Many of us knew Tommy only through table tennis. We may not have socialised with him or known much about his private life but he was, nevertheless, a dear friend to many.

Tommy’s table tennis life started out almost 60 years ago with that great club, Knightswood, then run brilliantly by Liam Mckeating and Jimmy Cook. With their coaching he quickly progressed to the West 2nd division, where Greg Taylor remembers playing him. Before long Tommy quickly moved on to the top division.

He then played for Monklands for a few years before moving to Brunswick, his table tennis base for the rest of his life. It is a testament to his fitness and dedication that he was still playing for Brunswick to a high standard in the West 2nd division in his seventy fourth year. For a number of years has been a stalwart, too, in the Vets tournaments.

I first met Tommy some 40 year ago at Monklands table tennis club. I remember the day vividly because, unusually, he turned up with two small children. They were his daughters aged about four, angelic and very enquiring. Unsurprisingly, he spent much of the session keeping them out of mischief. His qualities were apparent even in that brief session, because he was soft spoken, gentle and loving towards his daughters.

Added to those qualities was a generosity of spirit and a wish to help others. He was always willing to offer coaching assistance, both formally and informally. In recent years he did stalwart work coaching in Glasgow the over fifties. He was happy to go where he was needed.  It was in that role that he met our First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, in a rehabilitation centre.

They had a knock and, such was his enthusiasm, he gave her a little coaching. They played a game and Tommy recalled she started in heels and a business suit. Then the shoes came off, then the jacket. Irrespective of the politics, I think Tommy admired her leadership qualities because Nicola was willing to get the jaiket aff, get the heid doon, and get tore in. Tommy was justly proud that the event was broadcast on Reporting Scotland.

Tommy’s playing style was his own. He seemed to resent the rule that the ball had to bounce before you could hit it. No one took the ball earlier. He was so keen to get at the ball he would bash his knuckles off the end of the table. Even in practice he would end up with bruised and cut knuckles. He also loved playing a fishing game, running down smashes with joyful commitment, it felt almost unfair on him to throw in a drop shot.

Personal qualities are exposed in our sport, and Tommy’s were manifest. He took his beatings with great good grace, as all good sports people do. During games he was softly spoken, never angry, and never complained about bad luck. Even in the small things, his consideration shone through. He ignored the convention that the player closest to the ball on the floor picks it up. It was near impossible to beat Tommy to the ball, wherever it landed. Always he was a gentle man and a gentleman.

Like all nice people, he had a good sense of humour. For example, at a practice at Drew McCavitt’s Wishaw club, Tommy and Drew were partnered for doubles. By coincidence, they both wore bright yellow shirts and matching shorts. They were the same height and they looked almost cute together.

Both were vertically challenged, although only Drew was folically challenged. The pre match banter about who was taller continued right up to the beginning of the game. Drew would not let it go and told Tommy that even including his hair, he was still shorter. Tommy replied, enough already, we have a game to play, you serve wee man.

Peter Shaw