Memories and tribute to Gordon McLean

Without Gordon's dedication events like the Kirkintilloch Olympian's 10k canal race would never have taken place
Without Gordon's dedication events like the Kirkintilloch Olympian's 10k canal race would never have taken place

Last week I attended the funeral farewell of Gordon McLean and the service was packed to capacity, testimony to this popular man.

Gordon was a people person who served Kirkintilloch well as a member of the residents association, as a community councillor and more prominently with Kirkintilloch Olympians.

We first met in 1978 as neighbours in the newly built Langmuir Estate and at that time our idea of keeping fit would be toiling in the garden - but that was to change a couple of years later.

At Gordon’s suggestion we took up the new cult pastime of jogging at a leisurely pace.

We kept it going and in the 1980 Olympic year on our families holiday in Scarborough we even participated in breakfast time beach runs organised by the Outspan Club.

The inaugural London Marathon came and went in March 1981 with no interest to us - we were joggers.

However another inaugural event, this time closer to home, was to change our life and would have a positive knock-on effect for Kirkintilloch. We entered Scotland’s first mass participation marathon and did so with no distance running background and totally inadequate preparation.

August 30, 1981, was the date of the Inverclyde Folk Marathon in Greenock and we literally limped over the finish line in a shade over four hours, with Gordon’s faster limp bringing him home a few yards in front of me.

Gordon’s wit was as apparent as ever and at the drinks stations he would be asking the stewards if we could have two drinks each, and can we have one of water and one of orange!

From there we met with Terry Rooney and John Watt and the Olympians were founded in October 1981.

We knew little of club athletics’ structure but were willing learners.

We also found the competitive edge and, just like Danny Kaye’s Ugly Duckling which became a swan, we became athletes. Within three years both of us were sub-three hour marathon men.

Structuring the Olympians was a huge task and Gordon was in the forefront as always. The new members were overwhelmingly young and we had only a few committee members, most of whom had to wear more than one hat.

One particular guy wore several hats - no prizes for guessing who that was.

Gordon was a tireless selfless man of the people. No task was beyond him and he was always at the front of the queue to help the club and the members.

In over 30 years he must have taken on every committee role in addition to his new born skills in coaching, race starter and timekeeping - and he attended district and national committee meetings on behalf of the club.

Did I mention that in his spare time he set up a ‘joggers corner club’ on a Sunday morning? This was for the benefit of anyone wishing to keep fit but hesitant to join an organised athletics club.

He was a man of great humour and this was fully evident when we chose the club kit. In athletics each club has an individual identity, no two clubs can have the same kit. Gordon’s answer to that was to seriously suggest a purple vest with yellow polka dots! Thankfully my idea of blue vest with black and white hoop prevailed.

Gordon, Hammy O’Malley and I enjoyed marathon training runs on Sundays and one particularly hot summer’s day we were in Strathblane and had a hard session up the Minister’s Brae - thirsty work.

Little did we know that the G-man had driven out on the Saturday night and had hidden bottles of refreshing water behind a hedgerow - the usual thinking out of the box.

We set up the Kirkintilloch primary schools event, which was the Olympian’s contibution to the Kirkintilloch Gala Week festivities, and Gordon was a big player as ever.

A few years later we introduced cross country running to the local Strathkelvin primaries with all the events in Luggie Park. Thanks to Gordon this event mushroomed over the years as he broadened the borders to such an extent there were hundreds kids coming from throughout the regions.

He was the Indian Scout for the district and regional cross country races which were hosted by the Olympians as he set interesting and challenging courses for top level athletes from elite clubs.

Gordon was public spirited, well respected by his athletes and peers alike. He was a multi-tasker and won points for the club on the track, in the field and on the road. He was always willing to step into the void.

He was a fine man and it was my privilege to know him. He will be fondly remembered by all who knew him. Hopefully the club will bestow a lasting tribute in his honour - he was a major factor in laying the foundations and was a major factor in the continued progression.

To borrow the words from Bobby Brown’s fine eulogy - “well done McLean”.

Henry Docherty - Founder member and former club secretary

Gordon McLean’s funeral was held on May 1.