Teviotdale Harriers

A Walker

Alastair Walker following Doug Bain in the East District League

Teviotdale Harriers is the third oldest cross-country club in Scotland having been formed in 1889, not long after Clydesdale Harriers (1885) and Maryhill Harriers (1888).   However frm the 1960’s there was a tendency for the best Border runners to join Edinburgh Southern Harriers and have more success in the Scottish and British Athletics Leagues.   Two Teviotdale runners who did this were Craig Douglas (ESH from 1969) and Ian Elliot (from (1972).   In this website’s Fast Pack entry for ESH there are brief descriptions of the success of Craig and Ian with the city club.   Then Ian Elliot returned to his original club and Teviotdale Harriers began to achieve greater success in cross-country, road relays and veteran competitions.

In the 1986 Edinburgh to Glasgow relay they started off inconspicuously in seventeenth position but by the finish had improved to ninth which won the medals for the most meritorious performance.   Apart from Ian Elliot, in that team several athletes were prominent who were to play a major part in Teviotdale’s success for the years to come.   Brian Emmerson, Alastair Walker, Rob Hall, Andy Fair and the man who was to be the best of them all, Dave Cavers.

The foundation of Teviotdale’s success during the next few years seems to have been a clos-knit group of cross-country runners who often trained together and usually took part in the East District Cross-Country League races which developed stamina and team spirit.   In the Edinburgh to Glasgow, Teviotdale’s record from 1986 to 1995 was 9th, 8th, 8th, 5th, 5th, 3rd, 6th, 11th, 8th and 9th.   This was an admirably consistent sequence.   Other good runners who contributed included Keith Logan, Michael Bryson, Davie Barr, Nick Maltman, Brian Law, Colin Nichol, Alan Reid and Bill Knox.   There were several especially good performances by Teviotdale Harriers in this great race.   Brian Emmerson was second on Stage one in 1987, Alastair Walker fastest on Stage Five in 1986, Keith Logan fastest on One in 1989, Andy Fair fastest on Five in 1991 and Dave Cavers second fastest on Six in 1993, only twelve seconds slower than the great John Robson.   The team that won the well-deserved bronze medals in 1991 included Emmerson, Walker, Logan, Davie Barr, Fair, Cavers, Elliot and Hall.   Had it not been for the Stage Eight record-holder, Cambuslang’s Andy Beattie, the Borders men would have stayed second instead of missing out by only 14 seconds.

In the East District Cross-Country League, Andy Fair recorded one victory and Dave Cavers at least ten!   Teviotdale Harriers won this League on three occasions, breaking the Edinburgh monopoly.   They also won the East District Championship team trophy in 1991 and won six silver medals and one bronze in the East District cross-country relays.

In the Senior National Cross-Country Championship, Teviotdale finished fourth team in 1986, fifth in 1987, ninth in 1988, second in 1989, seventh in 1990, third in both 1991 and 1992 and fourth in 1993.   Once again this proves how consistently good the Harriers were at this time.   Highest positions, apart from Dave Cavers, were Brian Emmerson 23rd, Alastair Walker 7th, Ian Elliot 14th (in 1991, the same year, he won the Scottish Veterans title), Rob Hall 27th, Keith Logan 35th and Andy Fair 23rd.   Silver or bronze medallists included these athletes plus Davie Barr, Brian Law and Michael Bryson.

Perhaps the greatest team triumph took place on 28th October 1989 when Teviotdale Harriers won the Scottish Cross-Country Relays at Inverness.   Keith Logan, Rob Hall, Alastair Walker and Dave Walker won the gold medals.   Teviotdale enjoyed a purple patch in the Scottish Veterans Cross-Country Championships, with team silver in 1990, gold in 1991, silver in 1992, gold in both 1993 and 1994 and bronze in 1995 and 1996.   Ian Elliot and Brian Emmerson were the main runners, but Jim Knox, Andrew Shankie, Robbie Rae and Nick Maltman also contributed to these successes.

After a very successful career with ESH, when he returned to Teviotdale, Ian Elliot won two M40 Scottish Veteran Cross-Country titles in 1991 and 1992.

Brian Emmerson kept improving after he turned forty.  In 1989 he was third M40 in the British Veterans Cross-Country Championship at Sunderland, close behind GB International Andy Holden and Aberdeen’s Colin Youngson.   In 1990 he won bronze in the Scottish Vets Cross-Country.   However his finest running was in the next age-group.   Brian won the Scottish Veterans M45 title in 1994, 1995 (second in the race behind M40 Brian Kirkwood) and 1997.   In 1995 he also ran in the National Senior, finishing an outstanding 51st at the age of 46.   What could he have achieved if he had taken the sport seriously in his twenties?

Alastair Walker won the most valuable award in Scottish athletics when he finished first in the 1990 Shettleston Harriers Six Miles Cross-Country James Flockhart memorial Trophy which is held in honour of the 1937 ICCU International Cross-Country Champion.

Rob Hall won the 1987 Dumfries Half Marathon and the Bo’ness 10K.   He ran for Scotland twice in the Home Countries Marathon International which at the time was part of the Aberdeen Marathon.   Rob was third in 1987 (in front of two Englishmen, the other two Scots and all three Welshmen) and fifth in 1989.

Nick Maltman was sixth in the Scottish Veterans Cross-Country in both 1996 and 1998 and ran for Scotland in the annual Five Nations Veterans International.   In 1996 he tried hill-running and was first M40 in the Grasmere Gallop.

Dave Cavers was a most remarkable cross-country runner, who also completed one very good marathon.   His ten victories in teh East District Cross-Country League have already been mentioned, as well as his many contributions to Teviotdale’s best team performances.   In addition he was East District Cross-Country champion six times between 1992 and 2001.   However it is Dave’s record in the Senior National that is most amazing in its high quality and consistency.   Between 1989 and 2001 he was second, fourth twice, fifth twice, seventh, eighth twice, ninth, tenth twice, twelfth and fourteenth.   If only Scotland had not been excluded from competing as a separate nation in the IAAF World Cross-Country!   Dave’s silver medal in 1999 was won at Beach Park, Irvine, when he was defeated by Bobby Quinn but finished in front of Tommy Murray, Phil Mowbray and Tom Hanlon.   When he was fourth in 2000, the three in front were also very high quality GB Internationals – Quinn, Murray and Glen Stewart.

In 1998 Dave Cavers surprised many when he entered the Rotterdam International Marathon and recorded the fastest time by a Scot for several years – 2:16:06.   He was selected to compete for Scotland at that year’s Commonwealth Games.   Unfortunately this took place in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, which proved extremely hot, humid and totally unsuitable conditions for long distance running.   Dave Cavers was also unlucky to contract a virus and did not finish the race.   However by November 1998 he had recovered in time to win the Derwentwater ten miles road race in Kendal.   Dave Cavers continued to run cross-country until 2008 before retiring after an outstanding career.

Springburn Harriers

Ian, Eddie, TP

Ian Harris (2nd), Eddie Sinclair (1st) and Tom O’Reilly (3rd) after the Spean Bridge to Fort William

I arrived at the Scottish Under 20 Championships at Meadowbank in the mid-80’s and was greeted by Andy Currie (Alistair’s father) who pointed at a runner on the podium, then at Eddie Sinclair of Springburn saying, “That’s his 50th Scottish Champion!”    Eddie had himself been a very good athlete throughout the 1950s and into the 1960’s.   He was not alone in Springburn at the time with the various teams performing well in all age groups and several; International vests coming their way.     He is pictured above with his good friend, rival and club mate Tom O’Reilly.   We can’t really comment on the one without giving equal treatment to the other.   Tom had been a runner for Springburn from 1952 when as a Junior runner he was forty ninth in the National and he would go on representing the club in major competitions right up until 1977 while Eddie was younger, not appearing in results sheets until 1954 when as a Youth he finished fourth in the National Cross-Country Championships at Hamilton where his team finished second.    Eddie’s racing career was much shorter because he turned professional in 1962, ruling himself out of all competition that mattered.   He returned with a vengeance after only a few years in the new capacity of coach and right well he filled the vacancy.   Their talents were similar – Tom’s best for the Mile was 4:23.8 (1959), Eddie’s was 4:23.6 (1960), Tom specialised in the Steeplechase and won a national title with a pb of 9:12.2, Eddie specialised in the Three Miles and won a National title with 14:05.0.   Both represented their country and both won races the length and breadth of the land – the photograph shows how far they would travel in the days when most travel to races was by public transport. In terms of serving the club as an athlete though, Tom was clearly the man.  In the prestigious Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay Tom ran in 20 over a period stretching from 1952 (experiencing stages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8, ie every single one!) but Eddie only ran in five altogether.   Tom had many very good races in the event but his best might well be one of his last: in 1969 he ran on the last stage and pulled in only one place but his time was the second fastest of the day for that stage.   A very good track runner, he won no fewer than four SAAA championship medals: he won the title in 1959 and picked up bronze in each of 1960, ’61 and ’63.    It is a source if debate in Scotland about who was the first ti specialise in the ‘chase but Tom must have as good a claim as any.   There were not many such events around in the 50’s or even the 60’s other than the championships: very little if any real league competition and certainly no open steeplechases that I can recall but he raced it every chance he got and set the first recorded Scottish Native record of 9:12.2 on 25th June 1960 at Meadowbank – it stood for five years until Lachie Stewart broke it on 12th August 1965.

Tom was one of the most popular and friendly men in the sport and loved the Scottish highlands: he went north as often as was practical gathering sprigs of heather wherever he went for his own heather garden at home.   He was also a very good singer who sang Gaelic songs at gatherings or on buses returning from meetings.     He went on to have a notable career as a veteran athlete travelling again in search of competition.  For instance, as an M70 vet in 2004 he won the Coatbridge 5K in 22:27, the Christmas Handicap 5 Miles in 35:44, the Scottish Veterans Walter Ross 10K at Lochinch in 45:04, the Scottish Veterans Glasgow 800 10K in 48:23 and the Alistair McInnes Memorial 5 Miles in 35:31.   The sport would be even happier than it is were there more men like the talented TP O’Reilly who has just (September 2012) just turned 80!

Eddie’e career as an amateur athlete was short lived.   After coming the ranks as a Youth and a Junior, his senior career lasted just three years – but it was meteoric.   On the track he had best times of  9:06 for Two miles, 14:05 for Three Miles and 9:27 for the 3000m steeplechase.     He won the SAAA Three Miles in 1960 and in the same year he was sixth in the National and was selected for the Scottish team for the International Championship.    As a Youth he had been fourth and sixteenth in the National and as a Junior in 1957 he was eighteenth.   As a Senior it was 6th/36th/15th.    In the Edinburgh to Glasgow, his first run was in 1957 when he was on Stage Seven and moved the club from eight to fifth with second quickest time of the day.   We know he ran the same stage the following year but no details are available about his performance.   In 1959 he was sixth on Stage One and in 1960 – his own personal annus mirabilis – he took over in fifth place on Stage Two after Tom O’Reilly had run well on One, and moved through to second with the third fastest time of the day.   His last run in the E-G was in 1961, again on Stage Two when he took over on Stage Two in eighteenth and held that position – by the time Tom came to run on the last stage the club had climbed to fourteenth and that was where he kept it.   He ran as a pro after that for a while but crept back into amateur athletics soon after.   I recall running in an inter-club fixture at Mountblow Recreation Ground in Clydebank at this time and lining up for the Three Miles, I thought I would win it.  Going to the front at the start we came alongside the railway line at the start of the home straight when I realised there was somebody on my shoulder.   I plugged on and he stayed there, I picked up the pace and he stayed there; I moved out and slowed and he stayed there – at the start of the last lap, this wee figure in a yellow vest moved out, passed me moved off and then turned off the track and disappeared into the tunnel under the railway line!   It was Eddie, and I think we lapped every other runner in the race.


Photo from “Whatever the Weather”

Unfortunately turning professional ended his athletics career as a runner.   He created a new role for himself in Scottish athletics by starting to coach the young endurance runners at his club.   That he was very effective, is a bit of an understatement.   What did his guys have that the others didn’t?   You have to understand age group athletics in Scotland at the time.   If we take the Under 17 age-group, the runners started fast, had a wee sleep in the third quarter of the race, and then had a brisk finish.    Eddie’s guys did not have the ‘wee sleep’.   They started fast and continued fast until the finish.   He had many very good runners – Graham Williamson maybe being the very best with Adrian Callan not far behind.   But one of the first groups he had was really outstanding.   In the early/mid 60’s he had a quartet of Eddie Knox. Duncan Middleton, Harry Gorman and Ian Young which made his reputation.    Knox won the International Cross-Country Championship, Middleton was one of the best 880 yards runners in the United Kingdom, Gorman was a very good middle distance runner  who was unfortunate not to get a SAAA title and after leaving school, Ian Young was a member of the really great Edinburgh University team.

In 1964, the ‘Athletics Weekly when reviewing the National Cross Country Championships said, “The Youths event was, as expected, a fight between the Springburn runners E Knox and AD Middleton, with Knox the winner by almost 40 yards thus reversing the Midland District result when Middleton won and Knox was only third.”   The following year Middleton moved up to the Junior ranks and finished twenty fifth to be the second Springburn runner but “Eddie Knox of Springburn simply ran away with the Youths event to record his second successive victory in this race.”    Behind him  were Colin Martin (3), M McMahon (7), A Johnston (12), and R Heron (15).   His reward was selection for the international junior cross-country championship where he finished fifth to be first Scot across the line.   In 1966 a new name appeared in the frame: Springburn was second to Victoria Park and their counting runners were Eddie Knox (second), Harry Gorman (ninth),   Duncan Middleton (thirteenth) and Davie Tees (eighteenth).    Davie was a very good runner but his career was not a long one but he ran well in many events, mainly cross-country for Springburn.  Again Eddie made the team for the international and he went two better to be third and lead the team home.  “Eddie Knox showed his ability in the Junior race when finishing third, just five seconds behind the silver medal position, with the Scots team continuing their good record when finishing third of eight countries behind England and Belgium,”   said Colin Shields in his centenary history of the SCCU.    In the Junior Championship in 1967, Eddie Knox won and Harry Gorman was sixth with no other club runner in the first thirty and the team well out of the placings.   AW described the race briefly as follows: The Junior event was a keen duel between Eddie Knox and Alistair Blamire with Knox just getting home by about 4 yards.”   Eddie made the team for the international for the third consecutive year and not only led the squad home but won the race.    Result

Place Name Country Time
1. Eddie Knox Scotland 24:42
2. Eddie van Butsele Bel 24:44
3. Brooks Mileson Eng 24:49
4. Colin Moxsom Eng 24:59
5. Frank Briscoe Eng 25:06
6. Yvo van Nuffelen Bel 25:13
7. John Rix Eng 25:20
8. Tony Simmons Wal 25:25
9. Francisco Collado Spain


10. Ken Bartlett Eng 25:47
11. Ron McAndrew Wal 25:53
12. Ewald Keust Sui 26:12
13. Norman Morrison Scotland 26:17

That was quite a list of top men to defeat: Brooks Mileson was a contemporary of both Seb Coe and Steve Ovett and won the bronze medal in the English Junior championship, Moxsom was an established English international for man years and a sub:2.20 marathon man, Tony Simmons ran in both Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games as well as setting a world record for the half-marathon, and Ron McAndrew was a top ranked steeplechaser.

No mention of Middleton either in the National of 1967 or 1968 but he may well have been prioritising indoor events.   Eddie was second the following year to John Myatt losing by just 60 yards.   The second Springburn runner that year was George Jarvie in sixth with Alan Beaney twelfth and Alan Picken twenty seventh for second team. . One of the interesting things that year was the victory in the Youths event of Ian Picken of Springburn – the next generation was coming off the production line – the Beaney brothers, the Picken brothers and the Lunn brothers were to be key players for the club for several years to come.    George Jarvie was another very good runner – not unlike Knox in appearance he won many, many races as a young athlete but his career just seemed to stop at about University time.

In 1969, Eddie was up to Senior Man level and his first run in the event resulted in sixteenth place.   Alan Beaney was in second place in the Junior race behind Norman Morrison.   Middleton seems to have given up cross-country running by this point and we will probably see why when we turn to track running.   In the 1970 National Harry Gorman was back in the picture – Eddie was twentieth in the race with Harry twenty third.   By now Mike Bradley had left Paisley Harriers and joined Springburn and his ninth place helped Springburn to sixth team with Tom O’Reilly in 100th as their last counter.   In ’71 Eddie Knox was twenty sixth (Bradley was sixteenth), Harry Gorman was fifty third, the team was fifth.   Eddie Knox revealed some of his real ability in 1972 when he finished tenth and in front of Colin Martin, Tommy Patterson, Donald Ritchie, Sam Downie and Norman Morrison.

The other big ranking event over the winter was the Edinburgh to Glasgow eight man relay with only the top twenty clubs in Scotland invited to compete.   The standard was high. and their club were regulars in the event.   The first of the four to run in the event was Ian Young who turned out in 1963 race on the fourth stage where he held fourteenth place in the team that finished twelfth.  He moved on to Edinburgh University where he became part of their legendary endurance running team and turned out in four relays – all with distinction.   In 1964 his team was second and he had fastest time on the last stage; in 1966 he ran on the fifth stage when the team won and he was second fastest by only one second – 26:23 to Alastair Johnston’s 26:22; in 1967, again on the fifth he was again second fastest and again by one second – his 28:04 being one second slower than Taylor of Aberdeen and in 1968 he again ran the fifth leg and had the fastest time of the day with Edinburgh University finishing seventh.   None of them were in the next race but Knox and Middleton were in the 1965 race (team position ninth) with Eddie Knox moving the club through from thirteenth to sixth on the second stage with second fastest time of the day.   Middleton ran on the exposed fifth stage where he picked up one place from ninth to eighth with the fifth fastest time of the day.   Before they were finished, Harry Gorman and Eddie Knox would run in eleven races each and Middleton would run in two.    His second was in 1966when he ran eighth on the first stage, Gorman held seventh on the third and Knox would move from tenth to ninth on the fifth stage.   Knox would run on the second, fourth, sixth and seventh legs while Gorman would do the second, third, fourth, fifth and eighth.   The team’s best performance was to be a very creditable fourth in 1971 and the ironic thing is that in the two years when Springburn Harriers won the medals for the most meritorious performance, in 1980 and 1985, neither Knox nor Gorman were in the team.   virtually ever presents as a double act, from 1966 to 1976, there were gaps in their appearances with Harry coming back in the ’80’s to run in 1981, ’82, ’83 and ’86, while Eddie returned to duty in 1979.   Very seldom did either drop a place and foften enough they picked up bodies for their club on the various stages covered.

If we come back to the track scenario, the highest achiever had to be Duncan Middleton.   Duncan (4/07/1946) first appeared in the senior ranking lists in 1966 when he was fifth in the 880 yards behind the big four of Grant, Douglas, McLean and Hodelet with a season’s best of 1:51.3.   He was also ranked in the Mile with 4:18.0 which placed him twenty fifth.   In 1967 he was in the 440 yards (49.9 for eighth), 880 yards (1:1:48.6 for first) and Mile (4:12.7 for eighteenth).    But the big events for him that year were victory in the SAAA 880 yards outdoor, and in the AAA’s indoor 880 yards.   Simon Pearson, writing in ‘Scottish Athletics, 1968’ said This was again an outstanding event in 1967 in Scottish athletics, and the national title race proved particularly exciting with a high standard of performance.   Duncan Middleton, the 1967 AAA’s Indoor winner and record-holder, showed fine judgment and pace to hold off the strongly fancied Mike McLean and establish a new Championship best of 1:50.2.   The stylish and intelligent Springburn runner had a successful season and excelled himself later in the AAA final in returning his best time of 1:48.6 for fifth place in a strong field.”   The first British title for any of the squad and probably for Eddie Sinclair as well.   In 1968 he was third in the same event – gold and bronze at GB level is not too bad!   1968 was a difficult year for him and his best time for the 880 yards was 1:52.2 which placed him fourth in the rankings.   The following season Duncan won the Inter-Counties 880 yards in 1:54.9 from Colin Martin and Ian Hathorn but it was not as good as the year before.  John Keddie says of him in the official Centenary history of the SAAA , “Duncan Middleton was very different in build to Graeme Grant.   The latter was powerfully built (5’11.5″/178 lbs) whereas Middleton was more slightly built, and even fragile looking, by comparison.   He was nevertheless a fine half-miler whose running career was all too brief as he had only one outstanding season – 1967.   As a junior he had shown moderate ability, but in 1966 had run a 1:51.3 half-mile.   No one then would have predicted his 1967 success.   Early in the year he had brilliantly won the AAA Indoor title (1:51.5) and on 9th February set an indoor record of 1:50.8.   The summer season saw him confirm this outstanding form, firstly by taking the SAAA title from the strongly fancied Mike McLean with the new National record time of 1:50.2, then on 15th July at the White City he had a brilliant run in the AAA 880, gaining fifth place in a time of 1:48.6.   Only two Britons finished ahead of him: John Boulter who won in 1:47.2 and Mike Varah, fourth in 1:48.2.   Middleton competed again in 1968 but was a shadow of what he had been in 1967 and he never again was to regain such form.”   The National title was won by Mike McLean in 1:51.6 from Dick Hodelet and Craig Douglas and Pearson said: £There was not nearly as much excitement in this event as in the previous season, and Duncan Middleton’s decline and eclipse in major races was a disappointment.”   He was not to appear in the ranking lists again and it is known that he emigrated to Australia but it is not clear when.    However John MacKay sent the following interview with Duncan – just click on it for the full size version.   It first appeared in AW.

Eddie Knox  (9/5/47) had a fairly long career on the track being ranked every year from 1964 to 1972.     These are in the table below (and note his age at the time of performance):

Year Distance Time Ranking   Year Distance Time Ranking
1964 1 Mile 4:19.7 20   1967 3 Miles 13:54.0 8
  2 Miles 8:58.6 5   1968 1 Mile 4:16.8 19
  3 Miles 14:30.6 16     2 Miles 9:09.4 19
1965 2 Miles 9:03.0 12   1969 3000m 8:37.6y 18
  3 Miles 13:57.4 7     5000m 14:37.6 21
1966 1 Mile 4:18.4 26   1970 5000m 14:38.6 18
  2 Miles 9:08.0 13   1972 3000m 8:38.0 22
  3 Miles 13:48.4 8     5000m 14:41.0 22
1967 1 Miles 4:15.1 25     10000m 30:52.6 14
  2 Miles 9:17.2 28  

As an Under-17, Eddie had won the SAAA Youth mile in 4:19.7 in 1964 and the junior Mile n 1966 in 4:18.4.   His 13:48.4 for the Three Miles at Meadowbank in June  was noted as a British Junior Record.   This record was removed by Ian Stewart the following year 13:39.8 but it was nevertheless a fairly successful season for Eddie Knox – first in the West District Championship ahead of Alex Brown and Pat Maclagan in 13:54.0 and third in the SAAA in 14:14.0 behind Lachie Stewart and Ian Young In 1969 he appeared in several ranking lists including the One Mile (4:16.8 for twenty first) and Two Miles (9:09.4 for nineteenth) in addition to those above.   In 1969 he was second in the West District 1500m in 4:02.4 and his 500m time above was recorded when running third at Peffermill in Edinburgh.

Harry Gorman (8/12/46) was the least heralded of the four whose mini-profiles are here but he was a very good athlete who was may unlucky not to win more in terms of individual honours.   He competed well on all surfaces – road, track and country – and went on to be a key figure in Springburn Harriers.   He also appears in the Scottish rankings for many years over the period in  question with best times of 3:53.1 for 1500m, 4:16.7 for 1 Mile, 8:33, 8:28.2 for 3000m, 9:02.4 for Two Miles, 14:46.6 for 5000m and 13:54.2 for 3 Miles.   He turned out in all the Two Mile team races at the various sports meetings and highland games around the country, in inter-club fixtures of which there were many, championships and open meetings of all sorts.   In 1971 he won the West District 1500m in 4:01.2.

Ian Young is perhaps better known for his running in the green of Edinburgh University than the dark blue of Springburn  but he was always referred to in the annual Scottish Athletics Yearbooks as  Ian Young (Springburn/EU).   When I moved to Lenzie in 1966, the club pack used to meet on a Sunday at Ian’s father’s Foundry in Kirkimtilloch’s East Side for the long run.  He had a good pedigree with the Harriers.   In 1961 Duncan Middleton was the first Springburn runner home in the Boys National when he finished in sixth with Ian not far away in eleventh.   In 1962, Ian was twelfth in the Youths race and in 1964 he was seventh in the Junior race to be the second club runner behind Ian McIntosh in eighth. Ian had best times on the track of 9:20.0 for the Two Miles and 14:01.6 for Three Miles and his sole trophy as a senior was second in the SAAA Three Miles in 1967.    It was unfortunate for Springburn that he did his best running for the University and then after University he stopped altogether to concentrate on his business interests in Kirkintilloch where he became a well known and respected businessman.

Colin Youngson has done a profile of Colin Falconer who ran with the Springburn team in the early 70’s although he had not come through the Eddie Sinclair squad as the others had done.   He writes:

“Colin Falconer was a talented young runner who enjoyed a brief but successful career.   His main club was Springburn Harriers but he also competed for Coventry Godiva Harriers.   In 1969 he finished fifth in the Scottish National Youths Cross-Country and then that summer as a Junior he topped the Scottish rankings in the 5000m and the yearbook commented “His performance in this event compared well with many seniors and he showed ample courage and aggression in his track appearances.”

However his main strength did seem to be cross-country.   In 1970 he achieved a rare feat for a Scot – victory in the English National Youths (Under 17) Cross-Country Championship at Blackpool.   Previously he had won the Scottish Midland Junior and the Scottish National Junior (Under 20) titles.   Colin finished the winter season in real style with an outstanding fifth place (and first Scot) in the ICCU Junior Championships in Vichy, France.   The Scottish Junior team was fourth, only three points behind the bronze medallists, Italy.

Then, having moved south to Coventry, he improved his track bests in 1970 to 8:35.8 (3000m) and 14:44.4 (5000m) which were both leading times in the Scottish Junior ranking lists.    Perhaps injury prevented further improvement in 1971, although Colin ran Stage One of the E-G when Springburn finished a thoroughly respectable fourth.   There are no statistics for him in 1972 but Colin Falconer returned with a bang in 1973 by securing fifth place in the Scottish Senior National after a close battle for the bronze medal with Lachie Stewart and Norman Morrison.   The race report comments approvingly about this valiant display by the ‘diminutive’ Falconer.   Colin was part of the Scottish Senior team in the inaugural IAAF World Cross-Country Championships which took place on Waregem Racecourse, outside Ghent, Belgium.   He finished 115th.   Colin went on to run well for Coventry Godiva in the AAA 12 stage road relay at Derby and his English club obtained bronze medals.   Then he reduced his track times to 8:23 (3000m) and 14:31.6 (5000m), following that by recording the fastest time on Stage Two of the 1973 E-G when Springburn ended up seventh.

In 1974, having finished sixth in the Scottish National, in the World Cross-Country in Monza, Italy, Colin improved considerably on his previous performance to forty seventh (fourth Scottish counter behind Jim Brown fourth, Ronnie MacDonald thirty first and Andy McKean forty sixth.)    The Scottish team finished a respectable seventh out of fifteen competing nations.   Colin ran Stage Two again in the 1974 E-G when Springburn were fifth.   He could only manage thirty first in the 1975 National and seems to have retired after that.    However he could certainly look back on some very good racing achievements.”

In his book, “Whatever the Weather”, the official history of teh SCCU, Colin Shields reports after the National Championships of 1974: “Edinburgh AC won the Senior team title from Edinburgh Southern and Aberdeen. … However the other four championship team titles were won by Springburn Harriers in an unprecedented display of team strength to confirm the display whn they ‘swept the board’ in the Midland District Championship.   The coaching, encouragement and attention of Jack Crawford and Eddie Sinclair, together with the close liaison between Springburn Harriers and local schools such as Lenzie Academy finally paid off the well-deserved dividends.   Stewart Gillespie six led the Junior team to victory over Glasgow University, Graham Crawford, four, was the first home for the Youths team which beat Shettleston; Ian Murray took the Senior Boys individual title eith Springburn defeating Edinburgh AC and Graham Williamson, three, just two seconds behind Jim Egan (Larkhall YMCA) led his team to victory over Victoria Park AAC.”








Shettleston Harriers

B Carty

 Brian Carty in the Six Stage Relay, 1986

Between 1949 and 1961 Shettleston Harriers won five team golds, six team silvers and one team bronze, and then between 1968 and 1978 they won five team golds, one team silver and two team bronzes in the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay.   We have already looked at many of the top men in the club on other pages of this website – Graham Everett, Joe McGhee, Eddie Bannon, Paul Bannon, Lachie Stewart, Norman Morrison, Lawrie Spence, Alistair Blamire, Nat Muir and Dick Wedlock among others.   It is time to look at others of the club’s fast pack that made these triumphs happen.   The profiles on this page will be brief and are meant to indicate the quality of athlete who was vital to the club triumphs in which the stars had all the limelight.   Many names have been virtually forgotten and some are more easily recollected but I’m going to start with one of the former – Ben Bickerton.   Many of us remember seeing the credit below pictures in the ‘Scots Athlete’ which read  Photo by Ben Bickerton.    But there was more to him than that.

Ben Bickerton ran for Shettleston between 1943 when he joined the club and 1952 when he stopped running.   He returned as a veteran in the 1970’s and won more titles but we will come to that.   Joining the club in 1943, he won the unofficial Scottish Youth’s Cross Country Championship in 1944 before going on National Service to Aldershot with the Royal Artillery.   While there he won the Southern Command Mile Championship and then came second in the British Army Mile championships.   He came out of the Army and in 1949 won the SAAA Two Miles Steeplechase Championship and a year later won the SAAA Six Miles title.      He ran in five Edinburgh to Glasgow Relays and came away with two gold and three silvers – not bad.   The two golds were in 1949 when he ran the fourth stage in the April race and in November he had the fastest stage time on the seventh leg.   In 1951, ’52 and ’53 he covered the seventh, first and eighth legs in teams that finished second.   He ran in the London to Brighton 12 man relay twice – on the first stage in 1951 when the club was eleventh, and on the fourth in 1952 when they were seventeenth.   He only ran the National twice – in 1950 when he was fourth and second counter in the winning team, and 1951 when he was seventh and first counter in the third placed team.   He also had first and second team medals in the Midlands Championships and a first, second and third team medals set in the Midlands relays; he had first and second individual medals in the Lanarkshire Championships and won the Shettleston club championship in season 1950-51.

In 1952, he is reported in the club’s centenary history as feeling that he was becoming “stale” and so he gave up running to concentrate on his career as a photographer – which explains why the pictures in the SA were so good!   He made a come-back as a veteran in the M50 class in the 1970’s and finished twenty seventh (1973), covered the seventh, first and eighth legs in teams that finished second.   He ran in the London to Brighton 12 man relay twice – on the first stage in 1951 when the club was eleventh, and on the fourth in 1952 when they were seventeenth.   He only ran the National twice – in 1950 when he was fourth and second counter in the winning team, and 1951 when he was seventh and first counter in the third placed team.   He also had first and second team medals in the Midlands Championships and a first, second and third team medals set in the Midlands relays; he had first and second individual medals in the Lanarkshire Championships and won the Shettleston club championship in season 1950-51.

In 1952, he is reported in the club’s centenary history as feeling that he was becoming “stale” and so he gave up running to concentrate on his career as a photographer – which explains why the pictures in the SA were so good!   He made a come-back as a veteran in the M50 class in the 1970’s and finished twenty seventh (1973), fourteenth (1974), twenty third (1975), eighteenth (1976) and twenty fourth (1977) in the Vets National Cross-Country.

Henry Summerhill, a tall, easy-to-recognise runner with his spectacles and head to one side running action, is an interesting athlete.   He spanned the two groups noted above and ran with the best of both generations of stars, earning his place with them both.  He turned up at the club’s Christmas Handicap in 1955 as Eddie Summerhill’s wee brother and went on to out-do Eddie as a runner.   He was spoken of above as ‘spanning the generations’; for proof we only have to look at his record in the Edinburgh to Glasgow where he ran 15 time including a streak of fourteen right off the reel.

Year Stage Run Team Position   Year Stage Run Team Position
1959 Five First   1967 Eight Second
1960 Four (Fastest) First   1968 Eight First
1961 Four First   1969 Seven Fourth
1962 Two Fifth   1970 Five (Fastest) First
1963 Six Fourth   1971 Eight (Fastest) First
1964 Two Six   1973 Eight Six
1965 Four Seventh   1975 Eight Fifth
1966 Six Seventh        

15 runs; Six gold, One silver; Three fastest times on stage.

Over the country, he was the same reliable, hard working, club runner but it was 1962 before he broke into the top team and finished twelfth and second counter (behind Joe McGhee) in the winning team.   In 1963 he was first counter when he was tenth in a team that was fifth; in 1965, he was first counter when he finished seventeenth in the fourth placed team; in in 1966 he again led the team home (twenty sixth) into fourth; in 1967 the order was Summerhill 19th, Wedlock 21st … with the team again fourth; 1968, Henry was twenty seventh, third counter and the team was fifth; 1969, he was twenty third, third counter in the second placed squad; 1970, he was twenty first, fourth counter in the third placed team; 1971 he was sixteenth in the winning team;   1972, twenty fourth and the team won again; 1973, fifty seventh and last counter in the silver medal team;    1974, nineteenth in the fourth placed team;   1975, twenty fifth in the third team and in 1976, Henry was fortieth and the team third.   Thirteen races, three golds, two silvers, three bronzes.   Not a bad haul.   And then there was the quota of District and County awards.   And the four London to Brighton relays.   And being in the winning team in the first Allan Scally relay, and in the winning team in the third Scally Relay.   Oh yes, and he was club champion five times!   Henry Summerhill was a very valuable member of several Shettleston teams.

On the track Henry raced in many team and open races and was ranked eleven times over seven years in the 60’s with best times of 9:20 (2 Miles), 14:29.0 (3 Miles) and 30:38.0  (6 Miles) with a third place in the SAAA Six Miles in 1962, but it is as a cross-country and road runner that he will be remembered by most of us.

Clark Wallace is another who will not easily be recalled by most on the present day endurance running scene, but he was an easily recognisable, good natured, hard running competitor at every distance up to the marathon and a key member of many club teams for a long period.   Off the track he was a tireless worker for the club too.   He had one international vest – in 1953 when he was thirty third finisher and a counting runner for the Scottish team.    He joined the club after the War at the same time as Willie Laing and both were to play big parts in the development of the post-war club.   Clark was a big heavy built man, not at all your typical distance runner, but if we look first at his results in the National Cross Country Championships, we will see how wrong first impressions can be.

Year Team Position Place   Year Team Position Place
1950 First Ninth   1958 Third Twenty Seventh
1951 Third Thirteenth   1959 First Twenty First
1952 Third Tenth   1960 First Twenty Fifth
1953 Second Seventh   1961 First Thirty Second
1954 First Sixteenth   1962 First Forty First
1955 First Seventeenth   1963 Fifth Sixty First
1956 Third Fifteenth   1964 Fifth Sixtieth
1957 Fourth Twenty Fifth   1965 Fourth Seventy Seventh

Sixteen Races; Seven Gold, One Silver, Four Bronze

In the same period he turned out in seventeen District Championships and won seven gold, three silver and six bronze medals.   In the Lanarkshire Championships it was five gold, one silver and one bronze.    And we haven’t even started on the relays.   He was equally at home on the road and he competed in nineteen Edinburgh to Glasgow Relays.   He ran in both 1949 races on the first stage and both times set fastest time for the stage, in 1950 he was fastest man on the fourth stage and in 1955 was again fastest on the fourth stage.   In total he amassed six gold team medals, seven silver and one bronze to add to his cross-country collection.   As a result of these he was an indispensable part of the London-Brighton team (the first two Scottish teams were invited to the National London to Brighton) and he took part in no fewer than eleven of these.   Always at home on the roads he was third in the SAAA Marathon Championships from Westerlands in 1963 – a day that Alastair Wood said was too warm for such a race.

On the track, he was second in the SAAA Two Miles Steeplechase in 1954, third in the 3000m steeplechase in 1955 and second in 1956 and 1958.   He was to be seen in all the summer races – championships, open meetings and highland gatherings running as an individual on the track or out on the road and also in Two and Three Mile Team races.

Men like Clark are worth their weight in gold to any club and he had a wonderful career in the sport although, if he had one regret, it must have been not winning his own club championship.

Hugh Mitchell came to running, like many of his generation, from cycling.    The club’s centenary history says that he joined the club at the age of 28 to get fit while recovering from an injury sustained while cycling.  Hugh’s talent for distance running would soon become apparent, though as he said himself’ he always got left in the sprint at the finish.   On the other hand he  also said that distance didn’t bother him, he forgot about time when he was running.   He ran in road and cross country races including the E-G and the National but it was when he finished second to Alastair Wood in the SAAA marathon in 1964 that he started to get recognition at national level.   He was runner-up again in 1969, this time to Bill Stoddart, in 2:31:20.   He ran a high weekly mileage, often as much as 200 miles in a week, and this set him up for ultras such as the Two Bridges, the Edinburgh to Glasgow 44 and the Liverpool to Blackpool 48.   He finished fourth twice in the London to Brighton.     After his first ultra, the Isle of Man 40, in which he finished second, 34 seconds behind John Tarrant, the Ghost Runner, the press report said : “The biggest cheer went to Scot Hugh Mitchell from Glasgow who made the Army man fight all the way over the savage climb of The Mountain.  ‘I just  couldn’t catch him,’ said Hugh afterwards, ‘I got a bad patch of cramp up top, but it’s not a bad performance for a novice, is it?'”

The history continues, “Four years later, Hugh returned to the island to win the race in 4 hrs 12 mins 07 secs.   He ran the 44 mile race from Edinburgh to Glasgow  six times setting a new record in 1968 of 4 hrs 39 mins 55 secs. “   His ultra running ability was famous as was his weekly training load.      His marathon pb was 2:26:11 and he was ranked in the marathon every year from 1963 to 1967, with one exception.   He also ran a Six Miles in 31: 42.4.

He ran in many under distance races such as the Dirrans 13 miles and the Springburn 12 Miles.    In fact I first made his acquaintance at a Springburn 12 when we both arrived outside the Springburn Harriers clubhouse and we had to sit on the ground, leaning against the wall, for 20-25 minutes in the sun waiting for the building to be opened.    He is a very friendly chap, easy to get on with but a hard racer.    He ran in four Edinburgh to Glasgow Relays and won a gold in his very first race.   In 1959, on the third stage, he took over first and preserved the lead with equal fourth fastest time; in 1962, the team was fifth but Hugh maintained third place on the third stage;   in 1964, he pulled the team from seventh to sixth on the fourth stage;   and in 1966  he dropped from sixth to seventh on the fifth stage.   In the National, he was in the team  five times between 1958 and 1968.   It was bronze in 1958 and gold in 1959 but no more medals despite several good runs in the event.   Hugh was a consistent and consistently good club member who specialised at distances much greater than most of his team mates with enormous success.

Bill Scally   came into the sport at a time when men in every club followed the mantra ‘You do what your club needs you to do.’    Bill exemplified that with his service to Shettleston Harriers as a committee man, team manager and all round supporter going beyond reasonable expectations.   However in this brief profile, we will deal with his running.   Unless anything to the contrary is said, the medals mentioned will all be team awards.  On the country, he ran as a Youth in the National championship in 1959 (bronze) and 1960 (gold), as a Junior he ran in the 1961 and 1962 Nationals and as a Senior he ran in the championships in 1964, ’65, ’66, ’67, ’68, ’69 (silver), ’71 (gold).   He returned when the club needed him in 1982, ’83 and ’84.   As a veteran, he ran in 1982 (gold), ’83 (bronze), ’84 (gold – team was Lachie Stewart second, Bill third and Brian Carty fourth), ’85 (gold), ’86, ’88, ’90.   He picked up the individual bronze in ’82, ’84 and ’85.   Internationally as a vet, he was second in the World M50 25Km in 1992, and in the European championships was third in the M45 25Km in 1988 and won the M50 half-marathon in 1995.    36 years of running in major cross-country championships.   In the District Championships, he ran in nine between 1963 and 1964 winning two gold, two silver and two bronze medals.   When the club called again in 1980, he ran in the 1980, ’83, ’84, ’86 and ’87.   In the Lanarkshire Championships he picked up two gold and three silver medals.   His only regret must be that he never won the club championship but, being the clubman he is, he would be pleased that the club standard was so high at the time.

He was also no mean road runner.   Apart from most of the road races around the country, Bill ran in nine Edinburgh to Glasgow races between 1963 and 1974 winning two gold medals and two silvers.  When the club needed him again, he ran in 1980 (eighth), ’81 (second), ’82 (sixth), ’83 (second), ’84 (fifth – son Brian ran on the third stage and the team won the most meritorious medals), ’85 (fifth), ’86 (eighth).   He ran on stages two, four, five, six, seven and eight.   As a result of the club’s running in the Edinburgh to Glasgow, the invitation was forthcoming to turn out a team in the London to Brighton Relay and Bill ran in it in 1961 and 1962.   The name Scally is a famous one in Shettleston Harriers and across Scotland.   Bill’s father Allan was a very good runner and an even better coach and when the club started the four man Allan Scally Relay over a longer distance per stage than the early winter relays in 1061 it was inevitable that it be named after Allan Scally.   It was therefore quite fitting that Bill ran in the very first race in the winning Shettleston team, where he was third fastest.    He was also in the team in 1962 which also won the event.    In the more traditional road relay of the McAndrew which traditionally starts the winter season, he was part of winning teams in 1967, ’68, ’70 and ’71.   It’s another remarkable record of success over a fairly lengthy period – even making the club four was harder than some races!   He even tried his hand successfully at the marathon with a pb of 2:24:05 run in London in 1984.

Bill was also a track runner of some ability.   He had pb’s of 31:33.2 for Six Miles, 8:44.2 for Two Miles, 14:40.7 for 5000m, 31:11.0 for 10000m and 9:45.2 for the 3000m steeplechase.   He was even known to turn out in track league fixtures when team manager to fill a gap.   Bill is the kind of club man that any team in the country would give its eye teeth for!

I asked his friend Tony McCall, a member of Garscube Harriers at the time, who had trained with Shettleston Harriers for a while, for some comments about Bill and his reply involved several athletes mentioned on this page so I will quote it in full.   “I first met Bill when I moved to Garrowhill and Shettleston were kind enough to let me train with them .   This was in the early 70’s.   Bill took me on longer steadier runs to begin with; showed me the longer runs around the area – Blantyre, Westburn, Tannochside, Coatbridge, Lenzie and even towards Kirkie.   As I got fitter the runs got faster.   Henry Summerhill was with us on a lot of those runs, eventually longish fast bursts were a feature particularly towards the last few miles.   Of course they were both superior runners to me and I always got blown away but I was happy.     Also we would have fartlek sessions around the clubhouse grounds at Barrachnie when there were plenty of guys around.   Another session we did was a paarlauf around Mountblow and it was approximately a mile to the lap: it was very competitive.   Henry was a very tough competitor and it was not unknown for some of his guys to give up because of his relentless pace.  

From my own point of view the emphasis was on mileage primarily with faster pace introduced as I got fitter: that was always Bill’s way.   Bill kept an eye on the runners, looking for tiredness and flagging.   His favourite expression to me was “How are you feeling?”   Funny he always said that when I was obviously tired!  

As you know, Bill went on to have a very successful career as a vet, I would say that he was very single-minded.   He set out his goals and trained accordingly.   What he did with me and some others was always based on mileage.   The more miles the better.   We never went near a track, speedwork was always done on the road.    Some really hard runs took place from start to finish, especially with Bill and Henry.   I couldn’t live with them.   Then into the equation came Hughie Mitchell.   Bill turned to Hughie to help him prepare for his marathon career.   As you know Hughie was virtually an ultra distance man.   One of the sessions they did was over the old Shettleston marathon trail.   I wasn’t with them, it was just Bill and Hughie.   I was in the clubhouse when they came back in and it was obvious that a huge effort had been put in by both.  

Bill was meticulous in his preparation.   Once he had a schedule made up, he carried it out and most of the time he did it alone.   For example I had gone down to Hamilton Road for a pint or two one Saturday night and there was Bill coming up from Blantyre flat out: he must have run from his home in Dennistoun.   This was around 10 o’clock on a Saturday night!   To sum up: clear thinker, schedule put together, let’s get on with it.   And he took a lot of advice from Hughie.   Of course he always came on training nights for runs with the boys, but the rest of the week he would pile in the miles.   London was a great example of everything coming together for him.   Hughie Mitchell and Ben Bickerton would come out with us, mainly Ben who could show the youngsters a thing or two.”

Tom Malone   came from Coatbridge and joined Shettleston at the age of 15.   He was club and Lanarkshire Youth champion in 1956 and club novice champion in 1959.   In the National Championships he was twenty sixth in the Youths Championship in 1956 when his team finished fifth and fourth in 1957 to be part of the winning team.   As a Junior he was twenty ninth in 1958 and ninth in 1959.   He was a member of two winning Senior teams in 1961 (he was twenty third) and 1962 (thirteenth).   He ran in four E-G relays between 1958 and 1965 winning two golds and one silver, and was also part of two winning teams in the McAndrew relay in 1959 and 1960.  Because of the club’s good performances in the E-G, they were regularly invited down to the London to BRighton and he raced in four – 1959, ’60, ’61 and ’62.   On the track he had best times of 14:36.6 for Three Miles and 30:28.6 for the Six Miles – both times run in 1961.   He emigrated to South Africa where he joined the Germiston City Sports Club  and started running in ultra races with great success.   Having won the Korkie Marathon 33 miles from Pretoria to Germiston in 1966 in record time and then, one month later, went on to the Comrades Marathon which he won in 6:14:07.   In 1967 he was second by one second after a dramatic race in which he collapsed less than 75 yards from the tape by a spasm which laid him low when attempting to sprint for the tape; he got up and made for the line but was passed almost literally on the line after 55 miles of hard racing.   That was the second of ten attempts but it was to be several years before he had another run in it.

Tom Patterson   was a member of the club right from his days as a Senior Boy.   He won many team medals in the National cross-country championships at all age groups before turning out for the Senior team.   As a Senior Boy he was twenty eighth in 1964 and twentieth in 1965, being in the winning team each time.  As a Youth in 1966 he finished thirteenth and again was in the winning team and then as a Junior in 1968 (ninth) and 1969 (eighth) he won two more gold team medals.   It was to be 1971 before he was a counting runner in the Senior age group but he them won gold in 1971 and 1972 (twelfth on both occasions) and silver in 1973.   There were also two more team victories in the District Cross-Country championships to be added.   On the road he ran in five E-G Relays and won four gold and one silver medal.   In 1963 he turned in the fastest time n the third leg to be in the winning team, in ’64 he again ran third and pulled the club from sixth to fourth to see it finish second, in 1970 he again ran the fastest time on the third stage and was part of the winning team, just as he was in 1972 when he was seventh on the first leg.

Brian Carty, pictured above,  does not feature significantly in the National or Edinburgh to Glasgow results but was a very good athlete and club member nevertheless.   Hugh Mitchell and a group of his workmates used to go out running at lunchtime from the British Leyland factory at Bathgate: Brian Carty was one of the others.   It didn’t take Hugh long to see that the man was a talented distance runner.   Brian ran his first marathon in Glasgow in 1982 at the age of 39 and clocked 2:40 – but his name is not in the results sheet because he ran under the name of one of his workmates!    By the spring of 1983 he was a Shettleston Harrier and that year he was fourth in the Jimmy Scott race, third in the Motherwell Marathon in 2:32:57, fourth in the SAAA Marathon in 2:33:45, before finishing his season with 2::26:15 for fifth place in the Inverclyde Marathon in August.   The high spot of his career however had to be on 1st June, 1986 when he won the SAAA Marathon championship.   During that summer he had been fourth in the Clydebank half-marathon, second in the Monklands half-marathon and did a lifetime best performance of 68:37 in Livingston.     Now aged 42, he was surprised by his victory in the SAAA event.   He had entered the Edinburgh Marathon, which incorporated the championship,  to keep his friend Robert Birt company but at the start of the race, Robert told him just to go off on his own.   Brian did and won in 2:23:46.  He is quoted in the club’s centenary history “One Hundred Years of Shettleston Harriers” as follows.  “Totally unexpected.   After passing Donald Macgregor at 17 miles I realised I was in a strong position but it was only at 21 miles when I was told by someone following the race on a bicycle that I only had to keep to my pace that I realised that I would win”.

Colin Youngson and Fraser Clyne in their excellent book “A Hardy Race” which chronicles the Scottish Marathon Championship 1946 – 20000 covers the winning marathon in some detail.   “This race was to be the battle of the veterans – Donald Macgregor, the favourite, and Brian Carty of Shettleston Harriers.   The latter, a steadily improving, strong looking man, had finished second in the Scottish Veterans cross-country championships although he much preferred road racing.   Brian remembers that he was wary of going too fast too soon, on a hilly course, so he stayed with the second pack some distance behind the group of six leaders.   As far as he could see, Donald Macgregor was playing ‘cat and mouse’ with them.   Eventually Donald went off into a clear lead until Brian came through and caught him at Cramond (17 Miles).   Carty’s coach, Hugh Mitchell had advised him, ‘When you catch someone up, talk to them – it shows you’re fresh.’   So Brian asked how Donald was feeling and shortly afterwards began to draw away.   He finished very strongly indeed although Donald faded.      ……     Brian’s training was not unlike Hugh Mitchell’s twenty years previously.   Overcoming initial reluctance he gradually built up to a very strenuous regime indeed.   On weekdays he might run thrice:   Twelve or fourteen miles to work at British Leyland, four miles of fartlek at lunchtime and another ten to twelve miles home.   He remembers many hard sessions in the Bathgate hills.   In total he might run 120 or even 150 miles per week.   So his 1986 triumph was hard-earned indeed.”

The big miles are corroborated in an email I received from Graham MacIndoe when I was actually writing about Brian.  He  says, “Hugh Mitchell and Brian Carty worked at British Leyland where my dad also worked.   I remember my dad telling me how Brian used to run 8 – 10 miles a day to the factory, then be jogging on the spot waiting for the lunchtime bell so he could get in a run and then at the end of the day he’d run back to Blackburn via the Bathgate hills.   Sometimes on Sundays he’d run through Livingston and Broxburn up to Linlithgow, wind his way through the Bathgate hills to Armadale and then back to Blackburn.  It must have been 20+ miles, easy.   I went with him and a couple of others a few times and it was relentless – used to take me days to recover and I didn’t do the whole distance.    My dad got Hugh to give me a training schedule when I was about 19.   It had so many miles on it I thought it was a joke.   I was at that time trying to break 32 minutes for 10K on the road on about 45 – 50 miles per week.   He had me on 100 mpw for starters.   I got to the 80’s but kept getting injured.   He was still running fairly recently my dad said”    Corroboration of the huge distances involved – corroboration of his recent running would also be of interest! 

Plebeian Harriers

J Neilson

One of the first anti-official stories I ever heard on coming into the sport was by one of Scottish sport’s most respected officials, David M Bowman of Clydesdale Harriers.    It was of the days when athletes achieving a particular time in their event were awarded a standard badge, whether they were medallists or not and the standard time for the marathon was marked by a starting pistol being fired into the air.    It was about Tommy Rewcastle of Plebeian Harriers who finished the SAAA Marathon Championships in three hours and one second when the standard was three hours – the starting pistol was fired almost in his face as he crossed the finishing line one second outside the standard.    David was always a runners’ man and a marathon runner himself but he was really incensed about this more than ten years after the event.   Justifiably so in my opinion.    I was told the story in about 1960 or 1961 when I was starting to get selected for the E-G and Plebeian Harriers were on their last legs by then – the last appearance in the E-G was in 1957 and although some individuals turned out on the national cross-country championship into the very early 60’s, it folded about that time.    James Neilson, the founder and driving force had died towards the end of 1948 and the tribute to him will be printed below.   Percy Cerutty said that only the forgotten are dead, so how is it that a really first rate club such as Plebeian Harriers is forgotten?    And how is it that a club from south of Glasgow had such a name?    Two questions ask themselves – was the club as good as it seems,   and  when did  it appear on the stage?

First, it was undoubtedly a very good club.   It was at its redoubtable strongest in the 1930’s and it overlapped the War.   We could maybe start by looking at the statistics.


Year Position Comments Year Position Comments
1930 1st Ingram (1) and Gunn (2) set inaugural stage records 1949 (1) 12th  
1931 1st Clark (1, record), Rayne (2), Tombe (5) fastest on stage 1949 (2) 10th  
1932 No Race 1950 10th  
1933 1st Gunn(1), Rayne (2), McGregor (3), Armstrong (7, record) all fastest on stage. 1951 7th

A Smith (2) fastest on stage, moved up from 4 to 2

1934 4th Tombe (6) fastest on stage 1952 10th A Smith (2)  fastest on stage, moved from 15 to 7
1935 3rd Duff (3) and Tombe (6) fastest on stage 1953 13th  
1936 3rd   1954 12th  
1937 6th McAllister (3) and Connelly (5) fastest on stage 1955 13th  
1938 4th   1956 18th  
1939 4th   1957 20th  

If we have a look at the National cross-country results, starting in season 1925/’26 we have the following.

Year Team Position Runners Comments
1925-26 5th Gunn 22, Allan 26, Connelly 54, Tombe 57, Ferguson 66, McCallum 71  
1926-27 6th Tombe 11, James 22, Ferguson 41, McCallum 63, Hollinger 76, Connelly 86  
1927-28 2nd Tombe 4, Gunn 5, Rayne 10, Connelly 26, McCallum 36, James 41 Rayne came in as a first year Junior.
1928-29 3rd Gunn 3, Connelly 20, James 23, McCallum 33, McKnight  39, Lamont 49  
1929-30 3rd Gunn 3, Rayne 4, Ingram 21, McCallum 43, Connelly 48, Ferguson 53  
1930-31 3rd Gunn 3, Connelly 26, Clark 27, McGhee 34, Tombe 45, Lamond 49  
1931-32 3rd Rayne 5, Tombe 12, Armstrong 17, McGhee 30, Ingram 35, Fraser 57  
1932-33 4th Tombe 2, Armstrong 24, Gunn 26, Illingworth 28, McGhee 44, Duff 53  
1933-34 1st= Tombe 4, McGregor 8, Gunn 12, Illingworth 33, Rayne 34, Duff 35 Equal first with Dundee Thistle
1934-35 6th Gunn 13, Duff 16, Hall 41, Rayne 43, Tombe 53, McGhee 56  
1935-36 4th Gunn 3, Tombe, Hall 28, Kerr 30, H Wilkie 44, J Wilkie 49 Equal fourth with Shettleston
1936-37 3rd J Wilkie 12, McGregor 24, Tombe 25, Kerr 41, McAllister 42, Gunn 54  
1937-38 8th Moffatt 35, McGrath 46, J Wilkie 49, Robertson 63, Connelly 67, Aird 98  
1938-39 13th J Wilkie 16, Moffatt 39, Connelly 68, Warren 84, Chalmers 134, McGrath 135 The first year that any counting runner was outside the first 100

The club did of course provide several international athletes, the most prolific of whom was WJ Gunn who represented Scotland in 1928, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1932 and 1936.   M Rayne with one run in 1930 and SK Tombe with three (1928, 1933 and 1934) were the others.   I have shown enough above to indicate that the Plebeian Harriers was one of Scotland’s top clubs with many really first class runners in their ranks.   Other than Alex Armstrong, I can’t see any who were members of other clubs prior to their debut for them, and Maxwell Rayne was a first year Junior when he was tenth in the National in 1927-28.


The Scottish team at the 1933 ICCU Championships at Caerleon, Wales.   SK Tombe (Plebeians) is third from the left.

Others are H McIntosh, J Givin, J Suttie-Smith, J Flockhart, WD Slidders, W Hinde, R Gatons and RR Sutherland in black jersey.  Seated: J Wilson.

Second behind England, Colin Shields says that this was the most successful Scottish team in international history

Photograph from ‘Whatever the Weather’

The photograph at the top of the page comes from a tribute to James Neilson published in the ‘Scots Athlete’ in the December 1948 issue of the magazine and it is reproduced in full here.

James Neilson: A Tribute.

Never could that much abused word ‘sportsman’ more literally or truthfully describe anyone than the genial, warm-hearted Jimmy Neilson, whose sudden death at his Netherlee home recently saddened a huge circle of friends in this and many other sports, for he was all that we mean when we speak of the perfect sportsman.   Generous in victory and cheerful in defeat, he made friends quickly and kept their esteem always.   His sage advice on athletics and there were few so shrewd advisers, was unstintingly given, but I think the secret of his success and popularity was the whole-hearted enthusiasm he threw into everything that took his interest.  

From his youth he was vitally interested in sport, and he competed successfully as a Bellahouston Harrier, but it was with Plebeian Harriers, the club he founded, that his name became synonymous.   And Jimmy really WAS Plebeian Harriers.   Starting off with a bunch of young lads, he fired them with his own infectious zest, inspired in those around him a grand team spirit, so that Plebeian swiftly advanced to become one of our leading clubs and to win all the main honours in cross-country.   Reward for the diligence of the young club’s pioneers working under Jimmy’s organising influence, came when the club won title after title, and particularly when racing for youths became general, for to catch them young was always his theory, one which he had to defend against many critics.  

Under his guidance, Plebeian won

the Novice team title,

the individual title three times,

Western District junior championship,

Midlands District junior championship,

and individual title and

tied with Dundee Thistle Harriers for the National championship in 1934

But it was in relay racing that the “Plebs” made their biggest hit.   They won the Western Relay and were four times successful in the Midlands relay, while their special training and Jimmy’s shrewd, carefully studied tactics made them supreme – against, man for man, more renowned teams – in the early Edinburgh to Glasgow relays.   Successes in this race probably gave Jimmy Neilson a bigger kick than any other, for “Plebs” although they kept on winning were never the form selection.  

As a legislator he was equally forthright and hard working.   He was an Hon. Vice-President of the National Cross-Country Union.   Aye, Scottish athletics is much the poorer by his passing.   So many of us have lost a loyal affectionate friend.

Now we have a partial answer to the query about their origins: James Neilson was the founder, or one of the founders, although he is given sole credit in the article above.   But when did they start up?  Although they continued well after the War, their best days were clearly before 1939.    They had been producing good young athletes with teams in Junior races so there is no telling what they might have achieved without the six year break in activities.    They trained south of the Clyde and the last runner of note that graced their colours was Alec Small who eventually moved to Victoria Park in 1958 after Plebeian Harrers finished twentieth in 1957 and dropped out of the race.    He trained for a while in Renfrew at the King George V Playing Fields with Alastair Johnston and Albert Smith of Victoria Park and Alastair had this to say: “I knew Alec back in the early 60’s – he and his pal Harry Carson were introduced to my older brother and myself by a friend who used to run for Renfrew YMCA.   They had just left Plebeian Harriers and joined Victoria Park.    We all used to train at Renfrew’s KGV Playing Fields when not at Scotstoun, and it helped us a lot in getting started.   I think that the Plebeians, or what was left of them trained at the KGV playing fields.”

A Small

After the war they kept on competing and turning out in the traditional road and country races but the results were not as good as before the war.   They continued to slide down the team results sheet and by January 1955 they were twenty third in the McAndrew Relay.   In November 1958 they were a lowly tenth in the South Western District Cross Country Relay at Paisley.    They did produce some very good runners and there were two in particular worth looking at in detail.   Their two best athletes after the War seemed to be Alex Smith and then Alec Small.    Smith first appears in the records as a Youth in 1946-47 when he was thirty first and second scoring runner in the Plebeians third placed team.   Two years later he was twenty second in the team that was third in the Junior championships and as a senior man he was thirty eighth in 50-51, and fourteenth in 51-52.

Alec Small appears as a Junior in the 1952-53 championships when he finished seventeenth before turning out as a senior the following year.   He was forty fourth in 1953-54, missed two years before turning out for Victoria Park in 1956-57 and placing tenth, in 1957-58 where he was thirtieth and 1959-60 when he was away back in 122nd which was his last appearance in the National.

It was a bit different on the roads in the Edinburgh to Glasgow relay.    Alex Smith’s first showing was in November 1949 when he was third fastest on the third stage and kept the club in thirteenth position.    He was equal sixth fastest with Alex Breckenridge in 1950 when coming from nineteenth to thirteenth on the second stage.   His first fastest stage time was in 1951 on the second stage when he brought his club from fourth to second although it would eventually finish fourth.      1952 was the first time the two Alex’s would be in the same team.   Alex Smith was on the second stage where he brought the team from fifteenth to seventh with the fastest time of the day, and Alec Small was on the sixth stage where he dropped from seventh to eleventh.    A year later they ran first and second in the team that finished thirteenth – Small was fourth on the first stage and then Smith dropped down to ninth on the second.   In 1954, Smith was again on Two where he was eighth fastest and brought the team from fifteenth to tenth, while Small was on Six again and with a very poor time, was good enough to stay in fourteenth.   No Alex Smith in 1955 meant that Alec Small was on the second stage and he came from thirteenth to ninth with the seventh fastest time.   In 1956, with ninth time on Stage Two, he came from twentieth to fifteenth in the seventh fastest time.   In 1957, when the club finished twentieth, he was not there and the following year Plebeian Harriers were out of the event for good and Alec was running for Victoria Park.   He ran for Victoria Park for a couple of years but eventually emigrated to Canada.

Plebeian carried on but the last result in the SCCU Championships where they are mentioned is that for 1963 when only two men ran – and they finished 134th and 136th.   So we now have approximate dates and as part of the search for the origins, I went to Colin Shields’s book “Whatever the Weather: the official history of the SCCU”.   He says, “the sport grew in popularity after the War with new clubs constantly being admitted to the Union.   These included Dumbarton AAC, Eglinton H, Plebeian H, Mauchline H, Canon ASC, Selkirk H and Beith H. …… One application caused such controversy that it was referred for consideration to the AGM.   This was from the Socialist Harrier and Athletic Club and was, after a great deal of discussion, rejected by 19 votes to 14 with the justification that the proposed name and the red flag on their vest was objectionable.”   One of the theories being  floated by some of us was that the club had sprung from the Worker’s Educational Association, or the Trades Union movement following the English example of setting up Cycling Clubs, Swimming Clubs and even a ‘London Plebeian Harriers’.   The latter seemed a promising lead but it would seem that the truth is simpler – it was set up in Glasgow and Renfrew by experienced Scots.   The name is still a bit of a mystery – we know of the Roman Patricians and Plebeians of course but if anyone why the name was chosen it would be interesting.

Motherwell YMCA


Motherwell  YMCA was always a good club and produced many fine athletes over the years and decades.   The most famous ‘sons of Motherwell’ would probably be the Brown.   Father Andrew was considerably good after the war and his two sons Andrew and Alex both won championships and ran for Scotland.   Andrew (AH Brown as opposed to A Brown and AP Brown)  is perhaps the best known and was captain of the Scottish \international Cross-Country team for several years.   I have already covered Andrew and his team mate John Linaker elsewhere on this site and may well make Bert McKay the subject of a profile in his own right if I can get all the info that I need: ideally contact with Bert would be the thing.   However, for a spell in the 1960’s they reigned supreme in Scotland, winning road and cross relays and championships with most of their men winning international vests.   The term ‘supporting cast’ doesn’t really do guys like that justice but in terms of winning medals they were never as well known as the Browns, McKays and Linakers, so on this page I’ll mention some of those runners: Davie Simpson, John Poulton, Bert McKay, Willie Marshall and maybe more.   Colin Shields in his “Whatever the Weather” says on p 208, “Motherwell’s victory in 1964 was achieved with with the addition of Ian McCafferty and Dick Wedlock to their already strong team.   They helped Alex and Andy Brown, Bert McKay, Willie Marshall, David Simpson and John Poulton to victory …”       

I said above  ‘a spell in the 60’s’  and meant just that.   The team won medals in everything until 1966 and then in 1967 they had dropped to sixteenth.   Why was that?   The answer is simply that in 1967 Law and District AAC was formed  and there was an exodus from Motherwell – Andy and Alex Brown, Ian McCafferty and some others left with the result that the only real survivors in Motherwell were Bert McKay and Willie Marshall.   Some seemed to disappear – David Simpson and Johnny Poulton are two that spring to mind.   But let’s start here with David Simpson.

DAVID SIMPSON was a quiet and friendly man.   He was of medium height and wore leather heels on his running shoes that clicked and clacked as he ran – they often distracted other runners.   He came from Shotts.   By the time that Motherwell started their remarkable run of success in the 60’s he was a regular member of the squad and would get his only Scottish Cross-Country vest in 1962.   It should be noted however that at that time there was only the one real international cross-country fixture and only eight men were picked annually, so if it were a good year for runners with many men at a high level, or if you were injured, then you had had it.   I knew him best as a road runner.   Like the rest here, I’ll start the story with the Edinburgh to Glasgow in 1960.   The team was fourth and David ran the second stage, taking over from Bert McKay on the first.   He held his eight place on this, the toughest stage in the race.   In ’61 he was on the fourth leg and had the second fastest time with the team finishing third.   ’62 saw him back on the second stage in the first winning MYMCA team.   In 1963 Motherwell won again and David contributed by having the fastest time of the day on the fifth stage where he would represent the club three times in four years.   A year later and he had the fastest time of the day on the fifth stage for the second consecutive year and again the team won.   Motherwell tended at that time to keep men on the same stage for several years but in 1965 the switched several and not always with the happiest of results but David did his bit with the fastest time on the third stage in the team that finished second to Edinburgh University.   In 1966, he was back on the fifth stage in the team that was third.   Then the run of success stopped for reasons noted above.   It was a shame.   David had run in six races in the 60’s, turned in three fastest stage times and had one second fastest, and come away with 3 gold, 1 silver and 2 bronze medals.

David was an excellent road runner with victories at several road races around Scotland – at one time the Gourock 14 miles seemed destined to be won by Motherwell men: David had at least two wins as did Andy Brown.    He was almost ever present in their top relay teams in 1962 and 1963 with the regular quartet being Bert McKay, David Simpson, Alex Brown and Andy Brown who usually ran in that order.   When John Linaker arrived on the scene David dropped from the top four for a while but, make no mistake, he was still a very good runner.

The team was not quite as good on the country but David ran well.  In 1959 he ran as a Junior for Shotts and finished fourteenth In 1961 however he finished eleventh in the Senior race to be third counter in Motherwell’s team that failed to close in six runners.   In 1962 he moved up to ninth to be third counter in the team that was fifth and in 1964 he was eleventh in the bronze medal winning squad.   In 1965 he was thirteenth and in 1966 he had slipped down to fiftieth: both times the team was fifth and out of the medals.   On the track he had several rankings between 1960 and 1971.   It should be remembered that at that time track running was almost all on cinders and that shoe technology was not as advanced as it is now.   As for the marathon, hard trails were sought out: the Isle of Man was notoriously hard and the course from Westerlands in Glasgow was ferocious with several very testing hills.   In 1960, David was ranked seventeenth with 31:34.2, in ’61 he was thirteenth with 30:55.0 and in 1963 he was twenty second with 31:12.6.   In the marathon he was eighth in 1965 with 2:40.01.


David Simpson (51) at Dirrans Sports, Kilwinning, in 1963

53: Hugh Mitchell; 52 Pat McAtier; 138 Charlie McAlinden followed by Bobby Calderwood and Brian McAusland.

If you had a picture in mind of a perfect running machine, WILLIE MARSHALL with his glasses and characteristic running action was not the one.   But any team in the country would have been glad to have him: he consistently ran well and was a really valuable team member who was picked at times when more fashionable runners were not.   In 1960 he ran the fifth stage of the E-G and pulled the team up from seventh to fifth.   In 1961 when they won the bronze, he picked up from fifth to fourth on the same stage in the fourth fastest time of the day and in 1962 on the third, he pulled in no fewer than five places when he went from eleventh to sixth in the second fastest time in the team that won.   In 1963, still on third, he was second fastest and moved from fifth to third in the winning team.   ’64 still on the third, he maintained third place on the third stage for the winning team.   In 1965 he was back to the fifth stage and again went home with gold.   Switched back to three in 1966, in the team that finished third.   Then the team disintegrated.   He was as you might expect a regular member of the cross country squad and although the results available for 1963 and 1964 are incomplete we have enough to show that he was a hard working member of the team.   In 1951 he was one  hundred and first when the team finished fifth but although he picked up 22 places to seventy ninth the following year, he was a non-counter in the team that was fourth.   In 1961 he was eighty sixth but Motherwell failed to finish a team that year.   In 1962 he was fiftieth and the team was again fifth – although the results for 1964 are incomplete we know that Motherwell was third team and can reasonably assume that Willie picked up a bronze medal.   In 1965 he was sixty third and in 1966, sixty fifth.   An ever present in the National Championships.   Like many of the MYMCA runners however, better on the road than the country.

Willie was a very good runner who ran in many good teams and often enough stepped into the gap when some more illustrious runner was unavailable.   This was often at short notice as when, in 1966 Ian McCafferty just failed to show up for the McAndrew Relay – Willie was asked to step in and he did, running the first stage for the team that finished third; he turned oiut again the following week in the Lanarkshires and in the YMCA Championships with Bert McKay and the two Brown brothers.   The minute McCafferty was back, Willie was happy to drop back to second team duty.

Where many endurance men ran down on their feet and stood up at the end of the race, JOHN POULTON always ran tall with his chest out and head to the one side.   His appearance was always immaculate – some runners are downright scruffy, and most are unremarkable from the point of view of their turnout but John always looked good and always looked just the same.   Never apprehensive, never over confident, if the opposition was looking for confidence by looking at him before the race, they got no comfort at all.   A regular in the Motherwell team from the late 1950’s until their demise in 1966, he had a good record in Scottish athletics.   In the Edinburgh to Glasgow He ran the seventh stage in 1960 with the team fourth, the eighth in 1961 and, with the foursth fastest time of the day, assisted the club to third place medals.   He was not in the team in 1963 but in 1964 he was third fastest on the eighth stage in the winning team and in 1965 when the team was second John was on the third stage.   Back to the eighth stage in 1966, he pulled through from fourth to third and a medal winning place.   Two golds, two silvers and two bronze medals in six runs in the 1960’s is good running.   His country running was not as good or as frequent – he missed the National Championships on a couple of occasions and finished further down the field than might have been expected but in all the road events – E-G, Scally, McAndrew, GU Road Race, etc – he pulled his weight as a good clubman.    John only appeared once in Scottish track rankings and that was in 1959 when his time in the 6 miles was 31:16.4 which ranked him twelfth.   John also ran in several of the Two Mile track teams and indeed won several medals himself in the West District Championships.   He was a very valuable clubman and the teams that did so much in the 1960’s could not have done it without him.

JP 2

John handing the baton to Bailie D Docherty in 1964

Monkland Harriers

A Monkland Harriers Group (1970):

Back Row: Jim Minnis, Ronnie McDonald, Neilson Hare,   ?   , Jim Geddes, John McGleish, Peter Preston, Jim Brown, Willie Drysdale,   ?   , Tommy Callaghan, Andy Arbuckle, Willie McBrinn

Front Row: Robert Geddes, Joe Small, (seven unknown), Frank Gribben, Tony Rezcek.

Monkland Harriers was one of Scotland’s oldest running clubs, having been an offshoot of Clydesdale Harriers, and had provided many Scottish Internationalists up into the 1920’s including Olympian Sam Stevenson and Scottish Internationalist Matthew Forrester.   Club Colours were a black vest with a white sash and their stamping ground was the Coatbridge area of North Lanarkshire and the club was doing very well indeed at the period Joe is talking about.   In my role as last of the dinosaurs, I felt that it was a pity that they lost their identity when the Clyde Valley amalgamation took place and they were swept up with Motherwell, L & L, Airdrie and a couple of other clubs.   The new club was undoubtedly successful and Tom Callaghan talks about it  here .

Joe writes:

“Having looked in detail at the stars of our sport, we’ve decided it was time to give a mention to some of the lesser lights, not the big names but those runners who provided the essential back up in team races, relays as well as competing to a good standard in their own right.   I’ll concentrate on the men I trained and raced with over the years with both Monkland Harriers and Clyde Valley AAC.  

I first joined Monkland Harriers around 1967, aged 13.   The club was just coming out of a period in the doldrums.   By organising the local schools races membership had picked up and a significant number of talented athletes were signed up.   The club was predominantly road/cross-country with a few sprinters and throwers.   The secretary was that weel-kent face Willie Drysdale, still active I believe with Law & District.   The “trainer” was Andy Arbuckle best known for applying a freezing cold sponge in the face as you crossed the finish line!   With Jim Brown and Ronnie McDonald competing in the senior ranks for the first time, the usual four man team consisted of these two together with Willie Drysdale and Eddie Devlin.  

Eddie was one of many excellent runners to come out of St Patrick’s High School in Coatbridge.   To name a few, Eddie, Ronnie McDonald, Martin McMahon, Paul Bannon, Mark Watt, Frank Gribben, Jim Burns, Neil Agnew and myself!   I’ll use principally the Edinburgh to Glasgow relay as a measure of the progress of the club over the years.   With eight runners in a team, it gives a good overall view of the state of the club.   

In 1971 the club was invited to compete in the E-G  (or News of the World as it was then called) relay for the first time in a number of years and the names of those who competed in that event give an indication of the standard of runners at that time.   Together with Drysdale, Brown, McDonald and Devlin, the remaining four were a young Peter Preston, later to join Cambuslang, Tommy Callaghan, who coached both Jim and Ronnie, policeman Neil Hare and John McGleish.   They performed well achieveing a commendable ninth place.   Also in this season, the club won the National Junior Cross Country title with Jim Brown (1st), Ronnie McDonald (3rd) backed up by Peter Preston and Danny Nee.   At this point it’s worth looking at the record of two men in particular in the E-G.   Over the years Monkland and Clyde Valley competed in the race on 14 occasions.   Both Jim Brown and Eddie Devlin had a 100% record, running in all 14 occasions, with two wins, one second and three third place finishes.   Eddie was an excellent all round athlete, encompassing everything from a fast 800m of around 1:54 up to a 2:25 marathon, but he seemed always to peak for the E-G.  

The 1972/73 season saw the first appearance of Ian Gilmour as a senior, but in spite of his good run on the Second Stage of the E-G, the club dropped one place to tenth.   Other newcomers that year were myself, (the first of 10 appearances in the race) and Willie Devlin (brother of Eddie, a very strong forceful  runner, who turned out for the club in big races, even after moving south for employment reasons.   Not a newcomer, but in the team was Willie McBrinn, a veteran even then, but with many age group records to come in the years ahead.   As I write, I understand he is still looking for a world marathon record for an 80 year old, in spite of recent serious ill health.   When you went out for a training run with Willie, you knew you were in for a seriously hard run.    At some point in the proceedings, he would throw in a fast mile or two to stir things up.

The junior squad repeated the National win, again with Brown, McDonald and Preston from the previous year, with myself making up the four man team.

The next year saw six of the previous year’s eight back in place.   Peter Preston had left to join Cambuslang.   In came Tommy Callaghan, his first appearance since 1966.   In addition to coaching and competing, Tommy was also active on the committee of the club, as were a number of runners at that time.   Another new face was John Davidson, an Anglo-Scot who had signed on after a good performance in the National.   He only ran a few races before disappearing from the scene.   These changes saw an improved performance as the team finished in eighth place and won the Most Meritorious Performance.

This was the end of an era, the prominent black vest with the white sash disappeared, as Monkland Harriers amalgamated with four other local clubs to form the new Clyde Valley AAC.”

There are several very well known names in there – and I probably raced all of them at one time or another.   I remember Eddie Devlin as a very good runner indeed but a bit erratic – at times he did not do himself justice.   Tommy (TBP) Callaghan was someone I raced fairly frequently – a slight figure who always paced his races well and often came through at the end of an event.   Peter Preston was never as good as Eddie or Joe himself, he was a regular club runner though and as such the kind of athlete most clubs like to have around.   Willie Drysdale is indeed still running for Law & District AAC and is to be seen at all the major and veterans events over the winter and on the roads in summer.   Willie used to finish down the field in most races until he started training with John Anderson and the result was a massive improvement – I believe that John even had him doing weight training.   From being a middle of the field runner, Willie started to figure in the first 10% of the field and even took third place in the West District 6 Miles championship at a time when the event was taken seriously.   When I taught for a short period in Glasgow and trained at lunchtime from the Strathclyde University gym at lunchtime, Willie was an ever present and his call of “C’mon boys, screw the nut!” as we went along Alexandra Parade to the park and golf course was frequently heard.   Mind you, I still don’t really know what it means …………….

Willie McBrinn I first saw in action when David Bowman was trying to talk me into doing the marathon and we went through to follow the Falkirk to Meadowbank marathon in the early 60’s.   The favourite Ian Harris dropped out and I think Gordon Eadie won but Willie finished second after a very steady race with no sign of weakness anywhere despite the heat on the day.   We became friends and took part in many of the same road races.   He was a great competitor and well liked by everybody in the sport.  But Joe has left out a man who won medals in both E-G and National championships – namely, himself!   Joe was a good runner for Monklands and then Clyde Valley running at least ten times in the Road Relay and winning three bronze and one gold team medal in a Clyde Valley team that was one of trhe most difficult in the country to be selected for!   I look forward to any comments on his own running in the story of the Clyde Valley supporting cast!

Guys like these shouldn’t be forgotten – thanks Joe for reminding us.   Copies of the club membership cards are available from this link .

Monkland Harriers’ Willie Russell at the left in the top row.

Maryhill Ladies AC

Leslie W

Leslie Watson

Maryhill Ladies Athletic Club will almost certainly be the only women’s club to be included in the ‘Fast Pack’ page.   It was a brand new club that came from nowhere to be British Women’s Cross-Country champions in less than five years.   With brand new coaches who were inexperienced at this level of athletics and good but not outstanding runners they are worthy of comparison with any club, male or female.   It is unfortunate that there has been so little written about the women’s scene in Scotland and no standard reference work and any further information received would be more than welcome. 

Maryhill Ladies Athletic Club appeared quite suddenly on the athletics scene in Scotland.    It was at a time when there were several very good women’s clubs in and around Glasgow.   There were Maryhill Harriers Ladies, Bellahouston Harriers Ladies, Springburn Ladies, Clydesdale Harriers and several others but although they all had very good athletes no one club was big enough to challenge on the British stage.   John Anderson was a member and coach at Maryhill Harriers Ladies which, despite its name, really had no connection with Maryhill Harriers and it was run by Tom Williamson and his wife.  In 1961 Tom decided to set up a club that united all the best women athletes in the area which would be good across al disciplines and able to challenge the very best.  The decision upset all the clubs from whom the new club’s members came but at Maryhill after he left there was some confusion about what to do next and John Anderson was asked to re-organise the club.   Despite having no real first-hand experience of athletics or proper coaching, he agreed to do so.   The new club was set up with the name of Maryhill Ladies AAC.  How did the club become so successful?   More about that question at the end but back in 1961 John set about recruiting coaches for the club, started to read all he could about the various disciplines and got the ball rolling.   They had to have some goals – the first was to be the best club in Scotland after three years, the second to be the best club in Britain after five.

John is keen to give credit to two club members in particular who were, in his words, ‘central to all that followed’.   They were Marlyon Page (nee Black) and Gill McDonald (nee Stead).   Marlyon was a good club athlete with best times for 220y, 440y and 880y of 26.6, 61.0 and 2:20.2, and Gill had bests of 28.0 (220y), 13.5 (80mH), 3457 points (Pentathlon), 9.89m (Shot), 31.19m (Javelin), 5.18 (Long Jump).   Gill was second in the SWAAA javelin in 1961, and 3rd in the long jump in 1960, while Marlyon’s best 880y time saw her fourth in Scotland in 1961.   They were invaluable in league competitions but they were at least as valuable in the club’s organisation filling all the important posts, keeping everyone up to date, getting forms in on time and so on.   John is quite clear about that.

John A

Despite the best efforts of Tom Williamson and his colleagues at Western LAC and other clubs in Scotland, the first target was reached quite easily.   They unearthed and developed many outstanding athletes – Leslie Watson, Mary Campbell, Moira Kerr, Avril Beattie, Chris Salmond and many, many more.    For the endurance runners, the two big years had to be the winning of the British Championships in 1965 and 1966.   The intention had been to run the British Championships in 1964 and then have a real go the following year.   The story had begun in season 1961-’62 when the new club won the SWCCU Championship.   On 3rd February 1962 they provided the first three in the women’s handicap race at Kilmarnock with G Buchanan first in 19:45, M Crawford 19:52 and C Kelly 20:03 – very close to each other in times considering that they were not running together, thanks to the handicap.   A ‘fast pack’ indeed.   A week later in the Women’s cross-country championship at Springburn, Dale Greig won from Georgena Buchanan (Maryhill) – “Maryhill with Miss M Crawford fifth and Miss L Watson sixth as their counting runners won with 11 points.   Teviotdale was second with 42 points.”    In 1963 the story was the same but different.   The individual title was not theirs but the team race was.  Georgena Buchanan who had been their first counter the year before won this time – but in the colours of Western AAC.   Maryhill’s counters were Miss M Crawford in third, Miss I Inwood in fourth and Miss C Kelly in fifth.   Better packing you would find it hard to get.    In the SWCCU Championships on 14th March 1964, the Maryhill team won the championship with “Miss Crawford 3, Miss L Watson 4 and Miss I Inwood 6“.   This made it three-in-a-row for the club in Scotland

It had been decided that, in line with sound common sense and athletics principles, that before going to the British Championships, they would take a team down to England to check out the lay of the land, to give the runners a feel for the event and make their presence as a team known.   The rules allowed eight to run and four to count but the club hadn’t that strength in depth at that point in their development, so they had the bare minimum of four runners and all had to finish.   The four were Margaret Crawford, Leslie Watson, Isabel Inwood and Marlyon Page and they set off on the journey south.   After they crossed the border, there was a snow storm, it was impossible to continue and they decided to park the minivan at the side of the road.   John thought he’d ‘be a great hero‘ and sleep under the van giving the girls the comfort of the interior.   Under he went with his sleeping-bag but unfortunately, or perhaps inevitably, he couldn’t sleep and in the middle of the night he was so cold that he knocked on the door and asked if he could come in.  There was no problem with that, far from pyjamas and nighties the girls had coats on – in fact the suggestion was made that perhaps they had 47 layers of clothing on!   They eventually dozed off for a bit and in the morning the van was stuck in the snow so Leslie and Cathie jogged off looking for a village or somewhere that they could get help.   They came back with a farmer and a tractor!   The van was thawed out, the tractor got them back on the road and they headed off south for the championships, still very cold.   It was then that John saw a queue and realised that it was for the cinema.   “OK, girls.   We’re going to the pictures!”     “But we can’t, we’re racing this afternoon!”    “You’re not going to the pictures to see the film.   There will be heaters along every wall inside.”   So John paid for them all to go to the cinema.   Eventually, thoroughly warmed, they made their way in the van to the venue and ran in the race where John had given them instructions to run as a team so that they would be seen and known in future.   Leslie however, not usually the first finisher for the club finished well up the field in approximately tenth position with the others further down the field finishing as a trio.   Leslie apologised to John for not doing what she was told!   Apparently she had slipped at the first gate and when she got up, couldn’t see the others so just raced as hard as she could to try to catch them up!   However, in the British Championships the team race was won by Bury and Radcliffe AC with 51 points from London Olympiades on 70 and Mitcham with 86 points.   Very close – but it would be less close in the following two years!

This was all leading up to a marvellous two years.   In 1965 and 1966 Maryhill Ladies Athletic Club did something that no Scottish club had done before and none have done since when they won the British Women’s Cross-Country Championship.

 In 1964-’65 the season started with races organised by Tannahill Harriers in Giffnock: in the handicap race, Margaret Crawford won from clubmate Marlyon Page.   In the club own open event at Nether Pollock on 12th December, Isabel Inwood (running for Glasgow Police) won from Cathie Kelly with Dale Greig third.  On December 19th, in the Scottish Women’s Christmas Handicap races at Garscadden, Cathie Kelly had second fastest time behind Georgena Buchanan of Western LAC.   On 9th January in the Scottish Women’s Cross-Country Union Senior race from the Maryhill LAC headquarters Cathie Kelly was again second to Georgena Buchanan.  More races are being reported now in the run-up to the Scottish Championships and on 16th January in the Greenock Rankin Park ballot team relay at Greenock,, the fastest time was by Georgena Buchanan (9:09), second fastest was I Inwood (9:14), fourth C Kelly, fifth L Watson (9:33) and fifth M Crawford (9:55).   The Ballot team format involves all the individual entries being seeded into three piles according to the ability of the runners and one drawn from each pile to make a team.  The intention is to have mixed teams so that runners whose club teams are not doing so well or who do not have teams, have the opportunity to pick up a prize.   There is no doubt that had it been a club relay, Maryhill would have won.   On January 23rd, Maryhill LAC held their women’s winter open races were held at Nether Pollock with the result that G Buchanan won in 23:23, C Kelly was second in 24:12 with L Watson third in 24:27.   On 6th February, the Kilmarnock cross-country handicap races with the two fastest times run by members of Maryhill – M Crawford being first and C Kelly second.   The next race was the big one – the SWCCU championships.   In the Scottish championships, the team had four runners in the first six, Watson, Kelly, Crawford and Inwood, and one of the other two was a former Maryhill LAC runner – the winner, Georgena Buchanan.   They won by 11 points to 30 for Greenock Wellpark.      Two weeks later they raced at Fernieside in a Glasgow v Rest of Scotland match and their runners finished fourth and fifth (Watson and Crawford).   The British championship was on 13th March, 1965, and the ‘Glasgow Herald’ headline shouted out British Title Victory For Maryhill Harriers’   (they meant Maryhill Ladies AC, of course).   The report read: “Maryhill Harriers ladies team had a splendid victory in the in the English cross-country championships over a heavy course (three and three-quarter miles) on Saturday at Birmingham.   When their four counting runners finished in the first 27 places.   Miss L Watson was fifteenth, Miss C Kelly twentieth, Miss C Campbell twenty sixth and I Inwood twenty seventh which gave the club an unassailable total of 88 points.  

The winter 1965 – ’66 was similar in that there was a slow build up over the winter with a gradual increase in number of races and improvement in standard of running.   On 8th January in a race organised by Western from North Kelvinside School Leslie Watson and Cathie Kelly tied for first place.   On 15th January in open senior race at Nether Pollock, Dale Greig won from Cathie Kelly.   Then at Greenock a week later, in the ballot relay, Cathie Kelly set a record for the course with Lesley Watson third fastest and Margaret Crawford sixth.   At Fauldhouse on 23rd January, Kelly won from Doreen King (Bellahouston), who was having a marvellous season, by only four seconds.  On 7th February in a handicap race at Kilmarnock Cathie Kelly won from R Kelly (Wellpark Harriers) by seven seconds.   Cathie Kelly was clearly in top form leading in to the Scottish Cross Country Championships.   However the headline read:

 “Scottish Title For Miss Watson: strong finishing run”. And the text read: “Miss L Watson (Maryhill) won the Scottish women’s cross-country title on Saturday at Bellshill.     She covered the three and a half miles in 24:54 beating Miss D Greig (Tannahill), winner of the title three times, by 30 yards with Miss M Crawford (Maryhill) third, a long way back.    Snow covered the course to a depth of six inches in places which made the footing unsafe.   At half-distance Miss Greig and Miss Watson were together, well ahead of the field.   After two and a half miles, Miss Watson running with more determination than usual, broke clear and opened up a 20 yard lead.   Over the final half-mile Miss Greig reduced the margin and looked like catching up but Miss Watson, sensing the danger, produced a remarkable turn of speed.   Maryhill won the team race for the fifth successive year, this time with the record total of nine points.”   In the Glasgow v The Rest match, Cathie Kelly won with Lesley Watson fifth.   The English championships were on 12th March and the report was much more restrained, pride of athletics place in the ‘Herald’ being given to the Scottish Schools Championships.  Under the headline of Maryhill’s Team Retain Title”  the two short paragraphs read: Maryhill Ladies with 90 points retained the British Women’s Cross-Country Championships on Saturday at Oxhey, Hertfordshire.   The two leading performers of the team were Miss L Watson the Scottish champion who did well to finish tenth and Miss M Campbell (domiciled in Birmingham) in fourteenth position.   Miss C Kelly and Miss M Crawford were twentieth and forty sixth respectively.”   To date, February 2013, no other Scottish women’s club has won the British title.

A summary of the team’s domestic cross-country performances over the early years is below but unfortunately not all details are known.    The ‘Glasgow Herald’ archives are a great source of information for track results for men, but not quite as good for women’s events but for women’s cross-country it is not even as good as that with many races being unreported or reported in minimal detail.  What is below is what can be gleaned from Ron Morrison’s site at www.salroadrunningandcrosscountrymedalists.co.ukin the archive section.   No doubt the AW is better but they don’t have online archives.   It can be seen however that the Maryhill LAC team dominated these championships with three first individual places, a second and four third places.

Year Venue Position Points Runners
1961-’62   1st 11 2 G Buchanan, 5 M Crawford, 6 L Watson
1962-’63   1st   3 M Crawford,  4 I Inwood, 5 C Kelly.
1963-’64 Musselburgh 1st 14 3 M Crawford, 4 L Watson, 7 I Inwood
1964-’65 Fauldhouse 1st 11 2 L Watson, 4 C Kelly, 5 M Crawford
1965-’66 Bellshill 1st 9 1 L Watson, 3 M Crawford, 5 C Kelly
1966-’67 Bellahouston 1st 11 1 L Watson, 3 C Kelly, 7 ?
1967-’68 Musselburgh 2nd* 25 6. L Watson, 7 M Purdon, 8 C Kelly
1968-’69 Clydebank 1st 13 1 M Speedman, 5 J Cameron, 7 L Watson
1969-’70 Lesmahagow 2nd** 33

6 M Speedman, 9 L Watson, 18 A Orpieszwewska

1970-’71 Dundee 2nd 36 8 M Speedman, 9 L Watson + 19?

Western LAC  24 points, Maryhill LAC 25 points

** Dundee Hawkhill Harriers 32 points, Maryhill LAC 33

In season 1966-’67, in the club’s open races at Nether Pollock resulted in second and third for Cathie Kelly and Leslie Watson in early December, and Cathie was third the following week at Clydebank.   On 9th January 1967, there were no Maryhill runners in the first three of the Scottish women’s championships at Linn Park, but on 21st January, in their own race at Pollock, second (E McPherson) and third (C Kelly) places came to the club.   Into February and the business end of the season and in the cross-country handicap at Kilmarnock E McPherson was second to Dale Greig.   On February 11th at Fauldhouse, the SWCCU held their combined Senior/Intermediate trial fr the international team and the winner was Mrs M Campbell-Speedman – a Maryhill LAC runner attending Dunfermline College of Physical Education.   On 25th February the English Women’s Cross-Country Championships were held in Blackburn, Lancashire and Cathie Kelly was first home for the club.   The ‘Herald’ report read: : “Miss P Davies (Selsonia) won the senior two and a half miles title for the third year in succession. …. She beat Miss J Smith (Barnet) by 40 yards with Miss A Smith (Mitcham) third.   …  First home for Scotland was Miss C Kelly (Maryhill) in twentieth place in 23:40.   The other Scots finished as follows:   22.  D Greig (Tannahill)  23:45, 24 Miss L Watson (Maryhill) 23:50,  31 M Purdon (Bellahouston) 24:09, 36 M Campbell Speedman (24:17), 58 M Crawford (Maryhill) 26:17 and E MacPherson (Maryhill) 28:04.” No individual polace was given for MacPherson.   In the team race, Maryhill LAC was placed sixth.   The very next week they were in action again in the SWCCU Championships at Bellahouston.   “Miss Watson Retains Senior Title.   Miss L Watson (Maryhill) retained her senior four miles title on Saturday at Bellahouston Park.   She beat Miss D Greig (Tannahill) by 50 yards in 27:53 with Miss C Kelly (Maryhill) in third place. ”   Mary Campbell-Speedman was sixth finisher but as a student at DCPE she was not eligible foe the club team but seventh place also went to Maryhill although the name was not given in the ‘Herald’ report.

Winter 1967-’68 started with the race at Clydebank on 9th December where Lesley Watson beat Dale Greig with and M McGregor (Maryhill) in third.   In the Greenock Ballot Team Relay the only Maryhill runner in the first three was third placed E MacPherson.   In the handicap race held at Kilmarnock on 3rd February, Margaret Purdon (Maryhill, the former Bellahouston Harrier)) had fastest time of the day.  On 17th February in the East v West Women’;s cross-country, Doreen King (Western) won from Margaret Purdon (Maryhill) who was just ahead of Cathie Kelly with both being given the same time of 26:10.  On 26th February, the report on the English cross-country championship ran to a mere twelve lines and only three Scots were named – Dale Greig, Margaret McSherry and Doreen King.   In the SWAAA Championships on 9th March the team result was reported as follows:   “To those with only a passing knowledge of strength the victory of Western AAC in the team race came as a surprise.   Maryhill Harriers, winners of the British team title three years ago, had swept the boards in the previous six years but this time had one point too many in their total for three counting runners.   For Western Mrs A Lusk, who as Miss A Drummond took the individual title in 1954, 55 and 56, was second counting athlete in ninth place.   Mrs G Craig’s thirteenth position gave them a total of 24 points.”   Western’s first counter had been Doreen King in second.   Maryhill counters had been Leslie Watson in sixth, Margaret Purdon in seventh and Cathie Kelly in eighth.

1968-’69 was the season when they took their Scottish title back again.   On 25th January Mary Speedman (below), she seems to have dropped the ‘Campbell’ as far as the sportswriters were concerned, won a Three Miles race at Dunfermline organised by DCPE from Dale Greig by only two seconds.  There were no Maryhill Women in the first three at Linn Park in March when Georgena Craig beat team mate Doreen King to make it a Western 1-2.    On 15th February at Clydebank Mary Speedman won the Scottish women’s championship from Margaret McSherry of Cambridge by inches: both were given the same time of 2:52.   The ‘Herald’ said that it was neck and neck until the last 80 yards when Miss Speedman managed to edge out her rival by the narrowest of margins.   Maryhill with their first three runners in first, third and seventh places took the team title with 13 points to Western’s 39 and Edinburgh Southern Harriers on 42 and in fourth was the Maryhill B Team with runners placed 18th, 20th and 25th.   This was the last time that this team won the SWCCU Championships although they were second in the following two years (see the table above).

Mary Sp

Some team!   They ran well, they won events individually and especially as a team and the question has to be how did they train?   John Anderson and his coaches read all there was to read but they did not have the background in road and cross-country running that almost all of the existing men’s clubs had, so there were no pack runs such as you read about on other pages here.   They trained on the track at Blairdardie at Knightswood on Tuesday and Thursday.   It was quite a good venue in that it was a very big red blaes area with the track laid out but with a very big perimeter.   Twice a week there and long runs at Pollock estate on the Sunday.   In addition they followed the schedules that John had worked out for them and these involved road running.    Several names appear in most of the teams above but when a girl is absent from the team it doesn’t mean that they were not running and backing up the team that did win.   That they were good over the country is beyond dispute but how were they on the track?   Let’s look at them in alphabetical order as they appear in the track rankings of the 1960’s.

Margaret Crawford seems to have been an out-and-out distance runner and appeared only in the Mile rankings – in 1962 she ran 5:59.8 to be tenth in the country and in 1964 she had improved to 5:48.8 which also ranked her as tenth.   Margaret won four team golds as well as three individual bronzes in the Scottish Championships.   Margaret came from Blairdardie and after three third places in the SWCCU Championships plus two gold medals from the British Championships disappeared from the scene.   She married a man from Greece and went to live there.

Isabel Inwood with a 1945 birthdate was relatively young but was ranked thirteen times between 1961 and 1966 at 440y, 880 y and the Mile.   Her best times were 59.2 (1963, ranked fourth in Scotland), 2:14.0 (1964, 2nd) and 5:20.4 (1964 1st).   She also had a good record in the championships – in 1964 she was second in both 880 yards and Mile, in 1962 third in the 880 yards and again third in the 880 yards in 1963.   There were also a number of District wins and good competitive races in such events as the East v West fixture.

Catherine Kelly was two years older than Isabel and she too specialised in the 880 yards and one mile.  I can’t find a ranking for her at the shorter distances although she did run in handicap sprints at highland gatherings at such as Gourock and Strathallan.   Her best times were 2:22.8 for the 880 yards in 1966, ranked tenth,  and 5:14.6 for the Mile in 1965 when she was ranked second.    Her consistency over the longer distance was notable, she was ranked fifth in 1961, fifth in 1962, ninth in 1963, eighth in 1964, second in 1965, third in 1966 and third in 1967.   It is also noted above that on the country four consecutive medal winning teams and had an individual bronze.

Mary Campbell was another young athlete with a 1945 date of birth.  From 1962 to 1966 she was very much a sprinter with times of 11.3 for the 100 yards, 25.3 for the 220 yards, 60.9 for 440 yards and with few races at 880 yards her best for this period was 2:12.6.   After that spell she ran mainly 440y/400m, 800m and 1500m with best times of 59.9y/56.7m,  2:06.8m and 4:27.7m.   She went on to win the SWAAA 800m twice and competed in the Commonwealth Games on the track.

Lesley Watson was a key member of these teams and went on to become one the country’s best ever marathon runners – she is profiled on the website here – and her place in this very good Maryhill team cannot be overestimated.

Marlyon Page (DoB 1939) was described by John Anderson as a ‘key player’ in the early days.  Her contribution to the club’s success is clearly very highly rated by him.   When the Williamsons moved off she was a teacher and in her early Twenties which meant that she was a bit older than most of the girls there at the time.   She became the General Secretary while carrying on with her own running career.   She can be found in the ranking lists as Marlyon Black and has bests of 26.6 for 220y, 61.0 for 440 yards and 2:20 for 880 yards.

Maryhill Ladies Athletic Club had come a long way in ten years on the road and over the country in winter – possibly even further in track and field but this profile is all about their wonderful fast pack of endurance runners.    The question posed at the top however remains to be answered.   How was it that this team from a club only five or six years old managed to do what no Scottish women’s team had done before or has done since?   Namely, win the British cross-country championship, and more than that, do it twice?   When I put it John, he said that the club had a whole new fresh approach to athletics.   Not many had much experience at all of the sport or running a club.   The first thing he did was contact all his PE teacher friends to send athletes along and/or come themselves to help as coaches.   Any parents who came with their daughters were used.   They were asked if they could coach, or if not could they help in other ways.   It was done on a massive scale.   Two of the most important people to be attracted to the new outfit were

Madge Carruthers, a teacher at Westbourne School in the West End of Glasgow.   She became a very good coach and official and her daughter Lindy Carruthers was one of the top multi-eventers in the country.   and

Jimmy Campbell who had been many things in his time including professional footballer followed his daughter Mary into the club and became one of Scotland’s finest sprint coaches.   His daughter of course, was Mary Campbell-Speedman.

Jimmy C

Jimmy Campbell

Team spirit was of course incredibly high – it had to be to do what they did as a club.   Moira Kerr was one of the country’s best ever shot putters/discus throwers and competed in the 1966 Empire Games as a shot putter but she ran in the club second team that was second in the cross-country championships!    Throwers and distance running don’t usually go together but they did that day.   A final note: as an indication that the club did well on the track as well as on the country, I took the Scottish statistical yearbook rankings for 1967 – selected at random from the 60’s lists that I have – and note their top performances across the board.

100 yards:   Three in the top nine, five in the top seventeen;     220 yards:   three in the top five, six in the top eighteen;   440 yards:   four in the top fourteen;   880 yards:  five in the top thirteen;  Mile:   thee in the top five;   80M Hurdles:  three in the top five, five in the top twelve;   100M Hurdles:  Two in the only four ranked;   High Jump:   one ranked at number three;   Long Jump:   three ranked in the top eight;   Shot Putt:   four in the top fifteen;   Discus:   two in the top four;   Javelin:   six in the top eighteen;   Pentathlon:   three in the top ten;   4 x 110 yards relay:  Ranked first (48.5) with a Scottish National Record.    The performances were listed in this fashion to illustrate that they did not achieve success with two throwers, three sprinters and a couple of milers.   The club actually did produce a lot of very good athletes of their own: I recognise only one of the athletes listed above as coming from another club rather than being ‘hand reared at home’!






Robin Thomas

Robin T

Robin in the Edinburgh University 10

Robin Thomas was a talented runner who went on to be President of the SCCU and a national figure in the sport.   However that is rarely mentioned when his name comes up in conversation and he is possibly better known as the spirit behind the Hunters Bog Trotters team.   Such is their respect for him that in the 2011 Run and Become Open 2 Mile Race there were runners called Steve Robin Thomas Cairns, Robin Simon Thomas, Robin Ellis Thomas McKechnie, Robin Ivor Thomas Normand,Robin Eilidh Thomas Wardlaw, Robin Andrew Thomas McKechnie,  Robin Deborah Thomas MacDonald, Michelle Robin Thomas Jeffrey and many others.   Is it a new twist on “I’m Spartacus” or an Edinburgh version of “We’re a’ Jock Tamson’s bairns”?   His friend Colin Youngson wrote this profile of the man and his career with considerable assistance from Robin himself.

Robin’s wide circle of friends and less-impressed acquaintances may consider him an endearing oddball or indeed quite outrageous but he himself claims “Not unpredictably, I would suggest that I am a “character” rather than an eccentric. Assessment of eccentricity depends upon how broad a spectrum of personalities one has met in life and to what extent one is a prisoner of conventional, unadventurous, unimaginative thinking…… i.e. Tory (metaphorically, if not literally) thinking!” In the phrasing of that suggestion, the co-founder and mainstay of Hunter’s Bogtrotters (undoubtedly the most zany and unusual Scottish running club) reveals humour, originality and a concern for longwinded verbal precision. Much of the following profile will be in his own idiosyncratic and entertaining words, since he has had the impudence, nay the temerity to criticise mine as lacking accuracy!

Robin H. C. Thomas states the following. “I was born and bred in Swansea, living there between April 1955 and August ’66. Then I became a White Settler in Edinburgh, where I lived until September 1969, before moving to Penicuik for six years. Home was a mile and a half away from (and three hundred feet lower than) Howgate. I have nostalgic memories of various Penicuik 10ks in the 1990s, seeing brown-vested runners each in turn veering out of the race and pulling across the road for a Panic Pint in the Howgate Inn (those were the days when one’s legs were still frisky enough to catch (some) people again afterwards!)

Primary education was at various schools in Swansea; with Secondary Education at George Heriot’s in Edinburgh. I started running for school cross country and athletic clubs in 1968 (eventually becoming Captain and Vice-Captain thereof respectively).

In January 1972 I suffered a mountaineering accident, in Glendoll. I was unconscious for ten days, but lived to tell the tale after spending three months in hospital. Said accident left me totally deaf in my right ear.

I matriculated as a Fresher at Edinburgh University in 1972, being instantly given the nickname of “YP” by the then EUH&H Secretary Jim Dingwall (later an outstanding Scottish and British International) when I turned up for my first Wednesday afternoon’s fartlek. At the time I was still 17 years of age and living in Penicuik and Jim cried, “Ah, you’ll have to be YP!” (YP being a group of adolescent residents of Peni, prone to killing evenings together on the streets, occasionally with a canister of aerosol paint for graffiti).”   Sunday runs, unsurprisingly, were important in improving the stamina of nearly all Edinburgh distance athletes. Robin says “the Sunday training group from the Bruntisfield flat of Martin Craven (“The Crab”) went into the Pentlands, past four reservoirs (Torduff, Clubbiedean, Harlaw and Threipmuir) or sometimes seven reservoirs [aforementioned four plus Loganlea, Glencorse and Bonaly]. It was run at an amicable pace for all – often with fast runners looping back for wreckage. It was only in the mid to late 70s when Colin Youngson and Sandy Keith lived in Edinburgh that it became a burn-up along the Water of Leith valley to Balerno and back, using the formerly railway trackbed now Water of Leith walkway!” (In retrospect, I must admit partial culpability, although after Balerno, as real marathon preparation, we did occasionally come back through the reservoirs and finish with yet another lap of the Meadows to make the distance up to 25 gruelling miles.)

Robin made an impact in the November 1974 Edinburgh to Glasgow Road Relay when he was tenth fastest on Stage Two, only 14 seconds slower than Willie Sheridan, the future founder of Westerlands AC. Robin insist there is no such person – only ‘Bill Sheridan’ – but during 1971-73 I used to be in Victoria Park AC with young Willie and that is how they referred to him in Glasgow, so there, pedant!   Robin represented EU in the E to G in six successive races from 1974 to 1979. One highlight was in 1977 when he was sixth fastest on the prestigious Stage Six. The following year EU finished eleventh, after Robin had gained two places on Six. Then in 1979 he tackled Stage Seven, gained three places and was second-fastest by one second to future marathon star Lindsay Robertson of EAC.

At this juncture, Robin interjected the following. “Your version tends to concentrate on racing, rather than simply on running! For me, running is an end in itself and also a means to an end (weekly racing)”.

When I was in my 20s and 30s, I tended to do Long Slow Distance and little or no speedwork. I am wary of the “no gain without pain” philosophy – in longer term it can lead to injury, disenchantment, disillusionment, becoming burnt out and retiring from the sport. How many runners, coached in their younger years, continue racing in older years. PNFA!

Runners, whatever their ability, should apply themselves wholeheartedly to the sport. Massive improvement is achievable by all, by consistent and prudent (maybe hard – which includes mere mileage – but not manic) training.

Other thoughts. 1) Racing: I have scorn for those who only race when fit; 2) Attitude: my philosophy is what can one contribute to the sport, rather what one can get out of it.”

In the 1975 Junior National CC, Robin finished 33rd but was part of the EU team that secured bronze medals. In 1976 he improved to 12th, only one second behind Graham Laing, another future marathon star.

In the 1978 Senior National CC, Robin finished a respectable 63rd which he dismisses as “dross”, mentioning that his “training was inconsistent in the later 70s and early 80s, due to having to work to support myself – night shift a speciality – while also being a (part-time) student.)” He represented EU three times in the Scottish CC Relay, and his team achieved 5th place in 1975 and 6th in 1978.

On the track, Robin recorded 32.47.4 in the 1976 East District 10,000m but must have reached half way in 15 minutes, since the eventual winner Colin Youngson remembers having to try very hard to drop him! In 1977 Robin improved to 31.30.4, which ranked 20th in Scotland. That year he was second to Ian Orton in the Scottish Universities 5000m; and third in the British Universities 10,000m at Belfast. Robin’s 5000m personal best was 14.47. (The Scotstats profile refers to him only as “Rod/Ron? Thomas”, such is Robin’s modesty and generally low profile ……..) He says “I did increasingly little track running in my later years at Uni, partly because I found long distance track running less than hedonistic. Track 10k is utterly dire compared with the 10k cross country (especially ‘real’ cross country!), road and hill-running. Also the speed work involved for track grew increasingly unpalatable as I grew older – preferring addiction to the narcotic of mileage.”

He showed considerable promise in road running. “In 1983 I did 2.25 in the Belfast City Marathon (having led most of the way, before being destroyed by the Big Guns who had been loitering not far behind, waiting to pounce in their own shoot-out/burn-up). This was my first actual marathon. I also ran 2.25 winning the International Silk Marathon in Cheshire – which I mistakenly thought would be flat, like the Sandbach event. The Silk race proved to be from Macclesfield and was anything but flat!” Robin also won the Edinburgh to North Berwick 21.8 miler twice, in 1984 and 1985, the latter in the good time of 1.57.24.

His LSD training background helped in longer races. In the 1977 Two Bridges 36 miles he finished 9th in 3.40.04 (recording his very first marathon time of 2.37.18 en route) and the race report states that he “won the handicap with a great run in his debut at the distance against a classy field”. Robin says “I was pleased to reach 30 miles inside three hours but then blew it! I had been catching a Royal Navy runner (name known but withheld) who’d been getting all manner of assistance from his mate in an M.G. Midget (which I thought a trifle unsporting). You’ll know how it is in ultras – patience! It can take about an hour to gain a quarter of a mile. But I caught the guy at 30 miles and was feeling okay – so I put in a burst going over the Forth Road Bridge (the Forth Bridge being for trains only) and stormed past him. Only to discover that it was a Pyrrhic victory – my legs were now wrecked, I slumped to 7 minute miles and he plodded past and away.”

Then in 1984 he was seventh in the gruelling Edinburgh to Glasgow 50 mile race, recording 5.51.53, having lost momentum after a pit-stop in Airdrie Fire Station. “I was also ‘bonking’ (i.e. low blood sugar) for 35 miles! There was no energy drink available but I did manage to grab a packet of Dextrosol – which made me feel great for all of two miles! Would have liked to have beaten 5.50. Ye Gods! My appetite and post-race thirst were utterly insatiable!”

“Lairig Ghru 28. I’m no hill-runner (shockingly bad at racing downhill) but did this event in the mid-80s, doing okay until the boulder field (wet from light rain) where I was simply unable to remain on my feet, falling umpteen times, while nimble chancers danced through without a slip.

Loch Tay 35. A late 1970s undulating training run from Firbush, looping right round Loch Tay. The ‘roadie’ who accompanied me on a pushbike (a certain Ian Orton) ended up with legs/quads more knackered than me due to the switchback trail.

My running and racing in recent decades has been plagued by recurrent injury to upper and lower parts of Achilles tendons (mainly lower calf/soleus). Occasional escapes from jail allow limited training (at funereal pace) before yet another relapse….. The sole important thing these days is being able to continue “running” – nine minute miles a price worth paying if it keeps the legs uncrocked! Appetite (greed!) and thirst, however, remain undiminished!”

Having been on school cross country and athletics committees from 1970 and EUH&H committees from 1973 onwards, Robin Thomas certainly had skills as an organiser. He was in charge of the Edinburgh University 10 miler, which involved two severely undulating laps of King’s Buildings and Braid Hills Drive. “Utilitarian prizes” were preferred to the usual unwanted coffee sets – members of the third team to finish that year each won sixteen Mars Bars!

Robin (the Race Secretary/Organiser) now denies that he ever produced a proper programme for this event. “Gestetner/Banda sheets and notices – yes! Hand-written/printed notices and comments in the Hare & Hounds logbook – certainly!” However I possess a yellowing copy of the typed up and stapled 1980 programme for the EU 10 (which cost me five new pence) and intend to quote from this. It proclaimed “the Edinburgh University Hare & Hounds 10-mile road race (8.87 Scots miles, since a Scots mile is approximately a furlong further than an English mile) has grown to become the SCCU’s biggest and most prestigious 10-mile road race. It now attracts Olympic and Commonwealth Games stars, British Internationalists, Scottish Internationalists, English Internationalists, SUSF and BUSF representatives and droves of runners of lesser ability.” (On reflection, if Don Macgregor and Fergus Murray had turned up, along with a good runner from Newcastle and a jogger or two, all of the above categories would be covered.)

Robin’s comments continued “Slugs (i.e. people who are not members of EUH&H) are invited to take part. Top prizes will be awarded to first Slug and to the first team of Slugs. As indicated above, all members of the Hare and Hounds, not being slugs, do not qualify for these prizes (we also reserve the right to disqualify EU Athletic Club and Orienteering Club runners, so that genuine fat slugs can take part and win). So, stub out your Capstan Full Strength, drain your pint of Export, and look out a pair of training shoes. You could win our Star Prizes – a keg of Export and half an ounce. Spectators will also enjoy the pie-eating contest and a refreshment session after the race.” (In 1980 I was one of the first team home (ESH). Prizes awarded to various finishers included Martini, four cans of beer, a homebrew kit and a jockstrap!)

Proof of the success of Robin’s eccentric marketing strategy came in 1981, when the fastest two runners in Scotland travelled over from the West to battle their way to a new record. Nat Muir (48.37) narrowly defeated Jim Brown (48.48) and secured the winner’s bottle of ten-year old malt whisky! However Robin comments as follows. “I would suggest that my marketing strategy was more unusual, novel, thoughtful, pragmatic, utilitarian, imaginative (and other such adjectives) as opposed to eccentric. Eccentricity depends on the proportion of boring grey conventionalists one has had the misfortune to meet in life. Bear in mind, too, that student clubs don’t have the financial means for spending much on prizes but can make prizes memorable/valued by using other parameters. As for the bottle of malt – the Hare & Hounds are a student club. They’re too young to have discovered the joys of malt! And student club funds are obviously very limited” etc ad nauseam. What a tease the man is! I know for certain that Nat and Jim turned up to joust for such a thoroughly acceptable prize, rather than the tin medals and reject tea-sets they were likely to ‘win’ in ‘normal’ events  during that era.

Other major athletic endeavours for Robin Thomas included walking the Pennine Way in1976 and vast beer tours of the best pubs in Europe, USA and Peru. A real test of determination was ‘The Triple Hundred’ when he managed to run 100 miles and drink 100 pints in 100 hours. This took place on the Isle of Man in 1978. No less an athlete/drinker than World CC Champion Dave Bedford (who trained about 30 miles per day in his pomp but could only drink a wimpish 10 pints daily) was keen to offer his congratulations. Nowadays, Robin is aware that this was a dangerous venture and does “not want some youngster getting injured/knocked down trying to emulate me. Rules were: 100 consecutive hours; no runs of less than 3 miles; no lager – must be real ale – no soft drinks or shandy. And no honking!

Among less notorious events in which I have had the pleasure of taking part are the Trinity College “Gallon Ten” and the Phoenix 14.

The former was 10 x 1 mile (each two laps of the central Dublin campus) with 9×1 pint (an “Irish Gallon”) of Guinness in between in the cricket pavilion. The event eventually became something of a distraction to the cricket players in the simultaneous Dublin Uni v NUU match! I finished second in the Gallon Ten, behind Glasgow Uni’s Alistair Hunter (aka Bunter).

The latter involved the Northumberland Coastal Run (at one time, through sponsorship, known as the Phoenix 14) – a superb point-to-point beween Beadnell and Alnmouth. One year – many, many years ago – a group of Trotters were joined by a similarly-minded group of Westerlands runners in doing the race, but stopping for a pint in each of the half dozen (or so) splendid hostelries in or near villages en route.”

“I graduated in 1976 after a four-year M.A. Honours course. Student years continued thereafter mainly on a part-time basis (financed by night shift work). My reasoning was that not only would this add assorted academic courses to my CV, but I could continue running for “The Hairies” and the financial support then available from the Sports Union (for entries, travel, accommodation etc) was greater than fees for a course. Then there was the prolongation of the craic! I left EU in 1981 and spent my student swansong doing teacher-training at Queens University, Belfast. A very enjoyable year – also a reminder from my Swansea days of the cancer of a west coast climate (prolonged hours/days of light rainfall).”

In August 1980, along with Bill Blair, Ian Orton and Conrad White, formed a new club – Hunters’ Bog Trotters, which started out with ex-EU runners, but expanded to a wide range of like-minded individuals. An article he wrote in Scotland’s Runner magazine in February 1992 states “Our declared aim was combating elitism. HBT realised that a tasteful shade of bog brown was the obvious choice of club colour. A fine non-elitist colour, it was felt. Hunters’ Bog is a large area of (former) bog lying between Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags in Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park, where many training runs were – and remain – centred. The word Trotters was chosen partly due to the terrain in Hunters’ Bog, partly because in Victorian times there had been a local running club (Edinburgh Harriers) known as the Bogtrotters, and partly because (to quote a founder member) “We do no athletics and harry no one, so calling ourselves athletic club or harriers would be both incorrect and pointless.”

“From the outset the HBT viewpoint has been that all Trotters are equal and the wellbeing of the D team no less important than the A team Both the elite and AND the also-rans/the hacks/the wreckage/the debris/the real runners are equally important to the wellbeing of a club. It’s all too easy to pay little attention to the running proletariat of the club (which is where potential for mass improvement lies) and ask after/focus on the A team and the good runners.

That emphasis on morale and club spirit is felt to be very important in this running club as it is believed an individual’s commitment to the sport will be stronger as a consequence. Also, it is felt that getting a lot of enjoyment and laughs out of life (and running), and placing major emphasis on the social life of the club (generally involving a great deal of real ale), is in no way inconsistent with being a dedicated runner.”

Robin comments further on the above: “The original newspaper article was published in the Edinburgh Evening News at the formation of the club. It was written by Sandy Sutherland and was headlined “New Edinburgh club – but not for the elite!” Three founding principles of HBT – apart from anti-elitism (metamorphosed over the years into non-elitism!) – NO God-Squad; NO Tories; and NO lager drinkers! This is to demonstrate from the outset that humour, morale, irreverence and banter are all-important to HBT. “

Nicknames abound amongst the Trotters: for example Stumpy, JamBo, Egg, Pieman, Nixon, Wah-Wah, Zoot, Phat Phil, Big D, Gash, Twiggy, McPosh, Daft Bob and Wallachie. “Wallachie is pronounce Vallachie – the Polish guys who arrested and detained us near their border in Bohemia couldn’t pronounce the “W” let alone “Wallace”.

Over the last 34 years, Robin has soldiered on valiantly as legendary club secretary/organiser and there is plenty of evidence that HBT remain true to the original ethos.

Almost incidentally the Trotters became Senior National CC team champions three times.  In addition many classy runners have chosen to compete for the club and also represent Scotland and GB, especially in hill-running. Robin emphasises that HBT women, like the men, have become one of the numerically biggest and strongest cross country etc clubs in Scotland, having been National CC Champions in 2010 and medallists on many occasions. In addition they have won the National Trail Running Championships and the UK Hill/Fell Running Championships. “Whether races are held in Scotland, England or Wales, they keep winning! But we have plenty of other women Trotters supporting the great brown movement. Traditional Trotter women who, like Traditional Trotter men, enjoy the course for longer than the elitists. HBT women (likewise men) have consistently had the most finishers in Senior National CC in recent years.”

HBT continue to organise the Hunters Bog Trot, the Black Rock Race and the Grudge Match (a bi-annual mismatch against the ‘hated’ Westerlands club). “The Great Trotter Relay is held every year, since it is a massively popular event. Starts in Hunters Bog on the Thursday evening and finishes at some distant spot (Derby? Inverness?) around Sunday teatime (with major support throughout for and by a traditional domestic industry with high economic multiplier).” (Could this be some form of healthy energising beverage? Ed.) “Basically, when there are forty or fifty Trotters participating, there simply aren’t enough stages in the day – there has to be doubling up, quadrupling up, sextupling up (or whatever).

The “Golden Trotter” award (shield and vest) is awarded to the Trotter (preferably not an impressively talented leading light), whose contribution to the club over the last year – racing or otherwise – is seen to be the worthiest Trotter.”

 Robin continues to work hard as an official. From rebel ‘poacher’ to gamekeeper! He started as a representative for EU and later HBT in the East District Committee, graduated to the SCCU committee and became the very last SCCU President in season 1992-1993. “I work as a club committee member in particular, but also on SARR&CCC East District Committee, Ed to NB Road Race and assorted other committees. Until recently I have been President of Vice on SARR&CCC.

“Rebel ‘poacher’? Neither I nor HBT have poached anybody? Very many Trotters are ex-students. Many others only started club competition after joining HBT. Those people who have defected from other clubs have done so because they wanted to.”

Robin Thomas’s running and organising career continues. He is an extremely effective and universally well-liked ‘character’ – a PFGM. “I’m now a dilapidated, post-middle-aged wreck but have been able to swallow any remaining vanity and resign myself to a race pace once seen as slow training pace (7.30s). All that matters at the end of the day is just being able to get out for a few miles!” (At long last, I find myself in total agreement. Ed.)

Several of YP’s associates have contributed anecdotes, accurate or otherwise.

Dave Wahwah Taylor remembers that “when Robin won the International Silk Marathon at Macclesfield, it was during the impecunious days of HBT (before all the plutocrats joined the club). Prizes won by members became the property of the club, and YP as a little disappointed with the suitability of his winnings for the forthcoming Xmas Raffle (especially after 42+km of endeavour) and penned the lines of that well-kent blues number ‘The Macclesfield Silk Tie Blues’!”

Ron Morrison adds “I recall Robin’s tradition of having a pint on the way out of Haddington in the 5 miler and doing the same on the way back. One year in the early 1980s, he and Bill Sheridan ran 8 alternate legs (4 each) of the Laggan Valley relay to finish 5th team. Robin was President of the SCCU for one week only. He was elected at the AGM in 1992 with a remit of voting for the establishment of the SAF one week later (when the SCCU disbanded). Quite fitting really that it should be Robin. I also remember him eating a fish supper just before the start of the Cupar 5. Indeed he let the start go until he finished the fish supper.”

Ron sent a second email on the topic. “What did ‘YP’ mean? ‘Young Pretender’ was one interpretation I heard! When I was trying to write a definition of a Club in order to set up the new SAF in the early 90s, I floated the idea that a Club was one that had a Constitution and its members paid fees to the Club. Robin told me that this would not do as HBT had tried that and given it up as the treasurer had gone to the pub with the subs and drunk the lot with the members who were present.”

Ian Kiltie emailed many tales. “Robin’s trip with the Guv’nor to see the 1974 European Championships in Rome. Robin went AWOL at Heathrow and missed the flight, which gave Jim a couple of solo days visiting Rome’s churches while Robin renegotiated the flights. The Boston Marathon with Iain Wallace: Robin ended up running the last (first) five miles to the start, against the flow of runners who had already started – ever the purist, he never thought of just joining in.”

“The night Robin met Daley Thompson. Robin had to head off to his holiday toilet cleaning job, but Ian Orton and I were treated to hearing the young Daley (this was ’78) singing “She stood on the bridge at midnight ….” Since Robin had introduced the future Olympic gold medallist to his (Robin’s) infamous songbook.”

“The time that Frank Dick read Robin’s training diary. “What is THAT word? Look, there it is again!”

“The time the fire brigade had to axe their way into his Dreghorn flat because he had left tinned haggis cooking and the neighbours spotted the smoke.”

“Belfast stories. On one of his first nights at Queens, Robin fell in with some types who (naturally for that part of the world) asked which team he supported. Robin, aware of the subtext, replied ‘Meadowbank Thistle’. “No, What TEAM do you support?” Robin had to rely on his knowledge of Irish accents to save the day.”

“Also from the Belfast Days, the Red Bill story. Robin had gone to some left-wing political meetings in Belfast and had been asking probing questions on the state of the plans for the revolution. The Belfast Socialists had become suspicious and desired finding out more about this peculiar Welshman from Edinburgh before kneecapping him as a suspected special branch agent. So they put a call into the Scottish HQ of the Workers Party. It just so happened that Bill Gray was there when the revolutionary speaking from Belfast on the phone asked around “Does anyone know a Robin Thomas?” Bill replied “The Robin Thomas I know is just a daft runner from Edinburgh.” Once again, he lived to see another day.”

“We were also in Belfast the day Virginia Wade won Wimbledon in 1977. Robin spent the afternoon watching the tennis and getting through a case of Guinness. However he had the BUSF 10,000m in the evening and some were taken aback by his preparations. It was very humid and the Guinness must have helped with his hydration because with 9900m gone he was placed 3rd. Then, with just the straight to go, he stopped – he may have had a digestive malfunction, but the momentum was gone and he was overtaken, as he jogged in over the last 100m.”

“The time on his travels (can’t remember whether it was Oz, NZ or USA) when he entered some big mass participation race and discovered in the newspaper next day that he had been given the prize for the first woman (the organisers had him down as Robyn Thomas)!”

“Robin’s provisional driving licence (luckily the world didn’t see anything come of that) where on the Mr/Miss/Mrs/Dr/Other box on the application form, Robin had written Professor – so there was a 17-year-old with a provisional driving licence for Prof. Robin Thomas.”

I can add one more. In the Spring of 1978, before some championship race or other, I was in the dressing room when I was pleased to see my good friend Robin enter. His was a double mission: a) to sell ‘red men’ (i.e. cans of McEwan’s Export) to thirsty athletes; and b) to raise money for charity. He explained, in his verbose, apparently sincere and idiosyncratic manner that he was committed very soon to a sponsored event which would entail running many miles in a brief number of days and also imbibing a great deal of real ale. I was in a quandary. Part of me wished to help YP avoid bankruptcy but part of me did not wish him to endanger his health. Decision time: I agreed to sponsor him for a certain amount. “Good man,” he replied, gratefully, “If you can pay up right now, I would appreciate your generosity, because I actually succeeded in this task three weeks ago.” That Charitable Challenge was, of course, The Triple Hundred!

Ian Kiltie supplies the final anecdote. “I only saw the late, great International athlete/beer drinker Andy Holden (of Tipton Harriers) come second-best at drinking once…. At my fortieth birthday (2 decades ago!) I held a 4×1 mile relay with a pint to be downed after each leg. We ended up with two of running’s greatest beer drinkers coming in side-by-side on the last leg – Andy Holden and Robin Thomas! Andy was so confident of beating Robin on the pint that his tactic was going to be to wait until Robin had to gasp for air and then neck it in one, so he paused – bad mistake! Robin tells me that he had spent the last couple of hundred metres of his run trying to hyperventilate, so he wouldn’t need to take any gulps of air, and promptly downed his pint in one, very fast. Andy was impressed. That was one of the few occasions he was beaten on a pint.”

And there this saga has to end. We seem to have finished on humorous boozy tales but make no mistake, Robin “YP” Thomas has given an incredible amount to his chosen sport of running (indeed to Scottish Athletics) as well as entertaining (for several decades) so many of his fortunate friends.

Hunters Bog Trotters

Robin T

Robin Thomas

Hunters’ Bog Trotters take their name from the area of Holyrood Park in Edinburgh known as Hunters Bog, and the club was originally formed from former students of Edinburgh University.   The rather whimsical club name encapsulates a lot of the spirit of the club – namely that the sport is not taken too seriously.   It has since spread and has an Aberdeen branch as well as the original Edinburgh base.   By a possibly happy coincidence the HBT acronym also stands for Home Brew Talk (an actual website)!   Some indications of their light hearted approach – they were to my knowledge the first Scottish club to wear war-paint on their faces after the ‘Braveheart’ film took the country by storm – other clubs and runners do it now but it is a bit passé by now, they also listed their teams in a relay not the A team, the B team, etc but their first quartet was the H team, second was the B team and the third squad was the T Team!    Ironically at one point they were one of the few clubs to offer serious to the Racing Club from Edinburgh whose raison d’être was to raise the standard of Scottish by forming a winning team: winning was the real and only goal of the club.   Two opposites in opposition to each other.   Racing Club is defunct, the Trotters trot on.   However that may be, Colin Youngson has written the following very good profile of the club.


The Trotters origin and philosophy has been described in the profile of one of its fastest athletes, Phil Mowbray (see Elite Endurance).   For several years after the club was formed it concentrated on a form of running which emphasised adventure and real ale drinking.   Whereas its companion club, Westerlands CCC, took part in the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay as early as 1978, HBT did not participate until 1984 when it may have finished twentieth but defeated Westerlands (in that club’s last appearance in the competition).   The Trotters who featured in this debut performance included the founder, Robin Thomas (pictured above), along with Stuart Gibson, Dave Taylor and Bill Blair.   In 1985 (twentieth again) Ian ‘Nixon’ Marshall featured along with ex-ESH gold medallist Craig Hunter.   By 1989, with the advent of Par O’Kane, the brown vested army had improved marginally to nineteenth.

A hint of future success came in 1990 when HBT won the most meritorious medals after surging up the field to eighth.   Stuart Gibson started well in seventh place, then Edinburgh University’s Adam Eyre-Walker (who was to finish third in the 1991 Scottish Senior Cross-Country Championship) and Colin Farquharson maintained that place, Pat O’Kane gained one and passed on to Craig Hunter, Simon Axon (see Fast Pack, Aberdeen AAC), R Elliot and ex-EAC runner Archie Jenkins.

After a couple of less successful attempts at the E-G, and strengthened by new Trotters Rob Herries, Hayden Lorimer (future Scottish hill-running champion), Steve Wright and Robert Brown, HBT were eighth again in 1993 and sixth in 1994.   They improved again in 1995 with Phil equal fastest on Six.   1996 supplied the first E-G medal for Hunters Big Trotters when they were third.   Archie Jenkins, Jeff Pyrah, Colin Farquharson, M Thomson and Ian Harkness moved upo to seventh, and then Phil Mowbray (fastest on Six), W Grant (fastest on Seven) and Pat O’Keefe (second fastest on Eight finished strongly.

HBT were sixth in 1997 (with Donald Naylor third fastest on Two and Pat O’Keefe fastest on Six), eighth in 1998 (Phil Mowbray best on Six), and in 1999 were again third.   Farquharson, Naylor, Lorimer, Harkness, Alistair Hart, Mowbray (fastest on Six), Dave Wright and Gary Brown were the bronze medallists.   After a fourth place in 2000 (Ian Harkness fastest on Five, Phil Mowbray on Seven), the Trotters finished second in 2001, agonisingly close to winning the Edinburgh to Glasgow.   Alistair Hart was first on Stage One and Stevie Cairns fastest on Two, Dave Wright passed on to John Heapo who was fastest on Four as was Ian Harkness on Five.   At the start of Stage Six Phil Mowbray’s lead was only ten seconds and after a tremendous battle with fellow GB International Glen Stewart (Mizuno Racing Club) he ended up one second behind.   Don Naylor ran the fastest on Stage Seven to reclaim first, but Hayden Lorimer wass outpaced by Davie Ross of Mizuno and ended up only fifteen seconds down.   Still – a fantastic performance – HBT were more than seven minutes clear of Shettleston in third.   The final E-G in 2001 produced fourth place for the Trotters, despite fastest times for Ian Harkness on Five and Phil Mowbray on Seven.

However, as the club’s name suggests, Trotters tend to specialise in tougher underfoot conditions, although they did finish second in the 2004 Scottish Six-Stage Road Relay (with Cairns,Mowbray, Billy Minto, Hart, Dave Wright and Ray Ward).   In 2005 HBT won the Scottish Cross-Country Relay Championships (Cairns, Hart, Naylor, Mowbray) and two years later came third in the same event (Murray Strain) Ward, Hart and Cairns).

The greatest triumphs for Hunters Bog Trotters certainly came in the Scottish National Senior Cross-Country Championships with victories in 2001, 2005 and 2007, as well as bronze medals in 2002 and 2009.   Gold medallists were Don Naylor, Steve Cairns, Phil Mowbray, John Heap, Ian Harkness, Alistair Hart, Ward and Strain.   Bronze medallists were Dave Wright, Gary Brown, James McMullan and Craig McBurney.

The highest individual places achieved by HBT athletes in the Nationals included Philo Mowbray second, Don Naylor second, Steve Cairns fourth, John Heap sixth, Ian Harkness twelfth, Alistair Hart fifth, Ray Ward eleventh, Murray Stain fifth and James McMullan fourth.   Now for some extra information about some prominent Trotters (although none of them would dare to boast since that would lead to expulsion from HBT!)

Colin Farquharson first ran the Edinburgh to Glasgow for Clyde Valley in 1977 (see Fast Pack: Clyde Valley) and won Scottish team titles with them before injuries began to hinder his running.   He ran for Aberdeen AAC in the 1985 Edinburgh to Glasgow but the Aberdeen branch of the HBT was formed and Colin, a free spirit, was a natural to join that club.   As has been mentioned above, he wore the brown vest with distinction and contributed to medal-winning performances as well as social highlights.   He ran the very last E-G in 2002 – 26 events after his first appearance.   In 2001, when HBT won the National for the first time, Colin was seventh man home for the club (and they would still have won the title if he had been their last counter), it was only right that the triumphant team photo showed Colin Farquharson holding the trophy.

Donald Naylor, from Swansea, continues to have a very impressive career.   His track bests include 3:46.9 (1500m), 13:58 (5000m) and 8:37.35 (3000m steeplechase).   Apart from his cross-country feats, Don is a GB INternational steeplechaser and competed for Wales in the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester where he finished sixth in the steeplechase.   In 2004 he won the New Zealand Championship in that event, and also the Inter-Counties 5000m.   At the age of forty in 2012 he still managed to finish twenty second in the Scottish National Cross-Country.

Gary Brown who had track bests of 1:47.15 (800m) and 3:42.66 (1500m) represnted Scotland in the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria.

Alistair Hart became Scottish 5000m champion in 2000.

Ian Harkness is the course record holder for the famous Black Rock 5.   He has completed the Two Breweries hill race and was part of the HBT team that triumphed in the 2002 Isle of Man Easter Festival of Running (and fast pint drinking).

David Wright won the Isle of Harris Half Marathon in 2004 and the Stornoway Half Marathon in 2010.

Stevie Cairns from Northern Ireland and Annadale Striders, continues to race voraciously.   He was Northern Ireland steeplechase champion and the Scottish Cross-Country champion in 2004 over the 4K distance.   Stevie has also won the Scottish Police  cross-country championships and the UK Police steeplechase and 5000m.   Since becoming a veteran he has run very well in the annual British and Irish Cross-Country International where he frequently spends time socialising with the Scots (as well as the Northern Irish of course).

Ray Ward ran 1500m in 3:50.   After his track career he turned to the roads and has won the Newtonmore 10, the Edinburgh to North Berwick 20 and the two island half marathons, in Harris and Coll.

James McMullen is a GB International hill-runner and in 2011 became Commonwealth Mountain Running Champion.

Craig McBurney from Morpeth is coached by the great Jim Alder.   He finished second M40 in the 2009 Scottish Masters Cross-Country and has taken part in the annual British and Irish International.

Murray Strain the current club captain, is obviously talented and versatile and continues to improve.   Like many Trotters he previously ran for Edinburgh University.   His first sport was Orienteering and he ran twice in the World Championships.   Murray has won the British Elite Sprint Distance Championship.   He is a prominent 10K road runner and in 2012 won the Great Scottish Run at that distance.   In 2011 he became the Scottish Hill-Running champion and has competed internationally for Scotland.   In 2012 Murray Strain won the Snowdon International, and ran well in the gruelling Jungfrau Marathon, and the Sierre Zinal.

A recent recruit for Hunters Bog Trotters is Joe Symonds who in 2012 finished ninth in the Scottish National Cross-Country and went on to win the British Mountain Championships (Short Category).   He is of course a GB International hill runner.

The Hunters Bog Trotters saga continues!


There are lots of very interesting and talented athletes in the Trotters Roll of Honour.   The range of abilities that have come together in the club is very wide indeed – outstanding track runners who have competed with distinction at many major Games in events as far apart as the relative sprint of the 800m and the technicalities of the steeplechase., very good hill runners who have run for Britain as well as for Scotland, Orienteers and road runners aplenty.   What has drawn them to Hunters Bog Trotters?   Probably the mix of the sport itself, the club philosophy that ‘losing isn’t the end of the world’ and good company.   Of course, success helps, whatever they might say.   The whole thing, started by the man at the top of the page, Robin Thomas who was at one time President of the SCCU.    In your more philosophical moments, as a runner, you could do worse than raise a glass to Robin!

 Robin Thomas

Greenock Wellpark Harriers


February 1956: The Wellpark team that was second in the National at Hamilton:   Back Row:   J Cairns, B Aitken, S Aitken, D McGivern, C Aitken, S Brown.

Front Row:   G King (21st), B Stoddart (33rd), J Stevenson (4th), D McConnachie (43rd), T Stevenson (3rd) and P McKay (51st)

Greenock had three running clubs when I took up the sport – Greenock Glenpark Harriers, Greenock Wellpark Harriers and a women’s club called Greenock Rankin Park Harriers.    All were well established clubs at that point and all were successful clubs.  The oldest of teh three was Wellpark (1891) with Glenpark being in 1895 so there was clearly a love of the sport in an area that could support three athletics clubs and that had been going for so many generations.  The top men in Wellpark that I was aware of right from the start were the brothers Tom and John Stevenson and George King.   George was a very good road runner and a medallist in the marathon while Tom and John Stevenson and team mate Frank Sinclair all won Scottish Cross-Country vests – Tom won six, John and Frank four each.   All three were in the Scottish cross-country team at the world championships in 1953.  Bill Stoddart who was as exceptional in his own way as any Scottish runner at any time is also part of this band although his true exceptionality was not to become clear for some time, he has his own profile on the website  here  .  Others of note included Frank Whitley and Junior McHenery who died in October 2011.  Junior had been a member of the teams in the 1950’s and early 60’s and had been third in the SCCU junior cross-country championships.   If we go through the exploits of the club in the 50’s and early 60’s the quality of the club at the time and of the runners will be eminently clear.   Remember that at this time Victoria Park AAC, Shettleston Harriers, Bellahouston Harriers and Edinburgh Southern Harriers were all top class outfits as shown by their running in British competition as well as Scottish, and remember too that Wellpark was facing competition within Greenock itself from Glenpark Harriers.   There was no team from Wellpark in the classic Edinburgh to Glasgow road relay race until 1955 when they finished seventh.   A notable achievement for a first ever run in the event and would surely have won the medals for the most meritorious performance had it not been for the even more outstanding run by Vale of Leven Harriers.    They followed this with second place in the Scottish Cross Country Championships just four months later when Tom and John Stevenson were third and fourth.


Frank Sinclair finishing second in the National in 1948

But we should go back to the immediate post war years to make a proper start.    In season 1946-47 Frank Sinclair of Wellpark was fourth in the senior national – only five seconds behind Emmet Farrell in third and 29 seconds behind Andy Forbes in first place.   This gained him selection for the International race in Paris on 30th March where Jim Flockhart in seventh led the team into fifth place and Frank finished in twenty eighth to be counter for the team.   Emmet, writing in the ‘Scots Athlete’ preview of the SAAA Championships that year said: “An ‘Open’ Mile:   A new title holder is certain for this event.   Jack Corfield, the holder, being back in England.   J Stuart (Shettleston), Geo Lamont (Victoria Park) and F Sinclair (Greenock Wellpark) all have excellent chances as has J Buchan (St Andrews).  There is no word at the moment of of James Fleming (Motherwell), at present overseas, but if able to compete I should be prepared to see him win.      Stuart is going great guns at the moment and as this ambitious young man trains to schedule as far as business permits,  he should be there at the ‘death’.   George Lamont, last year’s runner-up, ran a good race in the AAA mile championship last year and cannot be left out of the reckoning.    But, in what should be a very open and exciting race, I am prepared to find Frank Sinclair hitting the tape first.  “   The brief report on the race itself said that the favourite had been Sinclair, and the result was a win for the Greenock man in 4:27 by eight yards from Lamont.   He was subsequently named a a possible Scottish contender for a place in the 1948 Olympic Games team – ‘though possibly not in the Mile.’  There was a triangular contest in Edinburgh between Scotland, England and Ireland and Sinclair ran in the mile where he was third behind the two Englishmen but only 15 yards from the winner.

A profile of Frank Sinclair in the ‘Scots Athlete’ of March 1947 by Roy Robinson (Photoflash No 3) said:

“In 27 year old Frank Sinclair, Greenock Wellpark have developed one of the most colourful runners of the present decade.   Finishing fourth in the Scottish cross-country championships with the underfoot conditions not to his liking, was a meritable performance, and as a member of Scotland’s team in the international cross-country race on March 30th, he is capable of running an outstanding race over a course which will be more suitable to him.   Frank has a long raking stride, with a free, easy action which catches the eye whenever racing.   His all round versatility is demonstrated by his distinctive running over all distances from 880 yards to ten miles.

In spite of his success at cross-country running, I would like to see Frank concentrating on middle-distance track racing events, preferably the half-mile, in which I think his potentialities have scarcely been touched.   His 1:58.1 sec half mile at Glasgow Police Sports last July was a pointer in this direction.   His best track performances last season were in the 880 and One Mile contests at Westerlands where he represented the Western District of the SAAA against a University select.   Few who were there will readily forget the ease with which he ran away from his field in both these events.   By concentrating in his training in the 88-0 yards event, he could, I feeel certain, get down to 1 min 46 sec and probably 1 min 54 sec and have his name set in the list of SAAA champions.”

1947-48 saw the first appearances of Tom and John Stevenson and George King in the officials results with Tom in the senior ranks and John as a Youth.   After a poor winter in terms of team results, the National results for the club were encouraging at least.   Frank Sinclair was second in the senior race and George Dallas, writing in the ‘Scots Athlete’ had this to say about his finish: Sinclair in a great duel with Craig (Shettleston) just managed to pip his rival on the post, and this must be regarded as a splendid result for one who is particularly good from the half mile upwards.”   Sinclair was only 13 seconds and 70 yards behind winner Emmet Farrell who had last won the title in 1938 – exactly ten years earlier.   Sinclair was selected for the International at Reading on 3rd April where he finished 53rd.    In the Youths race, won by Harry Fenion of Lochwinnoch, John Stevenson was placed fourth, just 33 seconds back and only 10 seconds behind the third runner.

In the SAAA Championships in June at Hampden Park, Sinclair was second to Fleming of Motherwell who clocked 4:27.8.   In the triangular international between Scotland, England & Wales and Ireland at Fallowfield in Manchester on 17th July, Sinclair was third in the 1500 metres behind JJ Barry of Ireland and DG Wilson of England with the race won in 4:57.8.

Into season 1948-49 and although the club was not evident in the results of the McAndrew Relay at the start of October, they won the South Western Relay from rivals Glenpark Harriers by 45 seconds.   The names that were to make the club famous in the 1950’s were coming together – George King was second on the first stage just one second adrift of Irvine with Glenpark out of the first three.   R Beaton of Wellpark dropped back as Glenpark swept into the lead on the second stageThen John Stevenson with the fastest lap of the day so far, handed his brother a six second lead over Glenpark.   On the last leg    “Though being chased by the young but unproved runner W Williamson (Glenpark) and the experienced internationalist , West Kilbride ‘flyer’ Jimmy Reid, Wellpark’s youth, T Stevenson, carried his colours well and actually returned the fastest time of the day (11:57).”   Three Wellpark me were in the seven fastest times.   In the preview of the National in 1949, Emmet Farrel said –“Frank Sinclair is trying with the idea of having a real crack at the mile in the coming track season, yet at the same time he would like to make the team for Dublin.   Thus it is somewhat difficult to estimate his chances without knowing his present state of fitness and his intentions.   Nevertheless I feel bound to put him on a short leet.   Ayr Racecourse is made to measure for him and his easy loping stride and fast finish are a danger to the very best; and after all he was runner-up last year.”   On 5th February at Kilmarnock, Tom Stevenson was second to McNab of Irvine YMCA in the South Western District Junior Championship.   The team was seventh with George King second counter in eventh place followed by T Thomson, J Sinclair, David Anderson (who woukld become a useful marathon runner) and D Beaton.   Although the team failed to close in at the National, Tom Stevenson finished fifth prompting Emmet Farrel to say, “Other features included the superb running of novices Tom McNeish of Irvine YMCA and Tom Stevenson of Greenock Wellpark.   …. Tom Stevenson’s feat of finishing fifth is perhaps even more surprising (than that of McNeish) as the limelight was less focussed on him than on McNeish.   Despite his tender years and slender build he ran with the aplomb of a veteran on this course which blighted the hopes of so many and tripped with fairy-like precision over the glaur.”   Incidentally the course over which he was so effusive earlier was a different story in the country around the racecourse was laced with barbed wire fences and a burn which had to be crossed three times was in spate and everyone was soaked every time across: virtually all of the runners ended the day with scrapes. cuts or other wounds! Young brother John meanwhile, ran superbly well to be second in the Youths Championship behind G Adamson of West Kilbride.  Tom was selected for the international and finished fifty third.


Team for 1949 international: Alec Nangle, Motherwell, Team Manager.   Andy Forbes, Jim Fleming, Emmet Farrell, George Craig,TOM STEVENSON, Tom McNeish;

Front: Jim Flockhart, Jimmy Reid, Bobby Reid

Very little was heard of Greenock Wellpark Harriers during summer 1949, but they were out in the McAndrew Relay at the start of October that year when the team finished tenth.   The runners were George King (16:44), R Beaton (17:55), John Stevenson (16:31) and Tom Stevenson (16:12).   Not being involved in the Edinburgh to Glasgow, their last relay was the South Western District at West Kilbride on 5th November where they finished tenth after having won it the year before.   The only two of that team were R Beaton on the first stage and Tom Stevenson on the last leg.   Tom was second fastest with 13:42 to Gilbert  Adamson’s 13:30.   There was an even poorer turnout from the club in the South Western 7 miles championship at Paisley on 4th February when only Tom Stevenson and R Beaton turned out and they finished sixth. and twenty first.   The question of where Frank Sinclair had gone was answered in Emmet Farrell’s preview of the National in 1950 when he listed F Sinclair of Blaydon and Greenock Wellpark.   He was living in England and representing his English team south of the border.   He also said that the previous year he did not even regard the ‘Greenock boy’ (Tom Stevenson) a threat in the National but he ran a really good race to finish fifth and make his selection certain.   He said:  “Tom Stevenson  –  A ‘Jack-in-the-Box’.    Tom Stevenson (Greenock Wellpark) has just returned from the Army and though an international is still in the Junior class.   He was a big surprise at last year’s National at Ayr.   On a day that put paid to the chances of many favoured candidates, this slightly-built frail looking youth ran like a veteran to earn fifth place.   Just when he is most overlooked he keeps popping up to make the critics sit up and take notice.”   Tom opted to run in the Junior race but could only finish seventh in a race won by Adamson from Lennie of the Vale of Leven.   There was no Wellpark team in the Senior race but …. the second finisher was Frank Sinclair, billed as Blaydon & Wellpark.   Emmet’s report commented that “… Bobby Reid of Birchfield H. the winner dictated the pace of the race and a right merry one it was.   Perhaps that is the reason why so many runners felt the pace so early in the race.   A very fit Frank Sinclair loped along in close proximity and after a grad race was only 15 yards behind at the finish.”   ‘The result and times were – 1.   R Reid (50:22), 2.   F Sinclair (50:25); 3.   T Tracey (50:31); 4. JE Farrell (50:36).   This gained Frank selection for the international in Boitsfort, Brussels and he was forty sixth to be the fourth Scot to finish.      The outstanding form continued and in the SAAA Championsips at Hampden in June, the report reading “former holder Frank Sinclair outclassed his field in the mile and former junior champion Eddie Bannon had a good and exciting last lap to be runner-up.”   The winning time was 4:23 with Bannon credited with 4:29.2.   Frank followed this with another run in the triangular international at the White City in August and he was again first Scot when he was third behind the two English runners in a time of 3:56.8 for 1500m.

The club again failed to get its best team out in the McAndrew Relay with their quartet of King, Lobban, Walker and Tom Stevenson finishing twenty first.   They had a much better four out in the South Western District Relay where they finished third behind West Kilbride and Irvine YMCA.   Team: T Walker (15:20); G King (14:12), T Stevenson (14:18), F Sinclair (14:12)   Sinclair had third fastest time.    In his preview of the 1951 National, Emmet Farrell said ” a fit Frank Sinclair should be a certainty for international selection, in fact a contender for individual honours.  But the mile champion does not at the moment of writing appear to be so fit as last year and unless he bridges the gap to a large extent he will be hard placed to gain a place.”   However, it’s possible that Frank felt the same as Emmet because he was not a participant in the National.   Come to that, none of the Wellpark seniors were on duty that day.   It still surprises me to see how many able athletes of the early 1950s missed the National – it is obvious with many clubs such as Vale of Leven that their top men avoided the cross-country championship of Scotland.   It is the more surprising when you see that they were indeed good class runners over the country: in the South Western District Championships on 3rd February, Tom Stevenson was second in 34:22, just six seconds behind the winner.   The club was third behind Glenpark (2nd) and Irvine YMCA (1st).   The runners that day were T Stevenson (2), F Sinclair (4), G King (5), P McLaughlin ((22), R Beaton (35) and W Campbell (42).   When it came to summer 1951, Emmet Farrell was quite confident that, if fit, was still his choice for the Mile.   However the report the next month carried the news that Frank had not got through his Heat!   When asked he apparently said that it was down to “lack of training.”    However all was not lost for the Wellpark supporters – Tom Stevenson was second in 4:25 to Walter Lennie who had come up from Colchester for the event.   Emmet’s ranking list for the year had John Stevenson ranked at number five in his top ten over the Mile although he was in fact the third ranked Scot on time.

In the South Western District Cross-Country Relay at Ayr on 3rd November 1951, Wellpark was fifth of twelve clubs taking part with Tom Stevenson having the second fastest time just 9 seconds behind Alex Smith of Plebeian Harriers.   The times recorded tell a story – G King 14:08, P McLaughlin 14:31, R Beaton 15:57 and Stevenson 13:26.   Two and a half minutes between fastest and slowest team members.      Into 1952 and the Nigel Barge Road Race on 5th January where Tom Stevenson was fourth behind Forbes, Binnie and Tracey (27 seconds behind the winner) leading the team of himself, brother John (9th) and George King (54th) into sixth of 17 teams.   This prompted Emmet Farrell to comment “Another Singlet for Tom Stevenson?   Three yeras ago when still a junior young Tom Stevenson of Greenock Wellpark represented Scotland at cross-country.   Now just out of the junior ranks he has been showing grand form this season and this recent performance seems to suggest that he will be a live contender for international honours again in this his first season as a senior.”   The next race thereafter was the South Western District Championships where Tom Stevenson won by over a minute from Harry Kennedy of Glenpark with George King third.    The team did not figure in the top six clubs.    Emmet’s forecast this time was for Tom to be fifth and for George King  to be a contender.   He was exactly right as far as Tom was concerned – fifth and a place in the team.   But no GWH team in the race at all.   He raced in the international and finished forty fifth.   The only Wellpark Harrier running in the SAAA Championships was Tom and he failed to make the final but did get inside the standard time of 4:30.   The actual time of 4:26 ranked him seventh in Scotland.

At the start of season 1952-53 there was no Wellpark or Glenpark team at all in the McAndrew Relay at Scotstoun but on 18th October at Kilbarchan, Wellpark was second to Bellahouston – only 12 seconds down.    The team of George King (15:03), David Anderson (16:15), T Stevenson (14:22) and J Stevenson (14:22) provided the first two times of the day.   Looking forward to the National of 1953, Emmet Farrell as usual named his top six but added that he did not feel as confident as usual “the chief reason being the presence of Ian Binnie and the brothers Stevenson who have the ability if in the mood to upset the applecart.”   He also noted them as possibles for the international team.   In the South Western District Championship at West Kilbride on 31st January the club went one better than the year before.   at the end of the first lap, A Napier, Paisley, had a lead of ten yards over T Stevenson with J Stevenson following close behind.   When runners came into view again T Stevenson had taken the lead and crossed the line 100 yards ahead of his younger brother John with A Napier a further 15 yards behind..   The race ended in a tie between Wellpark and Irvine YMCA with a score of 102 points but the new rule gave Wellpark victory. “   The new rule stated that in the event of a tie, then the scoring would be done as though only the teams involved were competing. disregarding all other runners.   The Wellpark team consisted of Tom and John Stevenson (1 and 2), F Sinclair (6th), G King (7th), P McLaughlin (36th), R Beaton 50th,   with D McSwein a non-scoring runner.    Almost the same squad turned out in the National with great results.    The team was fourth and three men were selected for the Scottish team in the international!   John Stevenson  was third (behind Bannon and Forbes), Tom was fourth and Frank Sinclair won his fourth international vest in seventh place.    The other team counters were George King (25th), R Beaton (88th) and Duncan McSwein (92nd).   In the race itself, held in Vincennes, the two brothers had an unfortunate experience.   John suffered from sunstroke and had a badly blistered foot which led to him dropping out while Tom in his third international, was also unhappy in the heatwave conditions.  “Sinclair slogged with me well behind for most of the race then in the last lap went off like a 2-miler.   Sinclair has the speed to be a very good cross-country runner if he would train for stamina and overcome his psychological fear of the early and middle stages of the race,”  said Emmet who had himself run in the race – Frank was 52nd and Emmet 59th.    This was Frank’s fourth and last international cross-country race.

Both brothers were written up as track prospects but by 16th June only John was in the rankings with a 4:25.6 Mile time placing him seventh, and 14:51,3 for the Three Miles which also placed him seventh.   Neither however featured at any distance in the National Championships.   At the Glasgow Rangers Sports on 1st August John won the Handicap Two Miles off 150 from Len Eyre and Ian Binnie.

The first real winter relay for the club in season 1953-54 was the South Western District event and they emerged triumphant at Kilmarnock on a day of torrential rain which made conditions very arduous.   George King ran first and came in in ninth place, 200 yards behind the leader in 17:10.  Frank Sinclair had a job to do and ‘he was using his long graceful stride of his to some purpose and with superb judgment brought Wellpark from ninth t a second position only 25 yards behind Beith’   John Stevenson, Wellpark’s second internationalist handed over a 120 yards lead to brother Tom (quoted as number three Scotland runner).    I quote what happened next: it seemed to be all over bar the shouting but the tenacity of young Ian Harris, the 18 year old Beith boy, was good to see and when Tom injured himself at a fence the lead was rapidly cut down.   Stevenson hung on however to record a victory of fifty yards for Wellpark.  “   The day’s fastest times were from Frank Sinclair (16:00) and John Stevenson (16:16).     John was second to Ian Binnie in the Nigel Barge Road Race at New Year.    Emmet Farrell’s forecast for the National in 1954 he nominated John Stevenson – and as the man who could upset things if Bannon was below par.   Tom he had down as one of those battling for the minor places.   But first there was the matter of the South Western District Championships to be held in Beith.   The report reads as follows,  “This developed into another of those individual races dominated by the Stevenson brothers but on this occasion Tom the holder had to give way to young brother John who ran superbly throughout despite the treacherous underfoot conditions to win by over 150 yards from an admittedly much fresher older brother.”    The team was well down on the year before, finishing fourth.   The runners were John and Tom Stevenson (1st and 2nd), George King 7th, David Anderson (40th), R Beaton (41st), Duncan McSwein Jnr (47th) with RL McSwein being a non-scoring runner in 54th place.       When it came to the national, there were two Wellpark men in the first eight – John Stevenson in sixth and Tom in eighth and the team finished in ninth place with George KIng 31st,David Anderson 116th, R Beaton 120th and Duncan McSwein 133rd.   As expected John and Tom Stevenson earned selection but made rather heavy weather of it.   Possibly the rather heavy conditions and lifeless nature of the turf handicapped them more than some of the others.   John Stevenson in particular has the devastating speed of the miler but does not relish the heavy going.”      In the international itself, John was 8th and Tom was 54th and a non-scoring member of the team.

In the SAAA Championships at Hampden on 25th/26th June, Tom was fifth in the Three Miles in 14:42.7 while John was seventh in the same race in 14:54.1.   The ranking lists published the day before the Championships took place indicated that John had run a mile in 4:22.9 (second fastest in Scotland) at Renfrew on 21st June, Two Miles in 9:12.9 (second) at Meadowbank on 19th June and Three Miles in 14:5.2 (second) at Ibrox on 12th June..   These were still his best times at the end of the summer, the only change being that his mile ranking went down to seventh.  He remained the second quickest Two and Three Miler in the country behind Ian Binnie.

 In the South Western Championships on 29th January John Stevenson retained his title in what was described as convincing style from Lapsley of West Kilbride with brother Tom back in fourth place.   George King was fifth and they won the team race by 40 points from Paisley Harriers.   The remaining team members were D McConnachie 10th, J Cairns 12th and P McLaughlin 23rd.   Non-counters were C Aitken 30th, W Aitken 34th, T Carr 38th and R Beaton 44th.   Emmet’s top six for the 1955 National included John Stevenson at number five and again Tom Stevenson was reckoned to be a contender for one of the minor places.   Well, he was nearly right.   John was indeed second – but to Henson of Victoria Park rather than to Bannon of Shettleston – but brother Tom was fifth in 50:10 – forty seconds behind the winner and 34 behind his brother.   The club team was fourth with the other runners being George King 24th, C Aithken 56th, J Cairns 63rd and W Stoddart 72nd and last counter.   Two brothers in the Scottish team again, this time for the International in San Sebastian.   Tom was 57th and John 60th – neither being a scoring runner.   It was Tom’s fifth and John’s third appearance in the event and they had one more run in it each – in 1956.


George King leading the Scottish Marathon from Joe McGhee, EddieKirkup (Rotherham) and Hugo Fox.

I’ve no idea who put the ink numbers on the picture but they indicate the finishing positions.

We have not really done justice to George King yet:  he had never appeared in track rankings or up the field in track championships but he was a useful cross-country who eventually found his niche in athletics in the most difficult of all standard distances – the 26+  miles of the marathon.   It was in summer 1954 that he made his debut in the event.   The SAAA event that year was held from the Cloch Lighthouse in Gourock to Ibrox and George was third in 2:47:04.    It was described in Colin Youngson and Fraser Clyne’s book ‘A Hardy Race’ as follows.   “Joe McGhee’s fitness just kept on improving, and he took part in the Scottish Marathon Championship on 29th May, 1954, over a new course from the Cloch Lighthouse, Gourock to Ibrox Park, where the Glasgow Highland Games were being held.   The time at five miles, after a fast start, was 27:11, with John Duffy, the holder, McGhee, Hamilton Lawrence of Teviotdale Harriers and George King of Wellpark all together.   Also taking part were Willie Gallagher of Shettleston, John Emmet Farell, Gordon Porteous and Eddie Campbell (St Mary’s), the famous Ben Nevis runner – but due to the warm day and very stiff headwind, only Farrell finished.   Lawrence broke away, taking McGhee in his slipstream.   After 15 miles and the long climb up from Langbank, Joe took the lead and Lawrence dropped out saying he felt sick and had eaten nothing since breakfast.   Not surprisingly, since he had not been given a chance of qualification, Duffy stopped too.   Yet McGhee pushed on covering the next five windy miles 30:36 – good going on his own.   While many participants were forced to drop out, Joe ran on as if closely pursued and won in the excellent championship record of 2:35:22.   Forty five year old Emmet Farrell finished strongly in 2:43:08 with a tired George King, who had run the entire second half on his own, just holding off N Neilson (Springburn Harriers) by five seconds in 2:47:04.”  That was George’s marathon debut and the bronze medal was a just reward.   It clearly whetted his appetite because he ran again in 1955 and went one better and he was second in 2:34:30 behind Joe McGhee (2:25:50) and in front of Hugo Fox (Shettleston).   In between the two races had come the Empire Marathon in Vancouver where Joe won in what turned out to be controversial circumstances.    Back to ‘A Hardy Race’

“By the time the Scottish marathon came round again, on 25th June, 1955, over the Falkirk to Edinburgh course, Joe McGhee was fitter than ever, ready to show that he was a worthy Empire Games champion, as well as supreme in Scotland.   Emmet Farrell, himself sixth in 2:48:44, wrote that, ‘Joe McGhee’s record breaking 2:25:50 was easily the feat of the SAAA championships and puts him into world class and an extra glitter on to his British Empire gold medal.   Conditions were excellent but the course is by no means an easy one, and this enhances the performances of George King (Greenock Wellpark Harriers) whose time of 2:34:30 beat the previous best ever in Scotland and that of Hugo Fox with a 2:37:35.

George King had made his marathon debut the previous year, winning bronze despite a light training schedule of three days a week totalling 23 miles!   Like most others at the time, he wore Green Flash tennis shoes, which were extremely heavy (especially when wet) but gave little protection.   From March 1955, however, he increased his training load dramatically to over 80 miles per week!   (Monday 14; Tuesday 5 + 10; Thursday 5 + 12 fartlek; Saturday 20; Sunday 15.)   Not surprisingly he felt strong in the 1955 Championship!   Later that year George won a one hour race at the famous Ibrox Sports covering 10 miles 1625 yards.   Then he finished third in the Edinburgh Highland Games marathon to Eddie Kirkup of Rotherham and Jackie Mekler from South Africa.”   This was not George’s last marathon by any means and he went on to win another SAAA medal and run well in road races all round Scotland.

At the start of season 1955-56, Wellpark won the South Western District Relay Championship on 5th November by over two minutes from Paisley Harriers.   George ran first and handed over a fifty yard  lead to Danny McConnachie who increased the lead to about one hundred and sixty yards.    John Stevenson increased the lead to three hundred yards and Tom Stevenson was approximately six hundred and fifty yards in front by the finish.   Tom (16:19) and John (16:35) Stevenson had the fastest two laps of the day but an interesting feature of the first stage was that Wellpark’s second team was third, courtesy of W Stoddart (17:33).   Stoddart had an identical time to McConnachie in the A Team for whom J Cairns had a faster time than two of the A team with his 17:11.   A very good six in action there and the real relay – the Edinburgh to Glasgow eight man relay – was looming later in the month; and Wellpark were in the race for the first time.    How would the new boys fare?

W Stoddart ran on the important first stage – a poor run here would see the club too far back to do any damage but he ran a solid race to be twelfth.   Tom Stevenson next on the ferociously difficult second leg against big guns from every other club – and he pulled up to fourth place with fourth fastest stage time – eight valuable places.   J McGregor on the short third stage dropped a bit to seventh but most clubs put their weak man on this leg.   George King ran on the fourth stage – another difficult one and maintained seventh with the sixth fastest stage time. On to the fifth leg and Danny McConnachie also held on to seventh place with eighth fastest time.   The long and hard sixth stage was next with the best of the best in action – John Stevenson was the man and at the end of the stage they were still in seventh with fourth fastest time.   He ran 34:16, just behind Alec McDougall of the Vale of Leven in 34:17, and one place in front of Adrian Jackson on    34:18!  On the seventh stage, J Cairns held seventh with the fifth fastest time of the afternoon, and on the last leg C Aitken brought the team home in seventh with sixth quickest time.    In many, if not most years, a team finishing seventh in their first run in the event would have won the medals for the most meritorious unplaced performance in the race but this time, the Vale of Leven won them after finishing a very good fifth.   Nevertheless there was satisfaction in the performance and in the fact that they had six men in the first ten on their stages.


Andy Forbes leading John (111) and Tom Stevenson in the National of 1953

they finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th in that order.

The next big team race before the National was the South Western District Championship, held on 28th January at Beith.   The individual race was won by Tom Stevenson (37:02) from John Stevenson (37:39) with Ian Harris of Beith third in 38:14.   The team race was won by Wellpark with Tom and John 1st and 2nd, George King fifth, Bill Stoddart twelfth, C Aitken fifteenth and Danny McConnachie sixteenth, and the margin was 64 points – 51 to 115.  Add in that the club’s Youth team was also first with A Cairns (2), I Ross (7) and J Melville (13) and it was clear that the entire club was in good shape.   Emmet Farrell in his preview of the National estimated that John would be fifth and Tom seventh.   He was nearly right in that they were both in the first seven all right but wrong in that they were further up than he thought.   Bannon won in 46:55, Andy Brown was second in 47:06 with Tom Stevenson third in 47:30 and John fourth in 47:42.   How did the team do?   Well they did better than Emmet had forecast as well by finishing second!   The wonderful team members who achieved the feat were – Tom and John in third and fourth, George King 21st, Bill Stoddart33rd, Danny McConnachie 43rd and P McKay 51st.   Non Scoring runners included C Aitken, J Cairns, D McSwein, S Brown and W Aitken.   The Stevensons continued the spirit of togetherness into the International where they  finished 38th (John) and 39th (Tom) and counted as scoring members of the fourth placed Scottish team.

George King started the summer by finishing second to Harry Fenion of Bellahouston Harriers in the Clydebank to Helensburgh 16 miles road race but when it came to the SAAA marathon championship he had to retire with a knee injury at half distance.   The following tale is told in ‘A Hardy Breed’.   “George King relates that in July 1956 he travelled with Joe McGhee to the British Marathon Championship in Birkenhead.   Joe arranged for a taxi, sponsored by ‘The Daily Record’, to drive them round the course the evening before the race – but torrential rain, thunder and lightning forced them to abandon that plan.   Race day was very hot and sunny.   Both Scots felt good but the temperature continued to rise.   Joe had to retire and George too was suffering from dehydration.   He passed a young boy carrying a jar of water and asked him for a drink.   The boy refused as it had taken him all afternoon to catch the minnows he was taking home in the jar!   Poor George retired at half distance.”

It had been a wonderful period for the club with Frank Sinclair (4), John Stevenson (4) and Tom Stevenson (6) gaining fourteen cross-country international medals between them, Frank winning tow SAAA Mile titles plus a couple of minor place medals plus four runs for Scotland in the annual triangular match, plus George’s Marvellous Marathons and all the District and individual titles.


The first run in the Edinburgh to Glasgow held out promise of good things to come but up to 1960 they were bedevilled by the lack of a first ten place on the first stage.   When they finally got up to fourth in 1960 and in with a chance of the Most Meritorious Medals they went to Aberdeen who were in their first race for some time.  Wellpark were most unlucky in the Most Meritorious Medal stakes -the following year they were seventh and the medals went to Dundee Hawkhill in 16th!  The basic E-G Statistics for the period to 1960 are in the table.

Year First Second Third Fourth Fifth Sixth Seventh Eighth Comments
1955 W Stoddart 12 T Stevenson 4 J McGregor 7 G King 7 D McConnachie 7 J Stevenson 7 J Cairns 7 W Aitken 7  
1956 H McHenry 19 T Stevenson 19 C Aitken 15 P McConnachie 15 D McConnachie 12 G King 13 J Cairns 12 I Ross 11  
1957 C Aitken 17 T Stevenson 14 W Stoddart 13 F Sinclair 12 D McConnachie 10 G King 9 J Cairns 9 H McHenry 7  
1958                 Team 10th: No Details Available
1959 W Stoddart 14 T Stevenson 9 G Bryden 10 T McKay 11 G King 10 P McConnachie 10 F Whitley 9 C Aitken 9  
1960 D McConnachie 9 W Stoddart 9 C Aitken 8 P McConnachie 6 J Stevenson 6 G King 6 F Whitley 5 T Stevenson 4 Most meritorious medals went to Aberdeen in 6th
1961 J Stevenson 7 W Stoddart 9 F McKay 8 P McConnachie 9 F Whitley 8 G King 10 C Aitken 8 T Stevenson 7 Most meritorious to Dundee Hawkhill in 16th
1962 J Stevenson 15 F Whitley 14 D Anderson 18 G King 19 T Stevenson 16 B McConnachie 16 C Aitken 16 H McHenry 17  

Frank Whitley was another top class athlete who eventually moved to London where he ran for Thames Valley Harriers and came back up to run in major races for the Wellpark.   He had best times, ranked every year from 1962 to 1970,of 4:14.0 for the Mile (1969), 9:05.6 for Two Miles (1968), 14:09.9 for Three Miles (1968), 29:47.0 for Six Miles (1968), 14:25.6 for 5000m (1969), 30:24.6 for 10000m (1969) and 2:46:06 for the marathon (1969).

Back to season 1956-57 though and the season started with the relays as usual.   The club won the South Western District Relays with an almost brand new team – no Stevensons or Sinclairs therein!   Junior McHenry ran the first stage in 14:04, P McConnachie and D McConnachie on second and third legs in exactly the same time of 14:12 and George King was timed at 13:41 for the last leg to seen the team win by over a minute from Paisley.      The B Team of Cairns, Stoddart, Tom Stevenson and C Aitken was seventh with Cairns the fastest man in 14:20.   Equal fastest laps were A Small of Plebeian Harriers and George King.   The Edinburgh to Glasgow was held later that month, the result and runners are in the table above.   In the District Championships, for the first time in many years there was no Wellpark runner in the first six in the race.  They won the team race with C Aitken 9th, H McHenry 12th, R McConnachie 14th, I Ross 16th, G King 17th and J Stevenson 54th.   Non scoring runners included J McGregor and D McConnachie.   In the 1957 National, the top placed runner in the club team which finished ninth was P McConnachie who was thirty second with George King sixty fifth, C Aitken seventy first, T McKay eighty first, R McSwein 129th and S Brown 130th.   D McSwein and C Aitken were non-scorers.   H McHenry was sixteenth in the Junior Race.

George King was still competing with distinction on the roads and when he ran in the Scottish Marathon on 22nd June from New Meadowbank it turned out to be even faster than that of two years earlier – Harry Fenion winning in 2:25:44 to break McGhee’s record by six seconds.   Hugo Fox of Shettleston was second in 2:28:57 with George winning his third medal in four championships with 2:37:20.   Although both district championships were won yet again, there were no Wellpark men in the international.

Into season 1957-58 and the club won the South Western District Relay in November before tackling their third Edinburgh to Glasgow.   After Aitken’s seventeenth place on the first stage it was a straight slog through the field with six of the remaining seven runners picking up a place and the other maintaining his position.    After five consecutive victories, the club failed to retain the District Cross Country Championship in February 1958 with the honour going to Irvine YMCA.   Beith was second and Wellpark third.   In the National that year George King led the team home in 34th place with J McGregor (66), C Aitken (80),  P McKay (94), F Whitley (121) and W Stoddart (130) the other counting runners.   Some consolation was gained from the third place in the Junior Championships of H McHenry behind John Wright of Clydesdale and George Govan of Shettleston.

Although the club continued to run well in 1958-59 and 1959-60 the best days of that excellent group of runners has passed.   The high spot of 1958-59 was Tom Stevenson winning the South Western District title for the fourth time – if that total is added to the two won by John the brothers had won six championships in eight years and the club also won the championship six times in eight years!   In the relays, there had been five consecutive victories and of course there were the second place medals in the national championships.   There have been many very good runners since then – Frank Whitley and Bill Stoddart to name but two – but the club as a unit was not as successful as during this period.

I had very interesting conversations with John Stevenson and Hugh Docherty.   Hugh first: he joined the club in season 1949-50 and has held every position of note on the club committee as well as having run in the club colours for many years.   He gave me a lot of information, some of which is included above, summarised here.   Given the lack of any coverage of Wellpark’s men, other than George King, over the summer seasons, I first asked him where they trained and what the athletes ran in at that time of year and the he gave some information about individual athletes.

“They ran mainly in track races but there was no track in Greenock at the time and they had to travel to the King George V Playing Fields in Renfrew if they wanted  or needed to train on a cinder, measured running track.   John Stevenson was allowed to train at Greenock Morton FC’s ground at Cappielow but there was no specific facility there.   There was an old derelict railway station opposite the present Ravenscraig where they used to do sprints and then of course there was the Battery Park.   It was good grass but not measured in any way at all.    When a cinder track was finally laid at Ravenscraig they thought it was Paradise but it really wasn’t that good a facility and not looked after properly at all.   

John and Tom ran mainly on the track.  Tommy did not have a lot of speed but he could hit his own top pace and hold it for a long time.   At one time he ran in a Two Mile race and was well clear after the first mile and on schedule for the Scottish Two Mile record.    But he slowed and ran in winning the event by a distance.   When Hugh asked him about it several years later he replied that the track was very dusty and you were kicking up dust with every step – it got into your eyes, your mouth, your nostrils and when he saw how far he was in front he decided just to go for the win.     John was basically faster and actually raced at the White City in London in a race won by Chris Brasher and John dead-heated with Freddie Green who had shared the World Three Mile Record of 13:33.2 with Chris Chataway.    They ran in most major sports meetings such as the Rangers Sports and Glasgow Police Sports Meetings at Ibrox in Glasgow.  

Frank Whitley was a damn good runner!   He was good at everything but he did not like the country, however after Tom and John got on to him about it, he ran in most events and ran well.   He moved to England and even went to New Zealand later on.   In 1968 he came up for the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay and said that he was not too fit, and in consequence they gave him the third stage (the shortest in the race) where he ended up running the second fastest time of the day.   His 22:00 minutes moved the club from twelfth to seventh and was only 5 seconds slower than T Coyle of Edinburgh Southern but 27 seconds faster than Tommy Patterson of Shettleston who was third fastest.  

When Frank Sinclair moved South and ran for Blaydon Harriers for a bit, it was because of his work as a draughtsman and not for the usual reason at the time of two years National Service.   Hugh told me of a meeting at Dalmellington in Ayrshire when he was a Youth and he saw Frank surrounded by a group of youngsters in the changing room.   He took them outside and when he came back in and was talking and laughing with Tommy he said that they had wanted his autograph.   To the other Wellpark runners he was just a club member, but to others like these boys he was an accomplished athlete and must have been something of a hero for them to want his signature!

Peter Connachie was the younger of the two brothers – he ‘had the heart of a lion’ and never ever gave up until he really had to – exemplified in a ten or twelve mile race against Andy Brown when he matched him stride for stride almost the entire distance, only falling away at the very end.   Danny  was also a very good runner and another who went to England for work.   He kept running there but when he returned Peter, who was on the Committee, said that he was running well and fit, so they selected him for the A team for the next race where he did not run well.   His own comment afterwards was that he was fit but not race fit as he had thought he was.  

John Cairns was another good man who did not get the coverage he deserved.   In 1956 for instance he was one of the men who put the second team in the District Relays ahead of the first squad at the start of the event where Wellpark had first and third place medals.  

One of Hugh’s complaints was that the runners, at least at the start of the 50’s, failed to  support the club in the National Championships as they should have done.   At one point they ran mob-handed in the Nigel Barge but failed to materialise for the National Championship of Scotland.   This was put right later on.   (It is fair to point out though that this was not only a Wellpark Problem: other clubs were just as guilty as they were of not turning out their runners on the country at Hamilton.   You only have to read the website club profiles of,  for instance, Vale of Leven to see that.).

That is a distillation of what Hugh told me but some is in the body of the text and there is more that might be added soon.

John is a very interesting character in that he was a top notch cross-country runner who really should have been a track runner.   Everyone said so but, not having a track to train on or a coach of any sort, he never really gave it his full attention.   He usually ran in the Renfrewshire Championships at Moorcroft Park in Paisley or in the Three Miles at King George V Playing Fields track and in Two Mile Team Races which were a staple feature of the many Highland Gatherings or Sports Meetings.   I spoke to him on the telephone and  the following deals mainly with the only year that he ran properly on the track, 1954. “He was invited to run in a Great Britain team in Tourcoing in Northern France in 1954 but the other British runner failed to materialise so John was the sole GB representative in the 3000m.   He knew it was less than eight laps, nobody he asked could tell him, he lost count of the laps so when some runners broke away from the field and then he heard the bell, he knew it was the last lap and gave chase knowing full well that you couldn’t give these runners a start over that distance.   he finished fourth and Jack Crump, GB athletics supremo of the time, was pleased enough with that.   When I asked John about his selection he said that it had come about after running in an Invitation Three Miles race at Hampden at half-time in a Scotland v England international fixture.  The favoured runner was John Disley, better known as a steeple-chaser, and also in the field was Tommy Tracey of Springburn.   It was his third race of the week.   The Cross-Country International (!) had been the previous Saturday, then there was a mile at Ibrox the day before and then this Invitation Three Miles Race.   It was a very windy day and John was actually leading going into the last lap, ahead of Disley, Tracey and the rest.   He led into the wind down the back straight but the effort told on him and Disley passed at the end of the back straight and went on to win.   It was after Crump saw this race that the invitation to Tourcoing came about.   He must have impressed JC because there were a couple more races South of the Border against top class opposition.  There was a Three Miles at the White City where he thought the first few laps were a bit of a doddle, then the race started and ended with the fastest last mile in a Three Miles event for sometime – he was down the field a bit but among some very good men indeed.     He was also invited into another mile (possibly the Emsley Carr or its predecessor where he ran 4:10 and dead-heated with Freddie Green who shared the world Three Miles record with Chris Chataway a few weeks later.   The time was good as was the 4:10.5 at Ibrox later that summer.   A short limit Mile Handicap was held to help Len Eyre (England) and Ian Binnie (Scotland) get a good fast time for the distance.   Off 50 yards, he was again in front going into the last lap and although Eyre passed him in the back straight, John came back at him to win.   Although he was never coached, he was introduced to the Victoria Park coach at Ibrox after a race and they had an interesting chat that might, earlier in his career, have made a difference.  

When we spoke about other members of the club he said that Peter and Danny Connachie were both very good runners and Peter should have won the club championship over the country -there was always somebody else who was too good on the day.   George King, for all his marathon running, was the same on the road and only won the club 5 miles road championship once.   The man he spoke of most however was Bill Stoddart.   He had never met anyone who trained like him for volume and mileage covered in training.   Nobody else was so intent on winning races and he often did three training sessions in a day.      He was very impressed by Bill and said that he had never met a more determined person.    John answered the questionnaire – the questions were set for him and his replies are among the best that we have received because they illustrate several things: what the average Scottish club was like at the time, in his comments on the internationals he probably speaks for many Scots at the time who did not produce their ‘normal’ running abroad, and so on.  

Name:   John Stevenson

Club:   Greenock Wellpark Harriers

Date of Birth:   12th July 1931

Occupation:   Banker

How did you get involved in the sport?   I was a member of the 15th Boys Brigade Company in Greenock and our gymnastics instructor, a Mr JJ Lobban, who was a member of Wellpark introduced me to the sport

Has any individual or group had a marked influence on your attitude or individual performance? Sadly the answer is no.   There was no one to guide or advise me or my brother and training consisted of four haphazard sessions per week.

What exactly did you get out of the sport?   I enjoyed the “pack” runs with the rest of the boys over the hills and moors, appreciating the lovely countryside which exists in this area.

What do you consider to be your best ever performance or performances?   I created a record for the club 5 Mile Road Race in 1953.   My time of 24 minutes 25 seconds stood for over 40 years and was never beaten.   The course was changed a number of years ago because the volume of traffic was too heavy to ensure the safety of the runners.   Although the old course was billed as five miles it was in fact longer than that.   An accurate measurement of the course was made in the 1990’s which calculated the distance at 5 miles 120 yards but even that distance is less than when the record was set for the following reason: a number of years after the record was set, improvements were made to the road which involved taking away four large and winding bends and straightening the road.   It was an out and return course so in effect there were eight bends to be taken nto account.  I have calculated in what I believe to be a conservative basis that the additional distance is in excess of 5 miles added around 40 seconds to my time.   Strangely this was the only race that I entered really determined to win.   The club had won the Renfrewshire 4 x 2.5 miles cross-country relay earlier that year and Frank Sinclair recorded the fastest lap beating both Tommy’s time and mine.   I was intent on winning the club’s 5 miles road race and from the gun I went into the lead and demolished both Tommy and Frank.   I did 24:25, Tommy’s time was 25:19 and Frank’s 26:13.   Frank ran precisely the same time that he recorded when setting the record in the 1940’s, which was subsequently broken by Tommy and then by me.

… Your Worst?   Although Tommy is now dead, and that still grieves me greatly, I will answer the question for both of us.   I am referring to the International Cross-Country Championships.   Neither of us ran a good race in any of these events, not even when we were a counting member of the team.   I have deliberated on why this should have been and I believe the answer is quite simple.   We were both jaded when the event came round and the reason for that is also simple.    The club was absolutely dependent on our performances because for a long time the club did not have any depth in numbers.   This meant that we both had to be as fit as possible at the beginning of the cross-country season at the end of September and continue that level of fitness through the various races until the Scottish Cross-Country Championship in February.   This was a tall order bearing in mind that our training sessions were too few and our schedule inadequate for the task we faced.   We had always managed to perform well enough in the Scottish Championships but after that it was a complete collapse.   Perhaps if we had had a shorter period at trying to maintain peak fitness, this would have been to our benefit, but it was a non-starter as at heart we were committed team players.

What ambitions did you have that were unfulfilled?   Perhaps this area is my greatest failing as for some unexplainable reason I did not have any ambitions.   In my later years I have come to regret this and I have often wondered how far I would have gone with proper application.   In 1953 when I ran 3 miles in 14:05, this time was approximately 34 seconds outside the world record at that time.   Would it have been possible to get nearer to the world’s best time with a coach,a running track on which to train and to have trained in a proper fashion?

hat did you do away from running to relax?   I enjoy ballroom dancing; lots of holidays with my wife in this country and abroad; I like quizzes on TV such as Mastermind, University Challenge and Eggheads: cannot stand any which involve pop music or celebrity culture.

What did running bring you that you would not have wanted to miss?   Made lasting friends; learned the importance of being a team player; I like being reasonably fit and I am sufficiently conceited to think that I am in better shape than most of my contemporaries.

Can you give some idea of your training?   Four sessions per week:   Weekly mileage around 30 miles.

Miscellaneous Information:

Although I ran cross-country, my style was not suited to that discipline.   I only ran once in a Scottish Track Championship race, in the 3 miles and I was slightly unwell on the day.   It was the slowest 3 miles I ran that year (1954) by a long way.

I ran in track races only when the club entered a team or when I received an invitation to compete in a special event.    I append some of the races in which I competed
*   I was Renfrewshire Youth Half-Mile Track Champion, and Renfrewshire Youth Cross-Country Champion;

Renfrewshire Mile Champion and record holder on a number of occasions (three or four times)

*   Renfrewshire 3 Mile champion and record holder;

*   Renfrewshire Senior Cross-Country Champion;

*   South-Western District Senior Cross-Country Champion;

*   Scottish Cross-Country Internationalist (4 times);

*   Represented SAAA in Mile at White City in 1954;

*   Ran in Invitation Mile at the White City in 1954: this might have been the Emsley Carr Mile or its fore-runner;

*British representative at an International 3000m event at Tourcoing in northern France in 1954.




As I said, John’s replies are very informative for the present day athlete but were to some extent typical of the time.   Very few clubs at the time had a coach which is not a situation that pertains in the twenty first century (although the coaching can be of a very variable standard!), and the pack runs of which he speaks so fondly are almost entirely a thing of the past as had been lamented in many of the profiles on this website already.      His reasons for the poor runs in the international I suspect have wider reference than simply for Tom and himself: there are frequent references to men having disappointing runs in the international in Emmet Farrell’s columns in the ‘Scots Athlete’ magazine and in Colin Shields’s exxcellent centenary history of the SCCU, ‘Whatever the Weather.’   John has provided an insight into his own career first and foremost but the light shed on the wider Scottish scene is also valuable.


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