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  • Writer's pictureStruan Hope

Eric Walker: Remembering a Banbridge Legend

Eric's journey with our club was a beautiful testament to his unwavering commitment and dedication to the sport he loved, he was a beloved member of our Banbridge Hockey Club family. 

Eric's story with us began as a teenager when he joined the club having played hockey at Banbridge Academy and lasted until his passing this year. It was clear from the start that he had found his passion within our walls. In the 50s, Eric proudly played for our first team, displaying his talent, and contributing to our success. 

But his love for hockey did not remain confined within the boundaries of Banbridge. While living in Dublin, Eric represented the Railway Union Hockey Club and Leinster, highlighting his exceptional abilities and versatility on the field. 

“Eric will be remembered with affection and gratitude by those at Banbridge Hockey Club for the lasting legacy that he leaves behind. The time, commitment and effort that he put in in the past decades have allowed us the opportunity to thrive and succeed even to this day.” Men’s 1s Captain Alex Tinney on the impact of Eric’s involvement in the club. 

Throughout his life, Eric made immense contributions to our beloved club. He held the honourable role of Club President not once, but twice, in 1978-1980 and again in 1996-1998. These were years that left a lasting impact on our club, thanks to Eric's leadership and vision. 

Eric's dedication to Banbridge Hockey Club extended beyond the field. He could often be found on Saturday afternoons by the window of our clubhouse, holding court and sharing stories with fellow members with a pint of Guiness in hand. 

Outside of hockey, Eric was a successful businessperson, running his family's drapery business in Banbridge. He embraced his role as a club patron, offering lasting and considerable support to Banbridge Hockey Club. The impact of his generosity will forever remain etched in our memories. 

During the 80s, Eric became a driving force in the revitalisation of our club. He transformed us into a high-performance outfit that achieved unprecedented success, including three Irish cup victories in just five years. It was during this time that Eric served as our President and a leading figure in the club, guiding us towards greatness. 

Eric's passion for the club extended beyond the field, as he organised numerous away trips to European competitions during our glory years. These were moments that brought our community together and created memories that will never be forgotten. Such as a trip to former Yugoslavia in ‘83 when he accompanied the badly injured Joe McKnight home by air ambulance and in ‘85 when the competition was successfully hosted by us at home. 

Speaking about Eric, Club Chairperson Sheree Totton said, “Eric was an enthusiastic, avid follower of all hockey in Banbridge. He was a prime mover in the club relocating to its home at Havelock Park. His legacy will be enjoyed by many generations to come.” 

One of Eric's legacies is undoubtedly the hub at Havelock Park. In the early 90s, his role as a leading member of the management committee was instrumental in its creation. He worked tirelessly, overseeing the sale of the old pitch at Castlewellan Road, and transforming the new site into a state-of-the-art playing facility. 

Current President, Dr. William McCandless was glad to share his fond memories of Eric. Dr. McCandless recalls one particular moment when the Men's 1s triumphantly won the All-Ireland Cup in 2000. In a display of his unmatched spirit, Eric led the team in a hymn with slightly altered words, proudly proclaiming glory to Banbridge Hockey Club. 

In more recent times, Eric could be seen at games both home and away, passionately supporting our club. His presence reminded us of the love he had for the sport and the joy it brought him. 

Beyond Banbridge, Eric was incredibly well-known and respected across the entire hockey community, both domestic and abroad. Messages of condolences have poured in from European federations and clubs, reflecting how deeply loved he was by the hockey family as a whole. 

Eric's love for the sport was passed down to his children, Jonto and Nicola. Both followed in their father's footsteps, playing for Banbridge Hockey Club. Jonto even became President himself from 2010-2012, continuing the family legacy and leaving his own mark on our great club. 

Club Secretary John Bell, who had the pleasure of knowing Eric his whole life was also glad to share his memories of Eric. John fondly recalls the times when match notifications would come directly to Eric, and he would rush to his shop on Bridge Street to check if the game was on. What started as a quick visit turned into several hours of heartfelt conversations and camaraderie. 

As we bid farewell to Eric Walker, we celebrate a life lived with passion, dedication, and unwavering love for Banbridge Hockey Club. He will forever hold a special place in the hearts of all those who had the privilege of knowing him. We will remember him with joy, recounting stories of his remarkable contributions and the indelible mark he left on our club and our lives. 

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