Top referee and band leader

Malcolm Wright, who passed away recently.
Malcolm Wright, who passed away recently.

Mr Malcolm Hall Wright, who passed away last week, was one of Portadown’s best known citizens.

Mr Wright, who was 84 years of age, was one of Northern Ireland’s top referees and a leading figure in brass band circles.

Malcolm was born in South Street on 12 October 1932 to David and Maude Wright. His mother passed away when he was only seven years old, after which he was adopted by his aunt, Jane Atkinson.

A pupil at Hart Memorial PS, Malcolm went on to study at Portadown Technical School and Belfast College of Technology. He spent most of his working life in Short Bros aircraft factory in Belfast, where he became head of research and development.

After meeting at the Salvation Army, Malcolm and Josephine Henry married in September 1956, and had two children, Janet and Delma.

Apart from his family, there were two great interests in his life: music and sport.

Malcolm enjoyed a distinguished musical career with brass bands - starting in the Portadown Salvation Army Band at the age of nine. He later took up the conductor’s baton with a number of bands, including Packenham Memorial, Killylea Silver, County Armagh Silver, Roughan Silver and Thomas Street Silver.

It was in the world of sport that Malcolm’s name became best known throughout Northern Ireland.

In the 1964-65 season, he was accepted by FIFA as an international referee, a position he held until 1979. During this time, Malcolm refereed five Irish Cup finals - which is still a record to this day.

The last Irish Cup final in which he had charge was between Portadown and Cliftonville in 1979.

Malcolm’s travels as a referee took him far beyond the Irish League to clubs around Europe. One of his highlights was officiating at a World Cup qualifier between England and Wales at Wembley.

After retiring from the game, the IFA general secretary asked Malcolm to take on the task of re-organising the refereeing structure in Northern Ireland – a position he held from 1980 until 2004.

His travels took him to some of football’s biggest clubs - but his links to the Milk Cup as a founder member proved a major source of pride.

During this very busy period of his life Malcolm also found time to be captain of Epworth Boys’ Brigade.

He was a valued and active member of Wesleyan Temperance LOL No 161 and Epworth Temperance RBP No 232.

He is survived by his wife Josephine, daughters Janet Wright, and Delma Slaine, son-in-law Colin, and his six grandchildren, Lydia, Andrew, Gareth, Caroline, Kathryn and Sarah. A poem was read by his grandson Andrew Slaine and grand-daughter Caroline Wright as a tribute to their grandfather. The Salvation Army tribute was read by Joan Parks.

The Salvation Army band under David Donaldson accompanied the hymns, with Mrs Parks on the piano, and the SA songsters sang ‘My Help Cometh from the Lord’.

Malcolm was a man who made friends easily, and in spite of his undoubted success in football and band circles, he was modest - a true gentleman who will be sadly missed.

Those attending his funeral - in the Lurgan Salvation Army Citadel - included a large number of Irish League figures.

Malcolm was buried in Kernan Cemetery.