Two Lurgan born daughters of a goal scoring record holder made a special trip from their home in the United States to receive a posthumous award for their famous father Peter O’Connor.
Kay Lang and Sheelagh Brockmyre recently received the award in Ballymoney where Peter was born and is now inducted into the Hall of Fame following the recent annual sports awards.
Peter scored 11 goals in one game playing for Belfast Celtic when they defeated Glenavon 13-0 at Celtic Park in January 1941. This individual scoring record has never been equalled in a League game, in Ireland or Britain.
O’Connor came from Ballymoney in County Antrim and graduated from junior football to Celtic Park in 1932 after a short, unsuccessful period with Linfield at Windsor Park, he spent several seasons as captain of Belfast Celtic Seconds before breaking through to the first team in season 1938-9 when Jimmy Turnbull was injured and distinguished himself in the Irish League scoring more than 50 goals as a prolific striker in the season 1938-39 season.
On January 25, 1941 he netted those eleven goals which has never been surpassed in Irish and British football. The previous record was seven and held by Turnbull who he took over from.
He won numerous titles with Celtic and when his playing career was over he scouted for Glasgow Celtic bringing forward legends such as Charlie Tully and Bertie Peacock.
Mr O’Connor emigrated to America during the 1950’s and died at his home in Rochester, New York in 1994.
“We were informed of the special ceremony in Ballymoney by email,” explained Kay. “Unfortunately we were unable to get over to attend the awards night but when we got here we were invited to a special reception in the Mayor’s Parlour in Ballymoney where we were presented with a certificate of the Hall of Fame induction for dad and a DVD of the night.”
The Lurgan connection came in May 1940 when Peter married Lurgan woman Bridie Lavery. “Dad met mum when they were guests at another wedding and the rest is history. The family home was in North Street and both Peter and I attended Annaghmore Primary School. Sheelagh went to St. Nichael’s and Rory is a past pupil of Christian Brothers, Armagh,” explained Kay.
Sister Sheelagh can recall many of those early memories in Lurgan. “If I close my eyes I can still see Charlie Tully in our house in Lurgan. Bertie Peacock, Harry Walker and Paddy Bonar also used to call to see dad before we left for America.
“The move all came about because dad was made redundant and as there was very little work around at that time mum decided we had to emigrate. It was either going to be America or Australia so in the end it was Rochester in New York where mum had a sister. As a young girl it was all very exciting when we moved in 1956. We had seen America in the movies but it was quite a culture shock when we got there. Remember, in those days there was no television and communication was nothing like today, so we had no real concept of what to expect.
“The smells, the food and the clothes were so different. The buildings were enormous and it took some time to settle. There was a period when we were all very home sick. I came home when I was 18 to stay and further my education but I had fallen in love with a young man and he sent me a telegram asking me to come back to America. I did and we married and have been together for 51 years. So if that telegram had not arrived I would have stayed in Lurgan. As it turns out I have moved 24 times over the last 50 plus years but am now about to settle in New York.”
Both sisters said Peter was a very humble man and never really talked about his football record. “Belfast Celtic had a big reunion a number of years ago and they sent dad a ticket to attend so I went over with him,” added Sheelagh. “I remember when we walked into the room he was surrounded by television crews and reporters who wanted to talk to him but he was more interested in meeting his old friends. He was so humble and always said he just played football. We only have a couple of his cup medals left as he always was giving things away.”
When Peter moved to America that was the end of his involvement in football. “He didn’t do any coaching or talk about football,” added Kay.
“There was no football in the States and he really detested the American Football. He didn’t like it all.”