WITHIN minutes of meeting Jamie Stuart, a conspicuous, slightly guilty smile forces itself onto the face.

Why? Stuart's chat, his demeanour, makes you think: "This toaty, gallus Glesga fella is ever so slightly aff his heid - and surely must be swallyin' illegal tablets."

Why the Parliamo Glasgow description? It's apposite because Stuart is the man who wrote the international best seller A Glasgow Bible, transforming the Auld and New Testament into the vernacular, with smile-inducing chapter headings such as Judas Hings Himsel.

And as for the suggestion of substance abuse, it's an indicator of the man's incredible energy. This 5ft 3ins tall man from Glasgow's East End has in fact become a giant of an example to others. He's now written his autobiography - at the age of "ninety four and a quarter" and what the book highlights is the world's Positive Thinkers such as Jack Black have little on little Jamie Stuart.

What Stuart's life story reveals is has had to survive endemic poverty, endless disappointment and the death of those closest to him. Yet, whenever faced with a real uphill challenge, he's raced up them. Literally. In this James Stuart's wonderful life he's been a champion runner, a blanket salesman, an actor, an aircraft wireless operator, a social worker, a paper boy (at the age of 68) and a best-selling writer.

This summer he became a Commonwealth Games baton carrier, and in January will speak to the Scottish Parliament for the second time.

"Yes, I've always loved life," he says, smiling. "And I've always tried my very best."

Stuart was born in 1920 and grew up in Glasgow's Carntyne housing scheme, he and his three brothers sharing a bedroom. The small ginger-haired boy watching his dad battle the Depression by trailing a horse and cart around the streets selling vegetables. Meanwhile, little Jamie realised he loved to run. Anywhere. Any time. And he loved to attend Bible Class, believing a belief in being good would set him up for life.

"But I wasn't always good," he recalls, grinning. "One Friday night I requested to be excused from the Boys Brigade drill squad, feigning a sore ankle. However, the next day I went out and won a three-mile cross country race. When I went back to the BBs I was reduced in rank from Corporal. I resigned from the Company in protest. I thought the punishment too steep."

Stuart's perpetual motion limited his academic achievements. He was too tired from running every day, from working his 6am start paper round, from appearing in local amateur dramatics at night. And so he left school at 15 to work as a sales assistant in a department store. But no sooner had the hopeful actor joined Molly Urquhart's rep theatre company in Rutherglen, war intervened and he was cast in the role of Wireless Operator in the Royal Air Force. Not surprisingly, he became a champion runner with his regiment - and also found the time to produce plays and concerts.

Back home on leave in March, 1945 however, disappointment fell upon him like a Luftwaffe bomb. Stuart discovered the girl he'd "loved from the age of ten", May Kelt from Carntyne, had married his pal Duncan McVey, and the couple had a baby daughter. "But I was happy for them," he recalls, the magnanimity still clear in his voice. However, a short time later when Stuart was flying over the Rhine, his soldier friend was killed fighting on the ground below.

With war over, Stuart returned to Glasgow and grabbed at the baton of his previous life. He ran for Shettleston Harriers and won the Scottish cross country five mile novice championships. He returned to the professional stage and in 1947 joined the Citizens' Theatre Company, working alongside acting greats such as Andrew Keir, Stanley Baxter and Roddie McMillan.

"But it wasn't easy combining my love for running with acting," says Stuart. "In fact, back in June 1948 I was determined to enter the Scottish Amateur Athletics Championships, being held at Hampden. But I was under contract to the Citz, and of course we had a matinee that Saturday afternoon with Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard. However, I realised the steeplechase event was the last of the afternoon. And my stage character didn't appear in the third act. So I got permission from the producer to miss the curtain call, sprinted from the stage - still in costume and make-up - into a waiting taxi where I changed into my running gear, all the time rubbing olive oil frantically into my stiff legs."

Stuart arrived at Hampden, still with pan stick on his face, his legs looking like white chips just dipped in a pan, just as he heard the call for runners to line up. And he was off. And Jamie Stuart won that race by ten yards. "After the medal ceremony and photographs, it was straight back to the Cherry Orchard for the evening show," he says, laughing.

Acting work continued, with Dundee Rep and Perth Theatre and Stuart landed several (small) parts in BBC productions in Scotland. However, now aged 30, the young man reckoned his next role in life should be Ideal Husband. "At the beginning of 1953, May Kelt had been to see me in theatre a few times and our trysts became more frequent," he recalls. "I hadn't pushed the relationship because she was a widow with a nine year-old daughter, and I guess I felt that advances should be sensitive. But then one night I said to her 'May, I don't consider this friendship of ours to be just a platonic affair.' And she said 'Does this mean we're engaged?' And suddenly we were." He adds in soft voice; "I was delighted. Yet, as an actor, I'd wanted the big performance of going down on one knee."

Being a married man - with a family - meant the couple couldn't manage on his meagre acting income so Stuart sold vacuum cleaners by day and trod the boards at night. "Walking along the streets some days I'd pray and say; 'Lord, you must know that I don't feel madly fulfilled knocking on doors. Please let it be that one day I will do something worthwhile in my life.' But I was prepared to be patient."

His patience was rewarded aged 54 when Stuart became a Social Worker with Strathclyde Region, working with young miscreants. He had studied at night school to gain his Higher English and Social Worker certificate. Bosses said his acting and sales skills were perfect in helping develop relationships with the (difficult) boys in his charge.

In the early Eighties however, the runner ran off in yet another new direction. "I'd gone to the Edinburgh Festival and watched a great actor called Alex McCowan perform the whole of Mark's Gospel. I thought 'Why not present the Gospel in Scots tongue?'" Stuart did exactly that, and it worked wonderfully on stage, although the period also brought devastation with the death of wife May in 1983. Stuart was bereft, but he kept focus for his three daughters. And he continued to run for charity, taking part in the Glasgow marathon.

In 1988 however, now retired, he took on a new morning job. Paper boy. "My newsagent was frustrated not being able to find a paper boy," he recalls, "so I volunteered for the job. Six am starts and all, although I was worried what my daughters would think of a 68 year-old dad running up and down stairs for £9 a week." His daughters reckoned he was off his head of course. "Yes, they did, but pushing the last Herald through a letterbox and then having breakfast was a lovely experience."

The paperboy stint lasted a year before he (reluctantly) surrendered his career to "a wee lassie who really wanted the job". But by 1992, Jamie Stuart moved from being the deliverer of the printed word to the writer. His book The Glasgow Gospel flew off the shelves faster than David's slingshot could bring down his nemesis. By 1995, the concept grew in chapters and testaments to emerge as The Glasgow Bible, readers delighted to realise David had once challenged the mighty Goliath with "Weel, come oan then, ya big scrawny plook!" "The vernacular is powerful, pungent, and totally accessible," maintains Stuart, beaming proudly.

But of course, life as a successful author wasn't enough for Stuart. He's since worked as a voluntary tour guide at Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall, wrote a book Proverbs In The Patter and set up an anti-smoking charity. Regrets? Not many, except he smoked until the age of 40 (how fast would he have run with clear lungs?) but couldn't persuade his wife to give up, believing it reduced her life span.

The incomparable, indefatigable Stuart still hasn't slowed down however. And he doesn't even pause for breath to explain his long, very happy life.

"I've tried not to wave the faith banner, but tried to show by example," he says, smiling. "And like vinegar seepin' aboot the mooth, and smoke reekin', the lazy lout is a pain in the bahouchie."

* Still Running, Saint Andrew Press, £14.99.