Former referee celebrates 25 years service

Alex hung up his whistle in exchange for a lollipop stick
School crossing patroller Alex McGunnigle used to be responsible for keeping order on the pitch during some of Scotland’s biggest football games, but for the last 25 years he has undertaken a completely different challenge – ensuring children find their way safely to school.

The 83-year old former SPL referee from Cathcart is set to be honoured for his tenure as he’s in line to receive a Long Service Award.

As a well-known name in Scottish football, Alex grew through the ranks and has refereed at some of the highest-profile Premier League games. In 1978 he adjudicated the Scottish Cup Fourth Round game between Kilmarnock – Celtic – the away team’s first defeat (1-0) against a lower league side in 31 years, resulting in Kilmarnock earning the right to play Ranger’s in the next round, losing 4-1.

Whilst refereeing, Alex’s identical twin brother Harry’ services were called upon to act as a linesman, subsequently going on to pursue a career running the lines. The twins occasionally worked together during senior games and were part of the Glasgow Referee Committee.

Sadly, Harry passed away last year.

The career allowed him to travel around the world and meet many of the era’s most famous footballers including George Best, Kenny Dalglish, Bobby Murdoch and Davie Cooper.  Meanwhile Alex still worked as a bricklayer to trade and would referee at night after his shift ended.

In 1983, three referees from Scotland were sent to the Arab Emirates to take part in the United Arab of Emirates League where they spent six weeks on the pitch in the scorching heat. The final was held in Abu Dhabi where Al Ain FC won the title. For his hard work, Alex received a gold medal and watch.

Taking early retirement, he took up the post as a school crossing patroller with Cordia in 1991 and has been in the post ever since.
With no plans to retire, Alex has become a key figure in the Southside area of Glasgow and covers a total of four schools - Our Lady of the Annunciation Primary School, Merrylee Primary, Holyrood Secondary and Mearns Castle.

Helping generations of families across the same road safely each day is what Alex describes as ‘extremely fulfilling’.
Julia McCreadie, head of encore and facilities management said: “We pride ourselves on the fact that we have so many long-term employees and would like to thank Mr McGunnigle for all his hard work and commitment over the last 25 years.

“Being a school crossing patroller is a rewarding and enjoyable career path. It continues to play a vital role in the community by keeping children safe on their way to school.”

“With no upper age limit on the role, many of our team have led extremely interesting lives.”