Ian Stewart, one of Scotland’s legendary track heroes from the 1970 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games, was angered by comments made by an official after he competed for Aberdeen AAC.
And the ill-advised remarks ultimately led to another member of the Stewart family winning a major championship gold medal for England rather than Scotland.
Stewart became a national athletics icon 50 years ago this month in Edinburgh, when he sprinted clear of a world class international field to win 5,000m gold in a European record time of 13min 22.8secs.
Meadowbank stadium was rocking as a capacity crowd raised the roof in celebration of a memorable Scottish success on the final day of what had been an extremely successful Commonwealth Games.
And to top off the occasion, another Scot, Ian McCafferty, finished just 0.49secs behind Stewart to take the silver medal.
But not everyone was happy that the Birmingham-born athlete was wearing the blue vest of Scotland.
Now 71, Stewart, who lives in the tiny village of Upper Bentley in Worcestershire, recalls how he enjoyed competing for Aberdeen AAC and Scotland, but says he and other Anglo Scots weren’t always made to feel welcome.
He said: “I was born and raised in Birmingham, but my dad came from Musselburgh, so me and my older brother Pete and younger sister Mary chose to run for Scotland.
“We were members of Birchfield Harriers, but, in the late 1960s, Pete and I decided we wanted to compete for Scotland and thought it would be appropriate to join a Scottish club. My dad was delighted.
“We chose Aberdeen AAC on the recommendation of my brother-in-law Tom McCook,, who came from Inverness but had been a member of Aberdeen at one point.
“I didn’t want to be with one of the Edinburgh or Glasgow clubs in any case and Aberdeen seemed the right choice as it was predominantly a distance runners’ club.
“Alastair Wood was one of their top guys and I really liked him.
“On one occasion, after I ran for Aberdeen in the Edinburgh to Glasgow road relay, an official stood up at the presentation ceremony and proposed that Anglo Scots shouldn’t be allowed to compete in the race.
“Alastair went up to remonstrate with him, but it’s probably just as well I stayed where I was.”
That attitude ultimately didn’t ruffle Stewart ,who went on to win the 1975 world cross country title in a Scotland vest. But it led to his sister Mary deciding to switch her allegiance.
Mary finished fourth when representing Scotland in the 1500m at the 1974 Christchurch Commonwealth Games, but four years later – when she won gold at Edmonton – it was in the white vest of England.
Ian said: “The comments made it clear we weren’t wanted, but Mary took it harder than I did.”
Ian and Peter first ran together for Aberdeen AAC in the 1968 Edinburgh to Glasgow road relay.
At that time this was the premier club road running competition in Scotland, entry being restricted to the top 20 teams for the eight-stage race across the centre of the country.
Ian clocked the third fastest time on the sixth stage, while Shettleston’s Lachie Stewart (no relation) was fastest.
Pete was second fastest on leg two, while Shettleston went on to win the race and Aberdeen finished second.
Lachie was another athlete who became a household name on the back of his stunning 10,000m victory at the 1970 Games. Sadly, he recently had his lower left leg amputated following health problems.
Ian’s next appearance for Aberdeen came four years later when he again competed in the Edinburgh-Glasgow relay, just a couple of months after picking up 5,000m bronze at the Munich Olympics.
He set a course record time of 27min 14secs for the six-mile second stage leg, knocking 68secs off the previous mark set by his Aberdeen team-mate Alastair Wood four years earlier, while his club eventually again finished in second position.
Ian said: “All the talk beforehand was about what Edinburgh’s Fergus Murray was going to do – but I knew he wasn’t as fast as I was.
“He had a big lead when he took over, but within 2.5 miles I’d caught him and just flew past.
“It’s just disappointing we weren’t able to win the race. My brother was unable to run that day and I reckon if he’d been in the team we would have won it comfortably.
“As it was, Shettleston won and we were second again.”
Ian made one final appearance in Aberdeen colours and once again it was in the inter-city relay, the club finishing third.