Hamish Telfer’s Friends …


JA Portrait

This first one is from John Anderson: you will have noted from Hamish’s remarks in the profile that he has a deep respect and admiration for John – John thinks equally highly of Hamish.

“I met Hamish when as a schoolboy he came along with his friend Cameron McNeish who I was coaching.   Cammy was a gifted long jumper who excelled in schools athletics and beyond and who subsequently went on to gain national and international acclaim as a hill walker and mountaineer.

Hamish did not display any special talent as an athlete but what he did have was an overwhelming desire to be the very best that he could be.   I decided to see if I could harness this ferocious energy and hard work and develop his potential as a distance runner.   His level of success unfortunately sadly didn’t match his driving level of hard work.

Hamish Telfer brought to his endeavours a level of commitment rarely surpassed.   I have coached very many national and international athletes who achieved outstanding performances.   Hamish might not have had their talent but he certainly tried as hard as any of them.

Whilst Hamish might not have achieved his goals as an athlete, he took his passion to helping others and became an outstanding coach.   His zest for knowledge and his ongoing determination to be the very best coach he can be has proved fruitful.

As an athlete he gave it everything but failed to achieve the highest levels.   Fortunately that energy and passion for knowledge has been redirected and has meant that he has excelled as a coach.”

Hamish and CameronHamish (on the right) and Cameron McNeish

Photo from C McNeish

Cameron, Hamish’s long time friend says … 

I first met Hamish when we both joined the West of Scotland Harriers in circa 1964/65. The club was looked after by a lovely old gent by the name of Johnny Todd who took Hamish and I under his wing. 

West of Scotland Harriers was predominantly a cross country running club and although Hamish and I considered ourselves sprinters we were encouraged to become involved in everything that was going on at the club, no bad thing for youngsters. That included winter Saturdays at the Stannalane running track near the Rouken Glen where we went cross country running with some fine old timers whose names I’ve forgotten (Hamish will remember). Included in our group was another young athlete who went on to become a Scottish international 400 metre runner by the name of Ian Walker. Ian is now a fairly well known and established folk singer, and we all still keep in touch. 

Hamish and I have very fond memories of dank, wintry Saturday afternoons at Stannalane. We probably ran between 5 and 10 miles, mostly around the Barrhead waterworks, and on our return to the ‘pavilion’ – a basic wooden shack, we all had to share one shower to scrape all the cow shit off us! That was followed by a cup of tea and a tea biscuit for which we all donated, if I remember correctly, tuppence! 

It was all very Alf Tupper’ish and we absolutely loved it. At that time Hamish showed some promise as a cross country runner and he and I used to finish reasonably highly in Under-15 cross country events, although the lads of Shettleston and Springburn Harriers usually dominated. 

Despite our relative success we still considered ourselves sprinters and after the Tokyo Olympics we were both inspired by the gold medal performance of Lynn Davies of Wales. I went on to enjoy a long correspondence with Lynn which lasted several years and we eventually met at a Home Counties international in Leicester when I competed for Scotland and he for Wales. I seem to recall Hamish also corresponded briefly with Lynn but he came to know him better later in life at various coaching functions and events. 

I went on to become a reasonably decent long jumper and represented Scotland on a couple of occasions when I was Scottish Junior Champion. Hamish trained very hard but soon realised that he wasn’t going to make it as a sprinter or a long jumper, so he began a slow progression through the track events – as a middle distance runner, then a long distance runner and eventually as a marathon runner, sadly without any real success. I think he may have run just under the three hours for the marathon. 

We used to go for long runs together as lads. Although I was specifically training as a long jumper Hamish was always happy to do some sprints training with me and I was always willing to go for some long runs with him. We both simply loved athletics and we both loved training, even before we met John Anderson. We did a lot of sprints training on the grass in Queen’s Park, near to Hamish’s parents home in Langside. 

On one occasion, when we were 15, we ran from my parents home in Hillington in Glasgow, down to Bishopton to visit an aunt and uncle of mine. We had a cup of tea before running back again. It wasn’t a huge distance – about 15 miles, but on the way back Hamish literally seized up and my father had to go out in the car to collect him. 

But Hamish never allowed these things to get him down. He had grit and determination in abundance. Where I had some natural ability, which led me to ease off training when things became too hard, Hamish was motivated by sheer hard graft. Indeed, John Anderson used to tell people that Hamish was the least successful of all his athletes, but the hardest worker! 

We met John Anderson at a schoolboys Easter training camp at Inverclyde. He took us under his wing and we often travelled out to Hamilton where John lived with his first wife Christine to help him collate training films and such like. On one later occasion, when we were both 17 I had bought a Honda motor bike but Hamish had splashed out on a wee scooter-type thing which barely went about 15-20mph. We both decided to go out to Hamilton to visit the Andersons on a particularly cold winter day. I got to Earnock about an hour before Hamish and when he appeared Christine had to take him into the house, place him in front of the fire, and thaw him out. I reckon he was suffering the first stages of hypothermia! 

Our weekends were entirely taken up with training – usually meeting Anderson somewhere and then going to the new all weather running track at Grangemouth Stadium. Later on that changed to Meadowbank in Edinburgh. We were in an excellent group of athletes that John coached that included Scottish shot put champion Moira Kerr, hurdler Lindy Carruthers (her mother was a coach with Maryhill Ladies, but more of that later) 400m runner David Jenkins (later became infamous as a drug cheat but we always called him Gwendoline – can’t really remember why…) the decathlete Stewart McCallum, middle distance runners Duncy Middleton and Graeme Grant. There were others but I can’t remember them now.

 Hamish and I were training partners to some noted Maryhill Ladies athletes such as Avril Beattie and we benefitted from the extra training opportunities that training with the girls of Maryhill Ladies brought (eg Friday evening indoor gym sessions). By now my parents had moved and I had left West of Scotland to join Bellahouston Harriers but Hamish remained very faithful to West of Scotland Harriers. But it was Maryhill Ladies where his coaching would eventually start.”

 We both had various girlfriends who were athletes and so life was a lot of fun. However, that hasn’t gone unnoticed. I remember Alex Naylor from Shettleston Harrier, who rarely failed to call a spade a spade, telling us we were a pair of pansies because we liked to train with the girls. 

About this time Hamish had his sights on joining the Police Force. I wanted to be a PE teacher. I then decided I’d quite like to be a policeman too so we both applied to join the City of Glasgow Polics cadets. I was accepted but Hamish wasn’t – he was too wee! I think he was about an inch short. Instead he stayed on at school and eventually went to work with the Bank of Scotland – yes, Telfer was a banker, but not for long. By this time he had decided he wanted to be a PE teacher and applied to Jordanhill Training College. It wasn’t easy. Hamish wasn’t a naturally talented sportsman and he had to perform various gymnastic routines to get accepted onto the course. I think I’m right in saying he sought out his old schoolteacher and got him to teach him gymnastic routes, and he worked bloody hard at it to make sure he qualified. And he did.

 After Jordanhill he went to teach in a school in Greenock where he stayed for a while. He then applied for, and became, a National Life Saving Coach which really surprised me. I didn’t even know he could swim! 

But that got him involved in the whole national, and international, coaching structure and even when he was working as a life saving coach his heart was still in track and field. By this time he had his own squad of athletes and he dedicated a lot of time to them. I think John Anderson was his inspiration. Like Hamish, John wasn’t a gifted athlete but worked very hard as a coach. Hamish did the same. No-one worked harder than Hamish and he never asked his athletes to do anything he had never done. He knew what it was like to be sick by the side of the track, or to be so knackered he could hardly stand. 

After life-saving I think Hamish went into academia and although we never quite lost touch we didn’t see a lot of each other through the eighties, nineties and early years of the noughts. He married Gail, but she died when she was quite young with cancer. They had one child, Lyndsey, and Hamish, despite all his commitments, brought her up as a single father, and did a marvellous job too. Lyndsey is now married and living in London but they are still very close, as you could imagine.

 I went off to climb hills and mountains and make a living doing that while Hamish became more involved in academia and coaching track. He eventually became British Universities coach and worked with some good athletes, but I’m afraid my knowledge of those athletes is pretty hazy. Hamish did become very involved in the whole drugs in sport controversy though and worked closely with the late Ron Pickering in trying to expose it.”

[Hamish comments:

  I remember the incident with the moped … !!!!  I passed out as I tried to come in John’s back door and woke up with my head cradled on Christine’s lap in front of the fire.  John was getting a tad impatient to leave for Grangemouth so bundled me semi comatose into the back of his Saab and then when we got to Grangemeouth I then joined in the sessions for the day.  Such a caring approach !!!!!  No prisoners with Anderson and to a large extent this rubbed off on me. ]


Picture from the Leisure Review

This next contribution is from  Eric Simpson who worked with Hamish on the Scottish Coaching Committee.

“The first time I came across Hamish was watching a documentary on television  about drug taking in the G.D.R.  I was stunned when asked if he suspected that there might be people in Britain taking drugs and the reply was YES. What was this someone with courage of his convictions to state was already known or should I say suspected. 

I then had the pleasure of meeting him the year after and  building up a friendship . A very astute and intelligent man  he always called a situation as he saw it and was part of a small group of people who was never afraid to point out  serious misgiving that many people had about the direction the sport was moving. A senior lecturer at Lancaster University  Hamish would  come under the description of a “character”  so few left in the sport today as he helped and supported so many student athletes through part of their development years.   
Hamish and I were asked at one point to rewrite the welfare policy for Scottish Athletics a role that we both were both well used to in our professional life. A very concise and erudite  person I was delighted to be associated with him in this project . Now retired Hamish has not retired from life and occasionally we are in contact with each other still trying to solve the ills of the world as you do.  I still have great pleasure in calling him a friend ,and long may it be so.”
Sandra Weider in action
Picture from Sandra
And now …. let’s hear from some of his athletes.   One of Hamish’s very first athletes was Sandra Weider and she writes:
“I know athletics was really,  really important to me, I trained 4-6 days a week, including Christmas Day.   I seem to remember  that meant Hamish was out there too – he was a really hard taskmaster, so much of it was hard, never forgotten saying such as ‘run through the line’ and ‘you won’t melt’ .   No point in complaining about the rain, but lots of it was done on trust-  not just with the athletes but also my Dad with whom he had a bit of a behind-my-back allegiance, mainly never to tell my Mum that I’d worked so hard I’d just been sick again! I know my Dad, who was an ex-professional footballer & sprinter, thought a huge amount of Hamish from early in their relationship and that tells its own story.
Training sessions took place all over the place, a pretty wide geographical area – school training grounds, Giffnock/Newton Mearns area at Woodfarm & Eastwood, even Crookfur Pavillion which was near where Hamish had spent a summer job planting Christmas trees – cries of ‘Ye Gods’ ringing out all over as I did laps of hopping on one leg trying to strengthen muscles, Bellahouston on Wednesday nights during the winter, starting with a weights session then a gym fitness session before going out onto the track, and Sunday afternoons, with Scotstoun on a Monday, and winter Friday evenings spent indoor training in the West End at Westbourne school.
I remember he rigged up a film recording in a classroom one Friday at Westbourne, of Igor Terovanessian for me to watch, trying to teach me to do a hitch-kick or a hitch-hang.   That was pretty forward-thinking then.
The season was planned in advance, with our sessions also laid out & a training diary was kept & discussed. I trusted him implicitly and would have done pretty much anything he’d asked – usually not a question actually, more a statement! I was devastated when he moved to England and probably didn’t ever find the same commitment in a coach that I felt from him (I hope he feels suitably bad about that!)
I remember a lot of the time Hamish didn’t drive but that was maybe just as well because I also remember that he fell asleep at the wheel driving late at night at least twice!
Girlfriends were kept under wraps and I think he had plenty to deal with the Maryhill Ladies secretariat for seeing a scandal with his athletes behind every changing room door, shower curtain and trip to Birchfield! (I don’t think we helped much, wearing a lot of clothes around the place wasn’t a high priority!)
I was aware that Hamish wasn’t afraid to ask for advice from the likes of Jimmy Campbell and was also well-liked by other coaches such as Frank Dick, Alec Naylor and his friend Iain (Rab) Robertson
Hamish was able to read and encourage the best out of us and it is testament to his intellect, drive & personality that our relationship has continued to thrive over all these years.”
Rona Livingston was one of Scotland’s best sprinters for several years with a career that lasted from the late 1960s to 1983 and covered 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m as well as the 60m indoors.   Check out the rankings list at www.scotstats.net in the archive section.    She has this to say about Hamish.

I had one major influence on my running before Hamish and that was being coached by Dennis Watts MBE when I became as Rona Livingston the youngest girl to run for GB in 1968.   I met  Hamish when I was in my first year of teaching and the relationship developed into one of deep understanding and trust.   We achieved an International vest,  running for Scotland in many races, but unfortunately due to injury and two weeks off peaking, did not run in any major competitions. Hamish was happy that I did not know a session until we met at the track and on some occasions as to how many parts were scheduled for that day. He was brilliant at getting the most out of my running and making me perform another repetition when I was on my knees. A group of about six always met with Hamish on Sunday mornings at Formby on the sand dunes where a lot of very hard but enjoyable winter work took place. As we returned from the “Super Bowl” sand dune area there was always the four efforts up the steep dunes by the side of the path, Hamish shouting Arms Arms Arms – and all this for a finger of fudge from the shop on the way home. Hamish became a very good friend and got to know my family well. When I started training with Donna Hartley he was always glad to include her and one session in the winter doing back to back 60’s we had to clear the snow from a local cricket pitch in order to be able to train. Several years later the  grass was still brown on that area. Reliable and always very punctual, athletics was fun and easy with Hamish, he was easy to talk to about all sorts of subjects. Hamish told me that when I finished competing that it would take about two years to de-train and this was a very accurate and wise warning.    

It was always a pleasure to see Hamish and do his sessions.

A caring husband and loving father he will always be a good friend.
The last time we met was when I attended a conference in Nottingham with Hamish.   He arrived to pick me up and as we walked down the path, discovered the car 50 m down the road. Hamish had not put the hand brake on but we got there safely. I thank him for all his help, support, encouragement and friendship over the years. 

Hamish Adrian and Lynn

Adrian and Lynn Webb

Finally for now, from Adrian Webb, who is now a noted coach in his own right – read about his coaching in the interview with SAtephen Green in the Spring, 2015 issue of the BMC News.

My wife and I were introduced to Hamish through the advise of Mike Dooling while we members of Liverpool Harriers in the late 80s.    We were both in our early 20s and looking for a local coach to take us into the next level.  We met Hamish in a small dingy pub in Liverpool and became acquainted.   Little did we know at the time, but Hamish used to travel at least 2 times a week from Lancaster to Liverpool to deliver our sessions, hardly what I would say a local coach!

I’ve never met anyone quite like this man, sometimes funny, always expressive and never a dull moment when he’s around.   He certainly helped both Lynn and myself to progress in the few years I was involved with him and also an incredible help when we lost our first child Samantha with a Cot Death.    We went our separate ways after a few years due to ongoing injuries to start a family.

We now have a 20 year old Son who is National U23 800m champion and 16 year old Daughter who is Northern 800m indoor Champion, both are coached by Mum and Dad.

There is no doubt that Hamish was a massive influence in both our lives and I’m sure he is the reason he kept us in the sport in a Coaching role. We both Coach a group of athletes through the Liverpool Harriers base.

We didn’t have much to do with Hamish from 1990 through to 2015 apart from Christmas Cards and the odd email until he took up our invitation to attend a function we had planned….After all that time it was like only yesterday that we had spoken. Hamish for the past 25 years has always promised to Pop in when next passing, but never actually done so, but it would be no surprise if the next person at the door when the door bell rings is Hamish! 

Quite a character…..I believe he once gave a lecture standing on his head!