spawned under the muddled leadership of Games chairman Ken Borthwick, a former Conservative Lord Provost of Edinburgh and a newsagent and tobacconist shop proprietor.   Political wrangles with a new left-wing Edinburgh District Council administration did not give confidence that the organisation of the Games was progressing smoothly.    The Government could and should have done much more, but their dogmatic commitment to the market economy blinded ministers to the contribution that a successful Games could bring to the future standing of Scotland and the UK.  

To be fair, it had been made clear at the outset that these would have to be the Commonwealth’s first “Commercial Games,” but when the fund-raising consortium got tantalisingly near the £14 million target it was petty of Malcolm Rifkind. the Secretary of State for Scotland, to refuse to fight in Cabinet for the funds that would have bridged the gap and given his home city and Scotland an unbeatable opportunity to perform on the world stage.   It would have been a very small amount to pay for the potential return in terms of future tourism and commercial interest.

Then the cavalry came riding over the hill.   Robert Maxwell, publisher of Mirror group Newspapers, had (with nothing more binding than a handshake) apparently won control of the Games, unseated Ken Borthwick as chairman, and in the process won himself enormous publicity.   But when the cavalry comes to the   rescue they are supposed to fly in with a life-saving charge, not stand on the hill-top trumpeting for reinforcements which are still some way over the horizon.   In return for his dramatic winning of the Games Maxwell seems to have offered nothing more than a promise to do three things: to campaign vigorously for further injections of commercial money, to explore advertising  and sponsorship opportunities which the Games organisers had missed, and to demand that the Government throws some cash into the pot.

Major sponsors such as Guinness, who have put money rather than hot air, into the Games must wonder whether they have got the full return on their investments when one of the most formidable personal publicity machines in the UK won the top seat so cheaply.   As one Scottish newspaper pointed out, it was as if the annual newspaper ‘silly season’ had started early this year; indeed if it was not for the fact that these indignities are being inflicted on our country and our sport it would be all rather comical.  ….

Returning to the boycott threat, having apportioned blame in all directions for the commercial shambles, we would like to at least applaud the Scottish Commonwealth Games Council for having tried its damnedest to keep the Games intact (and indeed Edinburgh District Council, although their methods at last year’s Dairy Crest Games were less than diplomatic).      The Games Council cannot be held responsible for the selfish attitudes of rugby administrators and players determined to flaunt the Gleneagles agreement on sporting links with South Africa now could they prevent the Daily Mail and the Home Office conspiring to polarise Commonwealth opinion over their handling of the Zola Budd affair.   Whatever the situation on July 24th, Scotland’s Runner can only join sports lovers everywhere in hoping that the merchants and politicians finally got their act together in time to salvage the Games.”  

This is not the entire article but he doesn’t mess around – he says what he thinks: and what he thought was endorsed by most of the Scottish sporting public.   He mentions the Gleneagles Agreement had been signed at Gleneagles in 1977 and discouraged sporting contact with teams from South Africa because of their apartheid policies – read about it at this wikipedia link    

As far as the boycott of the Games by the African teams is concerned, it was a great deal to do with the Thatcher government’s attitude, said frankly in 1986:   “Thatcher is virtually alone in the Commonwealth in arguing that sanctions against South Africa will not work, but in October she persuaded the other heads of Commonwealth governments to appoint a delegation to find ways to open a dialogue between the South African government and black nationalist leaders.”   Despite the agreement, England’s rugby team toured South Africa in 1984 although the Lion’s tour in 1986 was cancelled.   The Edinburgh Games Committee took a very public stand against the English tour but to no avail.  The whole story can be found at .   

Doug Gillon’s major article in the middle of the second issue of the magazine.   Starting with a look back at 1970 when Scottish chances of any gold medals were scoffed at (other than McCafferty – if we’re lucky!)   Looking ahead, Peter Matthews (ITV commentator) said we would get two – silver for Parsons in the High Jump and bronze for Liz in the 10000m.    Before looking at the prospects for 1986, he retells the story of an Englishman who wrote off Lachie’s victory over Ron Clarke in the 10000m by saying that a champion should win like a champion – from the front.   Jim Alder came back at him.   England’s great athletics hero Chris Chataway in his epic duel with Vladimir Kuts had led for 20 yards – the last 20!”   Doug says, in an article that is still worth reading, “There is certainly no lack of ambition.   The American philosophy of ‘First’s first, second’s nowhere!” alternatively expressed by “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” is a sentiment that many home athletes share.   They just are not as obtrusive about it as the Yanks.   But on current ranking, at the time of going to press, the reality is that not one Scot tops the Commonwealth lists in his or her event.   But the impact of national fervour cannot be underestimated.   I believe that Scotland has genuine medal prospects in Tom McKean (800m), Allister Hutton (10000m), John Graham (marathon), Geoff Parsons (High Jump) and the 4 x 400m relay provided the squad can get their act together.   I also believe that the hopes of gold are greater with the women.   Nobody should underestimate the talent of Yvonne Murray in the 1500m and more particularly, the 3000m, of Liz Lynch in the 3000m and 10000m, or of Lorna Irving in the marathon.   And Chris Whittingham has already carved three seconds from her 1500m personal best this year, running in Oslo, where she clocked 4:06.24, a time inside the Games record.

It will hopefully be third time lucky for her family.   Her twin, Evelyn, competed in 1974 at Christchurch, both of them were in Edmonton where Chris placed fourth in the 1500m.   In addition Christine’s husband Mike was edged out of the medals in the 400 metres hurdles in Brisbane.   There are several other events with lesser medal prospects and national and native records will fall regularly.”    The article continues with an appraisal of the Games as a whole.

The magazine contained other articles relevant to the Games – an interview by Bob Holmes with Geoff Parsons (who was to go on to win silver), several items in the Up Front section including one on the Guinness ‘Commonwealth Friendship Scroll’ travelling round the Commonwealth.   

The cover picture of Issue Number Three, September 1986, tells the story!    The men’s 10000m gold medal of 1970 had been equalled by the women’s 10000m gold in 1986.   By the time the magazine hit the streets, the Games were  over but the magic of Liz’s medal was still in the air and the delightful picture on the cover above just summed up everyone’s delight at the result.   Doug was given the two middle pages to ‘Report On The Games’ with another superb photograph of the end of the women’s 200 metres showing the first three in full flight.   Doug wrote:

” …. Jake Young, a teacher at Edinburgh Academy identified the talent of sprinter Jamie Henderson and commendably realised there were people better equipped than he to develop the boy’s potential.   In less than a year under Bob Inglis’s care, Henderson had won gold and bronze at the World Junior Championships and bronze in the Commonwealth Games relay.  

In cold statistics there were many who did not live up to expectation in Edinburgh.   Injury in some cases saw to that.   Janice Neilson never competed at all and Lindsey McDonald appeared to be limping during her warm-up and clearly competed in pain.   Moira McBeath from Thurso who finished seventh in the final of the semi-final of the 400m hurdles is pregnant.   Our three men’s 400m hurdlers all failed to match their best.   Neither  Allister Hutton nor Nat Muir came anywhere near threatening the Scottish native best for 10000m or 5000m which has stood since the 1970 Commonwealth Games, despite having run well inside these marks.   The long jump of 7.51m that gave Dave Walker sixth place in 1970 was one centimetre further than sixth place in 1986; the heptathlon long jump of 6.39m by Moira Walls in 1970 would have won her the bronze medal in the individual event this time; and the Scottish women’s relay squad have still not run any faster than the 45.2 seconds which an Edinburgh Southern Harriers squad achieved to win the WAAA title in 1970.

Worse, the boycott would almost certainly have stopped us from winning at least two of the six medals won.   But athletes can only beat those who turn up on the day.   Sandra Whittaker surpassed expectation in becoming the first Scottish woman ever to win a Commonwealth sprint medal, maintaining her style spectacularly over the final 20 metres when it counted.   The men’s relay squad succeeded against the odds.   Cameron Sharp, nursing himself round with an excruciating back and leg injury after sacrificing his personal aspirations in the 200m to do so.   And George McCallum tore his right hamstring yards before the vital final takeover to Elliott Bunney.

The highlight was of course Liz Lynch’s stunning 10000m victory.   It was a great gamble for the Dundee woman who was ranked top of the 3000m starters.   Had she known the 3000m would have been a straight final, she would have attempted the double.   The girl from Whitfield in Dundee was another who had a  haphazard introduction to the sport.   She went with a group of friends to Dundee Hawkhill Harriers and left almost immediately.   It was only later that she returned.   It was the late Harry Bennett who converted Liz from a 100/200 runner to  a distance athlete before she left to study in the USA at a junior college and then at Alabama.   Yvonne Murray, who settled for bronze but made a brave bid for gold in the 3000m, was spotted playing hockey by her biology teacher, Bill Gentleman.   Tom McKean however has had a more normal progress in the sport, a member of Bellshill YMCA since shortly after his eleventh birthday, and nursed delicately by coach Tommy Boyle.   His silver medal behind Steve Cram was a national record and bettered a native one that had stood to Mike McLean, chairman of the selection committee for the Games since 1970.   Geoff Parsons fell one short of his ambition to win gold but equalled his British outdoor record to do so.  

At this time last year, Jamie Henderson was pulling on an Edinburgh Academy cricket sweater.   The Games were something that would be happening in his native city the following year.   He might buy a ticket or two and go and watch.   Or he might not.   Instead the sweater was resurrected like a prop from the wardrobe room of Chariots of Fire, and Henderson wore it on his way to the starting blocks for the men’s 100m final at Meadowbank last month when he became the youngest man to contest a Commonwealth sprint final since the 17 year old Dan Quarrier struck gold in the capital 16 years before.   Henderson wore it again when he Groge McCallum, Cameron Sharp and Elliott Bunney came out to take the relay bronze.   A year is a short time in athletics, but the progress made by Henderson in that time is perhaps the most heartening thing to emerge from the Commonwealth Games.   And that is not to minimise the stunning success of the delightfully unspoiled Liz Lynch.   For the emergence of the Edinburgh teenager in so short a space of time is proof that the basic natural resource of the sport is flourishing in Scotland.   But we must have more input.   Otherwise these resources will be burned and wasted like a puff of spent tobacco.”

That is most of Doug’s article and it was the only major one in “Scotland’s Runner” that month.    The following month brought an article by John Anderson under the title of “Why Are We So Bad?” and a report by Doug Gillon on another event that certainly affected the Commonwealth Games – the European Championships later that year.

John’s article read:

” … we have a cultural heritage second to none, one which promotes the twin elements of dedication and passion.   The Scottish tradition is to learn well and fight hard to achieve.   We must harness that.


Clubs come in all shapes and sizes, some well organised and well resourced others which barely survive from year to year.   Some clubs have a large variety of facilities and can provide their members with a complete range of opportunities, coaching and competition, supported by an excellent organisation.   Such clubs  however are limited, largely through no fault of the club but either because they are geographically isolated, or by the nature of their limited resources they are unable to provide comprehensive opportunity to those in their area.   It is important to recognise the contribution made by schools.   The Scottish athletic tradition has been to a large extent built on the excellent network developed at this level.   But this marvellous tradition is in jeopardy as teachers consider whether they can afford to continue.   If the school involvement dimishes, this will pose further problems for clubs and the development of the sport.  

But however many clubs there are, and no matter how well equipped and funded, they cannot function without the voluntary club official.   Like the clubs they come in all shapes and sizes, but have in common a desire to give their time freely in order to ensure that others enjoy the full range of opportunities in athletics.   These people must fulfil many functions.   They have to be first-class administrators, able to deal with the secretarial and financial aspects of the organisation, and they certainly have to deal with fund-raising since most clubs usually exist on a hand-to-mouth basis at best.   There also have to be coaches to advise the young athletes and there must be conpetitions organised, and the structure to provide the numerous judges, timekeepers and other officials.   So, on the plus side, Scotland has a multitude of willing voluntary helpers, the backbone of athletics without whom the sport would cease to exist, or at least would exist in a very limited form.   We also of course have outstanding performers who have emerged to put a little dash of colour on Scottish athletics.   In addition to the one or two jewels in the crown is the very substance of athletics, the performers.   Some argue that athletics is about providing for these people rather than for the elite, but the argument of course is specious because all athletes are part of the sport.   The top encourages the bottom.   Aspiration and achievement are recognised throughout the sport and therefore those who achieve the highest levels act as a stimulus to those whose performance and talent are not at that level.   It is important to identify at the outset that the pursuit of better performance is the driving force within athletics.   One cannot just take part.

If it is accepted that all athletes are aspiring to improve and that officials are there to help bring this to fruition, we have to look at whether the existing structure achieves these ends.   The sport, including cross-country and road running, is too fragmented for effective management structure.   Any management consultant would feel that the ability to implement new initiatives would be restricted in view of the small population and large land area.   The existing structure does not ensure that those who live in the more outlandish places are given an equal opportunity with those in the central belt.   There are many self evident criticisms which might be directed in terms of management organisation and structure given the current framework, but suffice to say that the current structure is a nonsense and cannot achieve even a small part of what it sets out to do.   We need organisation and radical change.  

The problem of scale outside the central belt means that athletes are not given equal opportunity – or even an adequate opportunity – to take part in club athletics or competitions.   This is compounded by the fact that very few clubs are able to offer a full range of facilities in terms of road running, cross-country and all the various forms of athletics – throwing, jumping, pole vault, etc.   In many cases they even lack the required level of coaching expertise.   It is therefore necessary to find ways in which the resources might be used more effectively and efficiently.   In some if not all parts of Scotland the competition structure leaves a good deal to be desired ,   Certainly there are many very good competitions available.   These have grown over the past few years and are a credit to those who organise them.   But they are centred largely on the central belt and tend to leave others in isolation.   There are different modes of competition, the lifeblood of the sport, which might be brought into such areas to the benefit of the raising of standards.  

Competition is based on the existing club set-up but this is clearly inadequate.   What we must do now is build on that structure which has stood the test of time.   The older clubs must pool their resources, building an area structure on top, evolve the concept of more wide-ranging competition.   This could take the form of inter-area matches in throws, jumps and pole vault, others in sprints and hurdles, others still  in the middle distance races.   It should not be beyond the wit of man to devise this.    Scots traditionally reflect great national pride.   It is in evidence in all the national sports events when the Scottish people demonstrate their loyalty and pride in their heritage.   Sadly this very often is not reflected in the way in which our organisations function.   It may well be suggested that there is no really strong national feeling or sense of responsibility in Scottish athletics, that the sport is too parochial. that   it sells itself almost exclusively to individual clubs and those within these clubs concern themselves with ‘The Club’ rather than examining how the whole national scene can be improved.  

We must examine the sport’s funding in Scotland and different methods of financing must be promoted and developed.   Certainly if further development is to come then the whole area of sponsorship and support from local authorities, quite apart from national level involvement must be scrutinised.  As a Glaswegian I am ashamed to note that in spite of being one of the largest areas of population, Glasgow has languished behind not only Edinburgh, but many other smaller places between Glasgow and Edinburgh in its provision of facilities.   It borders on a national disgrace that Glasgow has only recently acquired one synthetic track for its entire population – this from a city which promotes itself as being ‘miles better.’    One track is inadequate and even the new Kelvin Hall project will only scratch the surface of the lack of indoor facilities.   Until that is resolved nationwide, Scotland’s adverse weather conditions will certainly limit the development of technical events.  

Tradition is a two edged sword.   It can be a positive or a negative weapon.   In Scotland the young are taught that the club is the focus of all activity, superseding all others.   By definition all else falls by the wayside.   Youngsters are taught to be hostile to other clubs, to succeed at the expense of others.   What is taught is negative.    We should be sharing our limited resources.   Very, very seldom do you hear of clubs sharing their knowledge, expertise or facilities or assisting other clubs.   All the clubs in the Edinburgh area, for example, could be pooling their resources.   There would be enough coaches to go round and a scouting system could be developed to tap into the schools.   Instead they are too frightened of the possibility of poaching.   The clubs are too selfish.   The questions they must ask themselves  are, “Is the sport bigger than the club?   Do they care enough about the sport they profess to believe in to change things?”

The allegation of Scottish small-mindedness is one that has to be looked at.   We  Scots have to bury our parochial attitudes in the interests of national development.


The control, administration and management of Scottish athletics must be re-structured and reorganised.   A diverse and fragmented administrative structure leads to inefficiency and ineffectiveness.   A single administrative office was a step forward but one body for a country the size and population of Scotland is the answer.   The form that body should take and the responsibilities it should have are matters which can be resolved with goodwill on all sides.   This questions the motives of the adults who run Scottish athletics.   It is the officials, who put in many hours of effort, who actually control the sport.   The athletes themselves, although capable of decisions, are motivated by participation rather than politics, and it will always be thus.   So the responsibility for the future lies with those officials, and they now carry an onerous responsibility.   No doubt the vast majority of national officials come altruistically into the sport, but over the years that altruism becomes blunted.   The fragmented nature of Scottish athletics is perpetuated by misguided individuals reinforcing the separate entities of the sport, men’s and women’s track, men’s and women’s cross-country.   There is little to suggest in recent years these incumbents have made any effort to bring the organisations together for the good of the athletes and the sport.  Instead they seem intent on retaining their power.

They have the power to run the sport more effectively, but that will require sacrifices from them.   The tendency is to focus attention on their own club’s particular role.   What is needed is a magnanimity of spirit and attitude in the interest of the sport nationally.   These people must look beyond their own role and examine the contribution which could be made if they took a less parochial stance.   The leaders of Scottish athletics must do precisely that  …  lead Scotland into building a new structure, one more efficient and effective, one able to respond rapidly to the needs and demands of the athletes.   We should be riding on the high of the enthusiasm generated by the Commonwealth Games and the success Britain achieved at the European Championships at Stuttgart.   We owe it to the new generation of Scottish athletes.”

That’s John’s article and it makes interesting reading.   At the time it was written, Scottish athletics was governed by the SAAA, SWAAA, SCCU and SWCCU – he was one of the first to propose the amalgamation of the four bodies into the Scottish Athletics Federation, and as usual with John, the priority was always the good of the competitors.   A lot of what he has said about competition and clubs away from the central belt has also come to pass.   







Molly Wilmoth

Molly Ferguson was a well-known and talented athlete in Scottish athletics in the 1950’s and 60’s.   She is still seriously involved in the sport as an official, and still with the same club, but known as Molly Wilmoth.   Molly and husband Danny are one of the best known and respected couples in the sport and their contribution was recognised by the granting to them of a Lifetime Achievement Award by Scottish Athletics in 2004 and we’ll come to that in due course.    Molly has had one of the finest careers in the sport that could be imagined – a very successful athlete who became a top ranked official and was recognised in many ways as a talented administrator.

Albert Secondary School Sports champion in 1951, she joined Springburn Harriers straight from school in 1953 and went on to win two SWAAA 880 yards titles and run for Scotland in internationals on the track and over the country.   The Fifties were critical development of Scottish women’s athletics: it went into the Sixties in much better shape than it had been ten years earlier.   The transition is marked dramatically when we look at the SWAAA Championships.   At the start of the decade there were only 14 events and they were all for Seniors with only two or even three for Inters (ie Under 17).   In 1960 there were no fewer than 39, including events for Internediates and Juniors which included track, field and relays.   She also helped the women’s association get involved in annual international fixtures.

After joining Sprinngburn the young Molly Ferguson started racing against the Seniors in 1953/54 and in the women’s cross-country championships in March 1954 at Dunfermline she was fourth over the two and a half mile course behind Aileen Drummond (Maryhill), Margaret Wadler (Athenians) and B Moffatt (Athenians).   It was a good year to be running well for reasons apparent from the following article from, I think, the ‘Evening Times’.



Just 51 years after mere man had thought of the idea, women athletes are to have the first of what it is hoped will be an annual international cross-country race next Saturday.   It will be staged over a two-and-a-half mile course at perry Park, Perry Barr and the issue will be between teams representing England and Scotland.   England will be represented by the first six girls to finish in last week’s National Championship at Aylesbury, namely Diane Leather and Dilys Williams (Birchfield), Anne Oliver (Gosforth), June Bridgland (Southampton), Nora Smalley (Portsmouth)  and Marian Davies (Stockport).”

A fairly realistic assessment and preview was contained in this article.  


Scottish women runners are not numerous but they certainly do not lack pluck.   Tomorrow they resume international cross-country competition with England at Birmingham.   The following team will represent Scotland.   A Drummond (Maryhill), HM Wadler (Athenian AC), B Moffat (Athenian AC), M Ferguson (Springburn), N Elder (Maryhill, S Johnstone (Edinburgh H).   Mrs Thursby, Ayr AC) will be in charge of the party.   Aileen Drummond who captains the Scots is cross-country and one mile champion of Scotland.   The Maryhill girl will meet the English champion, Diane Leather, Birchfield Harriers, who outclassed the field when winning her title a fortnight ago.   As the English girls have a much more ambitious training programme during the season, they will probably be better trained and should win both team and individual honours over this three mile test.” 

This was a very good English team indeed with Diane Leather going on to be one of the all-time great British middle-distance runners and the first woman ever under 5 minutes for the Mile.   It was a first class opportunity for young Molly to see the very best in action close up.   It was no real surprise when England won although the extent of the victory was possibly unexpected.   The report of the race in ‘The Evening Citizen’ read as follows:


England girls had a runaway win when they met Scotland at the first post-war international cross-country race for women.   The home country always had the first six girls and finally won by 10 points to 34.   Diane Leather, the Birchfield champion, was an easy winner after being challenged in the early stages by Anne Oliver, the Northern champion.   There was always a close tussle for third place between June Bridgland, the Southern title holder, and Dilys Williams, the Birchfield girl.   Always in seventh place was Aileen Drummond, the Scottish champion, but try as she did, she was unable to break the English formation.   The only change in the remaining laps was that Miss Bridgland broke away to make certain of third place.   Result:

  1. D Leather 15:19.   2.   A Oliver   15:45.   3.   J Bridgland   16:12.   4.   D Williams   16:23.   5.   M Davies   16:30.   6.   N Smalley   17:00.   7.   A Drummond   17:29.   8.   M Wadler   17:55.   9.   M Ferguson   19:13.   11.   B Moffat   20:20.   12.   S Johnstone   21:30.”

It was a kind of baptism of fire for the new Scottish international team but it ony made them more determined to have another go the following year.   Then it was into the track season of summer 1954.   The major championships of any year are the national championships which in 1954 were held on 12th June at New Meadowbank and Molly won her first medal in the senior 880 yards when she finished third behind Aileen Drummond and E Moffat.   The winning time was 2:25.4/    There were not many middle distance races for women at that time, most meetings only had races at 100 and 220 yards, and as often as not these were handicaps.   There were a few at Highland Games such as those at Milngavie and Shotts.    In the former Molly won in 2:32.6 from Nessie Elder and Aileen Drummond, both of Maryhill Harriers.   Press coverage commented on the actual inclusion of the race in the programme.   “The organisers are to be commended for making provision for the half-mile for women.   This interesting event disclosed the need for more in order that our women athletes may learn to run this distance with the required judgment.   Tenseness of competition puts a strain on the confidence and composure of the competitor and only experience on the track will enable them to run this kind of race with competence.   Molly Ferguson and Nessie Elder ran the kind of race we expected but they an and Ann Mckee will vastly improve when they have learned to control their speed and make their final effort at the appropriate time.   Women athletes have surely shown by this time that they can compete at these longer distances with efficiency and it behoves those responsible to provide the opportunity.”

That was on 14th August and Carluke Highland Games were later the same month.   Molly won the 220 yards off 9 yards in 27.2 seconds.   Shotts Highland Games were held in September.   This was a handicap race and Nessie Elder , running off 28 yards won from Molly who was off the same mark and Aileen Drummond who was running from scratch.   It should be noted that in 1954 Aileen was the SWAAA champion at both 880 yards and the Mile as well as being Scottish cross-country champion.   At the season’s end the Press returned to the theme of ‘more middle distance races for women’.   I quote from two that appeared at the end of the 1954 season.  


This week I received a letter from a correspondent who obviously knows the problems and needs of women’s athletics intimately and who shares my concerns for the future.    For instance:- ‘There was a fine day’s sport at the Edinburgh Championships and, with three records broken, what more does anyone want?   But someone should suggest changing the venue to Hampden or Ibrox since there is no support in Edinburgh.    Diane Leather says we have some fine girls in Scotland but they require more competition – no wonder P Devine and E Hay, not forgetting EMS have left us.   Our sports promoters are very dull, as week after week the 100 and 220 yards are all they cater for – running yourself dizzy on a grass flag track.    Every sports promoter should include the half-mile for women.”

Frankly I have very great sympathy with my correspondent and agree with much that she has written.   Making allowances for Miss Leather’s generous and natural tribute to her hosts, we do have fine runners who lack competition.   While it is true that Pat Devine and Elspeth Hay have travelled south for keener competition, EMS (if she meant Eileen Sealey) has not gone to Australia for that reason, though she is in athletics there and expects to be home for the start of next season.


I agree that sports promoters are slow to cater for middle distance and milers and could do a lot more for them if they would.   But I have pled for this for two years and more.   On Saturday last it was pathetic to see our athletes compete in events for which they were neither fitted nor trained.   And I am with my correspondent to the full when she pleads for more half mile events.   Some day the promoters will realise that in the quarter, the half and the mile we have the ladies who could provide some exciting competition and would not only draw the public but would also provide athletes of international repute.”

The ‘Special Correspondent’ was not named but one who did writea lot about women’s athletics at the time was Ivan Pulsford and he wrote the following at the start of the 1955 summer season which has a fair bit about Molly and her plans at Springburn Harriers under the one word headline


  “A women’s athletic club which will begin the new season with quite a strong touch of class about their membership are Springburn Harriers.   Their secretary, Molly Ferguson, is herself the holder of two cross-country international ‘caps’. one of which was gained as recently as last month against England, and by her personal example both on and off the track, is an inspiration to many of the younger athletes in the club. 

SECOND TO AILEEN.    Then there is Doreen Fulton who gained a place in the same Scottish team this season, and did so well in the Scottish championships finishing second to Aileen Drummond.   To add further distinction, the club now have Margaret Black. Scottish women’s Intermediate high jump and long jump champion and Jean Muir who last season won the Scottish schoolgirls junior hurdles championship.   With another score or so of promising athletes at their disposal, Springburn promise to test the best.

Miss Ferguson tells me that their immediate incentive is to qualify for a place in the West team to meet the East at Shotts on May 26th, and to do this they will have to put their best foot forward at the Scotstoun trials at Scotstoun on May 12th.   In the meantime, intensive training is proceeding at Allan Glen’s sports ground at Bishopbriggs on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and interested young athletes are invited to attend or write to Miss M Ferguson, 95 Burnbrae Street, Balornock.   APPEAL TO PROMOTERS.   Miss Ferguson adds:- ‘We hope to do well in the sprints and hope that sports promoters will remember those girls who run best in the 880 yards and the Mile.”

The international referred to in which both Molly and Doreen ran came after the National Cross-Country Championships on 5th Match which was reported as follows:


Ayr Racecourse was acclaimed the perfect venue for the Scottish women’s cross-country championship by both competitors and spectators on Saturday afternoon when the race was run in glorious sunshine.   With three circuits of approximately three quarters of a mile each to be covered by the runners, the spectators had full view of the race from start to finish.   As was anticipated, Aileen Drummond of Maryhill Harriers (holder) easily retained her title winning with a comfortable lead of 70 yards from clubmate Cathie Boyle in 18 minutes 29 seconds.   Cathie, who is only 15 years of age, ran a beautifully judged race and has the makings of a good athlete.   The first six will represent Scotland in the international cross-country championship which will be held over the same trail at Ayr Racecourse on March 26th.   There will also be a ballot relay race for men run in conjunction with the championship.   Three men will be chosen by ballot for each team, running one lap of the hurdle course.   The team:- Aileen Drummond, Cathie Boyle, Elizabeth MacLeod, M Ferguson, A Elder and D Fulton.”

I have commented elsewhere on the poor coverage of women’s athletics by the newspapers of the time and I could find no report of the international in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ of the appropriate date but ‘The Scots Athlete’ came to the rescue again with this brief report in their April 1955 issue.   “The second post-war women’s international was held at Ayr on 26th March.    Again England dominated taking all the first six placings.   The individual winner was the famous British track and cross-country star Diane Leather who finished over 100 yards ahead of another great athlete, Anne Oliver.   After the race the teams were guests at a civic reception.   Details:-

  1. D Leather 16:08.   2.   A Oiver   16:31.   3.   L Buckland  16:45.   4.   J Bridgland   16:57.   5.   M Davis   17:00.   6.   M Wooller   17:01.   Scotland:   7.   C Boyes (18:18), 8.  A Drummond (18:40), 9.  E MacLeod (18:47),  10  M Ferguson  (19:15),  11.   D Fulton (19:20), 12  A Elder (19:25). 

Note that it was a ‘cross-country championship’ in the singular with all ages in the same race – second finisher Cathie Boyle was only 15 – and in the absence of female equivalents of Dunky Wright and Jimmy Scott, the women had to make their own way and set up their own championships in addition to running in them.   That the sport of endurance running in Scotland progressed to the present day standards is due almost entirely to the women such as Molly and Aileen in the 1950’s.   In the SWAAA championship that year the resut of the 880 yards was 1.   Aileen K Drummond  2:30.8,   2.   Elizabeth McLeod (Unatt),   3.   Molly Ferguson – two SWAAA Championships, two medals for Molly.   She also ran in the 220 yards where she was third in her heat but unplaced in the final.   Later in the year, on 27th July, Molly won the 220 yards at the Ardeer Recreation Sports in 28.5 seconds off 9 yards from CD Watson (Springburn) and E Junner (Bellahouston).   There was also a major 440 yards at Cowal with Molly, Aileen, Ann Reilly and Anna Herman in front of the normal big Cowal crowds.

1956 started with an open cross-country championship held on 27th January with five clubs (Ardeer, Ayr, Clydesdale, Maryhill and Springburn) contesting the team competition.   Doreen Fulton of Springburn won the race in 14:52 from Molly Ferguson in 15:12 with the reigning cross-country champion Aileen Drummond third in 15:52.   The next three places were taken by local Ayr runners – Claire Thursby, Joyce Thursby and Jean Norris to win the team race.   In the National Cross-Country Championships at Musselburgh the first six again qualified for the Scottish team for the international and the winner was again Aileen Drummond (16:26) from Doreen Fulton (16:30) and JC Herman (Edinburgh Southern Harriers – the reigning SWAAA 440 yards record holder with 58.3).   Molly was fourth, Mrs Steedman (Lewisvale Spartans fifth and Margaret Campbell of Maryhill sixth.   Maryhill won the team title and Ayr was second.    It was noted that Aileen Drummond will not run for Scotland in the International but Mrs A Lusk has kindly obliged to step into her place.   After a hectic week end Aileen was married on Tuesday to Mr Hugh Lusk at St John’s Renfield Church.   In the international at Musselburgh in March, England took the first six places with Diane Leather being the individual victor for the third year.   It was a good year for Springburn Harriers since John McCormick was in the Scottish men’s team that year giving the club three cross-country internationalists.

In the West District trials for the East v West match, the 880 yards was won by Aileen Drummond in 2:40.5 with Molly second and Doreen Fulton third.   Although unplaced in the inter-district match, the report the following morning said “I liked the running of Jean Muir, Mary Symonds, Isobel Bond, Ann Reilly and Molly Ferguson.”   Then into the SWAAA Championships at New Meadowbank and Molly won her first Scottish track title.   She won the 880 yards from Dale Greig and E Maitland (Aberdeen AAC) in 2:28.3.   The writer in the Evening Times (Dunedin) did get her age wrong when he said”A 10 year old Springburn typist, Molly Ferguson, is the new half-mile champion.   She ran a very well-judged race to finish with power and come through to win in the last 50 yards.   A Lusk was fourth and thus lost her second title of the afternoon.”   The mile had already been won by Barbara Tait with Aileen second.   There actually was another report which got Molly’s age right: “A 19 year old Springburn typist, Molly Ferguson is the new half mile champion.   She showed shrewd judgment in her running and came through very strongly to head the field for the first time in the last straight.”    If the judgment of your peers is the most valuable kind then in the ‘Scots Athlete’ of October 1956 had this comment from Dale Greig in her Women’s Notes where she was writing of Aileen Lusk’s retirement from competitive athletics:   “In the 880 yards she had to concede her title to the much fitter, and this year the much faster, Molly Ferguson (Springburn Harriers)”

There were two high-class international races held that summer in which Molly took part.   The first was at Murrayfield on 18th August with three Scots (Molly, Ann Reilly and Barbara Tait), two English runners (Diane Leather and Anne Oliver and one Polish athlete (Halina Gabor).     . Diane Leather won in 2:18 with Gabor second in 2:19.8, Anne Oliver was third and Molly, the reigning SWAAA 880y champion fourth.   Ann Reilly, reigning SWAAA 440y champion was fifth and Barbara Tait, reigning mile champion, sixth.   The other scratch invitation international was held at Ibrox on 15th September in the Daily Express Floodlight Meeting.   There were eight runners – three from England (N Smalley, H Vincent and B Loakes), two from Scotland (Molly Ferguson and Ann Reilly), one from Holland (Stien Scharleman), one from East Germany (U Donath) and one from Poland (B Pestkowna).   The promoters were not overlooking  the women any more.   Leather won in2:09.7 with Donath second in 2:09.8 and Gabor third in 2:11.   neither Leather nor Gabor were in the official programme.   11956 was a good year for Molly- second in the National Cross-Country Championship, first in the SWAAA half-mile after being third in the previous two championships and then the two big invitations to close the summer season.   At the other end of the scale that summer was the Larkhall Sports Association’s meeting at Broomfield Park.   The meeting preview commented that “an innovation, the women’s half mile has attracted a good entry, headed by Scottish champion Molly Ferguson, Springburn.”  Molly actually ran in two events here: in the half mile she lived up to her billing and won in 2:26.4 from club mate Doreen Fulton and then was third in the 220y behind E Rodger of Shotts and EM Sealey.

Springburn Club Group: Molly is sitting second from the left


When the cross-country championship was held in March 1957, Molly Ferguson was absent for the first time since becoming eligible to run and this ended her series of international races.    For the record, the first six were M O’Hare (Maryhill) in 12:50, B Rodgers (Shotts 40 yards back and H Cherry (Bellahouston) another 80 yards back followed bu D Fulton (Springburn), D Greig (Bellahouston) and M Campbell (Maryhill).   However in her preview of the track championships to be held in June, Dale Greig said that “one champion most likely to retain is Molly Ferguson of Springburn H in the half-mile.   She has been so impressive lately that it is thought in some quarters that she could get down to record figures and could possibly also take the ‘quarter’ title.”   The first track race of the season had been the West District trials for the East v West match and Molly made the team by winning, ‘easily’ said the Glasgow Herald, in 2:27.5.   Not only that but she went on to win the actual Inter-Area  880 yards in 2:36.1 to start another good summer’s running.   Ivor Pulsford wrote of the meeting under the headline “


I was greatly impressed by two of the distance runners at the East v West Trials on Saturday, and am persuaded that we have in Molly Ferguson a half miler who will prove a distinguished successor to Anna Herman, who still sets our athletes an admirable example on the track.   Molly has the easy comfortable stride of the well-coached and well-trained runner and gives the impression of having the reserve of stamina which indicates the thorough and disciplined preparation for competition which is the mark of the intelligent and determined athlete.   The other was barbara Tait (Edinburgh Harriers) whose convincing victory in the mile at the Scottish Championships last year was as much a surprise to herself I hear as it was to the rest of us.”  

However the win he forecast was not in the national championships that year.   In the SWAAA 880 yards in June the pundits were proved wrong when the winner was SH Duncan of Edinburgh Harriers in 2:26.   JP King from Streatham was second and Molly won her fourth medal in four years with third place.   1956 might have been a false dawn for Scotland’s women middle distance runners – there were no events for women at all this time at Cowal, only a 100y, 220y, or at Edinburgh where there was only an 80m Hurdles or at Shotts where there was only the 100y and 220y. 

Molly as school champion at Albert Secondary

The national cross-country championship was held on 8th March 1958 and held ‘in the vicinity of Springburn Harriers pavilion.’   Won by Isobel Mooney ahead of the Bellahouston pair of Dale Greig and Helen Cherry, there was no sign of any of the Springburn Harriers in action that day.   It was Commonwealth Games year and all the top Scots – and several Anglos – were keen to prove their credentials.   In the East v West match, Molly won the 880 yards from Barbara Tait.   In the SWAAA championships, Molly won the 880 yards for the second time in 2:23.9 from JP King (Streatham) and D Dunning of Broxburn.   Unfortunately the time was not enough for selection although it was noted by the Glasgow Herald that “Miss MA Ferguson (Springburn Harriers) who won the title two years ago but lost last year regained the 880 yards title.”   But with no women selected for track events other than the 100 yards and 220 yards it was the Highland Games and Sports Meetings for distance runners for the remainder of the summer.   Most of the races were handicap races but at Stewarton on 28th June the Springburn team of J Muir, M Ferguson, C Cowie and I McDowall won the 4 x 110 yards relay in 55.8 seconds.   The best supportes Games were at Ardeer, Gourock and Strathallan and they formed the competition as they did every year after the championships were over,

There was no sign of Molly in the national cross-country at Auchinairn on 7th March 1959 which was won by a 16 year old, A Paterson from Aberdeen from Barbara Tait, but in the West District Trials on 16th May she showed that she had not gone away by winning the 880 yards in 2:36.7.   In the inter-area at Scotstoun on 23rd May, Tait won in 2:26.4 which was a meeting record   The SWAAA Championships at New Meadowbank on 13th June saw Molly win another medal, albeit another bronze when Ann Reilly, the outstanding 440 yards runner from Ardeer won in 2:24 from M McAuley (Edinburgh Harriers) and Molly.

1960 started with a fourth place in the national cross-country championships held at Pollokshaws.   On to the track season and this year at the West district trials Molly was second in the 880 yards behind Ann Reilly of Ardeer who won in 2:31.   On to the West v East, held again at Scotstoun, and Molly was second again, this time to Barbara Tait who also won the Mile.   This was however the first year since she began competing as a senior that Molly Ferguson failed to gain a medal at the SWAAA Championships which was won in a slow time by Ann Reilly with S Duncan and M Donaghy (both Edinburgh Harriers) second and third.

By 1961 Molly was now Molly Wilmoth, having married fellow Springburn Harrier Danny.   The Scottish cross-country championship took place in Greenock  and Molly was seventh behind Pat McCluskey, Dale Greig, R Wylie, Doreen Fulton, Barbara Tait and S Loftus.   Springburn was second team behind Rankin Park and when Barbara Tait couldn’t run in the international, Molly was drafted in in her place.   The Glasgow Herald report read as follows: “A team representing the Scottish Women’s Cross-Country Union finished fourth in the English Women’s District Championships at Sheffield over a three mile course.   Miss P McLuskey (Rankin Park), the Scottish champions was ninth of the 204 competitors.   Also in the team were Miss D Fulton (Springburn) fourteenth, Miss R Wylie (Doon) twenty first, Miss MF Wilmoth  (Springburn) twenty eighth, Miss AS Loftus (Anglo Scottish) twenty ninth and Miss D Greig (Tannahill) forty third.”      Molly had more than justified her selection.   The winter season was now at an end and she now turned to the track again.   In the West District trials she passed on the 880 yards and ran in the 440 yards instead and the result was published as  “440 yards:   1.   C Gillies (Maryhill) 64.1; 2.   M Ferguson-Wilmoth (Springburn;   3.   R Bowen (maryhill).   In the West v East however Molly was second in the 880 yards won by Helen Cherry in 2:26.7 and the result was printed as follows “880 yards:   1.   H Cherry 2:26.7;  2.   M Ferguson.”    Talk about confusion – four races, four different names – Mrs Wilmoth, Miss Wilmoth, MF Ferguson-Wilmoth and M Ferguson!   In the 440 yards she had run 63.5 for thirteenth and 2:29.2 for tenth place in the end-of-season rankings.

Molly did not appear in any race results or ranking lists in 1962, “I don’t think I ran much apart from jogging at St Augustine’s: Alison was born that year.”

The Springburn Ladies trained like other women’s athletic clubs at the time with regular Tuesday and Thursday training which in her case was done at Allan Glen’s School playing fields in Bishopbriggs.   They trained on grass round the cricket pitch – sometimes even when the cricket was going on.   At various times she trained with Tom Williamson’s Maryhill Harriers Ladies in the West End of Glasgow and on Sundays would take the bus from Balornock where she lived, to the Pollokshaws Swimming Baths from which they would do their long Sunday training run.   She often trained with the men and received advice from the senior men such as Jim Morton.   The race programme involved the main championships plus many of the highland games meetings such as trathallan, Ardeer, Gourock and Bute, as well as sports meetings like the Babcock and Wilcox meeting at Renfrew

Although the serious racing stopped when Molly and Danny started a family, the involvement with the club did not stop and she did keep on running.   Molly also did some running as a veteran, running in two IGAL World Veterans Championships.   She ran at Perpignan in France in October 1983 when she was timed at 49:39 for 10000m.   Danny also ran and did 40:18 and the next day 1:53.22 for the 25K.   Walter Ross, the founder of the Scottish Veterans Athletics, drove a bus full of Scottish competitors to the meeting but Danny and Molly made their own way there and turned the event into a holiday.   Molly also ran in the event at St Anne’s in June 1985.   Between these two events she had what she says is her only race on a tartan track when she ran in the Vets Track and Field Championships at Meadowbank on 29th July 1984.   She was second in the 440 yards behind Barbara Colwell in he W45 age group.   In September 1995 Doug Gillon notes in the Veterans Championships Molly Wilmoth, nee Ferguson, twice National half-mile champion, took the 100 yards title in the 55-plus division.”   But then, she could always sprint a bit winning such events as the 220 yards at Falkirk FC Sports when she was running really well in the 50’s.   With sports meetings often having only 100 and 220 yards events she ran her share of handicap sprints and won quite a few of them.

Molly was very active at club level.   The Springburn Harriers Ladies had dwindled a lot after Molly, Doreen Fulton, Jean Muir and some others had stopped running.   So Molly decided to start it up again in the late 1970’s, adopting the name of the local authority and so Strathkelvin Ladies AAC was born.   She roped in old friends and colleagues such as former track and cross-country runner Aileen Lusk, persuaded parents such  as Graham Sword to join in and the club worked well with lots of girls going along.   There was help from men in the club and it was not long before Strathkelvin became Springburn Harriers Ladies again.   They are quite successful at present (2013) but the success is mainly on the road and over the country with not as many track runners as in Molly’s day.

By then however, she was a seriously good  track official who was known throughout the country.   She is not sure when she started officiating but was given an award in 2012 for having officiated at 50 consecutive Tom Scott Road Races.  Starting as a Grade 4 track official she worked her way up through the ranks until in the 1990’s as a Grade 1 official, she was officiating at some of the top meetings in the country where the officiating has to be meticulous under the scrutiny of Press and TV as well as the competitors themselves.   Among the many events at which she officiated were the Scottish Indoor Championships in 1995, the BVAF Indoor in February 1998 when she was track referee, the GB v USA match at Scotstoun in 1999, the Scottish Indoors in 2000, the Falkirk Reebok Cross-Country in 2003 when she was again referee.   Brian Goodwin said that she should go for the cross-country referee grading and she went to the 2003 Reebok UK INter-Counties and World Trials at Wollaston Park, Nottingham, on 8th February 2003 where she was the referee.   Closely watched and monitored by the English officials she came through with flying colours and became the first Scottish woman to attain cross-country referee status, and only the second in Britain.   The first was Pat Green and the two became friends and many years later Pat was still asking after Molly.   Also in 2003 was what she called “a momentous occasion for me” – being chosen to referee the European Cross-Country Championships at Holyrood, Edinburgh.   It was indeed quite a significant honour but not at all one that was undeserved.

Molly and Danny

A year later came another big occasion: on 13th November 2004 at the Scottish Athletics Awards Dinner in Edinburgh, Molly and Danny were jointly awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award.   Not one that comes to many, the joint nature made it even more special.   They had been recognised as a good double act as far as Scottish Athletics was concerned for some time.  Away back in the December 1985 issue of the Scottish Veteran Harriers Club Newsletter, there was a centre spread on what they called “THE SCOTTISH VETS OTHER WINNING TEAM.”   The text read”For the second year in a row Danny has taken on the onerous work of Membership Secretary of the club and like his predecessor, former Vice-President Willie Armour, has also taken on the combined duty of handicapper.   As our club approaches the region of six or seven hundred members, it is readily appreciated that this is no easy task.   There has to be devotion and dedication!    But, just as Willie happily had the back-up and support of his wife Molly, so too does Danny enjoy the help of his wife Molly.   Yet it might never have been but for the influence of our other great club-mate, Tom O’Reilly and the fact that Danny was a ‘Farmer’s Boy’.   When Springburn Harriers ran through the farmer’s fields for cross-country ‘Danny-boy’ was on hand to open gates and fix fences.   Clever Tom and his colleagues soon convinced him to join.   This was the start of an interesting athletic career that has led to the splendid partnership with Molly and the Scottish Veteran Harriers Club.”

They are both still working for the SVHC .   At the Vets annual ‘escape to the sun’ in Torremolinos in January 1990, Molly was President and again was strongly featured in the centre spread.   In the pictures below we have Molly ‘at the centre of our holiday group’, with Pete Cartwright who won both 5000m and 1000m, running with other women on the beach, and finally with Life Member Willie Armour.

Molly had joined the Vets Club as early as 1975 when it was in its infancy and entered the special invitation race at the men’s championships that year although she could not actually take part.   The programme notes for that race say:   Molly Wilmoth, Kirkintilloch.   Over 35, Molly has been in the sport for some 20 years.   Mother of two children, 12 and 9 years old, Molly is a former cross-country internationalist and twice winner of the Scottish 880 yards title.   Coaches local girls at Kirkintilloch.   She thinks the concepts of our Vets Association a wonderful idea. ”   Danny and Molly worked hard for the SVHC and both served as President.   Molly’s turn came between 1989 and 1991 with Danny a Committee Member holding different posts (some mentioned above) at that time.   When the club started the annual trips to the sun in early Spring, Molly and Danny went with the rest – and they are still going as part of the group.

Molly running on the beach on a warm weather trip with the vets

Another very special experience for her was when she shared refereeing for the week of the Special Olympics at Scotstoun in Glasgow in 2005 – like other officials from this event that I have spoken to she really treasures the memories.   Molly is still officiating and working long hours at meetings – in April 2013 she stood outside working at the Six Stage Relays which is one of the longest events in the calendar.   Finally we should maybe look at some of her honours and achievements.


*   Life Member of Scottish Athletics


*   Life Member of Springburn Harriers


*   First Woman President of the SWCCU when it was formed in 1960


*   Lifetime Achievement Award from Scottish Athletics


*   First Scottish woman to become a cross-country referee.


*   Twice SWAAA 880 yards champion


*   President of the Scottish Veteran Harriers


And that’s only some of the honours that have come her way.   It is now 60 years since she joined Springburn Harriers from Albert Secondary School and her officiating and enjoyment of the sport is just as sharp and comprehensive as ever it was.



Aileen Drummond

Aileen with Diane Leather

Scottish Mile and cross-country champion with the English Mile and cross-country champion.

I first met Aileen Lusk in the late 70’s early 80’s when I took my daughter training with Strathkelvin Ladies AC which was run by Molly Wilmoth and Aileen.   The atmosphere at the club was great and all the girls had a wonderful time.   At that point Ailen was still very fit as you can see from the picture of her running with Dale Greig in the IGAL marathon in 1976 (below).   I did not realise at this point just how good she had been although she did look look every inch a class athlete even then as a veteran athlete, twenty years after her triumphs in the 1950’s and 60’s.   The profile that follows begins in 1952/53 when she came into the sport and immediately before her three-in-a-row national cross-country titles.

Aileen and Dale

Aileen’s first season in athletics was 1952/53, we’ll come to how she came into the sport later, and although recovering from ‘flu she took part in the national cross-country championship at Ayr in 1953.   She finished fourth and her club, Maryhill Harriers, was second to Athenian AC from Edinburgh.   Later that year there was no doubt about her fitness at the SWAAA championships at Helenvale in Glasgow where she won the mile at her first attempt.   This occasioned all sorts of headlinessuch as “Girl Wins Mile at first attempt”, “Two broke record in one race”, “Betters women’s mile record by 43 seconds”, and even “Flying Miss Hits Record.”   The report in the June 1953 issue of ‘The Scots Athlete’   read,  “The mile was probably the most fascinating race of the day.   M Law (Edinburgh Southern Harriers) shook everyone, spectators and competitors alike, with her tremendous first lap, then seemed to have had it, then came again, hanging on to her lead until Miss A Drummond (Maryhill Harriers) who had been running with fine judgment, forged ahead down the back straight and up the home stretch to win by 20 yards in the grand time of 5:35.   A new record and a time comparable with our sisters south of the Border.   K Mair (Maryhill Harriers) and M Wadler(Athenian AC) had a great battle for third place, the former just managing to keep the holder out.   There is as yet no standard time for the mile, but Saturday’s performance should help fix  suitable fixture.”

Aileen then went to the AAA championships in England at her own expense to take part in the mile against English runners.   She ran well for a woman in her first year in athletics to finish fifth in the Final.   The report read “In the long distance running, Miss Aileen Drummond from Maryhill Harriers, Glasgow, put up a good performance to finish fifth in the Mile which was won by the London girl Miss Enid Harding in the new British record of 5 min 0.9 sec.   Miss Drummond’s time was 5min 20.8 sec.”

In a series of newspaper articles, dealing with Scottish Women athletes, George Martin wrote the following.


How many champions are lost to athletics for want of a little advice … a little encouragement … or a little enterprise?   An American authprity has calculated that there must be literally  hundreds of four-minute milers in the United States whose talent will never be discovered.   Aileen Drummond is an example of ‘one who nearly got away’.   Last year at 24 she was a slim, strong girl who played some tennis, badminton and hockey.   She had run in the relay teams in her schooldays at Hillhead and Glasgow High School.   She still ran occasionally – for buses.   She was the best woman miler in Scotland: only she didn’t know it.   But one summer evening, as Aileen strolled out from her home inKelvindale, she caught sight of some girls training at the ‘Dough School’ sports ground off Great Western Road, gave her a hankering for the track game again.

She made some timorous enquiries about joining Maryhill Harriers.   They grabbed her.    There wasn’t much of a champion’s look about Aileen in her first few track appearances.  A second place in the Milngavie sprint was her only prize before the summer season ended.   But what a different story in winter.   Maryhill’s women ran two or three cross-country packs – fast, slow and don’t know.   Soon they had another, Aileen Drummond was in a class of her own.   She strolled off with the club’s cross-country championship over about one and a half miles.   In the Scottish title race over roughly the same distance, Aileen turned out and, weakened by a bout of the ‘flu, and gained a gallant fourth place.    

Aileen was fit again for the track season – despite the protests of the rest of the Drummond family at the bumps and thumps from an upstairs bedroom every night.   That was Aileen exercising.   When her club championships came around, in went Aileen’s name for the quarter-mile, half-mile and mile.   By the end of a busy evening she was champion for all three – incidentally knocking large lumps from the Scottish mile record of 6 mins 21 secs by getting under 6 mins.   The Scottish mile championship was only her second race at the distance and down came the national record to 5 mins 35 secs.   And then on to the White City and British Championships.   It was the first time that Aileen had ever been in London and she was ‘terrified’ at all the ballyhoo of the big meeting.   In the actual race she had something to be terrified about.   Enid Harding who has run fastest women’s half-mile in the world – although there’s no official world record – put up a mile performance on that blistering day that would have done credit to many a man.   Her time was a world best of 5 min 09.8 sec.   In that kind of company for the first time, Aileen ran splendidly for fifth place.   Time: 5 min 20.2 sec.

The Drummond family, incidentally, were pleased as Punch – especially Dad – he had paid Aileen’s expenses for the trip.   Now Aileen is back at her insurance office, keeping fit and looking around for competition.   Any takers?   You never know what you can do untl you try.  Ask Aileen Drummond!

Aileen winning a schools race

And that was the form she took into the winter 1953/54 season.   In 1954 the cross-country championships were held at Dunfermline and Aileen won from M Wadler and RWA Moffat from Athenians, and Molly Wilmoth from Springburn.   The first six were selected for the first post-war international with England.   The championship was reported by Helen Wilkie, Secretary of the Scottish Women’s Association, in the May, 1954, issue of ‘The Scots Athlete’.   “The cross-country championship was held at Pitreavie on 27th February over a distance of two and a quarter miles.   The distance was increased this year and a small entry of 19 was therefore not disappointing.   The result of the championship is as under:- 1.   A Drummond (Maryhill) 14 min 52 sec;   2.  M Wadler (Athenian) 15:17;   3.  RWA Moffatt (Athenian)15:52;   4.  M Ferguson (Springburn H)  16:01;   5.  A Elder (maryhill H)  16:01;   6.  S Johnstone (Maryhill H)  16:16.   First team:   Maryhill Harriers 1, 5, 7, 10 = 23 points;  2nd team: Springburn Harriers 4, 11, 12, 13 = 40 points.    Athenians were without the services of Jean Webster, last year’s champion, who had been ill, and they fielded only three runners.   Had Jean been available, most likely Athenians would have retained their title.”

The outstanding point was the fitness of each girl.  The competitors all finished strongly – not one was in anything like an exhausted condition.   It was indeed extremely heart-warming to see the results of sound training.   In previous years, bad publicity in the Press did much to make the sport unpopular in women’s clubs, and every year our championship led to much head-shaking from the critics.  Had thse critics been present at Pitreavie they would have had second thoughts.   On the standard of running at Pitreavie, the Association can invite Press  photographers without fearing what they will see in the next day’s papers.”

This led on to the International, and the ‘Glasgow Herald’ previewed the race as follows:


Just 51 years after mere men had thought of the idea, women athletes are to have the first of what it is hoped will be an annual international cross-country race next Saturday.   It will be staged over a two and a half mile course at Perry Park, Perry Barr, and the issue will be between teams representing England and Scotland.   England will be represented by the first six to finish in last week’s national championships at Aylesbury, namely Diane Leather and Dilys Williams (Birchfield), Ann Oliver (Gosforth), June Bridgland (Southampton), Nora Smalley (Portsmouth) and Marian Davies (Stockport).”

A fairly realistic assessment and preview was contained in this article:  “SCOTS GIRLS ON SOUTH TITLE HUNT.  by Alick Kerr.   Scottish women runners are not numerous but they certainly do not lack pluck.   Tomorrow they resume cross-country with England at Birmingham.   The following team will represent Scotland.   A Drummond (Maryhill), EM Wadler (Athenians),  B Moffatt (Athenian) M Ferguson (Springburn), N Elder (Maryhill), S Johnstone (Edinburgh).   Mrs M Thursby Ayr AAC, will be in charge of the party.   Aileen Drummond who captains the Scots is cross-country and mile champion of Scotland.   The Maryhill girl will meet the English champion, Diane Leather, Birchfield Harriers, who outclassed the field when winning her title two weeks ago.   As the English girls have a much more ambitious training programme during the season, they will probably be better trained and should win both team and indiviual honours over this three miles test.”

The race came and the report in the green (sporting) ‘Evening Citizen’ said: 


England girls had a runaway win when they met Scotland for the first post-war international cross-country race for women, held at Perry Barr this afternoon.   The home always had the top six girls and finally won by 10 points to 34.   Diane Leather, the Birchfield champion, was an easy winnerafter being challenged in the early stages by Anne Oliver, the Northern champion.   There was always a close tussle for third place between June Bridgland, the Southern title holder, and Dilys Williams, the Birchfield girl.   Always in seventh place was Aileen Drummond, the Scottish champion, but try as she might she was unable to break the English formation.   The only change in the remaining laps was that Miss Bridgland broke away to make certain of third place.    Result:-

  1.   D Leather 15:19;  2. A Oliver 15:45;  3.  J Bridgland  16:12;  4.  D Williams  16:23;  5.  M Davies  16:39;  6.  N Smalley 17:00;  7.  A Drummond  17:29;  8.  M Wadler  17:55;  9.  J Elder  19:00;   10.   M Ferguson   19:13;   11.  B Moffatt  20:20;   12.  S Johnstone  21:30

With the cross-country season out of the way, Aileen ran in the West trials for the East  v  West match and won the 880 yards and the mile in2:40.5  and  5:52.9, but the reports explained the slow times by saying there was a strong west wind.   Aileen also won the half-mile at the Vale of Leven Sports where her running off the virtual scratch mark 0f 5 yards was commented on.   Her winning time was 2:29.4.   If that was good, the SAAA Championships was even better – a double title succes at 880 yards and the mile.   In the former she won in 2:25.4 from RWA Moffatt (Athenians) and Molly Ferguson (Springburn).   In the mile, it was a win in 5:40 from M Wadler (Athenians)  and M Campbell (Maryhill).   Emboldened by this, she travelled with several other women to the AAA’s championships at the White City and did much better than the year before by finishing third in the Final.   While she was there, she noticed that the British Insurance Companies Championships were being held that week so she entered the 440 yards – and won it!    It had been a very good year indeed for Aileen: Scottish champion over the country, double track champion, and a medal at the British championships as well.  

In the 1954/55 season she had her cross-country title to defend which she did successfully in March as was reported in the ‘Glasgow Herald’:  


Ayr race course was acclaimed the perfect venue for the Scottish women’s cross-country championships by both sepctators and competitors on Saturday afternoon when the race was run in glorious sunshine.   With three circuits of approximately three quarters of a mile each to be covered by the runners, the spectators had a full view of the race from start to finish.   As anticipated Aileen Drummond (Maryhill Harriers), holder, easily maintained her titlewinning with a comfortable lead of 70 yards from her club-mate Cathie Boyle in 18 min 29 sec.   Cathie, who is only 15 years of age, ran a beautifully judged race and has the makings of a good athlete.   The first six will represent Scotland in the international cross-country championship which will be held over the same course at Ayr Racecourse  on March 26th.”     The ‘Scots Athlete’ reported on the race in more depth.   This event was omnce again favoured with fine weather although there was a cold east wind.   Excellent arrangements were made by Mr and Mrs Thursby and Ayr Athletic Club and many members of the West District of the SCCU.  Before the race there was quite a bit of speculation as to whether Miss Miller from Aldershot would master the reigning champion, Miss A Drummond, who was the home favourite, but the expected battle did not materialise as Miss Miller unfortunately did not finish the course.   The course was one of three laps diagonally across the racecourse and this gave the spectators a good view of the entire two and a quarter mile race, but unfortunately the race was not well supported by spectators, the large East contingent of 1953 being absent.   It was unfortunate that there were very few compettors from the East.

Of a total entry of 23, including three teams, 20 faced the starter, and for the first quarter of a mile a small group including Drummond, Boyes, Miller, Ferguson, Elder  and McLeod broke away and were still bunched at the end of the lap.   Going uphill for the second time, Aileen Drummond started to force the pace which I though was not very fast at that point.   But I had the feeling that the runners were suffering from an insufficient warm-up, and the cold wind which was affecting their breathing.   They were certainly looking none too happy at that stage.   As Aileen drew away trailing Miss Boyes and Miller after her, with the rest of the field strung out behind, it became apparent that the latter was in trouble, and that the youngest competitor was going to be a force to be reckoned with at the finish as she was moving easily and showed little signs of tiring.   As the second lap was completed Drummond was about 30 yards clear up on the field and moving much better, Miller dropped out here and Boyes took up the role of challenger with McLeod maintaining her position close behind.   It was now pretty definite that the holder would, unless something very unexpected happened, win again.   This was indeed the result with the others dropping slightly further behind, but all credit must be given to Miss Boyes for her really fine show in finishing second in her first national.”   The report was written by Mrs T Montgomery, Chief Coach, SWAAA.

The final result was:-  1.   A Drummond 18:39  ;  2.   C Boyes 18:52  ;  3.  E McLeod  19:08;  4.  M Ferguson  19:15;   5.  A Elder  19:38;  6.  D Fulton  19:52, M Campbell, S Johnstone, S Stewart, M Steel, C Walsh, C Buchanan, C Watson, C McDevitt.   The winning team was Maryhill with 12 points from Springburn with 31 points.   The first six were selected for the international which was again won by England.   It was then on to the summer of 1955 with Aileen again defending her titles.   In the SWAAA at New Meadowbank she did the double again, winning the 880 yards in 2:30.5 from McLeod and Ferguson, and the Mile in 5:42.5 from Dale Greig and Margaret Campbell.   The report on the SWAA championships in the ‘Scots Athlete’ read: 

“In the longer distances Aileen Drummond (Maryhill Harriers) , though not as fit as she would have wished, proved her superiority by winning the half-mile and mile convincingly although in moderate times.   Mrs McLeod of Dundee ran well for second place in the half mile and got inside the standard time, as did M Ferguson of Springburn who was third.  The battle between Aileen and Jean Webster in the mile which could have been anticipated did not materialise as the half followed the 440 yards and Jean withdrew.  A pity because I have always felt that a race between these two would produce a new record.   M Glen, Edinburgh Southern, a sister of the noted professional miler, put up a very good show in the mile and will probably be a force to be reckoned with in the future.”

1956 started at with an open cross-country race at Ayr where Aileen was third in 15:52, exactly a minute behind the winner, Doreen Fulton of Springburn, with Molly Ferguson of Springburn second.   Aileen was defending her national cross-country championship title at Musselburgh in March and she won again, this time from Doreen Fulton and JC Herman of Edinburgh Harriers.   However one report of the race said: “Aileen Drummond will not run for Scotland but Mrs A Lusk has kindly obliged and stepped into her place.   After a hectic weekend, Aileen was married to Mr Hugh Lusk in St John’s Renfield Church.”   In the international, also held at Musselburgh, England took the first six places with Diane Leather being the individual winner for the third successive year.   The above announcement after the Scottish championship was probably the reason for Aileen only finishing second in the SWAAA mile and not defending her half-mile title in 1956.   The Mile was won by up-and-coming Barbara Tait from Edinburgh who would go on to win the title five times and lower the record four times. 

Dale Greig writing in the October 1956 issue of the ‘Scots Athlete’ had this to say about Aileen in the championship:

“One of our foremost middle distance runners – Aileen Drummond of Maryhill Harriers – has decided to retire from competition.   Aileen gave us our first taste of things to come by winning the SWAAA Mile title in 1953with a new Scottisg record of 5:35 and finishing second in the half-mile.   1954 – another year of success.   She gained her first cross-country title and run for Scotland in the subsequent international against England at Birmingham, in June she completed her hat-trick of Scottish titles by taking the 880 yards in 2:25.4 and the Mile in 5:39.   In this year too she ran her fastest ever mile to finish third in the WAAA championships in 5:12.9 – the fourth fastest mile in Britain that year.   1955 – another year of triumph and national titles.   She retained her cross-country title over two and a half miles at Ayr in 18:39 and again ran in the international.   Although not as fit as she might have been in  the summer, she once more dominated the scene taking the 880 yards in 2:30.8 and the Mile in 5:42.3.   1956 – the year of the fallen idol?   She she began well enough by retaining hercross-country title at Musselburgh for the third year in a very fast 16:26 and was once again the first Scot home in the international in Essex.   Then came the national track championships and her last championships.   In the mile she lost both her title and her national record to the young and promising Barbara Tait of Edinburgh Harriers who won in the new record of 5:28.2.   In the 880 yards she had to concede her title to the much fitter, and this year the much faster, Molly Ferguson (Springburn Harriers). 

Well, as all careers must have a beginning, so they must have an end.   No one has dominated the scene so long, and it is doubtful if anyone will be given the opportunity to do so again, at least for some time to come.   Indeed, of our top middle distance runners this season, I feel that none has the capacity to remain for so long perched on that precarious pedestal on which only a champion can stand – insecure and alone.   Now that she has taken her farewell bow and the opportunity arises, it is pleasing to pay tribute to Aileen as a loyal club runner and a great champion.   Scottish athletics generally, and Maryhill Harriers in particular, will sorely feel her absence.   Taken for all in all we in Scotland have been set a standard which it will be hard to emulate.”

 What a tribute from Dale, one who had so many battles with Aileen on the track and over the country.   It had been a marvellous four years for Aileenas can be seen from the table below.

Date, National Cross-Country, SWAAA 880y title, SWAAA Mile title, AAA Mile

                                                                   1953                                                                                           1st                           5th

                                                                   1954                 1st                                      1st                          1st                           1st

                                                                   1955                 1st                                      1st                          1st                           1st

                                                                   1956                 1st                                      2nd                       2nd                           –

And, of course, we have to add in all the international cross-country fixtures and invitation track races that she participated in.   Given the few competition opportunities, unsophisticated training and generally poor surfaces on which to run, Aileen would have been a top runner in any generation.


Aileen stopped running when her children were born and she spent time at home – but she says that she never really stopped running.   The retirement from competition seemed to last for about ten years before she resurfaced in sports reports in March 1965.   The season started with the usual races – 11th January SCCU Open Road Race; 23rd January Maryhill Harriers race in Glasgow; 6th February Open Races in Kilmarnock; and the National Championships on 22nd February.    She was never in the published results that season, mainly because they only went as far as the top three finishers, and at time only the winner was noted.   But she must have been running well  because on 8th March she was eighth in the Glasgow  v  the Rest of Scotland cross-country race which took place at Fernieside in Edinburgh.   By this time too Aileen had joined Western AAC, a new club formed by her old coach at Maryhill Harriers, Tom Williamson.   

In 1967 the coverage of women’s races was as abysmal as ever, but although Aileen did not appear in the first two at Linn Park, Pollok or Kilmarnock, the report on the open race at Dundee on February 20th read: “Miss GB Craig (Western AC), the Scottish half-mile champion, won the two and a half mile race from Dundee Hawkhill Harriers headquarters on Saturday in 15:13.   She beat Mrs A Lusk(Western AC) by 50 yards and third was Miss T Lindsay (Dundee Hawkhill Harriers). ”     Aileen was back at the top of the results sheet.   Not surprisingly though, when all the top runners appeared in the National, she was not in the top six.   Western was placed third and it is safe to say that she was one of the scoring runners.   The following summer (1968) saw her ranked seventh in the mile with a best time of 5:57.1.   By now Aileen was 40 years old, so it was maybe unreasonable to expect national titles, but her ability and enthusiasm saw her competing at a high level .   In 1969 Aileen was clearly competing at the top domestic Scottish level, much better than a year earlier if the ranking lists are any guide – she was 17th Scot over 1500m with a time of 5:17.1.   This was the first year that metric distances were being run with the Commonwealth Games slated for the following year in Edinburgh, and several unfamiliar Anglos were rated with six in the top ten.   Unfortunately her name did not appear  in any reports that year.   There were four cross country races between January and the end of March and she was not in the first three in any of them.  In 1971 she had a best 1500m time of 5:58.4and a good 3000m time of 12:32.1 (which was eleventh best among Scottish women, including those based in the South)

When the ‘running boom’ came along in the 1970’s and 80’s Aileen was in a good position to take advantage of it.   She was fit, running fast and her enthusiasm was as boundless as ever.   The result was a second successful career in the sport.   When the  first ever women veterans cross-country championship was organised Aileen was there and the programme said: “AILEEN LUSK, Bishopbriggs, Over 45.   Mother of two, Aileen has been running since she was 24 and deserves acknowledgement as one of our Pioneer veterans.   She has retained her interest and enthusiasm throughout the years, continuing in the true veteran spirit of enjoying the sport without the honours to be won.   She was three times winner of the Scottish cross-country title in the 50’s and a member of winning National teams.   She is also a former title/record holder at 880 yards and the mile.”    

She ran in this inaugural event and finished fourth and ran it again in 1977 when she was third. It is impossible to record all her races as a veteran but we can list those we do know in the following table.


event distance time place comments


Vets Christmas Handicap 5 Miles 32:30 3 1 N Campbell 2. D Greig


International Vets Challenge 10K 57:00 4 Bellahouston


Berlin 44:59.33


Round Cumbrae Road Race 72:16 1 (1979 73:18 1981 76:21)


Glasgow Vets 800 RR 6.6 miles 46:31 1


Vets RR 6 Miles 42:03 1 Bellahouston


Vets Cross-Country 5 Miles 39:13 1 Lochinch


Glasgow Vets 800 6.6 miles 50:16 1


Vets RR 5.5 Miles 42:57 1 Strathclyde Park


Inverclyde Marathon 26.2 Miles 3:45:36 First O45


Glasgow Vets 800 6.6 50:16 1


Vets Christmas Handicap 5 Miles 35:35 1


IGAL Championships 10K 48:28 3 Perpignan


Vets Road Race 10K 49:21 2 Lochinch


Vets Track Race 10000m 46:36 1 Airdrie


Vets Half Marathon 13.1 1:39:37 22 Grangemouth 1 H Fyfe 92:00


Falkirk Half Marathon 13.1 1:4-:43


10K-OK 10K 45:21 20 20th overall


Glasgow Vets 800 6.6 46:25 3


IGAL Championship 10K 47:25 3 Lyttham St Anne's


25K 4


Vets Track Championships 5000m 22:29.2 1 Coatbridge


Vets Christmas Handicap 5 Miles 38:18 6 Bishopbriggs


10K-OK 47:07 125 125th Overall

The above table gives an overview of her running as a veteran and gives an overview of her running as a veteran and and an indication of the distances involved, from the 5000m to the full marathon distance, from genuine home races such as the Vets Christmas Handicap at Bishopbriggs to to world championships in Berlin and Perpignan.   Like many veteran runners the range is vast and we need to look at some of the races in more detail, and maybe have a look at some not mentioned above.   In 1976 Aileen travelled to the Vets 10K Road Race at Coventry and finished second; third in Berlin in 1978 and third again in the IGAL 10000m in Glasgow in 1980.  It needs to be borne in mind though that although we are talking of veteran runners who are running for the enoyment of it, we are also speaking of runners many of whom had been winners many times over in their day and who are still very competitive.   These races are no walks in the park!   Every place has to be fought for and won.   How did an 880 yards champion get into long distance road racing?   Aileen said that she uded to run with Dale Greig on Thursday nights in Bellahouston Park and it was Dale who encouraged her into vets racing and trying the marathon =- the first was at Inverclyde where she suffered badly on a very hot dayin 1981 but she managed to finish first in her class.

In addition to the big championships and international galas, she took part in what she called ‘ordinary’ races as well – note the half marathons, vets events and Christmas handicaps above.   Attention should also be drawn to her excellent run in the first of the 10K-OK women only races in Glasgow.   The first race had 720 finishers and Aileen was twentieth, finishing in very good company indeed.   Have a look at the top finishers in the race where Aileen was just behind international runners like Sandra Branney and Elspeth Turner.


Name Time


Liz Steele 37:32


Jane Walker 37:57


Mya S Baker 39:32


Janet McColl 40:25


Rosalind Kay 42:29


Fiona Murray 42:23


Carol Ann Hogg 42:37


Helen McPherson 43:23


Morag Thow 43:28 43:47

and then came 10 Anne Tait, 11 Caroline Miller, 12 Kate Chapman, 13 Gail Noble, 14 Mairead Christie, 15 Sally Johnstone, 16 Helen Oliver, 17Sandra Branney, 18 Elspeth Turner, 19 Nicole Garmery and 20 Aileen Lusk.   

Finishing in the 10K – OK

Staying in Bishopbriggs as she did, Aileen was fortunate that one of the biggest and best sponsored half marathons of the 1980s was rght on her doorstep.   The Luddon Strathkelvin Half Marathon started and finished in Kirkintilloch.   She competed in 1985 and 1987: in 1985 she was presented with the Grandstand Sports Trophy for her run which reslted in her best time of 1:44, and in 1987 she received a Caithness Glass Bowl for the woman veteran who had put up the most meritorious performance in the race.   David Morrison of Shettleston received the men’s award.   

As well as runnin g herself in the 1980’s, she helped Molly Wilmoth with the organisation of the new Strathkelvin Ladies AC to cater for the girls of the district.   It was a successful club and their energy and keenness made it so.   Aileen had a very good career in the sport, almost all of it as a competitor, she was never noted as an official or administrator.   I don’t know if she ever owned or wore a blazer but her ability and desire to compete never went away.   She came through from the start of the 50’s to the late 80’s, she saw many changes in the sport and achieved a lot.   Note the following changes.

* The national championships on the track changed greatly: there were only 14 events in a women’s only event when she started to 39 in 1960 and even more today.

*More long distance races were introduced to track programmes.

* There are now more open races for women throughout the year.

*The return of international matches on the track – some women only, some for both men and women.

*Better reporting of their matches leading to more respect for women athletes

All of these make it easier for succeeding generations of woman endurance runners to succeed than it was for Aileen, Molly and Dale.

Her own career has been documented here, but the question is – what could Aileen and her contemporaries have done had their career started in the mid-70’s with better tracks, more sophisticated training methods, medical and physiological back up and so on?  One of her contemporaries is sure that she would have represented Britain and been an Olympian.   However that may be, she had a wonderful sporting career and is happy with what she achieved.   The only possible regret is maybe that it finished after a car accident when training from home.  Aileen is a onderful example to any athlete.

Lawrie Reilly

Lawrie Reilly finishing second to David Glassborow in AAA’s Junior 1500m, 1970

Lawrie Reilly (7 August 54) was a very good athlete indeed, as was his older brother Joe, who is not as well known in Scotland as others of his generation who accomplished less.   Joe (8 July 1945) was ranked nationally on the track every year from 1964 to 1971, and ranked in One, Two, Three and Six Miles as well as in 1500m, 5000m, 10000m and 3000m steeplechase.   Third in the SAAA Six Miles championship in 1965 with a time of 29:09.2 which placed fifth on the year’s statistical rankings, Joe was very unlucky not to gain international recognition.

Lawrie is recalled by former team mates as slim, quiet and a bit reserved but very talented.   His performances would have been good in any era.   The family moved south to Liverpool in 1972 and both men ran for Liverpool Pembroke as well as retaining and using their Victoria Park membership.   Lawrie wn no fewer than six internationl cross country vests for Scotland and still holds three junior club records for the Liverpool Pembroke Club – these are for the 3000m (8:10:57), the 5000m (14:10.2) and the 10000m (30:29.8).    His range of talen was indeed wide – he is ranked at various times for 800m, 1500m, Mile, 3000m, 5000m and 10000m and well after his cross country international days were over, he ran 2:26:29 for the marathon in 1985.   

Joe Reilly in the national cross-country championships at Hamilton in 1967

Lawrie first appeared on the scene in season 1968/69 as a Senior Boy.   In the Midland District cross-country championships at  Bellahouston  in January 1969 he finished fifth individual in a team that finished fourth.   Then in the National at Hamilton when he was tenth the team responded to the higher level of competition by finishing first.     He showed even then what a good track runner he was when he topped the  rankings for 800m (2:09.7 at Scotstoun on 12th June) and 1500m (4:20.5 at Scotstoun on 12th June).   The 1500m time was when he won the Scottish School 1500m.   Many young athletes are successful because they are physically very mature – look at the starting line of any U13 or U15 800m race – and they disappear when there are increased training demands as they progress through the age groups.   Lawrie was not in the big, burly, physically strong category at any time.   

After a good summer, young Lawrie was still a Senior Boy and improved his Midland Championship run of the previous year when he finished second at Lenzie and led the team home to third place medals.    The next championship was the big one and he was second in the national to Mulvey of Shettleston.

That summer he again won the Scottish Schools 1500m title: on 20th June 1970 at Pitreavie, he was and exactly one week later in the  first in the 15-17 age group in 4:05, and exactly one week later he took part in the first ever combined men’s and women’s Junior and Youth track championships at Grangemouth where he won the 1500 metres in a time of 3:58.9 which also won the Bank of Scotland Trophy for the best performance in his age group.    He ended that summer with best times of 1500 in  3:57.6 which ranked him 26th in Scotland, 3000m in  8:36.2  (19th) and for 10000, a distance seldom run by Under 17’s,  31:19.8  (27th).   The 1500m time was when he finished second in the AAA’s 1500 at Kirkby on 1st August.   The 10000m time was run at Scotstoun on 31st July.   The times were not just good, they were verging on the precocious.

By winter 1970/71 he had stepped up to the Youths (U17) cross-country age group but it didn’t seem to slow his progress.  If anything it accelerated the process.   In the District Championships at Stirling he won the Youths race by 18 seconds from Gillespie of Springburn with Mulvey of Shetleston third.   Victoria Park’s team of Reilly, Alexander (6th) and Inglis (7th) was also first.   Not content with that, Lawrie also won the national in Bellahouston Pak from Rowan of Ayr Seaforth and Paul Bannon of Shettleston with Mulvey fourth.   The  team was also first with the other runners being Alexander 7th, Logue 12th, and Turner 22nd.    The ‘Glasgow Herald’simply said  “Laurie Reilly had a comfortable win the Youths 5000 metres.”   And left it at that.

Summer ’71 was one to remember.   His best times were 1500m  3:56.8  (22nd),   3000 8:33.8  (23rd).    These were senior men’s rankings.   As far as the age group ratings were concerned he was placed first and first.   Competitively he won the Scottish Schools in 4:04.6, the West District Championship in 4:03.0 and the inter-counties in 4:04.6.   He didn’t run in the national championships which was probably as well for the others  he was almost eight and a half seconds faster than anyone else in his age group.   (Lawrie 3:56.8 and Jim Thomson (Law) 4:05.2)   Selected for the Schools international at Meadowbank on 17th July, he finished fourth the time that headed the rankings.    The SATS Handbook read: “Once again Lawrence Reilly was the outstanding Youth at this distance, unaccountably missing the SAAA Championships but winning by a large margin in the other major titles.   Reilly convincingly broke four minutes in the Schools International race at Meadowbank, but will not be seen much in Scotland due to having moved South to Liverpool.”   

Lawrie was listed in 1971 as St Thomas Aquinas HS and Victoria Park, while Joe was credited to Liverpool Pembroke and VPAAC in that order.  His first race south of the Border was at the old track at Wavertree where the local runners knew nothing about him at the start of the race.   He simply sat in for the duration of the race – then out kicked them all.   They knew a bit more about the slightly built young Scot then.  The good news is that Lawrie continued to run for the Scottish club; the sad news is that he missed the major championships that winter of ’71/’72.   In the summer of ’72 he finished the season with best times of  3:58.0  for the 1500m which placed him 26th,  8:12.2 for the 3000m (5th),  14:35.8 for 5000m  (21st),  and 30:29.8 for 10000m (11th).    The last time, the 1000m, was run when winning for Liverpool Pembroke at at Kirkby on 11th June, 1972, which still stands as a club Junior record.

By 1972/73  Lawrie was a Junior Man in athletics terms and was able to run in the eight stage Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay for the first time.   Run on Saturday 18th November, it was a race with no easy stages.   Having said that, second and sixth were the really ferociously competitive ones where the top Scottish endurance runners faced each other.  Lawrie, on his first outing, was asked to run the second stage.   He performed nobly, but for the only time ever in the race, he dropped three places, from fifth to eighth.    The threee who overtook him were Norman Morrison, Jim Dingwall and Doug Gunstone.   Against that, Lawrie (who was a first year Junior) ran faster than Jim Alder.   He would never drop a place in the E-G again.    The club team was fourth – a position they were to fill several times in that decade.   Based in Liverpool, he failed to turn out in the District Championships at Viewpark in January 1973 but in a very competitive Junior National he was third across the line.   He was part of a very talented generation of runners, in eveidence I list the first five in the race:

   1st J Brown (Monkland), 2nd L Spence (Strathclyde),  3rd Lawrie Reilly, 4th R MacDonald (Monkland), 5th D McMeekin (Victoria Park).

The club team was second.    This run gained him selection for the Junior team to compete in the ICCU cross-country championships at Cambridge where he finished 20th.   Brother Joe had run in these championships in 1964 and finished ninth.   

The following summer, living in Liverpool by now, he had best times of 3:52.6 for 1500m which placed him 11th on the domestic ranking lists, 8:10.6 for fifth place in the 3000m listings and he was ninth in the 5000m with a best time of 14:10.0.   Running in the Pembroke colours, he ran the 3000m at Crystal Palace when finishing fifth in the AAA Under 20 championships on 14th July, 1973, and the 5000m at Derby on 4th September in the Northern Counties v Midland Counties v RAF fixture: both still stand as club Junior records in March 2017.

In the cross-country season of 1973/74, Lawrie ran well and won his first world cross-country selection.   In his second Edinburgh to Glasgow, Lawrtie again ran on the second leg where taking over in sixth place, he moved up to second collecting some good scalps on the way.   Two seconds faster than Jim Brown on the same stage, he saw the club again finish fourth.    Came the Junior National and this time Lawrie went two better than the previous year and won from Allister Hutton, Willie Sheridan and Lawrie Spence.   The standard of running among this generation was very high indeed and Reilly was well up to it.    The report in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ said only “Our junior winner, Laurie Reilly, has made the senior team, and it was little wonder after his clear cut victory over All-star Hutton (Edinburgh Southern). ”       Yes, he did say ‘All-star’ Hutton – wasn’t my misprint.

Selected for the Senior team for the international at Monza in Italy, Reilly finished 97th and was a counting runner for the Scottish team.

The 3000m distance seemed to suit Lawrie’s talents better than any o the standard events with his rankings for it consistently in the top five or six.  Strange then not to see him rated over the distance in summer 1974.   That summer he was running for Sale, which was the only club for whom he was credited that year.   Based in and running almost exclusively in England, he ran 3:56.9 for 1500m when finishing second at Oldham on 19th May, and 14:20.6 for 5000m at Crystal Palace on 21st September.   

The age groups for SAAA and SCCU were sometimes at odds with each other.    For cross-country purposes however, he was a Junior in 1974/75 and ran his third Edinburgh to Glasgow race in November 1974.   Again on the second stage he moved from the middle of the field (ninth) up to second with the fastest time of the day on this stage of savage competition among the top men.   Among those beaten for speed by Lawrie were Jim Dingwall, Ronnie McDonald, Donald Macgregor, Sandy Keith and Frank Clement.   Some were top milers, some were marathon men, and Lawrie ran faster than every one of them.   The team finished, yet again, fourth.    Living in the south as he did, he was not out in the District championships but he did appear in the Junior National and finished second, 11 seconds behind Allister Hutton.   It was another quality field.   As an illustration, the top ten are noted: 

1st A Hutton, 2nd L Reilly, 3rd P Kenney, 4th J Graham, 5th J Burns, 6th W Sheridan, 7th J Thomson, 8th J McGarva, 9th P Forbes, 10th I Orton.   

He had gone into the race as favourite, but the report in the ‘Glasgow Haerald’ said, In the junior five miles, Alistair Hutton emphatically turned the tables on his conqueror  of last year, Laurie Reilly.   Hutton was always a threat to the favourite, but informed spectators must have been  stunned to see a gap of 70 yards between them at the finish.”    Yes, he did say Alistair Hutton – wasn’t my mis-spelling.

The team selected for the international that year included Reilly among the seniors and he finished 43rd on the flat trail in Rabat.

The following summer was spent south of the border and it was a good one as his list of best times shows:

Event     time     ranking

1500     3:51.3       17th,  

3000  8:01.4,    4th

5000  14:01.8       5th,  

10000  28:58.75   3rd

The 10000m time was recorded when he competed in the AAA’s championship at Crystal Palace on 1st August that year.   The fact that he ran that time when finishing 13th indicates the gap in standards between Scottish and English distance track running at the time.

Winter 1975/76 was his first as a Senior over  the country and it was another good one.    In the eight stage relay from Edinburgh to Glasgow, Lawrie ran on trhe sixth stage and gained one place when he went from sixth to fifth.   He had fourth fastest time of the day behind Dave Logue, Doug Gunstone and Ronnie McDonald.   The team finished sixth.   At the start of 1976, Lawrie made a rare appearance in the District Championships at Coatbridge on 24th January and won from Frank Clement and Phil Dolan.   Ron Marshall in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ commented at length on the race.   “Scotland’s cross-country selectors have few opportunities to check on Anglos such as Lawrie Reilly.   Normally they have to rely on newspaper results from south of the Border, but on Saturday Reilly came north to reinforce the printed word with a victory of impressive dimension.   Slim, pale, scholarly looking, with a pair of unfashionable spectacles, Reilly gives the impression he would have a struggle lapping a kiddies playground, far less the four laps totalling six miles that an immense field of runners undertook at Drumpellier Park, Coatbridge, in a quest for the Western District senior championship.

 Appearances are deceptive.   He is superbly fit.   Winner last week of the East Lancashire cross-country title, Reilly counted among his victims Ron Hill and Mike Freary, two of the North of England’s best known faces.  Last year on the track he dipped under 29 minutes for the 10,000 metres and his summer objective is to beat 28 min 30 sec.   

On Saturday his aim was to stretch the biggest gap possible between himself and the rest.  The result was beyond dispute.   His ultimate lead was one of 175 yards, his runner-up the familiar bearded features of Frank Clement who had stayed more or less in third throughout.   Phil Dolan, Clydesdale, leader at three-quarter distance, was third in 30 min 46 sec, six seconds behind Clement.”

Two weeks, two wins.    Reilly was clearly in great form.   In the National on 14th February, racing at Coatbridge for the second time in less than a month, he finished fourth, six seconds behind Hutton, and was selected for the international at Chepstow on 29th February.    The Scottish team finished a disappointing tenth in the race and Reilly was a counting runner when he finished in 81st place.

Summer 1976 saw Lawrie Reilly ranked in five different distances.   He ran the unfamiliar 800m distance in 1:54 to be fourtenth fastest Scot, his best 1500m was in 3:48.4 where he was eighth, in the Mile he turned in a 4:06.4 time to be seventh, his 3000m was in 8:02.4 and he was third best Scot over 5000m when he ran 13:54.6.


Winter 1976/77  was one where we did not see too much of Lawrie in Scotland at all.   He had a very good run in the Edinburgh – Glasgow.  Back on the second stage, he pulled the club from sixth to fourth with the fourth quickest run of the day behind Jim Dingwall, Lawrie Spence and John Graham – it was a position that the club held to the finish  and they had been fourth  four times in five years.   He had run in his last District race the previous year, and he was absent from theNtional championships in February 1977.   He was nevertheless selected for the International in Dusseldorf where he finished 41st.

By now Lawrie was appearing only as a Sale Harrier as far as the ranking lists were concerned and on 3rd May he turned in a 4:06.5 Mile to get his summer off to a good start.   A month later on 14th June he recorded 8:02.8 for 3000m and on 7th August 5000m was run in 14:07.4.   All three times were good enough to be in the top 10 Scots – 9th for the Mile and 5000m and 5th for the 3000m.    

Winter 1977/78  saw him firmly ensconced in England but still committed to Scotland.   Nevertheless he missed the November relay as well as the District  Championship but he was out in the National where he finished down in 23rd position.   He was however selected – presumably on his form over the winter in the south – for the international to be held in Glasgow.   On a very wet day with rain throughout the running of the race, he finished 97th.     


In summer 1978 he won his only SAAA medal when he was third (14:08.7) in the 5000m behind Lawrie Spence (13:45.0) and Nat Muir (13:47.5).   By the season’s end he had bests of 

1500  3:46.8  7th, 

Mile  4:06.4  6th, 

3000  8:00.4  5th, 

5000  14:08.7 8th


In the 1978 version of the Edinburgh to Glasgow, he was back on the sixth stage for the team that won second place medals.   After Alistair Douglas won the first stage, Dave McMeeking was passed by Ian Elliott, Rod Stone and Jim Brown to hand over in fourth place.   Albert Smith ran the fastest third stage of the day to move into second place and the club held that all the way to the finish with Lawrie holding it with Nat Muir, Doug Gunstone, Willie Day and several other top guns chasing him.   In the National on 10th February, 1979, Lawrie in the blue and white hoops of Victoria Park  finished sixth and was again selected for the international championship.    Like many of the Scots senior team, Lawrie had a bad day at Limerick and finished 146th.   The team was fourteenth – the worst ever finishing position.   None of the big names in the team, and there were many very big names that year, performed to expectations.

In summer ’79, Reilly’s times in 3000m and 5000m were good enough to be ranked but were slower than he had run for many years.   His 3000m time was almost outside the top ten.   They were:  3000  8:16.4 and ranked 10th,  5000  14:35.5  ranked 15th.   By now he was not running in Scotland at all and in summer 1980 he appeared in the ranking lists for the last time with  1:53.2 for 800 placing him 18th,  and  3:49.1  for 1500 9th.

That is where the Lawrie Reilly trail in Scotland stops.    Whether he was injured or stopped serious running for business and career reasons has not been noted anywhere.   The SATS are assiduous enough to have noted any times coming out of England but there were none until 1987 when he ran a marathon in an excellent 2:26:29  –  good enough to be ranked 24th.

Such was the sandard of Scottish distance running at the time that Lawrie only gained one Scottish international vest.   That was at Cwmbran in Wales on 9/8/75 against England, Wales and Northern Ireland where he was fifth in the 3000m in 8:01.8, the race being won by Jim Dingwall in 7:58.   At British level, he was second in  the Youths 1500m in 1970, and and second to Paul Bannon in the AAA Junior 3000m in 1973 and also placed eighth in the Euro Juniors in the 5000m in the same year.

More information on the latter part of his career in athletics, or of his racing in England is really required to finish the profile but it is already evident that he was a very talented athlete and a loss to Scottish athletics when he stopped running seriously.


Cammie Spence

Cammie running in the Six Stage Relays

Cameron Spence, 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, for Shettleston Harriers.   On the track he was ranked nationally from 1972 to 1988 in 3000 m, 5000m and 10000m with personal best times of 8:40.8, 14:27.6 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, and ran in his first major championships in 1960/61.   He was fifth in the District Championships as a Junior Boy and then 63rd in the National at Hamilton.  Of these early days he says Running was in the family. My 3 older brothers, Jim, George and Gordon all ran. So at the age of 11 I joined Glenpark Harriers. My first coach was the legendary Bill Elder. He coached all the youngsters in the club at that time. I only trained twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Short run followed by circuit training. To this day I can still be dab hand at skipping!”   

His father was a football player of talent and had been approached to play for a senior professional team and Cammie followed in his  footsteps for four years or so.   He played at the top amateur level before coming back into athletics in 1970.   He trained for a while with younger brother Lawrie and they were coached by big brother Jim.   With some encouragement from big brother George and his wife Pat, Cammie then moved to Greenock Wellpark Harriers where he coached himself.  His first run in Wellpark colours was in 1970 at Bute Highland Games.   It was in the Mile Handicap where  he was the back marker.  The family in the form of Jim and George complained to the handicapper because Cammie was a novice, saying that it was his first race in five years and he shouldn’t be the back marker. The handicapper would not change his mind.    Cammie, however, finished 4th and at the following week’s Cowal Highland Games he finished third on the Friday and, it being the age of the amateur,  won a plaque. He still has it.   The family bond was always important and when Cammie was asked if any person or group had a marked influence on his attitude or his performances, he says without hesitation, “I would say my oldest brother Jim. He was very enthusiastic about athletics and installed discipline into my training.”

Cammie is known as a hard runner and a real competitor.   He never just ‘ran round’ a trail in his life.   Maybe that’s why the photograph above is labelled ‘How to Hurt’!    He became a senior athlete in 1971/72 and he competed all the way through to the twenty first century.   One of the really big events during his time in the sport was the eight man Edinburgh to Glasgow relay and Cammie ran in no fewer than twenty one of them between 1968 and 1998 for four clubs.   The toughest stages of a race with no easy stages were the second and sixth.   His record was 1st Stage x 2, 2nd Stage x 3, 4th Stage x 1, 5th Stage x 4, 6th Stage x 9, 8th Stage x 2.   He represented Glenpark in 1968 and ’69, Wellpark in 1970, ’71 and ’72, Spango Valley in 1977, ’78, ’79, ’81, ’82, ’83, ’84, ’85, ’87 ’91, ’92, ’93, ’94 and ’95, and Inverclyde in 1998.   Remarkable.  

Cross-country was his forte however.   Spango Valley AAC was founded in September 1973 and Cammie was one of key men there right from the start.  A very good all round team they seemed to be specially good in relays and the part Cammie played (he was team captain for 20 of the club’s 25 years) was tremendous.   In the District Relays, they won gold, silver and bronze and Cammie ran times in the top ten most years and although they never won the six-stage road relays, they won lots of metal there as well.   He was a really good team player.    How was he as an individual?   We can look at his championship record.

In 1972/73 the Glasgow Herald report on the South West District championships read: “The Spence brothers, running for Glenpark and Wellpark respectively, dominated the South Western District Championships.   Laurie Spence was an easy winner of the senior/junior title by no less than 270 yards from his brother with Dick Hodelet a similar distance away third.”    Glenpark won the team race with Wellpark third.      In the National championships at the end of the season, Cammie was 27th in the Senior race while Laurie was second in the Junior event running for Strathclyde University.  Running for the new club of Spango Valley AAC in the 1974 National at Coatbridge, Cameron was 17th  while Lawrie was fourth in the Junior race.   The improvement was year-on-year by now and in 1975, Cammie won the last South-West District championship ever held by over half a minute with former team mate Bill Stoddart third.  This was followed by 41st in the National at Coatbridge.   

In season 1975/76 the South West District merged with the Midland District to form the West District – a much tougher outfit with good results harder to come by.   In the Championships, neither Cammie nor the club were placed and Cammie missed the National held again at Coatbridge.   

The rivalry between Cammie and Lawrie had not yet started to heat up and in the District Championship Lawrie was eighth and Cammie 21st.   In the National in 1977 Lawrie was fourth and Cammie was 26th.   The following year on a very hard and rutted course at East Kilbride Lawrie won from Phil Dolan of Clydesdale Harriers and Cammie was not able to run.   In the National however, Cammie had the beating of Lawrie when he finished twelfth to Lawrie’s fifteenth.   Time difference?   22 seconds.   The rivalry was probably at its best over the next few years    Both quality cross-country men, they had some real battles over the years with Lawrie generally coming out on top.     Neither ran in the District in 1978 and Cammie also missed the National where Lawrie was second.   

In the District championships in 1979/80 Cammie was third but they met up again in the national where Lawrie was fifth with Cammie tenth.  Difference?   47 seconds or 200 yards+.   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.   Inevitably there was some sibling rivalry in evidence.   When asked, Cammie says, Of course there was, at times, between Lawrie and myself.   I always enjoyed beating Lawrie in races – which wasn’t very often.    He wasn’t as keen for me to do it!    Some of our sessions we did in the Battery Park in Greenock were legendary, and boy did they pay-off for us!”    

As  founder nations of the Cross-Country International Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales ran as separate nations in the World Cross-Country Championships up until 1985.   It was a wonderful time and the effect on Scottish distance running was entirely beneficial.   As well as the International there were several international fixtures on the continent for four man teams – Elgoibar in Spain, Hannut in Belgium, San Sebastian in Spain and so on.   The opportunities were there if you could take them.   Cammie was fortunate enough enough to have the talent that could take him to the necessary standard.   After running for a short time for Scottish representative teams at a time when the standard was high, he had the opportunity to race in the biggest race on the calendar for Ireland.  

Asked about the Irish connection, he 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.”  

He had to qualify for selection by running in the Irish Senior National Cross-Country Championships and the result was that Cammie ran for Northern Ireland in Limerick in 1979, in Paris in 1980, in Madrid in ’81, in Gateshead in 1983 and in New York in 1984.   In  Limerick they were almost side by side at the finish – Lawrie was 193rd and Cammie 194th  and in New York they were team captains.   Not limited to the Worlds he turned out in international races at Milan and Buussels on the continent, Gateshead, Stirling, Cumbernauld and in road races in the south of Ireland too.   It was a great time for the event and cross-country has a high status in Ireland – Cammie ran in teams with Greg and Gerry Hannon, Paul Lawther, John McLaughlin and many other well-kent athletes.   

Family rivalry was now raised to international level.   Asked about the duels with Lawrie he said: ” 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.”

Cammie in his Irish vest

Of course there was life after the World Cross-Country Championships – 8 of his Edinburgh to Glasgow Relays for a start.   Cammie is a runners’ runner, he turns out for his club as readily as for his country, he turns out for the sake of the race regardless of whether there is a club team or whether he is running as an individual.    He continued to do so as well and as hard as he always did.   There was something he had not tried yet though.    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.  I 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.   My wife got me up at 9.30am on  Sunday morning saying I had promised to run the Inverclyde Marathon with Terry Wilkie.   I had 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 that ime.   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.  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. I still don’t know how I managed it.”

Clearly fit and well but the twenty first century had a nasty surprise for Cameron Spence.


The above headline appeared in the Greenock Telegraph in 2010 and startrd: “An international athlete from Greenock discovered that his heart stopped beating during the night – but is now amazingly back running.   Cameron Cammy Spence was diagnosed with exercise induced asthma two years ago and had to give up running – but it was actually his heart that was causing breathlessness during exercise.   He has been fitted with a heart pacemaker and is back pounding the streets as well as being involved in worldwide research that could save lives.  

Superfit Cammy was given the shocking news about his heart after a specialist at Inverclyde Royal Hospital said he wasn’t convinced he had asthma and arranged for him to  get a mobile heart monitor.   Cammy said “I had the monitor on for 24 hours and it showed my heart stopping twice during he night for 4.5 seconds at a time.   I couldn’t believe it.   There is no history of heart problems on my mother’s or father’s sides of the family.   I felt numb.   

Now the Inverclyde Athletic Club coach wants to warn other runners that they too might under certain circumstances be in danger of damaging their hearts.”

Cammy then discovered after reading a magazine article that he wasn’t the only runner diagnosed wrongly with asthma instead of an irregular heart beat.   Now the Inverclyde Athletic Club coach wants to warn other runners that they too, under certain circumstances , could be in danger of damaging their hearts.   He said, “Just as I was getting diagnosed for an irregular heartbeat there was an article in “Athletics Weekly” by oneof the regulat writers who has the same problem.  “

Cammie got in touch with Martin and many Scottish runners then got in touch with him about it.   His belief is that hard training when running through colds and ‘flu may be the cause.   Remember he was running when all the regular road runners, not just the internationals, were running 70 – 100 mpw.   The whole article can be found at:

The cardiologist who diagnosed the problem was very keen to find out more about it and was very interested in Cammie’s work with Martin through AW.   Right now, he says that he was happy with the pacemaker but at present and for the last two years it’s not as good.   He still runs but feels more tired, even when jogging.   It is an ongoing problem and he is discussing it with his new cardiologist.  


Cammie is still very involved in the sport.    Let’s count the ways!

  1.   He has been coaching for many years.  It was easy for him to do the coaching, he says, as he had been coaching himself from 1976.   He was always experimenting.. When Spango were at their peak in the 80’s most of the guys at IBM were doing Cammie’s sessions.  Heencouraged them and says it was great to see them improving.
  2.  Administration. He has been doing that for a very long time as well. We have already noted that he was club captain at Spango for 20 years of its 25 years in existence. He was also the first captain of Inverclyde AC when it was formed in 1998.    Vice President  in 1998 and then President of the Scottish Veteran Harriers Club, plus  was the handicapper, race convenor, timekeeper, recorder.
  3. Then there was the Cowal Highland Gathering.   The Games committee asked if he was willing to bring athletics back to the Games.  This was 1996.   Of course being Cammie, he said he would.  He says:  “Cowal was wonderful. Running if front of 20000 people was amazing. So it was May ’96 that I had a meeting with the Captain Eric Brown, committee member, on the Western Ferries  So over 2 sailings between Gourock and Dunoon I had  my plan accepted and the athletics would start again at that years Games. Had my ups and downs at Cowal. Down bits caused by the Scottish Pipe Band Association. The up bits were the athletes who supported me. I’m sure they all enjoyed the experience. I stepped down last year after 20 years as athletics convenor. I always intended that the Dunoon folk should look after their Games. Now happening.”
  4. He has also been involved with the Bute Highland Games since he himself first started competing there in 1970.   Over the years he slowly drifted into becoming an official and is now athletics convenor. “I canny help myself, he says.
  5. Now there is the Renfrewshire AAA’s. President. Stand in Secretary, Treasurer, timekeeper, recorder. Been Colin Shield’s back-up for many, many years. Colin retired last year. His health not that great. 40 years he has been involved with the county. Looks like I’m going that way too.

  We asked Cammie to reflect on his running career and he came up with the following responses.

Looking back, Cammie, what exactly did you get out of the sport?

Friendships. The people I met during my running career were all wonderful. From Joe Jogger to World and Olympic Champions. And the many officials as well. It was the friendships that were created and they still last today.

Can you describe your general attitude to the sport?

It was hard work at times but  I enjoyed the training and taking part in races. Especially the racing.

What do you consider your best ever performance?

It was actually one year, 1979.

*I had always wanted to win a District Track title (10K at Coatbridge).

*I won the Gourock Highland Games Road Race(remember watching the road race as a wee boy and thinking I want to win that).

*And racing at the World XC Championships for the first time.

It was some year for me. The only down side it was a couple of years until I got my motivation back.   So the moral of the story is, and something I tell my athletes “You can always do better”.

 And your worst?

All my marathons. (Except the Inverclyde one in 1984. Which made me question why was I doing them?).

What goals do you have that are still unachieved?

My goals are for the athletes that I coach. I want them to get the best out of themselves. I think I achieved mines.

What would you have changed about your athletics career were you able to go back?

When I started running again there was only Ravenscraig Stadium for us to do our quality sessions.   It was a cinder track.   It was either brick hard or like a bog.   You know what Greenock is like for rain!!!   It was blisters or getting covered in wet dirty cinders.    So it was the Battery Park and on the grass which I developed for doing our speed work starting in 1976.  If we had a decent track maybe my track times would have been better.   But the Battery did help me pick up a lot of prizes at the Highland Games hmmm.  So to answer the question, if I had a decent track to train on maybe, just maybe, my track times would have been so much better. That would have gave me a lot of satisfaction.

Ran for Scotland quite a few times on the country. I would call them B vests. And was involved in the international training sessions, usually at Livingston on a wet Sunday.

I ran for the Scottish Vets. I did offer my services to the Northern Ireland people when I turned 40 in 1990. They didn’t respond for some reason. So I was more than happy to put on the dark blue vest once again. But I decided in 1996 I had had enough of International competition. I just didn’t want the pressure any more.


What do you think of the sport now that it is ‘more professional’ in its set up?

It was better run(ex the pun)in days gone by. But things are starting to improve. Scottishathletics are slowly starting to realise that the clubs are the mainstay of the sport. But there is too much emphasis on the younger athletes and not enough encouragement for the older ones. As I say the young ones come and go. The seniors are the mainstay of the clubs.   The “professional” athletes we have are having money flung at them. When they are good enough they will get invites and appearance money to the larger events. They don’t need the sports body to support them.

What advice would you give a young person coming into the sport for the first time today?

Athletics are there to be enjoyed. You can only do your best. You are going to have good days and bad ones. Don’t expect too much too soon. You only get out of the sport what you put into it.

And my favourite saying “You are as only as good as your NEXT race. You learn from the last one”. 

One of his former rivals, Colin Youngson (four SAAA Marathon Championships, 10 marathon medals in total, SAAA 10000m and 10 miles champion) has some good memories of racing Cameron.   He says

“To other runners, Cammie was well liked and respected as a fighter, a terrier – someone who could be relied on to battle as hard as possible and seldom even considered easing off – a very difficult man to beat, or stave off, if he was chasing you. He and I were occasionally close rivals, although his forte was cross-country and mine road running, especially marathons, which he did not enjoy.

Since I am nearly three years older, when we first raced against each other, on Stage Two of the E to G in 1970, I was a fair bit faster and the same was true on Stage Four in 1972. However by 1982 on Stage 2 he outpaced me quite easily, although I got my revenge on Stage Five in 1984 and 1985.

In the National Senior Cross Country, Cammie definitely had the edge. Although I finished in front of him in 1972, he outkicked me a year later. The last time I beat him in this prestigious event was in 1975. After that it was Cammie all the way, although 1978 was close – I was thirteenth and he was one irritating place in front! In 1980, although he beat me easily, I had the consolation of being ESH captain and a counter in their winning team.

An interesting encounter took place in October 1981 at the Allan Scally Road Relay. I had moved back up north and rejoined Aberdeen AAC. Since I was not particularly fit, I assumed that this event would merely provide good training. However Peter Wilson and Fraser Clyne ran well and then Graham Laing came back to form with a bang – handing me a totally unexpected 39 second lead! Cammie closed inexorably and by the finish, although AAAC did hold on to win, it was only by eleven seconds!

After he became a veteran by turning 40 in July 1990, we renewed our rivalry and had quite a few close contests. In the 1991 Scottish Vets Track Champs, I did manage to beat Cammie over 5000m, but he had raced the 1500m previously. Aberdeen was the venue for that year’s Home Countries Veteran Cross Country tussle. I was in the Scottish first team and Cammie in the second team. However I suffered badly from catarrh and, after starting too fast, began retching and struggling. Cammie’s unsympathetic voice rang out just behind me, “For God’s sake, Colin, if you’re going to die, just die!” He moved ahead, out of earshot, and ended up a respectable 11th, with me a disconsolate 16th.

At the Kelvin Hall Scottish Vets Indoors in March 1992, Cammie and I had a real fight in the 1500m, before he sped away to win in 4.16.3, while I was happy enough with 4.17.4. Then he beat me into third in the 3000m. Dougie Mackenzie won, with Cammie recording 8.56 and me three seconds behind. At the end of the same month the 8-Man Alloa to Twechar relay took place. Cammie won Stage Stage Two; I was fastest on Stage Seven and AAAC were first team home.

Saturday October 31st 1992 was a red letter day for me, and Cammie made me fight very hard. I had just turned 45 and was very keen to do well in that category at the Five Nations Vets XC event in Belfast. The rest of the Scots team arrived on Friday; but Cammie flew in from Glasgow that morning. I started fast but Cammie caught up and we ran closely together until there was less than a lap to go, when I edged away to finish 6th (and first M45, also leading my age group team to Gold), while Cammie was a fine 9th and led the Scots M40 team to Silver medals. Then he flew straight back home!

In 1993 I did manage to beat Cammie over 5000m in the Scots Vets Track; and in 1994 finished 4th in the Scots Vets XC, one place in front of him. However in 1996 Cammie Spence beat me very easily in the British Veterans Half Marathon Champs in Monkland.

Looking back, we were very well matched and enjoyed a long friendly rivalry.

Always a contributor to the sport, Cammie became President of the Scottish Veteran Harriers Club. When I started as editor of the club newsletter, Cammie submitted a lengthy account of the SVHC Easter trip to the sun in Lanzarote, a thoroughly enjoyable trip which he had helped to organise for many years. Social events in 2014 included daily runs exploring the local area, darts, sunbathing, Bingo, hotel entertainment, several refreshments, water flumes, climbing a volcano, a barbecue, cycling and a 5 km road race!”

And one of Colin’s key phrases was  “always a contributor.    Many, many people take part in the wonderful sports of road and cross-ountry running and almost all retire more or less gracefully after their competition dys are done.   But the spport relies on such as Cammie who after a long career as a runner give back at least as much as they have got out of the sport.   In Cammie’s case the return has been considerable.





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 ……………………