Earlier this year we lost our Club President and true Gaelic stalwart Patsy McGurk. We were honoured when the ‘Irish News’ published this tribute to Patsy in their ‘Lives Remembered’ feature:
Above all a family man, Patsy McGurk was also staunchly a Catholic, a farmer, a Gael, a Kildress man, a Pioneer, a pipe music lover, a republican and a Tyrone man.
Born 86 years ago in Gortreagh, Kildress Patsy lived his admirable life on his home farm in his native townland and Parish, always showing the class and dignity of that ‘Hungry Thirties’ generation who knew what was important in life. An older brother to Vincy and Atty (RIP) his father died when he was just four. Thereafter Patsy not only lived through history but helped shape it. As a child he lay as a patient in Belfast’s Mater Hospital when Tom Williams was hanged in Crumlin Road jail next door. As a young man he was in at the start of his precious Kildress Wolfe Tones GAA Club, beginning a life-long dedication to the Kildress and Tyrone Gaelic causes.
He became Chairman of the Wolfe Tones, providing the leadership for the Club’s first County Championship in 1966, followed quickly by the purchase and development of its grounds at Gortacladdy and another Championship in 1971. In later years Patsy was our Club Trustee and President and in 2015 was honoured with the GAA’s President’s Medal. An unrelenting Tyrone follower, Patsy was there for Tyrone’s first Ulster SFC in 1956 and helped build the momentum that brought All-Irelands to Tyrone on a regular basis half-a-century later.
In 1970 Patsy married Sarah Devlin, also from Gortreagh and over the next five decades they formed an inseparable and fiercely loyal couple, creating a tightly-bound family with their children Don and Celine. Given that he never once forgot Valentine’s Day for Sarah, it was poignant that Patsy died on 14 February.
Ever a man of conviction and belief, the Irish republican cause also shaped Patsy’s life. He was interned in 1971, experiencing Ballykinlar Camp and HMS Maidstone. His republican principles were non-negotiable but firmly based on respecting the position of others whose views might differ. Patsy always stood tall, but would walk over no one.
Every GAA Club and community in Tyrone and beyond has their Patsy McGurk. They are the people who built the priceless framework we enjoy today. But we’re particularly blessed that in Kildress we had our own special Patsy. A man of belief, courage, decency, generosity, honour and loyalty. Fear as mile a bhi ann. I measc Laochra na nGael agus Naomh na hÉireann go raibh sé.