JS Hamilton

Jim Hamilton, 1950 SAAA 440y

Jim Hamilton winning the SAAA 440 yards in 1950

Until the days of Tom McKean, only two Scots men had run in the 880 yards or 800 metres final of the Empire and Commonwealth Games – Stothard in 1934 and JS  Hamilton twenty years later in 1954.   Of course when we speak of the Vancouver Games we invariably speak of Joe McGhee with Jim Hamilton not even an afterthought.   This is unfair on a fine athlete who won SAAA titles at two distances and ran in the Games.   In Britain as a whole the situation is even less good with Bannister’s victory over Landy taking pride of place over Peters’ run in the marathon.   Hamilton however was a very good runner whose career should be examined a bit more closely that it has been.

Before reviewing his career, it should be remembered that he was starting out on his athletics in the late 1940’s: the War had only come to an end in 1945 and there were shortages of food, clothing and just about everything.  In 1946, there was still rationing – a loaf of bread was smaller than pre-war, there was a wheat shortage world-wide in 1946 and so on.    Athletics kit came at the expense of other clothing because clothing coupons were required for any kind of clothing: coats, shirts and shoes had a higher priority on the coupon front than vests and shorts.   As an example of how difficult it was to obtain athletics clothing, the correspondence extract below speaks volumes.   It dates from 1947, a year after Hamilton won the Junior 880 yards and originates from the situation where the military sometimes had supplies of clothing that they could sell to athletic clubs, youth clubs, etc, without the need for clothing coupons.   Jim Shields had written on behalf of Clydesdale Harriers to investigate this further and this is page one of the two page reply.

Plimsolls 1You probably get the picture.

Newspapers like the ‘Glasgow Herald’ only ran to eight pages and again sports reporting was severely curtailed.   Athletes of Olympic standard received food parcels from South Africa and some of the other Commonwealth countries, other athletes had to do with rations like the rest of the population.   Travel to meetings was difficult since for almost all athletes it meant public transport and changes of train or bus, or a combination of both.   For sprinters, as he was when he started out, tracks were cinder, starting blocks were virtually unheard of.    Bear these factors in mind when looking at times run by men such as Hamilton.


Hamilton’s first big year was 1946.   The SAAA Junior Championships were held on 8th June 1946 and Hamilton was running in the 880 yards.   AD McDonald, writing in ‘The Scots Athlete’ reported on the race.   “JS Hamilton, Victoria Park AAC, upheld his reputation by taking the 880 yards in 2 min2.2 sec.   I offer the suggestion to any enterprising sports promoter to arrange a ‘special youths half-mile’ with Hamilton and Burfitt (the English boy champion) on the scratch mark.   A mere comparison of times is a dangerous method of comparing track running ability, but I fancy that Jimmie Hamilton would be ‘in with a shout’ at the tape.”

Hamilton followed this up with a run in the SAAA Senior Championship where he finished second to JS Taylor of Aberdeen University.   The SAAA selected a small group of athletes to travel to the AAA’s Junior Championships at Birmingham and Hamilton was among them.   On arrival they found that the grass track was not a good one but it was what they had to run on.   J Gilbert, SAAA Secretary reported on the meeting for the ‘Scots Athlete’ and he covered the 880 thus.

“And now for the 880 yards in which Hamilton  was our representative.   Running in Heat 1 he ran a very judicious race, just lying with the leaders until the finishing bend when he came away to qualify as a comfortable second in 2 min6.8 sec.   In the Final, Hamilton was drawn last in a line of nine competitors – not too happy a position.   A quick start brought him into a comfortable position in the first three or four, but Hopcraft of Thames Valley Harriers- a powerfully built runner – started to force the pace, and Hamilton five or six yards behind could not afford to let him get too far ahead.   The first quarter finished with Hopcraft still five or six yards ahead of Hamilton and there was a gasp when the time of the first quarter was announced at 57.5 sec.   Someone was bound to crack.     Could Hamilton sustain the pace?   He was a matter of six yards ahead of the third man.   Rounding the top bend none of the first three looked to have much in reserve but twenty yards from the tape, Hamilton made his effort and got into the lead with Hopcraft now beaten.   It looked ‘all over bar the shouting’ but Pickles, of Airedale Harriers, who had been lying third most of the way, came through with a surprising burst in the last 10 yards and passed Hamilton who just could not stave off the challenge to finish in 2 min 2 sec.   This time, compared to the first quarter of 57.5 will give some indication of the ‘bellows to mend’ in  the last turn of the track.   Well done, Hamilton!   You were just a trifle unlucky, I think!

A very good season with gold in the SAAA Junior, silver in the SAAA Senior and silver again the the AAA Junior.   There was also a representative appearance for Hamilton, albeit not in an individual event – he raced on the last leg of the medley relay for Scotland against England and Ireland.

When the 1947 VPAAC Club Championships were held in May, they went ahead without him.   He may well have been injured because he was not seen again before June but came the SAAA Championships at the end of June,  Hamilton added to his medal collection with another silver in the Senior half-mile behind Edinburgh University student Cyril Hall who won by seven yards in 2:02.5.   Not only did Hall beat him in that race but in the medley relay (which was held in the championships at that time) he again got the better of Hamilton and EUAC won from Victoria Park.   His time from the SAAA Championships ranked him number two in Scotland that year.

He disappeared from the headlines for a spell but was back with a vengeance in 1950.

He started the 1950 season with a victory in the quarter mile in the inter-club match between Victoria Park and Edinburgh University at Craiglockhart on May 20th in the time of 51.5 before taking part in the 4 x 440 yards relay along with J Pilling, T Burns and I Sutherland which also won in 3 min 34 sec.   His next reported race was on June 3rd at the Lanarkshire Police Meeting where it was advertised that the leading performers included JS Hamilton, although the brief report of his race read : ‘Hamilton back marker off 10 yards in the open ‘half’ with over 60 competitors, won in the fine time of 1 min 58.7 seconds.”

He doesn’t appear as an individual among the results again until the SAAA Championships but the Victoria Park sprinters such as George McDonald and Ronnie Whitelock  were very successful and at most sports meetings their team whether medley, 4 x 110 or 4 x 440 was successful and he must have been included in several of them.   In the June 1950 issue of ‘The Scots Athlete’ Emmet Farrel wrote: “Some people maintain that good juniors are precocious and don’t develop into good seniors.   But it is easy to find exceptions to this argument.   At random we could take such names as DA Stewart, J McAslan, JS Hamilton, Cyril Hall and Willie Jack.   ….   Jimmy Hamilton and Cyril Hall now appea to be finding their form in the senior ranks which their junior class seemed to indicate.   ….   It is quite interesting to note that Jimmy Hamilton and Cyril Hall have been reducing their distances recently, concentrating o the 440 instead of the 880 which is reversing the normal procedure where athletes usually step up their distances with the passage oftime.   This of course may be only a passing phase or a training tactic in their athletic careers, but in any case both have been doing fairly well at the shorter distance.”  

The SAAA Championships that year were held on 24th June at Hampden Park and the “Glasgow Herald” reported

“The general standard at the meeting was very high; indeed many of the competitors who finished second or third would have been good enough to win past championship titles.   The quarter-mile, for example, was won by JS Hamilton (Victoria Park) in the splendid time of 49.5 seconds, and the second, third and fourth competitors clocked 50.2, 50.5 and 50.5 seconds. ”   Second and third were the Olympic hurdler DK Gracie (Glasgow University) and WC O’Kane (Garscube Harriers).

The report in ‘The Scots Athlete’ was equally fulsome:   !The ‘quarter’ was another great race.   Dave Gracie tried valiantly to retain his title but just didn’t have the sparkle of young Jum Hamilton who returned a brilliant 49.5 looking as if he could have done even better with a harder push.   J Robertson of Edinburgh Northern only 4th with 50.5 (a time that would have won most senior championships) was impressive and noted as a probable future Scottish champion.” 

Following the championships a small Scottish squad was selected to compete at the AAA’s championships and there was no Hamilton included.   Emmet Farrell again: “It is a pity that lack of funds precluded the sending of some of our best track men including Jimmy Hamilton of Victoria Park whose brilliant 49.5 quarter was surely the performance of the championships as far as the running events were concerned.   The general standard for this event was amazingly high with Gracie, O’Kane and Robertson all inside 50.5 seconds.”  

There was some compensation for this omission when Hamilton was selected along with Gracie for the Triangular International against England & Wales, Ireland and Scotland on 7th August, 1950.   The English pair of Pugh and Pike were first and second in 47.9 and 48.6 with Gracie third (48.9), Hamilton fourth, and the Irish duo of Dolan and Rippard fifth and sixth – no time was given for the last three.

The Victoria Park cross-country and road teams were among the very best in Britain at the time and Hamilton’s services were not required for the winter season, so it was into the summer of 1951 for him.   There were problems though – Hamilton had picked up a leg injury and his training and racing was impaired.     In the June, 1951, issue of ‘The Scots Athlete’, Farrell wrote:   “Jim Hamilton, perhaps equally good at the quarter and half, has had his training delayed by a leg injury and unless it clears up quickly his prospects are obscure.”  Well, he did turn out in the SAAA championships in the  440 yards where he had to settle for second behind David Gracie.   Result:   1.   Gracie 50.2;   2.   Hamilton  50,5.   3.   Crowe  50.5.

The report in ‘The Scots Athlete’ read as follows.   “Rivalry was renewed when the holder, Jim Hamilton (VPAAC) met former holder David Gracie who had previously been out in the distance hurdles heats, in the final of the 440 flat.   A bit short of training and lacking last year’s strength up the straight, the VP man had to give best to a worthy winner in Gracie in the creditable time of 50.2 seconds.”

David Gracie was a superb athlete who specialised in the 440 yards hurdles although he was a very good sprinter indeed with fast times over all sprint distances.   He ran for Larkhall YMCA and for Glasgow University and won the SAAA quarter mile three times – 1949, 1951 and 1952 – and the hurdles four times – 1951, 1952, 1953 and 1954.   He took the 440 yards hurdles record down from 56.2 to 53.7 and ran in the 1952 Olympic Games.    The fact that Hamilton had such an intense rivalry with the man indicates how good the Victoria Park man was.

DK Gracie0008

Gracie at the White City 1952

By the end of the year, Hamilton was ranked second to Gracie in the 440 with their best times being those from the championships and also second in the 880 – fastest was O Messer (Edinburgh Northern Harriers), second Hamilton (1:57.6),Then Hugh Hatrick (1:57.8) and the A Dove (Maryhill) 1:57.9.   However Farrell had reviewed the season and placed him fourth in each event.   He said, “We didn’t see the best of Jim Hamilton either.   With a better preparation he can menace Britain’s best.”  

1952 was a wash-out as far as Hamilton was concerned.   He did not run in the club championships at the start of the season, nor in the national championships, the triangular international, or any of the major sports meetings.    Ranked at the end of the season in the 440 yards with a time of 50.2, he was ranked fourth in the 880 with a time of 1:58 so he had run somewhere that year.   All his running was done at the end of the year – the photograph below was taken at the Edinburgh Highland Games and there was a comment in Emmet Farrell’s Running Commentary in November 1952 on Hamilton which read as follows:

“Victoria Park star Jim Hamilton, apparently refreshed after his enforced rest displayed late season sparkling form.  At Edinburgh Highland Games he was the hero of Glasgow’s victorious relay team and he held Olympic representative Frank Evans in the relay off level terms at Cowal, while at Shotts off 4 yards in the “quarter” flat, he proved too strong for our own Olympic runner, Gracie.   The versatile quarter- and half-miler was assuredly back to the form which made him an AAA finalist a couple of seasons ago.   Given a free run from injuries next season we may well find him again a Scottish champion.”  

JSH 52 Relay 

On 9th May 1953 he ran in the Vale of Leven Sport at Millburn Park along with Ian Binnie and Alex Breckenridge and the three club mates were the stars of the show.   As far as Hamilton was concerned, the ‘Glasgow Herald had this to say:   “Hamilton, who nursed an injured leg for the best part of last season, has come back to form in convincing style.   He scored a great win in the half-mile handicap from the nominal start of four yards, and returned the fine time of 1 min 58.6 sec.”   Breckenridge and  Binnie won their events a the club won the two miles team race with A Forbes and J Stirling making up the team.

  The May, 1953, issue of the ‘Scots Athlete’ pointed out that Hamilton ‘had been a non-starter last year through injury.’   The same issue of the magazine reckoned that David Gracie could retain his 440 yards title ‘provided Jimmy Hamilton of Victoria Park, equally good at quarter and half foregoes the shorter distance race.’   Then, in his preview of the SAAA Championships that year, Emmet Farrell, under the headline ‘A Hot Half’ commented on the chances of the various competitors before saying at the end of the piece, “However again the cat among the pigeons will be Jimmy Hamilton if he concentrates on this event.   If he decides on this, he will carry my confidence for he is happily endowed with all the qualities required to make a champion.   He has temperament, courage and class.”  

He had all those qualities and went on to win the half-mile final.

“Hamilton’s Brilliant Half.    Jim Hamilton, Victoria Park’s ace half-miler, confirmed recent form by winning the half-mile final in a brilliant 1:54.9 – only 1.3 seconds outside JC Stothard’s record figures set up in 193FW Sime of Strathtay H, runner-up in 1:56.3, and W Messer of Edinburgh Northern H third in 1:56.7, confirmed the high standard of this event. 

Hamilton ran a well-judged race.   Back at the start, then lying handy, he went clean away in the back straight and though his rivals appeared to be pulling him in around the last bend, he came away with a sprint finish which none of his struggling adversaries could match.”

1953 SAAA half mile

Programme Extract, SAAA Championships, 1953

Picture from Alex Wilson

He travelled to the AAA’s championship but was unable to qualify for the final because of ‘a recurrence of an a leg injury.’    The issue of ‘The Scots Athlete’ for August/September reported briefly that “Hamilton leaves soon to take up a banking appointment in Canada.”   His SAAA time ranked him first Scot.

The preview of the SAAA Championships in 1954 mentioned that his absence left the field wide open for a new champion but did not comment on team selection for the Games.   The July, 1954, issue of ‘The Scots Athlete’ had a headline that said that ‘Jim Hamilton May Run For Canada’, and followed up with this report.   “Ex-Scottish 880 yards champion Jim Hamilton now resident in Canada, waited to see if he would be selected for Scotland but failing that, might try for inclusion in the Canadian team for whom he now has residential qualifications.”  That came to nothing and was indeed in the Scottish squad.

He did not let them down either .    In his Heat on 31st July in  Vancouver he qualified for the Final of the half mile with anew record time of  1:53.3 – unfortunately it didn’t count as native records could only be set in Scotland.   On to the Final on 3rd August where he ran even faster with 1:52.7 for sixth, this time would not be beaten until 16th July, 1955 when Donald Gorrie ran 1:52.0.   The race in the Final was described by Keddie in his centenary history of the SAAA thus:   “Englishman Derek Johnson won the event (1:50.7) from compatriots Brian Hewson (1:51.2) and Ian Boyd (1:51.9).   The other three finalists were closely bunched and Hamilton, who finished sixth, was only 5 yards or so behind Boyd.   His time was a creditable 1:52.7 – best by a Scot at that time. “

 Hamilton had ended his career on a high and  in the process debunked those quoted by Emmet Farrell who reckoned that athletes who are good as juniors never make it as seniors.    Injury might have applied the brakes to  Hamilton’s career but the 1946 Junior champion had run superbly to do so well in the Games of 1954.     He could maybe be better known?

He returned home to live in Milngavie, Glasgow, many years later and liked nothing better than to discuss Scottish athletics and his days with Victoria Park AAC in the 1950’s.

Hamish Stothard Part Two

The 1935 International University Games were held in the Hungarian capital of Budapest from 10-18 August with a total of 774 athletes from 62 nations competing in a programme featuring ten events.   Stothard ran in the Medley Relay on the 16th August for the British students team which won the race by one second from the Germans with his own contribution being a fast last stage.   This served as a useful pipe-opener for the 800m first round the next day and he won the first heat in a comfortable 1:59.1, and a day later won the final in 1:56.0, half a second ahead of Georg Pochat of Germany.   The ‘Glasgow Herald’ reported as follows:

“UNIVERSITIES GAMES AT BUDAPEST.   JC STOTHARD WINS THE 800 METRES.   JC Stothard, the Cambridge University runner,won the 800m final in 1:56.0.   Stothard covered the first 400m in 56 8-10th, when he was lying a comfortable second.   On the back straight he went away with his customary dash and had a five yard lead on entering the home straight, which he maintained to the finish.   Georg Pochat (Germany) was second and P Faure (France) was third”

His season ended with a victory over 800m in a fixture between the British Universities team and a Yugoslavian team at Zagreb on 22nd August in a reported 1:50.8.   It had been a remarkable year in which he had not lost a single 800m race and with the Berlin Olympics looming in 1936 he seemed a certainty for the team, and even for a medal once there.


The 1935 season had started with College and University fixtures in February and continued from there but 1936 did not start until June – he won the Mile at the Sports Dispatch Meeting held at Hawkhill in 4:35.0, defeating Ian H McDonald of Edinburgh University (who was off 9 yards) by 1.5 seconds on the ninth of the month.   That was the Tuesday, on the following Saturday, 13th June) where he was second in the first heat of the half mile in the Kinnaird Trophy meeting in 2:03.   In the final the following day he could do not better than third in an estimated 1:56.3 seconds behind John Powell (1:55.4) and Brian McCabe (1:55.8).   This was a second and a half quicker than the previous year’s winning time but these were runners who did not normally figure above him in the results.   The “Glasgow Herald” merely said that there was a surprise in the half mile when Sothard was forced into third place.   On 18th June Stothard was back  to the Mile at Goldenacre and he won in 4:25.2 from GA Smith who had run from 20 yards in the handicap.   Came the Scottish Championships the following week and Stothard was again out in the Mile – but he was against good experienced milers all starting level.   The race was won by Bobby Graham in 4:12.5 with Stothard 50 yards back and Ian McDonald a further 20 yards away.

“Strange to relate, one of the most thrilling and yet of the most easily won of the afternoon’s  sport, was the Mile which fell to Robert Graham of Maryhill Harriers – a title vacated by the indomitable Tom Riddell.   Interest in this race was intensified by reason of two outstanding contenders, one of whom was JC Stothard , who had relinquished his half-mile title in order to have a crack at Graham over the Mile.   Over the first quarter- mile of this race, a clubmate of Graham, R Osborne, set a merry pace, clocking 60 sec., with Graham about eight yards behind and Stothard lying handy behind Graham.   At the close of the half-mile stage Graham took the lead, timed at 2 min 6 5-10th sec, and here the impression was gained that Stothard felt none too happy.   Stothard was still nursing Graham at the three-quarter mile mark in  min 11 2-10th sec.   Graham increased his pace, compelling Stothard to extend himself much more than he could stand to retain his natural poise and balance.   Piling on the pace Graham built a perceptible lead at the 300 yards mark, and from that point Stothard was hopelessly beaten in a race which was a great tactical victory for Scotland’s greatest miler, and now by common consent one of Britain’s representatives at the Olympic Games.   The time of 4 min 12 1-10th sec has only been beaten once in Scotland, and that by himself, and his 4 min 12 sec of last season stood as a British record until the other day, when SC Wooderson broke it in the Southern Championships.  

Note the quarter mile times of this race – 61 sec, 65 5-10th, 64 7-10th and 61 3-10th.   Graham can easily improve his second lap without impairing his final lap because Graham took time to glance round as he entered the home straight, reserve which may be more suitably distributed in a more even schedule of running.”

 The next Tuesday, before a crowd of 15,000 spectators at Helenvale Park in Glasgow, Stothard and Graham stepped on to the track together for the invitation 1000 yards handicap.   Now read on: “JC Stothard (Atalanta) avenged his defeat by R Graham (Maryhill) in the Mile Championship on Saturday when setting up new Scottish all-comers and native records in the invitation 1000 yards handicap.  

Stothard allowed Graham to make the pace behind the long mark men for almost half a mile, but just before the penultimate bend, the AAA Half-Mile Champion made his effort, passed Graham in a terrific burst and drew away confidently to beat him by six yards in 2 min 13 3-10th sec.   This time lowers the all-comers record, made by the famous American Ray Dodge,  at the Rangers Sports in 1925 by 3-10th sec.   It also reduced Tom Riddell’s native record by 1 3-10th sec.   Graham who also finished very strongly was 6-10th inside Riddell’s figures.

This augurs well for Stothard’s half-mile and Graham’s mile prospects at the AAA Championships at the AAA Championships on July 10th and 11th.”  

It maybe augured well, but auguries can be wrong – or at least wrongly interpreted for Stothard failed to qualify for the final of the 880 yards where his time of 1:57.5 was not good enough and failed to finish the Mile.   Graham was third in the Mile behind Wooderson and Lovelock and selected for the Olympics. The year for which so much was hoped by Stothard’s supporters, was in tatters.

His season ended there.   What had happened to make it such a disappointment?   Keddie in his centenary history of the SAAA puts it down to ‘untimely injuries which led to a loss of form over the half-mile.’   He also mentions the experiment with the Mile.   It may be that his build-up for the Mile as well as the half, was more strenuous than he could cope with and led to some of the injuries.   We don’t know though and we will probably never know.   His annus mirabilis had come 12 months too early.

He returned to the 880 in 1937, running in excess of 20 races and winning nine of them including the 800m at the World Student Games.   He started the year earlier than 1936 on 29th May at the Kinnaird Trophy meeting in London where he was third in the Mile behind Wooderson and Frank Close in an estimated 4:19.3.    This was the fastest he had run the distance since June 1935 and promised a better season.   A month later at the SAAA Championships he was first in the second heat of the 880 yards in 2:03.2, following it up with first in the Final a day later in 1:57.5 beating John Lees by 10 yards.

“Memories of JC Stothard’s brilliant 1935 season returned when the Old Merchistonian regained the half-mile in most facile fashion.   A fast quarter-mile pave was set by Olaf Hoel but the Norwegian was passed in the back straight and Stothard ran on strongly to win by fully ten yards in 1 min 57.5 sec.   This time, although short of his best, reveals Stothard to be right back in form and fully capable of breaking 1 min 55 sec when the occasion arises.  JAH Lees also finished strongly to secure second place and RTH Littlejohns who used to be a championship sprinter, pipped Hoals for third place.”

The following Tuesday, he again won the 1000 yards at Helenvale in the Transport Sports, this time in 2:14.8 which was a second slower than in 1936 – albeit without the spur of Robert Graham this time.

On 2nd July in an international at Wuppertal in Germany, Stothard won the 800m in 1:53.4 from Mostart of Belgium and Powell of Britain.   The AA’s championships, his next outings over 880 yards, were held that year on 16th and 17th July at White City and this time he was entered in one event only – the half-mile.    He began well enough, winning the second heat in 1:57.3 before the final one day later.   The final turned out to be a hard battle for supremacy.

“JC Stothard, from whom much was expected in the half-mile, appeared very agitated when he lined up with seven other runners, including another Anglo-Scot, ADG White.   AJ Collyer and three others mastered him in one of the most arresting races of the day.  

Collyer led at the bell with McCabe and Stothard at his heels.   In the back straight Stothard  got into swing and appeared to have the race within his grasp.   A ding-dong struggle ensued with the tenacious McCabe compelling Stothard  to race hard into the straight to maintain his lead, and then Collyer came with a rush and so did FR Handley, and by this time the Scottish champion began to falter under the persistent challenge.   He was pegged back by Collyer, and then by Handley, and just on the tape he was beaten by the Welsh champion, Alford.   As fourth man, Stothard’s time would be about 1 min 54 sec.”

Better than 1936 but not what he might have wanted.   On 8th August, Stothard was racing in an international meeting in Amsterdam where he won the 800m in 1:58.8 from Schmidt.   He must have liked the track at Helenvale because he was back there for the second time that season on 17th August for an invitation 1320 yards (ie three laps of the track) handicap where he finished fourth in the race won by RUC man Alex Haire off 22 yards in 2:59.

Only one week after racing in the East End of Glasgow, Stothard was out in the World Student Games in Paris.   On 26th August he was second in the first heat in 1:57.8.   On 27th he turned his attention to two events other than the 800m.  Running on the first stage of the medley relay for the British team which won from Germany in a time of 3:28.3, he followed that with the heat of the 1500m where he was second to  Wales’s Jim Alford, also running in the GB colours of course.   He had qualified for the finals of both 800m and 1500m which were held on the 28th August and he ran well enough in the former to finish second to Alford in 1:554.3 to the winner’s 1:54.1 with the third man (Arady  of Hungary) also recording 1:54.3, while fourth, fifth and sixth times were  1:54.4, 1:55.5 and 1:55.5.   Six men within four tenths of a second.   A marvellous race.. which was probably the reason why he did not turn out in the 1500m final.   The short turnaround did not seem to affect Alford however who won the race n 3:56.0.

Stothart raced five more times that year, every one an international contest.   On4th and 5th September he competed for a GB team in Helsinki against Finland.   On the first day he was part of a 4 x 800m relay team which set a British record of 7:39.9, with the other team members being Collyer, Powell and Handley.   On the second day he ran in and won the 800m in 1:53.8 from Teiliri of Finland who was only one tenth behind.   Two days later in Stockholm Britain took on Sweden in a one-day international and Stothard competed in the Mile.   Beaten by Archie San Romani of America who won in 4:08.4, and Henry Johnsson of Sweden (4:08.8) his time of 4:16.4 was good enough to beat Reg Walker and Robert Graham.   Four days later, GB competed against Norway in Oslo over two days and Stothard ran on both days.  Second to Arthur Collyer in the 800m on Day One in 1:54.2 to Collyer’s 1:53.5, he ran in the 1500m the next day and was again second – this time to H Lehne of Norway (3:53.2) in 3:54.5 with Graham third in 3:56.7.

And that was pretty well the end of Stothard’s athletics career.   He was a remarkable athlete and when the SAAA History was written in the 1980’s he was still the only man to have won a medal in the Commonwealth/Empire Games 800m – Tom McKean ended the reign when he won silver at Meadowbank in 1986.   Scottish records, multiple championship wins and international vests (for Britain as well as Scotland) all came his way.   The “What if … ” question comes up again with Stothard – what if he had stuck to 880y/800m in 1936?   It would be very interesting to hear any informed comment on the question.   Regardless, Scotland, and Britain has a lot to thank Hamish Stothard for.

 Stothard’s Race Record

Miling Heroes


The Mile has a kind of magic of its own and while all events have world figures that are looked up to, respected and admired, the Mile tends to have Heroes.    People who are legendary and of whom any middle distance runner walks in awe.   The to real stars are Herb Elliott and Peter Snell.    Herb was coached by the rather eccentric Percy Cerutty – who called himself a ‘conditioner of men’ rather than a coach.   He would have been well in tune with the philosopher Diogenes who, when asked why students left him to study with others, none seemed to leave other philosophers to study with Diogenes, replied “One can make a eunuch of a man, but can never make a man of a eunuch!”   Elliott never lost a race at 1500m or a mile between 1957 and 1961 and while he ran well and won medals over 880 yards and 800 metres, he was regarded as a miler pure and simple.    There is a very good clip of Percy Cerutty and Elliott at the Portsea Training Camp on youtube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKqMRpv7ygc and one of Herb setting a world record at      www.criticalpast.com/video/65675066596_Herb-Elliott_mile-race_gun-being-fired_run-on-the-track

Peter Snell, another Antipodean but from New Zealand, won three Olympic golds as well as Commonwealth winners medals and set world records at 880 as well as winning Olympic gold in the 1500m.   In fact his first Olympic gold was at the shorter distance and his first world records were for 800m and 880y on a grass track in 1962.   Coached by Arthur Lydiard who like Cerutty was not part of the official coaching system.  Unlike Cerutty he did not believe in weight training but did believe in bige mileage training  for athletes including training runs of over 20 miles.   There is an excellent video of Peter Snell on youtube at www.nzonscreen.com/title/peter-snell—athlete-1964    There are two clips (9 min and 12 min) to this short documentary covering his career up to 1964.   Hugh Barrow sent a link to another article –   www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/sport/6365084/Peerless-Snells-Christchurch-records-still-stand – which is a good read.

HE 1


Three Fifty Eight

Classic picture from the cover of the BMC News

2014 being the anniversary of the first four minute mile ever run on 6th May, 1954, by Roger Bannister at Iffley Road Track in Oxford.   The story about how Roger and the ‘two Chris’s’ managed it is by now well known and there are many journal and website articles about it.    Universally hailed, there were one or two dissenting voices at the time (and there are still some to be heard) that it it was not the done thing to use pace makers – indeed on the very day one of the officials there who were required to sign the form ratifying the record refused to sign until heavy pressure was brought to bear upon him.   Several years later every runner in a British Milers Club race in the South West was disqualified because a pace maker had been used in the actual race.   Video of the race can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=uz3ZLpCmKCM   and an account at www.historytoday.com/richard-cavendish/first-sub-first-four-minute-mile explains briefly the previous attempts and the race itself.

There was no less excitement north of the Border to have a Scot under the magic figure and many top Scots strove to reach the mark but the honour of the first four minute mile in Scotland went to Englishman Derek Ibbotson in June,1957 – a full three years after Bannister and his time of 3:58.4 was the second fastest ever in the world, only Landy had been faster, and a European, British and Scottish all-comers’ record.   The ‘Glasgow Herald’ report on the race read as follows:


GD Ibbotson, holder of the AAA’s Three Miles title, gave notice of his intention to do particularly well at Glasgow Police’s seventy fourth annual sports at Ibrox Stadium on Saturday by requesting that he take part in the Mile rather than in the three miles event.    That he was serious was proved when on an afternoon of stamina-sapping heat, he broke the European, British and Scottish all-comers records for the mile by winning in 3 mins 58.4.    Ibbotson’s time is the second-fastest ever run in the world.   Only J Landy (Australia) who holds the world record of 3 min 58 sec has achieved faster time.   The 18000 crowd gave the Yorkshireman a magnificent reception when he became the first to run the distance in Scotland in under 4 minutes.   That Ibbotson succeeded may be due in the first instance to the pace and judgement of a colleague, L Locke, who ran the first lap in 57.2 sec – Ibbotson was then comfortably in fifth place – and the half mile in 1 min 58 sec, at which point Ibbotson was moving up.   At the end of the third quarter of a mile, Ibbotson led the time being 2 min 59.8 sec.   No one was able to extend him in the final lap and yet he completed it in 58.6 sec.   The previous British record of 3 min 59.4 was held jointly by RG Bannister and two Hungarians,  L Tabori and I Roszavolgyi.   The Scottish champion GE Everett, profited by competing in the top class for he finished fourth in 4 min 6.6 sec- 0.9 sec better than his previous best for the distance achieved at the corresponding meeting last year.   M Bernard (France) who was second was delighted with his time of 4 min 5.8  sec, the best ever by a Frenchman.   Ibbotson who visited his wife and newly born daughter in St Helier Hospital, Carshalton, Surrey, said of Saturday’s race:-

“Had it not been quite so hot, and had someone been able to stay with me to the bell, I think I should certainly have broken the world record.   I had not planned to try for a four minute mile but knew after hearing the time for the first lap that it was possible.   The only encouragement I had was the other athletes lining the track and urging me on.”    

The third placed runner was Mike Berisford, an Anglo-Scot who was one of a number who were trying to reach a mile time that started with 3.   The man most likely had been thought to be one mentioned above – Graham Everett.   Other home Scots who had been though contenders for the honour included Graham Stark from Edinburgh and Hugh Barrow from Victoria Park in Glasgow who was a bit younger but very talented.   Then there were the Anglos.   Berisford was one and the Wenk brothers were also working hard on the task.   None of them ever lived in Scotland, none of them had a Scots club affiliation and none of them were at all known north of the border.   But the Anglo who might have been first was Alan Gordon, the man who had run in the actual race where the first four minutes was run.

Gordon was a very talented runner who took part in several of the four minute miles of the era and at one point he had run in more sub-fours than anybody else but had never dipped below the magic figure himself.   A one point he confessed himself to be uncertain why he never did so: in an interview with Doug Gillon he said that Graham Everett had paced him on one occasion to get the time but he was out of sorts and didn’t manage it.   He himself paced Tabori to the clocking coming through 440 in 60 and 880 in 2:00.8.    There were several races where Everett, Gordon and Berisford all ran well in the same race but none of them got there.   Despite the best efforts of Scots runners to beat the clock, it was not until 1961 that a Scot ran inside four minutes, and not until 1970 that a Scot ran the time inside Scotland.   It was not for want of trying though.   The table below shows the progress of the Scottish Native Record for the Mile (performances made in Scotland by competitors born in Scotland).

Time Runner Year
4:11.2 ADR Breckenridge June 1953
4:07.5 GE Everett 9 June 1956
4:06.6 GE Everett 1 June 1957
4:06.3 G Stark 1 August 1959
4:03.9 GE Everett 25 June 1960
4:02.3 I McCafferty 7 June 1967
3:57.4 P Stewart 13 June 1970

It was a long wait – sixteen years after Bannister before Scots could see a Scot run under 4 minutes.   It was a hard battle to get there at any venue and the progress is indicated in the table below.

Date Venue Athlete Time Comments
9 June 1956 Ibrox Graham Everett 4:07.5 SNR.   Winner Jungwirth 4:04.5
5 June 1957 Ibrox 2 M Berisford ; 3 G Everett 4:06.0, 4:06.6 Winner D Ibbotson 3:58.4
19 June 1957 White City 6 A Gordon 4:03.4 Fastest ever by a Scot.
August 1957 White City 3 G Everett 4:06.0 Winner K Wood
12 June 1958 White City 1. G Everett 4:06.4 AAA’s Championship
September 1958 White City 7. G Everett 4:03.5 1.   H Elliott 3:55.4
June 1960 SAAA 1. G Everett 4:03.9
July 1960 AAA 5. G Everett 4:02.8
August 1960 White City 3. M Berisford 4:03.3
4 June 1961 White City 3. M Berisford 4:02.1
13 July 1961 White City 2. M Berisford 4:01.4
18 August 1961 White City 5. M Berisford 3:59.2 1.   J Beatty (USA) 3:56.5

Berisford was born in England in 1936, he lived in England and ran for an English club, appearing seldom north of the Border.   Very few of us would have recognised him.   He did compete in Scottish championships and won the 880 yards in 1961 and mile in 1962.   He raced against Everett many times, usually coming off second best but on 18th August 1961 he went into the Emsley Carr Mile at the White City  in a race won by Jim Beatty (USA) in 3:56.5, and finished fifth in 3:45.2 to win the race to be first Scot under 4 minutes.   He was a Scot under the rules and that is what matters when compiling rankings but we would rather have seen a home Scot doing it.   Graham Everett would have been a popular man to have done it, Alan Gordon should probably have done it in 1955 or 56 and later on Hugh Barrow or Graham Stark were also capable: Barrow’s three quarter mile record of 3:00.5 and pb of 4:01.0 indicate that it was possible.

However – Bannister 3:59.4 in Oxford was first in 1957, Ibbotson 3:58.4 was first in Scotland in 1957, 3:59.2 Berisford was first Scot in 1961 and Stewart was first Scot in Scotland in 1970.   Stewart of course was from Birmingham and later chose to run internationally for England after running for a couple of years for Scotland.    Scotland’s really great period of miling was still to come with the likes of Clement, Robson and Williamson being regularly under four minutes and members of many GB teams.

We are now sixty years from that first sub-four and hundreds of runners have succeeded in getting there but the event and the time still exerts a fascination for people all over the world.   There have been several claims from runners around the world to have run the time before Bannister did so but the most repeated is that of Englishman Ken Wood to have done so.   Ken Wood, from Yorkshire, was a very good middle distance runner indeed and he claimed to have beaten Bannister to it by 29 days.   Unfortunately it was done in a training session in Sheffield.  Many runners claim to have done great things in training which are greeted with scepticism.   Of Wood’s ability there can be no doubt – he won the Emsley Carr mile four times and ran in the 1956 Olympics – and he was adamant that he had run the distance inside four minutes.   His time – 3:59.2 – was faster than Bannister’s and run on the University of Sheffield’s track on 7th April, 1954.   Looking back on the run he said, “I used to train with the University team on Wednesday afternoons and that day there were four or five others doing the session.  Some of the boys thought that it was interesting that I had run under four minutes, but I didn’t regard it as that important.   It was only when Roger made a fuss about it that it seemed significant.   I was pleased for him because I knew mine wouldn’t have counted in any case.”

I’m a wee bit sceptical about the time, but then I’m sceptical about lots of things.    The remark that he didn’t regard it as that important is a strange one when there was a great deal of coverage of the quest for the four minute mile with John Landy in Australia and Wes Santee in America only the most prominent searchers for the prize.

More significant is an article by James Fletcher on the topic from a historical perspective.    It can be found at the BBC website and has some wonderful illustrations.

 The 18th Century four-minute mile              By James Fletcher BBC News

PARROTT’S MILE:  Roger Bannister was credited with being the first person to run a mile in under four minutes – but 18th Century runners are reported to have got there first. Why are they not recognised?  It was 9 May, 1770 when James Parrott, a costermonger, stood at the Charterhouse wall on Goswell Street, London. He was getting ready to run. For money.   A wager had been made that Parrott could not run a mile in under four and a half minutes. If he could, he stood to win 15 guineas – a substantial sum for a man who may only have earned around 50 guineas a year selling fruit and vegetables from a street barrow. With money on the line, it’s likely that umpires on both sides carefully checked the watches, locked them in a box to prevent tampering, and placed them in a horse-drawn carriage that would make sure they reached the finish line ahead of the runner.

After the signal was given, Parrott was away, turning briefly up the narrow confines of Rotten Row before emerging onto the flat, wide open space of Old Street. Legs pumping, heart pounding, he ran its length almost all the way to the finish, a mile away at the gates of Shoreditch Church.  The result was reported in the Sporting Magazine of 1794: “1770 May 9th, James Parrott, a coster-monger, ran the length of Old St, viz. from the Charterhouse- wall in Goswell Street, to Shoreditch Church gates, (which is a measured mile) in four minutes.”  It is the first known report of a four-minute mile. On another May morning 244 years later, Peter Radford retraces James Parrott’s steps.

Listen to Peter Radford on More or Less on BBC Radio 4 and the World Service, or download the free podcast  Today, estate agents and kebab shops line the route. A massive roundabout has been added. But St Leonard’s Shoreditch, home of the bells of Shoreditch from the famous nursery rhyme, still looks much as it would then, although these days it’s perhaps best known from the BBC sitcom Rev.  “The ghost of it all is still here,” says Radford. “All of the new buildings are clustered around the road which is exactly the same as it was then, with the same bends and twists and turns and width as it was then.”  Radford is a retired professor of sports science, and also bronze medallist in the 100m and 4 x100m sprints at the 1960 Rome Olympics and broke the World Record Holder for the 200m in 1960..

He has a passion for runners from the past, and it’s largely thanks to him that we know of the achievements of James Parrott and others like him.  He has collected more than 600 records of running races from the 18th and 19th Centuries, revealing a rich culture of running and athletic achievement. “Women did it, girls did it, men did it, young men did it, old men did it, fat men did it,” Radford says. “Sometimes for a wager someone would say, ‘I can run two miles in XYZ time while eating a chicken’.” Among those records there are further intriguing hints that the mile may have been run in under four minutes.


May, 9th, James Parrott, a

coster-monger, ran the length of

Old Street, viz from the Char-

terhouse Wall in Goswell Street

to Shoreditch church gates,

(which is a measured mile) in four

minutes.   Fifteen guineas to five were

betted he did not run the ground in

four minutes and a half

POWELL’S MILE; On 22 December 1787, the Oxford Journal reported that a man named Powell, a plater from Birmingham, had been wagered the huge sum of one thousand guineas that he could not run a mile within four minutes. No report survives of the final race, although the paper does say that Powell ran a trial in four minutes, three seconds, and continues: “He ran entirely naked, and it is universally believed, that he will win the wager.”

WELLER’S MILE: Then in 1796, the Sporting Magazine reported that a young man called Weller, one of three brothers, “undertook for a wager of three guineas to run one mile on the Banbury road, in four minutes, which he performed two seconds within the time.” In other words, a mile in three minutes, fifty eight seconds.

From a modern perspective, it’s natural to assume that the further back in time we look, the slower people were running. We also have the benefit of distances measured to the millimetre and times recorded automatically to a hundredth of a second, so when confronted with stories of naked, chicken-eating runners, and reports of races published decades after they took place, it’s easy to dismiss the old times as errors or tall tales.   But Radford argues that at the time of Parrott’s run, agricultural chains would have been able to measure the distance to within a few inches. And, by the late 18th Century, the best watches were extremely accurate. Even a watch that lost five seconds a day could still time a mile to within a second.

Crucially, the culture of wagers gave everyone a strong financial incentive to get it right. “The two parties agreed that there hadn’t been any advantage taken by one side over the other,” Radford says. “It’s not like a diary entry where somebody said, ‘I did so and so’ and they could make up whatever they wanted.”  But any individual result could always be compromised by dodgy technology or dishonest or inaccurate reporting, so Peter Radford has applied the tools of statistical analysis to all of the hundreds of results he’s collected.

“It’s only when you look at them and gather them together that you begin to see the patterns emerging,” he says.  Very broadly, his method is to take the best results in any given era over a range of distances and plot them on a graph. Results that are suspect stand out and can be discarded, and those that remain can be seen as more reliable. You can also extrapolate from the times at other distances to see what the ‘physical culture’ of the time might have been capable of achieving over the mile.

“You begin to see that they’re not a random collection of oddball times and distances, they have an internal mathematical logic to it. The argument increases in strength all the time that there were some quite extraordinary athletes in the 18th Century.” Radford recently ran the numbers based on all the races in the period covering Parrott’s run. Factoring in the margin of error, the best possible one-mile time would be anywhere between 4m 13s and 4m exactly.

Radford himself appears surprised by Parrott’s reported time. “The gods of mathematics (and athletics) are playing games with us,” he says.   But behind the athlete’s excitement, there’s the professor’s more scholarly caution. “The analysis has of course answered no questions,” he says, “but has simply made the debate even more intriguing.”   So where does this leave Sir Roger Bannister’s famous run of 6 May 1954? What does Sir Roger himself make of the idea that a costermonger might have got there before him, in the 18th Century?   “It’s inconceivable,” Bannister says. “Without the modern measurement of tracks, and stopwatches that were reliable, there was a lot of guess work in terms of the distance run and I don’t think any of these claims are credible.”  But for former Olympic sprinter Peter Radford, the comparison with Bannister is not the point. “I suppose it’s trying to understand where I’ve come from, to try to understand the history and culture of what drove me,” he says.  “For me the runners of the 18th and 19th Centuries are part of my sporting family tree, and I think they’ve been overlooked for a long time and I want to understand them better.”

The article is fascinating and the accompanying pictures and maps that you will find at the BBC website add tremendously to it.

The four minute mile may be almost commonplace today but regardless of how many men, and surely women in the future, run it, it will still retain its magic.

Best U17 Times



Time Name Country Date of Birth Race Position Venue Date of Performance
4:06.2 Barrie Williams Wales 19/11/55 1 Arcadia CA, USA 22/04/72
4:09.5 Colin Clarkson Wales 26/07/61 5 Cwmbran 29/08/77
4:09.6 Alistair Currie Scotland 24/05/65   Billingham 9/06/81
4:10.9 Hugh Barrow Scotland 12/09/44 2 Dublin (S), Ireland 10/8/61
4:11.0 Kevin Steere England 23/10/54 4 London (CP) 1/09/71
4:11.3 Darren Meade England 4/10/68 1 London (CP) 11/09/85
4:12.21 Mohammed Farah Somalia/England 23/03/83 1 London (CP) 7/08/99
4:14.1 Graham Side England 13/09/54 1 Harlow 20/09/70
4:14.6 Rob Denmark England 23/11/68 2 London (CP) 11/9/85
4:15.0 Andrew Barnett England 22/6/55 6 London (WC) 13/06/71

So there it is – numbers three and four both Scots, High’s time set in 1961, Alistair’s set in 1981 and despite all the remarkable improvements made in shoe and track technology, they have only been beaten on time by Welshmen in 1972 and 1977.   The list is noteworthy too for those not included on it – No Clement, Coe, Cram, Elliott, Ovett, Robson, Williamson ……………………..

If you have any more interesting statistics about the half/800/mile/1500m, just send them on and we’ll put them up.

Rosemary Wright


Rosemary winning the 1970 Commonwealth Games

Rosemary Stirling, later Wright, was one of the heroes of the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh when she won the 800m on the last day.   Ranked in Scotland for performances as early as 1964 she was a firm favourite of athletics supporters on both sides of the border.    With Georgena Buchanan she was half of the GB team that broke the world record for the 4 x 800m in September 1970.   Colin Youngson has put together this profile of a wonderful athlete.

Doug Gillon, the distinguished athletics journalist, wrote in ‘The Herald’ on Friday 2nd May 2014: “Rosemary Stirling was once the first lady of Scottish Athletics. She was the first to win Commonwealth track gold when she took the 800 metres title in Edinburgh in 1970; first to hold UK and Commonwealth records indoors and out; first to win a medal (400m bronze) at the European Indoor Championships, while 4x400m victory at the European Outdoors made her the first Scottish woman to win European gold and she was the first to hold a world record in an Olympic event.”

Colin Shields and Arnold Black included her profile in “The Past is a Foreign Country”, published in 2014: “At 5 feet 2 inches, and weighing in at around 110 pounds, Rosemary Stirling did not cut an imposing figure on the track, but her achievements stand along any other female athlete in the history of Scottish Athletics…….. an Olympic finalist, she also held Scottish records at 400m that lasted 12 years and, at 800m, an incredible 36 years from her first record, set in 1966.”

“Born in Timaru, New Zealand, on 11th December 1947 of a Scottish father and English mother, she started running at the local club’s handicap events in Whakatane before moving to the UK in the mid-1960s.” She joined Wolverhampton and Bilston in the English Midlands. In 1966 Rosemary won the SAAA 440 yards title and then, Gillon says: “She was selected to run for Scotland. ‘My grandparents were proud Scots and so was my dad,’ she said, ‘so I accepted.’”  The following week, as Shields says: “Her breakthrough came at the AAA Championships where, although finishing third in the 440 final, she bettered the Scottish record in the semi-final with 54.5. To put this in perspective, as an 18-year-old, she was now ranked in the top five all-time in the UK. Finishing behind her in that semi-final was a young Lillian Board, destined for tragically short-lived greatness.” Doug Gillon reports: “Rosemary Stirling was offered an England vest immediately. ‘I told them they were too late, that I had already committed to Scotland. I never regretted it. Scotland, with smaller numbers, really looked after you.’” At the Commonwealth Games in Jamaica, 1966, Rosemary Stirling was fourth in the 440 and 880 finals, recording Scottish records on both occasions. 

In 1967 Rosemary Stirling won Scottish titles at both 440 and 880. (Between 1966 and 1973 she was to win the 440 three times, the 880 once and the 800 three times.)  Previously she had taken (Colin Shields): “The first of five WAAA indoor titles, and together with Pat Lowe and Pam Piercey, became a world record holder as part of the team that broke the 3x800m and 3×880 relay records.”

“1969 saw her first international medals at the two European Championships held that year. At the indoor event in Belgrade, she slashed her UK indoor record from 56.0 to 54.8, courageously fighting round the final bend to gain the bronze medal, in a time shared with second place. In Athens in the outdoor championships, she was adrift in the 400m final, finishing 8th in 54.6, but two days later ran the lead-off leg in 54.2, hampered by a troubling foot injury, as the UK team of Stirling, Pat Lowe, Janet Simpson and Lillian Board came home in a world record of 3.30.8 for gold.”



The ‘Athletics Weekly’ report by Mel Watman was as follows.

“In the entire history of Track and Field Athletics there has never been a race that was more exciting than this one. From my own point of view, even the Chataway v Kuts epic will now have to take second place.

On paper France couldn’t lose but, luckily, races are fought out by people on tracks, and not by mathematicians or computers. There was one obvious chink in the French armour, though. Instead of ending up with the double grand slam of Colette Besson and Nicole Duclos – a partnership almost guaranteed to make up any deficit – the team management opted for Duclos on the second leg and Besson on the anchor. This made the French extremely vulnerable on the third stage with Janet Simpson in pursuit of Eliane Jacq. If Janet could be close sufficiently then Lillian Board would be in with a chance against the tempestuous Besson.

Rosemary Stirling, her troublesome foot feeling the strain of five races in as many days, led off with the utmost of her current ability. She handed over with a few girls ahead of her but her time was 54.2 (0.1 outside her best ever) and Britain was in touch. On the second leg Duclos rushed from third to first along the back straight – overtaking the Russian and West German – and continued to pile on the pace for the rest of the distance. It was an awe-inspiring run – TIMED AT 50.6 SECONDS – and at the end of it, France was nicely set up some ten yards ahead. But only ten yards up, for Pat Lowe – who has never run faster than 54.6 off blocks – produced another of her inspired relay performances. Running perilously close to her optimum 200m pace for the whole circuit she covered her lap in an heroic 52.1. Britain’s chances had been kept alive.

Now it was Janet Simpson’s turn. Bitterly disappointed with her showing in the individual final, this was her chance to show why she came fourth in the Olympic final. Never allowing herself to be flustered, she gradually cut down her French rival and, although she could have forged ahead in the final strides to hand Lillian a lead, she deliberately held back … and still ran a superb 52.1!

The advantage in the anchor leg of the relay rests with the runner who takes over just behind and that was just the position in which Lillian found herself. Would Besson destroy herself? As she pulled away from Lillian with every stride it looked for a while as though it would be no race, but then came the realisation that the French girl was travelling too fast for her own safety – a situation borne out by the splits that became known later. Besson covered her first 200m, during which she opened up a lead of 6-8 metres, in a suicidal 23.6! Worse still, at 300m – when some 10 metres up – her time was an almost unbelievable 36.1 … 48.1 speed for 400m. No woman – and not all that many men – could get away with it.

Inevitably, Besson began to crumble in the straight, and Lillian – who had sensibly run her own controlled race – started to close. There was no question of a response from Besson, who was thrashing about wildly, the question was could Lillian pass her in time? With 40 yards to go Besson looked round, the ultimate sign of anxiety, and that gave Lillian renewed hope. It was still touch and go but in the last stride or two, Lillian forced herself ahead for a famous victory. She had run her lap in 52.4 and the team’s total time, shared with France, was a World, European, Commonwealth and UK record 3.30.8 – an average of 52.7 per leg. Truly a glorious performance, one in which all four girls gave of their very best and from which no individual should be singled out.”

Shields and Black note: “Concentrating on the 800 up to the 1970 Commonwealth Games at Meadowbank, she set a Commonwealth and UK all-comers indoor record of 2.06.51 at Cosford and won for Britain against East Germany at the same venue. In June she took the Scottish title in an all-comers record (2.05.4) and returned to Meadowbank a week later to share in a world record 4×800 time of 4.27.0 for the British quartet of Stirling, Sheila Carey, Lowe and Board.”

‘Athletics Weekly’ journalists Cliff Temple, Dave Cocksedge and Mel Watman compiled the Commonwealth Games Reports.


It was four years ago, at Kingston, that Rosemary Stirling – then 18 – surpassed herself by placing 4th in the 880 in 2.05.4. Since then she has run in several world record relay teams and produced the occasional world class performance, but a combination of repeated injuries and a certain lack of confidence prevented her from reaching the heights expected of her. Although possessed of all the necessary qualities to break 2 minutes for 800 metres she was in danger of falling well short of her potential.

Not so now. By winning this important title, her first, in a race in which she had to drive herself unmercifully for the entire length of the finishing straight, Rosemary had proved to the world that she is a champion. More important, she had proved it to herself. From now on, we can expect to see a more assured runner.

The race, as exciting as they come, was marred by Sheila Carey’s misfortune. She tripped and fell soon after the field merged along the back straight. After a few seconds hesitation she started running again and pluckily finished but it was a deeply distressing experience for Sheila, rated favourite for the title.

Rosemary Stirling and Pat Lowe were two runners affected by Sheila’s fall but they managed to regain their balance without losing much ground and at the bell (63.6) it was Gloria Dourass of Wales ahead of Lowe, Cheryl Peasley (Australia) and Stirling.

Peasley, a strapping 19-year-old with fast 400m and 1500m times to her credit, took up the running after 550m and with half a lap to go the race was clearly between her, Lowe and Stirling. The Australian continued to lead into the finishing straight but the two Midlanders (though New Zealand-born Rosemary was representing Scotland, of course!) were poised to strike. A relentless struggle ensued … and it was Rosemary – on the outside – who prevailed by the narrowest of margins.

Both Rosemary and Pat have made courageous recoveries from injures that a few weeks ago threatened their very participation in these Games, and it was tough that one of them had to lose.

Rosemary said later: ‘On the first lap I was boxed in and kept looking round waiting for someone to make a break so I could get through. I thought after the slow first lap that I had a good chance.’ Pat said: ‘I was very tempted, before Cheryl went, to go but it was a long way from home.’ Cheryl said: ‘It was too slow in the early stages; it just wasn’t my race.’

       1                    Rosemary Stirling (Scotland) 2.06.2

2                    Pat Lowe (England) 2.06.2

3                    Cheryl Peasley (Australia) 2.06.3

4                    Gloria Dourass (Wales) 2.08.6

5                    Sylvia Potts (New Zealand) 2.09.7

6                    Penny Werthner (Canada) 2.10.0

7                    Georgena Craig (Scotland) 2.16.1

8                    Sheila Carey (England) 2.18.5”


Doug Gillon reports the victor as saying, “I knew I’d won but it took a long time for the result to come through. I can still hear the crowd egging me on now.”


(Rosemary Stirling, left, was first in the final of the 800m at the 1970 Commonwealth

Games in Edinburgh, crossing the line just three hundredths of a second ahead of her rivals but enough to claim the gold medal. Picture: Herald Archive.)


Shields and Black: “Returning to the 400 scene later that season, she set a national record of 53.9 with her first outdoor win for Britain in Warsaw and repeated this feat in the 800 (2.04.2) in Bucharest in September. That same month she helped Britain to reduce its own world 4×800 record by two seconds to 8.25.0.    In 1971, Stirling improved her 400m time to 53.24, a Scottish record. She also won bronze in the European indoor 800m, retained her Scottish title, was second in the AAA and third in the European outdoor 800m (2.02.08, another Scottish record). In addition she also brought Britain up to fourth on the final leg of the European 4x400m, recording an outstanding split of 52.6, quickest in the team and her fastest ever.

Unfortunately in Olympic year, 1972, as Doug Gillon wrote: “Rejection of England may have hindered her. She says: ‘Before the Munich Olympics, I couldn’t get the British Board to send me anywhere. I struggled for races.’”

At the Olympics, after Rosemary Stirling had battled through the heat and semi-finals, AW commented: “As so often in the past, she has peaked at the right time and her record of being an individual finalist at Kingston, Athens, Edinburgh (gold medal), Helsinki (bronze) and now Munich, is an indication of her consistency.”

The final was packed with world class runners. The gold medallist was Hildegard Falck of West Germany, with an Olympic record 1.58.6. Four competitors broke 2 minutes. AW reported: “Such was the overall quality of the race that Rosemary Stirling smashed Ann Packer’s UK and former world record of 2.01.1 by 0.9 in 7th place and Abby Hoffman (Canada) clocked the same Commonwealth record time of 2.00.2 for nothing better than last position!…….Rosemary, tipped by AW five years ago to become a 2 min runner, finally made it – or at least came within a stride of that target.” Doug Gillon comments: “Stirling’s time survived as the Scottish best for 30 years until Susan Scott broke it…..Rosemary also held the Scottish 400m record for 12 years with 53.24.”

Shields and Black: “Marrying English international distance runner Trevor Wright after the Olympics, she ran steadily thereafter, representing Britain internationally until 1975.” Rosemary won her final Scottish 800m title in 1973 and also won bronze in the AAA outdoor 800m. Between 1966 and 1981 she topped the annual ranking lists for 220 yards (once), 440 yards (once), 880 yards (once), 400m (six times), 800m (six times) and the marathon (once, recording 2.43.29 to win the Gloucester Marathon in 1981). 

Then the Wrights emigrated to New Zealand and settled in Tauranga. Their daughter Jess Ruthe ran for NZ in the World Cross Country Championships; and her sister Emma was NZ schools 800m bronze medallist. Rosemary was team manager of  several NZ teams, including for the 2008 World Cross in Edinburgh.    Trevor’s grandson is Julien Matthews is a sub-four miler who ran in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 and finished ninth in the 1500m final.

In June 2014 Mrs Rosemary Olivia Wright (nee Stirling) was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of the University of Glasgow in recognition of her sporting achievements.

Colin Shields and Arnold Black conclude her profile: “A gracious and modest runner, she expressed her pleasure on Susan Scott breaking her 800m record in 2002, although admitting her surprise that she still held the record after such a long time.”


Rosemary with her Glasgow Doctorate

And that’s where Colin ends his look at the career of Rosemary Wright.   The GB World Record Relay mentioned at the top of the page was reported in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ as follows: “At the Coca-Cola International Invitation Meeting at Crystal Palace on 5th September, 1970, they obliged but the race did not go as expected.  Let Ron tell the tale: “Two Scots, Rosemary Stirling and Georgena Craig, shared in another world record, though only through the disqualification of the West Germans.   The West German Women’s 4 x 800m relay squad broke the tape in 8:22.6, a world record, but were disqualified for passing the baton on the first leg take-over out of the legal area.   So the world record went to Britain (Miss Stirling, Mrs Craig, Pat Lowe and Sheila Carey) who finished second in 8:25, two seconds inside the record set by Britain earlier this year.”  It was the second time that the record had been broken that year – the only change being because Lillian Board was too ill to run and Georgena Craig had been drafted in.   Statistically, Rosemary appeared in the Scottish lists from 1964 through to 1985 in a wide range of events.  220 yards, 200m, 440 yards, 400m, 880 yards, 800m, Mile, 1500m, 3000m and from 1980 she was ranked only at the marathon where her best time was 2:43:21 which made her top rated Scot in 1981!   Had she not been living in New Zealand at the time, a new international  career might have beckoned.

Graham Williamson

GW 1

Graham Williamson leads – rival Steve Cram inset

Graham Williamson was born in Glasgow on 15th June 1960 and was one of the best middle distance runners the country has produced – Frank Clement was already on the scene when Graham and John Robson burst through to prominence in 1977 and 1978 but the rivalry between the three of them was as intense as that south of the Border between Coe, Cram and Ovett without any of the bad feeling.    Graham, like many another before him was well known on the Scottish track and cross country circuits well before he was heard of in England.   He had started running in Summer 1973 at the age of 12/13 with personal bests of 2:19 and 5:20.0 for 800m and 1500m.   By 1974 as a Junior Boy his bests were 2:09.0 and 4:29.0 and his bests for the next three years are in the table.

Year 800m 1500m 3000m
1975 2:02.3 4:19.0
1976 1:56.3 4:01.9
1977 1:53.1 3:48.2 8:25.2

There was an excellent interview with the BMC News of Autumn 1978 which provided a lot of information for this profile.  His competitive record with placings up to and including 1977 are as follows

  • 1974: third in Scottish Junior Boys Cross Country
  • 1975: second in Scottish Schools Cross Country; first in the Scottish Schools 800m; Second in the SAAA Boys 1500m
  • 1976: second in the SAAA Youths 800m; second in SAAA Youth 1500m; first in Scottish Schools 1500m
  • 1977: First in Scottish Youths Cross-Country; 43rd in IAAF Cross Country (Dusseldorf); First in SAAA 800m, 1500m and 3000 metres; second AAA U20 1500m; Scottish Youth (U17) 800 and 1500m record holder.

So, although John Keddie says that Williamson came into prominence in 1977 along with John Robson, he had been working his way through the age-groups, under the guidance of coach Eddie Sinclair since he was twelve years old!   The first report in Keddies book says “In 1978, Robson had a brilliant run in the SAAA Championships in a memorable race.   After a terrific duel with Frank Clement Robson just came out on top, 3:40.1 (a Native record) to 3:40.5.   Not far behind these two was outstanding Junior John Graham Williamson (Springburn Harriers)  whose 3:42.1 constituted UK aged 17/18 years old bests.   Six weeks later these positions were exactly repeated in the UK Championships at Meadowbank.    These performances augured well for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games at Edmonton for which, alas, young Graham Williamson, despite a record breaking win in the AAA’s Championships (3:39.7), was not selected”.   When the list of incredible non-selections made by administrators is drawn up, this along with his disgraceful non-selection for the 1980 Olympics are sure to be at or very near the top.   His win/loss record vis-a-vis Steve Cram was something like 21:1 in his favour but while the English selectors sent Cram along to gain valuable experience, the Scots left Williamson at home.

So what was Graham’s response?   By the end of 1978, his achievements included;

  • Scottish Junior 800m and 1500m champion;
  • Scottish Junior 1500m and 3000m record holder;
  • Scottish, UK and European record holder for 1500m;
  • UK record holder for Junior 1 Mile;
  • AAA Under 20 Champion.

 But what must surely have given him most satisfaction was setting a World Junior record in Warsaw the day after the final of the 1500m in Edmonton.   His time?    3:37.7.

In July 1979, Williamson was second  and Robson third right behind Steve Ovett in the AAA’s 1500m.   Three days later on July 17th, both Scots were in the Golden Mile in Bislett Stadium, Oslo, when Coe broke the world record with 3:39.0.   Robson in fifth ran 3:52.8 ( a Scottish National record) and 19 year old Graham was seventh in 3:53.2.  Video with interviews can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyss8ym2bq0 .

 There is a superb article in Sports Illustrated by Kenny Moore on 13th March 1980.  

and is a first class description of how the field came together, the wheeling and dealing about who took the pace, how fast it was to go, conversations between runners, the influence of Andy Norman, the conversation Brendan Foster had with Graham before the race and (of course) the course of the actual event.   If you are interested in middle distance racing at this time and what ‘our boys’ are expected to put up with when they get to these events, this is a ‘must read.’    I’ll quote some of the bits of what Graham had to put up with here.   The race already included Steve Scott, John Walker, Thomas Wessinghage and initially Ovett seemed a certain starter and the race was being organised by Andy Norman and Arne Haukvik of Norway.   “Graham Williamson, only 19, had a best of 3:55.8 and been third in the Golden Mile the year before.   For seven months he had had a tentative invitation to Oslo but there had been no confirmation.   It seemed that with Walker and Ovett and Scott in the race, the promoters were waiting until the last minute to complete the field.   They wanted the fittest runners and, because NBC-TV had bought rights to the race, a few Americans.   “All year I’d been planning to make this race the peak of my year,” says Williamson.   “I arranged three weeks of training at altitude in Colorado as final preparation.”   He returned to Scotland 12 days before the race.   “My training was going badly when I got home.   One afternoon a week before the race I was out doing four miles and everything clicked.”   That was the day that Norman called.   “You’re in,” he said.   They continued to put the field together – Robson and Moorcroft were kept waiting for their invite.   Steve Lacy and Craig Masback (The two Americans) were also included.   In Oslo no ‘journeyman rabbit’ could be included – it would have to be one of the runners.   Masback was in no doubt that it would be Robson, Williamson or himself that would be required to do the job.   None of them wanted it and Williamson made it clear that he wasn’t doing it.   Then during an interview with the BBC Ovett said that with the strength of British Miling, why should they go all the way to Norway for a fast race?   He boxed himself into a corner where it was not possible for him still to go to Oslo.   Coe, who still seemed to regard himself as an 800 metres runner was in the field.   “Back in the hotel, Williamson who had also resisted Haukvik’s entreaties to set the pace sat down with his room-mate, Brendan Foster, a magically astute judge of runners.   Before them they had a ist of the field.   “We got it down to Coe and Scott really,” Williamson says.   “For a year I had felt that Coe was capable of a big mile, Coghlan had to be tired from his 5000, Walker was not at his best and Wessinghage seldom comes off well in a big race.   I never expected anything of Masback.”   The 19 year-old Williamson looked up at the 31 year-old Foster .   “What do you think?” he asked.    “I’d bet you third,”   said Foster.”   There was an interesting conversation with Walker and it was on to the race.   Graham warmed up wearing two track suits.   Lacy, the American, took the pace and came through the first lap in 57 seconds with Scott a yard back.  They both got to 800 in 1:54 with Coe just behind in in 1:54.5.  Two laps in 57 seconds each.   At 1200 metres the time was 2:52.0.   Coe moved off and down the back straight, “Williamson had found the race frustrating for its refusal to develop into a file of efficiently running men.   “You could never settle in,” he said, “There were always things going on, people going past.   I really only took stock of the race with 300 metres to go.”   He was in fourth.   “With Scott and Coe out and away, I was aiming for third.   I got by Walker.   I cut in on him and he pushed me in the back.   Ahead Scott didn’t look that good.   I began to think I might get second.”   Looked good but then ………….. “On the turn, just past 1500 metres Masback loomed up just behind Williamson, and his reaching stride accidentally caught Williamson’s left foot.   Two spikes came into the rear of the Scotsman’s  red Puma and ripped it off his heel.   “One second I was sprinting at Scott, thinking he’s not too far away’, says Williamson.   “And the next ‘Christ, what can I do?’   I kept looking down.   I ran a few steps with the back of the shoe tucked under my foot like a carpet slipper.   Then I got it off.   People began to go by me.   My running action was gone.”   Williamson would finish seventh in 3:53.2 – that and his 1500 metres time of 3:36.6 were European Junior records.   The whole saga of the race is in Moore’s article.   Then after all that hassle, just five days later Williamson easily won the AAA’s 1500 metres which he had won the year before in 3:41.6 and on August 16th won the European Junior 1500m in 3:39.0.   A month later at altitude in Mexico City, Graham won the World Student Games title in 3:45.4: a really remarkable double.

In 1980 there was a slow start to the season with early season illness.   If the non-selection for Edmonton was a disgraceful decision, it did not compare with the ‘fix’ that was the selection for the 1980 Olympic Games.   There was an Olympic trial for the 1500m in June.   Graham ran and was second to David Moorcroft who said he wanted to run the 5000m in the Games.    Ovett and Coe were clearly going and Graham as second in the trial should have gone.   Steve Cram had fallen during the race and Brendan Foster persuaded the selectors to have Graham and Steve have a run-off for the Olympic place over One Mile at Bislett.   Graham had a cold that week and asked the selectors to put the race back a week so that the two would have an equal chance.   They refused.   Then his bag containing his running kit, spikes and all, was stolen at the airport.   He had to run with a cold and in borrowed kit.   Needless to say he did not run to form in the race which was won by Ovett in 3:48.8 with Cram second in 3:53.8 and Graham some way back in 3:56.4.  In his biography, ‘Ovett’ written with John Rodda, Steve has some hard words to say about the incident and I’ll quote some of them here.   Steve was running in the 1500 at Bislett as were Cram and Williamson.   “When I arrived in Oslo airport my thoughts of world-record breaking were quickly set aside for the plight of another runner, Graham Williamson.   The young Scottish miler and Steve Cram had been pitched into my race to decide who should have the third 1500m place in the Games, in my opinion the most absurd way of choosing an athlete and an indictment of the selectors who could have had little understanding about the preparation and planning that goes into an athletes life.   It showed a complete lack of feeling for the sport.   If these selectors had been runners then they had completely forgotten what their sport was all about.   To ask two young athletes to race in these circumstances a month before their Olympic event was like committing them to a duel at dawn: one of them was going to have a shattering experience.   As we all waited at the airport it became clear that Graham’s kit was missing.   I felt for the man as did the other athletes in the party.   The prospect of having to run in different spikes, shorts and vest in such a crucial race was a cruel blow.   A runners spikes are like a comfortable old pair of shoes – you will keep them until they are falling apart.   I wanted to say something to Graham but I stopped short realising I would only make matters worse.   In the event Graham’s gear did not appear and Cram finished in front of him and won the ticket to Moscow.   Within a few seconds of winning the race I went over to Graham and tried to offer the right kind of words to comfort the guy.   He had been running well, he thought he had done enough to win his Olympic place and then the selectors had turned round and said they had wanted more.”   The book is excellent and I used to use particular paragraphs to illustrate points that I wanted to get across to runners and even at times to coaches.    Exactly two weeks later  at the same Stadium, Ovett set another world record with 3:32.1 for the 1500m while Graham ran 3:35.8 in fifth.

GW 2

1992: Graham wins the Mile in a Scottish Native Record of 3:52.66 at the Iveco International Games at Meadowbank

Injury prevented him from competing seriously in 1981 and the only mark for him in the SAAA Yearbook is 3:46.4 for 1500 metres in March that year.   In 1982, however, he won the AAA’s indoor 1500m in January with a UK Indoor best of 3:40.72 which eh reduced further to 3:38.28 in a match against Belgium at Cosford ten days later.   Into the summer season and he brought his mile time down to 3:50.65 for a National record when he was fourth behind the South African Sydney Maree at Cork on 13th July.   He qualified for both the European and Commonwealth Games held later in the year.   He had ten of the top 20 Scottish marks that year from 3:37.7 in Meadowbank in July down to a 3:46.1 indoors at Cosford in February.    He won a top class 1500 in an international match at Meadowbank in July with 3:52.66    The match was against England, Poland, and Norway and he defeated the in-form Irishman Ray Flynn by almost two seconds.   There was more misfortune in the Commonwealth Games in Australia however.   He won his heat in 3:45.22 and was going really well in the final when there was a bit of a kerfuffle in the back straight of the final lap.   Cram saw this and decided to take advantage and go for it.  The result was a win for the Englishman in one of the tightest finishes imaginable.   Result: 1.   Steve Cram   3:42.37; 2.   John Walker   3:43.11; 3.   Mike Boit   3:43.33; 4.   Graham Williamson   3:43.84; 4.   Mike Hillardt   3:44.03.   How close and how unlucky can you get?     Well, the European Championships later in the year gave the answer.   In the Final Graham accelerated past Cram with 600 metres to go before the Spaniard Jose Abascal caught his heel in the back straight and he crashed to the track.   Cram won and Graham did not finish.

1983 and 1984 produced many of his lifetime best times with 1983 in particular showing best marks of 1:45.6 for 800m, 3:34.01 for 1500m, 3:52.01 for the Mile, 4:58.38 for the 3000 metres and 8:07.8 for the 3000 metres.   The times for 800m, 1500m and 2000m were lifetime bests.   He ran in the World Championships in Helsinki at the start of August and the BMC News had this to say of his performance: ” Graham Williamson gambled on not having lost too much conditioning with his injury but a 3:38.99 Heat was really all that he could manage in his condition.   The man has talent and guts but never seems to enjoy much good luck.   Still, he and George Gandy may well come through in 1984: Williamson can certainly run 800 in 1:44 and 1500 in close to 3:30, sometimes.”    I like that ‘sometimes’ at the end!   Graham was well liked and respected in the BMC and Frank Horwill liked the fact that he was not afraid to take it on if appropriate.

 In 1984 there were more excellent times recorded: 2:16.82 for 1000m, 3:34.13 for 1500m and 3:51.6 for the Mile.   After these two outstanding years he was injured for most of 1985 and did not compete.   There was a solitary 1500 metres time of 3:46.85 recorded in 1986 and, because of injuries, his wonderful career was basically over.   The man who had been on the wrong end of several decisions by administrators and selectors was ironical given an extension to gain the qualifying time required for the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games.   He couldn’t get within 7 seconds of the required time when he went for it in Innsbruck.   His last lap kick had gone and he could only manage 63 seconds for it.   In an article by Doug Gillon in ‘Scotland’s Runner’ for  May 1987 he says”I knew then I’d had it.   Yet it was the most consideration I had ever received from the Scottish selectors.   He had retired by the age of 26.

Graham had a fine career with many, many very good races and although most of the times were recorded approximately 30 years ago they stand up remarkably well today.   He tops the Scottish Junior All-Time lists for 800m, 1500m, One Mile and 3000m.   He ran for Scotland n the World Junior Cross-Country Championships (twice as a Junior and once as a Senior).    His best marks are in the table which has his all-time GB as well as his Scottish rankings for each performance.

Event Time GB Rank Scottish Rank
800 1:45.6 24 3
1000m 2:16.82 6 1
1500m 3:34.01 12 2
Mile 3:50.64 7 1
2000m 4:58.38 8 1
3000m 7:57.11 15

I would like to go back to the article mentioned at the start: The ‘Olympic Prospect’ interview in the British Milers Club magazine for Autumn 1978. It is not clear who asked the questions but the replies were quite revealing.  Remember his date of birth: 15/6/60

BMC:   Please describe in some detail your winter training and outline how it has progressed over the past three years.

GW:     1975/6:   Sunday: 7 Miles easy.   Monday: 4-5 miles steady.   Tuesday:  4-5 miles brisk.   Wed:  5 miles steady.   Thursday:  5 miles steady.   Friday:   Rest.   Saturday:   Race

            1976/7:   Sunday:  10 miles easy.   Monday:  3 miles easy am; 800’s or speed work pm.   Tuesday:  3 miles easy am; Brisk road run pm.   Wed:  3 miles easy am; steady road run pm.   Thursday:  3 miles easy am; Acceleration run pm. 

            Friday: Rest.  

           Saturday:  Race.

            1977/8:   Sunday: 10 miles easy.   Monday: 3-4 miles easy am; Brisk road run pm.  Tuesday:  3-4 miles easy am; track speed work pm.   Wed:  3-4 miles easy am; Steady run pm.   Thursday: 3-4 miles easy am; Steady run pm.  Friday:


            Saturday:  Race.

BMC:   What are your views on the comparative values of indoor running and cross country during the winter?

GW:     I value cross-country running very much.   It is a nice break from track running.   I take the country very seriously but seem to get dogged either by very bad colds or injury at very important times.   I have only won the Scottish National once.   Twice in the last three years I have been undefeated   and then got ‘flu one year and a very bad foot injury in 1978.

BMC:   Please describe in some detail your summer training and outline how it has progressed during the past three years.


Day 1976 Morning Afternoon 1977 Morning Afternoon 1978 Morning Afternoon
Sunday   Easy run at Club   Long run at Club   Long Run at Club
Monday   3 Miles Easy Fartlek run   3 Miles Easy Track 150’s   5 Mile Run Track: 15 x 150
Tuesday   3 Miles Easy Track session   3 Miles Easy 15 x 200 or pyramid session   5 Mile Run Track: 20 x 200
Wednesday   3 Miles Easy Fartlek   3 Miles Easy 10 x 300   5 Mile Run Track: 15 x 300
Thursday   3 Miles Easy Track Session   3 Miles Easy Track: 15 x 400   5 Mile Run Track: 12 x 400
Friday   Rest     Rest     Rest  
Saturday   Race     Race     Race  

BMC:   Please give details of training other than running.

GW:     None.

BMC:   Please describe how you warm up.

GW:    At the moment I am trying different ways of warming up to see which one suits me best.   I am trying different amounts of jogging and strides at different meetings.   The warm-up depends on how long before the event you have to report.   Normally at meetings I now start 45 minutes before the event.   I just jog about during that time with about four or five ‘strides’ to loosen off and increase the heartbeat.

[The entire article can be found in the BMC Magazine for autumn 1978.]

My favourite Graham Willliamson story is of the wee boy (no more than 12 years old) who spotted Graham talking to Jack Crawford as he walked through the Springburn Harriers grounds at Huntershill and asked for his autograph.   Graham was quite agreeable to this and asked if the boy had a pen he didn’t but borrowed one from Jack.   He then asked for a bit of paper but the boy didn’t have one; he did however suggest that Graham sign his forearm and he would trace it on to a piece of paper when he got home!

Adrian Weatherhead


Adrian Weatherhead (76) with Alan Puckrin (290) leading Jim Brown (229)

Scotland is a small country so you would expect all those interested in endurance running, whichever branch was their speciality, would know each other or at least know what each other was doing.   That is not necessarily the case as can be seen from the career of Adrian Weatherhead,   Well known as a top flight athlete, his actual career seems to be a well-kept secret.  He won SAAA titles at various distances  on the track, indoor and out (did YOU know that he was also a steeplechaser?   I didn’t!) and a cross country internationalist  who turned late in his career to road running where he turned out to be a master of his trade.   He was reported to be a speed merchant in training who was seen out regularly doing lunch time training sessions on the grass beside the North Meadow Walk in the Meadows – often accompanied by the accomplished 400m/800m runner Tom Renwick.   Andy McKean was one of our best ever cross-country runners but Adrian was runner-up to him National Cross-Country Championship three times and Andy says, ‘I recall glancing over my shoulder to see him uncomfortably close behind, dancing light footedly over the snow in Drumpellier Park in Coatbridge.’   All photographs on this page are by Graham MacIndoe unless otherwise stated.   This profile has been written by Colin Youngson and tells the story of an athlete who should be remembered for his achievements more than he is.   Before the profile however, let’s look at Adrian’s replies to the questionnaire.

Name:   Adrian Weatherhead

Club/s:   Octavians, Polytechnic Harriers/Edinburgh AC

Date of Birth:   22/9/43

Occupation:   Retired Local Government Officer.

Personal Bests:  

Event Time
800m 1:51.6
1500m 3:41.35
Mile 3:57.59
5000m 13:47.28
Road 10K 29:36
10 Miles 49:46
Half Marathon 66:00

How did you get involved in the sport:   School to get fit for rugby (400/800m); then Octavians AC and Heriot Watt University.

Has any individual or group had any marked effect on either your attitude to the sport or individual performances?     Peter Snell and Jim Ryun

What exactly did you get out of the sport?   1.  The satisfaction of proving certain people who doubted my ability wrong.   2.   The satisfaction of watching my training being translated into results.   3.   The thrill of becoming a GB International athlete.   4.   The enduring legacy of well-being which physical fitness gives one.

Can you describe your general attitude to the sport?   A sport which is both rewarding for achievement through effort but unforgiving when preparation is lacking.   It is therefore a sport when competitors stand or fall by their own efforts and can neither depend upon nor blame team mates as in other sports.

What do you consider your best ever performance/performances?   1.   My fastest mile run in blustery conditions finishing only two seconds down on Filbert Bayi, the then new world record holder.   2.   Outsprinting the notoriously fast-finishing Andre de Hertoge in the Scotland v Benelux match 1500m since I did not have the blistering sprint speed which many of my contemporary rivals possessed.   I covered the last 400m in 54 seconds.

What ambitions did you have that remain unfulfilled?   Olympic and European Championships.

What did you do apart from running to relax?   Jog/run 5 – 6 miles per day; swim a hard mile most days; astronomy; competitive small-bore target shooting; playing the guitar.

What did running bring you that you would have wanted not to miss?   The pleasures of achievement, health and fitness.

Can you give some details of your training?   Basically the type of schedule advocated by John Anderson (one of the world’s best and, to my knowledge the only British coach that the former Soviet Union sports machine ever invited to join them).   The opposite of the Lydiard method – plenty of high quality track running along with one’s winter mileage.   No track anaerobic session was ever run at a slower than summer race pace.

Adrian P Weatherhead was born on 22nd September, 1943.   By 1965 he was running for Octavians AC and recorded a time of 1:56.9 for 880 yards.   During the next 25 years he produced an extremely impressive series of top class performances on every surface: outdoor and indoor track, cross-country and (almost as an afterthought) road.   Since he had no interest in taking part in veterans-only competition he retired at the age of 47 having made a considerable mark on the Scottish record books.

Adrian went to Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and represented them with distinction.   For example in November 1968 he ran the fastest time in the East District Cross-Country Relay Championships round the hoof-marked, bumpy Hazlehead pony track in Aberdeen, outpacing future GB internationalists Donald Macgregor, Gareth Bryan-Jones and Alistair Blamire.   Although for many years he refused to run on the road (to prevent injury), he was a formidable cross-country runner and at the end of the same month as the East relay, he was narrowly outkicked by John Myatt in the Scottish Universities Trial over the Aberdeen University course.   In December in the Scottish Universities v Scottish Cross Country Union match at Camperdown Park, Dundee, Adrian finished fifth behind Lachie Stewart, Dick Wedlock, Alistair Blamire and Myatt.   Weatherhead emphasised his place amongst the nest Scottish Cross-Country runners on January 18th, 1969 by winning the East District title on Musselburgh Racecourse.   At around the same time he ran 3000m in 8:13.8 at Cosford on the indoor track.   Then he finished thirteenth on his first run in the Senior National at Duddingston Park.

Weatherhead also ran for HWU during the track season, for example doubling up at 1500m and 5000m in a match against Aberdeen University and Glasgow University at Westerlands in April 1969.   Adrian graduated that summer but improved his best 800m time to 1:52.3, was a close second to Craig Douglas (who later won the SAAA title) in the East District 1500m, ran a pb of 3:48.1 (third in the Scottish rankings) when winning a race for the Scottish Universities v English Universities at Crystal Palace and completed a Mile in 4:04.0.   By now Adrian was running for Polytechnic Harriers as well as for Octavians and also won over 5000m (14:17.2) at Crystal Palace.   In addition he won a 3000m (8:20.0) in Oslo.

By December 1969 Adrian Weatherhead was representing the SCCU in the annual cross-country fixture with the Scot Unis, this time at Paties Road, Colinton, Edinburgh.   His cross-country career continued intermittently but with a great deal of success.   In the 1970 National on Ayr Racecourse he was sixth, securing selection for the International Cross-Country at Vichy, France, where he contributed well as fourth Scottish counter in forty second place ahead of Dick Wedlock and Norman Morrison..


The Vichy team:   Adrian, Lachie Stewart, Bill Stoddart,  Bill Mullett, Dick Wedlock, Gareth Bryan-Jones in the rear, Norman Morrison, Ian McCafferty and Jim Alder in front.

(Picture from Lachie Stewart)

In 1971 Adrian regained his East District Cross-Country title (which he also won in 1976).   He improved further in 1973 in the National at Drumpellier Park, Coatbridge, finishing an outstanding second behind Andy McKean.   By now Weatherhead was running for Edinburgh AC and they won the team championship.   The first IAAF World CC Championships took place at Waregem Racecourse, Ghent, Belgium, where Adrian was fifth Scottish counter in seventy second place.

At Coatbridge in both 1975 and 1976, Adrian Weatherhead was second to Andy McKean in the National and EAC won the team title.   For some reason (indoor races?) Weatherhead did not run the World Cross-Country again.   However he continued to compete well for his club.  In the National, EAC were victorious in 1978 at Bellahouston Park (Adrian tenth) and in 1981 at Callendar Park, Falkirk, (Adrian fourteenth).   He was twenty first when EAC won silver at the Jack Kane Centre, Edinburgh, in 1983; and signed off with thirty sixth (but first M40 veteran) in 1984 having won three individual silver medals n the National Cross-Country plus five team golds and one silver.   In the National Cross-Country Relay, he won team bronze in 1976 and silver in 1978.

Despite enjoying consistent excellence over the country, Adrian Weatherhead’s main focus was the track.   In 1970 he won the East District 1500m from Jim Dingwall and improved his one mile best to 4:00.7 at Crystal Palace.   he also ran 5000m: second in the East District and third in the SAAA Championships (14:09.2) behind Ian and Lachie Stewart.

Further progress was clear in 1971 when Adrian was second in the Scottish 1500m rankings to the outstanding Peter Stewart.   Weatherhead not only ran 3:40.9 during a mile in 3:58.5, but also his seventh fastest 1500m was only 3:47.4.   During the indoor season he had run 3000min 8:02.61 when second in the AAA’s Indoor Championships at Cosford (in front of Andy Holden but behind Peter Stewart who went on to win the European indoor title at that distance) winning his first Great Britain outdoor vest and he won an outdoor 3000m at Belfast in 8:10.0.   Furthermore he broke14 minutes for 5000m three times, was second in the SAAA event to Ian McCafferty, won a bronze medal in t he AAA’s Championships and was unlucky not to be selected for the European Athletics Championships.   His new pb was 13:47.28 at Crystal Palace in the AAA event.   In the Scottish rankings this was second only to Ian Stewart.

In 1972, after winning a silver medal in the AAA indoors 1500m (3:46.7) on January 29th, Adrian Weatherhead was selected to run 1500m for Great Britain in the match against Spain at Cosford on February 19th.   He finished third behind fellow-Scot Frank Clement and Spaniard Jean Borraz.   The outdoor season produced a 5000m in 13:50.4, third in the rankings behind Ian Stewart and McCafferty.   He also won his first outdoor Great Britain vest v Greece and the Netherlands in Athens.      In 1973 Adrian won the SAAA Indoor 1500m (3:51.3) at Bell’s Sports Centre, Perth.   He followed that with victory in the outdoor East District 1500m from Jim Dingwall with a season’s best of 3:42.7, second in the 5000m and his season’s best was 13:54.

1974 provided further proof of Adrian Weatherhead’s speed, consistency and versatility.   The season started normally enough with a win in the East District 1500m.   Two good 5000m races both produced a time of 13:48, including a win in the English Inter-Counties at Crystal Palace.   Adrian won the English Inter-Counties title and ended up second in the Scottish rankings.   The big surprise was Weatherhead’s victory in the Scottish Championships – in the steeplechase!   He defeated list-topper Ian Gilmour with 8:52.8 and also recorded 8:50.6  as second-fastest Scot that season.   Then Adrian competed for Scotland in the match versus Norway in Oslo: winning the 1500m in 3:43.4 as well as coming fifth in the steeplechase.

1975 was another good year.   Adrian ran 1500m in a pb of 3:41.35 when finishing fifth in the AAA Championships (second in the rankings to Frank Clement).   Another pb was 3:57.59 for the Mile at Crystal Palace in May which was repeated in the IAC meeting in September the same year.   He also raced another 1500m for Great Britain v East Germany (DDR) in Dresden where he finished second.   He had also won a 1500m the previous week in the Spanish Games in Madrid where he beat the Spanish record holder Antonio Burgos.   He ran for Scotland in the British Isles Cup in Munich, and won a 5000m race in Munich (14:11.6).   1976 started with a win in the SAAA Indoor 1500m (3:48.9) in Perth.   In 1977 it was evident that Adrian’s speed had not lessened: 800m in 1:52.8; 1500m in 3:41.46 (third in the rankings – his sixth fastest mark was 3:47.5); and a Mile in 3:58.7, making him the oldest person ever to break four minutes.   He also won the last two of his seven Great Britain vests that year. .    1978 was less successful: 1500m in 3:49.6 and 3000m indoors (8:07.8).

In 1979 Adrian  became the oldest athlete to win the SAAA 1500m title outsprinting Hugh Forgie and Steve Rimmer.   He also ran 3:43.3 in the AAA 1500m final.

Weatherhead to Charleson


Having retired from the track, Adrian Weatherhead continued to run cross-country until 1984 (as reported above).   However the real shock was his late career as a road runner!   In the 1983 Scottish Six-Stage Relay he won team silver with EAC, next year they won gold and in 1988 silver again.   He also won the Grangemouth 10K race twice (fastest time 29:36) and the Falkirk Half Marathon in 66 minutes, all achieved as a 40 – 42 year old vet.

However the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay was the event in which Adrian made most impact, when he was aged 40 to 47.   EAC had finished second in this prestigious event seven times in the previous decade – they could really have done with Weatherhead then to turn silver into gold!   Adrian would only run the hilly first stage but did so seven years out of the next eight starting in 1983 with a tremendous 26:16 (33 seconds clear of the next man and only 16 seconds slower than the record).   He was sixth fastest in 1985, second in 1986, seventh in 1987 (when EAC won team silver), fifth in 1988, seventh in 1989 and sixth in 1990 – only 14 seconds slower than the fastest man – future Olympian Tom Hanlon).

Adrian Weatherhead’s career had been truly remarkable and very successful.   It is a shame that he had no interest in the burgeoning area of veteran athletics, since there is no doubt that he was capable of winning at British, European and World level.   Nevertheless his achievements were admirable – speed and stamina nurtured by very effective training, in addition to tactical awareness and a sense of racing adventure.

With regard to Adrian’s road running, there is a good picture of him on the first stage of the 1985 Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay in the Edinburgh – Glasgow section of this website.   Colin mentions his conditions for running his first relay and they are backed up by Doug Gillon’s report on the race in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ of  12th November, 1983, beginning “The sweetest sight for veteran marathon runner Colin Youngson must have been the Corinthian pillars of Stirling’s Library with its Cyclops clock-eye staring unblinkingly at the finishers of the Edinburgh to Glasgow Road Race…” and goes on to say:   “Adrian Weatherhead, now 40, had never run in the race before despite a lifetime in the sport.   Yet he insisted that he would run the opening leg or not at all for his club, Edinburgh AC.   In a run of spectacular effort he finished 33 seconds clear of the second team. ”    Many clubs in the race have the situation of one of their best runners insisting that he was a track man but not a road runner, none, I would suggest, have had the reward of the same athlete returning in such a spectacular fashion in subsequent years!   A first class athlete on all surfaces, Adrian Weatherhead deserves to be better known in Scotland. 

Barbara Tait

BT 1

The 1950’s were very important for Scottish men’s athletics but even more so for the women’s side of the sport.   There were no international fixtures over the country, the SWAAA Championships were only for senior women and track races above 220 yards were few and far between with most of those being handicap races.   By the end of the decade the championships had swelled to include events for Juniors (under 15) and Intermediates (under 17) as well as for senior women and the number of events had almost doubled.   This was largely down to the women themselves demanding races and supporting those that were put on.   It was a hard job getting the number of 880 yards races increased and even harder to get the Mile into the District Trials, Inter District and Championship fixtures  – there were none at the start of the decade.   As in all endurance running for women, Dale Greig was a key figure but there were other notables who should be discussed and remembered.   Unfortunately the records were not kept as well as for the men and the reports in the newspapers were fewer and scantier for the women too.   We seriously need information about these pioneers.   Barbara, now living in Autralia, was kind enough to complete the questionnaire for us.

Name:.     Barbara Tait      (Martin, Carpenter.)

Club:   Edinburgh Harriers – Edinburgh Athletic Club

Date of Birth:    16th February 1939

 Occupation:   Teacher, Relaxation Therapist, Author, (Published 3 books, 3 health and fitness Videos Relaxation Tapes) Public Speaking engagements.

 How did get into the sport initially?   I knew I could run when I was at primary school. My teacher always made me run in the races against the boys not the girls. I then went to James Clark High School in Edinburgh and in my second year I was sports champion for the school. I knew then I loved to run. My Uncle David introduced me to the Edinburgh Harriers Athletic Club. In my first year I was very shy and only did the short distances the same as the other girls. At the East via West the next year 1956 the east team needed someone to run the half mile in the relay, so I put my hand up. I ran a good time and loved the longer distance. From there I entered the quarter mile and the 1 mile in the Scottish Championships in the June. I really liked the quarter mile and so wanted to beat Anna Herman the mile was just another race to try. On the day the mile came first and I broke the record so quarter mile did not seem so important.

 Personal bests.   In 1959 I broke my own mile record three times in that year brining it down to 5 minutes 18.3 sec and then in London British Championships I came 4th in a time of 5 minutes 15.4 seconds. In 1960 at Bute Highland games I clocked a time of 5 minutes 12.5 sec. I was going well in training and my time was getting better. I was once again training with the boys, and on one very special day at Meadowbank I got my training time clocked at 4minutes 59.3sec. I was feeling so good and looking forward to the next season. But things did not go as planned I did not feel very well during the winter and the doctors found I had T.B. in my lungs. I was divested I was told I must stop all training immediately. I felt well so I kept on training.  The doctors said my good feeling would not last and my body would soon start to break down, and it did. In my last Scottish championship race at Meadowbank on 10th May 1961 I came 3rd that day I knew I could not go on. My leg was very heavily strapped I could hardly move my left arm both cartilages in my knees had been damaged. I knew then I would have to stop my beloved sport.

 Did any individual or group have any marked effect on performance or attitude to the sport?   My Uncle David was the person who encouraged me most in my athletics. He had been interested in athletics in his youth. He was always there to encourage me in the good times and the bad. I was very young and shy and he gave me confidence to keep going. He was my rock. My idol was Dianne Leather. My coach was K Herman (Anna Herman’s husband) he was the most inspiring and dedicated person to the sport. He ran for Poland before the Second World War. He trained Anna and I hard and never took no for answer, or I can’t do. He made me a much better person in so many ways. When he found out I had T.B.and on longer able to run he introduced me to basketball. As he said a team sport would be easier on my health. I loved it. After some time and a lot of practice I was chosen to play for Scotland.  I represented Scotland on many occasions the highlight was playing in the European Championships in France.

 Best ever performance as a runner?   The best performance, well not the fastest time but the most memorable was the very first time I ran the mile at Meadowbank. It was a lovely day I had entered the 440y and the mile. The mile came first. I had no idea what I was doing as it was the very first time I had run the distance, the 440y was the race I was really interested in. As the race went no I just kept running with everyone and  in the last lap the rest of the girls seemed to be a little out of breath and I still felt fine. Off I went running at my own pace it was such a good feeling. When I finished I was told I had a new Mile record knocking 6.7 seconds of the previous one.  What a great day it was for me. I could not believe I had found the distance I liked running and I was good at it. I was a Scottish champion.

What has athletics brought to me that I would not have wanted to miss?   Friendships I made on my trips. The club spirit I will never forget. Being in a position where I can now encourage not just the young to never give up but also the elderly. Athletics gave me the courage to face up to difficult situations in life and I have had my share. To discipline myself in many ways to make me the person I am now. Life should not be a straight line; we have to experience the downs to appreciate the ups. I feel privileged to have been able to be part of women’s athletics at that time. Athletics what can I say it allowed me to have good friends, a positive attitude, help others, keeps me healthy as I get older, never give up, but most of all a lot of joy and happiness.

What has been my involvement in the sport since I stopped running?   I have had very little involvement in athletics since I came to Australia. It makes me too sad. My grandchildren aged 9 and 6 years play netball and they are both very good swimmers .I enjoy watching and encouraging them. I played netball in the same club as my daughter Wendi and Granddaughter Tanna till 2013 when once again I had to give up because of injury. I do keep up with athletics on TV and I go to the Olympic Stadium in Sydney whenever there is a competition on. Athletics is not a number one sport here.

 What changes would I make?   I would like to see the girls being recognised in a similar way to the men!

Where am I now?   I left Scotland in 1980 after divorcing Archie Martin. I set up my business called Relaxacise.  Not the easiest thing to do in a strange country. I did a segment on the Television show called Good morning Sydney. That lead to me recorded my videos and writing my books on the subject of Exercise with Relaxation. The programme became very popular which made it necessary for me to conduct teacher training courses. I married Bill in 1989; he is a very special man and encourages me in all my adventures. We live in Penrith just west of Sydney. I am still teaching classes and doing speaking engagements from time to time. I love living in Australia but still visit my home in Scotland whenever can. I like playing golf with Bill and training with the netball team to keep me fit. My new challenge is to encourage the older generation to keep moving in a natural way, and the young to keep trying and never give up.

For those who wondered what she had been doing, the answers are all there.   What a wonderful life she’s had in Australia.

There were two key figures in the Mile in the late 1950’s/early 60’s.   Barbara Tait and Helen Cherry between them won the SWAAA Mile title seven times in eight years before Georgena Buchanan came on the scene.   Barbara herself won it five times in succession.   Doreen Fulton, a popular Springburn Harrier with a distinguished track pedigree and an established cross-country international, won it in the middle with her solitary win in 1961.   Helen was second in 1959 and Barbara third in 1961 and 1962.   It was a very different time from the twenty first century: running gear was nowhere near as light or functional, shoes were heavier with fixed spikes but most of all the tracks were different.   Racing in championships was nearly always on cinder tracks which by the time the Mile races came along were very cut up by the previous events making it difficult for the runners.   And yet the competition was no less intense nor were the rivalries any less exiting for the spectators.   We can start Barbara’s profile with a look at 1956.

Although not mentioned in the East District Championships or the East v West match, on 9th June 1956 Barbara won the SWAAA Mile in 5:28.3 which the ‘Glasgow Herald’ said beat the existing record for the distance by 7 seconds.   The actual report on the race in the pink ‘Evening Times’ read as follows: “Seventeen year old Barbara Tait of Edinburgh Harriers became the new mile champion.  Her victory over A  Lusk, the holder, was a popular one.   The former James Clark’s schoolgirl was “swamped” by her jubilant friends at the finish.   There was even more applause when Barbara’s time of 5 min 28.3 sec was announced  as it was a new Scottish native record by nearly seven seconds.”   ‘The Bulletin’ read,  Barbara Tait has set a new record.   A brilliant mile by 17 year old Barbara Tait of Edinburgh Harriers in which she set up a new Scottish native record of 5 min 284 sec was an outstanding feature of  the Scottish women’s athletic championships in Edinburgh yesterday.   Barbara, a former pupil of James Clark’s school, ran a well-judged race and proved far too strong for the holder, A Lusk of Maryhill Harriers.   At the finish the excited Barbara was overwhelmed by her enthusiastic friends.”  She had also entered the 440 yards at the meeting but the Mile was her real event.  At the end of the season, on 18th August at Murrayfield in a scratch invitation 880 yards race, Barbara lined up against England’s Diane Leather and Ann Oliver, Poland’s Halina Gabor and fellow-Scots Molly Ferguson and Ann Reilly.   Ferguson and Reilly were the SWAAA champions at 880 and 440 yards and in a race won by Leather in 2:18.5 Barbara was sixth across the finishing line.


Barbara Tait leading Helen Cherry

Barbara won the East v West match mile at Westerlands on 11th May, 1957, and then she repeated the SWAAA mile victory on 8th June when in a small but high quality field of herself, Doreen Fulton, Margaret O’Hare and Helen Cherry she recorded the time of 5:35.  Helen Cherry, only 17 and an Intermediate sprinter the previous year, in her first run in the event was second and Doreen Fulton third. Barbara started 1958 with fifth place in the cross-country championships.  In the summer season of Empire Games year, there were two seconds in the East v West match: in the Mile to Helen Cherry, and in the 880 yards To Molly Ferguson of Springburn. In the SWAAA championships, held early on 24th May, the hat-trick of national titles was achieved when she again beat the young Helen Cherry in 5:33.2 with Dale Greig third.

Barbara started 1959 with a second place to Aileen Paterson from Aberdeen AAC in the cross-country championships and although she qualified for the international event against England this was one of the years when there was no report in the local papers.   The first biggish event in the summer season was always the District Championships, held this year on 16th May,  and Barbara had a very good championships indeed.   The Herald report read “Another Scottish record was broken in the Mile in which Miss B Tait (Edinburgh Harriers) finished well clear of the field in 5:24.6.”   She had in fact won both 880 yards (2:28) and the Mile.   Only one week later in the East v West Match the headline read ‘Comfortable Win By East Women At Scotstoun.’   In referring to Barbara’s efforts it said, “Miss B Tait (E) beat her own native record in the Mile with a time of 5:21.0 – 3.6 better than her time in the East Championships.’   She had again ‘done the double’ by winning the 880 yards in 2:26.6 as well as the Mile.   It was only three weeks to the SWAAA Championships and they were held on 13th June at New Meadowbank.   “Miss B Tait (Edinburgh Harriers) won the Mile in a new native record of 5:18.3.   This was the third time that she has improved her mile time this season.   Miss Tait hopes to compete in the British Championships in London on July 3-4.”   Helen Cherry was again second – only one tenth outside the previous record with Dale Greig third.   Three races, three records – the difference is that this time she missed the double by being beaten in the 880 yards and finishing second.   She may well have travelled to the British Championships at the start of July but you wouldn’t know it from the report which listed only the winners and praised Mary Bignal and Dorothy Hyman for doing their own doubles.   No word in the Glasgow Herald about the Scots.  She finished off the season on 1st August with a win off 6 yards in the 880y at Strathallan Gathering in 2:18.3.    It had been a good season and one that would be difficult to replicate.   At the the finish, she was ranked number one in Scotland in the 880 yards with a best of 2:19.3  and also in the Mile with 5:15.4.(possibly done at the WAAA in July!)

Barbara had a most unhappy experience in the 1960 national cross-country championships, when ….   The ‘Glasgow Herald’ says: Miss B Tait (Edinburgh Harriers) the holder of the Scottish Mile title, followed Miss Greig closely for the major part of the race, but she counted the laps wrongly, and put in her finishing burst – passing Miss Greig, a lap too soon.    Attempts to persuade her to continue the race failed.”   The race was won by Dale Greig from Pat McCluskey and Doreen Fulton.   The track season started in much better fashion with a double at the West v East match on 21st May at Scotstoun.   Winning the 880 yards from Molly Ferguson in 2:26.6, she proceeded to take the Mile as well in 5:24.2 from J Crocket of Aberdeen.  In the SWAAA Championships held again at New Meadowbank, on 11th June Barbara won the Mile for the fifth consecutive year but the fact went unremarked in the ‘Glasgow Herald’.

Barbara made her start to 1961 when she was fifth in the National cross-country championship at Greenock but missed the meeting against the English Counties in March.   The track season began with a victory at Dam Park in Ayr, the occasion being the opening of the new pavilion.   She won the 880 yards in 2:22.2.   Unfortunately she missed the East District Championship a week later, the ‘Herald’ saying only that “Miss J Crocket (Aberdeen), in the absence of Miss B Tait, won the half-mile and the Mile.”  For the record, the winning times were 2:43.8 and 5:54.6.   Nor did she turn out in the East v West fixture on 22nd May but she did run in the SWAAA Championships where she finished third.   The report only said, “Miss D Fulton (Springburn) caused a surprise when she beat Mrs A Reilly (Ardeer) on the post in the Mile.”   Doreen Fulton’s win should not have been a surprise – she was a fixture in the cross-country international team with a whole series of top four or five finishes in the national championship along side many good track championship appearances and medals.   However  I would have thought that the winner of the title for the previous five years was third and was worthy of some sort of mention.   But women’s athletics was not as well reported as the men’s.   Nevertheless she still managed to top the national rankings for the Mile with a time of 5:22.0 and her 2:22.2 in the 880y ranked her sixth.

Not mentioned in the cross-country championships of 1962, national or international, she won the Inter-District Mile from Dale Greig on 20th May.   She did run however – ranked number three in Scotland for the Mile, with 5:26.4 for third in the SWAAA Championships behind Helen Cherry and Georgena Buchanan – but the trail seemed to peter out here.   But then  I heard from Neil Donachie in Edinburgh.   He tells us that Barbara married a chap called Archie Martin and subsequently went to Australia where she had an exercise programme on TV.

BT Group

Barbara’s love of activity and the lifestyle that goes with it is clear from her whole career in Australia since she left Scotland : relaxation therapist, videos, books and sports activities such as netball right up to 2013.

Graham Stark

Graham Stark

When I came into the sport in the late 1950’s Graham Stark was one of the best runners in the country and even after he emigrated to Australia, his results were sent back to Scotland and published in the ‘Scots Athlete’.    Colin Youngson wrote the following profile of Graham.

In 1996 the history of Edinburgh Southern Harriers was published, celebrating this great Scottish club’s centenary. Graham Stark was declared “Man of the Fifties”.   He was photographed in GB racing kit; and also as part of a very successful 1957 ESH medley relay team.   Graham set two Scottish Native Records in the summer of 1959: 3 minutes 2.5 seconds for the three-quarter mile at Larkhall on July 15th; and 4 minutes 6.3 seconds in the Rangers Sports at Ibrox on August 1st.   At Ibrox Graham won the Emil Zatopek medal for his one mile time, which was considered the meeting’s best performance.    (The previous Native Record was held by the illustrious Graham Everett, who went on to reclaim it ten months later.) In 1959 Graham Stark raced over the one mile distance for both Scotland (versus Ireland at Murrayfield)) and Great Britain (on 14th August against Poland at White City, London). In the latter event, he finished fourth in a tactical race won by Poland.

Graham Stark was born on the 8th of December 1935.

In 1956 he was 1500m champion of the 2nd Tactical Air Force in Germany and went on to represent them in an athletics match against the Army.    He was East of Scotland one mile champion in 1957, 1958 and 1959; and second to Graham Everett in the Scottish one mile championship in 1958 and 1959.

1959, when Graham set his very best times, proved to be the peak of his track career.   After winning the Insurance Athletic Association one mile championship at Motspur Park, he came second in the 880 yards.   He topped the Scottish rankings for 880 yards (1.52.1) and was fourth in the mile with 4.06.3, only just behind the three Scots who were ranked first equal with 4.06.0 – Anglos Mike Berisford and Alan Gordon, plus Graham Everett.   Graham Stark was pipped in the SAAA mile by Everett (4.11.3 to 4.11.6, with Aberdeen’s Steve Taylor third in 4.14.6.

Then in November 1959 Graham and his wife Margaret emigrated to Melbourne, Australia. During the next five years he was heavily involved in a very strong Inter-Club scene, latterly with one of the leading clubs there: St Stephens Harriers.   He competed in various events from 880 yards right up to a fifteen mile road race!

Graham writes “my main claim to fame was to represent Victoria (who won the team title) in the Australian 10,000m Cross Country Championships at Adelaide on 24th August 1963. (This was over a hilly course which featured creek crossings and fences.) Other team members were Ian Blackwood, race winner Ron Clarke (legendary multi-world record setter), Tony Cook, Gordon Noble and Trevor Vincent. I was also a member of the 4×1 mile relay team which set a Victorian Club record – others were Barry Tregenza, Ian Blackwood and Derek Clayton (who went on to be the world’s fastest marathon runner).”

In 1963, Graham ran a mile in 4.09.6 and was ranked third Scot that season.    He also tried the Steeplechase and was ranked fifth in that event in 1964, with a time of 9.22.9. An interesting fact is that Graham’s Personal Best in the Three Miles (14 minutes 11 seconds) was set at Olympic Park, Melbourne, on the 3rd of December 1964, when he narrowly avoided being lapped by the winner, Ron Clarke, who set a new world record of 13.07.6, breaking Murray Halberg’s 1961 mark of 13 minutes 10 seconds.

Returning to live in Scotland in February 1965, he went on to win SAAA steeplechase bronze in 1965 when he was ranked eighth.   Several years later, in 1973, Graham finished third in the SAAA Indoor Championship 1500 metres. Then in 1978 he became the Scottish Veterans 1500m champion.

Despite the mile being his best distance, Graham Stark was a durable athlete who contributed a great deal to Edinburgh Southern Harriers success at longer distances, between 1956 and 1980.   His fastest half marathon time was 1 hour 15 minutes 28 seconds.   Graham took part in the Edinburgh to Glasgow Road Relay seven times between 1956 and 1970.   He ran Stage One twice, Stage Seven once, Stage Eight once and the windswept Fifth Stage three times. His club finished fourth three times, fifth, ninth and then in 1968 third and finally in 1970 second.

In 1958 and 1959 Graham Stark was part of winning Southern teams in the East District Cross Country Championship. Much later he won a bronze medal with the ESH team that finished third in the 1973 National Cross Country Championship. Once he achieved veteran status at the age of 40, he enjoyed helping Edinburgh Southern to win team gold in three Scottish National Veterans CC Championships: 1977 (when he was fourth individual), 1979 and 1980.

His team-mates remember Graham as a graceful athlete, who continues to be unfailingly polite, friendly and a true gentleman.

That is Colin’s very full summary of Graham’s athletic career but it should be remembered that the athletics scene in the 1950’s was very different from the twenty first century.   One short story retold by Tom O’Reilly of Springburn Harriers and former Scottish steeplechase champion and record holder is illustrative of this.   The race report in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ read: “The principal event at Carluke Rovers open sports meeting was the invitation one mile short limit handicap in which the Scottish record holder G Stark (Edinburgh Southern Harriers) was running from scratch. At the end of the first lap, Stark was just behind R McKay (Motherwell YMCA) and J More (Kilmarnock) who started from 10 and 15 yards respectively. In the meantime however, the Scottish steeplechase champion, T O’Reilly, off 35 yards, was setting a good pace over the seven lap course and by half distance it did not look like Stark would catch the leaders. Soon afterwards, McKay and More left Stark and he had to be content with sixth place – 6.2 seconds behind O’Reilly the winner.”   A seven lap one mile race on grass: to get an idea of how tight it was, think that indoor tracks at present are eight laps to the mile!   The race was billed as an attempt to set anew Scottish record!   The tracks then were either good grass or cinders – either could cut up badly through use or because of the weather, even championship tracks were cinder and in Scotland many events, at times even invitation events, were handicap races.   There were however many good quality inter-club fixtures on 440 yard cinder tracks.   For instance, there was a triangular competition between Victoria Park, Bellahouston Harriers and Edinburgh Southern at Scotstoun.   There were several GB athletes competing, men such as Mike Hildrey and Alan Dunbar (sprints), Crawford Fairbrother (HJ), Ken Ballantyne (Mile), Robin Sykes, Des Dickson and of course Graham Stark.   The comment made in the report in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ of 10th May, 1959, said “Stark, who won the 880 yards and mile, may now be encouraged to devote his attention to the half-mile in which he had the splendid time of 1 min56.2 sec.”  Handicaps on short tracks, often with uneven surfaces, and good quality inter club meetings were part of the scene then.   Bearing that in mind, his times stand up well after almost 60 years.

Year Event Time Rank Comments
1959 880y 1:52.1 1
1 Mile 4:06.3 4
1963 880y 1:54.4 11
1 Mile 4:09.6 4
2 Miles 9:20.8 20
3000m S/chase 10:00.0 12
1964 3000m S/chase 9:22.9 5
1965 1 Mile 4:18.7 28
6 Miles 31:38 27
3000m S/chase 9:31.6 8
1966 6 Miles 31:00.4 22

As indicated by Colin above, his track competitive record is even better.   Three East District Mile titles, plus one third and two seconds in the SAAA Championships.1958  SAAA Mile  2  4:13.0,   1959  SAAA Mile  2  4:11.6 , East District Champion 1957, 1958, 1959.   One wonders what he might have done under present day conditions.