Renfrewshire AAA: 1955 – 1959

Joe Connolly (B 1) to Des Dickson in the Edinburgh to Glasgow

In the absence of a copy of the constitution of the Association, we can look at the relevant part of the Ayrshire Harrier Clubs  Association dealing with its aims and objects.   This reads: 

“The objects of the Association shall be:

  1. To further the interests of athletics by endeavouring to secure the formation of new clubs eligible for membership.
  2. To encourage clubs by promoting individual and team competitions, county championships, inter-county contests and international matches.
  3. To assist schools by encouraging the promotion of athletic competitions.
  4. To assist youth clubs by offering advice to members and encouraging the promotion of area and inter district youth panel sports meetings.”

As far as Renfrewshire AAA is concerned, items 3 and 4 above are difficult to measure although we know that Renfrewshire did have teams competing in the Inter-Area Youth Services competitions with local meetings before them.   Items 1 and 2 are the ones we are mainly concerned with here and it is clear that the number of clubs taking part in the events confined to the county increased over the years.   In addition the events promoted by them included cross-country relays, cross-country championships, they played their part in the Inter-County Cross-Country events and for a time at least held a 10 mile road race.   There were also Track and Field Championships organised by the county.    There may well have been more but the details are not available at present.   

We are now looking at the cross-country events promoted in season 1954/55 and start with the cross-country relay of October 1954 which had 14 complete teams finishing from 8 clubs and Bellahouston emerged victorious winning a close run race by only 5 seconds from Greenock Wellpark.    

The championships were held on 15th January, 1955, and well though Bellahouston were running, the first two places on a cold and frost-bound course went to the Stevensons of Wellpark – Tom winning by approximately 600 yards.   The team race was a comfortable win for Wellpark’s team of T Stevenson, J Stevenson, J Cairns, G King, W Stoddart and D Anderson with 43 pts from Paisley Harriers (74) and Bellahouston (78).   Lots of names there that would become, if not legends, then very well known at least.      Bill Stoddart of Wellpark and Billy Goodwin of Bellahouston being the stand-outs.


Billy Goodwin of Bellahouston leading this group in the Edinburgh to Glasgow.

The next major promotion by the RAAA was the cross-country relays meeting held on 15th October 1955.  The results of the various county relays were mixed in together in the report in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ of 17th October as below.   It should be noted however that although Greenock Wellpark won, they were without the services of Frank Sinclair who had been an important part of the winning team the year before.   Bellahouston, preparing for the Edinburgh to Glasgow in November, had two teams placed second and third with new boy Joe Connolly having third fastest time of the day.   Results:


The 1955/56 championships resulted in team and individual success for Greenock Wellpark’s strong team were held on 15th January, 1956, at Paisley and the ‘Glasgow Herald’ headline read 


Renfrewshire Championships

The County Track & Field Championships were mentioned at the top of the page and in 1956 they were held on Monday, 18th June which was just two days after the Babcock & Wilcox Sports at Moorcroft Park in Renfrew.   Local athletes had done well at that meeting with Bellahouston second in the overall competition for the Empire Trophy.   Results included I Leckie of Bellahouston winning the 220 yards, John Stevenson winning the Two Miles with Gordon Nelson (Bellahouston) third (Bellahouston won the team race), P McDiarmid (Plebeian) won the Mile and T Prentice of Bellahouston won the Ladies 220 yards.    Two days later, the County event was a success with records set in the Mile, the High Jump and the Ladies half mile.   Report below:

If we look at the events being covered here, then the aims of the Association are being seriously tackled – men, women, junior as well as schools being represented on the prize list.   Six clubs plus two schools are all there – coming so close behind the bigger Babcock’s meeting it was a good show.   Bellahouston were undoubtedly the best all-round club in the county and Emmet Farrell noted that in his ‘Running Commentary’ column in the ‘Scots Athlete’.

The first race promoted by the Renfrewshire Association in the 1956/57 winter season was the cross-country relays on 20th October at Pollok Estate when Bellahouston Harriers, running on home territory, were first and second teams to finish with Wellpark, minus John Stevenson, in third.   In addition, all three fastest times were recorded by their own atletes.

The Championships held on 14th January, 1957, had quite a few interesting names appearing for the first time.   The championship was actually won by Gordon Nelson from Harry Fenion with Wellpark’s George King third.  note that Billy Murray of Glenpark, who would go on to be a very good senior runner, won the Youths race from Harry McWilliam of Auchmountain Harriers – a well known and well liked runner – and the winning Glenpark team included the highly respected administrator and author of the SCCU Centenary history Colin Shields.   

Harry McWilliam (in front, dark vest) training with Auchmountain at Cappielow Park

The Track & Field Championships were held on Monday 9th June, 1957, at Moorcroft Park, again two nights after the Babcock meeting where many of the athletes had performed nobly.   Note the double success of Charlie McAlinden (Babcock’s)  who would go on to win the SAAA Marathon title in 1966 and the Three Miles victory of Joe Connolly in a good time on a grass track which had not had time to recover from the pounding of hundreds of feet on the Saturday! 


Charlie McAlinden (138) and Pat McAtier (Paisley 52)

The 1957/58 relays were held on 19th October and the report in the ‘Herald’ was  brief in the extreme and read “Bellahouston Harriers were never seriously challenged after the first relay of the Renfrewshire senior event in which J Connolly gave G Nelson a useful lead, and the race was virtually over when Nelson completed his run with the fastest time over the course.”   The result  was given slightly more space: Bellahouston won by a minute from Wellpark who were over two minutes up on Glenpark.   Interesting that George King was second fastest over the trail, faster than Connolly and Tom Stevenson and only 7 seconds down on Nelson.

If we remember the aims of the association, if they are similar to those of AHCA as set out above, then the Renfrewshire Association continued to work on these and in January 1958 they introduced a Boys race to add to the Senior/Junior and Youths races.   With six men to score in the senior race, Bellahouston supplied the first four finishers plus seventh and eighth placed men to win comfortably with 25 points from Wellpark who had 80 pts and Plebeian with 145.    


The Track & Field Championships were held on 9th June, 1958, as usual at Moorcroft Park on the Monday after the Babcock Sports and the results were as follows:

The standard was  still very high with internationals on the men’s side represented by Joe Connolly and on the women’s side by Helen Cherry (winner of the SWAAA 880 in 1962, and of the Mile in 1962 and 63) and Mary Symon (second in the SWAAA 100 yards in 1958 and champion in 1959).

Helen Cherry in second behind Barbara Tait in the SWAAA Mile Championship

The cross-country relays in 1958 were held in Pollok Estate and the results were hard to find bur Jimmy Irvine of Bellahouston Harriers came to the rescue with the details.  Bellahouston provided first, second and third teams but not, as Morecambe and Wise might say, in that order.   Result:

1st: Bellahouston A team (J Connolly 11-21,  W Goodwin 11-42,  H Fenion 11-26, D Dickson 11-35)

2nd: Bellahouston C team (Roberts 11-52, F Cowan 11-52, R Irving  11-26,  –  )

3rd: Bellahouston B team  (I Wilson 11-40, R Black 11-48,  J Irvine 12-00, R Penman 11-48)

A quite remarkable result because it is not often the case in any competition that one club provides all the first three teams.   Simply looking at the result, it is no surprise that the A team won the championship given the quality of all four runners representing the club: Joe Connolly, Harry Fenion and Des Dickson all ran for Scotland in the Cross-Country International in March that year, and Willie Goodwin won the SCCU Junior Championship for season 1958/59.   

The winning Edinburgh to Glasgow team receiving the trophy

Nor could we find the results for the 1958/59 Renfrewshire Championships until Jimmy pointed out that they were held on 13th December, 1958, instead of the traditional January of the next year.  He sent the results as follows: 

1st: H Fenion 33-32;  2nd:  J Connolly 33-37 ;  3rd:R Irving 33—39.   Team Result Bellahouston  1st;  Wellpark 2nd;   Glenpark 3rd. and with six to count, the next three Bellahouston runners were  –  4t h  W Goodwin;  5th D Dickson;  7th J Irvine .    With six men in the first seven, there was no way anyone else could win the race.

A comment on Jimmy’s help: many, if not most, runners kept a training diary and that was true of runners of whatever standard.   You can find extracts from such diaries in the biographies of all the top runners but good club runners, and even not so good interms of trophy-winning runners kept a note of their training, of their races and of anything else relevant – some kept their daily weight in them, others kept a note of what they ate, and so on.   But whoever they were, the diraries are like gold dust to historians be they sports historians, social historians or athletics historians of varying specialisms.   Jim has certainly given us assistance from his for this page. 

The ‘Glasgow Herald’ gave less detail than Jim on the senior race but included a bit on the younger age groups in their report:


Two interesting names in the results for the younger age groups – in the Youths age group, the winner was John Murtagh who became an actor in adult life and was one of the cast in the award winning film, “Braveheart”, while in the Boys’ age group, Brian Goodwin, Billy’s younger brother, won and after a good career as a runner became a well-known official and administrator working at international fixtures as well as local ones, and being President of the SCCU in 1976/77..

The club had a superb season in the winter of 1958/59 when they won – 

  • The Midland District Relay (Dickson, Irving, Fenion, Connolly)
  • The Renfrewshire Championship (Fenion, Connolly, Irving, Goodwin, Dickson, Irvine)
  • The Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay (Goodwin, Irving, Irvine, Fenion, Penman, Connolly, Dickson, Black)
  • Nigel Barge Road Race (Goodwin, Connolly, Dickson)

and were very close up in all the others.     Alex Jackson has sent the following link to a video clip of Bellahouston winning the Edinburgh to Glasgow in 1958.   Just click on the link.

Summary of the Five Year Period

Year Relay Winning Team Fastest Individual Winning Team Individual
1954/55 Bellahouston Harriers Harry Fenion (BH) Greenock Wellpark H Tom Stevenson
1955/56 Greenock Wellpark H John Stevenson (GWH Greenock Wellpark H Tom Stevenson
1956/57 Bellahouston Harriers Gordon Nelson (BH) Greenock Wellpark H Gordon Nelson
1957/58 Bellahouston Harriers Gordon Nelson (BH) Bellahouston Harriers Harry Fenion
1958/59 Bellahouston Harriers Joe Connolly (BH) Bellahouston Harriers Harry Fenion

The 1958/59 season finished with the Track and Field Championships, held again at Moorcroft park and the ‘Herald’ report is below and the spread of results shows how well the County Association was doing – Men’s events, women’s events, schools athletes all taking part, standards as measured by winning times continued to creep upwards and there was a new SWAAA champion in Morag Carmichael taking part.