Eddie Devlin

Eddie Devlin of Monkland Harriers, Clyde Valley AC, who ran for Strathclyde University when he was a student there, was everything that a good club runner should be: first of all he was a good runner, second he was reliable, third he was consistent and in addition he was one-club man.   Without Eddie Devlin the Monkland/Clyde Valley story would be very different – and many of the very best Scotland has produced would have won fewer medals.   His friend and contemporary Joe Small has penned the following profile of Eddie with additions by Ron MacDonald and Jim Brown.   As the picture above shows, Eddie was a steeplechaser and he appeared in the Scottish rankings in 1974 (9:46.0), 1975  (9:42,2), 1976 (9:43.0); 1977 (9:24.2) and 1978 (9:07.2) – this last ranking him ninth in Scotland.   He was also ranked with a time of 14:42.6 for 5000m in 1975.   As Joe says below Eddie was a reliable first stage runner doing so almost annually in the Lanarkshire County Relays as well as in the bigger races.   He ran every stage in the Edinburgh to Glasgow relay except for the two which were reserved for the very top men – the Olympians, the GB runners, the Scottish champions – namely two and six.   In 1980 he held his place at the head of the field and ran the fastest time on the seventh stage.   No matter the surface, whether on the track or on the road or over the country he did what his club needed him to do – and at times a wee bit more.    Now read Joe’s profile.

Eddie steeplechasing for Clyde Valley AC

Eddie Devlin, who died recently will be remembered as a tough competitor, always giving his best in any race.

He was a product of the St Patrick’s H.S. Coatbridge talent factory in the ‘60s & ‘70s presided over by P.E. teacher Bill Coogans. Among the other names to emerge from that school around that period were Martin McMahon, Ronnie MacDonald, Paul Bannon, Frank Gribben, Mark Watt, Jim Burns, Neil Agnew & myself.

There is some doubt as to when Eddie actually joined Monkland. He first appears in the 1968 Midland District C.C. relay team, when he would have been 18. Also, he is named in the programme for that season’s National Cross Country Championships, but running for Strathclyde University. There is no mention of him as a senior boy or youth, although Ronnie MacDonald distinctly remembers him winning medals over the 1/2 mile at Scottish & Lanarkshire Schools Championships. 

Eddie was a few years ahead of me at school, so my earliest recollections of him were after I joined Monkland Harriers, Eddie already being a member. He was active on the track, principally as an 800m/half miler, picking up a lot of prizes at highland games over those distances. I think his best time was around 1min. 56sec for 800m.

A Young Eddie Devlin in a Monkland Harriers Vest

On the road and country, Monkland were experiencing a bit of a resurgence at that time due to the emergence of people like Eddie & Ronnie MacDonald. The 4 man relay teams would usually consist of Eddie, Ronnie, Willie Drysdale & one other (Jim Brown arrived a couple of years later.)

The first notable success was in the prestigious Allan Scally relay in 1971, when Monkland finished third. Willie Drysdale running the first leg, followed by Jim Brown, Eddie & Ronnie MacDonald. In the same Allan Scally event, Eddie was a member of the winning Clyde Valley teams in 1978 and ‘79.

Undoubtedly his favourite event of the winter season was the Edinburgh to Glasgow relay. He had an unbroken run of appearances from 1969 to 1984, competing for Strathclyde University, Monkland Harriers & Clyde Valley AAC : 16 consecutive runs with two first place finishes, one second place & three third places. His best run I would reckon to be the in 1980 race, when he recorded the fastest time on the seventh stage, his `home’ leg passing through Coatbridge, beating the likes of Martin Craven and John McGarva.

Other relay successes included the SCCU Cross Country relay championships, being in the winning teams in 1977 (with Ian Gilmour, Brian McSloy and Jim Brown)  and ‘79 (with Colin Farquharson, Brian McSloy & Jim Brown.) Brown was quoted after the last event “on the splendid support they received from the two unsung members of the team, Devlin & Farquharson.” Doesn’t sound like Jim!   There was also a silver medal in the West District Cross Country relay in 1975 with John Graham, Ronnie MacDonald & myself.

Not much information, but other races such as the McAndrew and Lanarkshire road relays produced medals and prizes, for instance, we won the team race at the Strathkelvin 12, myself, Eddie and Neil Agnew being the team members.

One thing which surprised me when researching the above was the fact that Eddie was an accomplished steeplechaser. He appeared in the Scottish rankings on 5 occasions, with his highest placing being 9th in 1978 with a time of 9min.07.2sec. He won a bronze medal in the event at the West District championships in 1975. If asked about his career, I would never really have thought of him as a steeplechaser.

Towards the end of his career, he ran in a couple of marathons, finishing the 1984 Glasgow Marathon in 29th place, running the excellent time of 2hrs. 25min. 47sec. So starts off his career as a 1/2 miler, ends up as a marathon man.

Some personal anecdotes:

Jumping on the train to run in the Clydebank – Helensburgh road race. When we arrived at the changing rooms, the place was deserted – we were a week early! I took the blame for that one.

Travelling to a race in Edinburgh in Eddie’s car, a blow out on the M8. No problem, get the spare wheel out: problem, no jack. Three of us had to lift the car while Eddie swapped the wheels – luckily it was a mini. 

After winning the 3000m team race at Lochaber Highland Games. Presented with our prizes: a “Welcome to Fort William lapel badge” – Eddie in particular not amused!

The annual trip to Cowal Highland Games – being invited to run in the 3000m team race meant “expenses” were paid, a novelty for us amateur runners. Eddie was always there. This bonanza was usually squandered in the pubs of Dunoon before catching the last ferry & “Last train tae Glasgow Central” according to Ronnie MacDonald (& Billy Connolly.)

After we had finished running competitively, we knocked off a few Munro’s together, generally around Arrochar, Glencoe, Cairngorms etc. On one ascent of Ben Nevis, we arrived at the summit to find out that coincidentally, it was the day of the Ben Nevis race. We kept well out of the way, hill running not being our forte.

From Jim Brown:

Always a mainstay of the team…. Mr. Consistency. I recall numerous first leg runs always keeping us in contention. I remember the National Cross-Country relays at Aberdeen. We had two call offs on the morning of the race… John Graham and Ronnie MacDonald.  Eddie and Colin Farquharson were called in. Colin had a great run finishing in the leading group, I ran second and Eddie kept us in contention on the third leg , Brian McSloy anchored us to an unexpected win. Aberdeen were so confident they brought red and white ribbons for the trophy…. We borrowed them!

Like me he was a Highland games pot hunter. A particular favourite was Cowal highland games 3000 metres team race with travel expenses included. Most of the early evening was spent in the pub, expenses exhausted.. then watch the march of 1000 pipers.

He worked hard in putting the E to G team together and it was just reward when we eventually won it. Was there not a time when we had no runner for the Forrestfield leg? I think Eddie solved the problem by motoring through to Motherwell to return with Peter Fox who had already trained that morning.

He had a dry sense of humour at times and was as sharp as a tack…. Great club servant. I think he competed for Scotland at an inter area match cross country match.

Ronnie MacDonald remembered the “missing trophy” story:

Clyde Valley won the McAndrew Relay – at the race next year, the trophy was nowhere to be seen. For some reason, suspicion fell on Eddie (odd, as he wasn’t in the winning foursome.) Eventually the trophy was given up as lost. 

Below:   Eddie in the Glasgow Marathon