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Honoured.

I was honoured last night to be invited to a civic reception in Port Glasgow for my friend Kenny Cairns MBE.The evening, organised by Inverclyde Council honoured both Kenny and his fellow paralympian gold medalist swimmer, Margaret McEleney MBE.

Kenny, due to a spinal injury suffered in a teenage motor bike accident is paralysed from the waist down. He has competed at several Olympics and Commonwealth Games over the last 25 years or so and has won countless medals and awards. Maggie’s disability stems from serious illness which left her with many problems including breathing difficulties for which she has needed major surgery.

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Kenny and his partner Gillian last night.

Inverclyde’s provost Michael McCormick succinctly described Kenny and Maggie as not seeing problems, only solutions. It was indeed an inspirational night. A blind swimmer spoke to tell of the problems faced by disabled athletes. He said that the coach Eddie McLuskie had helped him into a side pool to “swim down” after a race. Unfortunately the coach hadn’t told him that since the last time he’d swum in the pool it had been shortened from 50 metres to 25! result? one bashed heid!

It is a testament to Eddie McLuskie and his predecesors that Port Glasgow Otters, a small, provincial disabled swimming club, has produced FIVE paralympic medal winners.

However Kenny’s talents don’t end there. The reason I got to know Kenny was that he is also a fantastic jazz/blues harmonica player as anyone who attended our recent silver wedding will testify. I was chuffed when Kenny returned the compliment and asked me to play at the civic reception last night. Kenny was judged Jazz player of the year by the National Harmonica League a couple of years ago so I was pleased I was on before him last night rather than have to follow him!

Anyone who meets Kenny and Maggie and who knows their stories cannot fail to be inspired. This was a truly uplifting night and a fitting tribute for two people who have faced and tackled life’s problems head on. Not only that they have achieved success way beyond the scope of most athletes. Well done to both of them.

There is a very good piece here about Kenny, Maggie and The Port Glasgow Otters.

Edited to include:

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Kenny with Provost Michael McCormick. Is the chain Michael's prize in the Alex McLeish lookalike competition I wonder?