Molly Wilmoth

Molly Ferguson was a well-known and talented athlete in Scottish athletics in the 1950’s and 60’s.   She is still seriously involved in the sport as an official, and still with the same club, but known as Molly Wilmoth.   Molly and husband Danny are one of the best known and respected couples in the sport and their contribution was recognised by the granting to them of a Lifetime Achievement Award by Scottish Athletics in 2004 and we’ll come to that in due course.    Molly has had one of the finest careers in the sport that could be imagined – a very successful athlete who became a top ranked official and was recognised in many ways as a talented administrator.

Albert Secondary School Sports champion in 1951, she joined Springburn Harriers straight from school in 1953 and went on to win two SWAAA 880 yards titles and run for Scotland in internationals on the track and over the country.   The Fifties were critical development of Scottish women’s athletics: it went into the Sixties in much better shape than it had been ten years earlier.   The transition is marked dramatically when we look at the SWAAA Championships.   At the start of the decade there were only 14 events and they were all for Seniors with only two or even three for Inters (ie Under 17).   In 1960 there were no fewer than 39, including events for Internediates and Juniors which included track, field and relays.   She also helped the women’s association get involved in annual international fixtures.

After joining Sprinngburn the young Molly Ferguson started racing against the Seniors in 1953/54 and in the women’s cross-country championships in March 1954 at Dunfermline she was fourth over the two and a half mile course behind Aileen Drummond (Maryhill), Margaret Wadler (Athenians) and Betty Moffatt (Athenians).   It was a good year to be running well for reasons apparent from the following article from, I think, the ‘Evening Times’.



Just 51 years after mere man had thought of the idea, women athletes are to have the first of what it is hoped will be an annual international cross-country race next Saturday.   It will be staged over a two-and-a-half mile course at perry Park, Perry Barr and the issue will be between teams representing England and Scotland.   England will be represented by the first six girls to finish in last week’s National Championship at Aylesbury, namely Diane Leather and Dilys Williams (Birchfield), Anne Oliver (Gosforth), June Bridgland (Southampton), Nora Smalley (Portsmouth)  and Marian Davies (Stockport).”

A fairly realistic assessment and preview was contained in this article.  


Scottish women runners are not numerous but they certainly do not lack pluck.   Tomorrow they resume international cross-country competition with England at Birmingham.   The following team will represent Scotland.   A Drummond (Maryhill), HM Wadler (Athenian AC), B Moffat (Athenian AC), M Ferguson (Springburn), N Elder (Maryhill, S Johnstone (Edinburgh H).   Mrs Thursby, Ayr AC) will be in charge of the party.   Aileen Drummond who captains the Scots is cross-country and one mile champion of Scotland.   The Maryhill girl will meet the English champion, Diane Leather, Birchfield Harriers, who outclassed the field when winning her title a fortnight ago.   As the English girls have a much more ambitious training programme during the season, they will probably be better trained and should win both team and individual honours over this three mile test.” 

This was a very good English team indeed with Diane Leather going on to be one of the all-time great British middle-distance runners and the first woman ever under 5 minutes for the Mile.   It was a first class opportunity for young Molly to see the very best in action close up.   It was no real surprise when England won although the extent of the victory was possibly unexpected.   The report of the race in ‘The Evening Citizen’ read as follows:


England girls had a runaway win when they met Scotland at the first post-war international cross-country race for women.   The home country always had the first six girls and finally won by 10 points to 34.   Diane Leather, the Birchfield champion, was an easy winner after being challenged in the early stages by Anne Oliver, the Northern champion.   There was always a close tussle for third place between June Bridgland, the Southern title holder, and Dilys Williams, the Birchfield girl.   Always in seventh place was Aileen Drummond, the Scottish champion, but try as she did, she was unable to break the English formation.   The only change in the remaining laps was that Miss Bridgland broke away to make certain of third place.   Result:

  1. D Leather 15:19.   2.   A Oliver   15:45.   3.   J Bridgland   16:12.   4.   D Williams   16:23.   5.   M Davies   16:30.   6.   N Smalley   17:00.   7.   A Drummond   17:29.   8.   M Wadler   17:55.   9.   M Ferguson   19:13.   11.   B Moffat   20:20.   12.   S Johnstone   21:30.”

It was a kind of baptism of fire for the new Scottish international team but it ony made them more determined to have another go the following year.   Then it was into the track season of summer 1954.   The major championships of any year are the national championships which in 1954 were held on 12th June at New Meadowbank and Molly won her first medal in the senior 880 yards when she finished third behind Aileen Drummond and E Moffat.   The winning time was 2:25.4/    There were not many middle distance races for women at that time, most meetings only had races at 100 and 220 yards, and as often as not these were handicaps.   There were a few at Highland Games such as those at Milngavie and Shotts.    In the former Molly won in 2:32.6 from Nessie Elder and Aileen Drummond, both of Maryhill Harriers.   Press coverage commented on the actual inclusion of the race in the programme.   “The organisers are to be commended for making provision for the half-mile for women.   This interesting event disclosed the need for more in order that our women athletes may learn to run this distance with the required judgment.   Tenseness of competition puts a strain on the confidence and composure of the competitor and only experience on the track will enable them to run this kind of race with competence.   Molly Ferguson and Nessie Elder ran the kind of race we expected but they an and Ann Mckee will vastly improve when they have learned to control their speed and make their final effort at the appropriate time.   Women athletes have surely shown by this time that they can compete at these longer distances with efficiency and it behoves those responsible to provide the opportunity.”

That was on 14th August and Carluke Highland Games were later the same month.   Molly won the 220 yards off 9 yards in 27.2 seconds.   Shotts Highland Games were held in September.   This was a handicap race and Nessie Elder , running off 28 yards won from Molly who was off the same mark and Aileen Drummond who was running from scratch.   It should be noted that in 1954 Aileen was the SWAAA champion at both 880 yards and the Mile as well as being Scottish cross-country champion.   At the season’s end the Press returned to the theme of ‘more middle distance races for women’.   I quote from two that appeared at the end of the 1954 season.  


This week I received a letter from a correspondent who obviously knows the problems and needs of women’s athletics intimately and who shares my concerns for the future.    For instance:- ‘There was a fine day’s sport at the Edinburgh Championships and, with three records broken, what more does anyone want?   But someone should suggest changing the venue to Hampden or Ibrox since there is no support in Edinburgh.    Diane Leather says we have some fine girls in Scotland but they require more competition – no wonder P Devine and E Hay, not forgetting EMS have left us.   Our sports promoters are very dull, as week after week the 100 and 220 yards are all they cater for – running yourself dizzy on a grass flag track.    Every sports promoter should include the half-mile for women.”

Frankly I have very great sympathy with my correspondent and agree with much that she has written.   Making allowances for Miss Leather’s generous and natural tribute to her hosts, we do have fine runners who lack competition.   While it is true that Pat Devine and Elspeth Hay have travelled south for keener competition, EMS (if she meant Eileen Sealey) has not gone to Australia for that reason, though she is in athletics there and expects to be home for the start of next season.


I agree that sports promoters are slow to cater for middle distance and milers and could do a lot more for them if they would.   But I have pled for this for two years and more.   On Saturday last it was pathetic to see our athletes compete in events for which they were neither fitted nor trained.   And I am with my correspondent to the full when she pleads for more half mile events.   Some day the promoters will realise that in the quarter, the half and the mile we have the ladies who could provide some exciting competition and would not only draw the public but would also provide athletes of international repute.”

The ‘Special Correspondent’ was not named but one who did writea lot about women’s athletics at the time was Ivan Pulsford and he wrote the following at the start of the 1955 summer season which has a fair bit about Molly and her plans at Springburn Harriers under the one word headline


  “A women’s athletic club which will begin the new season with quite a strong touch of class about their membership are Springburn Harriers.   Their secretary, Molly Ferguson, is herself the holder of two cross-country international ‘caps’. one of which was gained as recently as last month against England, and by her personal example both on and off the track, is an inspiration to many of the younger athletes in the club. 

SECOND TO AILEEN.    Then there is Doreen Fulton who gained a place in the same Scottish team this season, and did so well in the Scottish championships finishing second to Aileen Drummond.   To add further distinction, the club now have Margaret Black. Scottish women’s Intermediate high jump and long jump champion and Jean Muir who last season won the Scottish schoolgirls junior hurdles championship.   With another score or so of promising athletes at their disposal, Springburn promise to test the best.

Miss Ferguson tells me that their immediate incentive is to qualify for a place in the West team to meet the East at Shotts on May 26th, and to do this they will have to put their best foot forward at the Scotstoun trials at Scotstoun on May 12th.   In the meantime, intensive training is proceeding at Allan Glen’s sports ground at Bishopbriggs on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and interested young athletes are invited to attend or write to Miss M Ferguson, 95 Burnbrae Street, Balornock.   APPEAL TO PROMOTERS.   Miss Ferguson adds:- ‘We hope to do well in the sprints and hope that sports promoters will remember those girls who run best in the 880 yards and the Mile.”

The international referred to in which both Molly and Doreen ran came after the National Cross-Country Championships on 5th Match which was reported as follows:


Ayr Racecourse was acclaimed the perfect venue for the Scottish women’s cross-country championship by both competitors and spectators on Saturday afternoon when the race was run in glorious sunshine.   With three circuits of approximately three quarters of a mile each to be covered by the runners, the spectators had full view of the race from start to finish.   As was anticipated, Aileen Drummond of Maryhill Harriers (holder) easily retained her title winning with a comfortable lead of 70 yards from clubmate Cathie Boyle in 18 minutes 29 seconds.   Cathie, who is only 15 years of age, ran a beautifully judged race and has the makings of a good athlete.   The first six will represent Scotland in the international cross-country championship which will be held over the same trail at Ayr Racecourse on March 26th.   There will also be a ballot relay race for men run in conjunction with the championship.   Three men will be chosen by ballot for each team, running one lap of the hurdle course.   The team:- Aileen Drummond, Cathie Boyle, Elizabeth MacLeod, M Ferguson, A Elder and D Fulton.”

I have commented elsewhere on the poor coverage of women’s athletics by the newspapers of the time and I could find no report of the international in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ of the appropriate date but ‘The Scots Athlete’ came to the rescue again with this brief report in their April 1955 issue.   “The second post-war women’s international was held at Ayr on 26th March.    Again England dominated taking all the first six placings.   The individual winner was the famous British track and cross-country star Diane Leather who finished over 100 yards ahead of another great athlete, Anne Oliver.   After the race the teams were guests at a civic reception.   Details:-

  1. D Leather 16:08.   2.   A Oiver   16:31.   3.   L Buckland  16:45.   4.   J Bridgland   16:57.   5.   M Davis   17:00.   6.   M Wooller   17:01.   Scotland:   7.   C Boyes (18:18), 8.  A Drummond (18:40), 9.  E MacLeod (18:47),  10  M Ferguson  (19:15),  11.   D Fulton (19:20), 12  A Elder (19:25). 

Note that it was a ‘cross-country championship’ in the singular with all ages in the same race – second finisher Cathie Boyle was only 15 – and in the absence of female equivalents of Dunky Wright and Jimmy Scott, the women had to make their own way and set up their own championships in addition to running in them.   That the sport of endurance running in Scotland progressed to the present day standards is due almost entirely to the women such as Molly and Aileen in the 1950’s.   In the SWAAA championship that year the resut of the 880 yards was 1.   Aileen K Drummond  2:30.8,   2.   Elizabeth McLeod (Unatt),   3.   Molly Ferguson – two SWAAA Championships, two medals for Molly.   She also ran in the 220 yards where she was third in her heat but unplaced in the final.   Later in the year, on 27th July, Molly won the 220 yards at the Ardeer Recreation Sports in 28.5 seconds off 9 yards from CD Watson (Springburn) and E Junner (Bellahouston).   There was also a major 440 yards at Cowal with Molly, Aileen, Ann Reilly and Anna Herman in front of the normal big Cowal crowds.

1956 started with an open cross-country championship held on 27th January with five clubs (Ardeer, Ayr, Clydesdale, Maryhill and Springburn) contesting the team competition.   Doreen Fulton of Springburn won the race in 14:52 from Molly Ferguson in 15:12 with the reigning cross-country champion Aileen Drummond third in 15:52.   The next three places were taken by local Ayr runners – Claire Thursby, Joyce Thursby and Jean Norris to win the team race.   In the National Cross-Country Championships at Musselburgh the first six again qualified for the Scottish team for the international and the winner was again Aileen Drummond (16:26) from Doreen Fulton (16:30) and JC Herman (Edinburgh Southern Harriers – the reigning SWAAA 440 yards record holder with 58.3).   Molly was fourth, Mrs Steedman (Lewisvale Spartans fifth and Margaret Campbell of Maryhill sixth.   Maryhill won the team title and Ayr was second.    It was noted that Aileen Drummond will not run for Scotland in the International but Mrs A Lusk has kindly obliged to step into her place.   After a hectic week end Aileen was married on Tuesday to Mr Hugh Lusk at St John’s Renfield Church.   In the international at Musselburgh in March, England took the first six places with Diane Leather being the individual victor for the third year.   It was a good year for Springburn Harriers since John McCormick was in the Scottish men’s team that year giving the club three cross-country internationalists.

In the West District trials for the East v West match, the 880 yards was won by Aileen Drummond in 2:40.5 with Molly second and Doreen Fulton third.   Although unplaced in the inter-district match, the report the following morning said “I liked the running of Jean Muir, Mary Symonds, Isobel Bond, Ann Reilly and Molly Ferguson.”   Then into the SWAAA Championships at New Meadowbank and Molly won her first Scottish track title.   She won the 880 yards from Dale Greig and E Maitland (Aberdeen AAC) in 2:28.3.   The writer in the Evening Times (Dunedin) did get her age wrong when he said”A 10 year old Springburn typist, Molly Ferguson, is the new half-mile champion.   She ran a very well-judged race to finish with power and come through to win in the last 50 yards.   A Lusk was fourth and thus lost her second title of the afternoon.”   The mile had already been won by Barbara Tait with Aileen second.   There actually was another report which got Molly’s age right: “A 19 year old Springburn typist, Molly Ferguson is the new half mile champion.   She showed shrewd judgment in her running and came through very strongly to head the field for the first time in the last straight.”    If the judgment of your peers is the most valuable kind then in the ‘Scots Athlete’ of October 1956 had this comment from Dale Greig in her Women’s Notes where she was writing of Aileen Lusk’s retirement from competitive athletics:   “In the 880 yards she had to concede her title to the much fitter, and this year the much faster, Molly Ferguson (Springburn Harriers)”

There were two high-class international races held that summer in which Molly took part.   The first was at Murrayfield on 18th August with three Scots (Molly, Ann Reilly and Barbara Tait), two English runners (Diane Leather and Anne Oliver and one Polish athlete (Halina Gabor).     . Diane Leather won in 2:18 with Gabor second in 2:19.8, Anne Oliver was third and Molly, the reigning SWAAA 880y champion fourth.   Ann Reilly, reigning SWAAA 440y champion was fifth and Barbara Tait, reigning mile champion, sixth.   The other scratch invitation international was held at Ibrox on 15th September in the Daily Express Floodlight Meeting.   There were eight runners – three from England (N Smalley, H Vincent and B Loakes), two from Scotland (Molly Ferguson and Ann Reilly), one from Holland (Stien Scharleman), one from East Germany (U Donath) and one from Poland (B Pestkowna).   The promoters were not overlooking  the women any more.   Leather won in2:09.7 with Donath second in 2:09.8 and Gabor third in 2:11.   neither Leather nor Gabor were in the official programme.   11956 was a good year for Molly- second in the National Cross-Country Championship, first in the SWAAA half-mile after being third in the previous two championships and then the two big invitations to close the summer season.   At the other end of the scale that summer was the Larkhall Sports Association’s meeting at Broomfield Park.   The meeting preview commented that “an innovation, the women’s half mile has attracted a good entry, headed by Scottish champion Molly Ferguson, Springburn.”  Molly actually ran in two events here: in the half mile she lived up to her billing and won in 2:26.4 from club mate Doreen Fulton and then was third in the 220y behind E Rodger of Shotts and EM Sealey.

Springburn Club Group: Molly is sitting second from the left


When the cross-country championship was held in March 1957, Molly Ferguson was absent for the first time since becoming eligible to run and this ended her series of international races.    For the record, the first six were M O’Hare (Maryhill) in 12:50, B Rodgers (Shotts 40 yards back and H Cherry (Bellahouston) another 80 yards back followed bu D Fulton (Springburn), D Greig (Bellahouston) and M Campbell (Maryhill).   However in her preview of the track championships to be held in June, Dale Greig said that “one champion most likely to retain is Molly Ferguson of Springburn H in the half-mile.   She has been so impressive lately that it is thought in some quarters that she could get down to record figures and could possibly also take the ‘quarter’ title.”   The first track race of the season had been the West District trials for the East v West match and Molly made the team by winning, ‘easily’ said the Glasgow Herald, in 2:27.5.   Not only that but she went on to win the actual Inter-Area  880 yards in 2:36.1 to start another good summer’s running.   Ivor Pulsford wrote of the meeting under the headline “


I was greatly impressed by two of the distance runners at the East v West Trials on Saturday, and am persuaded that we have in Molly Ferguson a half miler who will prove a distinguished successor to Anna Herman, who still sets our athletes an admirable example on the track.   Molly has the easy comfortable stride of the well-coached and well-trained runner and gives the impression of having the reserve of stamina which indicates the thorough and disciplined preparation for competition which is the mark of the intelligent and determined athlete.   The other was Barbara Tait (Edinburgh Harriers) whose convincing victory in the mile at the Scottish Championships last year was as much a surprise to herself I hear as it was to the rest of us.”  

However the win he forecast was not in the national championships that year.   In the SWAAA 880 yards in June the pundits were proved wrong when the winner was SH Duncan of Edinburgh Harriers in 2:26.   JP King from Streatham was second and Molly won her fourth medal in four years with third place.   1956 might have been a false dawn for Scotland’s women middle distance runners – there were no events for women at all this time at Cowal, only a 100y, 220y, or at Edinburgh where there was only an 80m Hurdles or at Shotts where there was only the 100y and 220y. 

Molly as school champion at Albert Secondary

The national cross-country championship was held on 8th March 1958 and held ‘in the vicinity of Springburn Harriers pavilion.’   Won by Isobel Mooney ahead of the Bellahouston pair of Dale Greig and Helen Cherry, there was no sign of any of the Springburn Harriers in action that day.   It was Commonwealth Games year and all the top Scots – and several Anglos – were keen to prove their credentials.   In the East v West match, Molly won the 880 yards from Barbara Tait.   In the SWAAA championships, Molly won the 880 yards for the second time in 2:23.9 from JP King (Streatham) and D Dunning of Broxburn.   Unfortunately the time was not enough for selection although it was noted by the Glasgow Herald that “Miss MA Ferguson (Springburn Harriers) who won the title two years ago but lost last year regained the 880 yards title.”   But with no women selected for track events other than the 100 yards and 220 yards it was the Highland Games and Sports Meetings for distance runners for the remainder of the summer.   Most of the races were handicap races but at Stewarton on 28th June the Springburn team of J Muir, M Ferguson, C Cowie and I McDowall won the 4 x 110 yards relay in 55.8 seconds.   The best supportes Games were at Ardeer, Gourock and Strathallan and they formed the competition as they did every year after the championships were over,

There was no sign of Molly in the national cross-country at Auchinairn on 7th March 1959 which was won by a 16 year old, A Paterson from Aberdeen from Barbara Tait, but in the West District Trials on 16th May she showed that she had not gone away by winning the 880 yards in 2:36.7.   In the inter-area at Scotstoun on 23rd May, Tait won in 2:26.4 which was a meeting record   The SWAAA Championships at New Meadowbank on 13th June saw Molly win another medal, albeit another bronze when Ann Reilly, the outstanding 440 yards runner from Ardeer won in 2:24 from M McAuley (Edinburgh Harriers) and Molly.

1960 started with a fourth place in the national cross-country championships held at Pollokshaws.   On to the track season and this year at the West district trials Molly was second in the 880 yards behind Ann Reilly of Ardeer who won in 2:31.   On to the West v East, held again at Scotstoun, and Molly was second again, this time to Barbara Tait who also won the Mile.   This was however the first year since she began competing as a senior that Molly Ferguson failed to gain a medal at the SWAAA Championships which was won in a slow time by Ann Reilly with S Duncan and M Donaghy (both Edinburgh Harriers) second and third.

By 1961 Molly was now Molly Wilmoth, having married fellow Springburn Harrier Danny.   The Scottish cross-country championship took place in Greenock  and Molly was seventh behind Pat McCluskey, Dale Greig, R Wylie, Doreen Fulton, Barbara Tait and S Loftus.   Springburn was second team behind Rankin Park and when Barbara Tait couldn’t run in the international, Molly was drafted in in her place.   The Glasgow Herald report read as follows: “A team representing the Scottish Women’s Cross-Country Union finished fourth in the English Women’s District Championships at Sheffield over a three mile course.   Miss P McLuskey (Rankin Park), the Scottish champions was ninth of the 204 competitors.   Also in the team were Miss D Fulton (Springburn) fourteenth, Miss R Wylie (Doon) twenty first, Miss MF Wilmoth  (Springburn) twenty eighth, Miss AS Loftus (Anglo Scottish) twenty ninth and Miss D Greig (Tannahill) forty third.”      Molly had more than justified her selection.   The winter season was now at an end and she now turned to the track again.   In the West District trials she passed on the 880 yards and ran in the 440 yards instead and the result was published as  “440 yards:   1.   C Gillies (Maryhill) 64.1; 2.   M Ferguson-Wilmoth (Springburn;   3.   R Bowen (maryhill).   In the West v East however Molly was second in the 880 yards won by Helen Cherry in 2:26.7 and the result was printed as follows “880 yards:   1.   H Cherry 2:26.7;  2.   M Ferguson.”    Talk about confusion – four races, four different names – Mrs Wilmoth, Miss Wilmoth, MF Ferguson-Wilmoth and M Ferguson!   In the 440 yards she had run 63.5 for thirteenth and 2:29.2 for tenth place in the end-of-season rankings.

Molly did not appear in any race results or ranking lists in 1962, “I don’t think I ran much apart from jogging at St Augustine’s: Alison was born that year.”

The Springburn Ladies trained like other women’s athletic clubs at the time with regular Tuesday and Thursday training which in her case was done at Allan Glen’s School playing fields in Bishopbriggs.   They trained on grass round the cricket pitch – sometimes even when the cricket was going on.   At various times she trained with Tom Williamson’s Maryhill Harriers Ladies in the West End of Glasgow and on Sundays would take the bus from Balornock where she lived, to the Pollokshaws Swimming Baths from which they would do their long Sunday training run.   She often trained with the men and received advice from the senior men such as Jim Morton.   The race programme involved the main championships plus many of the highland games meetings such as trathallan, Ardeer, Gourock and Bute, as well as sports meetings like the Babcock and Wilcox meeting at Renfrew

Although the serious racing stopped when Molly and Danny started a family, the involvement with the club did not stop and she did keep on running.   Molly also did some running as a veteran, running in two IGAL World Veterans Championships.   She ran at Perpignan in France in October 1983 when she was timed at 49:39 for 10,000m.   Danny also ran and did 40:18 and the next day 1:53.22 for the 25K.   Walter Ross, the founder of the Scottish Veterans Athletics, drove a bus full of Scottish competitors to the meeting but Danny and Molly made their own way there and turned the event into a holiday.   Molly also ran in the event at Lytham St Anne’s in June 1985.   Between these two events she had what she says is her only race on a tartan track when she ran in the Vets Track and Field Championships at Meadowbank on 29th July 1984.   She was second in the 440 yards behind Barbara Colwell in he W45 age group.   In September 1995 Doug Gillon notes in the Veterans Championships Molly Wilmoth, nee Ferguson, twice National half-mile champion, took the 100 yards title in the 55-plus division.”   But then, she could always sprint a bit winning such events as the 220 yards at Falkirk FC Sports when she was running really well in the 50’s.   With sports meetings often having only 100 and 220 yards events she ran her share of handicap sprints and won quite a few of them.

Molly was very active at club level.   The Springburn Harriers Ladies had dwindled a lot after Molly, Doreen Fulton, Jean Muir and some others had stopped running.   So Molly decided to start it up again in the late 1970’s, adopting the name of the local authority and so Strathkelvin Ladies AAC was born.   She roped in old friends and colleagues such as former track and cross-country runner Aileen Lusk, persuaded parents such  as Graham Sword to join in and the club worked well with lots of girls going along.   There was help from men in the club and it was not long before Strathkelvin became Springburn Harriers Ladies again.   They are quite successful at present (2013) but the success is mainly on the road and over the country with not as many track runners as in Molly’s day.

By then however, she was a seriously good  track official who was known throughout the country.   She is not sure when she started officiating but was given an award in 2012 for having officiated at 50 consecutive Tom Scott Road Races.  Starting as a Grade 4 track official she worked her way up through the ranks until in the 1990’s as a Grade 1 official, she was officiating at some of the top meetings in the country where the officiating has to be meticulous under the scrutiny of Press and TV as well as the competitors themselves.   Among the many events at which she officiated were the Scottish Indoor Championships in 1995, the BVAF Indoor in February 1998 when she was track referee, the GB v USA match at Scotstoun in 1999, the Scottish Indoors in 2000, the Falkirk Reebok Cross-Country in 2003 when she was again referee.   Brian Goodwin said that she should go for the cross-country referee grading and she went to the 2003 Reebok UK INter-Counties and World Trials at Wollaston Park, Nottingham, on 8th February 2003 where she was the referee.   Closely watched and monitored by the English officials she came through with flying colours and became the first Scottish woman to attain cross-country referee status, and only the second in Britain.   The first was Pat Green and the two became friends and many years later Pat was still asking after Molly.   Also in 2003 was what she called “a momentous occasion for me” – being chosen to referee the European Cross-Country Championships at Holyrood, Edinburgh.   It was indeed quite a significant honour but not at all one that was undeserved.

Molly and Danny

A year later came another big occasion: on 13th November 2004 at the Scottish Athletics Awards Dinner in Edinburgh, Molly and Danny were jointly awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award.   Not one that comes to many, the joint nature made it even more special.   They had been recognised as a good double act as far as Scottish Athletics was concerned for some time.  Away back in the December 1985 issue of the Scottish Veteran Harriers Club Newsletter, there was a centre spread on what they called “THE SCOTTISH VETS OTHER WINNING TEAM.”   The text read”For the second year in a row Danny has taken on the onerous work of Membership Secretary of the club and like his predecessor, former Vice-President Willie Armour, has also taken on the combined duty of handicapper.   As our club approaches the region of six or seven hundred members, it is readily appreciated that this is no easy task.   There has to be devotion and dedication!    But, just as Willie happily had the back-up and support of his wife Molly, so too does Danny enjoy the help of his wife Molly.   Yet it might never have been but for the influence of our other great club-mate, Tom O’Reilly and the fact that Danny was a ‘Farmer’s Boy’.   When Springburn Harriers ran through the farmer’s fields for cross-country ‘Danny-boy’ was on hand to open gates and fix fences.   Clever Tom and his colleagues soon convinced him to join.   This was the start of an interesting athletic career that has led to the splendid partnership with Molly and the Scottish Veteran Harriers Club.”

They are both still working for the SVHC .   At the Vets annual ‘escape to the sun’ in Torremolinos in January 1990, Molly was President and again was strongly featured in the centre spread.   In the pictures below we have Molly ‘at the centre of our holiday group’, with Pete Cartwright who won both 5000m and 1000m, running with other women on the beach, and finally with Life Member Willie Armour.

Molly had joined the Vets Club as early as 1975 when it was in its infancy and entered the special invitation race at the men’s championships that year although she could not actually take part.   The programme notes for that race say:   Molly Wilmoth, Kirkintilloch.   Over 35, Molly has been in the sport for some 20 years.   Mother of two children, 12 and 9 years old, Molly is a former cross-country internationalist and twice winner of the Scottish 880 yards title.   Coaches local girls at Kirkintilloch.   She thinks the concepts of our Vets Association a wonderful idea. ”   Danny and Molly worked hard for the SVHC and both served as President.   Molly’s turn came between 1989 and 1991 with Danny a Committee Member holding different posts (some mentioned above) at that time.   When the club started the annual trips to the sun in early Spring, Molly and Danny went with the rest – and they are still going as part of the group.

Molly running on the beach on a warm weather trip with the vets

Another very special experience for her was when she shared refereeing for the week of the Special Olympics at Scotstoun in Glasgow in 2005 – like other officials from this event that I have spoken to she really treasures the memories.   Molly is still officiating and working long hours at meetings – in April 2013 she stood outside working at the Six Stage Relays which is one of the longest events in the calendar.   Finally we should maybe look at some of her honours and achievements.


*   Life Member of Scottish Athletics


*   Life Member of Springburn Harriers


*   First Woman President of the SWCCU when it was formed in 1960


*   Lifetime Achievement Award from Scottish Athletics


*   First Scottish woman to become a cross-country referee.


*   Twice SWAAA 880 yards champion


*   President of the Scottish Veteran Harriers


And that’s only some of the honours that have come her way.   It is now 60 years since she joined Springburn Harriers from Albert Secondary School and her officiating and enjoyment of the sport is just as sharp and comprehensive as ever it was.



Aileen Drummond

Aileen with Diane Leather

Scottish Mile and cross-country champion with the English Mile and cross-country champion.

I first met Aileen Lusk in the late 70’s early 80’s when I took my daughter training with Strathkelvin Ladies AC which was run by Molly Wilmoth and Aileen.   The atmosphere at the club was great and all the girls had a wonderful time.   At that point Aileen was still very fit as you can see from the picture of her running with Dale Greig in the IGAL marathon in 1976 (below).   I did not realise at this point just how good she had been although she did look look every inch a class athlete even then as a veteran athlete, twenty years after her triumphs in the 1950’s and 60’s.   The profile that follows begins in 1952/53 when she came into the sport and immediately before her three-in-a-row national cross-country titles.

Aileen and Dale

Aileen’s first season in athletics was 1952/53, we’ll come to how she came into the sport later, and although recovering from ‘flu she took part in the national cross-country championship at Ayr in 1953.   She finished fourth and her club, Maryhill Harriers, was second to Athenian AC from Edinburgh.   Later that year there was no doubt about her fitness at the SWAAA championships at Helenvale in Glasgow where she won the mile at her first attempt.   This occasioned all sorts of headlines such as “Girl Wins Mile at first attempt”, “Two broke record in one race”, “Betters women’s mile record by 43 seconds”, and even “Flying Miss Hits Record.”   The report in the June 1953 issue of ‘The Scots Athlete’   read,  “The mile was probably the most fascinating race of the day.   M Law (Edinburgh Southern Harriers) shook everyone, spectators and competitors alike, with her tremendous first lap, then seemed to have had it, then came again, hanging on to her lead until Miss A Drummond (Maryhill Harriers) who had been running with fine judgment, forged ahead down the back straight and up the home stretch to win by 20 yards in the grand time of 5:35.   A new record and a time comparable with our sisters south of the Border.   K Mair (Maryhill Harriers) and M Wadler (Athenian AC) had a great battle for third place, the former just managing to keep the holder out.   There is as yet no standard time for the mile, but Saturday’s performance should help fix  suitable fixture.”

Aileen then went to the AAA championships in England at her own expense to take part in the mile against English runners.   She ran well for a woman in her first year in athletics to finish fifth in the Final.   The report read “In the long distance running, Miss Aileen Drummond from Maryhill Harriers, Glasgow, put up a good performance to finish fifth in the Mile which was won by the London girl Miss Enid Harding in the new British record of 5 min 0.9 sec.   Miss Drummond’s time was 5min 20.8 sec.”

In a series of newspaper articles, dealing with Scottish Women athletes, George Martin wrote the following.


How many champions are lost to athletics for want of a little advice … a little encouragement … or a little enterprise?   An American authority has calculated that there must be literally  hundreds of four-minute milers in the United States whose talent will never be discovered.   Aileen Drummond is an example of ‘one who nearly got away’.   Last year at 24 she was a slim, strong girl who played some tennis, badminton and hockey.   She had run in the relay teams in her schooldays at Hillhead and Glasgow High School.   She still ran occasionally – for buses.   She was the best woman miler in Scotland: only she didn’t know it.   But one summer evening, as Aileen strolled out from her home inKelvindale, she caught sight of some girls training at the ‘Dough School’ sports ground off Great Western Road, gave her a hankering for the track game again.

She made some timorous enquiries about joining Maryhill Harriers.   They grabbed her.    There wasn’t much of a champion’s look about Aileen in her first few track appearances.  A second place in the Milngavie sprint was her only prize before the summer season ended.   But what a different story in winter.   Maryhill’s women ran two or three cross-country packs – fast, slow and don’t know.   Soon they had another, Aileen Drummond was in a class of her own.   She strolled off with the club’s cross-country championship over about one and a half miles.   In the Scottish title race over roughly the same distance, Aileen turned out and, weakened by a bout of the ‘flu, and gained a gallant fourth place.    

Aileen was fit again for the track season – despite the protests of the rest of the Drummond family at the bumps and thumps from an upstairs bedroom every night.   That was Aileen exercising.   When her club championships came around, in went Aileen’s name for the quarter-mile, half-mile and mile.   By the end of a busy evening she was champion for all three – incidentally knocking large lumps from the Scottish mile record of 6 mins 21 secs by getting under 6 mins.   The Scottish mile championship was only her second race at the distance and down came the national record to 5 mins 35 secs.   And then on to the White City and British Championships.   It was the first time that Aileen had ever been in London and she was ‘terrified’ at all the ballyhoo of the big meeting.   In the actual race she had something to be terrified about.   Enid Harding who has run fastest women’s half-mile in the world – although there’s no official world record – put up a mile performance on that blistering day that would have done credit to many a man.   Her time was a world best of 5 min 09.8 sec.   In that kind of company for the first time, Aileen ran splendidly for fifth place.   Time: 5 min 20.2 sec.

The Drummond family, incidentally, were pleased as Punch – especially Dad – he had paid Aileen’s expenses for the trip.   Now Aileen is back at her insurance office, keeping fit and looking around for competition.   Any takers?   You never know what you can do until you try.  Ask Aileen Drummond!

Aileen winning a schools race

And that was the form she took into the winter 1953/54 season.   In 1954 the cross-country championships were held at Dunfermline and Aileen won from Margaret Wadler and Betty Moffat from Athenians, and Molly Wilmoth from Springburn.   The first six were selected for the first post-war international with England.   The championship was reported by Helen Wilkie, Secretary of the Scottish Women’s Association, in the May, 1954, issue of ‘The Scots Athlete’.   “The cross-country championship was held at Pitreavie on 27th February over a distance of two and a quarter miles.   The distance was increased this year and a small entry of 19 was therefore not disappointing.   The result of the championship is as under:- 1.   A Drummond (Maryhill) 14 min 52 sec;   2.  M Wadler (Athenian) 15:17;   3.  RWA Moffatt (Athenian)15:52;   4.  M Ferguson (Springburn H)  16:01;   5.  A Elder (maryhill H)  16:01;   6.  S Johnstone (Maryhill H)  16:16.   First team:   Maryhill Harriers 1, 5, 7, 10 = 23 points;  2nd team: Springburn Harriers 4, 11, 12, 13 = 40 points.    Athenians were without the services of Jean Webster, last year’s champion, who had been ill, and they fielded only three runners.   Had Jean been available, most likely Athenians would have retained their title.”

The outstanding point was the fitness of each girl.  The competitors all finished strongly – not one was in anything like an exhausted condition.   It was indeed extremely heart-warming to see the results of sound training.   In previous years, bad publicity in the Press did much to make the sport unpopular in women’s clubs, and every year our championship led to much head-shaking from the critics.  Had those critics been present at Pitreavie they would have had second thoughts.   On the standard of running at Pitreavie, the Association can invite Press  photographers without fearing what they will see in the next day’s papers.”

This led on to the International, and the ‘Glasgow Herald’ previewed the race as follows:


Just 51 years after mere men had thought of the idea, women athletes are to have the first of what it is hoped will be an annual international cross-country race next Saturday.   It will be staged over a two and a half mile course at Perry Park, Perry Barr, and the issue will be between teams representing England and Scotland.   England will be represented by the first six to finish in last week’s national championships at Aylesbury, namely Diane Leather and Dilys Williams (Birchfield), Ann Oliver (Gosforth), June Bridgland (Southampton), Nora Smalley (Portsmouth) and Marian Davies (Stockport).”

A fairly realistic assessment and preview was contained in this article:  “SCOTS GIRLS ON SOUTH TITLE HUNT.  by Alick Kerr.   Scottish women runners are not numerous but they certainly do not lack pluck.   Tomorrow they resume cross-country with England at Birmingham.   The following team will represent Scotland.   A Drummond (Maryhill), EM Wadler (Athenians),  B Moffatt (Athenian) M Ferguson (Springburn), N Elder (Maryhill), S Johnstone (Edinburgh).   Mrs M Thursby Ayr AAC, will be in charge of the party.   Aileen Drummond who captains the Scots is cross-country and mile champion of Scotland.   The Maryhill girl will meet the English champion, Diane Leather, Birchfield Harriers, who outclassed the field when winning her title two weeks ago.   As the English girls have a much more ambitious training programme during the season, they will probably be better trained and should win both team and individual honours over this three miles test.”

The race came and the report in the green (sporting) ‘Evening Citizen’ said: 


England girls had a runaway win when they met Scotland for the first post-war international cross-country race for women, held at Perry Barr this afternoon.   The home always had the top six girls and finally won by 10 points to 34.   Diane Leather, the Birchfield champion, was an easy winner after being challenged in the early stages by Anne Oliver, the Northern champion.   There was always a close tussle for third place between June Bridgland, the Southern title holder, and Dilys Williams, the Birchfield girl.   Always in seventh place was Aileen Drummond, the Scottish champion, but try as she might she was unable to break the English formation.   The only change in the remaining laps was that Miss Bridgland broke away to make certain of third place.    Result:-

  1.   D Leather 15:19;  2. A Oliver 15:45;  3.  J Bridgland  16:12;  4.  D Williams  16:23;  5.  M Davies  16:39;  6.  N Smalley 17:00;  7.  A Drummond  17:29;  8.  M Wadler  17:55;  9.  J Elder  19:00;   10.   M Ferguson   19:13;   11.  B Moffatt  20:20;   12.  S Johnstone  21:30

With the cross-country season out of the way, Aileen ran in the West trials for the East  v  West match and won the 880 yards and the mile in2:40.5  and  5:52.9, but the reports explained the slow times by saying there was a strong west wind.   Aileen also won the half-mile at the Vale of Leven Sports where her running off the virtual scratch mark 0f 5 yards was commented on.   Her winning time was 2:29.4.   If that was good, the SAAA Championships was even better – a double title succes at 880 yards and the mile.   In the former she won in 2:25.4 from RWA Moffatt (Athenians) and Molly Ferguson (Springburn).   In the mile, it was a win in 5:40 from M Wadler (Athenians)  and M Campbell (Maryhill).   Emboldened by this, she travelled with several other women to the AAA’s championships at the White City and did much better than the year before by finishing third in the Final.   While she was there, she noticed that the British Insurance Companies Championships were being held that week so she entered the 440 yards – and won it!    It had been a very good year indeed for Aileen: Scottish champion over the country, double track champion, and a medal at the British championships as well.  

In the 1954/55 season she had her cross-country title to defend which she did successfully in March as was reported in the ‘Glasgow Herald’:  


Ayr race course was acclaimed the perfect venue for the Scottish women’s cross-country championships by both sepctators and competitors on Saturday afternoon when the race was run in glorious sunshine.   With three circuits of approximately three quarters of a mile each to be covered by the runners, the spectators had a full view of the race from start to finish.   As anticipated Aileen Drummond (Maryhill Harriers), holder, easily maintained her title winning with a comfortable lead of 70 yards from her club-mate Cathie Boyle in 18 min 29 sec.   Cathie, who is only 15 years of age, ran a beautifully judged race and has the makings of a good athlete.   The first six will represent Scotland in the international cross-country championship which will be held over the same course at Ayr Racecourse  on March 26th.”     The ‘Scots Athlete’ reported on the race in more depth.   This event was once again favoured with fine weather although there was a cold east wind.   Excellent arrangements were made by Mr and Mrs Thursby and Ayr Athletic Club and many members of the West District of the SCCU.  Before the race there was quite a bit of speculation as to whether Miss Miller from Aldershot would master the reigning champion, Miss A Drummond, who was the home favourite, but the expected battle did not materialise as Miss Miller unfortunately did not finish the course.   The course was one of three laps diagonally across the racecourse and this gave the spectators a good view of the entire two and a quarter mile race, but unfortunately the race was not well supported by spectators, the large East contingent of 1953 being absent.   It was unfortunate that there were very few competitors from the East.

Of a total entry of 23, including three teams, 20 faced the starter, and for the first quarter of a mile a small group including Drummond, Boyes, Miller, Ferguson, Elder  and McLeod broke away and were still bunched at the end of the lap.   Going uphill for the second time, Aileen Drummond started to force the pace which I thought was not very fast at that point.   But I had the feeling that the runners were suffering from an insufficient warm-up, and the cold wind which was affecting their breathing.   They were certainly looking none too happy at that stage.   As Aileen drew away trailing Miss Boyes and Miller after her, with the rest of the field strung out behind, it became apparent that the latter was in trouble, and that the youngest competitor was going to be a force to be reckoned with at the finish as she was moving easily and showed little signs of tiring.   As the second lap was completed Drummond was about 30 yards clear up on the field and moving much better, Miller dropped out here and Boyes took up the role of challenger with McLeod maintaining her position close behind.   It was now pretty definite that the holder would, unless something very unexpected happened, win again.   This was indeed the result with the others dropping slightly further behind, but all credit must be given to Miss Boyes for her really fine show in finishing second in her first national.”   The report was written by Mrs T Montgomery, Chief Coach, SWAAA.

The final result was:-  1.   Aileen Drummond 18:39  ;  2.   Catherine Boyes 18:52  ;  3.  Elizabeth McLeod  19:08;  4.  Molly Ferguson  19:15;   5.  Agnes Elder  19:38;  6.  Doreen Fulton  19:52, Mary Campbell, S Johnstone, S Stewart, M Steel, C Walsh, C Buchanan, C Watson, C McDevitt.   The winning team was Maryhill with 12 points from Springburn with 31 points.   The first six were selected for the international which was again won by England.   It was then on to the summer of 1955 with Aileen again defending her titles.   In the SWAAA at New Meadowbank she did the double again, winning the 880 yards in 2:30.5 from Elizabeth McLeod and Molly Ferguson, and the Mile in 5:42.5 from Dale Greig and Mary Campbell.   The report on the SWAA championships in the ‘Scots Athlete’ read: 

“In the longer distances Aileen Drummond (Maryhill Harriers) , though not as fit as she would have wished, proved her superiority by winning the half-mile and mile convincingly although in moderate times.   Mrs McLeod of Dundee ran well for second place in the half mile and got inside the standard time, as did M Ferguson of Springburn who was third.  The battle between Aileen and Jean Webster in the mile which could have been anticipated did not materialise as the half followed the 440 yards and Jean withdrew.  A pity because I have always felt that a race between these two would produce a new record.   M Glen, Edinburgh Southern, a sister of the noted professional miler, put up a very good show in the mile and will probably be a force to be reckoned with in the future.”

1956 started at with an open cross-country race at Ayr where Aileen was third in 15:52, exactly a minute behind the winner, Doreen Fulton of Springburn, with Molly Ferguson of Springburn second.   Aileen was defending her national cross-country championship title at Musselburgh in March and she won again, this time from Doreen Fulton and JC Herman of Edinburgh Harriers.   However one report of the race said: “Aileen Drummond will not run for Scotland but Mrs A Lusk has kindly obliged and stepped into her place.   After a hectic weekend, Aileen was married to Mr Hugh Lusk in St John’s Renfield Church.”   In the international, also held at Musselburgh, England took the first six places with Diane Leather being the individual winner for the third successive year.   The above announcement after the Scottish championship was probably the reason for Aileen only finishing second in the SWAAA mile and not defending her half-mile title in 1956.   The Mile was won by up-and-coming Barbara Tait from Edinburgh who would go on to win the title five times and lower the record four times. 

Dale Greig writing in the October 1956 issue of the ‘Scots Athlete’ had this to say about Aileen in the championship:

“One of our foremost middle distance runners – Aileen Drummond of Maryhill Harriers – has decided to retire from competition.   Aileen gave us our first taste of things to come by winning the SWAAA Mile title in 1953with a new Scottisg record of 5:35 and finishing second in the half-mile.   1954 – another year of success.   She gained her first cross-country title and run for Scotland in the subsequent international against England at Birmingham, in June she completed her hat-trick of Scottish titles by taking the 880 yards in 2:25.4 and the Mile in 5:39.   In this year too she ran her fastest ever mile to finish third in the WAAA championships in 5:12.9 – the fourth fastest mile in Britain that year.   1955 – another year of triumph and national titles.   She retained her cross-country title over two and a half miles at Ayr in 18:39 and again ran in the international.   Although not as fit as she might have been in  the summer, she once more dominated the scene taking the 880 yards in 2:30.8 and the Mile in 5:42.3.   1956 – the year of the fallen idol?   She began well enough by retaining her cross-country title at Musselburgh for the third year in a very fast 16:26 and was once again the first Scot home in the international in Essex.   Then came the national track championships and her last championships.   In the mile she lost both her title and her national record to the young and promising Barbara Tait of Edinburgh Harriers who won in the new record of 5:28.2.   In the 880 yards she had to concede her title to the much fitter, and this year the much faster, Molly Ferguson (Springburn Harriers). 

Well, as all careers must have a beginning, so they must have an end.   No one has dominated the scene so long, and it is doubtful if anyone will be given the opportunity to do so again, at least for some time to come.   Indeed, of our top middle distance runners this season, I feel that none has the capacity to remain for so long perched on that precarious pedestal on which only a champion can stand – insecure and alone.   Now that she has taken her farewell bow and the opportunity arises, it is pleasing to pay tribute to Aileen as a loyal club runner and a great champion.   Scottish athletics generally, and Maryhill Harriers in particular, will sorely feel her absence.   Taken for all in all we in Scotland have been set a standard which it will be hard to emulate.”

 What a tribute from Dale, one who had so many battles with Aileen on the track and over the country.   It had been a marvellous four years for Aileen as can be seen from the table below.

Date, National Cross-Country, SWAAA 880y title, SWAAA Mile title, AAA Mile

                                                                   1953                                                                                           1st                           5th

                                                                   1954                 1st                                      1st                          1st                           1st

                                                                   1955                 1st                                      1st                          1st                           1st

                                                                   1956                 1st                                      2nd                       2nd                           –

And, of course, we have to add in all the international cross-country fixtures and invitation track races that she participated in.   Given the few competition opportunities, unsophisticated training and generally poor surfaces on which to run, Aileen would have been a top runner in any generation.


Aileen stopped running when her children were born and she spent time at home – but she says that she never really stopped running.   The retirement from competition seemed to last for about ten years before she resurfaced in sports reports in March 1965.   The season started with the usual races – 11th January SCCU Open Road Race; 23rd January Maryhill Harriers race in Glasgow; 6th February Open Races in Kilmarnock; and the National Championships on 22nd February.    She was never in the published results that season, mainly because they only went as far as the top three finishers, and at time only the winner was noted.   But she must have been running well  because on 8th March she was eighth in the Glasgow  v  the Rest of Scotland cross-country race which took place at Fernieside in Edinburgh.   By this time too Aileen had joined Western AAC, a new club formed by her old coach at Maryhill Harriers, Tom Williamson.   

In 1967 the coverage of women’s races was as abysmal as ever, but although Aileen did not appear in the first two at Linn Park, Pollok or Kilmarnock, the report on the open race at Dundee on February 20th read: “Miss GB Craig (Western AC), the Scottish half-mile champion, won the two and a half mile race from Dundee Hawkhill Harriers headquarters on Saturday in 15:13.   She beat Mrs A Lusk (Western AC) by 50 yards and third was Miss T Lindsay (Dundee Hawkhill Harriers). ”     Aileen was back at the top of the results sheet.   Not surprisingly though, when all the top runners appeared in the National, she was not in the top six.   Western was placed third and it is safe to say that she was one of the scoring runners.   The following summer (1968) saw her ranked seventh in the mile with a best time of 5:57.1.   By now Aileen was 40 years old, so it was maybe unreasonable to expect national titles, but her ability and enthusiasm saw her competing at a high level .   In 1969 Aileen was clearly competing at the top domestic Scottish level, much better than a year earlier if the ranking lists are any guide – she was 17th Scot over 1500m with a time of 5:17.1.   This was the first year that metric distances were being run with the Commonwealth Games slated for the following year in Edinburgh, and several unfamiliar Anglos were rated with six in the top ten.   Unfortunately her name did not appear  in any reports that year.   There were four cross country races between January and the end of March and she was not in the first three in any of them.  In 1971 she had a best 1500m time of 5:58.4and a good 3000m time of 12:32.1 (which was eleventh best among Scottish women, including those based in the South)

When the ‘running boom’ came along in the 1970’s and 80’s Aileen was in a good position to take advantage of it.   She was fit, running fast and her enthusiasm was as boundless as ever.   The result was a second successful career in the sport.   When the  first ever women veterans cross-country championship was organised Aileen was there and the programme said: “AILEEN LUSK, Bishopbriggs, Over 45.   Mother of two, Aileen has been running since she was 24 and deserves acknowledgement as one of our Pioneer veterans.   She has retained her interest and enthusiasm throughout the years, continuing in the true veteran spirit of enjoying the sport without the honours to be won.   She was three times winner of the Scottish cross-country title in the 50’s and a member of winning National teams.   She is also a former title/record holder at 880 yards and the mile.”    

She ran in this inaugural event and finished fourth and ran it again in 1977 when she was third. It is impossible to record all her races as a veteran but we can list those we do know in the following table.


event distance time place comments


Vets Christmas Handicap 5 Miles 32:30 3 1 N Campbell 2. D Greig


International Vets Challenge 10K 57:00 4 Bellahouston


Berlin 44:59.33


Round Cumbrae Road Race 72:16 1 (1979 73:18 1981 76:21)


Glasgow Vets 800 RR 6.6 miles 46:31 1


Vets RR 6 Miles 42:03 1 Bellahouston


Vets Cross-Country 5 Miles 39:13 1 Lochinch


Glasgow Vets 800 6.6 miles 50:16 1


Vets RR 5.5 Miles 42:57 1 Strathclyde Park


Inverclyde Marathon 26.2 Miles 3:45:36 First O45


Glasgow Vets 800 6.6 50:16 1


Vets Christmas Handicap 5 Miles 35:35 1


IGAL (World Veterans) Championships 10K 48:28 3rd W55 Perpignan; 25k 3rd W55


Vets Road Race 10K 49:21 2 Lochinch


Vets Track Race 10000m 46:36 1 Airdrie


Vets Half Marathon 13.1 1:39:37 22 Grangemouth 1 Helen Fyfe 92:00


Falkirk Half Marathon 13.1 1:4-:43


10K-OK 10K 45:21 20 20th overall


Glasgow Vets 800 6.6 46:25 3


IGAL (World Veterans) Championship 10K 47:25 3rd W55 Lytham St Anne's


25K 4


Vets Track Championships 5000m 22:29.2 1 Coatbridge


Vets Christmas Handicap 5 Miles 38:18 6 Bishopbriggs


10K-OK 47:07 125 125th Overall

The above table gives an overview of her running as a veteran and gives an overview of her running as a veteran and and an indication of the distances involved, from the 5000m to the full marathon distance, from genuine home races such as the Vets Christmas Handicap at Bishopbriggs to to World Championships in Berlin and Perpignan.   Like many veteran runners the range is vast and we need to look at some of the races in more detail, and maybe have a look at some not mentioned above.   In 1976 Aileen travelled to the Vets 10K Road Race at Coventry and finished second; third in Berlin in 1978 and third again in the IGAL 10,000m in Glasgow in 1980.  It needs to be borne in mind though that although we are talking of veteran runners who are running for the enjoyment of it, we are also speaking of runners many of whom had been winners many times over in their day and who are still very competitive.   These races are no walks in the park!   Every place has to be fought for and won.   How did an 880 yards champion get into long distance road racing?   Aileen said that she used to run with Dale Greig on Thursday nights in Bellahouston Park and it was Dale who encouraged her into vets racing and trying the marathon =- the first was at Inverclyde where she suffered badly on a very hot day in 1981 but she managed to finish first in her class.

In addition to the big championships and international galas, she took part in what she called ‘ordinary’ races as well – note the half marathons, vets events and Christmas handicaps above.   Attention should also be drawn to her excellent run in the first of the 10K-OK women only races in Glasgow.   The first race had 720 finishers and Aileen was twentieth, finishing in very good company indeed.   Have a look at the top finishers in the race where Aileen was just behind international runners like Sandra Branney and Elspeth Turner.


Name Time


Liz Steele 37:32


Jane Walker 37:57


Mya S Baker 39:32


Janet McColl 40:25


Rosalind Kay 42:29


Fiona Murray 42:23


Carol Ann Hogg 42:37


Helen McPherson 43:23


Morag Thow 43:28 43:47

and then came 10 Anne Tait, 11 Caroline Miller, 12 Kate Chapman, 13 Gail Noble, 14 Mairead Christie, 15 Sally Johnstone, 16 Helen Oliver, 17Sandra Branney, 18 Elspeth Turner, 19 Nicole Garmery and 20 Aileen Lusk.   

Finishing in the 10K – OK

Staying in Bishopbriggs as she did, Aileen was fortunate that one of the biggest and best sponsored half marathons of the 1980s was rght on her doorstep.   The Luddon Strathkelvin Half Marathon started and finished in Kirkintilloch.   She competed in 1985 and 1987: in 1985 she was presented with the Grandstand Sports Trophy for her run which resulted in her best time of 1:44, and in 1987 she received a Caithness Glass Bowl for the woman veteran who had put up the most meritorious performance in the race.   David Morrison of Shettleston received the men’s award.   

As well as running herself in the 1980’s, she helped Molly Wilmoth with the organisation of the new Strathkelvin Ladies AC to cater for the girls of the district.   It was a successful club and their energy and keenness made it so.   Aileen had a very good career in the sport, almost all of it as a competitor, she was never noted as an official or administrator; but she and Molly were the first two women to be voted onto the Scottish Veteran Harriers Club committee in 1982.   I don’t know if she ever owned or wore a blazer but her ability and desire to compete never went away.   She came through from the start of the 50’s to the late 80’s, she saw many changes in the sport and achieved a lot.   Note the following changes.

* The national championships on the track changed greatly: there were only 14 events in a women’s only event when she started to 39 in 1960 and even more today.

*More long distance races were introduced to track programmes.

* There are now more open races for women throughout the year.

*The return of international matches on the track – some women only, some for both men and women.

*Better reporting of their matches leading to more respect for women athletes

All of these make it easier for succeeding generations of woman endurance runners to succeed than it was for Aileen, Molly and Dale.

Her own career has been documented here, but the question is – what could Aileen and her contemporaries have done had their career started in the mid-70’s with better tracks, more sophisticated training methods, medical and physiological back up and so on?  One of her contemporaries is sure that she would have represented Britain and been an Olympian.   However that may be, she had a wonderful sporting career and is happy with what she achieved.   The only possible regret is maybe that it finished after a car accident when training from home.  Aileen is a wonderful example to any athlete.

Hoffmann Peter 1978 (Mike Street)Peter Hoffman in 1978

Peter R.W. Hoffman (Date of Birth: 1.07.56) was one of the country’s fastest ever 400m/800m runners who had a very short career at the top of the sport in Scotland.   If we look at the bare statistics we see the following.

  •  10 Scottish Championships (1973-1978) at Youth, Junior and Senior: 50 metres (Indoors x 2); 300 metres (Indoors x 2); 400 metres (x 5); and 600 metres (Indoors )
  •  7 AAA medals (1974-1979): AAA Gold Junior 400 metres and Senior 800 metres (Indoors); AAA Silver Junior 200 metres (Indoors) and 400 metres; AAA bronze Junior 200 metres; 400 metres (Indoors) and Senior 800 metres (Indoors)
  •  1978 UK Silver Medal 800 metres (1st Seb Coe)
  •  1975 European Junior Silver Medal 400 metres;
  •  1976 Olympic Games 4×400 metres
  •  1978 Commonwealth Games 800 metres, 4×400 metres
  •  1978 European Championships 800 metres

All very impressive figures but they have all been superseded by the present generations – after all it is now almost 40 years since the performances were recorded.   However if we look at Scotland’s all-time ranking lists for 2015 we see that he appears in two of them.

At 800m the top men and dates of their performances are:     1:43.88 Tom McKean 28 Jul 89;        1:45.47 Brian Whittle 20 Jul 90  1:45.6;           Graham Williamson 12 Jun 83  1:45.66;    Paul Forbes 8 Jun 83  1:45.76;    Frank Clement 10 Jul 76  1:45.81;     David Strang 12 Jul 96   1:46.4;      Paul Walker 22 Jul 971:46.63;      Peter Hoffmann 11 Jun 78  1:46.65;      Guy Learmonth 21 Jul 15  1:46.8;      David McMeekin 6 Jun 74  1:47.15.      Peter is ranked eighth with the best of the current crop Guy Learmonth almost 0.2 sec behind him.

At 400:   44.93 David Jenkins 21 Jun 75  45.22;    Brian Whittle 25 Sep 88  45.58;     Ian Mackie 13 Jul 03  46.06;     Jamie Bowie 27 Jul 13  46.37;     Kris Robertson 1 Aug 09  46.49;     Roger Jenkins 6 Sep 75  46.65;     Grant Plenderleith 6 Jun 15  46.72;     Allan Stuart 28 Jun 03  46.75;     Patrick Swan 26 Jun 10  46.76;     Peter Hoffmann 12 Jun 76  46.79;     Brett Rund 10 Jul 05 46.89.   Peter is still tenth all-time with the best of this generation Jamie Bowie 0.42 second ahead and Grant Plenderleith a mere 0.07 seconds faster

His times stand up well to modern standards.   Whatever measure we use – competitive or statistical – Hoffman deserves to be ranked among the very best.  

Hoffman 110   *

Peter Hoffman and the other top 800m runner of his generation Paul Forbes, were good firends and lived close together when they were youngsters.   They both joined Edinburgh AC and were initially coached and brought along by Eric Fisher.   Both ran cross-country until they were Under 17’s and Eric asked Bill Walker to take over the coaching.   Where Paul was basically a fast 800m man who also ran 400m and won titles at 1500m and the steeplechase Peter never seemed to run further than 800m and won titles and appeared in the rankings for 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m.    His speciality initially was the 400m but when he moved up he was selected for Commonwealth Games and European Games sin the same season.   His best distance?  The 400m –  or was the 800m his best event?   Maybe had there been an international standard for 600m it would have been ideal for him.

Peter first appeared in the Scottish rankings and started to draw national attention in 1974.      As a Junior (Under 20) he was in the top 6 in his age group in no fewer than three events (200m sixth, 400m second, 800m sixth) and sevententh in the 100m.   Given that his was an age group rich in sprinting talent this was quite a feat.   He was competing against Andrew Harler, Roger Jenkins, Andrew McMaster, Bryan Dickson and others when in the Junior ranks, and had Don Halliday, Les Piggott and David Jenkins to contend with in races which included senior men.   The first championship of the season was the East District event at Meadowbank on 25th May and there Peter finished fourth in the 200m in 22.2 seconds.   In the 100m in a meeting at Meadowbank the following Monday he was second in a windy 11.2 seconds.    Edinburgh AC had a very strong track squad at this time and with several League meetings Peter was asked to do his share of the work in the shadow of some of his more illustrious colleagues but he had a busy enough season.   The result was that he was quite sharp going in to the SAAA Senior Championships on 22nd June, again held at Meadowbank.   Running in the 400m, Peter was third behind Roger Jenkins (47.7) and Brian Gordon (48.5) in 48.9 seconds.   The Scottish age group championships took place on 29th June and Peter won the U20 400m in 49.3 and on the strength of the victory was selected for the senior Scottish team in their match against Norway in Oslo  against Norway and Bulgaria on 9th and 10th July.   It was his first senior international appearance and he finished sixth in 49.1 seconds with Roger Jenkins in third place in 48.1.    A creditable first outing for young Hoffman.   He also ran in the third placed 4 x 400m relay team with Norman Gregor, Stewart McCallum and Roger Jenkins.   

In the AAA’s Junior Championships at Crystal Palace on 4th August Peter was unlucky to be out of the medals when he finished fourth in the Final in 489 seconds, with Roger Jenkins winning in 47.3 seconds     Then on the 14th of the month in the Northern Trophy Meeting between Edinburgh AC and Edinburgh Southern Harriers, he was second in the 800m in 1:57.4.    Reports of the meeting however concentrated on the fact that rugby international Andy Irvine ran in the 400m for ESH where he finished second in 53.2, the winner was Keith Ridley of EAC in 51.3 seconds.    Another fast 400m, 48.5 seconds, at Crystal Palace on 26th August and a 488 at the same venue on 21st September saw him end the season on a high note with best times for the season of

112 seconds for 100m; 22.2 for 200;   48.5 for 400; and 1:574 for 800 were excellent figures, add in his first place in the SAAA Junior 400m and his third place in the Senior 400m, and it is easy to see why the compilers of the Scottish Athletics Yearbook described him as “an outstanding junior” and called him “the most improved sprinter in the country with four performances under 49 seconds and a total of nine runs under 50 secs to compare with a personal best of 52 seconds in 1973″


In 1975 Hoffman had very good marks at shorter distances – 10.8 second for a wind assisted 100m, 21.8 for 200m and 34.7 for 300m – but he really proved himself as a 400m runner.

On 17th May he won a British League match 400m at Sutton Coldfield in 48.9 seconds.   EAC won the match with other winners being Jim Dingwall in the 5000m in 14:05.6 and Paul Forbes, better known as an 800m athlete, in the steeplechase in 9:07.4.   Two weeks later, 31st May, in the British Games at Crystal Palace in London he ran a 47.8 400m.   Then on 28th June at his home track of Meadowbank, he won the SAAA title for the 400m when he won in 48.7.

Having run in the 100.200, 300, 400 and 800m, he ran a totally different event on 5th June in the British League match at Crystal Palace, winning the 400m hurdles in 54.2 which placed him third in the Scottish rankings at the time, a position that he still held at the end of the track season.   The AAA Junior Championships wereheld on 26th July at Kirkby in Liverpool and he was second in the 400m in 47.8 – reports all indicated that heled until Brian James’s strength carried him past Peter at the end of the race.   Peter ran in al or most of the British League and Gold Cup matches, the Scottish Men’s League tended to be missed but on 3rd August at Meadowbank he won the 400m in 48.4 seconds.

At the end of 1975 he had best times for the 100m of 10.8w;   the 200 of 21.8/21.81w (6th in Scotland); 300m of 34.5;      400m of 47.27 (3rd in Scotland);    800m of 1.53.0i (10th);   400H  of 54.2 (3rd)

Peter finishing his Heat in Athens, 1975

The season started slowly for all who regraded themselves as contenders for places in the Olympic Games, to be held that year in Montreal.    Peter ran in the SAAA Indoor Championships at the Bell’s Arena in Perth over 600m and won in 1:20.5 from Ray Weatherburn who was second in 1:20.7.

Outdoors, when the District championships came along at the end of May, the entries were naturally a bit bereft of top class content and Ron Marshall, of  the ”Glasgow Herald’, chose to go to Coatbridge for the West Championships rather than to Meadowbank because he thought the fields there might just be better.   However in the paper on Monday, 31st May , he commented that “unhappily the Olympic preparations had turned the championships into an artisans’ gathering.”   He should have been at Meadowbank that Saturday, the 29th May, where among several good performances, the 400m was won by Peter Hoffman in  49.0 seconds.

The two big meetings that year were on 5th and 12th June at Crystal Palace where the Kraft Games doubled as the Olympic Trials.   The 400m trial was on the second weekend and Peter was fourth in his best ever time to that date of 46.76.   Ron Marshall in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ commented “Into a ‘Probable’ category I would put 19-year-old Peter Hoffman the Edinburgh 400 metres runner  who improved his fastest time to 46.76 seconds.   A relay position must be his fervent hope.”    

He was duly selected as part of the relay team for the Games which started on 17th July and as a consequence did not run on June 26th  in the  SAAA Championships which were won by Roger Jenkins in 49.0 seconds.   We have had nothing at all about his training so far, much less about the amount of dedication required of those aiming for the top.

Ronnie Browne of The Corries recently published his autobiography titled “That guy fae the Corries” (which I heartily recommend) and  said therein: “Someone I knew who did have spirit and vision was my wife’s nephew, Peter Hoffman Pat and I went to the Crystal Palace to support him when he won his place in the Great Britain over 400 metres to go to the Montreal Olympic Games of 1976.   We had been proudly following his progress up the athletics rankings and I remember the day he explained to me that, in training, he was in the habit of running a few 400’s at full speed, then running some more, until he was physically sick.   He would spew his guts up, take a short break and a drink of water and run a few more 400’s until he was sick again.   You know what showed the pure spirit of the man?   Sometimes he would put himself through this process without the presence of a coach or anybody else to force him on. 

Two years after Montreal, he moved up a discipline and, on the starting line of the British Indoor  800m at RAF Cosford, an over-zealous official objected to the type of spikes he was wearing, although they were exactly the same shoes he had been wearing the day before in his qualifying heat, and banned him from wearing them.   Peter simply took them off without argument and ran barefoot.   Trailing at the back of the pack  through the bell, he came with a rush to win the title in 1:51.4, his fastest time indoors or out.   “My feet are in a right mess,” he quietly told a reporter after the race, and hobbled off to get medical attention.   What a man.” 

Although he did not actually run in the Games, Peter must have been at least partially satisfied that he had actually been selected for the team and been part of this wonderful occasion.   His best times for 1976:

100: 10.7 (41st)   200: 21.8 (7th)   300: 34.74 (1st)   400: 46.76 (3rd)    600 1.19.7i     800 1.55.4 (19th)    400H 56.0 (10th)


By the end of 1977, Peter had brought his 400m time down even further with a 46.6 seconds for a season’s best, was fourth on the all-time list at 400m, and brought his 800m down another two seconds to 1:53.2, had picked up another SAAA 400m gold and represented his country on his home track of Meadowbank..  There was an indoor 400m on 16th January in which he was third in 47.36 but he started the outdoor season as he had been doing with shorter, faster runs and turned in a windy 10.9 on 25th April.

His first serious 400m was on 28th May when he won the East District championships in ideal conditions in 47.5, just one tenth in front of Andrew Kerr of Central Region.    A week later on 5th June, Peter represented Scotland in the International Match against Greece at Meadowbank and duly won the 400m in 48.01.   Scotland also won the 4 x 400m relay with a team of Kerr, Roger Jenkins, Paul Forbes and Peter on the anchor leg.   Time?   3:18.12.   Another week later and on 12th June he ran 48.01 seconds followed by 47.87 on the same afternoon.   After a week without competition he turned out in the SAAA Championships and won the 400m in 47.7 from Kerr (47.9) in another very close finish.   Into July and on the 16th there was a 47.36 seconds followed by a midweek 200m in 22.2 seconds.    A 48 seconds on the 22nd followed by a 47.62 on 23rd indicated the kind of form he was in  the times kept on coming in race after race.   A 48.08 at the Edinburgh Highland Games on 20th August was followed by a 1:53.2 800m on 21st August leading to the British international match against Russia – a major fixture for any athlete.   Peter ran in the 400m and was third in 47.78 behind Laing of Britain (47.2) and Valutis of Russia (47.50).

1977 ended with season’s bests of:  100 10.9w     200 22.2w   400 47.36    800 1.53.2 

Peter beating David and Roger Jenkins in the SAAA 400m in 1978

1978 was the season when Peter really started to take the 800m distance seriously and began the year with a victory in the AAA’s indoor 800m   Outdoors, on 22nd April at the Edinburgh AC championships, he won a ‘relaxed 400m’ which was followed by an 800m in 1:50.2 on the 23rd in which he defeated team mate Paul Forbes with both men given the same time.   Less than a month later (14th May) he ran in the 800m in an international match against Greece in Athens.    He ran in and won the 800m.   “Hoffman strolled past the bell in the 800 metres in sixth place, seemingly out of contention, and even with 200 metres to go he had only clawed back one place.   Then an electrifying burst up the home straight zipped him past everybody including the leader, Paul Forbes, for the cheekiest win of the night.   His time, 1 min 47.9 sec, was his fastest ever, and Forbes was a fraction outside his best a tenth of a second behind.”

1978 was of course another Commonwealth Games year and  with the Games being in Edmonton from 3rd – 12th August the athletes were trying to impress the selectors fairly early on.   Peter was making a good job of that and his next outing was on 27th May when he added to the impressions so far created when he won both 400m and 800m in the District championships  on the same day.   He won the 400m in 48.7 seconds and 20 minutes later lined up for the 800m which he won from John Robson in a sprint finish in 1:49.2.    The SAAA championships were also early that year and on 3rd June Peter won the 400m national title in 47.1 collecting two very good scalps in the process – Roger  Jenkins was second in 47.2 and David Jenkins third in 48.1.   This was his third national 400m title in four years, it was his fastest win and by defeating the Jenkins brothers he must surely have ensconced himself as the best 400m runner in the country at the time.   The 800m was won by Terry Young of Grangemouth in 1:49.4 from Paul Forbes in 1:51.1.   He had already beaten Paul over 800m and his times were better than Terry’s, so he was probably already the best 800m runner as well.

Having run for Scotland earlier in the season, Peter was now chosen to represent Britain and the event was the match against East Germany at Crystal Palace on 11th June.   He ran in the 800m and the report read: “In the 800m Peter Hoffman demonstrated that he could become a world class competitor, but his inexperience, having stepped up from the one lap event, was patently obvious.   He elected to run from the back once again and was nearly 15 yards adrift of the East German pair at one stage.   But he came through to snatch second place in 1 min 46.63 with his usual electrifying last 200 metres.”    Then in the Kraft UK national championships on 15th July he lost his national title to Sebastian Coe who had been disqualified for cutting in too early, and the re-instated on appeal:   Hoffman’s time was 1:48.3.

Selected for the Games after the Scottish Championships, Peter’s next outings were in Edmonton on 8th August.   Doug Gillon reported in the ‘Glasgow Herald’: “It was the usual sorry tale from Hoffman.   After seeming to have laid the bogy of his usual rear running tactics with a comfortable third place in a sensible first round race, he was back to his diabolical worst and was comprehensively cut out, finishing sixth in 1 min 50.1.”    His heat time had been 1:49.1.   A disappointing run but he had got through the first round and, bearing in mind that it was his first year of concentrating on 800m, maybe Doug was a wee bit hard on him.   After all, unlike the 400m the 800m is a physical contact sport at speed.  The actual results of the races were as follows.

Heat Two:   1.   J Higham (Aus)  1:48.9;  2.   C Szwed (England(   1:49.1;   3.   P Hoffman   1:49.1;   4.   G Grant (Wales)  1:49.3.

First Semi-Final:   1.   S Newman (Ken) 1:48.83;   2. G Grant 1:9.25;  3.   C Darval (Aus)  1:49.26;  4.  P Lemashon (Ken) 1:49.93;   5.   P Hoffman  1:50.10;   6. C Szwed  1:50.89;   7.   D Wournell (Can)  1:1:51.23.   J Maina (Ken) disq.

The Games season of 1978 was not yet over for Peter Hoffman.   The European Games were held in Prague at the end of August and he was running in the 800m.   The other British runners were Steve Ovett and Seb Coe so he was accompanying to legends who, in these Games, had their own problems to solve .   He ran 1:49.3 in his heat and did not qualify for the semi-finals.

Still, it had been a very good season for him: he had six of the top 12 times by a Scotsman over 800m (including the top two), won national title, run for Scotland and for GB in separate internationals and run in Commonwealth Games as well as European Games.   His best performances:

200m: 22.2 (18th)    400: 47.1 (3)    800: 1.46.63 (1st)    1000: 2.24.8 


1979 was inevitably a much quieter one for Peter Hoffman after the excitements of 1978.   With no Games to aim for and British, Scottish and District titles already under his belt there must have been a sense of anti-climax.   He defended his British indoor championship unsuccessfully at the start of the year but did pick up a third place medal to add to his collection.   He was an absentee at the District championships where he had had a double win the previous year, and you would search in vain for his name among the medallists at the SAAA Championships on 16th June.     In fact, there would be no more medals at domestic championships of any sort after 1978.   Nevertheless, by the end of the year he had best times of 50.3 for 400m which ranked him  16th among Scotland’s one lap specialists, and 1.51.69 for the longer distance which kept him in the top ten at 7th place.   In 1980 he was marginally quicker in the 400m with 49.97 seconds and his 800m was consistent with the previous year at 1:51.72.   1981 saw slower times yet: 50.4 for 400 ranking him 32nd among the one-lap men and he was out of the top ten 800m runners with a best of 1:52.25 which placed him 15th.   By 1982 Peter was not ranked at all in the 400m for the first time ever and his 800m of 1:55.2 was his slowest since 1976 – remember he started to specialise in the 800m in 1978.   

He was only 26 when he stopped competing and it was unfortunate for both the man himself and Scottish athletics that he had to retire when there was probably more to give.   Whether it was through chronic injury or developments away from the track is unclear but the break was complete.   He himself describes his athletics on social media as being ‘in another life.’    He has a blog at  which he describes as “the everyday life of eight families living in one of the post-war new council housing schemes” .   It is an interesting rad and notes that among the neighbours is a chap called Paul Forbes.   There is a number of interesting photographs of both of them as boys there too.    What is he doing at present?    I quote

“Married to Alison; Paw to ‘Atticus’ and ‘d’Artagnan’. Author of ‘The Stair’ (Summer Has Gone). After graduate/post-graduate studies in Edinburgh worked for SCVS; Scottish Episcopal Church; private sector and then mainly in local government as a chief officer. In a previous life, Olympic, European and Commonwealth athlete. Artist; diarist; epeeist; tennis and footie player-not necessarily in that order!”

A short career but a brilliant one.   You have read Ronnie Browne’s comments on Peter’s dedication as a competitor; I have also been told of the boys from that area being so keen that they would jog down to the track on club nights, do their training and make their way back home on foot afterwards.   At the time he certainly had the attitude to go with the undoubted ability.

You will find a selection of Peter’s own photographs  here

Paul Forbes

Forbes SmithPaul Forbes, number 2, leading Tom McKean into the back straight at Meadowbank

Photo from Alastair Shaw

Paul Forbes is a name not well known among the young athletes and their coaches of the twenty first century – buit it really should be.   Look at the Scottish all-time rankings for his best distance, the 800m:

  1.   1:43.88   Tom McKean 28 Jul 89  
  2.  1:45.47    Brian Whittle 20 Jul 90  
  3.  1:45.6     Graham Williamson 12 Jun 83
  4.  1:45.66    Paul Forbes 8 Jun 83
  5. 1:45.76    Frank Clement 10 Jul 76
  6. 1:45.81    David Strang 12 Jul 96
  7. 1:46.4     Paul Walker 22 Jul 97
  8. 1:46.63    Peter Hoffmann 11 Jun 78
  9. 1:46.65    Guy Learmonth 21 Jul 15
  10. 1:46.8      David McMeekin 6 Jun 74

There he is.  Fourth behind McKean, Whittle and Williamson and in front of several better known names such as Clement and McMeekin with today’s top Scot Guy Learmonth almost a full second behind him.   He ran in two Commonwealth Games and won medals at Scottish and UK Championships and set records.   His career should be better known than it is.

Paul, date of birth 20th November 1956,  started off as a junior boy with Edinburgh AC being coached by Eric Fisher.   Although Paul is best known as an outstanding track runner, at this point in his career he was a good cross-country runner and we should maybe look at his development through the ranks over the country.   He was a successful cross-country runner right from the start,  winning the East District Junior Boys Championship in 1969/70 and leading Edinburgh AC to team victory.  The race was held at Grangemouth and having sprinted up the finishing straight to victory he kept on running till he reached Eric and said “We’ve done , we’ve done it!”   That season he was also sixth in the National Championships in a field of 120 runners.   In  1970/71 as a first year Senior Boy (Under 15) in the National Championships at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, Paul was  58th finisher and fourth counter for the club team which finished third – at least he went home with a Scottish medal.    He learned from this and the following year, ’71/’72,  he was eighth in the District Championships in the team which finished second.   The national saw an improvement on the previous year – but only a slight one  and he finished thirty eighth in a team which was fourth, well behind Monkland Harriers who were third.   He went up another age group in ’72/’73 but finished higher up the field in the District championship where he was sixth leading the Edinburgh AC team to first place.   If he ran in the national at the end of the year, he finished well down the field, nor was the club team placed in the first three.   As a second year youth in 1973/74, he moved up to fourth in the District championships, and the team won again: in his four years in these championships he had three team golds and one silver.   In the national he finished eighteenth in a field that had many excellent athletes – Nat Muir, Graham Crawford, John Graham, Hammy Cox, Mark Watt and Graham Laing among them.   At this point when he was due to move up to the Junior age group, he stopped running cross-country, although he did run in a few team events – the National Relays in November 1975 where he was in the EAC second team,  and two good runs in the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay (third stages in 1975 and 1976 – each time the team was second) he was destined to be almost entirely a track runner for the rest of his career.   Eric Fisher had passed him to Bill Walker and it was  with Bill that he trained from then on.

Summer 1974 was a very good one for first year Junior Paul.    Running mainly 800m and 1500m and still at school, he was ranked top Junior in the 800m and won medals at both distances.  His best 800m time was set right at the start of the year when at Bell’s Indoor Arena in Perth he was timed at 1:54.8 to win the event on 3rd February.   The East District Championships were held at Meadowbank on 25th May and Pal ran in the Senior/Junior 1500m and finished third in 4:10.5 behind  Paul Kenney (3:56.0) and Graham Laing (4:10.5) – you will note the close finish for second and third.   The championship trail then led on to Pitreavie on 15th June where Paul, running for Forrester Secondary, won the 800m at the Scottish Schools Championships in 1:58.0, half a second quicker than Alistair McLaughlin (Knightswood HS and Garscube Harriers).   Only one year earlier Paul had won the Group B 1000m steeplechase at these same championships so it was his second gold medal in succession.   In the Scottish Junior Championship at Meadowbank, Paul had another good run but had to settle for second place to John Fleming of Springburn who won in 1:55.9 to Paul’s 1:56.5 with John Robson third in 1:57.9.    At the end of the season his time from Perth away back in February led the junior rankings and placed him sixteenth among the country’s best seniors.  


By 1975 he had left school and there would be no three in a row for him there but he was nationally ranked in no fewer than five events – 400m, 800m, 2000m steeplechase and 3000m steeplechase.   Quite a range.     The 3000m time came in a British Athletics League Match at Sutton Coldfield on 17th May  when he recorded 9:07.4.    Then on 22nd June in the Scottish Junior Championships, he won the title in 1:54.5.    The SAAA championships had Irishmen in the first two places so there was no way that a first year Junior would be among the medals that year but Paul went on to victory in the AAA’s Junior 800m championships with a time of 1:50.7.     The Athletics Weekly report on the race read: “In the 800m Chris Van Rees led at the bell in 55 seconds and stayed there until about 500m when Paul Forbes (a 9:07.4 steeplechaser) took over with Malcolm Edwards(W&B who headed the rankings with 1:50.1) on his tail.   Paul stayed in the lead despite a challenge from Edwards for victory in 1:50.9 – a personal best.”    SAAA and AAA title holder Paul then headed for the European Juniors in Athens on August 24th, where “Paul Forbes battled into the final, recording 1:53.7 in his heat and 1:50.4 for fourth in his semi-final, but was “a shadow of himself” when finishing eighth and last in the final (1:57.9).   He has endured three races in three days.” .
There had been a proliferation of fixtures that year – championships (Euro Junior, British, Scottish, Scottish Junior, District, club), Leagues (Scottish and British), invitation and open races – but by the season’s end it was clear that it had been a very good year indeed for Paul with best marks of
400: 50.2 (ranked 15th);   800:   1.50.0 (5th);   2000S: 5.56.8 (2nd);   3000S: 9.07.4 9
It was a hard year to follow but he was faster in 1976 and his range of events was narrower being mainly 400m and 800m races with steeplechasing nowhere to be seen.  The first championships of the year were the Districts held at Meadowbank on 29th May and Paul was again the winner of the 800m in 1:52.5 as part of an EAC squad which won the 200m/400m/800m and 1500m to make a clean sweep of the middle distance events.   Unplaced in the SAAA or the AAA championships, there followed another season of racing all over the country at a time when there was more in the way of track running available for runners than for some time before and certainly more than is available in the twenty first century.  For example the SAAA 800m had heats on the Friday and a final on the Saturday, the AAA was a two day event, the District championships often had a first round of some events on the Wednesday and the final on the following Saturday and in addition to the two-day events there were other representative matches to be contested such as an inter-area match.   Paul raced a lot and by the end of the season his best times were 49.8 seconds for the 400m (13th) and 1.48.8 for the 800m (3rd).     
 By 1977 Paul was 20 years old and already on the Scottish all-time top ten for 800m with his 1:48.8 making him ninth on the list – and his career there had not even properly started.   That summer he was to have 8 times in the top 20 by Scots – more than any of the others who included Frank Clement, Terry Young and John Robson  and, if that weren’t enough, win two events in the International with Greece.
His first championship of the summer was on 28th May in the East Districts at Meadowbank where he won the 800m in 1:51.4 which equalled the championship record – it was a day for records with his team mates Peter Little (Youths 100m), Peter Hoffman (400m) and Ross Hepburn (Youth High Jump) all set new bests for their events.   Three days later (31st May) he ran for the Scottish League against Scottish Colleges and Universities at Grangemouth in a 400m where was clocked across the line in 49.3.   There was a men’s international against Greece on 4th June at Meadowbank where the runners performed nobly but the team lost the match 112 to 89.   Paul did his bit however by winning the 800m in 1:50.3 and the running in the 4 x 400m relay where the team won with a quartet of Hugh Kerr, Roger Jenkins, Paul, Peter Hoffman in 3:18.12.   It is worth noting that three of the team were coached by Edinburgh AC’s Bill Walker.   In the UK Closed Championships at Cwmbran he was unplaced in the 800m but turned in times of 1:51.9 on 10th June and 1:51.6 on the following afternoon.    Paul finished the season with 1:50.4 on 22nd July and 1:51.2 on the thirtieth of the month to round off another good season’s racing. 
 His best times and ratings at the end of 1977 were:   400 49.3 99th); 800 1.50.3 (3rd); 1000 m: 2.24.21.
 A year later we had the remarkable feature of Paul having 7 of the best 19 times in the country and Paul and Peter Hoffman recording 16 of the best 19 times of the year between them.   What was remarkable about that?   Paul and Peter had grown up near each other as boys, they had played together, they were almost the same age and now they were members of the same club and Scottish international runners over the 400 and 800m distances and ran together in many record setting teams for club and country.   Check out Peter’s blog at   where you will see pictures of them together as schoolboys.
Paul started the season on 23rd April in an open graded meeting at Meadowbank, Hoffman and Forbes both ran 1:50.2, leading Ron Marshall in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ to say “In a case of Peter (Hoffman) robbing Paul (Forbes) even the electronic timing could not split them.”   The international with Greece came along on 14th May, in Athens this time and with Wales and Luxembourg added to the cast list and the final result was Greece 260, Scotland 218, Wales 163 and Luxemboourg  118.   The friends and rivals were first and second in the eight man international field.   Peter was first in 1:47.9 while Paul was an agonising tenth of a second behind in 1:48.0.   In the East District Championship on 26th May he ran 1:49.6 for 800m and then on 28th May the 400m was covered in 48.3.   The SAAA Championships resulted in a win for Terry Young (1:49.4) from Paul in second place in 1:51.4.    In the UK Closed Championships at Meadowbank on 15th July Paul ran a very good 1:49.1 but was again behind Peter who ran 1:48.3.   It was of course Commonwealth Games year and there were many meetings designed to help athletes get the times required.   The report of a race on 31st July read: “Paul Forbes, one of two Scots restricted to village quarters won the 800 metres in a warm up meeting for the Commonwealth Games.   The 21-year-old Edinburgh runner  overcame a good field of United Kingdom runners to to win in 1 min 49.8 sec.”
Forbes and Hoffman were both chosen for the Games which were held in Edmonton and they both ran in the heats and then took to the track in the second round on 8th August.   Let Doug Gillon tell the story of the race.   “Scotland’s big let-down of the day came in the men’s 800 metres.   Peter Hoffman and Paul Forbes were both eliminated in the semi-final.   It was the usual sorry tale from Hoffman.   After seeming to have laid the bogy of his rear-running tactics with a comfortable third place in a sensible first round race he was back to his diabolical worst and was comprehensively cut out, finishing sixth in 1 min 50.1 sec.   But the blackest spot was reserved for Forbes.   He was lying second at the bell, which was reached in 55.4 sec by the leader Mike Boit (Kenya) but going up the back straight the pace hotted up.   Forbes’s head fell and he was dropped by the pack like a hot potato trailing in last and finishing in just over 1:57 – a time well within the capacity of an average runner of many Scottish clubs.”
The ignominy did not end there.   Several Scottish male athletes were reported in the Press for drinking in public, for being caught on the women’s floor of the accommodation and sundry beaches of discipline.   Paul was one of them and after the issues were investigated he was banned from international running for one year.   It was a black mark which ended an otherwise good year which had end of season rankings of:   
400 48.3 (5);  800 1.48.04 (2nd); 1500 3.59.5 (42);  
The suspension was carried out to the letter and his next international was in January 1981.    In the meantime life went on: Pau;l continued to race successfully, setting good times and winning races.   He won the East District Championship 800m in 1:50.7 and on the same day won the 1500m in 3:47.2.   It’s a double not often won in any championship.   The report in the “Glasgow Herald” was under the headline “BANNED FORBES HITS BACK WITH TITLE DOUBLE”  and read
“Paul Forbes of Edinburgh AC, an athlete currently serving a one year ban from internetional competition following incidents at last year’s Commonwealth Games, was the outstanding competitor at Saturday’s East District Championships at Meadowbank.   He recorded an excellent double in the 800m and 1500m  –  beating John Robson the Commonwealth bronze medallist who dropped out when leading 250 metres before the end of the latter event.   Forbes’s 800m time of 1:50.7 was a championship record and he set a personal best of 3 min 47.2 in the longer race.”   
Sticking with the longer distance, he ran for his club in the Guardian Royal Exchange British League match at Meadowbank on 9th June and won the 1500m in 3:44.6 – not only a personal best but the fastest in Scotland that year up to that point and a full two seconds ahead of Adrian Weatherhead.   The SAAA Championships in 1979 were held on 16th June and he was again racing at his home track of Meadowbank.   This time he wasn’t as successful.   The 800m was won by Chris McGeorge from Cockermouth from Graham Williamson with Paul in third place and the winning time was 1:48.7.   With no international races to take part in and few big invitations, it was a quiet year by Paul’s standards.   Edinburgh AC had a very good year in their league competition and Paul played his part in that.   However at the end of 1979 his best times for the two distances were 800 1.49.4 (2nd);   1500 3.44.6 (4th) 
Paul started the summer season in 1980 with a run for a Scottish team at Meadowbank against Northern Ireland and Luxembourg on 10thMay.   He won the 800m in 1:50.4 from fellow Scot and British internationalist Steve Laing.   This was good but it led to even better things.   The headline on 26th May in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ read  “FORBES’S COMEBACK GIVES OVETT FRIGHT.”  It went on –
“Paul Forbes (Edinburgh AC), bouncing back from his year’s suspension after the Edmonton Commonwealth Games, has just enjoyed the best weekend of his athletics career.   At Grangemouth yesterday, in the Falkirk British Airways Games, he ran his fastest 800m for two years beating Graham Williamson in the run in, but afterwards Paul chose to bubble about his run in Belfast the previous evening in which as he put it, “Steve Ovett got the shock of his life.”   Running in an invitation 600 metres the Edinburgh man found himself two metres in front of Ovett with 60 metres to go.    “I thought I had him.   We were running into a wind and he still hadn’t passed me with 30 metres to go.   Then his strength finally told.   He beat me by less than a stride and that’s the closest he has come to defeat for a longtime.”     Paul’s time in Belfast had been 1:17.1 and his winning time at Grangemouth was 1:48.5.    By the SAAA  Championships on 21st June the top Scottish 800m men were Graham Williamson and Paul Forbes.   Paul beat Graham, who was suffering from a cold, but both were upstaged by England’s Dave Warren who was looking for a time in Olympic year and won in 1:48.54 with Paul second in 1:49.75.    That was undoubtedly the high point of Paul’s 1980 season and hisn times and rankings  at the end of August were1980 400 48.13 (2);   600 1.17.1;   800 1.47.32 (1);   1500 3.49.6 11.    
In 1981 Paul seemed to run more 400’s than he had been doing in the past – at the end of the season he was ranked at 400 and 800 where in the past he had been among the best in the land at 800m and 1500m.  By the end of the year he had the top three 400m times in the land as well as the top two over 800m.   As for the steeplechase, it was apparently gone for good.   The year began for Paul with a win in the AAA’s championships at Cosford in the 800m in 1:50.3.   Then on 28th May at Grangemouth in the British Airways Games he ran 47.7 and according to the Glasgow Herald reporter commented that he could have knocked a second off that.   Two days later in the East District Championships at Grangemouth he won the 400m in a personal best of 47.69 and the report remarked that on a better day he might have beaten the record of 47.5, set by his old training partner Peter Hoffman who was in the crowd that night.   How times change – he was once described as Hoffman’s training partner, now it was the other way about!   On 21st June in the Dundee International Games at Caird Park, Paul won the 800m in 1:49.6.    Into July and on 11th at Meadowbank in the British Athletic League match he was one of only two EAC winners when he took the 800m in  1:48.18.   On 26th July Paul was in Gateshead for the the international against England, Hungary and Norway where he ran into third place in the 800m behind Steve Ovett (1:47.96)and Garry Cook (1:48.68) of England in  1:49.82.   One week later, on 1st August,in the Scotland  v  Ireland international he won the 800m in 1:49.40 and ran the anchor leg for the winning Scots 4 x 400m relay team.    Seven days later and he was taking on the big boys again on 8th August at Crystal Palace where  he won his heat of the 800m in 1:49.02, then dropped down to 400m in 48.21 seconds on the 16th.
 The Edinburgh Highland Games was always a classy meeting and on 22nd August Paul ran in the 800m where he was second to American M Enyeart (1:47.9) in 1:48.0.    The last international of the season was held in Athens on 25th and 26th August.   In what was once called the Small Nations International, Scotland took on Greece, Wales, Israel and Luxembourg.   Paul ran in the 400 metres on the first day and the 800 metres on the second.   He won them both – in 48.83 seconds and 1:51.6.
Another good season and by the end of August he had best times of 400 47.69 (1st) and 800 1.48.00 (1st).   With the top three 400m times and the top two 800m times (5 of the top 7) he could justly claim to be the Scottish number one in the pre-Commonwealth Games year.
Paul F Gmouth0002
The Commonwealth Games were to held in Brisbane, Australia between 3rd and 9th October so there was a whole season ahead of him to get the qualifying times done and the important races won.   It was maybe doubly important for Paul after the disappointments of the Edmonton Games.   He started, as in 1981, with an indoor season.   At Cosford on 30th January he was just squeezed out of second in the 800m to finish third in 1:51.3.   The outdoor season started early for Paul, as for many contenders for places in the Games team, with a win over 800m at Meadowbank on 17th April in 1:48.81.   The UK Closed Championships were held at Cwmbran in Wales on Sunday 30th and Monday 31st May and competition was serious.   Paul won his 800m heat on the first day in 1:49.74, and in the final on the second day he was again first in 1:46.63.   There were two Scottish champions that weekend and both were from Edinburgh and both were 800m runners – Paul was one and Ann Clarkson the other.   I quote:
“The splendid weather brought a rash of records , none more impressive than Paul Forbes’s victory in the 800 metres in 1 min 46.53 sec which removed Seb Coe’s meeting best from the book.   Forbes, for so long the ‘bad boy’ of the sport and suspect under pressure, led almost from the start in confident style and was still strong in the final straight where in the past he has been picked off.   Now he not only hopes to redeem himself for past misdemeanours but also to win a Commonwealth Games medal and his other ambition is to make the British team for the European Championships.    
Ann Clarkson, already a proven competitor, having won the WAAA title twice, chose the hard way to win the title, being badly boxed in for most of the race.   But she kept cool and found a way through coming up the home straight and went on to win in 2 min 3.6 sec.”
A 1:48.94 800m at Crystal Palace on 19th June kept him in the selectors’ eye and in a poorly supported Scottish international at Stockholm Paul ran a 1:48.37 to finish second in the 800m.   He stayed in Scandinavia long enough to run in Norway on 7th July.   The position was maybe his lowest of the season in the international meeting in Oslo but the race was the fastest he had ever run in.   It was won by England’s Gary Cook in 1:44.71 with Paul fifth in 1:45.90.   It had been a very good four days for him – with others supporting their clubs in the British League and turning down the Scottish selection, he had run and picked up valuable points for the country, and followed it up with a very good personal best in a quality race.   The run was poorly reported – the reporters justly preferring to go big on Dave Moorcroft’s world record for 5000m set at the same meeting – but it was hardly mentioned in the domestic Scottish press.
On 18th July at the Falkirk British Airways Games he preferred to go for the shorter 400m distance and finished behind Mark McMahon (ESH) with both recording 48.3 seconds.   When the team for Australia was selected, Paul was there.   His first round race was on 5th Aoctober and he was in the third heat where he went to the starting line knowing that Bourke of Australia had won the first heat in 1:50.8  and Crew of Australia had won the second in 1:54.28 (first five inside half a second with John Walker fourth!).   Withe five to qualify Paul did enough to win in 1:51.64 with Cook of England fourth in 1:52.34.    The second round  was later the same day with first four and fastest loser to qualify.   Paul made no mistakes and won the first semi in 1:50.87 and Cook did not finish.   The second semi was won by Bourke in 1:50.56.    After two days rest, the finalists were Bourke, Maina (Australia), Chris McGeorge (England), John Walker (NZ), Brett Crew (Aus), Spyros Spyrou (Cyprus), Juma Ndiwa (Kenya), Sammy Koskei (Kenya and Paul.   In heat and semi he had already beaten Crew Maina, Walker, Spyrou and Ndiwa so he must have been fairly optimistic.   Unfortunately it was not to be – although a vastly different story from the ’78 Games, Paul could only finish seventh of the eight in 1:49.05.    It looked as though he was not in form but the race story was vastly different.   Doug Gillon reported: “Paul Forbes (Edinburgh Athletic Club) took the race by the scruff of the neck, leading at the bell in 52 seconds, but having been man-handled aside by ex-Olympic 1500m champion John Walker, Forbes blew up 200 metres from home and finished in 1 min 49.05 sec.”     Six foot plus Walker manhandles five foot and a smidgen Forbes at speed – that would seem to be the story here.
1982 was possibly Paul’s best year – just look at the marks: 400 in 48.3 (4th);  600 in 1.17.60;   800 in 1.45.90 (1st)    and add in UK championship, the 600m in Belfast v Ovett and the Commonwealths.   
1983 started as the last two with a successful indoor season.   In the Phillips AAA Indoor Championships at Cosford, he too part in what reportedly described as “rollerball without the ball”.   Punched at the start and left stranded and still last at 200 metres, he got through to lead at the bell.   Overhauled in the last 30 metres by  Milovan Savic (1:50.92) the winner, and Thierry Tomelier of France.   His own time was 1:51.32.   He was then selected for an international against Germany on 19th February.   In the match in Dortmund he was one of only three British winners in the men’s and women’s contests when he won the 800m in 1:47.55.   Paul , the defending champion at the HFC UK Closed Championships on 28th May, was expected to have a battle with England’s Peter Elliott but as the ‘Glasgow Herald’ reported, the race turned into a procession when Paul had to withdraw after sustaining a back injury in a car crash.   A week later however, on 4th June, he was the outstanding Scottish athlete at the British League Second Division match at Colindale where he won the 800m in 1:49.4.   
Then came the time of the season for Paul.   On 8th June in Florence Paul ran 1:45.66 behind Rob Druppers of the Netherlands.   Druppers was timed at 1:45.12, then came Forbes, then Nian of Senegal in 1:6.30.    At the same meeting Graham Williamson was second to Said Aouita in the 1500m in 3:34.94.   And then, just four days later, Graham Williamson ran 1:45.60 at Loughborough to snatch the top spot in the Scottish rankings and take Paul’s record by 0.06 of a second!   Statistician Arnold Black tells us that neither time (Paul’s or Graham’s 800m) was recognised as a national record by the SAAA as the handbook continued to show Paul’s 1:45.76 in Oslo (7th July 1982) as the National Record until Tom McKean bettered it.   It was a time of course when administrators required a properly completed record application form signed by the chief time keeper or track referee before the performance could be recognised.   Frank Clement fell foul of the same regulation with his 1500m in Zurich in 1976 of 1:46.76.   However, record or no record, Paul was in such form that it is hardly surprising that he followed this with  victory in the SAAA Championships – in 1:49.114 from Tom McKean who ran 1:49.49 and Donald McMillan third in 1:51.04.
I had been organising races for the British Milers Club that year and had one lined up for an Open Graded Meeting at Meadowbank on 24th August at which Alistair Currie had agreed to take the pace through 400m in 52.   There were several regulars that year who supported every race, they all wanted in that one and by the Monday of that week, two days before the race we had 12 runners.   On Monday evening I had a call from Paul who said he wanted to run in the  race, the pace was not fast enough, he could provide his own pace maker.   I said I’d ask the runners because the field was already big and he had never run in a single race over that or the previous two years.   They tentatively agreed and on the night Paul approached me, intorduced himself and said that Jim Learmonth would take the pace through 400m in 48!   The others were up for it and, sure enough, Learmonth came through in 48 and kept the pace rolling to just over 500m.   The field was pretty spread out by then but Paul never faltered.   Kept it going all the way to the finish and ran 1:46.32 which would have been a Scottish Native Record.   He came across and thanked me and went on his way.   Seven of the 13 finishers set personal bests that night with Keith Cameron (EAC) second in 1:51.96, John McKay third in 1:52.10 and Alistair Currie fourth in 1:52.58.   Paul did not get the record this time either because, as it was explained at the time, he was wearing neither a club vest nor a Scottish one, he wore a pink vest that night!    That was the biggest 800m field I’ve ever seen but I figured at the start that a 48 second lap would sort out the field very quickly and the runners were a really fast runner and a less fast runner in each lane so that bumping would be down to a minimum.   In addition Paul’s confidence that night was extraordinary.   Really up for it, no doubts that he would run a good time and just went out and did.   It was an extraordinary evening.
’83 had been a very good year for him with a good indoor season, a Scottish record and his first SAAA Championship over 800m as a senior.    Best marks for the year:
400: 48.98 (10th);  600 1.19.4i;  800 1.45.66 (2nd)  
Forbes McKean Cameron
Above (and top): 1983 SAAA Championships.   Paul (2) and McKean in red easily recognised.
There was little sign of Paul in 1984 before the AAA’s Olympic Trials at Crystal Palace on 6th June.   For the 800m, selection was for one place only: Seb Coe had been pre-selected and Steve Ovett pulled out through illness but he was still hopeful of being allowed to double up in the Games which left only one place up for selection.   Peter Elliott was the favourite and he duly won the Final in 1:47.72 while Paul failed to qualify from his heat, recording only 1:48.4.   By the year’s end, that was Paul’s only ranking time for any distance but it still placed him equal first with Tom McKean who was also on 1:48.4 while Graham Williamson could only manage 1:49.1 for 800m in 1984.
There were more medals and more good times for Paul in 1985    He won the East District title at Meadowbank on 25th May in 1:51.13.   This was the fourth time he had won the event, the first win being in 1976.   Two weeks later he should have been at the official opening of the new track at Crown Point in Glasgow but unfortunately was side lined by a sore throat.   He was back in action on 22nd June for the SAAA Championships at Meadowbank for a race which Doug Gillon described thus: The men’s 800m represented a victory for youth over the old head.   Former UK and Scottish champion Paul Forbes played a waiting game, trailing through the bell in 59.18 seconds, but he was outkicked by newly crowned UK champion Tom McKean, a Lanarkshire labourer, who had to dig deep with a last lap of 54.21  for victory.”   Paul was timed at 1:54.28, with Don McMillan third in 1:55.03.
 That was Paul’s season finished as far as championships were concerned with one gold and one silver from two races.   His best times for the summer were 400 48.9 (10th);    800 1.49.0 (2)  
In 1986 he won the East District 800m yet again was of course another Commonwealth Games year, and one to be held on Forbes’s home track at Meadowbank.   Yet again he won the East District Championships on that very track on 24th May in 1:55.4.   After this came a trip to Lloret de Mar in Spain for the international against Ireland and Catalonia on 9th June.   He doubled up with Tom McKean in the 800m and they finished first and second: Tom won in 1:46.69 with Paul second in 1:48.11.   The following Saturday in the SAAA championships, with McKean running in the 400m, Paul won the 800m from Tom Ritchie in 1:50.14.     These performances and his competitive record over the previous few years saw Paul selected for the 800m in the Games which were to be held between 24th July and 2nd August.   
Paul qualified for the 800m final at the Games but after the race the story was all about Tom McKean’s  second place in 1:44.8 behind Steve Cram but also behind them, and a bit down the field than he would have liked, came Paul Forbes – back in seventh in 1:51.29.   He was not finished with international athletics just yet though – on 16th August he won the 800m in the match against Hollan and Northern Ireland in Leiden in 1:52.14 with Tom Ritchie second in 1:52.75.    His season was basically finished by then and his best time for the year was the 1:48.11 behind McKean in Catalonia with no top times in 400m or 1500m.
 1987 was the last year that he was to appear in the rankings or among the winners of championships.   He won the East District Championships at the end of May with a time of 4:04.2,    He stayed with the longer distance for the SAAA Championships, held on 19th June at Meadowbank,  where he ran 3:49:94 in the Heats.  On 4th July in a British League match at Leeds he won the 800m in  1:51.9 to help the club in their fight for promotion.   His best 400m was also in a League appearance – on 25th July at Meadowbank he ran 50.18 to be fourth.   That year he and his club mates did so well that by the end of the season Edinburgh AC won Division Three and was promoted to Division Two.   In the last championships of the season, the AAA at Crystal Palace on 1st August, he ran 1:51.50 in the heats.  Internationally, Scotland was now in the era of Tom McKean with other young aspirants such as Tom Ritchie contesting the 800m event.  That year Paul ran, and ran well, but it was really his final season at the top.   To recap, his best times for the summer were 
400 50.18 (24);   800 1.51.50 (8th);   1500 3.49.94 (11th) 
Paul Stan D
Paul at Meadowbank, 1982, Stan Devine on his shoulder
Paul became a veteran in November 1996 (you had to be 40 in those days) and had a short career as a vet.   He had an excellent battle on 2nd February, 1997 against the previously unbeaten Alastair Dunlop and lost out by 0.01 seconds after a terrific battle in the finishing straight.   Alastair retained his title by diving desperately over the finish line.    One one-hundredth of a second is not a lot over 800 metres.     Doug Gillon reported on the race in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ of 3rd February 1997.
Pride of Place at the annual Scottish Veterans Championships must go to Alastair Dunlop and Paul Forbes whose 800m duel was the best race of the day the pair separated by just one hundredth of a second after four laps of the 200-metre track.   The warmth of the Glasgow arena was a rare treat for Dunlop a physical education teacher who has no indoor facilities on Lewis where he is forced to train by the sea on the wind-swept machair.    A late athletics starter in 1983 – just four years before Forbes quit after a lifetime’s success including three Commonwealth Games (two finals) and UK and AAA’s titles – Dinlop clocked 2:00.60 diving across the line sprawled on the track to deny Edinburgh’s Forbes (2:00.61).   
Dunlop won European veteran bronze last year  and holds the Scottish record at 1:58.36 – first veteran Scot under two minutes – but Forbes who started training after ten years indolence just before his fortieth birthday in November showed he has surrendered little of his talentto the advancing years and spoke with some  conviction of a world record.
 National champion and record holder before the McKean era and still ranked fourth on the Scottish all-time list with 1:45.66 Forbes was ecstatic with his time.   “I’ve been training for just three months and have entered the European and UK indoor championships ” said Forbes.   “I’ve discovered that you get lots of niggles as you get older – I’ve barely strung together three weeks without an injury but if I can run as fast as this on what I’ve done, I honestly believe I can get close to 1:51 – yes I know the world record for Over 40’s in 1:55.” 
That was in the euphoria of the moment but for whatever reason – niggles becoming injuries probably – Paul’s come back did not really materialise.   It was a shame because the talent had clearly not gone away.
Nevertheless he had had an outstanding career with gold, silver and bronze in abundance at District, National and UK levels, he had also been in medal winning road and cross country teams and run in three Commonwealth Games.   He is still – in May 2016 – number four on the Scottish all-time list for 800m.

In 2017, Paul Forbes (still EAC) made a surprise come-back in the M60 age-group, after running many Parkruns, with a 5k in 18.19 and 10k in 39.34. Then he raced cross-country. In 2019, he returned to the track, finishing a meritorious 6th (2.20.24) in the World Masters Indoor Championship 800m in Torun, Poland; as well as winning 800m events in the English Inter-Area Challenge and the Scottish Masters Championships, where he improved to 2.17.22. In 2020 Paul won Indoor M60 800m titles in both Scottish Masters and British Masters Championships.

Then he broke a World Record!

Athletics Weekly reported: 



Almost 40 years since he reached the 1982 Commonwealth Games 800m final (a feat he repeated in 1986), Paul Forbes broke the World M65 indoor 800m record with a 2:15.30 clocking.

The time is half a minute outside his lifetime best – 1:45.66 set in Florence in 1983 behind world silver medallist Rob Druppers’ 1:45.12.

Forbes began as a cross-country runner and won the Scottish East District Junior Boys Championships in 1969 and he was sixth that season in the Scottish Championships. In 1973 he won the Scottish Schools 1000m steeplechase title and then won over two laps in 1974 in 1:58.0.

In the Scottish Under-20 Championships, he was second in 1:56.5 but ahead of future Commonwealth Games 1500m medallist John Robson and in 1975 he won the AAA Junior title in 1:50.1 and made the European Junior final that year in Athens where he placed eighth.

Forbes won the UK title in 1982 in a championship best 1:46.53 narrowly ahead of Steve Caldwell (1:46.65) and Peter Elliott (1:47.76) and he also ran for Scotland in the 1978 Commonwealth Games where he was a semi-finalist.

After his successful senior career – spanning three Commonwealth Games – he had a complete break in his 30s before later returning as a Master and he was involved in a stunning battle with Alastair Dunlop in the Scottish Championships in his first major race as a vet with Dunlop edging home in 2:00.60 to Forbes’ 2:00.61.

After that 1997 race Forbes said he felt he was capable of a World Masters record if he could train seriously but the world record ultimately took nearly another 25 years with injury regularly scuppering his ambitions.

He competed in the European masters 10km as an M45 in 2005 and ran a few other Masters road championships before eventually re-focusing again on the track.

He made another comeback as a M60 – finishing sixth in the World Masters 800m at Toruń in 2019 and winning the Scottish and British Masters indoor titles in 2021 at the age of 64 – but it was turning 65 in November that gave him the opportunity to make a real mark in the Masters.

The previous best was held by Ireland’s multiple world age-group champion Joe Gough with 2:16.65 in Dublin in 2018.

Forbes’ 2:15.30 is his fastest in recent years, equalling his outdoor best of 2021 and is even faster than the outdoor UK M65 best.

The Scot’s run took an astonishing nine seconds off Pete Molloy’s UK indoor best of 2:24.48 set in 2014 and is even fractionally quicker than Dave Wilcock’s M60 UK indoor record of 2:15.60.

Then, in mid-February 2022, Paul missed (by less than a second) breaking the 1500m M65 Indoor World Record but, a few days later in London, smashed the One Mile M65 Indoor World Record, which had been held since 2008 by American Frank Condon with a time of 5.11.43. Paul ran a tremendous 5.04.2!  Shortly afterwards, in Braga, Portugal, Paul became the M65 European Masters Indoor 800m Champion (and also won a silver  medal in the 1500m).

Paul commented in detail about this achievement and the training which led up to it.

“I am delighted with the record but I think the real achievement was in the preparation for having a crack at it.

Using a sub 2.16 800m as a target, I planned the training backwards from the race (late December) to the beginning of October. Having a great group to train with and staying injury-free meant that we could train consistently and progress to plan, which is both a psychological and physiological fillip. Like all the events in our sport, run, jump or throw, competing is far easier than the input required to get to the point of competition. A successful outcome is a culmination of planning, technical nous, support and hard work. Getting that right is the real achievement.

As for getting fit after a long lay-off, well, it wasn’t easy! After an operation to put a broken ankle together, I decided to try using the parkruns as a way back into getting healthy. I was quite happy plodding along at 25mins and losing a wee bit weight. I then came across a couple of guys from back in the day – they were running 20/21. I wasn’t having that! I started doing a couple or runs during the week and a parkrun at the weekend. As I dropped the weight, I gained momentum and the wee flame I carried in my memory started to burn.

After a year or two dabbling with the roads, I went to watch the World Masters in Spain. I ran a 40 min 10k out there but, watching the track races, I knew that that was where I should be putting my energy. I went back on the track in late September and by the early March I had run 2.20 indoors.

A lot of thought went into my track work. I couldn’t run as many sessions as I used to, since injuries were frequent and taking a lot longer to heal. I moved to a ten-day cycle, rather than the traditional seven days – this gave me more time to rest between the three sessions that I needed to do.

These sessions were along the lines of a 5k tempo run, a miler type session and a 400m type of workout. ALL of these sessions were run at a moderate to hard pace but staying within the bounds of my aerobic capacity (I still train like this now). Each training session was now being run on relatively, fresh legs which helps to keep the tempo high. Generating speed was never a problem for me. I’m convinced that, like an aerobic or speed endurance base, it’s possible to hold a speed base also. (At any one time of the year, I can turn out a 60-62 second 400 after a few days of speed work.) All the running I do is designed to get me to the next session. I never knock myself out in training (racing is a different matter) I don’t believe there is anything to be gained by training to failure.

Coming back into the sport has been the best move I’ve made for a long time. I’m enjoying my life immensely at the moment. When I run against the youngsters, I feel I’m racing the future. I get a kick out of being asked my opinion on their training or advice on a particular discipline.  My perspective on growing older has changed also. Not the part about growing old gracefully though, I have no intention of doing that!”


“Scottish veteran Paul Forbes smashes 800m World Masters record”

Those who were surprised at Paul’s record had obviously not been paying attention to the previous season’s track running.    To run so fast and to train so hard as a 60+ veteran can only be done if you really love the sport.   You need to train regularly over a long period and you need to race frequently.   To see how hard Paul trains, have a look at this video which was made after he became the fastest man in history over 800m in his age group –

Paul Forbes – Track Session (Bonus *Masters* Episode) – YouTube

This all speaks of a man who loves the sport.   Many leave the sport when they have stopped being competitive in open races.   A runner knows when that time comes.   Emmet Farrell said when he failed to make the British marathon team “I have shed my silk as a runner.”   But he loved the sport and kept running until he was in his late 80s and even into his 90s.   That was a love of the sport.   Paul has a similar love of the sport.  It is wonderful to see, and the question now is, what does the future hold for Paul Forbes … and for World Vets 800m records?  


“Edinburgh AC’s Paul Forbes continues to set the standard in masters track and field. The 67-year-old – who won world and European titles in 2022 and broke records from 800m to the mile in the M65 age group – has further excelled in 2023. He won double gold over 800m and 1500m at the World Masters Championships indoors and European Masters Championships outdoors. He also broke M65 world records in the 800m (2:13.74) and 1500m (4:39.15).

“It’s a bit of a thrill, I must be honest with you,” says Forbes when told he’s been voted by AW as the British Masters Male Athlete of the Year for the second successive year. “They’ve made an old man happy.”

In February 2024, World Masters Athletics (WMA) announced that Paul Forbes, 67, of Great Britain was the 2023 Male Athlete of the Year.

What does it mean to you to be nominated for this honor?

Gives me the opportunity to express not only my gratitude to the many people who help me over the season, but for them also to be acknowledged by the wider athletic community. My small but successful masters training squad consists of Graeme Gemmell, Paul McMonagle and Laura Haggarty (all are masters finalists at European/world level), and each contribute to our collective success. It goes, almost without saying, that the nomination acknowledges the support of my wife Kim. A successful athlete in her own right, she is very supportive of all my endeavors.

What are your goals in Masters Athletics for 2024?

My goals remain remarkably consistent from year to year. My aim is to train and race to the best of my ability, What changes is my approach to each new season, planning a schedule to ensure improvement in my running, challenging myself over new distances, adapting my mindset to cope with any physical decline in speed or strength. These goals are set against and within a sustainable framework of physical and mental well-being. Something which is critical in today’s society and advancing years.

What Master/s Athletes do you admire and why?

I admire anyone with the willpower and determination to get out of bed each morning and try to make a difference, whether for themselves or for others. Positive attitudes, glass half full not half empty sort of thing. I am fortunate that through my active participation in Masters Athletics much of my time is spent in contact with such individuals.

What else would you like people reading the announcement to know about you?

Although past retirement age, I remain in employment as a part-time care and support worker for those more elderly and infirm than myself, I struggle to give up the satisfaction of the day-to-day interaction I have with my clients and I expect to be working for the foreseeable future. Much of my satisfaction these days comes less from my own achievements and more from my direct or extended family, along with my training group and a few other athletes I advise on an ad-hoc basis.

(In March 2024, Paul ran right away from the field to win the European Masters Indoor M65  800m Championship.)





Carol Sharp

Carol Sharp 2

Carol Sharp (61) leading in the SWAAA Championships 1984

There are times when a good runner, even a very good runner, gets less recognition than is their due.   When we think of women middle distance athletes of the late 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s we automatically reach for Liz McColgan, Yvonne Murray, Karen Hutcheson, Lynne McDougall and Ann Purvis.   But there is one surprising omission from that select group and that is Carol Sharp whose record includes three SWAAA titles, three second places and two thirds, she has run for Scotland (ten times) and for Britain (three times) and has competed at Grand Prix meetings on the continent.    She also ran over the country and on the roads with many Scottish team medals on both surfaces to her credit: medals of all colours and even in 1993 she was a member of the City of Glasgow team in the last ever SWCCU Relays before they merged with the men.   It is however as a track runner that she is best known and that is what we will concentrate on.   It is a record that should be looked at quite closely.

Carol told me for an article that appeared in the BMC News of Spring, 1995, that she had come into the sport and joined Shettleston Harriers wanting only to be a jogger.   Well-named for a runner, she was Carol Lightfoot and as for being a jogger – the club had other ideas and took her to an inter-club at Stirling where she ran 3:03 for the distance and that was the start of her racing career!   At that time Graham Everett, seven times SAAA Mile champion/AAA Mile champion/SCCU champion and multi medallist  was coaching a very good group of girls including his daughter Andrea and Carol linked up with that group.  She was in very good hands to start her career as an athlete.   By the end of 1976 Carol’s best marks were – 400m 60.0  (ranked 26th) and  800m 2:14.1   (10th).

In the first championship of 1977 Carol finished first – she won the West District 800m in 2:21.8 – not nearly as fast as she would become but a gold medal is a gold medal and a wonderful motivating factor.   Came the National Championships in June at Meadowbank and there was another medal for her third in the National Championships where she ran 2:10.8 behind Christine McMeekin (2:05.7) and Alice Linton (2:06.9).   There was even an international selection for her and on 3rd September in the Scotland v Norway match she was 4th in the 800m in 2:17.0 Scotland beat Norway with 81 points to  74.   Other notable performances were a 400m in 58.5  and a 1500m in 4:34.7, both on 20th July.

Her best performances at the end of the season were:    400m in  58.5 sec (to be ranked 20th) ;   800m in  2:10.8   (7th)  ;  and  1500m  in (4:34.7)

Carol started summer 1978 on 9th April when she ran in an inter-club match where her only noteworthy time was in a 400m Hurdles race in 67.5 – not bad for a middle distance runner.   Before the end of the month the venue was Meadowbank for participation in a classy graded meeting where she competed in the 800m running a time of 2:10.3 and the 1500m in 4:26.2.   These were to be her fastest time for the distances that season.    The events were won by Ann Clarkson and Margaret Coomber.    The standard in Scotland was very high with Ann Clarkson, the McMeekin twins and Margaret Coomber all running really well over 800m and 1500m.   Carol kept racing in club matches and in the West District championships at the start of May she was third in 2:14.6 and was rewarded with selection for the match in Athens on 14th May against Greece.   She partnered Margaret Coomber in the 1500m which was won by Coomber (4:23.47) with Carol second in 4:32.16.   This helped Scotland to a 102 – 54 victory.   Unplaced in the SWAAA Championships, Carol’s next very good performance was on 6th August when she ran in the 3000m and recorded a time of 9:58.2 which was the sixth best by a Scottish woman in 1978.

She finished the summer of 1978 with best marks of   800m in 2:10.3 which ranked her 6th  ;   1500m  4:26.2 which placed her  3rd;  3000m  9:58.2 for 7th; and of course that 400m H    in 67.5 seconds and 11th best by a Scot.

Her first notable run in 1979 came on 26th May in the Fife British Airways Games when the ‘Glasgow Herald’ reported that Carol Lightfoot was inside 5 minutes for the Mile when she won in 4:58.2.   The highlight of the year however had to be the first SWAAA 800m title in the championships held at Grangemouth on 16th June.   Carol won in 2:10.7 – not her fastest but it was on a very windy afternoon – with V Porter second and Anne Clarkson third.   Her story about that goes like this: after winning her heat, she overheard one of a famous pair of twins talking about her to the other – “How did X get on?”   “She was beaten by some scrubber!”   And that she says, fired her up to win the title!

There was also an international at Grangemouth on 7th July 1979 against Norway and Greece in which Carol was fourth in the 1500m ahead of the two Greeks in 4:46.6.   In the match, Scotland won with 121 points with Norway on 115 and Greece on 76 points.

The 1979 summer season finished with the following best marks.

400m best of 57.5 which places her 15th, an 800m in 2:05.9  (3rd), a 1500m in  4:26.2 (7th) and a Mile  in 4:58.2

The West District Women’s Championships were held at Grangemouth on 3rd May and in the 800m the result was first, Christine McMeekin in 2:09.7 and second, Carol Lightfoot in 2:15.1.   The Inter-District match was held on 24th May at Meadowbank Carol was second in the 800m (2:11.5) behind Ann Clarkson (2:08.3) but in front of Barbara Harvie (2:12.7) and Lynne McDougall (2:12.6).   Then just one day later, 25th May, In the British Airways Games at Grangemouth Barbara Harvie won the 800m in 2:08.7 from Liz McArthur in 2:08.8, Lynne McDougall in 2:09.2 and Carol in fourth in 2:11.6.

The biggest championship however is always the SWAAA, held that year on 21st June at Meadowbank.   Carol was again second – this time to ‘newcomer; Elizabeth McArthur’ in a close run race – McArthur ran 2:11.15 and Lightfoot 2:11..97.

1980 was otherwise a quiet year with no personal bests and by the end of the season there were four ranked times.    

400m  57.7  17th;   800m  2:08.7  5th;   1500m  4:28.9  5th.

Carol 2

By the end of 1981 Carol would be ranked seventh on the Scottish all-time list for 800m and have set two more personal bests.   Starting out with a ‘one place better’ run in the West District championships she won in 2:11.7.   Missing the AAA’ Carol had an excellent late seasn packed full of good quality runs.   At Crystal Palace on 24th July it was 2:07.9, 25th July still at Crystal Palace, she ran 2:06.5, on 1st August in Antrim it was 2:05.9,  on 16th August she dropped down to 400m at Coatbridge where she recorded 56.6 seconds, on 22nd August at Meadowbank the time was 2:05.6 and finally on 28th August at Ardal in Norway she was fourth in the international against Norway and Wales in 2:05.3.   And on 6th September at Balgownie in Aberdeen she recorded 4:29.2 for 1500m.   By the end of the season she had 5 times in the top 16 in Scotland with only Clarkson being better.

 Top times at the end of ’81 were  400m  56.6 12th; 800m  2:05.3  2nd;  1500m  4:29.2  8th

On 18th April 1982 Carol started out with an over distance race where she had in the past opened the summer with a 400.   It was a 3000m at Coatbridge and she was timed at 9:58.6.  Carol then won the West District 800m for the third time in 2:12.3

In June she won the SWAAA 800m for the second time in the splendid time of 2:05.15 and earned selection for the international in Yugoslavia on 24th July.   Before that however she ran for Britain  for the first time –  against Sweden in Karlstad on 3rd July and finished fourth in a three runners per side match.   In the 800m she ran 2:07.06 in the race won by Anne Clarkson in 2:05.05.   On the following day she guested in the 1500m in 4:23.51 for fifth place.   Here best time was reserved for the Grand Prix in Bislett in Oslo on 7th July where her 800m time was 2:02.91.   This 800m time was one second faster than Shireen Bailey,  coached by Cliff Temple and recognised as one of the country’s very best middle distance runners.   The British Milers Club had set up a race the following week to help Shireen break two minutes for the race but unfortunately before that came up, Carol had raced at Grangemouth and blistered her feet making it impossible to turn out against the English woman.

This was followed up by a 1500m at Grangemouth on 18th July where she was clocked in at 4:18.9.

Then at last came the 24th July international at Maribor, Yugoslavia between Yugoslavia, Spain, England and Scotland.   This time as Scottish 800m champion  she was out in the 800m where she was fourth behind Boxer, Clarkson and Hassan in 2:06.49.

It was off to sunny Australia after that and on 28th September in Brisbane a 400m in  56.43 set her up nicely for the Games.  October was Commonwealth Games time – they went from 3rd to 10th of the month.    In the event in Brisbane Carol was eliminated in the second heat after running 2:09.68  to finish fifth.  The heat, a very good one, was won by Shireen (Bailey) Hassan from Kirsty McDermott.   The final was won by Kirsty McDermott (born in Scotland but running for Wales) from Ann Clarkson .

Despite the Games disappointment it had been a good year for Carol  with a new pb for the 800m of 2:02.91, four races sub 2:06 and a second SWAAA 800m title.    By the end of the summer her top ranked times were 400m  56.43  14th;   800  2:02.91  2nd 6th in all-time list);   1500m  4:18.9  6th (8th in all-time list);   3000m  9:58.6   13th

 In 1983 Carol had not one but two international appearances for GB, both indoors, against France and Russia.   The first of these was on 12th February at Cosford against France when she was timed at 2:07.79 finishing second to Teena Colebrook and the second was on 23rd February, also at Cosford, when she finished fourth in 2:11.35.

Outdoors the season proper started with the West District Championships at Grangemouth – there was no outdoor track in Glasgow in 1983 so the athletes had to trek out to Grangemouth which was a good, fast track.   Carol was in two events the 800m and the 1500m and the ‘Glasgow Herald’ report on the 1500m tells both stories:   Fiona McQueen smashed the 1500 metres record by nearly seven seconds.   Leading from the start she recorded 4 min 27.2 sec with Carol Lightfoot, her Glasgow team-mate, a distant second.   But Miss Lightfoot had earlier just lost out in a desperate finish to the 800m, Lynne McDougall got the verdict in 2:09.9.’    Both winners were coached by Victoria Park man Ronnie Kane whose group included many top class runners including both those mentioned and Judith Shepherd.

She ran some cross-country that winter including first leg for the team that won the SWCCU relays, but the summer of 1983 was a step back after the Commonwealth Games year of 1982 with the trip to Australia and races all over the continent although by the end of the year her best times were both good ones:   800m   2:05.67  (5th);   1500m   4:22.47  (9th).

Talking about racing indoors, Carol has said that she ‘absolutely loves/adores indoor racing.   There is a real sensation of speed coming off the bends, you have to concentrate harder on the shorter laps, there is more aggression and the whole thing is so much more intense.”   She also loves track generally but hates cross-country: she only ran it because she had to as part of a general strategy for the year.     She ran well on the roads too but nothing, for her, compared to track racing.

Training?   She reckons that on one occasion she ran 52 x 300m in one week.   Sessions included were 10 x 300 with three minutes recovery, and two sets of 3 x 300m with 300m jog recovery.   When she was training with Graham Everett she often did not know what the session was until she turned up at the track.


Cameron Sharp

She married successful international sprinter Cameron Sharp in August, 1983 and kept right on running.   There would be a well earned hiatus when their two daughters were born (Carly in 1987 and Lynsey in 1990) but meanwhile Carol was racing again in 1984.   Racing so well that she won the SWAAA 800m title.    The summer of 1984   started badly with Carol when she had to have a cartilage operation right at the start but nevertheless, just five weeks later she was winning the West District 800m for the fifth time  in 2:13.7.     It was Olympic year and all the top meetings were crowded with the best runners around going for the selection times.   Not in the first three at any of the major meetings in the south, where Ann Purvis was the top Scot, Carol went out in the SWAAA Championships at Meadowbank on 30th June.   In the 800m however the main opposition was lacking – Carol won from A McGeown of Shettleston who ran 2:10.74.   The Olympians themselves were absent – Lynne McDougall was not out in the 1500m and Allan Wells passed up the sprints.   Only Sandra Whittaker of those going to Los Angeles was out and she won the 100m and 200m.   Possibly because of the cartilage operation, Carol was not at her best with her 800m time four seconds shy of her 2:02 pb.

At the end of 1984  her best performances were  400m  57.6 ( 20th) ;   800m  2:06.5  (7th)  ;   1000m 2:49.41 (no rankings for the event) ;1500m  4:24:36  (7th)

In 1985, Carol won her sixth West District 800m title at Grangemouth on 6th May in 2:10.4 – more than three seconds faster than 1984.   On 12th May – again at Grangemouth but this time in a League Match – Carol ran 800 metres in 2:10.8 to take first place in the A race.   On May 26th however Carol ran what was to be her fastest time of the season when in the HFC UK Championships in Antrim amidst security precautions that included armed troops, sniffer dogs and close surveillance, she ran 2:06.76.  This was also only the third quickest Scottish time of the day with Liz McArthur recording 2:05.5 and Karen Steer of Exeter clocking 2:06.60.   The new all weather track in Glasgow, at Crown Point Road in the East End, was opened with a high-powered meeting in which Carol lined up against Yvonne Murray and Liz Lynch.   Yvonne was on a real high that year and won in 2:06.5 with Carol second in 2:08.7 and Liz third in 2:09.1.   Sports writers at the time were very taken with the Cameron and Carol double act as top Scottish athletes.   For instance at the Glasgow meeting they remarked on the fact that both were in second place in their respective events.  A week later (17th June) the reports read as this one in ‘The Glasgow Herald’:   “Cameron and Carol Sharp both recorded victories in an exciting GRE Cup second round meeting where the semi-finals in both the men’s and women’s contests were decided by the final event, the 4 x 400 metres relay, at Grangemouth Stadium yesterday.   Sprinter Cameron won the 100m in 10.5 sec with a slight following wind, and later added the 200m with the wind now slightly in his face in 21.0, the fastest legal hand timing in Britain this season.   ….   Mrs Sharp won the 1500 metres in 4 min 30.1 sec to help McLaren Glasgow wi   n the women’s contest.”

The Scottish championships were held at Meadowbank on 22nd June and Carol was the defending champion in her event but Cameron could not run on the day.   Ann Purvis was the form athlete that Saturday and won (2:05.75) from Carol (2:07.9) and Karen Hutcheson (2:08) .     This was followed with a victory at Cosford in the British League in a time of 2:07.4.  The season ended with a victory in the British League Match on 25th August in which Glasgow AC gained promotion to Division One of the League.   She won her race in 2:08.6  and the Press linked this with Cameron’s victory in the Zurich spectacular meeting where he was timed at 10.31 sec for 100m which was the fastest time by a British sprinter that year.   At the end of another very good year, Carol was again ranked in four events with the 800m being the highest position.   They were  400m in 57.3 (18th);   800m in  2:06.76 (5th);   1000m in  2:48.86;   1500m in  4:30.1 (15th)

1986 was Commonwealth Games year again and it was in Edinburgh too.   All Scots eyes were on selection – as were the eyes of Anglo-Scots who saw Scottish vests as targets, some for the first time.   There was no District title for Carol with the medals going to Christine Whittinghame (formerly McMeekin) in a fast 2:02.59 from Yvonne Murray (who would probably only run longer distances than 800 in the Games) in 2:03.6   and Sue Parker (An Anglo-Scot who, as a doctor in the Army, ran in the Army colours) in 2:04.44.   The 1500m that day was also a fast one with Lynne McDougall winning in 4:10.23 – a meeting record and 13 seconds faster than the previous year.  On 24th May in the UK Championships at Cwmbran in Wales, several Scots took part in the women’s 800m with Ann Purvis being the best fastest qualifier for the final in 2:03.25 while Carol also qualified for the final with 2:06.24.   Anne won the title in 2:01.63 with Liz McArthur of Pitreavie fifth in 2:05.03 and Carol was eight in 2:09.63.   Her heat time was to be her fastest of the season and the 800m the only event in which she would be ranked.     The following week – 31st May – was the East v West championships and there Carol was well beaten by Yvonne who won the 800m in 2:05.5.    Scottish athletics then took second place to preparations for the Commonwealth Games and the Games themselves.     That left Carol with her one best performance being the race at Cwmbran back in May.

Carol did not compete in 1987 for the best of all possible reasons – Carly Sharp was born in September.     Sister Lynsey was born in July 1990 and both girls would go on to become Scottish champions in their own right with Lynsey winning medals in European and Commonwealth Games.   In 1991 Cameron was involved in his terrible road accident and with all that going on in her personal life Carol was pretty well out of athletics from 1987 to 1992.   She did some running (800m in 2:15.09i in 1988, in 2:14.99 in 1989 and 1500m in 4:41.0, also in 1989).   She started racing properly again in 1992 and her international career started up almost immediately with representative honours and trips to Athens in 1992, Israel in ’93 and Istanbul in ’93.   The injuries kept coming back though.    Having worked with Graham Everett to start with, she says that she also owes a debt to Jimmy Campbell and she was also coached by Norman Brooke as well as having a lot of contact with Frank Dick, who was coaching Cameron.

The following is a summary of her first season back.   There was no 800m in the West Districts in 1992 so Carol entered the 1500m and won in 4:46.07 for a good start to the season.   Staying with the 1500m she improved that time in Coatbridge on 31st May by 13 seconds to run 4:33.7.    In June she was back to 800m and ran 2:10.6 at Grangenouth.   In the SWAAA Championships in June a 2:12.6 was good enough for second in the Scottish Championships and she ran her best 400m of the season in London on 29th August when she ran 59.2.

By the end of 1992 her best marks were 400m  59.2  (28th) ;800m 2:10.6  (5th)  ; 1500m  4:33.7  (16th)

1993 was even better  It started with a second place in the Scottish championships, then a third place in the International v Wales on 19th February in 2:12.69 and by the end of the indoor season she had a best time of 2:09.74 run in Birmingham one week later. The summer started with a win over 1500 in 4:32.8 on Apr 25th at Crown Point in Glasgow and the second international of the year was on 26th May in  Tel Aviv on what was originally called the Small Nations International.  viz.  Scotland v Israel, Turkey and Wales where Carol ran and won in the 800m  in  2:12.03.   The Scottish championships were held on 3rd July at Meadobank and she was third in 2:11.01 for another national championship medal.   Her next race saw her finish sixth in 2:10.4 at Newham on August 6th, and two days later on 8th August at Wrexham in the  Scotland v Wales, N Ireland, North of England and the, Midlands she was third behind C White (Wales – 2:07.86). Sue Bevan, formerly Parker, (2:09.22), in 2:12.66.

The list of her representative honours is impressive if we just recap the events.   Twelve internationals over an eleven year period.

1976: England, Wales 800m

1977: Norway 800m

1978: Greece 1500m.

1979: Greece, Norway 1500m

1979: Wales, Israel 800m

1981:  Norway, Wales

1982:  Commonwealth Games

1982: Yugoslavia, England and Spain

1983:   Belgium, Netherlands  800m, 4 x 400m

1984: Iceland 800m

1985:  Catalonia, Wales, England  800m

1985:   Norway, Ireland  800m

After a wee gap, there were another four selections:

1992: Greece, Cyprus 800m

1993: Israel, Turkey, Wales 800m

1993: Wales, Northern Ireland 800

1994: Turkey, Israel, Wales 1500m*

  • This was her last international.   Carol was fourth in 4:36.86.   It was a month short of her 39th birthday and made her the oldest female to compete for Scotland in a track event.

It had been a good season for Carol and although she was eligible to run in vets races, she was not interested in that competition, preferring to test herself against the best in the land.   Her marks for the year were:    800m  2:09.74i/2:10.4  (6th);   1500m  4:32.8 (11th)

By then she had had a good career.   The girls were now 5 and 7 years old and she had had some injury trouble so the athletics took a back seat and although she had some good runs her best performances for 1994 and 1995 were 1500m  4:32.8  (11th) for 1994 and 800m  2:16.0 (14th) and 1500: 4:40.9 (17th) for 1995.   At that point Carol hung up her spikes her own career was over.

However Carly and Lynsey were both very good athletes in their own right and, with the help and support of their parents, won Scottish titles as they worked their way through the age groups.   Lynsey of course went on to win medals at Scottish, British, European and Commonwealth levels and run in the Olympic Games over her mother’s favourite distance of 800 metres.   But let no one say that Carol was not a very good runner in her own right and a real credit to herself, her club and her country.

Jack Boyd

Jack Boyd 1John Robert Boyd was born on 30th July 1933, won gold and silver at the SAAA championships, set a national half-mile record and won in a British vest – and yet very few in Scotland could tell you anything about him if they were asked.

His first major medal was won in the SAAA 880 yards held on 2nd July, 1957.   The title was won by JV Paterson in 1:53.1 while Boyd was second in 1:54.1 with J McNally (Doon Harriers) finished third in 1:55.0.    Most races being handicap races, which had the virtues of providing hard races for all types of runner whether they were evenly matched in terms of ability or not,  he did not have too many first places but on July 20th he won the half-mile at Gourock Highland Games in 1:55.7 off a mark of 8 yards to beat W Morrison of Larkhall, off 22 yards.   The ‘Glasgow Herald’ described the race: “JR Boyd (Glasgow University) was the backmarker in the open half mile, but he took the lead in the last lap, and won easily in the time of 1:55.7.”   But the best race of the year for Boyd – maybe even the best of his career – was one in which he finished fifth.   It was at the Rangers Sports on 3rd August and the report from the Glasgow Herald tells the whole story.

“One record was equalled and one broken at the seventy-first annual sports of Rangers Sports on Saturday at Ibrox Stadium.   MA Farrell (AAA) won the invitation event by less than three yards and equalled the all-comers record of 1:49.2.   The next three in the race, D Johnson, B Hewson and M Rawson were all credited with the same time of 1:49.6.   The native record of 1:51.9, held by JV Paterson (Edinburgh University) was broken by JR Boyd (Glasgow University), who finished fifth in 1:50.7.    Paterson himself set so fast a pace that he completed the first lap in 52.5 seconds and held a comfortable lead from the more experienced half-milers, who did not however show any anxiety until 300 yards from the finish when they closed with Paterson.   There then ensued a magnificent finish in which Paterson was left trailing.”   

The English contingent was in evidence at many meetings in Scotland in July and August and those hoping to see Paterson andBoyud in action against them at Cowal 31st August were disappointed when M Rawson (Birchfield), JV Paterson and JR Boyd all pulled out of the half-mile which was won by M Farrell (Birchfield) in 1:55.2.   The English athletes were also out in force a week later at Shotts Highland Games with Bill Dance winning the open half mile and GE Ogle winning the Mile but  Boyd was out in the medley relay for Glasgow University.   “Glasgow University were all powerful in the medley relay.   JR Boyd gained a good lead over the first half mile and his three colleagues saw to it that their rivals did not get within challenging distance.   They won in the good time of 3:40.2 despite a wind of gale force which met then in the finishing straight.”

Boyd was not out in any of the major cross-country events in the 1957/58 winter.   The reason was maybe apparent when he finished third in the 880y at the Police Sports at Ibrox on 14th June behind Donnie McDonald (Garscube) and Les Locke (Polytechnic) – running in the colours of the RAF.    He was four places further up than in 1957 when he won the 880 yards at the Rangers Sports on 2nd August.   “JR Boyd, formerly of Glasgow University, has certainly returned to form since he joined the RAF.   His half-mile win in the good time of 1:50.8 was only one-tenth short of equalling his own native record – a performance which helps to justify the claim that was made for his inclusion in the Empire Games team.   Boyd was not content with one achievement for he went on to win the open furlong handicap from 10 yards in 22.7 seconds.   His start in this race was generous.”  

The actual half-mile result was: 1.  JR Boyd;   2.  T Cox (AAA);   3.   H Haus (Holland).   1:50.8.

He followed this on 9th August with a run in the invitation 1000 yards at the Edinburgh Highland Games.   The report read:   M Blagrove (Ealing and England) and JR Boyd (RAF and Scotland both broke the 1000 yards record of 2 min 11 sec held by C Beetham of the USA for 19 years.   Their times were 2 min 10 sec and 2 min 10.9 sec.   No doubt Boyd will be credited with a native record.”   Coming as it did so soon after the Empire Games in Cardiff there were many very good Games athletes on display – we need only mention Peter Radford in the 100y, Milka Singh, John Salisbury and  John Wrighton in the 440y, George Kerr, Mike Rawson and Mike Farrell in the 600 yards, M Lincoln, D Ibbotson in the Mile, Basil Heatley, John Merriman and Onentia of Kenya in the two miles to give some idea of the standard which went all the way through the track programme and the field events were every bit as good.   If Edinburgh was the most glamorous Highland Games, Cowal was the best attended and it was there on 30th August that Boyd ran in an invitation mile.   Billed as an attempt on the Scottish record by Graham Everett, it narrowly missed the target although it was won by Everett in 4:07.5 with Bert McKay (MYMCA) second and Boyd third.   Donnie McDonald of Garscube was the early pace-maker and took them through 440 in 58.5 and 880 in 2:01.4.   At this point Everett took the lead and came through three-quarters in 3:04.6.   Given that the existing record stood at 4:06.6 he looked as though he could get the record but the wind became strongerand slowed him to a 62.9 last lap, leaving him 0.9 outside.

Boyd, no doubt because of the RAF connection, did not race in Scotland very much in the early part of the season but had a very good late season.   When the SAAA championships came around at the end of June, he was favourite to win the title.   He did – but John Wenk, an Anglo Scot, gave him a harder fight than everyone expected and finished only a couple of yards down – see the picture at the top of the page.   His time in the RAF may have come to an end by now for he was running in the colours of Ayr Seaforth AAC.   Every eighteen year old had to do two years national service, most serving in the Army although those in ‘reserved occupations’ could have a deferment until their training was complete.  Back to 27th June – Boyd won in 1:54.2 from Wenk with Neil Donachie in third place.   A week later, 4th July, Boyd won the East v West inter-area match at Scotstoun  from Neil Donachie in 1:54.3.

On 11th August at the White City Boyd, now running regularly in the Seaforth vest, qualified for the final of the 880y by only 0.05 of a second but made nothing of it in the final, finishing seventh in a race which had a very slow first lap and a much faster ‘burn up’ on the second.    Keddie in his centenary history of the SAAA suggests that Boyd’s run in the GB  ‘B’  International at St Helen’s on 25th July was his best ever race.   The match was against Holland and he won in 1:52.4  a faster time than he had done in the SAAA.   His season continued to the Edinburgh Highland Games on 22nd August where it drew to a close  when he finished third in the 880 yards behind McClean of Ireland and John Wenk.

1959 had been a fairly good season with an SAAA title, a win for the British B team and best times of  51.4 sec for the 440 which placed him 20th in Scotland and a best 880y of 1:52.4 which placed him second.   There were no marks for Boyd in the ranking lists at the end of 1960 and he did not appear in any of the championships or major Highland Games or sports meetings although he was in action in the following summer.

On 29th April, 1961, the new track was officially opened at Dam Park in Ayr and, as a member of the local club, Boyd turned out in the half-mile.   He won from fellow Seaforth member Jack Davidson in 1:58.5 with J Brownlie of ESH third.  Boyd won his first championship medal for some time on 27th May at Westerlands in the West District championship half mile and finished third behind Willie Morrison of Larkhall YMCA (1:58.1) and Bill Black of Maryhill.   His place as the Ayr Seaforth half-miler seems to have been taken by Jack Davidson who won many races over the summer, including most inter-club fixtures.   Nevertheless by the end of the year, Boyd was credited with an  880 in 1:56.2 which placed him 16th in the rankings.

He was a good club man and is reported to have run in many relays at this point of his athletic career.   In 1962 he even turned out in, and was ranked nationally in,the 440 yards hurdles.   If he turned out in the inter-club fixture with Edinburgh Southern Harriers on 28th April, he did take first place in any event but the word is that he probably did run.   The middle distance races were won by Ken Ballantyne and George Brownlie of ESH in 1:55.5 and 4:22.1.   He certainly took part the following week in an inter-club against Shettleston at Seedhill, Paisley, where Ayr won with Boyd taking the 880 yards in 2:01.2.   Ayr, as was almost habitual, both relays too.   However in the match against Victoria Park at Dam Park on 19th May, while the middle distance events were won by Ayr Seaforth the men concerned were Jim Wilson and Jim McLatchie in 1:58 and 4:22 respectively.   This time Ayr won only the 4 x 440y relay with the shorter event going to VPAAC.   Victoria Park won by only one point – 99 to 98 – and it is interesting to note that there was a Six Miles event on the programme, won by Bobby Calderwood of the Glasgow club in 32:00.4.   Unplaced in the SAAA championships at the end of June, he was also absent from the results sheet on 7th July for the medley relay at Ardeer where the 880y man for the A Team was McLatchie and for the B Team, J Wilson.   At that time apparently Jack was running mainly relays – the 4 x 440 and the sprint medley – with the well-known and respected Frank McCarvel in charge of the squad.   Nevertheless, by the end of 1962   he had an estimated 880 time of 1:57.9 which ranked him 29th in the country for the distance and he had a run over the 440 yards hurdles which was timed at 60.5 seconds which was good enough for 19th Scot over the distance.

He was not by now running as well as he had a few years earlier.  Having graduated from Glasgow University at the end of the 1950’s, his career should have been really taking off by now.   He had nothing left to prove – Scottish champion, Scottish record holder (with a time which broke Paterson’s record of three years earlier and a time which would stand for seven years) plus very good performances for Britain, for the Atalanta Club and of course for Ayr Seaforth, he had an athletics career to be proud of.

Craig Douglas

Douglas, Craig

Craig Douglas winning the cross-country league match at Hawick in 1965

He ran the last couple of miles with only one shoe on, but it didn’t make the national press.

Craig Douglas who started his running career with Teviotdale Harriers and won medals and Scottish vests before moving to Edinburgh Southern Harriers was only one of several from the club to make that move.   Ian Elliott, Brian Mather, Peter Roden and Joseph Raeburn were others who subsequently took that route.   He moved in May 1967 but we will start at the beginning when he was a junior member of Teviotdale Harriers and setting club records year on year.   I quote from the club history which, after lauding his performances as a team member starts its own profile of his career in the club colours with his domestic record setting:

“He bettered every senior club record with the exception of the Cup Race.   The first to fall was the junior championship in 1961 when he smashed Denis Riddell’s 1959 time by 32 seconds; that was followed by the senior championship by 27 seconds in 1962; the Jubilee record by 13 seconds the same year; the Jubilee by 10 seconds in 1963; the club championship by 12 seconds in 1964;  the Jubilee by 5 seconds again in 1964; the Christie Cup record in 1964, another 3 seconds off that the following and another 18 seconds in 1966; the Langheugh record was shattered by 51 seconds in 1965; and that year the Menzies went to him by 6 seconds.”   Most of us don’t know what the various trophies and records are for but they do indicate the regular. year on year improvement of a developing runner, with the records not being set by a second here or two seconds there either.

As a cross-country runner he fist appears in the records when on 5th March, 1960, he was seventeenth in the  Youths National, a position he improved to fourth a year later behind such good athletes as Jim Finn (Monkland), George Brownlee (Edinburgh Southern) and Hugh Barrow (Victoria Park) with Lachie Stewart (Vale of Leven) two places behind him.  

Having shown what he could do in the Youths (Under 17) age group his first season running against seniors was 1961-62 when he was a first year junior.   Living as they do in the Borders, Teviotdale Harriers often have to travel longish distances for competition and on 21st October 1961 they first team went to Dundee for the Kingsway Relay where they finished victorious.   Alastair Wood of Aberdeen had the fastest time of the day (13:28) with the junior from the Borders being second fastest with 13:42 and Mike Ryan (St Modans) on 13:48.   Teviotdale went one better two weeks later on 4th November when their team of Douglas, Brian Mather, George Meikle and Arthur Moodie won the East District championships with Douglas being the equal fastest time of the day with Steve Taylor of Aberdeen.   Ahead of ESH by a yard or so after two laps, they increased this to 20 yards by the finish.   Another two weeks and on 18th November he ran in his first Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay on the first stage where he finished  ninth for the Teviotdale team that finished sixth.  Back to the country for the East District league match on 2nd December where Douglas won by 70 yards from G Brownlee of Edinburgh Southern Harriers to see Teviotdale win the team contest by 33 points.   The next championship fixture was the East District championship at Dundee on 20th January and Craig Douglas was the first Teviotdale runner home, finishing fourth to pick up first Junior medal as well as a first team winner’s trophy.   In the League match in December the report put Teviotdale’s victory over ESH down to several key men being absent from the Edinburgh team, no such comments were made this time when the Borderers won by four points.   The major championship however is always the national championships and this year it fell on 3rd March at Hamilton.   Douglas ran in the Junior championship for the first time.   “AIC Heron *Edinburgh Southern Harriers) surprisingly won the Junior Championship, beating JC Douglas (Teviotdale) by 70 yards in 30 min 25 sec with M Ryan (St Modan’s) the same distance behind Douglas. ”   The Teviotdale team was third.   Douglas’s team mate Arthur Moody was eleventh and because of the fact that there were several runners too old to be international juniors in the field, they were both selected for the Scottish team for the international along with Jim Finn, Alistair Heron and Lachie Stewart.     When it came to the actual race in Sheffield on 24th March, unfortunately, it was a different story – the scoring runners were Stewart in tenth, Heron eleventh and Finn sixteenth.   Moody eighteenth and Douglas twenty first were non scorers.  

Winter over, it was time for track spikes. First Championship of the season was the East District event on 26th May at New Meadowbank where Douglas finished second in the 880y to Frank Dick who won in 2:02.6.   It was unfortunate that these were held on the same weekend as the Border Championships where Peter Roden and Brian Mather won the 880y and Mile and the Three Miles respectively in the Teviotdale colours.   The standard in Scotland at this time was high with Jim McLatchie having a very good summer and Hugh Barrow probably the pick of the Juniors but the additional hurdle for any young half-miler/miler was the number of Anglo-Scots who suddenly parachuted on to the scene.   In the SAAA championships at the end of June, the first two places in the 880y were the Wenk brothers, and the winner of the Mile was Mike Berisford all of whom were members of the Anglo-Scottish Club.    In the Braw Lads Gathering at Galashiels on 30th June Douglas won the half-mile in 1:55 from a mark of 30 yards.   Although he did not appear in the first three at any of the major meetings over the summer, by September 1962 Craig Douglas had best marks of 50.7 for the 440 yards, 1:53.7 for the half mile and 4:19.7 for the mile, which marks ranked him eighteenth, sixth and nineteenth for the year.

Craig 1961

Edinburgh to Glasgow start, 1961 

Season 1962-3 began as ever with the short relays.   The athlete’s training year usually went from October to the end of August the following year with September more of a rest month – almost always a very active rest!   For Craig Douglas as for most other endurance runners, summer 1963 started in October 1962.   The next six months would help determine to a large extent how he would perform.   He missed the McAndrew Relay on the first Saturday in October where Teviotdale finished third behind Motherwell YMCA and Dundee Hawkhill (including Fergus Murray) with all the Glasgow and Edinburgh clubs trailing.   The club team consisted of Roden, Mather, Meikle and Wilson.   After a third place in the Kingsway Relay, Teviotdale won the East District Relay title for the second year in succession with a team of Mather (16:13), Meikle (16:30), Roden (16:13) and Douglas (15:57) defeating Edinburgh Southern and Edinburgh University (including Fergus Murray).    Two weeks later on 17th November, the Edinburgh – Glasgow relay topped the agenda and Douglas was running on the first stage where he finished eighth for the team that came in sixth across the line in Glasgow almost four hours later.   Into the new year and on 19th  January, 1963, in the District Championships in Edinburgh, Craig Douglas was the first individual (“JC Douglas had a comfortable win”), he was also of course 1st Junior but the club team of Douglas, Riddell, Meikle, Hamilotn, Roden and Turnbull) finished third.   All eyes were on the national championships after that and having finished second the previous year, Douglas must have had high hopes for 1963.   Held on 28th February at Hamilton, the race was won by Fergus Murray from Mike Ryan, Alex Brown and Lachie Stewart and Craig Douglas while Heron was back in fifteenth.   Fifth behind those runners was no disgrace though and he was again selected for the international match at San Sebastian.   Lachie Stewart was top Scot when he finished in third place in the international with Douglas in tenth  place and the team winning the bronze medals.   

After two SCCU International appearances, 1963 was to see him win his first SAAA international vest.   However at the start of the season, in the East District championships there seemed to be a dearth of Teviotdale athletes -in the distance events and oneof those posted missing was Craig Douglas.   He was out the following week in the invitation three-quarter mile race at the Lanarkshire Constabulary Sports at Shawfield against Hugh Barrow, Scottish record-holder for the distance and Graham Everett the Scottish mile record-holder, but after a clash on the first bend, Barrow fell  leaving Everett to win by eight yards from Douglas with Victoria Park’s Graham Peters third.   In the Scottish championships on on 22nd June, Craig Douglas won the first of his SAAA titles.   It was over 880 yards and he won in 1:55.2 from Jack Davidson from Ayr.   The routine of sports meetings continued until there was a Hawick tour-de-force at the Falkirk FC Sports at Brockville Park on 27th July.   The track at that venue was a short track with veru tight bends that made it difficult for the low handicap runners to really open up anywhere but “JR Wilson (Teviotdale) won the handicap 880y from the back mark of 12 yards in 1 min 57.3 sec and the Scottish champion JC Douglas (Teviotdale) certainly did well to finish second with another runner from Teviotdale, P Roden from 10 yards, in third place.”   In a match between the Home Scots and the Anglo Scots at Scotstoun on 10th August, Douglas took on his predecessor as Scottish 880y champion, John Wenk.   The result was a victory for the Anglo by 1.4 seconds – 1:56 to 1:57.4.   As a reward for all his fine running over the season, he was selected for the international match with Belgium held in conjunction with the Edinburgh Highland Games at Murrayfield on 17th August.   The result tells the story of a hard fought race:   1.   Rocksaert (Belgium)  1:58.6;  2.  Douglas (Scotland) 1:58.7;   3.  Martens (Belgium)  1:58.7.

The hard facts at the end of summer 1963 for Craig Douglas were: 440y in 51.0 which ranked him twenty third; 1:55.2 for 880y ranked eighteen; 4:17.8 for the Mile ranking him twenty third.   Not as good as the previous year but half-miles are not always all about time – tactically a slow run victory may be as sweet as a one led gun-to-tape but when the best for the season is outside twentieth best Scot, it is not where the athlete would like to be.

On October 5th 1963 Motherwell YMCA won the McAndrew Relay at Scotstoun and no one was really surprised – it was the second place of Teviotdale that raised the eyebrows.   They had beaten the best that ESH, Shettleston, Victoria Park and all the rest could muster.   Mather (13:10), Harley (13:15), Wilson (13:37) and Douglas (13:16) – not one in the first half dozen times but only 27 seconds between fastest and slowest in the squad.   On 26th October in the East District Relays at Fernieside, Edinburghthey again won the title from ESH with a team of Mather (14:20), Harley (14:33), Wilson (14:26) and Douglas (14:10) – only 23 seconds between fastest and slowest in the team.  Douglas was second fastest of the day behind Fergus Murray.   One week later at Newcraighall Pit Baths, Edinburgh, Douglas won the East District League match from Donald Macgregor with the Teviotdale club team beaten by Edinburgh Southern Harriers who had all six counters in the first 11 men home.   A week’s rest then into the Edinburgh to Glasgow on 17th November.   Douglas this time had the severe test of the second stage, the lap of champions, and dropped one place, from 7th to 8th.   The single place was dropped to Calum Laing of Glasgow University on a charge from 11th to 7th.    On 31st November, at Kirkcaldy he won the second East District League match from team mate RK Harley but the club was second to ESH again.   The top men kept turning out for the club: the team was Douglas, Harley, Mather, Hamilton, Meikle and Roden.   The same six runners were the scoring men when the East District championships were held at Hawick on 18th January, 1964, and the team result was the same – ESH first, Teviotdale second – but this time Douglas was fourth behind Fergus Murray, Ron Coleman and Mel Edwards.   The third and final East District League match was held on 25th January at Musselburgh where the finishing order was Murray, Hartley and Douglas.  

The top event of the winter, even including the Edinburgh to Glasgow, the national championship of Scotland was held at Hamilton on 29th February  and Douglas, still a junior within Scotland, was fifth in that championship behind Mel Edwards, Ian McCafferty, Lachie Stewart and Joe Reilly (VPAAC), with Alex Brown in sixth place.    

Craig Douglas won his first East District track title on 29th May, 1964, when he won the 880y from Turnbull (Octavians) in 1:54.8 which was a championship record.   He had run well at the Lanarkshire Police Sports the previous year but this time it was his team mate JK Wilson who showed the way home to Graham Everett and Jim Johnston.   Unplaced in the SAAA Championships, Douglas was running in the Mile in a triangular contest at Scotstoun against Maryhill and Dundee Hawkhill and won in 4:20.8.   Then on 18th July, in a match between an Edinburgh Select and the Nykoping and Heleneholm clubs, Douglas was back down at the 880y and ‘won this event impressively’ in 1:53.3, a best ever time for any Teviotdale Harrier.   Running in the half-mile at various sports meetings and gatherings he was often handicapped out of it but at Strathallan on the first Saturday in August he won the event from a mark of only 4 yards in 1:57.9 seconds from Neil Donachie of Edinburgh AC.   Back in Edinburgh for the Edinburgh Highland Games on 15th August which incorporated a match between Edinburgh and Munich, Douglas represented the former and finished second in the 880y, splitting the two Germans, in a race won in 1:56.9.    August always ended with the Cowal Highland Games and Douglas was there on the 29th running an 880y handicap race from a mark of only 2 yards – I wonder how much easier it is to run from 2 yards than it is from scratch?   He finished second to W Robertson of Bellahouston whose time was 1:53.5.

At the close of play 1964, his best times were 1:52.8 which ranked him third in Scotland behind John Wenk (1:51.4) and Dick Hodelet (1:52.6) and 4:20.8 which had him back in twenty fifth place.

Winter 1964-5  started with the McAndrew Relay on 3rd October and Teviotdale was much lower down the results list than the year before finishing ninth.    On the very last Saturday of the month, in the East District relays, the club lost their title to Edinburgh Southern, finishing second approximately 180 yards back.   Craig Douglas ran the first stage and gave the club a lead but Kenny Ballantyne pulled it back on the second stage for the Edinburgh club and they were never headed again.   Douglas’s time of 13:43 was twelve seconds slower than Don Macgregor’s 13:10 and they were the two fastest times of the day. The Edinburgh to Glasgow was held on 21st November and this time he got the longest stage in the race to run – the seven mile sixth leg.  He retained seventh position for the team which was their finishing position.   His cross-country and road running was finally receiving notice and he was selected for the SCCU team against the Army at Barrachnie on 27th November.    He finished sixth, 43 seconds behind Fergus Murray who won the race.   Back to league duty on 5th December he won the East District league match at Newcraighall by 40 yards from Roger Young with Fergus Murray back in sixth position.   Teviotdale was unplaced but then, at that time, all three Edinburgh clubs were probably at their strongest ever and Edinburgh University won from Edinburgh AC and Edinburgh Southern.     His next representative race was on 19th December when he ran for the SCCU against Scottish Universities at Kings Buildings in Edinburgh.   Here he finished twelfth, over two minutes behind winner Ian McCafferty.

On 16th January, 1965, the Edinburgh  Districts were held at Newcraighall and Craig Douglas was third individual and Teviotdale did very well to be second team behind the all-conquering Edinburgh University squad and 23 points in front of Edinburgh Southern.   The successful team was Douglas, Raeburn, Meikle, PC Roden, AJ Roden and Riddell.    The third and final league match was at Hawick on 13th February, 1965, and Douglas won in 33:15 from Roger Young and Fergus Murray of Edinburgh University.   The team, with John Hamilton a scoring runner instead of George Meikle,  finished second.   It was now on to the National on 27th February at Hamilton.   This was his first run in the senior race and he acquitted himself well with an eleventh place finish to lead the team home in sixth place with Douglas, AJ Roden, G Meikle, P Roden, D Riddell, P Riddell the runners.

It had been a fairly successful winter for him with several victories and two representative matches and a solid debut in the senior national. At club level too, there was a good bunch of runners, most of whom had run together for years, plus some new younger men adding to the strength too.  How would he fare in summer 1965?


SCCU  v  Scottish Universities: Andy Brown, Lachie, Bill Ewing, John Lineker, Hugh Barrow, Craig Douglas, Ron Coleman

On 29th May, 1965, at New Meadowbank Douglas won the East District 880 yards title for the second time beating Martin Sinclair and Bill Ewing in 1:53.5, another championship record beating his own time of a year earlier to get his championship season off to a good start.   The West District title had been won by Graeme Grant from Mike Maclean and Brian Scobie in 1:54.3 on the same day at Westerlands.   Douglas returned to Shawfield for the Lanarkshire Police Sports on 12th June where he was third in the invitation three-quarter mile race which was won by Graeme Grant in 3:04.3 from Bill Ewing.   On 30th June, he ran for the SAAA against the Atalanta Club and won in 1:51.7 which was only one second outside the national record, beating Graeme Grant in the process.

The SAAA Championships were held on Saturday, 26th June and Grant won in 1:54.9 with Dick Hodelet a surprise second in 1:55.4 from Douglas in 1:54.6.   Hodelet who had been given little or no chance by the reporters before the event, came out of the last bend into a headwind and passed Douglas about 50 yards from the tape.   A week later in the Braw Lads Gathering at Galashiels, Douglas won the 880 yards scratch race in 1:56.5.   Then his fastest 880 yards so far came on 19th July at Salford in a match between Scotland, Wales and the Midland Counties where he finished third behind Harris of Wales and McKim of Midland Counties in 1:50.0 – exactly one second behind the winner in a tight finish.   It was almost three seconds off his pb of 1:52.8 run the previous year, was the tenth best in Britain at the end of the year and maybe demonstrates the value of good opposition in running a fast time.

On 21st August, running for Scotland against Iceland at Murrayfield, Douglas was second to Graeme Grant in the 880 yards which was won in 1:55.5.   He followed this with a very good at the Cowal Highland Games meeting on 28th August when he won the scratch 440 yards in 49.8, and the handicap 880 yards in 1:55.6 from the 10 yards mark.   His season ended there but before looking at the 1965-66 season, we should note that the 1:50.0 run at the Scotland/Wales/Midlands event topped the Scottish ranking list – the first time he had done so.   His best 440y was 49.8 which had him in twelfth position and 4:18.7 was twenty eighth.   Two personal bests (440y and 880y), two international vests, a medal in the SAAA were all evidence of a good summer’s work.   But the question that seems obvious is, why didn’t he go to the AAA’s?   Grant, Middleton and Maclean all went to the English championships and benefited from the experience, his best time had been done in England that summer so – why hadn’t Craig Douglas been down south more often?

The Scottish winter programme is very regular – you could sit down on the 1st October and write out every race that would come up over the winter – 1965-66 was no different and it would start with the short relays.  He first appears in the East District relay championships on 30th October when he was second fastest over the course.   The brilliant Edinburgh University squad provided the first two teams with the three year old Edinburgh AC in third.   Fastest over the trail was Fergus Murray (13:03) and Douglas was only four seconds slower on 13:07.   Although not racing on 6th November he was selected for the SCCU team to face the Army on 27th November along with McCafferty, Stewart, Alder, Brown, Knox and Murray.   The ‘Glasgow Herald’ report on the Edinburgh to Glasgow relay on 20th November, had an excellent photograph of him running at the front of the field on the first stage where he finished  fifth, 26 seconds behind the stage winner, Alistair Blamire.   The Teviotdale team was eleventh.   It was then a short jaunt to Glasgow Green for the match against the Army where Douglas was ninth finisher.   Selected for the Scottish Universities match, he could not run but even without him and Lachie Stewart the SCCU won comfortably.   The next championship was on 15th January at Kirkcaldy in the East Districts  where he was sixth individual although the team was unplaced.   It was a very good field indeed for this race – runners behind Douglas included Ken Ballantyne, Dave Logue and Alistair Blamire, while Ewing, Elson and Linaker were the first three.

Thereafter Craig Douglas missed the rest of the cross-country season.   The Teviotdale Harriers teams were finishing further down the order than they had been too – he even missed the national on 26th February.    However there were several months before the track season began to operate properly so there was time to get over any injuries or illnesses that may have been plaguing him.

By the time of the Scottish Cup Final on 23rd April, where it was by now customary for there to be two invitation scratch races to entertain the fans, he ran a Mile in 4:10.7 – a personal best on a good track against good opposition.   The result bears repeating:   1.   JL Stewart  4:10.5;  2.  JC Douglas  4:10.7;  3.  I McCafferty  4:11.5;  4.  WH Barrow  4:11.5;  5.   K Ballantyne  4:12.5;  6.  J Linaker  4:12.9.   Just a month later, on 28th May he won the East District 880y championship for the third consecutive year defeating Adrian Weatherhead, another very good runner, in a time of 1:53.6.   Again selected for the match against Wales and the Midland Counties on 4th June at Wolverhampton, Douglas had another fine run to finish second to GA Dean (Midland Counties) with the respective times being 1:52.0 and 1:52.5 and it is worth noting that Dean ran for GB in the Tokyo Olympics that same year.  he won the 880 for the SAAA against Atalanta on 29th June in 1:51.5.   He was for some reason that is not obvious seldom given much press attention but on this occasion there was an interesting comment made by the ‘Glasgow Herald’ reporter who said “At the Scottish Championships on Saturday Douglas confessed to having renounced all ideas of concentrating now on the 880y – he would like to have a go at the mile – but his 1 min 51.5 sec last night certainly showed he has not lost the knack of two-lap running.   In second place, as a non-counter, was ADS Middleton whose 1:51.9 is his best yet, and even more praiseworthy is the 1 min 52.4 of A Stewart, still a Junior athlete.”   The reference to the SAAA Championships the previous Saturday is to the fact that Douglas was not among the medals at the SAAA Championships on the final Saturday in June where Grant, Hodelet and Maclean took the medals in that order.   The official history of Teviotdale Harriers said that by winning against Atalanta he preserved his record of never having been beaten by a Scottish runner in 1966.

He kept it too at the Strathallan Gathering where he was the back marker in the handicap 880y.   The Herald report read that “the 880y was one of the few races won by a backmarker.   Douglas was conceding four yards to R Hodelet, runner-up in this year’s Scottish championship, and yet, at the bell, he was in the lead.   Hodelet briefly challenged and went into the lead but it was a token effort.   With 220y to go Douglas sprinted easily ahead leaving Hodelet to fight, in vain as it turned out, against an upper handicap man.”  The ‘upper handicap man’ as it turned out was Adrian Weatherhead off 14 yards!   Douglas’s time was 1:53.9.   Then came the weekend of the Cowal Highland Games at Dunoon.   The weekend was described in the club history as follows:

“Craig travelled the length and breadth of Britain to compete in prestige events.   An example of this being in August 1966 when he covered a distance of 1000 miles in three days.   That was Cowal Games, Dunoon, on the Friday and Northampton on the following day.   In the former his win in a special invitation 880y in 1:51.1 was the highlight of the meeting.   That day there was a new kind of prize for amateurs.   Cigarette gift coupons were given by the sponsors instead of the usual trophies and prizes, so that the successful athletes could choose their own gifts.   Craig received 5000 for his win.   Also on offer were 10,000 coupons if the Scottish record was broken.   Craig’s time was only   eight-tenths of a second outside.   On the Saturday he was in Northampton competing in the one mile and in this he reduced the 1964 club record of 4:10.8 held by R Wilson to 4:09.7.   Some weekend indeed!   The following month he was competing against Munich, again winning, this time the 800m and he also had the distinction of carrying the Scottish flag in the closing ceremony.” 

In 1966 the Edinburgh Highland Games did not incorporate an international nor even an inter-cities match but there was among the invitation events a 1000y race.   “JP Boulter, England’s fastest half-miler, took the opportunity of renovating the Scottish 1000 yards all-comers record of 2 min 10.8 sec which had stood for eight years when he recorded 2 min 9.2 sec .   In third place JC Douglas (Teviotdale) almost burst a blood vessel when he heard he had equalled the national record of 2:10.9.   He has probably had his best season so far in his athletics career.”  

The Munich Match (17 September) referred to above was the return of the 1965 meeting held at Murrayfield and Douglas won the 880 yards in 1:54.2 while Graeme Grant won the 1500m in 3:50.2.

It had been a good summer, a very good summer, and Craig’s 1:49.9 in Birmingham in July ranked him second behind Graeme Grant’s 1:48.9m, his 4:09.2 was eleventh best and his best 440 time (Hawick, 13th July) of 51.1 twenty fourth.   The ominous sign for those from Hawick was that he appeared on the ranking lists for   ‘Teviotdale/ESH’.

He went into the winter of 1966/67 in very good shape and on a high psychologically.   A feature of the East District Cross-Country relay championship on 29th October was the first and third places of Edinburgh University – but they were split by four members of the Teviotdale ‘old firm’.   Douglas, Mather, Meikle and J Raeburn were the runners and Raeburn had third fastest time of the day and Douglas fourth quickest.   The 19th November was the date for the Edinburgh to Glasgow and Douglas had a very good run on the seventh stage pulling the team from  11th to 8th with equal second fastest time of the day.   Not selected for the SCCU v the Army the following Saturday he passed on the East District league match on 5th December.   The reason was that he was making his indoor racing debut in December 1966 at  Cosford where he won the 880 and two months later on 4th February placed fourth in the final of the AAA’s indoor event which was won by another Scot, Duncan Middleton.    Indoor athletics was a relatively new development in Britain.   After some faltering attempts of racing on indoor surfaces had failed because of the difficulty of racing on a flat surface with short laps, or on at least one occasion after dusting the surface of said track with a kind of talcum powder causing the runners to slide off the track, the track at RAF Cosford, just north of Wolverhampton was accepted as the ‘home’ of indoor athletics.   Assembled when required in part of a disused aircraft hangar and very cold a lot of the time  the banked track was a good one for running fast and the venue was easily accessible from all parts of Britain.

Craig D

Craig leading John Davies (6), Duncan Middleton and John Gingell at Cosford

There is no trace of Craig Douglas in the East District Championships of 1967 nor in the National – reconciling the work required for long distance running over rough terrain with dykes to climb and streams to cross with that necessary for top speed indoor 880y running was probably the problem.   However we learn from the club’s centenary history that

“In May, 1967, following what was described as an ‘internal dispute’ Craig resigned from Teviotdale Harriers and joined Edinburgh Southern.   This is no place to discuss the ‘whys and wherefors’ of the row, suffice to say that Teviotdale Harriers lost the services of a great athlete.   Craig’s international career continued with his new club until his retirement from competition in 1977 following a leg operation.” 

The writer comes across in several passages as a friend and admirer of Craig and what he contributed to the club by a man who supported the club to the best of his ability up to that point when his enthusiasm went to the ESH cause.

Douglas Craig2

Edinburgh Southern Harriers took part in many more league and cup competitions than Teviotdale Harriers did with more opportunities for competition but summer 1967 was a relatively fallow year for Craig as he came to terms with the demands of running with a new club and probably a new competition structure.   His first time of note was a 50.3 440 yards at Hawick on 14th June which, at the end of the summer placed him twenty second in Scotland.   There were no medals in either District or National Championships, nor were there any representative matches either.   His best half-mile of the year was a 1:52.7 when finishing fifth at Grangemouth on 24th June in the Scottish championships behind Middleton, Maclean and Grant.   Exactly 2.5 seconds behind the winner and 1.5 behind the third place he was close but not nearly close enough.

Having changed clubs, Craig was banned from team competition and for winter 1967-68  he was ineligible for any relays or as a counting runner in any team event.   He didn’t even appear as an individual entry in any event that winter, and if he competed on the boards at Cosford he was neither placed nor did he turn in a noteworthy time.

Summer 1969 was when Craig Douglas won his first 1500m championship medals – and he won them at both District and National levels. It was a good year with rankings in the top ten for 800m, 1500m and Mile.  One of his first times was also his best – he ran 3:46.3 when winning at Edinburgh on 16th May – a time which by the end of the season ranked him number two in Scotland but number twenty in Britain.   The only Scot ahead of him was Ian Stewart on 3:39.1 and that topped the British lists.   That set him up for another race in Edinburgh.

The East District championship was on 31st May at New Meadowbank and after a hard race he won in 3:48.1, two tenths faster than Adrian Weatherhead in second place with John Lees nine seconds back in third.   Before the SAAA championships, the SAAA v Atalanta match took place on 21st June at Grangemouth with Craig running in the 800m for the SAAA team.   He won in 1:54.1 from Alan McDonald who was only one tenth behind him.   Then came the hard race for the national 1500m title.   Mike Bradley of Paisley had been having a very good season indeed with some good victories, Hugh Barrow of Victoria Park was a hard and experienced racer of genuine quality and both were among those who lined up for the start.   The times of the first three tells a lot about the race.   First, Craig Douglas in 3:50.2; second Hugh Barrow  3:50.3; third Mike Bradley 3:50.8.   One tenth separating first and second and only half a second between second and third.   His best, ie fastest, 800m run was on 23rd August at Nottingham where his 1:52.3 was good enough to win and his third title was the Inter-Counties which he took in 3:54.1 to defeat Mike Bradley by only 0;4 of a second.

It was undeniably his best season as a 1500m runner where he ranked second with his 3:46.9 behind Anglo Maurice Wands.    His best Mile time of 4:11.1 placed him eight and his 1:52.3 for 800 had him equal sixth with Hugh Barrow.   The time was an 880y time less 0.7 seconds.

in 1969-70 Craig seemed to return to his original pattern of running road and cross-country over the winter season.   ESH was having a good year and there was a very good bunch of endurance runners in the club at the time.   They were fourth in the McAndrew without Craig’s services.   The team which won the Kingsway Relay for them contained Fergus Murray, Ken Ballantyne, Donald Macgregor and Gareth Bryan-Jones, while the team placed fourth in Glasgow had been Billy Murray, Ballantyne, Jack White and F Steell.   Seven runners, all top class and there were others waiting in the wings.   One of them joined in a third permutation when the East District Championships took place on 1st November.   The ESH team was down behind Edinburgh AC at halfway (Billy Murray 13:49 and Ken Ballantyne 13:27)  when Fergus Murray (13:04) put them in the lead and Craig Douglas (13:22) finished the job bringing them home first.   Then came the Edinburgh to Glasgow on 16th November with Craig running on the seventh stage.   The team was in first place at that point and he held on to it quite comfortably, the flashy-phrase making ‘Glasgow Herald’ man reporting that “Craig Douglas, his dumpy looking legs devouring the route through Coatbridge, reached the new checkpoint in record time” 

There was a massive change of emphasis the next week when Craig went form an eight stage team race on the roads to an 800m indoor race in Cosford where his 3:50.6 took him into second place, albeit with the same time as the winner.   However on the 24th January 1970 Craig was a key member of the team that won the District cross-country championships at Grangemouth when he finished sixth and third scoring runner for the ESH team that won the title.   He was also running close to his best when, in the national championships at Hamilton on 21st February, he finished sixteenth ahead of such luminaries as Pat Maclagan, Alastair Johnston, Eddie Knox, John Myatt and Andy Brown – fourth counter for the gold medal winners.

On 25th April in a five-way League Match in which ESH beat all the other competing teams (VPAAC, Shettleston, Octavians and Bellahouston), Craig won the 800m in 1:57.1.   The ESH team continued to do well in the various leagues and Craig contributed his share of the points.   On 16th May in a match in the British League at Sale, he won the 1500m in 3:52.8.   Craig’s next victory came in the East District championships on 23rd May when he won the 800m in 1:51.4 from Convery of Edinburgh AC.   This was his fifth East District 800m title.   The Scottish championships were held early in 1970 because of the upcoming Commonwealth Games and Craig entered the 800m.   He finished third behind Mike Maclean (1:51.2) and Ross Billson (1:50.6) in 1:51.0.   After this it was unlikely that he would be selected for the Games team but he kept on running well and on 20th June he had two victories in another 5-sided inter-club Scottish league match at Grangemouth.   He won the 800m in 1:54.0  and the 1500m in 4:00.    Next there was a British league meeting, also at Meadowbank, on 4th July when he won the 1500m in 3:51.8 helping ESH to a handsome victory.   The Duns Games were held on 11th July and Craig was back to his roots in handicap racing in Borders Games.   Out in the 880 yards, running from a mark of 2 yards, he won in 1:54.1.   His value to ESH was emphasised if further emphasis were needed, when he won the A 800m in the final British League fixture on 22md August at Woodford Green in London.   Then on 5th September they won the Scottish league title to keep it company.

It had been another good season which had been started a solid winter of cross-country success mixed with indoor running and had seen another SAAA medal, this time bronze, and a host of wins in league matches of varying standards.   As far as times were concerned, his best 800m was the SAAA’s 1:51 which placed him fourth in the standings at the end of the season, he had a 3:47.1 1500m (fifth) and a superb 4:01.8 mile (also fifth).

Not in the first team for ESH in the McAndrew at the start of October, 1970, Craig ran the lead-off leg for the Dundee Kingsway race which the club won comfortably with their three fastest men also being the day’s three fastest times:  Douglas 13:45; Macgregor 13:30, Bryan-Jones 13:40 and F Murray 13:51.    On the following Saturday, 24th October, he finished third in the East District League match at Hawick behind Weatherhead (EAC) and Bryan-Jones) to assist the club to first team position.   If the Edinburgh University team had been the one to beat for the past few years, that role was now assumed by ESH.   The East District cross-country championship relay was held on 7th November at St Andrews.   Douglas (11:16) and Macgregor (11:19) had them well ahead at half distance and Bryan-Jones (11:39) and Murray (11:45( extended the lead, and the second team of Craven, Matson, Coyle and Logue were second (the first two named were faster than Fergus Murray by 4 seconds) and the C team of Stark, Ballantyne, Wood and McFall was third.   Douglas had second quickest run of the afternoon, three seconds slower than Weatherhead.   If they were the top dogs in the east, Shettleston were their equivalent in the west and they came head to head in the eight stage Edinburgh to Glasgow on 21st November.   Craig was on the first stage against such contenders as Tom Grubb of Shettleston, Alistair Johnston of Victoria Park and Jim Wight of EAC.   He had run the stage before and this time he was first to reach the change-over eight seconds up on Grubb and ten ahead of Bellahouston’s Brian Goodwin.   Thereafter they stayed in front to the end of the fourth stage but on the fifth Henry Summerhill set a new stage record in taking first place from Graham Stark of ESH.   Although each of the Edinburgh team’s last three runners (Macgregor, Craven and Ballantyne) ran faster that the opposition (Stewart, Meneely and Scally), the Glasgow side managed to hold on to the lead to win by only 13 seconds.

Running for the SCCU against the Army and the Northern Counties on 26th November at Leeds, the ‘chunky Edinburgh Southern Harrier’ took the lead early in a match in which Kip Keino featured running for the Army but fell back to finish a very good sixth ahead of many quality runners.

Craig and Hugh 67 NI

Craig tucked in behind Hugh Barrow: North Inch Relays, 1967

On 12th December Craig was running for the Scottish team in an inter-area match where he was forced to drop out because of severe stomach pains about halfway through the race.   Most unlike him – there were others who dropped out from time to time, and at times the excuses were stretching credibility a bit, but he was not known for this and it was a loss to the Scottish team.   He was back in form again on 23rd January in the East District championships as part of the ESH winning team of  Murray (2), Bryan-Jones (3), Macgregor (7), Douglas (8), Craven (9) and Ballantyne (13).   They won by 81 points.   The big championships of the winter, the national cross-country championship, was held on 20th February  when ESH (109 points) had again to give best to Shettleston Harriers (83).   It had been a good winter for Craig and he must have been looking forward to another good track season.

He started track racing with a 51.3 seconds 400m at Meadowbank on 25th April in the ESH club championships finishing second behond Jack Walker and then, not content with that, he won the 1500 in 3:49.4.   Emmet Farrell liked to ask “does distance blunt speed?’ and no doubt he would have quoted Craig as proving something but it was a good start.   A week later he took part in a four-cornered inter-club between ESH, Heriot-Watt, Edinburgh and Aberdeen Universities and won both 800m and 1500m – the 800m in 1:53.5 and the 1500m in 3:47.0.   Fast 400m, 800m and 1500m over two Saturdays – Craig showed again, as he had done through his career, that cross-country distance hadn’t blunted his speed.   Another good run at Hampden before the Cup Final on 8th May over the invitation 1500m: Mike McLean set the initial pace, Ron MacDonald took the lead and in the last lap he was challenged by Weatherhead and Douglas.   In the end McDonald won by only one tenth from Douglas against a very good field  in 3:53.2.     Weatherhead was 3:55.   The District Championships were held on the 29th May and Craig took part in both 800m and 1500m and came away with gold and silver.   The gold came in the 1500m which he won in 4:01.1 from Ken Ballantyne in 4:02.2 and Ian Graves in 4:03.2.   In the shorter distance he was second (1:55.3) to Graeme Grant 1:54.1.

The SAAA championships on 26th June provided Craig with his second championship title of the year and the second national title at the distance.    He won in 3:54.3 from Ron McDonald (3:54.5) and John Cherry (Springburn but running in the colours of Boston University) who was 3:56.6.   Leage athletics had not figured too much in the programme up to that point but on 3rd July the British League match was held at Meadowbank and the reporter remarked “Craig Douglas, the Scottish 1500m champion, was outstanding for the home club with some impressive running in the 800 and 1500m which he won in 1:50.2 and 3:47.0 respectively.   Peter Stewart (Birchfield) returned a personal best time of 1:50.8 in taking third place in the 800m.”   Back to Borders handicap running a week later when he was at Duns AC open meeting.   Running in the 800m handicap off virtual scratch of 2 metres, he wound his way through a field of 33 runners to whom he was conceding starts of up to 66 metres to win in 1:53.5.   His commitment to the club was seen at the start of August (7th) in the Octavians Relays at Meadowbank when he was part of the 4 x 400m team with Adam Chedburn, AT Murray and Graeme Grant which won in 3:24.3, and also in the  4 x 1500m team which won in 16:08.4.   The quartet was J Raeburn, K Ballantyne, G Grant and C Douglas and the time was a new record – but could not be recognised as such because one of the team was born outside Scotland.   The record went instead to the Bellahouston team who finished second in 16:12.6.   In the battle in the British League to stay in the first division at Smethwick on 21st August, he pulled a muscle in the 800m but limped painfully to the finish for last place points.

The season was pretty well over from that point.   How had he done?   Well there were two 1500m titles, and a share of two more in the relays, there were times of 51.3 for 400, 1:50.2 for 800m,  3:47.0 for 1500m and 4:10.3 for the Mile.

Why change a winning formula?   Came the short relays in October and he was there.   His first fastest time came when he won the first east district league match at Hawick leading ESH to victory in the team race.    As an indication of how the make-up of the teams had altered, the club’s counters were Douglas, Raeburn, Craven, Kerr, McFall and Coyle.   Some of them were back for the East District relay two weeks later when Douglas, Brown, Bryan-Jones and Murray won with Craig on the opening stage having the second fastest time of the day – 5 seconds slower than Andy McKean.   The third weekend in November meant the Edinburgh to Glasgow relay and on 20th November the teams lined up at Fettes College gates.   Shettleston won, but their battle was with Victoria Park for most of the route rather than Edinburgh Southern.   Craig was on the fifth stage and up against Norman Morrison, Bill Ewing and Joe Reilly.   Running into a very fierce headwind on the long exposed stretch through Blackburn he moved the club up one place with the fastest time of the afternoon which was twenty seconds up on Reilly and over half a minute faster than Morrison.   The Brampton to Carlisle ten miles road race was usually held on the same day as the Edinburgh to Glasgow but in 1971 it was a week later and on Saturday, 27th November, Craig was second over the ten miles distance four seconds behind Blackburn’s John Calvert who was timed in at 48:52.   The next East District league match was on 4th December and ESH again won the team race with Craig in seventh second club counter behind Craven’s fifth place.

Into 1972 and that was the year when the Springburn Cup applied for and got the same date as the classic Nigel Barge race which was always held on the first Saturday in the New Year.   The Barge was the classic start to the new year and their entries held despite the competition.  Nevertheless many runners went to the better sponsored Springburn including almost all the Shettleston Harriers.    No matter, Craig ran in neither but he did run on 15th January in the East District league final – and even the reporter from the ‘Glasgow Herald’ noticed it:


Craig Douglas (Edinburgh Southern Harriers), the Scottish 1500m champion, was pressed hard by Sam Downie (Falkirk Victoria Harriers), a vastly improved junior, for the individual title in the East District league race of four and a half miles at Pitreavie.   Douglas, by his greater experience, succeeded in outwitting his rival over the last 50 yards and won by a couple of seconds.”   It was 22:45 to 22:47 at the finish.   It was also a victory for ESH – Douglas, Bryan-Jones (5), Joe Raeburn (8), Stark (15, DM Wood (17, McFall (18).   The boot was on the other foot on 22nd January in the District championships at Berwick where Downie won from Jim Wight and Craig was only seventh.   Craig did not run in the National – his attention was elsewhere.   Running in the Scottish Indoor Championships at Bell’s Arena in Perth he was second to Ron McDonald in 3:54.4 to McDonald’s 3:54.1.

It was a nice lead in to the track season where there was another medal in the SAAA 1500m championship.   Championships usually started with the Districts and Craig showed that he was in good form when he won the 800m in 1:54.3 which was three tenths ahead of GC Davies of Edinburgh University.   In the SAAA Championships however he was second behind Ronnie McDonald in one of the slower winning times – outside 4:03.   Nevertheless at the end of the year he was ranked fourteenth in the 800m with a best for the season of 1:53.8, only fifteenth for 1500m with 3:52.5 but added a new string to his bow with an indoor time of 9:18.2 for two miles.   What did 1971-72 add to our knowledge of Craig Douglas?   Well, the main points were that he was a good Two Miles runner on the indoor ttrack with its short laps and tight bendsm but also that he could fight it out with the best of them over 10 miles on the road!

Although not racing as much as usual, Craig was out in the Edinburgh to Glasgow on 18th November running the eighth stage for the ESH team that finished third.   This time he had only sixth fastest time and maintained the third position that he had taken over.   He appears in the results again on 13th January in the East District League match where he was fourth, 12 seconds behind Willie Day (Falkirk Victoria Harriers) to lead ESH to first place in the team race.   A week later, on 20th January, 1973, at Eskbank in the district championships, he finished 10th to be fourth scoring runner for the winning ESH team.   The first finisher for the club was Ian Elliott, another who had started out on his athletic career with Teviotdale Harriers.   Douglas did not compete at all in the national cross-country championship on 17th February at Coatbridge.

Summer 1973 was the only year during his entire career when Craig Douglas did not feature in any track ranking list over 400, 800 or 1500m.   Nor were there any medals in either District or National track championships.   It may be that the injury sustained in the league match mentioned above had developed into something bigger but in general, 1973 was a blank year for him.   He did run in the East District Relay however and was second fastest man in the ESH second team, behind Martin Craven and the four in the first team.   He then ran in the Edinburgh to Glasgow on 17th November that year on the third stage when he moved the club up from seventh to sixth with the third fastest time of the day for the team that finished first and took the gold medals.   In the actual District Championships on 19th January 1974 he was down in twenty seventh place, sandwiched between Mel Edwards (Aberdeen) and Paul Kenny (Dundee Hawkhill).   Came the National and there was no Craig Douglas in the field when ESH finished second to Edinburgh Athletic Club.

Having missed summer 1973 Craig competed in 1974 and had marks registered at 800m (1:55.5, ranked twentieth), 1500m (3:53.8, sixteenth) and 5000m (14:36.2, eighteenth) but Scottish middle distance running was now into the era of David McMeekin, Ronnie McDonald, Frank Clement and Lawrie Spence making the winning of medals harder although it would have been very interesting indeed to see how Craig Douglas at his best would have fared against them.   The SAAA championships were complicated further by the fact that the SAAA had encouraged many from outside the country to compete – ‘open championships’ was the phrase used and both 800m and 1500m titles went to East Germans.

The summer led in to what would be Craig’s last winter season.   He ran the first leg for the team that won the Dundee Kingsway Relay on 19th October in what was the day’s second quickest time.   He filled a similar role a week later when he led the field home on the first stage of the Allan Scally relay at Shettleston for the winning team.   The East District relays were on the 2nd November and again he ran the first stage, ran the third fastest time and saw ESH win the race.   Two weeks later, 16th November it was the prestigious Edinburgh to Glasgow relay.   ESH was set on the wining track by Colin Youngson’s first leg ‘win’, and never lost the lead.   Craig ran on the third stage and set the day’s fastest time for that stretch.   Whatever had happened during the summer, he had now run four relays in five weeks and been in four winning teams.   The first ever national four-man cross-country relay took place on Saturday 23rd November at Bellahouston and Craig could do no better than seventh on the first stage.   He could offer no explanation for what was, by his own standards, a poor run, saying only that he felt very cold for the whole distance.   The result was a win in the inaugural relay for newly-formed Clyde Valley.   Craig did get a medal – albeit a bronze – to add to his collection of District and National trophies.   He made up for the run when he finished third and first from ESH in the East District league on 30th November at Dalkeith behind the EAC pair of Alder and Wight but ahead of Gunstone and Hutton.   The next championship event was the East District Championship to be held on 16th January 1975 and Craig, in eighth place was only the fourth ESH scoring runner on the day – needless to say, they won the team race.   That only left the biggest championship of them all, the national.   This was held on 15th February at Coatbridge and ESH finished second to Edinburgh AC.   Craig was fifth counter out of six when he finished twentieth.   This was the day when the winning team had all six men inside the first eleven places and Jim Dingwall in thirteenth did not get a winner’s medal, and even their eighth runner, Joe Patton in twenty fourth, was ahead of ESH’s last counter, Nigel Bailey in twenty seventh!

For Craig, his career at the top and winning national medals was now over.   Williamson and Robson were coming up to join the McMeekin, Spence and Clement middle distance runners, and Craig’s injury problem in 1975 was such that he had to give up the sport.    He is a vastly under-rated athlete: three SAAA victories plus two silvers and two bronzes, eight District championships and two relay golds; over the country there were multiple gold, silver and bronze medals in the District and National championships and relays plus an outstanding record in the Edinburgh to Glasgow relay.   A few years later going head to head with Clement, Robson and Williamson would have been very, very interesting.   The team mates that I have spoken to all say that he was a hard running, never-give-in kind of runner and a great guy to have in your team.

Duncan Middleton

Middleton Duncan

Duncan running 1:53.4 indoors at Cosford in 1967

There were four very good half-milers in the mid-60’s and into the 1970’s in Scotland.   Dick Hodelet of Greenock Glenpark Harriers, Graeme Grant of Dumbarton AAC, Mike Maclean of Bellahouston Harriers and Duncan Middleton of Springburn Harriers.   Duncan had a relatively short career at the very top when he was winning titles, setting records and winning races but he was the only one who came into the sport with a Scottish title in his very first season.   He was an Under 15 Boy when he won the SCCU Championship at Hamilton Racecourse and several fairly intense rivalries were set up there.    Among his opponents in that race (he won in 7:58) in March 1962 were Dick Wedlock (second in 8:03), Walter Eadie (third in 8:07), Jim Brennan (fifth in 8:11); the following year as a first year Youth he was sixth (14:54), one place ahead of Wedlock (15:01) with Brennan fourth (14:39); and in the next year again, he was second (to Eddie Knox) in 15:02, Wedlock was third in 15:10, Eadie fourth in 1518 and Brennan sixth in 15:30.   It can be seen that he was mixing it with very high quality opposition and not on a one-season-only basis.   He would go on to win British and Scottish titles over 880 yards with 1967 undoubtedly his best year.   Only one year behind McCafferty and company, the ‘what if …’ question arises in Middleton’s case as in so many others in athletics.   What if he had raced over the Mile and Three Miles rather than the quarter and half-miles?   His undoubted speed would have given him an enormous advantage in the increasingly tightly fought battles up the finishing straights of the 1970’s, and the risk of injury from fast running in the cold Scottish winters.   A it is what we can say is that he was an outstanding member of a series of very good Springburn squads all the way through his career, he was a top flight middle distance runner and a credit to Scottish athletics.

Duncan Middleton was born in Glasgow on 4th July, 1946, and was only 14 when he won that SCCU Championship.   Springburn as a club was flying high – particularly among the younger athletes being produced by Eddie Sinclair’s enthusiastic coaching.   Eddie’s boys were the best in the country at the time and one of Duncan’s contemporaries from another Glasgow club had a straightforward explanation for their success.   Boys and youths races, he said followed a pattern where they started fast, steadied up or went to sleep in the middle of the race, then finished fast.   Springburn boys started fast, didn’t slow up, and finished fast.   There was no wee rest in the middle of the race.   They were all well conditioned athletes and the production line of runners like Ian Young, Eddie Knox, George Jarvie, Adrian Callan, Graham Williamson and company seemed endless at the time: every presentation was dominated by Springburn’s Boys (U15), Youths (U17) and Juniors (U20).   The seniors weren’t too bad either and won their share of medals and trophies too.   Duncan had come into a club where success was the norm and expectations were high; where there were champions to follow through the ranks.   He had a real talent which, added to the training provided, led to personal success.

In that first winter of 1961-62,  there was no Boys race in the Lanarkshire Championships but on November 25th, in the second Central League match he caused a bit of an upset as the ‘Glasgow Herald’ reported:  “D Middleton (Springburn) caused a surprise in the second series of boys races in the Central League when he beat F Wedlock (Shettleston) on the post in the senior event both finishing in 9:29.”   ‘Senior’ in this context means Senior Boy (14-16) as there were only races for Junior Boys and Senior Boys in the League.   This was because there were no races for Under 15’s in County Championships or in relays at County, District or National level.  On 16th December, the third Central League match took place without Wedlock and Middleton finished second to Fleming of St Modan’s AAC.   The next head to head with Wedlock came on 13th January in the fourth Central League match at Paisley when Wedlock defeated Middleton with Brennan third.   The next championship of course was on 20th January, 1962, in the Midlands Championship, where Middleton was second behind Wedlock but, in maybe a sign of the rivalries to come, both were timed at 8:33.   For the second race that season they were tied on times and each had won the verdict once.   On to the National at Hamilton on 3rd March and there was no doubt about the result: the ‘Herald’ again: “R Wedlock (Shettleston) lost his Boys title to D Middleton (Springburn) by 20 yards in 7 min 58 sec.”    

There were no Boys track championships at National SAAA level until 1974 so the Under 15’s ran in the track league, if their club was affiliated, in whatever open races they could find, in inter-club fixtures and highland games and in sports meetings.   It is difficult to track a young athlete’s progress through the April to September period.   Fortunately, Middleton had by now moved up to the Youths (15 – 17) age group and was competing against runners up to two years older than he was but in the West District Championhips at Westerlands on 28th May, he finished in the Youths 880 yards behind Daubney of Ayr Seaforth and Brown of St Modan’s in a race won in 2:03.2.   He occupied a similar position in the SAAA Championships at Meadowbank on 23rd June when he finished behind GK Oliver of Galashiels Academy and R Carroll of Edinburgh AC.   The winning time was 2:00.4.   Other than these two championship races, Middleton did not appear often in the results sheets over the summer and it was into winter 1962-63.

In the Lanarkshire county relay championship on 13th October, 1962,  he was only third fastest over the Youths trail behind Ian McCafferty and team mate Ian Young – but all three broke the previous record for the course.  The winter programme ran like clockwork and on 27th October, as ever two weeks after the County Championships,  he was a member of the Springburn team that finished second to Motherwell in the Garscube Harriers Youths team relays at Westerton.   Into the New Year and on 19th January in the Midland District Championships, Middleton was fourth  behind three top talents – McCafferty (14:57), Brennan (15:01),Young (15:30).   At Paisley for the Inter Counties on the first Saturday in February, he finished fourth, but well behind winner Ian McCafferty and one place behind his Ian Young.   The county, the district, the inter-counties all built up to the National, held in 1963 on 23rd February at Hamilton.    The In the National result was a win against the odds for Ian McCafferty (14:12), the odds seemingly favoured R Carroll of Edinburgh who finished third (14:27).   Ian Young was second (14:23), Jim Brennan fourth (14:39), Tom Brown fifth (14:41), Middleton sixth (14:54) and, one place behind Middleton was Dick Wedlock (15:01).

On 25th May, 1963, on a day when Hugh Barrow won both Junior and Senior Mile titles and double victories were achieved by Ming Campbell and Sandy Sutherland   in the West District championships at Ayr, Middleton won the Under 17 880 yards in 2:00.5 from fellow Springburn Harrier Eddie Knox.   The big championships however were the SAAA national championships, held at Westerlands on 22nd June, with Ming Campbell winning three titles in the sprints.   In the Youths 880 yards, the winner was David Henry from Gala Academy in 1:58.1 from Middleton in second and Graeme Grant third.   Henry was an exceptionally good young runner who held sway over all comers as a Youth but who totally disappeared from the sport after going up to university.

That winter began with a second fastest time of the day in the Youths relay at the county championships – Eddie Knox ran 9:21 and Middleton 10 minutes for the winning team.   There was another team victory on 2nd November at the relays at Garscube when the team of Knox, Gorman and Middleton won from St Modan’s AC.   Knox was fastest runner of the day this time around.   November 11th was the date, Lewisvale Spartans Relay was the occasion.   Springburn came in second with St Modan’s the winners despite Eddie Knox running the day’s fastest leg fastest in 8:52 with Middleton timed at 8:55 as second quickest runner.   In the Midland District Championships on 18th January, Middleton (14:48) emerged triumphant in front of Brennan (14:55) and Knox (15:07).   Eddie Knox, Duncan Middleton, Harry Gorman and others in Springburn were not only great team mates but they were also rivals whom spurred each other on in training under Eddie’s watchful eye and built up a fearsome reputation.   In the national championship that year the order in the Youths championship was first, Knox (14:48), second Middleton (15:02) and third Wedlock (15:10).   The ‘Glasgow Herald’ gave the race one sentence.

Middleton was acquiring the reputation of a good half-miler during the summer competitions with a gradual but consistent incremental improvement year-on-year.  Missing the county championships on 23rd May,  in the West District Championships the next Saturday, Tom Dobbin of Greenock Glenpark beat Knox in the Youths 880 yards in 1:58.8 with Middleton still nowhere to be seen.   In the various sports meetings held around the west of Scotland in May and June, the 880 races were being won by Graeme Grant, Dick Hodelet, Hugh Barrow and others but no sign of Middleton who was absent from the SAAA Championships too with victory going to Hendry in the Junior ranks and to Dobbin in the Youths race while Eddie Knox won the Youths Mile.   One has to assume that that summer was lost due to injury.   Then one reads the Athletics Weekly Who’s Who entry and reads that  “1964: No racing.   (Retired for 9 months).”   There’s a thing – not many as honest as that.   However, there was no sign of the man that summer, the winter of 1964/65, but although he missed all the championships (county District and National) he did record a time of 1:58.5 which was three-tenths adrift of his 1963 time.

But he was back in business and that was the good news for his club and for his country.  He went straight into the short relays.  Solid runs in the McAndrew, Lanarkshire and Dundee Kingsway relays got him started and in the Midland Relays at Stirling on 29th October, 1965, he was on the lead-off leg for Springburn and turned in a time of 13:10, only 12 seconds slower than Eddie Knox in the fourth placed team.   He also ran in his first Edinburgh to Glasgow relay on 20th November.   Running on the exposed 5th stage he picked the team up from ninth to eighth in the fifth fastest time of the day.   The five miles plus was also probably the furthest he had run in any serious race so far but it was not the last – he was out in the classic Nigel Barge Road Race on 8th January, 1966, where he finished 34th.   In the national on 26th February, he finished thirteenth to be Springburn’s third scoring runner behind Knox (2nd) and Gorman (9th) after a winter which showed quite clearly that he was in good shape for the summer of 1966.

As a first year senior competing in such company as Dick Hodelet, Graeme Grant, Craig Douglas and Mike Maclean, he didn’t win any of the major championships but he did take seven whole seconds from his personal best for 880 yards.   In the SAAA championships he won his heat in 1:57.6 to qualify for the final  There he was unfortunate to finish fourth of the ‘big four’ – 1.   Graeme Grant 1:50.3;   2.   Dick Hodelet  1:51:50.7;  3.   Mike Maclean  1:51.2;  4.   Duncan Middleton  1:52.0;   5.   Martin Sinclair  1:52.3;   6.   Adrian Weatherhead  1:52.9.   Clearly running really well but with the standard as it was he seldom featured in published results but his best of the season was in Dunoon at the Cowal Highland Games when he was third in 1:51.3.

He switched coaches at the end of 1966, moving from Eddie Sinclair to John Anderson.   There were maybe signs of this transition when the ‘Glasgow Herald’ report on the Lanarkshire relays on 8th October commented on Middleton dropping from first to fourth on the second stage sayingAD Middleton swithering between cross-country and next year’s track aspirations“.    He was out again in the district relay on the last stage when he was outsprinted by Dumbarton’s runner for third place.   At the end of November, he ran the first stage of the Edinburgh to Glasgow and finished eighth of the twenty runners.   An interesting feature of that year’s first leg was the number of top half milers running it – Mike Maclean was tenth, Graeme Grant was twelfth and Tom Dobbin was nineteenth.   The apparent problem had been solved by the start of 1967 when, on 4th February he won the AAA’s indoor 880 yards championship.   On a day when Ian McCafferty took the headlines of the meeting at Cosford the half-miler was also entitled to a good Press.   The report read as follows:

“AD Middleton, lost in the cinder kick-back last year of Grant and Hodelet, came into his own with a great 880 yards in 1 min 51.5 sec, a UK all-comers best performance.   Aged 20, he has been coached by Mr JH Anderson, the national coach, since October last year and the effects have been astounding.   Limited weight training and speedwork form the basis of his preparation – they meet as often as possible at the new Grangemouth track – and the modern Middleton has responded to the work like a Pavlovian dog.   Saturday’s ploy was simple.  It was to go to the front from the outset and make J Gingell, the holder, do the worrying.   It worked wonderfully but coming off the last banking with 30 yards to go Gingell went through agonies trying to oust the Scot; he failed by a matter of inches.

Middleton thus becomes the first athlete in Springburn Harriers long history to win a senior AAA title, and strangely if he is chosen to compete against France he will have become a British internationalist before being a Scottish one.”

 The result was Middleton first in 1:51.5 with Gingell second.   His selection for the French match was confirmed the following week and he was paired with John Whetton for the 800 metres.   In the actual match in Lyons on 26th February, Whetton was replaced by Gingell who finished second in 1:53.8 with Middleton third in 1:54.2.   Outdoors, the West District championships were passed up in favour of the British Games invitation 880 yards at White City where he finished fifth, two places behind Graeme Grant (1:51.5)  in 1:52.0.     Then on 3rd  June at the Birmingham Games, Middleton was part of a Scots 1-2 in the 880 yards.   The ‘Glasgow Herald’ again: ” AD Middleton did the donkey work for more than a lap then W McKim (Midlands) shot into the lead halfway down the back straight, desperately trying to relive his four minute mile days of three seasons ago.   His onslaught flattered to deceive; MJ Maclean elegantly repulsed him coming into the home straight and a painful effort by the Englishman to withstand Middleton’s late thrust for his second place was beaten aside.”   Maclean ran 1:52.3 and Middleton 1:52.8.

A week later (10th June) at Grangemouth Stadium in the Inter-Counties meeting, the 880 yards was described as one of the best races of the afternoon and it resulted in a win for Middleton over MF Sinclair and WH Barrow who ran a personal best of 1:52.6.   Middleton’s time was 1:52.2.   Another very close finish in a half mile.   Two weeks later, 24th June, at Meadowbank Middleton set a new Scottish 880 yards record of 1:50.2.  The opposition was all there in the form of the other two top men of the period,  Maclean and Grant.   Coming in to the last 100 yards he was behind the previous year’s winner Grant, and everyone’s favourite, Maclean, but just surged past Grant and then, he said afterwards, “Mike seemed to be coming back easily to me – it made me forget how tired I was.”    He was four tenths of a second in front of Maclean and a single second up on Grant.

Back at home Middleton won the 440 yards at the Land o’ Burns Trophy meeting on 12th August at Dam Park in Ayr in 49.9 seconds while his more usual event, the 880 yards was won by Hugh Barrow from Adrian Weatherhead in 1:56.7.   Another regular late season meeting was the Edinburgh Highland Games on 19th August and this time Middleton was second to Grant in the 880 yards in 1:54.3 – only one tenth away from first.

By the end of summer 1967, Middleton was in a whole different class to anything he had been before.  Ranked at three events – 440 where 49.9 put him eighth, 880 1:48.6 first and Mile 4:12.7 eighteenth.   That plus competitive success at GB and Scottish levels plus his first British international vest.    ‘Scottish Athletics, 1968′ (The statisticians’ yearbook) said:   “Duncan Middleton, the 1967 AAA Indoor 880 yards winner and record holder, showed fine judgment and pace to hold off the strongly fancied Mike Maclean and establish a new championship best of 1:50.2.  The stylish and intelligent Springburn runner had a successful season and excelled himself in the AAAfinal in returning his best time of 1:48.6 for fifth place in a strong field.”

The change of coach and success indoors had not taken him away from the relay season in October.   On 14th October he ran the first leg for the team that was second to Shettleston with a time only slightly slower than Eddie Knox.   Dundee Kingsway Relay was the following week and again Middleton was in the team which this time could only finish fourth and out of the prizes.   In the District Relay on the 28th of the month he ran fourth for the Springburn team that won silver in the race, albeit he was the slowest club runner on the day.   He did not run in the Edinburgh to Glasgow in 1967 though.

His new year started with the AAA’s indoor championships on 3rd February in the RAF hangar at Cosford  where John Gingell won back his title with Middleton third  in 1:53.6 and Craig Douglas fourth in 1:53.9.   Unfortunately the Olympic year of 1968 did not have many happy results for Middleton.   On 3rd June, 1968, he ran in the British Games at White City and could only finish eighth in 1:52.2 while Mike Maclean managed to run an excellent 1:49.8 for fourth place.   This was to be Middleton’s fastest time of the year – ranking him fourth.   The statisticians’ yearbook commented that ‘Middleton’s decline and eclipse in the major races was a disappointment.’   His only triumph was winning the Inter-Counties in 1:54.9 from Colin Martin (1:55.5).

In winter 68/69 he ran but as not in his best form.   For instance, in the District  Relays he was in the THIRD Springburn team of four with Ian McIntosh, Nicky Souter and Tom O’Reilly.   The first team was sixth, the second team eleventh,  and the third team 24th, while Duncan himself was the eight fastest of the twelve.   This time he was not in the team for the Edinburgh to Glasgow but he was out in the District Championships on 18th January when he could only finish 84th while Springburn won the team race with 72 pints.   By the end of winter 198/69 his career was effectively over.   There were no more medals in any championships, indoor or out, Scottish or British, gold, silver or bronze for Duncan Middleton.

It had been an interesting career yielding more success than most of the athletics population can ever dream of – British gold and international representation as well as Scottish gold, British and Scottish records and yet it was such a short spell at the very top.     But at the end of the day, Scottish athletics is lucky to have had his services and he himself can be proud of what he achieved.


Duncan Middleton in the McAndrew Relay 1966

Duncan was the subject of an ‘Athletics Weekly’ Who’s Who in December 1967 and it is reproduced below.

“Full Name: Alexander Duncan Middleton.   Born in Glasgow 4.7.46.   5’11”, 140lb35″ chest; 52 pulse at rest; commercial student; Springburn Harriers; single; coached by John Anderson (Scottish National Coach), “I was coached by Eddie Sinclair (club coach) from 1963 to 1966”, lives in Glasgow.

Became interested in athletics in 1960 – “My friends were members of Springburn Harriers and I went along with them one night in October and started cross-country and road running.”   Began at  cross-country and 880 yards; favourite event now is 880 yards.  

Best marks:   220 – 23.3 (1967);   440 – 49.9 (1967);   880 – 1:48.6 (1967);   Mile – 4:12.7 (1967);     

Annual 880 progress:   1961 – 2:08;   1962 – 2:01;   1963 – 1:58.2;   1964 – No racing (retired for nine months);   1965 – 1:58.5;   1966 – 1:51.3;   1967 – 1:48.6.   AAA indoor & Scottish outdoor champion 1967; GB international; member UK 4 x 880 record team.

Most pleasing performances were “AAA final (5th in Scottish record of 1:48.6) and Scottish AAA’s championships.”   No disappointments.  

Next year’s target is Mexico City; all time target is Empire, European or Olympic medal of any sort.   Intends competing “until I lose interest.”

Most likes “chance to meet people and the chance to travel around.   “Dislikes people who run down coaches as “bums”.   Most of them give up their spare time to help athletes with no reward other than the athlete doing well.”   View of administration: “No Complaints.”

That is where the Who’s Who item ends but this profile ends with Duncan, third from left in the back row, at a Springburn Harriers presentation in the 1960’s.

ToR Gp 1

Mike Maclean

Mike chasing Graeme

Mike Maclean (12) tracking Graeme Grant (3) off the bend.

Of the four runners who dominated the 880 yards from the early 1960s into the 1970’s, Mike Maclean (4/5/1096) was the most successful – three SAAA senior titles plus silver and bronze, AAA’s medallist, three Scottish records, topped the national rankings in three consecutive years and Commonwealth Games semi-finalist in 1970.   A record to be proud of.   He was also the only one of the four to have won the SAAA Junior half-mile – he did this in 1965 in a time of 1:57.7.

He had obviously been running for a while before that season but we will start with that summer of 1965.    Mike Maclean began by winning the handicap 880 yards in the Glasgow Championships on a windswept Scotstoun track on 22nd May in a time of 1:51.8 from a mark of 26 yards.   This set him up nicely for the West District Championships the following Saturday at Dam Park in Ayr where he finished second – one place behind Graeme Grant of Dumbarton who recorded 1:54.3.   There were Scottish Athletic League triangular matches almost every other week and since Bellahouston Harriers was in the same league as clubs such as Edinburgh Southern Harriers and Victoria Park (the strongest clubs respectively in the east and the west at the time) he was getting a number of quality races under his belt.   Greenock Glenpark Harriers had a number of very good 880 yards runners following in the footsteps of former SAAA champion Dick Hodelet, and Tom Dobbin was one of those.   Powerfully built he was a genuine talent but in the SAAA championships he finished second to the taller, more elegant Mike Maclean who won the Junior championship in 1:57.7.   Graeme Grant won the senior title from Hodelet by a mere half second in 1:54.9.   Grant and Hodelet were already active on the Highland Games circuit but Maclean seldom appeared there but he was of course getting more League fixtures at a good club level  with Bellahouston than they were.    An example of this was the Land o’Burns trophy meeting at Ayr on 14th August where Maclean had a sparkling write-up for his performance in the medley relay: “One Scottish record was broken, the mile medley (880 x 220 x 220 x 440), by Bellahouston.   MJ Maclean gave Bellahouston a wonderful lead of 10 yards after the opening leg, timed at 1 min 56 sec, which H and W Robertson succeeded in holding.   The last leg, by H Baillie, was timed by unofficial watches as 48.5 sec, with ofcourse a running start.  Even so Baillie, aged 18, showed great potential over a distance he has tried seriously only three or four times.   The club’s winning time was 3 min 28.9 sec, 1.1 sec better than the previous best by Ayr Seaforth.”

Maclean did take in the Bute Highland Games at Rothesay seven days later where he won the Junior 880 yards off scratch in 1:57.   Bellahouston also won the SAAA Junior Medley relay at Cowal on 28th August.   Bellahouston won three relay titles at Cowal (Junior 4 x 110, Senior 4 x 110 and Junior Medley) and then won the SAAA title the following week, 4th September, at Shotts where the Glasgow Herald reporter covered the race well:

“Glasgow University, holders of the Scottish medley relay title, even with BW Scobie, WM Campbell, J McGeogh and AB Kennedy, found Bellahouston Harriers more than a match for them.   MJ Maclean, a junior, obviously instructed to have as big a lead as possible over the 880 yards first leg, never let up and Scobie found it impossible to get any nearer to him than 20 yards.   Thereafter the race was as good as won for H Robertson, W Robertson and H Baillie made the most of this advantage and won by 25 yards.”   The winning time was 3 min 34 sec.

Although a speed based half miler who seemed to prefer running 440 and 880 to doing the 880/mile double, Maclean like all endurance runners of the time took part in the cross-country relays and on 9th October led off the Bellahouston Harriers four man team which won the race – the other runners were Jim Irvine, Brian Goodwin and J Wood.   He even ran in the Edinburgh to Glasgow eight man relay on the eighth stage in 1965 in the sixth fastest time of the day, only two seconds slower than the much more experienced Clark Wallace of Shettleston.

The first time that Maclean featured in the results columns in 1966 was when he finished second to Dick Hodelet in the West District 880 yards on 28th May at Westerlands.     The winning time was 1:52.2.

There was a whole host of races on 13th June and the one that Maclean raced in was the Inter-Counties Championship 880 yards which he won in 1:53.8, while rival Hodelet won the 440 yards in 49.4 sec.   That was the weekend that the team for the Commonwealth Games in Jamaica was announced and only one half miler was selected: Graeme Grant and the general feeling was that, although Grant merited his place, Hodelet had been badly done by.    He was to show during the rest of the season that this judgment was correct.   Maybe Grant also had a point to prove and he did so in the SAAA Championships at Meadowbank on 25th June when he won fairly comfortably with Hodelet second and Maclean right on his shoulder in third.   Times?   Grant 1:50.3, Hodelet 1:50.7, and 1:51.2.   Hodelet and Maclean left for Dublin and an invitation 440 yards immediately afterwards and the race took place on the Monday evening when they finished second (Hodelet) and third (Maclean)   First and second off the last bend they were both passed by Noel Carroll who won in 48.5 sec.  Both Scots set personal bests for the distance of 49.0 and 49.2 respectively.   On 2nd July both men represented Scotland against Wales and the Midland Counties at Birmingham.   The race was won by Craig Douglas who was running as a guest in 1:49.9, Maclean was second in 1:50.2 and Hodelet who had a disaster of a run could only finish down the field in 1:56.8.   This was to be Maclean’s best time of the summer and place him third in Scotland.

The Scottish 4 x 110 yards and 4 x 440 yards relay championships were held on 20th August at the Edinburgh Highland Games.   Maclean was in the Bellahouston team which won the latter race fairly easily in 3:22.9, the other runners being HJ Carmichael, W Robertson and H Baillie.   Cowal Highland Games was always a highlight of the season where the runners competed in front of big crowds on a fairly good 440 yards cinder track – fairly good compared with the short bumpy grass that were normally a feature of the Highland Games circuits.   Maclean went this year for the invitation 440 yards in which he finished third behind team mate Hugh Baillie and Victoria Park’s Bob Laurie.   The winning time was 48.7 sec.   First Saturday in September was always Shotts Highland Games (440 yards hard track, down hill back straight and uphill finishing straight) and Maclean was by now a frequent participant in these meetings.   The medley relay championship of Scotland and, of the first leg, The ‘Glasgow Herald’ said:

“The 880 yards with G Grant (Dumbarton), A Stewart (Edinburgh AC), AT Weatherhead (Octavians) and MJ Maclean (Bellahouston) was indeed a classic field of performers.   Grant, the favourite to lead the field was well and truly beaten by Maclean.”     Bellahouston again won the race with J Williams, HJ Carmichael and W Robertson completing the line-up.   The same quartet won the medley relay at Dunblane the following week to finish the season.

Mike EG 66

Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay start, 1966.   Maclean on extreme right, Grant third from the right.

More relays but this time of the road and cross-country variety and Maclean did his bit for his club, supporting teams on all surfaces.   This year his Edinburgh to Glasgow leg was the opening stage out to Maybury Cross and he was twelfth on the stage.   An interesting feature of this stage that year is that three of Scotland’s very best half milers were out on it for their clubs – Middleton of Springburn was eighth in 28:01, Grant was 10th in 28:13 and Maclean was 12th in 28:26.   It was a typical winter with solid work being done but with no spectacular results achieved.

Came summer 1967 and on 29th April Maclean started the season with a victory.   For several years there had been races at Hampden before big matches and at half time, but the were usually of one mile or even two miles but this year they introduced a half mile and Maclean won in 1:54.3 from  Hodelet who was three yards back.

Mike and Hugh

Half Mile at Hampden: Maclean wins (4) from Hodelet (2) with Barrow (5) and Grant also in shot

Back at Scotstoun on 20th May, and back on relay duty, Maclean ran the ‘glory leg’ for Bellahouston.    Read on …

“Odds on favourites in the 4 x 440 relay, Bellahouston Harriers, had to wait until the last leg before they lowered the soaring temperature of their supporters when MJ Maclean took an unchallenged lead early in the lap.   But in the first leg HJ Baillie, not yet back to peak fitness, had looked sluggish in the home straight, as A Stewart (Edinburgh AC) took the bit between his teeth in an inside lane and matched Baillie, the national 440 yards record holder, right to the change-over point.   J Convery and H Munro maintained this cheeky challenge for the Edinburgh club, before Maclean reminded them of their station in life and left F Steell to take a gallant place behind him at the tape, minutely ahead of Edinburgh Southern.”     In the West District Championships at Westerlands on 27th May, Maclean won the half mile in 1:55.1 from Hodelet and Colin Martin of Dumbarton, and the n raced the 440 yards an hour later finishing second, five yards behind Ross Billson’s  49.2.

His biggest victory of the season so far came on 3rd June in the Birmingham Games.   “Another 1-2 for Scotland came in the 880 yards.   AD Middleton did the donkey work for more than a lap and then W McKim (Midlands) shot into the lead halfway down the back straight desperately trying to relive his four minute mile days of three seasons ago.   His onslaught flattered to deceive; MJ Maclean elegantly repulsed him  coming into the home straight and a painful effort by the Englishman to withstand Middleton’s late thrust for his second place was beaten aside.”   Maclean 1:52.3, Middleton 1:52.8 and McKim 1:53.5.   On 10th June in the Home Countries International at Grangemouth, Maclean ran 48.8 for the 440 as part of the 4 x 440 relay team and in doing so almost caught Olympian John Sherwood on the third stage.

At Bellahouston Harriers, the relay successes kept coming and the inter-club triangulars also proceeded through the summer and then the SAAA Championships were held at Grangemouth on 24th June.   After his season so far, Maclean was the clear favourite for the SAAA title over 880 yards and it looked very much as though he was the winner as he came into the home straight in front of Grant with Middleton third.   But Middleton came through, passed Grant and swept past Maclean for second place.   Maclean’s 1:50.6 was an excellent time but Middleton’s 1:50.2 was better.    Both men travelled to the AAA’s championships in London the following weekend (15th July) and in the 880 yards championship final, Neither man was disgraced and Middleton finished fifth in 1:48.6 behind Boulter (1:47.3 – UK National record and equalled European record), Noel Carroll (1:47.6), K Colburn (USA 1:48), … Middleton was fifth and Maclean ninth with, unfortunately, no time taken.

Back at home, Bellahouston were not doing as well in the relays with the Victoria Park team (usually Barrow, Hepburn, Wood and Laurie) winning almost all of them, but at the end of August they, along with ESH, were the only unbeaten club in the track league top division.   The SAAA Medley Relay was decided as usual at Shotts with Maclean second on the first stage behind Barrow of Victoria Park which club kept the lead until the final change-over.   With Baillie expected be only a matter of feet behind Victoria Park’s Laurie, a great race was in prospect until Baillie was sent clattering to the ground after a collision with an opponent at the vital moment when the baton was passed.   It wasn’t their year for relays but the ‘Glasgow Herald’ correspondent commented on the track as follows: “The blame really rests with an association which can award the holding of a national event to a meeting whose track has no lane markings and is approximately 17 feet wide instead of at least 24.”   Elsewhere in the article he refers to ‘the loose surface’.    At that time even the best runners ran in such conditions which varied from bumpy grass (lots of places), short tracks (2+ laps to the half mile, often only 300 yards (and at at least one sports meeting, the track had to fit inside the goalposts), unrolled cinders, specific track knowledge was often required (eg at one meeting there was a hold about a third of the way round the top bend right on the inside of the inside lane, tracks with the first bed down hill and the second uphill and the straights parallel to one another but at different heights above sea level.   BUT – the times were good and the runners all learned how to take care of themselves in big fields on tight bends.   Victoria Park also won the relay at the last meeting of the season, held at Dunblane Gathering which was held in a natural amphitheatre or bowl with grassy banks all round the short, tight, grass track for the spectators to sit and watch the meeting.

It was more of the same in winter 1967/68 for Maclean and he again was part of the Bellahouston team that won the Renfrewshire championship on 14th October.   On 28th October at East Kilbride, he was second fastest runner for the club when they finished ninth team of the 36 complete teams.  He missed the Edinburgh to Glasgow however and started to get ready for summer 1968 which he started early, as in 1967, with a victory in the half-mile at Hampden before the Cup Final.   This year he won in 1:52.6 from Craig Douglas (1:53.3) and Dick Hodelet (1:53.9).    Not bad for early season and round a football pitch.   His first significant victory of the year however cam when he won the West District 880 yards on 27th May when he defeated John Cherry (Springburn) in 1:56.5 to Cherry’s 1:58.8 on a very windy afternoon.   On 8th June at Grangemouth in the British Isles Cup, Maclean was out in the half-mile where his 1:51.9 was 0.8 behind England’s John Davies but was good enough to take the scalp of John Whetton, third in 1:52.3.   The season was hotting up and on 15th June in the inter-area match between Scotland and Midland Counties at Leicester, he was again second .   Winner this time was Dave Cropper, the ‘Head Waiter’, in 1:51.7 with Maclean on 1:51.8.   The times tell you a lot about the Scot’s finishing kick -Cropper’s was ferocious and he was often content to sit back, let the first 700 or 750 yards roll by and then accelerate dramatically past the opposition: that Maclean was only 0.1 down would indicate that competitively he was not over-awed by the Englishman nor decisively and hopelessly beaten.

The Scottish Championships were held at Grangemouth on 22nd June and this time Maclean won his gold medal.   First in 1:51.6 from two experienced campaigners in Dick Hodelet (1:52.1) and Craig Douglas (1:52.6) it was to be the first of three for the Bellahouston Harrier.

His 1:49.9 run at Grangemouth at the start of June was to remain his best for that year placing him at the top of the rankings, with the next best being Hodelet’s 1:51.4 and Hugh Barrow’s 1:51.8 third best in the country.    He had also shown that neither travelling nor big names had the power to ‘throw’ him as Whetton and Cropper found out.   The SATS yearbook commented that ‘Mike Maclean was clearly out on his own.’


1969 would be arguably Maclean’s best with ten of Scotland’s best times over 88oy/800m to his credit, including the top six times which were all his.   Keddie in his centenary history of the SAAA suggests that 1970 might be his best year, but there is a debate to be had about that.   Winter had come in October and on 2nd November in the Midland District relays he was part of a Bellahouston team (with Goodwin, Adair and Yates) which finished third.   Not just a member, but the fastest man in the team.    The team was third in the West District Championship proper and Maclean was their first finisher when he crossed the finishing line in 14th place in a time of 33:50 with Brian Goodwin next in 33:53 and then Jack Adair sixteenth in 34:00.    No Edinburgh to Glasgow that year though. And summer that year started on

22nd March when he ran indoors at the track at RAF Cosford.   There he ran a very good 1:51.11 when finishing third. Then back home on 26th April at Hampden Park Maclean won the pre-match 880 yards in 1:54.1 from J Convery (ESH) and AJ Wood of Victoria Park.   On the third Saturday in May, 17th, it was back to Dam Park for the Land o’Burns Trophy meeting.   Strange as it may seem, Mike’s main opposition came not from Middleton, Hodelet, Douglas or Billson, but from a runner better known for 5000m running.   Ian McCafferty had been running a lot of Mile races and quite a few 800m races as preparation for the longer distances internationally and doing it very successfully with a sub4 minute mile to his credit.   However at Ayr, he had to give best to Maclean – “Another national champion to win was Mike Maclean and although he beat off a fighting challenge from McCafferty in the closing stages of the 800m fairly easily we had for a few seconds the distinct possibility of the little Law runner creating the biggest surprise of the day.”   Maclean’s time was 1:54.4, McCafferty 1:55.   In the absence of Maclean in the West Districts on the last Saturday in the month, McCafferty won the championship in 1:53 and that same weekend, Maclean was selected to run in the representative match at Leicester on 14th June.   In that match, against the Midland Counties, he won in 1:51.6 from P Miller who ran 1:52.8 – a fairly comfortable win.   On 21st June when SAAA took on Atalanta at Grangemouth, Maclean won the 400m in 49.1 while Craig Douglas won the 800m in 1:54.1.

Defending his title in the SAAA Championships on 28th June at Grangemouth, Maclean successfully defended his title when he won from Graeme Grant in 1:51.5 – Grant’s time was 1:53.2 and Billson in third was 1:54.2.   On the strength of that win he was picked for the Scottish team to compete against England, Wales and Ireland for the Cambrian Trophy.

Maclean was on a wonderful plateau that was important in pre-Commonwealth Games year.   The first major Games to ever be held in Scotland, and Maclean was heading into it  with a wonderful record.  Just look at this:

Time       Position     Venue                       Date     Rank

1:49.9     5th              Grangemouth          7 Jan      1

1:50.0     6th              White City               2 Aug      2

1:50,3     R                  Scotstoun                24 May   3

1:50.4     1st                White City               26 May   4

1:50.7     4th               Wolverhampton      19 Jul     5

1:50.7     1st                Dam Park                  10 Aug   6           ie the top six times in Scotland with only 0.8 sec between first and sixth.   And more …

1:51.1      3rd               Cosford                      22 Mar  8

1:51.2      1st                White City                1 Aug      9=

1:51.5      1st                Grangemouth          28 Jun   13

1:51.6      1st                Leicester                  14 Jun     14       ie   10 times out of the top 14 in the country over 800m.

He was also ranked in the 1500m as ninth individual with 3:52.1 done at Meadowbank on 13th July and at 400m with a time of 49.0, run at Grangemouth on 7th September.   Number 12 in the UK over 800m was good too.   A quite remarkable season.   The SATS year book commented: “Once again Mike Maclean was in a class of his own in the two lap event, his superiority being amply demonstrated by his eleven performances in the top marks of the year.   He was unbeaten in ‘home’ events against fellow Scots and he confidently retained his national title; but with a season’s best of just under 0.1 sec under 1 min 50 sec his expected breakthrough into the upper GB rankings did not materialise.   1970 however, could well be Mike’s big year!”

Having had such success in 1969 and with the Commonwealth Games coming over the horizon at an ever increasing pace, Did Maclean continue to run cross-country?   Of course he did: when something has been as successful as the winter training and racing had been over the previous years why change it when it matters?   He was out in the County championships and ran the second stage on which he ran a time that would have seen him in the first team for any other club other than the winning Shettleston team where he would have been only one second slower than their fourth man.   For the second year he missed the E-G and all the longer cross-country events.   At the start of the summer, he didn’t win the 800m race at Hampden – this went to Englishman Colin Campbell of Polytechnic Harriers – and it’s not clear whether he actually competed.   In any case Maclean’s season really started at the West District Championships where he won the 800m in 1:55.5 from McCafferty (1:56.0) – the slow time was apparently accounted for by the fact that the track had required the cutting of  new lane because of the change from 440 yards to 400 metres.   I have to agree with the reporter who suggested that in Commonwealth Games year with qualifying times being required, they event should have been moved to Grangemouth.

The first ever combined men’s and women’s championships took place at Meadowbank Stadium on6th June – earlier than usual because of the need to pick the teams.   Maclean won the 800m from Ross Billson and Craig Douglas with the times being 1:50.2, 1:50.6 and 1:51.   On 13th June at the White City in the British Games Maclean had a very good run – but did not win.   The report read:  “The 800m was a near classic and certainly the fastest ever run in this country.   Colin Campbell (Polytechnic) won in 1 min 47.2 sec but coming home strongly in fourth place was Mike Maclean.   One day soon he will shatter every half-miler in Britain but he has a terrible knack of being boxed in in about sixth place with 200m to go in a top class race.   This happened on Saturday but after he had extricated himself round the last bend he flew up the home straight, drawing the leaders  nearer with every elegant stride.   The task was obviously insuperable but he went through the finish in 1 min 47.7, only three yards behind Campbell and became the fastest Scot since Jim Campbell’s 1:47.5 in France 13 years ago.”

The Games 800m had four heats, it was held on  23 July, and Maclean was second in the second heat which was won by Saisi of Kenya in 1:49.5 with Maclean on 1:50.0, Fisher (Australia) 1:5o.1 and Davies of England on 1:50.2.   Fastest qualifier was Doubell of Australia 1:49.4.   Unfortunately when it came to the next round, Maclean could do no better than fifth in the first semi- final, albeit in an excellent  1:49.9  being just shut out in a closely fought race.   In the final, Fisher was fourth and Davies fifth.   Maclean also ran in the 4 x 400m relay final with Wood, Walker and Taylor and Scotland finished sixth in 3:09.0.

The season was not finished however and on 8th August at the AAA’s Championships he was a mere tenth of a second behind winner Andy Carter with Pete Browne second: times?   1:49.6, 1:49.7 1:49.7!    A day was dedicated to the SAAA Relay championships at Grangemouth on 15th August and Maclean ran a great leg for his club in the 4 x 400m.   A week thereafter it was the Edinburgh Highland Games and there were quite a few athletes from the Games still around to add to the usual talent to be seen there.   In the 800m, Byron Dyce of Jamaica was the winner in 1:49.2 with Maclean second in 1:49.6 ahead of John Kirkbride (AAA) 1:51.2.   When Bellahouston won the 1200m relay at Shotts on 5th September, Maclean was not present but Bellahouston’s newest middle distance runner was starting to show what he could do when Frank Clement won the 800m.   He had been running well for some time and was well known as a talent to athletics people, but he was only just starting to become known to the wider populace.   The following week at what was usually regarded as the end of the summer season, Dunblane Gathering, the headline read “Maclean makes it easy for the rest” and went on to say that his running on the first stage of this relay gave his colleagues such a lead that they easily won from Garscube Harriers.   His season was now officially ended.

How good had it been?   Season’s bests of 50.9 for 400m and 1:47.7 for 800m were considerably good.   He had taken 2.2 seconds from his best run of the previous year taken part in several very close, very tight finishes and made the semi finals of the Commonwealth Games.   As in 1969, I can’t find any indication that he was beaten by any Scotsman over his specialist distance at any track on any surface.

Cowal 71

Extract from the Cowal programme of 1971: Note the quality of the field in the invitation mile as well as in the Relay

Nevertheless, however good the summer had been he was out in the relays for the club, taking the fourth stage of the Midland Relays in November 1970, and later the same month he picked up two places on the seventh stage of the E-G in fifth fastest time on the leg.   By the end of  1971 there were no championship medals – not at District, Scottish or British levels and times ranked him 10th in Scotland behind Grant, Douglas, Billson, Cherry, McMeekin, Morrison, Wands and Scales with young Frank Clement (still a Junior) only half a second behind him.    What do we make of this?  Well, the SATS year book accounted for it when it said,   “Maclean was a shadow of his former self due to injury, he recovered sufficiently with a fine late season performance in the National League that gained him a place in the top 10 performers list.”

The first of these late season times was on 21st August at West London where he ran 1:52.2 in winning a league match.   The second was on 14th September at  Bellahouston where he was timed at 1:52.4 in winning over a domestic field at home.

And that was the final appearance of Maclean in any ranking list anywhere.   Possibly it was even the end of an era since Graeme Grant’s last race before emigrating to South Africa was also in August 1971.   Hodelet was moving in the direction of 1500m rather than 800m and the young ones coming up behind very quickly were Frank Clemet and David McMeekin.    Maclean raced throughout 1972 but by then his days of national championships and records had gone.   His influence lived on however – in a reply to a questionnaire several years ago, Olympian Frank Clement said that training with and receiving encouragement from Mike was of great benefit.

Below is an extract from the Cowal Highland Games programme for 1972 in which his name appears.   Note too the quality of athlete in the other races such as the mile handicap:   International runners such as Lawrie Spence, Dick Hodelet and Cammy Spence all entered with the third Spence brother Jim up on the 150 yards mark!

Cowal 72



Graeme Grant

4 x 880 Graeme Grant

Graeme Grant on the left with Chris Carter, John Boulter and Mick Varah,

GB 4 x 880 yards world relay record setting team, in 1966

Graeme David Grant was one of a group of four half-milers who completely dominated the event in Scottish athletics from the early-1960’s up to 1970.   The other three were Dick Hodelet (13/3/1942), Duncan Middleton (4/7/46) and Mike Maclean (4/5/1946).   They virtually monopolised the event, all won SAAA Championships, all set Scottish records and all were at least Scottish internationalists.   For the record, if we look at championships won, then we get this:

SAAA 880 yards winners:   1964  Hodelet;    1965  Grant;   1966  Grant;     1967  Middleton;   1968:  Maclean.

SAAA 800 metres winners:   1969:  Maclean;   1970:  Maclean

As juniors (ie Under 20) Grant won the Mile in 1964 while Maclean won the 880 yards in 1965.

Records were also set by the quartet:

1964:   880 yards    1:504.  Hodelet;     1966:   880y   1:50.3   Grant;   1966:   880y   1:50.2   Grant

1970:   800 metres:   1:50.2   Maclean;   1970:   800m  1:47.7   Maclean

And at other distances:   1969:  600y   Maclean   1:11.5;   1971:   1000m  Grant   2:23.3

There were also of course many other very good athletes around at the same time  such as Craig Douglas, Jim McLatchie, Hugh Barrow and Ken Ballantyne when they came on the scene but they were the top half-milers for the seven or eight years when they were at their peak.


Graeme leading at Cowal Highland Games

Graeme was a pupil at Hermitage Academy in Helensburgh and joined Dumbartoon AAC from there.   He needed to join a club and Dumbarton was a good club with a strong track team at the time – Bobby Mills, decathlete, Jack Brown a very good middle distance runner but versatile enough to take part in field events, the young and talented Colin Martiin and several others were there.   Living in Helensburgh he didn’t have a great part in the club’s social life but did come the eight miles to Dumbarton for training sessions with club members on the Common  beside the Brock Baths.  1964 was the year when Graeme Grant first made the headlines – he won the SAAA Junior Mile in 4:21.0 but had an even better run of 4:12.5  which ranked him eleventh in Scotland.   However at what was to be his best distance, he only ranked 18th with a time of 1.55.7.   With a date of birth of 24th May 1946, however, it should be noted that he was a comparative novice in the event and barely 18 years old.

He started his year on 30th May in the West District C*hampionships at Westerlands when, in the absence of any 880 yards event for Junior Men, he finished third in the Junior Mile behind Joe Reilly of Victoria Park and Tom Brown of St Modan’s in 4:23.9.   In the Lanarkshire Police Sports at Shawfield on 13th June, a very popular meeting with the runners running on a track inside the outer ring which was used for most of the year for greyhound racing, Graeme had a very busy afternoon.   “H Baillie (Bellahouston) who has been showing tremendous for in Junior sprinting events this season, was beaten by only one-and-a-half yards in the 300 yards having given away 14 yards to the winner, GD Grant (Dumbarton).”   This win was followed up with a second place in the open mile behind JD Knox of Shettleston who won in 4:16.7.   A week later, on 22nd June, Graeme won the junior half-mile at Babcock & Wilcox Sports in Renfrew off a mark of 30 yards in 1:50.9  (the senior race was won by Danny Wilmoth (Springburn) in 1:56.9 off 62 yards).   The last week of June was, as usual, the SAAA Championships and here Grant won the Mile from Brown (St Modan’s) and Raeburn (Teviotdale) and, in the words of the ‘Glasgow Herald’ reporter, ‘anointed himself with distinction’.   He next appeared in the results on 1st August at Bridge of Allan where he won the Junior 880 yards from a mark of 30 yards in 1:54.9.   There were probably many more races that are unreported at this period because of the handicap system where he could run really well and still be unplaced (and hence not mentioned in results) but where, nevertheless, he was learning his trade as a young half miler and sharpening his elbows as well.   22nd August saw Graeme compete at Rothesay in the Bute Highland Games where he won the Mile off 10 yards from Alex Brown and Ian McCafferty in 4:16.1.


By the end of 1965, Graeme had won his first senior championship and was ranked nationally in four different events.   The championship win was in the West District championships but he started his season with a sixth place in the invitation mile at Hampden behind Bill Allison (ESH), Ian McPherson (VP), Lachie Stewart, Ian McCafferty, and Albert Smith (VP), with Joe Reilly (VP) and Eddie Knox (Springburn) in his wake.   The Scotstoun meeting in May was always a good one and went under various titles – Glasgow Highland Games at one time, the Glasgow Athletic Championships at another and this year it was the latter, and held on 22nd May.   Graeme ran well enough here to win the junior mile from Jim Brennan of Maryhill in 4:23.8.   A week later at Dam Park in Ayr on 29th May, he defeated the man who was to become one of his main rivals, Mike Maclean, and the more experienced Brian Scobie to win the half-mile West District championship in 1:54.3.   Into June and on 12th June the ‘Glasgow Herald’ reported on the Lanarkshire Constabulary Sports at Shawfield as follows: “G Grant (Dumbarton) had another success here in the three-quarter mile special invitation scratch race in 3 min 4.2 sec with W Ewing (Aberdeen University) and C Douglas (Teviotdale) unable to match the speed of the winner over the last 50 yards.”    As in 1964, he turned out at Babcock & Wilcox Sports on 19th but this time in the senior 880 yards which he won in 1:52 off a mark of 12 yards.  Grant had also had a double victory in handicap races at Lanark as well as having a good run to finish behind Craig Douglas at Pitreavie at the start of June.   With the West District title safely won, the big domestic race of the season was the SAAA Championship half mile which he duly won in 1:54.9.

The report on the race read: “GD Grant (Dumbarton), a junior with the stamina one expects from a senior, ran away with the senior 880 yards from such notable opponents as RT Hodelet (Greenock Glenpark) and JC Douglas (Teviotdale).   Coming out of the last bend into the headwind, Grant made his break followed by Douglas.    Hodelet, given little chance in these columns on Friday, showed how a champion strives to retain his title and, astonishingly, passed Douglas in the last 50 yards, a gallant runner up to the new champion.”  

Clearly in good form, Grant, representing the SAAA, tackled the American team from Brigham Young University at Westerlands in Glasgow on Monday, 5th July over the 880 yards and won in 1:52.7.   He continued racing in handicap races at various highland games and sports meetings before setting a ground record on the heavy, soaking wet, grass of Battery Park in Gourock  on 24th July.   The ‘Glasgow Herald’ thought it worthy of the top spot in its coverage of the event.   Despite the sodden conditions six ground records were established at Gourock Highland Games on Saturday, the most notable being that of GD Grant (Dumbarton) who won the open half-mile from scratch in the excellent time of  1 min 54.9 sec.   Grant ran so well that even at half distance he looked all over the winner – no mean achievement against opposition of the calibre of I McPherson (Victoria Park) who after having eight yards start was beaten by ten.”  

It was a race of a different sort altogether the following week at Pitreavie when he represented the SAAA against the British Army.   He rose to the occasion again and won in 1:56.7 with the other Scot, Dick Hodelet, in third place.    He also represented the SAAA on 23rd August at Murrafueld in the Edinburgh Games against Iceland when he again won – this time in 1:55.5 from team mate Craig Douglas.

By the end of the year he had best times of 50.6 for the quarter-mile (ranked 23rd), 1:52.0 for 880 yards (3rd), 4 11.7 for the Mile (10th) and (maybe strangely) 60.5 for 440 yards hurdles (23rd).

If 1965 was a good year for Graeme Grant, 1966 was even better.   His pb was hacked well down, he ran in the Empire Games in Jamaica and should have had a share in a world record.   If we start at the beginning, there had been several inter-club fixtures for Dumbarton in the track league early that year, but the first competitive appearance fro Graeme was at the Glasgow meeting at Scotstoun on 23rd May when he was second in the 440 yards in 50.6 seconds.   He was unplaced at Westerlands in the West Districts the following Saturday, but only because he was racing in a top class field south of the border.   In the British Games in London he was out in the 880 yards with his performance heralded in this report:   “JP Boulter provided his finest run for a long time, leading from start to finish for a victory in 1:47.9 – the second fastest in Europe this season.   He held off an unexpected but highly impressive challenge from GD Grant, the Scottish runner who finished second.   Grant, a surveyor from Helensburgh, was one of the least considered runners at the start but 1 min 48.2 sec later he had forced himself right into the selectors’ reckoning and taken some powerful strides towards Scotland’s Empire Games team.”    Strangely enough, for all his very good running, Grant never won a GB vest but on 22nd June 1966 he ran in a British squad which broke the world record for the 4 x 880 yards at Crystal Palace in London.   The team, pictured at the top of the page, was Graeme Grant 1:49.5, Mike Varah (1:48.9), Chris Carter (1:48.0) and John Boulter (1:48.2), was timed at 7:14.6.   Unfortunately, after winning the race, the team was disqualified because a false time as called out (unofficially) to one of the runners.   The race was clearly one, none of the runners infringed any of the rules but they were disqualified by an example of “officialdom gone mad”!    There was a letter from Menzies Campbell in the “Glasgow Herald” two days later in which he complained that the BBC had altered the programme for viewers on the 22nd with the result that viewers in Scotland could not see the athletics in which there was ‘considerable interest in the fortunes of GD Grant’.   BBC Scotland had decided at the last minute to show show-jumping from Ingliston rather than the Crystal Palace event which was seen by the rest of the UK.

 Graeme took another giant step in the direction of Games selection in the SAAA Championship at New Meadowbank on 26th June when he won his second national half-mile title.   “GD Grant has settled all doubt in my mind as to who is our best 880 yards man by beating RT Hodelet and M Maclean with two yards to spare.   At the bell, Grant was timed at 53.8 seconds and appeared to have no fears of a break by anyone at that stage.   With 220 yards to go those three were clear of the field, and for the rest of the race the respective gaps of two yards and a couple of feet stayed the same.   How Maclean was timed at 1 min 51.2 sec behind Hodelet’s 1 min 50.7 sec when he went over the line virtually on his shoulder only the timekeepers can tell.”    Grant’s time was 1:50.3.   Having run a fast 440 and 880, the following week at Gateshead, on 29th June,  he finished third behind John Whetton and John McGrow in a 1500m in 3:46.6.

On 9th July at the AAA’s championships, Grant finished sixth in the final in 1:50: the race was won by Irishman Noel Carroll in a championship best performance of 1:48.0 with Chris Carter and John Boulter second and third.   By the end of the month it was back to ‘auld claes an’ parritch’ for him when he won the 880 yards at Gourock Highland Games from Duncan Middleton (off 10 yards to Grants scratch on the starting line) in 1:54.1.

At the start of August he was in Jamaica with the Scottish Empire Games team, listed to run in the 880 yards and Mile.   Second in the fifth heat behind L Yearwood and ahead of Ralph Doubell, he went through to the semi-final in a heat won in 1:50.  The semi-final was another story and he could only finish eighth in his semi-final.   In the Mile, he won through to the final by running his heat to finish fourth in 4:10.1 but did not finish the race when he got there.

By the end of the year he had bests of 49.8 for the 440 yards run in Birmingham on 2nd July which ranked him ninth,  1.48.2 for the 800m (Birmingham 28th May) which topped the list,  and for the 1500m 3.46.6  which placed him second (behind McCafferty) and a Mile time of 4.07.8 6.

There was a slight drop off in performance in 1967 – not surprising after the ‘high’ of 1966 – no records, no championships and no ranking topping performances eitherHowever, he had run cross-country that winter being part of the Dumbarton AAC team that won the Dunbartonshire County relay championships over the unforgiving trail at Clydebank on 8th October.   The following Tuesday in the invitation mile race at the inauguration of the Westerlands floodlights, Graeme was second to Hugh Barrow in 4:16.5, two and a half seconds behind the winner.  At the very end of the month – 29th October, Grant ran the lead-off leg for Dumbarton AAC in the Midland District Relay Championships at King’s Park in Stirling and the team had a hard battle for third place with his team mate Bobby Mills outsprinting Graeme’s rival Dunky Middleton of Springburn Harriers for third place.   On  19th November Graeme ran in his first Edinburgh to Glasgow Realay.   He was on the first stage and finished tenth – one place and three seconds behind Ian Binnie of Victoria Park.   Two weeks later, 3rd December, he was second in the Dunbartonshire Championships Strathleven, 44 seconds behind Ian Donald (Clydesdale) with Bobby Mills third.  At Bellahouston Park on 21st January he finished an excellent 17th in the Midland District Championship – one place ahead of Allan Faulds, two ahead of John McLaren and leaving such athletes as Bill Scally, Tommy Patterson, Albert Smith, Alastair Johnston and many others well behind.   A very successful winter season on the roads and over the country leading into the summer of 1967.

Starting the summer with a 440 yards in an inter-club with Forth Valley and Dundee Hawkhill at Grangemouth  on 22nd April he won the match event in 51.4:m  he was only second across the line however since Mike Maclean, running as a guest, ran 51.0.   Nevertheless it was a good start to the season.   Having had a good under-distance run, he then ran over-distance at Durham on 6th May turning in a time of 4:10.7 for the Mile when finishing second.   The Glasgow Championships were held on 20th May but Graeme Grant was further south- running in an 880 yards at Huddersfield he returned victorious.   the report read: “GD Grant (Dumbarton) made an encouraging foray into England on Saturday by winning the 880 yards in 1:55.7 at Longwood Harriers floodlit meeting in Huddersfield.   With 220 yards to go, A Simpson, the British mile champion, and Walter Wilkinson, another four minute miler,   made a battle of it round the bend.   Into the home straight these two left just enough room in  the inside room for someone of Grant’s width to squeeze through.   The uncompromising Scot made room nicely and finished a fifth of a second ahead of Simpson.”   Back home and on 30th May he won the 440 yards and 880 yards events at the Dunbartonshire County Championships in 51.5 and 1:55 respectively.

He had to move up a gear for the home countries international at Grangemouth on 10th June when he faced Olympian John Whetton in the half-mile and finished second in 1:52.6.   On 17th June he was back at his happy hunting ground of Moorcroft Park in Renfrew for the Babcock & Wilcox Sports and he won his heat in 1:54.9 and the final in 1:52.5 running from scratch on a grass track.   It is interesting to look back and see that our runners were running heats of the half-mile which was maybe a valuable exercise and preparation for championship racing when now, almost 50 years later, they very seldom run more than a single race in a week, never mind in a weekend and certainly never in a day!   Graeme had run well in under distance races as well as in over distance events but the real test would be in the SAAA 880 yards championship where he was looking for a third win.   In his preview of the championships, Ron Marshall in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ said:

“The 880 yards has aroused the most interest as it did last year among Scottish enthusiasts.   The holder GD Grant (Dumbarton) is one who can bombast his way round any track no matter the standard of opposition and he is not shy to let his presence be known to any rival who gets in his way.   That attitude may knock his main rival, M Maclean (Bellahouston) off his stride, only metaphorically one hopes, but there is a feeling in many quarters that this is Maclean’s year.   Not to be dismissed are AD Middleton (Springburn) who has still to consolidate on his indoor performances, and JC Douglas.”

After that, how did the race go?   Marshall again:

“As he stood modestly on the rostrum awaiting the 880 yards winner’s trophy, AD Middleton (Springburn) might have been picturing again in his mind that last 100 yards as he swept past the ailing defender, GD Grant (Dumbarton), in pursuit of the man who in everyone’s eyes was the new champion, MJ Maclean (Bellahouston).   But in Middleton’s words, ‘ Mike seemed to be coming back easily to me – it made me forget how tired I was.’   And as Middleton took the tape by two yards the stopwatches froze in a new Scottish national record time of 1 min 50.2 sec.”      Grant’s time was 1:51.2 – exactly one second down.

Running on the first night of the AAA’s Championships in London on 14th July, he ran fast enough to record a season’s best for himself with 1:51.1 but it only gave him fourth place in his heat and he did not qualify for the final, although Middleton did.   In the Land-o’Burns Trophy meeting at Ayr, which was a mammoth event with 30 events on the programme at ten clubs invited to take part, Grant finished fourth in the 440 yards in the good time of 50.5.     On the wet and soggy track at Adamslie Park in Kirkintilloch, Graeme won the half mile off a mark of four yards and turned in a time of 2:01.1 – a remarkable time on the short track with far too many tight bends for fast running.   The Edinburgh Highland Games were always an attractive fixture and in 1967 it featured an international match between Scotland and Iceland – Grant was out in the half-mile which he won in 1:54.2, just in front of Middleton who had been timed at 1;54.3.   The last Saturday in August was always the Cowal Highland Gathering with events on Friday night and on Saturday afternoon.   It was a grand meeting ending with the ‘March of a Thousand Pipers; who, having gathered out of sight of the park, traditionally come marching in formation, wave after wave of them, over the hill and down on to the track and they gather in formation in the infield: a marvellous sight.   Athletics was always of a high standard -as were the lavish expenses paid – and in 1967 Graeme was out in the mile on Saturday – McCafferty was the man though but Graeme took the field through the bell in 3:03.1 before leaving the track to McCafferty and Barrow who battled it out right to the final straight where the Motherwell man triumphed in 4:03.1.


Graeme Grant on the seventh stage of the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay, 1967

Into the winter of 1967/68 and Dumbarton AAC again won the Dunbartonshire Cross Country Relay Championship with Grant on the last stage of the race.   He switched to the first leg for the District Relay on 28th October for the club team which finished fifth.   He was out again in the Edinburgh to Glasgow on 18th November, running the seventh stage this time and was sixth fastest on the stage picking up four places from seventeenth to thirteenth.   December 2nd saw Dumbarton win the County Championships again and on 19th January, back in Bellahouston Park, Graeme was nineteenth across the finishing line in another very good run for a track specialist.   There was no sign of him running the National but a race of that distance only two and a bit months before the track season was maybe not to be expected from a man ranked number three on the Scottish all-time list for the half-mile  and number ten for the mile.

The summer of 1968 was not his most productive – possibly due to injury.    He also started running for Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and the transition to tertiary education is often a difficult one so that maybe had something to do with it.    There had been no sign of Grant in any of the early season races – he did not race at Hampden at the end of April and he missed  both the Glasgow Championships at Scotstoun and the West Districts at Westerlands before tackling the Scottish Universities Championships on 1st June.   He finished second to A McFie of Edinburgh University in 1:58.3, only one tenth of a second behind.    Two weeks later he ran in the British Universities Championships at Westerlands, on 15th June, where he finished second (1:54.6) in a tight finish to Andy Carter of Manchester (1:54.3).    University examinations would be over by the end of May and there may well be a connection between end of term work and absence from the tracks around Scotland.   This 1:54.6 was his best time of the year and only ranked him 18th among Scottish 880 yards runners for the season.   The Scottish half-mile title was won by Mike Maclean quite comfortably in 1:51.6 from Dick Hodelet.     While rivals such as Chris Carter went on to compete in the Olympic Games in Mexico in October, Graeme had to face the rigours of the Scottish winter.

It was now on to 1968/69 for Graeme Grant.   On 12th October in the DAAA County Cross-Country Relay Championship at Strathleven Estate, Grant ran on the first stage for Dumbarton and turned in the joint fastest time with Ian Donald (Clydesdale Harriers) to send his team to victory.   Not in the quartet  for the District Relay, Graeme turned out on the first stage of the Edinburgh to Glasgow on 16 November where, clearly below par, he was nineteenth of the twenty runners.   Missing the County Championships in December, he was back to form in the District Championships at Bellahouston on 18th January where he finished eighth – one place behind Eddie Knox of Springburn.

Summer 1969 was a happier one for Graeme than 1968 had been – an SAAA medal and a couple of fast runs over 800 metres and 1500 metres.   With the Commonwealth Games coming to Edinburgh in 1970, the SAAA switched to metric distances for the championships.   This had unfortunate side effects with ‘reporters’ becoming ‘journalists’ and not reporting.   eg at the end of April Heriot Watt defeated Glasgow University at Westerlands with almost the entire ‘Glasgow Herald’  article taken up with the issue of how switching to metric would confuse officials, athletes and the public.   Which is unfortunate for many of the athletes but we know that Graeme was first in the 1500m in 3:56.2 for a fairly good start to the season.   However John Cherry (Springburn) and Mike Maclean were the form men when the SAAA team for the inter-area match at Leicester on 14th June was picked.   With the absence of his name from the results columns (eg he did not run in the West or even the East District Championships, nor was he in evidence at the Scottish Universities Championships.   However when the SAAA Championships took place on 28th June he came away with the second place medal.   The race was won by Mike Maclean in 1:51.5 with Graeme almost two seconds away in 1:53.3 while Ross Billson of Ayr Seaforth was third in 1:54.2.    It was his fastest run for two years.   He was to go even faster in 1969 though.   On a tour of Norway at the end of the month he ran 1: 51.3 when finishing third in Oslo.   This was good enough to rank him third in Scotland at the end of the year.

Winter 1969/70 and there was no Graeme Grant in the Dumbarton AAC team in the County Relay or in the District Relay – he was now running for Heriot Watt in the early season relays and ran the first stage for them in the East Relay in November: the team finished 24th.   He was back in Dumbarton’s black and red for the Edinburgh to Glasgow where he ran the seventh stage.   Taking over in tenth, he handed over in the same place in equal sixteenth time.   On 24th January he finished 52nd in the West District Championships at Lenzie with the team in ninth.   Missing the national again and summer 1970 with the Commonwealth Games loomed.

The  SAAA Championships came early in 1970 – the first Saturday in June rather than the traditional last weekend – because the Commonwealth Games were to be held at the same stadium just over a month later.   Graeme had not a single result logged before the championships, he was not placed in the event and missed out totally on the great occasion.   His best run of the year was clocked at 1:54.4 to place him equal seventeenth best Scot over the distance.

1971 was to be a magnificent Indian summer for Graeme before he emigrated to South Africa but before that, with no indoor facility in Scotland, indeed there was no permanent indoor track in Britain at the time, cross-country and road running beckoned once again.  He resisted the beckoning and did not run in any of the events which mattered from county relays to national via the E-G relay.    His club affiliation for the year was noted as HWU/ESH – he had joined Edinburgh Southern Harriers, no doubt to access the extra competition at British League level that such an affiliation afforded.   How much difference these changes – no serious winter racing over the country plus change of club and possibly fresh motivation plus the impending emigration (give it one last real go!) – made is incalculable but he was rounding into his best season since 1967.

His first notable mark came in the 400 metres on 1st May in a four-cornered contest between ESH and three universities – Edinburgh, Heriot Watt and Aberdeen.   The race was won by David Jenkins in 46.4 seconds with Graeme third in 49.6.    His new enthusiasm was shown very clearly at the Scottish Universities Championships on 17th May at Pitreavie where he won the 400m, the 800m and the 1500m all on the same afternoon.   On a day of strong winds he won the 400 in 50.7 seconds from Tom Renwick (both HWU), the 800m in 1:56.5 from Frank Clement 1:59.3 – Strathclyde), and finally he won the 1500m in 4:02.7 from Stuart Easton (4:05.1 – St Andrews).   Came 29th May and in the East District Championships, Graeme won the 800 metres from Craig Douglas (ex-Teviotdale, now also ESH) in 1:54.

Proof of his continuing good running came at Rawyards Park in Airdrie at the Airdrie Highland Games on 5th June.   It was a good cinder track which the Parks Department always had in good condition for the games and many good, fast times were posted there.    In the invitation 1000 metres Graeme – now always entered as HWU – equalled the Scottish record of 2:23,3, six yards in front of Frank Clement.   He was to run this unusual distance twice more in 1971 and the Scottish Athletics yearbook had this to say about it:   “This seldom run event produced a Scottish record equalling performance by Graeme Grant at Airdrie.   He had two other good performances at Belfast and seemed ideally suited to this distance.   The stronger Frank Clement bested 800 metres runner David McMeekin in their tussle at Airdrie.”   The Belfast performances of 2:23.6 (19th June) and 2:24.1 (27th July) gave him the top three times of the year with NormanMorrison’s 2:24.3  at Belfast on 19th June being next best.

In the British Games at Edinburgh on 12th June, Graeme was third in the 800 metres in 1:50.1 behind Dave Cropper (1:49.6) and Pete Browne (1:49.8) to prove that he could still mix it with the best that Britain could offer.   Missing the SAAA Championships, Grant won the B 1500m race in the British Athletic League Division One for Edinburgh Southern in 3:49.5 on 3rd July.   In the AAA’s championships on 24th July, luck was not with him when he reached the final but could only finish eighth in 1:52.   There was a much better run from him on 31st July when he defeated Peter Stewart of Birchfield in the BAL match at Hayes in 1:53.6 against Stewart’s 56.7 – just before the European Championships where Stewart was to run in the 1500m.

Back at home on 7th August and running in the Scottish relay championship 4 x 400m he won gold along with JC Douglas, A Chedburn and A Douglas) and then won silver with the 4 x 800m team with J Raeburn, K Ballantyne, Grant and Douglas behind the Bellahouston team of Wallace, Jackson, Maclean and Clement.   In the Edinburgh Highland Games at Meadowbank on 21st August, he won the 800m in 1:50.0 from Ross Billson (1:50.3) to round off the season nicely to top the rankings for the year, being 0.2 sec faster than Billson.

He had five times in the top eight recorded by Scotsmen with another two at 14th and 21st on the season ending rankings.   It had been a very good season indeed for Graeme Grant who was heading for South Africa in 1972.  There is ony the one time in 1972 in the rankings – a 1:51.2 which was fifth best for the year.

He was a very interesting runner.   Not known for his gentle “after you, Claude” running style, he would run over someone rather than round him, he was never afraid to take on the pace, make the others dance to his tune and do his very best every time.   Most 880y/800m runners at the time did some cross-country but Graeme did quite a lot of good runs in championship races.   Where some would turn out in low key events to get some bulk into their training but avoid putting themselves on the line, he turned out in county, district and national events, he ran 2.5 mile relay legs and five mile stages of the Edinburgh to Glasgow.      It was unfortunate that he never really did himself justice in the Jamaica Games or even the AAA’s championships.   Maybe even more unfortunate that he did not get a share of a world record when the relay team was disqualified for reasons outwith their control.  He ran it, he deserved it.

Graeme Grant was a very good runner.