SIR Peter Heatly CBE,

Multiple Empire Games diving champion, Olympian, and sports administrator.

Born 9th June 1924

Died 17th September 2015

SIR Peter Heatly who died this week, was an iconic figure whose significant achievements as a diver - setting records which remain unsurpassed - proved merely the overture to a remarkable post-competitive career as a sports administrator.

Self-coached, he won gold medals at the Empire Games (now Commonwealth Games) in 1950, '54, and '58, twice in the 10-metre platform and once in the three-metre springboard. He competed in the 1948 London Olympics where he finished fifth.

He won his first East district title at 13, but World War II delayed his first Scottish championship success until 1946, though he set national swimming records at 440 and 880 yards during the war. He won graceful diving and springboard titles, and the 440 yards freestyle in 1946, and continued to win diving trebles almost annually until 1958. His near-monopoly remains unsurpasssed, though his grandson James already has six successive senior trebles, at the age of 18.

Heatly won the 10m platform in the 1950 Auckland Empire Games, and springboard silver; springboard gold and 10-metre bronze in Vancouver, in 1954; and 10-metre gold in 1958 when he captained the Scotland team in Cardiff.

It took five weeks by boat to reach Auckland. Female competitors were chaperoned and instructed to knit, to stay out of mischief. The only training Heatly could do was a single session at a US base when they passed through the Panama canal.

He won European 10-metre bronze in Budapest in 1954, and also at the World Student Games. His competitive career spanned more than two decades. "It ended when I realised the fathers of my rivals were as old as I was," he once told me.

His mantle has been donned by grandson James, who won gold, silver, and bronze at the European Games in Baku this year - first international diving title by a Scot since Sir Peter's gold in Cardiff, in 1958.

One of the inaugural inductees of the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame in 2002, he was a fascinated spectator when James, then aged six, leapt from a climbing frame, bounced off a trampoline, and into a swimming pool in the garden. "Dad said he ought to give diving a go," said his son, Robert. "He saw something, and made the suggestion, so there's no doubt he sowed the seeds with James."

Sir Peter was delighted by his grandson's selection for the 2014 Games in Glasgow and saw every session. He attended every Games in some capacity since 1950. He served as Scotland team manager, chef de mission, chaired the Commonwealth Games Council, and the organising committee on the run-in to the 1986 Games in Edinburgh. He had been on the 1970 organising committee when the Games were first in the city, but by the time they returned he was chairman of the Commonwealth Games Federation, a post he held until 1990.

He was a member of the European Diving commitee for a decade, and chaired the world governing body's diving committee. He also chaired the Scottish Council for Physical Recreation and oversaw its transition to the Scottish Sports Council of which he was chair from 1975 to '87, when the notion of "sport for all" was born.

Heatly was encouraged to take diving seriously after watching American Pete Desjardins. His dad took 11-year-old Peter to watch the 1928 US Olympic champion give an exhibition at Port Seaton. "Desjardin asked to see him dive and was very encouraging - gave him his autograph, and lots of tips," said Robert.

Heatly's wife, Bertha, filmed him with an eight millimetre camera - 'way ahead of the video analysis now standard. The family still have this film. His medals, however were filed away, and his sons learned most about his career from their dad's contemporaries at galas.

It was difficult to train. Sean Connery was a lifeguard where he worked out during public sessions. His biggest challenge was "to avoid killing somebody in the water".

Born in Coburg Street, Leith - probably a home delivery, his sons think - he attended Leith Academy and joined Portobello Swimming Club. He wanted to join up, but as he was studying civil engineering at Edinburgh University, he was instructed to continue studies and join the officer training corps. When he graduated he was commissioned into the Royal Engineers, but before he was posted, the war ended.

He subsequently ran the family heating and ventilation business and a building and construction company while competing internationally and bringing up a family.

Heatly was an inaugural inductee of the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame, in 2002. He was awarded a CBE in 1971 and knighted in 1990. He was created Deputy Lieutenant of the City of Edinburgh in 1984, and holds honorary degrees from Edinburgh University and Queen Margaret's College.

It is not over-stating Heatly's role to suggest that no other Scot has had such a profound influence on sport and its role in Scottish society. He did this endearingly, without losing a vibrant, almost boyish enthusiasm and a sense of humour. He remained trim and fit into old age with 10-hour stints in his garden despite fighting the prostate cancer to which he succumbed, for almost 20 years.

He is survived by four children (Ann, Jane, Peter and Robert), nine grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. His first wife Betha, died in 1979. In 1984 he married Mae Cochrane who predeceased him in 2003.

Doug Gillon


A celebration of the life of Sir Peter Heatly will be held at Colinton Parish Church, Dell Road, Edinburgh EH13 0JR, at 3pm on Friday, October 2.