Aug 20 2012 By Jeff Holmes
Thomas Glen-Coats, a member of one of Paisley’s most famous dynasties, became an Olympic champion way back in 1908.
At the time of his success, he was 62, and was one of the oldest competitors ever to become an Olympic champion.
Thomas was a member of Paisley’s Coats textile dynasty and was the eldest son of Sir Thomas Glen-Coats.
The Ferguslie Park man was victorious in the yachting contest, but his success was witnessed only by those spectators who gathered to watch the contest unfold.
An adventurer and yachting enthusiast, making money wasn’t a problem for Thomas, which enabled him to devote his life to his many hobbies, including sailing and Antarctic exploration.
Only two boats contested the 12-metre class race won by Thomas in 1908.
The Paisley man was on board a yacht called The Hera and his rival vessel was The Mouchette, which was based in the Liverpool area.
As there were only two competing teams, the owners of the yachts tossed a coin to decide where the event should be held and Thomas won.
Although, unlike this year’s Games, which are being staged in London, victory in the coin toss ensured the yacht race took place on the River Clyde – the first Olympic event to be held north of the border.
The competition was to be decided over a three-race series and there was an Auld Enemy feel to the event as The Hera was crewed entirely by men from the Clyde, with The Mouchette crewed by Merseysiders.
The Hera crew proved to be far superior, winning the series 2-0, and earning Thomas the gold medal that would cement his place in Olympic history.
The Paisley yacht had warmed up for the event by winning a race from Hunter’s Quay, in Dunoon, to Tarbert, before annexing a second race just off the coast of Largs.
Thomas was assisted in the Hera’s ten-man crew by John Downes, John Buchanan, James Bunten, Arthur Downes, David Dunlap, John McKenzie, Albert Martin, T Gerald Tait and RB Aspin.
The yacht was actually designed by TC Glen-Coats but its not known whether or not this was Sir Thomas or his son.
Thomas junior was an ambitious man and carried out the building of Coats Memorial Church, in Paisley High Street, as a memorial to his father and, in the style of the day, devoted himself to a number of good projects around Paisley.
He also funded the construction of the YMCA building on the corner of High Street and New Street.
When Thomas’s father passed away in 1922, he became Baron of Ferguslie Park.
Despite marrying at the age of 57, the legendary yachtsman died without an heir and the title died with him.
In fact, he was one of seven millionaire members of the Coats family to die within an 18-month period.
His legacy lived on in the shape of some fantastic buildings but, sadly, his greatest sporting achievement is all but forgotten these days.
A wealth of information on local heroes such as Thomas Glen-Coats is available at Paisley Reference Library, in the town’s High Street.
For more information on library services, call 0141 887 3672.