AN inspirational swimming coach has spent more than half of his life helping young people with disabilities realise their dreams.

Eddie McCluskey MBE has received many accolades over the years for the contribution he's made to Port Glasgow Otters.

The 75-year-old successfully steered four swimmers to gold medal success over five Paralympics, including Margaret McEleny MBE and Kenny Cairns MBE.

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But an interesting quirk to his story is that by his own admission, he is not a very good swimmer.

He said: "I swim once a week, badly! I'm a much better coach than a swimmer."

Eddie, who has been the president and mentor at Port Otters for 40 years, first got involved in coaching as his sons were members of Port Glasgow Swimming Club.

He was later asked by his late friend Peter Stanton, who'd participated in the Paralympics and Commonwealth Games, to give him a hand coaching, and that is how it all started.

Eddie, who lives in Greenock, said: "I started to enjoy coaching the children with disabilities.

"I could see people who'd been struggling throughout life with a disability, a spinal injury, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, a hearing or sight impairment and then see the joy they got from swimming. Whether it was for fitness, fun, building confidence, it was important.

"A lot of kids showed a lot of talent, and the pinnacle of their success was to help them gain excellence and get them on that podium."

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Eddie was the British Paralympic Association Coach for 20 years.

He was honoured with an MBE for his contribution from the late Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in 2011.

One of his proudest moments was the part he played in the integration of people with learning disabilities into the Paralympics, with the change brought in at the Atlanta Paralympic Games in 1996.

He said: "Ever since then people with learning disabilities have achieved great success. There are two major sporting events in the world, the Olympics and Paralympics and to be part of either of them is a major honour."

Eddie says he has 'experienced some great moments' during his career.

He said: "Seeing Margaret McEleny winning gold in the Sydney Paralympics in 2000 was incredible. The Port Otters got two gold medals, Margaret for the 50m breast stroke and Kenny Cairns for the 100m freestyle.

Eddie worked as a British Telecom engineer, and his employer was very accommodating when he ran out of holidays, giving him special leave to travel to events with the Otters. But he says he couldn't have done any of it without the backing of his devoted wife Irene.

He said: "I was away for six to eight weeks at a time. My wife encouraged me to do it but I couldn't without her, she was home bringing up the family."

The couple have a son, Brian, an ex-senior detective who is now a security analyst and lives in Surrey, and three grandchildren.

Eddie met multi-gold medal Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds before she was famous at the World Championships in Durban in South Africa and says he could spot her potential as a youngster.

Eddie said: "That was her very first international event with the GB team, she was only 12.

"I could see her potential then and knew she was on a good training programme.

"Ellie is a very warm, welcoming and humble person, what you see is what you get.

"She is a great ambassador for the sport, so many swimmers like Ellie have overcome adversity and have done remarkably well."

As well as royal recognition Eddie has been honoured by his peers in the world of swimming.

He received a lifetime achievement award from sportscotland which recognised his commitment to swimming for more than 40 years.

But he modestly insists his biggest achievement is helping young people fulfil their potential.

He said: "Port Glasgow Otters change people's lives.

"Every time time I go to the club on a Sunday I leave with a warm feeling.

"It's a family unit. The bonds are there - once an otter, always an otter."