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Bessbrook sporting community loses shining light as Graham McAleer passes away


Graham McAleer

Graham McAleer

Graham McAleer

Graham McAleer, who has died after a short illness, was well-known in South Armagh in local sport and for his cross-community contribution. He was 81.

He was born in Bessbrook, and after primary school he worked in the Bessbrook Spinning Company and later became the soft furnishings buyer for Foster Newell's, a quality store in Newry.

From 1980-82 he worked in Saudi Arabia, and established an Irish linen department store in Riyadh, with the help of the Northern Ireland Development Board and the Saudi Eastern Corporation.

He later became assistant manager with a supermarket chain in Dundalk, followed by a spell in the motor trade in Newry. He then worked for 17 years in the Carrickdale Hotel, near Dundalk, until his retirement.

He was well-known in his early days for his skill at badminton, and soccer. In the mid-Fifties he played for the Bessbrook Evergreen team which won a youth summer competition in Newry. It was his enduring fame that he scored against an up-and coming Newry teenage goalie called Pat Jennings.

He was a skilled snooker and billiards player and won several local competitions. He was a former manager of the Newry Snooker Centre, and assistant treasurer of the Northern Ireland Snooker Association. He ran exhibition games which attracted top-flight players, including Steve Davis, Dennis Taylor, and Jimmy White, his favourite.

Mr McAleer, who lived in Camlough, was also well-known locally as a community bridge-builder, with many friends in both communities.

Dr Morris Brown, a retired Castlederg GP originally from Bessbrook and a member of the Evergreen team who also scored against the youthful Pat Jennings, said: "Graham was a true friend for 65 years, and was loyal, supportive, generous, loving and reliable.

"He realized how important it was to keep our friendship alive," he added.

Mr McAleer is survived by his son Gavin, daughter-in-law Caroline, daughters Lesley and Hilary, partner Gertie, his brother Jim and his wider family.

Gavin said: "He was a wonderful dad who loved rugby and I have happy memories of going with him to watch Ireland and Ulster playing."

Belfast Telegraph