Inverness - Northern Meeting Park
Ardross Street : IV3 5NS
Inverness - Northern Meeting Park : Map credit National Library of Scotland Inverness - Northern Meeting Park : Image credit Northern Meeting Park Group The ‘Northern Meeting' was set up in 1788 so that people in the North of Scotland could come together for social and sporting events. The Northern Meeting Rooms on Church Street held dances and meetings and the Northern Meeting Park was established in 1864 as the venue for sporting events, including the Highland Games.

Velocipedes appeared in Inverness in the summer of 1869, the Inverness Advertiser of June 25th reported that a Paris velocipede was ridden the fifteen miles from Inverness to Nairn in an hour and a quarter.

The first velocipede race in Inverness was at the Northern Meeting Park when a three laps race was held on 24th September 1869 with the Highland Games. There were three competitors, who "could all sit on their bicycles well" and the winner was local man John MacGibbon who won £5. Bicycle races were held on a grass track and the Park was enclosed.

Track racing in Inverness suffered because there were no local cycling clubs and no hard surface cycle track. In 1877, the Coventry Bicycle Company offered to supply a medal to be raced for in Inverness, if a bicycle club was formed in the town.

A Northern Counties Bicycle Meet was held at Bell's Park* on 22nd September 1877, which attracted riders from Inverness, Elgin, Nairn and Dingwall. Bicycle races were held at the meet, these were a 3 miles race for a Coventry Bicycle Company medal, open to riders on Coventry Machinists bicycles, a 10 miles open race and ‘a race without handles'. This was the only bicycle racing that was held at Bell's Park.

In the 1880's, bicycle racing at the Park became quite popular with annual meetings organised by the Inverness Athletic Association, the Volunteer Battalion and the Northern Meeting association.

The Inverness Cycling Club was formed around 1889 and seemed to hold most of its races on the Inverness to Nairn Road. This was probably because Inverness did not have a hard surface cycle track and all track racing was run on grass. Inverness CC held a meeting at the Caledonian Football Park Telford Street (IV3 5LU) on 12th August 1893. There was a team race over 5 miles, a local novices 3 miles race, a 1 mile boys handicap race and an invitation 1 mile scratch race. This was the only bicycle race at Telford Street.

The Park continued to be used for bicycle races throughout the 1890's, the North of Scotland AAA held very a successful meeting on 1st July 1893 with three bicycle races, admission was free, which resulted in a large crowd. The was another NSAAA meeting on 26th August 1893 with five bicycle races. The Northern Chronicle of 25th July 1894 criticised the local authority for not replacing the grass track with a more suitable hard cycle track.

There was an unusual Musical Promenade and Bicycle race meeting on July 1st 1899. The bicycle club events, under the auspices of the Inverness Victoria Cycling Club, were run off first, there was a boy's race, 1 and 3 miles open handicap races and a 5 miles scratch race. Club member John Macdonald made an unsuccessful attempt at the track 5 miles paced record which stood at 15 min 22 sec. After the bicycle racing, the Seaforth Highlanders pipe band struck up and played a selection of tunes.

There was little bicycle racing at the Northern Meeting Park after 1900 and the last bicycle event there was probably the amateur athletics sports on 31st August 1907.

In 1946 the Park was sold to the Inverness Burgh Council and it has remained in the ownership of the local Council ever since, now being Highland Council. The Park is still in use, sporting and musical events take place there.

* Bells Park (IV1 1NH) was the grass square in front of Dr Bell's School. The park was in the Rose Street/Farraline Park area and is now the bus station.

Refs     : [550] [p]
Photos : Northern Meeting Park Group
Maps    : National Library of Scotland