Dunblane Highland Gathering: 1951 – 60

The above photograph appeared in the Stirling Observer of  18 September 1984.   The Dunblane 14 was a popular race on the road running circuit and came one week after the Shotts 14 mile road race.   A lap of the track, over some rough country to the Ramoyle district of Dunblane, then out past the Queen Victoria School to Greenloaning and Braco before returning back along the back road through Kinbuck to join the out road at QV School and  in to the arena.   It would be a dangerous road now simply because of the huge volumes of traffic on the motorway from Dunblane to Braco but at the time it was well organised and stewarded by member of the Scottish Marathon Club working with the organising committee.   

The Games from the late 1950’s were held at Laighhills Park – a nice walk round by the river to the Park, up the hill to the arena which was in a kind of natural amphitheatre with grassy banking around a flat well-cared for grassy track.   Dancers, wrestlers, pipers shared the centre with the athletes and it was really good day out for whole families.   The local history tells us that the Dunblane Highland Games ran from 1951 to the 1980’s.   There had been a Gathering there in the very early 1900’s but information of them is scanty.   The Gathering – for such it was despite the Games tag above – from 1950 was held on the second Saturday in September.   There was a gap from the end of the 60’s to 1976 which did not detract from the appeal for athletes or spectators after it came back.   An amateur meeting, the prizes and marvellous silver trophies were displayed for the week before the games in a local shop window – possibly the Co-op ?    .

The first of the Gatherings was covered by the Glasgow Herald under the headline “ARBUCKLE’S ROAD RACE WIN” which referred to Andy Arbuckle of Monkland Harriers winning the 14 mile road race in 1:20:04 from WR Gardner of Falkirk Victoria Harriers.   The handicap winner was none other than JR Scott of Glasgow YMCA – Jimmy Scott, secretary of the Scottish Marathon Club.   The other winners were :

100 yards: C Morrison, FVH, in 10.4 off 9 yards; 220 yards: DT Galloway, Maryhill Harriers in 25.1 from 15 yards; 880 yards: A Orr, Shettleston, in 2:06 off 38 yards;   Mile:  AH Brown, Motherwell, in 4:31.5  off 25 yards; One Lap Junior: W Cameron, Victoria Park, in 24.8 off 13 yards;   High Jump:  A Galbraith, St Modan’s, 6′ 4″ off 10″;  Mile Medley Relay:  Garscube Harriers, in 4:06.4.   

Note that the event was held at Duckburn Park a popular venue for many sports events in Dunblane but the Gathering would soon move to the more suitable Laighhills Park.   In 1952 the meeting was on 13th September and the headline was “HIGH JUMPERS EXCEL” and referred to two Victoria Park High Jumpers RWB Weldon and J Payne who were first and second in the competition with W Piper, the Scottish champion from Glasgow Police, equalling the winner’s height of 5′ 11″ but was unplaced on handicap.   The road race was won by Harry Howard (Shettleston) from CD Robertson (Dundee Thistle) in 1:15:05.   It was a short, 4 laps to the half mile track and J Hamilton of Victoria Park ws unplaced with Tom O’Reilly of Springburn winning from the 32 yards mark.   Principal Results:

100 yards: WT Kinnis, Shettleston, in 10 seconds off 2 yards; 220 yards: EA Ramage, Larkhall, in 23.6 off 20 yards; 880 yards: T O’Reilly, Springburn, in 1:59.4 off 32; Mile:  J Eadie, Shettleston, in 4:27 off ; Road Race:  H Howard, Shettleston, 1:15:05; Mile Medley Relay:  Bellahouston, in 3:48.6; High Jump:  RB Weldon, Victoria Park, 6′ 3″  off 4″; 100 yards Youths: GA McLachlan, St Modan’s, in 10’6 sec of   3 1/2 yards ;  880 yards Junior: DK Ferguson, Tillicoultry, in 2:02.5 off 25 yards;  100 yards Women: E Sealey, Maryhill, in 11.8 sec off 1 yard; 220 yards women: M Cook, Airdrie, in 27.9 sec off 9 yards; Women’s Relay 4 x 220: Maryhill Harriers in 1:54.6.

There had been an increase in the number of events and the standard was a bit higher than in the previous year – with the Harry Howard v CD Robertson duel on the roads being one that was replayed over several races for several years with the ‘winner’ alternating between the two.

One year later, on 11th September 1953, Howard repeated his victory, this time over Joe McGhee of St Modan’s.  Two very high quality athletes again gracing the event.   This time the winner was clocked at 1:14:46 and the handicap prize went to W Jackson of the Royal Navy.   JV Paterson was the SAAA Steeplechase champion in 1953 and won the mile comfortably in 4:26.2 from the virtual scratch mark of 40 yards.   In the half mile, Bill Linton of Braidburn AC was back marker and was third to finish.   Principal Results:

100 yards:  GA McLachlan, St Modan’s, 10.1 off 6 1/2;  220 yards: GP Reilly, Victoria Park, 23.4 sec off 18 yards;   Youths 100 yards:  RA Sim, Tillicoultry & Hillfoots, 10.5 sec off 5 yards; Junior 880 yards:   E Mason, Tillicoultry & Hillfoots, 2:01.6 off 36;  880 yards: JF Reilly, Victoria Park, in 1:59.6 off 52;  Mile:  JV Paterson, Edinburgh Southern, 4 min 26.2  off  40 yards; Medley Relay:  Victoria Park, 3:49;  High Jump:  GA Mclachlan, St Modan’s,  6′ 3″  with 7″ allowance; Women’s 100 yards WF Brunston, Q Club, in 11.5 sec off 7 yards; Women’s relay, 4 x 110 yards: Maryhill in 54.6 sec.

JV Paterson, a frequent5 visitor and winner at Dunblane

The Glasgow Herald report for the meeting in 1955 came under the banner of “McGHEE’S RECORD ROAD RACE TIME” and read as follows.   “The outstanding performance of the Dunblane Highland Gathering was the win of J McGhee (Shettleston Harriers) in the 14 mile road race in a record time for the course of 1:12:17.   Also inside the record were G King, Wellpark Harriers, and H Fox, Shettleston Harriers who finished second and third.   AH Brown (Motherwell YMCA) gained his third mile win in a row from the reduced handicap of 45 yards in the fine time of 4:19.1.   He was quickly up on the limit runners and with a lap to go he was at the head of the field.   He narrowly missed qualifying for the final of the half-mile, decided some time before the Mile.   Miss D Tyndall (Tayside), the Scottish women’s intermediate sprint champion, gave a fine performance in the women’s 100 yard final, gaining third place from the lowest possible allowance of half a yard.”

100 yards: WS Greingan, Victoria Park, in 10.2 sec from 2 1/2 yards; 220 yards:  W Reville, Shettleston, in 24 second off 13 yards;    880 yards:  J Connolly, Bellahouston, in 1:58.4 off 44; Mile: AH Brown, Motherwell, in 4:19.1 off 45; 14 Miles: J McGhee, Shettleston, in 1:12:17; handicap winner R Donald (Glasgow YMCA); Medley Relay: Braidburn AAC in 3:59; High Jump: F Masterson, Braidburn, 6′ 2 1/2″ with an allowance of 9 1/2″.  

Junior 880 yards: H Muir Victoria Park, 2:03.9 off  20 yards;  Youths 100 yards:  J Young, Springburn, in 10.6 off 4 1/2 yards.   Women’s 100 yards: M Mitchell, Q Club, in 11.4 off  6 1/2 yards; Women’s 220 yards:  M Mitchell, Q Club, in 27.6 sec off 14 yards.

We can also note from the report that there were Heats for the half-mile as well as for the sprints.   There was a quality to the meeting too with three National Champions in McGhee, Brown, Connolly and Fox all taking part.


In 1956 the meeting was still being held at Duckburn Park and the quality was even higher than in the previous year with several winners from 1955 coming back and winning again.  The Herald reported:   “The fifth annual Dunblane Highland Gathering, which were held at Duckburn Park, were notable for the success of the backmarkers in the track and field events.   R Whitelock (Victoria Park) was in splendid form in the open 100 yards, winning his Heat from half a yard in 10.4 seconds, and the final one-tenth faster time from a competitive list of 50 starters.   

JV Paterson (Edinburgh University), the Scottish recorder for the half-mile, won his Heat in 2:03.6 from four yards behind scratch, and took first place in the final with ease in 1:59.2.   He won the Shotts half-mile from scratch last week, and as the programme was made up a week ago, it was easier for the handicappers to drop Paterson four yards than to raise the handicaps of the other runners of whom there were 55.   AH Brown (Motherwell YMCA) was another competitor to beat a large field.   He won the Mile, off 30 yards, in 4:21.3 on a grass track.   W Piper (Glasgow Police) showed his best form this season when he cleared 6′ 3″ in the High Jump.   J McGhee (Shettleston) , the Scottish and Empire Games marathon champion, made a new record for the 14 mile course of 1:12:07.   A McDougal, Vale of Leven, was also inside the previous best time, finishing only 13 seconds behind McGhee.   P Moy, a clubmate, was third in 1:14:28.   

M Mitchell from Q Club won the women’s 100 yards from 3 yards in 11.3 seconds, and it was a long mark competitor, LM Quinn, Tayside, who won the 220 yards.”

Quality and quantity – Dunblane had both.   The numbers quoted for 100 and 880 yards were big and both were won by Scottish record breakers and champions.   Brown, Piper, McGhee, McDougall and Moy were all international athletes.   Other winners included CC Morrison, FVH, in the 220,  Clydesdale Harriers won the medley relay in 3:50.7 and Ardeer Recreation won the women’s 4 x 110 yards relay in 53.3 seconds.

George King leading Joe McGhee with Hugo Fox in fourth

In 1957 on September 14th, the man of the moment was JV Paterson.  He was back year after year as were such top guns as Andy Brown and Joe McGhee to run on a short distance grass track with big fields that the distance men had to weave their way through.   The Gathering must have had something to be so well supported.   The 1957 report read: “JV Paterson (Edinburgh University) the SAAA 440 and 880 yards champion, had a strenuous day at Dunblane Highland Games on Saturday, running in five races.   He won his Heat in the open 100 yards running from 4 yards, but was beaten in a semi-final.   He then ran from scratch in the open half-mile and qualified readily for the Final in which he was beaten in a fast finish by GW Jackson, a former Falkirk Victoria Harrier but now attached to Woodford Green AC, London, and RA McFall (Athenian AC).   Paterson conceded 30 yards to Jackson and 26 to McFall.   Paterson’s final appearance was in the Medley Relay in which he helped his team to victory.   Miss NP Beattie (Tayside AC) appeared to be well treated in the women’s sprint handicaps both of which she won. “

Winners: 100 yards: G McLachlan, St Modan’s, in 10 sec from 6 1/2 yards;  220 yards: N Taylor, Airdrie Harriers  in 23.3 off 21; 880 yards:  GW Jackson, Woodford Green, in 1;56.4  off 30 yards; Mile: R Black, Bellahouston, in 4:21.5 off 115 yards; 14 Mile Road Race:  1. H Fenion, Bellahouston, 1:12:36; 2. J Jones, Bedlington Harriers, 1:14:42; 3. H Fox, Shettleston, 1:15:29;  High Jump: D Morrison, Edinburgh Northern, 6′ 3″ with an allowance of 9″.   Medley Relay: Edinburgh University in 3 min 50 sec.   

Youths: 100 yards: A Black, Pitreavie AC,  in 10.4 sec off 1 yards;  880 yards: JB McLean, Dundee Hawkhill, in 2:00.2 off 42;  Women’s 100 yards:  NP Beattie, Tayside, in 11.4 sec off 8 yards;  220 yards:  NP Beattie in 26.3 sec off 17 yards.   Women’s 4 x 110 relay: Ardeer Recreation, 53.9;  Schools Relay:  1. Doune;  2. Braco; 3. Dunblane.

The outstanding decathlete George McLachlan of St Modan’s AC, had been a regular at Dunblane – it was his local meeting – but was a bit unfortunate when he returned to what had been a happy hunting ground for him in 1958.   It was a very good meeting with Joe McGhee returning to racing, WJ More, an outstanding steeplechaser and miler, Alan Houston a very good high jumper, Doris Tyndall returning to Dunblane again.   The Press report: “GA McLachlan, St Modan’s, was the outstanding sprinter at the seventh  Dunblane Highland Gathering.   He was only placed third in the Final but he was very close and had he not been pulled for beating the pistol there is little doubt that he would have won the handicap for he ran from one yard behind scratch.   The winner’s time of 9.6 sec from 6 1/2 yards suggests that the course was a little short.   J McGhee (Shettleston Harriers) , a former Empire Games marathon champion who has not raced for almost two years, ran in the 14 miles road race and finished a creditable third behind K Boyle (Sunderland|) and JA Gibson (Maryhill Harriers) who won at Shotts.   

A Houston (Victoria Park), a former British Junior High Jump champion, equalled his best with a jump of  6′ 2″ and won the event with his handicap of  2 1/2″.   Miss D Tyndall, Tayside AC, the Scottish women’s sprint champion, finished third  in the 100 yards off scratch to Miss H Inglis (Broxburn High School, who was brought back to two yards for her double at the Shotts meeting.   Miss Inglis also qualified for the Final of the 220 yards and finished second from the short mark of five yards.”

McLachlan was most unfortunate – in a championship or open graded meeting on a 440 yard track, he would have been warned and, unless he was illegal a second time, that would have been it.  But at the Highland Games, a false start meant being pulled back a yard.   There are those even in the 21st century who think that championships could do away with cards of any colour by adopting this simple rule – no runner wants to set up his blocks behind the starting line.

Principal Results:   100 yards: AD Scott, Victoria Park, 9.6 seconds off 6 1/2 yards;  220 yards: W Beresford, Airdrie, 22.2 off 15 yards;  880 yards:  WA Mason, Monkland Harriers, 1:55.0 off 18 yards; Mile: WJ More, Kilmarnock, 4:11.4 off 40 yards; 14 Mile Road Race:  K Boyle, Sunderland in 1:15:54;  Medley Relay:  Clydesdale H in 2:58.9;  High Jump: A Houston, Victoria Park, 6′ 4 1/2 ”   with an allowance of 2 1/2″.   

Youths: 100 yards: JW Burns, unattached, in 10.0 off 5 yards;  Junior 880 yards GH Hare, Monkland, in 1:57.2 off 40 yards; Women’s 100 yards: H Inglis, Broxburn AC in 11 seconds off 2 yards; Women’s 220 yards: Y Phillips, Dundee, in 26 seconds off 10 yards; Women’s 4 x110 relay: Broxburn AC in 53.3 seconds.

Andy Brown, four times mile winner and road race winner too at Dunblane.

McLachlan showed his class at Dunblane again in 1959 when he won the 220 yards from the three yards mark in 22.5 just a week after winning at Shotts.  He was unlucky again in the 100 yards at Dunblane though when he was eliminated in a semi-final when running from scratch.   Andy Brown ‘Scotland’s outstanding road distance runner’ won the road race by more than half a mile from Joe Connolly (Bellahouston) with Joe McGhee in third.  It was Brown’s seventh consecutive road race victory of the summer.   In the Women’s events, Broxburn AC won the 4 x 110 yards relay breaking the record set by Ardeer at Cowal Highland Games two weeks earlier.   Their winning time of 49.9 seconds was a tenth quicker.   Principal Results: 

Men’s 100 yards:  W Talbot, Glasgow Police in 9.8 sec off 5 yards; 220 yards: GA McLachlan, St Modan’s, 22.5 sec; 880 yards: J McLean, Dundee Hawkhill, 1:53.3 off 38;  Mile: R Penman, Bellahouston, 4:11.4 off 16; Road Race: AH Brown, Motherwell, 1:19:24; Medley Relay: Shettleston Harriers, 3:42; Youth 100 yards: J O’Donnell, Falkirk Victoria, 10 sec off 6 1/2 yards;  Junior 880 yards: AM Baxter, Dundee Hawkhill, in 1:57.4 off 32;  Women’s 100 yards: D Benassi, Broxburn, in 11.1 off 2 1/2 yards; Women’s 220 yards: H Inglis, Broxburn, in 26.1 off 4 yards; Women’s 4 x 110 relay: Broxburn (Bennassi, M Porteous, M Tripney and H Inglis) 49.9.

M Hildrey, Victoria Park

If the standard of competitor had been high, in 1960 it was such that the Glasgow Herald headline shouted loudly


“The feature of the Highland Games at Dunblane on Saturday was the meeting of MG Hildrey (Victoria Park) and R Whitelock of the same club, the present and past Scottish and sprint champions, in the open 100 yards championship.   Whitelock, off 1 yard, won his Heat in 10.2 sec, and Hildrey won his in the same time.   The two met in the first semi-final in which Hildrey beat his club mate in 10.1 sec, but Whitelock won the final by one yard  in 10.0 seconds.   Hildrey later won the handicap furlong from scratch in 22.9 seconds beating T Wilkie (Tillicoultry) and WM Campbell (Glashow University) to whom he was conceding 13 and 4 yards respectively.   W Black (Maryhill Harriers) won the half-mile handicap from the virtual scratch mark of 4 yards in 1:58.1.   The Scottish three mile champion, E Sinclair of Springburn Harriers, was first to finish in the 14 miles road race but as he was an unofficial starter, the race was awarded to JA Gibson, Maryhill Harriers, whose time was 1:23:44.   M Ryan, M Varman, GA McLachlan and JH Murray was the successful team for St Modan’s in the Mile Medley Relay .”

Results:  100 yards:  R Whitelock, Victoria Park, in 10.0 off 1 yard;  220 yards: M Hildrey, Victoria Park, in 22.9 off scratch;  880 yards: W Black, Maryhill, in 1:58.1 off 4 yards;  Mile: R McFall, Edinburgh Southern, in 4:20.6 off 55 yards; Road Race, JA Gibson, Maryhill, in 1:23:44;  Medley Relay:  St Modan’s AC in 3:42.2.    High Jump:  G Gorman, Victoria Park, 6′ 0 1/2″ with a 9″ allowance; Youths 100 yards: J Brannan, Bowhill YC, in 10 sec off 5 1/2 Yards; Junior 880 yards: J Finn, Monkland Harriers, 2:01.9 off 4 yards; Women’s 100 yards: E Steedman, Broxburn AC, in 11.6 sec off 5 yards; 220 yards:  E Steedman in 27 sec off 1 yards; Women’s 4 x 110 Relay: Broxburn (Benassi, Steedman, Tripney and Inglis), 2. Maryhill;  3. Springburn.  Won in 51.9 seconds.

In Part Two of the Dunblane Gathering story we will cover the period from 1961 to 1984 – there was a gap of several years when there was no Gathering but we can come to that.   So far we have seen the progress from the first of the series in 1951 to 1960 when there had been Scottish and international champions running, Scottish and British record holders in competition and characters galore flocking to the small cathedral city in central Scotland.

Dunblane Highland Gathering: 1960 – 1970  .   Dunblane Highland Gathering: 1971 – 1984