Mel Edwards: Obituary

He was the Aberdeen athlete who kept racing against the clock, setting new milestones and proving that age is just a number.

And he was also the man with the initials MBE – Meldrum Barclay Edwards – who ended up receiving an MBE for his services to sport and charity.

When his son, Myles, was married just last month, Mel Edwards, who has died of cancer, aged 76, found the inner strength to attend the wedding in Aberdeenshire, where he delivered a “powerful” speech.

Mr Edwards was born in the Granite City in 1942 and graduated in civil engineering from Cambridge University.

He subsequently enjoyed a prodigious international career, locking horns with many of the greatest names of his generation, including Commonwealth medallists Lachie Stewart and Ian McCafferty.

Renowned for his intensive training regimes of around 100 miles per week, his marathon personal best time of two hours, 18 minutes, 25 seconds would still place him high in the contemporary British rankings.

During a running career which spanned half a century, it was estimated Mr Edwards covered more than 100,000 miles and represented his country at distances ranging from six miles to the marathon.

Even when he was diagnosed with Myeloma in 2006, he refused to let the gruelling hospital treatment grind him down and, whether tackling charity challenges, coaching youngsters or pouring himself into new initiatives, his fellow athletes described him as an inspirational figure.

His international athletic colleague, Colin Youngson, a three-time Scottish marathon champion from Aberdeen, said yesterday: “When he became Meldrum Barclay Edwards, Member of the Order of the British Empire (or MBE squared, as he called it) no one could have deserved the honour more. Everyone admired and liked him.

“When he first contracted cancer, I visited him in his hospital ward and we laughed our way through my collection of Alf Tupper – The Tough of the Track – photocopies.

“I could add so many more memories. His tales of dawn jogging at Rubislaw, saying hello to the fox that trained there at the same time; so many charitable ventures into which he poured his heart and soul. The laughs, the exhilaration for life.

“He’s gone at last, but unforgettable. I was very fortunate to know him.”

In 2016, at 73, Mr Edwards raised £8,000 by running 100×100 metres in two locations in his home city.

The money will be used to buy specialist EyeGaze technology for Woodlands School in Aberdeen.

He had set himself the task of raising a greater sum than when he accumulated £7,500 for Friends of Anchor in 2012 by undertaking a 70-minute run on his 70th birthday.

He said later: “It was a very satisfying experience. This will help to purchase life-changing equipment for the wonderful children and teachers at Woodlands School.

“It has been a privilege to be involved. In my life, I would say I had two main challenges. The first was to make the Olympic Games marathon (I missed out by two places), and the second was not to be defeated by cancer in 2006.

“Now there is a third. And that’s to ensure I do my best to provide life-changing facilities for children with severe problems.”

Mr Edwards spent the final weeks of his life at Roxburghe House.

He is survived by his wife Kareen and Myles.

Nethercraigs

Glasgow has always been fortunate in the number of running tracks and athletics facilities available to the population.   The really big ones that held National and other championships plus top class international meetings were of course Hampden, Ibrox and Celtic parks.   The track at Helenvale in the east end of the city saw some top class action, while in the West the two top tracks were Westerlands and Scotstoun which both held Scottish Universities and Scottish Schools championships as well as good invitation international events.   Then there were the tracks that were used for club training, maybe open graded meetings – Knightswood, Barrachnie, Toryglen and Nethercraigs.   That is not a completely comprehensive list but gives a fair demonstration of how seriously the local authority took the sport and provision for it.

Nethercraigs track, located at 355 Corkerhill Road in the south of the city, was a track with a good reputation,  decent changing facilities and handy for bus and train travel.   When I first went there in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s it was used for such meetings as the Ladies Inter District Meetings as well as for inter-clubs organised by Bellahouston Harriers.   At the start of the twenty first century it was described on Tim Grose’s Running Track Directory as follows:

“Cinder, 400m/440y, 7 lanes, 7 lane straight

This red blaes track is in the locality of Corkerhill and was at one time the home track of Bellahouston Harriers. It was considered to be a fast track and staged Inter County and County Championships in the 1960s and 70s. It was well provided with field events facilities, changing rooms and a weights training area but now most of the field-event facilities have been removed. There is a sand pit for the jumps, but the runways are made out of tarmac as opposed to grass or redgra. The HJ area also consists of tarmac. As of Sep 2001 there were faint lane markings but overgrown grass has made the first lane pretty useless. The infield is a rugby/football pitch.”

The ‘redgra’ description is an English one: it was a red blaes track (ie made of small red stones (blaes) packed tight together to make a firm and absorbent surface).   The comment about the runways being made of tar is interesting because that was the pattern on other tracks – a tar approach for long, triple jumps as well as pole vault.   It meant that national track & field matches could be held there.

As can be seen from the advert in the ‘Scots Athlete’ from September 1947, Bellahouston Harriers started off training at the Academy playing fields, but it was not long after that that they moved their HQ.   For many years the home of Bellahouston Harriers was Nethercraigs: it became the venue for many an inter-club match with many of the top Scottish athletes taking part  in league matches: the club was one of the very best in the country and hosted such as Victoria Park, Shettleston and  Edinburgh Southern.  Jim Irvine tells us that “at the start, the track was very good ,and at the beginning there was not any out building just wooden huts were we stripped in no showers . Once the dressing rooms had been added it was very good and I enjoyed training on a very firm track,”    

For inter club fixtures, 1960 was a fairly typical year and although not all matches were reported in the local Press, the following all appeared in the ‘Glasgow Herald’.

Wednesday, 27th April, 1960:   “Bellahouston Harriers beat Shettleston Harriers by 117 points to 82 last night in an inter-club contest at Corkerhill.   R Sykes (Bellahouston) won three events,  the shot putt (41′ 9″), discus (126′ 4 1/2″) and the long jump (19′ 7”) and he was equal first in the pole vault.   Other winners:

100 yards: D Robinson (S) 10.7 sec;   220 yards: A McGaw (B) 22.9 sec;   440 yards: R Cairney (B) 51.6 sec;   880 yards: B Forrest (B)  2 min 9.3 sec;   Mile:   B Dickson (B) 4 min 32.3 sec;   Three Miles: J Connolly (B) 14 min 21.8 sec;   Six Miles:  J Irvine (B) 31 min 7.1 sec; 120 yards hurdles:  G Brown (B) 16.6 sec; 440 yards hurdles: Brown, 60.6.

High Jump: R Santini (S)  5′ 5″;   hop, step and jump: T McNab (B) 43′ 11 1/2″;   Javelin:  D Fraser (S) 149′ 8″;   pole vault: F McDonald and Sykes 9′;   Hammer:  T McNab (B) 79′ 1 1/2″;   4 x 100 yards relay:   Bellahouston (S Watson, R Sykes, S Wineberg, S McGaw) 45.4 sec;    4 x 440 yards: Bellahouston (W Robertson, J Currie, A Forrest, R Cairney) 3 min 35.1 sec.”

*

Wednesday, 3rd May: “Bellahouston Harriers beat Jordanhill Training College by 108 points to 84 last night at Corkerhill.   G Brown (Bellahouston) won the 120 yards hurdles and 440 yards hurdles in 17.3 sec and 60 sec respectively.  Another notable performance was achieved by J Connolly (Bellahouston) who won the three miles in 14 min 13.5 sec, 2 sec outside his own personal best for the distance.”  

*

Wednesday, 11th May:   “Bellahouston Harriers beat Victoria Park by 82 1/2 points to 78 1/2 points in an inter-club contest last night at Nethercraigs.   G Brown (Bellahouston) won both hurdles events, the 120 yards in 12.1 seconds and 440 yards in 57.4 seconds, and RC Sykes (Bellahouston) won the shot putt with 39′ 11″and the discus with 112′ 10″.   In the high jump, C  Fairbrother (Victoria Park) cleared 6’6″ but failed at three attempts at 6’8″.   

*

Monday, August 22nd:   “Bellahouston Harriers beat Springburn Harriers by 58 points to 32 in their inter-club contest at Nethercraigs.”

Fixtures were held all summer but as time went on and other more up-to-date tracks were laid and opened, training and fixtures gradually switched to these venues. There was an additional problem for Nethercraigs.  A quote from a descriptive brochure:

Nethercraigs Playing Fields used to serve local schools needs for outdoor sports. In recent years, the site had become under-utilised as demand from both schools and the community had reduced. Some of the pitches had become derelict. This project seeks to upgrade and safeguard its continued function as a valued amenity space in the south west of Glasgow, providing opportunities for childrens’ play and outdoor sports in a safe environment.

Under utilised because, with the Commonwealth Games coming to Scotland in 1970, an all weather track was laid at Bellahouston Park: the track was fine but it was open to all the elements with no shelter at all other than the Sports Centre which was just too far away to provide any cover to thse training on the track.   Nevertheless it was used a lot since it was the only such track on the west of Scotland: the east had Meadowbank and Grangemouth but this was the only one in the area.  Consequently most athlete who had formerly used Nethercraigs, went to Bellahouston Park.

That was the main rewason for the track being unused but the situation was  further complicated by the ‘unsafe’ aspect mentioned above.   it is referred to in this extract from an exchange on a Glasgow community forum:

“QUOTE (Jim @ 25th Jul 2013, 02:27pm)

Cat, I have to agree with you about Pollok Park. You really do feel as if you are in the country. When I was young, the Bellahouston Harriers would use the changing facilities as Nether Craigs on Corkerhill Road then run through the local housing scheme, passed Haggs Castle Golf Club and into the Estate, where mosty of the training sessions were done.
It was at an early age, while looking at the police dog training centre, that I worked out that if ever you run away from the police DON’T jump through tunnels, up wooden planks or jump through fire hoops – they are trained for that! 
 
Jim  –  I remeber it well. I lived in Corkerhill so Pollok park was our play ground and although the golf course was private there was a public right of way. Sadly that is no more as the M77 cut right through it. The people of Corkerhill made many protests but sadly failed. One of the main organisors and community activist was my best friends dad Walter Morrison. The pavillion at Nethercraigs has been named The Walter Morrison pavillion as this was another site he fought to save. (He won that one)
I remember also going to see the Police dogs training (they still do) also the police recreation association is still there. The pond was my favourite place not as big as some but very pretty I think the pond had been part of the private estate. Hence why we called it Pollok estate and the road up through the woods and over the golf course was called the private road.
The highlighting is mine.   As part of the drive to get transport moving through Glasgow from one side to the other, the M77 was created and sliced right through the south side of Glasgow.   There were many protests by the local population – augmented by many protesters from across the city, and indeed across the country, at the fragmentation of this community.   But it happened and made the journey to Nethercraigs more difficult for many and also a bit less safe.

However, the sports complex was still there and had to be used.   From a Glasgow City Council document:

Nethercraigs lies adjacent to the Corkerhill residential area and is largely occupied by the Nethercraigs Sports Complex,[2] which was formerly the home ground to Glasgow Gaelic football side, Tir Conaill Harps and was later used by the Glasgow Caledonain GAA as their home ground and training pitch.

The sports complex, built at a cost of £3.7 million, was opened in 2005 by Sir Alex Ferguson.[3] It has a 3G astro pitch for 11-a-side football or three 7-a-side pitches, a separate 5-a-side pitch, two hockey pitches, gym, dance studio, running track, grass rugby pitch, three grass 11-a-side football pitches and a skate park. There are also areas for various athletic sports such as shot put and high jump. The 11-a-side, 5-a-side, hockey and rugby pitches are floodlit, as is the running track.

 
“Red Bull published a list of ten tracks throughout the UK that were worth a visit and Nethercraigs was one of them.   Their comments read:
This 400m outdoor track may be difficult to brave in the depths of a Scottish winter (or summer, for that matter) but make the journey to the track at the Leisure Centre and you’ll be rewarded with one of the most relaxed tracks in the country.
Open seven days a week (from 2pm on Tuesdays and Friday, and 9am every other day), access is on a pay-as-you-go basis, meaning there’s no upfront commitment, other than the one you made to your fitness.
The club also boasts a fitness studio, 5, 7 and 11 a-side synthetic football pitches as well as grass rugby and football facilities – ideal if you want to put your new sprinting power into practice. ”  
Bellahouston Harriers moved on from Nethercraigs but the venue and track are still being used by athletes – the Bellahouston Road Runners train from there all winter every year and the annual Jimmy Irvine 10K Road Race starts there.   You will note however that in the picture above the track now has an all weather surface and is down to four lanes.
 
Bellahouston Road Runners

As a young coach back in the early 1960’s I attended several weekend sessions there to hear more experienced and better qualified coaches from all over the UK dispensing their information.   It is again being used for that purpose.  On one Sunday we saw for the first time a fibre glass bendy vaulting pole – at that point all Scottish vaulters used an alumium one.  Now note this contemporary notice from the scottishathletics website in spring 2019:

Looking to give the steeplechase a go but not willing to jump in feet first?

The Glasgow Athletics Association is really pleased to announce it’s first steeplechase development session will  take place at Nethercraigs in Glasgow on Saturday 13 April.

This session aims to remove some of the myths about the event and encourage more athletes to give the steeplechase a go.

It is good to know that the venue still has a place in Scottish athletics in the twenty first century.

Colin Youngson’s photos

Running is the most marvellous sport at any speed you can manage. Get outside and enjoy fresh air, nature and the joy of moving!
ABERDEEN GRAMMAR SCHOOL – One Mile v Aberdeen Academy 1965 at Rubislaw grass track. 3rd but personal best.
After slow-twitch muscles ensured total failure in primary school sports day sprints, secondary school introduced 880 yards, which was more suitable. Then the Mile, which was even better. Eventually I won the Senior Mile; and competed over the distance for my school versus another, which featured two harder-training, faster athletes. Revenge was to be mine before long, however. Moral: when young, find your event, do some proper training and improvement is almost certain!

ABERDEEN UNIVERSITY HARE & HOUNDS – team photo 1969, outside Kins College Pavilion. Captain.
Although running is essentially an individual experience, physically and psychologically, it can be enhanced by (inevitably competitive) training and socialising with team-mates. But not too often! Learn to train mainly on your own: recovery sessions or harder ones.

VICTORIA PARK AC – Turku, Finland 10,000m 1972. Finished second but personal best.
Pekka Paivarinta in the cap. World XC champion in 1973! Same track where Chris Chataway paced John Landy to break Roger Bannister’s One Mile record in June 1954?
If you are young and running well, but a superior athlete is coasting along behind you, really push the pace and at least make them work harder. Front-running is exciting and you may record a good finishing time, even a personal best. In the future, you may well gain revenge on ‘classier runners’ when, inevitably, they have a bad day. Wait long enough, and anyone beats almost everyone at least once!

EDINBURGH SOUTHERN HARRIERS – after the 1975 Scottish Track 10 Miles at Carluke in the rain. Second but personal best.
Colin Youngson, Doug Gunstone, Martin Craven.
Try to race over all sorts of distances – explore the sport. As your experience becomes greater, you will find the events which suit you best. Do consider having a go at District and then Scottish Championships!

ABERDEEN AAC – Jogle 1982. With Don Ritchie; and team at Land’s End. Event Record broken.
Road Relays, especially utterly exhausting, multi-day events, are tough, surreal, weirdly hilarious and memorable. Team bonding (via individually-experienced but mutually understood suffering) may lead to respect and friendship which can last for decades. Testing physical and psychological limits can be a significant aspect of distance running; although it is a great relief that most races are much shorter!

ABERDEEN AAC: 1982 Scottish Marathon Championship gold – last straight at Grangemouth.
Not many long-distance runners possess a genuine sprint at the finish. However, especially in a successful marathon, even without close competition, a hard push for the tape can be mustered, when a decent time seems possible. Tactical surges in the final quarter of the event can also lead to breaking away (or overdoing the effort and hitting the no-glycogen ‘wall’!)

ABERDEEN AAC – 1985 Aberdeen International Marathon lead group. Finished second.
As a proud Scot, to represent my country in an international marathon, was always important. Never managed an individual victory but counted in several winning teams. It was always good to meet runners from England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Eire or the Continent. For Male and Female Veterans/Masters, the annual 5 Nations Cross-Country event is the greatest fun. ‘Reborn’ every five years, with a fresh chance to make the team: what an incentive to get fit!

ABERDEEN AAC.

Even compared to the Scottish Marathon Championship, the dramatic Edinburgh to Glasgow Road Relay was my favourite race – I was lucky to take part 30 times, with triumphs, good or mediocre runs and disappointments. This photo is of the last stage – ‘the Glory Leg’ – in 1986, when my age was 39. The baton was passed, along with an uncomfortably small lead, but I enjoyed one of those rare days when everything clicked and, with that year’s fastest Stage 8 time, came home well clear, to ensure Aberdeen’s second victory.

METRO ABERDEEN R.C. / VETERAN – British Veterans XC M45 gold 1995 at Beach Park, Irvine.
Reaching the age of 40 opened a new dimension to my post-peak but still keen running career. It can do the same for anyone. There are Scottish Masters championships in cross-country, track and field and road running. If you do well in some of those, maybe experience British, European or World Masters competition. Just as much ‘tough fun’ as personal best racing, but somehow less serious and therefore friendlier. A runner is a runner, fast, slow or medium: this sport is for everyone! For some athletes nowadays, post-40 (or even post-70) may actually be your peak, especially on the age-graded tables.

FORRES HARRIERS – Scottish Veterans 5000m M60 gold in 2010 during a gale at Pitreavie.
As the decades pass, distances you can actually push hard over (rather than plodding round carefully, trying to avoid injury) become shorter and shorter – maybe 3k, 5k or 6k cross-country. Track events may hurt, if personal worst times are avoided. In a gale-force wind, it can be worth the effort, especially if age-group rivals are ‘blown away’!

FORRES HARRIERS – after the 2019 ‘Run for Hamish 10 Miles’ in Nairn.
Nowadays, although I am nearly always keen to get outside and try, it all depends on the state of knee, hip, sciatica, lower back, calf, Achilles: niggles or injuries. But after resigned acceptance that any more ‘athletics’ will be shuffling at best, so far I find that ‘hard jogging’ may, now and again, still be possible. Parkrun, 10k, short cross-country or a longer road race. It is always a pleasure to meet old runners and my clubmates from friendly Forres Harriers. So keep going as long as you possibly can!

 

Yasunori Hamada

Hamada first came to the attention of the Scottish running public on 17th January, 1981, at Livingston where he ran in the District Championship.   The individual race was won by Fraser Clyne of Aberdeen with his former teammate Colin Youngson – running for Edinburgh Southern Harriers – second.    Youngson led ESH into first place but a very short way down the field, Hamada was eighth and first Edinburgh AC runner to finish.   The team was third with the other runners being Doug Hunter (9th), Nigel Jones (11th), Steve Laing (23rd), Lindsay Robertson (24th) and Robin Morris 25th.   It was a good run and a fairly successful introduction to the Scottish scene.   

He was further up the field on 7th February when, in the Edinburgh District League, he was second to Ian Elliott (Edinburgh Southern), 50 yards up on Evan Cameron of ESH, to lead the team home again – this time to second place behind Southern.   A week later and Hamada was representing the club in the Edinburgh University 10 Miles Road Race against some of the best that Scotland could put forward.   Nat Muir (Shettleston) won the race in a new record time from Jim Brown.   Hamada ran in third place for most of the race but had to settle for fourth after Jim Dingwall finished strongly.   In the team contest, Colin Youngson in fifth again led ESH to team victory.

These races were leading up to one thing: the national cross-country championships of Scotland to be held on 28th February at Callendar Park in Falkirk.   In a race dominated by the duel between Nat Muir and Allister Huttn (two seconds between them at the finish) with Jim Brown and Lawrie Spence not far behind at all, Hamada was 17th, and third scoring runner for EAC: Alder 8th, Weatherhead 14th, Hunter 20th, Gourley 24th and Robertson 38th were the other counting runners for the team that won from  Edinburgh Southern Harriers with the relevant points totals being 121 and 133.   Had Hamada not been running, EAC would have had to add another 42 points to the total and they would have been second to ESH.   As for his finishing position – the two runners immediately in front of him were Dave Logue (15th) and George Braidwood (16th) and following hard on his heels were Rod Stone (18th) and Colin Youngson (19th).   All considerably good athletes.

*

The last major team race of the 1980/81 season was on 14th March and was the  Six Stage Road Relays  Edinburgh AC was second team.   Hamada ran on the fourth stage, the second of the three long six mile stages.   He ran very well to turn in the fastest EAC time for the stage and fourth fastest overall behind Muir, Hutton and Spence but ahead of all the others including such talents as Jim Dingwall.

*

Some of us are never clear whether the Tom Scott 10 is the last race of the winter or the first race of the summer but Hamada ran in it on 4th April, 1981. Hamada ran in the classic Tom Scott 10 miles road race at Motherwell and it was reported under the Glasgow Herald headline of  “Jap pips Brown for Treble”  as follows: “Despite a brave effort to score his third successive success in the Tom Scott Memorial 10 Mile Road race from Law to Motherwell on Saturday, Jim Brown (Clyde Valley) was outpaced by Japanese 10000m champion Yasunori Hamada of Edinburgh AC.   The race quickly developed into a two man affair, with the leaders breaking clear of the 185 man field early in the race.   Each took a turn of leading and they were under the course record at half distance but the hot afternoon took its toll of the tiring runners and the pace dropped on the hilly approaches to Motherwell.   As the runners turned into the final 200 yard straight, Hamada was fractionally ahead of Brown.   The Scot sprinted to be repelled by the leader, and the lead changed hands as the rivals passed and re-passed each other.   Hamada’s final lunge gave him the verdict in the closest finish in the 23 year old history of the race.   

Results: 1.   Y Hamada, Edinburgh AC  47:39;   2.   J Brown, Clyde Valley AC   47:40;   3.  C Farquharson, Clyde Valley AC, 49:46.    First Veteran: R McKay, Clyde Valley,  54:43.   Team:  1.  Edinburgh AC 14 pts;  2.  Cambuslang Harriers  32;  3.  Bellahouston Harriers  36.”    It would be his best ever performance and listed as such on the ARRS website.

*

His summer season competition diary was also a very full one with competitions at club and championship level.   On 26th May he was in serious action at Grangemouth where he was third in the 1500m in  3:49.5 ( only 9 Scots were faster that year); and two days later at the same venue he was third in the 3000m in 8:07.0  (only Robson, Hutton and Clement were quicker in summer 1981).   In that particular race the winner was Nat Muir won in 8:00.9 and Frank Clement was second in 8:07.0.   

*

Then only two days further on, on 30th May, he stuck to Allister Hutton like the proverbial limpet in the East District Championship 5000m at Meadowbank.   Hutton’s winning time was 13:59.5.   It had been a very hard race and Hutton speeded up considerably in the last four laps –  one in 62 seconds – to shake his rival off. He eventually did so to good effect and Hamada’s own time was 14:13.19.   Nevertheless it had been a terrific week’s racing with season’s bests at 1500, 3000m and 5000m.

*

Of course the biggest championship of the summer was the SAAA on 20th June.   Hamada was there, and in the 5000m against some very good runners.    It was not a day for particularly good times but in a good field, Hamada finished third in 14:16.61 behind Lawrie Spence (14:14.51) and Allister Hutton (14:15.06).

*

The winter season began again in October and Hamada seems to have left the country by then.   He had run well, added to the Scottish scene although it was quite late in his career it did give him one of his personal best times in career terms.   We can finish with some statistics.   First of all, the figures for his year in Scotland.*

Yasunori HAMADA [JAP] (25.03.46) Edinburgh AC  

 Scotstats

1981 15003.49.5

1981 30008.07.0

1981 5000 14.13.19

CR: Sco: 3 5000 ’81.

There is no doubting his quality.   The ARRS website lists his pb’s and venues as

RD 10 mi 47:39 a Motherwell SCO 04 Apr 1981  
RD 30 km 1:32:48.2   Sapporo JPN 11 Jun 1978  
RD Marathon 2:13:04.2   Beppu JPN 03 Feb 1974  
OT 5 km 14:03.0   Tokyo JPN 01 Jun 1974  
OT 10 km 28:27.6   Tokyo JPN 29 Oct 1977  

After his running career was over, Hamada stayed in the sport as a very successful coach in his native Japan.  

 

Who’s Who of Distance Running: I & J


Nigel Jones to Brian Kirkwood

Kheredine Idessane (1.12.69) Edinburgh Southern, Cambridge University, Arizona, City of Edinburgh, Clydesdale Harriers)

800m: 1.48.62 1991; 15000m: 3.48.06 1991.

Kheredine was a very talented young runner, who became a Scottish International athlete at 800m and 4x400m. In the 1996 Scottish Indoor Championships he won 800m silver and 1500m bronze. He featured in the annual Scottish rankings between 1988 and 1998. Kheredine was more than a track runner – he also ran well cross-country and on the roads. After his racing career, it was a natural sideways step into sports broadcasting.

Robert Inglis, Cambuslang Harriers

Bob was a good club standard runner who represented Cambuslang in all the major road and cross-country races in the programme.  winter and summer he represented Cambuslang.   In the Edinburgh to Glasgow, he had six appearances – 1970, 72, ’73, ’74, ’75 and ’76 being a member of the team that won the Most Meritorious Medals in 1972.

James P Irvine [Bellahouston Harriers] – see full profile

6 Miles: 31:07.1 1960; Marathon: 2:36:52 1969

Jim featured in the annual Scottish rankings between 1960 and 1974.

With Bellahouston, he won Junior National Cross-Country Team medals (1954 bronze, 1955 silver, 1955 gold); plus Senior National team silver medals in 1957 and 1958 as well as bronze in 1959. In the E to G, which he ran 13 times between 1955 and 1974, he secured team gold in 1958 and silver in 1957. As a veteran, he won many medals in the Scottish Masters Cross-Country championships, from M40 bronze in 1974 and 1979 (when Bellahouston finished second team); to becoming M50 champion in 1987 (and adding silver and bronze in that age group); plus M55 silver in 1991. For Scotland in the British and Irish Masters Cross-Country International, he contributed to M60 team gold in 1995; and M65 team silver in 2000.

Leslie Irvine [Cambridge University, Corby Town]

1500m: 3:57.2 1970; 3000m: 8:37.0 1970; 5000m: 14:47.8 1971; 10000m: 31:47.8 1971

Sam Irvine [Glasgow Police]

10000m: 31:54.0 1972

Robert Irving [Bellahouston Harriers] – see full profile

Scottish Cross Country International three times, in 1959, 1960 and 1962.   The story was that Bert, who lived down in the far south west of Scotland and trained on his own, ran only three races in the winter: the E-G, the national and the International.   As a club runner, Bert won several team medals in the Scottish Senior National Cross-Country: 1957 silver, 1958 silver, 1959 bronze (when he was first home for Bellahouston in third place) and 1960 silver (5th individual). He ran for Scotland three times in the International Cross-Country Championships (1959, 1960 and 1962). In 1959, he was part of the team which won the Midland Cross-Country Relay. In the E to G, Bert won team silver in 1957, gold in 1958 and silver in 1959.

Harry Fenion (A1) to Jim Irvine (A7)

James Jack [Teviotdale Harriers]

One Mile: 4:22.4 1959; Three Miles: 15:18.0 1959; 3000m S/chase: 9:45.6 1960

In the E to G, which he ran three times, James was in the Teviotdale team which finished 6th and won ‘most meritorious’ medals in 1959.

George Jackson (Forth Valley, St Modan’s)

George was a good athlete but never seemed to reach the heights for which his talent suggested he was destined. A hard, tough runner he ran for Forth Valley in the summer and St Modan’s in the winter, later changing to Falkirk Victoria.

Adrian Jackson [Edinburgh University]– see full profile

Mile: 4:14.4 1959; Two Miles: 9:28.8 1959; Three Miles: 13:52.2 1959

Adrian was a top-class athlete, who ran very well on track, road and country. He wore the Scottish vest twice, racing over One Mile and Two Miles. He won the Scottish One Mile title in 1954 and the 3 Miles championship in 1956, as well as gaining 3 Mile silver medals in 1958 and 1959. In the E to G, his finest performance took place in 1956 when he smashed the record on prestigious Stage Two. In the International Cross-Country Championships, Adrian ran for Scotland three times (1958, 1959 – when he finished 30th – and 1961).

Jimmy JARDINE, Octavians AC, Lochaber AC
Jimmy was a Scottish hill-running legend who completed countless races, including the Ben Nevis Race 40 times. The last time was 2013, when he was over 70. In 1974 he won the first downhill-only race from the summit to the foot of the mountain – beating Bobby Shields and Eddie Campbell in an amazing time of 23 minutes! He acted as race starter; wrote memorable humorous poetry about the race; composed a Scottish dance tune (“Up and Down Ben Nevis”); and in 2006 put together a fascinating book (published in aid of Cancer Research) called “Up the Ben wi’ Eddie” (Campbell).

C. F. S. JARVIE Cambuslang, Lochaber

1966 6M 31.12.6

Charlie was a good cross-country and hill runner (including the Ben Nevis Race) who eventually settled in Fort William. Much earlier he put in good performances in Cambuslang club championships. He was Junior club champion in 1964 and 1965 and Senior champion in 1967 and 1969. He ran the E to G in 1970; in 1972, when 12th place won Cambuslang the ‘most meritorious’ medals; and in 1973.

George JARVIE ,Springburn Harriers

George was one of noted coach Eddie Sinclair’s excellent runners at Springburn with many individual and team successes to his credit. He was a team counter (32nd) for Scotland in the 1969 Junior International Cross-Country Championships. This was after two successive team silver medals in the 1968 and 1969 Junior National Cross-Country, where his best finishing position was sixth. He ran the E to G for Springburn in 1968.

David Jeffrey [St Andrews University]

Three Miles: 14:49.6 1961

Archie Jenkins [Mid-Annandale, Morpeth, Edinburgh AC, Hunters Bog Trotters] – see full profile

800m: 1:1:55.5 1976; 1500m: 3:58.2 1976; 3000m: 8:17.6 1984; 5000m: 14:29.3 1976; 10000m: 30:42.5 1976; Marathon: 2:29:37 1982 3000m S/chase: 9:02.95 1984

Archie, a hard-training and racing, very sociable enthusiast, and a fine team man too, appeared in the annual Scottish ranking lists between 1970 and 1997. In 1968 he was second to David Jenkins in the Scottish Schools 440 yards. In the E to G, which he raced many times, he won 1982 silver with EAC – and gold in the 1984 Scottish Six-Stage Road Relay. With the Trotters, he secured a ‘most improved’ medal in 1990 and bronze in 1996. After moving to Alnwick and joining Morpeth Harriers, he won a bronze medal in the North of England 3000m Steeplechase; then ran his personal best guesting in the England v Spain v Sweden International at Gateshead. He won the 1987 North East Counties track 10,000m title.

Archie had tremendous success as a Veteran (or Master), winning a great amount of Scottish and British titles, as well as European and World medals, breaking Scottish indoor track records, and running the 5 Nations Masters International for Scotland, year after year. In addition he has put a lot ‘back into the sport’ as a British Masters official and team manager.

Robert C Jenner [Aberdeen University]

Marathon: 2:38:11 1967

Bob, a good cross-country runner, trained hard on his own for the 1967 Shettleston Marathon (in which he finished a very respectable 6th). In preparation, he completed the AU half marathon course twice in a single unaccompanied run, which included a lap of the King’s College field (next to the changing rooms) at half way, before dourly heading out again. He was part of the AU 1964 E to G team which won ‘most improved’ medals.

Alistair Johnston [Victoria Park, Strathclyde University] – see full profile

Two Miles: 9:19.6 1968; Three Miles: 14:24.0 1968; Six Miles: 30:23.4 1968; 3000m: 8:37.6 1969; 5000m: 14:11.8 1972; 10000m: 29:59.4 1970; Marathon: 2:19:31 1970

Babcock’s Sports: Alastair Johnston (53), leading Bill Stoddart and Joe Reilly, Ian Leggett 26, Allan Faulds 27, then Cyril O’Boyle

Ian Johnston [Falkirk Victoria, Enfield]

800m 1.54.16 1987; 1500m 3.48.3 1990; 3000m 8.13.84i 1991; 3000m Steeplechase 9.31.7 1991; 5000m 14.34.0 1995.

In the 1991 Scottish Championship indoor 3000m, Ian finished second. He was a Scottish International athlete at 3000m and One Mile. In the E to G

Much later he became a very successful veteran athlete.

Victor Johnston [Dundee Hawkhill]

Marathon: 2:37:19 1982

Ian JOHNSTONE

Aberdeen, Cambuslang, Inverness

1977 5000m 14.50.1; 1977 3000 Steeplechase 9.41.0.

Ian ran the E to G for Aberdeen in 1977. He trained very hard and suffered many injuries but made an impressive comeback as a Veteran, winning Scottish age-group titles.

Hamish Johnstone [Heriot Watt University]

800m: 1:56.5 1972; 1500: 3:58.5 1972

James R Johnstone (Monkland Harriers, Law and District AAC]

880y: 1:58.0 1961; One Mile: 4:11.2; Two Miles: 8:58.0 1966; Three Miles: 13:43.6 1966; 5000m: 14:59.2 1969

He ran for Scotland twice in the International XC Championships: 1964, when he was a team counter; and 1966. His highest position (for Monkland) in the Senior National XC was 6th, in 1966. He ran for both his clubs in the E to G; and in 1963 was fastest on Stage One, setting a record. In addition, he was a good long-distance road runner.

RC Johnstone [Greenock Wellpark]

Marathon: 2:49:21 1976

Raymond Johnstone [Pitreavie]

1500m: 3:59.1 1971

Ronald Johnstone [Victoria Park]

Marathon: 2:37:18 1982

Nigel Jones: [Edinburgh AC]

800m: 1:53.59 1982; 1500: 3:46.2 19881; One Mile: 4:03.0 1982; 3000m: 8:25.21 1982; 5000m: 14:23.6 1982; 2000m S/chase: 5:55.6 1977; 3000m S/chase: 8:25.81 1982

SAAA 300m S/chase: 1st 1981, 3rd 1982, 3rd 1983

Nigel was a very talented young athlete who was successful on track, road and country. He won the 1981 Scottish Steeplechase title and, in the same event, two bronze medals in 1982 and 1983.

He ran for Scotland in the 1978 World Junior XC Championships. On the track he ran eight times for Scotland, in 1500m, 3000m, and 3000m Steeplechase.

In the E to G, Nigel ran in eight races and won three silver medals. In the Senior National Cross-Country, he contributed to 1983 EAC team bronze. He was also a valued member of team in other relays, helping his team to gold and silver : in the Scottish Cross-Country Relay and in the Six Stage Relays.

Campbell Joss [Bellahouston Harriers]

10000m: 33:20.4 1978; Marathon: 2:28:34

Consistent 2.30 marathon runner 79-82. A very good clubman he supported the club in every type of race. For instance, Campbell ran in 9 consecutive Edinburgh to Glasgow Relays between 1973 and 1981, then when it looked as though he was out of the team altogether he was picked to run in 1990. A good veteran runner who works hard as an official with SVHC.

Philip Judge [St Andrews University]

One Mile: 4:16.8 1961

Aberdeen YMCA: 1935

From the Press & Journal, 2nd December, 1935.

16th February, 1935: HARRIERS RACE FOR CALEDONIAN CUP.  Six teams to compete in stiff test.   The fifth annual race for the Caledonian Cup will be held inder the auspices of the North Eastern Harriers Association today at 3:00 pm.   The competition is open to all amateur clubs within the area covered by the NEHA.   Teams are of twelve runners each with six men home counting for places.   Teams are forward from ‘Vatsity, ‘Shire, Aberdeen YMCA, Gordon Highlanders (2 teams) and Elgin YMCA Harriers.   The course is from South Esplanade West to Craiginches to Harper’s Works, striking off to the left to take the fields over to the road at the railway cabin, and thence back to the finishing point in South Esplanade West.”    Club teams were listed, with the Aberdeen YM squad being J Youngson, J Young, J Findlay, S Kennedy, J Crombie and G Duthie.   

18th February, 1935: “TEAM TITLE FOR ‘VARSITY.   YMCA Man first home in Harriers Event.   Varsity won the NE Harriers Association three mile junior team championship which was decided over a course at Torry on Saturday afternoon.   A field of sixty runners took part. … From the start AR Hewitt and NR McLean (Varsity) forced a stiff pace with J Youngson (YMCA) five yards in the rear.   Taking the country, McLean went to the front with Hewitt and Youngson on his heels.   Midway over the country the three leaders were having a tousy duel, the Elgin team being well bunched together for the team award.   Coming on to the road again, McLean was clinging to a three yard lead from Youngson and Hewitt, with H McDougall (Varsity), J Riddell (Elgin) and M Grant (‘Shire) ten yards behind.   

In the last 200 yards Youngson came away with a terrific burst of speed to pass McLean and carry on to win his first individual honour by twenty yards in the good time of 16 min 35 1-5th sec.   An exciting duel took place between McLean and Grant for second place, the former just getting the verdict by inches at the tape.”   The result of the team race was a victory for Varsity from Elgin YMCA with Gordon Highlanders A team third.   The YMCA did not have a counting team.    There is also a very good picture of the start of the race in that edition of the paper. 

7th March, 1935: Not strictly relevant but at an Elgin YMCA fund raiser, the speaker “congratulated the Elgin branch on their enterprise and sportsmanship in sending a Harriers team to Aberdeen for the first time in their history.   They had – to the honour and glory of themselves and the city of Elgin – taken second place.”

13th April, 1935: “The YMCA Harriers will decide their four miles handicap for the vice president’s cup this afternoon.   The start is at 3:00 pm and the course is:- Start on the South Esplanade West, and out to Bridge of Dee via Abbotswell Road, and in Riverside Road to finish at Victoria Bridge.   The following are the runners and handicaps:- A Milne (scr), G Milne (2 sec), A Walker (13 sec), A Lobban (15 sec), Geo Brown (20 sec), F Warman (25 sec), JA Walker (48 sec), G Smart (1 min), W Craig and J Meldrum (1 min 32 sec), G Mathers (1 min 54 sec), K Gray (1 min 56 sec), S Kennedy (2 min 30 sec), Wm Brown (4 min 5 sec).   Officials:- Starter and Timekeeper: CG Howie; judges: A Silver and D Yule; Handicapper: D Yule.”

23rd May, 1935:   NE HARRIERS MILE TEAM RACE AT LINKS.   Duncan M Annand of the Aberdeen University Hares and Hounds created a new record in the North Eatern Harriers One Mile Team Race which was decided at The Links last night.   Annand’s time was 4 mins 30 4-5th secs, compared with the previous record accomplished four years ago by HM Gray, University Hares and Hounds, of 4 mins 33 1-5th sec.   From the start W Whyte, WE Fraser  and DM Annand forced a hot pace.   At half distance they were joined by the brothers Milne and F Yeoman who were running with grim determination.   About 400 yards from the finish, Annand went to the front, being closely pursued by A Milne and Yeoman.   In the last 100 yards, Ananand came away brilliantly to create a new record.   There was a great duel between Milne and Annand for second place with the former winning by a yard.”   The team race was won by ‘Shire from Varsity with YMCA in third (2, 4, 11, 14).

30th May: 1935:  “Teams from Aberdeen University Athletic Union, Aberdeenshire Harriers, YMCA Harriers and Aberdeen City Police took part in a series of inter-club track and field events at King’s College Ground last night.   The outstanding men were WG Brown (Gordonians), AR Hewit (‘Varsity) and JA Robbie (‘Varsity).   The best event was the two miles team race.   Four men , WE Fraser (‘Varsity), G Milne (YMCA), L Davidson), and J Youngson (Gordonians), ran neck and neck until the last 300 yards, when Youngson took the lead, and although stioutly challenged by Milne and Fraser, won by three yards from Milne with Fraser a similar distance behind for third place..”   The results followed and YMCA runners placed were 880 yards: T Craig 3rd; two miles team race: G Milne  2nd, Team Race  YMCA – Milne, A Walker and G Mathers;  hurdle race: R Riddell 2nd, F Warman 3rd;  high jump: A Lobban 3rd; Relay Race: YMCA 2nd.   

13th June, 1935: NE HARRIERS ONE MILE RELAY.   ‘Varsity retain Coronation Trophy. The ‘Shire Harriers won the trophy, contested over a 4 x 440 yards relay, for the ninth time in succession with the YMCA team third.

19th June, 1935:  Athletic Meeting in Polo Park, Hazlehead.   Placed YMCA athletes:  100 yards:  3rd  D Yule;  220 yards: 2nd J McFarlane, 3rd D Yule;  880 yards  2nd C Raich; Two Miles: 2nd team.  Relay Race  2nd team;High Jump:  1st J Findlay, 2nd A Lobban.

20th June, 1935: “A large crowd attended Boroughbriggs Park in Elgin last night when the Elgin YMCA held their first sports meeting since the inauguration of the club.   The feature of the sports was the five-a-side tournament in which five Highland League clubs took part.   Runners from Aberdeen University, Aberdeenshre Harriers, Shamrock and Aberdeen YMCA also played a prominent part in the success of the sports.   WG Brown, Aberdeenshire, won every event for which he entered.”   In addition to the five-a-side and the cycling events there were seven running events and the YMCA placed athletes were as follows:- Inter club relay race:  1st Aberdeen YMCA; Two Miles Race:  2nd J Youngson.

1st July, 1935:  “It was rather unfortunate that the competitors for the first and second class standard awards in the NEHA trials meeting at King’s College Grounds on Saturday had to contend with a strong headwind.   Only three men gained first class standards – WJ Brown (Aberdeenshire Harriers), WJG Meldrum (Aberdeen Grammar School) in the 440 yards,  and JA Robbie (Aberdeen University) in the high jump.    It must have been disappointing to the twin brothers, Alex and George Milne (YMCA) , who in the one mile gave a thrilling display, to discover that their time was four seconds outside second class standard 4 min 45 sec.”

22nd July 1935:Forres Amateur Athletic Association’s annual sports before a few hundreds.   Cycling and heavy events as well as running.   There were good performers from Elgin YMCA and  Inverness YMCA. 

5th August 1935: Just as Glasgow had the Rangers Sports on the first Saturday in August, Aberdeen had the Pittodrie Sports which were also a big occasion.   “Annual amateur sports held under the joint auspices of Aberdeen Football Club and the North Eastern Harriers Assoication at Pittodrie Park on Saturday.   Stan Johnston (Heaton Harriers gained victories in the 880 yards and mile events.   Johnston, who hails from Newcastle, is thefirst English runner to compete in the amateur sports at Pittodrie.   In the Mile he had a thrilling duel with A Hay, North of Scotland Two Mile Champion.   Entering the last two laps Hay had a slight lead, but 400 yards from the tape, Johnston put in a great finish to win by 5 yards.    The meeting attracted and entry of over 100 competitors and, favoured by ideal weather conditions, the sport generally was of a high standard.   It was disappointing therefor that the crowd numbered only 4000.”   The YMCA results were: G Milne  two miles  2nd; D Yule  440 yards Final  3rd;  Putting the Weight  3rd.   

October 1935: “PITTODRIE RACE WON BY A FOOT.   Before the start of the football match at Pittodrie Park on Saturday, the North Eastern Harriers Association decided their annual two miles open novice championship.   Twenty runners faced the starter, and right from the pistol HR McDougall (‘Varsity) forced a hot pace, closely followed by R Milne (YMCA) and AR Kellas (‘Varsity).   These three held together for over half a mile, when Kellas went to the front with McDougall and A Walker (YMCA) about two yards in the rear.   At half distamce Kellas was holding to a lead of 10 yards from Walker, who had displaced McDougall for second place.   The latter seemed to be feeling the effects of the gruelling pace he had set in the early stages, and it was no surprise when he retiredshortly afterwards.   At the end of the mile and a half stage Kellas was grimly clingig to a3 yards  lead from Walker, who appeared to be keeping a trifle i hand for the latter stages.   Third place was occupied by W Grant (‘Shire) who was 15 yards behind the leaders.   Entering the last lap Kellas had a two yeards advantage, and coming down the back “straight” tried desperately to shake off Walker, but the latter was not to be denied, for, coming away strongly, he got onlevel terms with Kellas 100 yards from the tape.   It was a thrilling sight to see these two battling for supremacy, the crowd yelling encouragement, and when it looked as if the race would finish with a dead heat, Walker in the final two yards, managed to ease away to win by a foot in the splendid time of 10 min 48 sec.”

23rd December, 1935: Unique Event In Aberdeen Five Miles Race.   YMCA CHAMPIONSHIP EVENT.   For the first time in the history of amateur athletics in the north of Scotland twin brothers – Alex and George Milne of Aberdeen YMCA Harriers – finished in a dead heat in a club championship event.   This unique performance was accomplished in the YMCA’s five miles road championship which was decided on Saturday afternoon.   The course started at the foot of Menzies Road, thence past the prison at Craiginches to Nigg Church, striking off to he road that leads to Bridge of Don, thence to Riverside Road, finishing at a point near Victoria Bridge.    .

From start to finish the twins engaged in a grim struggle that ultimately ended in a dead heat.   Although their time was over a minute outside the course record, consideration must be given to the treacherous ice bound road that prevailed on Saturday.   One of the competitors who competed, RGG Milne, sustained nasty cuts to the hands and shulders when he slipped heavily on the road coming down to the Bridge of Don.   Another feature of the race was the welcome return to form of KA Gray who finished 40 yards behind the brothers Milne.   Result:-  1.  Alex and George Milne; 2.  KA Gray; 3. A Lobban.”

Start of Race on 16th February: See above

Aberdeen YMCA : Pre First World War

 

The selections below are taken from the excellent Aberdeen Press and Journal dealing with the club in 1913 to give an idea of how active the club was over a hundred years ago.   It was well before many of the YMCA Harriers clubs came into existence.   Club runs, club championships, inter-club runs and jont functions were all undertaken in an enthusiastic well organised fashion.   Unfortunately the state of public transport and the propensity of the national governing body to hold the championships exclusively in the central belt of Scotland meant that they were seldom in evidence at national cross country championships.  The dates are dates of the sampling of press reports..

30th January, 1913: “A special meeting of the Aberdeenshire Harriers Club took place in the club rooms on Tuesday night:- Mr W Russel, jnr, presiding.   Accompanyinghim was Mr W Jamieson, hon president.   The chief business before the meeting was to come to a decision as to the route for this year’s annual marathon race.   Several routes were proposed and after a close vote, Inverurie was selected.   This will be the second occasion that the route has been run from the northern town, the previous occasion being two years asho when 21 runners finished out of an entry of 23.   The probable date of the race will be Saturday, 29th March.   It was unanimously agreed to invite the YMCA Harriers to take part in the race on certain conditions.”

3rd February, 1913: “The members of the YMCA and Aberdeen Harriers Clubs held an inter club run on Saturday from the headquarters of the ‘Shire, the Lily Hall, School Road.   Both clubs were largely represented and several of the old ‘Shire members turned out for the first time this season. The large pack lined up in front of the starter and timekeeper, JC Watson and went off at a brisk canter.  ….   “

6th March, 1913:  Extract from the ‘Shire Harriers notes in the P&J: “A  letter was read from the YMCA Club inviting the club to take part in a run.   It was agreed that the club hold a 12 mile run from the YMCA Headquarters at Mannofield on Saturday 15th March.”

7th April, 1913: “In former years the race had been confined to members of the Aberdeenshire club, but on this occasion the members of the YMCA club – which has recently been formed, having been made honorary members of the Aberdeenshire club, in accordance with the requirements of the Amateur Athletic Association – were invited to compete and several entered.”   So that was the condition referred to in the January meeting.   The race was won by A King in in 1:30:54 from A Stewart, W Reid, J Slessor, JUE Barron, with J Rose 13th – no clubs were given for the 17 runners who finished by Rose and Barron were both YMCA members.   

17th October, 1913:  “The YMCA Harriers will hold a pack run of about three miles tomorrow afternoon from the club room, Keppleston, starting off at 3 pm sharp.   The route will be by way of Skene Road, King’s Gate and then along Fountainhall Road until Queen’s Cross is reachedand home by Queen’s Road.   The pack will be in charge of Eric Wilson and whipped in by John Rose.   The result of the Novice’s Race held last Saturday afternoon was as follows:- 1.   John Milne (time 8 min 5 sec); 2. Anthony Joss (time 8 min 30); 3. Robert Whitelaw.   The distance was a little over 1 1/2 miles and 14 members toed the line.’

24 October, 1913: Tomorrow afternoon there will be a club run of about five miles by way of Skene Road, Hazlehead, Countesswells, Mannofield and home by way of Walker Dam, starting off from the club rooms at Kepplestone at 3 o’clock sharp.   Two packes will be sent out …   The slows will be given ten minutes start of the fasts and the run will finish up with the usual 220 yards run for places.   Last Saturday afternoon, 11 members turned up and a distance of about 6 miles was covered.”   

7th November, 1913:   Alexander King of the ‘Shire Harriers, winner of the ‘marathon’ at the end of March emigrated to Canada and a presentation was held for him in the club rooms.   Members of the YMCA were also present as he had coached several of their ‘successful’ runners in that marathon.

Monday, 29th December:   From the ‘Shire Harriers notes in the P & J: “Owing to the inter-club run with the YMCA being too near the festive season, the event has been postponed until Saturday, January 10th.”

YMCA Notes in the P & J:  “The result of the badges competition under the auspices of the YMCA Club is:- 100 yards: 1.  John Rose 12 2-5th secs; 2  John P Taylor; 3. Forbes Morgan.   440 yards:  1.  James UE Barron 1 min 17 sec; 2. Robert Smith; 3. C Watt  and John Rose.”

 


 

 

The O’Boyle File

Cyril O’Boyle was a quite outstanding runner who was celebrated in Ireland before he ever came to Scotland.   He came here in theearly 1950’s and joined Victoria Park AAC, returned to Ireland, then ame back to Scotland again to run for Clydesdale Harriers.   His Daughter Moira was also an international runner, first of all as an age group runner for Scotland then as a senior marathon runner for Ireland.   nspired by Moira’s success, and encouraged by Cyril’s enthusiasm, wife Noreen took up running and ran for several Scottish select teams.   What is here is s simple collection of photographs, mainly but not exclusively, of Cyril himself.

A young-ish Cyril in his Finn Valley days, he is second right in the front row.

A Tyrone cross country team in 1950: Cyril is 145 on the left

.As a member of Victoria Park AAC, he is on the left in the back row, with Syd Ellis and Johnny Stirling; Ian Binnie in front.

In the Balloch to Clydebank 12 miles road race, leading Alex McDougall at three miles

.

In the Edinburgh to Glasgow late 1950’s

Handing the baton to Bobby Shields in the Edinburgh to Glasgow, mid 1960’s

 

At the start of the Babcock & Wilcox 14 miles road race about 1970: Cyril on left next to team mates Ian Leggett (26) and Allan Faulds (27).

Moira running for Ireland, 1980’s

Moira winning a marathon in Ireland, 1980’s

Cyril and Noreen on his 90th birthday in 2016

After Cyril returned to Ireland in the 1980’s he was visited by some of his old friends from Scotland:   here he is outside his farm cottage with Pat Younger.

Aberdeen YMCA

When you look at the various bodies that contributed to the development of amateur athletics in the country, organisations such as the Universities and School FP Clubs are maybe the first that come to mind.   But the contribution of the YMCA movement should not be overlooked or minimised.   Founded in Anerica in 1844 it believed in ‘muscular Christianity’ and quickly spread all round the world.   In Scotland there were many YMCA Harrier Clubs, possibly strongest in the 30’s and 40’s, founded the length and breadth of the country.   They had their own national YMCA Cross Country relay and championships as well as a national track and field championships.   They all followed the YMCA principles and many young men benefited from them.   Some, like the Kirkcaldy branch, were more obviously part of this wider movement.   Colin Youngson has been busy and produced this account of the Aberdeen YMCA. 

ABERDEEN YMCA HARRIERS

Hunter Watson, the long-time Aberdeen AAC Secretary and Historian, offered relevant information in an AAAC club magazine. “During the two World Wars, the association of local clubs was renamed the North Eastern Harriers Association (NEHA), and the 3-Miles team Road Race usually took place in December. Another regular event was the Round the Town Relay. The YMCA Harriers were often the best team in Aberdeen during the 1930s (others included Aberdeenshire Harriers, Aberdeen University, Shamrock Harriers and Caledonian Harriers). Prominent YM athletes at that time included the Milne twins, Alex and George, who did especially well in five and seven mile races.

The club rented a wooden hut on the south bank of the River Dee, upstream from the Victoria Bridge. This hut belonged to a swimming club. Lighting was by paraffin lamp, and water had to be carried in from the outside and heated over a stove lit by the athletes. A zinc bath was used for sponging after training runs. Track training was carried out on a cinder running track in Linksfield Road. When they all went out for a cross-country or road training run, a ‘Pace-maker’ and a ‘Whip’ were appointed, to make sure that the pack stayed together, until near the end when they were free to race home. (Even when Jim Youngson’s son, marathon runner Colin, ran for Victoria Park AAC in Glasgow in the early 1970s, a similar system operated, with a slow pack going off first, and then the fast pack to chase them round a certain traditional road route.) Then in August 1939 the YM Harriers agreed that the club should go into abeyance until the war situation became clear. War was declared on 1st September; and the club was never formally reconstituted. However, some of its trophies are still competed for by Aberdeen AAC.

An article in the P and J interviews Jimmy Adams, a renowned long-serving SAAA official (and former Scottish High Jump International athlete, who competed in teams with Eric Liddell. (At Christmas 1961, when the article was published, Jimmy was about to retire to Torquay.) Jimmy competed twice for Scotland in the triangular internationals with England and Wales. He tied for the Scottish high jump title one year; and was runner-up on other occasions. Jimmy was in the Scottish team at Stoke-on-Trent in 1923, after Liddell made amateur athletic history by winning three international track events (100, 200, 440) in one afternoon. Arriving at Stoke after competing at the White City, Eric discovered he had left his spikes behind and had to borrow a pair which were to large for him. He made them fit by stuffing the toes with cotton wool. In the quarter mile event, Liddell was fouled at the first bend and was actually forced off the track on to the grass but he recovered lost ground and went on to win a terrific race before collapsing after he breasted the tape. It had been a very hot day it was some time after he had been carried to the dressing room that Liddell recovered consciousness. His tremendous exertions had taken their toll on this great-hearted athlete.

Jimmy Adams considers that to have been Liddell’s finest day in athletics and this was confirmed later by Eric himself when he stayed with Jimmy while on an evangelistic tour of the country. Eric placed his Stoke triumph even above his capture of a gold medal in the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris.)

 “In 1914, Jimmy Adams had been serving as a range-finder with the Grand Fleet in Scapa Flow, when it was announced in daily orders that anyone interested in athletics would be allowed ashore to train for the fleet championships.

Jimmy showed versatility in the squadron championships by winning three titles – 220 yards, half-mile and high jump. He went on to take the High Jump title in the Fleet Championships at Rosyth. In 1918, he was chosen to represent the Grand Fleet against the American Fleet.

On being discharged from the Navy he returned to Aberdeen and joined the YMCA Harriers. The club’s headquarters at that time was a wooden hut in the Springfield Road area and the athletes did their training in a nearby field which was also used by grazing horses and cattle.

He still remembers that hut in which there was an old coke stove on which a zinc bath full of water was heated while the members were out training. At the end of each session anything from twelve to twenty members washed themselves in that four-foot zinc bath.

The YMCA club later moved their hut to a site in Linksfield Road where they built a running track and football pitch. After the grass field at Springfield Road, it was sheer heaven to have the use of a proper track.”

(After the start of WW2 in 1939, Jimmy Adams helped to organise athletics contests in which people not called up by the Forces competed against various Service units stationed in the area. The venue of these meetings was the new Linksfield Stadium, situated almost exactly opposite the site of the YM Harriers’ home-made track last used five years earlier in 1935. The 1940 Linksfield Stadium, modernised superbly a few years ago, is now in 2019 the Aberdeen Sports Village, where Scottish Athletics Championships have been held.)

“A new Corporation housing scheme, however, forced the club to change quarters again in 1935, this time to a hut owned by the Dee Swimming Club near the Victoria Bridge. The zinc bath was still with them and, on occasion, they filled it with ice from the Dee.

When he first joined YM Harriers, Jimmy engaged in road running and cross-country but later he cut them out and concentrated on the high jump.

His first big athletics meeting outside Aberdeen was the Rangers Sports in 1921 and he took first prize in the high jump. Gaining confidence from this success he then undertook a series of trips to compete at meetings all over the country, visiting such places as Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester, Sheffield and London.

There was no such word as ‘shamateurism’ in those days. Practically every weekend during the athletics season he left Aberdeen on Friday night and returned home on Sunday morning – paying all the travelling expenses from his own pocket. He gave up competition in 1927 and turned his attention to the administrative side – with YMCA until 1939, and after the war, Jimmy was instrumental in the founding of Aberdeen AAC in the 1950s.”

“Jimmy’s thirty-odd years as an athletics official produced many memorable occasions, but for him the highlight came in February 1958, when he helped to organise the Aberdeen to Edinburgh run in connection with the cities’ anti-TB campaign. A team of athletes from Aberdeen and Dundee carried a torch and scroll from the Lord Provost of Aberdeen to his counterpart in Edinburgh, completing their assignment in a non-stop 150 mile night and day relay run.

Such a project required a tremendous amount of administrative planning, but, thanks to the co-operation of runners and officials, the twenty-one-hour schedule worked out perfectly.

Jimmy will never forget the sight of the runners moving along Princes Street, Edinburgh, under a police escort, to hand over the scroll to the capital’s civic head exactly on time.

Nor will he forget the remark made to him at the time by a prominent official. “I cannot believe that these boys, having been on the road since last night, can come down here looking like a regiment of Guards. They look so spic and span. They are a credit to Aberdeen.

Jimmy was prouder of these few minutes than of anything in his athletics career, knowing that it was a triumph of co-operation between athletes and officials.”

James Alexander Youngson, above left, who had run well on the track for Gordonians in 1933 and 1934, joined Aberdeen YMCA Harriers in early Winter 1934. On December 14th 1933, the Aberdeen Evening Express published a time-warp photo of three ‘Trail-layers’, each with a satchel under his left arm, dropping a trail of shredded paper for a NEHA cross-country course. (Colin knew of this system, but it had stopped by the mid-sixties, when he first ran cross-country. Did all the runners get lost if it was windy?)

It was announced in the EE in late October 1934 that “The Aberdeen Y.M.C.A. Harriers have now everything in apple pie order for the coming season. Although the active membership is 21, there are still a few vacancies for lads who wish to take up the harrier game.”    Who could resist the call? Not Dad!

Then, Eureka! A report of the race in which Colin’s Dad won his NEHA medal! The P & J on Monday 19th November, 1934, described a race which happened on Saturday 17th. Below is a summary.

“DOUBLE HONOURS FOR Y.M.C.A.

In the North Eastern Harriers Junior 3 miles 6-man team championship, held at the Links, Aberdeen Y.M.C.A. Harriers achieved individual and team victories.” There follows an account of the first two miles, led by various nonentities. Then! “In the last mile, the favourite, James A.Youngson, went to the front but could not shake off the Milne twins, who were running in a loose and easy style. These three club-mates had a desperate fight, until the final sprint. Alex Milne won by inches from James A. Youngson, with George Milne a yard behind.

                                    1 Alex Milne YM 16.45 and one fifth of a second; 2 James A. Youngson YM; 3 George Milne YM.

Team placing:  1 YMCA (1, 2, 3, 7, 10, 11 = 34 points’; 2 Aberdeenshire Harriers; 3 Aberdeen University”

 The EE on the following Saturday 24th November 1934 comments further, in a weekly column by “Roadside” who deals with cycling, running, race walking and track athletics.

                                     “PROMISING ‘Y.M.’ RUNNERS

Last Saturday’s three-mile junior team race at the Links resulted in another YMCA triumph. Alex Milne, James A. Youngson, and George Milne filled the first three places and the club also won the team event by a comfortable margin.

The ‘Y.M.’ also had the first three men in the two-mile novice championships at Pittodrie Park in October. This would seem to indicate that they have, at present, the best set of youngsters in the city.

To get back to the three-mile junior race. The event was held under ideal conditions and, although the time does not stand comparison with former years, it must be kept in mind that formerly the course was shorter. The lap has now been carefully measured, and it is 854 yards which gives a course of six laps plus 156 yards. The previous course never exceeded 5 and three-quarters laps. The running of the race on the left-hand turn, and the shifting of the finishing line was, I think, quite a successful innovation.

In December 1934, Jim was mentioned in the EE as liable to figure prominently in the forthcoming YMCA Harriers 5 mile club championship over the Torry course. This was “likely to result in a duel between James Youngson, James Thow and the twin brothers – Alex and George Milne”. The route was from the foot of Menzies Road, past Craiginches to the top of Nigg Brae, where the runners took the turning that led to Bridge of Dee, before crossing the bridge and racing down Riverside Road, to finish near Victoria Bridge. However, Jim did not take part. Arthur Lobban won, followed by Alex and George.

The start of the race for the Caledonian Cup, South Esplanade in February, 1935                             (P&J Photo)

There is no mention of Colin’s Dad in early 1935, until the last race of the season, on Saturday 16th February 1935. The EE article states the following.

HARRIERS RACE FOR CALEDONIAN CUP

Six Teams to Compete in Stiff Test

The fifth annual three-mile race for the Caledonian Cup will be held under the auspices of the North Eastern Harriers Association, today at 3 p.m.

The competition is open to all amateur clubs within the area. Teams are of twelve runners each, of whom the first six men home count for places.

Teams are forward from: ‘Varsity, Shire, Aberdeen YMCA, Gordon Highlanders (2 teams) and Elgin YMCA Harriers.

The course is from South Esplanade West, past Craiginches to Harpers’ Works, striking off to the left to take the fields over to the road leading under the railway. Runners then take the country again to come on to the road at the railway cabin, and thence back to the finishing point in South Esplanade West.

Stripping accommodation is at the Dee Swimming Clubhouse, near Victoria Bridge, but ‘Varsity and ‘Shire will strip in the ‘Shire hut at Suspension Bridge.

Trail layers are asked to report at Dee Hut, at 2.15 p.m.”

There follows a full list of entrants, oddly not including Lobban and the Milnes.

Next Monday’s P&J has the results!

Y.M.C.A. Man First Home in Harriers’ Event

 “Varsity won the N.E. Harriers’ Association three-mile junior team championship which was decided over a course at Torry on Saturday afternoon.

A field of sixty runners took part. From the start, A.R. Hewitt and N.R. McLean (‘Varsity) forced a stiff pace, with J.A. Youngson (YMCA) five yards in the rear. Taking the country, McLean went to the front, with Hewitt and Youngson at his heels.

Midway over the country the three leaders were having a tousy duel, the Elgin team being well bunched together for the team award. Coming on to the road again, McLean was clinging to three-yard lead, from Youngson and Hewitt, with H. McDougall (‘Varsity), J. Riddell (Elgin) and W. Grant (‘Shire) ten yards behind.

In the last 200 yards Youngson came away with a terrific burst of speed to pass McLean and carry on to win his first individual honour by twenty yards in the good time of 16 minutes 35 and a fifth seconds.

An exciting duel took place between McLean and Grant for second place, the former just getting the verdict by inches at the tape.”

Well! Where did that sprinting power come from? Perhaps this was Jim Youngson’s greatest-ever victory. Presumably, having won a ‘Junior’ race, he would now be classed as a Senior athlete!

The following Saturday’s EE ‘Roadside’ column emphasises how well Elgin YM had done, to come second to Varsity in the team race. Then he writes “The individual winner was J.A. Youngson of Aberdeen Y.M.C.A., who returned the second-fastest time for a winner of this race. The cup and individual medals were presented to the successful competitors by Mr Alexander Silver.”

Evidence of Elgin YMCA Harriers Club’s rise to prominence came in their promotion of an amateur athletics meeting on Wednesday 19th June 1935. This was the first meeting held since the inauguration of the club, and took place at Boroughbriggs Park, Elgin (where Colin raced a North District cross-country league race at the age of 62 in 2010.) In the previous Saturday’s EE, ‘Roadside’ mentioned that “The ‘stars’ to appear in the one and two miles handicap races are W Fraser (AU), L Davidson (‘Shire) and J.A. Youngson (Y.M.C.A.).” Then the P&J on Thursday 20th reported that the Two miles race (handicap) was won by local runner J. Riddell in 9 mins 41 and three-fifths seconds, from J.A. Youngson (Aberdeen YM) and A. Murray (Elgin).

In November 1935, Dad was selected to compete in a legendary Aberdeen team race. Alex Wilson supplied the following report in ‘The Scotsman’:

            “ROUND THE TOWN RELAY RACE AT ABERDEEN

The North-Eastern Harriers’ Association held their 20-mile Round-The-Town Relay race at Aberdeen on Saturday 30th November 1935. Five teams of six-a-side participated in the event, which was won by Aberdeenshire in the excellent time of 1 hour 44 mins 17 secs.

 Lobban (University ‘A’) led J. Youngson (Y.M.C.A.) by ten yards at the first lap, covering the distance in 12 mins, 12 secs. In the second lap, D. Annand (University) and A. Milne (Y.M.C.A.) ran abreast until 100 yards from the finish, when Annand pulled away to lead by 10 yards at the take-over. In the third lap, G. Milne (Y.M.C.A.) finished 100 yards ahead of L. Murray (Aberdeenshire); and in the fourth, fifth, and final stages C. McPherson, W. Grant and F. Yeoman, of the Aberdeenshire team, secured the lead respectively. Results were:

             1 Aberdeenshire Harriers;  2 ‘Y.M.C.A.’;   3 University ‘A’;    4 University ‘B’;   5 Caledonian Harriers.”

Long-serving Aberdeen AAC Secretary, Hunter Watson, supplied more information. Dad would have worn a royal blue vest with a red and yellow triangular badge.

The P&J listed all the numbers of all the competitors in the five participating teams; and stated that the Shire Harriers had a winning margin over Dad’s team of only a hundred yards, with the University a further 400 yards behind. In addition there is a blurred picture of the five first lap runners, who were (left to right): “A.J. Youngson (initials wrong way round) (Y.M.C.A.); E. Wood (Caledonian); A. Lobban (Varsity A; A. Hewet (Varsity B); and A. Watt (Shire)”. Colin’s Dad is indeed wearing a dark vest with triangular badge and white shorts and white shoes, and looks very young (22), with short dark hair and skinny legs. What a pity the microfilm spoiled the clarity of the photo.

The man who outsprinted Dad – ‘G. Lobban’ of the University, does not exist in the programme. This refers to A.W.C.  Lobban, who was listed as Varsity B but must have run for the A team. There is also an A. Lobban (Arthur, later the club secretary) in the YMCA team. I assume these were two different athletes (both good runners).

1935 was the very first ‘Round-The-Town Relay Race’. Six stages made up a total of around 19 miles. The First lap (2 and a half miles) started at the end of University Road, and went along King Street, up School Road and St Machar Drive to Great Northern Road and along to the end of Anderson Drive to the first take-over. (Dad must have been okay on uphills.) His 1935 time for the First lap was faster than the stage winners in 1936, 1937 and 1938. YMCA won the last two events. The Relay will have stopped after that, due to the start of the Second World War.)

Second lap (4 miles) – over Anderson Drive to the Bridge of Dee. Third lap (3 and a half miles) – Over Bridge of Dee and Abbotswell Road to Balnagask Road, out to the terminus at the end of Victoria Road, and in to the end of Menzies Road. Fourth lap (5 miles) – Out Menzies Road to Kirk o’ Nigg, down Abbotswell Road and over Bridge of Dee to Victoria Bridge. Fifth lap (1 and three-quarters miles) – Along the Quay to the end of Market Street and down to the end of Church Street, thence to the Promenade and to ‘the Dance Hall’. Sixth lap (2 and three-quarters miles) – Along the Promenade to the Bridge of Don and in King Street to the end of University Road, where the race finished.

The Journal for 23rd December, 1935 had the following report of what must have been the hardest fought club championships anywhere in the country: 

 Unique Event In Aberdeen Five Miles Race.   YMCA Championship Event.   For the first time in the history of amateur athletics in the north of Scotland twin brothers – Alex and George Milne of Aberdeen YMCA Harriers – finished in a dead heat in a club championship event.   This unique performance was accomplished in the YMCA’s five miles road championship which was decided on Saturday afternoon.  

From start to finish the twins engaged in a grim struggle that ultimately ended in a dead heat.   Although their time was over a minute outside the course record, consideration must be given to the treacherous ice bound road that prevailed on Saturday.   One of the competitors who competed, RGG Milne, sustained nasty cuts to the hands and shulders when he slipped heavily on the road coming down to the Bridge of Don.   Another feature of the race was the welcome return to form of KA Gray who finished 40 yards behind the brothers Milne.   Result:-  1.  Alex and George Milne; 2.  KA Gray; 3. A Lobban.”

And so ended 1935.   

Monday, 30th January was the date on the P&J when the above photograph was published: the YM’s Milne twins again dead heating for first place.   Two weks later in the East District Championships (11th February) there was no team from the club competing – probably because the venue was Hawick in the Borders.   In a race won by the talented GM Carstairs, the first YM runners were G Milne in fourth and A Milne in seventh.   By 1939 the YM was sending runners to the National championships – or the Milne brothers were travelling on their own initiative.   The Journal of 6th March 1939 reported that the twins disappointed when they finished 15th (A) and 18th (G).   During the summer of 1939 they continued to train and race as usual – on 11th May in the mile team race, the twins led the field up to the last hundred yards when Lobban and A Milen forged ahead and won in a dead heat with the other twin third, af ew yards back.   Time? 4 min 40 5-10th sec – the fastest since 1936.   Although they carried on over the summer, there was more and more news of the impending hostilities with the Kaiser and the Reich appearing in the headlines and throughout the papers.

The YMCA Harriers best years were probably the 1930’s and they continued their activities right up to the start of the War in 1939.   We could find no trace of them in the Press and Journal or Evening News in either 1946 or 1947 so we assume that the Harriers aspect of the YMCA ceased with the start of the War – or maybe during it.   The club was undoubtedly part of the wider YMCA movement given the strength of the Association in Aberdeen at the time – and since – and gained from it.   We attach some sample Press Notes from the P&J for 1913 to show the strength of the club before the War and the types of activity indulged in then, as well as similar notes for similar reasons for 1935.

Aberdeen YMCA: 1913      Aberdeen YMCA 1935