Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

George Best and David Healy sporting murals lose much of their gloss

A mural in honour of David Healy's goal against England is barely recognisable on the Albertbridge Road in east Belfast
The Alex Higgins mural on Donegall Road
The tribute to Olympic medal-winning boxer Michael Conlan

They are sporting legends and giants in local folklore, yet their images have been allowed to peel off gable walls.

Northern Ireland footballer David Healy became a hero on September 7, 2005 when he faced down the biggest names in the sport including David Beckham and Wayne Rooney to score a memorable winning goal against England.

The English team were left humiliated and the Northern Ireland fans in ecstacy when home team won the World Cup qualifier 1-0 at Windsor Park.

This moment was recorded proudly on Carnforth Street, off the Albertbridge Road in east Belfast, showing Healy's jubilation after scoring the only goal of the match in the 73rd minute in front of a crowd of 14,000.

But now, almost 10 years later, the mural is among three across Belfast that are badly weather-worn.

Another football mural outside Windsor Park has also become so damaged it is barely possible to recognise who the players it was painted to honour are.

And a mural in memory of snooker legend Alex Higgins at Abingdon Drive is noticeably peeling and neglected.

A second mural of Higgins nearby on Donegall Road is in slightly better condition.

Back in east Belfast, neither Healy nor England full-back Ashley Cole can be recognised because of the amount of paint that has peeled off the mural.

Commuters, including former senior PSNI officer Jim Gamble, expressed disappointment at the state of the mural on Twitter.

It is understood that there were requests to repaint the mural over the last year, but no one can appear to agree who is responsible for it.

The east Belfast community worker originally behind the mural has called for it to be refreshed.

Stephen Gough is no longer involved with the East Belfast Historical and Cultural Society, which organised the painting of the mural in 2005.

He told the Belfast Telegraph that he felt sad to see the condition it was now in.

"It's very sad that such a momentous occasion recorded superbly has been allowed to decay," he said.

"The result gave the community a tremendous lift and it would be fitting to see the mural restored to it's former glory." East Belfast UUP MLA Michael Copeland's office is a short distance from the mural. He also expressed sadness at the state it has been left in and called for it to be refreshed.

"This mural was put up at a time when there was little to be happy about in this district," he said.

"It records a magnificent victory and gave a snapshot of a time in history.

"It is now, unfortunately, past its best.

"There is a phrase commonly known – 'it was old and it was beautiful' – this is certainly old but it is no longer beautiful and needs some tender loving care to restore it to its former glory."

Current East Belfast Historical and Cultural Society chairman Jimmy Magee said his group was no longer involved with the mural and knew of no plans to renew it.

Meanwhile, there are several fresh murals in Belfast which still clearly honour their subjects.

One close to the Park Centre in west Belfast honours the old Belfast Celtic team. It was created by children and is lovingly maintained by them despite the fact they never had the opportunity to see the team play.

And a George Best mural in Cregagh remains bright and in good repair, although new houses built in front of it means it can be tricky to access.

Murals to current boxing heroes Michael Conlan on Violet Street and Carl Frampton in Tigers Bay are also maintained in perfect condition.

Background

Belfast is well-known across the world for its often provocative political murals, however there are also a number of sporting murals.

Footballer George Best is remembered in a mural in Cregagh where he grew up, golfer Rory McIlroy has a mural in the Holylands area of south Belfast, and Olympic boxer Michael Conlan has a mural on Violet Street.

Your view

Owen Palmer (29)

"It is a real pity to see the mural peeling like this. It would be great to see it getting repainted. It's looking like a bit of a mess at the minute, very tattered."

Cathy McCluskey (45)

"I'm not really into football but I'd rather have a mural like that than some of the other murals. It's nice to have something positive, but this needs fixed up."

Kathleen Tipping (72)

"It was lovely when it was first done, if it was put back to the same way, that would be really nice. It has become really dilapidated in the last couple of years."

Darren Mooreland (39)

"It doesn't look great at the minute. You would think that they would keep this mural up to date and put some more paint on it instead of leaving it like that."

Robert McCambley (57)

"I would love to see this mural repainted, it has become a real eyesore in the area. I remember watching that match in 2005 at home. There was an amazing atmosphere in Belfast that night, such pride. So it's a pity to see this mural looking like this now."

A local business owner

"The way it looks at the minute is a mess. I think it really brings the whole area down. There was some talk about redoing it over the last year but nothing has happened yet. I hope work begins soon. The way it is now, it just looks like graffiti."

Memories maligned by manky murals

By John Laverty

Hoylake came close at the weekend but, as Northern Ireland sporting moments go, the 75th minute of a football match at Windsor Park nine years ago takes some beating.

The shrewd pass from Steve Davis, the crucial touch from David Healy that took Ashley Cole out of the game, the 14,000 people holding their collective breath...

And then it came; the little man in the green No.9 shirt rifling a screamer past England goalkeeper Paul Robinson.

Many members of Northern Ireland's Green and White Army still get goosebumps when they bring it to mind.

For me, it remains the highlight of a lifetime of both watching and professionally covering sport.

I may have been all over the world, but I was one of the ecstatic gathering just up the road on September 7, 2005, and I love being reminded of that moment.

Driving past that terrific mural just off the Albertbridge Road in east Belfast always brought a pleasant memory jog – which was why I was so shocked to see how badly it had fallen into disrepair.

We're so proud of Healy and his Norn Iron team-mates – so when did we lose pride in the depiction of what they did that night?

You could say the same about the Higgy 'muriel' (as the local vernacular would have it) near the snooker maestro's birthplace, and the Windsor Park 'wall of shame' you see on this page.

I salute the initiative and resourcefulness of the people who put (and I'm borrowing some words from the Healy mural here) pride, passion and belief into these works of art.

That's what they are – and that's what our civic fathers should regard them as.

Put that City Hall beach on hold, Lord Mayor, and see the writing on the wall.

We're well aware of the controversy and consternation certain murals have caused down the years.

Here, however, the only dismay is in the dilapidation.

Our memories of Northern Ireland's many sporting successes may never fade but, as we've seen here, gloss paint eventually flakes and peels off.

Nightlife Galleries

More

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz