The Scottish Badminton world was saddened at the passing on 1st December of one of its great champions, Nicol McCloy of Greenock.
Nicol was born and lived his whole life in Greenock. He was one of what seemed an endless Greenock conveyor belt of internationals and fine county players. I think of Robert McCoig, Scotland’s greatest all rounder, Muriel Ferguson, Betty Anderson, Nicol, Christine Stewart, Gordon Hamilton, George Forbes, Dave Terry, Peter and Susan Hempsey and of course the brothers Gilliland , Alan and Billy.
It was in the clubs and church halls of Greenock that the young McCloy learned his skills.
In the 1960’s the game in Europe underwent a coaching revolution. The top players from Denmark and England raised the bar and set new standards in fitness and technique. Scotland struggled to keep up. The response was to establish residential courses at the National Inverclyde Sports Centre, inviting renowned international coaches such as Nancy Horner. Nicol was an early and enthusiastic adopter.
Singles was his metier, and he was blessed with quick movement, great stamina and an excellent singles smash. What he also brought to the game was a dedication and work ethic unmatched up to that time. With his great friend George Forbes he played every day at Greenock South Sports Hall, training and practising the Horner routines, and building up a formidable athleticism.
All of this before setting off to work at his full time day job as an HR manager at Scott Lithgows shipyard.
He loved the game, and his enthusiasm and dedication brought him ample reward. Four consecutive National Singles titles in the 1970’s, 35 caps including Thomas Cup representation and Commonwealth Games in Christchurch.
He might have won more. In the late 60’s he was playing in the finals of the Nationals in the Cornmarket in Edinburgh against Robert McCoig whom he was leading. The watching crowd were stunned to hear what sounded like a gunshot resound in the hall. In fact it was the sound of Nicol’s Achilles tendon snapping, causing his retirement in the final, and a recuperation of 6 months spent mainly on crutches. It was this injury which ensured he sat out the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, a crushing blow at the time. But one from which he recovered with his characteristic resilience and determination.
Even after time dimmed his remarkable speed and reaction time, his competitive instincts were still intact, as he transferred his affections from badminton to his new passion of golf. And he still knew how to win things. If you google his name you will see him receiving the trophy for the 2017 Greenock Golf club Winter league, lean as a whip and still recognisable from his athletic prime, as he accepts what was for him merely the latest in a long catalogue of sporting prizes.
The Scott Lithgow shipyard where Nicol spent most of his working life, no longer rolls out ships to sail the world over, and sadly the supply of great Greenock badminton players seems to have dried up.
Let’s hope it’s only temporary, and in the meantime let’s give honour and praise to one of our finest singles players.
Nicol is survived by devoted wife Sheila, and children Lynne , Ross and Caryl, of whom all he was inordinately proud.
Ronnie Conway, Chair, Badminton Scotland