Jim Irvine

Jim taking over from Harry Fenion in the Edinburgh to Glasgow, 1958

Jim Irvine was born on 15th February 1935, first appeared in the national cross-country championships on 1st March 1952 at the age of 16  and has only ever run for one club – Bellahouston Harriers.   He assisted the club to win gold, silver and bronze medals on the road and over the country locally, at District level and nationally.  Jim was a real runner in the traditional Scottish fashion, racing almost every weekend all winter – he turned out in the McAndrew Relays, the District relays, the County relays, the Glasgow University road race, the Edinburgh to Glasgow relay, the Nigel Barge New Year race, the County championship and all the other major championships.  And that was almost every year for several decades.   He was unfortunately never selected for an international team – representative matches were very few and far between in the 1950’s and 60’s – but still managed to perform at a high level for twelve months a year for many years.  Every sport needs men like Jimmy, men who are becoming harder to find.  His career deserves to be looked at quite closely.   

The winter competition season was  quite well structured although there were fewer races than now.   Jim ran in them all though: the McAndrew relay  was always on the first Saturday in October, then there were the County and District Relays before the eight man Edinburgh to Glasgow on the third weekend in November and maybe County championships in December.   The Beith New Year’s Day relay was followed by the Nigel Barge road race on the first Saturday of the New Year, then the District Championships and the National Championship at the end of February or start of March ended the domestic season.    We will concentrate on the main championships and relays.

Jimmy joined Bellahouston Harriers in July 1950 as a sprinter but was told that he had a good style for distance running.   The advice was good for, in his very first race, he won a team medal in the Renfrewshire cross-country championship.   And as he says himself, “that was that!”   As we all know now he went on to have a great career in the sport.   He also pays tribute to two men in particular – Gibby Anderson (a Bellahouston cross-country international) and Bob Climie who gave him some good advice – as having a marked influence on his subsequent progress in the sport.   

As far as the rest of Scotland was concerned, he first appears in the results in season 1951/52 when he ran in the Youths age group in the national championships at Hamilton Racecourse just two weeks before his seventeenth birthday.   Racing over two and a half miles he finished forty fourth and was a non-scoring member of the Bellahouston squad.   The following year, on 28th February, in the same age group, he raised his position to twenty fifth but was still not a counting runner: but we only need to look at his contemporaries in the club age group at the time: for instance, Joe Connolly, who would win Scottish titles on the track and country and run in Empire Games, was 13th.   His first taste of national success was the following year when on 27th February, 1954, Jim as a first year in the Junior men’s age group was a member of the team that finished third.    A year later, on 26th February, 1955, he went one better and finished 18th in the Junior National and won silver as a member of the second placed team.    Earlier that season he had run well in the District Relays when he was third fastest in the Bellahouston Harriers B Team.   

Jim running in the Open Mile at Ibrox in August 1955: he finished second

Summer 1955 was a good one on the track for Jim.   At the  Falkirk FC Sports at the end of July he ran in the Mile wherte he finished first on the tight grass  track (the track was inside the goal posts and had very tight bends) in 4:16.5 in front of Sinclair of Falkirk Victoria Harriers and Clark Wallace of Shettleston.   Then in the Rangers Sports at Ibrox on the first Saturday in August he was second in the Open Mile race behind Mulroney of Cambuslang Harriers.   

By now he was a regular member of every club team and on 5th November, 1955, he was third fastest runner in the B team at the Midland Relays at Stepps.   This was important because one of the biggest races of the year was the eight stage Edinburgh to Glasgow relay and every man jack in every club running in the race worked very hard to make the club team for the race.   Jim had made it for the first time and on the third Saturday in November he was the man to run the seventh stage of the relay from the Airdrie War Memorial to Barrachnie.  The team was just out of the medals in fourth place, 61 seconds behind Springburn after almost four hours running, but it was Jim’s first run in the premier road race of the winter. On his leg, Jim held the position from the chasing runner – but he opened the gap from 13 to 45 seconds.    There was no team entered from Bellahouston in the Midland District championship in January so the next race was the National where he was still a Junior.   This time he finished eleventh and won an SCCU gold medal as part of the winning team.   The team was J Connolly 4, G Nelson 5, R Black 10, J Irvine 11.  A total of 32 points against Shettleston’s 65, a convincing victory, and it should be noted that all four had been in the Edinburgh to Glasgow team.            

Summer 1956 saw Jim running in the Mile and Two Mile team races on the track and again he finished second in the Mile at Ibrox in August – this time beaten by club mate Nelson whose time was 4:15.1.                        

Winter season 1956/57 started as ever in October but the first sign of Jim Irvine in any of the major championships was in the national in March 1957 where he ran for the first time as a Senior.   The race was won by his team mate Harry Fenion, the team was second and Jim finished 33rd to be fifth scoring runner, picking up another SCCU silver medal to dd to his collection.   That summer Jim showed that he was a very good road runner although, thanks to the standard in the event in Scotland at the time (Alex McDougall, Hugo Fox, AC Gibson and Harry Fenion among others) he had to wait until the Carluke Games on 10th August to pick up an award – actually two awards.   The report in the Glasgow Herald said that Brown had allowed young Irvine to make all the running until half a mile from the finish when he went ahead and won by 5 seconds from John Kerr of Airdrie with Jim third, a further 3 seconds behind.   Beaten by less than 10 seconds by a local runner who was also an international cross country man.   It must have been hard to take but young Jim took first handicap prize as well as third place.  Looking back, he reckons that it was maybe his best ever race.   Then it was back to the country for the winter.

He started the winter with a run in the first team over the four man Victoria Park McAndrew Relay at Scotstoun on 5th October when the squad of Fred Cowan, Bert Irving , Harry Fenion and Jimmy was tenth.   The following week saw Bellahouston Harriers have their three mile trial and Jim was again third man behind Gordon Nelson and Joe Connolly – he was only 2 seconds behind Connolly.  In the Renfrewshire Championships the following week, the club emerged victorious and as the Glasgow Herald put it: “Bellahouston Harriers were never seriously challenged”.   The first team this time was Connolly,  Nelson, Black and Irvine and they won by 61 seconds.   Second in the Midland District Relay at the start of November, The next race was the biggest road race of the winter.   

Edinburgh to Glasgow, 1957, seventh stage

Jimmy’s second Edinburgh to Glasgow came in November when he again ran on the seventh stage for the team that finished second.   Jim had third fastest time on the day and he did well to drop only 2 seconds to the chasing Shettleston runner – he had taken over 44 seconds up and crossed the finishing line 42 seconds in front of him.   In the National on 1st March 1958 he was 37th finisher and a member of the team that finished second: another SCCU silver for the trophy cabinet.

Bellahouston was a track team of note at this point but occasionally a road race was contained within a track contest.   On 10th May, 1958, for instance, in the inter-club contest with Edinburgh Southern Harriers at Fernieside, Harry Fenion won a 10 miles road race in 54:29 with Jim second.   Max points for Bellahouston!   For the rest of te summer, in addition to the road racing calendar there were the inter-club plus track team races at the various sports and highland games for the endurance runners to compete in.   With Bellahouston’s strength in depth – Joe Connolly, Des Dickson, and others – places in the inter-club mile and three mile races were scarce but Jim turned out when he was asked to do so.   However, while he was not in the top three too often on the track, he ran well on the road – for instance on 26th July he won the 14 mile road race at Gourock Highland Games in just over 71 minutes from Gordon Eadie (Cambuslang) and Cyril O’Boyle (Clydesdale).   Then on 9th August at the Carluke Games (where the course involved a steep down hill and then climb back up into Lanark, followed by the same stretch of road on the way back) he was third behind Andy Brown (Motherwell) and Harry Fenion (Bellahouston).     Jim was actually a talented road runner with many very good runs to his credit.   The principal sports meetings were at Renfrew (Babcock & Wilcox), Gourock, Carluke, Strathallan, Shotts and Dunblane and all had road races ranging in distance from 12 at Carluke to 20 at Strathallan.   Jim’s record included victories at Babcock’s (14 miles), Gourock (14) and Cumnock (10)  with several second places (Gourock was one Games where he usually did well) and had a third at Shotts (19).  

The District Relays in season 1958/59 were held on 1st November at Stepps and Jimmy was not running that afternoon but the Bellahouston team won from the more fancied Victoria Park and Shettleston teams.   Not only did they win but they had two teams in the top eight while VPAAC had two in the top nine and Shettleston two in the top eleven.   Individually they had four men in the top nine times – Dickson, Fenion, Connolly and Irving against VPAAC’s  two (McLaren and Kerr) and Shettleston’s one (Everett).   

Despite missing this race, things were going really well for the young Jim Irvine who was selected for the eight man team after the club trial the following Saturday.   “Bellahouston Harriers six mile trial for Saturday’s Edinburgh to Glasgow relay race was won by J Connolly whose time was 27 min 37 sec.   W Goodwin, who was second, and D Dickson and H Fenion who were third equal, finished with the same time.   It is likely that, in addition to these four the following will represent the club – R Penman, R Black, J Irvine and R Irving.”   

The ‘International Athlete’ previewed the race as follows: “Despite the fact that the winning of the 10 post-war races has been monopolised between Victoria Park (7 times) and Shettleston (3 times) , it would seem that Bellahouston Harriers will be generally favoured to win, in light of the latter club’s great wins with an all-round balance of strength in the VP and Midlands relays.   Whoever wins, it will be a great struggle.”   

For once, the pundits were right – Bellahouston Harriers had won the McAndrew Relay and the Midlands Relay fairly comfortably, and they went on to win the eight-man inter-city relay.   Jim ran the third stage and pulled the team up from third to second, passing Victoria Park’s runner and running 28 second faster.   It is difficult to express today how important and high-profile the race was but it really was in the eyes of many, as important as the National Championships themselves.   The Glasgow Herald gave it a lot of coverage, and the report on the actual race is as follows: 

Edinburgh Eastern Harries led at the end of the first leg to Maybury Cross with a fine effort by C Fraser.   He beat RC Calderwood (Victoria Park) and W Goodwin (Bellahouston).    Over the next leg of six miles, J McGhee (Shettleston Harriers) took his team from sixth to first place with a best time for the course of 30 min 58 sec.   Victoria Park and Bellahouston were second and third respectively.   Over the four-mile leg to Wester Dechmont T Kelly of Shettleston finished 30 sec ahead of Bellahouston with Victoria Park third, a further 28 sec behind.   To Armadale (5.75 miles) J McLaren (Victoria Park) put in a splendid run and overtook H Fox (Shettleston), the present Scottish marathon champion, and H Fenion (Bellahouston), a former champion.   His time was 30 min 35 sec.   

In the run to Forestfield (5.5 miles) R Penman (Bellahouston) improved two places, putting his team in the lead.   Only four and three seconds separated the first three teams, and now it was clear that no other club could offer any challenge for the fourth team – Edinburgh Southern Harriers – was about a mile behind.   J Connolly (Bellahouston), AJ Wood (Shettleston) and I Binnie (Victoria Park) took over on the leg to Airdrie (7 miles).   Binnie failed to make any impression on the leaders; indeed he lost considerable ground and finsihed 1 min 31 sec behind Connolly.   The race was still close between Bellahouston and Shettleston, however, for Wood was only 20 yards behind.   Connolly and Wood equalled the fastest time for the leg of 33 min 39 sec.

 In the run to Barrachnie (5.5 miles)  D Dickson took over for Bellahouston, GE Everettfor Shettleston and A Forbes for Victoria Park.   Dickson beat Everett and returned a time of 29 min 09 sec.   Forbes did well to clock 29 min 14 sec which was faster by 9 sec than Everett’s time.   Bellahouston were now in a winning position and R Black easily won the last leg to Glasgow Royal Exchange.”

It was a remarkable race: the team that won (places in brackets) was:  Willie Goodwin (3rd), Bert Irving (3rd), Jim Irvine (2nd), Harry Fenion (3rd), Dick Penman (1st*), Joe Connolly (1st*), D Dickson (1st*), R Black (1st*).    The star indicates fastest time on the stage.      Four best stage times for the second half of the race and the pressure on all runners must have been intense.   

Edinburgh to Glasgow, 1958, third stage: Jim had just passed J Taylor, VPAAC

It was back in the old routine after that with the club championship at the start of December and in the Renfrewshire championships on 13th December, Bellahouston won five of the six races being contested.   In the senior race. there were six in the first seven home with Jim being seventh scoring runner.   The club was really flying in ’58/’59 and they started the New Year with a victory in the Nigel Barge team race at Maryhill where their counters were Goodwin, Connolly and Dickson.   On 24th January, Jim was twenty sixth and a scoring runner at Strathleven, Dumbarton where the team was second to Shettleston in the Midlands championships.  All over Scotland on 14th February club championships were held and in the Bellahouston event, Jimmy was third behind Connolly and Fenion.   Both were of course Scottish champions, international athletes and Empire Games runners – the club standard at the time was high and third place was a very good result.   On 28th Feb, 1959, the national cross-country championship was held at Hamilton and Jim finished 33rd.   Bellahouston was third team, with the scoring men being Irving 3, Connolly 7, Dickson 17, Irvine 33, Black 45 and Penman 52.   It had been a quite outstanding season for the club – and another very good one for Jimmy.   

Summer 1959 continued with the usual mix of road running and track and field competition.    The meetings mentioned above all had a track programme, mainly handicap events, that usually included a two miles scratch team race in which clubs were required to provide four to run,  three of whom were to be scoring runners.   It was not unusual for an athlete, after his main race to ‘double up’ and do another handicap.   Bellahouston did well at most of these events, and were often winners, particularly at the Babcock’s meeting which had a trophy (the Empire Trophy) for the club with most points.   As for the handicaps. the biggest meeting of the 50’s and early 60’s was the Rangers Sports at Ibrox where the very best athletes the world could offer competed in the invitation events and home Scots would contest the handicap events.   Jim was second in the Mile at Ibrox twice.   He also had a first at Falkirk Sports at Brockville Park, down the Clyde at Ardeer Sports and even a third at Cowal.   Cowal was always at the start of August with a crowd of thousands – after Rangers Sports wound up in the very early 60’s it was far and away the biggest open meeting.    In travelling to and competing in all these events, Jim was the typical harrier: maybe more successful than most though.   He says that he particularly liked the two miles team races.    Almost every distance runner in the country ran at least some of the track races and the real endurance men, like Jim, mixed them with the road races.     He ran every distance on the track from mile to marathon, with the track races invariably being on cinder or grass tracks.   His personal best times were:

Mile: 4:33;  Two Miles:  9:33;   Three Miles:   14:51;   Six Miles:   31:07.       

 

Jimmy (10) with Ian Leggett (12) and Brian Goodwin (11) at the British Civil Service Championships at Pitreavie.

They won the team race

 The 1959/60’s McAndrew Relay was held on 3rd October and although Bellahouston did not retain the trophy, their teams were third and fourth.   Jim was in the B team that was fourth while the A team was only one second behind the second placed Victoria Park.   The Midland District relay was held again at Stepps on 7th November and Jim was again in the B team.   The strength of the club was in evidence again in the Renfrewshire County Championships on 24th October when their teams finished first, second and third with club men recording the three fastest individual times.   Jim was in the second team again and the competition going on for places in the E-G relay was so ferocious that Bert Irving, who had been third in the National the previous winter running for the third team – he was close behind Joe Connolly at the end of the first stage in second place.   Jim was not selected that year for the eight-stage where the team was second.   On 23rd January, 1960, at Renton, Dumbarton, he finished thirty second in the Midland championship and was a non counting runner for the second placed Bellahouston team.    Six weeks later on 5th March he ran in the national championships but was again a non scoring runner.                 

Jim was also of course running on the track for the club and as an individual in matches such as that between Bellahouston and Ayr Seaforth at Ayr in May, in the open and invitation  team races at the various sports meetings (such as the two miles race at Cowal where the club was second).   The meeting at Ardeer Sports ground in Stevenston in Ayrshire was a popular one and on 9th July Jim won the Mile handicap race in 4:10.5 seconds.   Later that summer, 1960,  he covered the twenty four laps of six miles in 31:07.1 to be ranked eleventh in Scotland.   

Jim finishing third in the Mile at Cowal. 1960 

  Whatever the problems had been that year, they were well clear by season 1960/61.  On 5th November at Stepps  he was in the  C team, second fastest and in a time that would have taken seconds from that recorded by the B team.   He did not run that year in the News of the World relay.   On 21st January at Renton in the Midland championship he was 18th with the team finishing fourth.   His ‘comeback’ was complete when in the national at Hamilton, he finished eighteenth to be the first Bellahouston runner home.   The team was just outside the medals in fifth place.

 In 1961/62 the venue for the Midland relay was changed from the basically flat Stepps course to Kings Park in Stirling; it was a course with lots of ups-and-downs, hard, downhill, rocky, ankle twisting slopes, marshy stretches and with a long, fast good grassy finish.   Jim ran the first stage for the B team which finished eleventh.   On to the Edinburgh to Glasgow where he ran the third stage for the team that was fourth.   The first of the two big championships, the District, was on 20th January, 1962, at Strathleven Estate in Renton and there were 130 finishers.   Jim was 24th and fourth counter for the third placed Bellahouston team.   The last championship was the national, held on 2nd March and Jim finished 34th of the 190 finishers and the team was ninth this time. 

1962/63 began with a McAndrew Relay race in which neither Bellahouston nor Shettleston made the first six: a notable enough feat for the papers to mention the fact.   Came the 20th October and in the Renfrewshire relays, Bellahouston won the race but for the first time in several years only had one team in the first three.  They were less than half a minute ahead of Paisley Harriers.   Late November saw Jim Irvine tackle a new stage of the Edinburgh to Glasgow – he ran the fourth stage on a day of snow.   For the first time ever, the race was run on a snow covered course.  It had snowed heavily overnight and at intervals along the route there were cars which had been abandoned by their owners the night before.   Nevertheless Jim did his bit: taking over from Tommy Mercer in twelfth place, he handed over in eleventh for the team that eventually finished twelfth.   In the District championship in January he was twenty sixth for the team that finished fifth.   

On October 12th, 1963,  Bellahouston Harriers held their club Craig Cup three miles races and that year, the winner was Brian Goodwin from Fred Cowan and Jim Irvine who was only 30 seconds behind the winner.   The following week the club retained their Renfrewshire relay title from Greenock Wellpark with a team consisting of Cowan, Irvine, Dickson and Goodwin.   Jim then ran on the second stage in the District relays for the team that finished sixth.   The Edinburgh to Glasgow team finished one place up on the previous year – 11th – with Jim back on his favourite seventh stage.   There were no medals this year in either the Midland (sixth team) or National (ninth).         1964/65 was not a good one either in terms of championship success – fourteenth team in the Edinburgh to Glasgow where Jim ran on the fourth stage, he missed the District championships, and in the National he was thirty third in the tenth placed team.         

The Renfrewshire title remained in the club in 1965 when the team of Mike McLean, Irvine, Goodwin and Wood won by over a minute from Greenock Wellpark Harriers.   Unplaced in the District Relays in Stirling, Bellahouston Harriers finished tenth in the Edinburgh to Glasgow.   Back on the seventh stage, he pulled in two Places (Teviotdale Harriers and Strathclyde University) when going from twelfth to tenth, with the team finishing tenth.   The club was outside the top six in the District Championships in January and eleventh in the National that year.

Jim was a member of the team that on the county relay title at Paisley,  but he did not run in the Edinburgh to Glasgow in season 1966/67.  He   was fifty fifth in the Midland championship in an unplaced team, and was a member of the team which was sixteenth in the national. 

Team performances started to pick up again in 1967/68 when Jim, not in the first team for the McAndrew or Renfrewshire relays,  ran on the third leg for the A team in the District championships which finished eleventh at East Kilbride.   However, such was his form at this point that he was asked by the club to run the sixth stage of the Edinburgh to Glasgow relay.   Against all the big guns on the longest stage of the relay (7 miles) Jim held on to the ninth place that he was given not losing a single place.   The team was tenth to finish.   In the Midland championships in January he was in the team that finished fifth.     In ’68/69 he ran the sixth stage of the Edinburgh to Glasgow again where he held eighth position only to see the club finish tenth again.   The Midland District championships on 18th January was the date when Bellahouston Harriers won SCCU medals for the first time in a long time, the team finishing third, only ten points behind second team, Shettleston Harriers.   Jim was fifty third finisher.   The national in 1969 was held on a snow covered Duddingston Golf Course in Edinburgh with steeplechase barriers set up as artificial barriers for the runners.   On a five lap trail, there were many drop outs but Jimmy finished 80th in the Bellahouston team that was ninth.       Jim’s summer road running continued and on 10th May, 1969, he ran in the Shettleston Marathon and finished ninth in 2:36:52 in a race won by Sandy Keith of Aberdeen in 2:29:22.   

Jim  continued to train and compete but the club successes of the earlier years were difficult to emulate in a sport which was growing more clubs, and where competition was more and more intense.  Success in athletics goes in cycles and at this point Bellahouston was between the two great teams – the one of the 50’s and early 60’s (Fenion Connolly, and company) and the outstanding group of young road runners (Fleming, Daly, Coyne, Braidwood, Getty et al) of the 7’s and 80’s.

Start of the 1969 SAAA Marathon: Jimmy Irvine is number 8 in the middle of the line-up

The results over the next few years w

In 1969/70 Jim missed the Midlands relay but he ran the third stage in the Edinburgh to Glasgow where the team was 15th.    There were no Bellahouston Harriers teams for the Midland District championships at Lenzie or the National at Ayr Racecourse.    In the following year he ran on the third leg for the A team which was seventh in the District relay, third stage for the club in the E-G and the team was again seventh.    In 1971/72 the team was 13th in the Edinburgh to Glasgow with Jim on the fourth stage this time and in the National Jim was second club finisher in 74th place with only five club men completing the course.   The next year’s Edinburgh relay saw Jim on the eighth stage for the team that finished eighteenth.    In 1973/74 Jim ran for the B team on the third stage and in the Edinburgh to Glasgow, he was out on the longest stage in the race – seven miles of it from the Forestfield Inn to Airdrie against some of the cream of Scottish distance talent – where he did well to limit the loss  to two places in the team that was fifteenth.   

Meanwhile he was back in the national rankings for the marathon with 2:41:21 in 1970 which ranked him 22nd for the year.   In 1973 he ran 2:50:55 to be ranked 34th and in 1974 his best was 2:43:29 (34th) in the SAAA Championships at Meadowbank on 22nd June 1974.

Having worked with the club through the difficult years – along with others such as Brian Goodwin and Iain Kerr  –  he saw the start of the upturn in 1974 when Frank Clement became eligible for the team.   The Edinburgh to Glasgow team was sixth in November 1974 with Jim again on the eighth stage.   The team was just three seconds ahead of Aberdeen AAC with Jim holding on to finish just three seconds ahead of Graham Laing.   Club mate Jim Russell describes the run thus:

“In the 1974 Edinburgh to Glasgow Bellahouston had built up a gap over Aberdeen of 3 minutes 33 seconds by the third changeover. Aberdeen then started to close the gap on each of the following stages till they got to the final changeover. 18 year old Graham Laing took over chasing a 64 second gap to Jimmy Irvine 39 year old and running his 16th and final E-G. Graham gradually closed the gap along the Edinburgh Road and Alexandra Parade till as they approached the Wills factory he was on Jimmy’s shoulder. Instead of going straight past Graham who must have been feeling the effort he had put in to close the gap ran with Jimmy and as they turned off the Parade he asked “How far to go”. The reply from Jimmy was silence. Down the hill they went together and as they reached the corner at the bottom Graham asked again “How Far”. Again the reply was silence. On they went and as they turned on to High Street Graham again asked the question and again the reply was silence. Down High Street they went and as they started to turn the final corner onto Ingram Street Jimmy sprinted as hard as he could and told Graham “600 yards”. Having taken Graham by surprise Jimmy opened a gap and hung on for all he was worth along the busy street eventually coming home 3 seconds ahead. A case of experience and craftiness over youth.”    [Incidentally when Jim my himself read this story his comment was that he remembered it well and he should not have run in it at all.   He had been feeling ill all week – and he was ill for two days after it!]

Unfortunately this was to be his last eight stage relay run: his first had been in 1955 and there are not many who competed at that level over a 20 year period.   

Scottish Vets Championships: Irvine1979.   1st: Stoddart (73); 2nd Barrowman (behind Stoddart’s right shoulder); 3rd Jim (behind his left shoulder)

There are several gaps in the profile above and Jimmy was asked to fill them in for us in a mini-questionnaire.    The questions and replies are below.

How about your career as a veteran?   I was third in the Scottish over 40 cross-country championship twice and was in the first team at Malahide Park in Dublin as an Over 60.   On the track, my personal bests as a veteran were 4:27 for 1500m, 9:27 for 3000m, 15:56 for 5000m, 33:20 for 10000m, on the road pb’s were 1:13 for the half marathon and 2:43:48 for the marathon.  

When did you actually stop running?  I stopped running after my knee operation in 2006 but carried on jogging to keep fit , then tripped and fell and broke my hip 2015 and have not run since .

British Vets Cross-Country; Irvine Beach Park.   Jim was 15th O/60

Did you have a favourite race?   The Edinburgh to Glasgow: a great race.   Favourite leg: seventh where I held the club record until it was changed.   

You ran in many very good Bellahouston Harriers teams from the one that won the E-G in the 1950’s to the wonderful young team of Peter Fleming, George Braidwood, Andy Daly, Graham Getty, etc, in the 1980’s.  What do you think was the best club team that you have seen or been a member of?

The 80’s team was full of talented runners and should have won the Edinburgh to Glasgow.   But they didn’t so it has to be the team of 1958.   

Did you have a favourite sports meeting in summer?   There were so many good meetings but the favourites had to be the Rangers Sports (Ibrox), the Police Sports (Ibrox), Glasgow Transport Sports (Helenvale, Glasgow) and, of course, Cowal Highland Games.   Jimmy served as club captain, not once but several times, and when he was asked for comments on his career as a coach and as a runner, he said: “I was a coach for a few years after I broke my hip and feel that I was quite successful as a coach.   As a runner, I could have been better if I had more time to train harder but work got in the way with overtime working and so on.   In our day work came first, which is why I chose to be a low mileage runner although I worked hard at it when I had the time.   

What can you tell us about your training?   Summer time: I did mostly interval work.  Fast and slow , Joe Connolly would do 24 x 440 in 68 seconds, and I would normally do between 10 and 12 on  Tuesday at the track;  we would do 6 x 880 in 2-20 on other nights or  1000y reps.   We based our training at 4-40 pace for most intervals . 

In the winter we did not do a lot of speed work only on a Sunday on Pollok golf course.  The rest of the week was tempo type running over 4 to 7 miles.   It was simple stuff compared to modern day training.  Once I started doing road races I would do a long run on the SATURDAY up at  Stanaline,  Rouken Glen with the vets pack covering up to 14 miles.

Many young runners at the time had two years out to do National Service.  How did your running progress at that time?  When doing National Service, Ken Norris was in charge of our training.   I felt that this was when I started to run better times on track and country.   We won the English North Eastern Junior Cross-Country Championship as ‘The Royal Signals’ , then were third team in the Northern Counties Championship.   Pat Mc Parlane of Springburn was our leading runner in both races.  “

[Note: Ken Norris was an English cross-country international and Olympic runner who was fifth in the 1956 Olympics ahead of such as Dave Power Gordon Pirie, Alain Mimoun and Herbert Schade in a time of 29:21.6.   Jim was training with a top class runner.]

Finally, we asked him  what he thought he had gained from running and he simply said:   “Lots of friends, travel, team mates – and met Sandra.”

 

In the Malta Half Marathon, 1992, at age 57 : 1:18:29

Jimmy with the T Shirt for the 2017 Jimmy Irvine 10K Road Race

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bert Irving

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Bert Irving, B10, hands the Edinburgh to Glasgow baton to Jim Irvine, while Victoria Park, Shettleston and Edinburgh Southern Harriers look anxiously for their runners to come in sight.

Bert Irving was one of the country’s best distance runners at a time when the country was blessed with a host of talented men.   When Bert was running the top teams in the country were Shettleston Harriers, Victoria Park AAC and Bellahouston Harriers and there was not a lot between them.  Individuals such as Ian Binnie, and Andy Forbes of Victoria Park, Joe McGhee and Graham Everett at Shettleston, Joe Connolly and Harry Fenion in his own Bellahoston Harriers club plus a whole host of runners such as Alastair Wood of Aberdeen were there doing battle.   Bert was different – he didn’t live in any of the big cities so facilities were scarce, he consequently didn’t have a pack to train with which was also a decided disadvantage.   But he did have two things that all top sportsmen must have – the desire to do well and targets to aim at.   He lived in one of the least accessible parts of Scotland – Drummore in Galloway – at a time when there were very few cars on the road and public transport, while available, was complicated and required several changes en route.   And of course, he was blessed with a talent for the sport.   

There was no mention of ‘R Irving, Stranraer’ in any year up to season 1956/57 when he appeared in the South Western District Championships as finishing sixth in the Senior event.   He was the only Stranraer runner, and the club had no teams out in any age group for many years up to that point.   By the time of the National at Hamilton that season he was a Bellahouston Harrier and a scoring member of the team that finished second.   The club runners in order of finishing were 1st.   Harry Fenion,  2nd.   Joe Connolly,   22nd Dick Penman,   23rd  Bert Irving,   33rd Jim Irvine,   44th.  Des Dickson    From then on there was only ever one club associated with Bert Irving.   Strangely enough he did not do much track running although in the SAAA Championships on 21st June he ran in the 6 miles, where he was fourth in 31:50.6 behind Andy Brown, Joe Connolly and Charlie Fraser (30:54.2).   His winter season began with the Edinburgh to Glasgow relay in November where he ran the fifth stage and turned in the second fastest time for the team which finished second.   Then on January 25th, 1958, he ran in the Midland District Championship where he was  15th.   The club team again finished second.   They then ran in the most prestigious race in the calendar – the Scottish National championship at Hamilton.  Places this time were 6th.   Connolly;  8th.  Fenion;  9th.  Dickson;   15th Nelson,   20th Irving,  38th Irvine.   Individual positions were different but the team position was again second.

By 1958/59 Bellahouston was a club whose young team had matured and whose top runners were a match for any on the road or over the country.  When the first major championship of the season came up, the Midland District relay, they won it.   Colin Shields in his official history of the Cross-Country Union says: “Bellahouston Harriers, who had been so near success in past years, finally achieved the break through they deserved.   They won the Midland relay for only the second time in the history of the race as Des Dickson (Bellahouston) and Bill Kerr (Victoria Park) led the field on the opening lap.   The Bellahouston runners Bert Irving, Harry Fenion and Joe Connolly ran away from their rivals to win by 250 yards.”   

Less than a month later, in November, the club confirmed their outstanding form when they won the Edinburgh to Glasgow eight stage relay.    Shields again:   “Bellahouston Harriers, whose young team had finished second and third in the preceding years, completed their full set of medals when upsetting the post-war monopoly set up by Victoria Park and Shettleston Harriers.   Their first victory since 1938 was not achieved easily as Victoria Park and Shettleston exchanged the lead over the first half of the race.   Once Dick Penman took the lead on the fifth stage and Joe Connolly kept Bellahouston’s lead after a struggle with Alastair Wood (Shettleston) and Ian Binnie (Victoria Park)  on the long sixth stage, good runs by Des Dickson and Ramsay Black brought Bellahouston home to victory in 3 hours 49 minutes 29 seconds, fully 250 yards ahead of Shettleston Harriers.”    It was a triumph to savour – the Victoria Park team in particular had been the team to beat on the roads with their many top class runners seeming to prefer the road to the mud, while Shettleston was arguably the better team over the country with both teams seeming to monopolise the major championships between them   Bert ran on the very tough second stage where took over third and kept the team in close contention by holding the position and handing over in third.

At the start of 1959, the club was second to Shettleston in the District championship , beaten by only nine points before the major championship of the season.    In the National at Hamilton on 28th February the Bellahouston team finishing order was   3rd  Irving;   7th  Connolly;   17th  Dickson;   33rd  Irvine;  45th Black;   52nd  Penman and the team finished third.   The Glasgow Herald merely reported the facts as follows.

“AJ Wood (Shettleston Harriers and RAF) was in excellent form on Saturday in the national senor nime mile championships at Hamilton and won by 33 sec. from J McLaren (Victoria Park AAC) with R  Irving (Bellahouston Harriers) third, six yards behind McLaren.   The holder of the title, AH Brown Motherwell YMCA was eleventh, nearly two minutes behind the winner.”

This excellent run earned Irving selection for the international held that year at Pontcanna Field, Cardiff where he finished 60th.     

 

The winning Edinburgh to Glasgow team consisted of Goodwin, Irving, Irvine, Fenion, Penman, Dickson, Black.   Bertie is on the right in the back row.

Into season 1959/60 and he missed the McAndrew Relay at Scotstoun and the club three miles championship but when Bellahouston Harriers had the first three teams in the Renfrewshire relays, Bert Irving was in the third team.   It was a cautious selection and not a reflection of the selectors estimate of his abilities.   The winning team was composed of Cowan, Penman, Fenion and Docherty, the second team was W Goodwin, Dickson, Irvine and Wilson, while the third team was Irving, Fraser, Gordon and McLean.    But times don’t lie and Bert Irving had the third fastest time – he was quicker than three of the first team, only Harry Fenion being faster, and Willie Goodwin in the second team was one single second quicker than Irving.   Despite the absence of any track times from that summer, he had lost none of his sharpness.   In the Edinburgh to Glasgow they finished only six seconds slower than in 1958 but were second to Shettleston.   Bert ran on the second stage – the stage where almost all of the top runners ran – and after taking over in seventh place from Goodwin and pulled up three places to fourth for the club.   Over the country the next big championship was the Midland District at Renton in Dunbartonshire.    Graham Everett won for Shettleston with the top Bellahouston men being Joe Connolly (third) and Bert Irving (fifth) leading the club to second place.   The National championship was held at Hamilton again and there were two cub men in the first half dozen:    Connolly was fourth, and Irving fifth.   The rest of the counting runners for the club were Black 13th,   Gordon 18th, Mercer 37th and Dickson 40th and the result of the team race was a second place behind Shettleston,  Bert’s run won him his second international vest with the international being held  over the same course at Hamilton.   On the day Bert finished 41st and was a scoring runner for the Scottish team.

The winter of 1960/61 saw even less of Irving than the previous year – he missed the short relays including the Renfrewshire race where the club had first and second teams, and then he also missed he Edinburgh to Glasgow in November and the District championships in January 1961.

Nor was he out in the National at Hamilton.    The team position was fifth which was indeed a creditable position in the premier national cross-country championship but it was the first time for some years that they had finished out of the medals.   Finishing positions were Connolly 1st,   Irvine 18th,  Black 38th,   Gordon 76th,  Wilson 121st, Wright 128th.    It had been a winter of disappointment for Irving, and for the Bellahouston team, given that he missed all significant races between October and March. 

In season 1961/62 his first appearance was in the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay where the debates of where to run each man to get the best out of them and what was the best order for the team, bearing in mind the oppositions’s possible placings.   Bellahouston, in 1961, ran Joe Connolly on the first stage where he crossed the line first – six seconds clear of Brownlee (ESH) and Binnie (VPAAC).   Arguably their best man was used first.   Bert Irving, possibly the next best runner but who had not run a serious race since the international in 1960, was next up.   Taking over in the lead, he kept first place and handed over three seconds up on Motherwell’s John Linaker who had come through from thirteenth to second.   After the stage positions were third, third, third, fifth, fourth and fourth.   The runners all ran well but the question has to be asked as to why the top two men were first and second when normal practice would have put them second and sixth.   Bert however repaid the confidence placed in him by running the third fastest time on this fiercely competitive part of the race.

He next appeared in a race on 20th January, 1962, in he Midland District Championship at Strathleven where he finished sixth leading the team to third place behind Motherwell and Shettleston.   In  the National at Hamilton    the Bellahouston finishing order was   6th. Irving,   33rd Wilson,    34th Irvine,    39th Dickson,    49th Penman,    70th McDonald  with the team finishing seventh.   This run of course qualified him for the international to be held at Graves Park, Sheffield where he was  58th finisher.

The following season of 1962/63 was again diminished by the absence of Bert who ran in none of the major championships.   Living as he did in the far South West of Scotland there was little chance for us to find out what his problem was: he must have been injured to miss as much of the season as he did.  The 1962 race was to be his last International vest.  However, came the following winter he was again in action.   If he ran in the McAndrew, Renfrewshire or Midland District relays, it was not in the first team.   Came he Edinbugh to Glasgow in November, he was on stage four of the relay and moved the team up from 16th to 15th.   That was to be the only major race for him that season as he didn’t run in any of the other championships..

Bert was to have no more international appearances and he did less racing after that date although he did turn out for the team for many more years yet. 

His 1964 winter started on 21st November in the Edinburgh to Glasgow where he ran the second stage sandwiched between Brian Goodwin in eighth place and Mike McLean in eleventh.   Bert himself dropped three places but on that stage, they were all to good men.   In winter 1965/66 he ran the second stage of the relay yet again and took over in fifteenth place which he improved to twelfth.  The team actually finished tenth that year.  With the team finishing eleventh in the national, Bert does not appear in the top 78 runners and maybe didn’t run at all that year.    In the 1966 Edinburgh to Glasgow he was yet again on the second stage and held on to the twelfth place he took over in for the club which finished tenth that year.   

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One of Bert’s team mates, Jim Irvine, who was a class runner himself and won medals of all colours in every single cross country championship available to him, has been in touch with one of Bert’s friends in Galloway, Mr Alex Peebles who says

I’ve just spent an interesting hour with an old local retired joiner here in Drummore. His name is Jackie Alexander. He was a boyhood and lifelong friend of Bertie Irving.

Jackie confirms that Bertie was in the Black Watch for his national service and did a three year stint. It was being in the army that started his interest in sport in general and running in particular.
Bertie was a member of Stranraer Harriers and it may have been a Mr Roberts or Robertson who recommended him to Belahouston Harriers. Jackie used to accompany Bertie on his trips up to Glasgow and remembers being met by a Mr Davy Corbett, they stayed at his house in Glasgow. Jackie remembers Bertie doing very well around 1959. Bertie was and stayed an all round sportsman all his life. He played football for Drummore village in the then very competitive Summer Leagues, winning a very competitive cup final for the Nathan Lowe cup in 1958.
Bertie also played Tennis and Table Tennis and as he grew older was a staunch member of the village Bowling Club. During this time he worked for the Co-Op Insurance company not the Prudential or the Pearl. He married Mattie McClean (a relative of mine I’ve just found out, we share an Aunt) they had one child a girl called Linda. Linda is now Mrs Dickson and lives in Dumfries but I do not know her address. Bertie’s other interests were gardening and keeping hens. In his later years he had very bad hip problems (probably the running!)
Attached is a photo of the two pals Bertie and Jackie as teenagers in Drummore. Jackie has a great memory and remembers some of the names from that time mentioned in the Belahouston web page.
There was the story that went around for several years that he only ran three races a year – the E-G, the National and the International which had a lot to do with the difficulties of getting to races.   That Bert was a  top class athlete there can be no doubt – but could he have been better?   
 
Living in Galloway presented some problems for a serious runner.
First, he had to train on his own while the opposition could train regularly with other runners, the Tuesday and Thursday pack runs were often testing affairs where the athletes pulled the best out of each other and many good tips were passed on in the course of these runs.   
Second, it was also harder to get to races.   What did runners gain from regular racing?   They learned how to race, how to work harder and also a bit about the opposition.   
Third, he also had to spend time travelling to races – it is one thing to jump on to a bus for 20 minutes or half an hour to get to a race, it is totally different to have to spend hours at a time to get to a venue.   
 
Bert had these difficulties of training alone and travel to races yet managed to keep his motivation and challenge the best in the country despite them.   He was liked and respected by everyone that I ever spoke to.   Bert Irving was one of a kind.

Edinburgh to Glasgow: Stage Eight

1957: Chic Forbes finishes for Victoria Park

1958: Black finishes for Bellahouston

1960: Tom Malone finishes for Shettleston Harriers

1961: Wotherspoon finishes for Shettleston

1964: John Poulton finishes for Motherwell YMCA

John McAllister, East Kilbride AAC, 1987 

 

 

Gerry Fairley, Kilbarchan, finishing and handing the baton to Harry Quinn, in Crown Point arena, 2001

 

Colin Youngson, final stage, 1986

Derek Halpin, Clydesdale, 1997

 

Edinburgh to Glasgow: VPAAC Win 1951

Shettleston Harriers won two Edinburgh to Glasgow races on the trot before Victoria Park took over to become the dominant force in the race for the 1950’s.   With seven wins in eight years plus one second and two thirds in a decade when Scottish club running was at a real high with VPAAC, Shettleston, Bellahouston and Edinburgh Southern all operating at a high level their feat in the eight-man relay – four man teams were the norm with six men required for the District and National championships – showing gnuined strength in depth.   This was their first victory of many.

Ian Binnie to Jim Ellis at the end of stage one

Ellis to Ronnie Kane at the end of the second stage

Johnny Stirling to Chic Forbes at the end of the fourth stage

Andy Forbes to Syd Ellis at the end of the long sixth stage

Ellis gives Alex Breckenridge a lead of over 3 minutes at the start of the last leg.

The club went on to win in 1950, 1951, ’52, ’53, ’54, ’56 and ’57 with second place in 1955 and thirds in 1958 and ’59 

Edinburgh to Glasgow: Stage Five

Many runners, clubmen and supporters concentrated on the long leg (six), the champions leg (two) and maybe four – but then the first stage was vital if you were gpoing to be a contestant, and three was one where a lot of ground could be lost on what was the shortest leg of the race – very few looked at five in any detail.  The fifth stage was fairly long (5 miles plus) but was without any doubt the most exposed of them all.   If there was a wind, you got it all the way, and in one year there was a bit of a gale blowing and I remember getting in to the bus at the end of the stage followed by a student from one of the university teams gasping, “That wind!   Oh!   That wind.   What a wind.   Oh that wind!”   When it snowed, as it did at least once, the leg was one of the toughest any of us had experienced.

1957: the Armadale changeover, B4 being the Irvine YMCA runner

1959: George Meikle to John Hamilton for Teviotdale

Henry Summerhill to Graham Everett (Shettleston) in 1960

Roden to Moody for Teviotdale in 1961

 

Davie Simpson, Law and District in 1975

Chic Forbes (VPAAC) to Ian Binnie at the end of Stage 5

2001

 

Edinburgh to Glasgow: Stage Seven

1939: Emmet Farrell to Archie Peters at the start of stage seven after running the fastest time on six.

1957: Harry Fenion, Bellahouston, to Jim Irvine

1957: Jim Irvine: note the bus with the open door and team mates shouting – one even has a rickety!

 

1958: Joe Connolly, Bellahouston, to Des Dickson

1959: Hugo Fox to Robert Wotherspoon for Shettleston

Gordon, Bellahouston, to Black in 1960

 

1961: Steve Taylor (AAAC) to Alex Howie after running third fastest long stage

Douglas to Meikle for Teviotdale in 1964

Henderson, EAC, to Prior at Airdrie in 1964

Dundee Hawkhill and Springburn side by side at the changeover in 1964

Graeme Grant (Dumbarton AAC) in 1967

Graeme Haddow, East Kilbride, 1987

M Johnston (Edinburgh Athletic Club) in 1994

Bobby Young, Clydesdale Harriers, from Ian Taylor, Carnegie

 

Edinburgh to Glasgow: On the Cover

For all that the race was a genuine classic, and given the number of magazines which  covered the sport for several years at a time, there were few front covers which featured the race.   We start with four from the ‘Scots Athlete’ magazine.

… and a couple from  “Scotland’s Runner”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edinburgh to Glasgow: Stage Four

Stage Four was another difficult one and, arguably, the toughest after the second and sixth stages.   

1959: Kelly to Fox, Shettleston at the changeover from three to four

Tom O’Reilly, Stage Four, 1954

Alex Miller, Law and District, on Stage Four in 1974

Graham Getty, Bellahouston Harriers, 1984

Doug Runciman, Cambuslang Harriers, 1994

Shane Daly to Kheredine Idessane at the start of fourth stage, 1997

Kheredine Idessane, Clydesdale, 1997

Edinburgh to Glasgow: Some First Stage Pictures

Donnie Bain (FVH) and Adrian Callan (Springburn)

Same race: Dougie Bain and Adrian Callan (Springburn)

1958: Billy Goodwin (Bellahouston) and George White (Clydesdale)

1959: Billy Goodwin (Bellahouston) and J Ewing (Victoria Park)

Alistair Blamire, (EU H&H) leading Ian Binnie (VPAAC)  in 1965

Lachie Stewart and David McMeekin on the first stage in 1987

At the end of stage one the long drag up from the Barnton Roundabout to the top and the ‘One Mile to Go’ sign really sorted out the field.   This is the view supporters got when looking back down for their runner.

Andy Daly had broken away from the group he was running with at this point

Withe Andy gone, Ian Archibald leads the chasing group with Jim Dingwall dropping off.

1984

1990: Great shot posted by A Laird on Graham’s website

1986

 

 

Steve Taylor’s Memorabilia

 

Steve Taylor leads Graham Everett, Derek Ibbotson, Laszlo Tabori, Ken Wood and Stan Taylor  at Ibrox in the Mile in 1960

Looking at athletics memorabilia is fascinating: we learn not only about the events in which an athlete has been competing but also about the wider field of athletics at that time.   Scottish athletics in my lifetime has undergone any changes but none more so that in the type of competition offered to the athletes or to the range of competition either.   We have Andy Forbes’ programmes and cuttings elsewhere on the site and what we have here are some of the photographs and programmes from Steve Taylor’s collection.

Certificate for thirty-fifth place in the International Cross-Country in 1962: He was third Scot

Certificate received after winning Shettleston Marathon in 1971

Certificate for fourth place in Morpeth to Newcastle, 1960

1961 E-G for Aberdeen AAC: Top Duffy to Taylor, Below Taylor (3rd fastest on stage 6) to Howie

SAAA Mile, 1960: Top leading Ken Ballantyne in the Heat; below leading Graham Everett in the Final (Steve was second)

En route to victory in the Carry Cup Trophy Race (Aberdeen v Dundee Cross-Country)

North East CC League, Dundee 1961.   Leading from Alastair Wood

Joe McGhee at Hamilton Race course before the SCCU Champs, c 1957

1972, Walton on Thames.   RRC 20 miles track race shortly after the start. Jim Alder (1) set a new UK best of 1.40.50. Steve (11) finished 5th.

Don Ritchie, the future ultra running great, was 6th. Don is just in front of Steve in this photo. In front of Don is Ian Macintosh (6), who won the 1978 SAAA marathon

 

This programme front cover is for the 1960 International at Hamilton Park Racecourse.

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The Rangers Sports was a wonderful meeting with top athletes competing on the same track and sharing the dressing rooms with the regular Scottish runners who were competing in handicap races.

This is a particularly interesting one in that it was one of the very first floodlight meetings in Scottish athletics.   Many of the runners from the just-finished Rome Olympics.   There were many athletics meetings originating in the 1920’s where Olympic athletes came to Glasgow after the meeting before returning home: one of my first meetings was in broad daylight but included such as Lindy Remigino, Herb McKenley, Arthur Wint and others on their way home from Helsinki.   These days have gone but it must have been a wonderful experience for Steve to run at such a meeting.  

Colin says: “In 1960 many Olympic stars came to Glasgow.   Steve had watched them in Rome and here he was the pacemaker in the Mile!   Bill Dellinger (who in 1964 was third in the Olympic 5000m) won in front of Graham Everett, Laszlo Tabori and Mike Beresford, with Steve 5th in front of Max Truex (USA) etc. The three miles featured – in finishing order –  Albie Thomas (Aus), Gordon Pirie, Nyandika (the first successful Kenyan), Frank Salvat and Alastair Wood. The 440 yards featured Otis Davis (1960 Olympic 400m gold), Robbie Brightwell and Mal Spence. The Women’s sprints included Australia’s 1956 Olympic 100m/200m (and 1964 400m) victor Betty Cuthbert. Steve also collected some autographs and, for my own collection, I have printed out folk like Thomas, Tabori, Dellinger, Truex, Derek Ibbotson plus several top Scots and English.”

There were often such international fixtures against the smaller nations such as Iceland and the other Scandinavian countries and they were great occasions for the athletes, and the spectators but it seems that there are no facilities for such fixtures in the twenty first century.

The Edinburgh Highland Games, traditionally held on the short, grass track at Murrayfield, also attracted the very best athletes and there were some surprisingly good times run in dire conditions there.

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This was one of a series of attempts to have a dedicated athletics magazine in Scotland.   This one was edited and produced by Walter Ross as a successor to the first rate ‘Scots Athlete’ magazine.

The two athletes pictured, both running cross-country for Cambridge University, are Mike Turner and Herb Elliott, the legendary Australian miler.

 

 

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