SCOTTISH sport is the poorer for the passing this week of the great Celtic captain, Billy McNeill.

His death also reduces by one the roster of distinguished names in the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame, which was launched in 2002.

From football to motor racing, from boxing to cricket, rugby, tennis and swimming, the Hall of Fame is crowded with men and women who showed remarkable qualities such as those demonstrated by McNeill. Every obituary described him as exuding sheer presence and leadership.

READ MORE: Rangers to pay tribute to Celtic legend Billy McNeill this weekend

Few people are better qualified to discuss such qualities, allied to a talent for sport, than Dame Louise Martin, the former Commonwealth Games swimmer who was vice-chair of the organising committee at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and is now president of the Commonwealth Games Federation. She is also a past chair of sportScotland and is also chair of the Hall of Fame selection panel.

“Thinking of all people who are in that echelon, to me, they all genuinely like people, and their natural instinct is to connect with those around them, and stay grounded,” she said on Friday.

“They don’t have an aura of ‘do you know who I am?’ or anything like this. They keep themselves to themselves.

“To me, they are ordinary people but they have extraordinary talents. In many ways, their enduring legacy comes from these achievements. It’s not that they set out to do it: they just set out to do something they love, and by their natural way of working it just progressed into that.

“If you think of all the people like Billy who have been at the top of their sport, you can go and speak to them, and they have no airs and no graces.

“I just feel that it’s something you can’t buy, it’s something you can’t learn. To me, it’s a natural thing inside them, and it just grows and grows and grows.

“It’s something that they want to pass on to other people, to just let them know that they like them. And that was one of Billy’s many qualities, and this is what makes people like him extra-special. They take their colleagues on a journey, they guide them, they nurture them and bring them through with them.

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If you look at the illustrious names in the Hall of Fame, she adds, “you’ll remember lots of the names. Some you won’t remember, because they’re so far in the past. But they’re all there because they have extraordinary talents and skills. They all had the determination to achieve things".

Glasgow Times:

Who was the most inspirational sports person she ever worked with? “In many ways it was Sir Peter Heatly [the Scottish diving champion who won Commonwealth gold medals in the discipline and went on to chair the Commonwealth Games Federation between 1982 and 1990]. He was general team manager at the Perth Commonwealth Games [in 1962].

“He was another person who just liked speaking to people. He just guided me through the whole thing. Every time I wanted to do something else, I never had to go and ask him; he always said, ‘Go and try it’.”

Much has been made of the valuable life lessons that can be learned from successful sportsmen and women, including persistence, commitment, integrity, teamwork and trust.

Louise Martin is not alone in believing that the qualities exhibited by high-achieving sportsmen and women that can be emulated by ordinary people seeking to improve themselves “Absolutely,” she says.

READ MORE: Celtic fans reflect after death of club legend Billy McNeill

Referring to the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame, she noted: “We’ve got everybody in that should be in, in individual or team sports, and we’re moving forward, and so therefore I think we have to recognise those other people who can help and guide young people, people who are interested in sport or who just want to better themselves – how do you do it? What should your behaviour be like?

“I think that people who have achieved extraordinary things and yet stay grounded, they are followed by a lot of others.”

The Scottish Sports Hall of Fame is at


Sir Chay Blyth CBE, BEM (1940-)

Hawick-born Blyth became, in 1971, the first person to sail non-stop westwards around the world, in 1971. As his website puts it: “Since 1966 when he and John Ridgway rowed across the Atlantic, Chay has been pushing the boundaries again and again in sailing, and in business.”

Elenor Gordon (1933-2014)

Ace swimmer who was just 16 when she took the first-ever gold medal won by a Scottish woman at the Empire Games (later the Commonwealth Games), in New Zealand in 1950. At the 1954 Games she won gold in the medley relay and gold in the 220 yards breaststroke. She also won bronze at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952.

Sir Chris Hoy MBE (1976)

Inspirational track cyclist who is one of Britain’s most successful Olympic athletes of all time, with six gold medals and one silver, to say nothing of 11 world and two Commonwealth titles. His three golds in the Keirin, sprint and team sprint at the 2008 Beijing Olympics made him a household name.

Rhona Martin MBE (1966-)

Unforgettably led the Great Britain curling team that also included Debbie Knox, Fiona MacDonald and Janice Rankin to gold at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, a late-night victory that was watched by several million people back home, glued to their TV sets.

Sir Jackie Stewart OBE (1939-)

Indomitable Formula One champion, one of the all-time greats, who won the World Championship in 1969, 1971 and 1973, and won 27 Formula One races out of 99 starts. He was also a key figure in the drive to improve safety in the sport.

Jim Watt MBE (1948-)

One of six boxers in the Hall of Fame (the others are, of course, Benny Lynch, Walter McGowan, Richard McTaggart, Jackie Paterson and Ken Buchanan), a figure that reminds you of Scotland’s contribution to the sport. Watt became world lightweight champion in Glasgow in 1979 and he made four successful defences of the title.

Sir Matt Busby CBE (1909-1994)

Turned Manchester United into one of the world’s great clubs. Rebuilt the team after the tragedy of the 1958 Munich air crash, and he led United to the 1968 European Cup. His United side had some of the most sparkling talents the English game has ever known.

Finlay Calder OBE (1957-)

A key figure in rugby's Five Nations Grand Slam decider in 1990, when Scotland beat the Auld Enemy 13-7. In 1989, he had become the first Scottish player to captain the British Lions since 1966, and the first winning Lions captain since 1974. Not for nothing did an English national newspaper include him in its list of ‘The 20 hardest players in Six Nations history’ last year.

Steve Hislop (1962-2003)

One of the best motor-cyclists of his generation, winner of no fewer than 11 TTs on the Isle of Man. As one obituary observed, in 1989, he was “the first rider to crack the 120mph lap – a speed which many had considered impossible". He was twice British superbike champion and he also triumphed in world superbike and world endurance racing.

Willie Carson OBE (1942-)

Brilliantly talented jockey who rode no fewer than 3,828 winners in the UK, including 17 Classic victories. In 1972 he became the first Scotsman to become a Champion Jockey, in what was the first of his five flat racing championship victories.

… And how can we forget Andy Murray - the 2012 US Open Champion, 2012 and 2016 reigning Olympic Singles Champion, the 2013 and 2016 Wimbledon champion? His relentless never-say-die spirit is evident in his determination to return to the sport he loves following his recent hip surgery. His mother Judy says he is "cautiously optimistic" he will be able to play tennis again this season. Not yet a member of the Hall of Fame, but surely, one day ... ?