Ballina bids farewell to its most famous fisherman

Mural unveiled at Ridge Pool on River Moy, Jack Charlton’s favourite salmon fishing spot

Former Republic of Ireland manager Jack Charlton, who died on July 10th aged 85.  Photograph: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Former Republic of Ireland manager Jack Charlton, who died on July 10th aged 85. Photograph: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

 

It started with the ringing of church bells followed by a respectful one-minute silence. It ended with a vigorous rendition of Ireland’s best-known soccer anthem, Put ’Em Under Pressure, with all – young and old – joining in with gusto.

The mood was one of celebration as well as mourning as the Ballina community turned out in force on Tuesday afternoon for the unveiling of a mural honouring former Republic of Ireland manager Jack Charlton on the banks of the River Moy in his adopted Ballina.

The event, fixed for 12.30pm, coincided with Charlton’s funeral in England.

The Ballina Community Clean Up group painted the mural on a building overlooking the Ridge Pool, once anointed by Big Jack when he declared it his favourite salmon angling spot in the whole world, bar none.

Artist Padraig Mitchell, who led the team involved in the mural project, set the ball rolling on the ceremony. He said the organisers had been in touch with the Charltons and the family had asked that Put ’Em Under Pressure be played during the proceedings.

Nobody annoyed him here. People gave him space when he was in town

Mitchell said Charlton was the most famous ever resident of Ballina and his frequent presence had done much to enhance the area.

Michael “Kio” Ruane was wrapped in a Tricolour emblazoned with the words “pure magic”, a cherished supporters’ relic from the Charlton era.

“I ghillied for Jack and the late Derek Davis on Lough Conn,” he recalled. “It was a very cold day. Jack called it off. He wanted to head for the hotel [Pontoon Bridge] for a few whiskies and cigars.

‘A bit of craic’

“Jack was good fun, a great character. All he wanted was a bit of craic.”

Eugene Maguire from Ballina said “gentlemanly” Charlton sang a song at his daughter Muriel’s 21st birthday.

“Jack loved Ballina,” he said. “Nobody annoyed him here. People gave him space when he was in town.”

Michelle Cunningham recounted how in the 1980s, when she was a schoolgirl, she and her friends would sit on the wall of the Ridge Pool watching Charlton casting.

“He threw us a fistful of coins on one occasion. I remember we were delighted, rushing home to fell our families how the tall man with the strange accent was so nice to us.”

Ballina couple Sean and Phil Henry accommodated Charlton and his wife Pat in their B&B before he bought a house locally in the 1980s.

“Jack and Pat weren’t a bit fussy,” said Phil. “Every morning Jack loved his big fry-up of bacon, eggs, sausages, toast, the lot. He had a great appetite.”

As the ceremony continued, two men waist-deep in water and swathed in angling gear continued to fish the adjacent Ridge Pool. As Charlton might have said, the show – particularly when it comes to fishing – must go on.