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17 October 2014

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Dick McTaggart

Dick McTaggart


The McTaggarts from Dens Road in Dundee were not a family to pick a fight with. For one thing there were 18 children in the clan, and for another, boxing was in their blood. In 1954, one brother was army Middle East champion, another, Peter, was the Navy champion but it was a third brother, Dick, the RAF champion, who was to eclipse them all.

As the jobs above suggest, it was national service, and the opportunities it gave to sportsmen which really provided the boxing McTaggarts with the chance to shine. And it was as Corporal McTaggart, the RAF cook, that "Dandy Dick" was to travel to Melbourne to represent his country in the first Olympics in the southern hemisphere.

McTaggart had been ready to give up on boxing only a year and a half before, but now, with his trademark crew cut and white boots, he was ready to take on the world on its greatest sporting stage.

The Dundonian did not disappoint, edging Harry Kurschat of West Germany into second place with his speed of thought and movement. McTaggart not only lifted Scotland's only boxing gold to date, but also collected the coveted Val Barker trophy, presented to the most stylish boxer of the Games.

Perhaps the great shame of Dick McTaggart was the lack of official recognition from his home city at the time of his success, a situation that certainly wouldn't happen today. Upon leaving the RAF, the boxer became a pest control consultant which led to him gaining the nickname of "Glasgow Ratcatcher" – although, despite the name sticking, he spent many more years working for Rolls- Royce.

However, despite the lack of official recognition, the ordinary people of Dundee had taken Dick to their hearts, and thousands turned out to see his return from Melbourne. When his train pulled in to the Taybridge station, hundreds were there to cheer as he got into an old Morris. Local boxers attached ropes to the front of the car and pulled it all the way from the station uphill to McTaggart's parents' house in Dens Road, cheered all the way by the people of the city.

McTaggart went on to appear in two more Olympics, becoming the first British boxer to compete in three Olympiads. Dandy Dick won bronze at the 1960 Games, where he was eliminated by the eventual winner, Polish boxer, Kazimierz Pazdzior. This was the only Scottish medal at those games. It was another Pole destined to collect gold, Josef Grudzien, who ended McTaggart's hopes at the quarter-final stage in the Tokyo Games of 1964.

Dick McTaggart


However, although McTaggart's greatest hour undoubtedly came in Melbourne, his overall record is phenomenal, winning 610 of 634 amateur bouts and amassing 32 cups, 57 plaques and 49 medals. McTaggart was crowned Commonwealth champion in 1958, European champion in 1961 and collected silver at the 1962 Commonwealth Games to add to his three ABA lightweight titles and two light welterweight belts.

McTaggart received the accolade awarded to the greats of the sport in 2000 when he was voted into the Boxing International Hall of Fame, a fitting reward for one of the sport's greatest amateur exponents.

McTaggart served for many years as the Honorary Director of Coaching to successive Scottish Commonwealth Games boxers, and was awarded the MBE. Perhaps the greatest tribute to him comes from former BBC commentator Harry Carpenter, who said of him: "The greatest amateur I ever saw was Dick McTaggart." A fitting tribute to a remarkable talent.


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