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This sporting life

Did you play sport at the University between 1980 and 2011? If you did, Edinburgh University Sports Union Secretary, Irene McTernan will be a familiar name.

This sporting life

In the second of our new spotlight on staff feature we highlight the work of a woman who knew the Sports Union like no one else, Abbeyhill local, Irene McTernan.

Humble beginnings

In 1981, when Irene began her tenure as EUSU Secretary, student sport was administered from a small room off the Pleasance Courtyard using a single lonely typewriter.

A year later Irene and the typewriter moved to 46 Pleasance, where today you’ll find store rooms full of skis and mountaineering gear, but was notable then for a slight petrol aroma, as it sat just above a garage.

Knowledge and support

Handbook 1980/81

Irene worked with 32 Sports Union Presidents, providing a constant guiding presence and source of knowledge, as well as assisting hundreds of different Sports Union Club committees and organising thousands of intra mural fixtures.

One club occasion remembered with particular fondness was the EU Ladies Rugby Football Club victory over Cardiff in the 1998 BUCS final at Twickenham.

Irene and colleagues were very pleasantly surprised to find themselves seated in the royal box and the victorious Edinburgh team were over the moon to see their supporters looking on at such close quarters as they collected their trophy.

A famous fan

Irene’s most famous fan is Olympic gold medallist and former EU Rowing Club Captain, Katherine Grainger who describes her as the constant, the rock, the reason why the University’s sport was such a success, in her recent autobiography.

Irene McTernan and Katherine Grainger

Katherine may be interested to know that a decade before her time at Edinburgh, Irene and her Sports Union colleagues entered a team in the annual intra-mural rowing event, the Irish Cup.

The team could have done with some words of wisdom from the rowing great as they only managed two consecutive strokes before giving up and resorting to floating down the Union Canal.

Contribution recognised

Irene’s contribution was officially recognised by The University in November 2011 when she was awarded an Honorary Fellowship, an award which she received in front of friends and family at McEwan Hall.

When Irene retired from the Sports Union in September 2011, a dinner was organised by Sports Union Presidents past and present at which they toasted her enormous contribution to sport at Edinburgh University.

She signed off her farewell and thank you speech with the toast I am Spartacus, a phrase that will resonate with anyone who has attended the annual President’s Dinner, and a fitting final phrase from a woman who knew the Sports Union like no one else.

Your memories

Do you have memories of Irene McTernan?

We would love to receive them and pass them on to Irene. Please contact us using the details below.

Alumni Engagement

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