Ancient History – My first title and the Sheepskin of Justice.

Today would have been my Dad’s 74th Birthday but sadly he is no longer with us. It got me thinking back to when I was young and in my first spell of running and he would always come to the races. And wasn’t slow in telling me where I had went wrong. Which was running too slow, having no bottle, no positional sense, and not trying usually 🙂  He was hard but fair. I think it was 1985 and I was running for Hamilton Harriers when I won my first title. I do remember all the races I won as there weren’t that many of them. There is a point to this rambling, so bear with me.

So Drumpelier Park, Coatbridge,  in, I think, 1985. Lanarkshire X Country championships and I am running for Hamilton Harriers. I’m not even the best Hamilton runner as I have been having a few ding dong battles with a fella called John McGhie and he’s been shading it. It’s the Senior Boys race. The coach John Smith told us to go out hard as we were always getting left behind at the start. It was to be a loop around the circuit then out and through the woods and back round a half loop to the finish.  Off we went, and I ignored John. I wasn’t good enough to line up with those guys. Thankfully the pace slowed a bit and a couple of other Hamilton runners came past me. My cue to speed up a bit as one Hamilton guy beating me was enough. I was actually up to about 5th as we went through the railway bridge after the first loop. I was ahead of McGhie. So I dug in. We did a wee loop through the woods and I’m third. I don’t know how. The pace is not fast, the runners that I recognised from EK and Larkhall etc were all watching each other. Cagey. I thought I had a chance of a bronze as about 7 of us seemed clear so I decided to break for home as we went through the railway bridge. No one went with me. I was a nobody from Hamilton. They would swallow me up in the last sprint I am guessing they thought. A madness possessed me. I started sprinting with a good 800 m or so still to go. Thinking back probably fear. I was well clear then I heard the shouts. The coaches of the real runners weren’t happy. They had let me away and were in danger of not getting me back. I could hear every step behind me as the stampede came but I sprinted on empty legs round the last corner and a 100m straight to the finish into heavy driving rain. I could see my Dad pushing through the throng at the finish, screaming his lungs off. I found a final bit from nowhere and got across the line. I actually held off the peloton by 7 seconds and was Lanarkshire champion for the first time. My Dad, always the critic, said nothing, but took off his sheepskin coat and put it around my 14 year old shoulders, a gesture I have never forgot. Sometimes words just aren’t needed.



This race got me selection for the West of Scotland team for the Inter Districts for the first time, and also for the Lanarkshire team. It started a lot. But I’ll never forget that sheepskin coat. Miss you old fella.


5 thoughts on “Ancient History – My first title and the Sheepskin of Justice.

  1. Here I was killing time between my four year olds tantrums, browsing happily away on the topic of Hamilton Harriers and up popped this blog, not just this blog, but this post. Spooky.

    There are many fond memories that I have of this club and the people who graced it during my time, the McGurks x 3, the Campbells, John Smith a great coach, and Mr club champion Mark Gallacher. 🙂

    This guy was a great runner, had it all, but the one thing that sticks with me even now, is the fact that his Dad was always there, rain or shine looking every bit the stylish 80’s supportive father with his sheepskin coat, commonplace probably now, but back when men we’re men and supportive fathers was unheard of, it stood out. I was always a little envious.

    Made me smile and reminisce of times gone by reading this, glad you’re living the dream again.

    Good Luck.

    John McGhie

    PS: Now where did I put those silver shadows, I can feel a rematch coming on.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brilliant to hear from you John. Hope you are doing well, if I remember right you were a turncoat and went to Larkhall….. 🙂 It’s a tough effort at this age. Wee Brian Campbell still running great with Cambuslang now, the rest I haven’t seen in many a year.


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