Hugh Kennedy: Derry city centre 'ranger' devoted his life to public service
HUGH Kennedy (78) was the eyes and ears of his beloved Derry city centre for almost 20 years.
As a 'city centre ranger', the former fire fighter, youth worker and charity volunteer became the human face of Derry to thousands of visitors.
The father-of-three had spent 32 years in then Northern Ireland Fire Brigade. During that time, he also became involved in charity work helping children in Romania.
In late 1989, he travelled to the eastern European country with a group of tradesmen, nurses and a paediatrician to work in orphanages.
The scenes he witnessed, and in particular the ill-treatment of children, made a lasting impression on the Derry man. On his return, he immediately got involved with the NSPCC in the charity’s “Young Witness Service”.
Over the next 18 years, he worked with young people giving evidence in courts. While often traumatic, Hugh said he found the work to be hugely rewarding.
The NSPCC said he was its longest-serving volunteer.
“Hugh carried out his vital role with warmth, humility and humour," it said.
His work with young people was recognised when he was chosen as the charity's Children’s Service Volunteer of the Year in 2018.
Hugh travelled to London with his family to receive his award from the NSPCC's patron, Countess Sophie of Wessex.
Earlier this year, he was also awarded the British Empire Medal in the New Year’s honours list for his services to the community and young people.
Hugh became a city centre ranger in Derry in 2001 following his retirement as a firefighter. Once again displaying his commitment to public service, he spent the following 17 years helping visitors to the city.
Derry’s City Centre Initiative, which operates the ranger scheme, said he was indispensable.
“As a city centre ranger, he was the eyes and ears of the city centre, patrolling the city and Derry Walls monument on a daily basis, addressing hazards and providing support."
Following his retirement in 2017, Hugh said he took pride in the many developments in Derry since he took up the position. He loved the job and the people he met.
A true son of Derry, Hugh died on August 21 and was buried at the City Cemetery following Requiem Mass at Holy Family Church, Ballymagroarty.
He is survived by his wife Teresa, children Jason, Jennifer and Gary and his four grandchildren.