Mourners gathered at Hillsborough Presbyterian Church on Wednesday for a service of thanksgiving for the life of Ronnie Watt.
Mr Watt, the father of well known Banbridge man Michael Watt, was a celebrated badminton coach who made a huge contribution to the sport in Ireland.
Despite being a relative latecomer to the sport himself, Ronnie Watt’s contribution to badminton at Alpha Badminton Club and the wider badminton family has been quite understated, but countless players who went on to win inter-provincial and international honours were among those who packed into Hillsborough Presbyterian Church on Wednesday afternoon to pay their final respects at the service of thanksgiving.
A host of former international players including John Scott, Frazer Evans, Bill Thompson and Graham Henderson joined former Presidents of the club Mrs Jenny Stephenson, Brian Chambers, Bob Colhoun and Ken Nixon at the funeral service. Current President Paul Devlin was also in attendance alongside William Martin, President of Ulster Badminton, and representatives from Badminton Ireland.
Ronnie, who was the Lisburn club’s President in 1992-94, may not have reached the same heady heights as many of the youngsters he coached to representative honours, but he was Men’s Captain in 1979 and received the ‘Member of the Year’ accolade in 1993/94.
He was though to carve himself a considerable reputation as a coach and masterminded his daughter Mary and son Michael’s successes in the sport, with Michael in particular going on to win nine Irish National Singles titles and over 60 international caps, before more recently having taken over the role of Chief Executive of Badminton Ireland on a short-term basis.
Leslie Dewart, a former international and development officer and high performance coach, took to social media to post this particular tribute to Ronnie:
“Up and down the country there will be folk today with a particular memory of Ronnie, whether they saw him in the damp hall of a winter competition - setting up his video camera, from the cold days in the McCallum Hall in Belfast to many on court marathons coaching passionately his charges against players from across the globe or taking just another coaching session in Alpha - cajoling his players through their paces whilst emphasizing court etiquette, letting their imaginations visualise the matches and competition that lay ahead!
“His passion and dedication to badminton in Ireland will never be forgotten.”