Remembering Ali, '˜The Greatest'
On August 18 1965, the boxing legend Muhammad Ali landed at Glasgow airport for a short stay in Scotland.
Known then as Cassius Clay, he was in Paisley to take part in a promotional fight with Jimmy Ellis at Paisley Ice Rink.
Although the crowds did not turn out in great numbers to see Ali then, those that did, were rightly entertained by this engaging man.
Whilst in Glasgow, Ali stayed at the McDonald Hotel Eastwood.
It was here that the now retired and local to St Boswells restauranteur, Rene Duzelier met Muhammad Ali.
Rene was the catering manager at the McDonald Hotel from 1963 to 1969 and he met many famous people including many well know film stars of the day.
It is Muhammad Ali however, that sticks fondly in Rene’s memory. Rene recalled ‘The Greatest’ after his funeral this week: “I remember the day Muhammad Ali arrived at the hotel.
“It was 6 o’clock in the evening of August 18, 1965. Being the catering manager I was in the welcoming party which greeted Muhammad Ali.
“I remember the Scottish television cameras being there and it being on the news that evening.
“Ali struck me as being a very gentle and kind man. He stayed at the hotel for 5 days.
“I was charged with the task of taking his meals to his room every evening as he didn’t wish to eat in the dining room.
“I can remember exactly what he ate that first night.
“He didn’t ask for a menu, he just said he wanted a 14oz Scotch Beef steak, a bowl of tossed salad, a jug of milk and a bowl of fresh fruit. That was it, nothing else. I was quite surprised.
“For five days and nights I looked after Ali and had several discussions with him. He was a very entertaining and gracious man. On the morning of his departure I offered to take his cases to the car but he declined, he carried them himself, stopped at the car, gave me a big smile, shook my hand and thanked me for his stay.
“I was deeply moved. He had quite a large entourage with him, yet he still carried his own cases. I remember that, as it was unusual with guests.
“I was deeply saddened when I learned of his death last week. He was one of the nicest people I have ever met. I wish I had got a photograph with him, as it would be one of my treasured possessions, but I didn’t. I still like watching sport on television and Muhammad Ali will always be one of the greatest sportsmen (and nicest people) of all time to me.”