Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Duncan MacFarlane

One of our life members who was part of the Victoria Park team that won the English AAA’s Cross Country Championships in 1952, Duncan MacFarlane, passed away on the 18th of August this year.  We’ve only now received an obituary which is shown below.  Duncan is shown in the center of the five at the back of the picture.

Duncan MacFarlane

The world was quite a different place 96 years ago when Duncan Macfarlane was born. His parents lived in a small tied cottage on the side of Loch Lomond. They had both served in the First World War, his father as a Lovat Scout at Gallipoli and his mother as a nurse, and this was in 1921, only 3 years later.

They almost lost him to pneumonia when he was small, before the days of antibiotics, but, after a long illness, he somehow survived.

His father moved to a post as driver and gardener for Lord Primrose in Garail House, Dunoon. He and his 2 younger brothers grew up running around the farms and hills, helping with the horses, hay cutting and harvests, working with their father in the gardens.

Then, when he was 15, the school science teacher brought in a cine projector and showed the boys a film of Jack Lovelock racing clear of the pack to win the 1500m in the 1936 Olympics. Young Duncan was transfixed, he'd never seen anything like it.

A passion was born. He loved racing, joining Athletics clubs at school and university and fitting in as much cross country and track racing as he could. Later he joined the Victoria Park Harriers, training with them twice a week and racing most weekends. Athletics was a huge sport in those days, with clubs in every wee town putting on race meets and young athletes travelling all over the country to compete, mostly by public transport. The prizes were often put up by local businesses, which sometimes led to interesting challenges like trying to get the first prize chest of drawers or armchair home on the bus!

He was a good enough runner to win several trophies and prizes, individually in Open Mile and Two Mile races, and also as part of teams which included the great Scottish athlete Andy Forbes, who was like the Calum Hawkins of the day, an inspiring local athlete who could take on the best in the world. Duncan loved to run as part of a team, whether it was the 4x1 mile relays on the track, the longer road relays (Edinburgh to Glasgow, Dundee Kingsway and London to Brighton for example) or cross country races where every single place you gained might make the difference that got your team onto on the podium. There was nothing like the present day tradition of 10k and half marathon road races every weekend and outside of the Cross Country season most racing opportunities were on tracks. He was generally considered a ‘miler’ but actually preferred running further and felt the longer distances of cross country (often 9 miles) and the legs in road relay races suited his strengths better.

So many athletes would gather for competitions that there was little space to change or warm up - the milers used to enter half mile races, not to compete but to get a warm up before their own races which were run later. It made for an exhausting day if they got caught up in the moment and ran well enough in the heats to get a place in the half mile final by accident!

Duncan was exempted from call-up in WW2, being in an ‘essential occupation’ in the Blood Transfusion Authority, but always thought he should have been allowed to go. He already had his train ticket to travel but it was cancelled at the last minute and he instead joined the home guard.  In later years he told stories of their Dad's Army style exploits, running around shooting at paper targets of German invaders in the woods, manning the Home Guard Hut in teams 24hrs a day, and being issued with a strict 4 bullets each for their rifles. He said there was also a Sten Gun in the Hut, but they had no bullets for that!

One of his favourite races was the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay Race, and he ran 3 times  for Victoria Park A.A.C. on different legs of this in successive years. A very proud memory was running 3rd leg in the VP team who won the race, with a new course record time, in 1950. But the feat actually that got his name (as ‘Dunkie McFarlane’), into Scottish distance running history was being a ‘counter’ in the Victoria Park A.A.C. team who famously won the ENGLISH Club Cross Country championships in 1952.

He perhaps missed his best years of Cross Country when national competitions were suspended during the war, but, starting in the 1946/47 season, went on to compete in no less than 18 successive years in the Scottish Cross Country Championships at Hamilton Race Course. One memorable cross country race he recalled, there was a really hard winter (1951?) and the frost hadn't lifted for 10 weeks. The day of the race the snow was lying 18 inches deep, with the frozen ground like iron underneath it. Fortunately for the senior runners, their race was last and a narrow path through the snow had been beaten by the feet of the earlier racers. Even so, the going was so brutal that Duncan lost a toenail…his feet were so cold that he didn't realise until after the race when he took off his running shoes and saw the blood! They were made of sterner stuff in those days, nowadays races are cancelled for a couple of inches of snow!

He was proud to have been working in a public hospital, Ayrshire Central, the day the NHS began, and was a staunch supporter of the NHS and public medicine all his days. It was also there that he met his wife, Shirley, who came to work in the Pharmacy where he was Deputy Chief.

His running travels took him to Ireland where there was no rationing - this was just after the war when there were few luxuries here and he was able to bring back sumptuous gifts like boxes of chocolates to woo his sweetheart. She must have been impressed, because when it became clear he was expecting her to be his wife she didn't complain, despite telling people many times over the years that there never was an actual formal proposal! They went on to celebrate 64 years of marriage and 6 children together.

Before they could marry, Duncan thought he ought to have a ‘Chief Pharmacist’ post, and the post that came up first was in Dumfries. In 1951 he came down to start work, and discovered the pharmacy and surgical stores stacked to the ceiling with giant rolls of gauze and lint. Each hospital in the country had had a wartime ration of surgical supplies and they'd never been cancelled but just kept on arriving and being piled up. His brother came down and the pair of them rolled up their sleeves and spent a week hefting the huge rolls out before he started.

He was involved in setting up and running the Dumfries Amateur Athletics Club and made new running friends in the area, but still retained membership of Victoria Park as his first claim club. He ran in the first ever Brampton to Carlisle road race, and as secretary of the DAAC took a key role in organising the club and local races, as well as continuing to run with a new generation of younger athletes. One former clubmate, now in his 80s, remembers him as being a true gent, and surprisingly fast for an old guy!

Duncan reluctantly gave up competitive running when he was in his 40s, which was considered old for a runner at the time. He stayed involved with sports; curling, bowling and golfing as well as playing amateur football into his 50s. He was always willing to take responsibility and be one of the organisers in all his sports. He also had a sharp mind for detail and, as well as encyclopaedic knowledge of sport history, usually had up to date facts and commentary, getting into passionate debate about most sports with the slightest invitation, especially football, running and golf. A good man to have in your pub quiz team!

Although he played a bit of golf as a child, he only took it up seriously in his 40s when he felt he was too old for the running. Even so, he managed to play a mean game of golf to a handicap of 12 for many years. There was great excitement in the family when Duncan got a mention in the Sunday Post and special putter for getting a hole-in-one. He was still managing to regularly play a few holes well into his 80s and last played on his 90th birthday.

In his professional life he was promoted to Chief Administrative Pharmaceutical Officer for Dumfries and Galloway and was responsible for services across the region - including managing his own wife! - until he retired from the NHS at the age of 64.

He and his wife stayed active as they got older, climbing hills, finding flowers, especially orchids, all over Scotland. Their idea of a fun day out was hiking 10 miles through bogs to find a particular orchid that only flowered for a week every year! For Duncan's 70th birthday, they had a picnic. On top of Criffel, the highest local hill. In the snow!

He was quite envious of the greater opportunities that became available for veteran runners, and wished he had been able to run longer.

He loved the fact that his adult daughters and grand-daughter got into running, relished every muddy detail of each race report, and beamed with pride at every single medal, trophy, or personal best time. In recent years, when walking became increasingly painful and difficult for him, he often said (with a smile) that when he was dreaming he could still run fast enough to feel the wind in his face!

Well into his 90s, even when he was in constant pain, he battled for his mobility, and refused to just lie down. He fought and won several times with serious illness, regaining his sparky curiosity and humour, but losing a little bit more energy each time. He stayed closer to home, not liking old friends to see him diminished.

And he took hard the loss of his wee brother, sister in law and most of his lifelong friends. It's a hard thing to outlive so many people you love.

Duncanwas an immense life force who gave his energy, time and commitment without hesitation, to family, work, sport and community life over his whole, impressively long lifetime. He was true gentleman, a proud father and a loyal friend, loved and respected by everyone who knew him, and never had a bad word to say about anyone.

A good life, well lived. We will miss him.

James S Hamilton

Fraser Hamilton, the son of one of our life members dropped in to Scotstoun recently to view our display cabinet and he subsequently asked if we would be interested in his father’s medals from his athletics career.  His father was James Steven Hamilton.

James S Hamilton was born in Partick in 1928 and attended Victoria Drive Secondary School where he developed his interest in athletics.  In 1944 he was their senior sports champion.  His medal from the period is shown right:

He showed great promise as a junior athlete and cut his teeth competing at the likes of Shawfield, Westerlands, Firhill and Ibrox.

His first national junior medal was won on the 8th of June 1946 at the Scottish AAA Championships at Meadowbank.  He won the 880 yards or half mile event in a time of 2:02.2.

On the 21st of June that same year he won his first senior medal at the Scottish AAA Championships at Hampden Park where he finished 2nd in the 880 yards in a time of 1:59.3.  He followed that by running the first leg (440yds) of the medley relay ahead of A S Warren (220yds), George MacDonald (220yds) and J B Panton (440yds) who finished in 1st place in a combined time of 2:40.2.

In July 1946 he travelled to the Junior AAA's at Birmingham where he finished 2nd in the 880 yds with a time of 2:02.0.

In 1947, he finished 2nd in the 880 yards at the Scottish AAA Championships at Hampden Park.

After that date, he served three years national service in the Army.  He was based at Aldershot and served in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME).  His athletic career did continue during that period and as you can see right, he was part of the winning Army team that won the Inter Services Athletic Championships in 1948.

When he returned to Glasgow after his national service, he found employment as a bank clerk and very quickly resumed his athletic career.

He was 1st in the 440 yards at the Scottish AAA Championships at Hampden Park in 1950 which allowed Victoria Park to award him life membership and gained him selection to the Scottish team that competed against England and Ireland at the Triangular Athletic Match at White City, London in 1950.  Also representing the Club that day were Alan Paterson, George MacDonald and the Olympian Willie Jack.

In 1951, he was 2nd in the 440 yards at the Scottish AAA Championships at Hampden Park in a time of 50.5s.

He was selected once again to represent Scotland at the Triangular Athletic Match at Recreation Park, Dunoon in 1951 against teams from England and Ireland.  He was joined on that occasion by Vicky Park teammates Andy Forbes, Alan Paterson, K Cunningham, P Milligan and Willie Jack.

In 1953 he again ran the first leg of the medley relay for the winning Victoria Park team at Meadowbank.  The team that day was James Hamilton (880yds), Ronnie Whitelock (220yds), Harry Quinn (220yds) and his brother Bobby Quinn (440yds).

Hi emigrated in 1953 to Vancouver in Canada where he again worked as a bank clerk and joined the Vancouver Olympic Club. 

He chose to represent Scotland at the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games at Vancouver, Canada where he finished 6th in the 880 yards in a time of 1:52.7.  Victoria Park were also represented at the games by Ian Binnie who was 7th in the 3 mile race with a time of 13:59.6 and 6th in the 6 mile race with a time of 30:15.2.  Only 5 male athletes represented Scotland at these games.

In the picture right, Ian Binnie is on the left and James is 5th from the left.

James eventually returned to Scotland with his wife in 1960 where they started a family.

He eventually passed away in September 2011 having said very little over the years about his exploits on the track.  His son Fraser vividly remembers incidents from his childhood where he played with and swapped many of the shiny medals, not knowing their importance or relevance.

His family have kindly donated his medal (pictured right) that was awarded to all of the competing athletes at the games.  It will be displayed in the Club display cabinet at Scotstoun.


Gordon Innes

Dr William (Bill) D H Conacher

Sad news today of the passing of one of our life members.  Jane Roy contacted the club to tell us that her father, Dr William (Bill) D H Conacher, a Life Member of Victoria Park since 1947, passed away peacefully last Thursday at the age of 91 after a long illness.

Bill was Victoria Park's Club Champion, Scottish Champion, Scottish Universities Champion, and picked as a possible for the GB relay team at the 1948 London Olympics, although he was later confirmed only as a reserve.  He excelled at 440 yds but also competed at 220 yds.  He had the honour of carrying the flag for the Scottish Team in Paris in 1947 at the European Student Games.  He later competed for the RAF during his National Service after WWII.

In 1945 Bill was part of the Victoria Park Medley Relay quartet that appeared as a AAA Select and won their event at an International Meeting at the White City in London.  The team on that occassion was G Smellie, G Macdonald, W D H Conacher and J B Panton.

He went on to become Consultant Physician at Bangour General Hospital, West Lothian, from 1960 until his retirement.

There should be a death notice appearing in the Scotsman this coming Friday, the 2nd of October and Sir Tam Dalyell, former MP for West Lothian is preparing an obituary for the Independent Newspaper.  (Obituary-Independent)

Friends are invited to his funeral to be held on Friday the 9th of October at 2pm at Warriston Crematorium, Edinburgh, and afterwards at Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society, 32 Barnton Avenue, Davidson’s Mains, Edinburgh.

Gordon Innes

Bobby Calderwood

We received the sad news that one of our oldest life members, Bobby Calderwood died on Monday the 1st of March after a long illness.  Bobby, who was 78 is survived by his wife Cathy, his sons John and Alec and his daughter Andrea.  Alec had recently returned from New Zealand and Andrea from London to be with their father.

Bobby joined Victoria Park in 1950 as a talented 19 year old and won his first National medal in the Scottish Youths Cross Country Championships that same year.  He again won Gold in 1952 as part of the Victoria Park team that won the Scottish Junior Cross Country Championships.Bobby Calderwood

He was a winner again with the senior team that won the Scottish Cross Country Championships in 1956, 57 and 58.  Bobby's peers said that he had an ungainly running action but was determined and very competitive in competition and training

He was a regular winner also of the Edinburgh to Glasgow Road Relay Race, Victoria Park were 1st in 1952, 54, 56 and 57 where he ran the 5 and a half mile 1st leg from St Andrews Square in Edinburgh to Maybury Cross.  As you can see in the below pictures, Bobby had the honour of carrying the special champions baton from the Lord Provost of Edinburgh to the Lord Provost of Glasgow on several occasions.

He represented Scotland at the Cross Country Internationals in 1956 and 57 and as a result was awarded Life Membership of the Club.

Long after his running career ended, heBobby's old running buddies continued to assist with coaching VP's young athletes at Scotstoun and was the club handicapper until quite recently.

Bobby's son John sent in the picture of Bobby's old running buddies (right).  Our own Andy Forbes is 2nd from the right, if you can recognise any of the other faces, can you post it on the message board.

Bobby had in recent years delighted in donating £1 for every year of his membership prior to the AGM.  His most recent donation was for £60.

Our thoughts are with Cathy, John, Alec and Andrea at this sad time.  I'll post the information relating to the funeral arrangements here when I have them.


From: The Herald

The sad passing of former Scottish Cross Country internationalist Bobby Calderwood earlier this week brings to mind a unique team of which he was very much part. A team from Victoria Park A.A.C who trained out of Scotstoun Showgrounds, Whiteinch Baths Mountblow and the Milngavie Laundry who then crossed the border and took the English Cross Country Championship out of England Besides Bobby this team also included an Empire Games silver medallist Andy Forbes, Scotland's" Zatopek" Ian Binnie and a young miler from Govan who went on the be an American Olympian and serve with the US Marines in Vietnam Alex Breckenridge In 1952 this team travelled to Birmingham and took on the best clubs of England like South London Harriers, Belgrave, Birchfield and Bolton Utd on their own turf and beat them, something that had never happened before and has only happened once since when Shettleston Harriers emulated them in 1971.

Hugh Barrow, Milngavie