Former captain of NI soccer pays tribute to Noel

This picture of Noel Magee and former NI soccer star John McClelland was taken a couple of years ago when they met at Shamrock Park.
This picture of Noel Magee and former NI soccer star John McClelland was taken a couple of years ago when they met at Shamrock Park.

The caring character of Noel Magee, who died this week, was best summed up at his funeral service by John McClelland when the former Northern Ireland football star and captain of Glasgow Rangers spoke fondly of his long-standing friend.

John, who won 53 international caps for his country and captained the side for several games, flew over from his home near Leeds on Tuesday to attend the funeral. He told the mourners that, when he started his career with Portadown, he worked at the Ulster Laces at Loughgall Road where Noel was a supervisor.

He recalled how Noel (78) had treated the young apprentice with the utmost respect and fairness – as he did everyone – and they had struck up a friendship that lasted for the rest of their lives, through the plethora of teams which John played for.

The gesture was deeply appreciated by Noel’s wife Ada and the extended family, all of whom deeply loved and respected Noel Magee, a man of deep devotion and sincerity, who put his heart and soul into everything he did.

Noel was the only son of George and Margaret Magee of Carleton Street. He had two sisters, Marna (deceased) and Sandra. He attended Church Street School and started work in W.D. Irwin’s Bakery, then at Woodhouse Street.

He was a member of the ‘B’ Specials from 1954 until 1960, the year his father died, and he took on the role as head of the household, looking after his mother and sisters – Sandra was just six years old, and Noel had a positive influence on her life.

The year 1960 was significant, as it was the year he joined the Ulster Laces, where he remained until it closed in 1984. And it was during this period that he met promising soccer starlet John McClelland. Typically, he wasn’t unemployed for long, joining the staff of Holmes Cash and at Brownstown Road Business Centre and then Ulster Carpets where he remained until he retired in 2001.

Noel’s favourite pastime was following Portadown Football Club, rarely missing a match home or away. He joined the UDR for a short time, and he had a great love for the Royal British Legion, being a committee member of the Portadown Branch. He was also a member of the Old Comrades Association, the UDR Association and the ‘Specials’ Association.

He married Ada Jeffers in 2001, and proposed in a novel way. They pulled a Christmas cracker together and out popped an engagement ring (he had researched her finger size and tastes) and the wedding took place in September 2001. He moved in with Ada at 111 Westland Road.

They spent happy years together, especially holidays in Benidorm and Tenerife and London weekends with the Legion. And in this context, they got a close-up view of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at a Cenotaph Ceremony one year.

Sadly, Noel took ill in March 2010 and had to undergo an operation from which he never really recovered. He later entered Mahon Hall and then Rosemount Nursing Home. The family visited him regularly and often laid on a taxi to take him to his beloved Shamrock Park on Saturdays where his fellow fans were delighted to see him. But that was not possible over the past year as his health deteriorated.

Noel Magee was a dedicated church goer and attended St Mark’s. It was well filled on Tuesday for his funeral which was conducted by the Rector, Canon Jim Campbell. Burial was at Kernan Cemetery.