A FORMER Inverclyde art teacher who helped bring the magic of musicals to local youngsters for more than 20 years has penned his life story.

Don McNeil has released his memoir, 'The Path Less Trodden – A Man and His Art', at the age of 82.

Don was principal teacher of art at Gourock High School for 23 years and in his time there helped set up Oracle Theatre of Youth.

His mother, Jean Hastings, was a renowned soprano in the 1930s, and his father was a minister.

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The retired teacher said he had been encouraged to write about his life by his wife and his friends for many years before beginning the task during lockdown.

Don added: "This account is 'warts and all'.

"The theme is very simple: we all travel a path and we continually come to crossroads forcing us to decide whether we will take the trodden path or the untrodden one.

"In my life I've chosen the untrodden one and it's been very exciting for me."

Don worked with Tim Saunders of Creative Coverage to write the memoir, which is now available on Amazon.

Born in Carnoustie in 1940, Don and his family moved to Dunfermline, to Dumfries and the Isle of Bute.

Don attended Dumfries Academy and went on to study drawing and painting at Glasgow School of Art, graduating in 1965.

He went on to teach for 30 years, and spent 23 years of those as principal teacher at Gourock High.

Don joined Hugh Harris and Carol Leith in producing three major musicals at the school, and in 1976, Oracle Theatre of Youth was born.

The company took their own production of Grease to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1980.

To date, Don has been involved in producing around 40 musicals, including Godspell, West Side Story, Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph, Sweet Charity, Chicago and South Pacific.

The artist and educator said setting up Oracle was a highlight.

Don added: "The school had never done musicals before 1972/73.

"We would always get a bit annoyed that pupils would go on and do their final years of secondary school at Greenock Academy and get to do the shows.

"We set up the theatre company to give younger pupils the chance.

"The whole community started to connect through Oracle."

Don was on the council of Greenock Arts Guild for more than six years and ran the gallery alongside artist George Wyllie.

In 1978, he was given the Rotary Award for services to the youth in Inverclyde.

Don also got the chance to set up art courses in Tokyo in 1980 alongside six Japanese artists.

In 1995, he took early retirement after 30 years of teaching.

Don said the book deals with his disappointments and his successes and reflects upon the influence of his parents.

He added: "My mum's musical achievements have never been written about so I wanted to rectify that.

"My mother gave me a passion for music and my dad gave me artistic flair and a love for directing and producing.

"It's been quite an emotional experience seeing my life presented in a book with my paintings illustrating the text."