A slice of history

by Alan Stevens

The short answer: we were formed under the wing of the then Scottish Society of Wellington as one of their sport/ social activities – eg soccer, pipe band, etc. However, we really stemmed from dissension within the Brooklyn Harrier Club the preceding year.

In 1914 the Brooklyn Club (defunct in the 1950s) had some controversies, resulting in a breakaway to form the Olympic HC. Later that season the Brooklyn Club refused to award a medal to Sam Hall (certain names are important, see below).

The President, Walter Ballantyne and his son Bob, the Club Champion, disagreed and both resigned.

Informal discussions were held under the auspices of  the Scottish Society and on 10 March 1915 a meeting was held to form the “Scottish Harriers & Amateur Athletic Club.” Among officers elected were: Captain: Sam Hall, Vice-Captain: Bob Ballantyne, Secretary-Treasurer: Arthur Rowlands, Centre Delegate: Walter Ballantyne.

The initial Club Run was held on 24 April 1915 from Cliff House, Milne Terrace, Island Bay. Interestingly, our current first race of the season, the Le Gaye Rosebowl from Island Bay, passes below Cliff House as we leave the coast leading towards The Parade. Sam Hall became one of our leading members during the 1920s and  was sole selector and manager of the first New Zealand team sent to compete in the Australian Cross Country Champs in 1923. Bob Ballantyne was our first Club Champion and sadly died in 1918 of wounds received in World War I. He is commemorated in our oldest club trophy, the Ballantyne Cup, presented by his parents in 1921. Arthur Rowlands competed in the 1908 Olympics for the combined “Australasia” team, coming 4th in the 3,500m track walk. Our walking trophy is named after him.

Walter “Pop” Ballantyne is rightly regarded as the “Founder” of our Club. He came from Galashiels in the Border Districts of Scotland, migrated to Otago where he became a prominent athlete before moving to Wellington. He served several terms as President, was our first Life Member and a much loved stalwart until his death in 1942.

The Club presented the Galashiels Trophy in his memory. Modern day Galashiels is the home of the Gala Harriers and links have been made, via a member of the Scottish team here for the World Mountain Trophy on Mt. Victoria in 2005 and I visited them in 2006 and have kept in contact with their President.

If you want to re-trace some of this history head up Cuba Mall, 70m past the Bucket Fountain, on the left there is a small plaque set into the wall of no 123 (currently Ferret Bookshop) which commemorates our founding meeting. You will also find a plaque is also fixed to Cliff House commemorating the opening run.