by Pamela Sherpa
Running was an integral part of life when my grandfather D.C (David Crump) McGillivray was a boy. Chores were done morning and afternoon and running to and from school was the norm.
Not surprisingly, like many of his time, D.C. discovered his athletic talents and developed into a decent all-round sportsman. He relished competition and adhered to the philosophy that you do your best and play tough but fair.
His achievements included winning the mile and the half-mile at the Stawell Easter carnival in 1929 and then two days later, on the way home to Gunbower, winning the same events at Bendigo.
A newspaper article of the day reported his efforts at Stawell:
“D.C McGillivray covered himself with glory by capturing the mile and half mile events. He is a fine stamp of an athlete and greatly impressed the critics. The mile was a wonderful race and the time, 4 min 14 secs was phenomenal. McGillivray who was on the 56 yard mark, came away at 200 yards from the line and putting in a paralysing sprint, romped home by 15 yards.”
Family legend has it that he deliberately ran slow times in the heats at Stawell, plonked money on himself, won both finals then bought the family farm with the winnings. First prize was 65 sovereigns. Who knows how much he won on the punt.
At Bendigo his performance in the mile event was described:
“D.C McGillivray, the Echuca footballer, was early a popular fancy for the event, and he won it. The first three laps were run at fairly fast rate. And going for the third lap McGillivray was fifth. With 300 yards to go he set out after the leader S. Copeland, the Rochester footballer, who was commencing to tire. McGillivray, from the 200 mark was putting in a run at a pace only a little below that of 220 standard. He headed Copeland but was not content and kept striding it out and finished as strong as any other mile runner has at Bendigo. McGillivray was considered by some of the oldest and best critics on the ground as one of the finest mile and half-mile runners in recent years. …..During the past 12 months he has developed into one of the finest distance runners in the Commonwealth. He did the hitherto unaccomplished feat of winning the half mile and mile at Stawell and following it up two days later at the Bendigo carnival. He shows the determination in his running and great judgement in tackling the leaders over the final lap.”
As D.C considered running an essential part of life, his children were expected to embrace it as well. It meant life’s primary purpose, work, could be done with greater zeal. Once my Dad and a brother were caught walking home from school instead of running. They were made to run back to school, run home again and then their job allocation was doubled! Needless to say they didn’t consider a leisurely stroll again.
Of course we were expected to do the same while growing up. Run to do the simplest of chores like opening gates, run to fetch dad’s golf balls, run to chase sheep and cattle. And so run we did – barefoot across the paddocks on the family farm.
The glorious freedom of running was a highlight of my childhood. A love of sport naturally followed and with it came life’s greatest lesson - how to be a good sport.
Once again Grandpop’s legacy was passed down to us. Being a good sport mattered as much as winning.
The family farm at ”River Glen” on the Gunbower creek was the scene of many social days and fundraisers for the local football and tennis clubs. Rodeos, greasy pig chases, and tennis tournaments were held there.
D.C was a local legend on the tennis court and his tennis racquet story became our favourite.
He believed that equipment should never be blamed for a loss and that you didn’t need fancy gear to help you win.
D.C. enjoyed a sporting challenge. When he could beat someone playing tennis with his right hand he would switch the racquet and play left-handed. If he won that he would then get Granny’s big flat-bottomed frypan and using the back of it play right handed. If successful he’d then switch the frypan to his left hand. If still a victor he would then use the inside of the frypan right handed and if still a winner he’d play left handed with the inside.
One of my uncles verifies this story is true and I’ve heard it enough times to have no choice but believe it!
Every time an example of bad sportsmanship rears its ugly head – you can bet the frying pan story will get another run in our family!
Easter is a traditional time for our family. We get together in the backyard at Gunbower and tales of Grandpop’s sporting feats continue to be told.