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Long ride in the dark

(Photograph) - Graeme Obree knows all about bullying and its devastating effects that last into adulthood. The former world cycling champion is a depressive who has tried several times to take his own life.

Last time he was found hanging in a stable and survived by a whisker.

Cycling - an individualistic sport - was his escape in his native Ayrshire.

Obree, in his recently published autobiography, or "therapy", as he puts it, spells out the pain of bullying. As the son of a policeman, he and his older brother were ruthlessly harassed in and out of school in the Kilmarnock area in the early 1970s.

"The enmity towards us manifested itself in three ways - name calling, ostracism and violence. It seemed that rarely a week would go by without my being strapped for fights I never asked to be in . . . When I think back on my school days I can only remember feeling sadness and loneliness.

"These are truly the saddest days of my life by a long way and I lived in my self-imposed protective prison for more or less most of my school life.

Beyond that my childhood left me with an isolationist and insular personality as well as a real and subconscious fear of social situations," Obree writes.

He recalls one primary teacher "who gave me a lifeline". Myrtle McKay ran an after-school recorder class and "took time to speak to me like a person".

The Flying Scotsman by Graeme Obree is published by Birlinn.

Photograph by ROSS KNNAIRDALLSPORT

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