TRANENT’S very own ‘Ironman’ has died aged 79.

George ‘Dod’ Armstrong passed away last Thursday and the “true gent” will be greatly missed by family, friends and the community.

A Jedburgh man, he was born into a sheep farming family in 1939, and was an active, strong child with a real talent for rugby.

He played in the youth ranks at Hawick and, when he moved to East Lothian after marrying Jessie, turned out for Dunbar and then Haddington Rugby Club.

George and his wife had five children – Kenny, Christine, Pat, Colin and Caroline – who he moved to Tranent just before Kenny started school.

In 1970, George was inspired to run a marathon after stewarding at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh; he would go on to complete more than 140 marathons throughout his lifetime, hitting a personal best of just two hours and 36 minutes, earning him the local nickname ‘Ironman’.

His son Kenny remembers: “He used to run to work from Tranent to Edinburgh, work all day in a steelworks factory, then run home again. That was his training!

“He used to grunt and swear a lot as he ran, he was famous for it; that and wearing a tartan hat and shorts. Everyone would recognise him.”

George was an original member of Lewisvale Spartans running club and at the age of 65 took a Scottish Athletics coaching course as a Jog Scotland leader – spotting a young Josh Taylor in his time and remarking that the boy would “go far”.

Prestonpans boxing star Taylor became the IBF Super Lightweight world title belt holder with victory over Ivan Baranchyk last month.

George, of Tranent’s Loch Square, was a kind and caring father who was wonderful with children.

Daughter Christine remembers that, every year on his birthday, he would go to the ice cream van and buy all the children in the neighbourhood an ice cream to celebrate.

She said: “We were all real country kids – it’s how he raised us, always going to gran and grandad’s farm on holidays.

“He said to us a few years ago that he regretted not being able to take us abroad on holidays, but I told him that we didn’t want to go abroad. We were happy being outdoors with him and on the farm.”

George stayed a keen rugby supporter all his life.

Kenny said: “You couldn’t phone him when the rugby was on, never. We were sitting in the room watching it with him once and he told us to be quiet, even though we weren’t even talking! He loved it so much.

“He kept running as often as he could, but it became difficult.

“Just 18 months ago, he fell out of the attic and I think that started his decline. He lost a lot of his mobility then.”

Christine added: “He was just such a fantastic man to everyone.

“We’re incredibly proud of him and what he achieved, and we’re so proud of what he meant to the community. We will miss him.”

Close friend Henry Muchamore noted: “He passed the finish line of his greatest race in peace just 12 days short of his 80th birthday, supported along the road by his family and friends.”

George is survived by his five children, 14 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

With thanks to Henry Muchamore