A GYMNASTICS coach and former champion who set up clubs across the Lothians has been honoured with a British Empire Medal in recognition of her 50 years of service to the sport.
Retired PE teacher Maggie Bisset, from Newlandrig in Midlothian, was nominated for the honourable award by the Meadowbank Gymnastics Club – which she founded in 1971.
Three other clubs in Danderhall, Mayfield and Gorebridge also owe their existence to Mrs Bisset.
She recently stopped teaching, but is still heavily involved in the sport at the age of 63 and leads by example at Meadowbank.
More than 40 years old, the club was not only the first of its kind in Edinburgh, but is also the longest- running club in the country.
Her lifelong love and passion for gymnastics began in 1963 when, at the age of 13, she took up the sport.
A natural talent, she quickly impressed her coaches and went on to become both Scottish and West of Scotland champion just a few years later.
Mrs Bisset attended Dunfermline College in the early 1970s, where she trained to become a PE teacher.
During this time she was already coaching a trampoline club on a regular basis and on the back of this was asked to set up similar clubs within the Capital.
In its early days, Meadowbank Gymnastics Club struggled to become as popular as she hoped, but soon demand skyrocketed, with budding gymnasts having to add their names to a waiting list.
For 19 years, Mrs Bisset taught PE at Leith Academy. This was followed by a 20-year spell as deputy head at Gracemount High School before she retired last year.
Fit as a fiddle, she still enthusiastically takes to the floor to show her pupils how to execute a proper split. The hundreds of pupils she has taught over the years can take pride in having a coach of Mrs Bisset’s calibre.
Some of these talents went on to represent Great Britain at an under-10 and under-12 level, such as Edinburgh’s Debbie Smith and Leigh Morris.
Many more were talented enough to compete in the Commonwealth Gymnastics Championships and earned a place representing their country.
In recent years, Mrs Bisset has been left frustrated at not being able to provide her pupils with a perfect platform to succeed. She said this was down to facilities in Edinburgh not being up to scratch.
To counter this, she has been forced to send her brightest talents to one of the best schools in the country, the Midlothian School of Gymnastics in Lasswade, a few times a week.
It remains to be seen how much longer Mrs Bisset will be teaching her beloved sport, but her health willing, she insists there is no reason to suggest she can’t go on for many years to come.