A respected businessman and popular sportsman

The late Alvin McMurray.
The late Alvin McMurray.

LURGAN lost one of its most respected businessmen and popular sportsmen with the death, after a long illness, of Thomas Alvin McMurray on Thursday, December 27.

He was born September 11, 1921 to William and Isabella (Billy and Bella) McMurray.

When Billy returned from the 1st World War he opened the newsagent’s shop in Market Street and this is where Alvin spent his early life along with his siblings, Noel and Ena, who have both pre-deceased him.

He attended Windsor Avenue Public Elementary School and Lurgan College. The whole family developed a life-long interest in sport – particularly rugby, cricket and golf. Alvin played both rugby and cricket for Lurgan before the clubs eventually amalgamated.

On leaving school he became an apprentice fitter in Harland & Wolff and worked hard for the right to wear a bowler hat to work, and in his twenties became the youngest foreman in the ‘yard’.

In 1940 he joined the Home Guard, leaving it two years later to join his best friend, Victor Malcomson, in the Fire Service. Under their Senior Officer, Jack Patterson, they got all the action they wanted when sent to Belfast to help with the aftermath of the famous Belfast Blitz.

Alvin also continued playing both rugby and cricket and was known as a hard but fair opponent and after the war was one of the former members who re-formed the Lurgan Cricket Club.

In 1942 he met May Neil, the girl he was to marry in 1955.

In fact in 1946/47 the McMurray family held a rather unique record in Lurgan - Billy (Alvin’s father) was captain of Lurgan Golf Club, Noel (his brother) was captain of Lurgan Cricket Club and Alvin was captain of Lurgan Rugby Club.

Alvin was very pleased when another McMurray, his nephew Ian, became a member of the club in 2009.

When he was in his mid-twenties his main sporting interest had changed to cricket and his ability and performance continually improved right up to the time of his last competitive game for Lurgan. They were playing Cliftonville, a reputedly much superior team, and he made 40 or so runs, but the oncoming illness was beginning to show and he was completely exhausted by the effort.

He was 29 when he contracted TB, which was an even more serious illness at that time than it is now. He spent two years in Musgrave Park Hospital recovering, and this had the effect of cutting short his participation in the sport he loved and prolonging the courtship with the woman he loved.

After his recovery from TB his life changed completely and he joined his father in running the newsagent’s shop in Market Street, which had become increasingly popular. Under their joint management and with May doing the administration, it soon expanded further and it developed into a hub of the town.

Alvin and May had two daughters, Lesley and Tracy, and subsequently four grandchildren - Kate, Simon, Alex and Cary, all of whom have given them a great deal of pleasure and happiness. He was devoted to them all.

Although he was a reasonable golfer his abiding interests were rugby and particularly cricket, and was elected as President of the by now amalgamated Lurgan Rugby Football & Cricket Club in 1980/81, and for a time represented Lurgan Cricket Club on the committee of the Northern Cricket Union.

His love of cricket in Lurgan, especially kids cricket, was maintained right up to his death. He got a real buzz seeing the youngsters progress into the senior teams. Before he passed away he requested that donations in lieu of flowers all to go to Lurgan Tigers (Cricket Section).

Alvin always had an abiding interest in Lurgan and the welfare of its citizens. He was chairman of the Lurgan Chamber of Trade, became involved in youth tribunals and then was invited to accept the position of Justice of the Peace. He took his work as a JP very seriously and had a reputation for common sense and compassion.

He also had a great interest in helping those less fortunate than himself and in 1966, at a meeting in his house with several of his peers, he was appointed as the Charter President of Lurgan Lions, specifically the first president to accept the charter from the worldwide Lions International, to form a branch in Lurgan. Since then they have raised many thousands of pounds for local good causes and continue to this day, with some of the original members still active.

His involvement in Lurgan Lions increased his awareness of children with special needs and he became involved as a governor in Ceara School for a time.

He held very high moral values. He insisted on fair treatment for all and believed that involvement in any aspect of sport is a great foundation for everyone, regardless of their physical ability.

The last few years have not been easy as he slowly lost his mobility but with the love and devotion of his wife, May, he usually managed to get where he wanted.

He will be deeply missed by May, his daughters Lesley and Tracy, their husbands Leigh and John, his grandchildren, Kate, Simon, Alex and Cary and all the extended family, and a wide cross-section of Lurgan citizens whom he so enjoyed helping.

Pollock Park will also miss that red car that seemed to always be sitting near the boundary with Alvin and Victor dispensing advice on how things should be done.