The History of Penicuik Harriers – To Date!
Official Club records have been lost in the realms of time. In preparing this account of Penicuik Harriers History to the present time I am therefore indebted to former club members Isaac Palmer (now deceased) and Bill Purves, together with Midlothian Libraries for allowing me to access and to copy their collections of newspaper cuttings.
The earliest records we have of the Harriers come from the “R. S. Black Collection” of newspaper cuttings. A report dated 7 December 1887 confirms that the Harriers were “recently formed under the presidency and vice-presidency of Mr W Birrell, Uttershill, and Mr D McGregor, Woodslee” and “were to have their first run on Saturday”. This report goes on to say that “The formation of the club had been greatly talked of, and the first paper chase in the history of the village was looked forward to with great interest by the villagers, but the heavy rains had swollen the Esk and its tributaries very considerably, and the run had consequently to be postponed”. Some things don’t change!
The collection goes on to record in an article dated 16 December 1887 that “The Harriers had a very successful run on Saturday” and there are subsequent reports on club activities up until the last article from that period dated 14 December 1890. Although unconfirmed, it seems likely that the Club must have disbanded around this time as there are no further reports until a hand written entry dated 23 October 1926 which records that “Edinburgh Harriers and Heriot’s Cross Country Club, 50 in number, had a joint run today with the object of giving a start to a local club proposed to be formed”.
A further article dated 29 October 1926 records that Mr J Ketchen would “endeavour to do all he could to promote an Amateur Sports club for the district”. This article interestingly also confirms that “It is interesting to recall that a Harriers Club existed in the town 39 years ago”, which ties in with the 1887 date and tends to confirm that the club was most likely disbanded around 1890.
Again there are various articles in the “R. S. Black Collection” recording club activities from this period and we have a team photograph of Penicuik Harriers from the 1929 – 30 season. Various programmes and memorabilia, records of inter-club competitions, etc. have also been presented which suggest that the club was fairly active up until the Second World War, when it again disbanded in 1939.
The Club did not exist during the Second World War and in the immediate post war period. However, Newspaper cuttings confirm that the Club resumed once more in June 1949 as Penicuik Harriers and Amateur Athletic Club (the club vest at that time being black with a white five bar gate stitched on) and continued through the early 1950s. In an article from 1950, the Clubs “Ladies’ Section” officials and committee are recorded. The final article from this period is dated 6th June 1952.In January 1963 the Club was briefly resurrected as Penicuik Athletic Club. However, this club was soon expanded to include other sports and activities under the name of the Penicuik Sports Club. Despite this attempt to extend the range of activities it became clear that interest from the general public was very poor and the Club experienced difficulty in securing accommodation. After a very short life, the club was again disbanded in August 1963.
It was not until November 1971 that the Harriers were once more re-formed under the name of Penicuik Athletic and Harriers Club, at which time “it is hoped to commence a senior and junior section and a woman’s section”. Although we have subsequently reverted to being simply Penicuik Harriers, we have an unbroken history since that time.
Throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s we catered for all age groups with track and field league competition during the summer months and cross country in the winter, whilst seniors also contested in hill and road races. The marathon boom of the early 1980s was a general boost to Scottish Athletics and brought with it further interest and competition at this classic distance.
Many of our clubs present ‘senior’ members; George McEwan, Colin and Anna Graham, Bill Bennet and Dave Cairns, to name but a few; provided both administrative and coaching support throughout the 80s and 90s and still remain active within the Club.
Unfortunately in 1999 the Club was forced to disband its junior section as a result of difficulty in recruiting coaches with many of our junior athletes transferring to our close neighbours Lasswade Athletic Club at that time. Since then we have continued as a senior endurance club, competing in the full range of road, cross country, hill and ultra events under the guidance and tutelage of our present coaches (Bill Bennet and Dave Cairns), who can always be relied upon to provide gentle words of encouragement at club training nights!
Over the years our relatively small club has experienced a very respectable level of success at district, national and UK level in track and field, cross country, hill and road racing.
One hundred and twenty years gone. We’ve turned the full circle back to the endurance based origins of the club and are still going strong. Where to the future? That’s in our members hands!
We’re a cheery bunch and all are made welcome at Tuesday and Thursday training nights, from novice to the more experienced. Training sessions are open to all and irrespective of club allegiance.
8 April 2007