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Passing of ‘special’ Lawrence a big loss to football

Lawrence Walker, a former Mayor of Castlereagh and leading personality in Northern Ireland football, has died after a short illness. He was 59.

A DUP representative on Castlereagh Council — co-opted when Peter Robinson resigned because of Government duties — he was elected Mayor in 2009-10 becoming deeply involved in civic community and church affairs.

A dedicated family man with solid Christian beliefs nothing gave him greater pleasure than helping others, particularly youth organisations such as the Boys Brigade and a service of thanksgiving for his life will be held at Ravenhill Presbyterian Church, Ravenhill Road, on Thursday at 10.30am.

He was a past pupil of Orangefield School, became a City Council employee graduating to Head of Contracts Leisure and then manager of a number of leisure centres including Avoniel, serving with distinction in every post and leaving a wonderful example for others to follow.

Football was his passion and from an early age, when playing at centre-half with Portadown Reserves, he revealed exceptional coaching gifts which legendary manager Gibby Mackenzie cultivated and developed.

He was appointed coach at Ballyclare Comrades and Ards, rejecting repeated offers to join Portadown as manager, and took charge of various Irish FA courses at all levels.

His technical knowledge of the game was unsurpassed, and he possessed motivational and man management skills, too. The all-rounder and a special man.

Roy Millar, former Irish Football Association Director of Coaching now conducting a series of seminars in South Africa, paid tribute to one of the most popular figures in the local game.

“The word gentleman is so often incorrectly used, yet it aptly sums up Lawrence,” said Millar.

“He was a real gentleman whose passing leaves a void in the Northern Ireland game. A major loss to us all”

Belfast Telegraph