Angus was born on 7th January 1958, one of four sons to Archie, a local school janitor, and Violet McCuaig of Garelochhead. He attended Garelochhead primary school and later Helensburgh’s Hermitage Academy. Throughout his childhood, Gus (as he is universally known) displayed a real aptitude for sport with football being his main love.
By 1980 Gus had settled into his young life as a well paid plumbing and heating engineer who played amateur football, with Rhu Amateurs, to keep fit. It was whilst watching Rhu play, that an Alexandria man, Jim Sweeney, impressed by the pace that Gus displayed as a winger, persuaded him to quit football and pursue athletics. Jim introduced Gus to Edinburgh based Charlie Affleck, who had coached Alan Wells to Olympic gold in Moscow, and the pair started to work together.
Then ‘just for a laugh’ he entered for the professional 1981 New Year Powderhall 110m Sprint at Meadowbank. He won, the first West of Scotland man to win the race since 1934 and in a record time of 10.55 seconds. Gus lifted a winner’s cheque for a £1000 and caused a stir that reverberates to this day. It was just after this win that Gus decided he wanted to represent his country at athletics. By accepting the cheque, Gus had forfeited his amateur status and had to appeal to the Sport’s governing body, the SAAA, to get reinstated.
His appeal lasted a full year, but in January 1982, he found he had been successful. To do that he had to pay back the winner’s cheque to the Amateur Athletics Association – it went to the Commonwealth Games team fund – and gave up his job to concentrate full time on training. With financial help from his totally supportive parents, encouragement from his family, local traders chipping in with sponsorship, he gave up his job and took the plunge. Gus stated at the time “A lot of sprinters come good at 19 and are never heard of again. I am a late entrant who has the enthusiasm and will make it work.” And Gus certainly succeeded.
Gus moved his family from his Helensburgh home to Dumbarton to be nearer Posties Park where he trained under the watchful eye of his brother, ex pro footballer, Ronnie. In June 1981, Gus’ decision to become an amateur paid off as he won his first race – the 200m in the Scottish AAA championships in Edinburgh. It was an event that Gus was to win a record five times in a row.
In June 1982 he represented Scotland for the first time in a meet against the Benelux Nations in Luxembourg and won gold in the 100m, 200m and anchored the sprint relay team to victory, one week later Gus was also selected to run the 200m for Team GB, claiming a silver medal at Crystal Palace. Gus said at the time “I earned every penny of that £1000 prize again when I pulled a Scottish vest on for the first time. That was magic. To represent your country is everything isn’t it.”
Three months later, Gus was Australia bound with the 101 strong Scots XII Brisbane Commonwealth Games Team. Gus had been selected for the sprint relay team and possible 200m. He returned with a 4 x 100m bronze medal along with Alan Wells, Cameron Sharp and Drew McMaster having completed the relay in 39.33 seconds.
Gus was to continue his sprinting career over the next few years, working with top athletics coach Frank Dick, competing in all the major UK championships and travelling the globe, in what was a golden age for GB sprinting alongside such adversaries as Linford Christie, John Regis and Mike McFarlane. During the 1984 season, Gus recorded his best ever times for both his events: 10.49 seconds for the 100m and 20.86 secs for the 200m. A cruciate injury was to force Gus to retire from athletics in the late 80s.
But this end to his track career was not to be the last time Gus represented Scotland at sport.
A long time member of Cameron House Squash Club, Gus showed the determination that he displayed in his athletics career, to progress through the rankings to represent Scotland in the Over 45s/Masters series. By doing so, Gus has completed a unique double: The first, and probably only ever, Scot to represent his country in both track and racquet sports.
Gus continues to play squash and being a member of Gleneagles is a keen golfer. Away from the sporting arena, Gus spends his time indulging in his other passions: his ever supportive family and daughters (Yvonne, Paula and Nicola) and managing his Dumbarton based Sprint Plumbing business.
Aside from his natural ability, Gus readily acknowledges that there are many factors that have contributed to his success: the local Helensburgh community, his coaches, his family and brothers chief amongst them but without doubt the biggest single contributing factor that enable him to ‘live his dream’ was the love and total support that he received from his parents.
The accompanying picture shows Gus wearing his team GB running vest in Helensburgh’s Colquhoun Square. Image used by permission.