Lives Remembered

Paddy Agnew: Rugby and judo international was man of remarkable determination, drive and integrity

Paddy Agnew

PADDY Agnew was 26 years old before he set foot on a rugby pitch.

He had been persuaded by his wife Máire to give the game a try and when he lined out for the CIYMS 4th team for the first time, you could be forgiven for thinking it would just be a pastime.

But that would be to underestimate the big Belfast man's incredible determination, drive and will to win.

Paddy had already excelled in several other sports, having been an Irish triallist in water polo and multiple all-Ireland judo champion, representing his country in the 1967 European Championships in Rome.

Inevitably he made his mark in the rugby world as well.

A trial for Ulster led to several years as an imposing prop in the white jersey and he also proudly earned two caps for Ireland - against France in Paris in the 1974 Five Nations Championship, and two years later against Australia at Lansdowne Road.

Paddy was even placed on the reserve list for a Lions tour to South Africa, although injury would rob him of the opportunity and ultimately end his career.

This did not, of course, mean that he gave up on sport.

Having taken up golf, he swung his way to a handicap of just six inside two years and was a popular figure for many years at the Balmoral club, serving as captain and president.

Snooker was another passion, as was a hand of poker. Even in card games with his children at home he always played to win.

Right into his seventies Paddy still kept in shape and was a regular gym user until 2018, when a devastating diagnosis of motor neurone disease began to rob him of his legendary strength.

Paddy Agnew was a multiple Irish judo champion

Paddy Agnew earned two Irish rugby caps in 1974 and 1976

But having enjoyed life and always lived it to the full, he wasn't prepared to give up control and determined that his death aged 77 would be on his terms - the final whistle would be for him to blow.

Born in 1942, Paddy had been the eldest of six children of Jim and Bridie Agnew, an Irish bowls champion.

He spent his early childhood in Clady near Ballymena before the family moved to Andersonstown in west Belfast.

Paddy was educated at St Mary's CBS, Barrack Street and St Malachy's College before beginning a career at Bank of Ireland in the city centre.

By the time of his retirement exactly 40 years later he was the district manager for Belfast, having spent the whole of his fulfilling working life with the company.

Paddy met Falls Road woman and Northern Bank employee Máire Campbell on a double date and they were married in 1965 and made their home on the Upper Lisburn Road.

They had two girls, Finn and Gráinne, and he was devoted to them and his five grandchildren - and even more so after the death of Máire in 2004.

They remember him now for his many sporting achievements but also his great humour, searing honesty and above all integrity.

Paddy Agnew died peacefully on November 15 2019. He is survived by his daughters, grandchildren Coirle, Madeleine, Patrick, Beth and Pippa, sons-in-law Damien and Alistair and siblings Seamus, Grainne, Eileen and Rita.

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Lives Remembered