Rugby legend joins in tribute to Oliver

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British and Irish Lions rugby legend Willie John McBride will be the principal speaker at a dinner being held in memory of a Moira man.

Oliver Turkington died in 2007, aged 35, after a long battle with cancer. He was a boarder at Coleraine Academical Institution (CAI).

W J McBride

W J McBride

It is 25 years since Coleraine Academical Institution (CAI) became the first Irish school to play rugby in Japan when a 21-player First XV squad and three coaches embarked on the ground breaking tour to the Far East. Oliver was generally regarded as the stand-out player on the four-game trip.

The memorial event will take place at CAI on Saturday September 13.

“Bringing the squad back together to mark the 25th anniversary of the tour was an obvious thing to do,” said current CAI First XV coach Richard Beggs.

“But the evening will now have much greater meaning as we have decided it will be an open charity event held in Oliver’s memory. Everyone who wants to buy a ticket and come along will be made very welcome.

“Following consultation with the Turkington family, half of the money raised will be donated to Cancer Research UK with the remainder going towards rugby development at the school.”

In a real coup for the school, the great Willie John McBride – who remains the most capped British and Irish Lions Test player in history – has agreed to give an address.

“My son Paul was also a boarder at CAI and was the tour captain in Japan, so I could hardly say no!” Willie John joked.

“More seriously, Oliver Turkington was a close friend of Paul’s and I got to know him very well personally over many years.

“He was a fine young man and he fought cancer with incredible bravery and remarkable good humour.

“Oliver’s death was a desperately sad event for everyone, and I think it is a wonderful credit to him that his old teammates are reuniting to celebrate his life, share tales and raise some money for good causes in so doing.

“I’m sure it will be a tremendous evening.”

Bruce Turkington, Oliver’s younger brother, said that he and his family had no hesitation in throwing their full support behind the event.

“I know Oliver would have been delighted – and probably a little embarrassed – to know that his friends were getting together in his name,” said Bruce.

Tickets priced at £45 each are available by calling: 028 7034 4331 or emailing