Lewis Patrick Hughes (1943 -2022)

There will be many stories traded over the next few days, weeks, months, for some even years about Lewis Patrick Hughes.

Befitting a larger than life character, it is inevitable. However as is often the case, the truth behind the man tells a different story. We could talk for hours about his sporting ability on his equally beloved cricket and hockey fields, that brought the highest of honours including being part of one of Irish cricket's greatest ever days in Sion Mills.

These stories might show a glimpse of the man but that is all. Not that he would entertain such talk, the very best know their capabilities but rarely allow them to be discussed. If you tried to probe that side of him, the barriers would come down and the conversation moved elsewhere.

Perhaps over a game of cards with his great lifelong friend Enda McDermott he might open a little but he preferred not to talk about himself.

Podge was a strong man, not just physically. In Cricket Leinster's 100 Not Out, Michael Halliday recalled a game in which Podge bowled Ulster Town out taking 7 for 25, and when he took his boot off revealed a blood soaked foot, which he had never mentioned as he tore through the opposition batting line up. The reality is, it would never have occurred to him to mention his discomfort, after all the captain might have taken the ball from him if he complained too much.

Physically he was incredible. Now you did not want to be in the line of what he called the Protestant Backlash, a ferocious but friendly slap across the back, which he would unleash late at night in the bar on an unsuspecting victim, it was likely to lift you off your feet and indeed his handshake left many fingers crushed as his big paw enveloped the recipient's.

He put that strength to productive use on the playing field and surrounds of Castle Avenue over a prolonged period. The hedging surrounding the ground, a wild jungle of vegetation could and would only be tamed by him.

He used more subtle skills to prepare wickets and the outfield for many years, while at the same time, happily training others to follow in his footsteps. Similarly, the folk of Dunseverick Road and its surrounds would often find that their grass or hedges had been cut. Sure who else was going to do it, reasoned Podge.

He was also a regular sight very early on a Sunday morning, litter picker in one hand, plastic sack in the other, clearing the local pathways and roads of rubbish while others afforded themselves a no doubt well deserved lie in.

None of these actions were done for show or praise, they were done because someone had to do them. Podge chose to be that someone.

His actions did all his talking and his greatest actions were off the field not on it. A teacher by profession, it was not his original choice of job. But as soon as he followed his father's footsteps, there was the realisation that this was what he was meant to be.

In the classroom he taught Maths and outside the confines of the school building he taught life skills to those who were fortunate enough to be taken under his wing. A protection that lasted a lifetime. Generations of boys and girls, men and women can look back at the words and actions of Podge which kept them or set them on the right track. He acted as a mentor to many, providing advice, support, encouragement encompassing education and general life. Such support was often bestowed on subsequent generations of the same family.

In Mount Temple Comprehensive School, nominally his workplace, but a whole lot more than that, his work was in the classroom, on the hockey pitch, coaching and on the grounds themselves. There was not one element of the place that he did not love and many benefited in all of the areas in which he operated. Even after he had retired from teaching, he spent as much if not more time in the school, willingly doing what he did.

While cricket was his great love, hockey too provided much joy. He coached Clontarf HC, originally a women’s club, for many years, his work in Mount Temple providing a steady stream of the players which brought senior status to the club.

Similarly he was central to the coaching of Clontarf Cricket Club’s women when women’s cricket restarted in Leinster in the 1970s. It would appear that the number of hours in Podge Hughes day exceeded the usual 24. He was not a man made for relaxation.

He cared little for himself, all his caring was directed towards others. For such a capable man he was also quite incapable in many ways. He relied on the support of a small group of friends for the more practical aspects of his life. That support was freely given.

In a 1984 profile, J.B. Bunworth noted that “the mould was fashioned just the once”. He was correct.

Podge Hughes could be a complex man, but all you need to know is that he was a kind and good man and that is who we will remember. We miss you.