One anecdote - perhaps, but not definitely, apocryphal - relates to his appointment as an adviser on comprehensive education to Martin McGuinness when McGuinness was Northern Ireland's education minister and hatching plans to abolish the province's 11-plus.
McGuinness, it is reported, said to Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams: "You wouldn't want to mess with that wee man."
And one can seen how "the biscuit" - as he is fondly referred to - gained that fiercesome reputation. He himself recounts exhorting his second-year assembly to get dressed up for a Hallowe'en party in the school.
One brave soul asked McVittie if he would be dressing up. He replied:
"You'll have to wait and see. What do you think I should dress up as?"
An even braver, not to say foolhardy, soul piped up: "A garden gnome."
McVittie reported: "We gave the boy a Christian burial - it's just a shame he was still alive at the time."