Mountblow Recreation Ground in the 21st century

Mountblow Pavilion in the 21st Century.

Have a look at the photograph above of the once fine sports pavilion.   The rendering has fallen off the walls, ther doors have metal grills on them, even worse the windown in front of the central tower is shuttered, the windows have grills on them and the general picture is one of dilapidation.   The running track was, when last seen, a simple, red blaes, path surrounding what had been the small football pitch.   To the best of our knowledge the days of two full time groundsmen are gone.   We have the local vandals to thank for all the shuttering and metal grills.     The councillors of vision who conceived of, developed and boasted of it have gone – the Clydebank Town Council has gone and the governing body is based in Dumbarton.   The Commissioner of the Special Areas in Scotland which put up three quarters of the cost of the facility no longer exists and if it did, it would probably not be able to contribute from a Special Areas Fund.    But just by looking at the picture it is clear that no maintenance has been done on the building for many years.   

Athletically,  it was very well used by the club until in about 1960 there was a new track laid at Whitecrook in the east end of the burgh.   Unlike Mountblow it was an eight lane with ten in the straight, 440 yards, cinder track.   The Running Track Directory says: “The track was built in about 1960 and was initially known as the Whitecrook Running Track. At the time it was considered to be a state of the art cinder track with first class field facilities and was used by Clydesdale Harriers. In the late 1970s the name changed to the Whitecrook Community Education Centre Track following a change of name of the adjacent centre. However, in 1993, the local council decided that the cost of upkeep was too high and leased the whole playing field area to the Clydebank Rugby Club for 19 years for a peppercorn rent.”   The bigger track meant that there was a bigger infield with more room for field events.   At one end there was a high jump fan with good firm cinder approach and jumpers from other clubs were known to come along and train there – eg David Cairns of Springburn Harriers came along.   

There were some problems initially.   The track was very soft and some runners, like the former double Scottish Junior cross-country champion John Wright took to training at the Mountblow track.   The feeling was that the softer surface was an injury risk but once they learned about this the local authority added to the mix of the cinder and firmed it up.   The other little difference to Mountblow was that there were no changing rooms with showers, etc and the athletes had to change in the Primary School which was all of 100 yards away across the football pitches.   The Directory referred to above did not mention that there were three football pitches beside the track which gave a big perimeter for the endurance runners to use.   In addition at the track, it was so big that runners could run 300 yard reps on the grass inside the track if they preferred it or if recommended to do so by a physio.    It seemed a good change for the club to make.   Then when a pavilion was built beside the track it was even better.   The pavilion had many fewer dressing rooms than Mountblow, women and men used the same short, narrow corridor to access them and there was only one set of showers.   

This meant that the track at Mountblow was not being used very much at all with mainly occasional runners using it as a base for road or country running at weekends.   The hockey fields had long since been done away with and the Singer cricket team ceased to exist in the late 1950’s; Clydebank Cricket Club was officially disbanded in September 1987 – exactly 50 years after the facility was set up..    No cricket, no hockey, no athletics and that only left football.  Football was and is always wanting more facilities – in the 1990’s when Clydesdale Harriers had been evacuated from the track at Whitecrook various options were looked at with Jack Daly, the West Dunbartonshire official responsible for leisure activities.   He suggested the big pitch at William Street in Duntocher because it was seldom used – but that was ruled out because it was one of the few in the area that could be used for cup matches; part of the good grass at Mountblow which was not in use was also ruled out – this time because it was a ‘resting’ football pitch.   It was the same story with every piece of vacant ground.   The football lobby then started a campaign to turn Mountblow into a Football Centre.   They were successful and in February 2017 the area was ear-marked for an £850,000 overhaul including the pavilion.   It was opened for use in February 2020 and now has three 7-a-side pitches and one 11-a-side pitch suitable for all weathers.   

Mountblow as it is today: The pavilion is a shadow of what it was, football pitches everywhere and the whole open area divided up by fencing.   

It is easy to see why the multi-sports facility became a single sport venue.   If the cricket, athletics and hockey all went elsewhere with football the sole user, it was inevitable that this would be the fate of the Recreation Ground.   It was not inevitable that it would be allowed to get into the state it is in currently – that was a political decision.    Mountblow plan is below.   And what about Whitecrook?

Well, what about Whitecrook?   After we left the rugby club had had it from 1969 but were looking for other users for the pitch.   Local sports clubs came together and established the Clydebank Community Sports Hub in 2012.      The complex was described in the Clydebank Post as:

No running track.   

Mountblow Recreation Ground

A group of Clydesdale Harriers at Mountblow immediately after the second World War.

Mountblow Recreation Ground was a well known facility for athletes and the home of Clydesdale Harriers from its opening in 1937 until the start of the 1960’s.    Others came along at times as guests of the club – Tom O’Reilly of Springburn Harriers, Davie Kerr of Garscube Harriers for instance – and when the great Victoria Park team of the 1950’s was at its peak, Andy Forbes led Sunday training sessions there using the 330 yard track and the half mile good grass perimeter.   When Ian Logie took up pole vaulting, he had a runway installed and invited David Stevenson, Scottish and British champion in the event, to come and do a session at Mountblow.   It was very near the Dalmuir Railway Station and the bus stops on the road outside came from and went to Glasgow and Dumbarton.   It was an ideal venue for athletes from all around.

Like all sports facilities be they football pavilions, swimming baths or playing fields at the time, Mountblow had a beautiful art deco pavilion and the layout covered football pitches, hockey pitches,   cricket wicket and the athletics track.   A recent description of the pavilion, which was a listed building, describes it as follows: 

Description

Rare example of Modern Movement sports pavilion surviving largely ulaltered and occupying original recreation ground setting.   2 storey and raised basement, 5 bay rectangular plan on sloping site with cantilevered balcony, oversailing flat roof and tall off-centre curved stair tower with vertical glazing breaking eaves, 2 flights of steps to walkway above basement.   Rendered brick.   Horizontal pane glazing in metal framed casements, predominately tripartite and bipartite, now with later metal grills to exterior.   Later metal roller shutters to entrance doors.   INTERIOR.   Largely intact floor plan.   Ground and first floors similar with concrete floors.   Changing rooms lead off central corridor, each floor with bathroom and showers.   Some early timber benches and coat hooks.   Stair with horizontal metal bannisters.

So much for the building.   The running track was 327 yards of red blaes enclosing a small football pitch about which more later.   Like many tracks of the period, there were problems in organising meetings with events at standard distances such as 220 yards, 440 yards, 880 yards etc and the club had cards printed as below and all committee members and anyone else involved in organising championships and other meetings.

Diagram of the 330 yard track being used for standard distances such as one mile, three miles, etc showing starting point and  number of laps required .   Diagram by David Bowman

The grass was very well looked after and a very smooth surface to run on and it was possible to run a straight 300 yards on the level grass.   Field events were catered for outside the track because the inside had to be available for football matches.    This post deals with how the facility came about.   

The picture above from the RIBA Architects magazine, although a modern drawing, is a very good picture of what the Pavilion was like (although the circular lights are an addition).

The “Daily Record” in May 1936 reported on progress on what was a very big undertaking on the part of the local authority.

 

As the date approached the plans were finalised as noted in the “Clydebank Press” of 27th August, 1937:  “It was reported in the Park Committee Minutes, with reference to the official opening of the Pavilion at Mount Blow Recreation Ground, a remit was made with powers to the Recreation Sub-Committee to make the necessary arrangements.   Since then the Committee has agreed that the opening should take place on Saturday, 4th September when football and hockey matches, track running, etc, will be carried through after the initial ceremony.”   

As far as he clubs were concerned, the Clydesdale Harriers Committee held a supplementary meeting on 2nd September for which the Minute read:   “Opening of Mount Blow Stadium.   Harriers to stage a One Mile Handicap and two relay races and intending competitors to meet at new pavilion  at 2:30 pm, Saturday, 4th.”

The “Clydebank Post” of 3rd September 1937 reported as follows under a heading of ‘NEW RECREATION GROUND.   Official Opening Tomorrow Afternoon.’

“Tomorrow (Saturday) is to be a red-letter day for local amateur athletiv enthusiasts, for in the afternoon all roads should lead to Dalmuir to witness the official opening of the burgh’s latest – probably most ambitious recreation scheme, viz, the thirteen acre stretch of new playing fields, situated on ground at Mount Blow, north of the L.N.E. railway.   As Baillie Wm. Brown, convener of the Parks and Open Spaces Committee pointed out to a “Press” representative, the new recreation ground, the name of which has yet to be decided, should prove a veritable boon to local football, hockey, cricket and the various athletic clubs, who for a small fee can now enjoy their various sporting encounters in ideal surroundings and under the best possible conditions.

Entering the grounds from Cedar Avenue, in the Mount Blow housing scheme, one is impressed right away with the compact layout of the various pitches, and with the magnificent pavilion of modern design which stands outr majestically on the north side in a central position convenient to those using the various playing fields.   The entire scheme which was done by direct labour, has taken about a year to complete – the work being unavoidably retarded at periods owing to the weather.   It is a credit to the municipality and a tangible example of the Town Council’s desire to encourage and cater for the amateur sports groups in the town.   

Mr A.G. Martin, Burgh Surveyor, and staff, prepared the plans for the layout of the fields as well as designing and supervising the building of the Pavilion by the Works Department, while Mr Thomas MacDonald, Parks Superintendant, supervised the laying out of the pitches in accordance with the plans prepared.   The Pavilion, which is as commodious as it is pleasing to the eye, has three separate verandahs from which spectators can

Command a fine view

of all that is taking place within the arenas and on the top of the roof verandah, there is ample space for quite a number of tables where tea and refreshments can be served.   The dressing room accommodation within the building is all that a player could wish for.   There is, both upstairs and downstairs, ample toilet provision, wash hand basings, etc, light sprays to cool down in, and ten drsssing rooms built to hold a dozen persons.   The Pavilion is also equipped with central heating, a kitchenette, and small reception rooms upstairs which leads out to one of the verandahs. The football pitch, north-east of the Pavilion, is one that the most critical soccer enthusiast or player surely cannot find fault with.   It is as well conditioned as Rangers Ibrox ground, and the regulation size too, 130 yards by 70 yards.   At the northern extremity is situated the most up-to-date and 

Best equipped outdoor gymnasium

it is possible to provide at the present time; with horizontal and parallel bars, trapeze, ring and hand swings, five vaulting “bucks”  and other such devices for graceful, physical exhibitions and for aiding muscular development.   Running parallel with the maximum football pitch and on the railway side, is the minimum football pitch, 100 yards by 50 yards, for use by boys teams, and surrounding it as a well laid out running track, 100 by 50 yards, only 100 yards short of the prescribed quarter-mile regulation one.   Some local harriers have seen the running track are a little critical in respect that the bends are perhaps slightly on the sharp side for a big field of runners to take comfortably, but this, we are informed, was unavoidable owing to space limitations.   Apart from that it is certainly a fine track.      West of the {Pavilion the two maximum sized hockey pitches and a cricket pitch, and the provision of the latter is likely to lead to increased interest in this pastime next summer.   One of the features of the carnival will be the football match, Clydebank  v  Dalmuir.   The respective teams are being sponsored by those local doyens of juvenile football, Messrs Mochan (Clydebank) and Robertson (Dalmuir).   Both sides will contain the cream of juvenile footballers in the district as many of the players have been excused for the day by their clubs in order to participate in the match.   Although only a friendly, both teams will treat the game like a cup tie for the honour of winning the first game on the opening day of the new recreation ground.   Dalmuir’s team is likely to be – Curran; Dickson and Friel; Robertson, G Barrie and Graham; Wallace, A Barrie, Smith, Ewart and Henderson.”

One of the ‘verandahs’.

(Illustration also from the RIBA magazine)

The facility was indeed opened on 4th September 1937 and the occasion was well covered by the “Clydebank Press” but not ignored by the wider body of the Press, the “Scotsman” report is below.   Note the gift presented to Baillie Brown after the ceremony!

 

The  estimated cost of the new facility was noted above as being £8,000  (£682,957.24 in today’s money).   This had risen according to the ‘Scotsman’ article to £12,000.   Today’s purchasing power index indicates that that £12,000 would be worth more than £1,024,000 at today’s rates.   A slight over-run (£521, 043)  but no one was complaining and there were few if any letters to the papers about it.

The report in the “Post” after the opening read as follows.

MOUNT BLOW SPORTS ARENA

OPENING OF NEW RECREATION SCHEME

SIMILAR FACILITIES FOR EAST CLYDEBANK?

The new recreation grounds and sports pavilion at Mount Blow, Dalmuir, estimated to cost about £12,000, were officially opened by Baillie Brown, Parks Committee Convener,on Saturday afternoon, in the presence of a regretably small  but  interested  crowd  of  citizens.   The  weather  conditions  for  the  occasion were all  that  could  have  been desired,  and  the  probable  explanation  of  the  poor  turnout  lay  in  the  number  of  counter  attractionsclashing  on  the  same  afternoon.   (A description of the new grounds and Pavilion appeared   in  our  last  issue).

PROVOST’S  REMARKS

Provost Martin, who  presided in  the  opening ceremony said he wanted to welcome all present that afternoon, an afternoon which culminated the great work of bringing to fruition what had been thought of for many years by many members of the Town Council.   The Town Council of Clydebank had for a number of years provided open space grounds of one kind or another.   

They had various bowling greens, putting greens, tennis courts and the like but they had felt for quite a while they would like a recreation ground that would provide facilities for football, hockey, cricket and so on, and through the assistance of a grant from the Commissioner for Distressed Areas they had been enabled to provide such a recreational area which his friend, Baillie Brown, would open this afternoon.   The space provided two football pitches, two hockey pitches, an outdoor gymnasium and cricket pitch and a running track whereby they hoped to be able by that to encourage the local harriers more than they been able to do before.   By the opening of htis ground they not only would take their part in the Government Keep Fit but they hoped also to encourage juvenile football clubs and hockey clubs to take a greater interest and build up their interest in sport more than in the past.   He then called upon Baillie Brown, Convener of the Parks and Open Spaces Committee – the Committee that had just had the work of preparing for the opening day – to declare open the Pavilion attached to the grounds.

PARK CONVENER’S APPEAL

Baillie Brown said that a great honour had been conferred upon him to open the sports Pavilion on behalf of the citizens of Clydebank.   For many years the Parks Committee and Council had been interested in the provision of additional playing fields for their areas, and there had been many complaints that their areas did not have sufficient playing facilities to encourage citizens to take their place in sport alongside those elsewhere.   Now they were making every endeavour to see that the youth and citizens of this area would be provided for with sufficient playing facilities to permit them to compete with any other area throughout the country.   With football in particular, their juvenile clubs were limited to three spaces and three pitches.   That would not apply, he said, after to-day with the additional advantage of the new recreation grounds, which would enable them to compete and play the game with teams from other areas.    The Baillie emphasised that while they were opening the new recreation facilities at the extreme west end of the burgh, it was not the intention of the Parks Committee to stop there.   They hoped, provided they get the ground, to lay out similar playing fields in the eastern portion of the town.   The Baillire, commenting on the provision of the hockey and cricket grounds, pointed out that in the past unless such players were attached to public works amd such like they could not get the facilities for carrying out these games locally and the provision of these two hockey pitches and cricket field would enable such players to compete with others at any particular time now.   As far as the Parks Committee were concerned, he assured the citizens that they were 

making every endeavour

to try and provide adequate playing facilities locally so that Clydebank would be able to take its part in the sporting sphere, not only were they trying to provide such facilities for the youth but also for the grown upas and old folk as well.   They had at present fourteen tennis courts, municipal bowling greens, one 18 hole golf course (one of the best in Scotland), three juvenile pitches then additional two on the new ground, a yachting pond, a swimming pool, seven children’s playgrounds, and three old men’s  recreation grounds, the committee were looking out for ground to provide further facilities for the latter.   After referring briefly to the committee’s intentions in the near future for the provision of further recreational facilities, the Baillie said he thought it would be seen that the Parks Committee were doing everything possible to enable and encourage citizens to take part in competition for sport held throughout the country, and it was to be hoped that the public would take advantae of these facilities being provided for their benefit and that the various sports organisations in the town would bring honour to Clydebank by winning some of the cups and trophies in competition.   Baillie Brown then declared the sports pavilion open amid applause.

A Presentation

On behalf of the Town Council, Provost Martin in a few choice words, presented Baillie Brown with a silver cigarette case and the Baillie trusted that the gift will not be the only silver emblem to be handed over in these present surroundings.   Customary votes of thanks were proposed by Councillor Fleming who associated himself with the words of Baillie Brown and said the entire work in connection with the new grounds and pavilion had been done by direct labour.   It might be true to say of course that it cost a little more than it would have done under ordinary circumstances, but when one took into consideration the inclement weather of the winter, it would be readily understoodwhy it was not completed sooner.   There was one thing they would all agree with and that was that they had made 

A splendid job

of it.   Councillor Fleming went on to explain the Council were also making enquiries with regard to that portion of ground between Beardmore’s old yard and Brown’s present yard being converted into an accessible open space, with a view that citizens of Clydebank and more especially the old folk, would see it as a rest spot and the elderly could sit there and watch the boats go up and down the river.   That was their intention and he thought perhaps Baillie Brown must have forgtten to refer to it.   After some further observations anent the new recreation scheme, the Councillor closed by calling for votes of thanks to all who in any way contributed  to the success of the official opening.   

In the course of the afternoon, the crowd were entertained To displays of racing and football and hockey games and to a display of physical culture by the Junior Instruction Centre Class under Instructor Maxwell.

Sports results.

In an exciting football competition, Duntocher lads beat Dalmuir lads 5 – 3.   Barry scoring four and Riley one for Duntocher, and Henderson two and Robertson one for Dalmuir.   Singer Ladies hockey XI  “A” team won 5 – 1 against Singer “B” team.   Scorers: “A” team –  Jean Walker(3) and Mary Allan (2); “B” team – Ina Cox.    Clydesdale Harriers members supplied plenty of thrilling running on the track.   T Luke won the mile off scratch in 5 minutes 1 second, W Howie (100 yds) being second and A Gilmour (100 yds) third.   The ladies half-mile was won by Isa Hunter with A. Ritchie and J Ballantine second and third respectively.   Clydesdale Harriers Number 1 team beat Clydesdale Harriers Number 2 team in relay racing.”

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As was noted above, the Harriers were among the very first users of the track.   There were only four lanes but the surface was good the huge half-mile perimeter with almost limitless space for jogging, warming up, and good grass track available for sprint drills and strength training using the outside gym made it a superb first-class facility.    There were two cricket teams in Clydebank – Singer’s factory had a good team and there was a Clydebank Cricket Club as well.    Although Singer’s had a training wicket at Radnor Park, they could use the new one for matches, and the Clydebank team played in a Glasgow League and in the annual Rowan Cup competitions.   The athletics fraternity could now hold inter-club matches and even in the late 50’s there were matches against Springburn Harriers and other local clubs, and also in the 50’s Dunbartonshire County Championships were held there.   When Ian Logie took up pole vaulting in the early 60’s, the local authority agreed to have a pole vault box installed for the jumpers and Ian had the soft rubber materials for the landing delivered and available for training.   He even invited Scottish and British internationalist David Stevenson along for a training session at the venue.   The club invited the first Scottish National Coach, Tony Chapman, along and he came and took a session, spoke to some of the senior club members and it was a profitable session all round.    

The pavilion was a superb addition to the facilities available – generally the men used the downstairs dressing rooms, the women used those on the first floor.   Equipment for high jumping, shot, discus and javelin were kept in the store room below the main first floor with the entry round the side for ease of access.   There were four wash hand basins on each floor and a similar number of showers.   In addition to the dressing rooms, there were rooms for referees and other officials and for the administrators for any matches held there.    The perimeter was almost exactly a half mile which made it useful for training for cross-country running.   There was also a steep-ish hill behind the changing room which was also used for training purposes (and its top there was Peggy Barr’s wee shop where lemonade, fruit juice, sweets, cakes, buns and biscuits could be purchased!)

Although the club moved its headquarters for winter to the Bruce Street Baths, runners could train from Mountblow on Saturdays or Sundays on payment of a very small fee.    The whole Recreation was well looked after – in the 1950’s and 60’s there were two employees there full time, Ben and Charlie, with Ben the top man.   The grass was kept short and in good condition, the fabric of the building was looked after and any club equipment in the store room was safe.

It was also quite close to the Municipal Golf Course – less than half a mile distant along Cedar Road – where the endurance athletes could run longer laps, do hill sessions, run on varying gradients and generally have good hard work outs.   

So what happened to Mountblow Recreation Ground?   We can have a look at its beginnings first.

Jackie Higginson, Frank McKay and Jimmy Young of Clydesdale Harriers training at Mountblow.

John Hanratty

John Hanratty running in the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay

There were many who came into running via the ‘running boom’ of the 1970’s and 1980’s.   The first ever Glasgow People’s Marathon was held in 1982 and brought hundreds into the sport.    John was one of them , his first race was in ’84, and unlike the vast majority he went on to run distances up to the marathon on the roads, he ran on the track in 5000m, 10,000m and steeplechase, and ran in every cross-country championship – club, county, District and National – for which he was qualified and he ran in championships on all surfaces as well as in international teams as a veteran runner.   

Asked about previous sporting involvement, John tells us that “I was in the Clydebank Sea cadets, TS Queen Elizabeth, for about 6 years, where I became an instructor cadet, many a weekend was spent sailing dinghies at HMS Lochinvar under the Forth bridge, great time.  Like most boys I played football but wasn’t very good.” 

Why did he come into running in the first place?   “I watched Peter Fleming win the Glasgow marathon in 1983, decided to give it a go and joined the harriers soon after that.”  

The Glasgow Marathon, after three years as an elite international race over four laps of the city became a people’s marathon, a mass marathon that attracted thousands into the sport and it was in 1983 that Peter Fleming won the race in 2:17:46. 

Having been inspired by that run, and of course the race publicity machine which was in full swing then, John, who was 32 at the time, joined the Harriers with his application form going through on 10th January, 1984.  Unlike most Harriers, he was not brought along by a friend or acquaintance but just went down to the club’s winter headquarters at Bruce Street Baths and that was it.  Later that year, John was at the start with 10, 702 other runners with the 10 Miles Tom Scott Memorial Road Race as his longest race before that.   The Glasgow Herald estimated that more than a quarter of a million spectators, bands and dancers turned the city into a carnival.   John was 236th at the finish with more than 10,000 runners behind him.   Not a bad debut at all for the newcomer.   

He ran in three more Glasgow Marathons all of which were in very good times indeed.    More important, he finished further up the field every time he ran.  The weather may change from year to year affecting the times, but the fields are no less competitive, and that is nowhere more true than among the real club runners.   John’s consistency however is remarkable.

YEAR POSITION TIME
1984 236th 2:47:23
1985 73rd 2:32:39
1986 44th 2:33:16
1987 33rd 2:32:58

 

Not satisfied with running well in Glasgow, he travelled to Fort William and ran in the Lochaber Marathon twice finishing in times of 2.35 (1986) and, in 1989 he ran 2.37.19 to be sixth finisher and first non-veteran across the line.   In one of them, he recalls getting terrible cramp in the last mile and stopping to recover. 

John featured prominently in this poster for the Glasgow Half Marathon in 1996.

 

He always ran well on the roads and turned out for the club in – 

*The Edinburgh to Glasgow Eight Stage Road Relay 10 times between 1984 and 2002 when it ceased to be an event.   He ran seven of the eight stages, missing only the fourth leg. 

*The National Six Stage Road Relay 16 times between 1985 and 2004 and ran every stage at one time or another.

John ran in teams with runners of all abilities including Scottish internationalists Allan Adams, James Austin, Ewan Calvert, Phil Dolan, Grant Graham, Kheredine Idessane Billy Jenkins, Ian Murphy, Brian Potts, Graeme Reid, Des Roache and others.    

He also has the distinction of winning the first ever Polaroid 10K Road Race on Sunday, 1st October, 1987, which started in Christie Park..   The Polaroid 10K races were sponsored by the Polaroid factory in Dumbarton and consisted of 10K races in Clydebank, Dumbarton and Helensburgh and were popular among club runners of all abilities particularly from the West of Scotland.   John thinks that this was his best road race, running all the way with the leading pack, he saw an opportunity to take the lead and made his break to victory.  

The result was   1.  J Hanratty (Clydesdale Harriers) 32:25;   2.  R McCulloch (Bellahouston) 32:37; 3.   M Gormley (Scottish Marathon Club) 32:49.   Like many runners he returned to the race – and to others in the Polaroid series – year after year including the last to be sponsored by Polaroid in 2017 when as a V60 he ran 50:09.  

John ran in all the classic road races in the country with very good results.  His best half marathon was at Livingston where he ran 69.59.    He didn’t run the Tom Scott 10 miles road race very often and his best time was 55:57 in 2003 as second placed V50.    He also ran in the Balloch to Clydebank, the Nigel Barge Memorial Road Race in January and the Glasgow University Race in November as well as the McAndrew Relay every October.  

Having joined the club, as noted above, in 1984 and having represented it on the roads and over the country in relays and championships, at club, county, district and national levels, he turned his attention to the track in 1986 and competed in the Scottish Athletics League for the first time. 

 As a competitor he ran

  • in the 5000m in 1986, ’87, ’88, ’89, 90, ’92, ’93, ’95, ’98 and ’99;
  • in the steeplechase in ’89, ’90. ’91, ’93, ’94 and ’95;
  • in the 10,000m in 1990, ’91, ’93, ’94 and ’95.

Valuable as these runs and the points they earned for the club were, and they were very valuable, he was also responsible for most of that time in selecting the runners for the three distance events and ensuring their appearance at the venue.   He set the example himself by doubling up the 5000m and steeplechase at the same match fairly often.  Never afraid of taking on additional tasks, John was club captain for many years after only a few years in the club.   He took his responsibilities seriously and could be seen helping to mark the track  at Whitecrook for club championships, or putting out and taking in the course markers for cross-country races.   He himself says that of all the captain’s duties,  “Waiting to put teams in for the relays on the day was nerve racking and must have affected my own race”.   Maybe it did affect his own race but it did not show in the results column.

John was maybe seen at his best over the country and he says quite clearly that cross-country was his favourite event.  

John in the Veterans’ International in Meath, County Cavan, Ireland in 18/11/2000

John had an outstanding career as a veteran runner winning international honours over the country and more will be said about that below but again his running as a club member was notable.   He won the Dunbartonshire Cup for the first club man home in the Balloch to Clydebank road race in 1985/86 and the DJ McGinley Trophy for the first veteran in the club championship in 1992/93, 1994/95, 1998/99, 1999/2000 and 2000/2001.

He has run in every race imaginable – club, district, national championships, district and national relays – and all over Scotland on all the classic courses – Hamilton, Falkirk, Bellahouston, Jack Kane Centre in Edinburgh – as well as at many local venues.   

A very consistent athlete and always a good team member.  In the top event of the winter, the National Championships, he ran 18 times in 19 years between 1987 and 2005 in teams that finished between 6th and 21st, and was in the club’s first four counters 14 times, with a best club position of 2nd on 6 occasions.    In the National Four Stage Cross Country Relay Championship, his first run was in October 1985 at St Andrews where he ran on the second stage in the B team (the club had four teams out that afternoon).   The Power of 10 website has listed John’s races since 2000 and they are impressive.

Note the number of first, second and third places in the table.   The Run Britain website give additional information, below,  about his GB position over the same period using the above information..

EVENT AGE GROUP YEAR POSITION
3000m V50 2003 15th
5000m V45 2000 12th
5000m V50 2003 7th
5K V50 2004 15th
10K V50 2004 17th
10 Miles V50 2004 64th

From the British Masters at Irvine 12/4/2003 where John finished 3rd in his age group and with Bobby Young and Peter Cartwright taking second team for Clydesdale Harriers

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Colin Youngson, himself a superb runner, has written the following appreciation of John as a veteran runner. 

JOHN HANRATTY AS A VETERAN ATHLETE

by Colin Youngson

John ran for Clydesdale Harriers, Scotland’s most historic club. He first appeared aged 40 in the 1993 Scottish Veteran Cross Country Championships at St Andrews, when he finished a respectable 22nd, while I was fifth and first M45.

As the years passed, he proved admirably consistent: improving to 9th in 1994 (Troon). He was a strong 12th in 1995 (Stirches, Hawick).

Shortly afterwards, the 1995 British Veterans Cross Country Championships were held over Beach Park, Irvine. I was very pleased to finish 16th and first M45, but John Hanratty was only fifteen seconds behind, in 21st place, and an excellent fifth Scot on the day, due to the English invasion.

Our Scottish Veteran/Masters cross country friendly but close rivalry continued: he beat me for the first time in 1996 (Elgin – 12th to my 15th); and subsequently in 1999 (more details below); 2000 (Cumnock, 14th and fourth M45); 2001 (Aberdeen – 19th); and 2003 (Forres – 26th).

However, I ‘got’ him in 1997 (Edinburgh – John was 23rd); 1998 (Troon – 16th and sixth M45 to my 12th and first M50); 2002 (Glasgow – he was 28th to my 24th). Our last such encounter was in 2004, over a hilly monster at Cupar, when he finished 63rd shortly after I collapsed over the line 52nd and first M55.

Therefore, tough, consistent, modest John Hanratty raced the Scottish Veterans XC 12 years in succession.

His best performance in the event was on 27th February 1999, in horrendous conditions over the Stirches course in Hawick. Let that great athletics journalist, Doug Gillon, set the scene with excerpts from his Glasgow Herald report.

“Storm-lashed hailstones scourged runners like a medieval penance” … “Rough sheep pasture, with a grinding half-mile hill, and muddy descents, was not for the faint-hearted, yet it brought not one moan from the vets. If this had been an open championship, younger wimps would have been bleating in complaint.”

I can add that paths were very slippery, there were several fallers, and that tactics were essential, since during one long section of each lap, we had to battle an incredibly fierce gale. Consequently, joining a small group and sheltering behind was sensible. Suffice it to say that this formidable Stirches course, which John Hanratty had relished in 1995, suited him very well. After the big uphill, when we turned into the gale, he was two groups in front of me – and held on for 12th place (securing a bronze medal for third M45), while I was 17th and first M50 by six seconds from my old friend and redoubtable harrier George Meredith.

In the 1998 British and Irish Cross Country Championships, at St Asaph, Wales, Archie Jenkins won M45 bronze again, leading his team (John Hanratty 11th, Andy McLinden 12th and Barney Gough 13th) to silver medals. This was John’s first international vest for Scottish Vets.

In the 2000 British and Irish Cross Country Championships at Navan, County Meath, Ireland, John finished 52nd, 19th M45 and fourth counter in the team, which just missed out on team medals in fourth place, in front of Northern Ireland.

John must have enjoyed racing at Dumfries in the 1998 Scottish Veterans Athletics Championships, winning a gold medal in the 1500m (4.23.90) and narrowly losing to Archie Jenkins but securing silver in the 5000m (16.08.77).

John Hanratty of Clydesdale Harriers was well-liked and very well respected, especially as a fine cross-country competitor. “

With Brian Edridge (48) and Jim Shields (47) at Veterans’ National in Elgin, 24/2/96

SGA Handbook: 1969: 1 Constitution, Rules of Competition & Records

Given that there was no internet and that not everybody had a telephone, it is not surprising that the Scottish Games Association, organisers of the professional athletics scene, had its own handbook listing of its own rules, races for the coming season, records, winners of last season’s meetings, etc.   Alastair Macfarlane let us copy his handbook for 1969 and it is reproduced here over two pages.  

 

Part Two:  Records and fixtures

Shawfield Stadium

The photograph above shows Danny Wilmoth of Springburn Harriers winning the half mile handicap at Shawfield Stadium, home of Clyde FC, in Glasgow.   Note that although the runners are on a grass surface, there is another track on the outside and that track has floodlights placed at intervals round it.   Shawfield was built in 1898 and Wikipedia has this to say about the venue:

“Shawfield Stadium is a venue in the Shawfield district of the town of Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire, Scotland, located close to the boundary with Glasgow.   Originally a football ground, Shawfield was home to Clyde FC from 1898 to 1986. Greyhound racing was introduced in 1932, and the stadium hosted the Scottish Greyhound Derby from 1970 to 1985 and from 1989 to 2019. The Glasgow Tigers speedway team was also based there, from 1988 to 1995 ,and 1997 to 1998, with the Scottish Monarchs also racing there in 1996. Other sports including boxing and athletics were also staged at Shawfield.”

The Scottish Greyhound Racing Club bought Shawfield, which had been losing money before the War, in 1935.    Despite several attempts to increase income, the track suffered a huge fire in 1975 and was put on the market in 1983 and it was proposed to sell it to Asda but permission was not granted.  In 1986 Clyde were given orders to leave and also in 1986, planning permission to build houses was refused.    There were lots of attempts by various bodies to use or dispose of it.   The last remaining track in Scotland all hopes of the stadium re-opening disappeared when the owner died in 2022.   

Athletics meetings at Shawfield were well supported by athletes – see

Clyde FC Sports 1911 – 1918   which deal with a period when it was a professional meeting; and 

the short account of team races at the stadium at  Inter Clubs at the Games: Shawfield and Brockville .     

Unfortunately the economics of running the stadium meant the end of the athletics there and it was shut in October 1986.   Look at it in the pictures below:

There is a lot of talk just now of the fate of Grangemouth Stadium – the only stadium in the country currently capable of hosting a full programme of events.   Let’s hope that it doesn’t end like Shawfield.   Another of Danny’s pictures below of what it had been in 1955

 

 

 

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