MUCH has changed in the 60 years since 17-year-old Ian Black jumped on a train from Aberdeen bound for London to bring one of the most famous trophies in sport back to Scotland for the first time. The BBC Sports Personality of the Year award was just four years old, a low-key black tie dinner held at the Grosvenor Hotel in London, with the nominations – drawn from athletes who had made it into the bulletins of a TV show called Sportsview - laid out in the pages of the Radio Times with viewers voting for their favourites through the post.

Now, it is a sprawling, stage managed televisual and multi-media event, toured by the public service broadcaster around the UK’s biggest arenas, where viewers can decide the outcome with a touch of their red button. Tonight’s 2018 version is set to be beamed into our living rooms from the Genting Arena in Birmingham.

But some things never change – the dice were always pretty much loaded against Scottish athletes. The dashing Black, who strode confidently on stage to collect his award sporting a boyish smile and an Eddie Cochrane-style quiff to the strains of Scotland the Brave played by a brass band, had been propelled to prominence with four gold medals, three at the European Championships, and one at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff.

But he still had every reason to feel he was the outsider. Eventually finishing ahead of Bobby Charlton and Nat Lofthouse, Black recalls seeing Kenneth Wolstenhome producing a voting form on a previous episode of Sportsview, pointing to Nat Lofthouse’s name and saying ‘that is who I’ll be voting for’. Such attempts to lead the audience only succeeded in producing a backlash from the Scottish audience. Or perhaps that should be a Black-lash.

“Kenneth Wolstenholme was suggesting I think that people should register their vote for Nat Lofthouse and then then the people of Scotland rose up in a fury,” Black said. “To be held in the affections of the people of Scotland was always the most important thing.”

Still sharp as a tack at 77 years old, Black admits he probably won’t tune in to tonight’s programme. That might be different if he felt a Scot was likely to be in the running. Of the Scots who might have come into consideration for tonight’s top award, he favours Laura Muir to his swimming successor Duncan Scott, but admits to being a huge fan of both Chris Hoy and Andy Murray. Finishing third behind motor racing star John Surtees and Charlton again in 1959, he is still one of only five Scots to claim the top award, alongside such luminaries as Murray (the only three-time winner), Hoy, Sir Jackie Stewart, and Liz McColgan.

“No, I won’t watch it,” said Black. “I never really watch it. I really have little interest, unless somebody Scottish is in the running.

“But I went to the one in Glasgow in 2015. I had never been in that arena [the SSE Hydro], but there were about 12,000 people there. I wasn’t to present anything but they said ‘would I speak to the audience?’ so I did. Dougie Vipond was supposed to be interviewing me but I just borrowed the microphone for a while and told everyone what happened, about the little, short, golden age I enjoyed.

“I also remember when Chris Hoy won it, that there were so many other cyclists in the running that I actually voted for him 90 times. When I saw him, I told him he owed me £11.”

By contrast, those events in 1958 are in every way a throwback to simpler times.

“My ceremony wasn’t particularly glitzy,” said Black. “It was very simple indeed. I lived in Aberdeen at that time and I used to get the train down. Andy Robb [his coach] came with me. We stayed in the hotel and it was a formal do, a meal in a hotel. Peter Dimmock [the host] was taking people out for interviews and quite a few people were taken up and I wasn’t so I thought ‘I’m not in the running for this’. But at the end of the day they gave out the winner and that was me. So I got the trophy, and made a little speech.

“There was another presentation on the same night, which was run by the Daily Express, which was a massive paper at the time. They had a similar thing, which was voted for again so I won them both, and prior to that I had won the sports writers’ sports person of the year too. So I got all three.

“I’ve no idea how much fame this catapulted me to. Basically, I was just a young laddie from the Highlands. There was no such thing as celebrity status back then. When I got back into Aberdeen on the train, I think it was the Flying Scotsman, there was nobody there, just a cleaning lady. She said ‘well done Ian’ and then it was back to school.

“You have got to understand what it was like in those days. Even football wasn’t on TV back then. Bobby Charlton was a £20-a-week footballer. Nowadays success is measured in how much money you make.”

Black went on to live happily ever after following this early brush with fame. He lives in Ballater with his wife of 52 years, Alison, joking that she deserves a prize for putting up with him. He doesn’t often talk about what happened in the years following his 1958 claim to fame, but by the age of 21 he had given up swimming completely.

As popular a figure as he was amongst his schoolfriends when he returned to Robert Gordon’s in Aberdeen, some of his teachers were not so enamoured, not least the headmaster David Collier, who felt all this celebrity stuff was taking away from the school’s reputation as a seat of academic learning.

“His attitude was ‘this was an academic school’,” Black said. “He was sick to death of people calling it 'Ian Black’s school'. Basically, I was thrown out of the school and had no training for the full year leading up to the Olympics [in Rome in 1960]. Then, after my parents had bought tickets for Andy Ross to be there with me, the school wouldn’t let him go. While I could rely on the people of Scotland, I couldn’t necessarily do so on the people that could have helped, the council, who never once gave me a lane of a pool.”

Swimming wasn’t a career in those days. So Black simply knuckled down and got himself another one. He completed a degree at Aberdeen University, worked for a firm in Aberdeen, did some coaching in Canada and got into teaching. After spells working in Elgin, Hong Kong, Bahrain and Aberlour, where he triumphantly returned as headmaster of the junior school at Robert Gordon’s. It is quite a tale, but Black is a man at peace at the decisions he has made in life.

“What I did I did,” he said. “If things had been different, I might have ended up in America, might not have married my wife, done all the things I did. I did what I did because I enjoyed it, I never made any money from it, never looked on it as a career. To have that status was great, it was the time of the Munich Air disaster when there was a lot of talk about the Busby Babes and such like. And I am still the youngest too. If you look on it as a very prestigious club, I must be the longest serving member.”