Robert Cameron

RCX Gateshead5K 81

Gateshead 5000m, 1991

For all that the Scottish distance running fraternity is a relatively small group with everyone known to everyone else, there is from time to time a good quality athlete who is not as well known as he might be.   Robert Cameron is one such.    He first came to my own attention back in the early to mid eighties when I was Scottish Secretary of the British Milers Club and he was a young member of the club.   He was in the Junior Man age group – which at that time included such as Stuart Paton, Tom McKean and Brian Whittle with Alistair Currie not far behind as an Under 17 Youth.   The standard was high but nevertheless Robert held his own with victories in the Scottish championships, international selections and fast times.   He was good enough to reply to the questionnaire and we can start with that.


Robert (left) at the Scottish Schools

Name:   Robert Cameron

Date of Birth:   1st February 1964

Occupation:   Deputy Head Teacher in a primary school in Bradford, Yorkshire

Clubs:  Central Region AC 1979 – 1985; Newham & Essex Beagles  1985 – 1991; Falkirk Victoria Harriers  1987 – 1994; Bridgend AC  1992 – 1994

.   My dad, William Cameron ( a miler and British Army champion between 1943 and 1945 who turned pro after the war) took me along to Central Region AC and to William Murray the local coach in Alloa.

Has any individual or group had a marked effect on your attitude to the sport or to your performances?   My very first coach very quickly got me competing at international school level (1980 in Lincoln) and we were regulars at National Event Squad  sessions with Alex Naylor and Bob Steele.   It was from here in 1981 that I joined Alex’s squad until going to Loughborough in 1985 and eventually joined Brian Scobie in 1987, then the min influence on my athletics career was, and still is, Andy Currie (and wife Pat) who took me al over to race and became a big part of my life.   The friendship with Alistair and Alan Currie is lifelong and very supportive.

Can you describe your general attitude to the sport?   Without a doubt athletics made me what I am, gave me confidence and maturity to develop my career in education.

What did (or do you) get out of the sport?   A strong sense of achievement, personal satisfaction, friendships which are lifelong (Alistair and Alan and my bridesmaid Lynne McDougall).   I have team-managed for England, I continue to team-manage for North of England on road and cross-country.   I’m secretary of the West Yorkshire Schools Athletic Association, and I’m heavily involved with race organisation, with the Leeds Abbey Dash pulling together the elite and the international race.   This I have done for over six years.

What were your best ever performances?  

800m:   1980  Euro Youth   1:54.6          1500m   1989   3:45.1

3000m:   1986:   7:59.1     5000m:   1986   14:04

10K (Road):   1984:   29:58

1981 Nations Cup   (World Schools)   Birmingham   5th in 800m

Can you give some information about your training?   Well, this is one of the first problems.   As a young man my mileage was high, 80+ miles per week, which caused endless knee problems.   My best period without a doubt was with Brian Scobie where my mileage was on average about 45 mpw, training twice a day which included a gym session of stretching for 45 minutes each lunchtime and a 4 miles tempo run  after this session three times a week.   The same general conditioning work in the gym in winter + hills and fartlek grass sessions whichhelped my knee.   In summer 12 x 400m session with short recovery, 5 x 1000m etc.

When did you stop racing and why did you stop racing?   In around 1991, due to work (in Wales) and knee problems I struggled to find a group to work with until joining Bridgend AC with Steve Brace, I had another three years.   I eventually succumbed to work and I jury in 1994.

That’s where the questionnaire ends and it raises several interesting questions and comments.   eg the big miles in the 80’s were not only the prescribed dosage in Alloa and Stirling: the marathon boom was in full swing and it was not a question of whether you did big miles or not, it was whether you did them hard or easy.   Bad enough for grown men, but worse still for youngsters with developing joints and muscles.   Interesting too that his best running was when he was doing quality plus stretching and mobility work with Brian Scobie.   After that we should look at Robert’s actual career in the sport.

1 RC Scot Lge v Un 84

Robert leading for the Scottish League against the Scottish Universities

Robert started the 1979-80 season on 20th October 1979 running the last leg of the East District Young Athletes Relay championship.   The Central Region AC B team was  thirteenth with Robert’s time being 10:28.      He missed the national relays at Aberdeen on 27th October but he was out in the next championship – the East District Youths event on 19th January 1980 in Falkirk where he finished seventh and led the club to victory with counting runners being  7th, 9th and 10th.   In the national on 9th February at the Magnum Sports Centre in Irvine, he was seventeenth in the Youths race which was won by Ross Copestake from Adrian Callan.   The club was out of the medals being fifth team to finish.

The first notable track victory of Robert’s track career was winning the Scottish schools 3000m in June 1980.    Running in Group B, the second oldest group for schools athletics, he won in 9:01.0 which gained him selection for the schools international, held in Lincoln that year where he finished fourth.   That was his first real season in athletics and a Scottish Schools title and international representation was a very good omen for future involvement in the sport.

In season 1980-81   he ran in the East District cross-country where he was fourth in the  Youths (U17) race with team also fourth.  He missed the national and headed into the summer which came early for Robert and he finished second in a 5000m on 18th April in a creditable 15:31.   A month later and down two distances he ran 1:54.6 for 800m at Grangemouth to be second placed in what would be his best time of the season.

Robert had a good start to the summer when he won the East District junior 1500m at the end of May in 3:58.04, 5 seconds clear of J Blair in second.  Schools age groups are slightly different from those of the national governing body being arranged in ‘even years’.  It is usual for runners to be second year in schools age groups when they are first year for all other athletic purposes.  Robert, now in the oldest grouping for schools, won the 1981 Scottish Schools 1500m in 4:00.8 at the start of June by one second from Antony O’Hara and was picked for the European schools event in Birmingham where he ran in the 800m, finishing fifth.   The summer progressed to the SAAA championships at Meadowbank on 21st June where Robert was first in the SAAA junior (Under 20) 1500m in 3:56.86 – almost three seconds clear of J Harold in second.   This was his first national track championship, other than the schools of course.

At the end of 1981 Robert was ranked twenty ninth among Scottish seniors in the 800m with his best time of 1:54.6 (which also placed him sixth in the juniors rankings) and thirty fourth among the seniors, fifth junior, in the 1500m with a time of 3:56.3.   He was also ranked in the 5000m with his best time of 15:31.0, quoted above, in seventh junior position.

1 RC Gm 82

 Grangemouth 1982

As usual Robert followed a good winter’s work running in all the main races with a successful culmination in the international Rome in March. A look at the main championships shows his good running.

In January 1982 in the East District Championships as a first year junior but still racing against senior men, Robert finished twenty third and then on 27th February in the big race,  he was sixteenth in the National at Irvine in very good company – 13th was Neil Tennant, 14th was Nigel Gemmell and 15th was Peter Faulds.   He then won the Scottish schools cross-country.   In the world junior cross-country championships in Rome on 21st March, Robert actually led the Scottish team home when he finished twenty ninth of ninety three finishers and was awarded the Jock D Semple Cup as first Scottish finisher.   The interesting thing about this is that in the SCCU championships the finishing order for the Rome team had been Gordon Mitchell second, Anglo Stuart Paton fourth and Ian Steel fourth and all in front of Robert but came the international, the order was Cameron 29th, Mitchell 44th, Paton 50th and Steel 61st.

Robert always ran well in the schools championships and summer ’82 was no exception.   In June he won the 1500m in Group A for the second year  in succession in the excellent time of 3:55.5.  Bob McKirdy was second in 3:59.3.   Later in the month he was second in the Scottish junior 1500m championship behind Stuart Paton of Belgrave ,  AAA junior 1500m champion that year, who was a very good runner indeed but one not known too well in Scotland since he so seldom competed north of the border.  Paton ran 3:52.3 and Cameron 3:55.2.   Robert them stepped up to the 5000m at Grangemouth on 11th July and won in 15:12.1.    Back down to 1500m on 7th August at  Meadowbank for a Junior International he was fourth in 3:53.70.   A month later, right at the tail end of the season, he ran an 800m in 1:56.67 to finish sixth.

By the end of summer 1982 he was ninth ranked junior over 800m with his 1:56.67 and third ranked 1500m runner with 3:53.70

1 RC World 83 22

World Cross 1983

At the start of the winter in 1982, Central Region AC did not enter teams in most of the road or cross-country relays so the first championship in which Robert competed was on 22nd January, 1983, and was the East District Championships. Here he was twenty sixth, immediately in front of local rivals from Falkirk Victoria, John Penetcost and Jim Evans.

The junior National was at the Jack Kane Sports Centre, Edinburgh, on 26th February and Robert was eighth across the line.  In the world cross-country championships at Gateshead, however, he was the winner of Jock D Semple cup for first Scottish finisher when he finished forty eighth.   Again, as in 1982, he performed better in the international than those ahead of him in the Scottish championships.   Order of counting runners (SCCU position in brackets) was Cameron 48th (8th), P Connaghan 64th (3rd), J McNeill 77th (1st), Alan Puckrin 98th (5th).

Summer 1983 was not a good one for Robert and by the end of the season in September he was not ranked at all in any event.   But when the new competition year of 1983-84 began,  Robert was running in a good Central Region four man relay team on 19th October in the East District Relay Championships.   He was fastest club runner by by 35 seconds when he ran the third stage and the team finished nineteenth.   There was unfortunately no club team entered in the National Relays and Robert’s next winter championship was in the East District championship on 28th January 1984 at Kirkcaldy.   Twelfth in a very good field  close behind Graham Laing, John  Pentecost, Archie Jenkins and Colin Youngson and immediately in front of Donald Bain, Nigel Jones, Doug Hunter, Evan Cameron and Jim Evans.   These names are listed to give an indication of the quality of Scottish endurance running at that time and to show that Robert was well up to that standard.

He felt the full force of that quality when he ran into 30th place in the Senior National at Irvine on 28th February in a race won by Nat Muir from Allister Hutton and Fraser Clyne.    With no international to compete in in 1984, Robert could concentrate on preparing for the track season.   And a successful season it was too – when the summer drew to a close at the end of September 1984 Robert was ranked in two events – the 1500m where he was twentieth with 3:50.4 and the 2000m where he has 5:18.5.

Robert didn’t run in either the East District or Natioal Relay Championships in October but on 10th November, 1984, Robert had one of his best ever races:  in the Glasgow University Road Race with a field of over 600 runners he finished a very good third being out-dipped  on the line by George Braidwood – the race was won by Nat Muir in 24:01 and all three were inside the existing record of 24:27.    He followed this with a second place behind Peter Fleming in the Rank Xerox Corporate Challenge 10K where he ran his personal best time of 29:58.

Robert ran in the East District championship that year but was unplaced, and on 23rd February, 1985, he was eighty fourth in the National in Edinburgh at the Jack Kane Sports Centre.    The summer of 1985 he was not ranked in any event at all which was probably down to injuries – his knee injuries were to be an unfortunate feature for the remainder of his career.

In 1985 Robert moved down south to study and started running for Newham & Essex Beagles whom he represented until 1991.   His coach at this time was still Alex Naylor and the distance was an added complication.   Add in  continuing knee injuries and this was not his best spell as an athlete.

1 RC ED 85

Robert in second running in the East District Championships, 1985 

Robert also missed every championship in winter 1985-86  but finished third the in Loughborough v AAA match that summer just behind Tim Hutchins, (7.59.39) who was in very good form that (Olympic) year after a good run in the world cross-country championships.   By the end of the year the annual rankings had him seventeenth in the 1500m with 3:50.8 and third in the 3000m with a best of 7:59.39 and his best of 14:04 for 5000m was also at least worthy of note.   Robert did not turn out in the District or National Relays, nor did he run in the District or National Championships in winter 1986-87 but in summer 1987, now training with Brian Scobie, he was beginning to run well again.   He ran well enough to be selected for the Small Nations International (called after the sponsors Dale Farm) on 29th/30th June but was unplaced in the 1500m.

Robert joined Falkirk Victoria Harriers in 1987 and, according to the rules, he could not run for them in any of the championships or team races that winter.  The injuries continued to plague him and college work took up more of his time and he missed two consecutive winters before coming back with a vengeance in summer 1989.   Training with Brian Scobie paid off that summer however and by the end of 1989 he was back in the annual rankings for the first time since 1986 with performances of 3:45.1 for 1500m, 8:25.42 for 3000m and 14:14.16 for 5000m which placed him sixth, twenty first and eighth respectively.   The 1500m time was to be a personal best.

 That winter (1989-90), although he missed both District and National Relay Championships, he had his first taste of the classic eight stage Edinburgh to Glasgow relay when he was asked to run on the second stage.  This was one of the more difficult legs with most clubs putting their top man out but Robert ran well and moved the club  up a place from twelfth to eleventh.   Living and studying in England, this was his last major race in Scotland that winter and the following season (summer 1990) he was not running well enough to be ranked in Scotland.

As in 1989-90, so Robert ran in only one big winter race in 1990-91 – the Edinburgh to Glasgow – where Falkirk won with Robert setting  them off when he ran the first stage finishing eighth and handing over to John Sherban.   His running in 1991 was again restricted but he did have a good 1500m time of 3:56.15 to show for it.   In summer 1991 he was ranked in only one event – the 3000m where he had a time of 8:29.24.

1 ED 85 RC 2

Robert, number 110, in the East of Scotland Championship 1985

Robert’s career was one of remarkably good running interspersed by periods of almost complete inaction due to injury and studying.    These knee problems are still troubling him and at the time of writing (2016) he is awaiting an operation.    It has deprived him of a lot of rewards and Scotland of the services of a talented athlete.


Currently he is still involved in the sport having been a team manager for England on the road, for the North of England on the road and over the country, and secretary of West Yorkshire Schools Athletic Association.    His experiences have clearly stood him in good stead and the dangers of over training are probably being passed on to a new generation of schools athletes.


Judith Shepherd

Shepherd Judith 1979_NEW

Judith Shepherd (823) leading club mate Fiona McQueen in the 1979 Round the Walls race in Berwick where they finished first and second.

Judith Shepherd was an excellent runner who won three SWAAA titles over 3000m, two SWCCU championships and set one Scottish record but is a runner who is almost completely forgotten.    An internationalist, a runner who is still in the top ten athletes for the 3000m and the 5000m at Clemson University in the United States and an All America championship runner as well as a  three time competitor in the NCAA championships, she is a runner whose name is never mentioned at present.

Judith Shepherd was born on 19th March 1959 and was educated at Bearsden Academy.   When I was secretary of the British Milers Club back in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s I tried to get her into some of our races but by then she had gone on to Clemson University in the United States.   She was a very good athlete indeed and while she was at Clemson, Kerry Robinson was also a student, so there was a corner that was forever Scotland.   More recently, Andrew Lemoncello was a student at Clemson.

Judith’s career began in 1974 when she won the Scottish Schools  1500m championship in  5.04.6, defeating Ann Cherry of Pitreavie by 15 seconds.   Cherry had won the East District championship and went on to win the SWAAA title in the Intermediate age group.    Judith had by that time joined up with Western AAC – the short-lived but very good Glasgow club run by Tom Williamson.   Still an intermediate she was ranked in the senior 1500m with this time recorded when placing fifth at Meadowbank in the final league match of the season on 18th August but it was really only the 14th fastest among the inters.   Her best time over 800m was also at that meeting in Edinburgh where she won the event with 2:22.7 although it was only 17th fastest.   The times weren’t the fastest but Judith had won two important races.   By 1975 she was still an Intermediate and running for Western in their last year before merging in to the new Glasgow AC club.   The only time that I can find for 1975 was a 1500m in 5:08.8 run at Grangemouth on 17th August.

Into 1976, running for the new club and her first serious championship victory when she won the Scottish Schools 1500m in 4:51.1.   By the end of the summer her best time for 1500m was 4.48.6 which ranked her 14th and for 3000m 10.14.8 – always her stronger event – which ranked her 4th Scot behind the formidable trio of Mary Stewart, Christine Haskett and Penny Gunstone.   She was only 17 years old at the time.

Despite her ability at the longer distances, she had not yet appeared in the SWCCU championships and would not do so for another two years.   Meanwhile in summer 1977, on 24th April Judith ran a 3000m in the British League match at Coatbridge in 9:51.0.   Two weeks later on 7th May at Grangemouth Judith won the 3000m and the ‘Glasgow Herald’ reported on it.   “The longest distance at the meeting , the 3000 metres, was steadfastly gobbled up by   Judith Shepherd (Glasgow AC) in a meeting record time of 9 min 51.6 sec.   The Bearsden girl had no help from either her opponents or the conditions, and a season of some hard work must surely bring that time tumbling down.”     That same weekend she ran a 4:29.9 for the 1500m – a weekend that demonstrated pace and strength that would stand her in good stead for the rest of the summer.   In the East v West match on 22nd May at Meadowbank, she stepped down a distance and won the 1500m in 4:31.8.   At the end of May there was another 3000m on the 28th of the month where she recorded 9:40.4.

June was always national track championship month and Judith’s first 3000m was held on 4th June when she ran 9:36.2 – her fastest of the season so far.   A week’s break followed before a 1500m in 4:31.6 and an 800m in 2:15.6 both on the 19th.   The Scottish championships were held at Meadowbank on 25th June and Judith was second in the 1500m in 4:31.2 behind Margaret Coomber, and first in the 3000m in 9:39.2 which was more than 12 seconds ahead of Christine Price.

There was no slacking of competition after the SWAAA championships, however, and Judith ran a very good On 17th July it was a 1500m in 4:32.7, on 20th July the time was 4:28.8, on 30th July she ran 9:30.0 for the 3000m; in August it was 1500m on 14th in 4:28.9, 3000m in 9:20.0 on 13th and 9:41.1 on 20th.    Into September and she ran 9:43.7 on 3rd of the month in the international between  Scotland and Norway at Coatbridge to win the 3000m.

After what had been a very good year her best times were 800 2.15.6 (ranked 14), 1500m  4.26.5 (2), 1M 4.49.9 and  3000m 9.20.0 (1).    To elaborate, Judith had the top seven times by a Scot  and nine of the top ten at 3000m.   She also had 8 of the top 19 times at 1500m with only Margaret Coomber being faster.   In the all-time to 10, Judith was 5th in the 1500m and 3rd in the 3000m.

Although she hadn’t run the national cross-country championship as an inter or as a senior, she ran in 1978 and won the  SWCCU championships and was selected  for the team for world championships.   The world championships sounds like a glamorous affair but that year they were held in a wet and rainy Bellahouston Park.    The Glasgow AC runner was first Scot to finish when she crossed the line in twenty second place with Margaret Coomber back in 69th as second team runner.

1978 was a Commonwealth Games year and Judith, on the form shown in 1977 was a genuine candidate for selection and opened her season with 9:37.5 on 23rd April.   Into May and in the West District championships, held at Grangemouth on the 8th,   she won the 1500m in 4:34.   A week later, 14th May, she ran the 3000m for Scotland against Greece in the international in Athens and finished first in 9:40.5.

There was a midweek 3000m in 9:54.1 before the East v West confrontation at Meadowbank on 21st May where Judith won the 1500m in 4:30.1 for the West team that was well beaten by 260 to 195 points.   On 3rd June in the SWAAA Championships, she won the 3000m again in a time of 9:34.8 – 5 seconds faster than last year but not fast enough to count for selection.   There was however another international selection – this time against Norway in Larvik on 5th/6th July.    Clearly not her usual running, Judith was fourth of four in 10:02.9, well behind clubmate Fiona McQueen in third place with 9:47.2.    She returned exactly that time on 29th July too and then 9:49.7 on 20th August and 9: 51.4 on 26th August.

Her best times in ’77 were 4:26.5 and 9:20.0: in ’78 they were 4:30.1 and 9:34.8.   The top Scottish time for 3000m in ’78 was 9:32.3 by Fiona McQueen.    It seems fair to assume that she suffered injury or illness in 1978.    This impression gains strength when we look at her running in 1979.

Leslie Judith

Judith beating Leslie Roy to the tape at Coatbridge in 1978

 In February 1979 Judith won the SWCCU championship ‘in devastating fashion’ according to the ‘Glasgow Herald’ and ‘outclassed her rivals’ according to the Athletics Weekly but in any case she won by 150 yards.   The International was held on 24th March in Limerick and she was again the first Scot to finish but this time she was down in 44th of 96 runners.

On 12th May, Judith took part in the Scottish Cup competition at Coatbridge and was second to Carol Lightfoot in the 1500m who won in 4:27.  On 26th May in the British League match at Birmingham Judith was timed at 9:27.2 – the fastest time of the season by a Scot and 7 seconds better than 1978.   Thus early in the season it was a good omen.   Just how good was seen in the |British Meat Scottish Championships at Grangemouth on 16th June when she set a Scottish Native Record for the 3000m of 9:20.3 with Kerry Robinson of Pitreavie second.   They had come up through the ranks together and Judith had usually been on top.   Then two weeks later on 30th June, running for GB ‘B’ team against France ‘B’ Judith not only won the match 3000m but took six seconds off the record with a time of 9:14.1.    The international honours continued to come and on 23rd July she turned out for Scotland against Wales and Israel at Cwmbran.   This time Judith ran in the 1500m and won in 4:23.9 seconds as part of the winning Scottish team.   On July 30th the ‘Glasgow Herald’ reported that very few Scottish competitors took part in the Sunsilk WAAA Championships at Crystal Palace and Marea Hartman was quoted as saying that “some of the Scots girls admit that they cannot afford the travelling expenses”  although several girls did travel with Lynne McDougall (winner of the 1500m) and Linsey McDonald (intermediate 100m and 400m) being gold medallists.   The summer competition ended in a proliferation of league matches but Judith’s season was basically over.   Best times for the year of 4.21.9 for 150mm ranking her 4, 4.46.7 for 1 Mile and    9.14.07 for 3000 being comfortably the best time by a Scot for the year  showed that after 1978, she was back to her best.   It is only a pity that ’78 was the Commonwealth Games year.

1980 was another difficult year for Judith but not nearly as good as ’79 had been.   At the end of the year her best time for 1500m  was 4.33.9 ranking her 13th which was her lowest position for many years and her 3000m was 9.35.65 which saw her 3rd  it was her slowest end-of-year time since 1976 at age 17.    In 1981 Judith was third in the SWAAA 3000m behind Fiona McQueen and Yvonne Murray in 9:38.04 and by the end of the season, she was ranked in the 1000m with 2.54.5 which saw her 5th, the 1500m with 4.34.0 (18th) and 3000m 9.38.04 (7th).    The 1500m and 3000m were her slowest times and lowest ranked positions ever as a senior athlete.    There was clearly something not right with Judith’s running.   Summer 1982 was a bit better but by the end of the summer she was twenty second in the 1500m (4:40.2) and fifth in the 3000m (9:25.020

That winter Judith went to Clemson University in South Carolina on a sports scholarship.   Her old friend and rival Kerry Robinson from Pitreavie had gone a year earlier and that may have influenced her but whatever happened, it turned out to be a good move for her.   Her first good run was in February, 1983 when she ran 9:28.4 indoors in Boston University Commonwealth Armory to set a meet record.    From a running point of view, the move to America seems to have been a very good one.    The ARRS website lists what they consider to be her best runs over there and they are reproduced here:

9th Apr ’83:  9:21.2   3000m   Knoxville, Tennessee

21 May  ’83:  9:13.8   3000m   Knoxville, Tennessee

1st Jun ’83:   9:21.44  3000m   Houston, Texas

3rd Jun ’83:   9:14.50  3000m  Houston, Texas

21 Nov ’83:     17:33     5K CC     Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

13 Apr ’84:     9:29.71   3000m   Knoxville, Tenn.

31 May ’84:   9:31.66    3000m   Eugene, Oregon

9th Feb ’85:   9:31.32    3000m (indoors)   Gainesville, Florida

April ’85:        16:22.67  5000m    Des Moines, Iowa

30 May ’85:    17:14.79   5000m   Austin, Texas

She ‘lettered’ in all three years and in 2012 she was still in the Clemson top ten for 3000m and 5000m.   Although she had seemed to have the beating of Kerry Robinson early in her career, by now, although the two Scots girls were in the top three or four at the college, Kerry was slightly ahead.   In the top ten for 3000m Kerry was first ranked with 9:05.65 with Judith fourth on 9:13.38 (run in ’83); for the 5000m, Kerry was top with 16:02.76 while Judith was sixth with 16:22.87 (run in ’85).

She also ran in the NCAA Track & Field championships every year she was at Clemson and ran well every time.    For instance, the 9:14.5 from 30th May, 1985, above was set in the final of the NCAA championships and the quality of athlete running is indicated by the fact that Patti Sue Plummer was second, Lynn Jennings was fourth and Judith was a good fifth.   That was the day after she had run a qualifying heat in 9:21.44.

Her results were carefully monitored back home in Scotland and she ran when home on holiday so the ranking appearances were continued.   At the end of summer 1983 she was ranked in 1500 with 4.25.72 (12th), 3000 9.13.38 (2nd)  and 2 Miles with 10.14.08i.    In 1984 her recorded times were 1500 in 4.26.25 (8th), 1 Mile 4.59.42 (8th) and 3000m 9.29.71 (3rd).   1985 had times and places of 1500 4.37.40 (21th),   3000m 9.31.32i (7th) and 5000m  16.22.67 (3rd)

Although her times have been beaten and she no longer appears on the all-time lists in Scotland, there is no doubt that Judith Shepherd was a very good athlete – had she been running today, she would still be a very good athlete holding a position near the top of the sport.   Three national track titles (plus a second and third), two cross-country championship victories to her name, international appearances on the track for Scotland and Britain, records set in Scotland and the USA plus of course the schools, District and Inter-District championships, races in the NCAA Championships – all these and more indicate a career in the sport that she can be justifiably proud of.

Judith’s Trophies


Jim Egan


Jim (83?) on Nat Muir’s shoulder in the National at Falkirk, 1984

Also in picture: Neil Tennant, Fraser Clyne, John Robson, Alistair Douglas, Ian Archibald, Allister Hutton, Tommy Murray.

Jim Egan was a very talented runner who had, for whatever reasons, a short career with big gaps therein.   Where Emmet Farrell had a lot of excellent running in the ten years between his two Scottish championship victories, Jim won the Junior boys national in 1974 and was fifth in a very good field in the senior national in 1984, missed  seven consecutive nationals in the gap.   I’d really like to know more about Jim to find out what caused the big blank spaces that could have seen him continuing to battle out races with the likes of Graham Williamson and all his other contemporaries.   Regardless of that, he had a genuine talent.

Larkhall YMCA is a small club in Lanarkshire that produces many very good runners but which unfortunately suffers from the attractions and predations of other bigger county outfits.   There were many who stayed and among them was Willie Morrison who won the SAAA 880 yards championship in 1960 in 1:54.8, and the Burns brothers, Willie and Ian, (Willie ran in the  ICCU Junior Cross-Country in 1971 and 1972), the team which won the Scottish National Championship in 1970 (the brothers plus D McBain and J Sorbie).   However Jim Egan is probably the best endurance runner that the club has produced.

According to the club’s website, he started going along to the club in 1973 and, like almost all top class runners, it was clear even then that he was a talented athlete.  On 19th January, 1974, less than a year after taking up the sport, he was second to Graham Williamson (Springburn) in the West District cross-country championship at Cleland.   He followed this up a month later when he won the Scottish Under 13 national cross-country championship from Colin Hume (Teviotdale Harriers) and Graham Williamson (Springburn Harriers) at Coatbridge.       He is still the only club member to win a national cross-country championship at any level.   A pupil at Holycross High School, he was fourth in the 800m in 2:10.3 at Grangemouth on 25th May which was his best run of the summer, placing him 12th in the U15 age group.

There was no sign of him in either District or National Cross Country Championships in 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981. He seems to have kept running because in 1977 he was recorded as running 2:02.2 for 800m on 28th June which placed him 15th in the Youths ranking lists.     Like many a good athlete at the time, his career is not  properly documented because of the poor coverage given to athletes out of the top three or four ta any age group, and particularly was this true of the younger age groups.  Over the country it is easier since the entire field for cross-country championships is now online.

Jim re-appeared in the results lists in season 1981-82: in the Western District Senior Cross Country Championships he finished a creditable 22nd ahead of some very good runners indeed but was absent from the national championship.   He then disappears again and was unplaced in any of the championships (National, District  or University) that summer, nor was he listed in the 1500m (down to 34th place), 3000m (to 15th) or 5000m (42nd)      82-83 no districts, no national.   He returned to the national scene in 1982 when he was being coached jointly by Willie Mowbray and David John Nugent after working well in the 70’s with Alex Perrie who worked with many very good athletes from that area.   From 1986 to the end of his career in the early 90’s he was coached by Tommy Boyle.   Willie Mowbray tells me that Jim was a very good football player indeed, he actually describes it as his first love, and feels that that at least partly explains the long gap between his two best races.   He goes on to say that Jim won the Scottish YMCA titlke several times and the British championship once in Manchester.   These were of a high standard: although the many YMCA clubs of the pre-war years had dwindled in number, one only has to think of the runners produced by Motherwell YMCA in the 60’s and the fact that Bellshill YMCA produced Tom McKean, never mind the number of such clubs south of the border to realise that.   Although Willie and David John always put the emphasis on quality work for Jim, there were the hard training miles to be done and for that you need company – John McFarlane and Sam Allison helped him get them done to.   It was obviously a good combination for him.

Scottish squad in New York in 1984: Jim in the centre of the front row beside Lawrie Spence

In his best cross-country season, 1983-84, Jim did not run in the district championships, although in November 1983 he was tenth in the Glasgow University Road Race, only three seconds behind Glen Stewart.  His good form on the roads continued with a victory in the East Kilbride Road Race on 3rd December 1983 in 29:13.    In January 84, he was third in the Nigel Barge behind Gordon Mitchell and Peter Fox, although it is fair to say that the field was a bit below par since the top ten from the previous year were running in invitation races abroad..  Jim had been running and racing at club level since 1982 and had set records for all the club road races.   This was the year that he was fifth in the national. championships which were run on 25th February.   The race was won by Nat Muit in 38:19.   He was followed by Allister Hutton, Fraser Clyne, Ross Copestake and Jim Egan (39:39 – slightly less than 400 metres behind the winner) who was himself followed by Gordon Mitchell, Charlie Haskett, Lawrie Spence Alex Gilmour, Eddie Stewart and George Braidwood.   It was a very good run indeed and an indication of just what Jim was capable of.    He was of course selected for the ICCU International Championships which were held in New York that year and finished 170th.   Remember when evaluating this position however that, as one of the others said before the race, “There were 40 countries running tomorrow.   Every country has a runner like Nat Muir and a runner like Allister Hutton.   So that’s 80 places you can forget about.”    And then factor in the African element ….   Jim was new to top class international running and it was not a bad run by any means.   The following summer, he had a best 1500m time of 3:49.06 which placed him 14th in the ranking lists for that season..

And the trail goes cold at that point.   Looking at his career from the few statistics generally available, he could probably have done much more.   Like several other clubs, L:arkhall YMCA did not often enter teams in too many District relays or championships, an like almost all clubs in the land did not have teams in the Edinburgh to Glashow relay where Jim could probably have done well.   No doubt he was approached by or even on occasion attracted to other local clubs and it is to his credit that he stayed with his original local club.    He did not however seem to race in the many open races around the central belt that could have helped his development and that puzzles me a bit.    He may of course have been injury prone and missed a season or two with a chronic injury.   It is possible though, that like many another boy who displays precocious talent early on, he drifted away to some other sport for a couple of years – football and rugby are the usual culprits.  In Jim’s case it was football.   One thing is certain though – Scottish athletics could have done with a few more years of a fit Jim Egan.

Jim Egan

Jim in the hooped vest on the left of the front row between Lawrie Spence (819) and 752

Jim in the hooped vest on the left of the front row between Lawrie Spence (819) and 752


AIC Heron


Alasdair Heron (72) following Fergus Murray and one place ahead of Ian McCafferty in the Nigel Barge Road Race in 1964

Alasdair Heron was born on 24:07.42 and really hit the attention of Scottish athletics in 1962 when he won the junior national cross-country championship in the colours of Edinburgh Southern Harriers.   He won two international vests for Scotland and ran superbly well in the SCCU championships.   He was also a top class track runner excelling at all distances from the mile up to six miles as well as the steeplechase.     His time at the top however was limited to the years between 1962 and 1965 inclusive  although he did run a little in 1966.

Heron’s first big victory came in the National Junior Championship of 1962 when he won from an outstandingly good field – look at the first eight finishers.   1st.   AIC Heron,  2nd.  JC  Douglas:  3rd.  M Ryan;  4th.  A Faulds:  5.  J Bogan;  6.  J Finn;   7.  R Donald;   8.  JL Stewart.   This run of course had him an automatic selection for the international cross-country championship at Graves Park in Sheffield.   The senior men’s team disappointed but the Junior squad of Lachie Stewart, Alasdair Heron and Jim Finn were placed 10th, 11th and 16th to win the bronze medals.   Heron was a student at Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge in 1962 with best times of 9:21 for Two Miles and 14:20 for Three Miles both of which ranked him in the top ten in the Scottish rankings.   Almost all of his running seems to have been done in the South of England and in 1963 he had best times which ranked him in three distances – 4:15.7 for the Mile (11th), 9:20.3 for the Two Miles (19th) and a Steeplechase time of 9:37.8 which placed him seventh.   In November that year he ran on the second stage of the Edinburgh to Glasgow eight stage relay for the first time and moved his club up from third to second with the second fastest time of the day and the club also finished second.   He missed the National in 1963 but was out on the second stage of the relay in November again and this time went one better, picking the team up from second to first with, again the second time of the afternoon.   Southern were again second though.

1964, however was his best year and included a victory in the SAAA Steeplechase.   He had started the season well with a victory over Ian McCafferty and Fergus Murray in the Nigel Barge Road Race at Maryhill in Glasgow.   The Athletics Weekly report read: Murray went ahead at the start, closely followed by Heron.   With about one and a half miles to go, Murray who was about 80 yards ahead of Heron, went off course.   By the time he was re-directed, Heron and McCafferty were out in front.   Murray passed McCafferty but failed to catch Heron – both men breaking Joe McGhee’s course record of 22:40. ”   Heron actually took 11 seconds from the time with his clocking of 22:29 with Murray on 22:38 and McCafferty on 22:42.  Back in Cambridge, he began by winning the inter-varsity cross-country which was a rare occurrence at that time with Oxford winning almost every year.   Then in the Scottish national cross-country championship he was up among the top men again finishing fifth behind Fergus Murray. Jim Alder, Alastair Wood, and Andy Brown to make the team for the international championships.  One gratifying aspect of this run was that he led Edinburgh Southern Harriers to their first ever national cross-country championship gold medal.  This time the International was held at Leopardstown Racecourse in Ireland and Heron finished 39th.   The following season he started with another good run in the Edinburgh to Glasgow on the second stage where he again picked up a place (from fifth to fourth) in the fourth quickest time of the day to see the club win bronze.    He was clearly in excellent form over the country and carried this on to the track.

On the track, that year, he had three very fast times in Cambridge early on, all of which placed him high on the University’s all-time lists..   On 25th April at the Milton Road track he he ran 14:27.6 for 5000m  which is still  good enough to see him sixteenth of all time Cambridge students.   The top two incidentally here are MBS Tulloh with 14:01,6, and DW Gunstone with 14:09.2.   Then only five days later, on 30th April, he ran 3000m in 8:17.4 at the same track which made him fourth fastest University man over the distance behind Mike Turner, MS Henderson and MBS Tulloh again.   A month later, on May 22nd, he won BUSF steeplechase championship in 8:58.2 in a meeting record, which was good enough to see him placed fourth on the University’s all time list.   This one was run at Iffley Road track.   Still in Cambridge he won the Varsity match steeplechase in 9:12.4.   Then in June came the SAAA gold medal triumph.   Keddie’s Centenary History of the SAAA reports on this as follows:  “Old Fettesian Alasdair Iain Campbell Heron became the first Scot since David Shaw to dip under 9 minutes for the steeplechase when at Oxford on 23rd May 1964 he was timed at 8 min 58.2 sec.   Remarkably enough his slowest run of the year was 9 min 14.2 sec in winning the SAAA title that June.”      Second in the race was R Henderson, East District champion in 9:30.2: Henderson went on to win the Scotland v All Ireland international steeplechase at Dam Park, Ayr, on 12th August.   Heron was unfortnately unable to compete in this international match.

The following season, 1965, he started with another good run in the Edinburgh to Glasgow on the second stage where he again picked up a place (from fifth to fourth) in the fourth quickest time of the day to see the club win bronze.   In 1965, having been team captain, he was now President of the Cambridge team.  The team was of a very high standard with athletes such as Wendell Mottley, the great Jamaican 220/440y runner, as team members.   The Achilles team toured USA with traditional matches against Pennsylvania/Cornell and Harvard/Yale with domestic competitions including the classic Sward and Kinnaird Trophy meetings.   Other club members around that time were Mike Turner, Tim Briault, Tim Johnston so Alasdair was running in good company.

His last run in the Edinburgh to Glasgow relay  in 1966  he again ran the second stage and this time, although he ran well enough,  he dropped a single place, from fourth to fifth this time.  The team, however, was again in the medals when finishing third, one place behind city rivals Edinburgh University in a race won by Shettleston Harriers.

Keddie had remarked in the piece quoted above that “Subsequently Alasdair Heron, a brilliant student, completed doctoral divinity studies at New College, Edinburgh, and was appointed to a theological lecturership in the USA, later (1981) becoming Professor of Reformed Theology at Erlangen in Germany.”   Heron did indeed go on to have a brilliant career as a theologian and there are many articles and books accessible on the internet and elsewhere to testify to that.   Latterly a  Professor Emeritus at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg Alasdair Heron died on 10th May 2014.

A really top-class talent we should maybe look back at Heron’s best track times for each year between 1962 and 1965:

Year Distance Time Ranking
1962 2 Miles 9:21.0 4th
1962 3 Miles 14:20.0 9th
1963 1 Mile 4:15.7 11th
1963 2 Miles 9:20.3 19th
1963 3000m s/ch 9:37.8 7th
1964 1 Mile 4:15.4 14th
1964 2 Miles 8:56.4 2nd
1964 3 Miles 13:57.6 7th
1964 3000m s/ch 8:58.2 1st
1965 2 Miles 9:04.2 13th
1965 3 Miles 14:04.4 11th
1965 6 Miles 29:52.8 10th
1965 3000m s/ch 9:13.8 4th

Finally, although I ran in the 1964 National, I in no way impeded the progress of Alasdair Heron.   But on one occasion in the summer of 1962 I did slightly impede him in a three mile race.   It was an inter-club meeting between Clydesdale Harriers, Springburn Harriers and Vale of Leven Harriers.   I looked along the line at the start of the Three Miles and was confident that I could beat them all – Hughie McErlean would give me a battle but he was beatable.   There was one slight figure who had come along with Springburn to the track at Whitecrook but he didn’t look as though he would give anybody any trouble.   The gun went and this chap went to the front and came through the lap in 75 seconds.   Believing that he didn’t know what he was doing I edged in front and slowed it by about four seconds on the next lap but he came bustling past again just after the half mile and just kept going.   And he won so comfortably, hardly breaking sweat, by a distance.   Nobody from our club or the Vale knew who he was but we were informed by a Springburn runner that he was the national junior cross-country champion – Heron from ESH.   It was one of those moments.

Peter McColgan


Scottish Track Championships, 1989, Peter McColgan number 21

Peter McColgan, like John Joe Barry, Cyril O’Boyle, and others, is an Irishman who is a quality athlete and who has lived and run in Scotland, adding to the challenge for domestic athletes.   He came here initially in 1986 but his real contribution came between the years 1987 – 1992.   His career in Scotland will be checked via his performances in championship and other major races like the Edinburgh to Glasgow relay, while acknowledging that there were many very good races in Ireland, such as his two steeplechase championships in 1985 and 1989, and on the continent during the period in question..  

Peter McColgan was born in Strabane, County Tyrone in Northern Ireland on 20th February, 1963.   Like several other very good Irish runners he has lived in Scotland for some time now and contributed considerably to Scottish athletics.   Unlike the others though, he has won Scottish and British championships as well as Irish ones while representing Ireland over the country and on the track.    He first came to my notice in the mid 1980’s when two athletes that I was coaching went at Liz Lynch’s instigation to Alabama University.   While they were there they were part of a small close knit group of Irish and Scots runners which included Liz and Peter.   Peter was a very good athlete at college and it is from this time that I reprint the following article from the local newspaper.

Consistency is Name of McColgan’s Game

The Steeplechase, long considered one of track and field’s most physically and mentally demanding of events, requires a proper blend of speed and endurance.   University of Alabama runner Peter McColgan seems to possess that blend as demonstrated  two weeks ago when he smashed the existing school record – 9 years old – with a clocking of 8:42.54.   This mark, which qualified the smallish Northern Irishman for the NCAA Championships in June, was also the second fastest ever recorded by a native of his home country.   “I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite event said McColgan, “but I’ve been running it for a long time.   I remember running my first steeplechase in a time of 9:11 which at the time ranked sixth among British juniors.   I’d say right now it’s probably my best event, but I like running different races like the 1500m and 5000m.”

McColgan who has been used in in distance events ranging from 800m to 10000m since coming to the Capstone, could be an important factor when the Crimson Tide men set out for the South Eastern Conference Championships next month.   “He’s showed more range than I originally thought he had,” said Alabama coach John Mitchell, “and he has the ability go down and sprint a little more than I thought he would.   The problem we have now is trying to figure out where to put him in the conference where he can best help the team.”

Before the conference meet however, McColgan still has a few more meets to go.   This week he’ll be part of a Crimson Tide contingent travelling to Des Moines, Iowa, for the Drake Relays.   “Pete has really made a great improvement over the year,” said Mitchell, “first in cross-country, then indoors and now outdoors.   He’s been able to improve for two reasons.   He’s really worked hard and paid his dues and I think mentally he’s thinking a lot faster and better than he was before.”   McColgan, who at 5′ 7″ and 130 lbs is the smallest man listed ion the Tide roster, also has noticed an improvement in his performance.   He chalks it up to an improvement in training methods.  

“Before I came here, I never really trained that much,” said McColgan.   “I would train hard and long for three or four weeks then get lazy for three or four days.   Back home it was easy to get out of training because I had to train by myself and motivate myself.   You can do that for awhile but after a time you get burned out.     Here coach expects me to train and that gives me some motivation. Also I have a lot of other people to train with.    That makes it easier, because you can push them, and they can also push you.”   Mitchell, a distance runner himself in his college days has seen McColgan’s method of training first hand.  

“He’s really just made some great strides,” said Mitchell, “He’s got a tremendous mind and head  for distance running and he also has a very good work ethic.   He’s not afraid to work out.   But by the same token, he has the ability to judge just what he needs to get out of a particular workout.   He knows when he needs to control the workout, and when he needs to push it.”   Mitchell hopes that McColgan can continue to push straight through the SAC and NCAA  meets.   McColgan, who has a recorded  time of 4:02 in the Mile to his credit, has run the Tide’s top times this season in both the 1500 and 5000.    He ran a 3:47.08 in the 1500 back on March 16 and followed a week later with a 14:26.61 in the 5000.   

“I remember when I was in junior college (Ricks Junior College in Idaho),” said McColgan, “I would look at these NCAA qualifying times, and think that maybe I might be able to make them by the time I was a senior.   I really couldn’t see myself doing it before then.   Now it all seems a bit easier.   It was really hard for me to visualise myself running the fast times I’ve been running.   I just try to work hard and be consistent at it.”

Tuscaloosa News, 25/4/85

Peter, who only took up athletics at the age of 17, had always been a good runner and had set his first Northern Irish record four years earlier – he had run 9:11.59  for the 3000m steeplechase on 18th May, 1982 in Belfast as a 19 year old.    He would go on to set more records including the 2000m steeplechase and the indoor 3000m.   It is however fair to say that his career in the United States really brought him to the notice of the wider world.   In Alabama, 1986 was probably his best year – He won the SEC Championship steeplechase and he ran well enough at the NCAA Championships in Indianapolis to be made an All American.   He set the College steeplechase record of 8:29.35 and ran 8:32.7 for the SEC record.   When you look at the lists of names for the endurance events in these rankings you get some idea of the quality of running he was doing at that time.    He was selected for the Irish team at the Commonwealth Games in 1986 and competed in both 3000m steeplechase and 5000m flat, making the final in both.   In the steeplechase he was seventh in 8:45.71 and in the 5000m he finished twelfth in 13:58.75.    It should be remembered that this came after the US college trio of back-to-back seasons – cross-country, indoor and outdoor track with not a break between them and in which he could be called upon to run any of the events between 800m and 10000m, and possibly on  occasion, double up.   1987 was dominated by his marriage to Liz Lynch, newly crowned Commonwealth Games 10000m champion.   They had attended Ricks College in Idaho together and gone on to the University of Alabama where they were among the stars of the track & field programme.


Peter came to live in Scotland in 1987 although he had been here in 1986 and run for Dundee Hawkhill Harriers.   But it was on graduation that he came to Scotland and his best years here were between 1987 and 1991.   A good cross-country runner, on the track his best event was usually thought to be the steeplechase.   With good reason: in 1982 he had set two Irish Junior records for the event – the 2000m time of 5:50.19 was on 1st August at Cwmbran,, and the 3000m 9:11.59 at the Mary Peters Track in Belfast on 18th May.   He was already known to the Scottish running public after he had run into third place in the SAAA Championship steeplechase in 1984: running in the colours of the Northern Irish club Apollo, he ran 9:03.87 in a slow run race.   It was to be the only steeplechase medal he won at the Scottish national championships.

We can maybe start this profile with a look at the high spots of his 1986 season.   His first good mark that summer was in a flat 3000m at Gainesville, Florida, where he clocked 7:54.48.  He also set an NCAA record for the steeplechase of 8:32.71.   On 18th July he came down a distance with some success.   In the Pearl Assurance Games in Birmingham, England, he was ninth in a very fast Mile and recorded 3:59.37 to be below sub-4 for the first time.  Then it was Commonwealth Games time at Edinburgh.   Here he had been selected to compete in the 3000m steeplechase and the 5000m.   He ran in both Finals and in the steeplechase he was seventh in 8:45.51 while in the 5000m he was twelfth in 13:58.75.   He followed that up on 5th August, at Gateshead with a 2000m steeplechase in 5:31.09 which was an Irish senior record in the colours of Irish club Sparta.   It was a good summer and he went in to the winter season in good condition and the highlight might well have been running in the world cross-country championships in Warsaw on 22nd March where he ran well against the best in the world.

In summer 1987 he has two times listed in the website – 1:54.7 for 800m and 8:11.0 for 3000m.   He couldn’t be ranked as he was not a Scottish national but as an indicator of his fitness level, it was encouraging..   He had his first run in the Edinburgh to Glasgow in November 1987 when he was on the high quality second stage, move the club from eleventh to third with the fastest stage time of the day in the team which unfortunately finished fourth.   He had run the second stage of the National relay a matter of weeks earlier and turned in the fifth fastest time to see the team finally cross the line in eighth place.   His only other championship run that year was the East District event which he won.   There was no run in the national cross-country championship nor in the six-stage road relay.   In summer 1988 came his first senior AAA’s steeplechase medal when he finished second.  He was ranked in three events in Scotland – the 1500, the 3000m and the 3000m steeplechase.   In the 1500 he ran 3:49 which was the tenth fastest run in the country or by a Scot that year, in the 3000m 8:07.8 which would have ranked him ninth, and in the steeplechase 8:37.52 he would have been ranked second – 17 seconds behind Tom Hanlon and 14 ahead of Graeme Croll.

He did not do much Scottish championship racing over the winter of 1988/89.  He again began with the Edinburgh to Glasgow where he moved to the fourth stage, again he picked up places – from 12th to 11th this time – to see the club seventh after the eight legs.   At the very end of the winter he turned out in the Six Stage Road Relay on the fourth stage when he was fourth fastest and picked up a silver medal when the club was second.

Summer 1989 was his best yet in the blue and white colours of Dundee Hawkhill Harriers.   His best times for the summer were 1:52.8 for 800m, 3:47.2 for 1500m, 7:57.82 for 3000m, 14:01.73 for 5000m and 8:34.10 for 3000m. steeplechaseFaster in every event than the previous summer with the 3000m being outstanding. The 1500m time was done in Antrim on 27th June and the 3000m two weeks earlier on 9th June in Helsinki.

In 1989/90 Peter ran in three championship races plus the Edinburgh to Glasgow and  he had fastest time of the day in all of them.   Starting with a run at home in Dundee in the East District relay, he ran the fourth stage to return the fastest time and bring the club home victorious.   On a short course (about 13 minutes running) he was 23 seconds faster than the next man – Keith Logan of Teviotdale.   On to the National Relays when he was again fastest over the course (14 seconds faster than Alistair Douglas) on a 12 minute course at Inverness and Hawkhill was second.   Peter was again fastest man over the course when he raced the second stage of the Edinburgh to Glasgow bringing the club into first place from second.   They held it to the end and won the event for the only time in their history.  There is an excellent and fairly detailed article on the race in “Scotland’s Runner” for January 1990 (p9) which said of Peter’s contribution: “Hawkhead had already fired impressive shots, notably from Peter McColgan who had established a 41 second lead on stage two.   McColgan’s time was 68 seconds slower than Ian Stewart’s  course record set in 1972.   But, despite the possible injustice to Stewart, it might be worth establishing a new record for a stage that has lengthened significantly since then with the construction of two new roundabouts.”   Peter’s time was 13 seconds quicker than second fastest Alan Puckrin and he collected the scalps of Chris Hall and Tom Hanlon among many other top class athletes in this very difficult stage.    

Over the country in the national, having already won the Irish championship  he tackled the National Championships at Irvine on a dreadful day just one week later.   He won the event (beating Neil Tennant by 24 seconds) and led Hawkhill to third place.  For an idea of the conditions, see the picture above from “Scotland’s Runner” and their report, after lamenting the state of the course, read: “The master of the conditions in the Scottish Cross-Country Union’s centenary season was Northern Ireland’s Peter McColgan – the Arbroath based athlete scoring a memorable double in the wake of winning his native title the previous Saturday.   Now why did he change his mind about competing in Scotland?   McColgan said afterwards that it was a last minute decision to compete at Irvine, which probably deprived Neil Tennant, second this year, of a repeat of his 1988 triumph on the same course .   Bobby Quinn, repeating his rehabilitation from his serious leg injuries, was third.”    He did not run in the Six Stage Road Relay but Dundee Hawkhill won the event anyway.   Two national titles in the same season was good work and he followed by going into the summer via a second place in the Scottish Indoor 3000m championships where he was defeated by Ireland’s Nick O’Brien (8:10.70) in 8:16.51.

PMcC Roevin

Running in the Roevin Charity 10K, Aberdeen

Picture from S Axon via G MacIndoe

Excellent times were achieved at five distances in summer 1990.  He started with a 14:38.3 5000m win at Crownpoint in a Scottish League match on 20th May, and then skipping the East District Championship,  he went on to victory in the Scottish 5000m title from Paul Dugdale and Gary Nagel (both English) in 14:10.09.    His best marks however were as follows.  At 1500m he ran 3:48.60 when winning at Gateshead on 19th August; at 3000m 7:54.33 when finishing third at Belfast on 16th July in the Pearl meeting and 8:10.65 at Gateshead when finishing thirteenth on 17th August; and, at 5000m 13:48.66.  Over the barriers of the steeplechase, he ran 5:34.14 for 2000m and 8:34.10 for 3000m with an 8:37.68 at Crystal Palace in the Parcelforce meeting.

That winter, 1990-91, Doug Gillon had this to say in the December issue of “Scotland’s Runner”:   “McColgan, winner of the national title last year, has improved his form ever since then.   But his most recent form is hard to gauge as he has raced sparingly in the face of impending fatherhood, and then only on the anchor leg of relays.   He was already in a winning position when given the lead (in the E-G) last year with the joint second fastest time of the day.  His progress from 1987 until last season has been hampered by viral illness, but since his title double last year he has gone from strength to strength.   He is now at the stage of looking for an agent to arrange races for him on the continent.” 

What were these anchor legs?   Dundee Hawkhill won the McAndrew Relay at Scotstoun on the first Saturday in October.   McColgan ran the final stage and had sixth fastest time of the day – and second fastest time for the Hawks with his time of 15:16 being beaten by Steve Ovett (14:49), Chris Robison, Steve Binns, K Logan and Chris Hall (Hawkhill – 15:15)     He was fastest in the East District relay with Hawks again winning.  He didn’t run in the E-G, but there were only more championships that year for him – the National where he was second to Tom Hanlon (Hawkhill also second) and in the Six Stage he ran the last leg moving from fourth to second, passing Nat Muir en route, with third quickest of the afternoon for more silver for the team.


In summer 1991 he won an 800m in 1:53.4 in Glasgow on 26th May to start off with and followed up running 7:55.21 in Belfast on 21st June, followed four days later with 8:27.93 steeplechase over in Hengelo where he finished third.   The next big one was in Lapperanta on 9th July when he was times at 7:55.36 for seventh place on 9th July.  On 31st July he was back in Scotland and winning a 1500m at Livingston in 3:46.8.    Into August and and in the Pearl Assurance meeting at Gateshead on 11th he was fifth in a 2000m steeplechase in 5:34.22.   Competitively, he won the UK 3000m steeplechase and was third in the AAA’s steeplechase championship.   But the highlight had to be running for GB  in Tokyo in the third world championships at the end of August.   Here he was tenth in the second heat of the steeplechase in 8:58.34, the heat winner being Patrick Sang in 8:26.78.  Sang went on to be second to compatriot Moses Kiptanui in the final (8:12.59 to 8:13.44)

The following winter Peter ran in no Scottish championships.  Dundee tend not to race a lot in the West at races such as the McAndrew, the Scally, the Jim Flockhart or the Nigel Barge but Peter did run at some local races such as the Lita Allan Memorial race at Kirkcaldy where he was second to Terry Mitchell, beaten by just 7 seconds.  In early summer, 1992, he completed a double with wife Liz when they won their respective races in the St Andrews University Charity Half Marathon: Peter was overall race winner in 75:50, more than three minutes ahead of second, and Liz was in fifth place to win the women’s race.   The following summer, the only mark recorded was 8:56.9 for 3000m steeplechase.  In summer 1992 he was credited with 8:56.9

In  season 1992/3  he ran the second stage of the E-G moving from fourth to third in the team that was fifth.   In the Six Stage Relay he ran on the short fifth lap and set a new stage record when he went from second to first in the team which won the event.   There were some other good runs – 8:56.9 for the steeplechase in 1992, 14:52.36 for 5000m and a steeplechase in 9:15.41 in 1993, an E-G second stage in the eighth fastest time keeping his team in fourth place in 1993, a new short stage record in the Six Stage Road Relay in 1994 and a  4:05.6 mile in   Derry in August 1995 plus 1:55.6 for 800, 3:50.3 for 1500m in the same year – but by now, in his thirties, his top class racing career was at an end.

But by now he had done all his personal best times and was racing sparingly in Scotland.   A sub-four miler, he had run well, won national titles on track and over the country, represented Ireland and Great Britain, helped the Hawks to gold, silver and bronze in District and National championships on the road and over the country and generally added to the quality of athletics in Scotland in the period from 1987 to 1992.   We should maybe finish with a note of Peter McColgan’s personal best times.


First of all Peter’s Personal Best Times

Distance Time Date and Venue Distance Time Date and Venue
800m 1:51.9 5000m 13:47.13 30/7/86: Belfast
1500m 3:43 2000m S/ch 5:31.09 5/8/86: Gateshead
Mile 3:59.37 18/7/86: Birmingham 3000m S/ch 8:27.93 25/7/91: Hengelo
3000m 7:54.33 16/7/90: Belfast

Progression in steeplechase

2000 m steeplechase

1986:    5:31.09     4th     Gateshead     5th August

3000 m steeplechase

1988:   8:37.52     5th June

1990:     8:34.10     4th     Birmingham     4th August

1991:     8:27.93     3rd     Hengelo     25th June


Back to Elite Endurance

Ian Hamer

Ian Hamer, AAA2013

Ian Hamer leading the AAA’s 5000m in 1991: he won in 13:49

Ian Hamer was a Welsh runner who came to Scotland to attend Heriot-Watt  University in 1987 and stayed here until 1991.   Like several others, such as the Irishmen John Jo Barry and Cyril O’Boyle, fellow Welshman Simon Axon and several Englishmen, he threw himself into the sport here and added to the quality of whatever event he ran in.    Competitively he sought out the hard races and had top class results to show for it – he won the AAA’s 5000m in 1991 as well as the UK 5000m in the same year.

In his first year in Scotland he looked very good but did not seem quite the outstanding athlete that he was when he left in 1991.    Four of his best races at the end of 1987 are in the table below:

Date Event Place Time Comments
31 October Allan Scally Relay 3rd fastest 50 sec down on J Robson, 16 down on A Callan
15 November Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay Stage 2 3rd fastest Eighth place to first place
21 November EU Braid Hill Race 2nd 30:50 1st A Douglas 30:39
12 December Sco v Scot Unis v N Ireland 4th ‘Paid the penalty for a strong early pace.’

It is clear from these few races – especially the second stage of the Edinburgh to Glasgow where he sped through the field from eighth to first – that he was an athlete of quality.   His racing during the winter was intermittent with several races that he might have contested – eg Scottish Universities championship being uncontested,    The following summer – 1988 – Ian ran in the SAAA 5000m at Crownpoint and finished fifth in 13:58.15 behind Neil Tennant, Paul Cuskin, Gary Nagel and B Rushworth and just ahead of Adrian Callan in 13:58.93.    He had the reputation of being a fast finisher and his shoot-out with Adie Callan verified that.   That was at the end of June and then on 10th July in the Inter-County Championships at Corby, he was third in the Mile in 4:17.6 having run 4:12.7 in the Heat.   On 16th July he won the mile at Swindon in a BMC race in 3:59.9 with Alistair Currie in third just outside the 4  minutes in 4:00.5.    Another finish with three men covered by 0.6 seconds.   By the end of summer, he was ranked high in four track events.    In the 1500 his best time was 3:46.1 (5th), in the Mile it was the 3:59.9 reported above (1st), in the 3000m it was 8:02.3 (5th) and his best 5000m was 13:58.0 (2nd).

When they went into season 1988-89, Scottish athletes couldn’t plead ignorance of Ian Hamer’s abilities.  In the Glasgow University road race on 5th November he finished second to Adrian Callan – 22:40 to Adrian’s 22:39 and third placed Paul Dugdale’s 22:40!   Ian did not run in the Edinburgh to Glasgow that year but into the New Year – he had been third in the Scottish Indoor 1500m and he raced indoors again this year.    On 11th January, in the East District Indoor Championships at Kelvin Hall, Hamer won the 1500m from Mark Fallows in 4:56.51.    Ten days later, 21st January, in the Scottish Universities Indoor Championships at the same venue, he stepped up a distance to win the 3000m in 8:24.9 from David Donnet of Glasgow.  On 16th February the event was the Scottish Civil Service Sports Council Indoor Championships where, running as a guest, he won the 3000m in 8:18.5.     By the end of the indoor season Ian was 5th in the 1500m with a best of 3:52.07 and 8th in the 3000m with the 8:18.5 from the CSSA Championship.      This led into a good summer of 1989.

Ian had a run for Wales on 30th June in the Small Nations International in Antrim where he won the 5000m with Scotland’s Bobby Quinn third in 14:03.8.   He won a 3000m at Loughborough on 25th July in 7:51.4 before heading back to Wales for a 1500m at Cwmbran on 5th August where he was first in 3:38.9.   Eleven days late at the same venue in a BMC race over 800m Ian was third in 1:49.5 with another BMC race at Cheltenham on 8th September over a mile when he was again sub-4 – first in 3:59.1 before ending the season with a Two Miles at Crystal Palace on 15th September where 8:31.15 was good enough for sixth.

Summer 1990 would be Ian’s first Commonwealth Games medal and the winter leading in to it was impressive.  As was his custom, he raced sparingly over the winter and his first race was in November. On 17th September he raced in the Munich  v  Edinburgh/Scotland Select at the Olympic Stadium in Munich and won the 1500m in 3:43.40. Then it was on to the roads and the Glasgow University Road Race on 11th November.   Here he defeated Nat Muir in a controversial finish – he had been selected for the Games by this time (a late inclusion)  – he was one of six together going on to the track and Nat looked like the winner, 30 yards or so from the line, Hamer couldn’t go round Nat so he stepped up on to the grass infield and passed him that way.   There were cries of ‘foul’ from some who saw it but Ian commented if officials felt like complaining, they should see what goes on out on the roads.   He did not the course, he did not impede Muir  and since the grass surface was inferior to the cinders he did not  gain an advantage.   He also said that he wouldn’t have got within a minute of a fit Nat Muir.   The result stood.    He did not run in the Edinburgh to Glasgow the following week.   With the Commonwealth Games in New Zealand at the end of January there were no cross-country races for the end of the year.

After the long journey there, his first pre-Games race was in a 3000m in in Sydney, Australia, on 14th January where he ran 7:50.9 to finish third.    This was followed by a Warm Up meeting in Auckland six days later, also over 3000m, where he was second in 7:46.40.   In the race itself, he was third in 13:25.63 behind Andrew Lloyd (Australia) in 13:24.86 and John Ngugi (Kenya) who ran 13:24.94 and in front of Kerry Rodger, Moses Tanui, Paul Williams and eight more top class runners including Yobes Ondieki who was reckoned by some to be favourite for gold.   Unfortunately not one of them was a Scot.   The race was not without incident however.   Doug Gillon reports: “The 5000m developed into one of the most sensational and dramatic of all time, with three of the leading contenders falling.   After only two laps the favourite, John Ngugi, and England’s European champion, Jack Buckner, crashed to the track.   Amazingly, by 1200 metres an adrenalin surge had carried Ngugi once again to the front of the pack, while Buckner essayed a more conservative approach.   Even more amazingly, Ngugi proceeded to draw clear.   Then came the second fall, at the same spot, two laps later.   Yobes Ondieki, ranked Number One in the world last year, determined that his compatriot would not steal away for the gold, attempted to close him down.   But he too hit the track.   The pursuing pack split asunder under Ngugi’s pressure and England’s Mark Rowland and Canada’s Paul Williams were clear of the rest with the minor medals to fight out between them.   Suddenly the pursuit hotted up, Rowland and Williams were sucked up 600 metres from the finish and it was any one from six for silver and bronze at the bell.   Ngugi, loping casually along with his ungainly action, seemed to have won easily, being some 5 seconds clear with a lap to go.   Then, with 300 metres to go, Welshman Ian Hamer struck with a devastating surge, drawing Australia’s Andrew Lloyd with him.   Lloyd’s surge lasted the longer, but even 30 metres from the line Ngugi’s lead seemed impregnable.   The crowd noise was deafening and it drowned the sound of the Australian’s softly-softly approach.   As Ngugi eased at the line, Lloyd lunged past to take the gold, winning by eight-hundredths of a second in 13 min 24.86 sec.   Hamer sliced an incredible 20 seconds from his best to take bronze.  

A quantity surveying student at Heriot-Watt University, Hamer was a late addition to the Welsh team.   At the UK Championships at Jarrow last May Hamer, chasing the Welsh qualifying standard, was not even rated good enough for a  run in the A race, won by Steve Cram.   Lloyd’s fairy tale success came just five years after he lost his wife in a car crash.   He himself has needed seven operations to put him back on track.” 

There is more coverage of the race in “Scotland’s Runner” of March 1990 in David Jones’ “Impressions From Auckland.”   As if to prove that his talents were not restricted to track, he then won the World University Cross-Country Championships.    This is a biennial championship, started in 1968 and in which 64 countries have taken part (although only three – Britain, France and Spain –  have taken part in all championships.   The 1990 event took place on 1st April in Poznan, Poland, and Ian won in 28:02 from Antonio Serrano (Spain) who was seven seconds back, and Haydar Dogan (Turkey) who was another two seconds away.   The last time that Britain had won was in 1976 when Scotland’s Laurie Reilly did so.

Back home, there were three indoor races in Glasgow’s Kelin hall at the end of February and the first half of March where he recorded 7:55.75, 7:57.91 and 7:58.15.   He was clearly going exceptionally well and he went even better in the British Universities Championships in Antrim at the start of May, Ian set a new championship record in winning the 10000m in 28:30.   On 6th July in Edinburgh there was another very quick 3000m (7:50.95) and on the sixteenth in a 1500m in Belfast he ran 3:39.95 for fourth place.   On the twenty eighth of the month at Wrexham he ran in a 1500m in which he was second in 3:41.13.  At the end of August and start of September, the European Games were held in Split, Yugoslavia.   He ran in the 5000m and although he made the final, there was no medal this time for a tired Ian Hamer, who finished twelfth in 13:32.61 – one place and two seconds in front of Eamonn Martin while Gary Staines was second in 13:22 .45 in a finish where less than a second separated the first three.   The summer ended on 12th September in a BMC race at Bristol where he ran a Mile in 4:01.4.   He won it.   This ended a season which started in January in Australia and took in top class events in Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, England, Ireland, Wales, Yugoslavia and Poland.    His best times for the season were  – 800m  1:54.0i;   1500m  3:39.95;   1 Mile 4:01.4;   3000m  7:46.40;   5000m  13:25.63;   10000m  28:30.44.    Impressive as the times were, the competitive record was at least as good with many world class scalps in his collection.

But there was a further honour to come: Gordon Ritchie announced in the November issue of “Scotland’s Runner” that he had been elected Scottish Universities Athlete of the Year.   He wrote:

“The choice had been made simple by Ian’s outstanding performances at four major championships.   The good news for the future is that Ian will be remaining at Heriot-Watt for a further two years during which time he will be studying for an MSc in construction management.   The year began in whirlwind fashion for Hamer.   Selected at the last minute for the Welsh Commonwealth Games team, he travelled to Sydney in late December.   After a few weeks spent acclimatising, he travelled on to New Zealand, where he ran a Welsh record in the 3000m (7:46).   His aim in the Games was to reach the 5000m final, but it is now history that he ran a superb race to bring home the bronze medal in a time of 13:25.   The 5000m was the most exciting and eventful race in the Games, but Ian stayed out of trouble and more than justified his selection.

Almost immediately after returning from Auckland, and while still caught up in the euphoria of his medal winning run, he was selected to run for Britain in the 3000m at the ill-fated European indoors in Glasgow.   Owing to a mix-up by the officials, Ian left the arena on Saturday believing that he had been eliminated.   The following morning, having been out for a training run, he was told that he was in the final.   He failed to live up to his own expectations in the final but that is hardly surprising in the circumstances.   Typical of Ian is his attitude to this race.   He says that if he had been going to win, he would have won regardless of the problems.   In retrospect he admits that it was not meant to be and that perhaps he was wrong to run in the first place.

After the indoor season, he returned to the cross-country scene for the World Student Games in Poland.   He was in a different class at this event and won gold for Britain.   Ian then returned to his books in an effort to pass his final exams at university.   Despite his absence for two months at the Commonwealths, and his hectic training schedule, he still managed to get his degree.   The absence from the track during the exams probably left him with little realistic chance of a medal in Split.   Despite this however he reached the final of the 5000m and had a crack at a medal.   The problem that he faced was the heats.   In Auckland the heats were more comfortable and there was an extra day to recover before the final.   In Split he had to run a 4:10 mile in the middle of the heat to ensure that he qualified.   With his limited experience of major championships, he found it all a bit too much.  

What does the future hold for the young Welshman?   His post-graduate course lasts two years, which will take him through the World Championships and to the Olympics in Barcelona.   He also has his sights set on the World Student Games in Sheffield in 1991.   In the days of semi-professional athletics, it is disappointing to note that despite his success and great potential, he has been unable to attract a major sponsor to support his quest for further medals.   His tution fees for the MSc are being paid by his parents, and his ambitions may be thwarted b y lack of funds.   When there appears to be so much money in the sport at present, there must be something wrong when none of it comes the way of such a talented young man.   The experience he gained at the Europeans and the Commonwealths can only help his quest for gold.

Where does the university scene fit in to the schedule of an internationalist?   He admits that his two best runs of the year were his golds at the World Student Games in Poland, and the British Universities Championships in Antrim.   The university outdoor scene can be used to sharpen up in  preparation for bigger events, and also as a useful gauge of fitness in the early season.   More importantly it is a lot of fun and is of a higher standard than many people think.    Best wishes to Ian in his preparations for future majors and in his studies at Heriot-Watt.”  

Ian Hamer Posznan

Victory in Poland

Ian’s first race the following winter was at Livingston on 29th September where he won the Livingston and District Open Road race in 30:45 from Tommy Murray (31:04) – a significant gap bearing in mind Tommy’s form at that time.   Missing the cross-country relays, the next outing was in the Edinburgh to Glasgow on 18th November he had an excellent race on the second stage moving from sixth to second in what would have been the fastest time of the day but for an even better run by an Englishman: John Sherban was having his first run in Falkirk Victoria Harriers club colours and went from eighth to first.   Colin Shields in “Scotland’s Runner” said, “The second stage witnessed a brave run by Falkirk’s new signing, World Student Games runner John Sherban.   Despite a fall on the newly instituted overbridge crossing of the old roundabout, which caused him gashed arms, legs and a bleeding nose, he recorded the fastest stage time to gain seven places and hand over a narrow five seconds lead from Ian Hamer (ESPC).”   By the start of the new year, he was back on the boards of the Kelvin Hall and won the Scottish Universities Indoor Championship 3000m in what Gordon Ritchie described as a ‘solo run to victory’ in 8:03.5 – the second  runner clocked 8:8:50.3.

1990-91 was to be his last real season in Scotland and his best times were – with one exception – done outside Scotland.    They are all remarkably good and noted in the following table.


Distance Time Place Venue Date
1500m 3:43.70 2 Sheffield 6 May
800m 1:51.9 4 Tooting Bec 11 May
Mile 3:56.19 1 Cork 5 July
3000m 7:57.03 5 Crystal Palace 19 June
5000m 13:27.12 5 Crystal Palace 12 July
3000m 7:50.34 5 Edinburgh 19 July
3000m 7:58.5 1 Cwmbran 14 August
10000m 27:57.77 3 Brussels* 13 September

* Run in the Van Damme Grand Prix

Competitively it was a good year although he was most unlucky in the World Championships 5000m heats.   The event had been held every four years but from 1991, the World Championships were to be held every two years and Ian was picked to run in Tokyo.  First though, in the AAA’s Championships in Birmingham on 26th/27th June, Ian was second in the 5000m to Eamonn Martin (13:32.99) in 13:33.66 with John Sherban third in 13:39.43.   He was selected for the World Championships in Tokyo in 1991 where he ran n the 5000m but, running in the third heat, he finished sixth in 13:54.49 and failed to qualify for the final.   The race was won by Brahim Boutayeb (Morocco) in 13:53.75 from Dieter Baumann in 13:54.07, Stefano Mei (Italy) in 13:54.35,  Dionisio Castro (Portugal) in 13:54.39, and Ondoro Osono (Kenya) in 13:54.41.   Six men covered by less than 0.75 seconds!

Neither that winter nor the following summer, 1991 – 1992, did Ian did not race in any of his usual races North of the border but it was a good year for him    He was second in a Grand Prix in Rome in June  in 13:09.8 which placed him third on the UK All-Time list, and in the Barcelona Olympics he was fourth in the fifth heat in 13:40 and did not qualify for the final..

Ian had been a student in Scotland, from 1987 to 1991 and crammed in a lot of good running – the highlights are here but there were many other excellent races (eg Scottish Universities cross-country champion in 1989) and he did add to the high standard of endurance running in Scotland at the time.

John Sherban


John Sherban was an established athlete when he came to Scotland in October 1990 because his girl-friend was doing a post-graduate degree in computing at Edinburgh University.    By the middle of January he had accumulated a remarkable list of race successes including:  18th November, 1990:  fastest time on the second stage of the Edinburgh to Glasgow for Falkirk Victoria Harriers whom he took from eighth to first, a position they would hold all the way to the finish; 1st December: winner,   Fife AC  Lita Allan Cross-Country from T Mitchell:    8th December   East District Cross-Country League second to Peter Faulds (they had the same time and crossed the line hand-in-hand);   22nd December: Edinburgh Queen’s Drive race first; 1st January:  Portobello Promethon first;   5th January:   Nigel Barge Race first from H Cox;   19th January  East District League first from T Hanlon.

He was at the time only 26 and had been running from his late teens.   Born in Doncaster on 30th July 1964, and brought up in Scotland between the ages of 9 and 15, he attended Waid Academy in Anstruther before he moved to school in a Buckinghamshire Grammar School. A rugby player at school, he used to go for a run before the rugby practice and was encouraged by a teacher to get into some school races.   Although he was introduced to the sport at about 18 years of age, he didn’t start training seriously until he was about 20.    He had won the British Universities Cross-Country and track 5000m championships as well as having represented England  v  the Rest of the Commonwealth.   He saw himself as mainly a track runner but he had more than his share of success on the road and over the country.   For instance that first run in the Edinburgh to Glasgow for Falkirk was one where he not only picked up seven places, but passed such as Ian Hamer, Alistair Walker and Kenny Lyall.   Colin Shields in the magazine “Scotland’s Runner” commented on the run: “The second stage witnessed a brave run by Falkirk’s new signing, World Student Games runner John Sherban.   Despite a fall on the newly instituted overbridge crossing of the old roundabout, which caused him gashed arms, legs and a bleeding nose, he recorded the fastest stage time to gain seven places and hand over a narrow five seconds lead from Ian Hamer (ESPC).”     In March he further displayed his road running talent by running the fastest long stage of the Six Stage Relay Championships with a time of 28:12 which was 15 seconds quicker than John Robson who was second fastest.   Falkirk was fifth team to finish.    John didn’t run in the National in between these events.

In summer 1991 he was ranked in the 3000m [7:58.47, 4th], 5000m [13:49.3, 2nd] and 10,000m [28:35.61, 2nd] counting the national 5000m championship among the events won.   In the 5000m rankings, the first five were Ian Hamer [Welsh], Peter McColgan [Irish], Tom Hanlon [Scottish], John Sherban [English] and Steve Ovett [English],  in the 5000 the first five were Hamer, Sherban ,  Evans and Hanlon, and in the 10000 Hamer, Sherban, Evans, Robson [Scottish].    Most of his running was done in England over the summer but he did return for the national championships and won the 5000m in 14:06.2 from John Evans of Australia [14:10.80] and Paul Dugdale [Horwich RMI] 14:29.56.   His first year in Scotland had undoubtedly been a good one and he was interviewed By Margaret Montgomery for “Scotland’s Runner” in March 1991.    In it he referred to the fact that he had been plagued by injury over the past six years and said

“Everything’s gone wrong below the knee which possibly could.”   Defining himself as a track runner who always manages to get injured before the season gets into full swing, John Sherban maintains that his cross-country and road successes are not indicative of his  true area of excellence or of his biggest aspirations.   “Basically I’m a 5000m runner although recently I’ve been tending more towards the 1500m and 10K.   Unfortunately though I’ve not had a full season for five years.”   Despite being plagued by injury, Sherban notched up a number of major successes between 1984 and 1990, including a win in the 5000m at the British Student Games at Meadowbank in 1987 and at the British Student Cross-Country Championships in 1988.   He is now in the best form he has been in for many years and at the time of the interview was looking to build on the successes he enjoyed in the latter part of last year and the early part of 1991 by winning a place in the British team for the World Cross-Country Championships and by bringing his time down as close to 13:30 as possible.   His present best for the distance is 13:54.   Perhaps because he has never been able to throw himself into training and competition wholeheartedly, Sherban is remarkably relaxed in his approach to training.   The bulk of his training consists of running to and from work.   A three mile distance as the crow flies but one he generally pads out to five or six. ….. On top of running to and from work Sherban’s only other training is a weekly track session with his club, Falkirk Victoria Harriers, and an interval session on grass.   I try to pack training round my working day so that it doesn’t interfere with my home life.   I like the feeling of knowing I’m in for the night once I’m back from work.”  …  Sherban’s official coach is Brian Scobie, the Scot who lectures in English at Leeds University where Sherban studied chemical engineering.   Scobie is presently in America, a fact which makes little difference to Sherban who seems for the most part to have trained himself for the past five or six years.   “Even when I was at Leeds, the relationship between Brian and myself was more of a social thing.   But I suppose I would subscribe to his philosophy of doing everything hard – harder if you’re feeling good.”   The fact that he doesn’t work hand in glove with a coach seems not to matter to Sherban – although he compensates to some extent by joining in the odd session with Malcolm Brown, who coaches Ian Hamer.”

John was a hard trainer, witness the tale from Brian Scobie of a session at Leeds -I remember on one occasion in a winter track session in Leeds which I had set probably at about 10-12 x 400 in 57-8 seconds.   The recovery was probably about 30 seconds on that night.   On top of that it had started to snow as soon as we had got going and gradually it was thickening as he knocked out runs in 56 seconds through to the eighth or tenth.   John was running in his flats, without socks, in shorts that were brief and flimsy and wearing a vest of the kind now only seen on porn stars.   With two to run and the coach wondering about liability, he ripped off his vest and banged out the last two runs in 55 and 54 seconds.


In winter 1991-92 he missed District and National Relays, didn’t run the Edinburgh to Glasgow and wasn’t in the field at either District or National Cross-Country Championships.   But there were two appearances close tohether at the start of January – on 1st January he won the Portobello Promethon and on 4th January at Mallusk in Ireland, he was there and appearing in the results under a ‘Scots Results’ heading – he finished seventh in 23:10 in a race won by three Kenyans in 22:37, 22:47 and 22:55.   He was first Scot ahead of Bobby Quinn in 11th and Alaister Russell in 36th.   This was the same date as the Nigel Barge which he had won a year earlier.

In summer 1992 John was ranked sixth in the 1500m tables with 3:45.9 which he ran at Kingston on 19th July, second in the 3000m with 8:00.76, run at Haringey in London on 5th July with a two miles in 8:31.48  at Sheffield on 14th August and had a series of good 5000m times – 13:52.08 (Loughborough on 28th July), 13:52.87 (Birmingham, 27th June) and 14:08.54 (Meadowbank on 20th June) – the best of which placed him second in Scotland behind Paul Evans of Belgrave.   It will be noted that all but one were outside Scotland and, in fact, the 500m time in Birmingham placed him only 14th in the race – the kind of opposition that really helps obtain fast times.    It is a real dilemma for Scottish selectors when good runners in Scotland keep winning and getting high places north of the border in Games years while those with access to fast races furth of Scotland post very fast times in tougher races.   As John  said in the interview with Margaret Montgomery, the number of quality runners is just much higher in England.   However back to the profile – John was running very fast indeed in summer 1992 although he did not appear in any Scottish championships – county, district, inter-area or national.

He had been recognised as a Scot for the purposes of international competition the previous winter with the race in Mallusk.   Winter 1992-93 started for John with fastest time in the East District Cross-Country Relays (by 15 seconds) with Falkirk Victoria second to Reebok, followed by second to Reebok again on 31st November in the Allan Scally Relay at Shettleston where John again had the fastest time of the afternoon (by 19 seconds), and on 15th November he was in action on the long sixth stage of the Edinburgh to Glasgow relay where he held on to second place with the day’s best time (by 39 seconds.   John also won the East District championships on 15th January by one second from P Dymoke of Livingstone second and Terry Mitchell of Fife a further three seconds away.   He did not run in the Scottish National Cross-Country Championship and we next saw him run on the track.   With 1994 being a Commonwealth Games Year, most athletes would be trying to catch the eye of the selectors.

How did John perform in summer 1993?    At 5000m he had two good times –   he topped the rankings with 14:05.1 finishing tenth at Loughborough on 20th June, and 14:15.85 when second to Chris Robison in the SAF  Championships.   The better of these times placed him 33rd in Britain which was an indication of the standard north of the Border at that time.   The SAF race was a steady run with Chris Robison using his well-known sprint finish (he had been a sub-4miler) to collect the victory.   Half a dozen Scots were capable of sub 14 for 5000m but they didn’t have to do it – therein lies the difference in standards.   His best run on the road that summer was a win in Leeds on 5th December over 10K in 29:11  which placed him 23rd in England and first in Scotland.   The good news from Scotland’s point of view was contained in an article in “Scotland’s Runner” by Doug Gillon:   “Falkirk Victoria’s John Sherban, fastest man on the long stage of the English 12-stage championship, hopes to make Scotland’s team for Victoria  at 10000m.”   He had earlier pointed out that Sherban qualified to run for Scotland on residential grounds.   The only thing stopping John from running for Scotland would be a serious loss of form (extremely unlikely) or injury (more likely).

In winter 1993-94, John’s first race was the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay when he again ran on the second stage and again had the fastest time of the day for the Falkirk team that finished second.   He had been third in the AAA’s 10K Road Championship that year and done a very good run in the 12 stage which placed him 27th all-time on the ranking list, ahead of men such as Andy Holden, Paul Taylor and Geoff Smith.


Going for his place in the Games team, John started the year with a very fast road 10K win – 28:46 – at Grangemouth on 20th February.   He topped the lists for 3000m and 5000m with 8:02.07 (when finishing second at Meadowbank on 8th July) and 13:46.4 when winning an early season race at Crawley on 28th May.    Despite an injury-ridden season, he managed to run 14:11.14  winning the East District championship at Meadowbank on 15th May and 14:06.16 at Gateshead on 20th July.   These were good enough to see him selected for both 5000m and 10000m in Victoria but the nemesis of injury was still stalking him.   He travelled to Canada and raced in a 5000m on Prince George Island on 13th August in 14:10.43.     What happened there is reported in the following article which Doug Gillon wrote in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ of 28th August 1994

“TRAINING in a railway tunnel to avoid the snow on Christmas Day and running around the pitching decks of destroyers and aircraft carriers in mid-ocean are just two examples of the commitment which has plucked John Sherban and Chris Robison from obscure roots, and brought them by tortuous routes to represent Scotland in the 10,000 metres at the Commonwealth Games.   Both are Yorkshire-born, and each competed for England before seeing the Saltire in the sky and defecting. They will line up for Scotland next weekend, ready to strive with the convert’s passion for their adopted country.

He has represented England against the Rest of the Commonwealth and won the British Universities’ cross-country and 5000m track titles.   But he did so displaying a refreshing laid-back lack of intensity and club-runner bonhomie rare in the upper echelons of his sport.

Nobody should question the 30-year-old Falkirk Victoria Harrier’s attitude to his sport and this forthcoming race, however. Missing a session is anathema. When Edinburgh’s climate on Christmas Day precluded training outside, he did 20 repetition runs in the disused railway tunnel under the Queen’s Park.   He spent $2000 on a preparatory altitude trip to Boulder, and has contributed significantly to bring coach Brown to Canada for the Games. Fortunately, his intellect has blessed him with a good professional career in bank computing.

Sherban believed he had a medal chance here until last weekend when his last warm-up race was a disaster in an ill-conceived (for endurance competitors) meeting at Prince George, 450 miles away from the village.   The meeting was said to be at an altitude of 1800 feet. But Sherban, seated behind the pilot of the 20-seater light aircraft that flew them there, checked the altimeter as they landed.   ”It read 2900 metres,” he said. ”The place was baking hot, and although we arrived mid-morning, my race was not until 10pm at night. I spent the day trying to sleep under the stand, the only cool place.”

His target time in the 5000m, 13-32, was out of sight after six laps as his lungs complained in the rarified air. He finished, demoralised, in 14-10.43. ”We did not get back until after 3am. It was a disaster.” Brown is now striving to rebuild dented morale.   ”I run on inspiration rather than to a plan,” says Sherban. ”Malcolm is more calculating, and would prefer me not to, but he is right more often than not, so this time I am going to give it a try.”

His injuries returned and he had to withdraw from the event he had been racing all year, the 5000m on 24th August, and when it came to the 10000m on 27th August, he had to drop out while Chris Robison finished 10th in 29:50.23.   It had been a disappointing season for him, to put it mildly,    He did some racing on his return – a  9:10.45 steeplechase on 17th September at Bedford – but his season was really over after the Games.

That winter (1994-95) John Sherban ran in the National Cross-Country relay where he lifted Falkirk Victoria from tenth to fourth on the second stage, the short third stage of the Edinburgh to Glasgow where he ran the fastest time of the day by over a minute while lifting his club from eleventh to fifth, and missed the District and National  Championships as well as the six-stage road relay.   In summer 1995 he topped the 5000m rankings for the third successive year and had four times in the Scottish top 15.     Much faster  than the previous year, his best of the season was 13:46.76 set at Birmingham on 15th July.   Unplaced in any championship race his best times were al run south of the border – 14:01.28 at Birmingham on 1st July, 14:08.21 at Crystal Palace on 3rd June and 14:20.9 at Enfield on 19th August.    His best 1500m time was 3:45.6 at Derby on 30th July.   Scotland had seen the last of John Sherban – as the Scottish Athletics Yearbook for 1996 said: “Having left to live in Australia, he will be missed from the Scottish running scene in road, track and cross-country events.”

The reason for his coming to Scotland being as it was, it was natural that most of his summer running be done in England but  he did run well in Scotland and added to the quality of any representative team for which he was selected.   He was unfortunate in his catalogue of injuries, especially in 1994, but was undoubtedly a runner of real quality.

Cyril O’Boyle

Cyril EG

Cyril o’Boyle running in the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay 

Cyril O’Boyle was one of the great characters In the sport.   A quite superb athlete over a long period he also had a mischievous sense of humour and was one of the few athletes I have met who could transform the performance of a team just by turning up to run.   Coming from Donegal he had won many titles and trophies there before coming to Scotland.   He had won the North of Ireland Senior and Junior Cross Country Championships in the same year and also the Irish equivalents in the same year.   Typically for Cyril, when he moved to Scotland nothing went smoothly.   There were two governing bodies for the sport in Ireland, the NIAAA (Northern Ireland AAA) and the NACA (Northern Athletic and Cycling Association) which did not see eye to eye with each other.   When he came to Scotland and joined Victoria Park AAC he had difficulty getting permission to run because the NACA was proscribed by the SAAA who only recognised the NIAAA!   He returned to Ireland where he was banned by the NACA who did not recognise the SAAA.   Then he came back to Scotland and chose to run for Clydesdale Harriers and again had to seek permission from the SAAA (who did not recognise the NACA)!   Fortunately the permission was forthcoming and Cyril (and later on his family) was able to race for Clydesdale Harriers.


Cyril with Jimmy Ellis, Johnny Stirling with Ian Binnie in front while with VPAAC


Cyril was born in Kinclasslagh on 23rd February 1926.   The family emigrated to America when he was an infant but returned to Ireland when his grandfather died when he was seven years old.   He worked for a time at St Coman’s Hospital and then moving to England for a short spell before settling in Scotland.   His career as a runner was quite outstanding.   

His quality was such that he is still almost revered in Ireland.   If you look at the internet site for the Strabane History Society there is an entry in the sports section which reads: “In 1950 Cyril O’Boyle from Letterkenny, registered as a Strabane athlete, won the All Ireland NACA (I) Junior Cross Country Championships at Graystone, Co Dublin.   Three months later O’Boyle won the senior event to become the first Irishman ever to record both events in the same year.”   Very few athletes were mentioned by name in the section.   The Finn Valley AC site was even more fulsome in its praise and a bit more detailed about his career with this piece in an account of sport in the Rosses district.   “It is fitting that we should end this study of our long distance runners with an account of the feats of Cyril O’Boyle.   Though his parents were not natives of the Rosses, he was born in Belcruit and attended Belcruit National School.   Reared in an athletic atmosphere where to shine as an athlete was the main ambition of the Rosses Youths, O’Boyle while yet a schoolboy outshone all his pals in long distance races.   It was no disgrace for his school friends to suffer defeat at the hands of O’Boyle for one day he was to meet and defeat the best athletes in Ireland.

 O’Boyle became attached to Strabane AC and soon showed that the Mile was his best distance.   He won the Mile Senior Championship of Ulster in 1950.   In 1951 he became Irish Junior and Senior Champion in the 5 Miles Cross Country Races.   He won the Mile Senior Championship of Ireland in 1952.   Not content to rest on his honours he crossed from Glasgow where he was then resident to win the 4 Mile Championship of Ireland in 1954.  In the latter event he was only a few seconds outside Martin Egan’s all time Irish record.   He still competes against the best, especially in cross country races.”    This was written in 2001 and was part of a fairly long article on the heroes of Irish athletics posted on the excellent Finn Valley AC website and is worth looking up at


Cyril leading Alex MxDougall (Vale of Leven) in the Balloch to Clydebank 12 miles

Cyril joined Clydesdale Harriers in season 1953-54 although some club members claim to remember him training with them a year or so before this.    He joined a very good club squad with George White, John Wright, Pat Younger, John Hume and company all at their best and  he went on to win many medals with and for the club.   He had very high standards for himself and would not run unless he was 100% fit.   There were times when the club would have been much better off with his presence but because he did not feel right, he would not run.   For that reason when he did turn up, his was always a welcome presence at any race.   In one of my first Edinburgh to Glasgow races, he was late in arriving and we were all on tenterhooks when he arrived at the very last minute possible and wandered on to the ‘straggler’s bus’ to great cheers from the rest of the team who had a marvellous lift just from his presence.   He ran in 10 E-G relays for the club and always did his very best.   (The stragglers bus?    There was a bus for each stage of the race and you were supposed to travel on the appropriate bus for your stage: but when the buses left for Edinburgh, there was always one that waited an extra 15 or 20 minutes for late arrivals and it was called the stragglers’ bus.)

Cyril’s athletic ability was always taken as read.   In the first place he was a notoriously hard trainer.   No run with Cyril was ever an easy run or a steady run: it was always a hard testing outing for the rest of the pack or whoever he was out with.   At one point he was asked to work with young Phil Dolan who went on to become a Scottish Internationalist on the track and over the country.   Phil will tell you that Cyril never did anyone any favours on a run: even with a 17 year old he worked hard.  There will be more about and from Phil later. Cyril’s training however was never pointless or thoughtless.   He read a lot and thought a lot about the sport.   He went to any meeting or lecture that he thought would help him: Forbes Carlisle the great Australian swimming coach was speaking in the Clydebank Public Library and Cyril was there – was Carlisle not coach for the Konrad twins?   Was swimming not also an anaerobic event?   He went to seminars held by the cycling club – was that not relevant as well?   When he was given a subscription to the ‘Runner’s World’ magazine by his daughter Moira he devoured it and discussed the articles at training and even on the hoof during the runs.   He could talk about the cardio vascular system in a way that few other club runners I have met could, he knew about the training of Vladimir Kuts and about ‘active rest’ days.   For a man without a great formal education he was learned in the ways of athletics.   He did not however accept all that he was told.   When as a teenager in Ireland he wrote to the great Joe Binks, a former world mile record holder about training he was told to curtail his training drastically and come down to three days a week.   Cyril laughed at this and went on his own way.    One of his dicta was that if you could not do the same session the next day, you were training too hard: it was not all thoughtless bashing out of the miles.

Cyril Chief

John Cassidy, George Carlin, Cyril and Douglas McDonald on the Reservation

What was he like as a coach?   Just after Phil Dolan had joined the club, he was encouraged to start training with Cyril.   Let Phil take up the story.   “After being linked up with him, Cyril approached me on the steps of the pavilion at the Recce (The recreation ground in Dalmuir).  “I’m Cyril” says he, “you must be Phil Dolan?”  “That’s right.”   Cyril asks “What training do you wish to do?”   He continues, “I was thinking of two laps of the Golf Course.”   “Fine,” I says and after changing we ran towards the Park Gates.   The pace was easy and confirmed my initial views that this would be an easy workout.  Little did I realise how wrong I was!   The pace gradually heated up and as we approached the various vantage points on the course Cyril would remark on the scenery be it the hills or the Clyde.   I was in no condition to counter.   He did not drop me – not that he was unable to – but it was a valuable lesson in the level of fitness required to compete at a decent level.   He could have lectured me or run away but his example of fitness and approach set the tone of my own fitness for years to come.”

Away from the track Cyril was as partial to a piece of venison as the next man and knew how and where to go about getting hold of it.    Whenever he was in or near the hills whether on a family picnic, on a run or just out walking he kept a weather eye open for the marks and signs of their presence.   He couldn’t stand snares and any he found were torn up and thrown as far away as he could manage.   We all had a tale to tell about this and Phil’s goes as follows: “I had occasionally run up the Humphrey Road into the Kilpatrick Hills on my own, so one day Cyril suggested a run up the Humphrey.   This was quite out of character but thinking it was a pleasant change I agreed.   We made our way up the hill and just before the first gate he beckoned me to leave the path, jump the fence and make our way up the grassy slopes and into the woods.   Suddenly it all became clear – he was surveying the wildlife and seeing what gamekeepers were on duty.   As the years rolled on the pattern became familiar.   Many a meal of venison, wild fowl and home baking I would enjoy over the years.     

Some years later Cyril, Pat Younger, Frank Kielty, Sandy MacNeill and Allan Sharp were in the Whitecrook dressing room.   Cyril, Pat and Frank were going to look for deer but required a van.   Sandy volunteered his services little knowing of the consequences (he could have lost his van if caught!)   I am not sure if Allan joined the group but in any event they got the deer but narrowly escaped detection and it was only on the following Thursday that Sandy fully realised the possible consequences of his actions.” 

The other great thing about Cyril was his impish sense of humour.   He was like a wee boy sometimes with his jokes and tricks.    He had trouble at one time with his heel and there was a big swelling on it.   He saw the doctor and when asked at the club what the solution was he said that they could cut a big cross in the swelling, peel back the skin and scrape out the problem tissue.   Was there anything else they could do was the next question to which he replied that, well, there were some wee tablets you could take!    After a particularly good run on the second stage of the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay he ran in behind Adrian Jackson of Edinburgh University.   When it was put to him that he might have overtaken him Cyril replied that he just could not bring himself to pass a green jersey!   In reality he had run a superb race.    Crossing the moors above Clydebank he would tell you to bear right, bear right and when you looked up he was haring off to the left.   When the Road Race organisers at the Babcock’s Sports decided one year that runners would have both individual numbers and also team numbers, most just wore their individual numbers but Cyril wore both, one above the other, just to confuse the officials!

He was also very gregarious and generous: I went in one night to collect an ‘Athletics Weekly’ that I had loaned him and ended up with a dish of stew and potatoes and a big spoon in my hand – plus a glass of clear liquid from an Iron Brew bottle that did not contain Iron Brew!   His family – wife Noreen and daughters Moira and Pat were all well known in the club and all ran at some time or another.  Pat did not stick at it because of her asthma but Noreen became a veteran international runner and Moira of course ran for Ireland in Olympic, Commonwealth and European Championships in the marathon.

He won many club championships at a time when the club with John Wright, George White and Pat Younger was very strong.   At County level he won the track One Mile and Three Miles championships more than once, on the road he won the Balloch to Clydebank several times, he won the cross country championship and had the fastest time in the county cross country relays.   In the National Championships he was in the first ten twice.    His best run in the National was probably in 1955 when the club was third.   They had all trained as a group that winter with Cyril missing the late night Monday and Wednesday sessions because as a seasoned runner who could train during the day he did his own training then while joining in with the lads on Tuesdays, Thursdays and at weekends.   He was sixth that year and should have been selected for the international but was not picked because of his Irish nationality.   It was a close vote in the selection committee where he only lost out by one vote – and the Clydesdale representative voted against his inclusion!

He was always very competitive.   Even later on when he was not racing, he kept himself very fit and never gave anyone an easy run.   Phil Dolan again: The Ulster Marathon takes place in August of each year and often takes place in Donegal.   It was called the Letterkenny Marathon and incorporated the Championships.   In 1976 I won the race which at that time took place on uneven, undulating roads.   Cyril and Danny McDaid followed the race and provided encouragement.   He befriended an unknown English runner whom Cyril just called ‘The Englishman”.   It transpired that he was a member of the Warrington club and trained with an English internationalist whose name escapes me.   After the race, Cyril questioned him on his level of fitness and the type of training he followed.   Most of his running was on the road or parkland.   The following Tuesday he was invited to Cyril’s where he was taken over some of the toughest terrain imaginable.   Both Cyril and I ran away towards the end of the run and then returned to get him.   He was exhausted and could not drive the ten miles back to town until nightfall.   He was added to Cyril’s list of ‘victims’ – a euphemism for any athlete passed on training runs!”

He was not always so keen to catch the opposition early however as on this occasion recounted by Phil:   One dark winter’s night as we ran along the canal bank some spotty youth grabbed Cyril’s woollen hat.  As I quickened my pace to retrieve it Cyril cautioned and advised me to take my time.   The chase seemed to take longer than required but as we approached the Linnvale Bridge it all became clear.   The spotty youth was shattered.   Cyril then let it be known that the behaviour was unacceptable.   I have no doubt that he did not employ that trick again.”

 Cyril Bobby

Cyril to Bobby Shields at the second changeover in the E-G

His record in the Edinburgh to Glasgow eight stage relay is also a good one.   His best runs in the event were in 1955 when he was on the longest stage against some of the top men and turned in the sixth fastest time; in 1959 when he had fifth fastest again on the sixth stage.   Generally in the first ten times and but for one race he was chosen for the most difficult stages – the very high quality second stage and the long sixth stage.

However, if we go back to his arrival in the club, we had a first class athlete who had seldom if ever raced when he was with Victoria Park for a short spell.   Then he ran in the Dunbartonshire Cross Country Championship and it set everyone talking.   J Emmett Farrell writing in the ‘Scots Athlete’ for February 1955 said:

“A surprise victory to some but not those in the know was the success of Cyril O’Boyle, now of Clydesdale, who had a comfortable margin over the much improved A McDougall (Vale of Leven) and Gordon Dunn (Garscube) in the Dunbartonshire 7 Miles Championship.   The class of O’Boyle becomes clear when we learn that he won the Eire 4 Miles Championship last July in 19 mins 48 secs and was second in the Mile when he and the winner both clocked the same time of 4:24 in an entry so large that it looked like a cross country start. 

If cleared by his Irish Association and eligible to compete in our open championship, O’Boyle – a most consistent and hard trainer – will be definitely one to watch.”

And as if that were not enough he went on to say in his preview of the National Championship to say: “I have such a high regard for Eddie Bannon (Shettleston) that I am loath to write him off and, if he does not win, the man I fancy would be the classy Irish runner Cyril O’Boyle, now with Clydesdale Harriers.   At the moment I would bracket these as joint favourites.”

He then listed the first six in what he considered finishing order: 1.   Bannon; 2.   O’Boyle; 3.   Joe McGhee; 4.   AH Brown; 5.   J Stevenson;   6.   D Henson.   The actual finishing order was Henson, J Stevenson, McGhee, Binnie, T Stevenson, O’Boyle and Bannon.   Cyril was 45 seconds behind the winner. And 15 seconds ahead of Bannon.

Cyril went on to run well enough the following summer without too much racing involved but the following winter he started in the DAAA Relays where he ran the second stage in the team which was second to Garscube Harriers in the third quickest time of the day.   In the Midlands Relays at Stepps he had the fastest club time by 19 seconds from John Wright in a team which finished sixth.  He then ran in the Midland District Championships at Lenzie where he finished 16th – one place behind John Wright – with the team placing third.  This time in the ‘Scots Athlete’ Emmett Farrell was only predicting a first ten placing for Cyril in the National.   Then he wrote:“Cyril O’Boyle is an enigma.   In the mood he could probably win outright this race, on the other hand he can be without fire.   The wide open spaces of Hamilton may suit him more than the tight Lenzie trail.   Colleague George White perhaps running better now than at any time in his career may fail to earn a jersey only because there are so many classy runners in the field.”   Living up to his enigma status Cyril did not run at Hamilton where George White was thirty first, ten places ahead of Jackie Higginson.

Emmett was spot on with his remark that Cyril was an enigma.   It might be that he felt within himself that he had nothing left to prove having won National titles in Ireland and with a handful of wins in Scotland; it might just have been in his easy going nature that made him an in-and-out kind of athlete, he might just have been lacking self discipline or self confidence.   The truth was probably at least in part down to a series of bad injuries.   From time to time the ‘Clydebank Press’ used phrases such as “Cyril O’Boyle’s troublesome tendon…” or “A recurrence of an old injury …”    Whatever the reason was, for the remainder of his time with the club he had superb runs interwoven with very ordinary performances.  For example the following cross country season he raced sparingly with a time slower than John Wright in the McAndrew Relays, then he had the third fastest time in the County Relays followed by the second fastest time for the club in the seventh placed team in the District Relays at Stepps with 14:27 behind John Wright’s 14:07 which was the sixth fastest of the day.   As for the National, he did not run there.   A lot of the inconsistency could be put down to injuries that came with increasing frequency as time progressed which hindered training and racing.

His influence on the club had been wider than his own racing however: he could motivate others, he could get them talking about training and racing and generally added to the club spirit.   He gave the others a good feeling about themselves.   For the rest of his time with the club he ran when he could and was actually turning out at times in the early 90’s before returning to Ireland.    At one point he was only coaching/advising two athletes – Phil Dolan and his own daughter Moira.   When they were both selected for the international cross country championships in Wrexham in the same year he claimed to be the only coach who had a 100% success rate for international selection.   Incidentally Moira was a regular member of the Irish team after they returned to Ireland and was a top class marathon runner with times inside 2:40 for the distance.   She ran in Scotland in the 1986 Commonwealth Games event (as Moira O’Neill) where she finished eighth in 2:42:29.   Other than that she won the Belfast Marathon twice (1985 and 1986) and the Dublin Marathon twice (1988 and 1989).   She set Northern Ireland records for the 15K (56:16), 10 Miles (58:29), Half Marathon (1:15:57) and Marathon (2:37:06).

Then there was the time when he went with the family to Ireland on holiday and he won the veteran’s race at a local meeting with Moira winning the Ladies race, Noreen being first Lady Veteran and Pat?   Well she won the beauty contest!   What a family!    Regardless of his reputation as a coach, poacher or practical joker he was justly remembered as a top flight athlete on both sides of the Irish Sea.   Phil has yet another tale to tell: “In 1970 I ran in the Peel Hill Race in the Isle of Man and won beating Maurice Herriott in the process.   The result was on Manx Radio and when I got back to my hotel I entered the lounge to partake of the traditional supper.   There was an Irishman on holiday who had been listening to the radio and when my pals began to talk about the evening, the Irishman began to chat.   It transpired that he knew of Cyril and his exploits in the Irish Four Miles Championships.   He confirmed that Cyril was indeed very well known in Ireland and if his reputation needed increased in my eyes, then that meeting confirmed it!

After he retired and returned to Ireland many of the Harriers travelled over to visit him and received the warmest of welcomes.   The picture below is of Cyril on the left with another Harriers legend, Pat Younger, outside his little cottage.

Cyril Pat

Cyril (left) at his cottage in Ireland with old Clydesdale team mate Pat Younger 

In 2001 Cyril was ranked number six in the World M75 10,000 metres track ranking lists with a time of 46:54.93 which he ran in Brisbane, Australia on 9th July of that year.   (    This was an Irish Masters Track and Field Record.    He also raced in the World Vets in Gateshead in 1989 where as an M70 veteran he clocked 6:03.27 for 1500 metres, in the World Cross Country in 2001 as an M75 he was fourth in the cross country in 39:20.   He was also entered for Championships in Potsdam in Germany (2002) and Aarhus in Denmark (2004).

Quite a celebrity in the Northern Ireland athletics world, he was the first inductee into the Donegal Athletics Hall of Fame in February 2016.   It is covered at –  which has several pictures of Cyril and wife Noreen, and there is also brief coverage at –

As the man said in ‘Gregory’s Girl’, “What a guy!”

Adrian Jackson

AJ 2

Adrian Jackson, front row right – next to Hunter Watson.

Adrian Jackson was a very fine runner indeed and when I first came into the sport in 1957 he was one of the best in the country – bear in mind that the 1950’s was almost a ‘Golden Decade’ for Scottish distance running.   Colin Youngson wrote this profile and as you read it, note the names that he crossed swords with and you will appreciate the quality of the athlete.

Adrian Sylvester Jackson was born on 15th December 1933. As a young man he ran for a club in Leeds but then went away to study at Edinburgh University between 1953 and 1960, when he completed his medical degree. Throughout this period AS Jackson was an outstanding athlete, and frequently the best runner in the East of Scotland. He was EU CC champion from 1954-1959; and won full blues for Cross Country in 1954, 1957, 58 and 59; and for Athletics in 1954, 1955, 56, 57, 59 and 60. He was a Scottish International athlete on both track and country

Hunter Watson, who later became a long-serving Club Secretary for Aberdeen AAC, was studying at Edinburgh University when news came in Autumn 1953 that an outstanding young runner from Yorkshire was about join the Hare & Hounds. [Hunter was a talented athlete who went on to win the East District Youth CC in 1954 and to finish second in the Youth National CC. Later that year he became Scottish Junior Mile Champion. In 1955 Hunter was East District one mile champion and in 1956 secured Scottish Universities titles at one mile and three miles. He enjoyed a long career, winning bronze and silver medals in the Scottish Senior 880 and Mile; and eventually retired to concentrate on coaching after victories in: the 1976 British Veterans 800m; 1976 Scottish Veterans 800m (in record time); and 1977 Scottish Veterans 1500m (also a new record).] He remembers sitting in a train compartment, travelling from Edinburgh to Kirkcaldy before the first East District League race of the Winter season, and trying to guess which of his team-mates was this new star from the North of England. He did not realise that the short fellow opposite was that very man, Adrian Jackson, who was to be the Best Man at Hunter’s wedding and a lifelong friend. Hunter sums Adrian up as “a very pleasant, unassuming wee chap”. Hunter featured along with Adrian in many winning EU teams, including the 1955 Scottish Junior CC.

In early 1954, after a thrilling race for the East District CC title, Adrian finished only three seconds behind the winner, Sandy Robertson (ESH), but led Edinburgh University Hare & Hounds to the first of three consecutive team victories, when they lifted the Fraser Trophy. Adrian, that year’s Scottish Universities CC Champion, was favourite in the 1954 Scottish Junior National but, as Colin Shields noted in his centenary history of the SCCU “Young John MacLaren of Shotts Miners Welfare Club, who had the handicap (due to a childhood attack of polio) of a withered left arm tied to his chest, ran a sensational race …. showing grit and courage to defeat Jackson by four seconds.” Nevertheless, Edinburgh University won the award for first team.

In early summer, Adrian won the Scottish Universities track events over one mile (in front of Hunter Watson and Alastair Wood) and three miles, a feat he repeated in 1955, 1958 and 1959. He also broke SU records at these distances. In the East Districts, he was first in both one mile and three miles. His time in the latter (14.27.1) was a new record.   Then on the track at New Meadowbank, Edinburgh, Adrian Jackson became SAAA Champion at one mile. After a tactical race against J.L Hendry of Walton AC, Jackson won in 4 minutes 19.5 seconds. Emmet Farrell commented in The Scots Athlete “The time might be considered workmanlike, but for a man regarded primarily as a two or three-miler, it was a grand effort”. Apart from the mile, Adrian’s best times that season were: 2 miles 9.14.8; 3 miles 14.22.1.

 In November 1954 at Galashiels, Edinburgh University won the Mackenzie Cup after winning the Eastern District Ten Miles CC Relay. A few days later Adrian ran on the prestigious Stage Six in the Edinburgh to Glasgow Road Relay, when the Edinburgh students did very well to finish fourth.

Adrian won the 1955 British Universities CC title, by 150 yards on Wimbledon Common. That season’s Scottish National Junior Cross-Country Championships produced a similar result to the previous year: A.S. Jackson second to John McLaren (who later had a tremendous run to win the English Junior CC as well), with EUH&H retaining their team title. Scorers were ‘The Famous Four’ – Adrian Jackson, Adrian Horne (1956 East District CC winner), Hunter Watson and Jim Paterson (who won Scottish titles at 440, 880 and Two Miles Steeplechase and in 1957 became National Record holder over 800 metres with the outstanding time of 1.47.5).

During the track season, Adrian won the Scottish Universities mile (once again, in front of Hunter Watson and Alastair Wood) and three miles. However in the East Districts mile, Hunter outsprinted Adrian to win in 4.18.1, which was a new record. Then AS Jackson defended his Scottish One Mile title, but finished second, well behind the new star Graham Everett. Undoubtedly, one of Adrian’s finest achievements was when he won the 1955 World Student Games 5000m in Spain. San Sebastian was the venue; the redoubtable General Franco presented the trophy; and shortly afterwards, Adrian lost it and never saw it again! He was third in the Scottish rankings for Three Miles (14.13.0).

Later that year in the E to G, the Edinburgh Students were eighth, with Adrian again on the longest Stage Six, only 28 seconds slower than the fastest man, Eddie Bannon of Shettleston (who was National CC Champion four times).

1956 was a very successful year for Adrian Jackson. In the summer he won the East Districts One Mile and then became Scottish Champion in the Three Miles track event – another tactical victory (14.33.6) at New Meadowbank. In The Scots Athlete, Jim Logan reported: “This race was another cat-and-mouse, with the issue clearly between Adrian Jackson and Andy Brown. Jackson began his effort at the second-last bend and almost met disaster when he collided with a lapped man who politely, but belatedly, moved out to let the leaders pass inside. Jackson was undisturbed by the incident and raced home seven seconds clear in a very fast finish.” The cover photo of The Scots Athlete magazine for August 1956 shows Adrian stalking the early leader Bobby Calderwood, with a very young-looking Andy Brown tucked in behind. Adrian’s fastest time for three miles that season was 13.55; and for two miles 9.00.7. He was first in the Scottish Rankings for both events.

AJ 1

Bobby Calderwood, Adrian Jackson and Andy Brown in the Three Miles in 1956.

He also won the British Universities 3 Miles Championship. After that, an invitation came to take part (one of two British athletes) in the Mannerheim Games in Helsinki, on the 1952 Olympic track.    On 4th June he won the 5000m in 14.13.6, which was tenth on the British all-time list. That time would have been good enough for fourth in the Olympics (when Emil Zatopek had won in 14.06.6). In 1924 Paavo Nurmi’s world record had been 14.28.2. Adrian was first in the Scottish 5000m Rankings.

In November EU finished 7th, but Adrian broke Pat Moy’s record for the important Second Stage by one second, with the time of 29.48. (In 1958 EU were ninth, but Adrian ran very well for fourth fastest on Two, only 16 seconds slower than the fastest man –  Shettleston’s Joe McGhee, the 1954 Vancouver Commonwealth Games marathon victor.)

In 1957, Adrian regained both the Scottish Universities CC (in Aberdeen) and the British Universities CC titles. He also won the East Districts CC (and repeated this feat in 1958, 1959 and 1961). In 1961, having graduated from EU at last, he represented Braidburn AC and narrowly defeated the rising star John Linaker from Pitreavie AC. In the summer of 1957, Adrian did not compete, probably because of injury or studying for important examinations. In 1958 he retained his SU CC crown in Edinburgh; and was second in the Scottish Three Miles (14.16.2). He also ran 14.05.6 that season and was third in the ranking list.

George Brown (later on a stalwart for ESH, see The Fast Pack) studied at EU between 1956 and 1959 and ran well on track (4.12.7 mile), country (featuring in SU CC team victories) and road (sub 50 minutes for the Tom Scott 10 Miles.) George remembers Adrian as quiet, pleasant and extremely modest. They used to train by running five and a half miles from King’s Buildings, down to Liberton Dam, across some flat country, then farmland, followed by a tour of the tough Braid Hills. This demanding route was also used for EUH&H time-trials!

Scottish International runner and Scottish Three Miles Champion Steve Taylor of Aberdeen AAC remembers Adrian Jackson as a polite, well-liked gentleman. However Steve recalls with chagrin one East District so-called Cross Country Championship at Newcraighall, during a foot-and-mouth crisis in 1961, which had to be run on the road. Taylor had a good lead but Jackson finished very strongly to push him into second place. Steve also remembers a dreadfully hot International CC Championships (1961 at Nantes) when Adrian and he both suffered, due to the temperature and the formidable concrete barriers which had to be cleared.

Adrian Jackson’s best placings in Senior National CC (contested over nine gruelling miles at Hamilton Racecourse) were 7th in 1958 and 6th in both 1959 and 1961. Consequently he was chosen to run for Scotland in the International Cross Country Championships in: Cardiff 1958, (46th), Lisbon 1959 (30th) and Nantes 1961 (51st). He was a scoring member of the Scottish team in 1958 and 1959.

In 1959, Adrian won the Scottish Universities CC title in Glasgow, with David Carter from St Andrews University in second place. That summer Jackson ran very well to win a silver medal in the 1959 SAAA Three Miles, losing narrowly (by two tenths of a second) in a sprint against Alastair Wood of Shettleston (and later Aberdeen AAC), who finished in 13.58.6. That season, Adrian recorded a faster Three Mile time of 13.52.2 and was fourth in the Scottish ranking list.

After 1961, it seems that Adrian Jackson retired from athletics and concentrated on his medical career, becoming a Consultant Anaesthetist in Cheltenham. However from 1982 onwards he competed with considerable success as a veteran in the World Medical Games, winning fifteen gold medals. In 1982 the event was termed The Medical Olympic Games and Adrian won both 1500m and 5000m (16.58, which set a new record). Later on, he competed in half marathons, triathlons and even the 1992 London Marathon.

It is however as a runner with Edinburgh University that he will probably be best remembered in Scotland/   He was probably at the height of his powers as a runner then – note his racing in international races during that period .   There was an interesting double act with Hunter Watson at that time: invariably when representing Edinburgh University against another university or a club, Hunter led for the first three laps and Adrian got away from him on the final lap. No one ever split them . However, the tables were reversed on one occaion  when Hunter did manage to beat Adrian in the mile:  on that occasion  for some inexplicable reason he led and Hunter was able to out sprint him on the final straight. Thanks to his pace making his team mate was able to get down to 4:18.1 on that occasion and, as a consequence cut 5.2 seconds from the record for the East of Scotland mile championships in 1955. The press did not report who the previous record holder had been but, almost certainly it had been G.M. (Morris) Carstairs, someone who had finished sixth in the 5000 metres in the 1938 European Championships.   

There is no doubt that Adrian Jackson would have been a top class athlete in any generation and Scotland was lucky to see him racing at his best.   He died on 1st May 2014.   

John Joe Barry


Leading in the AAA’s  in 1949

Scottish athletics has often been enriched by the presence of Irish runners.   During the dark years of the 1920’s and 1930’s many Irishmen came to Scotland looking for or following the work that was available.   For instance a large group came to Clydebank to work on The Empress of Britain and stayed on, or left and came back to help build Job Number 534 (The Queen Mary).   Many signed up with Clydesdale Harriers with the best being Hans Noble, who ran for Ireland in the International Championships in Wales in 1933.   He was to return after the war and become the first official coach in the club – in common with other clubs pre-war, his predecessors in the role were designated ‘trainers’.   However, the one who made the biggest impact in the country was almost certainly John Joe Barry.   When in Scotland, he ran for the small St Machan’s AC based in Lennoxtown under the Campsie Fells and he would go on set world records and win many championships and become one of Ireland’s best ever runners.

He was born in the United States, in Joliet, Illinois on October 5th 1925.   After leaving school he joined his local club, Ballincurry AC when he was 19 and for the remainder of his running career he was known as The Ballincurry Hare – and that nickname became the title of his autobiography published in 1986 but now, sadly out of print.   While with Ballincurry AC, he won the Irish cross-country title plus the track mile and four miles championships in 1945.   After joining the Civil Service Harriers, he he won the half mile and mile championships in 1946  and in 1947 he ran an Irish record for the mile of 4:15.2 breaking the 4:15.6 set by Tommy Conneff in 1895 which was a world record at the time.   In 1948 he won the half mile and mile titles again running in the colours of Clonliffe Harriers.   In 1949 he won the SAAA three miles and also the AAA three miles.   When he won the 1950 American indoor mile title he held simultaneously the Irish, Scottish, English and American mile titles.    He had gone to America to attend Villanova University, the first of many Irishmen to do so.   He graduated in commerce and finance in 1954 following which he spent most of his business career in the States.   After he retired he returned to live the rest of his time in Dublin, where he died in December 1994.

His personal best times were: 1500 – 3:51.4 (1949);    Mile – 4:08.6 (1949);   2 miles – 8:59.0 (1949);    3 miles – 13:56.2 (1949);    5000 – unknown.

John Joe Barry lived and competed in Scotland in 1948 and 1949 racing a lot – many said too much – and in 1949 was the best and most consistent distance runner in the British Isles.   We will look here at the lead-in to and then his wonderful 1949 summer season.  His 1948 Scottish season was not notable but the first mention we get of him is in the ‘Scots Athlete’ of December 1948 which simply says, “Another favourite with the fans is the Irish miler JJ Barry.   Now resident in Lennoxtown we should see plenty of him next season.   Although apparently established as a miler, it is possible that the “Ballycurren Hare” may yet gain even further distinction over the longer stretches.”   Although he didn’t seem to race much over the country, in the Midland District Championships on 5th February 1949, the winner was JJ Barry of St Machan’s AAC by a second from JF Fleming of Motherwell YMCA.   Eddie Taylor’s race report read “Olympic runner JJ Barry of St Machan’s AC getting there by one second before Jim Fleming of Motherwell YM followed by Jim Stuart of Shettleston 20 secs behind.   These three dominated the race taking it in turn to be in the lead and trying to ‘break away’.   John Joe made an effort twice in the wood to cut loose, Stuart had one or two tries and Fleming about half a mile to go tried to shake off the opposition, but all these endeavours were unsuccessful and it was ‘cat and mouse’ to the finish.   Barry obviously has the class and these three reputed milers will shake up our long distance stars for National honours.” 

 The report in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ on the Ibrox Sports organised by Bellahouston Harriers on 28th May, 1949, started “JJ Barry’s winning time of 14 min 30.2 sec in the special three mile race was remarkably good considering the conditions.   Seconds were lost because of the gusty wind with which he and the other competitors had to contend in the finishing straight which had to be traversed in each lap of the 12 lap journey.   Andrew Forbes, the Scottish champion, cut out the pace for most of the race.   He led at one mile in 4 min 48 sec and at two miles in 9 min 50 sec and still had a chance of beating his own record of 14 min 32.2 sec.   It was obvious however that the all-comers record of 14 min 03.4 was in no danger of being broken.   Over the last lap Forbes continued to lead but with 300 yards to go HA Olney (Thanes Valley Harriers) shot out from behind and Barry immediately followed him.   The pair raced up the home straight but 30 yards from the tape, Barry went to the front and, confidently glancing over his left shoulder, the Irishman won by two yards from the Englishman with Forbes another 30 yards behind.   Forbes covered the distance in 14 min 34.8 sec.”  

In the Glasgow Police Sports at Hampden on 11th June, Barry took on Fred Wilt of the Unites States in a special two miles race in which both men ran from scratch in a handicap event.   The ‘Herald’ said:“One of the best races in the programme was the two miles in which JJ Barry of Eire found more than his match in Fred Wilt of the United States.   Finishing the first mile in 4 min 32 sec, the Irishman did more than he was accustomed to do by making the pace.   Neither he nor Wilt was concerned about the field of handicap runners during the first mile and a half.   Then both made substantial progress, and over the last lap the American put in a finish with which the Barry was unable to cope.   He as well as the winner was inside the 45 year old record of Alfred Shrubb, the winner by 4.4 sec and Barry by 3 seconds.  

In the April issue of the magazine there was a report on the all-Ireland championships held at Finglass where Steve McCooke won for the third time in four years over a minute in front of John Joe who finished strongly to be second just one second in front of third man P Fahy.   The international that year was held at Baldoyle Racecourse in Dublin and he was second Irish finisher (14th) in the team that finished third.   He was one place in front of Scotland’s first finisher Andy Forbes of Victoria Park by seven seconds.   Emmett Farrell, in the preview of the SAAA Championships to be held in June said.“JOHN JOE BARRY IS ELIGIBLE.   Now resident in Lennoxtown, and running under the colours of the local St Machan’s, John Joe Barry will be eligible for this year’s championships.   Thus early in the season John Joe has shown that his cross-country efforts have not blunted the brilliant speed which earned for him the title of ‘The Ballycurren Hare’   Barry is both versatile and unorthodox to such an extent that he could run in the 1 mile or the 3 miles or even both events.   Should he confine his attentions to the mile, he would appear to have the edge  on his opponents including holder Jas. Fleming and ex-holder Frank Sinclair.   Still the Motherwell man should be capable of improvement and could the latter really get down to a serious preparation, well even Barry would know he had been in a race.” 

On Monday evening of 13th June, at Helenvale Park in Glasgow, John Joe ran one and a half miles in 6:33.8 – a world’s best time for the distance.   The distance was not recognised as a world record because the distance was not recognised but nevertheless it made the whole athletics world sit up and take notice.   The Glasgow Herald athletics correspondent said: “John J Barry the St Machan’s and Clonliffe Harrier (Eire) runner created a new world record for one and a half miles at Helenvale Park last night when at St Machan’s Sports meeting he covered the distance in 6 minutes 33.8 seconds.   Barry’s time was 2-10th sec faster than the previous best set by Glenn Cunningham (USA) in 1937 and 2.7 better than the British record set by Tom Riddell (Shettleston Harriers) in 1935.   With the Scottish mile and three mile champions J Fleming and A Forbes running from 20 and 25 yards respectively Barry covered the first mile in 4 min 22 sec and had his field well in hand. Round the last lap he put in a superb effort to beat W Lennie (Vale of Leven) to whom he was conceding 85 yards  and won by 30 yards.”   A world record set in Glasgow in a handicap race at a meeting organised by St Machan’s AC from Lennoxtown.   That’s a thing that will never be seen again – and not just because St Machan’s AC is defunct.  I’ll say more about the club below.

The Scots Athlete devoted two pages to the man after this world record in their June 1949 issue under the headline “A World Record for John Joe Barry” and I quote the article – probably by Emmet Farrell with contributions from Walter Ross.  

“At Helenvale Park, Glasgow, on Monday 13th June, 1949, the amazing John Joe Barry (St Machan’s AC and Eire) romped one and a half miles in 6 mins 33.8 secs.   Though the time will be generally accepted, it will not be ratified as an official world’s record as the one-and-a-half-miles race is not recognised by the IAAF for record purposes.   John set out to beat former Scottish Champion Tom Riddell’s British all-comer’s best of 6 mins 36.5 secs made incidentally in 1935 on the same fast and fine Helenvale ground.   But the “Ballycurren Hare” was in sparkling form and also beat the previous world’s best of 6 mins 34 secs standing to the name of the great Glenn Cunningham, USA.   His lap times were 59.5, 66.5, 67.9, 68.1 (1 mile in 4 mins 22 secs), 67.8 and 64 secs.   Many thought that the very fast first lap would foil his attempt but John Joe is athletically a law unto himself.

Probably the most amazing factor of this wonderful achievement was that this was his seventh major race in nine days.   On Saturday 4th June, he won the half mile, mile and three miles rish Championship.   At the international meeting in Dublin the following Wednesday though beaten by Wilt, the American, he ran his fastest mile ever, around 4 mins 13 secs.   On the following evening he avenged the defeat by winning the 3 miles on a heavy 5-lap grass track in the almost unbelievable time of 13 mins 56.2 secs.   Then returning to Glasgow for the Police Sports at Hampden on 11th June, though beaten again by Wilt over 2 miles on this occasion, he was more than 2 secs inside the grand Scottish all-comer’s record of Alfred Shrubb which stood at 9 mins 9.6 secs.   Imagine a world record two days after that programme!   What a man!   At 23 years of age there is no telling what he can do in the future.   He has our best wishes.”

Andy Forbes and Barry had some great duels and none more exciting than in the SAAA Championships in June, 1949, in the Three  Miles Championship.   The Herald’: “Probably the best achievement on Saturday, was that of A Forbes in the three mile event.   In one of the finest races seen in Scotland for many a day, Forbes covered the distance in 4 min 18.4 sec – 13.8 sec  better than his previous native record.   JJ Barry (St Machan’s) the winner of the event in 0.2 sec faster time put in a tremendous finish to catch the Scot.”

The report by Emmet Farrell in his ‘Running Commentary’ in the Scots Athlete also made a bit more of Forbes’s running than of Barry’s but gave his reason why.   “The duel between John Joe Barry and Andy Forbes in the 3 miles was a classic and will be a fragrant memory to those privileges to be present.   Forbes in particular ran the race of his life and although losing his title cracked his own native record to the tune of 14 seconds, a remarkable display of powerful and artistic running.   It may seem churlish to lavish more praise on the runner-up than the victor.   Barry after all came back in magnificent fashion after his disappointing show in the half mile to win the three miles title in gallant fashion despite the reaction caused by his earlier racing and previous heavy programme.   He too proved himself a “bonny fechter”.   But we knew John Joe was capable of such running.   On the other hand, Andrew Forbes surpassed himself.   Not only did he bear the heat and burden of the day, by assuming the role of pace maker, but he took John Joe right to the tape, demonstrating an entirely unsuspected brand of finishing power.

The finish of 1949 SAAA Three Miles Championship

Despite Barry’s four star display in the 3 miles at Hampden, I had a feeling that he was beginning to feel the strain of his recent terrific programme yet the proof of the pudding is the eating.   A few days later the Tipperary man completed the mile at Helenvale Park in the wonderful time of 4 mins 12.1 secs , just 1.1 secs outside Wooderson’s all-comers record of 4 mins 11 secs.   Barry lapped in respectively 61, 64, 66 and 61.2 secs.   Wooderson in 60, 64, 66 and 61 secs.   A remarkable similarity indeed.  

As if that were not enough, Barry competed at Dublin next day where he gave an example of his amazing powers of recuperation.   In the 2 miles invitation event he ran clean away from Douglas Wilson who joined him on the scratch mark and passed Andy Forbes off the 35 yards mark to put up the magnificent time of 8 mins 59 secs, 6 secs faster than the time put up by Sidney Wooderson 3 years ago and claimed as a world record for a grass track.   Barry’s time is the fastest ever run in these islands.   The British record stands to the credit of Gunder Hagg of Sweden with his time of 9 mins 0.6 secs set at the White City in 1945.   Incidentally, though again beaten by Barry, Andrew Forbes ran another grand race, clocking an approximate time of 9 mins 17 secs, only 4 secs outside Scottish native record time.”   

Barry went on to win the AAA’s 3 miles on 16th June at the White City.   “Andrew Forbes (Victoria Park) knew quite well that to figure among the leaders at the finish of the three miles he had to get out to the front, and so he made most of the pace in the early stages, and then JJ Barry, who was the favourite for the race, took a hand in the leading out work.   Between them they they reeled off the first mile in 4 mins 47.6 secs, two miles in 9 mins 33 secs and despite a determined challenge by the Englishman AH Chivers Barry stayed on to win in 14 mins 11 sec.   Forbes finished fourth behind HA Olney in 14 mins 36.8 secs, a time which he has beaten handsomely more than once.”

This prompting Emmet Farrell to mention him as a possible British athlete of the Year.   “John Joe Barry has of course put up the most consistently high standard of performances in these islands.   Technically John Joe does not rank as a British runner as in International competition like the European or Olympic Games he would represent Eire.   The great Irish runner is the promoter’s dream, a colourful, brilliant whole-hearted trier.   Last year he ran like a novice this year he is on the fringe of world class.   What of the future?   Sooner or later he must meet men of the Reiff-Zatopek class.   Will he endeavour to conserve his energies somewhat?   Will he get down to a definite schedule?   We shall see.”

Before meeting these stars however, it was back to earth with a bump when he ran a mile at Linlithgow the following week in 4 minutes 20.8 seconds but could only finish fifth – he was conceding starts up to 165 yards in the handicap.   A week later in the Vale of Leven Sports he had a tussle with Walter Lennie of the home club (who had a 55 yard start on him)  to finish second to the home runner by the width of a vest in 4:20.5.   On August 6th at the Rangers Sports, Barry “was his usual rampant self” in winning the two miles – “never before had he made his opponents appear such novices” – from Andy Forbes (off 20 yards) and James Reid (off 40 yards) in 9:14.2.   On 13th August in the international between England & Wales and Scotland & Ireland, he won the three miles in 14:41.6.   On 27th August he set a new Irish record for the mile of 4 minutes 8.9 seconds.   The ‘Herald’ said: “JJ Barry whose previous best time for the mile was 4 mins 9.4 secs failed in his attempt in Dublin to reach the goal of all milers – a four minute mile.   He did, however, set a new Irish record of 4 mins 8.9 secs.   A second lap of 65 seconds ruined his chances, but his times for the first third and fourth laps of  60.6, 60.7 and 61.3 seconds were creditable efforts.”

At the start of September he ran in Belgium over a mile against Willy Slijkhuis of Holland but was beaten by almost four seconds – 4:12.4 to 4:16.0 – and the report on the race in the Scots Athlete ended with the following paragraph:   “Unless he changes his mind Barry intends to settle in the USA after appearing in the indoor season early next year, and if so we may see him only on rare occasions if at all.   I feel certain that the “Ballycurran Hare” will prove a popular figure over there.   Our loss will be America’s gain.”   And so it proved – John Joe moved to USA and was the first of many great Irish runners to study and train at Villanova University.

Over his career, John Joe Barry won nine Irish track titles, one Irish senior cross country title, one English AAA 3-mile title (1949), one Scottish AAA 3-mile title (1949), and one American indoor mile title in 1950. He won his Irish cross country title as well as an Irish mile and 4-mile title in 1945 with Ballincurry AC. In 1946 he won the 880 yard and mile titles with Civil Service Harriers, in 1948 he won the 880 yard and mile titles with Clonliffe Harriers, and in 1949 he won the 880 yard, mile and 3-mile titles also with Clonliffe Harriers.  

The St Machan’s club in Lennoxtown was set up by Father Denis O’Connell in a little village under the Campsie Fells just north-east of Glasgow.   During his early years in Scotland, Father O’Connell was alarmed at the divide between Catholic and Protestant and set about using athletics as a means to bring the communities closer together.    Among his activities was a Community Games where all could come together and he also established the St Machan’s Athletic Club.    During his time in Lennoxtown, 1941 to 1949, the club grew steadily with John Joe Barry being an outstanding example to all in the area, not just the athletes.   Strangely enough, his departure to Methil in Fife coincided almost exactly with John Joe’s move to USA.   He organised sports meetings in Lennoxtown and further afield bringing many of the very best athletes in Scotland to compete there.  

Father Whelan in Lennoxtown presents John Joe with a trophy: Father O’Connell in the middle.

John Joe Barry was the first of many, many famous Irishmen to travel to the United States – he was followed by such as Olympic champion Ron Delany, Eamonn Coughlan, Ray Flynn, Frank Murphy, Noel Carroll and Sonia O’Sullivan.

There is a mass of information about him on the internet but I only found one clip of him in action – winning a mile in Dublin in 1949 – and it is here at –

Look him up and read about him.   A wonderful runner, a charismatic character and a great role model – we were fortunate that he ran in Scotland and brought out the best in our best men as well as bringing the crowds out to athletic meetings.