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Highland games star Jay Scott dies after long illness

From the Herald

The Highland Games athlete Jay Scott, who married actress and singer Fay Lenore and built Duck Bay Marina on Loch Lomond, has died at the age of 66 following a long illness.

He never fully recovered from a tractor accident at the family farm near Aberfoyle in 1973, in which he suffered a serious head injury.

Born in Ayrshire, Mr Scott's family moved to farm on Inchmurrin island, Loch Lomond, when he was two years old. Rowing to school across the water every day with his older brother Tom, Jay soon became skilled in boatmanship and acquired a considerable knowledge of the loch, later coming to the rescue of many a stricken tourist.

After boarding school, he attended the West of Scotland Agricultural College before returning to farm on Inchmurrin. Despite claiming to be one of the smallest children at school, he soon built up an athletic physique and began to excel in Highland Games competitions.

His athletic stature caught the eye of his future wife Fay when they met 40 years ago today at Loch Lomond.

Fay was starring in a show at the Alhambra in Glasgow when they started dating. They wed the next year at Kilmaronock Church, near Drymen.

They lived on Inchmurrin for six years as Mr Scott continued to collect trophy after trophy at Highland Games competitions.

The Scotts moved to a house on the shore of Loch Lomond in 1964 and began work on what is now Duck Bay Marina. Mr Scott won a Civic Trust award for his work on the complex, but tragedy struck soon afterwards when the family home was burned down in a fire.

The family moved on a few years later to a farm near Aberfoyle, but soon afterwards, Mr Scott suffered a serious head injury in a tractor accident.

He no longer took part in as many competitions, but the accident, and a subsequent brain operation, left him in poor health and his glory days as one of the country's top athletes were over, although he still holds a Highland Games high-jump record.

The family moved to Edinburgh where they took over a guest house in Portobello. They later gave up the business and Mrs Scott taught drama at Queen Margaret College.

Recently, Mr Scott had been focusing on the refurbishment of a 40-foot boat on Loch Lomond.

However, he suffered a major set-back when the vessel was vandalised, and, after a minor stroke, he was seriously ill in the last six months of his life, and succumbed to a heart attack two days before his 67th birthday.

Following a funeral service at Warriston Crematorium, Edinburgh, on Wednesday, he will be buried in his favourite Scott tartan kilt, with a floral Highland Games hammer by his side.

He is survived by his widow Fay, daughter Shona, son Robert and three grandsons.

Remembering a great athletic all-rounder

The younger Investment's wedding not withstanding, the most affecting part of the Farmer's week has been the funeral, in Edinburgh, of a laddie who learned hand-milking on an island in Loch Lomond, who studied agriculture at Auchencruive and who farmed hill cows and caravans at Aberfoyle.

They met 40 years ago when the Farmer was an apprentice at the Highland Games and Jay Scott was best all-round athlete Scotland had ever produced.

Fay Lenore, the singer with whom Scott made the couple-of-the-year 39 years ago, asked the Farmer to say something at the funeral about the athletic achievements of his old friend ... ''and not to be too serious. Give us a laugh.''

It wasn't an easy contract but this is roughly what the Farmer said:

When Jay Scott went to the Bahamas to toss the cabar in the early sixties they erected a 20ft high, full colour cardboard cut-out of him at the entrace to Nassau airport. When the hero emerged from the plane an excited crowd pushed forward. I heard one of the natives say, ''I jist gotta see this Jay Scatt. He 20ft tall.''

And you know, he wasn't disappointed.

For, though he was mere 6ft 2ins, ''20ft tall'' was a metaphor for Jay's early life. Everything he did was larger than life, done faster, and cut more corners than was normal. Jay was the sort of person who when he entered a company lifted the whole atmosphere. He quickened the blood wherever he went. Many people said he should have played the part of Geordie in the film about the Highland games athlete who won the Hammer at the Olympics. But Jay would never have had the patience. Two days to film a minute's action wasn't his way. Had he taken that part I'm sure they wouldn't have reached 'scene one, take twenty' before he was wrapping the camera round the producer's neck and looking for somewhere exotic to stick the clapper-board.

In the late 1950s an athlete just back from the Olympics where he had represented the United States, entered the high jump at Tobermory Games. Jay won. He jumped six feet three and three-quarter inches - no great shakes today. But Jay did that from grass to grass; no tartan run-up and no soft cushion to land on. And he used the old fashioned ''scissors'' style where you cross the bar in a sitting position and so lose as much a foot in height.

But what really makes Jay's achievement so wonderful is that he not only beat this specialist high jumper at his own game but did so while taking prizes in the 100 yards and the 220 yards races, the long jump, hop-step and jump, and pole vault as well as all seven of the heavyweight events. Indeed between jumps he put on his kilt to keep his turn in throwing the weights.

There were those in the mainstream of Scottish Athletics who doubted the stories of Jay's prowess but they got their proof. A secret contest was arranged between Jay and the best decathlete at the time. We were worried that our man might be beaten as he had never thrown a discus or run a race further than 440 yards.

We needn't have worried. He was so far ahead after eight events that Jay was able to go home victorious without running the mile or throwing the discus.

His achievements went on and on. He was favourite to win the Poderhall sprint one year and that he didn't was typical of Jay's rash determination. He just couldn't hold himself back for the big one as his backers wanted him to and he won a big race at Newtongrange. That cut his handicap and he came second at Powderhall.

I will remember Jay Scott best for his performances at the Aboyne Games. The Chieftain's trophy there is awarded to the best athlete to take at least one prize in the heavyweight and the light events. Jay won that blue riband seven times on the trot.

Jay never patronised an opponent. He never beat you when he could give you a right doing. For, like all great athletes, he had that bit of swagger. The story has been told, retold and exaggerated out of all proportion, but Jay did like to be reminded of the day when he arrived late at Taynuilt Games. They were just finishing the high jump. The bar stood at the winning height and the winner was claiming his prize. Our hero ran onto the field. He was entering and would attempt a clearance. The officials would have none of it.

He was overruled, but just to show them, without any warm-up or removing his kilt or jacket, or changing his brogues for jumping shoes, he strode angrily up to the bar sailed over.

Jay thrilled the crowds wherever he appeared but never more so than at his very first games. At the age of not very much he was to run in the 100 yards at Luss Highland Games on the Banks of Loch Lomond.

The youth removed his kilt only to find that in his excitement he had forgotten to put on his shorts. For the first of countless times the young farmer from Inchmurrin got the cheer of the day.

Sadly, perhaps inevitably, Jay was slowed to mortal speed by a knee injury when he was at his peak as a heavyweight athlete. And then when he was in his mid-forties, came the tractor accident after which life was something a struggle for the man who had once moved like a panther.

Jay Scott was the best in the days when athletes looked athletic and athleticism came from the hard work and play in the great outdoors rather than from the gymnasium and the cabinet in the bathroom.

I'll miss him. I miss him already.

Return to History of Sports in Scotland


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