I have just finished writing a
letter to a young schoolboy from Tyrone in Northern Ireland about my
experiences of primary school in Govan, Glasgow and I told them about this
incredible teacher I had, Elizabeth Thomson (nee Dickson) who, more than anyone
in my early years, formed the character that I am today. Govan in those days was one of the
toughest areas of Glasgow and its main industry was shipbuilding, so although I
never felt we were poor, simply put I didn’t know anything else. As far as I was concerned I had
everything, particularly football.
When Elizabeth came to our primary
school she was like a whirlwind.
She attacked every weakness in that school as if it was her personal
challenge in life. When a snotty
little kid was obviously suffering from lack of nutrition she made sure they
got more at lunch time and at our morning break got them extra orange juice and
milk. If there was a troublesome
lad she went straight up those dark tenement stairways to have it out with the
parents and if there was a talented kid again she would be right up to see
those parents to make them aware that their child had potential and to make
sure they gave them every chance educationally.
The parents of our school couldn’t
believe the drive and enthusiasm she had and before long she was idolised, but
more than that she cared for every one of us and yes she could be a tartar and
nobody got off with anything. The
classroom was a model of discipline and cleanliness.
I used to wonder why a woman like
her could devote herself to a mass of kids from an area like Govan and actually
enjoy her work. So when I started
as a coach and without really being aware of Elizabeth Thomson’s impact on me,
I have always been exactly the same with my own job. Of course it is not all down to Elizabeth’s influences in
what I am today, but she is a certain standard bearer for anyone who cares and
has to take responsibility for improving people’s lives. That really is what it is down to – some
people have responsibility thrust upon them, some seek it because they want to
contribute to less fortunate or misguided people’s lives.
The challenge of creating a better
understanding and meaning of life is so great that it is all worth it when you
see the rewards of success. Even it if is one person you have helped, or saved
from a poorer life then it is the greatest satisfaction you can imagine. Remember you are a select band of
people who are prepared to take on jobs that everyone you deal with will be
asking the same question I asked of Elizabeth Thomson – ‘Why do you do
it?”. Because there are the large
majority of people who would not have the courage, patience or caring nature to
even think about it.
I wish everyone at SMART continued
success in the enormous task you have and I congratulate you on all your work.