News columnist Sandy Strang dies

Former teacher and sportsman Sandy Strang
Former teacher and sportsman Sandy Strang
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Teacher, cricketer, after-dinner speaker and Edinburgh Evening News columnist Sandy Strang has died.

His death, a few days before his 66th birthday, came as a shock to many of his vast array of friends who were unaware that he was battling a particularly aggressive form of pancreatic cancer.

Typically, he had refused to make a fuss of his final illness and was upset only when he had to call and cancel his speaking arrangements.

The Strang, as he was known on the after-dinner speaking circuit, was a raconteur of wit and humour, who was never anything less than hugely entertaining, his speaking informed by his experiences of life as a teacher and a sportsman.

He described himself as a ‘failed footballer’ yet played at Wembley and Hampden before he was 21, won a Cambridge Blue at football, then played cricket over many years.

It was his teaching above all that made a massive impression on so many young lives. His career was spent entirely at one school, Hutchesons’ Grammar, the famed independent school in Glasgow, where he had been senior depute rector.

He was given his middle name, Liddell, after the Scottish athlete Eric Liddell, with whom there was a family connection.

Strang won a foundationer’s scholarship to Hutcheson’s and then to Cambridge University where he studied English and Classics. He had also signed for Queen’s Park FC, then, as now, the only amateur club in Scotland’s professional leagues, thus enabling him to say correctly he played at both Wembley and Hampden by the age of 20.

After gaining his first class honours degree from Cambridge, Strang returned in 1974 to Hutchesons’ where he taught English. It would be the start of nearly 30 years as a teacher.Among the pupils he taught were Scotland’s former rugby captain Gordon Bulloch, broadcaster Carol Smillie and ex-Scotsman editor John McLellan.

Football remained his first love and he continued playing into his 40s for Clydesdale Albion among other teams. Strang was also passionate about rugby but it was as a cricketer that he excelled. Over the course of 40 years he played mainly for Clydesdale, where he was captain for a spell, and Ferguslie as wicket-keeping batsman. He also counted Kelburne and Poloc among the teams he had played for, and was a great supporter of Weirs.

He was both a board director of Cricket Scotland and executive committee member of the Western District Cricket Union.

On leaving Hutcheson’s in 2003, Strang made a second career out of journalism. He wrote features, sports reports and columns in a stylish prose for the Evening News, The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday.

He was known especially for his after-dinner speaking.

MARTIN HANNAN