Alastair’s pictures

Alastair Macfarlane was one of the best runners in the country: first as a professional middle distance runner, and then as a top class amateur road runner who won international honours as well as being SAAA marathon champion.   The following pictures are from a collection of some that he has taken himself.   You will know most, if not all of the subjects – Jim Brown Nat Muir, Graham Laing, Sandy Cameron, Tom Donnelly, Tommy Wiseman, Peter McGregor and so on.

Some from the 1982 Edinburgh to Glasgow: you should know all of these guys

On to the road races : Clydebank to Helensburgh

1980 Marathon:  Doug Gunstone


After the portraits .. some of the National …

There should be some more on this page later …





Inter-Varsity Sports: 1905 – 1909

JP Stark, Glasgow

In 1905, the Inter-Varsity Sports were held on 12th June and the  Scotsman printed a very full report of the event despite there being many other athletic meetings on the day.   The Free Gardeners Sports were held at Powderhall (a big meeting with, for instance, sixteen heats of the 120 yards), the Abercorn FC Sports in Paisley (another big amateur sports meeting, the even bigger West of Scotland Harriers Sports Meeting at Ibrox, Cupar Highland Games, Falkirk Junior Games, Clack,annan Games, the Hawick two-day Games as well as several other smaller local meetings) so it was a busy weekend. 

 “Aberdeen was on Saturday the venue for the annual athletic sports between the Scottish Universities, and the recreation grounds at the King’s College afforded ample accommodation for the interesting event.   Fine, if slightly cold weather, favoured the occasion, and the attendance, which was good, included a considerable number of Ladies.   An agreeable feature was the musical programme discourse by the band of the Aberdeenshire Royal Garrison Artillery, led by Mr James Wood.   To all sportsmen the various competitions were replete with attraction.   Unfortunately for Edinburgh they were without Messrs Macrae and Irons, but gave a very good account of themselves, for in the end they tied with Glasgow for leading place.   There were in all ten events on the card.   

The first was the 100 yards race which, as was generally anticipated, easily fell to JP Stark, Glasgow, the Scottish champion.    WH Welsh, who filled DJ Macrae’s place, coming in second.   The half mile proved exceptionally interesting.   PF Hugo and AM Mathews represented Edinburgh, C Duguid and W Smellie represented Glasgow, and Aberdeen’s men were A Murray and C Twort.   Mathews led all the way until the last 100 yards or so, when Hugo pressed him on entering the straight.   Then amidst much excitement on the part of the spectators, Twort came away in fine form and, passing Mathews about 20 yards from the tape, ultimately beat him by about half a yard, the plucky performance evoking hearty cheers.   The time – 2 min 2 4-5th sec. – is the best yet achieved at the Inter University meeting, and experts regarded it as a very good performance on grass.   Hugo was third.   In the 220 yards, E Russell filled Macrae’s place for Edinburgh, Welsh being their second string.   Here, as in the opening event, Stark  (Glasgow) was again victor, covering the distance in what was regarded as the fine time of 22 3-5th sec, and beating Welsh by three yards.    That fine racer however once again asserted his supremacy as the record holder for the quarter mile by winning that event, on this occasion coming in first a few yards ahead of his team mate Hugo.   Always a popular race, the hurdle race (120 yards) evoked keen interest.   RS Stewart and Cookson championed Edinburgh, while A Gordon and AN Gordon were Glasgow’s representatives and HR Neilson and GM Bain  did service for Aberdeen.   This was a spiritedly conducted contest.   Stewart (who had been fancied for first place) was outdistanced by both Aberdeen men, and had to take third position, some two yards behind Bain, for Neilson came in first by just a foot, his time being 17 seconds.   In the Mile Mathews, as last year, proved the winner, defeating Dawson (Aberdeen) by 25 yards, while JH Bennett, the other Edinburgh runner, pluckily persevering, arrived third.   The remaining three competitors dropped out. The jumping competitions came in for a good deal of notice, G Carmichael (Edinburgh) leading in the Broad Jump by 20 feet 1/2 inch with R Twort (Aberdeen) and Wilson (Glasgow) tieing for second place at 19 ft 10 1/2 in.   Cookson dropped out at 19 fet 5 ins.   Last year at Glasgow, DJ Macrae (Edinburgh) cleared 23 ft 2 ins.   In the weights the leading honours fell to R Gunn (Glasgow) .   It was after 6 o’clock before the sports terminated.   …   Th result of the day’s contests was a tie between Edinburgh and Glasgow with 11 points ; Aberdeen gained 8 points.   

It was the typical Scotsman report which beautifully wrote up the meeting from an Edinburgh point of view – note that the results of the throws competitions were not included although they appeared in the list of results that followed.   For the record, Glasgow had one and two in Putting the Weight with Gunn and McDonald achieving 40′ 4″ and 38′ 2″ respectively, Gunn won the Hammer (111′ 4″) from Macpherson (Edinburgh  99′ 2″) and there was no javelin that year.

On 9th June, 1906, Glasgow Universitry held their own sports at the grounds of Glasgow University as preparation for the Inter-Varsity Games, and Aberdeen University held their Sports which included fourteen events, at the King’s College Grounds on the same day.   The big event was held the following week at Craiglockhart in Edinburgh on a wet and miserable afternoon where the reports all said that the performances in all events were adversely affected.   The results were as follows:

100 yards: 

Ht 1:  1.  E Russell (Edinburgh); 2. J Walker (Glasgow)  10 3-5th sec.   Stark did not compete although he was present.

Ht 2:  1.  GH Weller (Glasgow); 2.  ID Dickson (Edinburgh)  10 3-5th sec

Final:  1.  GH Weller;  2.  E Russell;  3.  ID Dickson   10 4-5th sec.   Less than a yard separated the men at the finish.

High Jump:  1.  JB Milne (Edinburgh) 5′ 6″;  2. J Murray (Aberdeen) and J Walker (St Andrews)  tie  5′ 0 1/4″

880 Yards:  1.  CC Twort (Aberdeen);  2.  AM Mathews (Edinburgh);  3.  T Jack (Edinburgh).  Time 2 min 10 sec.

Throwing the Hammer:  1.  TY Bremner (Aberdeen) 96′ 1″;  2. H Macpherson (Edinburgh);  3.  N McInnes (Glasgow)

120 yards hurdles:  1.. RS Steuart (Edinburgh); 2.  Alex Gordon (Glasgow);  3.  H Hoyland (Edinburgh).  Time 17 3-5th sec

220 yards:  1.  WH Welsh (Edinburgh);  2.  D Dickson (Edinburgh);  3.  James B Struthers (Glasgow)  Time 24 4-5th sec

Putting the Weight:  1.  A MacDonald (Glasgow) 39′ 1″;  2.  WH Welsh (Edinburgh) 36′ 1″;  3. N McInnes (Glasgow).

One Mile:  1.  AM Mathews (Edinburgh);  2.  CC Twort (Aberdeen);  3.  MB Ward (Edinburgh)  Time  4 min 55 1/2 sec

Broad Jump:  1.  HA Cookson (Edinburgh);  2.  John Murray (Aberdeen);  3.  HGM Wilson (Aberdeen)  Distance  19′ 7″

440 yards:  1.  WH Welsh (Edinburgh);  2.  ID Dickson (Edinburgh);  3.  D Gillespie (St Andrews).  Time  56 secs.

This was the year when St Andrews returned to the meeting, their first entry since the event’s restart.   It was a welcome return but their lack of previous experience showed in the fourth position that they occupied at the end of the day.   Team Result:

  1.   Edinburgh 40 points;  2.   Aberdeen 14 1/2 Points;  3.   Glasgow  13;   4.  St Andrews  2 1/2. 

In 1906 the meeting was held on 16th June in St Andrews         The report in the Glasgow Herald was interesting, apart from the report on the meeting, for what it had to say about the facilities at St Andrews.  The Herald of 18th June reported as follows: 

“The Inter-Varsity ended in a very pronounced win for Edinburgh University whose representatives scored 40 points against 14 1/2 by Aberdeen, 13 for Glasgow and 2 1/2 for St Andrews.   This is the first time the students of the “Grey City” have taken part in the contest, and if they did not cover themselves with glory they will no doubt do much better in the future.   Thanks to the generosity of their Lord Rector they have a recreation ground which is second to none in Scotland alike in regard to situation and general appointments, and it will be nothing short of a reproach to Fifeshire students if they do not make the most of it.   JP Stark, the SAAA Sprint Champion, was not among the competitors, but for all that the 100 yards fell to Glasgow, GH Walker winning after an exciting finish with JD Dickson who, the previous week, won the sprint at the West of Scotland Sports.   WH Welsh who seems to have got back some of his old form won the 220 and 440 yards while he was second in the weight, which was the only other first scored by Glasgow, A McDonald putting 39 feet 5 in.   AM Mathew annexed the half mile and the mile for Edinburgh, and AH Cookson of the same ‘Varsity covered 19 feet 3 in in the broad jump, while the modest performance of 5 feet 6 in won the high jump for Edinburgh.”


Edinburgh won a fairly wide margin again on 15th June, 1907, when the championships were held at Anniesland in Glasgow, the result being Edinburgh 32, Glasgow 23 1/2, Aberdeen 12 and St Andrews 2 1/2.   The report said right at the start that St Andrews was not up to anything like full strength.   JD Dickson had three firsts in the 100, 220 and 440 yards and was largely responsible for Edinburgh’s success.   “There was a surprise in the half mile, Aberdeen providing first man, and thereby defeating such stagers as AM Mathews and T Jack, both of whom made short work of all opposition in the Mile event.   Glasgow excelled in the hurdles, getting first and second thereby crying quits with Edinburgh who had a similar number of points (6) in the Mile.   The proceedings were a little dull and it was remarked by those who have followed University athletics in Scotland this season that the quality is scarcely up to the quality of some recent  years.  The fact is athletics are not taken as seriously as they might be at our centres of culture.”

Maybe a bit harsh at the end – among the athletes mentioned above, Tom Jack won the SAAA 10 miles 6 times, the four miles once and won other medals in the mile and four miles; Mathews was second to no less than John McGough three times in the national championships and Dickson after gaining two third places in the Scottish championships, would go on to win the 220 and 440, with a second in the 100 yards in 1909.   There was a lot of talent there.   The un-named victor in the half mile for Aberdeen was CC Twort who had run so well in previous Inter-Varsity events.   

EUAC Sports 13th June, 1908;  

“Favoured with splendid weather, the Scottish Inter-University Athletic Sports held at University Recreation Park, St Andrews on Saturday afternoon, were carried through with great success before a large and fashionable gathering.   The contests were under SAAA rules.   

100 yards race Final:  1.  JD Dickson, Edinburgh; 2. EFW MacKenzie, Edinburgh;  3. R Gilmour, St Andrews  Time  10 2-5th sec

High Jump:  1.  GH Wilson, Glasgow, 5 ft 5 in;  2.  GR MacDonald, Aberdeen, 5 ft 4 in;  3.  JR Izat Edinburgh, 5 ft 2 in

Half mile:  1.  CC Twort, Aberdeen;  2.  JW Bruce, Edinburgh;  3.  A Gray, Aberdeen.   Time: 2 min 6 4-5th sec

120 yards hurdles Final:  1.  EFW MacKenzie, Edinburgh;  2.  T Prain, St Andrews;  3.  H Hoyland, Edinburgh.  Time  17 4-5th

Throwing the Hammer, 16lb:  1.  R   MacPherson, Edinburgh, 101 ft 7 1/2 in;  2.  G Wilson, Edinburgh, 96 ft 8 in;  3.  CR Glass, Aberdeen, 94 ft 8 in.   

220 yards:  1.  JD Dickson, Edinburgh;  2.  EFW MacKenzie, Edinburgh;  3.  R Gilmour St Andrews.  Time  23 2-5th sec

Putting the Weight, 16 lb:  1.  R MacPherson, Edinburgh, 36 ft 1 in;  2.  CK Smith, Aberdeen, 35 ft 11 in;  3.  RD Sivwright, Edinburgh, 34 ft 10 in.

Broad Jump:  1.  G Stephen, St Andrews, 241 ft 4 in;  2.  RF Twort, Edinburgh, 21 ft 3 in;  3.  AJ Cookson, Edinburgh, 19 ft 2 in

440 yards:  1.  JD Davidson, Edinburgh;  2.  RF Twort, Edinburgh;  3.  AD Donald, Edinburgh.  Time: 53 3-5th sec

One Mile:  1.  CC Twort, Aberdeen;  2.  A Gray, Aberdeen;  3.  RT Johnstone, Edinburgh.  Time:   4 min 47 3-5th sec

Team:  1.  Edinburgh 38 points:  Aberdeen 18, St Andrews 10 and Glasgow 4.

The only event which was described at all was the Mile where the first three were separated by only two feet.   


In 1909, 19th June was the date of the contest which was held at King’s College in  Aberdeen on a showery day with few spectators.   Dickson of Edinburgh won the 100, 220 and 440 yards and G Stephen of St Andrews won both high and broad jumps.  Results:

100 yards:   1.   JD Dickson, Edinburgh; 2.  EFW MacKenzie, Edinburgh;  3.  WL Kinlay, Glasgow.   Time  10 4-5th sec

High jump:  1.  G Stephen St Andrews, 5 ft 3 in;  2.  AGG Ellis, Aberdeen, and J Izatt, Edinburgh, equal  5 ft 2 1/2 in

880 yards:  1.  A Gray, Aberdeen;  2.  T Welsh, Edinburgh;  3.  JW Bruce, Edinburgh.  Time  2 min 5 sec 

Hurdles:   1.   EFW MacKenzie;   2.  RM Chance, Aberdeen;  3.  GV Bogie, Edinburgh.  Time 17 2-5th sec

Throwing the Hammer:  1.   RDM MacPherson, Edinburgh, 113 ft (beating record of 111 ft 10 in at Aberdeen in 1902); 2.  J McCrae, Glasgow;  3.  FR Cramb, Aberdeen 

220 yards: 1.   JD Dickson, Edinburgh;  2.  T Milroy, Aberdeen;  3.  TA Clarke, Aberdeen.  Time:  23 1-5th sec

Putting the Weight:  1.  F MacCrae, Glasgow, 36 feet;  2.  HDC Craig, St Andrews;  3.  CK Smith, Aberdeen

Broad jump:  1.  G Stephen, St Andrews, 20 feet;  2.   RM Chance, Aberdeen;  3.   J Cattanach, Edinburgh.

One Mile:  1.  T Welsh, Edinburgh;  2.  A Gray, Aberdeen;  3.  WE Glover, Aberdeen.  Time:  4 min 46 1-5th sec

440 yards:   1.  JD Dickson;  2.  JW Bruce, Edinburgh;  3.  JA Clarke, Aberdeen.   Time:  54 1-5th sec

Points totals:   1.  Edinburgh  37 1/2;   2.  Aberdeen  13 1/2;   3.  St Andrews  10;  4.  Glasgow  9.

The results above are as printed in the Glasgow Herald two days after the meeting – the initials may be wrong in some places – eg is it JA Clarke or TA Clarke or were there two of them; similarly is it J MacCrae or F MacCrae or both?   Whatever it is, the result was another resounding victory for Edinburgh, and for Glasgow it was two fourth places in consecutive years.




10 Mile Track Championship Runners

1903 Cross-Country International Field

Photo from Alex Wilson

Following on from the account of the ten mile track championships from their inaugural run in 1886 to their unfortunate death 90 years later in 1976, short profiles of the runners who won medals of whatever colour in the races are presented here for information.   Those athletes who already have individual profiles are linked to these profiles where their name appears on the text on the race reports [recognisable because they are in blue.]   We will do it in chronological order.

W Henderson, 1887. was a member of the Clydesdale Harriers national cross-country winning team in 1888 when he was fifth.   In the breakaway SHU version of the national cross-country championship in 1890 he was in the winning Glasgow team where he was tenth.   

P Addison, 1888, Edinburgh Harriers: In addition to winning the 10 miles track championship in 1892 and being third in 1888 and 1896, Addison ran in and was a member of the winning Edinburgh team in the first ever National Cross-Country Championship in 1886 and continued to represent the club in a series of national championships where he continued to win team medals in 1891 and 1895 when the team won for the first time in several years..    

Charles Pennycook, 1889, of Arthurlie FC and Clydesdale Harriers, had an illustrious athletics career winning the National Cross-Country title in 1892. He had previously won the breakaway SHU Cross-Country Championship of Scotland in 1890 under the Scottish Harriers Union rules.   On the track he won the SAAA Mile in 1889 and was second in the Ten Miles in the same year.   There were also second and third place championship medals plus team medals.   He went on to be President of the SAAA in 1907/08.

TIS Hunter, 1890, Edinburgh Harriers,  was second in the ten miles track twice (1890 and 1892), and third in the four miles in 1890.   This was his first year running in the championships but his talents stretched to cross-country where he was a solid club cross-country runner who ran in several national medal winning teams, starting with second team medals in the SCCA championships in 1890, winning team medal in 1891 (he was sixth), and a personal best finish in 1894 when he was fourth.   He ran often on the track and won prizes in events as disparate as the mile flat, the novelty race (one lap race walking, one lap running backwards, one lap running) and the three and four miles events.

WM Carment, 1891, Edinburgh Harriers, medallist in both 10 miles and one mile, as well as being a regular member of medal winning cross-country teams for his club, he won individual silver in the 1892 national championship and bronze in 1893.     Carment went on to become Secretary/Treasurer of the SCCU between 1892 and 1897.

P McMorrow, 1892, West of Scotland Harriers and Celtic Harriers, ran in his first national cross-country championship in 1892 where he finished tenth for the team that finished third.   He never won team or individual medals on the country but won prizes at distances from 880 yards to 4 miles in track handicaps.

SJ Cornish, 1893, Edinburgh Harriers, was twice runner-up to Andrew Hannah in the 10 miles track championship.  His first run in the national was in 1893 (team third), then after another third in 1894, he was in the winning team in 1895 

A McCallum, 1895

RA Hay, 1896, Edinburgh Harriers, was Scottish Cross-Country Champion in 1896, also over a ten miles course, leading his club to first team honours.   His first cross-country national was in 1894 when he was 11th for the team that finished third for the second year in succession.

David White Mill 1901 Clydesdale Harriers. One International Cross-Country vest. His first National run for Clydesdale was in 1896 when he was part of the gold medal winning team.  He won the National Cross-Country (plus team gold) in both 1901 and 1902. Individual silver (and team silver) in 1900. Four Miles Track champion in 1901, after bronze in 1899 and silver in 1990. Four Track International vests: at 4 Miles versus Ireland – winning in 1901.   Mill started out with Greenock Glenpark Harriers,and switched allegiance to Clydesdale Harriers for several years during which he won National titles on the track and over the country before returning to run again for Glenpark.

Tom Jack 1904 Edinburgh Southern Harriers, had a remarkable record:

  •  on the track where he won the 10 miles track six times (1904, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909 and 1910) and was second once (1905) as well as winning the Four Miles in ’08, being second in ’05, ’06, third in ’07, second in ’09 and second in ’10.   
  • over the country where he won the national championship in 1907, ’08. 09 and 1912.

Thomas Mulrine 1904  West of Scotland H. 5th in 1905 National XC (plus team gold). Team silver in 1907

Sam Stevenson, 1905 ’08 Clydesdale Harriers. 3 International Cross-Country vests. Four Miles Track champion in 1905 and 1906.   Olympic Games 1908.   Four Track International vests versus Ireland, winning twice.

Sam Stevenson, Clydesdale H


Peter Russell 1905 Bellahouston H. 2 International XC vests.

W Bowman 1907 West of Scotland H. 4 International XC vests (including 11th and first Scot in 1909). 5th in 1907 National XC (plus team silver).

William Robertson 1908 Clydesdale H. 2 International XC vests. National XC team gold 1906. Track One Mile silver medallist in 1897. Two Track International vests versus Ireland, competing in 880 yards, One Mile and Four Miles. Eventually suspended for professionalism.

Alex McPhee 1909 Clydesdale H.   3 International XC vests, including 8th and first Scot in 1910. National XC champion in 1909 and 1910. Team 1st equal in 1910. Four Miles Track champion in 1909 and 1910. His father was a good professional runner; and his younger brother Duncan a fine Scottish International 880/Mile athlete.

Alec Mann 1909 Clydesdale H.   3 International XC vests. National XC team gold in 1907; team silver in 1909 (individual bronze); team gold in 1910 (individual 5th); team silver in 1911 (individual 4th); team silver in 1912; team bronze in 1913.   He was also known as a road runner well before it was fashionable for amateurs to do so.

Angus Kerr 1911 Motherwell YMCA H and Bellahouston H. 4 International XC vests: 1911, 1912, 1913, 1920. He finished a fine 11th in 1913. National XC individual silver in 1912, one second behind Tom Jack. Team silver in 1920, when he finished 9th. One Track International vest versus Ireland, running the Four Miles.

A Smith 1913   Clydesdale Harrier. One International Cross-Country vest which was won in 1920 .

George Cummings 1914  Greenock Glenpark H / Bellahouston H? One International Cross-Country vest. In the 1914 National Cross-Country he finished 6th (plus team gold).

John Cuthbert 1921 Garscube H. One International Cross-Country vest. In the 1921 National Cross-Country, he finished 9th (plus team silver); and added another team silver in 1923.

P Martin 1923 Maryhill H. In the 1926 National Cross-Country, he contributed to team silver.

James Mitchell 1925 Kilmarnock H/Mauchline.  2 International Cross-Country vests, including 1926 when he finished 5th and was first Scot. In the National Cross-Country he was second in 1925; and became champion in 1926.

Daniel Quinn 1926 Garscube H. One International Cross-Country vest. In the National Cross-Country he won team bronze in 1923; finished 8th and secured team gold in 1925; and in 1926 was fifth and led his club to team gold.

William Sutherland 1935 Shettleston H. 4 International Cross-Country vests. In the National Cross-Country he was 6th in 1935; secured team silver in 1938; and finished 8th (plus team bronze) in 1939. He ran regularly in the Edinburgh to Glasgow Road Relay and contributed to team silver in 1936 and bronze in 1939.

David Brooke 1936  Garscube H. In the National XC, he helped his team to bronze in 1928 and 1935. In the E to G, he added bronze in 1931 and silver in 1935. Secured a bronze medal in the 1936 Six Miles track championship. Later he was active as a time keeper respected by all and worked at the 1970 Commonwealth Games before becoming President of the Scottish Marathon Club.   There is more about him   here   and    here

   William Kennedy 1937 Kilbarchan H. 2 International Cross Country vests. He finished 10th in the National Cross-Country in 1937.

Gordon Anderson 1947 Bellahouston H. One International Cross-Country vest. In the National Cross-Country, he was 4th in 1947 (plus team gold); 8th in 1948 (team silver); and 12th in 1949 (team silver).

Archibald Gibson 1948 Hamilton H. 4 International Cross-Country vests: he was one of Scotland’s scoring six on each occasion. In the National Cross Country he was 6th in 1948; and ran fast in the Edinburgh to Glasgow.   You can read mor about him at this link






Inter Varsity Sports: 1899 – 1904

Craiglockhard Pavilion

The Inter-University Sports had been held between 1872 and 1879 with a gap where the 1874 sports should have been.   They then, for whatever reason, ceased to be until 1899 and the trail is picked up with the following article in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ of  20th March, 1899.  It is a report on a meeting to re-introduce the inter-university champs.   It is reproduced here as it gives an insight into what prompted the move and what it was hoped would be gained from it.

“If we except football, athletic life at our Scottish universities is not as healthy as it might be; indeed, there was ,ore activity and more genuine interest in general athletics at Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews ten years ago than there is now.   It is common to represent these centres of intellectual light as given up almost wholly to the worship of athleticism, but it is scarcely necessary to say that this is a delusion.   Athletics have a fairly reasonable hold at Edinburgh but it might easily be stronger and more general without interfering in any way with the intellectual development of the students.   This is evidently being felt, as a proposal, emanating from the capital, is on foot to establish inter-university sports, and a meeting of delegates from Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews and Aberdeen is to be held shortly at Dundee to discuss the scheme, and, if at all possible, bring off a gathering this season.   Glasgow students seem to think the idea will take practical shape, as on Friday several confined races were decided at Hampden Park. and though the performances were not of much account, there was enough merit to justify the expectation of better things.     We may mention that many years ago, inter-varsity sports were held under the auspices of the Edinburgh University AC, but for some reason or other the event lost its charm, and was eventually dropped altogether.   We hope the contemplated scheme will be carried through as the commonplace character of athletics at our universities is not only a reproach to those institutions as centres of intellectual and physical activity, but it is also a reproach on the prestige which we as a nation enjoy for athletic achievement.”

It is only arguable that the sports before 1879 were ‘under the auspices’ of EUAC –  there was always an organising committee of members from all the establishments involved and the venue went to each participating college in turn.   However that may be, the move was success and the first of the new sports was held at Aberdeen,   


The first of the revived inter-university athletic meetings was held in brilliant weather and in presence of a fashionable attendance at the King’s College grounds, Aberdeen on Saturday afternoon.   Of the four Scottish universities, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen were represented and the pick of the academic sportsmen were present.   In the first contest, throwing the hammer, Aberdeen made a good show but they had to bow the knee to Glasgow, who had a tower of strength in Gunn.   The one mile race was an easy thing for JW Milne, Aberdeen, who completed in satisfactory time.   A fine tussle took place in the long leap event.   Edinburgh had forward a fine jumper in GD Laing, who kept a formidable lead by never being under 20 feet and finished first with a fine leap of 20 feet 9 ins.   Fitzgerald of Glasgow gave him trouble only once and ended a good second with 20 feet 4 1/2 ins.   The 220 yards was a somewhat unsatisfactory race, the corners completely killing the outside men.  Glasgow was an easy first with Jeffrey.   Result:

Throwing the Hammer:  1st  R Gunn (G) 95 feet; 2nd J Taylor (A) 93 feet;

One Mile Race:  1st JW Milne (A) 4 min 44 4-5th sec; 2nd: AN Fell (E);

Long Leap: 1st GD Laing (E) 20 feet 9 in; 2nd CC Fitzgerald (G);

220 yards race:  1st J Jeffrey (G) 24 2-5th sec;  2nd J Muir (G);

Putting the Weight: 1st DJ Macrae (A) 38 feet 8 ins; 2nd CC Grant (A);

120 yards hurdle race:  1st HM Fletcher (E) 17 1/4 sec; 2nd JAS Grant (A);

Quarter Mile Race:  1st WW Welsh (E) 53 3-5th sec; 2nd GT Ford (E);

High Jump:  1st CG Anderson (E) 5 feet 4  ins; 2nd CC Fitzgerald (G) and HR Neilson (A);

100 yards race:  1st GS Stewart (G) 10 4-5th sec; 2nd WW Welsh (E).

Abstract of points: (first place counts two, second place one) : Edinburgh 11 points, Glasgow  8 1/2 points, Aberdeen  7 1/2 points.

Sir David Stewart, LLD, afterwards presented the prizes to the successful competitors.   It was 26 years he said since inter-university sports had been held in Scotland, and he congratulated Aberdeen upon the success which had attended their resuscitation.   He also congratulated Edinburgh on topping the list.”

“Glasgow Herald”, 19th June 1899.

Perhaps he is the man responsible for creating the misapprehension that the sports ended in 1873: he was speaking in 1899 after all.   Again the versatility of some of the competitors was notable although there were no double event winners. 


In 1900 Glasgow University had hoped to hold their sports on 9th June but had unfortunately to postpone them to the following Wednesday because the weather was so bad.   The Glasgow Herald report on Thursday, 14th June, read:  “Owing to the breakdown in the weather on Saturday last, the University Club held their sports at Anniesland last night in dull but fair weather.   The sports were to decide the competitors to represent our Alma Mater at the Inter Varsity Sports in Edinburgh on Saturday first.   The attendance was fairly good.”   There were ten events plus two for local schools with Glasgow Academy, Allan Glen’s Paisley Grammar, and Whitehill among the prize winners.  Edinburgh University was well known as the establishment which took these Sports most seriously and Glasgow had been chastised in the 1870’s for not taking them seriously enough.   This meeting is evidence that the situation had changed.   

Came the Sports themselves and The Scotsman reported as follows: “At Craiglockhart on Saturday, i  magnificent weather and before a large and fashionable audience, the representatives of the three great Scottish universities – Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen – met to decide which University was entitled to claim for the present season the athletic championship.   Last year the sports, which had then been revived after having been in abeyance for a long period, were held at Aberdeen, and Edinburgh on that occasion won by 11 points to Glasgow’s 8 1/2 and Aberdeen’s 7 1/2.   On Saturday it was anticipated that with an athlete of the calibre of WH Welsh among her representatives, the Metropolitan University would have little difficulty in retaining the championship and this anticipation was fully borne out by the results.   The items for competition were throwing the hammer, putting the weight, long leap, high jump, quarter mile, 220 yards, 100 yards,  120 yards hurdle.   Two entrants from each university to compete.”

There are some points to note from this report – one is the reference to Edinburgh University by The Scotsman as ‘the metropolitan university’: none of the other papers consulted at any point called it so.   It may have been how the citizens of Edinburgh saw the university but it seems peculiar unto them.   ‘The three great universities’ makes no comment on the fourth – St Andrews – which was not present and would not be until 1906.   And WH Welsh would have been an asset to any team in any age: before his career was over he would have won the triple treble – the 100 yards, 220 yards and 440 yards at three  SAAA Championships – and set Scottisg records as well as being a regular member of Scottish teams.   

Throwing the Hammer:  1.  DJ Macrae, A, 107′ ; 2.  G Minty, A, 3.  R Gunn, G.   Edinburgh, as was expected, was completely out classed in this event, all three points going to Aberdeen.   

One Mile Race:  1.  AS Fell, E;  2.  JW Milne, A; 3.  H Watson, A.   Aberdeen with Watson and Milne, led for two laps with Fell, E,  lying fourth and Renwick, G, third.   Campbell, E, gave up at the beginning of the last lap.   Then Fell drew ahead, shook off Milne’s challenge and won by 10 yards. Time: 4min 50 3-5th sec.

Long Leap:  1.  GC Anderson, E, 20′ 4″; 2.  CC Fitzgerald  20′ 3 1/2″, G; JM Bell, E, 20′ 2 3/4″.   The contest of the afternoon so far was unquestionable the long leap.   After the weeding out, the three men above were left.   Anderson then led with his 20′ 4″, Bell was second with his 20′  2 3/4″ , and the Glasgow representative third, a quarter of an inch less.   In his best effort, however, Fitzgerald got to within half inch of the winner.

220 yards:  1.  WH Welsh, E;  2.  AJ Milne, A; 3.  JB Paterson, A.   The start was a rather straggling one but Welsh soon headed the lot.   Milne, though beaten by eight yards, kept the Edinburgh champion going up to the tape.   Time:  22 3-5th sec.   

Putting the weight:   1.  DJ Macrae, A, 38′ 8 1/2″;  2.  WH Welsh, E, 35′;  3.  DM Petrie, A.   Welsh’s first put was his best.   Twice he ‘fouled’ the others.

120 yards Hurdle Race:  1.  GC Anderson, E;  2.  AB Timms, E;  3.  AJ Milne, A.   Timms went off in great style, but lack of conditioning told against him and, knocking down the last two hurdles, he finished a poor second to Anderson who finished in good style   The Glasgow hurdlers were not forward so the Western city was not represented in this race.   

Quarter-Mile:  1.  WH Welsh, E;  2.  JA Mathers, E;  3.  J Jeffrey, G.   From the pistol, Welsh took a commanding lead.   Easing up 100 yards from home, he allowed his club mate to get almost on level terms, then in the home straight, without trouble, increased his lead to twelve yards.   Time: 54 1-5th sec.

High Jump:   1.  GC Anderson, A, 5′ 5″; 2.  BH Robertson, G, 5′ 4″.   Anderson and Robertson both failed at 5′ 4″ at first, but ultimately cleared that height.   Then Anderson went an inch higher and won.   

100 yards race:  1.  WH Welsh, E;  2. FH Fraser, A.   Another easy victory for Welsh who won by 5 yards.   Cowan, E, was third.  Time: 10 2-5th sec.

Edinburgh won the championship with 17 points, Aberdeen coming next with 8, and Glasgow far in the rear having 2 points. “

Welsh then lived up to the expectations – first in 100, 220 and 440 yards plus a second in the shot putt.   He was aided and abetted by GC Anderson who won high and long jumps plus the 120 yards hurdles: they picked up 13 of the university’s 17.   


.Edinburgh won again in 1901 and Welsh contributed even more to the team effort despite losing the 100 yards – the last event on a programme in which he had competed in 100 yards, 220 yards, 440 yards, shot putt and throwing the hammer.   He had turned out in five out of nine events.   The Sports were held in Glasgow at the Glasgow Exhibition.   Placed men:

Throwing the Hammer:  1.  MN McInnes, E; 2.  J Macrae, A.  Distance:  107′  7 1/2″

One Mile:  1.  AN Fell, E;  2.  WG Gunn, E.   Time: 4 min 42 1-5th sec

Long Leap:  1.  GC Anderson, E,  19′  1 1/2″;  2.  HR Neilson, A, and M Holmes, E,  18′  5 1/2″

220 Yards:  1.  WH Welsh, E;  2.  EAL Brown, G.  Time: 24 2-5th sec.

Putting the Weight:  1.  MN McInnes, E, 40′ 3£ ;  2.  DJ Macrae, A,  36′ 7″

Quarter-Mile:  1.  WH Welsh, E;  2.  TF Campbell, E.   Time:  53 3-5th sec

High Jump:  1.  HR Neilson, A, 5′ 5″;  2.  BH Robertson, G, 5′ 4″

100 Yards:  1.  J Ford, G;  2.  WH Welsh, E.   Time: 10 4-5th sec 

Team competition:   1st Edinburgh 18 1/2 points;  2nd Aberdeen  4 1/2 pts;  3rd  Glasgow  4 pts.


In 1902 the event was held in King’s College grounds, Aberdeen on 14th June.   With no WH Welsh in the team this year, it might have been thought that Edinburgh’s title was in jeopardy but the table of points winners told a different story.   

Event Edinburgh Glasgow Aberdeen
Hammer 3
Mile 2 1
Broad Jump 3
220 yards 2 1
Weight 1 2
Hurdles 3
Quarter Mile 2 1
High Jump 2
100 yards 1 3
Totals 13 8 3

The meeting was held in ‘as disagreeable weather conditions as could be imagined’ reported the Scotsman on 16th June, 1902,  ‘rain falling more or less heavily the whole time.’   But it should be added that ‘the somewhat depressing conditions were brightened by performances of the fine band of the Aberdeen Volunteer Royal Engineers led by Mr Stavert.’    

It is not surprising that in the conditions the performances were not outstanding although most events were closely contested.   The visitors were guests of the Aberdeen men at Dinner in the Students Union in the evening.

JP Stark, Glasgow University

In 1903, the Edinburgh University trials were held on the Wednesday, ten days before the Sports but the Scotsman comments on the Glasgow trials on the Saturday before the big event were maybe more interesting.   They read:  “Confined Sports were held at Gilmorehill on Saturday with a view to aiding the committee in selecting the team to compete in the Inter Varsity Sports to be held this week.   Little interest was taken in the event beyond ‘Varsity circles, and the attendance on that account was more select than numerous.   Principal Story and several professors were present and evinced an intelligent interest in the proceedings.   Some good sport was witnessed, particularly in the field events.   …  Altogether the Glasgow performances compare favourably with those of Edinburgh University at Colinton last Wednesday.”

The actual sports were held on 13th June, 1903 at Craiglockhart, Edinburgh, where the home team won again with 15 1/2 points to Aberdeen’s 7  and Glasgow’s 4 1/2.   HN Fletcher was unable to run in the hurdle race but his place was taken by GC Anderson, the Scottish champion, who went on and won the race – as well as winning the Broad Jump and being second in the High Jump.   SP Wadson of Aberdeen also had a busy day winning the 220 and being second in both the 100 yards and the 440 yards. The numbers were always a problem and this one was labelled the fifth annual inter-university sports by the Scotsman.   


Throwing the Hammer:   1.  G Minty, A, 94′;  2.  G Milne, A, 91′ 8″

100 yards: 1.  J Ford, G;  2,  SP Wadson, A.  Time  10 3-5th sec

Broad Jump:  1.  GC Anderson, E, 20′ 11 1/2″;  2.  J Murray, A, 20′ 8 3/4″

220 yards:  1.  SP Wadson, A;   2.  A Milne, A.  Time: 24 3-5th sec

Putting the Weight:  1.  LD Shaw, G, 38′ 4″; 2.  HN Fletcher, E, 35′ 5 1/2″

120 yards hurdles:  1.  GC Anderson, E;  2.  RS Steuart, E.  Time:  16 4-5th sec

Quarter Mile:  1.  JM Hardy, A;  SP Wadson, A.   Time  55 sec

High Jump:  1.  JM Graham, E, 5′ 5 1/2″;  2.  Equal – GC Anderson, E, and GH Wilson, G,   5′ 4 1/2″

Mile:  1.  AD Anderson, E;  2.  JA Jamieson, E.    Time:  4 min 48 sec

Robert F Twort   –   Aberdeen University

The sports of 1904 were held on Saturday, 11th June, and reported the following Monday.   The Scotsman first:  On Saturday, at Anniesland, the ground of Glasgow Academicals, representatives of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities met for the sixth time to settle the question of athletic supremacy for the year.   Up until Saturday, Edinburgh University had always been successful, gaining victory on all occasion by a substantial majority of points.   On Saturday however, Glasgow University scored their first triumph, winning by one point.   The actual points were:- Glasgow 12 points, Edinburgh 11 points; Aberdeen 7 points.   For a time on Saturday Glasgow held a big lead being nine points ahead of Edinburgh at one stage of the proceedings.   From then onwards however, Glasgow only managed one point while the Edinburgh men added nine.   In the sprints the Glasgow men won easily, and in the half mile and high jump the Aberdeen men were prominent.   In the quarter mile, one mile and long jump, the eastern competitors distinguished themselves, winning those events very comfortably.   The weather for Saturday’s meeting was all that could be desired which no doubt accounted for the large gathering of spectators, and throughout the afternoon music selections were provided by the band of the 1st Lanarkshire Garrison Artillery.   The officials were:- judges Messrs A Ross Scott, H Barr and T Fraser; time keeper and referee Mr Mr DS Duncan; Starter Mr James Moore.   Results:-

100 yards:  1.  JP Stark, G;  2.  JB Clarke, A.   Time: 10 3-5th sec.

Throwing the Hammer:  LD Shaw, G;  2.  N McInnes, G.   106′ 8″     Won by 6′ 1″

Half Mile:  1. RF Twort, A;  2.  TF Campbell, E.   Time: 2 min 3 44-5th sec

High Jump:  1.  GM Bain, A, 5′ 7 1/2″;  2.  CH Wilson and J McConnell, G, tie at 5′ 6 1/4″

220 yards:  1. JP Stark, G;  WH Welsh, E.   Time: 24 4-5th sec

Putting the Weight:  1.  LD Shaw, G, 39′ 10″;   2.  N McInnes, G, 38′  8″

120 yards hurdles:  1.  RS Steuart, E;  2.  DB Nicol, A.   17 4-5th sec

Quarter Mile:  1.  WH Welsh, E;  2.  JB Clarke, A.   Time:  53 4-5th sec

Broad Jump:  1.  JD Macrae, E, 21′  11 3/4″;  2.  CC Fitzgerald, G, 21′  3 1/2″

One Mile:  1.  AM Matthews, E;  2.  JH Jamieson, E.   Time:  4 min 43 4-5th sec.

The sprints were particularly strong in this  meeting –  

WH Welsh has been spoken of above – multi medallist in the SAAA championships, double winner in the international  v  Ireland in 1900;

JP Stark was three times SAAA 1000 yards champion, winner of the 220, three firsts and four seconds in the international  v  Ireland.

The officials were also of a high standard with Ross Scott officiating in the 1908 Olympic Games in London and in both 440 yards  races where Halswell ran so well.   Hugh  Barr was seven times Scottish long jump champion, 100 yards champion and winner in the internationals against Ireland.   DS Duncan had been Scottish champion at one mile, four miles and ten miles as well as over  the country.   

The Inter varsity championships which had started off so tentatively in 1871, were now integrated into Scottish athletics and attracted big crowds and extended coverage in the national press.


Ron Bentley Obituary


23rd February 2019

R.I.P Ron Bentley

Tipton Harriers are deeply saddened to report the death of Ron Bentley at the age of 88 after a long illness.

Born in November 1930 Ron became a member of the club in 1951 continuing right through to the present day. He was a Life member of the club this being awarded in 1972 some twenty years after he joined.

He was born in the heart of the Black Country. Proud of his Gornal roots he helped put Tipton Harriers on the map again in the late 60’s and early 1970’s following the earlier exploits of another Tipton Harrier Jack Holden during the period 1930 to 1950.

Ron’s work ethic was forged in his upbringing. From a humble & simple background he became one of the most respected men of his era in the area. He could mix with anyone.

Outside the world of athletics, he worked in the metals industry for most of his life. A grafter in so many ways. He worked his way from loyal employee through to owner of a company. He & Eva, his wife, enjoyed danced, he baked, and he enjoyed films. He played table tennis to a high standard. He loved his wife, his family, friends and athletics. He was a proud father of his two children Jane & Ron and their children.

Ron’s life spanned many generations of athletes and athletics. Athletes were his friends, inspirations, mentors and provided an extended family. He learned from those that had gone before absorbed their strengths and understood their weaknesses and set standards for those that followed after. He forged himself into being one of the club’s greats.

Ron was known around the country and around the world. His name and that of Tipton Harriers were inseparable. From the UK to South Africa, the USA & Scandinavia, from Brighton to Rosyth, from Exeter to the Isle of Man Ron carried the colours and hopes of the Harriers. A true ambassador.

He became a natural leader, someone people looked to for direction and inspiration. He took groups training, far and wide. He covered thousands of miles on the roads, footpaths & canal towpaths across Staffordshire & Worcestershire.

He provided an important focal point for hundreds of runners not just from Tipton Harriers but from Dudley Harriers, Halesowen AC, Oldbury AC, Wolverhampton Harriers, Bilston AC and West Bromwich Harriers to name but a few. Many eventually joined Tipton Harriers at some point in their careers.

Engaging and mercurial he could encourage with a look, a shout or a simple firm handshake. His energy was infectious.

For over sixty years he dedicated himself to the club and our sport. He served the club as an athlete, volunteer, officer and President. For many generations he became simply the heartbeat of the club.

If Ron was going to be at a race or an event you knew it was worth entering or going to watch. You were in for good racing, good friendship and good fun. Many remember the antics and adventures when taking part in the old point to point road relays in the 50’s & 60’s like the London To Brighton and the Manchester To Blackpool.

He led by example in his training, racing and helping the club establish its base at Gospel Oak. He adored the club, its history its future and above all its people. He helped raise thousands of pounds to establish our sport in the Tipton area. He helped promote many events both for the club and other organisations in our sport such as the Birmingham & District Invitation Cross Country League. Midland Counties Cross Country Association or the Midland Masters Athletic Club. He was often first there and last to leave.

He laid foundations we see today in the spirit within the club, the work ethics and an integrity we aspire to. He saw countless athletes of all abilities come and go in over sixty years of our sport.

Ron was proud of the club, its athletes and its achievements.

He was also a pioneer in our sport in so many ways from his exploits in ultra-distance running in the 1960s through to the formation of the Masters’ or Veterans’ athletics movement in the Midlands. He was an ambassador for the club and all that is good in our sport.

At Sutton Park each spring from the 1970’s onwards he would oversee the road relays marshalling his team, the supporters and the race. He was part of that special day that witnesses racing, friendship, success & failure in equal measures.

Greats from our sport from so many different eras would seek Ron out. Stan Long, Basil Heatley, Jim Alder, Brendan Foster, Bill Adcocks, Dave Moorcroft, Ron Hill are just some of the names he could count on as lifelong friends.

Around the course you would often hear him before you would see or meet him. He covered almost as many miles as the race itself. As the years went by and he was increasingly physically restricted he would park at the “top of the hill” and watch the race unfold from that area. Content at his continued involvement and support of a race he loved.

He was encyclopaedic in his knowledge of the sport. He would be able to watch a race, encourage all and sundry and be computing the team result in his head like a bookie calculating his odds. He was gracious in both victory and defeat.

We have not dwelt on his many athletic achievements. Winners’ medals & world records came his way from many events as both athlete and team manager. He raced regularly always giving it his best. He won medals at county, area and national levels over road and cross country. His personal crowning glory was in November 1973 when he set a world record for the 24-hour race notching up 161 miles 545 yards.

This happened on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th November 1973. The place, the Walton & Hersham F.C. Stadium, Stompond Lane, Walton On Thames, Surrey, England. The event, the Road Runners Club Accolade 24 Hour Track Race. The cinder track cut up quite badly in the later stages.

Inter-Varsity Sports: The Missing Years

There was a widely held belief, even among most of the Scottish athletics historians, that after the Inter-Universities Sports held in 1871, 1872 and 1873, the event fell into abeyance until 1879.   However it appears that this was not the case.   “The  Story of Edinburgh University Athletic Club”, published in 1966 has a chapter on athletics by Dr Neil Campbell in which he says that the event was actually contested – apart from a hiatus in 1874 – up to 1879 and it was at that point that the gap appeared.   On investigation this was shown to be the case.   This is what we are looking at – the missing years in the Inter-Universities Sports.

The Scotsman of 15th March, 1875, reported on the Edinburgh University Sports (‘the eighth annual’) saying that the object of the meeting was to help the committee select their representatives for the forthcoming inter-universities championships.   One week later and it was the turn of St Andrews University to hold their own trials ‘in a field adjacent to the railway station’ which, being flat and covered with a short herbage was suitable for the purpose and they came away hopeful of winning some medals at the championships the following week.   The inter-universities was held on 27th March and reported the following Monday.   The Scotsman report on the Monday began – 

“The periodical trial of strength and skill by representative athletes of the Scottish Universities, which in student circles is a pleasant indication of the close of the winter session, took place on Saturday afternoon in the grounds of the Edinburgh Grange cricket club in Raeburn Place.   On this occasion, the usual number of selected put in appearance, with the exception of  the contingent from the Aberdeen University, but as the absence of these representatives had been anticipated, there was no upsetting of the previous arrangements through their failure to come to the front.   Last year, it may be stated, they were to take place at Aberdeen, but owing to various circumstances the competition was not carried through, and not only was the meeting then allowed to remain in abeyance for the year, but the students of the Northern University have failed this season to take the necessary steps to getting a team forward.   The success, however, with which the programme was got through fell in no way short of that of former years.” 

In the competition there was agreement that the top performances were those of C Kilner in the 880 yards (won by half a yard in 2:15.4) and JM Cotterill in Thorwing the Cricket Ball (won with 121 yards, 1 foot 4 inches.).   Edinburgh won the tea race comfortably.

March 18th, 1876, was the date for the St Andrews Sports and Trials which were held on a track near the railway station.   The programme included golf (won by W Proudfoot with 92 strokes against TD Millar and A Mackinnon=105 strokes; and golf, longest drive.  Won by Proudfoot with 103 yards).   The Edinburgh Sports and Trials for theinter-universities championships were held the following Saturday at Powderhall.   The actual sports themselves were held on 1st April and The Scotsman report read:

“The annual sports of the Scottish Universities were held with great success on the grounds belonging to the West of Scotland Cricket Club on Saturday afternoon.   The band of the 13th Light Infantry were present and there was a large and brilliant attendance of spectators, who were favoured with splendid weather.   The sports commenced shortly after two pm.   The quarter mile was easily won by McKenzie.   In the 100 yards flat race Thomson had hard work to breast the tape before Johnson, both appearing to be in rare form.   In the half mile race a good start was made but eventually McKenzie of St Andrews shot out in front of the others and won a grand race.   The mile race, as usual, caused great excitement.   The other events were on the whole keenly contested.”

The events contested included 100 yards (Thomson G), Quarter Mile (McKenzie G), Half Mile (McKenzie St A),  Mile (Kilner E), Hurdle Race (Peterkin G), Hop, Step and Jump (Boucher E), Long Leap (Brunton G), Pole Vaulting (Rutherford E), High Jump (Smith E),  Throwing the Hammer (Irvine E),  Putting the Cannon Ball (Wilson G), Throwing the Cricket Ball (Dickson G).   The Glasgow Herald tells us that the fields were small in several instances but the competition was keen. 

It was on the last Saturday in 1977 March that the Inter-Universities match took place.   The Scotsman tells is that Glasgow took most of the honours on this occasion.   The results:

100 yards: R Williamson  G;  Quarter Mile: E Woodhead  E;  Half Mile: R Paterson  G;  Mile:  R Paterson  G; Hurdles: A Peterkin  G;  Hop, Step and Jump:  L Richards  St A;  Long Leap: HB McMaster  E;  Vaulting with the Pole: G McPherson  G; High Leap: JVW Rutherford  E;  Throwing the Cricket Ball:  J O’Reilly  E; Putting the Stone:  J Wilson  G.   Six wins for Glasgow, Four for Edinburgh and one for St Andrews.   The only double was in the half- and one mile, L Richards won the hop, step and jump and had seconds in the long leap and pole vault while McMaster won the long leap and was second in the hurdles.

In 1878, the championships were held on 16th March and the report in the Scotsman the next Monday was a full one.   It read as follows: 


The Scottish Inter-University Sports were held on a fine stretch of lawn in front of the Partick Burgh Hall on Saturday afternoon, and although the weather was very dull, there was a numerous attendance of spectators, including a great many ladies.   During the seven years which have elapsed since these athletic displays were instituted they have continued to attract a considerable amount of attention, not only in academic circles but amongst the general public and they have invariably attended with a gratifying measure of success.   On the present occasion the honours were fought for by teams from Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews, the only college being unrepresented being Aberdeen.   The hour fixed for the commencement of the sports was two o’clock but it was much later before the first of the competitors entered the field.   When the officials – who comprised Mr Wm Cross, judge; Mr AW Evans, timekeeper;   Mr R Henderson, starter; Mr CW Cathcart (E), Mr JB Brown (G) Mr AA Adie (St A) race committee – and the stewards made their appearance they were greeted with great cheers.   The whole of the prizes for the first event on the card – hop, step and jump – for which there were six entrants, went to the Edinburgh team for GS Woodhead was first with 40 feet, while WSS Reid ranked second with only two inches less.   In throwing the 18 lb hammer, the second event, the Glasgow team came to the front, as Neil McDonald scored 56 feet 9 1/2 ins, being 2 feet 7 1/2 inches above the figures reached by HH Johnston, the Edinburgh champion.   In the quarter mile race E Woodhead reached the goal in 57 4-5th seconds, about a foot ahead of WW Beveridge, the representative of the Western team.   On the finish of the long leaping, which was the fourth event, the two Edinburgh competitors were found to have left the other three far behind, JBS Greathead having registered 19 feet 5 1/2 ins and CS Woodhead 15 feet  10 1/2 ins.   The Glasgow team re-appeared as victors in the fifth event – the 100 yards flat race for which five entered, as R Williamson covered the distance in 12 3-5th seconds ahead of E Woodhead who represented the Edinburgh team.   In the pole-vaulting, G MacPherson,(Glasgow) was first with 9 feet.   The half mile flat race – for which there were five entrants – was secured to the Edinburgh team with all the honours, as RJS Henderson completed the distance in 2 mins 15 sec, while J O’Reilly was not more than a second later.   It had been arranged to run the hurdle race in three heats, and in the first of these H Moncrieff of the Glasgow team gained the chief position; while in the second J Montgomerie of the Edinburgh team was the winner.   The deciding heat was won by J Montgomerie after a sharp contest.   In the high jump the Edinburgh team outstripped all the other competitors, WSS Reid being first with 5 feet 5 ins and EH Hummel second with 5 feet 3 ins.   The principal award was also secured to the Edinburgh team in putting the 16 lb cannon ball by HH Johnston with 34 feet 3 ins which was two inches before WCC McDonald of the Glasgow team.   In throwing the cricket ball, the eleventh event, the Edinburgh team once again gained both prizes as J O’Reilly was first with 94 yards and EH Hummel second with 10 yards less.   The twelfth and last event was possibly the most important, being the one mile race but only three of the six intending competitors entered the lists  – RJS Henderson and Simpson of the Edinburgh team and P Hutchison of the Glasgow team.   On the pistol being fired, Hutchison shot ahead and maintained the lead for some time, but he was passed by Henderson when about half the distance had been accomplished and he ultimately retired.The race was continued with great spirit by the two Edinburgh representatives but when the goal was reached Henderson still held the leading position though only a few steps in front of Simpson, the time of the winner being 5 min 9 4-5th secs.   Of the prizes which consisted of 12 silver and 12 bronze medals, exactly three fourths were secured by the Edinburgh team who not only won the whole of the honours in one half of the twelve events, but obtained besides three first and three second prizes.  The remaining third of the prizes went to the Glasgow team, and the St Andrews team failed to take any of the honours.”

The fact that there were only two medals awarded for every event is highlighted in the above report as is the fact that there was no gold on offer!   In any sense of the word – they were amateurs, insofar as any sportsman of the time was an amateur by present standard – so no coin was involved and there were only silver and bronze medals.   Note that the Edinburgh team contained two Woodheads and one Greathead.

In 1879 the Sports, referred to in the Glasgow Herald headline  as the Inter-University Games, were held on 22nd March.   The report in that paper read: The Scottish Inter-University Sports took place on Saturday at St Andrews and drew together a good field, all the universities being represented, excepting Aberdeen.   The great portion of the prizes were carried off  by Edinburgh, the local university being next.   The weather was particularly favourable and the path in good order.   Dr JW Moir acted as judge, Dr Burns Murdoch timekeeper and Mr R Henderson starter.   There were in all fourteen events which were contested with much spirit.   The following is the prize list:

100 yards flat race:  1st JW Parsons (E) 10 3-5th secs; 2nd WW Beveridge (G).

Long Leap:  1st GA Russell (St A) 19′ 9″; 2nd EH Barclay (St A);

Throwing the Hammer:  1st HH Johnston *E)  85′ 5″; 2nd E Morrison (St A);

Quarter Mile Race:  1st WW Beveridge (G) 58 1/2 sec;  2nd GA Russell (St A);

Putting the common ball: 1st WG Duncan (St A) 35 1/2 feet; 2nd JF Cameron (St A);

Pole Vaulting:  1st J Thomson (E) 8′ 6″; 2nd JSS Reid (E); 

Half Mile Flat: 1st AS Paterson (E) 2 min 11 sec; 2nd GA Russell (St A);

Hurdle Race: 1st JW Parsons (E); 2nd E Clegg (E);

Hop, Step and Leap:  JW Parsons (E) 51′ 5″; 2nd JF Cameron (St A);

High Jump:  1st JSS Reid (E) 5′ 4″;  2nd JW Parsons (E);

Throwing the Cricket Ball: J O’Reilly (E) 113 yards 3 feet; 2nd JF Cameron (St A);

One Mile Flat Race:  1st AS Paterson (E); 2nd DM Moir (St A);

Golf Competition: 1st JF Cameron (St A)  91 strokes; 2nd FW Marshall (E). 

The only venue that ever had a Golf Competition as part of their own annual sports, also had it as part of the inter varsity sports, and that venue was St Andrews.   And they won it.   Note the versatility of some of the competitors – JW Parsons (pictured below) who had 4 first places, went on to become a Scottish champion long jumper and record setter.


This time the sports really did go into abeyance but the ‘Glasgow Herald’ of  20th March, 1899 has a report on the meeting to re-introduce the inter-university champs.   Ir is reproduced here as it gives an insight into what prompted the move and what it was hoped would be gained from it.

“If we except football, athletic life at our Scottish universities is not as healthy as it might be; indeed, there was ,ore activity and more genuine interest in general athletics at Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews ten years ago than there is now.   It is common to represent these centres of intellectual light as given up almost wholly to the worship of athleticism, but it is scarcely necessary to say that this is a delusion.   Athletics have a fairly reasonable hold at Edinburgh but it might easily be stronger and more general without interfering in any way with the intellectual development of the students.   This is evidently being felt, as a proposal, emanating from the capital, is on foot to establish inter-university sports, and a meeting of delegates from Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews and Aberdeen is to be held shortly at Dundee to discuss the scheme, and, if at all possible, bring off a gathering this season.   Glasgow students seem to think the idea will take practical shape, as on Friday several confined races were decided at Hampden Park. and though the performances were not of much account, there was enough merit to justify the expectation of better things.     We may mention that many years ago, inter-varsity sports were held under the auspices of the Edinburgh University AC, but for some reason or other the event lost its charm, and was eventually dropped altogether.   We hope the contemplated scheme will be carried through as the commonplace character of athletics at our universities is not only a reproach to those institutions as centres of intellectual and physical activity, but it is also a reproach on the prestige which we as a nation enjoy for athletic achievement.”



1966: Two Controversies involving Alastair Wood


Alastair Wood was one of Scotland’s greatest ever distance runners – Scottish and British international runner, multi champion over a range of events – with talents that  stretched from the mile and steeplechase on the track via cross-country triumphs to world class road running.   It is difficult to think of another Scottish runner with such a comprehensive record.   However there were times when he found himself in the middle of a dispute or controversy not of his own making and two of these are tackled here by Colin Youngson, using new material from the Scottish Marathon Club Minutes starting with a look at why he was not selected for the Empire Games in 1966.   

1966: Why was Alastair Wood overlooked for Empire and Commonwealth Games Marathon selection; and his European best time never accepted by the Scottish Marathon Club or the Scottish Athletics Association?

Alastair Wood’s profile on this website under Marathon Stars starts as follows.

“Alastair Wood came to marathon running with a record of athletic achievement at all levels of the sport that might have justified him in retiring or stopping.   Instead he went on to become one of the great figures of Scottish and British distance running.

One of many honours that were justly awarded to him was the Achilles Club gold medal.  The Achilles Club is an elite and exclusive athletics club composed only of former students at Oxford and Cambridge Universities.   Founded in 1920 it has added a great deal to the sport and is known and respected all over the globe.  Since 1949, the Achilles Club has awarded annually two gold medals, for the best performance by a club member on Track/Road and Field.   Recipients of the Track award include Roger Bannister, Chris Chataway, Chris Brasher, David Hemery and Richard Nerurkar.  The only Scottish athlete to obtain this prestigious medal was Alastair Wood (Oxford University and later Aberdeen AAC), who won it twice:

*in 1962 [when he was a close second (to that year’s European and Empire champion Brian Kilby) in the AAA Marathon; and a splendid fourth in the European Marathon];

*and 1966 [when the Achilles Club records state that Wood had run a marathon in 2.16.06; and set a new GB and European Best Marathon Time of 2.13.45 in the Forres marathon]. For some obscure reason, the latter time has never been accepted by the SAAA, but was ratified by the AAA in 1967, and is now recognised by the Association of Road Running Statisticians ( as the fastest time of the year in 1966].   Alastair was also narrowly pushed into second by Jim Alder in the AAA championships in 1967, with 2.16.21.” As late as 1971, aged 38, he ran 2.16.06 in the International Maxol Marathon in Manchester, only 23 seconds behind Alder.

During every year in the 1960s, the SMC sent three prominent club members (for example Secretary Jimmy Scott, Vice-President Joe Walker and President Dunky Wright) to form part of the SAAA sub-committee that decided who should be awarded the Donald McNab Robertson Trophy as Scottish Road Runner of the Year.    Alastair Wood won the Scottish Marathon Championship in 1962, 1964, 1965, 1967, 1968 and 1972.   He was chosen to receive the Robertson Trophy in 1962, 1964, 1965 and 1967. Previously, while concentrating on the Track, he had won the 1959 SAAA Crabbie Cup for best Championship performance; and the Coronation Cup as the outstanding athlete of 1962.

In the light of Wood’s high status as a marathon runner and a Scottish International athlete, what happened in 1966? Why was he ignored for Jamaica Commonwealth Games Marathon selection? Why was his Forres European Best Time never ratified by the SMC/SAAA?

The man himself, in an interview with Mel Edwards twenty years later (in 1987) remembered the situation as follows.
“Wood: The Commonwealth Games were in Kingston, Jamaica and I went for marathon selection.  The only trouble was that I couldn’t get any guidance on the selection procedure.  The Scottish championships were at Westerlands in early June and I asked John Anderson – who was the National coach and advising me on my training – if he could ascertain whether this was the race on which selection was to be based.  He couldn’t find anyone who could tell him but suggested that if the winner of the race was to be selected then I had to do it.   Anyway, I was in excellent shape and travelled to Glasgow.  However, it was extremely hot and the tar was running on Great Western Road.  No one would confirm that the winner would gain selection so, since the times were going to be slow, I didn’t run, as it would have done my chances of selection no good.
Edwards: The Polytechnic Marathon from Windsor to Chiswick was two weeks later on the 10th of June and Jim Alder and yourself went for selection in that one?
Wood: Yes,  Again, it was very hot but at least I knew that if I beat Jim I would almost certainly be picked.  We both suffered and Jim finished sixth and I was two minutes behind in ninth.   Jim deservedly gained selection and I was very ill with dehydration.   I was pretty demoralised and decided to retire.   This lasted all of ten days and, although I couldn’t face long runs, I got stuck into sessions like 60 x 200 metres.
About four weeks after the Poly I went North for the Inverness – Forres Marathon (on the 9th of July).   It was a cool day and I felt so good that I knew I was on a blinder. I reached ten miles in under 50 minutes and then slowed deliberately because I thought I’d blown it.  I still came home in 2:13:45, a European record.  There was considerable disbelief about the time but the course had been measured by surveyors and the North of Scotland AAA.   Anyway, the next year (1967) the course started 200 yards or so back from the previous starting line, and although I found this one much harder I still did 2:13:44.” (Actually, Alastair Wood’s memory was wrong in 1987, because in 1967 he won in 2.16.16; and the 2.13.44 win was in 1970, over a different course that was later found to be three-quarters of a mile short.)

Don Ritchie, the great world record breaking ultra-distance runner, was third in the 1966 Inverness to Forres Marathon, and later wrote: “It seems likely that the course measurement may have been done in a car; and therefore the ten mile point seemed a little early but the twenty mile point seemed right enough.  Add a following wind and AJW’s great form and his fantastic finishing time of 2.13.45 was explained.”

Now that interview was a long time after 1966, and it could be that Alastair’s version of events is open to a degree of doubt.  But assuming that the Scottish selectors had enough cash to send two marathon runners to Jamaica, which it seems they did, why not, as well as Alder, select Wood, with his fine record as an international marathon runner?

The selection procedure was indeed unclear.  On the 28th of May, Charlie McAlinden (Irish but living in Glasgow) won the uncomfortably hot 1966 Scottish Marathon Championship in 2.26.31, with Gordon Eadie second in 2.28.19. Neither was selected for Jamaica.

The 1966 Commonwealth Games Marathon was run on Thursday 11th August, so there was plenty of time for Wood to be selected to travel to Jamaica and race. (Indeed, the main Scottish team had not been selected until July 4th.)  It seems very likely that he would have had an excellent chance of winning a medal.


Alastair Wood became a member of the Scottish Marathon Club in May 1964.

In August 1965 there was a mention of the 1966 Scottish Marathon Championship probably being run at the beginning of June. (In actual fact it took place on the 28th of May 1966, along with the District Track and Field Championships.)   What follows is from the SMC Minute Book which is quoted directly.

March 1966. At the last meeting of the British Empire and Commonwealth Games Council it was announced that Mr D. McL. Wright had been appointed Commandant of the Scottish Team for the 1966 Games in Jamaica.  (Dunky was always chosen as the SMC SAAA representative; and had been President of the SAAA in 1959.  He was a high-profile influential official.)

20th June 1966. Mr Wright took the opportunity to apprise the meeting of the circumstances in which J. Alder had been chosen to represent Scotland at the Empire Games in the Marathon.  Tradition was that our Marathon Champion usually goes but it had been known that AJ Wood and AF Murray, with other possibles, had decided to run in the AAA Championships instead of the Scottish because of the closeness of the dates.   It was considered inadvisable to run in both events and it was their opinion that better performances were likely to be shown in the British Championship, when competing at this standard. The Selection Committee, aware of this, decided to wait for the result of the British Championship and, if a Scot finished in the first 6, to select him as our representative. Jim Alder did in fact finish 6th. AJ Wood finished 9th. AF Murray was unable to compete due to cartilage trouble.

15th August 1966: Gordon Eadie became SMC club champion again. Jim Alder had won for Scotland the Empire Games Marathon. Alder was voted to be an Honorary Life member: joining Dunky Wright, Joe McGhee and Dale Greig.

There followed a discussion in which the question was asked why only one competitor was entered for Scotland, and not 3, in view of the wealth of talent available.   The method of selection was the point in question, and it was the unanimous opinion of the Committee to deplore the tendency of some Scottish runners to bypass the Scottish Marathon Championship in favour of the AAA event in certain years.  It was agreed that we should strive for all competitors to take part in the ‘Scottish’ and that this race should be the only qualification for Empire Games selection.

The Donald Robertson trophy, by 5 votes to 4, was awarded to Gordon Eadie rather than Jim Alder. A casting vote by the Chairman (D.M. Bowman at this meeting) decided this debate.

21st November 1966: Gordon Eadie (also the Robertson Trophy recipient in 1960) had won the 1966 Liverpool to Blackpool race, beating Bernard Gomersall (a London to Brighton winner) by nearly ten minutes.  Then he had won the Edinburgh to Glasgow Race (42 miles) in a new record time of 4.41.21.

Competent Business: Mr Wright referred to the discussion at the 20th June meeting on selection of men for the Empire Marathon. If A Wood had run and won the SAAA marathon, he would have been selected.   The selection committee decided to await the result of the AAA marathon two weeks later and if a Scot finished in the first 6 he would be chosen.  In the event, J Alder finished 6th and was chosen. A Wood finished 9th.   Time was of great importance.

(CJY: What on earth did that mean? Surely 2.13.45 should have been a time that mattered!  On this occasion, Mr Wright may not have lived up to his surname.)

AGM 30th March 1967. Competent Business: Inverness to Forres Marathon. Mr Goodwin mentioned the record time by A Wood in 1966 as being the 3rd fastest in the World. Mr D Wright replied that, so far, no claim had been made to the SAAA by either Wood or the promoters for its recognition and until this was done the SAAA could do nothing in the matter.

21st August 1967. A Wood had won the Scottish Marathon Championship again.  Inverness to Forres Race: The Secretary (J.R. Scott) drew attention to the time credited to Alastair Wood at Forres in July 1967 of 2.16.16 compared with his 1966 time of 2.13.45 which had been the subject of much speculation. The Secretary had checked the course himself and it appeared to be the full marathon distance as his speedometer agreed with the marked points on the course. Any discrepancy could be on the actual ground (Grant Park) at the finish. It was agreed that he should write the Forres secretary for confirmation of the course.

AGM 27th March 1968. Mr Goodwin asked about the Inverness to Forres Marathon won by AJ Wood in a time now recognised as a British Record. Mr Wright said the SAAA were still awaiting information from Forres, and Mr Joseph Walker supported him in this and said that the SAAA had asked for this and nothing had come back.  It was agreed that we write the Forres Secretary again for details, certifying the distance and asking for the names of the timekeepers.

20th May 1968: Discussion about measuring the SAAA Marathon route, already contested in 1967 and due again in 1968. Mr Walker had used a wheel which had 228 turns on the Grangemouth 440 yards track. They had then measured the marathon course by quarter mile stages. Apparently, the Shettleston Marathon course had used a cycle rev counter which was acceptable.


Back in 1966, marathon course measurement was in its infancy, especially in Britain. The fact that in 1967, Jimmy Scott, a most experienced organiser of distance races, was happy to use his car to remeasure the Inverness to Forres Marathon course (the same route as 1966), and to find it accurate, tells us that measuring wheels and bicycle rev counters were not yet normal practice.   The Polytechnic Marathon in Southern England, on which several world records had been set, always seemed suspiciously fast.   Was it ever considered short?  Or was the fact that Wood’s 2.13.45 was set in Northern Scotland – not even in Edinburgh or Glasgow – the problem?   When in 1967, Alastair Wood’s 2.13.45 was accepted as a GB (and former European) record, the last laugh seems to have been on the SAAA; and indeed on one or two stubborn officials in the SMC, who may have been partly responsible for the unclear, badly organised  marathon selection procedure.

Alastair Wood had won the Scottish 3 Miles track championship in 1957 and 1959; and gained the 6 Miles title in 1958, 1959, 1960 and 1961, before securing his first Scottish marathon title in 1962. Traditionally, the 3 Miles was held during the marathon and, after his own victories, Wood remembered seeing Harry Fenion (1957) and Hugo Fox (1959) running to marathon victory on the track.  Alastair, a clever outspoken man with a satirical tendency, considered them “funny little men in sandshoes”!   In addition, he had a combative relationship with officials, no doubt including the eminent Dunky Wright, who may have been the original ‘funny little man’, despite his impressive record as a marathon runner. Perhaps Dunky was not at all fond of Mr Wood!    The SMC minutes certainly suggest that the unamused Commandant was unsympathetic.

In 1958, Alastair Wood had run on the track for Scotland in the Cardiff Empire Games.  In 1962 he had taken part in the Empire Games marathon in Perth, Australia; as well as representing GB in the European Marathon.  By 1966, although he had certainly aimed for marathon selection, Alastair said that he was far from keen on participating in “Big Games” since he objected to uniforms, certain officials and hanging around for days before the marathon on the last day.

In the 1990s, Alastair stated correctly that in July 1966, after his non-selection and his startling Forres Marathon record, a newspaper had wished to pay his expenses to Jamaica, but he suspected that Scottish officials wouldn’t select him, and, in any case, he was not keen to compete in another ‘Big Games’ so he turned down the offer. Was he unpopular with certain influential Scottish officials? Ming Campbell, who was Britain’s best sprinter in 1962, once referred to Alastair in an article as being “the sardonic Alastair Wood”. This may have been not entirely inappropriate – but what a fine runner he was! Alastair went on to: break the World 40 miles track record in 1970; smash the London to Brighton best time in 1972; and become World Veteran Marathon Champion in 1974. I knew the old hero well and am, of course, prejudiced in his favour – and certain that he couldn’t have cared less about the 1966 controversies.

Colin Youngson

University Park, St Andrews University

Sports Pavilion

St Andrews University has been involved in Scottish university athletics since before 1871 when the first inter-university sports were held.   Like the other university grounds – Craiglockhart, King’s College and Westerlands – it has its own facilities for sport and a distinct history.   The former is shaped by and to an extent helps shape the latter.   The facilities will be looked at as they affect athletics, and the performances by students and teams down the years will be looked at up to the start of the ‘modern’ era of all-weather tracks and the growth of the university athletic scene from four universities to a  multitude.  

The St Andrews University website says at the start of the sports pages:    

Sport has played an important part of life in St Andrews ever since the founding of the University in 1413. The earliest record of student sport in St Andrews dates back to 1618 with the Archery Club. The next clubs to be founded were the University of St Andrews Golf Club in 1855 and the Rugby Football Club in 1858, but it wasn’t until 1901 that student sport was fully represented when the Athletic Union was instituted by Professor Scott Lang.   A year later, University Rector Andrew Carnegie gifted the first sports facilities to the university and subsequently became Honorary President of the Athletic Union. The Department of Physical Education was introduced by the university in 1955, with the first Sports Centre built in 1968.

The first Scottish Inter-University championships were held on 23rd March in 1873 at Raeburn Place in Edinburgh and the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews took part, Aberdeen was absent ‘due to a misunderstanding.;   Edinburgh won the competition quite comfortably but there were some good performances from athletes from St Andrews.   eg Bairnsfather won the hurdles race, they had three excellent sprinters, and their two distance runners ‘would have given a much better account of themselves had they run in spiked shoes and got such a training as the Edinburgh men received’   

The.following year the sports were held in Glasgow at Burnbank Cricket Grounds and again Edinburgh University won the contest.   Star man for St Andrews was Lundie who won both heavy throwing events, but it was the third meeting that was held at St Andrews.   ‘The sports took place in a field close to the town, and being of a sandy soil. was well adapted for the purpose.‘    That is the only description of the ground that we have.   The meeting was interesting in that Edinburgh won from St Andrews who had two firsts and two seconds, and Glasgow who had two firsts and two seconds as well.   Aberdeen turned up but only had one athlete.   The university moved around different venues for their competition – eg in March 1875 they held their own sports “in a park adjacent to the Railway Station.   The ground was in every way suitable for the purpose being flat and with short herbage.””   

There were no more inter-university sports until 1899 when they were held at Edinburgh.   So the university students interested in athletics had a team as early on as the start of the 1870’s and were able to turn out competitors in the technical field events.   It is not possible to tell anything about the nature of their facilities from the above comments however.   

The St Andrews website quoted above tells us that Andrew Carnegie gifted the first sports facilities to the Athletic Union in 1902.   He had set up the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland with a fund of $10, 000, 000 (ie $10 million) in 1901 and was installed as Rector on 22nd October, 1902.   The university sports pages on the website says that the estate stretches to 40 acres and was gifted to the University by Carnegie.    If that is correct, then it was land  which could be used for rugby, cricket, tennis or whatever sport needed it.   He also gave money for a gymnasium.   

DJ Whyte competing at University Park

After the restart of the inter-universities championship in 1899, St Andrews did not take part until 1906 when they again joined in with the other three establishments and the rota became a four yearly one.    The first inter-universities championship to be hosted by them was in 1908.  That year, Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities held their championships on 13th June to help select their teams for the contest on 20th June.   The “Glasgow Herald reported that the fixture was favoured with splendid weather and held, under SAAA rules, at University Recreation Park, St Andrews.   Edinburgh won with 38 points from Aberdeen (18), St Andrews (10) and Glasgow (4).      The report in the Glasgow Herald on the Monday after the sports read as follows (note the reference to the Lord Rector): 

The Inter-Varsity ended in a very pronounced win for Edinburgh University whose representatives scored 40 points against 14 1/2 by Aberdeen, 13 for Glasgow and 2 1/2 for St Andrews.   This is the first time the students of the “Grey City” have taken part in the contest, and if they did not cover themselves with glory they will no doubt do much better in the future.   Thanks to the generosity of their Lord Rector they have a recreation ground which is second to none in Scotland alike in regard to situation and general appointments, and it will be nothing short of a reproach to Fifeshire students if they do not make the most of it.   JP Stark, the SAAA Sprint Champion, was not among the competitors, but for all that the 100 yards fell to Glasgow, GH Walker winning after an exciting finish with JD Dickson who, the previous week, won the sprint at the West of Scotland Sports.   WH Welsh who seems to have got back some of his old form won the 220 and 440 yards while he was second in the weight, which was the only other first scored by Glasgow, A McDonald putting 39 feet 5 in.   AM Mathew annexed the half mile and the mile for Edinburgh, and AH Cookson of the same ‘Varsity covered 19 feet 3 in in the broad jump, while the modest performance of 5 feet 6 in won the high jump for Edinburgh.”

8th June, 1912 was the second time that the event was sponsored by the St Andrews students at University Park, and it was won by Aberdeen (34 points) from Glasgow (23), Edinburgh (17 1/2) and St Andrews (2 1/2).   It was the first time that Aberdeen had won the contest.   Their principal points scorer was JT Soutter who won both half-mile and mile.    The track was, like almost every track in the country at the time, a good grass track and, as the illustrations on this page (from photographs taken by RR Mills of Glasgow University) show, they were still running on grass in the 1960s.


Inter Universities Three Miles at St Andrews: look at the crowd!

If we go back to the start of the century, in the second annual report of the Athletic Union it was stated that the Lord Rector “would present to the students of St Andrews a recreation ground, properly laid out and enclosed, a pavilion with dressing rooms, baths and a caretakers house and also a complete modern gymnasium.”   Unfortunately there seems to be no detail or even photograph of this recreation ground with pavilion available.   

After the 1914/18 war University athletics were dominated by Eric Liddell and when St Andrews again hosted the inter-universities in 1921 he had the 100 yards/220 yards double.   At St Andrews, however, the 20’s and 30’s were not the best decades for athletes: if we look only at the inter-university championships held at home, performances were as follows:  1921, team position fourth, points 1 1/2;   1925, position fourth, points nil; 1929, fourth, nil; 1933, fourth, 7 points; 1937, fourth, men 6 1/2 pts, women  3 1/2 pts.   Nor were there any outstanding individuals.

After the 1939/45 war it was a different story entirely.   AD McDonald, writing in the ‘Scots Athlete’ magazine in July, 1947, immediately after the first post-war SAAA championships spoke of a promising newcomer that he had ‘starred’ on his programme:   “To the East I turn for AS Lindsay, St Andrews University.   According to the records he has shown a bare two feet less two inches improvement on his last year’s hop, step and jump; but that is beside the point: what could he do with proper care and attention?   For here is a boy who exemplifies the poetry of motion, and where an athlete is basically a sound mover his possibilities are boundless.   But do we ever see him in the West?   Maybe the East are luckier in this respect but, sports promoters everywhere here is someone who will thrill and delight the fans.   Bill him at your meets.   Bring him competition from wherever it can be procured!   And, Olympic Coaching panels, be on the spot to guide this boy to the top.Take care of him, Mr Quskley.  (Director of Physical Training, St Andrews University. – Ed) ”     

Interestingly enough, at the inter-university sports at Westerlands that year – the first after the War, Lindsay had only been second in the triple jump but he was being noticed.    However, a year later and in the July issue of the same magazine in 1948 it was noted that the fine Hop, Step and Jump 45′ 4  1/2″ by AS Lindsay, inter-varsity champion which was 1 1/4″ better than the native record set by J Howden in 1939 was subject to ratification.   The inter-universities championships at this time were held in the first week of June with the SAAA event at the end of the month so it was a good lead-in event for the championships.  And at the first meeting, held in St Andrews, Lindsay had leapt 46′ 11 1/2″.   This had added over 4 feet to his personal best and was awaiting ratification as a record when the SAAA was held.  If 1948 was a good one for Lindsay and St Andrews University, 1949 was even better.   There was a new triple jumper at the university – Ghanaian William Laing – who was a shining talent.   The universities championships were held on 4th June at King’s College in Aberdeen.  A Leith of Aberdeen won the hop, step and jump from Lindsay and it was on to the SAAA championships.   Held on 25th June, the hop, step and jump was won by St Andrews new boy W Laing from AS Lindsay with 45′  4 3/4″.   The Scotsman said of Laing:  “WN Laing, who hails from the Gold Coast,  and is studying at St Andrews University, cleared 45′ 4 3/4″ which enabled him to defeat the title holder, AS Lindsay, as well as set up a new all-comers record.”   The championship season stepped up another notch when the AAA Championships were held at White City on 15th/16th July.   In the hop, step and jump, Laing was fourth in the final with 45′ 1 1/2″ and Lindsay fifth with 44′ 10″.   

There were now university men competing at the highest level in Britain – and both in the same event.   In 1950 however, Laing was in solitary splendour as he contested the event for the university.   In the universities championships on 4th June he went head to head with top class long jumper SO Williams from Glasgow University.   The Scotsman described them thus:  The hop, step and jump was won by Laing (St Andrews) and the long jump SO Williams (Glasgow).   Both are from the Gold Coast.  Laing who is hardly so powerfully built as his compatriot, had a magnificent jump of 48′ 5 3/4″.   He twice jumped clean out of the pit which had to be extended for his benefit.” Williams won both long jump and high jump.   At the SAAA Championships at Hampden Park on the 24th June, Laing again took first place with 47′ 1″ and Williams was second; in the Long Jump, Williams won and Laing was third.   The Scotsman observed that Laing was coached by Dr AS Lindsay, the Scottish all-comers record holder.    The team for the match against the English Universities was picked after the meeting and of course Laing was selected, but there was a second St Andrews man in the team – M Galbraith who had been second in the pole vault was also selected for the meeting on 5th July in Newcastle.   Results of this meeting are not to hand but the Scots won both men’s and women’s matches.    Then it was the AAA’s championships where Laing finished second with 46′ 4 1/2″.    

CG Stalker (GUAC) competing in St Andrews

Individual athletes were having some success now, but was there are effect on the other members of the university team?   It is appropriate at this point, when the university was about to produce what was arguably its best ever team, to look at how the students of the time went about their athletics.   Ian Docherty, who was a student in the 1950’s, talks first of all about the playing fields, and says  –

“The St Andrews University Playing Fields have certainly been there all my lifetime!   They used to be referred to as the Carnegie fields as it was Andrew Carnegie’s money which led to their development but I am not sure of the precise date   The original pavilion is still there in the upper field where a 440 yards grass track was laid out for the summer term. As a local schoolboy I used to go out to watch university athletics matches and remember seeing Bill Laing competing.   Before him another St. Andrews triple jumper, Alan Lindsay competed for Great Britain in the London Olympics in 1948, and Laing competed for Ghana in 1952”.

Both athletes above have been mentioned already.  The comments about Lindsay are spot on: he did indeed compete in the 1948 London Olympics and, although finishing out of the medals, was the highest placed of the three British competitors.   Laing took part in the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki representing Ghana but did not advance to the final.   

The story of St Andrews athletics in the 1950’s is one of steady progression.   In 1951, on 2nd June, there were three from the university among the medals at the Universities Championships: Laing won his event, W Thomson was second in the javelin and Galbraith was third in the pole vault.   Came the SAAA championships but although Laing won his title again he was the only University man to reach a final.   Earlier in the season however the women’s team was showing improvement and had won their match against Glasgow University. Some of the men were being highly placed in academic fixtures and the national rankings:  NF Stewart in the 120 yards hurdles and Lyell in the 220 yards.   Williams was fourth in the AAA Championships and out of the medals.   Perhaps the breakthrough started in 1952.

Olympian WM Campbell running in the inter-universities

In the inter-universities championships at St Andrews, their women won the team contest with 25 points to Glasgow’s 17, Edinburgh’s 16 and Aberdeen’s 14.   The men were not, for the first time in many years, fourth, they were third with 16 points, well clear of Aberdeen who were fourth on 8 points.   Edinburgh won again but it was a good day for St Andrews.   For the women, R McLaren won both 100 and 220 yards, M Mellor won the 80m hurdles, and their relay team won in 51.4.   The only winner for the men was Laing who took both long and triple jumps.    The SAAA Championships were held in June at New Meadowbank and Laing was not competing – but AS Findlay was competing for the Atalanta Club.   The Atalanta Club was an athletic grouping of graduates from the four ‘ancient’ universities.    When the rankings were published in the ‘Scots Athlete’ magazine that year, WHJ Campbell of St Andrews was ranked 5th in the 440 yards with a best of 51.4 seconds, EO Akinsete was 3rd in the pole vault with 10′ 6 1/2″, and W Laing was second in the long jump and first in the hop, step and jump.   

May 23rd, 1953 and although they were beaten by Jordanhill TC, there were victories for W Simpson in the 880 yards, A Lynn in the Mile, J Richardson in the 440 yards hurdles and the relay for the men, for R McLaren 100 and 220 yards, M Mellor in the high jump, A Gaudin in the shot and javelin plus the relay for the women.  In the Universities championships, for the men J Johnston won the 440 yards in 51.8, E Akinsete the pole vault with 9′ 6″, for the women R McLaren won both sprints (11.8/24 sec), M Mellor the 80m hurdles, the high jump and the long jump.   The club was producing more good athletes every year so far in the 1950’s.   

On 5th June 1954, St Andrews women won the inter-universities with 44 points to Edinburgh’s 12.   Victory by 32 points,   McLaren won the 100 and 220 yards races, M Mellor won high jump and long jump, A Gaudin the shot and the discus, and the relay team won to make it seven from ten events.  The men were again third – J Johnston won the 440 yards with 51.1, and E Akinsete won the pole vault with 10′.   By the end of the summer, the two men were ranked in the top ten for their event.

In 1955, the Glasgow Herald reported on a new body that had been set up – the Scottish Universities Sports Board – to co-ordinate the efforts of and give advice to the bodies which have been concerned with the organisation of university sport at national level.   The first secretary of this body was Archie Strachan of St Andrews.   On 14th May in the triangular match between Glasgow, St Andrews and Queen’s University, Belfast, there were four winners from St Andrews men: A McAdam (440 hurdles), D Jervis (shot), Lachlan MacKenzie (javelin) and CC Brown (Hammer).   Olympian Thelma Hopkins of Queen’s won five events and totally dominated the women’s meeting.   

Starting the summer with second place, close behind Edinburgh University and ahead of Shettleston Harriers, St Andrews unveiled more new athletes:  W McDonald won both 100 and 220 yards and was a member of the winning relay team, and EL MacKenzie won the javelin.   On 2nd June, 1956, at the inter-universities, there were two St Andrews men who won medals: M Fraser was third in the pole vault and RC Campbell-Brown was second in the hammer throw.   Apart from K Hunter winning the high jump, the previously all-conquering women’s team did not medal at all.   

1956  and there was an unusual triangular match at an unusual venue on 26th May.   Jordanhill was the host track and as was well known the grass track dropped about a foot or a foot and a half between start and finish of the 100 yards and in the back straight it rose by the same amount.   The competing clubs were St Andrews, Jordanhill Training College and Tubingen University from German.   A McAdam of St Andrews, well known as a 440 yards hurdler, won both 440 yards and 880 yards as well as the 440 hurdles. W McDonald was second in both sprints.  In the women’s contest M Franklin of St Andrews won both sprints and V Menzies won both shot and discus.   The inter-universities was held at St Andrews that year but the team was only third and there  were very few in the first three: M Fraser was third in the pole vault, D Ironside second in the high jump, J Lund second in the javelin, RC Campbell-Brown second in the hammer and the team was third in the relay; for the women, M Franklin was second in the 220, K Hunter won the high jump and the team was third in the relay.   

The University Cross-Country team, 1959

The club vest can be seen clearly here – white with two pale blue hoops and a dark blue St Andrews cross

On the same day as Glasgow and Edinburgh, St Andrews staged their club trials on 20th April in 1957.   Of the St Andrews trials, the Glasgow Herald had this to say: “MM Armour, a first year Arts student whose home is in Anstruther, was the “discovery” of the first meeting of St Andrews University.   He had a shot putt of 40′ 10″.   W McDonald, a wing three-quarter in the Rugby Club, looked as though he could improve on his times in the sprints – 105 in the 100 yards and 24.6 in the 220.   I Docherty was not pressed when he won the mile in 4 min 46 sec.” The women were not mentioned in the report but the following week in a match with Edinburgh University, the women won their contest while the men were well beaten.  No results were given in the reports.   

Thelma Hopkins, Empire and European champion, returned to St Andrews for the annual Queens  v  Glasgow  v  St Andrews fixture on 11th May and won five events, ran in the relay and broke a meeting record.   Scoring 25 points on her own she helped her university win with 44 1/2 points in total.   St Andrews were not far away on 38 points: for them Miss R Menzies had a sprint double and F Carmichael won the discus.   On the men’s side of the MM Armour won both shot and discus, A McAdam won the 440 yards hurdles and E Ericsson won the long jump.      A week later and the University took part in another triangular match, this time against Edinburgh Southern Harriers and Shettleston.   Despite the presence of Graham Everett, who set a ground record for the mile, Shettleston were last with ESH top team.   For the university, W McDonald won the 100/220 yards double and MM Armour won the shot and hammer.   In addition A Oladapo won the high jump, Ericsson won the long jump, Carruthers won the 120 yards hurdles, McAdam the 440 yards hurdles and C McDonald won the javelin.   There was a very good team coming together for the University – possibly the best they had ever assembled.   

The Scottish Universities championships were held on 1st June and the teams performed very well indeed.   W McDonald won the 100 and was second in the 220 yards; A Barrie was third in the Mile; I Docherty was third in the Three Miles; McAdam was third in the 440 yards hurdles; team second in mile medley relay; Ericsson second in the long jump; and Armour was second in the shot.   For the women, R Menzies was third in both 100 and 220 yards; H Wilson won the 440 yards; M Mellor won the high jump and was second in the 80m hurdles; team second in the relay; J Gemmell was third in the high jump; I Logan won the long jump and R Preston was third in the long jump.   Seven medals for the men more than double previous totals  and  eight for the women.   As a combined team effort it was certainly the best ever.   Lurking in the wings was DJ Whyte, a pupil at Bell Baxter School in Cupar.

The University junior cross-country team that won the National cross-country title in 1958

The team was growing in numbers and real talent was emerging.   There was a boost from an unexpected source.  Ian Docherty tells us that “AS Lindsay came back to do some medical research in the late fifties when I was competing and turned out for us. I think it was in 1958.”   The club championship for 1958 was held on 19th April and the results were as follows:

100y/220y:  W McDonald  10.6/23.9 sec;  440:  A McAdam  54 sec;

880y: G Pearson  2 min 8.6;  Mile: 4 min 38.4 sec;  Three Miles:  I Docherty 14: 49.5;

Shot:  L McDonald 37’1″;  Discus:  P Hirsch  112′ 9″;  Javelin: A Connel  164′ 5″;

High jump:  A Carling  5′ 5 1/2 in; hop, step and jump:  AS Lindsay 41′ 5″.

Women:  100/220y:   R Menzies 12.3/28.6;   440:  L Vine  70.2 sec;  

Javelin: F Carmichael  70′ 2″;  Broad jump:  J Gemmell 14′ 10 1/2″

Some good athletes – but some of the marks could have been better and nestling in the middle of the pack is former Olympian AS Lindsay.   

The following week they took on the powerful Edinburgh University squad, described by the Herald earlier as one of the two strongest teams in the country, at St Andrews.   The men were well beaten with only two victories (J Hill (pole vault) and M Armour (Shot) but the women won all but two events and won comfortably.   The next week there was a more even match against Aberdeen University and both sections of the club won with two records set by St Andrews men: D Carter won the mile in in 4:25.3 and I Docherty won the Three Miles in 15:02.3.   On the same day, Edinburgh University’s second team took on the St Andrews second team at Craiglockhart and, although Edinburgh won, there were several encouraging performances by the Saint Andrews athletes: W Moffatt won the mile in 4:43, LO Onwufulla won the high jump with 5′ 6″ and C McDonald won the javelin with 150′ 2″.   

On 12th May there was the annual triangular fixture between Glasgow, St Andrews and Queens, Belfast.   The best university performers, in order of the events, were A McAdam, second, 440 flat, and second 440 hurdles; I Docherty, second three miles; MG Hill, pole vault, third; L McDonald shot putt first; C McDonald, javelin, third; N McDonald, hammer, second;  relay  second team.   It was changed days from when there was one or no medallist from the university.  In the women’s events, R Menzies won both 100 and 220 yards, with N Bell making it a St Andrews 1-2 in the 100; N Bell also won the 440 yards and finished second in the 80m hurdles;  J Gemmell won the high jump and took second in the long jump,  R Fraser was third in the  discus and A Beaton was third in the javelin with the relay team finishing second.  When they took on Shettleston and Edinburgh Southern the following week for another triangular match, the students ended the day with victory in the medley relay after doing well enough to win the contest.  It was an excellent afternoon for the club and the Glasgow Herald report included the paragraph:  “The triangular contest … at Barrachnie was very closely contested for a time but the students showed their superiority in the field events with three firsts, three seconds and two thirds and won with an aggregate 65 points to Southern’s  58 and Shettleston’s 55.  ”   It was not an easy fixture on the almost circular track at Barrachnie in the east end of Glasgow, and the opposition included such as Graham Stark of ESH and Graham Everett for Shettleston.  Against these two powerful distance running clubs which were always among the medals at major competitions, Ian Docherty’s third in the three miles, won by Andy Brown, was notable.  There is a fair bit of detail in the coverage of the university’s results at this point to indicate the fact of their progress, the rate of that progress and the amount of competition that they were undertaking.  They faced the strongest clubs in the land and were not at all disgraced.   The facilities at University Park must have been good – the field events are very technical and require specialist impedimenta and training areas.   

For the third time in three weeks, there was a triangular contest – this time against Jordanhill and Pitreavie held at the grass track in Glasgow.   They won again – St Andrews 42 points, JTC 38, Pitreavie 4.  Four events were cancelled because of the rain but the club winners were McDonald 100 yards, Barrie one mile and three miles, McAdam 440 hurdles, Denny long jump, and McDonald shot putt.   The East District Championships were held the next week and while most of the team took a week off competition, Ian Docherty was third in the three miles behind Adrian Jackson and W Robertson of ESH.   The result of all the training and competition was seen in the inter-universities championship held at Craiglockhart on 7th June.   W McDonald was second in the final of the 100 yards, Ian Docherty was third in the Three Miles, J Carling was third in the high jump, AS Lindsay was third in the hop, step and jump, L McDonald was third in the shot putt and in the discus, E Connell was third in the javelin, MJ Hill won the pole vault and the team was third in the medley relay.  The last time Lindsay had won a medal at the inter-universities, there were only Laing and himself who were on the podium, this time there nine medals.  In the women’s competition, R Menzies won both sprints, C Wittenbach won the high jump, F Vine and N Bell were second and third in the 440, I Logan was second in the long jump, M Carmichael was third in both shot putt and discus and L McVittie second in the javelin.   A very good day all round.

Donald Macgregor and Ian Docherty : two of the university’s finest distance runners

In 1959 when St Andrews had their first run in the prestigious, invitation only, eight stage relay between Edinburgh and Glasgow, the men representing them on the long and difficult stages were Donald Macgregor on the second stage and Ian Docherty on the seven miles of the sixth stage.   These two stages were crucial to any team’s success in the event.   Donald pulled the team up from 16th at the end of the first stage to 12th at the changeover and Ian picked up another taking the team into seventh, their eventual finishing place.   Although Donald became one of our best ever marathon runners he was not a stand-out performer when he arrived at St Andrews.   He says in his fascinating biography: “On the track I did not shine over a mile or three miles at the trials in April on the 440 yard grass track where Eric Lidell had sprinted I managed a 16:42 three miles, 53 seconds behind our star distance runner Ian Docherty.”   In June 1958 the team went on a tour to Manchester, Hull and Durham and Ian defeated Ron Hill over Three Miles in 14:45.    

In 1959, the note in the Glasgow Herald on the trials at the end of April read simply: DJ Whyte, the Scottish and British junior long jump champion, who is a first year student at St Andrews University, gained three successes on Saturday at the university’s trial.   He won the 100 yards in 10.7 against a strong wind, also the high jump with 5′ 8″ and the hop, step and jump with 41′ 9″ .   He did not compete in the long jump.”   and that is the report in its entirety.   Ian Docherty tells us that Whyte became the star of the team who could win points in the 100m, the high, long and triple jumps and the high hurdles.   On 2nd May the club defeated Aberdeen in both men’s and women’s matches at the King’s College grounds, the following week they were defeated in the match in Belfast against Glasgow and Queen’s Universities, and on 16th May in a triangular match against Edinburgh Southern and Shettleston Harriers Whyte won the 100 yards in 10.4 seconds and set a ground record in the long jump with 22′ 1 1/2″.   The club also won the 4 x 110 relay.   On 23rd May, a St Andrews team minus Whyte defeated both Jordanhill and Pitreavie at their home track with victories by Beattie (440), Waters (120y hurdles A), Rand (120y hurdles B), Carling (hj), Denny (lj), Armour (shot/discus/hammer) and Waters (javelin).   

The Universities championship were held on 7th June at Westerlands.   David Whyte started with a second place in the 100 yards and went on to win the high jump with a clearance of 5′ 10″ and the long jump with a best of 22′ 5 1/2″.   But that was it as far as medals were concerned for what was undoubtedly a good group of athletes.   The women had medals from N Bell (second in the 440 yards and third in the 80m hurdles), J Gemmell (third in the high jump), R McVittie (third in the shot putt and first in the javelin), and a second for the sprint relay team.   Possibly a bit disappointing for a team that had done so well in 1958.

Donald Macgregor running on the second stage of the Edinburgh to Glasgow, 1959

In 1960, the inter-universities were to be held at St Andrews, Ian Docherty was the captain and with a strong team there was hope of taking the championship.   They won all of their matches including the regular triangulars en route.  Davud Whyte was a superb all round sportsman.  

As a rugby player, David played on the wing for Scotland. After school he played for Howe of Fife and St. Andrews University. After winning the AAA long jump title he gave up rugby to concentrate on his long jump in the hope of qualifying for the Olympics. Unfortunately he didn’t make it so returned to rugby. After graduating he went to Oxford to do a PGCE and won a rugby blue. He later played for different clubs, possibly Edinburgh Wanderers. 

Right at the start of the season in the team trials on 16th April, 1960, Whyte won four events: 100 yards (10.6), long jump (22′ 1 1/2″), high jump (5′ 8″) and hop, step and jump (42′ 8 1/2″).   The following week, they defeated Aberdeen at University Park by 65 to 49 for the men and the women won every single event on their programme.   Whyte won both distance jumping events.   On 8th May in the triangular with Glasgow and Queen’s, they emerged triumphant with 74 points to Glasgow’s 68 and Queen’s 43.   Whyte won all three jumps and was third in the 100 yards.   Other winners were Ian Docherty in the Three Miles (14:58.2), M Armour won the shot and the hammer (41′ 11″/ 100′ 10″) and E Davidson won the B 440 yards hurdles.   For the women, N Bell won the 100 yards (12.1) and the 220 yards (28 sec), and R McVittie won the shot.

The Glasgow Herald of May 16th had a headline that would have been unthinkable a few years earlier – “ST ANDREWS COMFORTABLE WIN” – for the three-way match with Edinburgh Southern and Shettleston Harriers.   St Andrews: 95 points; ESH  62 points, Shettleston 27.   The winners were Whyte (100y, high and long jumps), P Whincup (440), A Barrie (half mile), J Brooks (Mile), 4 x 110 relay, M Armour (shot and hammer) and K Gilham (120 yards H and 440 yards H); the women only had one winner – N Bell in the 100 yards.   In the East District championships, Whyte won the high and long jumps with a second in the 100 yards while Docherty was third in the Three Miles.   

There was good cause for optimism when the inter-universities came off on 4th June.  Traditionally theirs was the university that was very good in the field events but the middle and long distance runners had been doing well at this point.   The University had its first run in the eight stage Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay in November 1959 and finished seventh while Glasgow was back in thirteenth, and Edinburgh in seventeenth. They were six plus minutes and sixteen plus minutes behind. Cross-country in season 1959 – 60 they won the national junior  championships with 54 points, Glasgow had 84 points and were third team, Edinburgh had 191 points and Aberdeen 195 points to be seventh and eighth teams respectively.   In the field events, they had excellent athletes ranked in the top ten in Scotland for their events plus others who were very good – the names of Whyte, Hill, Waters and Armour were well known.   Competitively they had won every team contest in which they had featured.    

But the inter-universities turned out to be the one day in the year when they had an off-day.   Whyte was second in 100 yards, long jump, high jump and hop. step and jump which were won in distances well within his compass on almost any other Saturday in the year, Ian Docherty was third in the Three Miles which was won in a time that he had bettered several times that year, M Armour was third in the discus and unplaced in either shot or hammer.   Medal winners for the university in addition to those already mentioned: P Whincup (3rd 440), G Pearson (2nd 880), A Beattie (3rd 880), E Davidson (3rd 440y hurdles),  M Hill (2nd pole vault), M Fraser (3rd pole vault), and they were not in the first three in the sprint relay.   On the women’s side, N Bell had second place in both sprints, F Thomasson was second in the 80m hurdles, C Wittenbach won the high jump, R McVittie won the shot putt with F Carmichael second, A Nicholson was third in the discus and A Barton won the javelin from R McVittie.   The number of athletes winning medals was impressive but almost all were about one place down on what could reasonably have been expected and this cost them the Rosebery Cup.    


Donald Macgregor of St Andrews running second in the universities championship at Westerlands

We are now in the 1960’s and the top man would be Donald Macgregor, but what of the facilities that they had enjoyed.   Were they much improved from those that nurtured Lindsay and Laing?   Alistair Lawson had this to say:

“The track at University Park, St Andrews was grass, slightly sloping, pleasantly surrounded by trees, pavilion and adjacent to the Strathkinness road (i.e western edge of the town).    The Athletic Union staff in the early 1960s was initially a one-man show, just Archie Strachan, later joined by Jack Fergusson. Neither of them was an athletics specialist, though they made encouraging noises, held stopwatches an sic like.   I can’t quite remember whether the track was also the 1st XV rugby pitch and 1st XI cricket pitch, but, given its prime position in front of the pavilion, I suspect it probably was. The track season was woefully short, as the summer term was itself short and was inevitably cluttered with end-of-year exams.”

Colin Youngson asked Rab Heron (pictured below) about where he trained while at the University and his comments were:   “I can tell you that I lived in residence in Hepburn Hall across the road from the gates into Park, as it was called, from 1966-70. The groundsman from Morgan Academy, Dundee, had moved there about the same time as me – Peter Buick, a no-nonsense Aberdonian, who strictly enforced the grass track’s being closed on Sundays.  I was there at the opening of the sports hall in 1968, but never used it.  I have strong memories of joining Donald Macgregor in fartlek sessions around the playing fields’ perimeter.” 

Not a lot different then from the early 50’s.   Nor from other universities in that they all had a short athletics season and trained mainly on grass which was none too level in most cases.   The team did well in 1961 – in the inter-universities, they had five firsts, five seconds and seven thirds – with seventeen medals as opposed to nine the previous year.   The women had also found some form and won their part of the competition.   With three firsts, five seconds and two thirds they finished with 34 points to Glasgow’s 27.   In 1962 the university was fourth again with only three medals – two thirds and one second.   The reasons for the drop were many:

a.   The strength of the other teams was considerable – Edinburgh was developing their mighty road and cross-country teams and they had middle distance runners feared the length and breadth of Britain, while Glasgow University was also a strong squad at this point;   

b.   St Andrews was the smallest of the three universities and did not have the pool of talent that the others had;

c.   There were new universities added to the competition from the 1960’s.   Strathclyde University (referred to at times as the Royal College of Science and Technology), Heriot Watt University and Dundee were the noteworthy ones.   They were all in big centres of population – Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee respectively – and this told in their favour.

d.  All universities have a transient population and just at this point, St Andrews lost a good number of top athletes while Glasgow and Edinburgh were getting stronger.   

The lack of continued success at this point may be put down to these . 

Ian Docherty tells us that in those days the uthings among other reasonsniversity gym and the Athletics Union office were located in Butt’s Wynd beside St Salvator’s College and the students union.   Later in the sixties a new sports centre was built in the lower field f the University Park.   The original pavilion in the upper field remains. 

If we go back to the University’s website we note that “The Department of Physical Education was introduced by the university in 1955, with the first Sports Centre built in 1968.”     The changes inevitably wrought by the introduction of such a development just two years before the seismic changes brought about by the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh where Donald Macgregor ran so well.   There was then further development in 2015 when the sports centre was enlarged and more facilities were incorporated.   The changes after 1968 however will have to form another page on another day.

Donald chasing in the National




Glasgow Transport Sports: 1961 – 1971

This page is mainly results and reports of these meetings to complete the story of Helenvale Park in the east end of Glasgow.   The difference is that this page looks solely at the Glasgow Transport Sports and not at other meetings hosted by the venue.   Despite checking various sources the results/reports for 1st July 1964 and 1st July 1969 are still not available.

The 1961 meeting was mainly notable for the double done by Graham Everett (above) : he won the half mile from scratch over W Morrison of Larkhall, and then later in the meeting won the Two Miles from Bert McKay of Motherwell.   The only invitation event was the 880 yards won by Everett.

100 yards:  R Whitelock, Victoria Park  (1/2 yard)   9.9 sec;  220 : T Knox, Seafo rth, (14) 22.6 sec;

880 yards:  HG Carson, Victoria Park, (48) 1:52.4;  Mile:  T Malone, Shettleston (110) 4:08.6;

Mile Medley: Victoria Park, 3:34.5 ; Two Miles Team: 1.  G Everett 8:55.2;

High Jump:  E Coyle Shettleston (8″) 6′ 4″  ;  5 a side:  Celtic  2 (McKay, Hughes); Rangers 1 (McLean)

There were three highlights on 26th June, 1962 at Helenvale Park:  Ayr Seaforth just failed to beat Bellahouston Harriers’ Scottish medley relay record, Bert McKay (above) won the Two Miles and although Ronnie Whitelock qualified for the final of the 100 yards he failed to catch JG Gibbons of GUAC.

100 yards:  J Gibbons, Glasgow University, (3 1/2) 9.9 sec; 220:  D McGhee, Clydesdale, (11)  22.4 sec;

880 yards:  W Scally, Shettleston, (44) 1:54.1;  Mile: J McHattie, St Modan’s, (95)  4:08.7;

Two Miles:  R McKay, Motherwell YMCA  8:58.6;  High Jump: CE Fairbrother, VPAAC (scr)  6′ 5″;

Junior one lap: JN Duff Ayr Seaforth, (10)  47.4; Youths 100:  J Duguid, VPAAC, (6 1/2)  10.1

Five a side:  Celtic 3 (Carroll 3)  Partick Thistle 0

There were also some cycle races.

The Sports were held on 25th June in 1963 and the star of the show was undoubtedly Derek Ibbotson who won the Two Miles from Graham Everett (Shettleston) who had won the SAAA Mile just four days earlier.   Ian McCafferty (Motherwell, above) set a new pb when he was third in 9:08.   Motherwell won the team race.   

100 yards:  GP Will, Jordanhill College, (5 1/2)  10 sec;  220: D Stewart, Ayr Seaforth, (11)  22.7;

880 yards:  RT Hodelet, Glenpark Harriers (12) 1:52;  Mile:  T Cochrane, Beith, (70) 4:10.5;

High Jump:  E Coyle, Shettleston, (8″) 6′ 6″; Junior One Lap:  RT Laurie,  VPAAC ,(14) 46.1 sec

Youths 100 yards:  DR Halbert, West of Scotland, (7)  10.2 sec

Medley Relay:  Ayr Seaforth (Davidson, Duff, McCrindle, Billson)   3:32.3

5 a side: Partick Thistle  2(McParland, Duffy)  Rangers 1 (Forrest)

Dick Hodelet

30 June, 1964: No report available.

Lachie Stewart

On 29th June, 1965, there was a lot going on at Helenvale.   It was an entirely domestic field of competitors with no athletes from England, Wales or Ireland taking part in the proceedings.   It is as well to quote the report in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ in its entirety to get the flavour of the meeting.

I McCafferty (Mtherwell YMCA) Was in tremendous form last night at the Glasgow Transport Sports when he broke both the all-comers and Scottish national records for the two miles with a time of 8 min 42.2 sec  –  3.4 sec better than the all-comers record held by MBS Tulloh and 4.4 sec inside the native record held since 1961 by GE Everett.   JL Stewart (Vale of Leven) chased him hard until the last half mile.   McCafferty then raised the pace and opened up a big lead – Stewart finished second in 8 min 58 sec.   A Smith (Victoria Park) was third in a personal best of 9 min 0.4 sec.   

Ayr Seaforth (R Billson, R McCrindle, N Duff and JC Stewart) took the medley relay in 3 min 34.1 sec, 4.1 sec outside their own Scottish record.   Bellahouston and Dumbarton AAC were second and third. GD Grant (Dumbarton) led RS Billson (Ayr) by nearly three yards at the half-mile take over.  Results:-

100 yds: J Williams, Babcock & Wilcox, (7) 9.8 sec; 220: Williams (16) 21.8 sec;

880 yds:  JM Brown, Dumbarton, (20) 1:52.8; Mile: WS Morison, Perth Valley (95)  4 min 09 sec;

Mile Medley: Ayr Seaforth, 3:34.1;   Junior one lap: G Millar, Victoria Park, (16) 46.8 sec;

Youths 100 yards:  R Drummond, Forth Valley, (5 1/2)  10.1 sec

Five a side:  Albion Rovers 2 (Grant, Rutherford)  Partick Thistle 1 (Kilpatrick)

There were also of course some bicycle races.

Mike McLean (12) and GD Grant (3)

28th June, 1966 saw McCafferty and Stewart again head to head in the two miles at Helenvale Park on the Tuesday after the National Championships.   I quote, “They broke clean away from the rest of the field , and each in turn took the lead, but when it came to the last lap, Stewart produced the speed and finished strongly down the finishing straight winning in the excellent time of 8 min 45.4 sec to McCafferty’s 8 min 50 sec.   The winner’s time was only 2.2 sec short of the Scottish record for the distance set by McCafferty at the same meeting last year.”   

Other notables at the event were Les Piggott (Garscube) winning the 100 yards from A Wood (Victoria Park) by inches, Bellahouston won the medley relay in superb fashion with a team of M McLean, W Carmiuchael, H Robertson and H Baillie).   Their time of 3 min 29 sec was only 2.2 sec outside their own Scottish record.     Results
100 yards: L Piggott, Garscube, (1/2 yard) 10.1;  220: RW Moncrieffe, West Kilbride (10)  22.1;

880:  M Simpson, Paisley Harriers, (30)  1 min 53.4 sec;   Mile: R McKay, Motherwell, (20) 4:07.7;

Two Miles Individual:  JL Stewart;  Team  Victoria Park AAC; Relay:  Bellahouston Harriers

High Jump:  E Coyle, Shettleston (7 1/2″)  6′ 3 1/2″;  Junior one lap:  RP Wallace Bellahouston, (19) 46.7

Youths 100 yards: J Blue, Bellahouston, 10.3 sec.

The medley relay had been a feature of the Transport Sports meetings for many years and on 27th June 1967, a new record for the event was set – not by Bellahouston or Ayr Seaforth but by Victoria Park AAC whose quartet of Hugh Barrow (880), AT Wood (220), PB Hepburn (220) and RT Laurie (440) was timed at 3 min 26.6 sec.   Bellahouston was disqualified following a faulty changeover between their two 220 yards men.   Other highlights included Les Piggott winning the 100 yards in 10 sec from scratch, and Alex Brown beating Eddie Knox in the two miles in 8:54.8 against Knox’s 8:57.6.   Results:

100 yards:  L Piggott, Garscube, 10.0; 220: HC Robertson, Glasgow Uni (5)  22.5 sec;

880 yards:  C McIvor, Strathclyde Uni, (26)  1:52.9;  Mile: M Bradley, Paisley Harriers, (60)  4:06.5;

Two Miles:  Individual  Alex Brown (Motherwell) 8:54.8; Team  Motherwell;

Mile Medley: Victoria Park  3:26.6 (national record); Junior one lap: I Walker, West of Scotland (9) 46.8

Youths 100 yards: L Wright, Airdrie, (5 1/2)  10.3 sec.  High Jump: D Beck, Jordanhill (6 1/2)  6′ 7 1/2″

Ian Young to EDDIE KNOX

Results for 25th June were all that were published in 1968 with no comment at all and were as follows:

100 yards: WJ Bell, Ayr Seaforth, (5) 10.1 sec;   220:  GJ Johnstone, Bellahouston, (13)  22.4 sec;

880 yards: E Knox, Springburn (22) 22.4;  Mile: R Wedlock, Shettleston (60) 4:09.2;

Two Miles:  Individual  J Brennan, Maryhill, 9:05.6;  Team  Shettleston Harriers;

Medley Relay:  Bellahouston Harriers (M McLean, J Turnbull, J Williams, R Wallace)  3 min 29.4 sec

High Jump:  CW Fairbrother, Victoria Park, 6′ 3″


1969  1st July

Lachie Stewart beats Norman Morrison at Cowal

1970 was THE Empire and Commonwealth Games year in Scotland but only four days after the SAAA Championships no fewer than three of those selected ran at Helenvale: Lachie Stewart, by now the UK record holder for 10,000m,  ran in the 3000 metres race, Mike McLean won the 800 metres from scratch and Les Piggott won the 100 metres from scratch for his third successive sprint win at Helenvale Park.   Results:

100m:  L Piggott, Garscube, 11 sec;  200m:  JG Cherry, Springburn, (9)  22.3 sec;

800m: M MacLean, Bellahouston, (scr)  1:54.4;  1500m:  AH Partridge, East Kilbride, (100)  3:50.4;

3000m:  1.  JL Stewart, Shettleston, 8:15; 2.  Norman Morrison, Shettleston, 8:16.4, R Wedlock, Shettleston, 8:17.8.   Team   Shettleston.

Medley Relay:  Garscube Harriers (AB McDonald, WS Ritchie, L Piggott, R Carmichael)  3:37.2;

High Jump:  R Fisher, Victoria Park, (7 1/2)  6′ 2″

Five a side:   Clydebank 2 (Doyle, Jackson)  Motherwell  0.


There is a wee puzzle attached to the Sports report for the meeting held on 29th June, 1971.   The report for 1970 said that it was his third successive win at the meeting in question, but the report of 1971 tells us that this was his fifth successive victory.   No matter really, he did win.   The coverage of the meeting was getting less and less, there were generally fewer big stars appearing and the profile of the Transport Sports was lower.   This year, apart from the paragraph on Piggott, there were just the bare results printed.

1oom:  L Piggott, Garscube, (scr) 10.7;   200m:  AB McDonald, Garscube, (14) 22 sec;

800m: I Scales, Airdrie, (16)  1:53.2;  1500m: D McBain, Larkhall, (80)  3:51.2;

Medley Relay:  Bellahouston, (Jackson, Johnstone, Williams, Wallace)   3:37.4

High Jump:  NJ Hancock, Garscube, (3 1/2)  5′  6 1/4″

Junior one lap: A Hunter, Hutcheson’s Grammar, (14)  47.4; Youths 100m: G Loney, Garscube, (6) 11.3

There was no 3000m reported for the evening.


Helenvale, 1924 – 1939

Glasgow Corporation Tramways were formerly one of the largest urban tramway systems in Europe. Over 1000 municipally-owned trams served the city of Glasgow, Scotland with over 100 route miles by 1922. The system closed in 1962 and was the last city tramway in Great Britain.   Like many employers of the time, they organised many clubs for their employees but particularly sports clubs.   The number of firms having sports clubs for their staff and hosting sports meetings was large – Singer’s Sports in Clydebank, Dirrand Sports at Kilwinning and Babcock & Wilcox at Renfrew were all good examples.   The ‘Transport Sports’ was one of the biggest and longest lasting.   

The Glasgow Tramways Sports took place at Helenvale Park on 30th June 1925, and the ‘Glasgow Herald’ for the following day read as follows.   

The fifth annual sports meeting of the Glasgow Tramways Athletic Club were held last night at Helenvale Park in dull weather and before a crowd estimated to number 3000.   The principal attraction was a team from Surrey AC who opposed several home clubs in a relay race over a mile.   DR Griffiths ran well in this event covering the half-mile in 1 min 58 sec and giving his second man a lead of nearly 30 yards, which the others maintained to the tape.   The West of Scotland team ran well, but were outclassed by the visitors.   The time, 3 min 37 3-5th sec is over two seconds better than that accomplished by the Edinburgh team in the relay race at the Queen’s Park recent meeting.   FW Brooker ran  finely in the open sprint winning from 1 1/2 yards in 10 1-5th sec, although T McLean, Glasgow Rover Scouts, gave him a hard time in the dash and was only beaten by inches.   During the meeting a display of physical exercises were given by recruits from the HLI Depot at Maryhill.   Mrs Dalrymple, wife of the general manager, presented the prizes to the successful competitors.” 

Events contested included confined competitions over 100 yards, 220 yards, quarter mile, mile, one mile relay (won by Car Works from the Paisley Section in 4 min 03 sec), five a side football (won by Dlmarnock No 1 from Paisley No 1) and tug o’war; and open competitions over 100, 220, half-mile, mile, mile relay, and five-a-side contest (Celtic beat Partick Thistle 2-0).    

It said that it was the fifth annual version of the sports but unfortunately none of the first four were reported in either the ‘Glasgow Herald’ or ‘The Scotsman’.   They were always held on the Tuesday after the SAAA Championships and possibly the hope and expectation was that there would be a carry over from that event on to possible fast times on what was acknowledged to be a fast cinder track.

 No report has yet been found for the meeting probably held on Tuesday 29th June 1926, however the meeting on 28th June 1927 was reported in the Glasgow Herald the following day.   

“The annual sports meetings of the Glasgow Corporation Tranways AC was held last night at Helenvale Park before an attendance of 6000 spectators.   The principal events were the one mile relay in which teams from Surrey AC and Birchfield Harriers took part, an invitation 220 yards handicap and a 600 yards handicap, specially framed to give CE Griffith an opportunity of lowering the Scottish all-comers record of 1 min 11 4-5th sec.   The relay race proved an interesting struggle between the two English teams, and in the end Birchfield just secured the victory from their Southern rivals.   Houghton ran a good race against Griffiths and the Welshman only managed to steal three yards, an advantage which was wiped out when AW Greeen took over for the final furlong.   TR Jones, the ex-Army champion, who had previously won the invitation 220 yards  put up a good fight but was beaten by a yard.

In his attempt on Lt Halswell’s Scottish all-comers record of 1 min 11 3-5th sec, Cecil Griffiths was opposed by a good field, which included H Houghton, Birchfield Harriers, and JD Hope, Scottish half-mile champion.   The Welshman ran well enough but did not appear likely to touch the figures, but he finished two yards behind JD Hope in 1 min 14 3-5th sec.”

In a shorter programme than in the previous year Springburn, Bellahouston and Garscube Harriers were the most successful clubs.   There was a five-a-side football match here again in which a Rangers side of Meiklejohn, Gray, Fleming, McPhail and Marshall defeated a Celtic team of McInally, McColgan, Donoghue, McMenemy and Connolly 1 – 0.  

In 1928, the meeting was reported better in the Edinburgh based ‘The Scotsman’ than in the local ‘Glasgow Record.   Held on 26th June, the headline was “Well Known Runners Compete” – they must have been well-known since the paper did not usually cover mid week Glasgow events.   

Birchfield and Surrey were again up in numbers and the four named right at the start – Cyril Ellis, Cecil Griffiths, JR Langridge and H Houghton – were all international standard athletes.   Toeing the line at the start of the relay D MacLean (Maryhill) was side by side with Griffiths and Ellis but although leading at the bell, he was third at the changeover behind Griffiths (leading) and Ellis.   Birchfield won from Surrey with the West of Scotland Select third.   Griffiths was reported to have run well in the special 600 yards but TJ McAllister of Beith (who had run on one of the short legs of the relay) won in 71 1-5th sec.   The special mile was possiboy the most interesting race of the evening.   Donald MacLean off 20 yards, went out to break the Scottish native record of 4 min 21 sec.  Starting with Ellis behind him, he took the bell in   4 min 20 sec in the lead, 15 yards up on Sammy Tombe (Plebeians).   Covering the full distance his time was 4 min 23 1-5th sec.   Reports were that the track was not in good condition that night which maybe contributed to the time.   In dull weather and in front of a good crowd it was another successful meeting.  Generations of Scottish meeting organisers knew Walter Lawn as the man whose firm printed the numbers and programmes for meetings the length and breadth of the land.   Not many knew that he had been a good sprinter in his day and at this meeting he was third in the invitation 220 yards. 


No reports on the 1929 meeting have surfaced yet but on 1st July, 1930, the headlines were all for Cyril Ellis of Birchfield.   The report in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ started: The annual sports meeting of the Glasgow Corporation Tramways Department was held last night at Helenvale Park in front of 15000 spectators.   The chief event on the programme was the half-mile handicap specially framed to give Cyril Ellis an opportunity of creating a new Scottish record.   Ellis ran well, although only finihing fifth to J Hood (Shettleston) and returned 1 min 56 2-5th sec which equalled the record by DL Mason, the Australian, at Celtic Sports in 1919.   In the 1 1/2 miles team race, won by Birchfield Harriers, WH Calderwood ran one of his best races, his time, 6 min 43 4-5th sec, being only 2-5th slower than the Scottish record.   He defeated R Sutherland, the four miles champion, by a good five yards.   Jack London, HM Hodge, J Crawford and Ian Borland ran in the 120 yards handicap but neither of them survived their Heats.   In the 75 yards dash, London had all the best of the start and led at hald distance, but weakened and was beaten by both Crawford and Hodge.”   

The programme contained a 75 yards dash, 100 yards open, 100 yards youths, 120 yards invitation, 220 yards open, Half mile open, half mile invitation, Mile (first class), Mile (second class), one and a half mile team race, three cycle races and a five a side which was won by Partick Thistle over Clyde FC.   After a drawn game (1 – 1) the winner was decided by tossing a coin.

Ellis was a very good runner indeed – he ran in two Olympic Games. 1924 and 1928, won the AAA’s Mile three times, ’27, ’28, ’29 and ’29 also won the 880y title.   Griffiths was a bit more colourful:a Welshman, he won gold at the 1920 Olympics but was then barred from the 1924 Olympics as he was said to have competed in 2 races in 1917 (when he was 17 years old) as a professional.   It was interesting that athletes of that calibre should be competing on a small track beside the local runners.   It may also explain why the attendances at the Tramway Sports went from 2000 up to over 15000.   

Cecil Griffiths    

28th June 1932, was the date for the meeting to have the biggest crowd so far at Helenvale: 18000 spectators favoured the meeting at which there were not only international cycle races but some of the best of Scots athletes – MacLean, Blakely, Calderwood, Tombe – and even some runners from the local Shawfield Harriers as well, of course, of the Bellahouston and Shettleston runners from the south of the city.   The report started – 

“The twelfth annual sports meeting of the Glasgow Transport AC was held at Helenvale Park last night in dull weather and in front of 18000 spectators.   The sport throughout was excellent and fast times were recorded.   T Blakely, the new Scottish four miles record holder, ran well in the two miles and recorded an easy victory over SK Tombe and WH Calderwood, who however had a great tussle for second place.   Blakely’s time of 9 min 31 4-5th sec was only 4-5th sec outside D MacLean’s Scottish record.   The cycle racing was the best seen in Glasgow for a long time.   The brothers Wyld won the 1000 yards, half mile, and 8 laps pursuit race between them, but RJ Donnelly, the Irishman, put in a great tussle to win the two miles.   N Stone of Glasgow University ran well to win the 120 yards, and the students team, a strong one, won the relay race easily.   J Strathdee of Shawfield secured a double in the open sprints and in each instance, his winning margin was a large one.”

Principal Track Results:

100 yards:  JC Strathdee (Shawfield 9 1/2 yards)  10 sec;  220: JC Strathdee (19)  23 1-5th sec

120 invitation: N Stone (GUAC 4) 11 4-5th;    880 open: W Cumming (Bellahouston  43 yards)  1 min 52;

880 women invitation: N Aitken (Shettleston 44 yards) 2: 23.  

One Mile (first) R Clark (Plebeian  65) 4 min 17 sec; Mile (second) J McDonald (St Peters 110)  4:19.0

Two Miles Team Race:  Individual: T Blakely.  Team: Maryhill (Blakely, Calderwood 3, Nelson 10) 14 pts

Two laps relay women:  EUAC  1:45 1-5th sec.   Two laps relay:  GUAC  1:26 3-5th sec

There have been references to the short laps at Helenvale at this time but this is the first time that the newspaper report indicated the distance – the two laps relay is quoted as being 704 yards, ie 352 yards per lap.  So an 880 would be 2 laps plus 176 yards.  When evaluating times on such a track, in addition to the short straights and bends, there would be a much bigger problem with the cinder track cutting up due to the relatively large number of extra laps having to be run.       

The report on the 27th June, 1933, reported that the crowd was a good one and numbered 15,000, that the sport was excellent and the finishing keen.   There were also some good cycle races but the report on the track mentioned some highlights:

“In the 1000 yards flat, JP Laidlaw ran into third place in 2 min 18 4-5th sec – 2 4-5th outside Scottish record.   The conditions were not good as a strong wind was blowing from the west.   J Gifford, third to Tom Riddell in the SAAA Championship, won the Two Miles by a big margin, while JJ McDonald, the Youths half-mile champion, won one of the miles from 65 yards in fast time.”

Principal track results:   

100 yards:  R Ritchie (Springburn 9 yds) 10 1-5th; 120 invitation:  E Davie (Springburn 5 1/2y)  12 sec;  

220 yards: G Murray (Bella H  18)  22 3-5th;   Half Mile:  J Pirie (Monkland  50 yards)) 1:55 3-5th;  

1000 yards invitation: 1.  J Scott (Springburn  20 yards); 2.  J Hale (Banbridge AC 40);  3. JP Laidlaw (Edinburgh Northern  scr).   Time:  2 min 16 3-5th sec.

Mile (first): WA Struthers (Springburn  20 yards) 4:23 2-5th;

Mile (second) JJ McDonald (St Peter’s) 4 min 17 3-5th 

Two Miles Team:  1.  Plebeian Harriers (Rayne, Gunn, Tombe). Individual:  J Gifford (VPAAC) 

Four laps relay: 1.  GUAC;  2.  Springburn Harriers;  3.  Maryhill Harriers.   Time  1:27 4-5th

Jack Gifford, Victoria Park

After all the efforts made to set up a Scottish all-comers record by Griffiths and Ellis, when a record did come, it was made by a Scotsman running for a club from the east end of Glasgow.   On 3rd July, 1934, in front of 15,000 spectators Tom Riddell of Shettleston Harriers was the man.  

“A new Scottish native record in the 1000 yards was created by TM Riddell who clocked 2 min 14 3-5th sec for the distance – 1 2-5th sec faster than D McPhee’s record created in 1904.   This is the third Scottish record standing to his credit, the others being at three-quarters mile and the one mile.   It was an excellent race in which Riddell and C Whitehead, the AAA Champion, were on scratch and R Graham, the half-mile record holder, on 14 yards.   Graham ran magnificently to win by ten yards, and, running out the full distance, as also inside Scottish record, and only 1-5th sec behind Riddell’s time.   It was the best running he has done this year.   

In the 120 yards special, both R Murdoch and Ian Young qualified for the final.   The Scottish champion was not in sparkling form, but Young ran his usual excellent race and finished second.   Murdoch, however, ran well in the relay and earned Glasgow University an easy win.”  

Before looking at the main results from the track racing, note that White was outside the all-comers record for the 1000 yards by 4-5th of a second (White ran 2 min 14 2-5th sec).   In the two miles team race, Edinburgh Northern Harriers (JP Laidlaw  1, W Hinde  3,  H McIntosh  6) defeated Plebeian Harriers (McGregor  2, Tombe  5, Gunn  7) with Laidlaw’s winning time being 9:29.   The invitation 120 yards was won by T Pitcairn of Garscube Harriers, the invitation 4 lap relay was won by Glasgow University  (Bishop, Stone, Borland and Murdoch) and the handicap races were won by the men with the big handicaps.   

Tom Riddell

Helenvale got its first all-comers record on 30th June, 1936, and it was over a distance where the feat had been attempted more than once in the past.  The report: 

“Fifteen thousand spectators attended the  sixteenth annual Glasgow Transport AC Sports held at Helenvale Park last night.   JC Stothard (Atalanta) avenged his defeat by R Graham (Maryhill) in the Mile Championship on Saturday when setting up new Scottish all-comers and native records in the 1000 yards handicap.   Stothard allowed Graham to set the pace behind the long handicap men for almost half a mile, but just before the penultimate bend, the AAA half-mile champion made his effort, passed Graham in a terrific burst and drew away confidently to beta him by six yards in 2 min 13 3-10th sec.   This time lowers the all-comers record made by the famous American, Ray Dodge, at Rangers Sports in 1925 by 3-10th seconds.   Graham who also finished very strongly was 6-10th inside Dodge’s figures.   

More brilliant running was shown by DM Pearson (Glasgow University) the new SAAA furlong champion. At the last changeover in the invitation relay he was set to concede five yards to Charles Francis (Bellahouston Harriers) but, although his task seemed hopeless, he caught Francis entering the finishing straight and held on in a wonderful finish to win by inches.”  

There were four invitation races at the meeting: The 120 yards handicap, the 1000 yards, the 4 x half lap relay and the two miles team race .   In the two miles team race, Donald MacLean defeated his Maryhill Harriers team mate Emmet Farrell by inches in 9:34 and with W Nelson in 10th place they won the team race from Plebeian Harriers.   In the 120 yards, Harvey of Surrey AC defeated Clark of Surrey AC with Kennedy of Shettleston third.   In the five a side tournament, Celtic defeated Rangers by 1 goal and 2 corners to 1 goal, after two periods of extra time.   

JC Stothard

Stothard obviously liked the meeting because he was back on 29th June 1937 for another crack at the 1000 yards, again with Bobby Graham for company on the starting line.   It was a windy night, unhelpful to the runners, and the race was almost a replay with Stothard sitting on Graham’s shoulder until the last bend and sprinting away to win.   In the invitation two miles, English internationalist F Close defeated Emmet Farrell ‘comfortably’ in 9:30.   Maryhill won the team race however with the same three runners as the previous year.   Pearson again came from behind to win the relay for Glasgow University and in the 120 yards invitation, Millar of Maryhill won from Stewart of Motherwell.   A name that was to become very famous in Scottish, and British, athletic circles, Andy Forbes of Victoria Park, was third in the first class handicap mile while his team mate R Rogerson won the second mile.   

JP Laidlaw

Maryhill’s Bobby Graham was an excellent athlete but he was very unlucky at the Transport Sports.  On 28th June in 1938 he was again beaten into second place – this time by the crack cross country runner from Ayrshire, Peter J Allwell.   That night also saw good quality runners from England and Ireland taking on some of the top home athletes.   The report reads:

“Deplorable weather conditions seriously affected all performances at Glasgow Transport Sports Meeting at Helenvale Park last night.   Despite the blinding rain however the sports reached a satisfactorily high level.   The feature of the one-and-a-half-miles race was the victory of PJ Allwell (Ardeer).   He beat R Graham, Maryhill Harriers, in the good time of 6 min 54 4-10th sec.   Surrey AC won the team race but none of their members succeeded in getting placed in the individual race.   Alex Haire (Royal Ulster Constabulary) was a competitor in the 1000 yards invitation, and he ran well to get among his field but then failed to stay the course, leaving G Bell (Bellahouston Harriers) to run out winner from CF Campbell (Springburn Harriers) by three yards.   FG Moran, the Irish Sprint Champion, succeeded in reaching second place in the 120 yards invitation .   The winner was WCW Murdoch off three and a half yards.  Robin Murdoch turned out in the 120 yards heat, but broke down, having pulled a muscle.”   

Principal results:  There were five invitation events.   

120 yards:  1.   WCW Murdoch (Bellahouston  5 yards)    2.  HF Moran (TFS  scr)   Time: 12 3-5th sec

1000 yards:  1.  G Bell (Bellahouston  42 yards);  2.  CF Campbell (Springburn  15)   Time: 2 min 16 sec

Four half laps relay:  1.  Bellahouston (Bone, Smith, Murdoch, France)  3 min 20 sec

One and a half miles:1. PJ Allwell (Ardeer);2. R Graham (Maryhill); 3.  JP Laidlaw (Edinburgh Northern)

Team race:  1.  Surrey AC  14 points (Close 3, Read  5, Belton 6) 2. Maryhill Harriers 16 points   

In the open races fortune seemed to favour the high handicappers but one name that stood out was the second placed runner in the 880 yards – JCR Morton of Springburn Harriers who would become a Scottish international runner and then the country’s international team manager for many years.

Farrell passes the baton to Peters in the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay.

1939 was the last year before the war broke out but there was a Transport Sports held on 27th June as usual and it was a momentous meeting.   A new star appeared on the programme and there was a mysterious disqualification in one of the races.   The star was Alan Watt, ‘the former Strathallan schoolboy, now attached to Shettleston Harriers’ .   He appeared in the special 120 yards sprint and running off three and a half yards won his heat and then the final, the latter in 11.9 seconds.   He was then heading off to the AAA’s junior championships in London at the weekend.    The disqualification took place in the one and a half miles race when the report merely said  –  “F Close, the famous Surrey AC distance athlete, was disqualified in the special 1 1/2 miles team race which he won in grand style from AT Peters, Maryhill Harriers in 6 min 52 6-10th sec.   Peters was given the decision , his time for the distance being 6 min 55 4-10th sec.”   Jackie Laidlaw was second in the race and Maryhill won the team race with Peters, Farrell and MacLean.   There was no elaboration of the reason for the dq.   The 1000 yards was won by J Gifford, erstwhile Victoria Park runner but now in the colours of Bellahouston, in 2 min 12.8 sec.  The open events were again won by the handicapper’s favourites, Jim Morton was again second in the half mile.   

There are several gaps in the writing of articles such as this but that is entirely to do with the coverage available.   Some years the events were possibly not covered.   In addition there are references to the sports having started in 1920 – ie ‘the twelfthannual sports, the eighteenth annual sports’ and so on, but they were not reported on in any of the papers consulted.   There is always the possibility that they were held on another mid week date in the summer but it would be very difficult to trace them.   However we do know that this was a very successful event, held on a short track in a corner of Glasgow and that it was a popular event with Scottish native and all-comers records being set on it and international runners from outwith Scotland running in it.   Indeed after the war, a world record would be set at Helenvale.   You can read about it here.