Tommy Gilligan

25th November 2011 at 00:00
The EIS activist defeated a reigning world snooker champion - and his light feet impressed on the dance floor

Tommy Gilligan, a former principal teacher of modern languages, EIS activist and office-bearer, and independent councillor in South Lanarkshire, died last month from cancer at the age of 74.

Less than a month ago, he featured in TESS when broadcaster Jackie Bird named him as "My Best Teacher".

The former Earnock High pupil described Mr Gilligan as "charismatic, eccentric, inspirational" and recalled his use of a "flying blackboard duster" to keep discipline. But she also talked of how he had nurtured her ambitions to become a journalist and contacted friends in the media to help the working-class girl from Hamilton get a foot in the door of the media world.

Mr Gilligan spent his entire teaching career at the former Earnock High in Hamilton, retiring as principal teacher of modern languages in 1995.

He was a leading voice in the local campaign against its closure and in 2003 was elected as an independent councillor for Hamilton West and Earnock on a platform of opposition to the move.

South Lanarkshire Council plans to name a street after him - ironically, in the estate that was built following the demolition of Earnock High.

Born in Glasgow in 1937, he was a student of Glasgow University, where he became a keen snooker player. In 1969, he defeated the then reigning world champion, John Spencer, in a demonstration match.

During national service with the RAF from 1955 to 1957, he took up boxing, but he also enjoyed golf and playing football. Like many other language teachers, he devoted much of his spare time to taking pupils on school trips abroad.

He was president of the EIS's Lanarkshire local association in the early 1980s and served as a member of the union's national council and as vice- convener of the salaries committee. He was made a Fellow of the EIS in 1991.

A spokesman for the EIS said: "Tommy did a great deal to reinvigorate Lanarkshire EIS and to engage young teachers in its work. One of the young teachers he helped introduce to EIS work was current assistant secretary Drew Morrice."

Although very affable in company, he was a straight talker who didn't suffer fools gladly. He also had the ability to set aside political differences and get on well with the many characters actively involved in EIS committee work at that time.

Former EIS colleagues attribute his lightness of foot on the dance floor to his prowess in the boxing ring.

"He was a dancer of some renown and will be well remembered by many former EIS AGM delegates for his polished performances at social functions," said a spokesman.

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