Film ID:
NEFA 22036

NORTHERN LIFE: BERWICK WALLS RACES

1976

Visitor Tabs

Description

This Tyne Tees Television news report for Northern Life, originally broadcast on 20 September 1976, covers the annual Running of the Walls in Berwick upon Tweed, Northumberland, which took place on Saturday 18 September 1976. The British athletes Mike McLeod of Elswick Harriers, later a silver medallist at the 1984 Summer Olympics, Tony Simmons and Jim Alder of Morpeth Harriers take part. Alister Harrison reports.

The report opens with general views of the Old Bridge in Berwick upon Tweed, filmed from a cemetery on the south bank of the River Tweed, and a couple of fishing boats moored downstream of the bridge on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

On Saturday 18 September 1976, the town is bustling with people in tracksuits, with close on 600 athletes gathering for the annual Berwick Walls Races. Competitors include a group of teenage girls kitted out in blue and white shorts and numbered T-shirts.

Alister Harrison comments in voice-over: ‘This was sport's really big day in Berwick, the annual races around the most unique Elizabethan walls in Britain. And with Berwick smack bang in between England and Scotland, it’s like the old Border wars all over again, a glittering array of trophies for the winners.’

A close-up of some of the team names on tracksuits: Blaydon Harriers, Scottish Schools, Gateshead Harriers. Children look at the trophies laid out on a table at the event.

Two athletes in red and white tracksuits with ‘Court Sports’ logos consult a brochure on the event.

The race starter fires his pistol and the Junior Ladies race gets underway in the town. Family and other spectators line the 1¼ mile course. The girls set off through Berwick and run along a path beside the Elizabethan walls. Dorothy Helen (No. 55) races past.

Alister Harrison interviews one of the local organisers of the event who talks about the popularity of the races, with 600 odd athletes participating in the historic town, partly due to the many Tyneside athletics’ clubs and those across the Border in Scotland. The reporter asks if he thinks the unusual course attracts the competitors and the interviewee agrees.

More of the junior women competitors race past. The reporter comments on the competitiveness of the race, which has spread the field. Irish athlete Deirdre Nagle of Dublin stamps her class on the race and is in the lead. The other runners trail behind her over 3 laps. Families mill around watching the athletes along the route. Back in the town centre, Nagle is applauded as she races to the finish line in town at a time of 23 minutes and 19 seconds.

Some of the men competing limber up in the town, including Jim Alder of Morpeth Harriers ‘claiming he’s not fit anymore’. Portrait shot of Tony Simmons of Luton who was fourth in the 10,000 metre final at the Montreal Olympics.

The race starter blows a whistle to call competitors in the men’s race to the starting line. The large crowd of male athletes set off down a Berwick street past a sign for the Youth Hostel. The commentary informs us that the race includes 10 other internationals in a star-studded field of 118 competitors running 5 laps.

At the end of the first lap, two athletes race towards camera along a path with Mike McLeod of Elswick in the lead. The rest of the pack follow on quite far behind. A general view of the competitors running on the castle ramparts follows.

Tony Simmons races by in the lead now, 100 yards ahead of Mike McLeod of Elswick. Scottish long-distance runner Nat Muir of the Shettleston Harriers crosses the line in third place. Close-up of the athletes’ feet and legs as they race by. The rest of the athletes continue on the run.

Back in the centre of Berwick, crowds line the streets clapping the athletes as they reach the finish line. Tony Simmons crosses the finish line first in 32 minutes and 22 seconds. He pulls up and smiles, looking relaxed, surrounded by some of the crowd. Nat Muir races through in second place. He collapses on a doorstep, exhausted. Mike McLeod walks past camera, clearly disappointed in his run.

Interview with Tony Simmons, a pack of boys and girls crowding behind him. He says that he’s been injured the last three weeks and this was his first race since Crystal Palace and he enjoyed it immensely. He details his injuries. He likes the lap courses as he knows what times he needs to do each lap so it was enjoyable.

Interview with veteran long-distance runner Jim Alder who admits he can’t touch Tony Simmons and Mike McLeod now.

Some of the male competitors are still completing the race, running along a path beside the River Tweed. General view of the Berwick lighthouse at the mouth of the Tweed.

The reporter continues to speak with amiable distance runner Jim Alder. The athlete says that he enjoyed the race but ‘it’s hard work when you’re unfit and you’re an old man’.