World Cross-Country Championship, 1978

Tom Callaghan’s account of the decision by the SCCU to host the Cross-Country Championships at Bellahouston rather than at Coatbridge follows. It is clearly written, with fact and opinion being clearly separated and no mixing of the two.  

Coatbridge – Cross Country & The Festival Road Race 

My recollection of events, leading to the acrimonious decision by the S.C.C.U. to reverse an earlier commitment to Coatbridge and award the I.A.A.F. event to Glasgow, and the politics leading to the demise of the 5 mile road race and, ultimately, the festival itself, are as follows:

In the early years of the regeneration of Monkland Harriers during the 1960’s it was decided that we should seek council assistance and it was recommended to me that I should contact a young councillor named Tom Clarke. He agreed to attend a meeting in the clubhouse to meet members of the club and parents of boys who had recently joined after competing in our schools races.

He was very supportive of what we were trying to achieve and did so not only in word, but also in deed, since he supported any request we made to the council. The free use of St. Ambrose school, and assistance by council workers with the preparation of the course prior to races in Drumpellier Park, to mention just two.

In 1972 the council held a press conference in the Coatbridge Hotel to announce the sponsorship of the 1973 S.C.C.U. National Cross Country championships. Ronnie MacDonald and myself were invited to attend. After the event was over I asked Tom Clarke what he thought of a Coatbridge Highland Games being organized and taking place in Dunbeth Park. He replied, “Put your proposals I writing to the council and I will support it.”

By the summer of ’72 the council had approved the proposal and the Games would take place on 30th June 1973. We had the National and now a Highland Games in the town.

This was the beginning of a great relationship between Monkland Harriers and Coatbridge Town Council. Tom Clarke had been true to his word with his support; over the next three years we would put Coatbridge firmly on the map for cross country and road running in Scotland.

Cross Country: 

In 1973 the Scottish Cross Country Championships came to Coatbridge for the first time, sponsored by Coatbridge Town Council. The man behind this initiative was Bob McSwein, Honorary Treasurer of the S.C.C.U. and at the time an employee of Coatbridge Town Council. The Council was so impressed by the organization of the event and the publicity the town received, that they wrote to the Hon. Secretary of the S.C.C.U. offering continued support for the event.

From 1973 to 1976 Coatbridge Town Council sponsored the Scottish Cross Country Championships at Drumpellier Park. The County and District cross country Championships were also held there, in addition to the County Road Relay Championships.

During this period Coatbridge enjoyed a reputation for sponsoring and organizing events thanks to the Council, the members of Monkland Harriers, their relatives and friends, who gave so much of their time to make these events the success they were.

After 1976 all our good work came to an abrupt halt. The National Cross Country Championships never came back to Coatbridge and the road race came to an end.

Since then I have never been involved in organizing any athletics events, or attending any.

Joe Small recently gave me his copy of Colin Shields excellent book on the centenary of the S.C.C.U. and I have been given a copy of Joe’s recollection of the Coatbridge 5 road race.

I thought it might help interested parties understand why these events ended in 1976 if I give a factual account as to why this happened, as I was heavily involved in both.

Coatbridge – S.C.C.U. National Championships & I.A.A.F. Championship 1978

In 1973 the S.C.C.U. were aware that the I.A.A.F. event would return to Scotland. At this point no fixed date had been set. It is my understanding that after the success of the National Championships that year, Bob McSwein alerted the Council to the possibility of the I.A.A.F. event.

The Council sent a letter to the S.C.C.U. Hon. Secretary, Bob Dalgleish, offering, “to sponsor the National Championships, up to and including, the International Championship, should Scotland be successful in securing the event”.

It was later confirmed that the I.A.A.F. event would take place in Scotland in 1973. We all thought `fantastic, we’ll have the National at least till 1978, possibly Coatbridge will become the new home for the National, we’ll get the I.A.A.F. event, we have the best road race in the country, the Council had announced they were to build a new all-weather track’. Everything seemed to be moving in the right direction.

The 1974 National was especially pleasing with Jim Brown winning the Senior title wearing the colours of Monkland, having won the Junior event in ’72 and ’73.

The day of the 1975 National is one that I will never forget. In St. Ambrose school prior to the start of the races, Bob McSwein approached me. He told me that at a meeting of the General Committee a few days prior, it had been decided that the International event in 1978 would held in Glasgow. The offer of sponsorship from Glasgow was the only one put to the Committee and a decision had to be made at that meeting. Bob McSwein claimed he had no prior notice of what had taken place.

At this point I was not aware of the Hon. Secretary’s response to the Coatbridge Town Council’s offer to sponsor the International event. However, I decided I had to confront him with the information I had been given by Bob McSwein, which I did later that afternoon. He confirmed this account was accurate, to which I replied “You do realise that these Championships will never be back in Coatbridge if you go ahead with this.”

A few days later I arranged to meet with a Council official with whom I had a good working relationship due to the work I had put in organizing many events for the Council.

I explained what had happened concerning the International event and asked if I could have access to the Council’s file with the S.C.C.U. This was granted, he produced the file and left me to do my research. This was when I found the letter from the Council to the Hon. Secretary offering sponsorship of both the National and International Championships, and his letter of acceptance on behalf of the General Committee, “It is indeed with pleasure that my Committee accepts the very kind offer from Coatbridge Town Council to sponsor the International Championships should Scotland be invited to act as host nation in the near future.”

I discussed the content of these letters with my contact at the Council and his view was that the Council would not consider legal action against the S.C.C.U., however, if they were not willing to honour their commitment to the Council, the Council would terminate their agreement forthwith.

I suggested an alternative route, if he was prepared to give me copies of the letters, I would raise the matter at the next meeting of the S.C.C.U. AGM and report back. This was agreed.

I now had the evidence I needed. I knew this would cause the S.C.C.U. not only extreme embarrassment, but possible resignations. By this time we were Clyde Valley, I knew I could trust the Monkland Harriers members, after all they had played a big part in what we had achieved. I was secretary of Clyde Valley, but there were some members of Clyde Valley outwith the Monkland section I felt I could not trust with this information. (An assessment that later turned out to be well founded.) I couldn’t ask for this to be included on the agenda for the AGM, therefore my only opportunity would be under A.O.C.B.

When my opportunity came, I asked “Why was it necessary for the General Committee to accept an offer from Glasgow City Council to sponsor the 1978 I.A.A.F. Championship when they had previously accepted another offer.”

I was asked what evidence I had. I handed over a copy of the Hon. Secretary’s response to the offer from Coatbridge Town Council. The letter was handed to the Hon. Secretary who confirmed its authenticity.

It was agreed that the President for 1975/76, Donald Duncan, would investigate and report back his findings.

I reported back to my contact at the Council, who agreed to take no action until the matter was resolved. Appreciating that this would take some time, he agreed that the Council would again sponsor the 1976 National.

Having been agreed by member clubs at the 1975 AGM that the President would investigate events surrounding the General Committee decision to award the 1978 World Championships to Glasgow, you would have thought the findings of the report would have been circulated to member clubs for their consideration, followed by a Special General Meeting to discuss his report and vote to approve or reject the General Committee decision to award the event to Glasgow.

Who did he consult with in order to prepare his report? I think he did have a meeting with Coatbridge Town Council. When that took place and what was discussed I have no knowledge of. As I raised the issue at the AGM as a member club, not a representative of Coatbridge Town Council, you would have thought that he would want to hear what I had to say.

As far as I am aware, member clubs did not receive a copy of his report, I therefore assume it was restricted to the Hon. Secretary and the General Committee, who then decided to rubber stamp their earlier decision to award the event to Glasgow.

I would submit that this assumption is supported in Colin Shields book, page 160 – “The controversial matter of the World Championships was finally settled during the season. General Committee early in the season decided not to hold the Championships in Coatbridge and confirmed Glasgow as the Championship venue.”

Having learned what had happened,  I decided the matter could not rest there, member clubs should know what was in the report, and have an opportunity to make their views known and vote accordingly.

The only way to achieve this was to enlist the support of a number of member clubs and force a Special General Meeting to be held. I compiled my account of events and sent a copy to member clubs; followed by a phone call to those I thought would support me. I managed to obtain enough support to enable a S.G.M. to be held.

A date was set for the meeting, Saturday 14th. February 1976, venue – Springburn Sports Centre. The same day the National Championships were being held in Coatbridge. Was this by accident or design?

The changing accommodation for the National was at St. Ambrose High School, across the road from Drumpellier Park. If requested, I’m sure the Council would have allocated suitable facilities for this meeting to be held there, thus saving many people inconvenience. However, I will leave you to draw your own conclusions.

In the lead up to the meeting I became concerned that the support of the Clyde Valley committee, and in particular the club’s representative to the S.C.C.U. could not be relied upon. To me their attitude was that this was nothing to do with them, it was a relic of the Monkland Harriers days. I was obviously dismayed by this attitude, and at the last club committee meeting prior to the SGM; I proposed that we mandate our representative at the SGM to support the Coatbridge bid. This was rejected. This decision was to prove crucial at the SGM.

Special General Meeting – 14/2/1976

What transpired at the meeting is best summed up by again referring to Colin Shields book, page 161 – “Inverness solicitor Donald Duncan, President in 1975/76, presented his inquiry report on the factors leading to the choice between Glasgow and Coatbridge, and the Presidential report was exhaustively discussed for over 21/2 hours. T he report received approval by the narrowest of margins, being passed by 28 votes to 27, although Glasgow as the official venue was later approved by the greater margin of 31 votes to 23. Duncan chaired the meeting with courtesy, tact and firmness, requiring all his professional skills to control the meeting which, at times grew angry with intense, heated discussion and argument over the issues at stake.”

The first vote was intended not only to accept or reject the President’s report, but also a vote of confidence on the General Committee – lose the vote and they resign.

As you will observe from Colin’s account the report was passed by 28-27. During the vote I sat there with a feeling of disgust and betrayal as the Clyde Valley representative, Roddy Devon, voted with the General Committee. My concerns expressed earlier had been confirmed. Had he been mandated, the vote would have gone the other way, the Committee would have resigned and both bids would have been off the table. The second vote confirmed Glasgow, and as far as I was concerned that was the end of the road.

It was also the end of the road for me as secretary of Clyde Valley. How could I work with a committee that would not support me, I resigned at the next meeting. I also saw it as the beginning if the end for Clyde Valley. Too many people had their own agenda; it was doomed to fail in its present form. It took a few years, but in the end I was proved right.

I have tried to paint you a picture of what was happening in Coatbridge from 1973/76. During this period the sport enjoyed great support from Coatbridge Town Council, as you would see from the events listed previously. However, events outwith the control of the Council and Monkland Harriers conspired against us and all was lost.

So far I have tried to refrain from opinion and stick to the facts, although this has not always been possible. However, the facts raise many questions from which opinions are formed. I’ll start from the beginning, list some questions that I do not think were ever asked or answered and give you my opinion.

The 1973 letter from Coatbridge Town Council to the S.C.C.U. Secretary offered to sponsor the National up to and including the International. The Secretary’s reply read “It is indeed with pleasure that my Committee accepts the very kind offer from Coatbridge Town Council to sponsor the International Championships should Scotland be invited to act as host nation in the near future.”

Question – Does this mean that the offer to sponsor the National and International was put to the General Committee and agreed?

If the answer is yes:

Question – In 1975, why was it necessary to ask the same committee to approve an alternative offer, which had to be decided `at that meeting. `

If the answer is no:

Questions – 1) Why was the offer not put before the General Committee in ’73?

                     2) Why did he write, “My Committee accepts”?

                     3) Why did the venue have to be decided at the ’75 meeting?

                     4) Why was the General Committee not made aware of the previous Coatbridge offer?

 Opinion

I am of the view that the Coatbridge offer of 1973 was never put to the General Committee. At that point the International had not been confirmed. The Hon. Secretary on his own initiative decided to seize the dual sponsorship. If the International was confirmed, he could then agree finance with the council and put the offer to the General Committee. If the International never happened, he still had the offer to sponsor the National for several years.

I support my opinion by again referring to Colin’s book, page 157 “Somehow this commitment had not been made known to the General Committee during the debate on where the Championships were to be held, and the decision on Glasgow as host venue was taken in ignorance of the agreement made by the Honorary Secretary with Coatbridge just a year earlier.”

Did he forget? I don’t think so.

A few days after the 1975 meeting he would be in Coatbridge for the third consecutive National. If he could remember that part of the offer, why not the other?

There had to be a reason – my opinion of the Hon. Secretary is that he was very efficient and I got on well with him. In the early seventies, I was asked by Airdrie F.C. if I would assist them with their early season training at Drumpellier Park. I agreed and did two nights a week for six weeks. They had a match against Rangers one mid-week early season and I was asked if I could arrange a race for the half-time interval. They in turn would hold a collection and make a donation to whoever I wanted.

They collected £70.00, made it up to £100.00, and I asked that it be made out to the S.C.C.U.

As far as I was aware there was a good relationship between Coatbridge Town Council, Monkland Harriers and the S.C.C.U.

The only thing I can think of, which may or may not have been a factor in the Hon. Secretary not having advised the General Committee of the previous Coatbridge offer is that, as far as I can remember, the Hon. Secretary at the time of the Coatbridge offer was employed by a private company and, at the time he presented the Glasgow bid, was employed by Glasgow City Council. Whether the General Committee was made aware of any conflict of interest, I do not know.

The President’s Investigation:

I agree that the venue for the 1978 International could not be discussed at the 1975 A.G.M., as members were not aware of the 1973 letters until I produced them.

It is my view (in hindsight), that the A.G.M. agreed to an investigation without any terms of reference being decided, and that trust was simply placed on the President’s word that he would carry out a thorough investigation.

What we did not know was:

  1. Who he would take evidence from.
  2. Would member clubs be consulted?
  3. Would member clubs receive a copy of his report?
  4. Would he make recommendations and to whom?
  5. In the event of a conflict of interest, how would the final decision be made?

Who did he take evidence from? As far as I know, the Hon. Secretary and Coatbridge Town Council.

Were member clubs consulted? No.

Did member clubs receive a copy of his report? No.

Did he make recommendations? Yes.

To Whom? The S.C.C.U. General Committee.

Upon completion of his report a copy should have been sent to member clubs, and a Special General Meeting called with all members in possession of the facts.

I also think that he should have consulted with myself and other members of Monkland Harriers, in order that we could explain that this was not just about the International, but also about the progress we were making in conjunction with the Council for athletics in Coatbridge, details of which have been previously described.

In my view, had a wider consultation been carried out and a proper disclosure of findings been made available to member clubs, the bad blood that was spilled at the S.G.M. could have been avoided.

Opinion:

In my view, had a proper consultation taken place, his recommendation should have been that both bids should fall and a new process commence, opening up the opportunity for all areas of the country, Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh etc. in addition to Glasgow and Coatbridge. All bids should have been considered by a committee, chaired by the President, and made up of one member from each area of the S.C.C.U. Their decision, which would have been final, would then have been circulated to the member clubs explaining their reasons.

The investigation that took place was, in my view, inadequate and was designed to protect the Hon. Secretary.

In my opinion the Hon. Secretary should have done the honourable thing after being shown the letter he sent to Coatbridge Town Council in 1973 at the 1975 A.G.M. and resigned. His position was untenable.

Coatbridge Town Council (now Monklands District Council) honoured their commitment to sponsor the 1976 National, withdrew all sponsorship to the S.C.C.U and all other events.

P.S. – in 1971 National Championships were held in Glasgow for the first time in fifty years, ironically sponsored by a Coatbridge company. They returned again to Glasgow in 1978 as part of the deal to secure the International event.

They never returned to Glasgow again under the SC.C.U.

I rest my case.

Road Race:

In April 1973 the Council decided to hold a week long event, to be known as the Coatbridge Festival, to take place in September that year. As the Council then did not have all the specialized departments today’s councils have, it was decided to invite all interested local organizations to submit their proposals. The Council would support those agreed upon.

At Monkland Harriers we decided that this was an opportunity to build on the success of the Cross Country Championships. Our view was that the middle of September was the perfect time for a road race, track season finished, cross-country season starting early October.

The Council was keen to make the Festival a big success, so it followed that we had to make the road race a big success also. The aim was to attract the best runners in Scotland at senior, veteran and junior level and include a team race. The prize values had therefore to match our ambitions, but not only for the winner. Prizes were agreed as follows: First ten finishers, first vet, first junior, and 1st 2nd and 3rd teams, 3 spot prizes.

The maximum prize value allowed at this time was £40.00 (which we advertised), However, the in-thing back then was portable televisions, retailing at about £70.00, and we decided this was to be the first prize. The Chief Executive of the Council received a phone call from A.A.A’s asking how we could get a television for £40.00.

We had place an advert in Athletics Weekly in the hope that some clubs from the north of England might show some interest, I think this is how the AAA’s obtained the information. (Changed days)

As secretary of Monkland Harriers at that time I assumed overall responsibility for the presentation to the Council and the organization of the event. However, this was not a one-man show, many people, too numerous to mention, played their part.

At my meeting with the Council, I outlined our proposals and asked for £250.00 for prizes, plus expenses for which all invoices would be submitted. They thought this would be a great way to kick off the Festival and agreed to everything.

In August, Ian Gilmour, who was at Birmingham University and trained with Ian and Peter Stewart, contacted me to ask if Ian Stewart could run in our race. After the ’72 Olympics, Ian had turned to cycling for a period of time and had now decided to return to athletics. I spoke to the Council and explained to them that the 1970 Commonwealth Games 5000m gold medal winner and 1972 Olympic 5000m bronze medal winner wanted to make his comeback to athletics at our event. They agreed to pay expenses, not only for Ian, but also for a team from his club, Birchfield Harriers.

The opening day of the inaugural Coatbridge Festival was Saturday 15th September 1973.events were to be held in the town’s West End Park and the Council were delighted at our proposal of a road race of several laps with runners entering the park on each lap and the finish being in front of a small enclosure, erected to hold Council officials and invited guests.

We had certainly achieved our objective with the quality of field that lined up. Ian Stewart, Lachie Stewart, 5000m and 10000m gold medallists at the 1970 Commonwealth Games, Jim Brown, World Junior cross country champion, Andy McKean and Fergus Murray Scottish cross country champions, add Jim Dingwall, Don McGregor and Doug Gunstone etc. and you know you have assembled the best of Scottish road runners.

Everything seemed to work out as planned, thanks to the officials, stewards, police – who did a great job of traffic control (streets were not closed off in those days), friends who organized catering etc. and most importantly any comments we received from competitors were positive.

Ian Stewart won his comeback race from Andy McKean with Jim Brown in 3rd. place.

For the 1974 race we had to make alterations to the course due to reconstruction work taking place in the town centre. However, the prize values remained the same, another quality field was assembled and most pleasing was the race being won by a Monkland Harrier, Jim Brown from Jim Dingwall with Steve Edmunds (Sale Harriers) in third place.

The 1975 event saw further changes to the course. The new track at Langloan had opened several months earlier and the Council wanted the race to finish there. Another Monkland Harrier, Ronnie MacDonald, won the race from Jim Dingwall with Laurie Spence in third place.

By 1975, changed had taken place in local government, Coatbridge Town Council had been replace by Monkland District Council and a department known as Leisure and Recreation was established. One of the positions that became available was that of management of the new athletics track. I presume that due to my involvement with Coatbridge Town Council and good relationship with several councilors, I was encouraged to make application for this position.

However, I was content in my current employment with Wm. Bain & Co. (Structural Engineers) with whom I had started as an apprentice in March 1959, and was aware that I might soon become works manager upon the imminent retirement of the current manager. I decided to submit my application for the track job – if I got the job, I had options, if I didn’t I was happy where I was working anyway. If I was offered the job and declined, I could justify my reasons to those who had encouraged me to apply.

At a meeting of the Leisure and Recreation Committee, the Director had drawn up a shortlist of applicants to be interviewed; my name was not on the list. Neither was any other local applicant. A councillor with considerable influence, who had been late for the meeting due to prior engagements, noticed that the names proposed for interview did not include myself. He drew to the Committee’s attention that no local candidates had been included and suggested that another and myself be added to the list. This was agreed by the Committee.

When I was told what had taken place ay the Leisure and Recreation Committee meeting, I knew what I had to do. Attend the interview and should I be offered the job, accept, find out the terms and conditions (these were not available at the time of interview) and then decline.

There were three people who interviewed the candidates, the Director of Leisure and Recreation and two councillors, both of who had supported every initiative Monkland Harriers had proposed. I was offered the job, accepted, and a few weeks later declined. How could I walk away from the prospect of a good job, to work with someone I knew didn’t want me? I could also see things from his position. Why would he want someone working for him who had influence with several important councillors over many years? (This would later be confirmed)

Good relationships with councilors was important. They supported initiatives proposed by Monkland Harriers, who in turn organized schools races, highland games road races and encouraged other events to come to Coatbridge. The Council got good value for money and the sport benefited.

I later found out that the second choice of candidate also declined.

The position was re-advertised. Eddie Knox was appointed with David McMeekin as his assistant, both excellent athletes and decent people who I knew would do a good job.

Eddie asked me at some point later why I didn’t take the job. As best I can remember I replied something along the lines of “I didn’t think it was in my best interests to have my job and my hobby as the same thing.”

Of course, I couldn’t reveal that I was never on the Director’s short list and was only added at the insistence of a particular councillor.

The 1976 Festival was now under the umbrella of Monkland District Council although the organization of events, including the road race, would continue as in previous years. In the spring of ’76 I was advised by the Director of Leisure and Recreation that he could only allocate £150.00 towards prizes for the road race, a reduction of £100.00 on previous years. My initial reaction was – no chance (which I kept to myself)

We have the best quality road race in Scotland, runners were receiving decent prizes for their efforts to a level not matched anywhere in the country. I was of the view that so much time and effort had been put in over the years to establish Coatbridge as the centre for cross country and road running in Scotland this event was not going to be downgraded for the sake of £100.00

I could not allow this to happen for what I considered had become a personal issue. Perhaps I could have made up the shortfall by securing outside sponsorship. I decided that Monkland Harriers members were already contributing a considerable amount of their time organizing events for the Council; therefore £250.00 was not unreasonable.

I also saw this as the first step in dispensing with Monkland Harriers as Leisure and Recreation now had their own men in place. If this was the last race we were going to organize, standards were not going to drop.

I decided to speak to the Councillor who had supported us on many occasions; I knew I could depend on him.

Arrangements were made for me to attend the Municipal Buildings prior to a Leisure and Recreation Committee meeting. The Councillor I had spoken to showed me into a room, left, and returned with another Councillor and the Leisure and Recreation Director. I was asked to explain my problem. I explained the budget for the prizes was being cut substantially. One Councillor asked, “How much are we talking about?” I replied £100.00.

He turned to the Director and said “Why are wasting our time over £100.00, just give it to him.”

Meeting concluded, objective achieved!

The 1976 race went ahead as planned and was won by Jim Dingwall from Jim Brown with Frank Clement third.

A few months prior to the ’76 race, a meeting had taken place at the new track; the inaugural event in ’75 had been organized by Monkland Harriers. Eddie and David had been in place for some time and had been responsible for the organization of the ’76 meeting; Monkland Harriers were not invited to contribute in any way. Ronnie MacDonald and I decided to attend the event and paid our entry at the gate. Inside the ground we met Bob Dalgleish who like us had paid his own admission.

Despite our differences over the I.A.A.F. affair the previous year Bob and I had shaken hands and were on good terms. Early in the proceedings, an announcement was made asking Bob to identify himself to a steward, at which point he left our company. I’m sure that in Bob’s case it was nothing more than an oversight, the same could not be said for the exclusion of Monkland Harriers. I’m sure our exclusion had nothing to do with Eddie or David, more likely the result of an earlier event that year when their boss was humiliated by the two Councillors in my presence.

After the ’76 Festival, Monkland District Council were now firmly in control, Leisure and Recreation were responsible for organizing future events. A comment that was alleged to have been made by the Director of Leisure and Recreation was that “Future Festivals would be organised by the professionals, not the amateurs”

What became clear after local government reorganization was that departments now in place would take over the work previously done by volunteers. Monkland Harriers were never involved again and what became of the road race, I do not know.

After my efforts to secure the I.A.A.F. for Coatbridge failed, resulting in my resignation as secretary of Clyde Valley, the National Championships never to returned, attempts to downgrade the road race, it was time to re-think my priorities.

I had spent the last ten years, starting with the regeneration of Monkland Harriers, played a large part in organizing most of the events that took place in Coatbridge from 1973-1976.

I had enough of broken promises, backstabbing and politics. It was time to move on.

In 1976 Ronnie MacDonald and I opened a small sports shop in Coatbridge, appropriately called Monkland Sports. I was now works manager at Bain’s, my girls were now 6 and 9, and these things would now be my priorities.

The Festival? Well, the professionals took over, the amateurs gradually fell away and the event collapsed.