Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Billy Simpson and Johnny Hubbard support Sam English launch

On Wednesday in the Lord Mayor’s parlour in Coleraine, County
Londonderry, the Sam English Commemoration Committee launched the
Ulster side of the fund-raising drive to produce a cup in Sam’s name
and tell his largely untold story.

Lord Mayor Maurice Bradley welcomed the visitors from Scotland,
especially the two former Rangers players who will be guests of
honour at a fund-raising dinner hosted by Garvagh Rangers Supporters
Club in August. Also in attendance were councillors from most of
the parties on the council; the Deputy Speaker of the Northern
Ireland Assembly David McClarty and local MLA Adrian McQuillan; a
delegation from the Third Tree RSC in Garvagh; and representatives of
local sports clubs and bodies.

Sam was born in the townland of Crevolea, Aghadowey in the county
before the family sold up and moved to Scotland. During the visit
Billy and Johnny would visit the farmhouse Sam was born in.

Third Tree RSC will host a golf day on Friday the 1st of August at
the Brown Trout Golf and Country Club - details will be available

They will also host a dinner in their new clubrooms on Friday the 8th
of August when the Sam English Cup will be unveiled to the members of
the Rangers club which covers the area Sam was born in before it
begins it’s journey to Ibrox.

Like Sam, Billy Simpson is a former Northern Ireland internationalist
and was delighted to accept the invitation to be a guest of honour at
the dinner in Garvagh. And where Billy goes so goes his pal of fifty
years and fellow-Ranger Johnny Hubbard - they are a marvelous double
act. A great pair of ambassadors for the club they stopped playing
for 50 years ago. On the trip they spread the word having pictures
taken with Croatian bikers, the ship’s purser on the ferry, Polish
catering staff, signing autographs for councillors, workmen and hotel
guests. American powerwalkers on the road back up from the Giant’s
Causeway were bemused to be overtaken by Johnny jogging past them!

As well as commemorating Sam’s life the Committee also wants to put
something back into his community - and to that end we’d like fans
who are coming across for the Golf Day or Dinner to consider taking
some time to discover this corner of Northern Ireland.

Johnny and Billy crammed in a good few visits to local attractions.
On Tuesday evening we took a dander into Coleraine itself and the
barman in Fairley’s turned out to be a Bear who studied at Glasgow
Uni for four years. Then we wandered down to Bertie Peacock’s
statute as Billy and Johnny were both close pals of the former Celtic
captain and Northern Ireland international (Billy and Bertie were
room-mates on international duty) and wanted pictures of the
statue. Twenty yards down the street from the statue is the Queen’s
Arms pub where Billy then bumped into Willie-John Fleming who was
Bertie’s right-hand man in organising football events and teams in
the town - Bertie was one of the founders of the now world-famous
Milk Cup youth tournament that is played in the town every year.

Willie-John, Billy and Johnny then began a long conversation on
Northern Irish and world football - of people they knew, games played
- of Billy’s injury in the first training session of the 1958 World
Cup that kept him off the field in Sweden. Along the way they
interspersed this with a sing-song of old favourites - from Peggy
Gordon to a few Transvaal tunes in Afrikaans - much to the amusement
of locals and French tourists! The landlord then saved us all a
taxi fare by taking us back to the hotel in his Range Rover - not bad
hospitality on a Tuesday night!

The location of Coleraine makes it an ideal base for seeing some
sights - the magnificent walled city of Londonderry is just up the
road; there’s fine fishing in the Roe Valley; the lads visited the
Giant’s Causeway; the beautiful North Antrim coast road; the lovely
seaside town of Ballycastle for lunch; golf can be played at
Portrush, Portstewart and Castlerock; and a wee half at the end of a
tour of the Bushmills Distillery.

As well as attending the launch with the Lord Mayor Billy and Johnny
also visited Sam’s birthplace at Crevolea Road outside Aghadowey.
His former home is still standing but it’s now part of the
outbuildings behind a newly-built farmhouse and is used as a workshop
and store for timber. Inside you can still see the remains of the
pantry/kitchen and the little box bedrooms into. Owner Dessie
Monaghan also has a few stories handed down by his late father about
the English family and a local historian has uncovered the deed of
sales document.

Then it was off to the Third Tree Rangers Supporters Club in
Garvagh. The clubrooms are newly built and hosts club events at the
moment using and occasional license but the application for full use
is in hand. The clubrooms are beautifully appointed and will make a
great venue for the dinner.

Rangers TV covered the launch and visited the old English family
homestead and various other places of interest for a documentary
which will be aired in the summer.

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