Andy Coogan BEM, 1917-2017: a remarkable individual

Andy Coogan
Andy Coogan

The Gazette regrets to report the passing of one of Carnoustie’s best known sons, athlete, author, veteran and inspiration, Andy Coogan BEM.

Following the announcement on Facebook of the death of Mr Coogan on Monday hundreds of touching tributes have flooded in from around the world from friends, fans and those affected by his encouraging influence.

A modest man, Andy Coogan achieved the incredible in his near century of life.

Born in Glasgow in 1917 he attended St Francis RC School and throughout his youth was a very promising and dedicated runner with Olympic potential.

When the Second World War began Mr Coogan entered the British Army and in 1940 found himself stationed in Edinburgh. While there he was invited to take part in the Glasgow Mile at Ibrox Park in front of 90,000 people, but unable to obtain permission to compete from his superiors he absconded and hitchhiked to Glasgow. He came second against world champion Sydney Wooderson and on returning to his unit was confined to barracks because his exploits had featured in the newspapers!

Mr Coogan was shipped out to Asia and as a forward artillery signaller was one of the first people to see the Imperial Japanese Army on the Malay Peninsula. After fierce fighting Mr Coogan was captured at the Fall of Singapore.

He spent the remainder of the war as a Prisoner of War and after terrible travails, detailed in his 2012 book, ‘Tomorrow You Die’, was sent to a camp in Japan very near to Nagasaki. He was liberated by US troops shortly after the Allies dropped the Fat Man atomic bomb on the city.

Mr Coogan returned to Glasgow, via Canada, in 1946 and the following year met and shortly afterwards married Myra. They had three children, Andy, Christine and Jean.

Around 1950 the family moved to Angus where Mr Coogan worked as a painter and decorator into his seventies.

As a septuagenarian he won a silver at the British Veterans’ Athletic Championship and continued to run competitively, but sadly due to his experiences in captivity not at the same level as previously.

He became a popular and longstanding coach with the Tayside Amateur Athletic Club and trained hundreds of young athletes.

In 2012 his great nephew, Olympic cyclist Sir Chris Hoy nominated Mr Coogan to carry the Olympic Torch in Dundee and he reprised that role for Carnoustie’s Gala Day.

A former Citizen of the Year Mr Coogan was also a golfer and caddie for a number of years.

Mr Coogan’s son Andy said: “He was a very active man.

“He kept himself busy coaching other people and the tributes have been amazing.

“He did so much for ‘an ordinary working man’, that’s what he called himself. We are just in awe of him. He was a tremendous influence for us.”

Councillor Bill Bowles, chairman of Carnoustie branch of the Royal British Legion said: “I was deeply saddened when I learned of Andy Coogan’s passing. What he achieved in his lifetime was legendary. What he put into our community in Carnoustie makes him stand out. He coached hundreds of children, me included, in the athletics club and ran competitively until well into his 70s. All of us at the British Legion in Carnoustie are very sad but proud of our friend and are delighted that we took the decision to name the ‘Andy Coogan Lounge’ in his honour whilst he was alive and saw him enjoy a drink and a song and a dance there.”

Graeme Duncan, General Manager at Carnoustie Golf Links added: “Andy Coogan was caddie at Carnoustie for many years. He was a thoughtful, cheerful and generous man who was well respected by golfers and fellow caddies alike.

“His story is very well known within the town and he will be sadly missed.”

The Reception of Remains will be at St Anne’s RC Church, Thomas Street, Carnoustie, at 5.45pm, Thursday, March 30, and the Requiem Mass will be held at St Anne’s at 1pm, Friday, March 31; committal thereafter at 2.30pm at Parkgrove Crematorium, Friockheim.