Michael Gordon Hildrey, b. Bute, 15 October 1941. Club: Victoria Park AAC. Top Scottish sprinter of the early 1960s who achieved much in a short career.
In a disappointingly short, but highly successful, sprinting career that spanned only five years, finishing in 1963 at the early age of 23, Mike Hildrey gained international honours, won British and Scottish sprint titles and broke records, but fell far below achieving his potential which remained unfulfilled when he stopped sprinting. The “Balfron Bullet”, as Hildrey was nicknamed, joined Victoria Park AAC and was coached by the great professional sprinter of the 1930s, Willie McFarlane, who produced such fine sprinters as Willie Jack, Alan Dunbar and Ronnie Whitelock. These sprinters, together with Hildrey, dominated Scottish sprinting during the decade, winning the Scottish 100 yards title eight times with a further six titles at 220 yards, between 1950 and 1960.
Hildrey, thoughtful and highly articulate about his sport, was a compact sprinter with a smooth, stylish action who burst into prominence when winning the 1959 national Junior 100 and 220 titles. The following year he contested the senior title, winning the 100 in the Scottish native record equalling time of 9.8 seconds and bettering by 0.1 Eric Liddell’s 37-year-old native record when winning the 220 title in 21.5. He also achieved the sprint double at the AAA Junior Championships with times of 10.0 for 100 and 21.8 for a new championship record in the 220.
In a brilliant spell of sprinting in 1961 Hildrey set three Scottish sprint best times. Utilising his easy-flowing, deceptively powerful style of running, when on July 22, competing in the GB v USA match at London’s White City, he ran 21.4 for 220 yards. Then, just 7 days later at the Welsh Games in Cardiff, he ran 100 yards in 9.7 to equal Eric Liddell’s record set 38 years earlier. His scintillating series of speedy runs climaxed in Dublin on August 10 when he improved the hoary 100 yards record with his run of 9.6 and he ended the season as the top junior sprinter in the U.K. with a total of 13 sub-22 second runs over 220 yards and 200 metres. With his best run of 21.3 for 200 metres, he was recognised as the top European Junior sprinter of 1961.
In 1962, he gained international selection for Great Britain in the European Championships at Belgrade after running 21.2 for 220 yards ahead of the emerging Menzies Campbell in Glasgow. In this first experience of major Games international competition he finished fifth in the 200 metres semi-final in 21.8, after qualifying from his heat with a 21.4w run. He represented Scotland in the Empire Games at Perth, Australia, reaching the quarter final of the 100 and semi-final of the 220. He sprinted in the international matches at Murrayfield in victories against Wales, Holland and Belgium between 1960 and 1963, finishing top of the Scottish rankings at both sprint distances in seasons 1960 and 1961.
His great potential over the one-lap quarter mile distance was never explored, but a hint at what might have been achieved was shown in the 1963 Scottish 4x440 yards relay Championships at Goldenacre’s grass track in Edinburgh. Running the final lap for Victoria Park, he made up at least 20 yards on Menzies Campbell who had won his third Scottish 440 title that year. Campbell, running for the victorious Glasgow University team, was timed at 47.5, while Hildrey, who never ran a scratch 440, must have been close to 46 seconds at a time when the Scottish record was 48.0 and the British record was 45.7.
Hildrey lost interest in athletics by 1964 and despite being considered a possible selection candidate for the Tokyo Olympic Games at the start of the season, he never competed again, becoming an award-winning investigative journalist with Glasgow’s Evening Times and writing a crime novel on loan sharking and extortion by gangs in Glasgow housing estates.
|100 yards||9.6||Dublin, Ireland||10 August 1961|
|100 metres||10.5||Gateshead||1 July 1961|
|200 metres||21.1||Dortmund, Germany||3 September 1961|
|220 yards||21.2||Westerlands, Glasgow||26 May 1962|
|220 YARDS/200 METRES|
|200 metres||21.4w||2h2 Q||Belgrade, Yugoslavia||14 September 1962|
|21.8||5s1||Belgrade, Yugoslavia||15 September 1962|
|100 yards||9.7||3h1 Q||Perth, Australia||23 November 1962|
|10.1||4q4||Perth, Australia||24 November 1962|
|220 yards||21.5||1h4 Q||Perth, Australia||26 November 1962|
|22.1||3q3 Q||Perth, Australia||26 November 1962|
|21.7||5s1||Perth, Australia||26 November 1962|
|GREAT BRITAIN & NORTHERN IRELAND INTERNATIONAL APPEARANCES|
|1961||West Germany||100 metres||4th||10.7|
|1962||European Championships||200 metres||5sf||21.8|
|Scottish Championship||100 yards||9.8||New Meadowbank||25 June 1960|
|Scottish Championship||220 yards||21.5||New Meadowbank||25 June 1960|
|Scottish Championship||220 yards||22.4||New Meadowbank||24 June 1961|
|Scottish Championship||100 yards||10.2||New Meadowbank||24 June 1961|
|AAA Championships||220 yards||21.5||White City, London||14 July 1961|
|AAA Championships||220 yards||21.6||White City, London||16 July 1960|
|SCOTTISH NATIVE RECORDS|
|100 yards||9.8||New Meadowbank, Edinburgh||25 June 1960||10 June 1967|
|9.8||Ibrox Park, Glasgow||10 June 1961||10 June 1967|
|9.8||Murrayfield, Edinburgh||19 August 1961||10 June 1967|
|220 yards||21.5||New Meadowbank, Edinburgh||25 June 1960||26 May 1962|
|21.2||Westerlands, Glasgow||26 May 1962||10 July 1976|
|SCOTTISH NATIONAL RECORDS|
|220 yards||21.2||Westerlands, Glasgow||26 May 1962||4 July 1964|