Some VPAAC Pictures

This page started as a birthday card for the club on their 90th anniversary on 4th April 2020 and has been slightly altered and added to as an addition to the club page on the website.     

NEW GLASGOW CLUB FORMED

At a meeting in the Unionist Rooms, Partick, a new club was formed under the title Victoria Park AAC.   A constitution and rules were adopted, and the following office-bearers appointed:-   Hon President  Jas K Crawford;   President: Peter Morrison;   Vice-president; R Johnstone;   Treasurer:  Jas Totten;   Secretary: D McKenzie;   Captain: DK Thomson;   Vice-captain: KA Smith;   Application is to be made to the SAAA for membership.

Glasgow Herald, 7th April, 1930

Scotstoun as most of us remember it.   It was a very attractive venue altogether with a good track, well maintained and, almost as important, the outer perimeter that was used for training sessions, for warm ups and, in the very beginning, as part of the annual cross-country race trail.   

SS Beattie: The club’s first SAAA Champion and record holder

Sam Beattie was  Victoria Park’s most successful track athlete of the 1930’s winning his first track title, the 100 yards, in 1939.   He also won the club’s first field events titles too with gold in the long jump in 1936, ’37 and ’38, and also in the Triple Jump in 1937  and ’38.   There were also silvers in the 100 yards, Broad Jump and Triple Jump.    Read about him here

This photograph, taken in April 1950 at Mountblow Recreation Ground in Dalmuir, was sent by Craig Rayment whose father Albert Charles Rayment is on the right in the front row.   Label from the back is below.

He was not the last sprinter to be produced by the club: the squad from the 1950’s was quite outstanding and was as good as, if not better than any similar squad in the land at any time.   Some pictures below.

Willie Jack

Bobby Quinn

Mike Hildrey

You can read all about these sprinters and several others from Willie McFarlane’s groups that totally dominated Scottish sprinting in the 1950’s and early 60’s at   this link .   The championships and trophies won by this group has probably never been equalled by any club in s similar time span.    If you are interested in Victoria Park, or just Scottish sprinting, you really should look at this.

The 50’s were not just a period when the club dominated the sprints – their middle distance and particularly long distance runners were quite outstanding.   Their top man joined the club and ran with some success in the 1930’s but really came good after the war – I’m talking about Andy Forbes, pictured below.

An inspiration to many all over Scotland he went on to be a very good runner as a veteran: read about his wonderful career  at  this link .

Victoria Park  became the first club outside England to win the team title after a close race the Scottish team came out on top with some good packing. Silver medals went to Bolton United Harriers and bronze to Manchester A. and C.C.   The names above are all Victoria Park legends and some are national legends – Names like Ian Binnie, John McLaren, Andy Forbes, Alex Breckenridge are all known outside Scotland.   For individual profiles, click on the name of your chosen athlete.

The sprinters won many a medley and 4 x 440 yards title because of the quality of the club’s top middle distance runners.    

Hugh Barrow leading the great Gaston Roelants

The top middle distance runner in the club in the 60’s was the talented Hugh Barrow – the only Scottish miler ever to hold a world record.   Some of Hugh’s honours:

* Scotland and SAAA teams in many forms from 1962 to 1971

* Rest of Britain v England Indoors 1963   * Rest of Britain v Olympic Team 1964

* GB 1967   World Mile Record Holder at 16 – the only Scot ever to hold a world mile record.

His complete profile can be read  here .  Pictured below with the VPAAC record breaking medley relay team.

 

In case you think that the club distance running tradition had ended with the 1950’s, their road runners in the 1950’s and 60’s, you had better think again.   We’ll finish this quick look at the club’s record with two superb distance and marathon runners.  

  

Pat Maclagan was a quiet but concentrated and determined athlete who, because of his unassuming personality never quite received the attention he deserved.   It probably didn’t worry him.  His record as an athlete was superb and his profile can be found at  this link.   He won his first ever marathon (at Shettleston) and went on to win the Scottish title.   

One of the best races on the calendar was the McAndrew Relay run every year on the first Saturday in October.   With some effort, the original trail for the race is seen on this photograph.

Alastair Johnston  (53) leading the field at the start of the 14 mile road race at Babcock’s Sports

Alastair Johnston was another of the same vintage who was a top class athlete and popular with other runners.   Alastair was a top class performer on all surfaces and a sub 2:20 marathon man whose career was effectively ruined by a tragic accident at Meadowbank.   You can read about him by clicking on his name above.

Clubs do not live by competitors alone – they need administrators and officials.   One of the best of these came to Victoria Park from Edinburgh and has been a pillar of other athletics groups such as the Scottish Athletics League for decades as well as of the club itself.   I speak of Hugh Stevenson – Hugo – and his profile can be found by clicking on  this link

Finally, club president Gordon Innes combined the old and the new showing club HQ (Scotstoun) as it is and as it was: an excellent idea, beautifully executed.

And finally a quest for information: can anyone name these three runners doing their best for the club?

Video Links: 1

One of the features of 21st century life is the availability of video recordings of races and runners of yesteryear – people and events that we saw and knew.   We can see them again, some of us for the first time, and hear their voices and ponder over their opinions.   We start the page with two videos of one of the best liked, most respected and most missed of runners – Jim Dingwall. 

Jim Dingwall Interviews:

 

A Golden Era that we did not recognise as such – Stewart and McCafferty Memories:

https://youtu.be/cd2 bJ00dUqU

 

One of the most read profiles on the site is that of Tom McKean, here are three of his races:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=viVhFMUcGbU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4QebWBKOcM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxe3vKJDZmM

 

Frank Clement was one of my favourites and a real credit to the sport and the country.   Start with his finish in the Olympics:

But Youtube seems to concentrate on his running in the finishing straight –

The newest link is from Joe Small again and is of the 1972 cross-country international – Ian Stewart prominent – at

More to come ….

 

 

Willie McFarlane: Sprinter

Athletics historians of whatever generation would look at the picture above and look for the names of the athletes.   There may even be arguments about the exact names of the runners.  Very few would look at the man in the middle who was the team coach.   All of the athletes won many medals for relay championships in Scotland in the 1950’s.   The 4 x 110 yards, the 4 x 440 yards and the medley relay all fell with amazing regularity to teams from Victoria Park AAC.   The  conveyor belt of international athletes produced such as Willie Jack, Alan Dunbar, Ronnie Whitelock, Bobby Quinn, Harry Quinn, Willie Breingan and many more.   They were not produced by accident – they were produced by the labours of Willie McFarlane who is the gent in the centre of the picture.   Had there been a medal for the coach of a winning championship team, he would have had more than any of the athletes who took home some precious metal.   The club cross-country and road running team is rightly lauded for their feats but the sprinters were just as good, just as special.   It is only right that we look at Willie McFarlane and what he gave to the club.

The Glasgow Herald tells us that Willie was 26 on 2nd January 1933, so he must have been born in 1907.  It also tells us that he had been running since successfully since 1930 when he won the Clyde FC 120 yards sprint.     Held on 26th July, 1930, the Clyde FC Sports were, unlike Rangers FC, Celtic FC or Partick Thistle FC Sports professional Games and always attracted big crowds.  There were not many athletic events – six in all – and McFarlane won his race off 13 yards, beating J Logie (Muirkirk – 12 yards) by two yards in 11 10-16th secs.   If he had run at all in the New Year Sprint he was unplaced in his heat.   

1931 was a different story.   It began like every year for the pedestrians at Powderhal and the report on the final day’s running was as follows:  

“Surprise in 130 yards Final 

There was a big surprise in the final of the 130 yards New Year Handicap Final at Powderhall Grounds yesterday.   The favourite, W McFarlane, Glasgow, 8 1/2 yards, about whom odds were asked, was beaten by T Tait, Prestonpans, a 2 to 1 chance, after a thrilling struggle.  ….    The Glasgow runner returned the fastest time in the second ties.”

It was an expensive slip up – the winner won £100 and second placed McFarlane received £5!  

*

If McFarlane was favourite for the title in 1931, it was a different story the following year.   The favourite was HJ Morgan from Wales.   He was until McFarlane defeated him the first round on 1st January.   McFarlane gave the Welshman two yards of a start and beat him by three in 13 7-16th seconds.   Unfortunately he himself was beaten in the second round by DW Brown from Aberdeen and did not make the final.   Brown was second and received twice as much as the Glasgow man had the previous year – £10.

1st January in 1933 was a Sunday and the first rounds of the sprint were held on the Monday.  The Glasgow Herald of 2nd January commented that there would some good sport at Powderhall but only two runners were backed – W McFarlane (7 yards) of Glasgow and K Price (10 1/2) of New Tredegar.   There were thirty three heats that year and the fastest times were by those two runners although neither had the fastest time in the heats.   Came the final and the headline said

WESTERN SUCCESS AT POWDERHALL

McFarlane Wins Sprint

There were some fine performances at Powderhall Grounds, Edinburgh when the famous New Year Gala was concluded. It is difficult to know which to place in the premier place – the fine distance running of J Campbell of Craigneuk in the ten mile marathon in which he defeated Allan Scally of Broomhouse, or the magnificent sprinting of W McFarlane of Glasgow in the final of the 130 yards handicap.    …

There were no doubts about the success of W McFarlane of Glasgow in the ‘big sprint’.   He showed himself to be a runner of fine physique and a stout heart.   Neither in his heat on the previous day, nor in his second tie yesterday had he to reveal anything of his power, but the final demanded of his very best.   Conceding starts up to eight yards, he quickly settled to his task.   He did not show the same hesitancy at his mark as he had done two years ago when he ran second to T Tait of Prestonpans.   McFarlane had the measure of his opponents after covering 100 yards.   The second favourite, T Melrose of Leith, did not prove a barrier to McFarlane’s success.   It was C Paterson of Burnside, running from the 15 yards mark who caused the Glasgow man most trouble.   McFarlane, however, got ahead 15 yards from the tape to win by two yards from Paterson, with Melrose third, half a yard behind.  

McFarlane has been a prominent racer for the past three years.   In 1930 he won the Clyde FC 130 yards sprint, and his performance at Powderhall two years ago has already been commented on.   Last year (1932) he was defeated in the second tie by DW Brown of Aberdeen who was the ultimate runner-up.   McFarlane is 26 years of age, weighs 12 stone 2 lb and stands 5′ 10 1/2″.   He was trained at Barfield Ground, Largs by Mr G Munro and was sponsored by Mr J Girklas, Glasgow.” 

We now have a physical picture building up which is added to by the following extract from the book ‘Powderhall & Pedestrians’: 

“Possibly the best tribute that could be paid to McFarlane would be to describe him as “Clyde built” – which expression while conveying a wealth of meaning to experts in the shipbuilding world, can be applied with equal facility to the Western athlete.   Powerfully built, with deep chest and strong muscular limbs McFarlane approximates to that physical type of sprinter which was so keenly sought after by the old time shrewd “gaffers” of the Sheffield pedestrian era.   Not only did he strip big, but he was also the great runner which his physical make up suggested.”

Eric McIntyre adds that “McFarlane was a Glasgow joiner and in an interview with my late brother Kenny told of the havoc the job played with his knees. My father competed alongside him in the Games of the 1930s and spoke in awe of his speed.   He was not a tall man and ran with clipped strides like Jesse Owens or Michael Johnson”.   

The caption on the above photograph reads:  “Don Wight in his 83rd year meets Willie McFarlane of Glasgow at the Hawick Common Riding Games of 1934.   McFarlane like Don Wight was a dual winner of the Powderhall Sprint in 1933 and 1934.   Don won in 1870 and 1876.   On each occasion both men ran off scratch.” 

1934 started with the Powderhall New Year carnival and McFarlane was favourite for the title.   He had been favourite two years earlier and did not make the final.   There were 31 Heats this time round and Glasgow Herald of 2nd January read:

“Last year’s winner, W McFarlane, Glasgow, is the favourite for the  Powderhall New Year 130 yards handicap, the heats of which were run yesterday at the Powderhall Grounds, Edinburgh.  At the conclusion of racing he was quoted at 6-4 against, while J O’Donnell, Niddry, was second in demand at 5-2.   …   The scratch man, McFarlane, when returning 13 4-16th sec eased up a good distance from the tape, and had time to look round twice before getting to the tape ahead of T Melrose, Leith.”

In the second round, he was in the second tie of five, and running off scratch.   Move on 24 hours and the Herald for 3rd January, tells us :

 “McFarlane in Thrilling Finish

Some excellent performances were seen at the closing day of the 1934 New Year’s pedestrian carnival at Powderhall Grounds, Edinburgh, yesterday.   One does not wish to belittle in any way the fine running of J Campbell of Craigneuk in the ten miles marathon race, the scratch award of which he won for the second year in succession, but it must be recorded that the racing ability shown by W McFarlane of Glasgow in the 130 yards handicap surpassed in brilliance any of the other items on a varied programme.   McFarlane gave a notable performance being the first runner to win the event in two successive years and the first scratch man to win the event outright. “

McFarlane had won his second round tie in 12 12 10/16th seconds and the Final in 12.10 1/2 seconds to win £100 and a gold medal.   It was a wonderful performance and recognised by the promoter Mr AM Wood who presented him with a silver cup inscribed: 

Presented to

W McFARLANE, GLASGOW

As a simple appreciation of his magnificent record performance in winning the Powderhall New Year Sprint Handicap from the scratch mark for the first time ever over 130 yards in 12 10 1/2/16th seconds.   McFarlane, having won in 1933, created another record with two successive wins.”

The book ‘Powderhall & Pedestrians’ tells us that the cup also bore the facsimile signatures of FA Lumley (Referee), AM Wood (judge), Chris Lynch (handicapper) and FG Clark (starter).   

The significance of the 12 10 1/2 seconds time was that in effect he ran 130 yards 3 1/2 yards inside even time.   

He followed that performance with a run at Hackney Wick grounds in London on 15 Jan 1934 at ‘Professional Championships’ he won 100 yds scr in 9.9s. and in 130 handicap came 3rd in final but had won his heat off scratch in 12.63s.,   It was fantastic running then at that time of year without the benefit of indoor training!   By March he was in Australia for the pro running season there where he competed in international pro sprints but his performances were not as good as his earlier ones and he came 4th in each of his races.

That was to be his last Powderhall Sprint Final but not the last that would be heard of McFarlane.   The following is an extract from the New Year Sprint website and can be found at this link  

 http://www.sportingworld.co.uk/newyearsprint/briefhistory_20.html 

During the past 120 years the “Sprint” has produced many top class competitors. Dan Wight of Jedburgh, the 1870 winner, heads a long list Scottish Champions. Other legendary names from the past include Harry Hutchens of London, never a winner, but the fastest sprinter of the century and “scratch” man from 1880 to 1895. The record run of this period is credited to Alf Downer of Edinburgh who in the 1898 sprint ran 128.5 yards in 12.4 secs. On a comparative basis with later “crack” runners, Downer stands out as a great all round running champion. The First World War witnessed the great Australian champion Jack Donaldson and England’s Willie Applegarth, a brilliant former amateur. The most famous winner of all was Willie McFarlane of Glasgow who achieved the unique distinction of winning the event two years in succession, the second time from the scratch mark in 1934 – a feat never repeated.”

You can read about Willie McFarlane as a coach at  this  link .

[Many thanks to Hugh Barrow, Jack Davidson, Shane Fenton, Eric McIntyre and the Memiours of Pro Athletes for help with this part of the profile]

Willie McFarlane: Coach

Willie McFarlane’s career as a professional sprinter is   at this link

 

Willie McFarlane as a professional runner was a contemporary of another athlete who would go on to become a coaching stalwart of amateur athletes – Allan Scally was a distance runner who won Powderhall twice and went on to work with Shettleston Harriers.   Both men ran during the 1930’s and, although they may have done some coaching before or during the war, they were known best for what they did after after the war was over.   Willie McFarlane was always ‘Willie McFarlane of Glasgow’ and in Glasgow the main running tracks after the three football grounds of Hampden, Ibrox and Parkhead were Westerlands, the Glasgow University ground, and Scotstoun, the home of Victoria Park.   Willie, Victoria Park AAC and Scotstoun were a good fit.   

In discussions about how he trained his athletes, there is one thing that is always mentioned – they did plenty of starts, lots of starts.  After 30 yards or so it was “Aye, that’ll do!”   Most of his athletes were known as fast out of the blocks.   Willie Jack, Ronnie Whitelock and Mike Hildrey were all very quick off their marks.  The other aspect of his training that is noteworthy was that he used lots of massage.  That seemed to be more typical of professional athletes than of amateurs at that time.  It was to be several decades before massage became available to athletes at SAAA championships and although it was encouraged there were so few masseurs that it was generally only those who could make their own arrangements who were able to use their services.     Back to Willie and his training: Jimmy Christie in his article on Willie Jack’s training (link below) said 

“His training covered practically every distance stretching 150, 220. 300 and 330 yards. Dashes over 10.20. 30 to 60 yards but all the time concentrating on his start the most important aspect of any sprint.”

We are 10 years too late in investigating the matter but whatever he did, it worked.   The club records for the 100 yards and 100 metres are held by Mike Hildrey (9.6 in Dublin in 1961) and Willie Jack (10.5, London, 1954).   Incidentally, Jack’s 10.5 from 1954 would have ranked him number 3 in Scotland in 2019, Hildrey, pictured below, also has a 10,5 to his credit from 1961.

The question asked about any coach in Scotland is this:  “Aye, but who has he produced?”   Willie’s list covers the 1950s and the start of the 1960’s.   McFarlane’s sprinters dominated the scene.   Look at the statistics, there are a lot and you could while away some time working out the various permutations in any one year.

100y was won by Victoria Park runners in 1951, 1952, 1953 (all Willie Jack), 1955, 1956 (both Alan Dunbar), 1957, 1959 (both R Whitelock), 1960 (M Hildrey), 1962 (Whitelock again).  9 gold medals in 10 years.   

They had second places in 1950, 1953, 1954, 1956, 1959, 1960, 1961 and 1962 with bronze in 1953, 1954 and 1961.   In 1953 they had all first three places.

220y was won by the club men in 1946 (George McDonald), 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953 (all Willie Jack), 1960 and 1961 (Mike Hildrey).   There were second places in 1949, 1950 (G McDonald), 1954, 1955 (Robert Quinn), 1956 (Alan Dunbar), 1957 (R Quinn), and 1961 (A Dunbar), with third places in 1947, 1948 (G McDonald), 1953 (Ronnie Whitelock), 1955 (A Dunbar) and 1960 (Alistair Ballantyne).

The 4 x 110 relay was won by the club in 1949, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1961.   11 sets of gold medals in 13 years.   In 1955, the first three teams were all Victoria Park with the C team beating the B team for second place.   In 1956, the club’s B team won with the A team being third, split by Glasgow University and only half a second between the two VPAAC teams.   

Scottish 100 yards records were set on 20th May 1952 (Willie Jack, the previous record had stood since 1935), 22nd June 1957 (Ronnie Whitelock), 25th June 1960 (Mike Hildrey), 10th June 1961 (Hildrey), 19th August 1961 (Hildrey).

The Medley Relay (880y, 220y, 220y, 440y) was the other old established relay.   The Scots loved it.   The club’s record here was 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1962.   Second in 1947, 1948, and 1956 plus third in 1958, 1959 and 1960.

They really amazing statistics.   There was no doubt in anybody’s mind about McFarlane’s part in all this success.  In his centenary history of the SAAA, Keddie comments “The Victoria Park coach in those days was the great professional sprinter of the 30’s Willie McFarlane,”  and reference is made to him in ‘The Past Is A Foreign Country’, by Colin Shields and Arnold Black when talking about Willie Jack.   They say

“In the 50’s the hot bed of Scottish sprinting was centred in Glasgow where Victoria Park sprinters trained at Scotstoun Stadium.   A production line of sprinters, coached by former professional sprinter Willie McFarlane poured forth from Scotstoun to such a degree that they won the national 100 yards titles eight times and 220 yards titles six times during the decade. 

   Willie Jack, 2, in the blue and white of Victoria Park AAC

Willie Jack (20.12.1930 – 98.12.1938) 

There is complete coverage of Willie’s career in ‘The Past Is a Foreign Country’ by Arnold Black and Colin Shields.   It was a superb career and when it is realised that he was only 22 when he retired in 1953 it is quite amazing.   He won the Scottish championship double of 100 and 220 yards in three consecutive years 1951, 1952 and 1953, having won the Junior 220 yards in 1948.   In each of these years he qualified for the final of the AAA 220 yards but was selected for the Olympic Games of 1952 after running second to Macdonald Bailey at the White City in 10.5.  At the Olympics he ran 11.05 in his heat of the 100, 10.94 in the second round and 11.01 in the semi-final.   In the relay the team of Mac Bailey, Jack, Jack Gregory and Brian Shenton won their heat in 41.3, ran 41.34 in the semi-final and finished fourth and out of the medals in the final in 40.85.   He the  took part in the British team’s post Olympics tour of Europe.   He was McFarlane’s first really big star runner.   The performances below have the year, the event, the time, Scottish ranking that year.   

There is a very good and detailed profile of Willie Jack on pages 12 and 13 in the ‘Scots Athlete’ magazine for June 1955 at

http://salroadrunningandcrosscountrymedalists.co.uk/Archive/The%20Scots%20Athlete%20Volumes/Volume%209/SA%20Vol%209,10-11.pdf

Ronald H. Whitelock  (14.10.1932-7.12.2012) 

There is an obituary which is a good summary of Ronnie’s sporting career  at this link, but the bare statistics are as follows.   

1959 100y 9.8 1 ;

1960 100y 9.9 2

1961 100y 9.9/9.6w 3

1962 100y 9.9u/9.8w 3

CR: Sco: 1 100y ’59, 1 100y ’62, 2 100y ’60, 3 100y ’61.

Alan S. Dunbar (26.02.1934-1.07.2011)  

There is an excellent Scotsman obituary for Alan that covers his career as an athlete but also his wider life at this link but the vital statistics of his running career appear below.

1959 100y 9.92;  220y 22.5 11

1960 100y 10.0 4;  220y 22.3 7

CR: Sco: 2 100y ‘59; , 2 220y ’60.

Michael G. Hildrey (15.10.41) 

Described by Black and Shields as “Hildrey joined Victoria Park AAC and was coached by the great professional sprinter of the 1930’s, Willie McFarlane who produced such great sprinters as Willie Jack, Alan Dunbar and Ronnie Whitelock.”

There is more detailed information about Mike on the scotstats.net website at this link.   Mike ran in all the major championships other than the Olympics – SAAA, AAA, European and Empire Games

1959 100y 10.0/9.8w 4;   220y 22.1 5

1960 100y 9.8 1 ;  100m 10.7 1  200m 21.3 1

1961    100y 9.6 1;  100m 10.5 1; 200m 21.1 1;  440y 50.3r 

1962 100y 9.9/9.7w 3; 220y 21.2 1

1963 100y 9.9/9.8w 2; 220y 22.04

CR: Eur ‘62 200 (sf);   Com ’62 100y (qf),  220y (sf).   GB: 2 AAA220y ‘61, 3 AAA220y ’60.

CR (continued): Sco: 1 100y ‘60, 1 220y ‘60, 1 220y ‘61, 2 100y ’61.

And you can read about Bobby Quinn at  this  link .

Mike Hildrey (7)

McFarlane was without doubt a very good coach indeed and it was unfortunate that he was not available for Scottish international duties because of his past professional involvement.  He would certainly have been involved in the present day.   Stuart Hogg, John Freebairn, Eric Simpson and Alastair Macfarlane , all former professionals, have all been involved with the various national teams and squads.   It is a pity, or maybe an injustice, that he is not better known today.

[Thanks go to Hugh Barrow and Arnold Black for assistance on this page]

 

Obituary: Alan Dunbar

Obituary: Alan Dunbar, drama teacher, athlete and theatre director

Alan Dunbar, drama teacher, athlete and theatre director.

Born: 26 February, 1934, in Stranraer.

Died: 1 July, 2011, in Edinburgh, aged 77

ALAN Dunbar for ten years brought to the drama department at Queen Mary College (QMC) a drive and enthusiasm which is fondly remembered to this day. He had a passion for drama which he communicated to his students with an infectious energy.

Alan Sisson Dunbar was educated locally at Stranraer, and in 1952 began three years of study at Jordanhill College of Education. He also attended the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama where his fellow students included Mary Marquis, Fulton Mackay, Andy Stewart and John Cairney. Dunbar was keen to pursue his interest in athletics so turned to teaching and in 1956 embarked on a seven-year stint as a lecturer in drama, firstly at Langside College and then at Central College, both in Glasgow. The lifestyle worked well – drama school through the week and running on Saturdays.

In 1970 Dunbar moved to Edinburgh and lectured on communication at Napier College before, in 1979, being appointed senior lecturer in communication and drama at QMC. It was a post to which he was ideally suited, and his dedication to teaching and drama much enhanced the department’s reputation. Dunbar decided to retire in 1989, and his description of that decision typified his nature: “I decided to chuck the job and take a chance.”

It was indeed a brave move yet it paid off quicker than he expected. He was offered a post lecturing at Edinburgh University in presentation skills and worked as a freelance journalist. He had already contributed to the Evening Citizen in Glasgow and The Scotsman on athletics in the 1960s and later was heard on both Radio Clyde and Radio Forth. From 1980 to 1987 he was a sports presenter on BBC Scotland, and he became involved with the Edinburgh Acting School (EAS), where he was a guest director and a member of the company for 20 years.

Dunbar did some exceptional productions for EAS, particularly on the Edinburgh Fringe where he directed Joe Corrie’s Hogmanay, Willy Russell’s Stags and Hens, and two particularly demanding plays which proved very successful, John Byrne’s The Slab Boys and Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.

Anna Tinline, principal of EAS, remembers his work there with much affection. “Alan directed many shows with great enthusiasm, expertise and intellect.The students loved working with him and he encouraged self-discipline, team work and professionalism at all times. I can honestly say that not once did I ever hear him raise his voice or speak to anyone in an angry tone, even though his patience was tested on many occasions.”

Dunbar was a member of one of the outstanding Victoria Park relay teams that were victorious at many of the Scottish meetings in the 1950s. He represented Scotland in the 1958 Empire Games in Cardiff but was knocked out in the second round. It is thought that a muscle injury stopped Dunbar being chosen for the Great Britain team that competed at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. He was fondly remembered at the Victoria Park Club as a fine athlete and was one of their youngest presidents.

In 1957 Dunbar took a principled stand against the ruling authorities in Scottish athletics when he withdrew from the national 220 yards final at New Meadowbank – the principal athletics venue in Edinburgh prior to the stadium built for the 1970 Commonwealth Games. Dunbar protested at the condition of the cinder track, and more than 50 athletes signed his petition objecting to it. His efforts proved unsuccessful in the short run.

Dunbar was a born enthusiast and faced up to the lengthy illness at the end of his life with typical good-hearted resolution. He brought that commitment and zest for life to all aspects of his life – professional and personal. Anna Tinline recalls: “Alan rejoiced when various members of EAS did well, and when his beloved grand-daughters won poetry competitions. He was a wonderful storyteller and shared his knowledge and skills so generously.”

He is survived by Margaret, his wife of more than 50 years, two daughters and two sons.

  • The above obituary appeared in the Scotsman of  18th July, 2011.
 

Ronnie Whitelock: Obituary

Sprinter;

Born: October 13, 1932; Died: December 7, 2012.

Ronnie Whitelock, who has died aged 80, was one of the best loved and respected life members of Victoria Park Athletic Club (now Victoria Park City of Glasgow AC). An exceptionally talented sprinter, he was part of an era when the Scotstoun club held its own with the best clubs in Britain.

Whitelock joined Victoria Park at Scotstoun as a junior in 1947 and was quickly promoted to the senior squad where he was coached by the late double Powderhall New Year Sprint champion Willie McFarlane.

In his early days, he enjoyed success at the Rangers Sports, the Glasgow Police Sports and a variety of Highland Games at the then venues of Ibrox Stadium, Hampden Park, Helenvale and Westerlands.

In 1956 he was part of the winning Victoria Park 4×110 yards relay team at the Scottish AAA Championships at Meadowbank. The team was Alan Dunbar, Bobby Quinn, Harry Quinn and Whitelock. This group became lifelong friends who continued to meet regularly and rib each other about past glories – and there were plenty of them. His best year on the track was probably 1957, winning gold at the Scottish Championships over 100 yards with a time of 9.8 seconds, winning gold in the 4×110 yards relay, competing for Scotland and competing for Great Britain against Russia at White City, the latter success earning him life membership of Victoria Park.

Known for his lightning quick starts, he went on to win two more Scottish sprint titles in 1959 and 1962 and was a member of the winning Victoria Park 4×110 yards relay teams on four occasions and represented Scotland in at least four international matches.

Hugh’s Gems 5

Hugh’s photographs and cuttings see a steady stream of visitors – let’s face it, most of us like pictures on the internet, but the mix of topics and the historical rarity of many of the items make them a real joy to see.   We start with Herb Elliott and Percy Cerutty running together illustrate perfect Percy’s dictum of “You might run faster but you don’t run any harder!”   Others have said so since but Percy was the first.

Then the Victoria Park London to Brighton team from the 1950’s

From Singers Sports in Clydebank: Ian Binnie in the black, possibly Bob Steele from Vale of Leven leading

Spot Ian McCafferty in this pro race from Carluke

No prizes for recognising Rangers Sports at Ibrox

Before any of our times: Edinburgh University team from 1872

Herb Elliott leading Mike Rawson

Typical Fixture Lists

.The athletic seasons used to have a rhythm to them – on the track there were the early season fixtures which led to the National Championships at the end of June, then they tailed off in a host of highland games, sports meetings and invitation extravaganzas which usually included events for domestic athletes.   On the road there was the build up to the SAAA Marathon Championship.

In each case the build up was just that – on the track there were Club, County, District, SAAA and AAA Championships in that order with other meetings of varying sizes where athletes could get the races that their programme demanded, or which were used at times to amend perceived deficiencies – eg if a runner felt that the season wasn’t going as planned, he could find a shorter race or two fr sharpening purposes; like wise if he needed to strengthen a bit there were over distance races to help him do that.   This season is shown in the Victoria Park AAC racing programme for 1958.   Many of these have disappeared from the calendar including the Big Two of Rangers Sports and Edinburgh Highland Games. 

On the road, the Scottish Marathon Club had been formed in 1944 and organised a summer programme that led to the SAAA Marathon Championship at the end of June.   The value of the SMC to road runners cannot be over estimated.   They had their own championship consisting of races at 12 miles, 16 miles and 20 miles which all led to the marathon.   They worked hard at persuading meetings with no road races to include some road race in their programme, and where one had a road race, the club tried (usually successfully) to have it over a distance that would help the progression to the full distance.   Often these races came after the championship so that people reluctant to step up the distance could have a go at it when the spotlight was not shining with a view to running the marathon the following year.

Compare the programme below with races between 10 and 45 miles with current fixture lists which seem to go from 5K to 10K to 10M to half marathon with a jump from there to the event itself.

 

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