Talking a good game

Allan Ferguson. Border Games Assoc.
Allan Ferguson. Border Games Assoc.
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“WOULD all intending runners please sign in now.”

These words have floated over Border Games tracks countless times over the years. They are indeed as much a part of the Borders open athletics circuit as the bang of the starter’s gun, the sound of spikes pounding on grass and the cheers of the crowd. And so is the man that says them – Jedburgh’s Allan Ferguson – the voice of the Border Games meetings.

As announcer, Allan has been informing athletes and spectators alike on the action on the track for the past 11 years.

His involvement in the games scene, however, goes back much further. In 1988 he became a member of the Jedburgh Border Games committee and appointed secretary a year later – a position he has held ever since. He has also been a judge at race meetings, as well as chairman of Borders Games since 2009.

Prior to this, however, Allan had shown an interest in the world of games.

He told TheSouthern: “I used to go to the Jedburgh Border Games as a young boy and my first real memory was watching Jed’s Johnny Blaikie winning the sprint in 1957. It was professional running in those days and not open athletics, and I remember the huge crowds and loads of runners turning out.

“I was never involved in any way, though, until the late ’80s. This was all because of my daughter Jill who had been doing well at athletics at the school.

“John Steede asked her to train with him. And that’s how it all began. Jill ran on the circuit and I used to go along to all the Border meetings, plus up north. I guess I had now caught the bug and during this period I joined the Jedburgh committee.”

Allan has a great passion about the Games circuit and has a particular love for his hometown event.

“I enjoy going to all the Border Games,” he added. “But at Jed we do things a bit differently. The games start in the morning, then there is an interval, and they commence again in the afternoon. The starting and closing is done by firing a cannon which is all part of a tradition, and it’s good that things like this are kept going.

“There is always a special guest invited to open the games in the afternoon. In 2009 we had Ivor McAnany from Blyth who had won the Jed-Forest sprint in 1959.

“Ivor was a great runner and was thrilled to fire the cannon. He brought the gold medal he had won 50 years previous, which was actually worth more than the £200 prize money he had won on the day.

“The Jedburgh Games are known as the Blue Ribband of the summer circuit, and I go along with that. The sprint is worth £3,000 and the money for other races is high as well. It takes hard work to raise money like this, but the committee do not stand still and there is a lot of fundraising done. We also have good sponsors every year and we have to say a big thanks to them.”

Allan also judged at games throughout the years, but he is perhaps best known as the man with the microphone.

He explained: “I took over as commentator from Ronald Stewart at Jedburgh Games in 1997. Things have grown since then, and I now commentate at most of the Border Games. It’s not an easy job as you have to try and get things spot-on. I enjoy it, though, as you are completely involved.”

Allan also loves the atmosphere that a games meeting conjures up.

“There is always something going on,” he enthused. “The runners want to beat each other and there is keen rivalry between all the different schools, but this is all done in good spirit. There is always plenty of banter between the bookies, the runners and the crowd.”

Of the quality of the athletes he has seen during his time, Allan said: “I have seen some top runners, with George McNeill of Tranent being the best, as he was just real class. Jedburgh, I am pleased to say, has produced some grand runners in my time as well and has several promising youngsters coming up.”

Another string to Allan’s bow is that he is chairman of Border Athletics (BA). Allan told us: “The forming of BA has been good for the Border runners since it came about in 2007 as it’s all about them. With men like Ernie Blair and Bruce Scott on board, BA is definitely the way ahead for the future of the games.”

With the Border Games season getting under way at Earlston on Saturday, Allan will have his microphone tuned up and once again local tracks will be hearing: “Would all intending runners please sign in now.”