Len Ganley: The chimney sweep from Lurgan who became a top snooker referee
Len Ganley, the legendary snooker referee and a cult figure in the game, has died, aged 68, after losing his battle with diabetes.
Survived by his wife, Rosaline, and six grown-up children including world snooker official Mike Ganley, the Lurgan man was a household name and his face was familiar to television viewers, including those who knew nothing of his sport.
He was known affectionately as 'Bonecrusher' after being seen in a Carling Black Label commercial crushing a cueball.
The man who started adult life as a chimney sweep became the housewives' choice as snooker's best-known referee.
He was as popular as stars such as Ulstermen Denis Taylor and the late Alex Higgins and Ray Reardon, at whose games he officiated until his retirement after 22 years as a top official in the white gloves.
Ganley, who returned to live in Lurgan from Burton on Trent to where he had moved aged 28, dedicated his time afterwards to coaching and working tirelessly for charity and snooker academies and was rewarded with an MBE.
Arguably the highlight of his career was refereeing the famous, nail-biting world final between Taylor and Steve Davis in 1985, when everyone at the Crucible in Sheffield was on-edge except the players - and Len, who kept his cool and saw the match through to its memorable conclusion (Taylor won 18-17).
"He was a great character," Davis said yesterday.
"And an excellent referee who had known the game as an excellent player."
Born in Lurgan in 1943, Len went to live in Burton seeking employment and worked as a milkman and bus driver until the night he met Ray Reardon at an exhibition match.
Reardon was impressed by the way Len officiated at a match and advised him to take up refereeing seriously.
Ganley took his advice and, during his career, handled the world final four times.
He started playing snooker as a boy in Lurgan and graduated to amateur leagues in his home town, Lisburn and Belfast.
He became well-known for his expertise on the table and won many championships before he moved to England.
His funeral service will take place at St Paul's Catholic Church in Lurgan tomorrow.
Donations in lieu of flowers can be made to the Paul Hunter Foundation.