BRIEF CLUB HISTORY
Clydesdale Harriers has a significant place in the history of Scottish athletics – it was the first ever open club, it was the first club to hold a two day meeting, it was the first club to have a two day meeting at Dunoon at the Glasgow Fair, it was one of the first clubs with a ladies section or a men’s junior section, it held the first annual race for Youths (Under 17) and it was the club which successfully proposed a Scottish cross-country championship for Boys (Under 15).
The Clydesdale Harriers athletics club was formed on 4 May 1885 and was the first “open” amateur athletics club (i.e., open to all members of the public, and not just school pupils, university students etc.) in Scotland. One of the many illustrious members of the Club was Jock Semple, who ran in several Boston marathons and was associated with the race for nearly forty 40 years. He was chosen to represent the USA at the first Pan-American Games in 1951.
Clydesdale Harriers was based in Glasgow but not confined to Glasgow, but open to the whole west of Scotland having five sections within the city boundaries and sections were also maintained in Lanarkshire, Dunbartonshire, Ayrshire, Renfrewshire as well as in the towns of Greenock, Ayr and Airdrie. The club had some notable runners such as A P Finlay from Ayr, Andrew Hannah from Glasgow, James Campbell from Helensburgh, John Clelland from Larkhall and James Henderson from Chryston. Membership was also open to members of other sports clubs and football, cycling, rowing and cricket clubs were all represented in Clydesdale Harriers
Not long after the foundation of the Clydesdale Harriers the Scottish Cross Country Association was formed with its first championships in 1887. The club had many notable successes in cross country, track and field during this period, Andrew Hannah for instance winning five cross country titles. Success came not only to runners but also a key factor in the clubs overall success was the quality of club officials who not only worked hard for the club but helped launch many other independent clubs such as Paisley Harriers, Ayr Harriers and Greenock Glenpark.
The club steadily grew and reached almost 1000 members before the 1914 -18 war.
Over 200 members were lost in the Great War and the club went from a national club to a local club and settled in Clydebank as its base in the early 1920s. the 20’s was not a great period for the club, membership was low, funds were low and what athletes were produced eventually went elsewhere looking for success. Losses included Duncan McPhee (four times winner of the SHAA half mile and mile), Duncan Wright was also lost. Jock Semple who won the club junior C.C title in 1921 emigrated to America and became a marathon runner eventually joining the Boston Athletic Association and went on to become one of the leading administrators of the famous Boston Marathon. Jock has been extremely generous to the club.
The club built back up gradually, a lady’s section was formed in 1932 going on to win Scottish titles at Cross Country – both team and individual via Jean Tait, and at 88 yards on the track via Alison Ritchie. Just when the club was starting to ‘come good’ the Second War came along. The club had many good servants during this period who made sure that during the 1939-45 period a War Continuation Committee was in existence setting its sights on a quicker return to action than had been possible in 1918. The 1945–60 spell saw the club take part in many innovative activities and win many trophies with a host of top-class athletes.
The most outstanding performance during this period being John Wright who won the National Junior Cross Country Championship in 1957 and 1958 and Anne Wilson when she won the British Intermediate Long Jump
1960s to present.
Between 1960 and 1985, the club performed well in all the endurance events with athletes including Ian Donald, Phil Dolan, Robert McWatt, Allan Faulds, Ian Leggett and Doug Gemmell all representing Scotland at various levels. In track and field the sole internationalist was Ian Logie, who competed in the pole vault for Scotland three times in one year in the mid-1960s. The 1970’s was indeed a good period for the club. Over the 1970s the club won the Maley Trophy (1971- The only major Scottish Cross Country title to have eluded it throughout its entire history), as West District Cross Country Champions , and went onto lift it a total of three times with several second and third places in the same period.
The club held its Centenary in 1985
In 1985 the club entered the Scottish Men’s Track and Field League and competed at a very high level in all events up to the early 2000s, e.g. 1:49 for 800 metres, 50 metres+ hammer throwers, 7 metres + long jumpers, 2 metres+ high jumpers and so on. There were four GB representatives at Under 20 or Senior level (Des Roache, Ewan Calvert and Grant Graham at 800/1500 and Jason Allan in the high jump) as well as 20+ Scottish internationalists. The cross-country runners all did well and in 1995 won the West District Relays ( Ewan Calvert, Des Roache, Grant Graham and James Austin)—a title that had also never before come the way of the club. In 2003 Graeme Reid won the Scottish National Senior Men’s Cross Country Champion to be the first Clydesdale to win it since Dunky Wright exactly 80 years earlier. The club had then produced Scottish Champions in three separate centuries with many winners in the 19th century and several after 1900 before Graeme came along and won it in 2003. No other club will be able to match it until the 22nd century since none of the clubs who won before 1900 are still in existence.
As the club progressed into the 21st century it had its first ever woman president Aileen Scott and its first ever woman Secretary in Yvonne Green. The clubs main base is now at St Peter the Apostle High School, Clydebank.
⦁ ⦁ Clydesdale Harriers: 1885 –, Scottish Distance Running History, 5 April 2017. Retrieved 6 January 2022
Clydesdale Harriers: Scotland’s Premier Club, Scottish Distance Running History, 8 April 2017. Retrieved 6 January 2022
Clydesdale Harriers Sports: 1888 – 1895, Anent Scottish Running, 18 July 2018. Retrieved 6 January 2022
⦁ Clydesdale Harriers – Centenary Handbook 1985.
⦁ Clydesdale Harriers: A Centenary History 1885-1985 by Brian McAusland ⦁ ISBN ⦁ 1-870711-00-9
⦁ Runs Will Take Place Whatever the Weather by Colin A Shields (Official History of the Cross Country Union of Scotland) ⦁ ISBN ⦁ 0-9516681-0-2