Renfrewshire Amateur Athletic Association: 1960 – 1965

The Renfrewshire Amateur Athletic Association had been in existence for more than 12 years by 1960 and had developed into an organisation that held track, road and country events for men, women and younger age groups.   It was supported by the clubs and by the athletes, of all standards, who kept turning out in its races.    The ‘Glasgow Herald’ as a paper of record had reported at varying lengths and detail over the years too but this would not always be the case – in the 1960’s the ‘Herald’ sports editors seemed at times to prioritise international events, no matter how small, at the expense of Scottish ones – space on the sports pages was precious and decisions had to be taken about what and how much to include.   But for the athletes on the ground, the county association was continuing to do a very good job in providing competition for all and encouraging new clubs to form. 

The winter of 1959/60, started as usual with the relays over the country and after the traditional McAndrew relay at Scotstoun, the Lanarkshire and Dunbartonshire versions were held on 10th October with Renfrew holding their county championships a fortnight later.   In the 1958 relay, Bellahouston had three teams in the first three which was unheard of before that; they repeated the feat in 1959.   Their strength was such that Scottish internationalists Des Dickson and Bert Irving were relegated to the B and C teams respectively.   The ‘Glasgow Herald report is below.

The Renfrewshire Championships were held on 12th December in 1959 and Bellahouston retained the team title, Joe Connolly won with six men in the top 10.   The six included John Murtagh who had won the Youths title the previous year as well as all the well-kent faces – Connolly, Fenion, Penman, Mercer and Adams.   Second team was Wellpark, whose lead runner was Tom Stevenson in second place, leading an experienced squad of McConnachie, Stoddart, Aitken, McKay and King.   Third placed Glenpark had several interesting athletes in the race – long-serving Bertie Cox whose son Hammy would become a Scottish senior international, and Jim Spence, the oldest of the five Spence brothers, starting out on his career as a Glenpark athlete and coach.

The five Spence brothers who ran for the Greenock clubs in the Renfrewshire championships, Jim second from right.

The Track and Field Championships were held on Monday 21st June, 1960, where more new names destined for international honours were in evidence.   Dick Hodelet running for his first club, Auchmountain Harriers, won the Junior 880 yards, Hamish Robertson (Bellahouston) won the Junior 100 yards, and old favourites like Connolly, Dickson, McAlinden, Helen Cherry and Mary Symon were competing and the schools were represented on the prize winners list too by Greenock Academy and Paisley Grammar.

The cross country relays that started the 1960/61 competition year were held at Paisley and there were several surprises – which did not include Bellahouston’s victory.   There was a surprise when the Wellpark team finished a mere one second behind Bellahouston’s B Team for third place.  There was another surprise when Pat Bradley of Paisley Harriers set the fastest time of the day, 17 seconds faster than Bellahouston’s Des Dickson.   Bradley was one of three brothers of whom Mike was the fastest, a Scottish international miler, who later joined Springburn when he moved to that part of Glasgow.   Results:-


It had been a good day for Bellahouston and there were signs of other clubs starting to take them on – eg Bradley’s fastest time of the day, Bill Stoddart starting to show what he was capable of – but unfortunately none of the online resources have the result of the 1960 championship in December.  In the District championships however, Joe Connolly was first county man to finish when he crossed the line in third place, and the club team (Connolly 3, Black 11, Irvine 18, Goodwin 38, Wright 53 and Wilson 54) fourth and the only Renfrew club to finish a team then it may well be that Bellahouston won the championship that year.

The Renfrewshire association held their 10-mile road race on 22nd April 1961 in Paisley and the winner was Joe Connolly of Bellahouston in 54:27  from clubmates R Black (54:49) and R Penman (54:49) with Bertie Cox of Greenock Glenpark fourth in 58:04.

The track championships that summer were completely dominated by Bellahouston with winning athletes in men’s and women’s events plus winners in Junior and Youths events.   Several of the athletes were competing successfully after having a hard day on Saturday at the Babcock Sports.   Joe Connolly was such a one having had a very hard race against Graham Everett in the Two Miles where he finished second and then winning the Mile at the County event.   

The Relays in October were again at Paisley for season 1961/62 and again Bellahouston won two sets of medals but this time it was first and third with Wellpark splitting them.  Pat Bradley was third fastest this time round but only four seconds separated the times of the first three runner, D McDonald of Bellahouston was fastest with the very consistent Des Dickson second.   Billy Goodwin’s younger brother Brian was running for the B team on the fourth stage – he came in to the sport in the Boys age group, and as has already been noted would become one of the country’s best known administrators.


Bertie Irving to Jim Irvine in the Edinburgh to Glasgow

As in 1960, the results for the County championships are not available but we do know that Bellahouston was third in the Midland Championships on 20th January, and that Bert Irving in sixth place was the first Renfrewshire finisher, Dick Penman in 15th and Brian Goodwin in 38th were second and third finishers from the county, it may well be that the club won the Renfrewshire championship.

The summer championships meeting was held on Monday, 18th June, 1962, and many of the regulars were there – McGaw, Rae, Stoddart, McAlinden, Carmichael and Cherry were all taking part, note that Ronnie Arthur of Glenpark appears as R McArthur.    


A very short report in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ tells us that Bellahouston Harriers won the 10 miles cross-country relay on 20th October from Paisley Harriers with Wellpark third.  The Paisley Harriers team had Pat Bradley and his brother Eddie on the third and fourth stages with the team made up by Scottish Marathon Club stalwart, Pat McAtier, and steeplechaser Tommy Thomson.   Pat Bradley had the fastest time of the day but had to share the honour with J McDonald of Bellahouston.   Results of Youths and Boys races were not published.

The Championships for the 1962/63 season were hard fought with Des Dickson winning from Charlie McAlinden with the excellent Frank Whitley of Wellpark Harriers third.   Wellpark won the title by one single point from Bellahouston with Glenpark third.   The third Bradley brother for Paisley, Mike, was second in the Youths race and now all three brothers had represented the club.   For Glenpark, it was a time when they had several very good half milers in the club – Dick Hodelet had joined them from the now defunct Auchmountain Harriers, Ronnie Arthur was running and racing well and the winner in the Boys race was Tom Dobbin who would be a Scottish champion and one of the best in Britain as a Youth and Junior.


The  local paper that could usually be relied upon for detailed results reporting was the ‘Glasgow Herald’ and in the 1960’s for some reason not all domestic fixtures were covered every Monday morning.    So it was that the Track Championships were not covered in 1963 although many of the Renfrewshire athletes were competing well at national level, both as individuals and as teams (ie relays).   

Dick Hodelet, Greenock Glenpark Harriers.

The cross-country relays on 19th October saw the title retained by Bellahouston Harriers from Wellpark with Glenpark third.   It is interesting to note that the two fastest times were recorded by athletes from clubs that did not feature in the first three.    

The championships for 1963/64 were held on 7th December and a new name was inscribed on the trophy – Bert Irving of Bellahouston, of whom it was once said “he only ran three races a year – the Edinburgh to Glasgow, the National and the International”.   A top class athlete his progress maybe suffered a little because he lived at the far tip of Galloway and travel to races was often quite complicated.   The Youths race had Tom Dobbin, a superb track athlete, winning from Mike Bradley who had an equally good career as a miling specialist.


The track championships were held on 21st June in 1964 and were, from the performances point of view at least, a great success.   

The 1964/65 county competition year began as ever with the cross-country relays, held again at Paisley, on 17th October and Bellahouston Harriers won again with Paisley Harriers in second.   Glenpark were third.   The brief  report only gave details of the senior race but there was enough to show that the Irvine/irving double act was largely to the benefit of the winning team.   It read:

Bellahouston won the Renfrewshire 10-mile senior relay championship at Paisley, beating Paisley Harriers by 18 sec., Glenpark Harriers were third, 4 sec behind Paisley.   The power of J Irvine and R Irving assured Bellahouston of victory over the second half of the journey.   Results:- 1.   Bellahouston (R Penman 16:08, B Goodwin 16:06, J Irvine 16:23, R Irving 15:40); 2. Paisley Harriers (M Bradley 15:44, E Bradley 16:15, J Simpson 16:37, P McAtier 16:39);  3. Glenpark Harriers (R Arthur 16:01, W Murray 16:03, J Spence 16:21, R Cox 16:34).   Fastest:- 1.  R Irving 15:40;  2. M Bradley 15:44; 3.  W Murray 16:03;  4.  B Goodwin 16:06.

Irving ran well in the relays and then, while still reigning county champion, he won the championship when it was held on 5th December on his home soil of Pollok Estate.   The short report in the ‘Herald’ reads:-


Into 1965 and the Track and Field Championships were held again at Moorcroft Park on Monday 21st June and the athlete of the meeting was probably Tom Dobbin of Glenpark Harriers who won the Junior 880 yards as well as the Senior Mile.   The standard was high across all events with HC Robertson, SSAA champion just two days before in the Schools championships, who won two events, as did Hugh Baillie of Bellahouston, and among the top performers with gold medals at the end of the evening,  were Hilda McCann of Bellahouston Harriers with a double in the throwing events, and Dick Hodelet of Glenpark.   

The Association was growing with more clubs in the county, more schools represented in the championships and more athletes coming through the age groups.   The future was looking bright.

Year Cross-Country Relays Fastest time Championship Team Individual
1959/60 Bellahouston Harriers H Fenion (BH) Bellahouston Harriers J Connolly (BH)
1960/61 Bellahouston Harriers P Bradley (Paisley H) Unknown  
1961/62 Bellahouston Harriers D McDonald (BH) Unknown  
1962/63 Bellahouston Harriers P Bradley/D McDonald= Greenock Wellpark H  D Dickson (BH)
1963/64 Bellahouston Harriers C McAlinden (B&W) Bellahouston Harriers R Irving (BH)
1964/65 Bellahouston Harriers R Irving (BH) Bellahouston Harriers R Irving (BH)