Happy Birthday – Willie John McBride

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There is something very special about the rugby players from Ulster, and one who encapsulates this is one of the greatest, Willie John McBride. To mark the momentus occasion of his 70th birthday the Wooden Spoon Society organised a special lunch at the Culloden Hotel, Belfast and 480 people arrived from all over the world! The roll of honour included some of the greatest rugby players of all time.

It was Willie John’s personality that pervaded the atmosphere. Always a gentleman and always in high spirits he quipped

“I am like the Queen this year, my official birthday is June 6 but I was celebrating it on June 2, the most convenient date.”

Joining him were, Phil Bennett Wales, Ian McLauchlan Scotland, Bob Hiller, Mike Burton and David Duckham England, and from Fergus Slattery Dublin.

All spoke at the event and shared their memories. The atmosphere was very special and the proverbial “You could hear a pin drop” was very very true on this occasion.

Willie john has worked for the Wooden Spoon for 15 years and he reckons his work has raised somewhere in the region of half a million pounds!

The Culloden event raised over 26,000 pounds alone and just in seat sales!

But Willie John has recently himself spoke at Civil Service RFC, Armagh and Ballymena raising 500 and 600 pounds here and there.

The Wooden Spoon society carries out very special and much needed work for disabled children and their families. And for that reason Willie John is involved.

In Armagh, the money raised down the years has gone towards creating a rest home centre, where the parents of handicapped children can leave them in safety with proper professional carers for an entire weekend, giving the parents a little respite. Willie John McBride was never a man short of a word or two. But at times he has been speechless at the number of young people he has realised suffer from some form of handicap or another.

“I know that I have been very lucky in my life,” he said. “So to me, this has represented an opportunity of saying, ‘If I can help someone else, I will’.

“But it hasn’t been my hard-earned money that has made such a difference. I have given my time but those who have supported these events have been extremely generous.

“It is only when you get involved in these things you realise how many people and families are involved with mentally handicapped children.

“They need all the help anyone can give to make their lives a little more comfortable.”

If you want to contribute to the Wooden Spoon society, their website is www.woodenspoon.com

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