Robert McKinstray - the Greatest Runner in Britain in his Day.
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Photo of Robert McKinstray contributed by Caroline Legg.

One of the earliest, and most famous, of all Maybole pedestrians was Robert McKinstray who was born in Welltrees Street in April, 1837, and who became the greatest runner in Britain in his day, over all distances from 160 yards to 5 miles. His name is known to all townspeople, who speak of him whenever the topic of running is raised, but few today really know much about him and can only vaguely remember "he once beat a Red Indian" as if this was his crowning achievement. A well-known sporting newspaper printed a short article on McKinstrav about the end of last century and the following extract from it shows that Maybole can indeed be proud of its fleetfooted son.

"Robert McKinstray was born at Maybole in April, 1837, and stands 5' 6k" in height. When only 15 years old Bob made his debut as a pedestrian at the Culzean sports, when he won half of the races. Soon after this he was apprenticed to a butcher and served his time faithfully. Bob, being indulged by his employer, annually visited the Scotch games and defeated nearly all comers on sprints, long distances and hurdle races; was "King of the Red Hose" at Carnwath for many years; won the 3 mile champion belt at West Calder on July 29, 1863; won the 2 mile championship and 50 at Stonefield Grounds, Glasgow, on October 3rd, 1863, beating J. Murdoch of Stonehouse who received 150 yards start; was defeated by Dan Shannon of Glasgow, on February 6th, 1864 in a 400 yards race for 50 at Stonefield Grounds; beat W. Park for the 2 mile championship and 50 at Stonefield, March 12th, 1864; beat Charlie Mower of Norwich for the 2 mile championship and 50 at Glasgow,

 June 11th, 1864; won the 5 mile championship at West Calder, July 27th, 1864; beat Dan Shannon April 22nd, 1865, 600 yards for 30; won the half mile sweepstake, 75, at Manchester, May 20th, 1865, beating W. Richards of London and J. Heyward of Rochdale, running the half mile in 1 minute 56 seconds a performance which stamped McKinstray as the greatest "flier" of the day; beat W. Bell at Newcastle, 2 miles, 40, June 4th, 1865; beat E. Ashworth of Bury 160 yards, 20, July 14th, 1865; won the gold medal at Johnstone, July 15th, 1865 for 3 mile handicap race; defeated W. Richards in a 1 mile race, Richards receiving 15 yards start and staking 30 to Bob's 25 on July 29th, 1865; ran third from scratch on August 19th, 1865 in George.

Martin's championship one mile handicap when the time taken was 4 minutes 17 seconds. McKinstray then took up his quarters in England and on February 23rd, 1867, gained the mile and a half challenge cup, value 80 but after winning it 3 times in succession had to yield the trophy to Fleet on May 23rd, 1868, owing entirely to his having been ill for some time and being far from well. During his career on the other side of the border, Sanderson of Whitworth, Lang of Middlesbro, Fleet of Manchester, E. Mills of London and many others of note had all to yield to the Scotchman. His last appearance before the public was at Edinburgh, December 31st, 1869, when he ran a match against an Iroquois Indian named Debeaux Daillebour, alias Redhead, especially brought over from America to race him, 3 miles level, for 30 a side, on. which occasion our friend Bob made short work of the Redskin, leaving him so far behind that he gave up the race, leaving McKinstray to walk in at his leisure in a little over 15 minutes". When he retired from running he returned to his home town of Maybole and lived to a ripe old age, respected by all and honoured as the greatest British runner of his day." (Excerpts above from James T. Gray's  book  Maybole, Carrick's Capital)

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Click on the images to the left to read another old newspaper article about Robert M'Kinstary and here for another article on Robert M'Kinstray.

I found your site a few days ago and what an absolutely brilliant find it was. I rate it as one of the best sites I've ever found. My mothers maiden name is McKinstray and I was so proud to find articles on our ancestors on your site I was especially excited to find the picture of Thomas McKinstray who was my GGGrandfather and also the information on his father Robert the runner, I myself am a great lover of road running and although I have had some success in local events alas I don't appear to have the talent that he had. I have visited Maybole with my mother on several occasions as we have been researching our family tree and it is a delightful place with very friendly people. If anyone has further information on the McKinstrays I would love to hear from them. Congratulations once again on a wonderful site you really deserve the praise that you are receiving. 
Caroline Legg    (photo of Robert M'Kinstray above contributed by Caroline Legg)

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