Born: March 14, 1943;

Died: August 16, 2022.

BILL McLELLAN, who has died aged 79, was a top-class athlete, a highly regarded teacher and a successful businessman. It was while he was a 20-year-old Jordanhill student that he made the headlines for the very first time.

A born all-round athlete, he had taken part in the Ceres Games, in Fife, in the summer of 1963; an £8 win in the sprints caught the eye of an astute local trainer, Andrew Mitchell, of Kelty.

At this time there was a strict divide between professional and amateur athletics, one consequence being that only amateurs could represent Scotland internationally. As a “pro”, Bill could not attain international selection but his best performances were worthy of that status.

Mitchell planned to train him for the famous New Year Powderhall Sprint, which was run on handicaps and was a potentially lucrative event through betting winnings. As a favourable handicap was essential, Mitchell organised a low-key build-up, with McLellan only competing sparingly to keep him under the radar to improve handicap prospects.

Prior to the Sprint, which was held that year at Newtongrange, Mitchell arranged an intensive prep for Bill based in Kelty, where he ate the best food and trained hard daily at Pitreavie in some secrecy, usually wearing a balaclava to conceal his identity for betting purposes.

Bill applied himself assiduously and by January 1, 1964, when the event began, he was in top condition. On a cold blustery day he won his heat comfortably and the next day narrowly won his cross tie to reach the final.

Off a decent handicap of seven yards, he became favourite at odds of 1-4 on. In the near dark in front of a 5,000 crowd and against a strong wind, he held his lead all the way to defeat runner-up Stuart Hogg, claiming a memorable victory worth £250 and a gold medal. The Glasgow Herald noted that he had run at some summer games and that his £250 prize “was his first major success”.

Andrew Mitchell and backers won a considerable sum on the betting, perhaps about £10,000, with Bill given an extra £50, bringing his winnings to £300, worth about £5,000 now.

His most notable athletic achievements included not just the New Year Sprint but also the time in 1967 when he set a British professional long-jump record. He also won the Scottish Light Events championship four times.

William McLellan was born in East Wemyss to Barbara, following her relationship with a Polish Flight Sergeant based at Leuchars. Bill was brought up in East Wemyss in a happy home by his grandparents, William, a miner, and Maggie, and attended the local primary school before going to Buckhaven High School.

He was a very promising footballer, establishing himself as a high-scoring centre-forward and twice being selected to represent Scottish Boys’ Clubs, but a knee injury, sustained while playing for East Fife Reserves, put football on hold. Thereafter he concentrated on athletics while at college.

Later, he took up golf, playing off a single-figure handicap at Lundin Links, where he won several trophies. Meantime, his knee condition had improved enough to enable him to play football for the junior side, St Andrews United, for a couple of seasons, with the team winning the Fife Junior League in 1965, thanks in part to his goalscoring skills.

His New Year Sprint win in 1964 provided the springboard for his long, successful Highland Games career. He competed the length and breadth of Scotland and also in Lake District Games until the late 1970s.

While he had made his mark as a sprinter Bill was also an excellent jumper and pole vaulter at a time when landing pits consisted of meagre sand or, frequently, only grass. His versatility enabled him to win many prizes; it is reckoned he achieved about 300 first places in these events, his greatest motivation being competition.

One of his best days came at the Aberdeen Games in 1967 when he set a new British Professional Long Jump record of 23ft 7½ins and won the 100 yards in a very fast 9.75 secs, albeit wind-assisted.

In 1969 he coached his then pupil Bert Oliver to success in the Powderhall Youth Sprint. Once he stopped competing, Bill became National High Jump Coach for a spell.

A graduate of Jordanhill Physical Education College, he enjoyed an excellent teaching reputation, ultimately as Principal of Physical Education at Viewforth High School, Kirkcaldy. Before taking up that post in 1975, he had taught in various schools, including the secure Rossie Farm School, near Montrose, where he dealt with challenging young offenders.

Bill had first married in the 1960s, when his sons John and Andrew were born, but he was later divorced. In 1977 his future wife Sheila, known as Sam, was appointed Bill’s assistant; they fell in love and married in 1980, with Bill welcoming her children Beth, Stuart and Ailsa into the household.

After early retirement he and Sam successfully ran a hotel in Coaltown of Wemyss in conjunction with his golf business, McLellan Golf, which catered for players, mainly from abroad on golfing holidays. After 10 years they sold up and travelled widely, including to North America, Hawaii, Dubai, Cambodia, Thailand and Hong Kong.

A member of Mensa, his hobbies included crosswords, bridge, bowls, guitar and writing poetry in Scots. Family was important to him, and he followed his grandchildren’s sporting pursuits closely. He is survived by Sam, his children and 10 grandchildren.