Jim Gough: A life devoted to the service of others
THE Greek philosopher Aristotle said: “The essence of life is to serve others and to do good.” This statement epitomises the life of Jim Gough.
In the 2007 Antrim GAA Year Book Jim was also described as the “unsung hero of St John’s GAC”. Both quotes sum up a man who devoted his life in service to others.
Jim was born in 1942 to James and Minnie Gough on Forfar Street, off the Springfield Road in west Belfast. He was the third of nine children, along with John, Marie, George (RIP), Cecelia, Nuala, Fergus (RIP), Eileen and Kevin.
He was educated at St Gall’s PS, leaving for the world of work at 14. His first job was as a ‘bookies runner’, then moving on to work in Solomon Peres Records.
Outlet Records in Smithfield became his eventual home where he was a key player in the recording lives of local country & western singers such as Hugo Duncan, Crawford Bell, Joe E Hamilton, Ann Breen, Leon McCrum, John Watt, Tracey Wells and Barnbrack, to name but a few.
Jim had a great ear for music, being able to select tracks for singles and LPs that would sell by the thousand.
But it was as a salesman too where he excelled. He introduced the ‘Homespun Country Show’, where these artists came together annually in Portstewart town hall to sell out nightly concerts.
The huge uptake was due to Jim’s amazing ability to advertise using every known method: fliers on every parked car, mobile home and shop in the district; driving through the streets and caravan parks with a loud speaker on top of his car , and even standing in the street in Portrush selling records.
Night after night, year after year, the shows were a total sell-out and the artists capitalized with flourishing record sales. Many, when interviewed in later years, commented that were it not for the work Jim Gough did in promoting their material, they would not have made it in the music industry.
Jim was totally devoted to his job, working long hours to ensure that others succeeded. His mum prayed that he would take up a hobby which he could relax into.
So in the late 1970s Jim diverted his free time to St John’s GAC in Corrigan Park where his brothers John and Kevin played.
Very quickly his talents were recognised – not on the field of play, but in his ability to make much-needed funds to develop the club.
For the next 40 years plus, Jim worked tirelessly as a volunteer.
He booked Irish country stars Philomena Begley, Gloria, Dickie Rock and Roly Daniels for concerts in Andersonstown Leisure Centre, while Paddy Reilly, Hugo Duncan, Crawford Bell, Jimmy Cricket and Gene Fitzpatrick graced the stage in Corrigan Park.
For the next decade the ground was the hub of the entertainment world, with queues of people waiting to get in, week after week.
Whilst this was the evening entertainment, Jim was also hard at work behind the scenes, serving on the club committee and involving himself with teams, often doing the tedious jobs others left to someone else.
Opening and locking up the club, changing rooms and pitch; putting out the flags for every match; making tea and sandwiches for visiting teams; organising the jerseys; giving players rub-downs before matches; and sweeping and mopping the changing rooms.
Jim took such pride in every job but none more so than his management of the pitch, often with tools totally unfit for purpose. He would be seen in his all-weather gear battling rain and wind to cover the goal mouths with plastic sheeting and shovelling out any water that seeped in.
The car park in Corrigan Park became another of his projects, particularly in the playing season. Jim would be the first to arrive so that his plan could be executed to ensure maximum capacity and traffic flow.
Jim was a creative thinker, constantly coming up with ideas for the good of the club and the people in it. He epitomised every aim of the GAA as a voluntary organisation and it was no wonder that a chapter in the recent club history Come and See the Johnnies Play was devoted to him.
Away from the club Jim was a much-loved member of the Gough family. His brother Kevin attributes his success in Gaelic football at club and county level to the hours of practice which Jim initiated in the Falls Park from the age of six.
Fr Aidan Brankin referred Jim as an ‘unclaimed treasure’ as he never married, but he loved children and they loved him. He had a wonderful ability to devise games to create hours of fun for his nieces and nephews.
He has left behind a plethora of wonderful memories through his work, his leisure time and his family life. “Wherever a beautiful soul has been, there is a trail of beautiful memories.”
Suaimhneas síoraí d’anam Jim – eternal rest to Jim’s soul.