Born: July 12, 1955;

Died: December 8, 2022.

JIM Taylor MBE, who has died aged 67, was a remarkable human being, the bravest of the brave, a great communicator, an infectious enthusiast, positive, competitive and, at times, marvellously irreverent.

The huge congregation which gathered in Glasgow Cathedral shortly before Christmas to mark his passing after a short illness, was fitting testimony to the respect he commanded and the way he had shaped the lives of others, having faced down adversity in myriad forms himself.

As Rev Stuart MacQuarrie, one of the distinguished members of the clergy (including childhood friend The Very Rev Professor David Fergusson, Dean of the Chapel Royal in Scotland, and Rev Mark E Johnstone), who conducted the service put it: “Jim was unusual in that he was a person who always left you feeling better about yourself and your place in the world. From his wheelchair Jim exuded warmth and empathy combined with genuine sincerity. In many ways I think of Jim Taylor as the ultimate people person”.

Jim Taylor was the ultimate warrior, who never allowed his disability through a sporting accident to define his life, adapting his situation to align himself to a warrior spirit which was not, following one clear definition, “about being tough or flexing power over others. It’s about fighting for something bigger than ourselves, showing compassion, leading by example, and not being focused on what we can get from others, but what we can do for them.”

He attended Dean House Nursery School from September 1959 and then Kelvinside Academy, with his younger brother David. Jim was content to remain in the middle of the pack in the classroom, but he was a mad keen sportsman – an all-rounder, who turned his hand to anything, making the best of everything. He became a huge character in the Kelvinside family.

After school and his happy childhood, he joined the Bank of Scotland and, among several sports, continued playing rugby for Kelvinside Academicals. His life was changed forever one Saturday afternoon in 1978, when his neck was broken in a scrummage collapse when playing against Old Aloysians. The injury rendered him tetraplegic and embarking on life in a wheelchair from the age of 23.

However, in coping with the dark places this took him to, an inner steel stirred inside Jim and he knew he would win – whether through his positive mental attitude, or his inbuilt competitive nature. He threw everything into his gym work, and into his year-long recovery. The family home was converted to accommodate Jim following a benefit match between a Scottish XV and an International Select XV, at Balgray, famously saved from postponement by mass participation to clear unexpected snow.

He learned to drive a car, which largely gave him the independence he craved. He returned to work with the bank, and to an active life, albeit with support, allowing him to be “the best you can be”, as the Kelvinside motto has it.

During a six-week window in his rehabilitation, he established his plan of action. He described this period vividly in an article he wrote for a spinal injuries magazine. “I realised, despite being pinned down with only a ceiling to look at, amidst the shadows of wheelchairs that I wanted to walk out……for some reason something kicked in ..….I knew I was going to win – either the stubborn fool or competitive sportsman inbuilt in me or my positive mental attitude.”

Three major events then shaped the rest of Jim’s life, which saw him amongst everything else, overcome breast cancer, a stroke, and the loss of his brother David.

The first was his meeting and subsequent marriage in 1993 to Sandra, “his angel without wings” as he himself wrote. They met in a hairdressers’, The Lion’s Mane at Canniesburn Toll and they loved and cherished each other, becoming life partners, Sandra a devoted carer, and soul mate. The ultimate couple.

The second event was the establishment of the Hearts and Balls Charitable Trust in 1999, “Helping Rugby Help its own”. Jim always wanted to give back to those who supported him in his time of need. He became an Ambassador and indefatigable fund-raiser. His fundraising exploits were legendary: an “Alternative 21st party, to mark 21 years in a wheelchair”, his “Silver party to mark 25 years” his “40th Party” his “Ton of Granite Challenge” – astonishingly pushing a ton weight of curling stones for a mile on ice. (He was a champion wheelchair curler as well as everything else).

Jim received special recognition by being awarded the MBE for services to rugby and charity. The reality was that this was a joint award because Jim and Sandra were as one, inseparable, a formidable team in everything they turned their hands to. Duo juncta uno.

Charles Berry recounted a remarkable story about how Jim was honoured by two Gurkhas who accompanied him at his Investiture. With the assistance of his great friend Hamish MacLeod, and Buddhi Bhandari, a Major in The Queen’s Gurkha Engineers, this led to the presentation of a special Kukri, the curved Nepalese knife only ever presented to “the bravest of the brave, most generous of the generous and most faithful of friends.” This was eventually laid on Jim’s coffin prior to the committal.

The third remarkable phase of Jim’s post-injury life was his (and Sandra’s) total commitment to Glasgow Warriors. The fantastic ovation he received when he took out the match ball at a recent Warriors game spoke volumes for the place he had in supporters and sponsors’ hearts. The Warriors squad and management turned out to Glasgow Cathedral en masse. He had been a confidant and father figure to many of them.

In conclusion, Jim’s own words. “I love living my life to the core values established at Glasgow Warriors and think they epitomise me:- ‘Trust’ , ‘Respect’ , ‘Honesty’, ‘Whatever it Takes’ and indeed my own ’Desire to Aspire.’ I have loved my life and lived it to the fullest with no regrets.”

* Compiled by Hugh Dan MacLennan with the assistance of Hamish MacLeod and Charles Berry after their eulogies