Belfast Telegraph

Mountain rescue pioneer is remembered as a hero who spent his life helping others

Dedicated: Teddy Hawkins
Dedicated: Teddy Hawkins
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

A founding member of the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team has been remembered for his lifelong dedication to the service.

Teddy Hawkins helped establish the volunteer rescue team in 1962 and later served as its leader.

Mr Hawkins died peacefully at Slieve Dhu Nursing home in Newcastle on Sunday.

A family notice said the great-grandfather was the husband of the late Sarah and father to Mary, Eileen, Jimmy, Martin, Joanne, Eddie, Matthew and the late Patricia.

His funeral took place on Tuesday at St Malachy's Church in Castlewellan followed by burial in Aughlisnafin.

Former colleagues said his dedication to mountain rescue went far beyond his voluntary roles.

"The provision of mountain rescue across Northern Ireland, Ireland and further afield, including all those that have availed of it, owe a great deal to Teddy and his lifelong commitment," the team said.

"Our thoughts and prayers are very much with Teddy's family and friends at this time."

Mr Hawkins played a major role in formalising mountain rescue as an emergency service through his roles as head of mountaineering in the Central Council of Physical Recreation and later the Sports Council.

Across Ireland he helped to create the representative body of the Irish Mountain Rescue Association, which preceded the current Mountain Rescue Ireland.

As a mark of his "immense passion for the Mournes and commitment to the team," he was awarded his honorary life membership by colleagues at Mourne Mountain Rescue.

Commenting on the team's Facebook page, his nephew Brendan Hawkins called him "an inspirational mountain man and uncle".

"When I joined Queen's University Belfast Mountaineering Club in 1984 he was well renowned and held in high regard. A true Mourne and Northern Ireland mountaineering legend."

Reggie McNeill had been a member of Mr Hawkins' team in the 1970s and 1980s. He called him "a gentleman and an inspiration who taught us well".

Another told of taking a mountain leader course with Mr Hawkins in the 1980s.

"I recall him being called Teddy and the Pacemakers when we were doing navigation practice. He was a really good man, a gentleman," he said.

Kilkeel Coastguard said: "We as a team would like to pass on our deepest sympathies to Teddy's family and friends and they will be in our thoughts and prayers."

A current member of Scottish Mountain Rescue said a course led by Mr Hawkins in Tollymore Forest in the 1980s encouraged him to spend the next 30 years as a rescue volunteer.

In reference to Mr Hawkins' efforts on an all-Ireland basis, one message recalled hiking with him on the first Northern Ireland Mountain leadership assessment to take place in Kerry in the 1970s.

"There were very few peaceful contacts back then between North and South but mountaineering provided one of the few bridges at grass roots level," they said.

Recalling other trips to the Alps and Scottish Highlands, another friend said: "I picked up so much mountain knowledge from him back in the 1980s. Great times with a great man."

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