Early Club History
By James L Logan in 1970
Glasgow's Victoria Park Amateur Athletic Club, founded forty years ago on 4th April 1930, have made a massive contribution to Scottish and British athletics yet in their first sixteen years produced only one National Champion. Formed from YMCA members after an administrative disagreement, the Club had a Social-Sporting Theme which is evident in fixture cards of the period, where dances and other functions figure as prominently as the purely sporting items. The modest profit from tickets with a top price of half-a-crown was a vital factor in the club budget.
In the winter, there was the Club Run from "the baths" on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and for those not chained to night school or swotting, on Saturdays at Milngavie a long cross-country run in the traditional manner, with the "hares" laying a paper trail and the "harriers" following the scent in slow, medium and fast packs. Peter Morrison, now the Hon. President, recalls a fiery local landowner ordering the hares to retrace their steps and pick up every scrap of paper - not because he objected to the harriers running across his territory, but he knew that the trail would be an invitation to the hordes of Glaswegians then flooding out to the countryside at weekends.
In summer, the Tuesday and Thursday training took place at Scotstoun Showground, and in addition to the usual round of open meetings the Club had field days at Milngavie, with an advance party going out on Friday evening to erect tents and mark out the "track". The then youthful Andy Forbes won his first-ever track prize at one of these meetings. After the sports, there was a dance in the BB Hall, and the books show that after all the expenses, and a "fiver" chipped in by the President, there was a profit!
Victoria Park's outstanding athlete of pre-war years was Sam S Beattie, younger brother of Frank, the present Treasurer and one of 3 Founder Members still active in the affairs of the Club. Sam was Scotland's Youth Sprint Champion in 1932 and won 6 Senior SAAA titles between 1936 and 1939 in 100 yards, long and triple jump. He was the first VP Man to gain a Great Britain vest and but for the war would probably have reached Olympic Status. Sadly, he was later killed while serving with the RAF in South Africa.
During the war, a few members such as Ian Macdonald and Bob Jenkins kept the Club from extinction, and then one of the ironies of war initiated an era of brilliant achievement. Bob Rogerson, Club Champion of 1937, was invalided from the Army after a serious incident and when he recovered, he threw his energy into building up the Club, drive and a gift for delegation were the hallmarks, and the latter quality was shown in his capture of Bill Armour for Secretary, a post he held with distinction for quarter of a century. As a result, the club exploded on the competitive front at a time when the public were avid for sporting spectacles.
In 1945, a Club Medley Relay quartet of G Smellie, G Macdonald, W D H Conacher and J B Panton appeared as an AAA Select and won their event at an International Meeting at the White City in London. This was the prelude to a decade and a half of dominance when over 100 SAAA Senior, Junior, Youth Relay titles were won. The nineteen-fifties was the golden decade of the Club, on both track and cross-country. VP athletes established 29 Scottish National Records, won 19 GB Vests and made a dozen appearances in Olympic, European and Commonwealth Games. They were National Cross-Country Champions 6 times, runners-up 3 times and third once, and in 1952 became the only Club outside England to win the English Cross-Country Championship. Strength in depth brought 7 victories in the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay.
Great names of that Golden Decade were Alan Paterson, European Gold and Silver Medallist, as well as Commonwealth Games Silver Medallist; John McIsaac, European Relay Gold Medallist; Andy Forbes, Commonwealth Games Silver Medallist and cohorts of sprinters headed by Willie Jack, Ron Whitelock, Bobby Quinn, and Alan Dunbar. Backbone of Cross-Country and Road Teams were Andy and Chick Forbes, Bobby Calderwood, John Stirling, Ronnie Kane, Ian Binnie and John McLaren; and all of them, including 54 year old Andy Forbes, still compete at Club Level or higher. Another name, which appears at intervals, is Alex Breckenridge, who has one of the most unusual records in running. Breckenridge was a Scottish middle distance champion and record-breaker, and a cross-country internationalist before going to Villa Nova University and later joining the US Marines. He ran for the USA in the 1960 Olympic Games, but all during this period in his career his sole Club was Victoria Park, and he contrived numerous flying visits to turn out in "home" events.
Although never a National Senior Champion, John McLaren has been the outstanding cross-country runner of the Club, winning the Championship 9 times. John, a former British Junior Champion, and now a District Councillor in the Scottish Nationalist colours, has a severe arm disability and the Club motto "NITOR IN ADVERSUM" comes alive every time this gallant athlete pulls on a shoe.
The amazing durable Crawford Fairbrother is a bridge between these exciting fifties and the seventies. He wore the colour at Cardiff in the Commonwealth Games of 1958 and appears likely to be at New Meadowbank this year. His record has been well documented recently, when he was honoured as Great Britain's most-capped athlete.
No Club held such dominance in Scottish athletics for such a long period, and no Club could retain the position indefinitely. The chapter is now part of Scottish Athletics History, but the Club still hold a high place. The sixties saw the brilliant, but brief, careers of sprinter Mike Hildrey who as a school boy broke an Eric Liddell record, and the emergence of Hugh Barrow who put up a world best mile performance for a sixteen year old. Andy Wood and Robert Laurie keep alive a great Club tradition of quarter milers. Last Season the Club were top in both Divisions of the Scottish Track League. Today, the membership is one of the highest in the United Kingdom, and two-thirds are under nineteen.
Throughout its story, the original theme of Victoria Park has remained. The Club still train at Scotstoun, and still go out to Milngavie. Peter Morrison, the original motivator in the formation of the Club, is now the father figure as Honorary President and goes to Milngavie on winter Saturday afternoons to dispense hot water and tea to the returning runners. George Walker, third of the Founder Members, also goes to Milngavie and if there is a race he will time or record; if not, he will strip, and follow the trails he trod 40 years ago.
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