As Willie John McBride turns 80, some of Ulster's British and Irish Lions have been paying tribute to the greatest tourist of them all.
The legendary lock, who was selected for five different trips with the side, winning a record 17 Test caps and captaining their fabled 'Invincibles' tour to South Africa in 1974, celebrates his birthday today.
And while a planned event in The Culloden that would have brought a wide array of past stars together to mark the occasion had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Tommy Bowe and Trevor Ringland have shared stories of the great man.
Ringland, his fellow Ballymena RFC clubman, grew up idolising McBride for his Lions heroics, but remembers a rude awakening when the pair shared the field at opposite ends of their careers.
"The first time I played against him, I was playing for Queen's," recalled the winger, a Test Lion on the 1983 tour to New Zealand who also played in the 1986 game against a World XV. He was our hero in school for all his achievements over the years and I remember running onto the field and thinking to myself, 'isn't this fantastic, here I am playing against my hero'.
"Halfway through the game that had changed to thinking, 'why is my hero trying to pull my head off my shoulders?'
"He was a great ambassador for the game, and a great player obviously, but I can tell you he was a hard man too."
That first interaction wasn't to be their last, with Ringland following along the same rugby trajectory of Ballymena, Ulster, Ireland and, ultimately, the Lions.
"He was involved as an Ulster coach in the early 80s with us, the young team that then went on that incredible winning run and people forget that I think," he added.
"And then he was team manager with us on that Lions tour to New Zealand and off the pitch that tour was very successful. There were a few unfortunate things with injuries, and we should have won that first Test but it was very successful off the pitch," he said.
"A tour like that should be developmental for the players as people too and Willie John knew that was very much a big part of it.
"One of the things he had the squad do was to speak in front of all these schools. We were in Invercargill and coming to the end of the tour so I thought I'd managed to avoid it but he came up and asked me if I would do it the next morning. It was in this school of 600 people and I'd never spoken in front of that many people in my life, even as a young lawyer. I said to him I'd rather not.
"He put one of those big arms around me, and took a suck on his pipe, and blew the smoke into my face.
"He squeezed my shoulders and just said 'are you sure?'
"Needless to say, the next day I made the speech."
By the time Tommy Bowe came onto the scene some three decades later, McBride was further detached from the everyday goings on of the game, yet his name had lost none of its weight.
The province's most recent Test Lion, having been capped in 2009 and '13, still remembers the day his fellow Ulsterman addressed the squad before taking on the Springboks.
"Given that he's from Ulster, you would have bumped into him quite regularly and I remember Mark McCall would have had him in speaking to us at the very start of my Ulster career and things too," Bowe said.
"You obviously always look at him as this legend but once you get to know someone that bit more, there naturally isn't the same mystique around them.
"But I'll never forget in '09 when word filtered into the camp that Willie John was going to be coming in.
"A man from Ballymena, the esteem that he's held in even by guys like Ian McGeechan it was incredible to see.
"When he stepped into that Lions team room, in South Africa as well where he'd captained that historic tour, you're reminded of what he means to rugby players everywhere.
"The English and Welsh players were looking up to this guy in awe.
"I've had some really inspirational team talks in my time, Brian O'Driscoll, Paul O'Connell, Alun Wyn Jones and Rory (Best), but Willie John hit the nail on the head that day. Everyone was just blown away."
For Ringland, it's that presence that puts him up there with the very best this province has ever produced.
"Willie John has given so much to our society and I've so many happy memories of time spent in his company," he said.
"We've been fortunate to have some great sports stars on a world stage, Pat Jennings, George Best, Mary Peters, Syd Miller, Barry McGuigan, Dave 'Boy' McAuley, and now Rory McIlroy. Not just sports figures but sports personalities.
"Well, I'd put Willie John up there with the very best of them."