Tributes have come pouring in from across Ireland for the News Letter’s cricket correspondent David Holmes, who died on Sunday.
David, who was 54, passed away suddenly.
The father-of-two, who was one of the best known and most popular figures in the game in the Northern Cricket Union (NCU), began working for the News Letter on a freelance basis in 2007, before leading the paper’s cricket coverage over the last two summers.
David also wrote about cricket for a number of titles on a freelance basis, including the Sunday Life, the Belfast Telegraph and the Ulster Star.
Brought up in Belfast and Carryduff, David was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and his passion for cricket was clear from a young age.
Richard Johnson, the Instonians and NCU official who was a long-time friend, recalled how David started playing for both Instonians’ third eleven and midweek team as a schoolboy.
He went on to captain Instonians thirds, playing for around two decades, and he was a massive presence behind the scenes, serving on the club’s cricket committee for about 15 years. He was a key organiser in the club’s ground-breaking tour to Barbados in 1996.
David was also hugely influential in the NCU itself. He served on the union general committee for a number of years around the end of the last millennium and, as sponsorship officer, was key to bringing in revenue and increasing publicity for cricket.
Even when he left that role and was no longer serving on the committee, David continued to devote his spare time to helping the NCU. He worked closely with sponsors, including formerly the Ulster Bank and now Arthur J Gallagher, the sponsors of the Challenge Cup who were hugely impressed with his talent and dedication to promoting the game on social media.
Richard Johnson said: “He was a real character, I had dinner with David after the Challenge Cup draw recently and I’m so glad that I did. I knew him since he was a schoolboy and he loved his cricket. He was not a great player, but he was so enthusiastic about the game, and he has done so much to promote it.
“He was going to be heavily involved in the launch of the new sponsorship of the NCU league and we are going to miss him badly. He is a massive loss for cricket.”
David began his working life with the Ulster Bank. Mostly recently he was employed with Londonderry-based electricity company Click Energy since August 2016.
Its managing director Damian Wilson said: “This has come as a total shock. We joked with David about him sending us work emails late at night and on Saturday past he was firing out emails at 11.30pm and 12am, probably while he was watching the Ashes on TV.
“He was only up with us (in Londonderry) on Friday. He did a great job, and was always full of craic, he will be sorely missed.”
Tributes have been paid to David from across the NCU, North West and clubs in Leinster. Social media, including Facebook and Twitter, was awash with tributes and for much of yesterday, David’s name was trending on Twitter.
Kyle McCallan, the former Ireland cricketer, tweeted: “Awful news. Just awful. Might have been small in stature, but hugely respected and is a massive loss to the game. I’ll miss our chats. RIP mate. Thoughts and prayers with your family and friends at this tragic time.”
Andrew White, Ireland’s chairman of selectors, tweeted: “Devastating news this morning with the passing of local cricket writer David Holmes. The game here has lost a gentleman and a loyal supporter. Thoughts and prayers with his family at this time.”
Lawrence Moore of the North West Cricket Union said: “On behalf of the NWCU I’d like to offer sincere condolences following the very sudden passing of David Holmes.
“A friend and colleague to so many and a great character around the grounds, his loss will be sorely felt.”
Alan Waite, the NCU chairman, described as “impossible” the task of doing justice to measure David’s devotion towards the promotion of the game.
“He worked tirelessly, a lot of it in his own time, to ensure that cricket was being kept at the forefront of the sports news agenda,” said Alan. “One of his great attributes was that he recognised that a club under 11s was every bit as important as the senior inter-provincial team and he reported accordingly.
“I was talking to him on Saturday night about two different projects he had been helping with and he was speaking with such enthusiasm about the benefits the potential outcomes could provide.”
ews Letter editor Alistair Bushe said: “Words can barely express the shock that will be felt within the cricket fraternity at this dreadful news.
“David has been at the forefront of promoting our sport for many years now and no-one should underestimate how he endeavoured to improve its profile.
“He was the first person to promote the game using his Twitter handle, where would we be now had he not started updating scores from around the NCU on a Saturday afternoon? What he started, others followed.
“David was a hugely popular figure with players, officials and spectators. He invariably had a smile on his face. For David, writing about cricket and supplying scores wasn’t about earning money, it was about a genuine love for the game and wanting to see it grow in Ireland.
“He will be hugely missed. Our condolences go to his family.”
David’s funeral details will be published in the News Letter when they are released.