Hockey Ireland Life Member Des Simon passed away last week at the age of 101. He was a leading figure in Ulster and Irish men’s hockey, an international umpire and a former president of the Irish Hockey Union. Billy Pollock outlines his life in hockey.
Des Simon was Honorary Secretary of Cliftonville Hockey Club from 1945 to 1957, elected chairman of CHC in 1958-59 and was a highly respected Cliftonville Past President and Member for over 75 years.
Des was honoured with the roles of President of the Ulster Branch of the Irish Hockey Union (IHU) 1965-66 and President of the IHU in 1974-75. He was the Ulster Branch Secretary and an Ulster selector for many years.
At Irish level, Des served on the executive committee for 21 years and was an Irish selector for 13 years and chairman for nine years. In 1973, he was awarded the Merit Badge of the IHU and was an Honorary Life Member of both Ulster Hockey and Hockey Ireland. Ulster Hockey voted Des “Personality of the Year 2016” in his 100th year.
Des, who was born on 20th September 1916, was the longest living Old Boy of the Belfast Royal Academy and entered the Preparatory Department in 1921 and as a keen sportsman went to become Vice Captain of the first XI Cricket Team.
On leaving school in 1934, he went to work for Batchelors Foods Ltd in England. He returned to Northern Ireland in 1939 where he continued to work for Batchelors for a further 38 years.
When working in England Des met his wife to be, May Woofenden and they were married in Manchester in April 1941. After a short honeymoon, Des and May returned to Belfast only for Des to be given the dreadful news that his parents and brother had been killed in the Easter Blitz of Belfast.
Des played both hockey and cricket for Cliftonville Cricket and Hockey Club (then it was a joint sports Club). When Des finished playing he became a top class umpire achieving FIH Grade II and his partnership with good friend Alec Glasby became the most memorable umpiring twosome in Ulster Hockey.
When Des retired from umpiring and administration, he was ever present on the sidelines at both hockey and cricket pitches and still enjoyed playing golf and holiday cruising up until a few years ago!
On his 100th birthday, Des received letters from the Queen and President of Ireland Michael D Higgins. During his fantastic life of over 101 years, he left an indelible mark on Cliftonville members past and present and for that we are very thankful for knowing such a wise gentleman filled with boundless energy and enthusiasm, always dapper and a true character!