Fergal has designs on the West End stage

IT IS an unlikely story of how a chance brush with success can put you on a completely different career ladder.

When teenage painter and decorator Fergal McGoff turned up to paint the home of Edinburgh-based choreographer Murray Grant, he was talked into attending free dance classes.

Two years later, and despite no background in performing, he has quit his apprenticeship and won a scholarship to London's prestigious fame academy Bird College.

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Fergal, 19, from Leith, said today: "I left school at 16 and got into painting and decorating because my uncle was in the trade.

"I was lucky enough to get on an apprenticeship programme for 18 months and I met Murray Grant, when he asked me to do some work on his house.

"He said he could repay me by doing a workshop, so I took a couple of classes a week and loved it. I had a lot of catching up to do as a lot of people in the industry start off when they're kids, so I used to spend hours and hours stretching and trying to become more flexible.

"It wasn't long before I gave up decorating and became a full-time student."

Despite his rapid rise to the top, Mr Grant – Robbie Williams' former choreographer – said that Fergal was not a star-in-the-making on first glance.

He said: "You employ a painter and decorator to come and do your bathroom and 12 months later he's on stage in London, so it's not quite what you expect.

"At first Fergal wasn't exactly graceful but he soon picked up everything we taught him, and it was nothing but teaching and dedication that got him where he is now."

Fergal worked night and day to rise to the top of the Edinburgh-based school, passing students who had worked on their pirouettes since childhood. It wasn't long before he was awarded the full DADA scholarship to fund his three-year diploma.

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Fergal said: "I never could have done it without that funding. Since September I've moved to London and it's just fantastic. Being at Bird College is an amazing experience.

"It's been quite a steep learning curve, and we have classes for around ten hours a day which takes a lot of energy, but people come from all over the world from Bangladesh to the US.

"Now, my dream is to be involved in We Will Rock You at the Dominion Theatre in the West End."

The teenager is now back in his home town after a successful first year to pick up his brushes again and help to decorate the MGA drama school's new Carrick Knowe site, on which building work has now begun.

Despite his success, Fergal said that he received a fair bit of stick for quitting his decorating job to dance, but that the support of his mum Mary, 47, and his own belief, helped to get him through it.

He said: "People took it different ways when I told them I was giving up decorating.

"Some people said I was mad giving up the apprenticeship, but there you go.

"I've made a lot of new friends since then and my life is completely different now. I feel I can do anything."