The Sentinel managed to balance its coverage between issues of national importance as well as giving up time and space to the people who made up the community of Wester Hailes. This week we’re taking a look at a local resident who featured regularly in the Sentinel pages through his marathon running.
In December 1984, the Sentinel reported on Alastair Blacklaw and his running achievements. He started his running career through the Wester Hailes Education Centre, joining their Sunday Running Club in order to improve his fitness. However he was soon running longer and longer distances, building up to his first marathon, the 1983 Edinburgh marathon. He trained regularly with the Sunday Running Club. In 1984 this group had run 50 marathons between them, raising nearly £2,000 for charity in that time. You can read the interview in full here at December 1983.
He then went on to win the Pentlands 5.3 mile foot race, beating more experienced runners. The race’s route took a stony route up one side of the Pentlands to a height of 1,430 feet and back down again.
In 1985, the Sentinel reported that Alastair had set his sights on a new challenge. He planned to cover the Highland Way from Fort William to Glasgow and then run in the Glasgow marathon, 121 miles in total in just five days. The Sentinel featured the story of this run in October 1985. Despite less than perfect weather, he managed to complete both the walking element and a 26 mile run at the end. You can read Alastair’s personal account here at My Highland Way.
Alastair was then chosen to be Edinburgh’s official representative in the Munich marathon, Edinburgh’s twin city. His visit to Munich was featured in the Sentinel as he reported on the experience of being in Munich and taking part in the marathon. As a guest of the city, he started at the front. Unluckily, after only 1km he sprained his ankle. If you’re a runner, you’ll know just how painful this is if you then try to run on. He realised that he was near enough to the start to return for first aid but he was determined to carry on. The pain eventually meant he had to walk rather than run, but he still managed to complete the 26 miles, into the Olympic Stadium where he received his hard won medal. You can read his story in full by clicking here on Munich Marathon.
WHEC Sunday Running Club
Health Services in Wester Hailes were slow to arrive. Despite a large population building up quickly, the general lack of infrastructure meant there was no health centre provided. People in the area therefore had to travel to Sighthill or Colinton to see a doctor, which was both time consuming and a financial cost for those on a low income. In 1975 Local Health Councils had been established to represent the interests of the public in the National Health Service. When a review of health services was then carried out in Edinburgh, the Edinburgh District Local Health Council was concerned about the problems facing people living in Wester Hailes. In 1979, the Lothian Health Board organised a series of meetings to consult locally and the message from local people was that they wanted a health centre within Wester Hailes. The Sentinel reported on this issue and on the health clinic that was set up as an interim measure. Residents were encouraged to contact the Health Council to express their views about the state of local health services. You can read this story here New Move on Health. Centre.
The Sentinel followed up this article by offering in the next edition to collect people’s comments about the need for a local health centre. The main objectors to the establishment of a new centre was reported to be local doctors who felt that the distance for travelling was not too far and that providing services from more than one centre would result in a deterioration of services. In December 1979, the Sentinel reported that local people had joined together to campaign for better health facilities, calling themselves C.H.A.G, the Community Health Action Group. They pointed out that whilst a one and a half mile journey did not in itself sound too far, if you had to use local public transport, if you had young children, or were elderly or more vulnerable, this journey could be complicated and stressful, especially in bad weather. You can read about their campaign in Health Group.
In the first quarter of 1980 approval to build a health centre was granted. However it was not until February 1983 that the Sentinel was able to report that a new health centre was now being built and that it now looked more hopeful that doctors would be taking surgeries there. The health centre would also have space for a range of services including dental surgeons, midwives and social workers. In September 1979, the Sentinel’s lead story was that the health centre would be opening its gates on the 5th September and that there would definitely be G.P. surgeries there.