Robin Walsh (CricketEurope)
There was sad news today of the death of Lisburn legend Cecil Walker MBE. By way of tribute, we reproduce the article published last year by close friend Robin Walsh.
Beyond the Boundary: Cecil Walker
This article first appeared on CricketEurope in May 2020
If you were to pick a team of those who’ve made the greatest contribution to cricket in Ireland down the years, Cecil Walker would be written in capital letters. You might even make him captain.
Cecil is now aged 87 and in his care home no doubt reflects on the numerous highlights of the career of a true amateur player and administrator.
Two will give him the most pleasure: the Queen’s MBE for his services to cricket and the Cecil Walker Pavilion at his beloved Wallace Park in his home town of Lisburn.
There will be a host of memories on the field, not least the three times he led Lisburn to NCU Challenge Cup success and the six occasions he was part of the club’s league titles.
Off the field, there will be memories of hugely successful terms as every thing to do with Lisburn, president of the NCU and chairman and president of the Irish Cricket Union. All very impressive, yet it barely skims the surface.
Look beneath it and you will find: the visionary to the forefront of the appointment of Ireland’s first professional coach. He was to take Mike Hendrick under his wing in the north, even securing car sponsorship.
And foresight too back the 1970s when he brought to Lisburn John Solanky, the first professional here at the time. the entrepreneur whose successful business background ensured innumerable sponsorships for club, province and country. the benefactor who helped form the first region of the Lord’s Taverners cricket charity in Ireland. the tireless club man who saw Wallace Park stage international cricket and for decades kept the ground as though his back garden.
Add to all that, Cecil Walker’s inherent ability to make friends has helped spread the gospel of Irish cricket. It was why Ian Botham played a highly controversial game at Wallace Park back in 1986.
He was to be in a Lisburn Select to play the MCC to celebrate the club’s 150th anniversary. Problem was that Botham was serving a suspension for smoking cannabis and the MCC - backed by the ICU - refused to play if Botham turned out.
No problem: Cecil organised an NCU XI, and Botham obliged with a century in front of a crammed crowd.
Friendship was also the key to securing the main speaker 25 years later at Lisburn’s 175th anniversary dinner. David “Bumble” Lloyd was to say in his speech that he rarely did club dinners - but for Cecil he had no choice!
He was also to befriend that icon of the Bodyline Series, Harold Larwood. With his dear friend the late Alfie Linehan and wives Sylvia and Mary they decided to knock on the door of Larwood’s home in Sydney during an Ashes tour. Mrs Larwood invited them in and hours of delightful chat was enjoyed by all.
Cecil’s persuasive ways were also brought to bear on Channel 4’s Cricket Road Show when the entire team - including Mark Nicholas, Michael Atherton and Michael Slater - presented the programme live from Wallace Park.
One of my own personal delights has been to watch cricket in Cecil’s company. Always fun.
The last time was not so long ago when Lisburn won promotion back to the Premier League. The team made a beeline to their patron for a photograph with the trophy (see above).
There was no doubt who was the happiest man in Wallace Park.