WITHIN five minutes of meeting James Stuart it's hard not to think he's had a wonderful life.

Why? Well for one thing, Jamie, as he's know to friends, has just written his autobiography - at the age of 'ninety four and a quarter'.

But you soon discover there's so much more to this irrepressible character than book writing. Five foot three inch man Jamie has become a giant of an example to others.

Growing up in Carntyne, he's had to survive endemic poverty, endless disappointment and the death of those closest to him. Yet, whenever faced with a real uphill challenge, he's raced up them. Literally.

In Jamie Stuart's lifetime (so far) he's been a champion runner, a blanket salesman, an actor, an aircraft wireless operator, a social worker, a paper boy (at the age of 68) and a best-selling writer.

This summer he became a Commonwealth Games baton carrier, and in January will speak to the Scottish Parliament for the second time.

"Yes, I've always loved life," he says, smiling. "And I've always tried my very best."

Jamie was born in 1920, he and his three brothers sharing a bedroom in their Carntyne council house. But little Jamie loved to run. Anywhere. Any time. Meanwhile, he attended Bible Class, believing a belief in being good would set him up for life.

"But I wasn't always good," he recalls, grinning. "One Friday night I requested to be excused from the Boys Brigade drill squad, feigning a sore ankle.

"However, the next day I went out and won a three-mile cross country race. When I went back to the BBs I was reduced in rank from Corporal. I resigned from the Company in protest. I thought the punishment too steep."

Stuart's perpetual motion limited his academic achievements. He was too tired from running every day, from his 6am start paper round, from appearing in local amateur dramatics at night.

And so he left school at fifteen to work as a sales assistant in a department store. But no sooner had the hopeful actor joined Molly Urquhart's rep theatre company in Rutherglen, war intervened and he was cast in the role of Wireless Operator in the Air Force.

Not surprisingly, he became a champion runner with his regiment and also found the time to produce plays and concerts.

With war over, Jamie returned to Glasgow and grabbed at the baton of his previous life. He ran for Shettleston Harriers and won the Scottish cross country five mile novice championships.

He returned to the professional stage and in 1947 joined the Citizens' Theatre Company, working alongside acting greats such as Andrew Keir, Stanley Baxter and Roddie McMillan.

"But it wasn't easy combining my love for running with acting," says Stuart, smiling. "In fact, back in June 1948 while working in a matinee at the Citz, I left the show early (with permission) to taxi to Hampden to enter the Scottish Amateur Athletics Championships."

In the taxi he got changed into his running gear, all the time rubbing olive oil frantically into his stiff legs. Jamie arrived just in time for the starter's whistle, and won the race by ten yards.

"After the medal ceremony and photographs, it was straight back to the Cherry Orchard for the evening show," he says, grinning.

Acting work continued, with Dundee Rep and Perth Theatre and Stuart landed several (small) parts in BBC productions in Scotland.

However, now aged 30, the young man reckoned his next role in life should be Husband. And having waited a suitable period, he married widow May Kelt, whom he'd 'loved since the age of ten.'

Yet, being a married man - with a family - meant the couple couldn't manage on his meagre acting income so Jamie sold vacuum cleaners by day and trod the boards at night.

"Walking along the streets some days I'd pray and say; 'Lord, you must know that I don't feel madly fulfilled knocking on doors. Please let it be that one day I will do something worthwhile in my life.' But I was prepared to be patient."

His patience was rewarded when Stuart became a Social Worker with Strathclyde Region, working with young miscreants, having picked up his Higher English and Social Worker certificate aged fifty four.

In the early Eighties however, the runner ran off in yet another new direction, performing the Scots Gospel, in the vernacular. But when May died, Jamie's focus was on his three daughters. And he continued to run for charity, taking part in the Glasgow marathon.

In 1988 however, now retired, he took on a new morning job. Paper boy. His daughters reckoned he was off his head of course. "Yes, they did, but pushing the last Herald through a letterbox and then having breakfast was a lovely experience."

In 1992, Jamie Stuart moved from being the deliverer of the printed word to the writer. His book The Glasgow Gospel flew off the shelves faster than David's slingshot could bring down his nemesis, as did The Glasgow Bible.

But of course, life as a successful author wasn't enough for Jamie Stuart. He's since worked as a voluntary tour guide at Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall, written a book Proverbs In The Patter and set up an anti-smoking charity.

Regrets? Not many, except he smoked until the age of forty (how fast would he have run with clear lungs?) but couldn't persuade his wife to give up, believing it reduced her life span.

The incomparable, indefatigable Jamie Stuart still hasn't slowed down however. And he doesn't even pause for breath to explain his long, very happy life.

"I've tried not to wave the faith banner, but tried to show by example," he says, smiling. "And like vinegar seepin' aboot the mooth, and smoke reekin', the lazy lout is a pain in the bahouchie."

"* Still Running, Saint Andrew Press, £14.99.