SCOTTISH SMALLBORE RIFLE ASSOCIATION
HALL OF FAME
Shirley has a most enviable record in Scottish shooting. At time of writing she has won more Commonwealth Games rifle shooting medals (4) than any other Scottish woman, and is second only to Alister Allan overall. She has the distinction of being the winner of the first ever prone Gold Medal for women at the Commonwealth Games (1994, Victoria), and the first Scottish woman shooter to be awarded the MBE for services to shooting, in 1996.
Shirley also holds or has held Scottish women's records in all three rifle disciplines, two of which have only recently been overtaken, and was at one time a British record-holder at both prone and 3P. She has been Scottish Ladies Air Rifle Champion 8 times, prone champion twice and 3P champion 4 times. She won the Flowers (NSRA British Ladies Championship) twice in a row in the late 1980s..
Apart from early days spent plinking in the back garden with her uncle's air rifle, Shirley was 13 when she first fired a "proper" rifle as a member of the Cadet Force at Dollar Academy. As a recruit, she had to pass a basic weapons test but the coaching of the young beginners was so rudimentary that it was difficult to do well and she barely scraped a pass! After that there wasn't much opportunity to shoot at school other than being drafted in to make up numbers in a girls only competition, and, perhaps fortunately, there is no record of her achievements at that stage in her career.
However, all that was to change on arriving at Edinburgh University in 1983 at the start of the golden era of the EU and EU Alumni clubs. She was wandering around the Sports Fair in Freshers' week and saw a couple of rifles on a table. This grabbed her interest and she ambled over to have a look as she had absolutely no idea about target shooting as a sport for civilians. The two guys representing the Rifle Club turned out to be former pupils of her school also and after chatting for a while she decided to go along to give it a go - using the unheard of luxury of a shooting jacket! Within a couple of months she had been hooked. She was asked to turn out as reserve for the Ladies team and then never really looked back.
Shirley enjoyed the atmosphere in the club and the whole ethos of a sport where women were for the most part treated equally and she found that she could compete against the guys and eventually beat most of them. In 1986 she won the British Universities Individual Championship, becoming only the second woman to do so. EU Rifle Club at that time dominated British Universities shooting and in all her years there and for many years afterwards there was a large group of highly motivated individuals working together to ensure that the club stayed at the top. Many of the people she met then have remained her good friends in the 20 odd years since then and of course that was where she met Donald, her future husband.
The path to higher achievement opened up when she was invited to join a Scottish training squad in 1985 and it was round about this time that she was encouraged to start shooting 3P, particularly by the squad coaches Geoff Webb, Harry Milne and Adam Gordon, who was to be an inspiration in furthering her career. Extra encouragement in a probably far less subtle manner was provided by a combination of Cliff Ogle, Simon Riley and Bill Murray back at the club. Air rifle was a natural progression, but this was not done seriously until later.
Being involved in the setting up of the EU Alumni Rifle Club and helping to run it for so long was a major anchor in Shirley's shooting career, particularly in the early days. Again, the whole atmosphere of the club encouraged excellence and the friendly rivalry among the members was a great motivator. She has said that without that support network after leaving University, it's hard to say with any certainty that she would have carried on to achieve the performances and results that were to come.
Shirley first shot for Scotland in the women's team in the Home Countries International match at her very first visit to Bisley in 1986. The Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh had just finished and she had spent six weeks being involved in the preparations for the Games and then the Games themselves as an assistant in the Classification Office working as a score recorder. That was the day job, as in the evenings she was the medal winners' escort at the medal ceremonies. When at Bisley she remembers it causing quite some amusement to the Australians who also went there after the Games that she was also a shooter, but she had been chosen specifically because she was the best person for the job in the shooting scene at the time - it needed a confident and good-looking (i.e. telegenic) girl who knew what was going on and Shirley fit the bill exactly.
That week at Bisley went pretty well for her, shooting at that time in C class. She finished third in the aggregate and her scores were good enough to get her into the Scotland ladies team. She had the top score in the team on a very windy day, but the Scots were still cuffed by the English - a common occurrence at Bisley unfortunately as their strength in depth usually (but not always) ensures a victory.
Other commitments and priorities have prevented Shirley from representing Scotland at as many National Meetings as she perhaps deserves or would like at prone shooting, but she has made up for those missed opportunities by recording more caps in air rifle and 3P, where she currently has the highest number of ladies' caps in both those events. However, since 1994 her main emphasis has been in ISSF shooting and representing Scotland at both the Commonwealth Shooting Federation Championships and the Commonwealth Games until she retired from international ISSF shooting to concentrate on raising a family.
Her achievements in Victoria in 1994 (gold in the individual prone and silver in the prone pairs) were the best ever achieved by a Scottish woman at a CG up to that point, and this was rewarded by her being selected to carry the Scottish flag at the closing ceremony. This was particularly satisfying as this honour is given by the other athletes in the team, not by the management.
When asked who she had looked up to or inspired her in her early years her reply was typically comprehensive - "The person who first encouraged me to believe that I was good enough to shoot for GB was Adam Gordon during the Edinburgh CG in 1986. He took an interest in my career for many years afterwards and his enthusiasm for the sport was always a great encouragement.
At Edinburgh University there were a number of shooters who whether intentionally or not, mentored a generation of internationalists - Cliff Ogle, Simon Riley and Bill Murray were the main culprits.
Although one of the attractions of the sport to me was the fact that I could compete against guys, at an early stage it was still obvious that not many women could actually take them on and win. One who was doing so in the early stages of my career was Anne Hamilton and her achievements in the sport inspired me to want to also take on the guys and win.
In my early GB career, Don Maiden [in Hampshire] was a great support. He and Mary welcomed me into their home many times when I had to travel south for competition and training. Another enthusiast who gave up many hours to help many athletes.
last, but by no means least, Donald -
my husband, best friend, shoulder to cry on and one who motivated me through the
ups and downs of international competition (sometimes with the proverbial boot)
and whose support and guidance was instrumental in my achievements, particularly
at Commonwealth Games. When women's events were introduced for the Games
in 1994, he was the one who decided to put his own shooting career on hold to
look after our child while I trained and travelled abroad competing. Since
he became a coach he has also managed to achieve something that I thought was
nearly impossible - he's managed to build me a kneeling position that shoots
Shirley trained as a Chartered Accountant and is a director with a small Edinburgh tax and accounting consultancy. She lives with Donald in Falkirk, where she was born, with her two daughters and until recently had also been heavily involved with administration of shooting in Scotland at all levels over many years, making a huge contribution to the development and sustenance of the sport.