FORMER Cricket Ireland president Basil McNamee has died. He was 81.
His playing career spanned five decades, at inter-provincial cricket level for Ulster Town and he also won a cap with Ulster Rugby as a back-row forward.
Brought up in the cricket-mad village of Donemana, he played as a 15-year-old in the 1954 North West Senior Cup final while still studying at Foyle College when he also played for Ulster Schools and Irish Schools as an opening batsman.
He moved onto Queen’s University where he studied medicine and after an early posting in Whiteabbey Hospital he became a cardiologist in the Royal Victoria Hospital, before transferring permanently to the South Tyrone Hospital in Dungannon in 1971.
It was on a cricket tour to Cornwall with his fellow students that he met his future wife, Carol, who was picked up by Basil while she was hitchhiking.
While studying in Belfast, he played cricket, at the old Ormeau ground for North of Ireland, captaining them to a Challenge Cup success in 1969, the year he topped the season's batting averages in the NCU.
Basil played for and against most of the big names in the North West and NCU but it was when he moved to Dungannon that he enjoyed his greatest success on the field.
He played 308 matches for the Tyrone side, scoring almost 6,500 runs and taking 399 wickets with his medium pace bowling. He was the club’s leading all-rounder for 11 seasons. His most memorable day, however, was when, at the age of 50, he played in the same team as his three sons and Victoria were dismissed for 26.
His long-service was honoured with the presidency of the NCU and then the same high office in Cricket Ireland where, uniquely, he attended two World Cup tournaments, the 2010 Twenty20 event in West Indies and the following year the ICC World Cup in India, which included Ireland’s famous victory against England in Bangalore.
A fellow student at Foyle College was Robin Walsh, a future Controller of BBC Northern Ireland and, also a Cricket Ireland president.
In a personal tribute yesterday, Mr Walsh said: “I am most saddened to learn of Basil’s death, he was such an admirable servant of the game at local and national level.
“I had the pleasure of playing on the same Foyle College side with Basil and his elder brother, Derek, back in the 50s and, without doubt it was the best school team in the country, for two obvious reasons. A few years later I was to experience the brothers’ talent in opposition when they distinguished the North of Ireland side through most of the 60s.
"I rekindled my friendship with Basil in more recent times when he became president of the Northern Cricket Union (2002-03) and then Irish cricket (2010-11). It was always a pleasure to enjoy his company and his insights into the game.”
Basil, who was also a chairman of the Board of Governors at Royal School, Dungannon, is survived by his three sons, Peter, Andrew and Michael, a BBC Northern Ireland presenter.