RENFREWSHIRE Amateur Athletic Association
The post-war period in Scottish athletics saw the development of the sport on several fronts at approximately the same time. One of these was the appearance of county associations, a coming together of clubs in county groupings which sprang from the clubs themselves rather than from the SAAA at national level. These associations provided a useful bridge for athletes between club and national levels of competition. After these groups were formed the progression was from club to county to district to national and, for the few, to international level. For some athletes the county was their ceiling of achievement, at other times it was a good stepping stone for injured athletes making their way back into competition and it generated its own grouping – the inter-counties competition. One of the most competitive was the Renfrewshire Amateur Athletic Association which included Bellahouston Harriers, both Greenock clubs, Paisley Harriers, Kilbarchan AAC, Auchmountain Harriers, Lochwinnoch Harriers, Johnstone YMCA and Glasgow Police AAC.
The photograph below is of the excellent Bellahouston team of the late 40’s and early 50’s including Tommy Lamb – fastest time in the relays in October 1947 and key man in many a triumph. They had to play second fiddle to both Greenock clubs on occasion though in what was probably the most competitive county association of them all. The earliest competition that we can find for the Association was the county cross-county relay in October 1947, reported below in the ‘Scots Athlete’ magazine.
Scots Athlete report on the Renfrewshire CC Relay Championship, 1947
Names like Williamson and Tommy Lamb were familiar to the athletics population which was starting to come back together after the war and would soon become familiar to a wider public. Lamb (Bellahouston) had been a good runner before the War winning an international vest for the 1938 international. Like Emmet Farrell, he was an athlete whose career was affected adversely by the hostilities. He would also win the SAAA Steeplechase in 1946 and 1947 after the war so his victory here was no fluke. Alex McLean of Bellahouston was another talented runner whose career started with Greenock Glenpark before he moved to Bellahouston and then returned to Greenock for the last few years of his career. He ran for Scotland in the 1948 international cross country championship, on the track he won the SAAA 6 miles in 1948 and 1949, and the 10 miles in 1947 and 1948. A most versatile endurance runner he also had medals from the SAAA championships for the Three Miles and the Marathon.
The report from the Port Glasgow Express below gives a closer view of the team race in the relay. It was a remarkable team effort given that at that point they had no single athlete of the calibre of Lamb or McLean.
The standard of runner was high in this match and the numbers were also worthy of note with Bellahouston having no fewer than four teams forward and a total of six clubs taking part. The Port Glasgow Express report reads:
LOCAL HARRIERS SUCCESS.
Glenpark Harriers ran strongly to win the Renfrewshire cross-country relay race on Saturday at Paisley. In the first lap, D Turner was a close second to Bellahouston A, and youthful native champion JW Armstrong held Bellahouston A and B teams to third place. Thereafter the locals went up to first place with a magnificent effort by club champion W McLean – Bellahouston A missing part of the trail and Bellahouston B taking second place. It was left for W Williamson to fend off attack by the latter and the youngster finished the race with 9 seconds to spare.
The Orangefield Club’s timings were – D Turner 16 min 46 sec; JW Armstrong 16 min 52 sec; W McLean 16 min 40 sec; amd W Williamson 16 min 41 sec; a well balanced team.
It was indeed a well balanced team with only 12 seconds between the fastest and slowest runners.
The next promotion by the County Association in the 1947/48 season was the individual and team championships, which were held on 24th January 1948 in Greenock and the ‘Glasgow Herald’ report is below.
A look at the results above shows some interesting facts. The JW Armstrong of Greenock Glenpark who ran in the senior relay team is revealed as a Youth and he won that age group title from a J Fenion of Lochwinnoch – could that be Harry Fenion who would later join Bellahouston Harriers and win both Scottish cross-country and marathon championships in the not-too-distant future?
Greenock Glenpark Harriers club group, 1940
The individual and team championship races for 1948/49 were held at Lochwinnoch on 22nd January 1949 with Bellahouston Harriers retaining their title. The ‘Glasgow Herald’ report read:
“Bellahouston Harriers retained the Renfrewshire seven mile cross-country championship on Saturday at Lochwinnoch beating Glenpark Harriers by 16 points. W Williamson (Glenpark), last year’s individual winner was again successful. A McLean, the Scottish six and ten miles champion, was in the field, but it was obvious that he was out for no more than a training spin. Results in detail:-
Team Race – 1. Bellahouston (W Christie 3, R Climie 6, A McLean 8, TW Lamb 9, A McGregor 12, W Dunwoodie 15) 55 pts; 2. Glenpark 71; 3. Wellpark 134. Individuals: 1. W Williamson (Glenpark 38 min; 2. J Stevenson (Wellpark) 38 min 13 sec; 3. W McLean (Glenpark) 38 min 20 sec.
Youths three-mile championship. Team Race 1. Glenpark 9 pts; 2. Bellahouston 28; 3. Auchmountain 31. Individual Race S Stevenson (Wellpark) 15 min 43 sec.
John (111) and Tom Stevenson following Andy Forbes.
Into the new 1949/50 winter season and the cross-country relays for the county were held on 12th November 1949 at Kilmacolm, and were the by now normal success. Fastest time this time was by Tom Stevenson, Greenock Wellpark Harriers. The ‘Scots Athlete’ report reads:
Maybe not as detailed as some earlier reports but there is enough there to show the quality in the field. Tom Stevenson who had the fastest time had run for Scotland in the International earlier in 1949 and would clock up another 5 international appearances was only two seconds faster than the versatile Bob Climie of Bellahouston who won races over the short sprint distances as well as over the country and on the roads, with Williamson, twice winner of the championship, back in fourth place and Tom Lamb sixth.
Tom Stevenson (second right, back row) with the Scottish International Cross-Country team in March 1949
The county championships for 1949/50 were held on 21st January at Renfrew where Williamson led the Glenpark team to victory over the reigning champions, Bellahouston Harriers. The short report in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ just gave the results without comment.
“Senior seven-mile championship at Renfrew: 1. W Williamson (Glenpark); 2. A McLean (Glenpark); 3. W Lindsay (Auchmountain); 39 min 11 sec. Team: 1. Glenpark (W Williamson 1, A McLean 2, S Williamson 8, H Beaton 10, J Grant 15, J Sinclair 17) 53 pts; 2. Bellahouston 67; 3. Plebeian 122. Youths Championship (three miles) – 1. W McAuslan (Bellahouston); 2. A Connolly (Bellahouston); 3. R Stoddart (Bellahouston); 23 min 07 sec. Team Bellahouston.”
The big change immediately noted from the results above is the return of Alex McLean to Glenpark from Bellahouston and the team victory for that club.
The summer season progressed and it was soon time for the cross-country spikes again.
George King (Wellpark – 13) running in Scottish Marathon, with Joe McGhee (Shettleston – 1) and Hugo Fox (Shettleston – 6)
So how was the new Association doing after its first three years? Very well, actually. There were new talents such as the teen aged Willie Williamson of Glenpark and Harry Fenion of Lochwinnoch, and all the way through to veterans such as Tommy Lamb (Bellahouston) and Alex McLean (Bellahouston and Glenpark). Attracting all age groups on a regular basis. It was also helping the bigger clubs such as Bellahouston, Greenock Glenpark and Greenock Wellpark prepare for the South West District Championships at the start of the year as well as getting their eight man teams ready for the Edinburgh to Glasgow race in November. Encouraging athletes, developing clubs and providing another step in the national gradation of athletics standards. Already the Renfrewshire AAA had more than justified its existence.
The new winter season started on 28th October, 1950, at Paisley with the ‘big three’ of Bellahouston and the two Greenock clubs all lined up at the start. The report in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ (below) was scanty in the extreme but did tell us that Bellahouston Harriers won again and retained the title in a team consisting of McAslan, Climie, Christie and Fenion. It was a time when runners switched clubs quite frequently moving from one club to a bigger club and often going back to their roots to finish their career, viz Alex McLean, and Harry was just one of many.
The championships for season 1950/51 were held on 20th January at Greenock and resulted in a win for Tom Stevenson of Greenock Wellpark Harriers although the team race went to rivals Greenock Glenpark Harriers. The habit of running young athletes in the relay is illustrated when we see that McAuslan of Bellahouston’s winning relay team won the Youths’ race in the championships. The Herald report is below and incorporates a para about the Ayrshire race. .
The Greenock Wellpark Harriers team of the late 40’s/early 50’s : Back: J Cairns, B Aitken, S Aitken, D McGivern, C Aitken, S Brown. Front: G King (21st), B Stoddart (33rd), J Stevenson (4th), D McConnachie (43rd), T Stevenson (3rd) and P McKay (51st)
A year later and the 1951/52 cross-country season started as usual with the relays and the Renfrewshire event was held at Greenock, hosted by Wellpark Harriers. The report from the ‘Scots Athlete is below.
Note that the number of clubs involved had grown with Babcock & Wilcox AC and Plebeian Harriers both added to those taking part making it 15 teams that faced the starter. Nor had the standard fallen: Bellahouston’s Fenion and Kennedy, Glenpark’s Armstrong, Wellpark’s Stevensons were all athletes of genuine quality.
The Cross Country championships that season were held on 19th January, 1952, at Pollok Estate and resulted in Bellahouston winning the title back from Greenock Glenpark who were second, with Paisley Harriers a surprise third, beating Plebeian by a mere 2 points. Paisley were also second team in the Youths race behind double team victors Bellahouston. Among the up-and-coming runners in the Youths event were Dick Penman and Gordon Nelson of Bellahouston, both of whom would become well known in the years to come. In the Seniors race, Bob Climie led the home team to first place when he finished second, just 7 seconds behind Tom Stevenson.
Two great Bellahouston Harriers: Harry Fenion passes the baton to Jim Irvine
Season 1952/53 and the relays were at Kilbarchan on 18th October. The ‘Glasgow Herald gave the credit for the victory to the lead built up over the first two legs by Kennedy and Stoddart although the two Stevensons whittled the 600 yard gap down to 70 by the finish. For all the details, the ‘Scots Athlete’ was the only source. In the results:
Note the arrival on the scene of two Glenpark runners – George King who would go on to a very good career as a distance runner, particularly on the road at distances up to the marathon, and Bertie Cox who was a club stalwart for decades to come – as well as the absence of Glenpark from the top three Senior teams. .
Frank Sinclair, Greenock Wellpark Harriers.
The second Renfrewshire AAA promotion, the championship in January 1953 was also well covered by the magazine and resulted in a win for Bellahouston from Paisley Harriers.
Winter 1953/54 had a surprise for many when the title did not go to Bellahouston or Glenpark or last year’s runners-up, Paisley Harriers, but to Greenock Wellpark Harriers. The Wellpark had been building the team over several years and the Stevenson brothers were by now established internationalists and redoubtable opponents in any race. Their top miler Frank Sinclair had won the SAAA Mile championship in 1947 and would represent Scotland in the cross-country international in 1947’48, 50, and ’53. He had been running and racing in England for a few years but in 1953 he was back, and had already run for Scotland over the country in March 1953. They now had three international runners in the four-man team and with George King it was a formidable quartet. The running order in 1953 also helped – where they had had a 600 yard deficit at halfway in 1952 – and after a solid run by George on the first stage, Frank, John and Tom saw them comfortably home three-quarters of a minute clear of Bellahouston in second. Details:
The winner of the championships in January, 1954 was the younger of the Stevenson brothers but unfortunately he could not lead his team to triumph – that honour went to A McMaster in fourth place who led Paisley Harriers to their first county championship.
In summary then, out of fourteen events covered on this page, 9 team victories went to Bellahouston, 3 to Glenpark, 1 each to Wellpark and Paisley. The individual winners and fastest time men were W Williamson (GGH) and T Stevenson (GWH) had 4 each, J Stevenson (GWH) had 2, and T Lamb (BH), H Fenion (BH) and H Kennedy (BH) had 1 each. Would the Bellahouston dominance continue into the 1955 – 1959 period?
|Season||Relay 1st Team||Relay Fastest Time||Championship||Winner||Youth|
|1947/48||Greenock Glenpark H||T Lamb (BH)||Bellahouston H||W Williamson (GGH)||–|
|1948/49||Bellahouston H||–||Bellahouston H||W Williamson (GGH)||S Stevenson (GWH)|
|1949/50||Bellahouston H||W Williamson (GGH)||Greenock Glenpark H||W Williamson (GGH)||W McAuslan (BH)|
|1950/51||Bellahouston H||T Stevenson (GWH)||Greenock Glenpark H||T Stevenson (GWH)||W McAuslan (BH)|
|1951/52||Bellahouston H||T Stevenson (GWH)||Bellahouston H||T Stevenson (GWH)||R Penman (BH)|
|1952/53||Bellahouston H||J Stevenson (GWH)||Bellahouston H||H Kennedy (BH)||J McGregor (GWH)|
|1953/54||Greenock Wellpark H||H Fenion (BH)||Paisley Harriers||J Stevenson (GWH)||J Simpson (Plebeian)|