Installation of memorial benches at Ballyclare High School’s cricket ground.

By Ballyclare High School on 29 April, 2019

Imminent to the start of the 2019 School’s cricket season, on Monday the 15th April a somewhat poignant ceremony took place at the Rashee Road cricket pitch at Hollinger Park. This was the installation of memorial benches and unveiling of name plaques for the late Trevor Martin and John Thompson.


In attendance were members of both gentlemen’s families; Richard, Craig and Ashley Martin; as well as Simon Thompson and Nora Campbell (nee-Thompson).  Trevor’s ex-teaching and fellow cricketing umpiring colleagues were delighted to be invited and included Irvine Richardson, Richard Wallace, Rodger McCune and Tom Stewart. Current staff members and cricketing umpires Michael Nutt, Gareth Lenaghan, Austin Millar, Alan Wilson and James Corry also attended. Michele Rainey (Principal), Robert McMillian (Chairman of the Board of Governors), along with Wilbur Hollinger expressed their gratitude that so many past teaching colleagues could attend with family members.


Organising this ceremony over a year ago, Simon Thompson approached Adrian Witherow and Martin Barr regarding the idea of installing the memorial benches at Hollinger Park. It was most pleasing to have the Board of Governors uphold the installation and also purchase the bench for Trevor.  After meeting at the School, the party of staff walked up to Hollinger Park for the somewhat informal unveiling ceremony, photographs were taken by Ryan Francey (Moving Image Art Yr14 student).


Simon Thompson recalled that for over 30 years, he and Trevor had walked around the boundary discussing performances from the 1st XI in their Ulster School’s Cup matches. However, it was during the 1st XI’s Sussex Tour to Christ’s Hospital in 2004 that he and Trevor stood on the boundary’s edge perplexed as two overseas student teenagers from Barbados, opening the bowling for Brighton Grammar, ripped the heart out of Ballyclare’s top order with fast bowling never experience before by our school boys. Thankfully all survived this baptism of pacey Windes bowling and nobody had to go to hospital.


It was with this same squad one year later that Simon and Trevor’s greatest coaching achievement was made with the Ballyclare HS 1st XI winning the Ulster Schools’ Division 1 McCullough Cup; currently still the highest cricket achievement.  Having beaten RBAI in their own backyard, they then defeated Limavady Grammar at Moylena, Muckamore’s senior league ground. John Thompson’s son Mark played in that game with fellow U15 pupil Robert Smith, who went on to win Ulster and Irish Schools’ cricket caps. Other representative players in this team were, Andrew Cowden (Captain) and John Busby Ulster and Irish Schools’ cricket caps and James Jackson who went on to tour with Ulster Schools in Durham.


Simon then informed those gathered that his brother John was a formidable all-rounder, opening the bowling and batting for the 1st XI between 1978-1979. In the Ulster Schools’ Cup match away to Royal School Armagh, John and the U15 player Stephen Watt opened the batting to chase down the RS Armagh total without loss. Simon recollected that he was batting at number 3 but did not mind not getting to the crease as he witness his big brother score 94 runs undefeated. This was a batting master class that was to hold the 1st XI School batting record for 32 years and to be broken by Rob Smith with 96 runs and then undoubtably Ballyclare HS’s most prolific run scorer Jay Hunter, who scored three centuries in his final year at school.


Richard Martin, now a medical GP in Newcastle upon Tyne, spoke a few words on behalf of the Martin family. He was overwhelmed by the occasion and the turn out of the staff that he and his brother and sister remembered so well as past pupils of the school. Richard spoke of his father’s constant gratitude and praise for the school as an ICT teacher, Vice-Principal and cricket coach and umpire. He thanked Dr Rainey and Dr McMillian for providing such a lovely memorial bench and for those involved in organising the ceremony. Richard expressed his deep gratitude on behalf of his mother and family for the support that they received during their father’s illness and which continues to this day.


The party of staff and family were then treated to tea/coffee and scones in the School’s Board room arranged by Caretaker Supervisor Margaret Christie. It was at this time that more anecdotes of cricketing exploits began to surface. Simon had a number of photographs available to jog memories, Old Ballyclarians cricketers on tours and junior cricket teams winning Ulster titles. Stories of Trevor’s superb left arm spin bowling for the Ballyclare Cricket Club as well as his exploits in the Blackpool Grammar School tour in the 1970’s were versed. At this stage the party was joined by current vice-principals Avril McKay and Adrian Witherow, who worked closely with Trevor in his final years of teaching.


It is envisaged that other memorial or family benches will be installed at Hollinger Park and enquires about these can be made to the General Office.