Bobby McGregor M.B.E.

Born 1944 Helensburgh, Dunbartonshire, Scotland

Training for the Top

THE greatest swimmer ever produced by Falkirk Otter Amateur Swimming Club was world class. But Bobby McGregor's rise to the top did not come without hard work - lots of it.

Many Falkirk Bairns will remember queuing for the 8 a.m. Saturday session in the town's public baths and reaching the poolside only to find McGregor already in the water?

He had a lane roped of for his exclusive use, and up and down he would go, his father David, a friendly - but firm - taskmaster, pacing out each 25-yard length with stopwatch in hand.

McGregor's was a rare talent that was carefully nurtured.

But, as an interview with The Falkirk Herald in 1962 revealed; he was the first to appreciate success could only come from the special determination and commitment that turns the very good into the very best.

Typically, it was just after 7 a.m. when the Herald caught up with him. He was a few days away from flying to the British Empire Games in Australia - but the training went on. He cut a lone figure in the green shimmer of the 100,000 gallon pool at Falkirk Baths as he pounded his lone beat under the watchful eye of his father.

The routine rarely changed. Around two hours every morning during the week before catching the train to university in Glasgow and at least one hour after tea - and study - at night.

Maybe, and only when competitions were not likely to get in the way, he would be given a night off and a trip to the pictures or a restaurant would be a welcome treat.

This was the life the 18-year-old champion had known for the last nine years.
The former Falkirk High School pupil who was destined to graduate from Strathclyde University with an Honours degree in Architecture, admitted: "Some times it's terrible. Then you think of all the hard, dreary work behind you and you know you can't throw it all away, not now.

"Something inside you drives you on, I can't say what it is."

Falkirk Flyer's years of Glory.

BOBBY McGREGOR was 16 and the Scottish junior champion when he represented his country for the first time as part of the squad that faced Wales and Ireland for the Tenovus Cup at the Empire Pool in Cardiff in 1960.

His international call-up was no real surprise: the 'Falkirk Flyer' had staked his claim with a stunning swim at the inter-district championships a few weeks earlier. That day he had left his rivals literally 'dead in the water' on his way to winning the 100 yards freestyle final in 53.5 seconds just 0.2 seconds outside the British junior record held by Olympic star and fellow Scot Ian Black.

McGregor's proud father said at the time: "Bobby is beginning to fill out now and get more power in his arms. He's chopped nearly four seconds off his time for the 100 this year and that's quite a chunk. I've not been driving him yet, because he's maturing at his own pace and I don't believe in rushing young swimmers. I know he's an outstanding junior, but I want him to become an outstanding senior."

Coach McGregor was not to be disappointed. By 1962, his 18 year-old son was an automatic choice for Scotland, and held the British and Scottish 100 yards freestyle titles. He had also been selected for the team to go to Perth, Australia, to compete at the British Empire Games.

Two years later, McGregor sent shockwaves through the swimming community by setting his first world record. In August that year, the young Scot produced a sensational swim in the I10 yards final to win in 53.6 seconds. Later that day, he received another accolade when he was named captain of the British Olympic swimming team to compete at the Tokyo Games that October.

It was 1966, however, that was possibly McGregor's greatest year.

Over an incredible five weeks he won a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica; clinched gold at the European Championships in Utrecht, Holland; then smashed his own world record for the 110 yards at the British Championships in 53.3 seconds

To round of an incredible 12 months, his achievements were recognised by the Queen who awarded him an M.B.E. for his services to the sport.

Bobby McGregor retired from competitive swimming after the Mexico Olympics in 1968, the 'old man' of the pool bringing the curtain down on an illustrious career at the age of 24 with a fourth place finish in the 100 metre, freestyle final.


Sports Legend

ALTHOUGH Robert Bilsland McGregor was born in Helensburgh, Dunbartonshire, in 1944, he was only three when he moved to Falkirk with his parents, so the town can comfortably claim him as a `Falkirk Bairn' - and he can rightly be recognise him as a `Bairns Millennium Maker'.

Now a partner in the successful Hamilton and McGregor architects firm in Glasgow, Bobby McGregor had his first swimming lesson at the age of nine - and won his first championship, the Falkirk Primary Schools title, a year later.

It was the start of a glittering career that would see him compete at all the major championships in the world and earn international recognition as one of the best swimmers of his generation.

Bobby McGregor was born to swim - even if it took him all those years to realise it.

His father David, an Olympic star in his own right as the only Scot in the British water polo team which competed at the Berlin Games in 1936, was his inspiration - once he managed to coax his youngster into the pool for the first time.

As Falkirk's baths master, McGregor senior was obviously anxious to teach McGregor junior to swim. But he had to bribe his offspring into taking the plunge - by insisting he learn the basics before being allowed to pursue his favourite past time of fishing from the canal bank. Angling's loss was to be Scottish swimming's gain.

The gangly young McGregor reluctantly agreed to follow his father's advice and learn the breast stroke. But within months, it was the more demanding technique of the front crawl that he was training hard to master, a stroke that was to take him to the heights of the sport.

A happily married family man, Bobby McGregor has returned to his native Helensburgh. where he lives with his second wife, Bernadette and their two sons, David and Gordon.

After enjoying life in the fast lane for years, nowadays this annoyingly fit and lean looking athlete takes things at a more leisurely pace outwith the office at least.

In his spare time. McGregor is more likely to be seen on the golf course working hard to cut his 10 handicap than in a swimming pool. As neither of his sons has ever hinted to their famous father they want to follow in his 'wake' and swim competitively, he plays tennis with them and indulges their passion in football. The entire family enjoy skiing.

He told The Falkirk Herald: "The business keeps me and my partner busy, and after that family life is important to me. I still try to find time to swim a couple of times a week, but it's nothing too strenuous.

"Its more a gentle workout nowadays, just enough to keep the weight off."


Royal Praise

A PROUD Bobby McGregor flew out to Tokyo for the XVIIIth Olympiad.

Bobby admitted: "All I ever really wanted to do in the sport was win an Olympic gold. That was my target because that's what people remember. I knew Tokyo was my best chance to win and I'm disappointed I didn't do it. I won gold at the European Championships two years later, but that only made up for Tokyo a little bit "

AFTER his efforts in Tokyo, Bobby McGregor returned to his home in Bantaskine Street to a hero's welcome.

Falkirk Provost John Maxwell and the Town Council had given him a VIP greeting when he landed at Turnhouse Airport, but over  2000 banner-waving supporters were waiting outside his house as he was reunited with his proud family, parents David and Nancy, and sister Elizabeth.

The day before, McGregor and the rest of the British Olympic team had been guests at a lunch in Buckingham Palace.

The Queen told him: "I watched your race on television. It was very exciting and if you'd had a longer finger you would have won."·