Garscube Harriers: 1930 – 1935


Robert R Sutherland

The first ever track competition I took part in for Clydesdale Harriers was against Garscube Harriers and Springburn Harriers at Springburn in 1958.  The second was the Dumbartonshire AAA Track and Field Championships at Westerlands a few weeks later.   We always had two winter cross-country inter-club runs with Garscube, the ‘big’ one being a triangular with Victoria Park AAC at Milngavie on the Saturday before the National Championships.    Naturally there were many friendships that sprung up: David Kerr came across to train with us at Mountblow on Tuesdays for several weeks in 1964, David Martin was a very good friend and we did several pre-race warm-ups together, Doug Spencer won the County three miles and was always very friendly, Stuart Irvine was an outstandng DAAA secretary, and we could go on for ages noting the pals such as Stevie Cullen, Billy Ritchie were guys I raced with, from the previous generation there were men like Davie Causon, Arthur Wharton, Alex Kidd and of course the wonderful Walter Ross.

Garscube is now almost certainly the most progressive and imaginative club in Glasgow or Dunbartonshire with many initiatives to their credit, often away from the running course.   But little is known of their history and the wee bit that I would like to illuminate here is their endurance running teams of the 1930’s and 1940’s.   Befor that however, we need to look at their history.   The club history tells us that

“Garscube Harriers boasts a long and proud tradition dating back to 1898.   The club was formed by W A McCaa at the end of the 19th Century to cater for the growing popularity in running at the time. Despite only having a dozen or so members, the club continued to showed promise in cross country races and began to grow as a result. Much is owed to Mr McCaa and the club still run a cross country race in his honour.

The early part of the 20th Century saw continued running success which was interrupted only by two world wars. The First World War saw many members fighting for King and Country with no activities taking place from 1914 to 1919. The Second World War was less disruptive, the main concession being that night time runs were suspended during blackout periods.

From a running point of view, the 1950’s were a transitional phase in the club’s history. Up to this point Garscube had been very prominent in road and cross country running with a few successes on the track. This era produced a mixture of fortunes for the club with a decline in the success on the country and an increase in track achievements. Indeed, by the end of the 1950’s, Garsube’s record of successful cross country racing largely disappeared – not returning again until the early 1960’s.   The 1930’s and 1940’s need to be examined in a bit more detail though rather than being passed over.”

We can start with the West District relays in November 1930 in which Garscube Harriers finished fourth and just outside the medals.   25 seconds beihind third placed Maryhill Harriers, J Girvin was their top man with sixth fastest time but the surprise was David Brooke’s run for the B Team (13th) which placed him 13th individual, one place ahead of R Roxburgh, second fastest in the A team.

On 21st February, 1931, the West District Championships were held and the first individual was D Urquhart of Garscube Harriers who won by 22 seconds.   Unfortunately the team could only finish third with the counting runners being Urquhart, Brooke, McDonald, Thomson, Lindsay and Frost.   The first set of team medals of significance won by the club in the 1930’s was the silver picked up in the 1931 national.   Second to the all-conquering Maryhill Harriers team, they were led home by Anglo Sergeant RR Sutherland, who unfortunately was not a scoring runner but finished second with the team men being J Girvin 9, C Blue 14, D Brooke 19,   R Roxburgh 21, J Thomson 22 and D Urquhart 29.   Athletes have been named for both races as an indication of the strength of the club at that time – two races, eleven runners, two sets of medals.   The four who had seen them placed fourth in the District Relays had been Roxburgh, Thomson, Loudon and Girvin – and Loudon was not in either of the championship teams.    The Edinburgh – Glasgow eight man relay was held on 25th April and Garscube was third team to finish.   AS Brooks had them sixth at the end of the first stage and J Girvan brought them up to fourth place.   E Louden kept them in fourth before D Urquhart with fastest time of the day pulled them into third place – a position that they held for the entire second half of the race.   Roxburgh, Blue, Thomson and D Brooke were the heroes who ensured the medals.

Later in April 1931, L Lindsay was unplaced in the 10 miles SAAA track championships but gained a standard medal with his time of 56:36.    On 30th May, E Louden was third in the first class Mile race at Queen’s Park FC Sports.   The idea of having first class, and second class races over themiddle distances was to answer two problems: the numbers taking part in middle distance races was immensely high with up to 150 entries being received and the runners having to weave and bullock their way through the field;   and there was also the issue of handicaps being up to, and on occasion over, a lap in distance.   The answer was to have a first class race with lower numbers and a reduced difference between back markers and limit men.   The second class was just the same as the first except that the runners were a bit slower.   Surprisingly often the winning times in each race were the same proving the validity of the handicap.   However, Louden was third in the first class mile running off 105 yards.   In the Glasgow Civic Week Carnival at Ibrox on 6th June, it was the turn of AD McDonald to pick up a prize when he was second in the eight laps steeplechase.   A week later at the Hamilton Civic Week Sports, Louden was second in the mile, this time off the reduced mark of 90 yards.   The big meeting that day however was the St Pater’s AAC relays meeting at Celtic Park and despite their being relays at all distances and a three miles team race, there were no Garscube teams out.   In the Glasgow Police Sports at Ibrox on 20th June, in the second class mile, J Thomson was fourth off 120 yards.   In the SAAA Championships on 27th June, RR Sutherland, a superb athlete who ran for Scotland in the international 7 times, won the SAAA Four Miles Championship for the second successive year.   Also running in the race was L Lindsay who finished fifth.

The Lochwinnoch AAC Sports were held on 11th July and the club was in evidence all the way through the programme.   J Dobbie was third in the 880 yards, J Thomson was third in the open mile, and J Girvin was third in the invitation two miles.   J McIsaac was second in the invitation 100 yards too.    A week later – 18th July – and Thomson was again third in an open mile: this time at Lochwinnoch.   He seemed determined to finish third and his best third place of the year was at the Rangers Sports at Ibrox where he was again placed third in the invitation mile behind Tom Riddell of Shettleston and Cyril Ellis of Birchfield: Riddell ran a new Scottish record of 4:16 while Ellis ran an all-comers record of 4:16.8.    Girvin was third in the invitation two miles.

That was a fairly typical summer season with the runners all following their own programme and inclinations with the men who would be running in the same road and cross country and road teams cultivating speed by running half miles or endurance by running miles, twos and threes.   The only surprising thing is that there were no Garscube Harriers teams in the relays or distance team races where Plebeian, Shettleston and Bellahouston teams had it all their own way.

Into winter 1931-32, and the club was fifth and sixteenth in the District relays with Girvin, McKie, Lindsay and Thomson the top men and Davie Brooke was not far behind.   David is an interesting character: when I started running he was one of the key men in the Scottish Marathon Club and one of the country’s top timekeepers.   Many of the officials at the time spoke of their own running careers but David never did.   A good timekeeper who stood at most SMC road races, a bit carnaptious at times, but his talents were recognised when he was an official timekeeper at the 1970 Commonwealth Games.    In the District Championships in 1932 the team was down in sixth place with Girvin, Brooke and Roxburgh all absent.   Came the national, and Garscube Harriers were eighth, again with a number of good men unavailable, although Sutherland was again second individual.

The summer continued as in previous years with individuals performing well – A McDonald first in the 880 at Monkland Sports in May, David Brookes second to Dunky Wright in the 10 miles marathon at Hamilton in June; led all the way to win the mile at Irvine, second in two miles at Irvine, J Bennet first in the Mile at Hamilton, A Rodger fourth in the 220 at the Police Sports in June, P McCallum second in the  half mile at the Police meeting,  A Laing was first in the youths 440 and third in the 220 at Irvine in June, and so on.   What was missing was any good team or relayperformances – the club even seemed to be absent from the St Peter’s Meeting at theend of May which was entirelt relays with on occasion a team race.   Nor were they prominent in the SAAA Championships (the Irvine meeting at the end of June was on the same day as these championships in which Garscube was represented by J McIsaac in the 220 yards with AF Cruickshanks and C Thomson ran in the half mile.

When winter came along, it was a different story however.   In  the Midland District Championships at Hamilton Park in November, they were third behind two very strong teams – Shettleston and Plebeian Harriers – missing second place silver by only 8 seconds.   The runners were W Regan  14:20, T Dailly 14:36, J Girvin 14:26, WB Brooke  14:36.   The B Team of Forrester, Phoenix, Bennet and Thompson was eleventh.   The fact that none of the men was in the top ten times for the course indicates the strength of the team as a whole with only 16 seconds between fastest and slowest.   In the District Championships proper on 4th February 1933, the team was third behind Springburn and Shettleston Harriers with top men being Bennett and AS McDonald in sixth and seventh places.   Other scoring runners were Lindsay 17th,  Dailly 42nd, Lardy 44th and Phoenix 46th.

In the National which was also held at Hamilton, RR Sutherland was fourth but could not count for the team which finished sixth.   It was described as the largest gathering of runners ever assembled in Scotland for a race with a total of 400 runners from 25 clubs.  At that time team positions were scored by taking out all the non-counting runners and then scoring the remainder.   Garscube’s second man was J Girvin in sixth place but for team placement he was third.The other counting runners were DB Brooke 25th, T Dailly 34th, J Bennett 39th, AD McDonald 48th and J Thomson 68th).   Girvin had last run in the International in 1927 but his sixth at Hamilton won him another run in the dark blue of the Scottish team.   This year the event was held at Caerleon Racecourse in Wales and Girvin was 44th and RR Sutherland had a brilliant run to finish second.   The winter season ended with the Edinburgh to Glasgow eight man relay on 8th April where the club finished seventh.   Third after a good first stage by J Girvin, only 21 seconds behind the leader, they dropped to fourth on the second stage, seventh on three and that is where they stayed.

Into the summer of 1933 and on 3rd June the annual team contest organised by St Peter’s AC a Celtic Park saw the Garscube trio of  L Lindsay, AD McDonald, and J Girvin finished 5th, 7th and 8th respectively for second place in the one mile team race, while DR Brooke 5th, J Bennett 7th and AS Hyslop 11th made up the team that finished third in the three miles team race.   In the open events, C Thomson won the Youths half mile off 48 yards.   Came 10th June and at the Ayr Sports Meeting, T Gourlay of Garscube was third in the mile and David Brooke was second in the handicap for the 15 miles road race.   They had sprinters too and T Pitcairn won both 100 and 220 yards handicap races.   Pitcairn also won the 100 yards at the Glasgow Police Sports one week later but he was the only club member on the prize list.      RR Sutherland was the only Garscube runner who left the SAAA championships when he won the four miles.   Springburn Harriers held an open meeting on 8th July at Helenvale Park where RD Phoenix was third in the Mile.   Then in the Meeting at Cowal Park in Dunoon, J Gourlay was second in the Mile.   At Girvan on 22nd July, David Brooke was third in the 14 miles (approx) marathon behind Donald Robertson and Dunky Wright and also won first handicap prize, while at Saltcoatson the same afternoon L Lindsay was third in the Mile.

Winter 33/34 started with Garscube being unplaced (8th) in the National Novice Championship on 4th November, but their trial over two and a half miles for the District Relays was won in a new record time for the course by DB Brooke from T Armstrong and L Lindsay.   The fixture list was so scanty at the time that clubs had to organise their own trials to help select teams.   All clubs did it – trials for the Novice Championship. trials for the Districts relays, for the District Championship, for the National Championship.   Garscube trials were all held from Westerton.   However that may be, in the actual championship relay they finished ninth.   On 2nd December, with no race scheduled, the club had a joint meeting with Plebeian Harriers: three packs in total, one over five miles and the other two, including the racing pack ran two and a half miles.   The purpose of the shorter distances was apparent a week later on December 9th.    I quote from the ‘Glasgow Herald’:

“A relay race was held at Westerton on Saturday afternoon under the auspices of the Garscube Harriers.   The object  of the event was to bring together the winners and leading clubs in the Midland, South Western and Eastern Championship, and with the exception of Dundee Thistle Harriers who were unable to send a team, the others were all represented.   As was expected, the ‘duel’ for the ‘unofficial’ championship of Scotland lay between Plebeian, the Midland champions, and Edinburgh Northern Harriers, the East title holders.”   

It was a very good race with victory going to Edinburgh Northern from Plebeian and Shettleston.   Garscube themselves were sixth of the nine invited teams.   They improved on this by five places when they won the ‘West End Clubs’ team race at Scotstoun 30th December 1933 ‘without the services of D Brooke and D Urquhart’ from Victoria Park and Clydesdale.   Star of the day was youthful J Gifford of Victoria Park who had fastest time by 24 seconds.   Five clubs took part in the race.   The Edinburgh to Glasgow relay was held on 6th January, 1934 and was won by Dundee Thistle Harriers.   Gifford won the first stage for Victoria Park and Garscube were fifth to finish, one pace ahead of Shettleston Harriers:    Dailly on the third leg and Girvin on the final stage both recorded fastest time on the stage for Garscube.

The National in 1934 was held on 3rd March at Hamilton Park and Garscube missed third place by only 14 points.   The race was notable for being a tie between Plebeian and Dundee Thistle Harriers with Edinburgh Southern third.   The Garscube runners who were five points in front of Shettlestom and 64 in front of Maryhill were J Girvin 6, D Urquhart 14, D Brooke 16, T Dailly 30, AD McDonald 42 and J Bennett 48.   J Girvin was selected for the international on 24th March along with Robert Sutherland but could not turn out on the day.   Sutherland was team captain for the Scottish team and he performed nobly being eleventh finisher and first Scot across the line.

That summer was like most others – Tom Dailly won the handicap mile at the Police Sports on 2nd June where T Armstrong was second in the half mile, and there were other individuals triumphs but the big team win was in the Three Miles Team Race at the Inter Club organised by St Peter’s AAC at Celtic Park on 16th June.   The runners were J Bennett 3rd, L Lindsay 5th, DB Brookes 7th,  for a total of 15 points to Shettleston’s 25 with Springburn third.   Sutherland was the only club man to win a medal when he was second in the three miles.    Pitcairn, who seemed to be their only sprinter the previous year was second in the 220 yards at the Partick Thistle sports,was joined by T Sturdy who won the 100 and 220 at Babcock & Wilcox Sports, and established men like C Thomson winning the half mile and the mile at the Johnston Hospitals Gala.

The McAndrew Relays at Whiteinch were held on The first winter championship in 1934 was the Midland District and Garsciube finished fourth, agonisingly close to the medals, being less than half a minute behind Plebeian Harriers.   The runners were Armstrong, Cowan, McKie and McDonald – no Girvin, Brooke or Urquhart in the team – and the second team was fourteenth.   There were only 25 seconds between the fastest man and the fourth runner in the first team, not one in the top six times: excellent team running.  On 1st January 1935 the Edinburgh to Glasgow took place and, to the surprise of many, Garscube finished second to Edinburgh Northern.   T Armstrong was first on the first stage, then came J Bennett (2nd), W Gowans (2nd), R McKie (3rd), AD McDonald (2nd), D Brooke (3rd), D Urquhart (2nd) and CT Thomson (2nd).   It was a good display of strength in depth.

The club was looking good and in the District Championships in 1935 they won .   The Glasgow Herald report read:

“Garscube experienced little difficulty in lifting the William Maley Trophy in the Midlands Championship at Hamilton.   Throughout the race it was obvious that their counting men were much better placed than their rivals. ”     So much better placed that they won by 50 points!   Their runners (J Bennett 5th, T Dailly 16th, T Armstrong 17th, W Gowans 21st, DM Armstrong 22nd and R McKie 24th) totalled 106 while Victoria Park in second had 156 points and Maryhill was third with 175 points.   Bennette ran well but none of their team was in the ‘star’ category but with only eight places separating their second and sixth runners they packed very well indeed.

Better still was to come.   In the National they won bronze medals in front of the Shettleston team containing Flockhart (1st) and Sutherland(5th).    The Garscube men were D  Urquhart 11th, J Thomson 28th, J Bennett 29th, D Brooke 34th,  T Dailly 36th and DM Armstrong 46th.   The packing was again good with the middle four coming in over only eight places.  The Shettleston counters were spread from first to sixty second opposed to Garscube’s eleventh to forty sixth.