VIC McKinney, son of the legendary Lurgan and NI footballer Victor, is returning to his family home this week as an internationally renowned artist despite becoming a quadriplegic in an accident which killed his father.
Victor Snr was a successful winger who played for Glenavon in the early 1960s and twice represented Northern Ireland, However in a freak accident, the 42-year-old was killed instantly when a tree struck the car he was driving during a storm in 1987.
His son, then just 19-year-old, was left paralysed from the neck down.
As a young man Vic had a talent and passion for art as well as a passion for football like his father.
He was a student at the University of Cape Town’s prestigious Michaelis School of Fine Art and while there he had been selected to play football for the University’s first team.
One evening while returning home from art school, the car driven by Vic’s dad was struck by a falling tree. His dad was killed instantly and Vic himself was left as quadriplegic,.
The life of this very active and highly talented young man changed dramatically. After six months of rehabilitation in hospital, Vic emerged to a life where playing football or photography were no longer possible.
However he was still artistic and his passion for painting spurred him on to create beautiful works of art by holding a paintbrush in his mouth.
He works in many mediums but focuses on acrylics and oils. His works include a wide variety of subjects, ranging from landscapes to wildlife to sport - and a particular passion for painting scenes surrounding horseracing.
He has worked on commission for various owners, trainers and horse-lovers, painting both racing as well as paddock scenes.
His love and interest in horseracing was shared and no doubt influenced by his father.
Vic’s uncle Eric still lives in Lurgan and the artist will be staying with his other uncle Harold McKinney who has Downs Syndrome. Harold’s home in Hill Street is specially adapted for wheelchair users.
Victor has managed to turn the terrible events of 1987 into something that has enriched his life rather than diminished it.
As well as an accomplished artist, he is also a prominent disability campaigner and respected academic in his native South Africa.
He and his wife Emma returned to Northern Ireland a few years ago to speak at a special conference on disability and education at Queen’s University.
Victor revealed that he and his father were very close. “We were like brothers and best friends,” he said.
“From I was no age he took me along to training with him and I grew up loving sport just like he did. I played football and my last match was the day before the accident when I was playing for Capetown University in a cup final and we won.
“I also loved windsurfing, cricket, baseball, tennis and golf.”
He said: “Mum helped get me through it, she is a very strong woman. We were both devastated.
“When I woke up in hospital I knew immediately I couldn’t move. It took me a few years to come to terms with it. At first I didn’t believe it. I was a very, very fit person and I’d never been sick in my life and I remember thinking as I lay in hospital, ‘I will walk out of here, no problem’.
“It took me five or six years to really get used to the fact that I wasn’t going to move again.”
Coming to terms with his dad’s loss was equally hard but now he savours his many happy memories.
“I realised that I was very lucky to have had him in my life. Dad was a very well-loved and respected man.
“You would be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t like him.
“He was very kind and very gentle and had that lovely Irish sense of humour which made him even more endearing.
“We had a great relationship and I am very fortunate to have had a dad like that. I count my blessings that I had him and he lives on with me, I talk to him all the time.”