Kaitlyn Clark (Centre) Scottish Athletics Age Group Indoor Championships, Feb 2nd & 3rd 2019 (C) Bobby Gavin
Meanwhile at the Scottish Schools’ Outdoor Championships in June, Madison Murdoch was the bronze medal winner in the Group D 100 metres. In the 2020 indoor season several of our female members performed with distinction. Still only an under 15 Girl, Madison Murdoch broke the women’s 300m club record on no less than three occasions indoors, with her final indoor time of 41.63 winning her the gold medal over this distance at the SAIAGC. She also ran 25.90 indoors over 200m and at the end of 2020 these performances were good enough to place her 6th over 300 and 13th over 200 in the UK rankings.
At the SAIAGC Codie McHolm finished second to Madison in the 300m in a time of 42.39 seconds which was also inside the previous club record. Her time placed her 15th in the UK rankings at the end of the outdoor season. This was a marvellous one two by Madison and Codie, with their runs being good enough to place them first and second respectively in the Scottish rankings for 2020.
Indoors Codie not only raised her own club high jump record from 1.45 to 1.47 but also soared out to 4.95m in the long jump, this latter performance making her the official women’s club record holder for the event. It placed her 7th in the Scottish rankings in 2020, with Kaitlyn Clark’s 4.92 being good enough to place her 8th.
Also indoors Emma Clark, competing as a first year under 13, finished third in the 200m final at SAIAGC. Her 27.75 run at Meadowmill in late August was good enough to place her 3rd in Scotland and 14th in the UK for 2020. At the end of 2020 we had a total of six different athletes- 3 male, 3 female- ranked in the top ten at either Scottish or UK level and this could well be a first in the club’s history for a single calendar year.
From July to September 2021 a small group of under 13, under 15 Girls and Under 17 Women produced some marvellous performances in the sprints and long jump, especially at the Scottish Age Group championships in August. On August 28th and 29th at Aberdeen Kaitlyn Clark won the gold in the Under 15 LJ and her personal best of 4.93, set earlier in the year at Dunfermline, placed her 5th in the Scottish rankings.
Chloe Hill won silver in the under 15 300m with a time of 41.75 and bronze in the 200m with a time of 26.70. Both performances were personal bests and earned her the 5th and 3rd spots respectively in the Scottish rankings. Emma Clark won double gold in Under 13 Girls 100m and 200m with times of 12.62w and 26.50w respectively. Her 12.62 in the 100 was a championship best but not a Scottish record because of the illegal wind.
Emma had a marvellous season during which she not only topped the Scottish rankings over 100m and 200m but also topped the UK rankings over 100m and finished 3rd in the 200m with times of 12.8 and 26.54 respectively. She made her first piece of club history by becoming the first female member ever to top the UK rankings in any age group in any event. And she made her second piece in early October when it was announced that she had been placed first in the Under 13 category of the Scottish Athletics Track Statisticians (SATS) Challenge, becoming not only the first member of the club to do so but also becoming the first sprinter ever in Scotland to achieve the accolade at Under 13 level.
That same weekend at Aberdeen Codie McHolm and Madison Murdoch made the final of the under 20 400m finishing 6th and 5th respectively. Codie’s 59.36 in the heat was only 0.4 outside the club record. Two weeks earlier Madison and Codie finished 2nd and 3rd respectively in the under 17 women’s 300m at the SAAGC held at Grangemouth, running 41.21 and 42.26 seconds respectively. Madison’s time was a new club record and placed her 4th in the Scottish rankings while Codie’s time was good enough to place her in 8th position.
On September 25th at the Schools’ International held in Derby Madison was part of the girls’ relay team that set a new Scottish best when finishing second in the 4@300m. Collectively the four girls won a total 7 medals at the Age Group Championships and when added to the 3 won by Dean Patterson represented the best haul ever won in a single season by club members at this level of competition. The great achievements of the group reflected the fine work done with them by Angela Young, supported by David McAuley.
The 2022 indoor championship season got off to a great start in January with Kaitlyn Clark setting an outright women’s club record of 5.05 in the Under 17 Women’s long jump competition at the SAIAG Championships. On the same day Madison Murdoch won the Under 17 Women’s 300m in a new club record of 41.19 seconds, followed home by Codie McHolm in second place with a new pb of 41.46 seconds. Later that month Emma Clark finished second in the SAIAG Championships in the Under 15 Girl’s 200 and 4th in the 60m, despite being only a first year in the age group.
The following month at the Scottish Schools’ Indoor Track Championships Chloe Hill won the silver medal in the Under 16 Girl’s 300m in a new pb of 41.5 seconds and Kaitlyn Clark also won the silver in the Under 16 Girl’s long jump. In the 300m for Girls 16 and over Codie McHolm and Madison Murdoch finished second and third respectively. By the end of the 2021-22 indoor season at under 17 Women’s level Madison was ranked first in Scotland over 300 with Codie and Chloe ranked 3rd and 4th respectively.
Madison was also ranked sixth in the UK over 300. In the Under 15 Girl’s age group Emma was ranked third in Scotland over both the 60 and 200, Kaitlyn was seventh in the under 17 Women’s Scottish rankings in the long jump and Dean Hill sixth in the 400 and ninth in the 800 respectively in the Under 17 Men’s Scottish rankings. Finally Chloe Gilfillan finished 4th in the over 16 Girl’s 800m B Final at the SSI Championships having set a pb of 2.25.54 in her heat.
The outdoor season got going in earnest at the West District Championships which were in held in Kilmarnock in mid May. That weekend Emma Clark won double silver in the Under 15 Girl’s 100 and 200m, Madison Murdoch won gold and silver in the Under 17 Women’s 300 and 200 respectively, with Chloe Hill taking first place in the latter event. Kaitlyn Clark extended her club long jump record to 5.22 when finishing second in the Under 17 Women’s Long Jump, although there was no wind gauge in operation.
The following month at the Scottish Schools’ Athletics Championships Emma Clark did the golden double over 100 and 200 in the Group D age group, Chloe Hill won gold and Madison Murdoch won bronze in the Group B 300m, Chloe won silver in the 200 and Erin McAuley took third place in the Group C Long Jump competition and in doing so became only the second female in the club’s history to win a field event medal at these championships.
Chloe was selected to run the 300 at the Schools’ International held in Belfast in July, where she finished 6th in a new personal best of 41.25. Her selection meant she joined a very small band of club athletes who have competed at the Schools’ International down through the years. Madison was selected for the 4@300 relay team at the same event.
Joining an even more select band of club athletes was Emma Clark, who was picked to run at the International Children’s Games, which were also held in July in Coventry. Emma finished 4th in the 100m in a superb time of 12.47 seconds and was also part of the South Lanarkshire Girl’s quartet that finished 4th in the 4@100m relay.
Emma Clark’s superb form continued in August when she won silver in the 100 and gold in the 200 in the Under 15 Girl’s category at the SA age group championships held at Grangemouth. She then rounded off her great season in fine style with a double win in the Under 15 Girl’s 100 and 200 at the Lanarkshire AAA Track Championships held at Crownpoint, Glasgow on September 11th.
Dean Hill reached both the under 17 and under 20 400m finals at the SA Age Group Championships, lowering his pb to 51.88 in the process. At the Lanarkshire Track Championships Dean Hill completed a golden double when he won both the Under 17 Men’s 400 and 200, setting pbs of 51.30 and 23.9 respectively.
Chloe Gilfillan, who had been setting pbs and reaching age group finals either over 800 or 1500 throughout the year, finally got in amongst the medals at the Lanarkshires when finishing 2nd and 3rd respectively in the Under 17 Women’s 800 and 1500. Katilyn Clark, who had a relatively fallow spell after her fine performances at the West Districts, bounced back strongly not only to win the Under 17 Women’s Long Jump but also to finish third in the 100m. Last, but by no means least, there was a well earned bronze medal for Aaron Scott in the Under 15 Boy’s 1500 in 5.24.
At the end of the 2022 outdoor season in the Scottish rankings Chloe Hill was 4th in both the Under 17 Women’s 200(25.89) and 300(41.25), Madison Murdoch was ranked 7th in the 200(26.43) and 3rd in the 300(41.19) and Kaitlyn Clark was ranked 7th in the long jump with a 5.22 and 5.31(w). In the Under 15 Girls rankings Emma Clark claimed third spot in the 60,100 and 200 with respective times of 8.09, 12.57 and 25.68. In the Under 17 Men’s listings Dean Hill placed fourth with his 51.30 clocking.
A prominent trend from the late 1980s until around 2016 was the emergence of a small but very successful band of veteran athletes - both male and female. In the early 1990s Christine Love was an outstanding performer on the female side, winning medals at both Scottish and British level. In 1993 she was part of the Scottish Vets Squad that competed against the North of England Vets Select Squad at Jarrow.
At the turn of the millennium on the male side John Shearer emerged as the club's most distinguished athlete on the Masters' circuit, medalling both at Scottish and British level (indeed he won the British Vets' Indoor 400m title in February 2003), as well as being selected for the Scottish Vets' squad that competed against the North of England Squad in 1998.
In June 2000, at the ripe old age of 44, John won the £1000 first prize in the 110m open handicap sprint at the Beltane Sports held annually in Peebles, one of the most prestigious events of its kind on the Highland Games circuit.
Tragically in July 2007 John died aged only 50. His loss was felt deeply in the club because not only had he been a great friend to most of his contemporaries but also because he had been a great role model for younger athletes coming through the club ranks.
Other athletes to medal at Masters’ championships include Fiona Mowbray in the 1990s (at both 400m and 800m), Margaret Smith who won the 50+ category over 200m in June 2007, Craig Douglas in 2008 finishing 3rd at the indoors Scottish Masters over 200m and 400m and also 3rd in the 400m at the indoor British Masters.
That same year Steven Murray won the indoor masters’ 400m title in the over 35 category. In 2014 Ramsay Sloss won a gold medal at the European Masters Championships as part of the British Men’s quartet competing in the 4 x 200m relay. In the following year he was part of the British 4 x 200m team which won the silver medals at the World Indoor Championships, breaking the British record in the process. Both these feats were achieved in the 60+ category and each time Ramsay was selected for the relay team by virtue of making the semi-finals over 200m at each event in the individual 200m.
Also in 2014 Angela Lyttle won the 100m and 200m titles at the Scottish Outdoor Masters’ Championships and followed this double with a 4th place finish over 200m at the British Outdoor Masters.
The foregoing gives a flavour of how club members have competed with great success over the years at inter district, national and international level. There are gaps in this history, and it would be impossible to record here the entire story of how members over the years performed at club and local level.
However, despite all the great performances that club members have achieved over the last 92 years, the greatest legacy that has been bestowed collectively by members past and present is the camaraderie and friendships which have been forged out of a collective interest in athletics. There is no doubt that the bonds so forged far outweighed the bad feelings occasionally generated in the club; and in terms of local history and culture, that has been the club's greatest achievement.
While researching the club’s history something that struck me was how certain themes have recurred down through the years. Indeed very little of what the present generation of members have experienced over the last twenty years is actually new. Here are a few examples.
Firstly our club has always been a small one, with the need to recruit more members almost always being an issue. Membership figures prior to the 1960s are hard to calculate. However on at least two occasions in the 1950s memberships reached the high thirties and this was of sufficient merit to be mentioned favourably in the minute books. During the 1960s and 1970s membership fluctuated greatly between a low of around 20 and a high around 50.
Undoubtedly club membership reached a new high in the 1980s when the committee aimed to try and sign up a 100 members and actually reached 80 for several years. This increase in membership reflected the great interest nationwide in jogging at the time, which best manifested itself during the decade in the first wave of "marathon mania."
In the 1990s we regularly had 60 members on the books, although between 2000 and 2010 we dropped to around 45. However from 2012 to 2019, reaping the benefits of the interest generated in athletics by the London Olympics and the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, membership stayed above 70 each year.
However in 2020 the Covid 19 pandemic was largely responsible for our numbers dropping to 56, down from 88 the previous year. In 2021 we held the membership steady at 56 but in 2022 it dropped slightly to 54. Over the next couple of years reversing this drop will remain a key priority for the Board.
Also, in the modern era we know that paid up members and competing members are not the same thing. For example we have 54 members at present with around half of them training at least twice per week on a Tuesday and Thursday evening. In turn, around half of them train and compete on a regular basis at weekends.
Secondly, issues such as buying equipment (the club had only one stopwatch as late as the early 1960s!), dates of club competitions, formats for the track championships, fund raising, serious constitutional fallouts, serious schisms over individuals (thankfully limited in number) and the style of club vests have cropped up throughout the club's history.
For example the original club vest was white, with the YMCA red triangle sewn on to the front at chest level. However, for over twenty years, the style and colours of the club vest were debated by successive generations of committees. Finally in 1959 the current club vest was approved, although the manufacturer misread the instructions and supplied us with red vests with two white hoops at chest level, instead of vests with two white stripes running diagonally across the front. Rather than incur the costs of replacing them, the club accepted them as supplied.
The heat that can be generated in an argument over something as seemingly mundane as club colours re - surfaced in the early 1990s. At this time there was serious talk about our club amalgamating with Stonehouse AAC. The proposal put to our members was that the joint club would retain our name, but we would adopt the Stonehouse colours. After much debate the proposal was rejected and the amalgamation fell through.
Thirdly as previously mentioned, the topic of female membership caused problems in the club intermittently for nearly 40 years. It was finally resolved in 1988 when the club became a fully mixed one. Today male and female members train together on a regular basis, compete in mixed club competitions and our committee posts can be filled by members of either sex, and our club has benefited greatly from doing so.
Other significant milestones in the YMCA and the Harrier’s recent history include the YMCA and the YMCA Harriers Boards being merged and governed by a single constitution; this being approved and implemented at the AGMs held in April 2008.
In October 2009 the Club gained Clubmark accreditation for the first time, transferred to the new Club Accreditation Programme in October 2011 at foundation level and became the first club in the West of Scotland to be re-accredited in January 2014.
Moreover in 2013-14, for the first time ever, we signed up 100 members in a single year; a feat which was repeated in 2016-17 and 2017-18. In May 2018 Larkhall YMCA achieved Incorporated Organization status with the Office of the Scottish Charities Regulator and part of this change in status resulted in our organization starting to work with only one bank account from April 2022 for the first time since 1930.
Finally in October 2013 Angela Young became the first female coach to get qualified beyond the basic coaching level. From 2013 to 2022 she did great work with our primary school athletes, our Superteam athletes and, from July 2019, our sprinters- despite taking over the role as lead coach of the sprints group in difficult circumstances.
Finally, it is only right and proper that we acknowledge the benefit that the club has gained from being intrinsically liked with the YMCA. This organization, through the voluntary efforts of successive generations of members, has provided an invaluable base in the town for the Harriers to work from. Having a secure location for its activities has undoubtedly gone a long way to ensuring that the club has not only survived the troughs but also made the best of the peaks in membership over the years.
As stated in the opening paragraph of this history the present YMCA building now requires and gets some serious and regular maintenance, and the Harriers play a large part in this not only because of the benefits the club gets in return for this work, but also because of the debt the current membership owes to past generations of YMCA and YMCA Harriers members.
This work has undoubtedly prolonged the life of the current building. It took from 1944 to 1953 for the club to get the ash track laid at the old Royal Albert stadium, with Davie Gracie’s great achievements playing a big part in persuading the District Council to do so. However by the mid 1990s the club had to move most of its track training to venues outside the town because of its poor condition. Although a synthetic track wasn’t built as part of the new Academy, which opened in 2010, the town is, hopefully, going to get a new Leisure Centre built by the end of the decade.
The preliminary discussions, held in late 2019 amongst the interested parties, about it including a new track and field facility, plus a new YMCA building were reasonably positive. However, in late 2022 we were informed that a new YMCA Building would not be part of the leisure centre project and in late Spring 2023 we were informed that our bid for funding to upgrade the Academy’s track in 2024 had also been unsuccessful. Therefore my hope that when the club’s history is updated as part of its centenary celebrations in 2030 that we will have will a new YMCA building and a modern track and field facility has faded dramatically. Although a proposal to put in one more bid for the track project over the winter of 2023-24, with the aim of building it in 2025, fell by the wayside in late 2023, there’s a possibility it might be revived for 2026, but I’m not holding my breath.
Finishing on a couple of positive notes, firstly in late December 2023 an idea was floated that involved the YM being re-located into the Trinity Church, if the plans to transform church into a community facility after its closure, scheduled for June 2024, come to fruition. The suggestion is the brainchild of Martin McManus, a member of the Larkhall Planning Partnership, and is certainly one worthy of further exploration. Secondly, although the track upgrade and a new YM are largely pipedreams, our new website going live in late 2023 certainly wasn’t. This was the brainchild of Ted Zokas, who put in an incredible amount of work to give us a superb up to date internet facility, which has already been extremely well visited and used by people interested in either them or their children getting started in athletics. In short our internet profile has gone through the roof in a very short period of time.
John Mowbray and Richard Campbell. These two long serving club members provided me with a wealth of information, photographs and anecdotes about the club's history. They had first hand knowledge about the club dating back into the 1940s and they had second hand knowledge of both the YMCA and YMCA Harriers' history in the town from their beginnings in 1897 and 1930 respectively.
Hamilton Central Library Reference Staff, who were very patient and helpful as I worked my way through the back copies of the Hamilton Advertiser.
J.W. Keddie's book "Scottish Athletics" provided an interesting general read about the history of athletics in Scotland and was a particularly useful source of information on the achievements of DK Gracie.
Alex B. Perrie – although Alex and I strongly disagreed over several issues in the club over a long period of time, in my early years in the club he nurtured and encouraged my interest in athletics; and for that I am truly grateful.
Brian McAusland – for his information about J Crosbie.
David K. Gracie – for the interesting information and useful anecdotes he passed on to me in October 2019.
My wife Fiona – for taking the time to proof read the history and correct my grammatical errors.