Training at Springburn

Living in Lenzie for 15 years, it was inevitable that I did some training at some point with Springburn.   Getting involved in the sport in the 1950’s with all the inter club fixtures and at a time when you knew every runner you saw training or running down the street, it was inevitable that I already had a lot of friends in Springburn.   Tom O’Reilly and Eddie Sinclair were particularly good friends as were Danny Wilmoth, Moir Logie, Harry Gorman, Dunky Middleton, Nicky Souter, Eddie Knox and others.   Not long after arriving in the area I was invited on a Sunday morning run from Ian Young’s father’s foundry at Eastside in Kirkintilloch – I quite enjoyed the run but it was spoiled by being asked not once but three or four times to join Springburn.     That finished the Sunday training with Springburn – Tom O’Reilly, Danny Wilmoth and others had trained with us at Clydebank without being harassed in that way and they would never have behaved in that manner.   I didn’t need the hassle and it was many years before I went back to Huntershill which was a totally different environment.   I’ll pass on a couple of stories at a time but for now it’s the race with Dave Andrews and one of Eddie Sinclair’s bon mots.

Springburn Vets: Bill Ramage, Tom O’Reilly and Tony White after winning the Scottish Vets at Dalkeith.  

The result of the race which had 74 finishers was: 1st C McAlinden  28:52; 2.   G Eadie  29:41; 3.   J Irvine   29:42; 4.   J Milne  29:58;  5.  TP O’Reilly   30:09; 6.   W Ramage   30:14; 7.   T White   30:19;  8.   C Meldrum   30:23; 9.   W Russell   30:38; 10.   C O’Boyle   30:45

The runs with Alistair and Bill are described on the previous page.   I started training at Huntershill on a regular basis when I started going in with Alistair and sharing the driving – on occasion I jogged over from Lenzie and back again after training which fairly added to the training mileage.   The facility was great – the dressing rooms were right next to the showers which meant that there were no draughty corridors to negotiate as at so many club HQ’s and the cafe afterwards was a bonus.   The perimeter of the playing fields was on really good, flat grass and you could do all sorts of sessions on the grass – steady runs which were kinder to knees and ankles than the roads, fartleks, timed reps, up and down the clocks were all possible.   In fact anything that you could do on a track could be done possibly more profitably on the grass.    Chris Robison once said to me that if he could train on good grass he would never train anywhere else.    Springburn would have suited him down to the ground.   One incident that I remember is the year that I ran in the Springburn club veterans 5000 metres track race.   They had a lot of vets at that time and the field was a big one.   I ran as a guest and at the start, looking along the start line thought that I could win it with Dave Andrews being the only real threat.   The gun went, I sat in for two laps then went to the front with Dave on my shoulder.    Eventually I got clear by about 20/30 yards until with three laps or so to go Graham Crawford came in from a road run and came up beside me and offered to pace me but I declined his offer so he dropped back a bit, ran with Dave for a bit which coincided with Dave catching up by the start of the last lap.   He passed me in the back straight but I got him again halfway round the last bend but he wasn’t finished.   He pushed past me in the finishing straight so close that our fore arms rubbed against each other, well do I remember it.   We both knew that that was it.   I wasn’t going to get him and he was a good winner – it would probably not have been appropriate if I were to win another club’s championship.     Dave was a super guy and a good athlete.

A very young Graham Williamson leading Robert McWatt (Clydesdale) and Ian Smith (Vicky Park) in the West District 800 metres at Westerlands

Other memories include one with a line that I have used many times since then.    Eddie Sinclair and I got on very well together and when we moved to Lenzie he was our postie and we often had a blether of a morning.   Just after Graham Williamson had left him to train with George Gandy, I was running round the grass at Huntershill with him when the two Grahams came up behind us.   As they passed Eddie changed the subject of the conversation and said, “Aye, they used to just get sore legs but now they all get injuries!”    Many a time I’ve used that line about hypochondriacs or bottle merchants in the sport!   Then there was the time a young lad came through the grounds – it was at the point when Graham W was running really well and on television quite a lot.   The lad asked for an autograph but didn’t have a pen or pencil.    Graham borrowed one from Jack Crawford and then the lad didn’t have any paper “But never mind: just sign my arm and I’ll trace it when I get hame!”    The first encounter I had with Eddie was at an inter club track fixture at Mountblow in Clydebank.   The track was alongside the railway line and halfway along the finishing straight was a tunnel under the railway line.    At the start I looked at the opposition and thought that I should win.   I went to the front but after two of the 15 laps (a 300 yard track) I heard someone running right behind me, just where I couldn’t see him.    So I dug in and worked hard.   No matter what I did, the spikes were right behind me.   We lapped everyone else in the field then at the start of the last lap this wee guy in a yellow vest shot past, built up a lead and then slipped off the track in the finishing straight and disappeared under the railway.    It was Eddie – as a professional athlete at the time he shouldn’t have been in the race but jumped in like Wilson of the Wizard just after the start!    I got the verdict but was knackered for the One Mile that I was down to race about half an hour later!   We became good friends after that.

One of the races that I remember well was the 12 lap paarlauf with the teams seeded so that they were all equal and this was also good fun but the time that it took to run a 12 lap relay was so slight that we went for the usual run after that – normally Alistair, Doug and I ran together but on one occasion  a young Jim Cooper (Cooperman) came with us and suffered more than he expected to!    That race had many good men in it – George Turnbull, Conrad Dietrich McAndie, Tommy Malcolm and others including Bernie Fickling.   Bernie gave me, shortly before he died, a book that he had been given by his parents as a Christmas present in 1949 when he was a boy and for which I will always be grateful.   The book is still an athletics classic – “The Science of Athletics” by F.A.M. Webster originally published in 1936 and reprinted in 1948.   I read it, made some notes and brought it back for him and he refused to take it insisting that it was a gift.    Another book incident: at the Clydesdale Harriers club presentation in the very early 2000’s I was given a book by one of my friends who had seen it in a second hand shop.   It was “Funny Running Shorts” by Dave Bedford and Geoff Wightman and had a dedication inside to Adrian from Robert and Alison.   It could only be from Robert and Alison Chalmers to Adrian Callan who was in hospital seriously ill at the time.    I always got on well with Adrian and kept inviting him into the BMC races that was putting on in the 80’s when his running was at a low ebb and he was good enough to say in a regular Springburn club newsletter at that time that I had helped keep him in the sport at a time when he was going through a bad patch.   Then in 1986 when he won the SAAA Championship and was a sub 4 minute miler he was not picked for the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh that year.   As a protest he asked me (as SAAA Staff Coach for 5000/10000 metres)  to take back the official trophy that went to the Scottish Champion.   I refused saying that I had actually argued the case for his inclusion and suggested that he take it to Bob Peel in Monteith Avenue who had been President of the SAAA.   I believe that he did this.   I had a lot of time for Adrian and regarded him as a Springburn Harrier even at the end of his career when he was running for another club.

Then daughter Liz started training with Strathkelvin Ladies which was organised by two formidable athletes in Molly Wilmoth and Aileen Lusk.    They had been top notch athletes who were now into coaching the girls and Liz went twice a week for a time until we moved to Killearn.   Her particular friend at Strathkelvin was Sally Ann Sword and they travelled to several meetings together such as the West District Cross Country Championships at Bellshill.   Sally’s career went on much longer than Liz’s though.   Sal’s Dad Graham is still a very good friend and was timekeeper at the four Loch Katrine 12K Races that Liz organised in recent years.   He is one of the best  known and most respected officials in the country now.   Other girls at Strathkelvin at the time included Claire and Marlene Gemmell.

Bill Ramage leading Eddie Sinclair (who eventually prevailed) in an East v West CC at Fernieside.

Edinburgh in their almost youth – it was pre-1959 says Bill.

One of the biggest compliments I was ever paid was to be asked to speak at a Springburn presentation evening.    Apart from Tam Hoy singing ‘Sam the Skull’, that evening was remembered for Harry Gorman’s introduction which was more a wind up than a eulogy!   While I’m on about Harry – how about Harry and vinegar, or Harry Springburn at Helenvale?   Neither is about training at Springburn but they are nice wee stories.   I said that Eddie S was our postman when we got to Lenzie and one morning I was talking about a particularly good run by Harry the night before.   Eddie told me that Harry’s form had been in and out for some time and they didn’t know what caused it.   They thought about everything and tried various remedies before coming up with the answer.   Apparently Harry liked fish and chips with lots of vinegar and they discovered that he was allergic to vinegar.   he went on eating his fish and chips but laid off the vinegar   –    and his form developed the consistency that eventually made him the runner he was!   There used to be Glasgow Transport Sports at Helenvale Track in the east end of Glasgow on a Tuesday night.    The quality of the Two Miles Team Race was always good and not too many clubs were invited.    The top team this year was Motherwell YMCA and although McCafferty wasn’t running they had a good team with Alex Brown being their top man.    Going in to the last lap it was Alex and Harry jousting for the lead and the win.   The lead changed four or five times in a very competitive lap and Dunky Wright, the commentator, really lost the place in his excitement.   The commentary was something like “And it’s Brown in the lead closely followed by Gorman of Springburn who now takes the lead.   It’s Gorman, no it’s Brown battling back into the lead.   It’s Alex Brown, no it’s Harry Springburn (and he repeated it without realising it)…………”it’s Harry Springburn…”    I don’t know who won because I was struggling along further down the field but Harry has always been Harry Springburn to me since then!    There were a lot of Tuesday night meetings at that thime and in the Kilsyth Rangers Sports at Kilsyth, a Springburn runner called Knox (not Eddie) was on the programme as Konx which struck me as a much better name!

I have lots of good memories of training and racing with Springburn Harriers and the link continued for many years – eg when Clydesdale Harriers had a tribute evening for George White and David Bowman, Danny Wilmoth gave me thirteen sets of the old ‘Scots Athlete’ magazine.   The evening had representatives of Vicky Park, Garscube, Springburn, Vale of Leven, etc and each table of eight had a single magazine at each place as a starting point for conversation if any were needed.   It was an excellent evening and twelve sets of the magazine were given away that night.   Danny had contributed much more than he knew to the success of that night.