After the war ended in 1945, Scottish athletics got gradually back into business with all the pre-war events returning to the programme. There was a gap though – there was not much in the way of races for the Under 17 age group. Known as the Youths age group it was not as well catered for as the Juniors (Under 20) or Seniors. Clydesdale Harriers had the idea of starting a race for the age group and holding it on an annual basis. After some deliberation, it would be an Individual and Ballot Team race. There would be no club team awards but instead entrants would be seeded into three groups and one from each drawn at random to make up a team. The notion was that many good Youths were in small clubs with no chance of winning a team prize; indeed there were many good and promising runners in the age category who would seldom win anything because there were two or three at the top of the tree denying them individual prizes and if they were in one of the lesser clubs then there would be no team award either. The Ballot Team solved this problem. The winner of the race received the John Morgan Trophy, above, which was presented by the club secretary at the time.
Eddie Sinclair (Springburn Harriers) winning the Youths race in 1954 from Billy Goodwin (Bellahouston)
The first race was held on November 5th, 1946 and it was a success from the word go. In the years to come almost all of the National Champions would turn out, and many of the best Scottish internationalists would run in it – from Eddie Sinclair to Ian McCafferty and runners who would gain distinction elsewhere – Alex Brecken ridge, George Kerr and more. Folk singer Joe Gordon, statistician Colin Shields and official Danny Wilmoth all represented their clubs.
Over 50 runners toed the starting line in the first race, and the first three finished within 7 seconds of each other. The winner, Wilfred Young of Victoria Park, would go on to win the Youths National at Hamilton in 1947. The page devoted to the race in the ‘Scots Athlete’ of December 1946 is reproduced below.
The second running of the event was on 8th November, 1947 and the results were as shown below. You will note several names of athletes who would be very well known – Harry Fenion would win Scottish titles in the Marathon and over the country, he would represent Scotland in Commonwealth Games and over the country; Alec McDougall of Vale of Leven would also be a marathon runner of note and represent Scotland in the Empire Games in Cardiff and Eddie Bannon of Shettleston would become one of Scotland’s all time great cross country runners. The Ballot team winners were a team made up of athletes from Plebeian Harriers, St Modan’s AAC and Auchmountain Harriers.
The report in the ‘Scots Athlete’ of December 1947, by Harriers secretary John Morgan, read as follows.
“For the second annual Youths 2 1/2 miles Ballot Team Race, held on 8th November, 1947, a record entry of 74 was received. Despite the incessant rain, 66 runners faced the starter (Mr A Macmillan, club president). The runners came from a’ the airts – Stirling, Lochwinnoch, Greenock, Dumbarton, Milngavie, being some of the districts represented, as well as all the prominent Glasgow clubs – Shettleston, Garscube, Victoria Park, Plebeian, etc.
In the face of a strong blustery wind, the runners lined up at Whitecrook Street for the start. Right from the start it was obvious that this was going to be a hard fast race. Along Barns Street they swept in a tight-packed, fast moving mass, and were well on their way before they began to string out. With little more than a mile to go, word came to the officials and spectators braving the weather at the finishing post in Killers Lane that a Shettleston boy was running strongly in the lead.
The signal that the runners were now approaching started speculation as to who it might be. The first to appear was a very small-built lad clad in light blue singlet. This proved to be H Fenion of Lochwinnoch, followed closely by W Bownes of Auchmountain H, and A McDougall of Vale of Leven. The winner’s time, 15 minutes 22 seconds, was four seconds faster than the time of last year’s winner, W Young, Victoria Park AAC, who went on to win the Scottish Championship. Fenion is an amazing runner and, given proper care, and not over taxed, history can well be repeated.
The prizes were presented by Mr D B Brooke, Garscube Harriers. Davie, in a neat little speech, congratulated the winner on fine running, and exhorted all the runners present to support their clubs and to wear the club colours on all occasions.”
In 1948, the race was won by running sensation of the time – Gilbert Adamson of West Kilbride. Like Young in 1947 and Fenion a year later, he would go on to win the Youths National title in 1949. He won by ten and a half second from a runner who, with his brother Tom, would be one of the country’s finest – John Stevenson was top class track and road runner with a very fast finish, and thrid placed Robertson of Garscube was only eight seconds behind him. Other well kent names include Alec McDougall, Ewan Murray of Garscube who would be better known as a long time secretary of the SAAA, Ronnie McDonald of Maryhill one of our finest officials and administrators for decades and many other who would grace the sport.
The newspapers at that time devoted very little space to sport because of the post-war shortage of newsprint and most of that was football and other team games, the sport was fortunate to have the ‘Scots Athlete’ coverage.
Keeping to the November date, the 12th of the month in 1949 was the chosen Saturday for the fourth running of the race. The Glasgow Herald report was as follows. “Vale of Leven continue to produce fresh talent. They have found another potential champion in R Steel who won a grant three mile open Youths race at Clydebank beating a field of over 60 in 15 min 13 sec. He had a margin of 30 yards from J McNeil (Shettleston). Results: 1. R Steel (Vale of Leven) 15 min 13 sec; 2. J McNeil (Shettleston) 15 min 30 sec; 3. A Brown (Shettleston) . Ballot Team Race: 1. J McNeil (Shettleston), A Breckenridge (VPAAC – 5th), R Cowan (Bellahouston – 11th); 2. A Baird (Shettleston), J Keen (Shettleston), A Bauld (Maryhill).”
The runners were again top class in quality as well as deep in quantity. Bob Steel of the Vale would move to Edinburgh and many years later would be very good administrator for the Scottish national endurance squad, Jimmy McNeil would be a kenspeckle figure in his club colours right into his veteran years and Alex Breckenridge would be a Scottish mile record holder, multi championship winner and, after emigrating to the USA, an Olympic marathon runner. It had been another successful promotion.
In 1950 the race was held on the second Saturday over the same road course. The ‘Herald’ report was brevity itself. YOUTH CHAMPION’S FINE RACE. J Findlay (Hamilton Harriers) the national youths champion, was the outstanding competitor in Clydesdale Harriers open youths two and a half mile race in Clydebank and won in 14 min 50 sec. He had however to produce his best to beat W McAslan (Bellahouston) who was 40 yards behind. T Swan (Shettleston) was third.”
The 1951 version of the race saw 59 entries and again the quality of the field was undeniable. The winner was Bob Wotherspoon, running for Glasgow YMCA but would soon be representing Shettleston Harriers from the excellent David Lapsley who won many titles in Ayrshire as well as in the South West District and who would be third in the national championship in the 1951/52 season. Note too that there was an actual tie for third place. Looking through the field there was Joe Gordon who would become a very well known folk singer,, a good athlete but not as good Joe Connolly of Bellahouston (only one place back) who would be Scottish champion on the track as well as over the country. Results from the ‘Scots Athlete’.
It was on 8th November in 1952 that the race was held with a relatively small field (by its own previous standards of 47 runners turned out in Whitecrook Street in Clydebank. Joe Connolly had moved up the field in his second year in the age group to finish in the same time as the winner but nevertheless was judged into second place. Note too Ian Harris – a future Scottish marathon champion and cross-country internationalist. Ian Cloudsley of Shettleston would be SCCY Junior champion in a couple of years time, Gordon Nelson of Bellahouston would serve his club well and Jim Irvine of the same club is still working in athletics in Bellahouston over 70 years later. Note too how close the runners were – six seconds covering the first three, and thirteen in the first minute, and the entire field finished in just a smidgen over three minutes.
Into 1953 and the race was held on 14th November over the usual trail. Unusually, it wasn’t covered by the ‘Scots Athlete’ but we do have the report and result from the ‘Glasgow Herald’ which read as below.
“GM Kerr (Victoria Park AAC) won Clydesdale Harriers open youths two and a half mile road race on Saturday in a new record time for the course of 14 min 34 sec. I Drever (Braidburn AC) who was second 20 yards behind, also beat the previous best time by clocking 14 min 42 sec. I Cloudsley (Shettleston Harriers) was third in 14 min 46 sec. The team contest resulted in a win for J Gibson, Paisley, 7th, J Howe, Wellpark, 11th and J Clark, Clydesdale, 15th – 33 points.”
Not a lot there but enough to tell us a bit about the continuing quality being attracted to the flat, fast course right at the start of the winter. George Kerr of Victoria Park was an athlete of real quality and it was a loss to Scottish endurance running when he moved to London and joined Belgrave. He did come up for the championships. Cloudsley won the National Under 17 title in 1954.
Eddie Sinclair of Springburn, pictured at the top of the page won the event in 1954 in a new course record in a field of 50 runners. Billy Goodwin was also inside Kerr’s time with John Wright in third place. Wright would have three runs in the National as a Junior finishing third in his first outing but winning the next two.
Billy Goodwin finishing in 1954
In 1955 the race was held on the third Saturday in the month. The winner was Billy Goodwin who not only won but took three seconds off Eddie Sinclair’s course record of the year before. There were many notable Youths among the 72 who faced the starter – note the runner who was halfway up the field in 32nd place: Colin Shields of Greenock Glenpark Harriers would be a club runner for many years (3 Ben Nevis races among his achievements) and one of Scotland’s best ever statisticians. Goodwin won the National U17 Championship in 1955 and 1956, and the National U20 race in 1959. Davie Simpson of Shotts in eighth place became an important member of the all-conquering Motherwell YMCA team in the early 1960’s and ran for Scotland in the International cross-country. Jim Spence of Greenock Glenpark in 22nd would become a good road runner (he won the Scottish Marathon Club champion) before going on to be a coach in his club and is maybe best known for the work he did bringing his brother Lawrie through the age groups. Danny Wilmoth of Springburn was 20th and would be a very good runner for Springburn before becoming known as one of the best and fairest officials in the land. J Hislop of the promoting club was fourth here but second in the National Championships in 1956. Results below from the ‘Scottish Athlete’.