A MEDALLIST in the predecessor to the Commonwealth Games has toasted her 90th birthday... and cheered on her granddaughter in this year’s event.

Betty Gallagher (née Turner) was part of a bronze medal-winning swimming relay team at the Empire Games in New Zealand in 1950.

Seventy-two years later and she was sitting at home cheering on her granddaughter Evie, who represented Scotland in the women’s rugby 7s.

Betty, who lives in Dunbar with her husband Jim, said: “I watched it all!

“I’m delighted for her.

“My son-in-law went down with her mother and her twin to see her. I could not go down – I just hear all about it.

“It was good to see her do that.

“She has played rugby for quite a long time.”

East Lothian Courier: Betty Gallagher is a 'legend' at Dunbar Golf Club and celebrated her 90th birthday

The keen sportswoman toasted her birthday milestone on the green at nearby Dunbar Golf Club.

Thirty players competed in a fun competition at the course before a tea party was held for 40 people to celebrate the mum-of-two’s birthday.

The celebration coincided with the start of the 22nd Commonwealth Games – of special significance as Betty participated in the predecessor Empire Games in February 1950.

Aged 18, Betty, who grew up in Galashiels, took part in the opening ceremony and swam the freestyle leg for the bronze medal-winning Scottish team in the 3x110 yards women’s medley event alongside Margaret Girvan and Eleanor Gordon.

Betty said: “Unfortunately, they both died.

“Eleanor was the breaststroke swimmer and was one of the top British breaststroke swimmers for years. Margaret was on the backstroke.”

East Lothian Courier: Betty Gallagher competed at the Empire Games in New Zealand in 1950

Betty (left) with her team-mates at the Empire Games

Times have certainly changed since the international competition 72 years ago.

In 1950, the team travelled to New Zealand by boat via the Panama Canal, with the trip taking three weeks each way.

There were very limited training facilities on board – a makeshift pool in which it was just about possible to do one stroke or practise one turn!

At this year’s event, 21-year-old Evie was joined in the Scotland squad by North Berwick’s Megan Gaffney and Liz Musgrove.

Betty told the Courier how she was stunned by the difference in time for the athletes taking on the 100m at this year’s event compared to those doing the 110 yards in 1950.

A special celebration took place at the golf club to mark her birthday on July 18.

East Lothian Courier: Betty Gallagher competed at the Empire Games in New Zealand in 1950

Betty said: “I was overwhelmed!

“I just do not feel that it merited all that they did – it was so long ago.

“I thought they would say something but did not think they would do it like that.”

A spokeswoman for Dunbar Golf Club said: “Betty made many friends in New Zealand and is still in touch with one of the families who hosted her.

“All the female athletes had to have a chaperone.

“Betty’s sporting genes have been passed on to her family: in golf, her daughter Sharon has been East Lothian’s county champion on three occasions, and has represented Scotland.

“Her late son Paul also played golf at a high level (winning the 1974 Scottish Boys Strokeplay Championship) and his daughter Evie (Betty’s granddaughter) is in the Scottish rugby 7s team currently competing in the Birmingham XXII Games.

East Lothian Courier: A display highlighting Betty's connection to the Empire Games was created

A display highlighting Betty's connection to the Empire Games was created at Dunbar Golf Club

“Betty is a legend at Dunbar Golf Club: a past ladies captain who has her name on many of the trophies.

“She still plays at least once a week – 18 holes, whatever the weather, all year round.

“She is a living testament to the health benefits of lifelong active participation in sport.”