Jim was born in Bellshill, Lanarkshire, in 1952. He failed the 11-plus by one mark, denying him a place on the academic side of education. He recalls: “I made a vow to my father that no-one would ever say No to me again.” He went to Airdrie High School and on to Airdrie Academy to do his Highers.
He signed for Airdrie as a professional footballer in 1968 at the age of 16 and continued playing until 1984. He was pursued by some of the big clubs, including Manchester United. But he says: “I was a bit of a home guy and my father drummed it into me it would be better to get a career.”
He got a job as a computer programmer and systems analyst with Honeywell, but only stayed a year or so. “I hated every minute of it – but I did learn a lot,” he says.
He then decided to become a PE teacher and went to the Scottish School of Physical Education at Jordanhill and emerged as one of only two students to qualify with distinction out of 170.
He finished his training in 1974 and got his first teaching job at Coatbridge High. Although in these days there was a two-year probation period, Jim found himself promoted after just 18 months to become as assistant principal teacher of PE at Whitburn Academy.
He says his experience at Honeywell helped him secure the post because he was able to talk about computerisation of records, which was quite new.
After about eight years, he made a sideways move to become assistant principal teacher of enterprise education at Whitburn Academy. “It was about kids starting their own business, finding placements and work experience, links with college and partnership working with local businesses and organisations.” Whitburn was way ahead of its time, he says. And much of what he developed there he took with him when he was appointed head of PE at Queensferry High School in 1986.
He had only recently ended is footballing career. Having left Airdrie in 1974 and returned to junior football for a couple of years, which included winning an Juniors international cap, he played for Falkirk, 1976-78 and then Alloa, 1979-82.
Seeing people leaving Queensferry to go into Edinburgh to play sport, he was determined to make the school a centre for sport and did so. As well as upgrading the swimming pool, he brought volleyball, judo and fencing to the school. He served as depute head at Queensferry on and off since 2001.
He met his wife Sandra, who is a primary teacher, in 1969 and they married in 1976. The couple have a daughter Lisa, a photographer, and son Mark, who followed in his dad’s footsteps by playing for Alloa for a while. Jim, now 62, retired at the end of last term and says he is now taking stock before deciding what to do next.