Clydesdale Harriers In the Community

A fairly senior member of the club at present commented to me that at one point nearly everybody in Clydebank was or had been or knew people who were in Clydesdale Harriers.  It was of course a different time – we had many from the Singer factory and from John Brown’s and helped organise the Singer Sports meeting which was held on the first Saturday in June.   We helped at Clydebank High School sports which were held at the Singer Recreation ground and helped the Scouts with the trials for their athletics badges at Mountblow Recreation Ground.  The Burgh has changed – there is no Singer factory or any John Brown’s, there is no Singer Sports Meeting, and I don’t know if the Scouts still have an athletics badge. Time goes on but the need to advertise the club remains.   This does not disparage any of the good work currently being done in the club via such activities as the Facebook page which seems to engage the junior members in a medium with which they are familiar.   It’s a look back – possibly with a dimension which might help the club today.

For all my time in the sport, Clydesdale Harriers has been synonymous with Clydebank.   All clubs have their base community, Clydebank was Clydesdale Harriers territory.   The club was everywhere.

In the first place, at a time when everyone read at least one daily paper, more on Sundays, the weekly ‘Clydebank Press’ (later the ‘Clydebank Post’) had a weekly report.   For many years the scribe had a pen-name: JP Shields was The Whip, David Bowman was Excelsior, Phil Dolan was Captain, Douglas Gemmell was Tortoise, etc.   There was a report every week on the club race activities and when there wasn’t there was a wee feature (pre-prepared) on some athlete who was doing well, or looking ahead to up-coming events which could be slotted in.   When reports were not printed, action was taken via the editor to correct the situation.   e.g., at the AGM in August 1978, we find this: “PRESS COVERAGE: To be handled by one person, J McLaughlin.   Talk to the Editor and try to get guarantees of more regular, guaranteed coverage.”   The relation with the Editor was generally good and in the late 1980’s when we were short of sprinters for the track team, Paul Jain, the editor, put up a trophy to be awarded to the winner of an annual competition to find a sprinter.   This attracted several good runners with David McColm the best, a man who was part of many medal winning club teams in the early 90’s.  

For almost twenty years, Harriers notes were published in the ‘Clydebank Post’, the ‘Milngavie Herald’ and the’ Lennox Herald’ because we had members in all the areas.   It was simple to get the results on the day – delegate an athlete to note down the results as the day went on.   At Grangemouth it was a fit athlete who went up at intervals to the recorders box at the top of the stadium to write down any results as they appeared.   There were times when a young athlete’s parents were happy to do that job.   The notes were important, and even in the 21st century the local paper plays an important part in determining the club’s place in the community.

The club also organized races that enabled them to be seen in action.   After the War, the Clydesdale Youth Ballot Team Race was held from November 1946 for approximately 50 years – one of the first races for that age group to be held regularly in Scotland.   A popular and important race on the national winter calendar. It was won by such as Harry Fenion, Ian McCafferty and Mike Ryan.   We had of course been organizing the Balloch to Clydebank 12 miler since the 1930’s.   This one was later organized by the DAAA when it was confined to the four DAAA clubs – Dumbarton, Vale of Leven and Garscube being the others – before becoming an open race.   Clydesdale Harriers also played an important part in the Clydebank to Helensburgh 16 miles road race (which had started as a Helensburgh to Clydebank event).   They all had runners showing their paces to the citizens of the Burgh.   When the Polaroid 10K Series held an annual race in Clydebank, Clydesdale Harriers, led by Peter Rudzinski, organized it.   Then there was the Dunky Wright Road Race.

The Dunky Wright race was a significant race in Scottish athletics.   Run for the first time right at the start of the 1970’s it was run for a trophy donated by Dunky himself.   It was the only Dunky Wright race in the country where the trophy was donated specifically for it by Dunky himself.  The first one was won by Clydesdale Harrier Allan Faulds, with Phil Dolan third.   When Allister Hutton was running so well in the London Marathon, he used our race as part of his build up: he would phone the night before the race to check the details so that his preparations were right.   The original trail was from outside the Boilermakers Club out to Dalmuir, up on to the Boulevard. Back to Duntocher Road to Dalmuir and back along to the finish.   It is a race that could do with a reinstatement.   The club also donated a marvelous trophy to commemorate Jock Semple and held a three-man relay but it was not a success and abandoned with the Trophy going to the winning team in the Dunky Wright race.  These all confirmed the link with Clydebank for those within the club and demonstrated a lot that was good about the club to the ordinary citizens.  In connection with the Dunky Wright the Committee meeting of 16th March 1979 (at which James Austin’s application for membership was accepted) the cost of running the race would be approximately £500.   At today’s value, £500 would equate to a purchasing power of £2,656:56.  

The training facilities were also important in cementing the relations between the club and the town.   Bruce Street Baths (and before that Hall Street Baths) gave us a base in the town centre and, equally important, all runs, in whatever direction passed people everywhere whether the runners went to Dumbarton. Anniesland via the Boulevard, or Alderman Road the club was seen and recognized. Track was done at Mountblow or Whitecrook – again they were both highly visible.   They were also single club venues, the club’s Winter Home was in the Baths, the club’s Summer Home was at the track.   We had our own notice boards; we had somewhere that was ‘ours’ just as other clubs had.   Victoria Park had Scotstoun and Milngavie Community Centre, Dumbarton had Postie’s Park and the Brock Baths, Garscube had their club rooms at Westerton and Knightswood track on the Boulevard.  The club had visibility.  Jim Wright was a very good club president, but he was unlucky in that we were evicted from our training venue, and we were fortunate to get the Antonine – fine but not the most visible from the recruiting new members point of view.   We now have St Peter’s – but why not follow Paul Ross’s suggestion from many years ago of hanging the club banner from the fence facing the Boulevard when we are training there?

The club also cultivated links with the local schools – a parent or parents of a club member’s school would be a definite link who would make friends with the PE staff or head teachers of the appropriate schools.   We often invited PE teachers to our Presentations as guests – for example, in the 1960’s we had Joyce Hume from the Vale of Leven, in the 1990’s we had Ian Patterson from Clydebank along as guest of the club.

We should develop these where they currently exist, and may re-establish any that have fallen by the (Covid?) wayside:

(a)   regular Press Reports.

(b)   Club organized races.

(c)   Visible training venues.

(d)   Links with School.  


And finally: The club Senior Men have won medals in the District Championships 14 times between 1970 and 2000.   1st three times [1972-73, 1979-80, 1980-81], 2nd twice [ 1972-72, 1993-94], 3rd nine times [ 1970-71, 1973-74, 1976-77, 1978-79, 1985-86, 1989-90, 1990-91, 1996-97, 1997-98]   Between 1970-71 and 1980-81 there were 8 medal winning teams.   The U13 team won in 1966-67, 2nd in 1971-72, 3rd in 1968-69; Under 15’s were 2nd three times in 1959-60, 1960-61 and 1973-74 and 3rd once 1968-69.   The Under 17’s were 1st once [1977-78], 2nd once [1971-72] and 3rd three times [1955-56, 1990-91 and 1991-92]