Everyone connected with Portadown Football Club are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our former groundsman and life member Walter McElroy at the age of 88 following a short illness.
Walter gave over 45 years service to the club from his appointment in 1973 until he retired from the post in 2018. It was during the 1972-73 season that Portadown had been plagued by a poor playing surface. With the assistance of the ground staff from the rugby club, new turf was cut and laid, to resurface Shamrock Park. It all began with a request from Gibby McKenzie for Walter to take on the onerous task of looking after the playing surface with just a nineteen-inch petrol mower. Indeed he spent most of Christmas Day 1973 repairing the pitch for the big Boxing Day game against Glentoran, such was his dedication.
Down through the years Walter worked tirelessly to maintain Shamrock Park in pristine condition, despite the numerous intrusions across the pitch by stock cars on a Saturday night. He built up his stock of machinery and most nights Walter could be seen toiling away into the darkness on his pride and joy. The big freeze of 1981 couldn’t beat Walter and with sports fixtures across the country cancelled, Portadown were still able to play at Shamrock Park in the sub-zero conditions.
In 2011 after 38 years’ service, Walter was granted a testimonial, with a match between Portadown and Glenavon. Walter worked on well into his 80’s with a proud record which saw very few games postponed at Portadown through his 45 years at the helm. As well as following The Ports, Walter was a big fan of Newcastle United, often performing his party piece of reciting the names of 1951 Toon cup winning team.
Walter served his time in the furniture business before setting up on his own as an upholsterer. Indeed he had little or no experience of grounds work when Gibby made that approach 50 years ago. It is testimony to his dedication and love of Portadown FC that he turned a labour of love into a lifetime of expertise on the green sward.
Sadly, in May of this year his wife Elma passed away, and we pass on our condolences to all the family circle at this sad time.