1974 Christchurch

The 1974 British Commonwealth Games were held in Christchurch, New Zealand from 24 January to 2 February 1974. The bid vote was held in Edinburgh at the 1970 British Commonwealth Games.    This was the second time that they had been held in New Zealand – the 150 version was in Auckland – and they had twice been in Australia – 1938 in Sydney and 1962 in Perth.   They were all held in what would normally have been the Scots winter season with virtually no track racing at all and no permanent indoor facility either.   They also came two years after the Israeli athletes had been kidnapped and murdered at the Munich Olympics and the tenth Games was the first big sports meeting to place the safety of spectators and participants as arguably its top priority.   The Village was surrounded by security gards, police and the military had a highly visible presence.   Despite all of that, however, many athletes from several countries decided to emigrate to New Zealand on the strength of their welcome and what they saw of the country. 

The Games were officially named “the friendly games”. There were 1,276 competitors and 372 officials, according to the official history, and public attendance was excellent. The main venue was the QEII Park, purpose built for this event. The Athletics Stadium and fully covered Olympic standard pool, diving tank, and practice pools were all on the one site. There were always, whether the general public were aware of the fact or not, a theme tune for the Games – Edinburgh in 1970 had had three songs!   The theme song this time was “Join Together”,  sung by Steve Allen.   The Games were held after the 1974 Commonwealth Paraplegic Games in Dunedin for wheelchair athletes.   

Ron Marshall tells us in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ that Lachie Stewart was the standard bearer as Scotland the parade into the stadium wearing their white hats, blue blazers and white trousers.    More interesting were the comments of Dr Roger Bannister on the topic of drugs and doping.   He is quoted sas saying that the drug takers were safe at these Games.   “Nobody will be banned from these Games but afterwards they can look out.   A change in detection methods is being developed but not quickly enough to be brought into action. ”   “The rules of international federations at the moment still need a degree of proof which at the moment isn’t possible.   The improvement in testing methods coupled by firm action by the federations will put an end to this evil in th very near future.”  

The Glasgow Herald reporter for the Games was Ron Marshall (whom we all thought had been the newspaper’s reporter for the last two Games although he had only had a byline for the Edinburgh Games) who made a very good job of it.  

The first day was 24th January and the report began:

“Mary Peters, the Olympic champion, and Scotland’s Myra Nimmo had the distinction of getting to their marks this morning in the first heat of the first track event of the Commonwealth Games, the 100 metres hurdles of the pentathlon.   Northern Ireland’s supporters were disappointed with Miss Peters’ winning time of 13.9 sec, which gave her 873 points, but the Scottish girl who finished second to her in 14.1 sec for 847 points proved to be fourth fastest on a chilly, dull morning.   This was undoubtedly a promising start for the Uddingston girl and put her well into the medal reckoning.”

The heats of the men’s 100 metres brought a satisfying result in Scotland’s favour.   Don Halliday, the AAA’s champion,  looking extremely confident as he sped home inches behind the title holder, Don Quarrie (Jamaica), although I thought the Scot was unfairly treated in getting a time of 10.6, a tenth behind the winner.   In the next heat Les Piggot, given the toughest draw of them all, battled tenaciously for a fourth place behind a formidable trio- George Daniels (Ghana), Lennox Miller (Jamaica), a Munich finalist. and Greg Lewis (Australia).   From the results so far, it looks as if Piggot has the precious fourth fastest time, 106, good enough to put him intomorrow’s semi-final.   

David Jenkins, bidding for a second major championship to add to his European 400 metres title, had little difficulty in winning his first round heat in 46.9 sec, one of the slowest qualifying times.   Drawn in lane six he led all the way but was hard pressed towards the tape by the New Zealand record holder, Bevan Smith.  Jenkins’s main rivals for the title, Julius Sang and Charles Asati, both from Kenya, qualified with even more ease, and Jenkins has no simple task ahead of him”.

Unfortunately it was also the end of Myra’s pentathlon hopes as she failed to complete the five disciplines and ended ‘dnf 847 pts’, but the outlook was promising.   After the successes of Edinburgh in 1970, confidence was high in the Scots camp.    Myra was coached by team coach Frank Dick whose stock was high after 1970, and she still had her specialist event, the long jump to come.

The decathlon finished on Sunday 27th, a day christened ‘Black Sunday’ by the ‘Herald’.  After the real Black Sunday in Munich two years earlier it was maybe a bit tasteless: the two events could not have been more different, but it was undoubtedly a bad day for the sport in Scotland. Going in to that day we had Stewart McCallum and Kidner in the decathlon, Halliday in the 200m  heats, Alison McRitchie in the 200m (two rounds – heat and semi-final on the same day), David McMeekin in the 800m semi-final, and others like Rosemary Wright, Margaret Coomber, and Norman Morrison all in action.   The report was honest  and direct, almost to the point of brutality, and read:

“Black Sunday would not be too dramatic a way to describe the few hours Scotland’s athletes spent on a sun-drenched track here today.   They virtually walked into a wall of superior opposition and never knew what hit them.   It was distressing to witness.   One of our major hopes for a gold medal, Stewart McCallum, saw his decathlon bid crumble as he failed three times at his opening height in the pole vault.   That in itself was bad enough but for that height to be two and a half feet below his best turned out to be typical of our efforts from the morning to the early evening.   Although he still had two events to take part in,  Stewart called it a day and sped off to the Village.   There was little reason to be hanging about after having gifted varying amounts of points to his opponents.   ….  Latterly it was David Kidner who carried Scotland’s decathlon flag with some distinction.   Having ended the first day in seventh place, he buckled to with courage this afternoon and vaulted 14′ 1 1/2” , his highest ever.   But, as usual, his 1500m looked painfully pedestrian.   There was nothing he could do in this last event to save the second place he had so painfully reached.   

Tonight he wanted to rebut the criticisms he always hears about his 1500m.   “People keep talking about that bit of my decathlon.   What they forget are the other bits I’m good at – pole vault, long jump, high jump and so on.”   He was placed fourth with 7188 points.   But how near he had been to climbing on to the medal rostrum.

But back to the Black Sunday tag.   In brief it reads like this – Don Halliday out in the 200m heat, Alison McRitchie out in the 200m heat, Helen Golden out in the 200m semi-final, David McMeekin out in the 800m semi-final, Margaret Coomber and Rosemary Wright fail to make the 800m final, Norman Morrison ninth in 5000m heat.   

Frank Dick, the national athletics coach, could hardly be blamed for trudging wearily out of the athletics stadium.   His reasons for today’s disaster are worth recording.   “We under estimated the opposition.   We came out here totally unaware just how advanced some of these countries are but we know now – only too well.”   He shook his head as if in disbelief.   “I can’t describe how disappointed I am   – it’s been an awful day’s athletics for Scotland.”

But before the picture is painted irredeemably black, it should be added that there were bright patches.   David Jenkins crossed home in his 200m heat clocking 21 sec, a tenth behind the Ghanaian speedster George Daniels.   The Scot earned himself an extra cheer for assisting the African off the track after he had seemed to injure himself at the finish.   Ian Stewart qualified easily in his 5000m heat but a few grandads might also have squeezed through, bearing in mind that in the two heats the first six qualified.   Only two  had to be discarded in Stewart’s heat won by an over-exuberant Kenyan, Joseph Kimeto, who appears to have taken this contest for the final.   Others did it the easy way.”

Frank Dick’s comments were simultaneously typical in their honesty and shocking in their content.   There were those who attributed the Scottish athletic successes in 1970 at Meadowbank to John Anderson’s influence: he had been Scottish national coach until late 1969.   However that may be, 1974 was all Frank in terms of preparation and it must have hurt him to say what he did.   It didn’t happen again.   The results that Marshall referred to:

Men’s 200m:   H1: 2nd D Jenkins  21.0;  H5: 4th D Halliday  21.7

Women’s 200m: H3: 5th  A McRitchie 24.4;  H5: 2nd  H Golden 23.9

Women’s 200m: SF 1:  5th H Golden  23.9

Men’s 800m:  H3:  4th  D McMeekin  1:49.1      SF 2:  5th  D McMeekin 1:48.1

Women’s 800m: H1:  R Wright  3rd  2:06.3;   H2: M Coomber 5th 2:06.5    

Women’s 800m:  SF 1:  M Coomber 5th  2:05.9;  SF 2:  R Wright  5th 2:05.7

Men’s 5000m:  H1:  2nd I Stewart 13:57.2;   H2  N Morrison  9th  14:40.6

Shot Putt Women:  R Payne  7th  14.07m

David Jenkins was one of the Scots in action the next day when he was second to Australian Greg Lewis in the semi-final of the 200m but then could finish no better than sixth in the final in a time of 21.5.   Ian Stewart went one better in the 5000m to be fifth in 13:40.4 in a race won by Ben Jipcho of Kenya in 13:14.4 with Brendan Foster second in 13:14.6.   Kenya also won the 800m Kipkurgat won in 1:43.9 from Mike Boit, also of Kenya, in 1:44.9.   That was it for the day as far as Scots were concerned – no high or long jumpers, no javelin throwers and no race walkers or hurdlers had been entered.   

30th January was a rest day as far as athletics was concerned but it gave the reporters time to devote to other sports where Scotland was performing nobly – Willie as a bowler and David Wilkie in the swimming pool – but Ron Marshall took the opportunity to look forward to Lachie Stewart running in the marathon on the following day.   Lachie had carried the standard on the opening day and then stood out in the centre of the arena for the duration of that ceremony: many questioned th wisdom of this the day before his specialist event of 10000m.   In that race he did run below his usual to finish tenth in 29:22.6 while Ian Stewart was sixth in 28:17.2 and Norman Morrison was fifteenth in 30:25.8.   The selectors had also entered him in the marathon – a distance he had never tackled seriously before, if in fact he had ever tackled it.   The furthest most had seen him run was the 16 miles of the Clydebank to Helensburgh road race.   Under the heading of ‘Lachie tackles marathon’ he wrote

“Scotland’s Lachie Stewart will make his marathon debut in the Commonwealth Games at Christchurch today and is a quiet tip to upset the fancied English and Australian gold medal hopes.   Stewart is better known as a 10,000 metres runner and proved his class by winning that event in Edinburgh in 1970.   

He has never run a competitive marathon, byt Scotland’s team manager Peter Heatly states, “Lachie doesn’t say very much, but we know he is extremely fit.   He has been doing plenty of hard cross-country running the last few months and we think he has had the marathon at the back of his mind for some time.   He is such a determined fellow, and he would not go in the marathon unless he thought he could give a good account of himself.”  

The way Stewart ran in the 10000 metres last Friday suggested he had high hopes in the marathon,   He finished 10th.   

The marathon favourites are the Australians Derek Clayton and John Farrington, and the defending champion, England’s Ron Hill.   ….   Hill, sixth in the Munich Olympics, has the best time of the strong British contingent with 2:09:26, although he was beaten by Ian Thomson (Luton) in the October trial.   Scotland have two other contenders besides Stewart in Donald Macgregor, a teacher and university lecturer, and Jim Wright, a student.   Macgregor has the better time, 2:15:06.”

It is possible that the reporter was being a bit over optimistic about Lachie’s chances in a new event – especially over the 26 miles of the marathon and in the Christchurch temperatures.   He certainly damns his run in the 10000 with faint praise.   And it was possibly a bit hard on Donald Macgregor – after all, he was only one place behind Ron Hill in the Olympic marathon in 1970, and had actually been in front of him when they came on to the track with only ab out 400m to go at the end of the race.

As it turned out, Ian Thomson won the marathon for England in 2:09:12.2.   In the course of a longish report on the event, the Scots only got one paragraph.   “Donald Macgregor was Scotland’s first man home in the marathon in sixth place and he recorded his fastest time – 2:14:15.4.   Both Lachie Stewart and Jim Wight pulled out of the race, Stewart after halfway and Wight not much further along the route.”   The experienced Macgregor who had run in Commonwealth and Olympic marathosn with distinction, who had won Scottish titles over the distance proved to be the best of the three over the distance.   

Other events that day included the women’s 1500m in which Ian Stewart’s sister Mary qualified for the final when she was third in her heat in 4:15.3, the women’s long jump where Myra Nimmo was fourthwith a best leap of 6.34m, only 4 cm behind the third placed Reid of Wales.  

The final day of athletics was February 2nd when there were Finals of the men’s 1500m (no Scots were entered), men’s 4 x 400m in which no team was forward, men’s shot putt (no Scot taking part), men’s javelin (no one entered) and women’s 4 x 400m with no Scots entered.   On the other side we had representatives in the men’s 4 x 100m relay (5th in 39.8), men’s triple jump (W Clark 11th), women’s 1500m (Mary Stewart 4th  4:17.4), women’s 4 x 100m (7th in 46.5) and women’s high jump (Ruth Watt 4th  1.78 – missed bronze by 2 cm).    Over the piece there was only one medal for the Scottish team, silver in the women’s discus from Rosemary Payne (53.94m).    

Ron Marshall’s review of the Games included the following:

“One silver medal from a corps of 27 athletes is a particularly poor return from what we were calling the best prepared team to travel to any major competition.   Perhaps we did too well in Edinburgh.   Perhaps that is the subtle burden placed on every host.   It will be interesting therefore to see whow New Zealand , one of the successful nations here, fare in Edmonton four years from now.   No explanation, no rational one anyway, has come from any of our team leaders.   If blame lies anywhere, is it with the athletes themselves or their own coaches, or the team coaches and officials?   I find it hard to fault team management, if they erred it was on the side of leniency.

One comment from Frank Dick, national athletics coach, early on in the week, keeps coming back: “we under estimated the opposition.”   Mr Dick is abreast of world progress in athletics – he obviously knew what to expect.   Clearly the competitors did not.   Talk of an inquiry when the team comes back is just that – talk.   No amount of discussion will produce a solution to what happened.   But one answer will be to send a much smaller athletics team next time round.   Feelings, not to mention thousands of pounds, will be spared now that Scotland have no obligation to fatten up the team just for the parade and the opening ceremony.   We will not march first into the stadium in Edmonton.”

One silver medal was indeed a disappointing return from the team but I think maybe the reporter was being a bit easy on the officials.   For instance, the management of Lachie Stewart’s Games was seriously badly thought out.   The notion that he should be the standard bearer and stand in a draughty arena for hours on end the night before his 10,000m race was a bad one.   He should maybe have missed the parade altogether.   Then to add in his marathon debut – debut – against the best in the Commonwealth only a few days later was a bit lacking in judgment.   If there was a desire to give him two races, then the 5000m or the steeplechase would have been better bets.   Myra Nimmo was an outstandingly good long jumper with a chance of a medal – surely that should have been the target rather than greedily going for two medals?   And if ‘we’ under estimated the opposition, who was in charge of the group team meetingsand get-togethers for the four years leading up to the Games?   If Frank Dick was really up on the world situation,should the information not been impressed on the athletes before the Games?

Other events that day included the women’s 1500m in which Ian Stewart’s sister Mary qualified for the final when she was third in her heat in 4:15.3, the women’s long jump where Myra Nimmo was fourthwith a best leap of 6.34m, only 4 cm behind the third placed Reid of Wales. 

The final day of athletics was February 2nd when there were Finals of the men’s 1500m (no Scots were entered), men’s 4 x 400m in which no team was forward, men’s shot putt (no Scot taking part), men’s javelin (no one entered) and women’s 4 x 400m with no Scots entered.   On the other side we had representatives in the men’s 4 x 100m relay (5th in 39.8), men’s triple jump (W Clark 11th), women’s 1500m (Mary Stewart 4th  4:17.4), women’s 4 x 100m (7th in 46.5) and women’s high jump (Ruth Watt 4th  1.78 – missed bronze by 2 cm).    Over the piece there was only one medal for the Scottish team, silver in the women’s discus from Rosemary Payne (53.94m).   

Ron Marshall’s review of the Games included the following:

“One silver medal from a corps of 27 athletes is a particularly poor return from what we were calling the best prepared team to travel to any major competition.   Perhaps we did too well in Edinburgh.   Perhaps that is the subtle burden placed on every host.   It will be interesting therefore to see whow New Zealand , one of the successful nations here, fare in Edmonton four years from now.   No explanation, no rational one anyway, has come from any of our team leaders.   If blame lies anywhere, is it with the athletes themselves or their own coaches, or the team coaches and officials?   I find it hard to fault team management, if they erred it was on the side of leniency.

One comment from Frank Dick, national athletics coach, early on in the week, keeps coming back: “we under estimated the opposition.”   Mr Dick is abreast of world progress in athletics – he obviously knew what to expect.   Clearly the competitors did not.   Talk of an inquiry when the team comes back is just that – talk.   No amount of discussion will produce a solution to what happened.   But one answer will be to send a much smaller athletics team next time round.   Feelings, not to mention thousands of pounds, will be spared now that Scotland have no obligation to fatten up the team just for the parade and the opening ceremony.   We will not march first into the stadium in Edmonton.”

One silver medal was indeed a disappointing return from the team but I think maybe the reporter was being a bit easy on the officials.   For instance, the management of Lachie Stewart’s Games was seriously badly thought out.   The notion that he should be the standard bearer and stand in a draughty arena for hours on end the night before his 10,000m race was a bad one.   He should maybe have missed the parade altogether.   Then to add in his marathon debut – debut – against the best in the Commonwealth only a few days later was a bit lacking in judgment.   If there was a desire to give him two races, then the 5000m or the steeplechase would have been better bets.   Myra Nimmo was an outstandingly good long jumper with a chance of a medal – surely that should have been the target rather than greedily going for two medals?   And if ‘we’ under estimated the opposition, who was in charge of the group team meetings and get-togethers for the four years leading up to the Games?   If Frank Dick was really up on the world situation, should the information not been impressed on the athletes before the Games?

Finally we have some thoughts from Willie Robertson who competed in these Games as a wrestler.   He was also a nationally ranked throws athlete with several SAAA hammer throwing medals and three times GB wrestling champion.   He says:

I realised I had to win the British title at wrestling to be sure of selection.   I checked the English results and the 100Kg plus weight group looked easier than the 100kg.   I won the Scottish title at 100Kg beating Ian Duncan, a team mate.   My plan was to win the British and ask for selection to the team at the lower weight group.  At the British I won the title at 100Kg+, however Ian Duncan won the 100Kg.   So they picked Ian at 100 and me at 100+.    Yes, the best laid plans.    At the games two of the wrestlers were struggling to make the weight and were on a strict diet.   I had the opposite problem.   Because I was on full time training I had to eat large meals to maintain my weight.

There was a squad day for the better NZ hammer throwers who did not make the Commonwealth team.   Bryce, Black, myself and the weightlifter Grant Anderson took on the NZ second team  It was decided on an aggregate score would be used.   Howard Payne acted as judge.  We were beaten.  Grant threw an impressive 40m with a standing throw.   Bryce suggested I should not be suggesting he tries the Highland Games.   Of course he won the Scottish professional title a couple of times.

I met up with a Samoan trying to throw the hammer.   I gave him some coaching and he got on to a one turn throw.   He said he was a decathlete and the head of sport had contacted him and said he should enter all the throws.   I went along to the stadium to watch the hammer.   Chris Black was in with a chance of a medal.   There were nine competitors which meant one would be eliminated.   Chris had two narrow fouls in the first two rounds.    He was forced to do a two turn throw for his third to get another three throws and beat the Samoan.   If the ninth thrower had not been there Black would have had an extra counting throw.   He might well have won a medal.    Bryce was last in the final.   The problem was the technique had moved on.   It is interesting to compare the 1970 and 74 standards.    Bryce was coached to drag the hammer: every other thrower in the final was on to a using two straight arms.

One of my great memories of the athletic was the 1500m.    Filbert Bayi was a front runner and lead from the start.   The only runner who looked that he might catch him was John Walker.    Not only Bayi had broken the World record, Walker had had also beaten the old one   I was sitting beside Bryce who remarked that he wondered how Frank Clement would have done in that race.

The athletes were aware they were receiving some bad press for their performance.   After the 1970 games there was great expectation of a number of medals. There were a few ‘near misses’   I remember seeing Jenkins in the last leg of the 4x100m relay making the school boy error of looking behind him when receiving the baton. They should have won a medal. Our best decathlete no heighted in the pole vault.   Frank Clement, our lead middle distance man had missed the games for University exams.   Lawrie Bryce, with his usual wit, paraphrased the words of Churchill: Never in the history of the Commonwealth Games have so many, went so far to do so little.

The team met up at the Royal Scot hotel in Edinburgh. After dinner and some speeches we wrestlers were told to go to bed by our coach.   Half an hour later Lawrie Bryce knocked at the door and demanded I went for a drink with him.   Bryce had not reached the qualifying standard in the hammer for selection but had been added later.  This was his third games. He wasn’t expecting to do well.   He more or less saw the trip as a wee unexpected holiday at the end of his throwing career.    You must also remember the games were held at the end of the Heath government with the three day week, power blackouts and TV closing at 10.   It was a great time to have a month in the sun.

I went with Black and Bryce to visit Duncan Clark, a former Empire games gold medallist and Scottish record holder?   I believe he liked New Zealand when he attend the games and decide to emigrate there.   I think Euan Douglas did the same thing.  He competed at Perth Games and decided to emigrate there later.      



1966 British Empire and Commonwealth Games: Jamaica

The 1966 British Empire and Commonwealth Games were held in Kingston, Jamaica from 4th to 13th August.   It was the first time  that they had been held outside one of the ‘white dominions’ and were followed by the Commonwealth Paraplegic Games.   Thirty four nations, including Aden and Saudi Arabia, competed sending a total of 1316 athletes and officials.   The nine sports were the same as had been on the programme for Perth, Australia, in 1962.   

Athletics won only two medals (a gold and a bronze) but as had been the case in Perth both were won by one man.   In Perth Mike Lindsay took two silvers in the throws events while in Jamaica Jim Alder won his two in the marathon and six miles.   Looking forward to the Games, one of the athletics highlights would be the 3 miles battle between Ron Clarke and Kip Keino.   Each was thought to have a chance for a double – Keino the three miles and theMile, Clarke the three and six miles races.   Alder did not figure in the calculations.   In the sprints the battle was anticipated to be between Harry Jerome (Canada) and Tom Robinson (Bahamas).   The ‘Glasgow Herald’ reporting was the best that they had provided for any Games so far and it is worth reproducing.  The first day’s events featured several Scots – the six miles, the steeplechase and he high jump were contested by team members.

“RW Clarke (Australia), the world’s greatest distance runner, by the stopwatch at least,  is still awaiting his first major title.   For here last night in the athletics stadium Clarke again met an athlete “he had never heard of” and the Australian was beaten into second place in the Commonwealth Games six miles.   The man who did the damage was Kenyan Naftali Temu who ironically enough was one of those straggling runners that Clarke had to wade through in the Olympic 10,000m final and on that occasion another unknown Mohammed Gammoudi pushed Clarke back into third place.

The humidity was such that everyone visiting here from some of the more moderate climes was dripping with sweat as the runners lined up.   Clarke seemed unaware of the strength-sapping closeness as he and Temu set out on their own after about half a mile.   The first mile, in about 4:25 brought that pair clear with another group containing J Alder (Scotland) content to suffer a less painful death than Clarke.   Six or sven times after the three mile mark the Australian exploded away, and each time Temu hauled in the slack, persistent, game, and more than that – capable of shaking the great man beside him.   

Temu has obviously never been pulled out to anything like his best on previous occasions for at three miles his time of 13 min 24 sec was more than 20 seconds faster than he had ever done over that distance  and there were still three more miles to go.   Round about the four mile mark Clarke must have been feeling the pace troubling him, for he cut the lap times down to 72 seconds, followed by one at 75.   Not slow to notice what was happening ahead of him, the small, determined Alder began to bring himself clear of those around him but the effort was telling on him.   

The explosion came: Temu simply roared away from Clarke with a mile to go, glancing back only to check on a desiccated, disappointed Clarke, and after a blistering 62 second lap, ran the last three laps magnificently for a victory in 27 min 14 sec, 150 yards ahead.   In seventh place AF Murray (Scotland) ran as well as expected in such conditions; rather than consider his performance as ordinary we should instead think of Alder’s bronze medal as a remarkable achievement.”

John Linaker  was seventh in the steeplechase in 8 min 41.5 sec, Crawford Fairbrother fourth in the high jump with a clearance of 6′ 6″and Norrie Foster in the decathlon was fourth overall with 6728 points after running the fastest 1500 metres in the final discipline.   It was a good day for the country’s athletes.   On 8th August the heats of the 220 yards took place.

“Over at the National Stadium the heats of the men’s 220 were held and they were less of a competitive occasion than a time to separate the men from the boys.    A headwind was gusting across the track and so, as in the 100 yards first round, no one put any stock on times.   Nevertheless the 21.4 sec by WM Campbell (Scotland) in winning his heat proved to be the second fastest of the morning and he had obviously recovered from a toe-stubbing received when he bumped into a fence at the end of last week.   From the outside lane he was well into his stride and some of his old majesty semed to have returned. At the same time let us not be fooled into thinking of his chances in terms of a medal.   here were a few wily men on this track today, among them H Jerome (Canada), T Robinson (Bahamas) and E Roberts (Trinidad and Tobago).   Jerome strolled the last 20 yards taking his heat in 21.7 sec, and Robinson allowed S Allotey (Ghana) to equal the Games record of 20.9 sesonds in his heat while he himself, observed from a distance of about eight yards, easily qualifying in second place.”

The 100 yards mentioned above had only one Scot competing in each event – in the men’s, Campbell who was fifth in his quarter final in 10.0; and in the women’s, Alex Stevenson who was fifth in her heat in 11.3 seconds.   Campbell made the semi-final in the 220 where he was fifth in 21.2, and Barbara Lyall was sixth in her heat in 25.1 seconds.

On 9th August in the three miles, Ian McCafferty had a spell in the lead but finished fifth in 13:12.2, a Scottish record by seven seconds and he still had the mile to come.   Lachie Stewart and Fergus Murray also ran in this race, finishing  twelfth and seventeenth in 13:40.0 and 14:32.4.  Ron Clarke was second to Keino.   Remember that Stewart had run a good race in the steeplechase (9th in 8:57.0) and Murray had run well in the six miles.   In the heat and, more important, humidity prevailing they had probably not had enough time to properly recover.   The half mile final was also on that day but there were no cots there – the only half miler taken was Graeme Grant from Dumbarton and he ran 1:53.4 finishing eighth in his semi-final.

There was for the first time a 440 yards race for women and Scotland had Barbara Lyall running in it.   She ran 57.0 seconds to be fourth in her heat and did not get through to the final.   There were no more Scots in any track events but there was still the marathon to come – and Jim Alder was in it.

“JNC Alder gave Scotland their first gold medal of the Commonwealth Games seven minutes after eight this sweaty morning.   No marathon is ever won without some kind of attendant drama  –  the 26 miles 385 yards would not seem the same if one did not cause headlines to be written about him  –  and this one today maintained the high reputation of its predecessors.   Alder, with a lead of 75 metres as he reached the perimeter of the stadium, was sent the wrong way, lost the lead, and in what in most marathons is the glory lap, he caught his rival and won by about a dozen yards.   

Seventeen men lined up in a deserted National Stadium at 5:30 with a moon and stars above them that looked grotesquely out of place; the romance of the sky was unappreciated by this grim body of men, handkerchiefs at neck, sweat already gathering at the top of singlets.   There was RW Clarke bobbing about pensively, trying not to think that his medal winning days were numbered – he was even considering going in tomorrow’s mile heats in a last gasp attempt for victory if he failed today – and beside him as he waited for the gun, M Ryan, a Scot by birth and for almost three years now, a New Zealander by choice.   We followed them out of the cathedral-like silence into the streets of the city; not a sleeping city, but one alive and lining the route so thickly that the cars, ambulances and anonymous supporting cohorts, had for a time to nudge their way through,  foot by foot.

Clarke was up with the leading group headed by Ryan, J Julien, also from New Zealand, and after five miles the order was R Wallingford (Canada), Ryan, Alder, K Graham, Jamaica – bidding for eternal glory? – and, in eighth place, Clarke.   For a time the Kenyan Nemesis appeared to be stalking Clarke once again – the defeats from Keino and Temu are not easily forgotten – when J Wahome’s dark figure drew within 30 yards of him at ten miles, but that threat came to naught.   The homeward turn put the sun’s rays into the athletes’ faces and as the temperature made its daily inexorable climb into the 80’s Clarke was being steadily overhauled by W Adcocks (England) and Alder.   At 16 miles Clarke’s lead was taken away and at 20 miles Adcocks and Alder shared the lead timed at 1 hour 47 min 53 sec, Ryan, third, clocked 1 hour 49 min 31 sec.   

Three miles from the stadium, Alder, only 5′ 5″ tall, had gone into a 30 yard lead over the Englishman, and from there to the area immediately surrounding the stadium he built up a lead on 70 yards.   Then the confusion began.   Well-meaning, misguided officials allowed him to go in what was originally meant to be the point of entry but because of the sloping nature of this tunnel, it was felt that a more level entry should be used.   Adcocks was sent in another way, and when the Scot came on the track he found the Englishman 20 yards in front of him.   All was not lost however.   The Scot obviously had more left in him than Adcocks and with 200 yards to go went past him briskly towards victory in 2:22:7.8.   Adcocks clocked 2:22:13, the closest finish to a major marathon anyone here can remember.   Ryan, who was sixth in the Scottish six miles championship three years ago at New Meadowbank in Edinburgh was third in 2:27:59.”

The report continued but the race was over.   Clarke dropped out at 20 miles, Brian Kilby, the reigning champion dropped out at 19 miles with a thigh strain.   In all there were seven who did not finish the race.    The main thing however was: it was Scotland’s first gold medal. 

Jim Alder winning the SAAA Marathon Championship

In the field events, there were no medals at all this time round.   Lawrie Bryce was fifth in the hammer and Mike Lindsay, hero four years earlier in Wales, was fourth in the shot putt and sixth in the discus.   In the women’s shot putt, Moira Kerr was tenth in the shot, while Rosemary Payne was fourth in the discus.   Fairbrother was fourth in the high jump, missing bronze by one inch, while David Stevenson was fourth in the pole vault after clearing 15′ 3″ –  the same height as third placed Moro of Canada.  Decathlete Norrie Foster was seventh in this very technical event.    Alex Stevenson was also fourth – in the women’s long jump.   There were no men in either long or triple jump.

No medals in field events but very good performances from many of the athletes – Norrie Foster’s fourth place in the decathlon after running the fastest 1500m at the end of a gruelling two days has to be highly rated; David Stevenson was only 6″ behind the gold medallist in the pole vault, Rosemary Payne would go from her very good fourth here to gold in Edinburgh four years later.   

There can however be no lack of respect for any performance by any of these athletes who competed in the heat and humidity of Jamaica.   It is possible to acclimatise to the heat but you can’t acclimatise to the humidity.   It was known at Jamaica that the next Games would be on home territory, in Edinburgh, and the lessons learned in Jamaica allied to the undeniable advantages of the home situation, would pay off handsomely.

Norrie Foster in 1966


1970 CG Marathon

As far as I know there have been no books written by athletes about the 5000m or 10000m races in the Games other than Ron Clarke’s autobiography while there have been several by competitors in the marathon.    Ron Hill’s Biography ‘The Long Hard Road,’ Jim Alder’s ‘Marathon and Chips, Bill Adcocks’ ‘The Road To Athens’ and Don Macgregor’s ‘Running My Life’.    It was certainly a fantastic race with a wonderful field of athletes contesting it but the attitudes revealed in the books could not be more different and extracts will be on a separate page which will be linked to this one.   I would urge anyone interested in marathon running generally to get their hands on copies of these books if at all possible, lay photo-copies of the sections on this one race side by side and just see how different the ways up the mountain were.   The official report read:

“The four fastest Marathon runners of all time competed in this race, run in good weather conditions over a fairly level course.   Right from the start, Derek Clayton, Australia, and Jerome Drayton, Canada, set a fast pace, passing five miles in 23:31, with Ron Hill, England, and Paul Ndoo, Kenya, close behind.   Jim Alder, the 1966 winner and Bill Adcocks, second in 1966, were running well, 200 yards farther back.   At ten miles, the leading positions were: Hill (47:45), 2nd Drayton (47:50), 3rd Ndoo (47:55), 4th Jim Alder, 5th Bill Adcocks and 6th Stephen (Tanzania) all at 48:40.   Ron Hill continued to push ahead and at 15 miles his time of 1:12:18 was actually better than his world record for that distance.   Clayton had dropped back, Drayton was still in second place. with Alder and Stephen closing on him.   Of the others, only Adcocks and Faircloth were within striking distance.    Drayton dropped out just before 16 miles and the race began to take shape.  

Hill kept on relentlessly, completing 20 miles in 1:37:02, 1 minute 20 seconds ahead of Alder and Stephen with Faircloth fourth in 1:30:17 and Adcocks fifth in 1:40:16.   Hill maintained his lead and finished with a brisk lap of the Stadium in the record-breaking time of 2:09.8.   Jim Alder came in doggedly two-and-a-half minutes later, and also 15 seconds behind was Don Faircloth.   Jackie Foster of New Zealand passed Stephen to finish fourth, pushing Stephen back into fifth place at the finish.   Nearly all the finishers improved on their best performances, several by large margins.”   


Position Name Country Time Position Name Country Time
1. R Hill England 2:09:28 16. S Harnek India 2:23:12
2. J Alder Scotland 2:12:04 17. DH Davies Wales 2:23:29
3. D Faircloth England 2:12:19 18. JL Julian New Zealand 2:24:03
4. JC Foster New Zealand 2:14:44 19. YD Birdar India 2:29:18
5. J Stephen Tanzania 2:15:05 20. D Sinkala Zambia 2:30:02
6. W Adcocks England 2:15:10 21. F Rwabu Uganda 2:34:15
7. AF Murray Scotland 2:15:32 22. K Grant Gibraltar 2:35:55
8. D Macgregor Scotland 2:16:53 23. R Diamini Swaziland 2:49:33
9. M Teer Northern Ireland 2:17:24 24. S Alecio Gibraltar 2:50:39
10. A Boychuk Canada 2:18:45   S Jagbir India DNF
11. M Rowland Wales 2:19:08   A Parody Gibraltar DNF
12. CT Leigh Wales 2:19:53 . J Drayton Canada DNF
13. M Cranny Northern Ireland 2:20:23   D Kalusa Zambia DNF
14. R Moore Canada 2:20:47   DJ Clayton Australia DNF
15. P Ndoo Kenya 2:22:40   H Powell Guyana DNF


Five Mile Splits For The Leaders

Even the top men can misjudge the marathon: compare the top eight at five miles with the top eight at twenty miles.

      Five Miles                                      Ten Miles                                    Fifteen Miles                                  Twenty Miles                                 Twenty Five Miles

1,   Drayton, J     23:31                 1.   Hill, R             47:45            1.   Hill, R               1:12:18              1.   Hill, R          1:37:32                           1.   Hill, R             2:03:10

2.   Clayton, DJ   23:31                 2.   Drayton, J      47:50            2.   Drayton, J         1:13:17               2.   Alder, J        1:38:51                           2.   Alder, J          2:05:10

3.   Ndoo, P        23:31                 3.   Ndoo, P        47:55             3.  Alder, J              1:13:27               3.  Stephen, J     1:38:52                          3.   Faircloth, D     2:05:30

4.   Hill, R            23:31                  4.   Alder, J        48:40             4.   Stephen, J         1:13:27               4.   Faircloth, D   1:39:17                         4.   Stephen, J       2:06:35

5.   Harnek, S      23:57                  5.   Adcocks, W 48:40             5.   Adcocks, W     1:13:42               5.   Adcocks, W  1:40:16

6.   Stephen, J      24:07                  6.   Stephen, J    48:40              6.   Faircloth, D       1:13:42               6.   Foster, JC     1:41:21                             No More 25 Mile Splits

7.   Alder, J         24:09                   7.  Faircloth, D   48:45              7.   Clayton, D         1:14:39              7.   Macgregor, D 1:44:02                                  Available.

8.   Adcocks, W  24:09                   8.  Clayton, D     48:49             8.   Moore, R           1:14:39              8.   Murray, AF     1:44:02



1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games: Perth

The Scottish Games team

“The VII Commonwealth Games is remembered for its “heat, dust and glory”.   The day before the Perth Games opened the temperature was an expected 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but the heat was measured at 105 degrees at the Opening Ceremony in the new Perry Lakes Stadium the following day, and such extremes persisted throughout the Games duration.   In the previous 65 years, only ten 100 degree plus days had been recorded in Perth.   Australian soldiers were pressed into action, ferrying water to competing athletes.  

James Coote of the London Daily Telegraph describes “the VII Commonwealth Games have proved that it is possible for an area as basically devoid of sports interest  to stage the second most important sports meeting in the world – and to stage it successfully.   Perth has shown that these Games will continue for years to come.”

Thirty five countries sent a total of 863 athletes and 178 officials to Perth.   Jersey was amongst the medal winners for the first time, whilst British Honduras, Dominica, Papua New Guinea and St Lucia all made their inaugural Games appearances.   Aden also competed by special invitation.   Sabah, Sarawak and Malaya competed for the last time before taking part in 1966 under the Malaysian flag.  

Nine sports were featured at the Perth Games – athletics, boxing, cycling, fencing, lawn bowls, rowing, swimming and diving, weightlifting and wrestling.”

That comes from the Games website – www.thecgf.com – which is a real mine of information.   If you want any information about the Games, no matter how abstruse, you will get it there.

The notes about the temperatures in Perth made the advice given to the athletes beforehand very important.  Not as much information as we would get in the 21st century but really appropriate all the same, if only because it drew the importance of adjusting to the conditions to the attention of the athletes.    I quote from the double sided sheet of foolscap sized paper:

1.   Climatic Conditions.   Meteorological details in Perth for the period of the Games from 1930 – 1959 show

Shade Temperatures

The average maximum (c.)  78 degrees F

The average minimum (c.) 58 degrees F

The highest extreme    103 degrees F

The lowest extreme      47 degrees F

2. Training.   Should the weather be very hot, it is advised that the bulk of the training be carried out during the cooler periods of the day.   It may however be necessary for some more vigorous training to be done in the morning or early afternoon.   If this takes place, each period of exercise should be alternated with an equal period of rest in the shade.  

It is important that loss of body fluid due to sweating should be replaced as soon as possible by drinking water with added salt – up to a half teaspoon of salt to a glass of water.   Serious lack of salt, which is exuded from the body in sweat, will result in tiredness and cramp, and in its serious stages in a similar condition to a marathon runner at the end of his race.

3.   Cooling down.   The best method of cooling down in very hot weather is to take a tepid shower and if necessary to let the water n the body evaporate without towel drying.   Should a competitor get heat exhaustion (collapse) the immediate treatment is sponging with cold water, massage to maintain circulation and later drinks of salt water should be taken.   Ice packs (if available) should be used.  

4.   Diet.  

(a) Team members are strongly urged to preserve ‘diet discipline’.   The food at the ‘Commonwealth Games Village’ , from previous experiences, may well be plentiful and tempting.   Before competition is over, team members should use restraint and eat mainly the sort of food to which they are accustomed.   There will be scales in the Village and a check can be kept on any increase in weight.

(b) “Holiday Dysentry”.   It is unlikely that this complaint will be prevalent in Perth.   Nevertheless, supplies of ‘Streptotriad’ will be available as a preventative – dose two pils per day.   ‘Streptotriad’ has been tested by a famous London hospital, and is strongly recommended as a safe preventative by our Medical Advisory Committee, composed of high ranking medical men.   No side effects were reported by the Hospital concerned, by any Olympic athletes in Rome, nor by numerous teams which have used it.

Unless conditions warrant it, it is not suggested that Team Members should take these pills in Perth.   They may, however, be needed during the air trip to Perth, should the aircraft be delayed and an enforced stay be made in any country where dangers of ‘Holiday Dysentry’ prevail.

Team Members, at the first sign of diarrhoea, are strongly advised to report the fact to the team Medical Officer.

(c) To avoid stomach upsets, Team Members are advised not to take OUTSIDE the village any ice cream or unpeeled fruits; and INSIDE the Village to drink sparingly any iced fruit drinks or juices unless they are fully accustomed to them.”

Similar instructions covered sleeping conditions, and dealing with sunshine.   The team to which the instructions were issued was, as might be expected given the distance and expense of the location, small.   

The Games were held between 22nd November and 1st December, 1962, so the contrast between the climate at home and what was experienced in Perth could not have been greater

Crawford Fairbrother competing in Cardiff, 1958

The opening ceremony in the heat lasted four and a half hours and 200 spectators collapsed with exhaustion, fainting and sunburn.The temperature in the middle of the arena was estimated at 140 degrees Fahrenheit and in the shade at 92 degrees.  The Duke arrived in an open topped car, there was a 21 gun salute, a fly past of Vulcan aircraft and he inspected the guard of honour.   The Scottish standard bearer was Dick McTaggart and the team ‘received a rousing reception.’

But the most important point in any Games is the performance of the team.    As far as medals were concerned, there were two silvers – both from Mike Lindsay  in shot and discus.   

100 yards men:   Mike Hildrey   10.1 sec   4th/Quarter Final;   Alistair McIlroy  9/9 sec   4th/semi-final

100 yards women:   Janette Neil   12.0  5th/Ht 1

220 yards men:   Mike Hildrey  21.7    5th/SF; Alistair McIlroy  22.4   5th/QF   

880 yards men:   J Wenk  1:51.2 1st in Ht 2;  1:52.3  6th in semi-final.  (event won by P Snell in 1:47.6)

Mile:  M Beresford  4:13.0  5th/Ht3  (event won by P Snell in 4:04.6)  [MBS Tulloh, late of Scotland, ran in the final for England, ninth]


  Shot putt men:   Mike Lindsay   59′ 2 1/2″     2nd

Discus men:         Mike Lindsay   172′ 6″           2nd

High Jump Men:   Crawford Fairbrother  6′ 7″  8th

Pole Vault Men:   DD Stevenson    13′ 0″    10th

Long Jump Women:  Janette Neil    17′ 10″   8th

Marathon:   AJ Wood  dnf

And there you have it.   Nine athletes, two medals.   The other disciplines picked up more hardware –

Bowlers had three silvers (Joseph Black, Thomas Hamill & Michael Purdon, and Rinks), boxers had one gold (Bobby Mallon), one silver (Dick McTaggart) and one bronze (Tom Menzies), cyclists had none at all, fencing had one gold (Sandy Leckie), rowing had none at all, swimming had onesilver (Bobby McGregor), weight lifting had one gold (Phil Caira) and one bronze (Jimmy Moir), and wrestling had one bronze (James Turnbull).

Back home the reports were read daily.   No internet and the television was scanty so other than over the radio Scots had to wait until the next day for the reports.  The temperature when the 100 metres men competed was 105 degrees and the report read:

“CW Fairbrother (Scotland) only jumped 6′ 7″ in the high jump and finished equal eighth.   G Miller (England) who jumped an inch higher was fourth.   A McIlroy, an Anglo-Scot, qualified for the 100m semi-finals – MG Hildrey, the other Scot went out in the second round, but was then eliminated, as were the other Britons, PF Radford (England), and R Jones and TB Jones (Wales).”

The tone of the articles gave the impression that they were agency reports rather than having been written by Scots.   Another example:     “Lindsay was well beaten for the discus gold medal by W Selvey (Australia) who set a Games record of 185′  3 1/2″, but the Scotsman’s best throw of 172′ 6″ was 6′ further than that of J Sheldrick (England) who won the bronze medal.   MG Hildrey (Scotland) went a stage further than his countryman A McIlroy in the 220 yards, reaching a semi-final, but he was only fifth in that in 21.5 sec and was eliminated.”

The Games were over,  the quality of competition was very high and the Scottish team was placed sxth of over 30 countries.   Athletes such as Antao in the sprints, George Kerr in the 440, Peter Snell and John Davies in the middle distances, Murray Halberg, Bruce Kidd, Dave Power and Ron Clarke in the long distances and Martyn Lucking and Howard Payne in the field events; Dorothy Hyman, Pam Kilborn and Val Young on the women’s side – were of the very highest calibre and helped justify the tag of the second most important meeting in the world.   It is perhaps not insignificant that most of Scotland’s medals were won indoors – boxing, swimming, weight lifting – with only the bowling, a relatively gentle sport, winning outdoors.   

However that may be, the next Games would be in another hot country – Jamaica in 1966 – and that would be another test for the Scottish sportsmen.



1954 Empire and Commonwealth Games


The 1954 version of the British Empire Games was the first to be titled the ‘British Empire and Commonwealth Games’ and contained two of the most remembered events in the history of the sport – Roger Bannister speeding past on the outside hile Landy looked over the ‘wrong’ shoulder to see where he was, and, for Scots especially Joe McGhee winning what has unjustly been called the ‘jim Peters’ marathon.   The remainder of the events have been largely forgotten although it was a very good Games.   

The 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games  were held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, from 30 July–7 August 1954. These were the first games since the name change from British Empire Games took effect in committee in 1952.   It is a bit of a disgrace that Wikipedia continues to this day to omit the name of the winner of the marathon when it says:

“It was at these games that the “Miracle Mile” took place between Roger Bannister and John Landy at Empire Stadium. This was the first time these two (and at that time the only two) sub-four-minute mile runners appeared in the same race, and also the first time two runners broke four minutes in the same race. On the same afternoon, Jim Peters, the holder of the world best time for the marathon, entered the stadium 17 minutes ahead of his nearest rival, but collapsed on his final lap, and never completed the race.

The games were attended by 24 nations and 662 competitors.    The nine sports on the programme were athletics, aquatics, boxing, cycling, lawn bowls, rowing, weight-lifting and wrestling.   There were only two Scots who won medals at these Games and they were in the events where Scotland has traditionally done well – Joe McGhee in the marathon (gold) and Ewan Douglas in the Hammer (bronze)   We could look at the Scots performances within the event groups in which they were competing, starting with the sprints.

JV Paterson

There were no Scottish sprinters in either the men’s 100, 220 or 440 yards races.   On the women’s side Pat Devine ran in the 100 yards where she was fifth in the first heat in 11.1 seconds, and 220 yards where she was third in the second heat in 25.7 seconds.   We had no competitors in either of the hurdles races or teams in the relays.

In the absence of any races above 220 for the women, and no men selected for the Mile, the men’s 880 yards had the only Scots middle distance competitor, James V Paterson who was sixth in the final in 1:52.7 seconds.   Paterson was superb athlete with a very wide range of distances at which he was very highly rated who had emigrated to C anada shortly before the Games.   

The only Scot in the three miles was Ian Binnie who had performed below expectations in the six miles was nevertheless seventh in the good time of 13:59.6.   He had been one position higher in the six miles where he was sixth in 30:15.2.   In the marathon of course, Joe McGhee won in 2:39:36. 

In the field events, there were two men in the hammer throw with Ewan Douglas third with 173′ 3″ and Alex Valentine sixth with 169′ 0″.   Douglas was also entered in the discus where he did not compete.   That was it as far as the throws were concerned  with no one entered in either men’s or women’s discus or javelin.   No men in pole vault, high jump,long jump or triple jump, and only one woman entered at all in the jumps – Pat Devine in the long jump where she did not take part.   

The team has been laid out as above to show how poor the allocation of Games places to athletics actually was – there were sprinters, middle and long distance runners, and certainly field events exponents who could have represented the country with honour had they been given the chance.  One sprinter, one middle distance man, two long distance men and two throwers was not a fair reflection of the sport’s health at the time.  

How were the results received back home?   The link to Joe McGhee above takes you via a further link to the voluminous correspondence in the pages of ‘The Scots Athlete’ and the tale has been well recounted elsewhere so I will go straight to Emmet Farrell’s comments on some of the other performances.   “Dr Douglas got a third place in the Hammer and A Valentine was placed sixth, but their respective throws of 173′ 3″ and 169′ 1/2” were well behind their best.   Ian Binnie ran poorly in the six miles but despite finishing only sixth in the three miles could not be faulted here as his time of 13 min 59.6 secs was one of his best, and only the tremendously high standard relegated him to a minor position.   

Jim Hamilton, a new resident in Canada, reached the final of the 880 yards and showed great form to finish sixth and put up the fastest time of his career.   His time of 1:52.9 is faster than Hamish Stothart’s time of 1:53.4,  but of course a Scottish record must be made on home territory.”

  This was the second consecutive Games where the Press commented on the fact that the fastest times ever recorded by Scotsmen could not be regarded as Scots records simply because the runner was performing outside the country.   Given that the Olympic, European and Empire Games wera virtually always held out of Scotland, and that these were meetings in which best performances were drawn out of the competitors under intense scrutiny, then it was a rather harsh rule – but it continued for many years hereafter.  

Joe McGhee

The ‘Glasgow Herald coverage was scanty:

“Among the Scots who participated yesterday was I Binnie who finished sixth in the six miles, and Miss PY Devine who was eliminated from the 220 yards.  J Hamilton qualified for the final of the men’s 880 yards, being third in his heat.””

That was about the extent of the coverage on a good day – Paterson was not mentioned in his final (either report or even results) and Binnie was mentioned in the result of the three miles but not at all in the report.   By the standards of the coverage, the comments on the Hammer throw were rather prolix!

“ECK Douglas and A Valentine, the two Scots who reached the final of the hammer throw, finished third and sixth respectively on Saturday.   Douglas reached 173′ 3″ and Valentine 169′ 1/2”.     There was extensive coverage of the marathon – 40 lines about Peters, thre and a half about McGhee.

The Games had been successful witrh drama aplenty – but also with many very good performances from top class athletes.   The Scottish team had been a small one but with the next Games being in Wales, the team would be assuredly much bigger.


1950 Empire Games, New Zealand









Picture from Peter Heatly

The British Empire Games had been held for the first time in 1930 in Hamilton, Ontario, then followed London in 1934 and Australia in 1938.   The series was interrupted by the War years and the first gathering after the War was in 1950.  Although the fourth Games were originally to be held in Montreal, Canada, in 1942, they were held in Auckland, New Zealand between 4th and 11th February 1950.   The main venue was Eden Park although the closing ceremony was held at Western Springs Stadium.   As home nation they had 175 competitors out of 590 competitors in total from 12 countries.   The New Zealand flag-bearer was Harold Nelson about whom we will hear more later.  At these Games, the very small Scotland team won ten medals in total – five gold, three silver and two bronze with athletics providing three of them.   

The athletes selected who travelled halfway round the world were Andy Forbes (Mile, Three Miles and Six Miles, Ian Garrow Maclachlan Hart (120H and 440H), Allan Shanks Lindsay (Triple Jump), Alan Paterson (High Jump), Duncan McDougal,l Munro Clark (Shot Putt and Hammer) and Edith Anderson (Long Jump).    

The cgf website tells us that the opening ceremony was attanded by 40,000 spectators and that twelve countries sent a total of 590 athletes  and two newly formed countries were appearing for the first time – Nigeria and Malaysia.   There were nine sports contested: athletics,  boxing, cycling, fencing, lawn bowls, rowing, swimming and diving, weightlifting and wrestling.

Before the Scots team left for the antipodes, there were several previews of the team and its chances in the Games, but none mattered to the athletes more than Emmet Farrell’s in ”The Scots Athlete’.   “The New Year period is the usual time for stocktaking by cross-country enthusiasts but this time our attention will be partly diverted to the forthcoming British Empire Games due between February 4th – 11th at Auckland, New Zealand.

The Scots team should put up a good show, but best chances of titles should be held by Duncan Clark and Alan Paterson.   Clark in particular should be a safe title, but Paterson will be up against Olympic champion JA Winters who is usually the acme of consistency.   Alan however has the potential brilliance to defeat the Australian ace and their duel should be a most exciting one.   It will not, however, be a two horse race as there are other jumpers in close proximity, chiefly Wells and Pavitt of England, and Canadian and South African first class exponents.  

If Andrew Forbes can get down to his Scottish native record form of 14 mins 18 secs odd he has a distinct chance of an Empire title in the 3 miles despite the presence of miler L Eyre and that little terrier AH Chivers, both of England, and “Bill” Nelson, the short striding bearer of the silver fern.   Andrew is also short listed for the 6 miles and if he elects to run in this event may put up a surprisingly good performance as I feel certain that he has great potentialities over this essentially speed-stamina test.

Incidentally the Victoria Park man is in the main carrying on his cross-country training with perhaps a little concentration on speed work.    This should be a wise move for after all he will be racing over a grass track at the Games.   In the hop, step and jump, Dr AS Lindsay has formidable opponents to mention only two in Olympic runner-up George Avery and versatile Les McKeand, both of Australia.   It is in Lindsay’s favour however that he was coming “bang” into form during the end of the season, his Scottish record it will be recalled being set up at the Edinburgh Highland Games in September last year.  

Our splendid young hurdler JGM Hart will do wonderfully well to earn a place in the 120 yards hurdles with among others the evergreen Don Finlay and Peter Gardiner of Australia who has clocked 14.1 seconds which compares more than favourably with the Edinburgh man’s best time of 15 secs dead.

Our only Ladies representative, Miss Anderson of Dumfries, has been “on the up” and I am confident, despite lack of international experience, that she can beat the best of the English girls.   However, I learn through Joe Galli that Miss  Judy Canti  of  Australia at a recent meeting jumped 18 ft 11 1/2 ins and of her six tries was not lower than 18 ft 2 1/4 ins, so our Dumfries lass will have to pull something special “out of the bag”.  

Up till now Scotland has won only two Empire titles.   It is to be hoped that by February 11th they will be joined by at least one other Scot.”

That was Emmet in his “Running Commentary” in the January, 1950, issue of the magazine.   Hinting at the possibility of three medals from Clark, Paterson and Forbes.   There was a long review of the career and chances of marathon runner Jack Paterson in the February issue of the magazine which concluded with the runner himself saying, ” My greatest ambition is to put up the best possible performance which lies within my power at New Zealand in February.”

After all the talking was done however, the team boarded the ship for Australia, and  battle commenced on 4th February.

The Scottish Men’s team, minus Forbes and Paterson, en route to the Games

The first day of athletics was Saturday 4th February and it started reallyu well for the Scots athletes with two silver medals.   The ‘Glasgow Herald’ reported: 

“The two Glagow athletes, Alan Paterson, the high jumper, and Andrew Forbes, the six miler, were the best of the United Kingdom competitors at the opening of the British Empire Games at Auckland on Saturday.   Each finished second and won a silver medal.   Paterson was equal second with the Nigerian Majekodunmi in the high jump which was won by JA Winter (Australia) with 6 ft 6 in – the height with which Winter won the 1948 Olympic Games.   Paterson cleared 6 ft 5 in.    Forbes ran gallantly in the six miles finishing 20 yards behind the New Zealander, WH Nelson, whose time was 30 min 29.6 sec. “

The result of the six miles was not completed by the ‘Herald’.   Forbes was timed at 30 min 31.9 sec while third placed New Zealander Noel Taylor was also timed at 30 min 31.9 sec.   The next two runners were both Australians and they came home in 30:34.7 and 30:446.3.    At home in Scotland on the same day, the West District cross-country championships were being held at Motherwell with Victoria Park finishing third team and Andy’s brother Chic being eleventh.   The 6 miles in Auckland was very much out-of-season for Andy who, as we have seen, was the only athlete in the top five not from either Australia or the host country.     The same was true of course for Paterson – in the years before indoor athletics the Scottish weather was hardly suited to training for field events.   The first four were from Australie, Scotland, Nigeria and New Zealand.    

Forbes and Paterson however probably benefited from being flown out instead of sailing like the rest of the team – they were the first Scots ever to fly to a major Games meeting.   The story is that Paterson and Forbes could not take the time necessary for the trip because of the constraints of their employers.    Paterson, a chartered accountant, and Forbes, who worked for electronics company Philips, were funded by cinema magnate Sir Alexander King, to fly via Iceland, Gander, Hawaii and Fiji en route to Auckland.    The flight from Prestwick took one week to get to New Zealand and the pair arrived two days after the main party sailing on the cruise liner Tamaroa docked in Auckland.   That and the fact that their events were one first was probably an important factor in their success.

After these Games, Paterson was selected for the European Championships in Brussels where he won with a jump of 1.96m which was 1 cm better than his second placer in Auckland.   Clark was sixth in the hammer at the  same meeting with a throw of 52.83m

Andy Forbes running fifth

Andy Forbes in second

Forbes was in action again two days later: “L Eyre, a Harrogate Civil Servant, who during his training in England was coached by postal instruction, ran a beautifully judged race to win the three miles in 14 min 23.6 sec.   A Forbes (Scotland) was with the leaders for two thirds of the way, but his effort in the six miles on Saturday  had obviouly taken its toll of his stamina, and he finished ninth.”

The Scots had started on a high and ended on a high when on the last day of competition, Duncan Clark won the hammer throw with a distance of 163 ft 10 1/4ins  (49.94m) from Keith Pardon of Australia who threw 156 ft 11 ins (47.83m).  The’Herald’ only said “A splendid hammer throw by D McD Clark, which set up a new Empire Games record of 163 ft 2 1/4 gained Scotland their fifth gold medal in the Games which ended at Auckland on Saturday.”    

Clark had already been seventh in the shot putt with a best of 39 ft 7 ins.   The other Scots competing were 

Ian Hart (120 yards hurdles – 5th Ht 1; 440 yards hurdles – 5th Ht 1); Allan Lindsay (Triple Jump – 8th), John Paterson (marathon – 14th, 3:00:58.8) and the solitary female athlete, Edith Anderson (long jump – 6th  17′ 2″).   Three medals from seven athletes was not a bad return, but for the views that mattered to domestic athletes who knew and competed against the Empire Games stars, we have to look at Emmet Farrell in ‘The Scoits Athlete’ of March 1950.   

“From practically every point of view, the British Empire Games at Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand, now concluded have been a great success.   Latge crowds attended and the contests were fought out in a keen but friendly spirit.   Scotland’s band of track and field athletes did well to capture three medals – 1 first and two seconds.

Duncan Clark was perhaps the personality of the tour as distinct from the Games.   By throwing the hammer 163 ‘  2 1/2″ in the championship, Clark not only won first place for Scotland but also set a new Games record.   Even this was well below his best, but it must be remembered that Duncan was batting on a sticky wicket, heavy rain intervening just as his event was taking place.   Subsequent to the championships proper Clark took part in a series of meetings in which he excelled anything he had yet done, culminating in his best ever throw of 181′ 3 1/4″, figures which would have yielded him a second place in the Olympic Games won by Nemeth of Hungary with 183’ 11 1/2″.   Clark, who is obviously still improving, is now the third Scot to win an Empire title, the others of course being D McL Wright (Marathon, 1930) and FA Hunter (440 hurdles, 1934).

Meritorious second places were earned by Andy Forbes in the 6 miles and Alan Paterson in the high jump.  

The former’s bid was a glorious one.   After a magnificent dust up with Bill Nelson of New Zealand, he was beaten by only 12 yards.   Forbes’s time of 30 min 31.9 sec is inside the Scottish figures of 30:42 but, being done outside Scotland, the record is not affected.   The 3 miles event was too near the 6 miles for Andy to regain his strength and best form and it is small wonder that he had to taper off.

Alan Paterson’s performance, though good, was a trifle disappointing inasmuch as it was felt he had a strong winning chamce.  Winter of Australia who won, is of course Olympic champion and a most consistent athlete who seems to be at his best on the big occasion.   In addition he had defeated Alan every time they met.   His leap of 6′ 6″ was the same as won him the Olympic title.   Paterson appears the more potentially brilliant performerbut so far lacks the consistency of the Australian ace.   Still, his 6′ 5″ effort shaded Pavitt and Wells, the other British contenders.

The other Scots contenders did not set the heather on fire hard as they tried, but it must be admitted that the opposition as well as the weather was extremely hot.”

These were the last British Empire Games ever – four years later in Vancouver they became the British Empire and Commonwealth Games, which title they kept until 1970 when they became the British Commonwealth Games.   The Commonwealth grew somewhat thereafter by other countries wanting to join and so the Games became the Commonwealth Games in 1978.

Team Managers Reports – Women

Complete Team with assistant manager John Hamilton, John Brown, Men’s Manager, Hilda Everett,Women’s Team Manager and David Lease, National Coach.

ATHLETICS WOMEN   –   Mrs Hilda Everett   –   Section Manager

Preparation for the 1986 Games has been ongoing since Brisbane with a yearly warm weather training camp in Portugal, event squads during the winter months and international competition.   A commonwealth games squad was selected two years prior to the Games, each athlete in the squad achieving standards set by the Association in conjunction with the national coach.  This squad was the basis of the Scottish women’s team for the Commonwealth Games.   

Accommodation:   This was provided at the Pollock Halls, Edinburgh, five minutes from the main stadium at Meadowbank.   All Scottish team men and women were housed in Baird Hall.   The rooms were small with bunk beds in each.   Tea and coffee facilities were available as well as washing, drying and ironing.   There was a TV lounge with colour television.    As we were competing on home ground, the girls were given the opportunity of staying at home if they wished, thus giving them as near a natural environment as they were used to.   This did, however, present some problems for the Team Manager.   Food was plentiful, good and available when required by the athletes, packed lunches were also available when required. 

Training:   This took place at Meadowbank and Saughton and the coaches under the direction of the national coach attnded training sessions.

Illness and Injury:   After the selection date, Janis Neilson sustained a pulled hamstring during a club league match and she was seen immediately by the team physiotherapists who advised that the injury was not as serious as we had at first thought, and would be healed by the timeof the Games.   When she arrived in the Village she was seen by the physiotherapists daily.   However during a relay practise session, Janis pulled her achilles tendon and had to be withdrawn from the relay team.

Team Matters:   Diane Royal had to be withdrawn from the team at the eleventh hour for technical reasons and had to be replaced by Elizabeth McArthur.   Christine Price was an excellent captain and I thank her for the help she gave.   

Weather:   It was not too kind and towards the latter part of the Games it became rather cold  ……. typical Scottish weather.

Behaviour:   All the team behaved and co-operated well and were a credit to themselves and Scotland.   It was a pleasure to have been Team Manager to such a dedicated team.


Event, Name, Semi-Final, Final, Place

100m, S Whittaker, 11.60s, 11.59s, 5th,

-, K Jeffrey, 11.55, 11.59, 6th

-, J Neilson,   –  ,     -,   –

200m, S Whittaker, 23.41, 23.46, 3rd

-, A Bridgman, 24.13,   –  ,   –

-, J Neilson,   -,   -,   –

400m, D Kitchen, 55.52,   –  ,   –

-, F Hargreaves, 55.76,     -,   –

-, L McDonald, 58.26,   –  ,  –

800m, A Purvis, 2:02.47, 2:02.17, 4th

-, E McArthur, 2:04.40,   -,   –

1500m,  Y Murray, 4:11.82, 4:14.36, 5th

-, L McDougall, 4:13.07, 4:17.25,   –

– , C Whittingham, 4:33.01,  –  ,  –

3000m,  Y Murray,   –  , 8:55.32,  3rd

-, M Robertson,   –  , 9:51.33, 9th

10000, E Lynch,  –  , 8:41.42, 1st*

-, A Everett,  –  , 33:56.43, 9th

-, C Price,   –   , 33:59.90, 10th

Marathon, L Irving,   –   , 2:36:34, 5th

100m H, A Girvan, 13.60,  –   ,    –

-, P Rollo, 14.00,   –   ,   –

400m H, M McBeath, 64.03,   –   ,   –

High Jump, J Barnetson,   –   ,   –   ,   –

Long Jump, L Campbell, 5.65m,   –   ,   –   

Discus, M Bremner, 47.06,   –   ,   –

Javelin, S Urquhart, 48.04,   –   ,   –

Heptathlon, V Walsh,    –   , 5420 pts,   8th

The two relay teams were both placed fourth.   The sprint relay team of Girvan, Kelly, Bridgman, Kelly was timed at 45.84 seconds, and the 4 x 400 squad of Whittaker, Purvis, Kitchen and Hargreaves recorded 3:42.86.    

Team Managers Report, Men


Team Managers’ Reports – Men

After the Games, the Team Managers, John Brown and Hilda Everett, were required to submit reports on the Games.   Both reports were much better than might have been forecast given the problems with money and the boycott that were faced.   They are reproduced below.

Men’s Team: John Brown, centre front



26TH JULY – 13TH AUGUST 1986

Scottish team performance is summarised below:

3 – 1st places               12 – 2nd places               18 – 3rd places


ATHLETICS (Men)   –   John Brown   –   Section Manager

Travel:   All athletes assembled at the Games Village under their own arrangements and no difficulties were encountered.

Accommodation: In contrast to the previous Games held in Brisbane in 1982, the accommodation provided in the Edinburgh University Pollock Halls of Residence was ideal.   Team members shared, two per room, but with the athletes being allowed to determine their own extent of residence in the Village, and by making appropriate pairings, many enjoyed almost single room accommodation and this was very much appreciated by the athletes.

Training Facilities: The training faciities provided by the Organisers were found to be adequate for our requirements.

Medical Support: The mdical team of doctors and physiotherapists can only be described as superb.   They were always on hand to provide expert care and atention in a very warm-hearted way, and on behalf of the athletes I would like to pay them a special tribute.   Of the many athletes who consulted the Medical Team only Lindsay Robertson (marathon) was unable to compete.

Discipline: No member of the team required to be spoken to regarding discipline or behaviour in general, and all supported the various functions and meetings with Royalty.

Boycott: It was most unfortunate that the Games suffered from the boycott with a third of the competitors being excluded.   In athletics very few potential medallists did not take part.   The depleted fields however meant that a number of our athletes who would have benefited from an earlier round, were being thrown into semi-finals or finals of events.   A number were unfortunate not to qualify for further rounds by the narrowest of margins.   

Results   * Aditional Event

100 metres

Bunney   5th   10.37;   Henderson   8th   10.68;   Sharp   eliminated in semi-final   10.62

200 metres

McCallum   eliminated in semi-final   21.39;  Whittle   eliminated in semi-final   21.69

400 metres

Whittle   5th   47.10;   Johnston   eliminated in semi-final   48.57;   Nicoll   eliminated in semi-final  50.07

800 metres

McKean   2nd   1:44.80;   Forbes   7th  1:51.29

1500 metres

Currrie  eliminated in heat   3:44.82;   Hanlon   eliminated in heat   3:50.57;   Robson   9th   3:57.20

5000 metres

Muir   8th   13:40.92

10000 metres

Hutton   –   30:16.50

3000 metres steeplechase

Charleson   –   9:21.73;   Hanlon   –   8:53.56;   Hume   –   9:05.40


Graham   4th   2:12:10;   Clyne   10th   2:17:30;   Robertson   withdrawn on medical grounds

110 metres hurdles

Wallace   eliminated in 1st semi-final  14.23;  McDonald   eliminated in 1st semi-final  14.37;   Fraser   eliminated in 1st semi-final   14.28

400 metres Hurdles

Fulton   eliminated in 1st semi-final   57.90;   McCutcheon   eliminated in 1st semi-final  53.58;   Hardie   eliminated in 1st semi-final   55.68

Pole Vault

McStravick   8th   4.45m

High Jump

Parsons   2nd   2.28m

Long Jump

McKay   8th   7.39m

Triple Jump

Duncan   7th   15.68m


Black   8th   63.88m


Irvine   9th   16.73m


Patience   52.54m


Maxwell   –   62.34m


McStravick   4th   7563 pts

4 x 110 Relay

Henderson, McCallum, Sharp, Bunney    3rd    40.41

4 x 400 Relay

Johnston, Forbes, McKean, Whittle    4th   3:18.43

Women’s report and results are on a separate page which can be reached   here


Women’s 10,000m, Meadowbank, 1986

Liz Lynch first appeared in the national rankings in 1979 but she had been running for a long time before that having been spotted at School and then coached by Harry Bennett at Dundee Hawkhill Harriers.   By 1986 she was studying at Alabama University and her times were such that there was no doubt that she would be selected for the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.   She could have been picked for the 3000m (there was no 5000m for women at that time) but instead the selectors felt that she would do better in the inaugural 10000m race.   So it was that she lined up for the race on 28th July, 1986, against thirteen other athletes from five countries – Scotland, England, Wales, Canada and New Zealand.    

When the Commonwealth Games returned to Edinburgh, 16 years after the Scottish capital had last staged them, one of the new events was the women’s 10000 metres.   It was a stage ready-made for a Dundee Hawkhill athlete who had made her first steps to world class while at the University of Alabama for whom she won the NCAA indoor Mile that same year.   While the weather had been typically Scottish for the championships, rain and gloomy conditions never being too far away, Lynch brought rick emotion to the occasion with a tremendous and emphatic victory.   What made her stand out, and it remained such a glorious trait throughout her career, was this bloody-mindedness to dominate races just how she wanted.   If the rest of the field wanted to follow, then they knew they would be in for a tough afternoon, as the Commonwealth’s best women long distance runners discovered.   Cheered on by a packed crowd at Meadowbank Stadium with the blue and white flag of Scotland turning the event into a spectacularly colourful occasion.   Lynch ran to victory in 31:41:42, a British record and a triumph by nearly 12 seconds, with Anne Audain of New Zealand second in 31:53:31.    It was was the first of four times that McColgan would break the British record for this distance, and the lap of honour was something to behold, as Scotland celebrated their only gold medal winner of the Games.   

The result as shown in Wikipedia looks like this.   She was twelve seconds clear of second

Rank Name Nationality Time Notes
01 !1st, gold medalist(s) Liz Lynch  Scotland 31:41.42 GR
02 !2nd, silver medalist(s) Anne Audain  New Zealand 31:53.31  
03 !3rd, bronze medalist(s) Angela Tooby  Wales 32:25.38  
04 !4 Nancy Rooks  Canada 32:30.71  
05 !5 Susan Lee  Canada 32:30.75  
06 !6 Susan Tooby  Wales 32:56.78  
07 !7 Marina Samy  England 33:10.94  
08 !8 Carole Rouillard  Canada 33:22.31  
09 !9 Andrea Everett  Scotland 33:56.43  
10 Christine Price  Scotland 33:59.90  
11 Debbie Peel  England 36:03.79  
12 Chris McMiken  New Zealand 99:99.98 !DNF  
12 Jill Clarke  England 99:99.98 !DNF  
12 Debbie Elsmore  New Zealand 99:99.98 !DNF

In a profile published in the Scotsman in 2006, 20 years after the event, she said that she still remembered every step of the race.   She was quoted as saying

“It certainly doesn’t feel like 20 years ago, and I remember it as if it was yesterday,” said McColgan. “I was something of an unknown quantity, but I knew I was in great shape, running for the first and only time without any pressure on me, and I knew I had gold in the bag with 800m to go.

 “I was conscious of the huge crowd chanting, ‘Liz Lynch, Liz Lynch,’ and that carried me home, and the fact the entire stadium waited the 20 minutes of so for the presentation ceremony was amazing, and it was all very emotional.”

 Asked where her gold, won in a time of 13mins 41.42sec fitted in the pantheon of Lynch/McColgan achievements, she was clear. “Athletically, it wasn’t my best by a long chalk, but it got me known, got me top races at world class meets, so that was important, and it was certainly the emotional high point of my career.”

You can read more about her wonderful career at this link

Liz with some of the other Scots at the Games 


Scotlands Runner covers the Games

1986 was a very good year for Scottish athletics in several ways:   Despite the many problems associated with it, the Commonwealth Games was a real highpoint;   some new stars appeared on the international scene, mainly Tom McKean and Liz Lynch, who had been well-known beforehand but who really came good and launched wonderful international championship careers and the ‘Scotland’s Runner’ magazine appeared for the first time.    This magazine that went out of print in 1993 was a great source of information via the results pages obviously but also through the many ‘Upfront’ articles and stories by the editors Alan Campbell, Doug Gillon and Stewart Macintosh with regular contributors Lynda Bain, Fraser Clyne, Bob Holmes, Graeme Smith, Sandy Sutherland, Jim Wilkie and Linda Young.   The photographs were first class and the letters pages gave readers an opportunity to contribute to the debate.   Everyone was interested in and involved with the sport.   It was a real loss when circumstances led to it’s demise.    If you want to read the articles in their entirety or re-visit the magazine, just go to Ron Morrison’s website at


It was natural then, that they should cover the Commonwealth Games in more detail and with more insight than the daily press.    I’d like to look at the July to October issues of the magazine and quote from some of the excellent articles on the subject.

The first issue – cover above – was in July 1986 and among many articles of interest was one by Sandy Sutherland entitled ‘The Shoestring Games’, one by Fraser Clyne on marathon selection difficulties and an interview with Tom MacNab about Allan Wells.  

Elsewhere on this website I criticise the low number of athletes chosen to represent their country in the Games but there is an interesting item in the ‘Inside Lane’ page written by Alan Campbell.    It reads: “Nobody loves a selector.   Every jogger who ever stumbled blistered and leg weary towards a marathon finish  thinks he or she can do better.   So as the Commonwealth Games selectors brace themselves for the four yearly lashing, let’s set the record straight.   The Scottish team’s original allocation of 33 male and 23 female places is smaller in real terms than in 1970.   There were 35 men in Edinburgh 16 years ago and 21 women.   But since then four events (400m Hurdles, 3000m, 10000m and marathon) have been added to the women’s programme.   This allocation is given by the Commonwealth Games Council for Scotland who have consistently refused to increase the figure.   That despite the fact that in overall terms Scotland is a stronger athletic nation now than in 1970 (although it does not mean we will win more than the four gold we took then.)   

Pressure on the selectors to pre-select, especially in the marathon, was intense.    There has to be something wrong with a system that does not get our fastest man on to the start line.       But the selectors, with no room for passengers on a tight ship,  dared not choose any but certain starters.   Allan Wells and Tom McKean are among those over whom serious injury doubts have been raised on the run-in.   The fact remains that a domestic Games remains the cheapest opportunity to blood young talent.   Lack of funds, always the scapegoat when the Commonwealth Games are held overseas, should be less of a consideration now than ever before.   The reality is that in the race to stage the first commercial Games the people who matter most, the competitors, have been left at the post.    National Coach David Lease admits that there are good athletes who will not be in the team.   That is a disgrace.   But it is not the fault of the selectors, or the sponsors and public who have given generously, and who will give more before the curtain goes up on Scotland’s greatest show.”

So the small team was not down to the selectors, but to the Games Council for Scotland.   That doesn’t make it much more palatable.   The shortage of cash with which to run the show was dealt with later in the magazine in the ‘Up Front’ page.  The item read:

“The Commonwealth Games faces a substantial cash crisis after the Government’s snub to a request for financial aid.   Attempts to emulate the success of the Los Angeles Olympics by making the 1986 Edinburgh Games the first to be funded entirely by the private sector and public donations have failed.   A yawning gap of £1.5 million lies between the Commonwealth Games and financial viability, but on June 2nd the Government refused to make any contribution despite the international kudos which could accrue to such a prestigious international event if it works successfully.

After considerable press speculation, Games chairman Kenneth Borthwick conceded at the end of May that only £12.5 million of the required £14 million has been raised and wrote to the Secretary of State, Malcolm Rifkind, to ask the Government to underwrite the loss.    Mr Rifkind turned down the plea and reminded Mr Borthwick that when Edinburgh had bid for the Games, it had been on the basis that there would be no State funding available.   He expressed his confidence that the £14 million target would be achieved.   Games organisers hope that they have correctly detected a coded message between the lines of the Secretary of State’s reply where he asks to be kept informed of the situation.   They harbour hopes that if they fail to clear the £14 million hurdle, some sort of cushion might be provided by Mr Rifkind.

Current sponsors will be approached and asked to consider increasing their contribution and Scots will be asked to make further donations to the public appeal which has had its target adjusted upwards to £2.5 million.   Companies who have declined previous request for support and sponsorship will be contacted again and asked to reconsider.”

A sad and rather undignified situation in which to be placed – and the contribution to the discussion by the Secretary of State not at all sympathetic.    Sandy Sutherland further through the same issue commented in more detail on the financial aspect in an article entitled “The Shoestring Games” which had the opening paragraph: “Sun and gold medals will make the XIII Commonwealth Games shine in a way that no amount of glossy PR will.   And it certainly has not been sunshine and roses for the Games organisers who were faced with some unique problems and a whole new ball game compared to Edinburgh’s so-successful 1970 Games.   Yet the cost-conscious 1986 event may yet prove to have done sport a favour – in the long run.”   and continued (with a large illustration of the new scoreboard  which had been bought second hand from Los Angeles to save money) as follows:

“The 1986 organisers must be praying that we find some new local heroes but with just over a month left before the opening ceremony at Meadowbank, it has to be admitted the portents are not good as over 3000 competitors and officials from up to 50 countries prepare to descend on Edinburgh.   Venues, tickets fund-raising, South African rugby tours, Zola Budd, miniscule Scottish athletics teams – these are just some of the topics which have caused rows in the build-up period.   The projected Scottish team of 23 women and 33 men is a big let-down for the competitors.  

Money however has been the matter which has dominated these first commercial Commonwealth Games.   When Scotland was awarded the Games in 1980 in Moscow it was by default – Scotland’s was the only hat in the ring and that somewhat prematurely, as the bid had originally been intended for 1990 or 1994.   Edinburgh, the reluctant hosts, gave an assurance that no government money would be required to stage the event as no new facilities would need to be built, hence negligible capital expenditure.   But that assurance came back to haunt them,  particularly when   a new Labour administration was elected in the city.   They refused to go ahead with an ambitious project for the velodrome, but in the end however something approaching £400,000 was allocated to dismantling and rebuilding the old cycling venue.   But it is much the same style as in 1970 with new wood, but still open to the elements with all the attendant risks should rain fall during the Games.  

The city have also resurfaced the Meadowbank athletics track and spruced up the old stadium.   A huge new scoreboard dominates the West end (but perhaps not big enough to shut out the awful prevailing wind?) and a photo-finish box in the stand shuts out at least 150 seats.   Improvements totalling £4 million were budgeted for by the city, including some at the Royal Commonwealth pool, venue for the swimming events, and Balgreen, where a lot of bowls will be played and talked about.   But that expenditure pales beside the organisational budget which at the time of writing stands at £14.1 million.   Compared to what it might have been, that is quite small.   The budget in Brisbane in 1982 was £17 million and, allowing for up to 25% increase in competitors, that figure might well have reached £28 million.   Instead that has been halved.   

“That is a fine achievement,” says Robin Parry, managing director of the consortium of accountants, Arthur Young, and publicity agency, Crawford Halls, charged with the task of raising the bulk of the funds, through advertising, sponsorship and licensing and other deals.   Will they achieve their target?

“It’s finely balanced,” says Parry whose group will be fund-raising right up to the Games. “In particular, arena advertising tends to go at the last moment, but we have already definitely raised over £13 million and I’m optimistic  of closing the gap.”   The consortium’s conservative projection, from their various sources, including hospitality suites at the main arenas, is £8.5 million  while the public appeal is expected to raise £1.5 million.   TV rights – £500,000; tickets – £1.1 million; and programme sales, after sales of equipment and other items – £600,000; while £1 million was raised in early sponsorship.    The appeal includes the Lottery, which could prove quite  money spinner, and the “McCommonwealth campaign” which has had a lukewarm response in its initial stages at least.   The Commonwealth Games book and the special £2 coin are two of the items which come under Parry’s remit and are two of the hardest to assess in terms of return.

But tickets look like exceeding their target and, with the main sessions at athletics and swimming sold out within a few days of going on sale for postal applications last September, there could be quite a black market for these.   Part of the problem for the organisers has been that they did not know how many seats were actually going to be available because the stadium capacity had not been settled due to the Popplewell Report on crowd safety and the extra room taken by hospitality units.   It looks as if, despite the extra terracing, the Meadowbank capacity will be approximately 22,000 compared with well over 30,000 in 1970 when scaffolding doubled the norm.   Sadly a priority ticket scheme intended for the real athletics fans, which would have given athletics clubs and others a month’s advantage over the general public, was so mis-handled that the dates merged.   That is just another example of how the people in the sport appear to have been neglected in these Games.   So in the end who will benefit?  

Certainly the Games themselves.   the inflationary spiral which has gone on through Christchurch, 1974, Edmonton, 1978, and Brisbane has been broken, and Edinburgh in particular because of the massive television exposure and the income from tourism (which has been estimated at £50 million).   Certainly sport in general though rowing, back in the Games for the first time since 1958, with new purpose-built facilities at Strathclyde Park, could point to more obvious benefits than swimming or tack and field which have been short-changed on facilities (no warm-up pool or track for example) and competitors.   But short-changed or not, track and field will be the centre-piece and showpiece of the Games, and the making or breaking of them.   And our athletes have destiny in their hands.”

It’s a very interesting article and looking back Sandy’s comments towards the end of the penultimate paragraph about priority ticket schemes, is thought provoking.   In the collection of club memorabilia that I inherited from James P Shields is a letter from the organising committee of the London Olympics of 1948 asking of any of our club members would like tickets for the event.  nearer home, all clubs in Scotland were asked how many tickets they would like, where in the arena they were for and for what events.   Here again is the idea that those who are involved in any sport should have priority in the availability of tickets is mentioned.   It is worse than just a shame that this idea has been abandoned in favour of mass, elbows out, scramble for tickets at Olympic and Commonwealth Games.  

For now I will hold back from re-printing Fraser Clyne’s article – sections of it will appear elsewhere soon – on marathon selection but will say that his conclusion was that “the 1986 Commonwealth Games marathon team should have been picked by no later than the end of 1985.”

The above picture features Sandra Whittaker the quite outstanding sprinter, coached by Ian Robertson, who was one of the very best Scottish runners ever.   It is most unfortunate, to put it mildly that she has been virtually ignored in recent years.   A woman who in the Los Angeles Olympics set personal bests in the heats, and in the quarter-final has to be very special.  She is still the only Scotswoman inside 23 seconds for the 200m.    With talents like hers and her training partners and the Edinburgh group of the same period, there should surely be some website with profiles or tributes to our sprinters.   However, in the second issue of “Scotland’s Runner”, the middle pages full-colour spread was an article by Doug Gillon which took a look back at 1970 and had what was called an optimistic look ahead.   But first, in the very first page of the magazine was Alan Campbell’s ‘Inside Lane’ page with the dreaded news that many had anticipated but which no one wanted to hear: the boycott was now on.    The article read:

“On July 9th, the darkest cloud hanging over the success of the Commonwealth Games finally burst over mountainous political pressure.   Nigeria and Ghana announced their withdrawal over Mrs Thatcher’s attitude towards South African sanctions.    Just 24 hours earlier, new Games trouble-shooter, Mr Bryan Cowgill, had felt justified in announcing a record Games entry including a full African participation led by … Nigeria.   Yet no sooner were we digesting the good news in our morning newspapers than our kippers and toast were upset by the boycott announcement.     The news came just in time for Scotland’s Runner’s final deadline for this issue.  we cannot therefore give an in-depth analysis of the ramifications and repercussions.   By the time you read this, any amount of political machinations – ranging from a full Afro-Asian-Caribbean boycott  to  a compromise salvaged from Sir Geoffrey Howe’s seemingly ill-starred trip to Southern Africa will have decided the fate of the Games.   ……

The sanctimonious claptrap mouthed by Mrs Thatcher on the morality of sanctions against South Africa had already turned enough white stomachs – including ours – before Nigeria and Ghana took their precipitous decisions.   In the light of the worsening political climate which dwarf the problems of the Games, a far more delicate hand than Mrs Thatcher is capable of playing was called for if the original boycott threat was to be finessed.   Before returning to the subject of the boycott however let us not pass over the, now admittedly parochial, commercial and administrative problems which have bedevilled this Commonwealth festival from the outset.  

After 18 months of rumour, evasion and a permanent smokescreen of optimism from the Games organisers, the truth emerged.   The Games were on the brink of cancellation; the limited company, Commonwealth Games ’86 Ltd, was in danger if trading illegally, and Scotland would have become an international laughing stock.   Part of the blame must lie in Canning House, the Games HQ, where a bewildering series of some 40 committees was spawned under the muddled leadership of Games chairman Ken Borthwick, a former Conservative Lord Provost of Edinburgh and a newsagent and tobacconist shop proprietor.   Political wrangles with a new left-wing Edinburgh District Council administration did not give confidence that the organisation of the Games was progressing smoothly.    The Government could and should have done much more, but their dogmatic commitment to the market economy blinded ministers to the contribution that a successful Games could bring to the future standing of Scotland and the UK.  

To be fair, it had been made clear at the outset that these would have to be the Commonwealth’s first “Commercial Games,” but when the fund-raising consortium got tantalisingly near the £14 million target it was petty of Malcolm Rifkind. the Secretary of State for Scotland, to refuse to fight in Cabinet for the funds that would have bridged the gap and given his home city and Scotland an unbeatable opportunity to perform on the world stage.   It would have been a very small amount to pay for the potential return in terms of future tourism and commercial interest.

Then the cavalry came riding over the hill.   Robert Maxwell, publisher of Mirror group Newspapers, had (with nothing more binding than a handshake) apparently won control of the Games, unseated Ken Borthwick as chairman, and in the process won himself enormous publicity.   But when the cavalry comes to the   rescue they are supposed to fly in with a life-saving charge, not stand on the hill-top trumpeting for reinforcements which are still some way over the horizon.   In return for his dramatic winning of the Games Maxwell seems to have offered nothing more than a promise to do three things: to campaign vigorously for further injections of commercial money, to explore advertising  and sponsorship opportunities which the Games organisers had missed, and to demand that the Government throws some cash into the pot.

Major sponsors such as Guinness, who have put money rather than hot air, into the Games must wonder whether they have got the full return on their investments when one of the most formidable personal publicity machines in the UK won the top seat so cheaply.   As one Scottish newspaper pointed out, it was as if the annual newspaper ‘silly season’ had started early this year; indeed if it was not for the fact that these indignities are being inflicted on our country and our sport it would be all rather comical.  ….

Returning to the boycott threat, having apportioned blame in all directions for the commercial shambles, we would like to at least applaud the Scottish Commonwealth Games Council for having tried its damnedest to keep the Games intact (and indeed Edinburgh District Council, although their methods at last year’s Dairy Crest Games were less than diplomatic).      The Games Council cannot be held responsible for the selfish attitudes of rugby administrators and players determined to flaunt the Gleneagles agreement on sporting links with South Africa now could they prevent the Daily Mail and the Home Office conspiring to polarise Commonwealth opinion over their handling of the Zola Budd affair.   Whatever the situation on July 24th, Scotland’s Runner can only join sports lovers everywhere in hoping that the merchants and politicians finally got their act together in time to salvage the Games.”  

This is not the entire article but he doesn’t mess around – he says what he thinks: and what he thought was endorsed by most of the Scottish sporting public.   He mentions the Gleneagles Agreement had been signed at Gleneagles in 1977 and discouraged sporting contact with teams from South Africa because of their apartheid policies – read about it at this wikipedia link


As far as the boycott of the Games by the African teams is concerned, it was a great deal to do with the Thatcher government’s attitude, Philly.com said frankly in 1986:   “Thatcher is virtually alone in the Commonwealth in arguing that sanctions against South Africa will not work, but in October she persuaded the other heads of Commonwealth governments to appoint a delegation to find ways to open a dialogue between the South African government and black nationalist leaders.”   Despite the agreement, England’s rugby team toured South Africa in 1984 although the Lion’s tour in 1986 was cancelled.   The Edinburgh Games Committee took a very public stand against the English tour but to no avail.  The whole story can be found at 

http://www.bl.uk/sportandsociety/exploresocsci/politics/articles/boycotts.pdf .   

Doug Gillon’s major article in the middle of the second issue of the magazine.   Starting with a look back at 1970 when Scottish chances of any gold medals were scoffed at (other than McCafferty – if we’re lucky!)   Looking ahead, Peter Matthews (ITV commentator) said we would get two – silver for Parsons in the High Jump and bronze for Liz in the 10000m.    Before looking at the prospects for 1986, he retells the story of an Englishman who wrote off Lachie’s victory over Ron Clarke in the 10000m by saying that a champion should win like a champion – from the front.   Jim Alder came back at him.   England’s great athletics hero Chris Chataway in his epic duel with Vladimir Kuts had led for 20 yards – the last 20!”   Doug says, in an article that is still worth reading, “There is certainly no lack of ambition.   The American philosophy of ‘First’s first, second’s nowhere!” alternatively expressed by “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” is a sentiment that many home athletes share.   They just are not as obtrusive about it as the Yanks.   But on current ranking, at the time of going to press, the reality is that not one Scot tops the Commonwealth lists in his or her event.   But the impact of national fervour cannot be underestimated.   I believe that Scotland has genuine medal prospects in Tom McKean (800m), Allister Hutton (10000m), John Graham (marathon), Geoff Parsons (High Jump) and the 4 x 400m relay provided the squad can get their act together.   I also believe that the hopes of gold are greater with the women.   Nobody should underestimate the talent of Yvonne Murray in the 1500m and more particularly, the 3000m, of Liz Lynch in the 3000m and 10000m, or of Lorna Irving in the marathon.   And Chris Whittingham has already carved three seconds from her 1500m personal best this year, running in Oslo, where she clocked 4:06.24, a time inside the Games record.

It will hopefully be third time lucky for her family.   Her twin, Evelyn, competed in 1974 at Christchurch, both of them were in Edmonton where Chris placed fourth in the 1500m.   In addition Christine’s husband Mike was edged out of the medals in the 400 metres hurdles in Brisbane.   There are several other events with lesser medal prospects and national and native records will fall regularly.”    The article continues with an appraisal of the Games as a whole.

The magazine contained other articles relevant to the Games – an interview by Bob Holmes with Geoff Parsons (who was to go on to win silver), several items in the Up Front section including one on the Guinness ‘Commonwealth Friendship Scroll’ travelling round the Commonwealth.   

The cover picture of Issue Number Three, September 1986, tells the story!    The men’s 10000m gold medal of 1970 had been equalled by the women’s 10000m gold in 1986.   By the time the magazine hit the streets, the Games were  over but the magic of Liz’s medal was still in the air and the delightful picture on the cover above just summed up everyone’s delight at the result.   Doug was given the two middle pages to ‘Report On The Games’ with another superb photograph of the end of the women’s 200 metres showing the first three in full flight.   Doug wrote:

” …. Jake Young, a teacher at Edinburgh Academy identified the talent of sprinter Jamie Henderson and commendably realised there were people better equipped than he to develop the boy’s potential.   In less than a year under Bob Inglis’s care, Henderson had won gold and bronze at the World Junior Championships and bronze in the Commonwealth Games relay.  

In cold statistics there were many who did not live up to expectation in Edinburgh.   Injury in some cases saw to that.   Janice Neilson never competed at all and Lindsey McDonald appeared to be limping during her warm-up and clearly competed in pain.   Moira McBeath from Thurso who finished seventh in the final of the semi-final of the 400m hurdles is pregnant.   Our three men’s 400m hurdlers all failed to match their best.   Neither  Allister Hutton nor Nat Muir came anywhere near threatening the Scottish native best for 10000m or 5000m which has stood since the 1970 Commonwealth Games, despite having run well inside these marks.   The long jump of 7.51m that gave Dave Walker sixth place in 1970 was one centimetre further than sixth place in 1986; the heptathlon long jump of 6.39m by Moira Walls in 1970 would have won her the bronze medal in the individual event this time; and the Scottish women’s relay squad have still not run any faster than the 45.2 seconds which an Edinburgh Southern Harriers squad achieved to win the WAAA title in 1970.

Worse, the boycott would almost certainly have stopped us from winning at least two of the six medals won.   But athletes can only beat those who turn up on the day.   Sandra Whittaker surpassed expectation in becoming the first Scottish woman ever to win a Commonwealth sprint medal, maintaining her style spectacularly over the final 20 metres when it counted.   The men’s relay squad succeeded against the odds.   Cameron Sharp, nursing himself round with an excruciating back and leg injury after sacrificing his personal aspirations in the 200m to do so.   And George McCallum tore his right hamstring yards before the vital final takeover to Elliott Bunney.

The highlight was of course Liz Lynch’s stunning 10000m victory.   It was a great gamble for the Dundee woman who was ranked top of the 3000m starters.   Had she known the 3000m would have been a straight final, she would have attempted the double.   The girl from Whitfield in Dundee was another who had a  haphazard introduction to the sport.   She went with a group of friends to Dundee Hawkhill Harriers and left almost immediately.   It was only later that she returned.   It was the late Harry Bennett who converted Liz from a 100/200 runner to  a distance athlete before she left to study in the USA at a junior college and then at Alabama.   Yvonne Murray, who settled for bronze but made a brave bid for gold in the 3000m, was spotted playing hockey by her biology teacher, Bill Gentleman.   Tom McKean however has had a more normal progress in the sport, a member of Bellshill YMCA since shortly after his eleventh birthday, and nursed delicately by coach Tommy Boyle.   His silver medal behind Steve Cram was a national record and bettered a native one that had stood to Mike McLean, chairman of the selection committee for the Games since 1970.   Geoff Parsons fell one short of his ambition to win gold but equalled his British outdoor record to do so.  

At this time last year, Jamie Henderson was pulling on an Edinburgh Academy cricket sweater.   The Games were something that would be happening in his native city the following year.   He might buy a ticket or two and go and watch.   Or he might not.   Instead the sweater was resurrected like a prop from the wardrobe room of Chariots of Fire, and Henderson wore it on his way to the starting blocks for the men’s 100m final at Meadowbank last month when he became the youngest man to contest a Commonwealth sprint final since the 17 year old Dan Quarrier struck gold in the capital 16 years before.   Henderson wore it again when he Groge McCallum, Cameron Sharp and Elliott Bunney came out to take the relay bronze.   A year is a short time in athletics, but the progress made by Henderson in that time is perhaps the most heartening thing to emerge from the Commonwealth Games.   And that is not to minimise the stunning success of the delightfully unspoiled Liz Lynch.   For the emergence of the Edinburgh teenager in so short a space of time is proof that the basic natural resource of the sport is flourishing in Scotland.   But we must have more input.   Otherwise these resources will be burned and wasted like a puff of spent tobacco.”

That is most of Doug’s article and it was the only major one in “Scotland’s Runner” that month.    The following month brought an article by John Anderson under the title of “Why Are We So Bad?” and a report by Doug Gillon on another event that certainly affected the Commonwealth Games – the European Championships later that year.

John’s article read:

” … we have a cultural heritage second to none, one which promotes the twin elements of dedication and passion.   The Scottish tradition is to learn well and fight hard to achieve.   We must harness that.


Clubs come in all shapes and sizes, some well organised and well resourced others which barely survive from year to year.   Some clubs have a large variety of facilities and can provide their members with a complete range of opportunities, coaching and competition, supported by an excellent organisation.   Such clubs  however are limited, largely through no fault of the club but either because they are geographically isolated, or by the nature of their limited resources they are unable to provide comprehensive opportunity to those in their area.   It is important to recognise the contribution made by schools.   The Scottish athletic tradition has been to a large extent built on the excellent network developed at this level.   But this marvellous tradition is in jeopardy as teachers consider whether they can afford to continue.   If the school involvement dimishes, this will pose further problems for clubs and the development of the sport.  

But however many clubs there are, and no matter how well equipped and funded, they cannot function without the voluntary club official.   Like the clubs they come in all shapes and sizes, but have in common a desire to give their time freely in order to ensure that others enjoy the full range of opportunities in athletics.   These people must fulfil many functions.   They have to be first-class administrators, able to deal with the secretarial and financial aspects of the organisation, and they certainly have to deal with fund-raising since most clubs usually exist on a hand-to-mouth basis at best.   There also have to be coaches to advise the young athletes and there must be conpetitions organised, and the structure to provide the numerous judges, timekeepers and other officials.   So, on the plus side, Scotland has a multitude of willing voluntary helpers, the backbone of athletics without whom the sport would cease to exist, or at least would exist in a very limited form.   We also of course have outstanding performers who have emerged to put a little dash of colour on Scottish athletics.   In addition to the one or two jewels in the crown is the very substance of athletics, the performers.   Some argue that athletics is about providing for these people rather than for the elite, but the argument of course is specious because all athletes are part of the sport.   The top encourages the bottom.   Aspiration and achievement are recognised throughout the sport and therefore those who achieve the highest levels act as a stimulus to those whose performance and talent are not at that level.   It is important to identify at the outset that the pursuit of better performance is the driving force within athletics.   One cannot just take part.

If it is accepted that all athletes are aspiring to improve and that officials are there to help bring this to fruition, we have to look at whether the existing structure achieves these ends.   The sport, including cross-country and road running, is too fragmented for effective management structure.   Any management consultant would feel that the ability to implement new initiatives would be restricted in view of the small population and large land area.   The existing structure does not ensure that those who live in the more outlandish places are given an equal opportunity with those in the central belt.   There are many self evident criticisms which might be directed in terms of management organisation and structure given the current framework, but suffice to say that the current structure is a nonsense and cannot achieve even a small part of what it sets out to do.   We need organisation and radical change.  

The problem of scale outside the central belt means that athletes are not given equal opportunity – or even an adequate opportunity – to take part in club athletics or competitions.   This is compounded by the fact that very few clubs are able to offer a full range of facilities in terms of road running, cross-country and all the various forms of athletics – throwing, jumping, pole vault, etc.   In many cases they even lack the required level of coaching expertise.   It is therefore necessary to find ways in which the resources might be used more effectively and efficiently.   In some if not all parts of Scotland the competition structure leaves a good deal to be desired ,   Certainly there are many very good competitions available.   These have grown over the past few years and are a credit to those who organise them.   But they are centred largely on the central belt and tend to leave others in isolation.   There are different modes of competition, the lifeblood of the sport, which might be brought into such areas to the benefit of the raising of standards.  

Competition is based on the existing club set-up but this is clearly inadequate.   What we must do now is build on that structure which has stood the test of time.   The older clubs must pool their resources, building an area structure on top, evolve the concept of more wide-ranging competition.   This could take the form of inter-area matches in throws, jumps and pole vault, others in sprints and hurdles, others still  in the middle distance races.   It should not be beyond the wit of man to devise this.    Scots traditionally reflect great national pride.   It is in evidence in all the national sports events when the Scottish people demonstrate their loyalty and pride in their heritage.   Sadly this very often is not reflected in the way in which our organisations function.   It may well be suggested that there is no really strong national feeling or sense of responsibility in Scottish athletics, that the sport is too parochial. that   it sells itself almost exclusively to individual clubs and those within these clubs concern themselves with ‘The Club’ rather than examining how the whole national scene can be improved.  

We must examine the sport’s funding in Scotland and different methods of financing must be promoted and developed.   Certainly if further development is to come then the whole area of sponsorship and support from local authorities, quite apart from national level involvement must be scrutinised.  As a Glaswegian I am ashamed to note that in spite of being one of the largest areas of population, Glasgow has languished behind not only Edinburgh, but many other smaller places between Glasgow and Edinburgh in its provision of facilities.   It borders on a national disgrace that Glasgow has only recently acquired one synthetic track for its entire population – this from a city which promotes itself as being ‘miles better.’    One track is inadequate and even the new Kelvin Hall project will only scratch the surface of the lack of indoor facilities.   Until that is resolved nationwide, Scotland’s adverse weather conditions will certainly limit the development of technical events.  

Tradition is a two edged sword.   It can be a positive or a negative weapon.   In Scotland the young are taught that the club is the focus of all activity, superseding all others.   By definition all else falls by the wayside.   Youngsters are taught to be hostile to other clubs, to succeed at the expense of others.   What is taught is negative.    We should be sharing our limited resources.   Very, very seldom do you hear of clubs sharing their knowledge, expertise or facilities or assisting other clubs.   All the clubs in the Edinburgh area, for example, could be pooling their resources.   There would be enough coaches to go round and a scouting system could be developed to tap into the schools.   Instead they are too frightened of the possibility of poaching.   The clubs are too selfish.   The questions they must ask themselves  are, “Is the sport bigger than the club?   Do they care enough about the sport they profess to believe in to change things?”

The allegation of Scottish small-mindedness is one that has to be looked at.   We  Scots have to bury our parochial attitudes in the interests of national development.


The control, administration and management of Scottish athletics must be re-structured and reorganised.   A diverse and fragmented administrative structure leads to inefficiency and ineffectiveness.   A single administrative office was a step forward but one body for a country the size and population of Scotland is the answer.   The form that body should take and the responsibilities it should have are matters which can be resolved with goodwill on all sides.   This questions the motives of the adults who run Scottish athletics.   It is the officials, who put in many hours of effort, who actually control the sport.   The athletes themselves, although capable of decisions, are motivated by participation rather than politics, and it will always be thus.   So the responsibility for the future lies with those officials, and they now carry an onerous responsibility.   No doubt the vast majority of national officials come altruistically into the sport, but over the years that altruism becomes blunted.   The fragmented nature of Scottish athletics is perpetuated by misguided individuals reinforcing the separate entities of the sport, men’s and women’s track, men’s and women’s cross-country.   There is little to suggest in recent years these incumbents have made any effort to bring the organisations together for the good of the athletes and the sport.  Instead they seem intent on retaining their power.

They have the power to run the sport more effectively, but that will require sacrifices from them.   The tendency is to focus attention on their own club’s particular role.   What is needed is a magnanimity of spirit and attitude in the interest of the sport nationally.   These people must look beyond their own role and examine the contribution which could be made if they took a less parochial stance.   The leaders of Scottish athletics must do precisely that  …  lead Scotland into building a new structure, one more efficient and effective, one able to respond rapidly to the needs and demands of the athletes.   We should be riding on the high of the enthusiasm generated by the Commonwealth Games and the success Britain achieved at the European Championships at Stuttgart.   We owe it to the new generation of Scottish athletes.”

That’s John’s article and it makes interesting reading.   At the time it was written, Scottish athletics was governed by the SAAA, SWAAA, SCCU and SWCCU – he was one of the first to propose the amalgamation of the four bodies into the Scottish Athletics Federation, and as usual with John, the priority was always the good of the competitors.   A lot of what he has said about competition and clubs away from the central belt has also come to pass.