Belfast Telegraph

Ten people we said goodbye to in 2018


William Dunlop has been inducted into the Belfast Telegraph Hall of Fame.
William Dunlop has been inducted into the Belfast Telegraph Hall of Fame.
Big Tom McBride
Adam Coates
Ian Campbell Bailey
Dr Colin Morris
Bertie McMinn
Jimmy McIlroy
Rev Robert Coulter
William McKee
Anne Doughty

Mark Bain takes look back at the some of the leading lights from right across the many spheres of Ulster society who we sadly lost in the past 12 months, from the worlds of sport, entertainment and broadcasting, to literature, politics and the local health sector.

William Dunlop

Motorcycle road racing star, died July 7, aged 32

The sporting world united in grief during the summer when road racer William Dunlop was killed in a crash during practice at the Skerries 100 races in Co Dublin.

The son of the late Robert and nephew of the legendary Joey, William was making his return to the sport after pulling out of the Isle of Man TT earlier in the summer to be with his pregnant partner Janine, who was expecting their second child. He suffered fatal injuries in the incident during open practice after his bike spilled oil into the path of his rear wheel at high speed.

It was the third tragedy to strike the Ballymoney racing family after Robert died in a crash at the North West 200 in 2008, and his uncle Joey was killed while racing in Estonia in 2000.

William was a winner at both the North West 200 and the Ulster GP.

Tributes flooded in from all walks of life here, with DUP leader Arlene Foster, TV celebrity Eamonn Holmes and fellow sports star Carl Frampton among those expressing their sadness.

William's daughter Willa was born on September 15.

Big Tom McBride

'Big Tom' McBride

Irish country singing star, died April 17, aged 81

Music fans said farewell to singer Big Tom McBride - the man they called the "king of country music" - in 2018.

The 81-year-old died just 11 weeks after the passing of his wife Rose.

Big Tom And The Mainliners formed in 1966 and, with the band, Tom became a huge star in the 1960s and 1970s and a major influence on many Irish singers who followed.

His career spanned five decades, and though he suffered a heart attack in 2007, he remained a firm favourite on the Irish country scene.

Daniel O'Donnell said of his friend: "You think people like Tom are going to go on forever.

"And in the country music circle, there's no question that he was the king, and he will be the king.

"He may be gone, but the king will live on in everybody's hearts and certainly in his music."

O'Donnell described the musician's death as "a huge loss for the people".

Hundreds gathered at his funeral in Castleblaney in memory of a man who practically invented the musical genre known as 'Country and Irish' music.

Adam Coates

Adam Coates

BBC sports presenter, died March 29, aged 76

The BBC's former voice of local sport, Adam Coates, who died in March, was known for his work on Radio Ulster's Saturday Sportsound programme, where he had a leading role for two decades.

The Scotsman made listeners familiar with his love of his local team Aberdeen, and before joining the BBC had worked as a journalist with the Sunday Post in Glasgow.

He moved to Northern Ireland aged 22 and went on to work for the Daily Mail in Belfast before getting his break in broadcasting.

Most of Coates' stint as Sportsound host was spent working alongside producer Brian Johnston. "What a lovely man Adam was," Mr Johnston remembered. "He never panicked. I could have said to him there was a fire in the studio and asked him to fill with underwater table tennis or something and he could have done it. In over 15 years we never once had cross words and I never saw him losing his composure."

Mr Coates was also a former chairman of the Northern Ireland Football Writers' Association, a post that led to his move into the BBC after a letter of complaint sent on the association's behalf that turned into an invite to become a contributor.

Ian Campbell Bailey

Ian Campbell Bailey

Pioneering neurosurgeon, died January 2, aged 88

A neurosurgeon who was involved in pioneering treatment for victims of the Troubles, Ian Campbell Bailey died on holiday in the Canary Islands at the start of the year.

A graduate of Trinity College in Dublin, he trained at King's College Hospital in London before emigrating to Uganda, where he set up a neurosurgical unit in the University of East Africa.

Mr Bailey came to Northern Ireland in 1974 to work as a consultant in the Royal Victoria Hospital. This was a period of intense conflict on the streets and the hospital quickly gained a worldwide reputation for its treatment of people injured by high velocity bullets and explosions.

He, with consultants Derek Gordon, Colin Gleadhill and their medical teams, were hailed by fellow doctors as putting Belfast neurosurgery on the global map.

One of the innovations developed by Mr Gordon and Dr George Blair from the School of Dentistry at the Royal was cranioplasty - the use of titanium to repair head injuries caused by bullets or bombs. The procedure was first reported in the British Medical Journal in 1974.

Mr Bailey lived at Boa Island in Fermanagh and worked at the Royal until retiring in 1995.

Dr Colin Morris

Rev Dr Colin Morris

Former controller BBC NI, died May 20, aged 89

A former president of the Methodist Conference and ex-BBC head of religious broadcasting, as well as controller of BBC Northern Ireland from 1987 to 1991, Dr Morris was born into a mining family in a village near Bolton in 1929.

After ordination he served with the Methodist Church in Zambia (then Northern Rhodesia).

He became a close friend of the leader of Zambia Dr Kenneth Kaunda, and was involved with the formation of the United Church in the country.

Back in the UK he held top posts in British Methodism, and eventually became general secretary of the overseas division. He was president of the Methodist Conference in 1976-77 and was a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4's Thought For The Day.

In 1978 he became head of BBC Television religious programmes, later an adviser to the director-general, and latterly controller of BBC Northern Ireland, a role he took over in 1987 until retirement in 1991.

From 1991 to 1996 he was director of the Centre for Religious Communication in Oxford.

Most of his published work reflected his experience as a missionary in Africa and as an ordained minister working as a professional broadcaster.

Bertie McMinn

Bertie McMinn

Irish League football legend, died October 4, aged 60

In October we said farewell to an Irish League football legend of the Seventies and Eighties.

Bertie McMinn was described as one of the most gifted players of his generation, and had fate been kinder he would certainly have enjoyed a full-time and international career.

Instead, following his death through cancer, he was remembered as one of the great entertainers and goalscorers of the Irish League, most notably with Distillery.

Bertie also played for Glenavon and Ards in the top division, ending his career at 37 after spells with Dungannon Swifts and Moyola Park.

Distillery are the team he is chiefly associated with, having signed for them three times, and a club he considered his football spiritual home.

His loyalty to the Whites was all the more remarkable in that the club mean-spiritedly blocked a move to Bobby Robson's then high-riding Ipswich Town that could have led to fame and fortune. But he stuck by them, proudly wearing a club shirt to the end as he entered the NI Hospice.

A proud Shankill Road man, he was touched on the Twelfth this year when, unable to parade due to his illness, his Duke of Manchester lodge diverted its usual route to pass him.

Jimmy McIlroy

Jimmy McIlroy

Northern Ireland football star, died August 20, aged 86

Former Burnley and Northern Ireland forward Jimmy McIlroy played 497 games for the Clarets between 1950 and 1962, winning the old First Division title in 1960.

He made 55 international appearances between 1951 and 1965, scoring 10 goals, and was part of the team that reached the World Cup quarter-finals in 1958.

Burnley said they were "deeply saddened to learn of the death of our greatest-ever player".

After leaving Burnley in 1962 McIlroy made 116 league appearances for Stoke before moving to Oldham. He retired as a player in 1967.

He was appointed Oldham manager in 1965 but left in 1968, and also took charge of Bolton for a brief period in 1970.

At the World Cup in 1958 McIlroy and his team-mates, captained by Tottenham great Danny Blanchflower, were beaten 4-0 by France in the last eight of the tournament.

Burnley's Turf Moor stadium has a stand named in honour of McIlroy, and the club gave him a testimonial in 2009.

In 2011 he was made an MBE for services to football and charity, deciding to receive the honour at his beloved Turf Moor instead of Buckingham Palace.

Rev Robert Coulter

Rev Dr Robert Coulter

Former UUP MLA, died September 5, aged 88

In September the Ulster Unionist Party announced the death of former MLA Reverend Dr Robert Coulter at the age of 88.

An ex-mayor of Ballymena, he served as an Assemblyman for North Antrim between 1998 and 2011.

Party leader Robin Swann, who succeeded Mr Coulter as North Antrim MLA, led the tributes, saying: "Bob was a stalwart of Ulster Unionism in North Antrim and, personally to me, he was also a mentor and a friend.

"Bob had a long record of public service during his time on Ballymena Borough Council. He was passionate about education and particularly for children with special educational needs. This was reflected in his role as a key advocate for the new build for Castle Tower School, where he was chair of the board of governors.

"Following in his footsteps in North Antrim, I was always aware of the high bar that had been set by him."

Educated at Ballymena College, Trinity College and the University of Ulster, he was a retired Presbyterian minister and a former lecturer in religious studies at Belfast Institute for Further and Higher Education.

He was awarded an MBE for public service in 2009.

William McKee

William McKee

Belfast Trust founding chief executive, died December 12, aged 66

The founding chief executive of the Belfast Trust, William McKee died at the age of 66 on December 12.

Born in Belfast in 1952, he oversaw the amalgamation of six separate Belfast health trusts into one body in 2007, turning it into the largest in the UK.

Receiving a BSc from Queen's University and an MBA from the University of Ulster, he went on to hold positions at various local hospitals, including Musgrave Park and Daisy Hill.

He was appointed CBE for his service to the NHS in 2006.

He died peacefully and is survived by his wife Ursula, two children Catherine and William, and siblings James, Janet and Susan.

Richard Pengelly, permanent secretary at the Department of Health, said Mr McKee's "professionalism and dedication" was immeasurable.

He added: "His influence and contributions to health and social care over a number of years was invaluable and he will be greatly missed."

Anne Doughty

Anne Doughty

Historical novelist, died December 16, aged 79

Historical novelist Anne Doughty grew up in Armagh and initially worked as a school teacher.

She moved to England in 1970 after meeting her English-born husband Peter.

Her first work, A Few Late Roses, was listed for the Irish Times Fiction Award and, after returning to Northern Ireland in 1988, she released a series of historical novels.

Her latest book, The Girl From Galloway, was published this year.

The love story, set during the Famine in Donegal, sees a Catholic man fall for his Protestant employer's youngest daughter when he travels to Scotland to seek work.

The writer had suffered from heart problems for many years. Earlier in 2018 she had open-heart surgery to have a valve replaced, but instead of improving as expected, her health deteriorated further.

Anne said in October that her motivation for writing came from her desire to show the world there was much more to her homeland than sectarian conflict.

She said: "I'm really not interested in the money. I only ever wanted to send the message that there is more to our history than the Troubles."

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