More than a few delegates fell foul of his booming voice and schoolmasterly ways. "Go back to your seat, Tom," and "I've not finished speaking yet, John," amply illustrate his chairmanship style.
During his presidential year McCalman was instrumental in striking a deal at the troubled Clydebank College, much to the ire of Alan Ferguson, a left-wing activist.
Ferguson repeatedly tried to raise the issue of compulsory redundancies but failed to breach McCalman's stonewall defence. Instead, he passed round a petition that won the signature of 200 delegates.
He stormed up to the podium once more. "An EIS official (we can reveal it was Ian McKay, assistant secretary) has confiscated the petition on Clydebank," Ferguson protested.
It had not been sanctioned by the executive and was therefore in breach of conference rules, McCalman curtly replied.
A voice from the back of the hall cut in, in the manner of a pupil whose catapult had just been confiscated: "Can we get it back at four o'clock, sir?"
McCalman mused: "The answer is, yes." Smithycroft pupils, beware.