Obituary: Stewart McCallum, athlete and lawyer

Stewart McCallum: One of Scotland's most talented all-round athletes of all time. Picture: Ian Porteous
Stewart McCallum: One of Scotland's most talented all-round athletes of all time. Picture: Ian Porteous
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Born: 15 February, 1950, in Glasgow. Died: 23 August, 2015, in Oxford, aged 65

Scottish Athletics Board member Stewart McCallum, who in his prime was one of Scotland’s most talented all-round athletes of all time, has died suddenly in hospital in Oxford at the age of 65.

During the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s McCallum posted a string of impressive performances over a range of different events but the one thing which eluded him was a medal in a major Games.

He won six Scottish national titles in three different disciplines, high hurdles, pole vault and decathlon and represented Great Britain and Northern Ireland first in the decathlon and later in the 400 metres hurdles.

A former pupil of Hamilton Academy, he competed for Scotland in the decathlon in the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, New Zealand and for Britain in the World Student Games in Moscow in 1975.

In all Glasgow-born McCallum represented Great Britain nine times, five at decathlon and four in the one-lap hurdles in which he set three Scottish records.

He also topped the Scottish rankings in five different events at various times, his other strong event being the long jump.

The former Scottish National coach John Anderson, who discovered McCallum when he was passing a school playing field in Hamilton and invited him to join a training group at Grangemouth Stadium, believes the then budding young long jumper could have become almost as good at the ten-event test as the later double Olympic champion and decathlon legend Daley Thompson.

“Stewart did brilliantly considering all the disadvantages he had to put up with. He was studying full-time for a university degree and had to train outdoors in winter for events such as the pole vault,” said Anderson, who coached him throughout his career.

“Had he been living in the modern era he would have been a full-time athlete and could have practised many of the events indoors – he could have been very good indeed, possibly as good as Daley Thompson.”

The biggest disappointment of McCallum’s career was in the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch which he went into as a definite medal “hope”, and in which, had he matched his best ever total of 7,335 points, set the previous year, he would have won the silver medal. But, to his intense disappointment, he failed to register a clearance in the pole vault and his medal chance had gone.

Remarkably, he put that setback behind him and successfully switched events to the 400 metres hurdles, three times improving the Scottish national record to a (hand-timed) best of 50.7 seconds in 1976.

But, increasing, career demands ultimately curtailed further progress.

A graduate in law from Glasgow University, McCallum moved to Edinburgh to work for Lindsay’s, when he also joined Edinburgh Southern Harriers, and he then worked for a time with Falkirk District Council before moving abroad with his wife Jackie, who recalls particularly happy times in Brussels, Singapore and the United States.

Head-hunted by EXXONMobil, whose legal department he later headed up, McCallum became vice-president of subsidiary company INFINEUM before he retired in 2012.

Keen to give something back to his sport, McCallum joined the board of Scottish Athletics in 2013.

He is survived by his wife Jackie and two sons Craig and Blair, the latter a silver medal winner in the 200 metres at the 2012 Scottish senior championships.