James Curran: Ethereal Scottish Athlete and American Coaching Legend

Adams, Iain Christopher (2017) James Curran: Ethereal Scottish Athlete and American Coaching Legend. Revue Internationale des sciences du sport et de l'éducation [STAPS], 1 (115). pp. 73-81. ISSN 0247-106X

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In common with many professional coaches of the Edwardian era there is little trace of Jimmy Curran in documentary records; he is normally remembered as the former professional athlete who noticed Wyndham Halswelle’s running talent when they were serving together in the Highland Light Infantry in the Boer War. Curran convinced Halswelle to take up athletics seriously when the regiment returned to Britain and coached him to success in the Army 880 yards championship in 1904 and both the Scottish and English 440 yards titles in 1905. Halswelle went on to win the controversial 400 metres in the 1908 London Olympics. Curran had left for America in 1907 leaving fellow ex-soldier and Powderhall professional Jack Dalziel to coach Halswelle. Today, Curran is remembered in America as the legendary coach of Mercersburg Academy who was involved in the development of 13 Olympic track and field athletes between 1912 and 1964 who won six gold, one silver and two bronze medals between them. This paper seeks to expound the biography of Curran particularly analysing his own negotiated relationship with amateurism and professionalism whilst also examining the struggle between the value systems of the Charterhouse (Public School) and Sandhurst (military school) educated gentleman amateur Lieutenant Halswelle and the working class Lance Corporal Curran. The paper then considers Curran’s motivation in travelling to America in 1907 and his relationship with Mike Murphy, the University of Pennsylvania coach and chief coach of the 1908 U.S. Olympic team, who recommended Curran to Mercersburg Academy as their track and field coach in 1910.

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