Date and place of birth: 1 Bank Court, Galashiels, 1880
Jimmy Curran was brought up in Galashiels and emigrated to the United States in 1907. He was Scotland’s greatest athletics coach and is considered one of the top track and field coaches in US history.
Throughout his career, Curran – who was originally a member (and captain) of Gala Harriers – coached five Olympic gold medallists: Wyndham Halswelle (400m, London 1908); Ted Meredith (800m, 4 x 400m, Stockholm 1912); Alan Woodring (200m, Antwerp 1920); Bill Carr (400m, 4 x400m, Los Angeles 1932); and Charles Moore (400m hurdles, Helsinki 1952).
He is known to have coached 16 Olympians in total.
Curran enlisted in the Highland Light Infantry at the end of 19th century and served in the Boer War.
On his return to Galashiels in 1902 he became an amateur athlete – as well as playing football for Gala Hailes Villa in the Border Senior League – and won the prestigious Hawick Border Mile Championship in 1904. He trained on the gravel paths of the town’s Eastlands Cemetery and successfully stepped up to the professional circuit in 1905.
When Curran emigrated to the US in 1907 (age 27) he competed on the US east coast professional circuit.
He initially took a job as a puddler’s assistant in a steel mill but soon found work training athletes at the University of Pennsylvania. Three years later, in 1910, he became head coach at Mercersburg Academy – a role he held proudly for 51 years.
Curran retired in 1961 and died in 1963 in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. The track at Mercersburg is still named after him.
According to www.anentscottishrunning.com, Track and Field News conducted a poll in August 2008 to find the five greatest USA Track & Field (USATF) coaches of all time. The nominations included Tom Tellez, Bill Bowerman, Jumbo Elliott, Brutus Hamilton, Payton Jordan, Mike Murphy – legendary names that are synonymous today with high profile training groups and track meets – and Jimmy Curran.
Although none of his immediate family remain in Galashiels, members of his extended still live in the town and a trophy – a gift from Curran – is held at the Burgh Primary School.
He was inducted in to the Scottish Borders Sporting Hall of Fame in 2008.
Jimmy Curran’s life is documented in detail in a biography titled ‘Jimmy Curran: Scotland’s Greatest Athletics Coach’, by Craig Statham (published by Newbattle Books in 2020).
In it, Statham beautifully captures the character of the Galashiels man who made his mark in the US. He writes: “In the days following his (Curran’s) death, messages of condolence flooded in. William Fowle, headmaster of his former school, produced a simple, yet powerful epitaph: ‘In the life of every school there is often one man who stands out above all others as the strongest influence for hard work, fair play, and clean life. In the past half-century for literally hundreds of Mercersburg boys, Jimmy Curran was that man…Jimmy was more than a great coach. His keen wit, canny understanding, and contagious desire to do his best brought forth the best in his pupils…His influence…will be felt for many years to come. He has left us a heritage worthy of our best efforts in every way.’”