Vet and Olympic footballer;

Born: June 12, 1925; Died: March 21, 2013.

Angus Carmichael, who has died aged 87, believed life is determined by chance not design. Several incidents proved his theory: blowing his bid to serve his country by inadvertently choosing a reserved occupation; flunking his exams but gaining a lucky break and time to become an Olympian; and working as a vet ending his prospects of a glamorous footballing career when the legendary manager Bill Shankly came calling.

And after sacrificing a vital exam – in favour of turning out for Queen's Park FC – he was unable to find a veterinary job in Scotland and left Glasgow behind to spend the rest of his life in England, working initially in the Lake District, then Lincolnshire and latterly at the Royal Veterinary College in Hatfield.

Although his grandparents had migrated to Glasgow's west end from the Isle of Lismore, he was born in Fort Rosebery, in what was then Northern Rhodesia, after his father joined the Colonial Service following the Great War. He was one-year-old when his father fell seriously ill and the family had to return to the UK – a tortuous journey of camping and trekking through the jungle for a week, four days by train to Cape Town and six weeks by boat to London, where his father died.

His mother brought her baby son back to Glasgow where he grew up, was educated at Rutherglen Academy and, as a schoolboy at the outbreak of the Second World War, became a civil defence messenger and a member of the Air Training Corps. At 16 he volunteered for RAF aircrew and was accepted, subject to a medical. But two things happened to change that course.

It was suggested that he study for a year before joining the forces. His headmaster proposed medicine, law or veterinary medicine and the young Carmichael chose the latter. Around the same time a faint heart problem was discovered and he had to avoid heavy exercise.

He tried to rest up for a year or so but continued to do his bit for the war effort, passing a pilot/navigator/bomb aimer course, graduating to motorbike despatch rider during the Glasgow Blitz and paid firewatcher at a large city store.

By this time he was a student at Glasgow Veterinary College and though his health improved, he had still not been called up. At the main Glasgow recruiting office he discovered why – he was in a reserved occupation. "I would never, never have gone to the vet college if I had known," he told them.

He toured the army, marine and naval recruiting sections but "no-one would have me" so he decided to continue his studies. He had dropped down a year as his health and exam results suffered but by his graduation in 1948 had achieved a remarkable level of fitness, through pounding the streets of Glasgow and Dunblane where he had been sent to live with cousins until his finals.

He had also built up his stamina by an unorthodox training method: running alongside the bus taking his group to classes at Glasgow Meat Market in Parkhead, arriving ahead of his fellow students who found him waiting there, breathing normally.

Immediately after graduating he tried to join the Army Veterinary Corps but as the war was over they were no longer recruiting, prompting him to note: "And so one's life is arranged by chance not design."

He had been playing for Glasgow's Queen's Park FC, then in the Scottish first division, since 1945 and, if he had graduated as originally anticipated in 1947, by 1948 he would have been working and, as he put it, never "sniffed" the Olympics. But because of his exam failure, he ended up being one of the seven Scots selected for the Great Britain team.

The football squad led the GB team into Wembley as the Olympics opened and his abiding memories were of the incredible roar as they entered the arena and of, miraculously, spotting his proud mother among the 80,000 crowd. The team lost to Denmark for third place but he had been thrilled to play at Wembley.

He went on to study for a postgraduate course at the Royal Dick Vet School in Edinburgh and continued playing for Queen's Park. However the day of the diploma exam clashed with the team's departure for a tour of Norwegian teams. Anxious not to let the side down, he sacrificed his exam. A month later, unable to find a job in Scotland he headed south of the Border.

On his first day as an assistant vet in Kendal, Bill Shankly, then managing Carlisle, called asking him to play and offering to pick him by taxi after work at Saturday lunchtime. But as the practice dogsbody, the young vet was on duty all weekend and had to decline. Shankly went on to a glittering career with Liverpool FC.

During the mid-1950s Mr Carmichael worked as an assistant in Matlock and then in Horncastle, Lincolnshire, where he became a partner in a practice until 1979, when he was appointed director of the farm animal practice teaching unit at the Royal Veterinary College in Hatfield.

During that time he was also a veterinary consultant for the London boroughs of Enfield and Barnet before retiring to Lincolnshire in 1990.

Mr Carmichael, who was a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Farriers and a Freeman of the City of London, was also a life member of Queen's Park FC and his 1948 Olympic memorabilia is held at Hampden Park's Scottish Football Museum.

He is survived by his wife Anne, son Drew, daughters Dianne and Fiona, and five grandchildren.