My friend Michael McGinty, a soldier, teacher and remarkable man, who has died aged 73, was once asked at an interview if he wasn’t a little on the old side for a teaching job at a college in China. He was in his mid-60s at the time.
“See that running track out there,” he said to his youthful interviewer. “I’ll beat you comfortably over a couple of laps.” The interviewer agreed to the challenge. Michael proved his point and was given the job.
Although he was very fit, he never quite regained the full strength that he had enjoyed before the train crash near Selby, North Yorkshire, in 2001. It almost claimed his life and led indirectly to a late career in teaching.
Michael was born in Glasgow and brought up in Pumpherston, West Lothian, the son of Neil, a crane driver, and his wife, Catherine. He joined the British army at the age of 15 and became a sergeant in the Parachute Regiment, undertaking more than 2,000 jumps.
He spent 20 years in the army. During the following two decades his working experiences, as an airport baggage handler in Manchester and later as head porter at a London hospital, were not untypical of many men after leaving the forces.
In his late 30s he took up running, and completed 200 marathons, with a best time of around two hours 40 minutes. On one occasion, when a cab driver failed to pick up him up in Didsbury for the Manchester marathon, he ran five miles to the city centre startline.
His life changed dramatically with the Selby crash, which claimed 10 lives. Michael was working at Ashford hospital, Middlesex, at the time and was returning from a trip to see his family. More than three years after the accident, he was still seeing consultants about the complex shoulder fractures he received. It took a similar period to win medical retirement.
Michael’s engaging personality enabled him to maintain a huge network of friends. He also had a tough streak. After the crash he rebuilt his physical fitness, did a degree in international politics and history at Aberystwyth University, and spent 10 years as an English teacher in China before a cancer diagnosis forced him to return to West Calder, Scotland.
Michael was a lifelong fan of the Bhoys. One of his daughters has Celtic as her second name, for which she has forgiven him.
He married Mary Sarsfield, a home carer, in 1966. Army life took its toll on their marriage but the couple remained on good terms after they split up.
He is survived by his two daughters, Bernadette and Kathleen, and nine grandchildren.