1966: Two Controversies involving Alastair Wood

 

Alastair Wood was one of Scotland’s greatest ever distance runners – Scottish and British international runner, multi champion over a range of events – with talents that  stretched from the mile and steeplechase on the track via cross-country triumphs to world class road running.   It is difficult to think of another Scottish runner with such a comprehensive record.   However there were times when he found himself in the middle of a dispute or controversy not of his own making and two of these are tackled here by Colin Youngson, using new material from the Scottish Marathon Club Minutes starting with a look at why he was not selected for the Empire Games in 1966.   

1966: Why was Alastair Wood overlooked for Empire and Commonwealth Games Marathon selection; and his European best time never accepted by the Scottish Marathon Club or the Scottish Athletics Association?

Alastair Wood’s profile on this website under Marathon Stars starts as follows.

“Alastair Wood came to marathon running with a record of athletic achievement at all levels of the sport that might have justified him in retiring or stopping.   Instead he went on to become one of the great figures of Scottish and British distance running.

One of many honours that were justly awarded to him was the Achilles Club gold medal.  The Achilles Club is an elite and exclusive athletics club composed only of former students at Oxford and Cambridge Universities.   Founded in 1920 it has added a great deal to the sport and is known and respected all over the globe.  Since 1949, the Achilles Club has awarded annually two gold medals, for the best performance by a club member on Track/Road and Field.   Recipients of the Track award include Roger Bannister, Chris Chataway, Chris Brasher, David Hemery and Richard Nerurkar.  The only Scottish athlete to obtain this prestigious medal was Alastair Wood (Oxford University and later Aberdeen AAC), who won it twice:

*in 1962 [when he was a close second (to that year’s European and Empire champion Brian Kilby) in the AAA Marathon; and a splendid fourth in the European Marathon];

*and 1966 [when the Achilles Club records state that Wood had run a marathon in 2.16.06; and set a new GB and European Best Marathon Time of 2.13.45 in the Forres marathon]. For some obscure reason, the latter time has never been accepted by the SAAA, but was ratified by the AAA in 1967, and is now recognised by the Association of Road Running Statisticians (www.arrs.net) as the fastest time of the year in 1966].   Alastair was also narrowly pushed into second by Jim Alder in the AAA championships in 1967, with 2.16.21.” As late as 1971, aged 38, he ran 2.16.06 in the International Maxol Marathon in Manchester, only 23 seconds behind Alder.

During every year in the 1960s, the SMC sent three prominent club members (for example Secretary Jimmy Scott, Vice-President Joe Walker and President Dunky Wright) to form part of the SAAA sub-committee that decided who should be awarded the Donald McNab Robertson Trophy as Scottish Road Runner of the Year.    Alastair Wood won the Scottish Marathon Championship in 1962, 1964, 1965, 1967, 1968 and 1972.   He was chosen to receive the Robertson Trophy in 1962, 1964, 1965 and 1967. Previously, while concentrating on the Track, he had won the 1959 SAAA Crabbie Cup for best Championship performance; and the Coronation Cup as the outstanding athlete of 1962.

In the light of Wood’s high status as a marathon runner and a Scottish International athlete, what happened in 1966? Why was he ignored for Jamaica Commonwealth Games Marathon selection? Why was his Forres European Best Time never ratified by the SMC/SAAA?

The man himself, in an interview with Mel Edwards twenty years later (in 1987) remembered the situation as follows.
“Wood: The Commonwealth Games were in Kingston, Jamaica and I went for marathon selection.  The only trouble was that I couldn’t get any guidance on the selection procedure.  The Scottish championships were at Westerlands in early June and I asked John Anderson – who was the National coach and advising me on my training – if he could ascertain whether this was the race on which selection was to be based.  He couldn’t find anyone who could tell him but suggested that if the winner of the race was to be selected then I had to do it.   Anyway, I was in excellent shape and travelled to Glasgow.  However, it was extremely hot and the tar was running on Great Western Road.  No one would confirm that the winner would gain selection so, since the times were going to be slow, I didn’t run, as it would have done my chances of selection no good.
Edwards: The Polytechnic Marathon from Windsor to Chiswick was two weeks later on the 10th of June and Jim Alder and yourself went for selection in that one?
Wood: Yes,  Again, it was very hot but at least I knew that if I beat Jim I would almost certainly be picked.  We both suffered and Jim finished sixth and I was two minutes behind in ninth.   Jim deservedly gained selection and I was very ill with dehydration.   I was pretty demoralised and decided to retire.   This lasted all of ten days and, although I couldn’t face long runs, I got stuck into sessions like 60 x 200 metres.
About four weeks after the Poly I went North for the Inverness – Forres Marathon (on the 9th of July).   It was a cool day and I felt so good that I knew I was on a blinder. I reached ten miles in under 50 minutes and then slowed deliberately because I thought I’d blown it.  I still came home in 2:13:45, a European record.  There was considerable disbelief about the time but the course had been measured by surveyors and the North of Scotland AAA.   Anyway, the next year (1967) the course started 200 yards or so back from the previous starting line, and although I found this one much harder I still did 2:13:44.” (Actually, Alastair Wood’s memory was wrong in 1987, because in 1967 he won in 2.16.16; and the 2.13.44 win was in 1970, over a different course that was later found to be three-quarters of a mile short.)

Don Ritchie, the great world record breaking ultra-distance runner, was third in the 1966 Inverness to Forres Marathon, and later wrote: “It seems likely that the course measurement may have been done in a car; and therefore the ten mile point seemed a little early but the twenty mile point seemed right enough.  Add a following wind and AJW’s great form and his fantastic finishing time of 2.13.45 was explained.”

Now that interview was a long time after 1966, and it could be that Alastair’s version of events is open to a degree of doubt.  But assuming that the Scottish selectors had enough cash to send two marathon runners to Jamaica, which it seems they did, why not, as well as Alder, select Wood, with his fine record as an international marathon runner?

The selection procedure was indeed unclear.  On the 28th of May, Charlie McAlinden (Irish but living in Glasgow) won the uncomfortably hot 1966 Scottish Marathon Championship in 2.26.31, with Gordon Eadie second in 2.28.19. Neither was selected for Jamaica.

The 1966 Commonwealth Games Marathon was run on Thursday 11th August, so there was plenty of time for Wood to be selected to travel to Jamaica and race. (Indeed, the main Scottish team had not been selected until July 4th.)  It seems very likely that he would have had an excellent chance of winning a medal.

CAN THE SMC MINUTES BOOK CAST LIGHT ON THIS SCENARIO?

Alastair Wood became a member of the Scottish Marathon Club in May 1964.

In August 1965 there was a mention of the 1966 Scottish Marathon Championship probably being run at the beginning of June. (In actual fact it took place on the 28th of May 1966, along with the District Track and Field Championships.)   What follows is from the SMC Minute Book which is quoted directly.

March 1966. At the last meeting of the British Empire and Commonwealth Games Council it was announced that Mr D. McL. Wright had been appointed Commandant of the Scottish Team for the 1966 Games in Jamaica.  (Dunky was always chosen as the SMC SAAA representative; and had been President of the SAAA in 1959.  He was a high-profile influential official.)

20th June 1966. Mr Wright took the opportunity to apprise the meeting of the circumstances in which J. Alder had been chosen to represent Scotland at the Empire Games in the Marathon.  Tradition was that our Marathon Champion usually goes but it had been known that AJ Wood and AF Murray, with other possibles, had decided to run in the AAA Championships instead of the Scottish because of the closeness of the dates.   It was considered inadvisable to run in both events and it was their opinion that better performances were likely to be shown in the British Championship, when competing at this standard. The Selection Committee, aware of this, decided to wait for the result of the British Championship and, if a Scot finished in the first 6, to select him as our representative. Jim Alder did in fact finish 6th. AJ Wood finished 9th. AF Murray was unable to compete due to cartilage trouble.

15th August 1966: Gordon Eadie became SMC club champion again. Jim Alder had won for Scotland the Empire Games Marathon. Alder was voted to be an Honorary Life member: joining Dunky Wright, Joe McGhee and Dale Greig.

There followed a discussion in which the question was asked why only one competitor was entered for Scotland, and not 3, in view of the wealth of talent available.   The method of selection was the point in question, and it was the unanimous opinion of the Committee to deplore the tendency of some Scottish runners to bypass the Scottish Marathon Championship in favour of the AAA event in certain years.  It was agreed that we should strive for all competitors to take part in the ‘Scottish’ and that this race should be the only qualification for Empire Games selection.

The Donald Robertson trophy, by 5 votes to 4, was awarded to Gordon Eadie rather than Jim Alder. A casting vote by the Chairman (D.M. Bowman at this meeting) decided this debate.

21st November 1966: Gordon Eadie (also the Robertson Trophy recipient in 1960) had won the 1966 Liverpool to Blackpool race, beating Bernard Gomersall (a London to Brighton winner) by nearly ten minutes.  Then he had won the Edinburgh to Glasgow Race (42 miles) in a new record time of 4.41.21.

Competent Business: Mr Wright referred to the discussion at the 20th June meeting on selection of men for the Empire Marathon. If A Wood had run and won the SAAA marathon, he would have been selected.   The selection committee decided to await the result of the AAA marathon two weeks later and if a Scot finished in the first 6 he would be chosen.  In the event, J Alder finished 6th and was chosen. A Wood finished 9th.   Time was of great importance.

(CJY: What on earth did that mean? Surely 2.13.45 should have been a time that mattered!  On this occasion, Mr Wright may not have lived up to his surname.)

AGM 30th March 1967. Competent Business: Inverness to Forres Marathon. Mr Goodwin mentioned the record time by A Wood in 1966 as being the 3rd fastest in the World. Mr D Wright replied that, so far, no claim had been made to the SAAA by either Wood or the promoters for its recognition and until this was done the SAAA could do nothing in the matter.

21st August 1967. A Wood had won the Scottish Marathon Championship again.  Inverness to Forres Race: The Secretary (J.R. Scott) drew attention to the time credited to Alastair Wood at Forres in July 1967 of 2.16.16 compared with his 1966 time of 2.13.45 which had been the subject of much speculation. The Secretary had checked the course himself and it appeared to be the full marathon distance as his speedometer agreed with the marked points on the course. Any discrepancy could be on the actual ground (Grant Park) at the finish. It was agreed that he should write the Forres secretary for confirmation of the course.

AGM 27th March 1968. Mr Goodwin asked about the Inverness to Forres Marathon won by AJ Wood in a time now recognised as a British Record. Mr Wright said the SAAA were still awaiting information from Forres, and Mr Joseph Walker supported him in this and said that the SAAA had asked for this and nothing had come back.  It was agreed that we write the Forres Secretary again for details, certifying the distance and asking for the names of the timekeepers.

20th May 1968: Discussion about measuring the SAAA Marathon route, already contested in 1967 and due again in 1968. Mr Walker had used a wheel which had 228 turns on the Grangemouth 440 yards track. They had then measured the marathon course by quarter mile stages. Apparently, the Shettleston Marathon course had used a cycle rev counter which was acceptable.

COMMENTS ON THESE CONTROVERSIAL EVENTS

Back in 1966, marathon course measurement was in its infancy, especially in Britain. The fact that in 1967, Jimmy Scott, a most experienced organiser of distance races, was happy to use his car to remeasure the Inverness to Forres Marathon course (the same route as 1966), and to find it accurate, tells us that measuring wheels and bicycle rev counters were not yet normal practice.   The Polytechnic Marathon in Southern England, on which several world records had been set, always seemed suspiciously fast.   Was it ever considered short?  Or was the fact that Wood’s 2.13.45 was set in Northern Scotland – not even in Edinburgh or Glasgow – the problem?   When in 1967, Alastair Wood’s 2.13.45 was accepted as a GB (and former European) record, the last laugh seems to have been on the SAAA; and indeed on one or two stubborn officials in the SMC, who may have been partly responsible for the unclear, badly organised  marathon selection procedure.

Alastair Wood had won the Scottish 3 Miles track championship in 1957 and 1959; and gained the 6 Miles title in 1958, 1959, 1960 and 1961, before securing his first Scottish marathon title in 1962. Traditionally, the 3 Miles was held during the marathon and, after his own victories, Wood remembered seeing Harry Fenion (1957) and Hugo Fox (1959) running to marathon victory on the track.  Alastair, a clever outspoken man with a satirical tendency, considered them “funny little men in sandshoes”!   In addition, he had a combative relationship with officials, no doubt including the eminent Dunky Wright, who may have been the original ‘funny little man’, despite his impressive record as a marathon runner. Perhaps Dunky was not at all fond of Mr Wood!    The SMC minutes certainly suggest that the unamused Commandant was unsympathetic.

In 1958, Alastair Wood had run on the track for Scotland in the Cardiff Empire Games.  In 1962 he had taken part in the Empire Games marathon in Perth, Australia; as well as representing GB in the European Marathon.  By 1966, although he had certainly aimed for marathon selection, Alastair said that he was far from keen on participating in “Big Games” since he objected to uniforms, certain officials and hanging around for days before the marathon on the last day.

In the 1990s, Alastair stated correctly that in July 1966, after his non-selection and his startling Forres Marathon record, a newspaper had wished to pay his expenses to Jamaica, but he suspected that Scottish officials wouldn’t select him, and, in any case, he was not keen to compete in another ‘Big Games’ so he turned down the offer. Was he unpopular with certain influential Scottish officials? Ming Campbell, who was Britain’s best sprinter in 1962, once referred to Alastair in an article as being “the sardonic Alastair Wood”. This may have been not entirely inappropriate – but what a fine runner he was! Alastair went on to: break the World 40 miles track record in 1970; smash the London to Brighton best time in 1972; and become World Veteran Marathon Champion in 1974. I knew the old hero well and am, of course, prejudiced in his favour – and certain that he couldn’t have cared less about the 1966 controversies.

Colin Youngson

University Park, St Andrews University

DJ Whyte, St Andrews University, International Long and Triple Jumper

The St Andrews University website says at the start of the sports pages:    

Sport has played an important part of life in St Andrews ever since the founding of the University in 1413. The earliest record of student sport in St Andrews dates back to 1618 with the Archery Club. The next clubs to be founded were the University of St Andrews Golf Club in 1855 and the Rugby Football Club in 1858, but it wasn’t until 1901 that student sport was fully represented when the Athletic Union was instituted by Professor Scott Lang.   A year later, University Rector Andrew Carnegie gifted the first sports facilities to the university and subsequently became Honorary President of the Athletic Union. The Department of Physical Education was introduced by the university in 1955, with the first Sports Centre built in 1968.

The first Scottish Inter-University championships were held on 23rd March in 1873 at Raeburn Place in Edinburgh and the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews took part, Aberdeen was absent ‘due to a misunderstanding.;   Edinburgh won the competition quite comfortably but there were some good performances from athletes from St Andrews.   eg Bairnsfather won the hurdles race, they had three excellent sprinters, and their two distance runners ‘would have given a much better account of themselves had they run in spiked shoes and got such a training as the Edinburgh men received’   

The.following year the sports were held in Glasgow at Burnbank Cricket Grounds and again Edinburgh University won the contest.   Star man for St Andrews was Lundie who won both heavy throwing events, but it was the third meeting that was held at St Andrews.   ‘The sports took place in a field close to the town, and being of a sandy soil. was well adapted for the purpose.‘    That is the only description of the ground that we have.   The meeting was interesting in that Edinburgh won from St Andrews who had two firsts and two seconds, and Glasgow who had two firsts and two seconds as well.   Aberdeen turned up but only had one athlete.   There were no more inter-university sports until 1899 when they were held at Edinburgh.   So the university students interested in athletics had a team as early on as the start of the 1870’s and were able to turn out competitors in the technical field events.   It is not possible to tell anything about the nature of their facilities from the above comments however.   

The St Andrews website quoted above tells us that Andrew Carnegie gifted the first sports facilities to the Athletic Union in 1902.   He had set up the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland with a fund of $10, 000, 000 (ie $10 million) in 1901 and was installed as Rector on 22nd October, 1902.   The university sports pages on the website says that the estate stretches to 40 acres and was gifted to the University by Carnegie.    If that is correct, then it was land that was given to the Athletics Union,  which could be used for rugby, cricket, tennis or whatever sport needed it.   He also gave money for a gymnasium.   

CG Stalker, GUAC, competing at University Park

After the restart of the inter-universities championship in 1899, St Andrews did not take part until 1906 when they again joined in with the other three establishments and the rota became a four yearly one.    The first inter-universities championship to be hosted by them was in 1908.  That year, Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities held their championships on 13th June to help select their teams for the contest on 20th June.   The “Glasgow Herald reported that the fixture was favoured with splendid weather and held, under SAAA rules, at University Recreation Park, St Andrews.   Edinburgh won with 38 points from Aberdeen (18), St Andrews (10) and Glasgow (4).   

8th June, 1912 was the second time that the event was sponsored by the St Andrews students at University Park, and it was won by Aberdeen (34 points) from Glasgow (23), Edinburgh (17 1/2) and St Andrews (2 1/2).   It was the first time that Aberdeen had won the contest.   Their principal points scorer was JT Soutter who won both half-mile and mile.    The track was, like almost every track in the country at the time, a good grass track and, as the illustrations on this page (from photographs taken by RR Mills of Glasgow University) show, they were still running on grass in the 1960s.

 

Inter Universities Three Miles at St Andrews

If we go back to the start of the century, in the second annual report of the Athletic Union it was stated that the Lord Rector “would present to the students of St Andrews a recreation ground, properly laid out and enclosed, a pavilion with dressing rooms, baths and a caretakers house and also a complete modern gymnasium.”   Unfortunately there seems to be no detail or even photograph of this recreation ground with pavilion available.   

After the 1914/18 war University athletics were dominated by Eric Liddell and when St Andrews again hosted the inter-universities in 1921 he had the 100 yards/220 yards double.   At St Andrews, however, the 20’s and 30’s were not the best decades for athletes: if we look only at the inter-university championships held at home, performances were as follows:  1921, team position fourth, points 1 1/2;   1925, position fourth, points nil; 1929, fourth, nil; 1933, fourth, 7 points; 1937, fourth, men 6 1/2 pts, women  3 1/2 pts.   Nor were there any outstanding individuals.

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After the 1939/45 war it was a different story entirely.   AD McDonald, writing in the ‘Scots Athlete’ magazine in July, 1947, immediately after the first post-war SAAA championships spoke of a promising newcomer that he had ‘starred’ on his programme:   “To the East I turn for AS Lindsay, St Andrews University.   According to the records he has shown a bare two feet less two inches improvement on his last year’s hop, step and jump; but that is beside the point: what could he do with proper care and attention?   For here is a boy who exemplifies the poetry of motion, and where an athlete is basically a sound mover his possibilities are boundless.   But do we ever see him in the West?   Maybe the East are luckier in this respect but, sports promoters everywhere here is someone who will thrill and delight the fans.   Bill him at your meets.   Bring him competition from wherever it can be procured!   And, Olympic Coaching panels, be on the spot to guide this boy to the top.Take care of him, Mr Quickley.  (Director of Physical Training, St Andrews University. – Ed) ”     

Interestingly enough, at the inter-university sports at Westerlands that year – the first after the War, Lindsay had only been second in the triple jump but he was being noticed.    However, a year later and in the July issue of the same magazine in 1948 it was noted that the fine Hop, Step and Jump 45′ 4  1/2″ by AS Lindsay, inter-varsity champion which was 1 1/4″ better than the native record set by J Howden in 1939 was subject to ratification.   The inter-universities championships at this time were held in the first week of June with the SAAA event at the end of the month so it was a good lead-in event for the championships.  And at the first meeting, held in St Andrews, Lindsay had leapt 46′ 11 1/2″.   This had added over 4 feet to his personal best and was awaiting ratification as a record when the SAAA was held.  If 1948 was a good one for Lindsay and St Andrews University, 1949 was even better.   There was a new triple jumper at the university – Ghanaian William Laing – who was a shining talent.   The universities championships were held on 4th June at King’s College in Aberdeen.  A Leith of Aberdeen won the hop, step and jump from Lindsay and it was on to the SAAA championships.   Held on 25th June, the hop, step and jump was won by St Andrews new boy W Laing from AS Lindsay with 45′  4 3/4″.   The Scotsman said of Laing:  “WN Laing, who hails from the Gold Coast,  and is studying at St Andrews University, cleared 45′ 4 3/4″ which enabled him to defeat the title holder, AS Lindsay, as well as set up a new all-comers record.”   The championship season stepped up another notch when the AAA Championships were held at White City on 15th/16th July.   In the hop, step and jump, Laing was fourth in the final with 45′ 1 1/2″ and Lindsay fifth with 44′ 10″.   

There were now university men competing at the highest level in Britain – and both in the same event.   In 1950 however, Laing was in solitary splendour as he contested the event for the university.   In the universities championships on 4th June he went head to head with top class long jumper SO Williams from Glasgow University.   The Scotsman described them thus:  The hop, step and jump was won by Laing (St Andrews) and the long jump SO Williams (Glasgow).   Both are from the Gold Coast.  Laing who is hardly so powerfully built as his compatriot, had a magnificent jump of 48′ 5 3/4″.   He twice jumped clean out of the pit which had to be extended for his benefit.” Williams won both long jump and high jump.   At the SAAA Championships at Hampden Park on the 24th June, Laing again took first place with 47′ 1″ and Williams was second; in the Long Jump, Williams won and Laing was third.   The Scotsman observed that Laing was coached by Dr AS Lindsay, the Scottish all-comers record holder.    The team for the match against the English Universities was picked after the meeting and of course Laing was selected, but there was a second St Andrews man in the team – M Galbraith who had been second in the pole vault was also selected for the meeting on 5th July in Newcastle.   Results of this meeting are not to hand but the Scots won both men’s and women’s matches.    Then it was the AAA’s championships where Laing finished second with 46′ 4 1/2″.    

Individual athletes were having some success now, but was there are effect on the other members of the university team?   It is appropriate at this point, when the university was about to produce what was arguably its best ever team, to look at how the students of the time went about their athletics.   Ian Docherty, who was a student in the 1950’s, talks first of all about the playing fields, and says  –

“The St Andrews University Playing Fields have certainly been there all my lifetime!   They used to be referred to as the Carnegie fields as it was Andrew Carnegie’s money which led to their development but I am not sure of the precise date   The original pavilion is still there in the upper field where a 440 yards grass track was laid out for the summer term. As a local schoolboy I used to go out to watch university athletics matches and remember seeing Bill Laing competing.   Before him another St. Andrews triple jumper, Alan Lindsay competed for Great Britain in the London Olympics in 1948, and Laing competed for Ghana in 1952”.

Both athletes above have been mentioned already.  The comments about Lindsay are spot on: he did indeed compete in the 1948 London Olympics and, although finishing out of the medals, was the highest placed of the three British competitors.   Laing took part in the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki representing Ghana but did not advance to the final.   

The story of St Andrews athletics in the 1950’s is one of steady progression.   In 1951, on 2nd June, there were three from the university among the medals at the Universities Championships: Laing won his event, W Thomson was second in the javelin and Galbraith was third in the pole vault.   Came the SAAA championships but although Laing won his title again he was the only University man to reach a final.   Earlier in the season however the women’s team was showing improvement and had won their match against Glasgow University. Some of the men were being highly placed in academic fixtures and the national rankings:  NF Stewart in the 120 yards hurdles and Lyell in the 220 yards.   Williams was fourth in the AAA Championships and out of the medals.   Perhaps the breakthrough started in 1952.

Olympian WM Campbell running in the inter-universities

In the inter-universities championships at St Andrews, their women won the team contest with 25 points to Glasgow’s 17, Edinburgh’s 16 and Aberdeen’s 14.   The men were not, for the first time in many years, fourth, they were third with 16 points, well clear of Aberdeen who were fourth on 8 points.   Edinburgh won again but it was a good day for St Andrews.   For the women, R McLaren won both 100 and 220 yards, M Mellor won the 80m hurdles, and their relay team won in 51.4.   The only winner for the men was Laing who took both long and triple jumps.    The SAAA Championships were held in June at New Meadowbank and Laing was not competing – but AS Findlay was competing for the Atalanta Club.   The Atalanta Club was an athletic grouping of graduates from the four ‘ancient’ universities.    When the rankings were published in the ‘Scots Athlete’ magazine that year, WHJ Campbell of St Andrews was ranked 5th in the 440 yards with a best of 51.4 seconds, EO Akinsete was 3rd in the pole vault with 10′ 6 1/2″, and W Laing was second in the long jump and first in the hop, step and jump.   

May 23rd, 1953 and although they were beaten by Jordanhill TC, there were victories for W Simpson in the 880 yards, A Lynn in the Mile, J Richardson in the 440 yards hurdles and the relay for the men, for R McLaren 100 and 220 yards, M Meller in the high jump, A Gaudin in the shot and javelin plus the relay for the women.  In the Universities championships, for the men J Johnston won the 440 yards in 51.8, E Akinsete the pole vault with 9′ 6″, for the women R McLaren won both sprints (11.8/24 sec), M Mellor the 80m hurdles, the high jump and the long jump.   The club was producing more good athletes every year so far in the 1950’s.   

On 5th June 1954, St Andrews women won the inter-universities with 44 points to Edinburgh’s 12.   Victory by 32 points,   McLaren won the 100 and 220 yards races, M Mellor won high jump and long jump, A Gaudin the shot and the discus, and the relay team won to make it seven from ten events.  The men were again third – J Johnston won the 440 yards with 51.1, and E Akinsete won the pole vault with 10′.   By the end of the summer, the two men were ranked in the top ten for their event.

In 1955, the Glasgow Herald reported on a new body that had been set up – the Scottish Universities Sports Board – to co-ordinate the efforts of and give advice to the bodies which have been concerned with the organisation of university sport at national level.   The first secretary of this body was J Strachan of St Andrews.   On 14th May in the triangular match between Glasgow, St Andrews and Queen’s University, Belfast, there were four winners from St Andrews men: A McAdam (440 hurdles), D Jervis (shot), L MacKenzie (javelin) and CC Brown (Hammer).   Olympian Thelma Edwards of Queen’s won five events and totally dominated the women’s meeting.   

Starting the summer with second place, close behind Edinburgh University and ahead of Shettleston Harriers, St Andrews unveiled more new athletes:  W McDonald won both 100 and 220 yards and was a member of the winning relay team, and EL MacKenzie won the javelin.   On 2nd June, 1956, at the inter-universities, there were two St Andrews men who won medals: M Fraser was third in the pole vault and RC Campbell-Brown was second in the hammer throw.   Apart from K Hunter winning the high jump, the previously all-conquering women’s team did not medal at all.   

1956  and there was an unusual triangular match at an unusual venue on 26th May.   Jordanhill was the host track and as was well known the grass track dropped about a foot or a foot and a half between start and finish of the 100 yards and in the back straight it rose by the same amount.   The competing clubs were St Andrews, Jordanhill Training College and Tubingen University from German.   A McAdam of St Andrews, well known as a 440 yards hurdler, won both 440 yards and 880 yards as well as the 440 hurdles. W McDonald was second in both sprints.  In the women’s contest M Franklin of St Andrews won both sprints and V Menzies won both shot and discus.   The inter-universities was held at St Andrews that year but the team was only third and there  were very few in the first three: M Fraser was third in the pole vault, D Ironside second in the high jump, J Lund second in the javelin, RC Campbell-Brown second in the hammer and the team was third in the relay; for the women, M Franklin was second in the 220, K Hunter won the high jump and the team was third in the relay.   

*

On the same day as Glasgow and Edinburgh, St Andrews staged their club trials on 20th April in 1957.   Of the St Andrews trials, the Glasgow Herald had this to say: “MM Armour, a first year Arts student whose home is in Anstruther, was the “discovery” of the first meeting of St Andrews University.   He had a shot putt of 40′ 10″.   W McDonald, a wing three-quarter in the Rugby Club, looked as though he could improve on his times in the sprints – 105 in the 100 yards and 24.6 in the 220.   I Docherty was not pressed when he won the mile in 4 min 46 sec.” The women were not mentioned in the report but the following week in a match with Edinburgh University, the women won their contest while the men were well beaten.  No results were given in the reports.   

Thelma Hopkins, Empire and European champion, returned to St Andrews for the annual Queens  v  Glasgow  V  St Andrews fixture on 11th May and won five events, ran in the relay and broke a meeting record.   Scoring 25 points on her own she helped her university win with 44 1/2 points in total.   St Andrews were not far away on 38 points: for them Miss R Menzies had a sprint double and F Carmichael won the discus.   On the men;s side of the MM Armour won both shot and discus, A McAdam won the 440 yards hurdles and E Ericsson won the long jump.      A week later and the University took part in another triangular match, this time against Edinburgh Southern Harriers and Shettleston.   Despite the presence of Graham Everett, who set a ground record for the mile, Shettleston were last with ESH top team.   For the university, W McDonald won the 100/220 yards double and MM Armour won the shot and hammer.   In addition A Oladapo won the high jump, Ericsson won the long jump, Carruthers won the 120 yards hurdles, McAdam the 440 yards hurdles and C McDonald won the javelin.   There was a very good team coming together for the University – possibly the best they had ever assembled.   

The Scottish Universities championships were held on 1st June and the teams performed very well indeed.   W McDonald won the 100 and was second in the 220 yards; A Barrie was third in the Mile; I Docherty was third in the Three Miles; McAdam was third in the 440 yards hurdles; team second in mile medley relay; Ericsson second in the long jump; and Armour was second in the shot.   For the women, R Menzies was third in both 100 and 220 yards; H Wilson won the 440 yards; M Mellor won the high jump and was second in the 80m hurdles; team second in the relay; J Gemmell was third in the high jump; I Logan won the long jump and R Preston was third in the long jump.   Seven medals for the men more than double previous totals  and  eight for the women.   As a combined team effort it was certainly the best ever.   Lurking in the wings was DJ Whyte, a pupil at Bell Baxter School in Cupar.

John Addo competing at UniversityPark

The team was growing in numbers and real talent was emerging.   There was a boost from an unexpected source.  Ian Docherty tells us that “AS Lindsay came back to do some medical research in the late fifties when I was competing and turned out for us. I think it was in 1958.”   

The club championship for 1958 was held on 19th April and the results were as follows:

100y/220y:  W McDonald  10.6/23.9 sec;  440:  A McAdam  54 sec;

880y: G Pearson  2 min 8.6;  Mile: 4 min 38.4 sec;  Three Miles:  I Docherty 14: 49.5;

Shot:  L McDonald 37’1″;  Discus:  P Hirsch  112′ 9″;  Javelin: A Connel  164′ 5″;

High jump:  A Carling  5′ 5 1/2 in; hop, step and jump:  AS Lindsay 41′ 5″.

Women:  100/220y:   R Menzies 12.3/28.6;   440:  L Vine  70.2 sec;  

Javelin: F Carmichael  70′ 2″;  Broad jump:  J Gemmell 14′ 10 1/2″

Some good athletes – but some of the marks could have been better and nestling in the middle of the pack is former Olympian AS Lindsay.   

The following week they took on the powerful Edinburgh University squad, described by the Herald earlier as one of the two strongest teams in the country, at St Andrews.   The men were well beaten with only two victories (J Hill (pole vault) and M Armour (Shot) but the women won all but two events and won comfortably.   The next week there was a more even match against Aberdeen University and both sections of the club won with two records set by St Andrews men: D Carter won the mile in in 4:25.3 and I Docherty won the Three Miles in 15:02.3.   On the same day, Edinburgh University’s second team took on the St Andrews second team at Craiglockhart and, although Edinburgh won, there were several encouraging performances by the Saint Andrews athletes: W Moffatt won the mile in 4:43, LO Onwufulla won the high jump with 5′ 6″ and C McDonald won the javelin with 150′ 2″.   

On 12th May there was the annual triangular fixture between Glasgow, St Andrews and Queens, Belfast.   The best university performers, in order of the events, were A McAdam, second, 440 flat, and second 440 hurdles; I Docherty, second three miles; MG Hill, pole vault, third; L McDonald shot putt first; C McDonald, javelin, third; N McDonald, hammer, second;  relay  second team.   It was changed days from when there was one or no medallist from the university.  In the women’s events, R Menzies won both 100 and 220 yards, with N Bell making it a St Andrews 1-2 in the 100; N Bell also won the 440 yards and finished second in the 80m hurdles;  J Gemmell won the high jump and took second in the long jump,  R Fraser was third in the  discus and A Beaton was third in the javelin with the relay team finishing second.  When they took on Shettleston and Edinburgh Southern the following week for another triangular match, the students ended the day with victory in the medley relay after doing well enough to win the contest.  It was an excellent afternoon for the club and the Glasgow Herald report included the paragraph:  “The triangular contest … at Barrachnie was very closely contested for a time but the students showed their superiority in the field events with three firsts, three seconds and two thirds and won with an aggregate 65 points to Southern’s  58 and Shettleston’s 55.  ”   It was not an easy fixture on the almost circular track at Barrachnie in the east end of Glasgow, and the opposition included such as Graham Stark of ESH and Graham Everett for Shettleston.  Against these two powerful distance running clubs which were always among the medals at major competitions, Ian Docherty’s third in the three miles, won by Andy Brown, was notable.  There is a fair bit of detail in the coverage of the university’s results at this point to indicate the fact of their progress, the rate of that progress and the amount of competition that they were undertaking.  They faced the strongest clubs in the land and were not at all disgraced.   The facilities at University Park must have been good – the field events are very technical and require specialist impedimenta and training areas.   

For the third time in three weeks, there was a triangular contest – this time against Jordanhill and Pitreavie held at the grass track in Glasgow.   They won again – St Andrews 42 points, JTC 38, Pitreavie 4.  Four events were cancelled because of the rain but the club winners were McDonald 100 yards, Barrie one mile and three miles, McAdam 440 hurdles, Denny long jump, and McDonald shot putt.   The East District Championships were held the next week and while most of the team took a week off competition, Ian Docherty was third in the three miles behind Adrian Jackson and W Robertson of ESH.   The result of all the training and competition was seen in the inter-universities championship held at Craiglockhart on 7th June.   W McDonald was second in the final of the 100 yards, Ian Docherty was third in the Three Miles, J Carling was third in the high jump, AS Lindsay was third in the hop, step and jump, L McDonald was third in the shot putt and in the discus, E Connell was third in the javelin, MJ Hill won the pole vault and the team was third in the medley relay.  The last time Lindsay had won a medal at the inter-universities, there were only Laing and himself who were on the podium, this time there nine medals.  In the women’s competition, R Menzies won both sprints, C Wittenbach won the high jump, F Vine and N Bell were second and third in the 440, I Logan was second in the long jump, M Carmichael was third in both shot putt and discus and L McVittie second in the javelin.   A very good day all round.

DJ Whyte winning the British Junior Long Jump title

In 1959, the note in the Glasgow Herald on the trials at the end of April read simply: DJ Whyte, the Scottish and British junior long jump champion, who is a first year student at St Andrews University, gained three successes on Saturday at the university’s trial.   He won the 100 yards in 10.7 against a strong wind, also the high jump with 5′ 8″ and the hop, step and jump with 41′ 9″ .   He did not compete in the long jump.”   and that is the report in its entirety.   Ian Docherty tells us that Whyte became the star of the team who could win points in the 100m, the high, long and triple jumps and the high hurdles.   On 2nd May the club defeated Aberdeen in both men’s and women’s matches at the King’s College grounds, the following week they were defeated in the match in Belfast against Glasgow and Queen’s Universities, and on 16th May in a triangular match against Edinburgh Southern and Shettleston Harriers Whyte won the 100 yards in 10.4 seconds and set a ground record in the long jump with 22′ 1 1/2″.   The club also won the 4 x 110 relay.   On 23rd May, a St Andrews team minus Whyte defeated both Jordanhill and Pitreavie at their home track with victories by Beattie (440), Waters (120y hurdles A), Rand (120y hurdles B), Carling (hj), Denny (lj), Armour (shot/discus/hammer) and Waters (javelin).   

The Universities championship were held on 7th June at Westerlands.   David Whyte started with a second place in the 100 yards and went on to win the high jump with a clearance of 5′ 10″ and the long jump with a best of 22′ 5 1/2″.   But that was it as far as medals were concerned for what was undoubtedly a good group of athletes.   The women had medals from N Bell (second in the 440 yards and third in the 80m hurdles), J Gemmell (third in the high jump), R McVittie (third in the shot putt and first in the javelin), and a second for the sprint relay team.   Possibly a bit disappointing for a team that had done so well in 1958.

*

In 1960, the inter-universities were to be held at St Andrews, Ian Docherty was the captain and with a strong team there was hope of taking the championship.   They won all of their matches including the regular triangulars en route.  

Right at the start of the season in the team trials on 16th April, 1960, Whyte won four events: 100 yards (10.6), long jump (22′ 1 1/2″), high jump (5′ 8″) and hop, step and jump (42′ 8 1/2″).   The following week, they defeated Aberdeen at University Park by 65 to 49 for the men and the women won every single event on their programme.   Whyte won both distance jumping events.   On 8th May in the triangular with Glasgow and Queen’s, they emerged triumphant with 74 points to Glasgow’s 68 and Queen’s 43.   Whyte won all three jumps and was third in the 100 yards.   Other winners were Ian Docherty in the Three Miles (14:58.2), M Armour won the shot and the hammer (41′ 11″/ 100′ 10″) and E Davidson won the B 440 yards hurdles.   For the women, N Bell won the 100 yards (12.1) and the 220 yards (28 sec), and R McVittie won the shot.

The Glasgow Herald of May 16th had a headline that would have been unthinkable a few years earlier – “ST ANDREWS COMFORTABLE WIN” – for the three-way match with Edinburgh Southern and Shettleston Harriers.   St Andrews: 95 points; ESH  62 points, Shettleston 27.   The winners were Whyte (100y, high and long jumps), P Whincup (440), A Barrie (half mile), J Brooks (Mile), 4 x 110 relay, M Armour (shot and hammer) and K Gilham (120 yards H and 440 yards H); the women only had one winner – N Bell in the 100 yards.   In the East District championships, Whyte won the high and long jumps with a second in the 100 yards while Docherty was third in the Three Miles.   

There was good cause for optimism when the inter-universities came off on 4th June.  But that turned out to be the one day in the year when they had an off-day.   Whyte was second in 100 yards, long jump, high jump and hop. step and jump which were won in distances well within his compass on almost any other Saturday in the year, Ian Docherty was third in the Three Miles which was won in a time that he had bettered several times that year, M Armour was third in the discus and unplaced in either shot or hammer.   Medal winners for the university in addition to those already mentioned: P Whincup (3rd 440), G Pearson (2nd 880), A Beattie (3rd 880), E Davidson (3rd 440y hurdles),  M Hill (2nd pole vault), M Fraser (3rd pole vault), and they were not in the first three in the sprint relay.   On the women’s side, N Bell had second place in both sprints, F Thomasson was second in the 80m hurdles, C Wittenbach won the high jump, R McVittie won the shot putt with F Carmichael second, A Nicholson was third in the discus and A Barton won the javelin from R McVittie.   The number of athletes winning medals was impressive but almost all were about one place down on what could reasonably have been expected and this cost them the Rosebery Cup.    

 *  

Donald Macgregor of St Andrews running second in the universities championship at Westerlands

We are now in the 1960’s and the top man would be Donald Macgregor, but what of the facilities that they had enjoyed.   Were they much improved from those that nurtured Lindsay and Laing?   Alistair Lawson had this to say:

“The track at University Park, St Andrews was grass, slightly sloping, pleasantly surrounded by trees, pavilion and adjacent to the Strathkinness road (i.e western edge of the town).    The Athletic Union staff in the early 1960s was initially a one-man show, just Archie Strachan, later joined by Jack Fergusson. Neither of them was an athletics specialist, though they made encouraging noises, held stopwatches an sic like.   I can’t quite remember whether the track was also the 1st XV rugby pitch and 1st XI cricket pitch, but, given its prime position in front of the pavilion, I suspect it probably was. The track season was woefully short, as the summer term was itself short and was inevitably cluttered with end-of-year exams.”

Colin Youngson asked Rab Heron (pictured below) about where he trained while at the University and his comments were:   “I can tell you that I lived in residence in Hepburn Hall across the road from the gates into Park, as it was called, from 1966-70. The groundsman from Morgan Academy, Dundee, had moved there about the same time as me – Peter Buick, a no-nonsense Aberdonian, who strictly enforced the grass track’s being closed on Sundays.  I was there at the opening of the sports hall in 1968, but never used it.  I have strong memories of joining Donald Macgregor in fartlek sessions around the playing fields’ perimeter.” 

Not a lot different then from the early 50’s.   Nor from other universities in that they all had a short athletics season and trained mainly on grass which was none too level in most cases.   The team did well in 1961 – in the inter-universities, they had five firsts, five seconds and seven thirds – with seventeen medals as opposed to nine the previous year.   The women had also found some form and won their part of the competition.   With three firsts, five seconds and two thirds they finished with 34 points to Glasgow’s 27.   In 1962 the university was fourth again with only three medals – two thirds and one second.   The reasons for the drop were many:

a.   The strength of the other teams was considerable – Edinburgh was developing their mighty road and cross-country teams and they had middle distance runners feared the length and breadth of Britain, while Glasgow University was also a strong squad at this point;   

b.   St Andrews was the smallest of the three universities and did not have the pool of talent that the others had;

c.   There were new universities added to the competition from the 1960’s.   Strathclyde University (referred to at times as the Royal College of Science and Technology), Heriot Watt University and Dundee were the noteworthy ones.   They were all in big centres of population – Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee respectively – and this told in their favour.

d.  All universities have a transient population and just at this point, St Andrews lost a good number of top athletes while Glasgow and Edinburgh were getting stronger.   

These are some of the reasons for the lack of continued success at this point.   If we go back to the University’s website we note that “The Department of Physical Education was introduced by the university in 1955, with the first Sports Centre built in 1968.”       

 

 

 

Glasgow Transport Sports: 1961 – 1971

This page is mainly results and reports of these meetings to complete the story of Helenvale Park in the east end of Glasgow.   The difference is that this page looks solely at the Glasgow Transport Sports and not at other meetings hosted by the venue.   Despite checking various sources the results/reports for 1st July 1964 and 1st July 1969 are still not available.

The 1961 meeting was mainly notable for the double done by Graham Everett (above) : he won the half mile from scratch over W Morrison of Larkhall, and then later in the meeting won the Two Miles from Bert McKay of Motherwell.   The only invitation event was the 880 yards won by Everett.

100 yards:  R Whitelock, Victoria Park  (1/2 yard)   9.9 sec;  220 : T Knox, Seafo rth, (14) 22.6 sec;

880 yards:  HG Carson, Victoria Park, (48) 1:52.4;  Mile:  T Malone, Shettleston (110) 4:08.6;

Mile Medley: Victoria Park, 3:34.5 ; Two Miles Team: 1.  G Everett 8:55.2;

High Jump:  E Coyle Shettleston (8″) 6′ 4″  ;  5 a side:  Celtic  2 (McKay, Hughes); Rangers 1 (McLean)

There were three highlights on 26th June, 1962 at Helenvale Park:  Ayr Seaforth just failed to beat Bellahouston Harriers’ Scottish medley relay record, Bert McKay (above) won the Two Miles and although Ronnie Whitelock qualified for the final of the 100 yards he failed to catch JG Gibbons of GUAC.

100 yards:  J Gibbons, Glasgow University, (3 1/2) 9.9 sec; 220:  D McGhee, Clydesdale, (11)  22.4 sec;

880 yards:  W Scally, Shettleston, (44) 1:54.1;  Mile: J McHattie, St Modan’s, (95)  4:08.7;

Two Miles:  R McKay, Motherwell YMCA  8:58.6;  High Jump: CE Fairbrother, VPAAC (scr)  6′ 5″;

Junior one lap: JN Duff Ayr Seaforth, (10)  47.4; Youths 100:  J Duguid, VPAAC, (6 1/2)  10.1

Five a side:  Celtic 3 (Carroll 3)  Partick Thistle 0

There were also some cycle races.

The Sports were held on 25th June in 1963 and the star of the show was undoubtedly Derek Ibbotson who won the Two Miles from Graham Everett (Shettleston) who had won the SAAA Mile just four days earlier.   Ian McCafferty (Motherwell, above) set a new pb when he was third in 9:08.   Motherwell won the team race.   

100 yards:  GP Will, Jordanhill College, (5 1/2)  10 sec;  220: D Stewart, Ayr Seaforth, (11)  22.7;

880 yards:  RT Hodelet, Glenpark Harriers (12) 1:52;  Mile:  T Cochrane, Beith, (70) 4:10.5;

High Jump:  E Coyle, Shettleston, (8″) 6′ 6″; Junior One Lap:  RT Laurie,  VPAAC ,(14) 46.1 sec

Youths 100 yards:  DR Halbert, West of Scotland, (7)  10.2 sec

Medley Relay:  Ayr Seaforth (Davidson, Duff, McCrindle, Billson)   3:32.3

5 a side: Partick Thistle  2(McParland, Duffy)  Rangers 1 (Forrest)

Dick Hodelet

30 June, 1964: No report available.

Lachie Stewart

On 29th June, 1965, there was a lot going on at Helenvale.   It was an entirely domestic field of competitors with no athletes from England, Wales or Ireland taking part in the proceedings.   It is as well to quote the report in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ in its entirety to get the flavour of the meeting.

I McCafferty (Mtherwell YMCA) Was in tremendous form last night at the Glasgow Transport Sports when he broke both the all-comers and Scottish national records for the two miles with a time of 8 min 42.2 sec  –  3.4 sec better than the all-comers record held by MBS Tulloh and 4.4 sec inside the native record held since 1961 by GE Everett.   JL Stewart (Vale of Leven) chased him hard until the last half mile.   McCafferty then raised the pace and opened up a big lead – Stewart finished second in 8 min 58 sec.   A Smith (Victoria Park) was third in a personal best of 9 min 0.4 sec.   

Ayr Seaforth (R Billson, R McCrindle, N Duff and JC Stewart) took the medley relay in 3 min 34.1 sec, 4.1 sec outside their own Scottish record.   Bellahouston and Dumbarton AAC were second and third. GD Grant (Dumbarton) led RS Billson (Ayr) by nearly three yards at the half-mile take over.  Results:-

100 yds: J Williams, Babcock & Wilcox, (7) 9.8 sec; 220: Williams (16) 21.8 sec;

880 yds:  JM Brown, Dumbarton, (20) 1:52.8; Mile: WS Morison, Perth Valley (95)  4 min 09 sec;

Mile Medley: Ayr Seaforth, 3:34.1;   Junior one lap: G Millar, Victoria Park, (16) 46.8 sec;

Youths 100 yards:  R Drummond, Forth Valley, (5 1/2)  10.1 sec

Five a side:  Albion Rovers 2 (Grant, Rutherford)  Partick Thistle 1 (Kilpatrick)

There were also of course some bicycle races.

Mike McLean (12) and GD Grant (3)

28th June, 1966 saw McCafferty and Stewart again head to head in the two miles at Helenvale Park on the Tuesday after the National Championships.   I quote, “They broke clean away from the rest of the field , and each in turn took the lead, but when it came to the last lap, Stewart produced the speed and finished strongly down the finishing straight winning in the excellent time of 8 min 45.4 sec to McCafferty’s 8 min 50 sec.   The winner’s time was only 2.2 sec short of the Scottish record for the distance set by McCafferty at the same meeting last year.”   

Other notables at the event were Les Piggott (Garscube) winning the 100 yards from A Wood (Victoria Park) by inches, Bellahouston won the medley relay in superb fashion with a team of M McLean, W Carmiuchael, H Robertson and H Baillie).   Their time of 3 min 29 sec was only 2.2 sec outside their own Scottish record.     Results
100 yards: L Piggott, Garscube, (1/2 yard) 10.1;  220: RW Moncrieffe, West Kilbride (10)  22.1;

880:  M Simpson, Paisley Harriers, (30)  1 min 53.4 sec;   Mile: R McKay, Motherwell, (20) 4:07.7;

Two Miles Individual:  JL Stewart;  Team  Victoria Park AAC; Relay:  Bellahouston Harriers

High Jump:  E Coyle, Shettleston (7 1/2″)  6′ 3 1/2″;  Junior one lap:  RP Wallace Bellahouston, (19) 46.7

Youths 100 yards: J Blue, Bellahouston, 10.3 sec.

The medley relay had been a feature of the Transport Sports meetings for many years and on 27th June 1967, a new record for the event was set – not by Bellahouston or Ayr Seaforth but by Victoria Park AAC whose quartet of Hugh Barrow (880), AT Wood (220), PB Hepburn (220) and RT Laurie (440) was timed at 3 min 26.6 sec.   Bellahouston was disqualified following a faulty changeover between their two 220 yards men.   Other highlights included Les Piggott winning the 100 yards in 10 sec from scratch, and Alex Brown beating Eddie Knox in the two miles in 8:54.8 against Knox’s 8:57.6.   Results:

100 yards:  L Piggott, Garscube, 10.0; 220: HC Robertson, Glasgow Uni (5)  22.5 sec;

880 yards:  C McIvor, Strathclyde Uni, (26)  1:52.9;  Mile: M Bradley, Paisley Harriers, (60)  4:06.5;

Two Miles:  Individual  Alex Brown (Motherwell) 8:54.8; Team  Motherwell;

Mile Medley: Victoria Park  3:26.6 (national record); Junior one lap: I Walker, West of Scotland (9) 46.8

Youths 100 yards: L Wright, Airdrie, (5 1/2)  10.3 sec.  High Jump: D Beck, Jordanhill (6 1/2)  6′ 7 1/2″

Ian Young to EDDIE KNOX

Results for 25th June were all that were published in 1968 with no comment at all and were as follows:

100 yards: WJ Bell, Ayr Seaforth, (5) 10.1 sec;   220:  GJ Johnstone, Bellahouston, (13)  22.4 sec;

880 yards: E Knox, Springburn (22) 22.4;  Mile: R Wedlock, Shettleston (60) 4:09.2;

Two Miles:  Individual  J Brennan, Maryhill, 9:05.6;  Team  Shettleston Harriers;

Medley Relay:  Bellahouston Harriers (M McLean, J Turnbull, J Williams, R Wallace)  3 min 29.4 sec

High Jump:  CW Fairbrother, Victoria Park, 6′ 3″

*

1969  1st July

Lachie Stewart beats Norman Morrison at Cowal

1970 was THE Empire and Commonwealth Games year in Scotland but only four days after the SAAA Championships no fewer than three of those selected ran at Helenvale: Lachie Stewart, by now the UK record holder for 10,000m,  ran in the 3000 metres race, Mike McLean won the 800 metres from scratch and Les Piggott won the 100 metres from scratch for his third successive sprint win at Helenvale Park.   Results:

100m:  L Piggott, Garscube, 11 sec;  200m:  JG Cherry, Springburn, (9)  22.3 sec;

800m: M MacLean, Bellahouston, (scr)  1:54.4;  1500m:  AH Partridge, East Kilbride, (100)  3:50.4;

3000m:  1.  JL Stewart, Shettleston, 8:15; 2.  Norman Morrison, Shettleston, 8:16.4, R Wedlock, Shettleston, 8:17.8.   Team   Shettleston.

Medley Relay:  Garscube Harriers (AB McDonald, WS Ritchie, L Piggott, R Carmichael)  3:37.2;

High Jump:  R Fisher, Victoria Park, (7 1/2)  6′ 2″

Five a side:   Clydebank 2 (Doyle, Jackson)  Motherwell  0.

*

There is a wee puzzle attached to the Sports report for the meeting held on 29th June, 1971.   The report for 1970 said that it was his third successive win at the meeting in question, but the report of 1971 tells us that this was his fifth successive victory.   No matter really, he did win.   The coverage of the meeting was getting less and less, there were generally fewer big stars appearing and the profile of the Transport Sports was lower.   This year, apart from the paragraph on Piggott, there were just the bare results printed.

1oom:  L Piggott, Garscube, (scr) 10.7;   200m:  AB McDonald, Garscube, (14) 22 sec;

800m: I Scales, Airdrie, (16)  1:53.2;  1500m: D McBain, Larkhall, (80)  3:51.2;

Medley Relay:  Bellahouston, (Jackson, Johnstone, Williams, Wallace)   3:37.4

High Jump:  NJ Hancock, Garscube, (3 1/2)  5′  6 1/4″

Junior one lap: A Hunter, Hutcheson’s Grammar, (14)  47.4; Youths 100m: G Loney, Garscube, (6) 11.3

There was no 3000m reported for the evening.

 

Helenvale, 1924 – 1939

Glasgow Corporation Tramways were formerly one of the largest urban tramway systems in Europe. Over 1000 municipally-owned trams served the city of Glasgow, Scotland with over 100 route miles by 1922. The system closed in 1962 and was the last city tramway in Great Britain.   Like many employers of the time, they organised many clubs for their employees but particularly sports clubs.   The number of firms having sports clubs for their staff and hosting sports meetings was large – Singer’s Sports in Clydebank, Dirrand Sports at Kilwinning and Babcock & Wilcox at Renfrew were all good examples.   The ‘Transport Sports’ was one of the biggest and longest lasting.   

The Glasgow Tramways Sports took place at Helenvale Park on 30th June 1925, and the ‘Glasgow Herald’ for the following day read as follows.   

The fifth annual sports meeting of the Glasgow Tramways Athletic Club were held last night at Helenvale Park in dull weather and before a crowd estimated to number 3000.   The principal attraction was a team from Surrey AC who opposed several home clubs in a relay race over a mile.   DR Griffiths ran well in this event covering the half-mile in 1 min 58 sec and giving his second man a lead of nearly 30 yards, which the others maintained to the tape.   The West of Scotland team ran well, but were outclassed by the visitors.   The time, 3 min 37 3-5th sec is over two seconds better than that accomplished by the Edinburgh team in the relay race at the Queen’s Park recent meeting.   FW Brooker ran  finely in the open sprint winning from 1 1/2 yards in 10 1-5th sec, although T McLean, Glasgow Rover Scouts, gave him a hard time in the dash and was only beaten by inches.   During the meeting a display of physical exercises were given by recruits from the HLI Depot at Maryhill.   Mrs Dalrymple, wife of the general manager, presented the prizes to the successful competitors.” 

Events contested included confined competitions over 100 yards, 220 yards, quarter mile, mile, one mile relay (won by Car Works from the Paisley Section in 4 min 03 sec), five a side football (won by Dlmarnock No 1 from Paisley No 1) and tug o’war; and open competitions over 100, 220, half-mile, mile, mile relay, and five-a-side contest (Celtic beat Partick Thistle 2-0).    

It said that it was the fifth annual version of the sports but unfortunately none of the first four were reported in either the ‘Glasgow Herald’ or ‘The Scotsman’.   They were always held on the Tuesday after the SAAA Championships and possibly the hope and expectation was that there would be a carry over from that event on to possible fast times on what was acknowledged to be a fast cinder track.

 No report has yet been found for the meeting probably held on Tuesday 29th June 1926, however the meeting on 28th June 1927 was reported in the Glasgow Herald the following day.   

“The annual sports meetings of the Glasgow Corporation Tranways AC was held last night at Helenvale Park before an attendance of 6000 spectators.   The principal events were the one mile relay in which teams from Surrey AC and Birchfield Harriers took part, an invitation 220 yards handicap and a 600 yards handicap, specially framed to give CE Griffith an opportunity of lowering the Scottish all-comers record of 1 min 11 4-5th sec.   The relay race proved an interesting struggle between the two English teams, and in the end Birchfield just secured the victory from their Southern rivals.   Houghton ran a good race against Griffiths and the Welshman only managed to steal three yards, an advantage which was wiped out when AW Greeen took over for the final furlong.   TR Jones, the ex-Army champion, who had previously won the invitation 220 yards  put up a good fight but was beaten by a yard.

In his attempt on Lt Halswell’s Scottish all-comers record of 1 min 11 3-5th sec, Cecil Griffiths was opposed by a good field, which included H Houghton, Birchfield Harriers, and JD Hope, Scottish half-mile champion.   The Welshman ran well enough but did not appear likely to touch the figures, but he finished two yards behind JD Hope in 1 min 14 3-5th sec.”

In a shorter programme than in the previous year Springburn, Bellahouston and Garscube Harriers were the most successful clubs.   There was a five-a-side football match here again in which a Rangers side of Meiklejohn, Gray, Fleming, McPhail and Marshall defeated a Celtic team of McInally, McColgan, Donoghue, McMenemy and Connolly 1 – 0.  

In 1928, the meeting was reported better in the Edinburgh based ‘The Scotsman’ than in the local ‘Glasgow Record.   Held on 26th June, the headline was “Well Known Runners Compete” – they must have been well-known since the paper did not usually cover mid week Glasgow events.   

Birchfield and Surrey were again up in numbers and the four named right at the start – Cyril Ellis, Cecil Griffiths, JR Langridge and H Houghton – were all international standard athletes.   Toeing the line at the start of the relay D MacLean (Maryhill) was side by side with Griffiths and Ellis but although leading at the bell, he was third at the changeover behind Griffiths (leading) and Ellis.   Birchfield won from Surrey with the West of Scotland Select third.   Griffiths was reported to have run well in the special 600 yards but TJ McAllister of Beith (who had run on one of the short legs of the relay) won in 71 1-5th sec.   The special mile was possiboy the most interesting race of the evening.   Donald MacLean off 20 yards, went out to break the Scottish native record of 4 min 21 sec.  Starting with Ellis behind him, he took the bell in   4 min 20 sec in the lead, 15 yards up on Sammy Tombe (Plebeians).   Covering the full distance his time was 4 min 23 1-5th sec.   Reports were that the track was not in good condition that night which maybe contributed to the time.   In dull weather and in front of a good crowd it was another successful meeting.  Generations of Scottish meeting organisers knew Walter Lawn as the man whose firm printed the numbers and programmes for meetings the length and breadth of the land.   Not many knew that he had been a good sprinter in his day and at this meeting he was third in the invitation 220 yards. 

*

No reports on the 1929 meeting have surfaced yet but on 1st July, 1930, the headlines were all for Cyril Ellis of Birchfield.   The report in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ started: The annual sports meeting of the Glasgow Corporation Tramways Department was held last night at Helenvale Park in front of 15000 spectators.   The chief event on the programme was the half-mile handicap specially framed to give Cyril Ellis an opportunity of creating a new Scottish record.   Ellis ran well, although only finihing fifth to J Hood (Shettleston) and returned 1 min 56 2-5th sec which equalled the record by DL Mason, the Australian, at Celtic Sports in 1919.   In the 1 1/2 miles team race, won by Birchfield Harriers, WH Calderwood ran one of his best races, his time, 6 min 43 4-5th sec, being only 2-5th slower than the Scottish record.   He defeated R Sutherland, the four miles champion, by a good five yards.   Jack London, HM Hodge, J Crawford and Ian Borland ran in the 120 yards handicap but neither of them survived their Heats.   In the 75 yards dash, London had all the best of the start and led at hald distance, but weakened and was beaten by both Crawford and Hodge.”   

The programme contained a 75 yards dash, 100 yards open, 100 yards youths, 120 yards invitation, 220 yards open, Half mile open, half mile invitation, Mile (first class), Mile (second class), one and a half mile team race, three cycle races and a five a side which was won by Partick Thistle over Clyde FC.   After a drawn game (1 – 1) the winner was decided by tossing a coin.

Ellis was a very good runner indeed – he ran in two Olympic Games. 1924 and 1928, won the AAA’s Mile three times, ’27, ’28, ’29 and ’29 also won the 880y title.   Griffiths was a bit more colourful:a Welshman, he won gold at the 1920 Olympics but was then barred from the 1924 Olympics as he was said to have competed in 2 races in 1917 (when he was 17 years old) as a professional.   It was interesting that athletes of that calibre should be competing on a small track beside the local runners.   It may also explain why the attendances at the Tramway Sports went from 2000 up to over 15000.   

Cecil Griffiths    

28th June 1932, was the date for the meeting to have the biggest crowd so far at Helenvale: 18000 spectators favoured the meeting at which there were not only international cycle races but some of the best of Scots athletes – MacLean, Blakely, Calderwood, Tombe – and even some runners from the local Shawfield Harriers as well, of course, of the Bellahouston and Shettleston runners from the south of the city.   The report started – 

“The twelfth annual sports meeting of the Glasgow Transport AC was held at Helenvale Park last night in dull weather and in front of 18000 spectators.   The sport throughout was excellent and fast times were recorded.   T Blakely, the new Scottish four miles record holder, ran well in the two miles and recorded an easy victory over SK Tombe and WH Calderwood, who however had a great tussle for second place.   Blakely’s time of 9 min 31 4-5th sec was only 4-5th sec outside D MacLean’s Scottish record.   The cycle racing was the best seen in Glasgow for a long time.   The brothers Wyld won the 1000 yards, half mile, and 8 laps pursuit race between them, but RJ Donnelly, the Irishman, put in a great tussle to win the two miles.   N Stone of Glasgow University ran well to win the 120 yards, and the students team, a strong one, won the relay race easily.   J Strathdee of Shawfield secured a double in the open sprints and in each instance, his winning margin was a large one.”

Principal Track Results:

100 yards:  JC Strathdee (Shawfield 9 1/2 yards)  10 sec;  220: JC Strathdee (19)  23 1-5th sec

120 invitation: N Stone (GUAC 4) 11 4-5th;    880 open: W Cumming (Bellahouston  43 yards)  1 min 52;

880 women invitation: N Aitken (Shettleston 44 yards) 2: 23.  

One Mile (first) R Clark (Plebeian  65) 4 min 17 sec; Mile (second) J McDonald (St Peters 110)  4:19.0

Two Miles Team Race:  Individual: T Blakely.  Team: Maryhill (Blakely, Calderwood 3, Nelson 10) 14 pts

Two laps relay women:  EUAC  1:45 1-5th sec.   Two laps relay:  GUAC  1:26 3-5th sec

There have been references to the short laps at Helenvale at this time but this is the first time that the newspaper report indicated the distance – the two laps relay is quoted as being 704 yards, ie 352 yards per lap.  So an 880 would be 2 laps plus 176 yards.  When evaluating times on such a track, in addition to the short straights and bends, there would be a much bigger problem with the cinder track cutting up due to the relatively large number of extra laps having to be run.       

The report on the 27th June, 1933, reported that the crowd was a good one and numbered 15,000, that the sport was excellent and the finishing keen.   There were also some good cycle races but the report on the track mentioned some highlights:

“In the 1000 yards flat, JP Laidlaw ran into third place in 2 min 18 4-5th sec – 2 4-5th outside Scottish record.   The conditions were not good as a strong wind was blowing from the west.   J Gifford, third to Tom Riddell in the SAAA Championship, won the Two Miles by a big margin, while JJ McDonald, the Youths half-mile champion, won one of the miles from 65 yards in fast time.”

Principal track results:   

100 yards:  R Ritchie (Springburn 9 yds) 10 1-5th; 120 invitation:  E Davie (Springburn 5 1/2y)  12 sec;  

220 yards: G Murray (Bella H  18)  22 3-5th;   Half Mile:  J Pirie (Monkland  50 yards)) 1:55 3-5th;  

1000 yards invitation: 1.  J Scott (Springburn  20 yards); 2.  J Hale (Banbridge AC 40);  3. JP Laidlaw (Edinburgh Northern  scr).   Time:  2 min 16 3-5th sec.

Mile (first): WA Struthers (Springburn  20 yards) 4:23 2-5th;

Mile (second) JJ McDonald (St Peter’s) 4 min 17 3-5th 

Two Miles Team:  1.  Plebeian Harriers (Rayne, Gunn, Tombe). Individual:  J Gifford (VPAAC) 

Four laps relay: 1.  GUAC;  2.  Springburn Harriers;  3.  Maryhill Harriers.   Time  1:27 4-5th

Jack Gifford, Victoria Park

After all the efforts made to set up a Scottish all-comers record by Griffiths and Ellis, when a record did come, it was made by a Scotsman running for a club from the east end of Glasgow.   On 3rd July, 1934, in front of 15,000 spectators Tom Riddell of Shettleston Harriers was the man.  

“A new Scottish native record in the 1000 yards was created by TM Riddell who clocked 2 min 14 3-5th sec for the distance – 1 2-5th sec faster than D McPhee’s record created in 1904.   This is the third Scottish record standing to his credit, the others being at three-quarters mile and the one mile.   It was an excellent race in which Riddell and C Whitehead, the AAA Champion, were on scratch and R Graham, the half-mile record holder, on 14 yards.   Graham ran magnificently to win by ten yards, and, running out the full distance, as also inside Scottish record, and only 1-5th sec behind Riddell’s time.   It was the best running he has done this year.   

In the 120 yards special, both R Murdoch and Ian Young qualified for the final.   The Scottish champion was not in sparkling form, but Young ran his usual excellent race and finished second.   Murdoch, however, ran well in the relay and earned Glasgow University an easy win.”  

Before looking at the main results from the track racing, note that White was outside the all-comers record for the 1000 yards by 4-5th of a second (White ran 2 min 14 2-5th sec).   In the two miles team race, Edinburgh Northern Harriers (JP Laidlaw  1, W Hinde  3,  H McIntosh  6) defeated Plebeian Harriers (McGregor  2, Tombe  5, Gunn  7) with Laidlaw’s winning time being 9:29.   The invitation 120 yards was won by T Pitcairn of Garscube Harriers, the invitation 4 lap relay was won by Glasgow University  (Bishop, Stone, Borland and Murdoch) and the handicap races were won by the men with the big handicaps.   

Tom Riddell

Helenvale got its first all-comers record on 30th June, 1936, and it was over a distance where the feat had been attempted more than once in the past.  The report: 

“Fifteen thousand spectators attended the  sixteenth annual Glasgow Transport AC Sports held at Helenvale Park last night.   JC Stothard (Atalanta) avenged his defeat by R Graham (Maryhill) in the Mile Championship on Saturday when setting up new Scottish all-comers and native records in the 1000 yards handicap.   Stothard allowed Graham to set the pace behind the long handicap men for almost half a mile, but just before the penultimate bend, the AAA half-mile champion made his effort, passed Graham in a terrific burst and drew away confidently to beta him by six yards in 2 min 13 3-10th sec.   This time lowers the all-comers record made by the famous American, Ray Dodge, at Rangers Sports in 1925 by 3-10th seconds.   Graham who also finished very strongly was 6-10th inside Dodge’s figures.   

More brilliant running was shown by DM Pearson (Glasgow University) the new SAAA furlong champion. At the last changeover in the invitation relay he was set to concede five yards to Charles Francis (Bellahouston Harriers) but, although his task seemed hopeless, he caught Francis entering the finishing straight and held on in a wonderful finish to win by inches.”  

There were four invitation races at the meeting: The 120 yards handicap, the 1000 yards, the 4 x half lap relay and the two miles team race .   In the two miles team race, Donald MacLean defeated his Maryhill Harriers team mate Emmet Farrell by inches in 9:34 and with W Nelson in 10th place they won the team race from Plebeian Harriers.   In the 120 yards, Harvey of Surrey AC defeated Clark of Surrey AC with Kennedy of Shettleston third.   In the five a side tournament, Celtic defeated Rangers by 1 goal and 2 corners to 1 goal, after two periods of extra time.   

JC Stothard

Stothard obviously liked the meeting because he was back on 29th June 1937 for another crack at the 1000 yards, again with Bobby Graham for company on the starting line.   It was a windy night, unhelpful to the runners, and the race was almost a replay with Stothard sitting on Graham’s shoulder until the last bend and sprinting away to win.   In the invitation two miles, English internationalist F Close defeated Emmet Farrell ‘comfortably’ in 9:30.   Maryhill won the team race however with the same three runners as the previous year.   Pearson again came from behind to win the relay for Glasgow University and in the 120 yards invitation, Millar of Maryhill won from Stewart of Motherwell.   A name that was to become very famous in Scottish, and British, athletic circles, Andy Forbes of Victoria Park, was third in the first class handicap mile while his team mate R Rogerson won the second mile.   

JP Laidlaw

Maryhill’s Bobby Graham was an excellent athlete but he was very unlucky at the Transport Sports.  On 28th June in 1938 he was again beaten into second place – this time by the crack cross country runner from Ayrshire, Peter J Allwell.   That night also saw good quality runners from England and Ireland taking on some of the top home athletes.   The report reads:

“Deplorable weather conditions seriously affected all performances at Glasgow Transport Sports Meeting at Helenvale Park last night.   Despite the blinding rain however the sports reached a satisfactorily high level.   The feature of the one-and-a-half-miles race was the victory of PJ Allwell (Ardeer).   He beat R Graham, Maryhill Harriers, in the good time of 6 min 54 4-10th sec.   Surrey AC won the team race but none of their members succeeded in getting placed in the individual race.   Alex Haire (Royal Ulster Constabulary) was a competitor in the 1000 yards invitation, and he ran well to get among his field but then failed to stay the course, leaving G Bell (Bellahouston Harriers) to run out winner from CF Campbell (Springburn Harriers) by three yards.   FG Moran, the Irish Sprint Champion, succeeded in reaching second place in the 120 yards invitation .   The winner was WCW Murdoch off three and a half yards.  Robin Murdoch turned out in the 120 yards heat, but broke down, having pulled a muscle.”   

Principal results:  There were five invitation events.   

120 yards:  1.   WCW Murdoch (Bellahouston  5 yards)    2.  HF Moran (TFS  scr)   Time: 12 3-5th sec

1000 yards:  1.  G Bell (Bellahouston  42 yards);  2.  CF Campbell (Springburn  15)   Time: 2 min 16 sec

Four half laps relay:  1.  Bellahouston (Bone, Smith, Murdoch, France)  3 min 20 sec

One and a half miles:1. PJ Allwell (Ardeer);2. R Graham (Maryhill); 3.  JP Laidlaw (Edinburgh Northern)

Team race:  1.  Surrey AC  14 points (Close 3, Read  5, Belton 6) 2. Maryhill Harriers 16 points   

In the open races fortune seemed to favour the high handicappers but one name that stood out was the second placed runner in the 880 yards – JCR Morton of Springburn Harriers who would become a Scottish international runner and then the country’s international team manager for many years.

Farrell passes the baton to Peters in the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay.

1939 was the last year before the war broke out but there was a Transport Sports held on 27th June as usual and it was a momentous meeting.   A new star appeared on the programme and there was a mysterious disqualification in one of the races.   The star was Alan Watt, ‘the former Strathallan schoolboy, now attached to Shettleston Harriers’ .   He appeared in the special 120 yards sprint and running off three and a half yards won his heat and then the final, the latter in 11.9 seconds.   He was then heading off to the AAA’s junior championships in London at the weekend.    The disqualification took place in the one and a half miles race when the report merely said  –  “F Close, the famous Surrey AC distance athlete, was disqualified in the special 1 1/2 miles team race which he won in grand style from AT Peters, Maryhill Harriers in 6 min 52 6-10th sec.   Peters was given the decision , his time for the distance being 6 min 55 4-10th sec.”   Jackie Laidlaw was second in the race and Maryhill won the team race with Peters, Farrell and MacLean.   There was no elaboration of the reason for the dq.   The 1000 yards was won by J Gifford, erstwhile Victoria Park runner but now in the colours of Bellahouston, in 2 min 12.8 sec.  The open events were again won by the handicapper’s favourites, Jim Morton was again second in the half mile.   

There are several gaps in the writing of articles such as this but that is entirely to do with the coverage available.   Some years the events were possibly not covered.   In addition there are references to the sports having started in 1920 – ie ‘the twelfthannual sports, the eighteenth annual sports’ and so on, but they were not reported on in any of the papers consulted.   There is always the possibility that they were held on another mid week date in the summer but it would be very difficult to trace them.   However we do know that this was a very successful event, held on a short track in a corner of Glasgow and that it was a popular event with Scottish native and all-comers records being set on it and international runners from outwith Scotland running in it.   Indeed after the war, a world record would be set at Helenvale.   You can read about it here.

Helenvale


Helenvale in the 1950’s

One of the most popular athletics meetings in the West of Scotland for several decades was the Glasgow Corporation Transport Department Sports (it was actually known as the  Glasgow Tramways Recreation Ground) at Helenvale held in the evening, mid-week, it attracted at one time or another most of the big names in Scottish athletics and national records were set at the meeting.   It was a narrow track and the terracing was relatively small compared to, say, Ibrox or Cowal so that the crowds which turned up (see the photo above) created a tremendous atmosphere.   There are many stories about the venue – Dunky Wright getting carried away at a long sprint finish between Alex Brown (Motherwell) and Harry Gorman of Springburn referring to the leader at one point as ‘Harry Springburn’.   In this short article we can concentrate on the post war period, particularly the 1950;s which were arguably the heyday of the Glasgow Transport Sports Meetings.

According to the canmore.org.uk website in 2014 :  “The Helenvale Sports Ground, constructed in 1924 by Glasgow Corporation Transport for the use of their staff. The opening ceremony was performed by the Duke of York and featured a football match between Rangers and Thistle. The sports grounds consisted of an oval pitch/ track for football and athletic events alongside bowling greens and a tennis court.  The site is understood to have been adopted by Glasgow City Council in the 1970s as a public sports grounds.”

It says that the site was opened in 1924 and the meetings continued right up to the War.   Two in particular were looked back on fondly by James L Logan of Victoria Park in 1948 –

A much loved arena by athletes, it was pressed into use immediately after the 1939-45 War for the SAAA 10 miles championship.   The very first issue of the excellent ‘Scots Athlete’ magazine, edited and produced by Walter Ross, came out in April 1946 and the following preview of the race by Emmet Farrell are worth reading: 

“Who will be the first Scottish champion of the post war era?   Resumption of the 10 miles track championship takes place on Saturday, April 27th at Helenvale Park and should provide a yardstick of comparison with pre-war form.   As most of the contenders will be found from the ranks of the ill-fated international cross-country team  it would be difficult indeed to predict a probable winner.   Favourite prior to the international would have been JE Farrell but if Jim Flockhart elects to start he has shown that in the mood he is still a menace to the best of Scotland’s distance experts.

The choice of Helenvale Park as the venue may be open to criticism.   For while the cinder track is excellent, the short track may provide time-keepers with a lot of headaches, but with Fred Evans in charge of his  own track arrangements should go smoothly.

Despite Emmet’s reservations, the championships went ahead and in the next issue of the magazine the following report appeared.

 

THE S.A.A.A. SPRING CHAMPIONSHIPS REVIEWED

by T. A. GOURLAY

The above meeting was held at. Helenvale I’ark. Glasgow, on Saturday. 27th March. 1946, after a laps.- of six years. The track was in fine condition and the weather was dry, hut a trouble¬ some wind was blowing down the stand straight. The first event to be decided was the 10 miles track championship. Thirty runners, a record number for this event, faced the starter, .Mr. Fred Evans, lining up in three rows across the track. Of the six non-starters announced the most notable was J. C. Flockhart. After his running at Ayr in the ” International,” it was thought that he would be a strong chaIlenger to J. E. Farrell, Maryhilll Harriers, who was defending his title. A young newcomer, J. Harbour. Dundee, Hawkhill. led the field for the first three laps and lost this to A. McLean of Bellahouston. who took the lead at the end of the first mile, which was reached In 5.18. The other runners close on his heels at this point were A. McDonald, Auchmountaln: Farrell, Maryhlll: and MoLennan. Shettleston. Coming near the end of the fourth mile. McLean was still leading. closely followed by J. Farrell and McLennan, Shettleston, and the ultimate winner seemed to be among these three. Harry Howard, Shettleston, running in the middle of the field, retired at four miles. Almost at half distance. J. E. Farrell took the lead for the first time, with McLean and McLennan interchanging places for a few laps. The time at 5 miles was 27.13. in the next mile the champion, running strongly, considerably Increased his lead. It Is interesting to note that the sixth mile was done In 5.19. This was, I think, the deciding point of the race. McLean was now a clear second, Mclennan having fallen back with A. McDonald, Auchmountain, running third. Tho first three positions did not change, and J. E. Farrell ran out a winner in 54.38 3/5, about 250 yards ahead of A. McLean, with A. McDonald 3rd, and J. Lindsay, Bellahouston. 4th; C. McLennan,.5th: A. I Hay. 6th: A. McDonald and J. Lindsay gaining standard by finishing inside 50 minutes. I make tho following points which may be of Interest. I think A. McLean may have been nearer the winner if he had not held the lead for so long in the early stages, A. McDonald finished In the same position in this race 11 years ago. I think John Lindsay, Bellahouston, will look upon this as one of his best performances to date. There were a few young runners who, I think, would be well advised to refrain from competing in this race for a year or two. The following table shows leader’s time at the end of each mile. It may prove of interest to the “student of form” and also of service to future entrants In preparing a Time Schedule for standard time qualification:—

1st mile .. 5 min 18 sec          2nd Mile .. 5 min 30 sec          3rd mile .. 5 min 29.4

4th mile .. 5 min 24.6           5th mile .. 5 min 31                  6th mile .. 5 min 19

7th mile .. 5 min 33              8th mile .. 5 min 34                 9th mile .. 5 min 36.6

10th mile .. 5 min 23

The 3 miles walking championship only attracted four starters, including the holder, A. M. Jamleson. Dundee Hawkhill. The champion Jumped Into the lead at the start, and with Ills snappy action soon set up a big lead and eventually won by over -100 yards from Crossley, Edinburgh II. The winner’s time was 24 mins. 7.0 ? Without any intention to detract from the worthy performance of the Dundonian in winning the title for the fifth successive time, this event did not come up lo championship standard  It is a fact that this event just escaped excision from the S.A.A.A.”s list of  championship events and.judging from the meagre support which has been given to it in pre-war years It would appear to he in danger of complete extinction in the near future. True, this race has been endowed with a handsome Challenge Trophy, gifted by the late George Hume, a walking enthusiast, but even this circumstance may not save the event from its distinction as a Championship item in the S.A.A.A. sports calendar unless better support is forthcoming.

Incidentally,in the dressing room I heard complimentary remarks regarding the track and the washing facilities. These particularly were greatly appreciated. The attendance was not large hut the enthusiasm was there. “

The following year the championships  were held at Helenvale on 26th April and it was another good race.  The report this time read

S.A.A.A. SPRING CHAMPIONSHIPS

By THOMAS CRUDEN

(Hon. Secy., Renfrewshire AAA.)

“A fairish crowd of Club members and old-timers came along to Helenvale Park to give vocal encouragement to the contestants in the S.A.A.A. Spring Championships, on Saturday, 26th April, 19-17. Starter Fred Evans sent a full turn out of 10 away on their long. long trail in the 10 miles, and as soon as the field turned into the strong wind that was blustering down the finishing straight, there began a game of ” wait and see,” among a group of 10, nil more or less reluctant to assume the punishing role of pacemaker. This went on for fully three miles, with the holder, J. E. Farrell (Maryhill), never allowing himself to get “boxed,” yet never taking the lead: a tactical manoeuvre which looks so easy—until you try it. A third mile of 5.35 — obviously this could not go on. and at 8 miles Farrell suddenly dashed down the stand straight with the wind at his back. The race fizzed up: two more helter skelter rushes in the next laps spreadeagled the field, leaving only Farrell, A. MacLean (Bellahouston H.) and A. McLennan (Shettleston H.) running together. Half-distance in 27.7 (good for the conditions), and then MacLean challenged the holder at his own game by piling on the pace down the back straight. The sixth mile, second fastest of the entire ten. was the deciding point of the race: MacLenn’s electrifying dashes downwind Increased his load over Farrell by 15 yards each lap. and finished Mclennan.
One wondered: was the leader burning up his energy too soon by these spurts? — would Farrell’s strength enable him to pull in the Bellahouston man in the closing laps? But at the start of the seventh mile It was apparent that the holder was beaten. His rhythmic style had given way to a laboured, rolling gait ; barring collapse. MacLean was a certain winner. And there was no sign of the leader collapsing. He continued to spurt like a miler and. at the bell, was on the point of lapping his clubmnte Anderson. With the race in his pocket, he sportingly refrained from passing Gaby, which meant that S.A.A.A. Secretary, Mr. Gilbert, had to give a nimble performance by darting through the three-yard gap between the Bellahouston men. to unreel the tape for a very worthy and popular champion. Farrell plodded on to finish 300 yards behind, and the steady Anderson was a good third. Result:— 

1 A McLean, Bellahouston H:   54:32;  2 JE Farrell, Maryhill Harriers  55:28.8;   3.  G Anderson, Bellahouston H  55:45.”

*

That Helenvale track – as opposed to the entire facility – was a good one led Emmet Farrell to comment in July 1947 after the SAAA Championships had been held at Hampden Park:

“To my mind, Hampden Park is not the ideal setting for our championships.   Competitors are too detached from the spectators – many fine points are lost because of the distance.   Could the SAAA not endeavour to get an arrangement for an reconstructed Helenvale?   Once it is possible to carry out enlargements to the existing stand, and the improvements on the terracing, with the present track, which is second to none,  it would be the ideal place for such a meeting; allowing a necessary link up with athletics, officials and spectators.”   

His thoughts might have been refined by the fact that the SAAA championships were on the 21st and 22nd June, while the Transport Sports were on Tuesday 24th and he could compare them with some accuracy.   

Note the dates.   The Transport Sports were usually the Tuesday after the national track and field championships and so coverage was scanty – the events were not always reported in the Press.   

The championships were held at Helenvale for the third time in 1948 and we have the report from the ‘Scots Athlete available again.

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The real high spot for Helenvale as an athletics venue was the night of 13th June, 1949 when John Joe Barry set a world record at the venue.   A world record set in the east end of Glasgow in a handicap race against the top Scottish runners.   The Glasgow Herald report the following day said: 

John J Barry, the St Machan’s and Clonliffe Harriers (Eire) runner created a world record for the one and a half miles at Helenvale Park last night when at St Machan’s sports meeting he covered the distance in 6 min 3.5 sec.   Barry’s time was 2-10ths faster than the previous best made by Glenn Cunningham (USA) in 1937, and 2.7 sec faster than the British record made by Tom Riddell (Shettleston) in 1935.   Withe Scottish Mile and Three Miles champions J Fleming and A Forbes running from 20 and 25 yards respectively, Barry covered the first mile in 4 min 22 sec and had his field well in hand.   Round the last lap he put in a superb effort to beat W Lennie (Vale of Leven Harriers)  to whom he was conceding 85 yards, and won by 30 yards.   

Another Irishman, Paul Dolan, failed by 2-10th sec to beat the late Capt Halswell’s record for 300 yards.   Principal results:

100 yards: W McFadden. Garscube (7) 10.1 sec; 220 yards: W McFadden (14) 22.8 sec; 

300 yards: I Sutherland, Victoria Park (18) 31.3 sec; (Paul Dolan, Clonliffe Harriers was second in 31.4 sec)   

880 yards:   F Jewell, Garscube, (18)  1 min 59.4 sec. Mile: JD Stirling, Victoria Park (105) 4 min 22.6 ; Pole Vault:  DM Hastie, Hillhead HS FP (3 in)  11 ft; 

Five a Side Football: Partick Thistle 4 (Howitt 3 Mather)   Third Lanark 0

It was a marvellous feat and the specialist athletic magazine had to say its piece and in the June 1949 issue, the ‘Scots Athlete’ magazine reported thus:

Proof of the quality of the track if any were needed.  But note also that the winners were ordinary club athletes competing in handicap races, changing in the same dressing rooms, sitting side by side on the infield with the top men.   It was a feature of such meetings as the Rangers Sports in Glasgow and the Edinburgh Highland Games at Murrayfield at the time.   The inspirational effect on club runners was great.

In 1950 the Glasgow clubs inter-club championship was scheduled for Helenvale on 13th June but the big event was the one to be held later in the month.   Despite the fact that the Transport event was on 27th June only four days after the SAAA Championships, where he had won an epic Three Miles victory over Andy Forbes, in 1950, John Joe was back in action.   This time he won the mile in the excellent time of 4:12.1  –  only 1.1 seconds outside Wooderson’s all-comers record.    His lap times were 61, 64, 66 and 61.2 against the Englishman’s 60. 64. 66 and 61.   Incidentally John Joe ran the next day in Dublin where he won the Two Miles Invitation from Douglas Wilson – and Andy Forbes – in a world record time.   The ‘Scots Athlete’ commented on the relay in its July 1950 issue as follows:   “Once again it was proved that when athletes are in good form, the Helenvale track is the place to do justice to it.   Glasgow University whose men ran with grace and verve beat Bellahouston Harriers great record of 3 min 32.9 sec set up in 1938 by 1.2 sec – the new time being 3 min 31.7 sec.”   The winning team was Tom Begg, Robin Ward and JH Paton, and DK Gracie.

1951 saw two fixtures listed for the ground.  The Scottish National Cyclists Union had their meeting at Helenvale on the 19th of the month and the Sports dated for the Tuesday after the big SAAA event on 26th June and it was not covered in any significant way.   1952 was Olympic year and the SAAA championships were held early in the month – 6th/7th – and the Transport Sports, as though joined at the hip, were held on 10th June.   They maybe thought that coming just after the SAAA meant that there would be more athletes in good shape and aiming to redeem themselves or to confirm their form.   It would have been interesting to see what would have happened had the stuck to the ir usual Tuesday at the end of the month.   However it turned out to be a great evening with the Scottish record being equalled by Willie Jack of Victoria Park.   The Glasgow Herald report read 

“The outstanding performer at Glasgow Transport sports at Helenvale track last night was W Jackj (Victoria Park AC), the Scottish 100 and 220 yards champion, who from scratch in a special 100 yards handicap returned 11.6 seconds and equalled the Scottish record established by A McCorquodale four years ago.   DK Gracie, the Scottish 440 yards hurdles champion, attempted to improve on his recent all-comers record performance of 54.7 seconds but returned 55.7 seconds.   F Evans (Manchester AC) was at scratch in a special 880 yards race and finished second to R Stoddart (Bellahouston) who was in receipt of 32 yards.   The winner accomplished the very fast time of 1 min 52,2 sec.”

The winners of the principal track events were

100 yards: KM Donaldson, Victoria Park (6) 9.8 sec;  220 yards: KM Donaldson (18)  22.7 sec;

880 yards: GR Robertson, Shettleston, (34 yards) 1:57.6;  Mile:  F Scally, Shettleston,(125)  4:20.8

Two Miles:  E Bannon, Shettleston, 9:23.5.   Team:   Victoria Park.

Mile Medley Relay:  Manchester AC .

Maybe they were right to keep to the ‘Tuesday after the National ‘ pattern after all.   

Willie Jack beating club mate Bobby Quinn

The 1953 fixture list only had the one Helenvale entry and that was for the first Tuesday after the national championships – 30th June.   The headline and report in the Glasgow Herald’ on the Wednesday read

“ANOTHER RECORD FOR BRECKENRIDGE

AD Breckenridge (Victoria Park AC) Scottish mile champion and record holder maintained his record breaking form at the Glasgow Transport Sports at Helenvale Park, Glasgow last night.   Breckenridge won a special two miles scratch race in 9 min 5.6 sec – 7.8 sec better than the previous Scottish native record for the distance set by PJ Alwell 15 years ago.Breckenridge was only 0.4 seconds outside the Scottish all-comers record set by F Wilt (USA) four years ago at Hampden Park.   One of his rivals was JJ Barry (USA and formerly Eire), the holder of the mile and a half world record.   It was said on behalf of Barry before the race that he was running against doctor’s orders and it was evident before half a mile had been covered that he would be unable to stay the pace set by Breckenridge.   At the end of one mile, Breckenridge recorded the fast time of 4 min 28 sec, and at a mile and a half 6 min 49.9 sec.   Barry finished well to beat AD Forbes (Victoria Park) for second place.”

The main track results for that night were

Invitation 120 yards: 1.  DK Gracie (Larkhall) ;   2.  R Whitelock (Victoria Park);  3.  W Jack (Victoria Park)  Time 10.2 seconds

440 yards:  1.  D McDonald (Garscube Harriers);  2.  JB Hume (Clydesdale Harriers) ;  3.  JE Robertson (Edinburgh Northern H)    Time 49.8 seconds

880 yards:  1.  JS Hamilton (Victoria Park);  2.  WS Linton (Braidburn AAC); 3. JB Petty (Bellahouston Harriers)  1 min 54.6

Medley Relay:  1.  Victoria Park (Hamilton, Jack, Whitelock, R Quinn)  3:32.7

[About the medley relay – the VPAAC team lead off man Hamilton had won the SAAA Championships on the Saturday, and Jack, Whitelock and Quinn were 1,2,4 in the 100 yards final and 1,3,4 in the 220 yards final.   In the 100 final, the club actually had four in four with Dunbar being second!)

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The 1954 fixtures included one at Helenvale on 15th May in the form of the Glasgow & West PO Telephones AC and the report was headlined “BINNIE’S FAILURE AT HELENVALE” and read “I Binnie (Victoria Park) holder of 19 records, including 7 British,  failed at Helenvale Park to do himself justice in his attempt on the hour run and to find out how near to the world record for 20,000 metres he could get.   When two miles of the fast track had been covered he was as much as 6.9 sec worse than his time for the distance at Dunoon last August  and he never showed any signs of recovering.   He finished 920 yards behind the distance of 11 miles 1576 yards which he accomplished at Dunoon.   His time for the 20,000 metres was 65 min 51.6 sec – 6 min slower than the record of E Zatopek.   H Fenion (Bellahouston H) clocked 66 min 31.2 sec.”

Some other results from the night:  100 yards/220 yards: G Rodger (Clydesdale) 7 1/2  and 16 yards;

880 yards: A Small, (Plebeian H) 26 yards; Mile: I Cloudsley (Shettleston) 150, 15 miles road race: H Lawrence (Teviotdale H); there were also cycling, wrestling and five-aside football in which Celtic beat Third Lanark 4-1.

In the Transport Sports on 29th June  there were good performances but no records or record equalling feats on view.   On a cold, wet night, the two miles was the race of the evening: won by John Stevenson of Greenock Wellpark from his brother Tom with Eddie Bannon (Shettleston) third.   Despite only needing three to score for the team race, Wellpark were second n the team race – one point behind Victoria Park.   J McLauchlan (Maryhill – 3 yards) won the 120 yards special short handicap invitation from D McDonald (Garscube – 2 yards) and R Quinn (VPAAC – 1/2 yard) was third.   Jack Brown of Dumbarton won the 220 and Eddie Sinclair (off 145 yards) won the Mile.  

This successful meeting was held again in 1955 but results are not available, however in 1956 it was on 26th June that the faithful made their way to the venue.   The ‘Glasgow Herald’ heading was a prosaic GLASGOW TRANSPORT ATHLETICS MEETING   and the very short review read

“PM Connolly (Jordanhill Training College) was a convincing winner of the special 120 yards short limit handicap at Glasgow Transport Sports at Helenvale Park last night, beating AS Dunbar (Victoria Park) the Scottish 100 yards champion from whom he was receiving three yards.  There was a following wind.   JG Robertson (Glasgow University) was a close third off two yards.   Interest in the two miles team race was reduced because of the absence of GE Everett (Shettleston Harriers) who was reported unable to take part because of a slight chest infection.”

The principal track results:   

Two Miles – Individual 1.  A Brown (Motherwell) 9:10.2.   Team:  Bellahouston:  FG Nelson 2, J Connolly 5, R Penman 10 = 17 pts.

Mile Medley Relay: Victoria Park AAC: J McIsaac, AS Dunbar, JV Hamilton, R Quinn.   3:35.3

It was still a good meeting but the atmosphere was changing slightly.   However, given the SAAA habit of moving championships around to different venues, the West District Track and Field Championships came to Helenvale on 4th June 1957.   With the Transport Sports on 25th June, it looked like a good month.   The West District championships were held on two nights – Tuesday 4th and Thursday 6th June.  The Mile was one of the first events to be decided and Graham Everett won Hendry (also Shettleston) and WJ More (Kilmarnock).   The 440 hurdles were won by Hunter of Jordanhill and the 440 by J McIsaac (VPAAC) from Boyd and Paterson of Glasgow University.   Robertson of Glasgow University won the 100 yards from Dunbar of Victoria Park but the most exciting race of the night was the Six Miles.   Andy Brown (Motherwell) with 30:29 won from Ian Binnie (VPAAC) and Bobby Calderwood (VPAAC).    Came the Thursday session and the main actors were Robertson who ‘did the double’ by winning the 220 yards, and Brown who did his own double by winning the three miles, winning in 14:18.3.   Fraser of Bellahouston won the 880 yards from Boyd (GUAC) and More (Kilmarnock) in 1:55.8.

JV Paterson

For many of the athletics watching public, a good hard fought half mile race is the most exciting thing in any track contest.   A mix of speed, skill and stamina, not forgetting the elbows on the bends, it can be a wonderful spectacle.  In the Transport Sports at the end of the month the most talked of event was just that event.

“HALF MILE DUEL IN GLASGOW

Transport Sports

JV Paterson (Edinburgh University), holder of the Scottish 440 and 880 yards titles, and GE Everett (Shettleston Harriers), holder of the national one mile title, were the chief rivals in a special 880 yards invitation race last night at the Glasgow Transport sports.   Paterson won the event in the splendid time of 1:52.4  – 0.7 sec better than the time he returned in winning his half mile title last Saturday at New Meadowbank, Edinburgh.   Paterson won by two yards.   Everett returning his best personal time of 1:52.7 for the distance.”     

The other winning track times:

100 yards: J Young, Springburn (3 1/2)  9.9 sec ;  220 yards: AG Watson, GUAC, (6 yards) 21 sec;

880 yards:  WJ More, Kilmarnock (22)  1:54.2;  Mile:  RH Smith, Victoria Park (125 yards) 4:08.9;

Two Miles:  Individual  L Hendry (Shettleston) 9:18.8; Team Bellahouston Harriers.

 Graham Everett

Everett enjoyed the half-mile in 1957 so much that he was back, running the same event – invitation, short handicap, special 880 yards – from scratch in 1958.   In the absence of Paterson his rival on the scratch mark was Donnie McDonald of Garscube, a fine quarter and half miler who was the Scottish champion at the latter distance.   Coming through the quarter in 55.3 Everett set a new personal best of 1:51,6.   There were many whose names would become familiar to the point of being household names competing that night – Crawford Fairbrother won the high jump with a clearance of 6′ 5 1/2″, with Alan Houston (both VPAAC) second with a jump of 6′  3 1/2″.   Ian Harris of Beith (international cross country runner who would go on to win the SAAA Marathon title. won the mile and Joe Connolly of Bellahouston won the two miles in 9:10.0.   

The following year’s report was brief and didn’t really report on the events at all.   It read, in its entirety, as follows:  “R Whitelock (Victoria Park), the Scottish 100 yards champion, broke his collar bone when he fell at the finish of the 100 yards handicap at the Glasgow Transport sports last night.   Whiteloock running from scratch stumbled in his finishing burst with which he took second place in 9.8 seconds.     The team contest was won by Victoria Park with 13 points.”

Mike Ryan of St Modan’s a future world class marathon runner, won the mile in 4:08 and Andy Brown of Motherwell YMCA won the two miles in 9:03.8.  

The track and the meeting progressed through the 1960’s and into the 1970’s there was certainly a meeting held in 1971..  If it were so popular, why did it go?   There were at least three reasons that come to mind:

First the meeting was typical of many that had drawn massive crowds and top athletics talent alike to tracks around Glasgow in the 1950’s – Rangers Sports, Glasgow Police Sports, and so on.   Many had already gone.   The Rangers Sports had ceased to be in 1962, and maybe events like that put on at Helenvale had outlived their time.

Second, the Commonwealth Games had come to Scotland in 1970 and did wonderful things for the sport: it certainly raised the profile of the sport and provided the youngsters as well as the ordinary club athletes with role models and exemplars in whose footsteps to follow.   Although three of the athletes selected for the Commonwealth Games in 1970 competed and won there (Les Piggott, Mike McLean and Lachie Stewart) in Games year, it’s days were numbered.

Third, Helenvale (and that’s what this is supposed to be about, was a good cinder track .   There had been an allweather track at Grangemouth since the mid 1960’s, Coatbridge was not far behind, Meadowbank had its new state of the art track by 1969 – and Glasgow lagged behind.   There were newspaper articles backed up by comments from international athletes about the lack of any all-weather track in Glasgow.   Scotstoun and Westerlands which were used for championships and international meetings were still cinder.   The athletes were looking for other surfaces to run on.

For all these reasons, Helenvale stopped holding their popular meetings and eventually the ground was used for other things by the city.  At one point in the 1980’s Eddie Taylor, when he was Scottish Staff Coach for multi-events, thought he could use it as a kind of centre of excellence for the various disciplines but nothing came of that.  However, we have not yet looked at the pre-war period of which James Logan had such memories – we will have to go there.

The available coverage of the sports between 1925 and 1939 is available  here

 

 

 

 

Alastair Shaw’s Pictures

There are pages of Alastair’s photographs on www.anentscottishrunning.com but we have recently received some more from the 1970’s and 80’s which are reproduced here with some of his comments where they are appropriate.   

SWAAA, Grangemouth, 1983

 

Madge Carruthers with the flags

 

Netta Sinclair and Betty Steedman

Alastair says: Former 400mH Internationalist Sarah Booth lounging about in her boater whilst Hilda Everett and Isobel Robertson have a natter.

The next group is from the Dundee BA Games in 1984,

Chris Black with, maybe, Lawrie Nisbet

Gus McCuaig, National Coach Dave Lease bottom left and , maybe, Mike Smith, coach of Roger Black, Kris Akabusi, Todd Bennett, etc, behind Gus

Drew McMaster

Pat Rollo

Carol Sharp and Yvonne Murray

Sandra Whittaker

Eddie Taylor and Iain Robertson

Next up are several from Scotstoun with Moira Walls in the high jump –

Note the landing area …  

Alastair says:  The slide is marked as being Moira. I seem to recall she started out using the Western Roll before the Fosbury Flop came into fashion. A good example of how basic high jump landing areas used to be. From the clipboard in the hand of the man to the left I guess it was a competition, possibly a pentathlon as there is another photo of the shot which, whilst not marked as Moira Walls, is someone of her build in the same Western colours.

 

Still Scotstoun – maybe Moira putting the shot.

July 1984, HFC Trust Games: John Robson and Steve Ovett

Same Meeting: Fatima Whitbread and Diane Royale


1977  Scotstoun: Alastair says:   This  one features Evelyn Smith, Connie Methven, Christine McMeekin and Alan Rough. Behind Evelyn in Tom Dunkeld.   

I took this one but I can’t recall the specific event which may have been a fundraiser. However you may remember Connie Methven put forward a proposal in the late 1970’s for Glasgow to host the Olympic/ Commonwealth Games and I think it may be related to that. This would square with Christine wearing the GB tracksuit as she ran at the Montreal Games. Alan would have been at the peak of his career at the time if we’re talking 1976/77

 

 

Inter-University Sports: 1871 – 73

The Glasgow University grounds at Gilmorehill

The Inter-University Sports began in March, 1871.   The Scotsman of 25th March which tells us that the event took place on Saturday, 18th March, 1871.  The report in the Scotsman of two days later, read as follows (under the heading of ‘Gymnastics’).

The first annual Scottish Inter-University Sports came off on Saturday with gratifying success at the Academical Club’s grounds at Raeburn Place.   An Inter-University gathering for Scotland similar to that which is annually held for the students of Oxford and Cambridge was attempted to be got up last year but owing to some misunderstanding on the part of the Aberdeen students committee, the arrangements fell through.   Early in the present year, overtures were made by representatives from Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews for a trial of athletic supremacy, and the result of the negotiations was the highly satisfactory celebration of sport on Saturday, which, it may now be anticipated, will be an annual affair.   The weather, tat most important element in the success of outdoor sports, was fair and mild, and the cricket ground was visited by several thousand ladies and gentlemen.   The scene was gay and animated and the pleasure of the visitors was enhanced by the performance of the band of the 13th Hussars.   The programme was similar to that carried out at the anniversary of the great English Universities – the chief items being a 100 yards, quarter mile, mile and two miles races, jumping, putting the cannon-ball and throwing the hammer.   The members of each university were easily distinguished by the coloured badges.  The arrangements were  however, but indifferent and the sports were protracted beyond measure.   Edinburgh University at the close showed well in front  –  the lion’s share of the prizes falling to the students of the metropolitan college.”

 “The first event was throwing the cricket ball, and Le Mesurier, Edinburgh, distanced his opponents – winning the prize with a throw of 100 yards 2 inches.   Then came the sprint race.   In the first heat, Rayner (E) took the lead of Guerard (St A) and Sands (St A) and  retaining it to the tape, won by a yard.   Cathcart jumped off from score with an advantage in the second heat, and secured victory after a capital struggle from Hill (St A) and McCausland (G) by a yard and a half.   Butler (St A) walked over for the third heat – his two opponents not putting in an appearance.   In the final, Rayner, who started next to the ropes, pressed his two opponents to the left in a manner which would have been decided a foul in any running track, came in first a foot in front of Cathcart, but so far had all three run out of their lines that they were without the tape, and the judges ordered the race to be run over again as neither of the competitors had breasted the tape!  On another attempt Rayner and Cathcart ran a dead heat and the judges awarded a medal to each.   The Mile race, for which there were nine competitors excited considerable interest.   Mapleton, the winner at the trial sports, was favourite.   At the pistol shot, Towers Clark (G) made the running at a tremendous pace the third of a mile and led by 30 yards, when Hunter (St A) went up to the front and held a lead of 10 yards, Mapleton and Kinloch being in the ruck.  The two last named shot out and joined Hunter in running up the back stretch.   In the last lap, Mapleton, Kinloch and Hunter ran a tremendous race to the south path where Kinloch gave Hunter the go-by – Mapleton who had been too late in putting the steam on and had therefore a deal of ground to make up, struggling after them.   Entering the straight, Kinloch had a lead of five yards and he won by three and a half yards.   A splendid struggle for second honours went on between Hunter and Mapleton – the latter being beaten by only 18 inches. Hitherto all the honours had gone to Edinburgh but in putting the weight, St Andrews got a turn, the victor being Lundie who putted the cannon ball 41 feet.   For the quarter Mile there was a very good struggle although the event was never really in doubt for Rayner who led all the way and won by 20 yards.   Macfarlane (E) won the wide jump very easily – neither of his opponents reaching his first jump.   The hurdle race was an exciting event.   Marshall walked over for the first heat, and in the second Macfarlane got beat contrary to expectations by Bairnsfather (St A) by a foot.   R McFarlane (G) fell.   We believe Macfarlane was put back a foot for a false start.   Spence (E) fell in the third heat and Greathead won.   The final after a great race proved a dead heat between Marshall and Bairnsfather.   The two mile race was another turnup – Hunter (St A) being looked upon as the best at that distance.   Fisher (St A) , AI McCrae and Richardson (in the order named) ran the first lap when Richardson went to the front. Hunter last of all.   All of them dropped out by the fifth round except Richardson, McCrae and Hunter and the former won by 40 yards, Hunter 6 yards behind McCrae.   

It may be mentioned that the winner of the mile, Kinloch, has secured good honours at Cambridge on the ash and ran for Hutchinson, who won the right to contest the Mile in the trial sports a fortnight ago.   He thought before the race that his chance was so hopeless that we believe he offered to make the pace for the favourite Mapleton.   Rayner, the winner of the quarter mile and of the victors in the 100 yards, is the best amateur that the University has produced since Dr C Bauchope’s day.   Hunter and Guerard who made such a good appearance for St Andrews in the mile and quarter mile respectively, would have given a much better account of themselves had they run in spiked shoes and got such a training as the Edinburgh men received.   Mr T Callaghan, manager of Powderhall grounds,  acted as starter with the pistol.   The judges were Professor Cowan, Glasgow, and Professor Heddle, St Andrews.”

It was a good detailed report which has been reprinted in its entirety (apart from the list of results which can be consulted at the newspaper) for two reasons.   First it was the ‘first annual’ meeting and should be available; and second, for what the detail of the report tells us about the sport of the day and the roots of modern athletics.

The very successful Edinburgh team had clearly taken the event very seriously and had held a full on trial on 4th March in the Merchiston School grounds where “Those capable of judging considered the performances no proper criterion of the merits of the competitors, who were placed at a great disadvantage in contending on so unsuitable ground and it really is a pity that this, the most important club in Scotland, does not celebrate their sports on a proper enclosed ground.”   The lamentations continued, but the events produced most of those who won the competition twp weeks later: Le Mesurier won the cricket ball, Mapleton the Mile, McFarlane the Long Leap (called the wide jump in the inter universities), Cathcart and Urquhart equal in the 100 yards, Urquhart the quarter mile, McFarlane the hurdle race, Mapleton and Richardson were 1-2 in the two miles, and Sievewright the high leap.   

The Glasgow Herald report of the same date was quite critical of the home team.   Note the following extract.

“Edinburgh carried off eight prizes, St Andrews three; but unfortunately Glasgow did not secure one.   The Glasgow competitors showed a great want of training, but, no doubt, their ill-luck on this occasion will incite them to great efforts so that they may be better prepared for the Sports of 1872.   The prizes, which consisted of handsome medals, were presented to the successful men by the judges.”

University of Glasgow

A pre-script, as opposed to a post-script, of the championships appeared in the form of this item in the ‘Scotsman’ of 18th March, 1872.   

“ATHLETICS

Glasgow University Trial Sports.   These preliminary trials in connection with the Inter-University Sports, came off on the University field at Gilmorehill on Saturday, but they were considered private, and therefore do not call for particular comment.”

They must have had an inch of space on the page that day, but the message was clear: Glasgow University was taking this year’s championships more seriously than last year’s.   It was after all a home fixture, and they had been roundly criticised for their performance.   The sports were held the following Saturday and the report read:

The Scottish Inter-University Sports took place on Saturday at Burnbank Cricket Ground, Glasgow.   With the rising popularity of athletics in schools and colleges, an annual competition between the members of the Scottish Universities , similar to that yearly held between the two great Universities of England, was desiderated, both on account of the good fellowship and feelings such meetings would promote between the students of the four national Universities, and the spirit of friendly emulation which they would excite.   Accordingly three years ago an effort was made to arrange an inter-University gala at Perth, but owing to some misunderstanding with the Aberdeen representatives, the meeting did not take place.   Aberdeen still held back last year, but Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews went heartily into the proposal and a highly satisfactory meeting took place in Edinburgh in March last.   This year the Aberdonians joined issue with the Southern Universities and the meeting on Saturday was thoroughly representative and national.   The cricket ground at Burnbank is scarcely a suitable place for an athletics gathering , the turf being indifferent and the “going” bad.  This drawback to the entire success of the sports was increased by the inauspicious nature of the weather Snow hail and sleet fell at short intervals throughout the day, and a piercingly cold wind prevailed.   The spectators, as might be supposed, were few in number and although the band of the 90th Regiment did all that they could by their excellent performances to enliven the proceedings, enthusiasm did not run high nor was the assemblage ever particularly gay.   Last year Edinburgh came in for the lion’s share of the honours and the Glasgow men were unable to gain even one prize; but the students in St Mungo seem to have made good use of the gymnasium at the new University at Gilmorehill, which, by the way, is said to be the best appointed north of Liverpool, as they carried off on Saturday a fair share of the awards.    

The sports commenced with throwing the cricket ball and JM Cotterill. Edinburgh, secured the medal for a throw of 110 ½ yards, Le Mesurier being second with a throw of 108 yards 10 inches.   The last named gentleman was first last year with a throw of 100 yards 2 inches, so that the work of Saturday showed a considerable improvement.  The sprint race was run in two Heats – the first of which was won by Johnston, Glasgow, who made all the running and won by a yard from Williamson, Aberdeen, and Calverly, Edinburgh, who ran for Macfarlane who wished to reserve himself for the quarter mile.   In the second Heat, J Neill, Edinburgh, won rather easily from R Thomson, Glasgow; but in the final Thomson reversed positions and beat Neill.   Thomson got a yard the best of the start and he and Neill soon drew out from the other pair.   Neill at half distance soon drew alongside Thomson and seemed to have the race in hand, but the latter stuck to his work like a game-cock, would not be shaken off, and making a good spurt at the finish, landed the best event of the day by six inches.    After the first round of putting the ball it was easily observable that only Lundie, St Andrews, and Forsyth, Edinburgh, were in it, and the former eventually won easily, the distance being 32 feet 6 ½  inches to Forsyth’s 32 feet 1 inch, although Lundie could easily have thrown another 9 feet: last year he won the medal by a throw of 41 feet. The quarter mile was a somewhat hollow affair as Macfarlane, Edinburgh, had the race in hand from end to end.   The wide jump was secured by D McKinnon, Glasgow, the distance covered being 17 feet 2 ½ inches.   This performance of the Edinburgh representative was disappointing, and he must have been out of practice as at the Inter-Universities Sports last year he carried off the medal with a jump of 19 feet 9 inches and he has more than once cleared 21 feet.   The Mile was another rather indifferent event and possessed none of the interest as that of last year.   Mapleton who broke down in this event in 1871 when favourite and only finished third, drew out from the start, attended by Dick, St Andrews, and Richardson, Edinburgh.   The latter gentleman had evidently not been in training, and he cut it, and the favourite came in as winner, Dick second, Richardson third.   Brown Edinburgh, and Brownlow, Glasgow, tied for the high jump at 5 feet ½ inch, but the rising ground was bad or the result might have been different, as the former secured the medal in 1871 with a jump 7 inches higher.   Macfarlane won the hurdles race with great ease.  Lundie and Forsyth out distanced their opponents at throwing the hammer at the outset, but Lundie had not such an easy victory over the Edinburgh representative as in putting the ball, for after an exciting contest he only beat Forsyth by 11 inches – the distance being – Lundie 73 feet 11 inches, Forsyth 73 feet.   The Mile Walk created some fun and Councell, Aberdeen, – a very smart walker – would have won but, thinking he had completed the Mile, he stopped short a lap and Forsyth won.   The judges were Professor MacLeod and Mr JJ Reid, Glasgow, and the start was Captain Glascott, 32nd Regiment.”

University of St Andrews

On 15th April, 1873 it was the turn of St Andrews to host the championship and ‘the sports took place in a field close to the town, and being of a sandy soil. was well adapted for the purpose.‘   The difference this time round was that the University of Aberdeen took part in the event.   Well, one athlete represented the northernmost university but we can come back to that.   There were eleven events and the result was another victory for Edinburgh.   They had six first and five second prizes, St Andrews had two firsts and two seconds, Glasgow had two firsts and two seconds and Aberdeen had one first and one  second.   There was the repeated assertion that the meeting was not well run: “No one seemed to know how to manage a meeting of this kind except perhaps Professor Heddle, who acted as Judge and worked most zealously to keep things moving.”   

There was however a  genuine organisational matter which arose early in the afternoon:  “Aberdeen was only represented by Mr G Cran, her most favourable entrant, J McCombie Smith, although attending the College daily, having been objected to on the ground that he had at one time or another taken part in public or professional meetings.   Rather a hard law, certainly, and one that will doubtless cause a deal of discussion in athletic circles.”   

Many of the winners were recognisable from the previous meetings: Cotterill (E) won the cricket ball, Thomson (G) the 100 yards, Dick (St A) won the half mile, Cran (A) the High Leap, Montgomery (E) won putting the 22lb stone and the hammer, Cathcart (E) the quarter mile, Brunton (G) the Long Jump, McFarlane (E) the hurdles, Mile Lord (E) and vaulting with the pole was a tie between TC Hope (G) and P Anton (St A).   There was one strangely named new event.   It was the  “Hop, Step (or Two Hops) and Jump” and was won by HL Dick of St Andrews.   

The Glasgow University facility at Gilmorehill

On the Tuesday after the Sports, the following letter appeared in The Scotsman.

Scottish Inter University sports

Aberdeen, March 17th, 1873

Sir – In connection with the so-called “Scottish Inter-University Sports” at St Andrews on Saturday last, I hope you will allow me to make a few remarks as to the justness of the acting committee’s decision in debarring me from competing.  

Until Saturday last these sports were believed by most students, and by the public at large in Scotland, to be open to all regularly matriculated students of the Scottish Universities.   Being a regularly matriculated student of Aberdeen University, I was therefore considerably surprised when a member of the Edinburgh University Athletic Club told me that if I had ever run with a professional I could not be allowed to compete.   Now if this decision had come b y a majority of the students attending the Scottish Universities, I would have let the matter rest, but having good reason to that I was disqualified by a number of interested individuals, intrusted with power to disqualify whom they pleased, I protest against their decision, and I hope that in future these sports will be open to all regularly matriculated students of the Scottish Universities, and that next year, when the Edinburgh men come to Aberdeen, they will not have it in their power to disqualify anyone whom they are afraid to meet in straightforward, honourable trial.

In conclusion, lest the Edinburgh University athletes should be too elated with their victories of Saturday last, I have great pleasure in acquainting them with the following facts:- 1st, that I am a regularly matriculated student of a Scottish University; 2d That I am prepared to prove my ability to win 6 out of the 11 events forming the programme of the “Scottish Inter-University Sports”  from any student of the four Scottish Universities, and am therefore, the Champion University Athlete of Scotland.

William McCombie Smith.

On the Wednesday came the reply:

Edinburgh, March 19th, 1873

Sir –

In reply to Mr McCombie Smith’s letter in today’s Scotsman, as the member of the Edinburgh University Athletic Club alluded to by him, and as Hon. Sec. of the EUAC, I hope you will allow me to place the true state of the case before the Public.   Although the Scottish Inter-University Sports are open to members of the four Scottish Universities, they are only open to such members as are amateurs, and anyone acquainted with Athletic matters will know that if Amateur should compete in any race open to Professionals he is thereby liable to be disqualified from competing in any future Amateur competition.   Now on the ground on Saturday I asked Mr McCombie Smith not merely if he had competed with Professionals, but if he had competed in any races open to Professionals, and I distinctly understood him to say that he had done so.   I did this, not on my responsibility, but as one of the Inter-University Committee appointed at Perth at the preliminary meeting in February, “with full power to disqualify if necessary.”   Notice of this meeting was sent to members of Aberdeen University, but they did not think it necessary to send any representatives, so they had no representative on the Inter-University Committee.   

None of the Inter-University Committee had any interested motive, as Mr McCombie Smith seems to think, but merely fulfilled the function they were appointed for; and it was not only the members of Edinburgh University, but those of Glasgow and St Andrews who objected to Mr McCombie Smithy taking part in the sports on Saturday.

Mr McCombie Smith was informed by the Secretary of St Andrews University Athletic Club two or three days previous to the Sports, that if he had ever competed in professional races, he would not be allowed to compete.   Of course, any University might matriculate a professional, and thus have a “regularly matriculated student” to compete for them.

It is not probable that any athlete of any of the four Scottish Universities will condescend to dispute Mr McCombie Smith’s ‘modest’ assertion and claim  contained in the last paragraph of his letter; but if he can satisfactorily prove that he has not competed in any open professional races, he will have an opportunity next year of  “proving his ability” as an amateur athlete “in a straightforward, honourable trial” at the Scottish Inter-University Sports.

I am, yours, etc,

Charles W Cathcart, Hon. Sec., EUAC

At this point it would be interesting to see the appropriate Club and Committee Minutes to see where the dispute went.   However, whatever the subsequent comings and goings, this was to be the last Inter-University Sports until 1899 when they would be revived with a match at King’s College Aberdeen.

Incidentally, as a footnote, there were several books published in the 1890’s by a William McCombie Smith (“The Romance of Poaching in the Highlands” was one).   Given the timescale (eg the book mentioned was dated 1893) It could have been the same chap.)   Since writing the above, Jack Davidson told us that McCombie Smith was Donald Dinnie’s brother-in-law and wrote a book on the highland games.   He was indeed a good all-rounder who became a headmaster.

Craiglockhart

Craiglockhart Pavilion

Craiglockhart has been synonymous with Edinburgh University track and field athletics from before the start of the 20th century right up to 1969 and has seen many wonderful performances from athletes in all disciplines, not just from the home club but universities and club teams too.

However like the Universities of Glasgow and Aberdeen, Edinburgh University did not start out with the venue that was to become its permanent home.   I quote from the Edinburgh University Athletic Club history in the chapter on Origins and Growth: “A University Athletic Club without a sports field and pavilion is a contradiction in terms and strenuous efforts were made by the University Athletic Club to obtain a field in Edinburgh.   These efforts were unsuccessful, but an important step forward was taken in 1873 when Dr CW Cathcart, one of the most devoted members the Athletic Club has ever had, with TM Burn-Murdoch and some other Committee Members secured the lease of a level field at Corstorphine, near the railway station.   Money was raised with the aid of a Bazaar at which the exhibition and performance of a phonograph was a great novelty.   For the next 20 years Corstorphine was to be the hub of the Athletic Club activities.   The field was acquired by the University in 1876.”  

The opening of the Clock Tower at Craiglockhart

Alistair Blamire has this to say of the fields in his excellent book ‘The Green Machine, the story of EU H&H 1960-1970″:  The Edinburgh University playing fields at Craiglockhart were on land owned by the Edinburgh Merchant Company, who administer the nearby George Watson’s College and several other fee paying schools in the country.   The walled and tree-lined grounds had the benefit of an iconic Victorian timber pavilion consisting of changing rooms and spectator facilities and a clock tower which added significantly to the atmosphere for athletics meetings and rugby matches. ” 

There had been some controversy at the sports of 1873, held at St Andrews, when Aberdeen’s top runner was not allowed to compete because he had been running with professionals.   This may have had nothing at all to do with the fact that they were in abeyance from then until 1899 when they were held again at King’s College Grounds in Aberdeen. and came to Craiglockhart the following year on 16th June, 1900.   The report on the meeting in the ‘Scotsman’ the following Monday began:  

“At Craiglockhart on Saturday, in magnificent weather, and before a large and fashionable attendance, the representatives of the three great Scottish Universities – Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen – met to decide which University was entitled to claim for the present season the Scottish championship.   Last year these sports, which had then been revived and having been in abeyance for a long period, were held at Aberdeen, and Edinburgh on that occasion won with 11 points to Glasgow’s 8 1/2 and Aberdeen’s 7 1/2.   On Saturday it was anticipated that with an athlete of the calibre of WH Welsh among her representatives the Metropolitan University would have little difficulty in retaining the championship, and this anticipation was fully borne out by the result.   The items for competition were throwing the hammer, putting the weight, long leap, high jump, mile, quarter-mile, 220 yards, 100 yards, 120 yards hurdles.   Two Entrants from each university to compete.”

Its first major competition proved a success in terms of the standard of competition, smooth running organisation, spectator interest, and the weather helped too.    

The event was held at the same venue in 1903 but the 1906 version was special in that it marked the return to the championships of St Andrews University who had not been involved since the restart in 1899.   There was no mention of this in the short coverage in the Scotsman of 18th June, 1906 which simply said “The annual encounter between the athletes of the  Scottish Universities took place at Craiglockhart, Edinburgh, on Saturday under miserable weather conditions.   Rain fell all the time and the attendance in consequence was small,   Judged by times and distances the performances were poor, but the sodden track, a stiff head wind in some of the races, and the bad take-off in the jumps were all adverse factors.”   There were two Scottish champions in attendance who did not compete in all the events in which they were entered – JP Stark and WH Welsh.   The result was an overwhelming win for the Edinburgh team with 40 points to Aberdeen’s 14 1/2 pts, Glasgow’s 13 and St Andrews 2 1/2 pts.   They were held there again in 1910 before the 1914/18 war started in 1914.

After the War there was no doubt about the University’s top athlete – Eric H Liddell is one of Scotland’s best athletes ever.   Known for the exploits publicised through the film ‘Chariots of Fire’ he set records and won titles all over the British Isles as well as winning two Olympic medals.   Several of his best races were at Craiglockhart and he even set Scottish records there.   He ran his first 440 yards at Craiglockhart on 5th May, 1922, in the University Sports and won in 52.6 seconds.   A year later at the EUAC Sports he won the 220 yards on a straight grass track in 21.8 seconds.      Later that year in the Inter-University championships at Craiglockhart, he won the 100, the 220 and the 440 yards in 10.1, 21.6 and 50.2 seconds.   They were all meeting records and the 220, on the straight track, was a Scottish record which stood until 1960.    At this point it might be appropriate to comment on the track on which so many talented athletes trained and raced.  The  quarter mile track at Craiglockhart was not completely level. From the start one ran up a slight incline for around 100 yards.  There was the compensation of being able to run down a slight incline for 100 yards or so round the second bend of the track. 

  A former member of the Edinburgh University Athletic Club said:    ”  There was a straight 220 yards at Craiglockhart.   I remember it clearly but cannot be certain that it was ever used on any of the occasions when I was competing at the ground.   The start was near the pavilion.   Sitting on the seats at the front of the pavilion, the straight headed off to the right somewhat.  There was not the slightest possibility, in my opinion, that there was a slope which gave the runners any advantage.   There would be, however, the possibility of competitors being aided by a following wind.”   And Alistair Blamire in his book ‘The Green Machine’ makes a reference to the track when he says that Fergus Murray ran a 4:21.4 mile on the undulating grass track laid out on the playing fields at Craiglockhart.”  Final verdict from a former runnerI do not believe, however, that the lack of a completely level track slowed us down significantly.

A British international middle and long distance runner said that if he could find a good grass track he would never train anywhere else.   The track and grounds of Craiglockhart might have had no little part in the making of the many top quality international athletes who trained there.    

Other Edinburgh athletes in the late ‘teens and twenties were Hugh Maingay (middle distance runner),and Willie Hunter (long and high jumper).  Maingay was one of the founders of the Atalanta Club which represented the four ‘ancient’ universities and continued as a competitive unit until the mid 1960’s.    Although the SAAA championships alternated between Glasgow and Edinburgh at this time, it was only held at Craiglockhart once, in 1928, when Maingay won from Donald McLean of Maryhill in 2:01.4.

We can’t cover all of the Edinburgh University athletes of the Inter War years but one who must be singled out was Morris Carstairs – a top class endurance runner in the 1930’s whose running career terminated with the War and who became a highly respected psychiatrist and President of the World Mental Health Association after the hostilities ceased.   He was the Scottish 3 miles champion in 1937, 1938 and 1939. He represented Scotland at the 1937 International University Games, winning a silver medal in the 5000 metres in a time of 15:24.2. He also represented Scotland at the 1939 International University Games, winning a gold medal in the 5000 metres in a time of 15:20.2.   He represented Great Britain at the 1938 European Athletics Championships, coming sixth in the 5000 metres with a time of 14:51.3.

The first Inter-Universities Championship after the War was at Craiglockhart and was on 2nd June, 1950.   Edinburgh, having won the championship in the previous eight years were defending champions.   The main part of the report in The Scotsman the following Monday read:   “Not only were previous best performances for this meeting surpassed, but Scottish all-comers records went by the board as well in the hop, step and jump, which was won by WM Laing (St Andrews) and the long jump by SO Williams (Glasgow).   Both are from the Gold Coast.   Laing, who is hardly as well built as his Glasgow compatriot, had the magnificent jump of 48′ 5 3/4″.   He twice jumped clean out of the pit which had to be extended  for his benefit.   In his special event, Williams  who gets in a fine kick to give him extra distance in the air , did 24′ 1 1/2″ in an effort which entitles him to inclusion among the great experts in the art.   He also won the high jump which JL Hunter (Edinburgh) did not get as high as 6′ which he did when opposed by Williams in Glasgow the other week.   The other five inter-universities records which were beaten were in the half mile, in which not only T Begg improved his best but his Glasgow second string,  H Hatrick, also beat the record; the 440 yards hurdles in which DA Stewart (Edinburgh) ran splendidly to defeat the Scottish champion, RA Boyd; and the discus and the hammer and the relay, in which Glasgow again beta Edinburgh in a thrilling contest.   Another fine performance was that of DK Gracie (Glasgow) who just failed to break the late Eric Liddell’s quarter mile record of 50.2 seconds though he had the well-earned distinction of equalling it.”

JL Hunter, Edinburgh University

The 50’s was a great time for the Edinburgh University Athletic Club with many outstanding athletes,  Craiglockhart was the home of these champions.  The period will be looked at slightly more closely because of that.  Among the athletes of the time were JV Paterson over 440 and 880 yards, the wonderful Adrian Jackson and his distance running friend Hunter Watson in the Mile and Three who were an almost unbeatable combination with Watson taking the pace out in the Mile for the first three laps before Jackson edged past to win; CAR Dennis in the sprints and hurdles; the women produced a series of good athletes such as C Clephane sprinter, and W Bowden.   The University Championships were held annually at Craiglockhart and usually at the end of May, there were other annual fixtures such as the match with Glasgow University for the Appleton Trophy which was at Craiglockhart every second year, and the Inter-Universities was held there every four years (at this point it was 1950, 1954, 1958, 1962 etc).   The grass track there was always kept in good condition.   Unfortunately because there was no track of cinder or blaes it was not used for championships at District or National level.   It was good enough however for the athletics training of the Edinburgh students to win the Universities championship for the 25th time in 1952 at St Andrews.   

It was difficult to read of any Edinburgh University competition at this time without the name of CAR Dennis leaping out at the reader.   In 1953 he won both hurdles races in the Universities championships, and took the sprint hurdles the following year. Clive Dennis was an Edinburgh University Student who was SAAA champion for the 120 yards hurdles for three consecutive years – 1953, ’54 and ’55 and SAAA  champion for the 440 yards hurdles in 1955.   Hunter Watson adds that for the subsequent eight years the 440 yards title was won by athletes who were or had been Edinburgh students, namely Alex Hannah and Bob Hay.   The 1954 championships were held at Craiglockhart  on 5th June 1954 and  Dennis, club captain that year,  set a new championship record of 15.5 seconds for the 120 yards hurdles.   D.W.R. (Ross) Mackenzie went one better by setting a new native record for the javelin: 198 ft 1 in.   Hunter adds that “ Clive had considerable talent at throwing the discus as well as for hurdling. At the Edinburgh University trials on 23 April 1955 he not only won the 120 yards hurdles in 16.8 secs and the 440 yards hurdles in 61 secs, but also won the discus with a throw of 110 ft 10 1/2 ins. One week later, on 30 April 1955 in a match against St Andrews University, Clive won the 120 yards hurdles (16.1 sec), the 440 yards hurdles (56.7 sec) and the discus (120 ft 10 3/4 ins). A useful person to have in a team. Edinburgh won 15 of the 17 events. At that time Dennis was captain of the Edinburgh University Athletic Club and almost certainly remained in the position until at least 1957, in which year he phoned me at home in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade me to travel to Aberdeen in order to represent Edinburgh in the Scottish Universities Championships: unsuccessful because my Finals took precedence.    At the Scottish Universities Championships held at Westerlands on 4 June 1955, Clive again did the treble: 120 yards hurdles (a record equalling 15.5 sec), 440 yard hurdles (59.5 sec) and discus (109 ft 1 1/2 ins). Edinburgh again came out top.”

The 1955 Universities season began with the annual  match against Glasgow University at Craiglockhart which Edinburgh won by 68 to 50 (their second team also won at Westerlands by 48 to 40, just emphasising the strength of the EUAC team.   The report in the Glasgow Herald read: “CAR Dennis (Edinburgh) won three events in an athletics match between Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities at Craiglockhart on Saturday.  Dennis won the 120 yards hurdles, the 440 yards hurdles and the discus. I Stuart (Glasgow) an inter-universities champion, clocked 1 min 55.4 sec in winning the half-mile – probably the fastest time for the distance recorded at the ground.   HM Murray (Edinburgh ) established a University record for the hop, step and jump with 45′ 4 1/2″.   Miss W Bowden (Edinburgh) won four of the women’s events – 100 yards, 220 yards, 550 yards and 80 metres hurdles.”

There were several other good performances from both teams – for Edinburgh JV Paterson won the 440 yards in 50.3,   Adrian Jackson won the Mile in 4:22 and DWR MacKenzie won the javelin; while for Glasgow G Robertson won the 100 yards and the 220 yards, J Finlayson won the Three Miles, W Little won the high jump, R Akpatu won the long jump C Orr won the pole vault.   On the women’s side, Bowden was the outstanding athlete with R Charters, also Edinburgh, winning discus and shot.   A few short weeks later at their own championships,, top man was DWR McKenzie who set a new Scottish native record for the javelin of 204′ 11″ .   On the track JV Paterson set a record in the half-mile of 1:57.8.   CAR Dennis had four wins this time – 220 yards, both hurdles races and the discus andAdrian Jackson won the Three Miles in 14:58.9.   

In the Inter Universities in June, Edinburgh won the team contest with 87 points to Glasgow’s 70 with Dennis winning three events (both hurdles races and the discus), JV Paterson won the 440 yards and Adrian Jackson the Mile and Three Miles.  

CAR Dennis, JV Paterson, A Hannah and WH Watson

(Taken after winning a medley relay at Berwick upon Tweed where Watson was required to run one of the 220 yard stretches)

After defeating Glasgow at the start of 1956 for the Appleton Trophy, Edinburgh took on the might of Victoria Park, at that time riding high all athletic departments, at  Craiglockhart.    The close contest was won by Edinburgh with 60 points to Victoria Park’s 58 over 17 events.   The Empire Games champion Ken Wilmshurst from England won three events (long jump, hop, step and jump, 120y hurdles) for Victoria Park while he was in Scotland for five weeks for business.   Otherwise doubles were scored by JV Paterson (quarter and half miles), W McNeish of VPAAC won shot and discus.   There were very good performances all round by some excellent athletes,  eg. Ronnie Whitelock (V) won the 100y, WH Watson (E) won the mile, Ian Binnie had a brilliant run in the Three Miles which he won in 13:58.9, the third fastest of his career, and W Piper (V) won the high jump with 6′ 1″.   It had been a good contest between Scotland’s two strongest track and field teams.   

In the Scottish Universities championships at St Andrews on 2nd June, three Edinburgh students had double victories – JV Paterson won the 440 in 51.1 from CAR Dennis,  and 880 in 1:58.7′;  WH Watson won the Mile in 4:34.3 and Three Miles in 16:04.3; and A Hannah won both hurdles races in 15.3 and 58.2.   

In 1956 JV Paterson defeated Adrian Jackson in the Half Mile in 1:57.3

Incidentally, a look at the above picture shows just how popular athletics, including university athletics, was as a sport in the 1950’s.   

The EUAC championships on 19th May, 1956, featured all three of the club’s top middle distance runners.   JV Paterson won the quarter mile before taking on Adrian Jackson in the half mile.   Hunter Watson tells us that as far as he knew Jackson had never run a half mile before that date, nor did he win one thereafter.   However that may be, he pushed JV Paterson to a new meeting record of 1:57.3.   Watson himself won the Mile in 4:19.0 which was also a meeting record.   This time beat the existing record set by Morris Carstairs in 1939 by no less than 3.3 seconds.   A very close call but the trophy for the best performance of the meeting went to Paterson.

On 4th May 1957 it was Appleton Trophy time in Edinburgh again and the report was that the best double of the match was JV Paterson’s 440 in 50.4 and 880 in 1:55.8.   Hannah won the 440 yards hurdles and Watson the Mile in 4:23.4.   

On 1st June at King’s College, Aberdeen, Edinburgh won the inter-universities title with 77 points to Glasgow’s 72, St Andrews 25 and Aberdeen’s 9.   The women’s contest was also won by Edinburgh with 40 points from St Andrews 39, Glasgow 29 and Aberdeen 8.   JV Paterson set new records for the quarter and half mile events of 48.8 sec and 1:52.8.    Paterson’s record took 1.4 seconds from The championship record set by Eric Liddell in 1923.

They won the Scottish Universities championship again at Craiglockhart on 7th June 1958.   The Glasgow Herald report of 9th June, 1958 began:  Edinburgh won the Rosebery Bowl at the Scottish Universities championship on Saturday at Craiglockhart for the ninth time in succession.   The men scored 95 points and the women 27.   Glasgow men had 58 points and their women 34. … AS Jackson (Edinburgh University broke the Mile record by 4.6 seconds with a time of 4:16.2.   He was challenged by WJ More (Glasgow) for most of the race but broke into a sprint in the final straight and won comfortably.   Jackson later won the Three Miles with ease.   A Hannah (Edinburgh), the Scottish hurdles champion, who is to go to Stockholm later in the year, won the 440 yards hurdles in 56.1.   …  DWR MacKenzie (Edinburgh) who has been off with an injured shoulder for a considerable time, won the javelin with a throw of 184′ 1″.    …   A surprise in the meeting was the defeat of JV Paterson (Edinburgh) the Scottish half mile champion.   Paterson has not been in training because of an injured leg.”     Jackson’s Mile record was a meeting record since the EUAC record was 4:14.6 set by Hunter Watson in 1956.   

Hunter Watson, The reigning Scottish Universities Champion did not run in those 1957 championships even though he had been put under some pressure to turn out for Edinburgh. It is understandable why he had been put under such pressure because, one week before the championships he had won the Mile at the Edinburgh University championships in a respectable 4:25.9.   Hr had also turned out for Edinburgh at each of the three previous university championships, finishing second to Adrian Jackson in the Mile in 1954 and 1955, and first in both one and three miles in 1956 when Jackson’s priority was competing in an invitation 5000m race in Helsinki.   Normally Hunter Watson would have been delighted to represent Edinburgh University on the track, but this time his final examinations took precedence.   These were held during the fortnight following the Inter-Universities Championships.

Edinburgh also won the 220 yards (J Sutherland with Paterson second), 880 yards (AG Mowat with Paterson second), long jump (R Cameron),  Hop. step and jump (HM Murray from A Davidson), hammer ( M McDonald), and discus (S Nealey).    The women only had two victories – M Affleck in the 440 yards and the 440 yards relay.   

David Stevenson

1959 started with another match against Victoria Park in Edinburgh where the University defeated Victoria Park by the unusually wide margin of 71 – 52.   RL Hay for the University won the 220 and 440 hurdles in 23.4 and 52 seconds respectively.   Top man in the field events was Hunter Mabon who won the discus and set a ground record for the shot putt of 45′ 8 1/2″.   Back on the track the closest race was the 440 yards in which R Birrell (VP) ‘lunged over the line and just beat MEL Weir of the University.   The season progressed from there with most of the outstanding performances being outwith University competition and away from Craiglockhart.   

1959’s championships were held at Westerlands on 6th June and Edinburgh won the title to make it ten-in-a-row from Glasgow (74 1/2 to 65) with Glasgow winning the women’s title 46 to 35.   Edinburgh had four track victories in the half mile (Mowat), Mile and Three Miles (both Jackson) and 440 yards hurdles (RL Hay), and one field event, the hammer (N MacDonald).   The women won the 100, 220 yards (E Hoggarth), and the 4 x 110 yards relay.   

Adrian Jackson, the eventual winner, in second place behind Calderwood VPAAC)

The Appleton Trophy was contested at Westerlands on 30th April 1960 and although EUAC won again, the margin was less than it had been and although Edinburgh had some new talent such as David Stevenson in the Pole Vault, there were many new faces in the Glasgow team (Campbell, Miller, Horn, Addo Ladido, etc).   At Craiglockhart, in the Univerity’s own championships,  there were many notable results – David Stevenson ‘a freshman from Dumfries’ attempted a ground record for the pole vault but had to be content with equalling the existing record, RL Hay won 220y and 440y, AG Mowat , the cross-country captain, won the half mile in 1:57.9, Adrian Jackson, the university’s long distance runner’ was defeated in the Mile by RA Clark from Paisley but did retain his Three Miles title.   Weir won the 220 and 440 yards hurdles, HM Mabon won the shot putt (47′ 4 1/2″) and discus (140 11 1/2″), the shot with a university record by 1′ 7″.      The season progressed but there was a changing of the guard in the Inter-Universities in June.      

The headline in the Glasgow Herald in June 1960 read  “GLASGOW STUDENTS WIN AFTER TEN YEARS” and the results column showed that the Edinburgh team was changing.   Adrian Jackson was still there, but he was second to another Edinburgh student.   Adrian Jackson was second to Robert Clark, in the Mile and did not run in the Three Miles.   Glasgow had sprinters of quality in WM Campbell and A Miller, jumpers like Addo and Ladigo, and St Andrews had the excellent DJ Whyte.   However was still producing individual winners – Mowat won the 880, Clark won the Mile, Hay won the 440 yards hurdles, Mabon won the Shot and Discus and MacDonald won the hammer.   The overall score however was Glasgow 66 points and Edinburgh 55 points.   

The achievements of the 50’s have been gone into in some detail simply because the club was so outstandingly good in every department: sprinters, throwers, jumpers, hurdlers, distance runners.  They produced men who were universities, national and British champions, as well as record holders.   There were a good number of quite outstanding track and field athletes in the 1960’s too, such as RL Hay in the 440 yards hurdles (5 consecutive national championships), DD Stevenson in the pole vault (5 consecutive national championships)  and Laurie Bryce in the Hammer (5 consecutive national championships).   Stevenson broke the Scottish record no fewer than eight times and Bryce did so on four occasions.   Craiglockhart was used right up to 1969 – the year before the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh – and in the 1960’s the country saw the Hares & Hounds as the best team in the country on the road and over the country.   The names are well enough known: Fergus Murray, Gareth Bryan-Jones, Alistair Blamire, Roger Young, Ian Young and others come readily to mind.   Just click on their name to read of their exploits.   They were also very good track runners who represented the University with distinction.   Their careers can’t be covered here but some of the outstanding performances at Craiglockhart will be. 

At the University championships in 1962, the top man, and Donovan Cup winner, was David Stevenson for his pole vault of 12′ 11 1/2″ which beat his previous sports record by 10″. Fergus Murray ran a 4:21.1 mile;   AJ Patrick equalled the record when he won the 100 yards and also won the 220 yards.   P Brown won the women’s  220 yards and 440 yards.   She equalled the record (26.8) in the  former and set a new record of 60.4 seconds in the latter.   Among the performers not mentioned above, RL Hay won the 440 yards and the 220 yards hurdles, F Dick won the half-mile, Fergus Murray won the Mile in 4:21.4,  Martin Craven won the three miles in 15:17.2, and Lawrie Bryce won the shot and the hammer.   Some famous names there and the Inter Universities was to be held at Craiglockhart too.   Edinburgh was still producing very good athletes but not in the numbers required to win the Scottish Universities as they had done all through the previous decade.  By 1962/63 the University Hare & Hounds was becoming the top team in Scotland and the runners were making good use of  Craiglockhart,   For distance runners, grass is their  friend.

For instance, Alistaitr Blamire tells us of steeplechaser Gareth Bryan-Jones running intervals over hurdles at the venue – certainly the take off and landing would be easier for a steeplechaser than a hard surfaced all-weather track;  most of Roger Young’s track training was done on the grass at Craiglockhart in April and May each year and the distance runners also used Craiglockhart for track training after the rugby season was over and the track was marked out on the grass.   The “kindness” of the grass track compared to any/many of the artificial surfaces has been referred to already but it also had a therapeutic effect.   Note Alistair Blamire’s comments in this context: 

“I did a lot of training at Craiglockhart but not much in the way of interval running on the grass track. In first year at Uni I experienced shin soreness, as a result of training in yachting pumps and spending too much time on the roads. It was difficult to understand and shake off (the medics couldn’t help) but through experience I found that at least ten days of complete rest was required, followed by a slow return to full training. This was extremely frustrating and I was often tempted, even against better judgement in later years, to start up again too quickly, or revert to the roads, resulting in further delays to recovery. As a consequence I often trained at Craiglockhart, doing laps of the playing fields (18 laps for ten miles). There was an extra loop of about half a mile in the adjacent grounds of the Craiglockhart Hospital, which you could access through a door in the boundary wall. The ground was soft so running in bare feet was possible, without risking injury. Intervals and fartleks along a straight of 300m next to the boundary wall also played a part as the track was only marked up at the end of the rugby season.”   He goes on to add that Others did train at Craiglockhart  on occasion but it was time-consuming to travel there, and not used much, especially in the winter.

Fergus Murray tells us that “from a very modest weekly mileage of c30 getting tto 80-100/week in the later 60’s, I did not train at Craiglockhart to any extent. Any track sessions seemed to be done at Peffermill with Chris Elson and tended to be 440 reps (10 generally) 660’s and 880’s. Generally pretty fast but in bare feet and the purpose was to be able to judge “pace” for races.   We could do a 63 or a 65 s 440 pretty accurately.   Most of my other speed training was reps or fartlek on the soft grass in quiet areas of golf courses .    I loved training in bare feet!!  A drawback of Craiglockhart might have been it was a long way from our classes at Kings Buildings and the track was on a slope.”

There was more to Craiglockhart than just the grass track: the whole area was of use and just as the perimeter at many training areas (Westerlands in Glasgow, Pitreavie in Dunfermline, etc) was used for training with approximate distances around the grounds known, so, as Alistair says, Craiglockhart had a perimeter of just over a half mile of good grass to run on. 

Unfortunately for many,when part of the land at Craiglockhart was released for housing, the Edinburgh University Athletic Club, now the Edinburgh University Sports Union, relocated its facilities in 1969 to its own grounds at Peffermill where a new cinder track was laid.   However, as in Glasgow when Westerlands was turned into a housing development, the new Peffermill development came in for some criticism as, not only did it lack the atmosphere of Craiglockhart,  but it was on a much more exposed site.  More importantly perhaps all-weather tracks in tartan and similar materials were beginning to be developed at this time, and it was felt that with their anachronistic approach, an opportunity was being missed by EUAC despite the possible additional costs involved.   

The inaugural meeting at Peffermill was in May 1969, and Craiglockhart disappeared from the roster of University tracks.   What is there now at the venue?   

Part of the hospital grounds was sold off for housing in the 1980s and there is a small development called ‘Meadowspot’ there now. There are football pitches used by Primary Schools on the undeveloped area of the grounds. A section of the Craiglockhart playing fields was also sold for housing in the 1980s but the bulk is still in use by George Watson’s College, and the old pavilion has been upgraded and still remains in use.

Craiglockhart, its facilities and its contribution to the development of sport, is undoubtedly part of Scottish history.     

 

 

 

 

 

 

PAUL THOMPSON

2016 WORLD MASTERS ATHLETICS CHAMPIONSHIPS, PERTH, AUSTRALIA

There was a medal rush from the Scots in the final day of the Championships in Perth with the stars of the show being (unrelated) Gold Medallists Claire Thompson (Victoria Park Glasgow) and Paul Thompson (Cambuslang).

Claire, following her PB in yesterdays “warm-up” 1500m, claimed her first World Title, winning the W40 2,000m Steeplechase with a time of 7mins 25.49secs to beat the top Australians by a massive 24secs. Perth proved to be an excellent hunting ground for Claire, leaving with a Gold and Silver medal.

Paul added the title of M60 World Half Marathon Champion to the 5,000m which he won earlier in the week. He also led his team to Gold medals in the team race, taking his tally of medals to four for the championships. Paul finished the half with a time of 83 mins 00secs.

Moving back to the track, Julie Wilson (Inverness), running in her first chase over the distance, also picked up her first World medal, running a very courageous race in the W45 2,000m Steeplechase, finishing 3rd with a time of 8mins 10.23secs.

Summary of Medallists
Gold – Paul Thompson M60 5000m
Gold – Paul Thompson M60 Half Marathon
Gold – Paul Thompson M60 Half Marathon Team
Gold – Claire Thompson W40 2,000m Steeplechase
Gold – Sue Ridley W50 Cross Country Team
Gold – Alex Sutherland M65 Cross Country Team
Gold – Janette Stevenson W65 Cross Country Team
Gold – Jan Fellowes W60 Half Marathon Team

Silver – Janette Stevenson W65 Cross Country Individual
Silver – Janette Stevenson W65 4x400m Relay
Silver – Ian Williams M35 Cross Country Team
Silver – Colin Feechan M55 Cross Country Team
Silver – Colin Feechan M55 Half Marathon Team
Silver – Claire Thompson W35 Cross Country Team

Bronze – Jane Scott W35 100m Hurdles
Bronze – Janette Stevenson W65 5,000m
Bronze – Julie Wilson W45 2,000m Steeplechase
Bronze – Paul Thompson M60 Cross Country Team
Bronze – Caroline Lawless W55 Cross Country Team
Bronze – Jan Fellowes W60 Cross Country Team
Bronze – Bob Douglas M60 4x400m Relay
Bronze – Debbie Savage W40 Marathon Team
Bronze – Michael Craig M50 Half Marathon Team
Bronze – Mark Simpson M45 Half Marathon Team
Bronze – Ian Williams M4

WORLD MASTERS, DAEGU, SOUTH KOREA: MARCH 2017

Paul Thompson continued his successful assault on M60 World Masters medals.

David Fairweather sent three emails about Paul’s progress.

“Paul Thompson came agonisingly close to being World Masters Cross Country Champion this morning in Daegu, being outkicked in the last 40m of the 8km race, losing by less than half a second to take the silver medal. Another gutsy run saw Paul sit with the leading group over the first half of the race until deciding to stretch them out over the third lap. Reducing the group to four in the final lap, Paul managed to gain a 20m gap coming into the last 100m. However, the Pole, who had started his charge, had the momentum as they both rounded the last sharp bend. Unfortunately, by the time Paul realised the Pole was there he had run out of straight to hold on. Paul can still be pleased with his run, going two places better than in Perth last year. He also added another Bronze medal to his ever-growing collection in the Team competition.

“Paul Thompson has added another Silver medal at the World Indoor Masters Championships in Daegu this morning. Paul finished second in a time of 10:38.68, just under 4 secs behind an Irishman. Just as he was winning another medal, he unfortunately had to hand his bronze medal back from the Cross-Country Team event after an error had been made with the Italian team results. Paul will look to make it a trio of medals in the Half Marathon on Sunday.”

“It was Gold at the third time of asking this week for Paul Thompson in the M60s Half Marathon this morning at the World Masters Championships in Daegu. With a determined display of running, annihilating the field, Paul won in a time of 79mins 52secs to add to the title he won in Perth last year. He also helped his team to Bronze medals. This takes Paul’s tally for the week to four medals: one Gold, two Silvers and a Bronze, not a bad week’s work for Paul.” Scottish Athletics reported: “In fact, it was a hugely successful championships for the contingent from Scottish Veteran Harriers Club with a number of good performances helping land 21 medals in total. Among those to land more than one medal were Paul Thompson, Lynne Marr, Janet Fellowes, Brian Scally and Sharyn Ramage.

Here’s a list of the Daegu haul: Gold – Paul Thompson M60 Half Marathon; Sharyn Ramage W55 Cross Country Team; Lynne Marr W55 Cross Country Team; Janet Fellowes W60 Cross Country Team; Brian Scally M50 Cross Country Team.

Silver – Paul Thomson M60 Cross Country Individual; Paul Thompson M60 3000m; Claire Cameron W55 Discus; Janet Fellowes W60 Half Marathon Team

Bronze – Janet Fellowes W60 3000m; Brian Scally M50 3000m; Jozsef Farakas M35 3000m; William Lonsdale M65 Pentathlon; Janet Fellowes W60 Half Marathon; Claire Cameron W55 Shot Putt; Brian Scally M50 1500m; Dean Kane M35 Cross Country Team; Tony Golabek M35 Cross Country Team; Paul Thompson M60 Half Marathon Team; Sharyn Ramage W45 4x200m Relay; Lynn Marr W45 4x200m Relay.”

 

I was pleased to make the V60 team for the British and Irish XC International in Derry in November 2017 – it probably helped by being towards the younger end of the 5 year age bracket. Our hosts in Derry put on an excellent event. It was also worth going for a few more days either side of the run to take in and explore the lovely historic city of Derry. (Paul finished 6th in this prestigious 2017 event and contributed to team silver medals; in 2018 at Swansea, consistent Paul was 8th and his Scottish M60 team won silver again.)

Paul racing hard in Swansea 2018

The course in Derry was generally flat but testing underfoot due to recent rain. Although sapping, it didn’t turn into a mud-fest characterised by many cross- country courses in Scotland in recent years. It is interesting to compare our ideas of cross country to those of other nations, a recurring theme when watching seniors at televised World and European events. I had first-hand experience of this as I was persuaded to run in 2 World Masters Championship events in Perth, Australia (October 2016) and Daegu, South Korea (March 2017). Both championships opened with a cross country event. Both courses were pancake flat and firm underfoot to the point of suiting a road runner like myself rather than a cross country or hill specialist. No need for anything but road racing footwear. My impression for this, at least at these Masters events, is that the cross-country event and indeed a half marathon are add-ons to what are essentially track meetings and their inclusion makes such championships more attractive to road runners like myself who might baulk at travelling to potentially expensive destinations to run in just one or two track races.

Runners who have yet to participate in a World Masters event might be surprised by the lack of strength in depth in the field although most races were competitive at the sharp end. As might be expected medals generally went to runners in the younger end of the 5 year age category. Also at World events many countries outside Australasia, Europe and USA fail to have enough runners to compete for team medals (awarded in the cross country and road events) so GB athletes have plenty of opportunity to compete for both individual and team medals. In 2018 the World Championship is in Malaga so one anticipates more intense competition for both individual and team medals.

I would encourage runners to take in at least one World or European Masters Championship as the experience is interesting on many levels. They really are the Olympic equivalent for the master athlete in that they are structured along the same lines with as much rigour and organisation. Unlike the Olympics, however, we are lucky as no selection is necessary. Running in a GB vest as opposed to a Scottish one is also interesting. Incidentally, the tale of purchasing my GB vest is a long and complicated one and my wife (Jan) has the story and it involves a few tears and a lot of angst culminating in an acrimonious encounter with an unofficial team GB person which nearly resulted in a Glasgow kiss. For the first few events in Perth I ran the cross country in a borrowed female vest 2 sizes too small but the correct vest, ordered some 4 months previously, was finally purloined.

In Perth and Daegu, the Scottish contingent was numerous and tended to gravitate together helped by excellent daily reporting on the SVHC website by Alan Ramage. There was, however, a general camaraderie amongst the GB runners and many new friendships were formed which were renewed in Derry.
Paul Thompson

LES NICOL

LES NICOL: HOW HE BECAME M80 BRITISH XC CHAMPION

(Many thanks to Fraser Clyne for two articles about the amazing Metro Aberdeen RRC man’s late-peaking running career, along with an excerpt from ‘Who’s Who of Scottish Distance Running’ on the website scottishdistancerunninghistory.scot)
November 2006
Les Nicol is looking forward to representing Scotland for the first time – at the age of 70.
The Torry runner has been invited to compete for the Scottish Veteran Harriers select side in next month’s British and Irish masters cross country international at Falkirk.
Runners will compete in five-year bands from age 35 upwards.
Les won his place on the team after finishing second in the over-70 age group trial in a 10,000m track race at Coatbridge earlier this month.
His time of 44min 48sec is one that many runners of half his age would be happy to accept.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever run on a track,” Les said. “I wasn’t sure how it would go because I didn’t have any spikes, so I ran in my road running shoes.”
“I was surprised to get such a fast time as I thought I’d be closer to 45 or 46mins.”
Nicol will invest in spiked shoes before he tackles the cross country international on 18th November.
“I don’t want to be slipping around on the grass course,” he said.
Les took up running 15 years ago to keep in shape. “I’d always tried to keep fit by walking to work,” he said. “Then I started going to the gym and began running on a treadmill. It compensated for sitting at a desk all day.”
“I decided to try some races and the first I did was the Dyce half marathon.”
“I enjoy 10kms, 10 miles and half marathons, but nothing longer than that.”
Nicol thrives on exercise. “I run every second day for about six or seven miles at lunch-time,” he said.
“On the other days I go to the gym and use the rowing machines or tackle some weights. And at the weekends I’ll try to fit in a race.”
And although he’s well past the normal retirement age, Les continues to schedule his daily fitness regime around his job as an engineer.
Appropriately, he works for Marathon Oil in Aberdeen.
“I enjoy running as a way of keeping fit. In races I just try to do my best. I’ve no idea how I’ll get on at Falkirk but I’m sure it’ll be competitive.”

Leslie NICOL, Metro Aberdeen RC
Les came to the sport very late but this cheerfully tough Aberdonian sparrow had real talent and thoroughly enjoyed his success. In the Scottish Masters XC championship, he won the M70 title in 2010. In 2012, 2013 and 2015, Les added three M75 titles. For Scotland, Les ran consistently well in the British and Irish Masters XC International: contributing to three M70 team silver medals, in 2006, 2007 (when he finished 4th individual and first Scot) and 2009. Les won individual bronze (M75) in 2014, leading Walter McCaskey and Bill Murray to team bronze. In 2018, recovering from injuries and race-training over a hilly Aberdeen parkrun, Les triumphed in the British Masters XC championships in Forres, winning a well-deserved M80 title.

March 2018
Les Nicol has won his first British athletics title at the ripe old age of 82.
The Metro Aberdeen club member showed his rivals a clean pair of heels to strike gold in the British Masters Athletics Federation cross country championships over-80’s age group race at Forres.
Nicol completed the testing 6km course, which included some undulating woodland trails, in 32min 47secs to finish well ahead of his closest challengers.
He was delighted to claim the scalps of English athletes Steve James (Southport Waterloo AC), a former World Champion in several age groups, who was runner-up in 33:57, and Walter Ryder (Morpeth Harriers) who took bronze in 36:46.
Nicol said: “I am chuffed to bits to have won. I just wanted to beat some of the folk who have always beaten me in the past, so I’ve done that now.
“The guy who finished second has always beaten me but I was well ahead of him, which surprised some people.
“It’s my first British title although I think I was third in a younger age group a few years ago.”
Nicol’s success is particularly impressive, given he only returned to running a few months ago after being side-lined with a heel injury for the previous two years.
He said: “I developed plantar faciitis in one foot and once it cleared up I got it in the other one. I went to physios and did lots of exercises in the gym to get it fixed and to strengthen myself, but it took a long time.
“It was very frustrating but I started running again towards the end of last year. I began by doing 1km, then progressed to 2km, then 3km.
“I managed to do a few hilly Hazlehead parkrun 5kms before going to the Masters championships but the Forres race, being 6km, is the furthest I have run so far.”
Nicol’s running career began when he was in his mid-50s but he had always kept fit by walking and going to the gym.
He won his first Scotland call-up in 2006 at the age of 70 when he competed in the British and Irish masters international cross-country match at Falkirk.
Two years later he recorded his best 10km time of 44:46, a performance which many runners half his age would be delighted to achieve.
Nicol is still employed full-time as an engineer, appropriately with Marathon Oil, and has no difficulty in fitting his family, work and running commitments into a busy schedule.
He said: “I enjoy it. I run every second day and I’m in the gym most other days. I’m busy at work as well, which is good.
I’ve no immediate race plans. I just want to work back into it steadily. My Hazlehead parkrun times are getting faster, so that’s encouraging.
“I might consider doing the BHGE 10km in May but it depends how training goes between now and then. I have no particular ambitions at the moment. I just enjoy being able to take part in races so I’ll see what comes along.”
He joked: “My wife and family came to Forres with me but I’m not sure what else they might let me go to, so I’ll have to ask permission if I’m going any further afield.”

Les distancing his age group rivals at Forres