AN EMOTIONAL Willie Wood chokes back tears when the name of his wife, Morag, is mentioned.

“It was Morag that signed the letter back in October giving the council consent to name a street after me,” said the Scottish sporting legend.

“She kept it secret from me that it was going to happen, even up until the day she died the following month, when she was 79, as she wanted it to be a nice surprise for me when it happened.

“Not to have her by my side when I unveiled Willie Wood Way hurt so much but she was in my heart.

“Even the name of the street is special as it is the three Ws, just like my name, Willie Walker Wood, as Tommy Walker of Hearts was my dad’s favourite footballer and he had to get his hero’s name into mine somewhere.”

One of the greatest bowlers of his generation may not have had his wife of 56 years by his side for his special moment but he was surrounded by family and friends when he unveiled the sign – on the road to Meadowmill Sports Centre, near Prestonpans – in his honour.

“I hadn’t a clue it was going to happen,” said 85-year-old Willie as he sat in his living room under a display containing all 13 of his major bowls gold medals – including golds from the Commonwealth Games of 1982 and 1990.

East Lothian Courier: A street leading to East Lothian Indoor Bowling Club has been named in recognition of legendary bowler Willie Wood's achievements. Willie is pictured second left with (from left) his son Colin, granddaughter Lily and daughter Sylvia. Image: GordonA street leading to East Lothian Indoor Bowling Club has been named in recognition of legendary bowler Willie Wood's achievements. Willie is pictured second left with (from left) his son Colin, granddaughter Lily and daughter Sylvia. Image: Gordon

He said: “My wife told my family and friends I was going to get a street named after me but swore them all to secrecy and they did just that.

“On the day of the unveiling [March 13], I had been invited down to Meadowmill to watch a match between Midlothian and Galashiels, and to sit at the top table at the dinner.

“After it, I was told to put my coat on as somebody outside wanted to see me.

“When I went outside, my daughter Sylvia, who lives in Garvald, was there with my granddaughter Lily, who stays in Prestonpans, and also my son Colin, who stays with me in Gifford.

“Then I saw my good mate and top bowler Graham Robertson, from Tranent, and the photographer from the Courier and only then I knew something was up.

“When I unveiled the street sign, I thought of my wife and, although she wasn’t there, she was part of me and my success and she had started the ball rolling by signing the letter of consent before she died.”

Naming a street to the bowling club is a fitting tribute to one of East Lothian’s greatest ever sporting heroes.

Born in Haddington, he was brought up on Yester Mains Farm by dad Willie, who was the farm manager, and mum Jenny.

He lived there for 18 years, going to Gifford’s primary school and then Knox Academy in Haddington.

“I threw my first bowl properly on a green at Gifford Bowling Club when I was 12 years old and was hooked,” said Willie.

“I played as often as I could, until I had to leave East Lothian to do my national service in West Germany for two years in the late 1950s.

East Lothian Courier: Willie Wood in action for East Lothian in 2016Willie Wood in action for East Lothian in 2016

“The wages for national service in those days was the equivalent of £1.50 a week and I got that for two years, then voluntarily signed on for another year and my weekly wage doubled, but three years was enough and I was happy to get back to East Lothian.”

An indication of his natural talent came when he returned to Gifford Bowling Club after his spell away.

“I hadn’t bowled a ball in my three years on national service and, when I came back to stay with my parents in Park Road and rejoined Gifford Bowling Club, I won the club championship first time out – and I have won it 27 times,” said Willie with a smile on his face.

“Work-wise, after the army I started working at a garage in Gifford as a mechanic, then worked at one in Haddington before opening my own garage under my own name in Haddington in 1980, and had it for 20 years.

“When I got married down in Leith in 1967, Morag and I stayed in a flat near my garage for two years before I moved back to Gifford and I have been here ever since.”

Willie, who retired from top-flight competitive bowls at the age of 75, after playing in an incredible eight Commonwealth Games, is still in great shape and sharp as a tack, but jokes that he didn’t think he would still be playing even for fun at his age – and even told the late Queen that.

“I got my MBE presented to me by the Queen at Buckingham Palace back in 1992 and, when she asked how long I expected to keep playing, I told Her Majesty maybe for three or four years – and here I am still going,” he said.

East Lothian Courier: Willie Wood with his MBEWillie Wood with his MBE

“I still love bowls, and am a season ticket holder at Hearts, and although I had a double heart bypass 10 years ago, I still feel great.

“I am in the final of the senior indoor singles at Meadowmill and I am the holder and have won it twice before.

“I play one of my pals, Craig McCall of Tranent, in the final on April 12 but he is a youngster compared to me as he is only in his ’60s.”

And will Willie have a wee peek at the street name, Willie Wood Way, for luck as he goes there for the final?

“I’ll be looking at the street name every time I go down to Meadowmill, not just before the final,” he said with a smile.

“It is one of the biggest honours I have ever been given. I can’t thank the people of East Lothian enough for honouring me in such a way. It is a great moment for me and my family, and my wife Morag, who would have been so, so proud.”