Obituary: Local sportsman will be sadly missed

Ivan Craig.
Ivan Craig.

The local community were saddened to learn of the death of well known sportsman William Ivan Craig, who passed away peacefully at Craigavon Area Hospital on January 3.

Ivan was the dearly loved husband of Helen and father of Jacob, Adam and Katie. He was born on August 29, 1966 to the late Lily and Morris Craig and was younger brother to Maurice and Shirley.

His school days were spent at Scarva Primary, Banbridge High and Banbridge Academy where he completed his A-Levels.

As a young man Ivan pursued a future career as a Quantity Surveyor with Desmond Chambers Builders in Banbridge, but after a short spell with John Sinton Ltd Tandragee, Ivan began what would turn out to be a 28-year career with the Prison Service. His work provided him with great fellowship and camaraderie during many challenging and dangerous times. It also provided Ivan with the opportunity to play lots of golf with the Prison Service Society and also as a member of Banbridge and Portadown Golf Clubs. He played off a 2 to 4 handicap for many years and enjoyed success in local competitions. However golf was only Ivan’s second sporting love as he was born into a bowling family. He started indoor bowls at four years of age and by seven was winning open competitions with his mother, father, brother and sister.

In 1984 Ivan was crowned Northern Ireland Bowling Association Singles Winner and was narrowly defeated in the All-Ireland Singles final at the tender age of 18. That same year he also won the Allum Cup for Indoor Singles, the Dundee Masters Singles, Under-25 Indoor Singles Long Mat, Shorts Triples and many other tournaments with his family.

Ivan was a founder member of Rathfriland Outdoor Bowling Club in 1982 and a proud team member as they made their way through various leagues to become Senior 1 winners. He had a spell with Dunbarton in Private Greens League One before retiring from the game for 11 years to concentrate on his golfing passion.

He came out of retirement to play for Lisnagarvey in NIBA Senior 1, and in recent years he was honoured to be become their Captain and President. Just last October he was presented with their ‘Player of The Year’ trophy.

Along with his great friend Neil Mullholland, Ivan achieved many NIBA Championship victories and they were a formidable partnership in pairs, triples and rinks.

Ivan was a man who simply loved to play and watch sport of any type. His competitive nature and sense of humour will be sadly missed at bowls and golf, but nowhere more so than in the family home where his young family will miss him dearly.

Ivan had been battling illness for just 19 weeks but had never complained about his condition and his faith and spirits were always high. He took great pride and comfort from his family during this stressful time. They enjoyed short family holidays and nights at the movies as well as daily meals with his work mates and friends as Ivan amazed everyone at how he handled his terminal illness.

His funeral, which was well attended, took place at Shankill Parish Church, Lurgan on Friday, January 5.

Church minister Rev Mark Harvey, alongside Ivan’s friend and golfing partner Rev William Orr, officiated at the service and graveside and their presence at the hospital and family home throughout Ivan’s illness was a great comfort to all.

Ivan was laid to rest in Tullylish Presbyterian burying ground.

Donations in lieu of flowers are being sent to Malcomson’s Funeral Service, Robert Street, Lurgan to be passed on to Friends of the Cancer Centre.

The family have expressed their thanks to all those who cared for Ivan during his illness - the nurses at Craigavon Area Hospital, Belfast City Hospital Cancer Ward and the Macmillan Cancer Care staff - for their dedication and professionalism.