BRC mourns passing of Alan Mark

04 April 2022

Ballymena Road Club’s management committee and members were greatly saddened to learn of the death of their esteemed honorary life member and former President Mr Alan Mark last Friday morning 1stApril.

Alan passed away peacefully at the home of his daughter Joan and son in law Hugh McCullough at Tullynahinnion Road Portglenone, where he and his wife Mary had been tenderly cared for over the past two years. He would have been 85 on 28th May 2022.

Ballymena Road Club was founded in 1954 and Alan joined the following year. Whilst he wasn’t quite a founder member of the Road Club his contribution over the decades has been second to none.

I joined the club in 1971 when Alan was already a well-established committee member, holding the post of Race Secretary at that time. Apart from a brief spell in the late 1970’s he continued in this role until the end of the 2007 season when Tommy Wilson took over.

Over the years Alan was ably assisted by his wife Mary, daughters Carol and Joan and Joan’s husband Hugh McCullough, in the organising of the club’s demanding programme of club and major open race promotions. Alan and Mary’s contribution was recognised by the Road Club with the awarding of the club’s "Friendship cup” as club member of the year in 1989 and 1999 respectively.

The Borough of Ballymena also awarded Alan their prestigious "Services to Sport” accolade in 2004.

After being Race Secretary Alan became Vice President for 2008 and one year later took over the President’s role from Rex Bonar, who was retiring from club committee duties. Alan was to remain as President until ill health caused him to take a back seat. In 2019 the Road Club again recognised his outstanding contribution to the club by making him an honorary life member.

During his six decades as a club official Alan was also active as a signing on steward, timekeeper, finish line judge, marshal and road race commissaire. He also found time to actually ride his bike and one of his proudest achievements came in 1973 by establishing a place to place competition record, aboard a tandem, with his workmate and fellow BRC member Sammy Connor, who piloted the outfit.

They completed the approximately 75 miles course, from Londonderry’s Guildhall to the City Hall in Belfast, in 2 hours 49 minutes, which beat the old record by 9 minutes. A section of that ride saw the pair cover 5 miles in 8 minutes on the descent of the Glenshane pass. They also established a 100 miles tandem record of 4 hours 5 minutes a short time later.

Alan was a plasterer by trade and was blessed with great manual dexterity and could turn his hand to painting and decorating and also floor and wall tiling whenever the need arose.

Many of the older club members will remember his bike shop just off the Crankill Road, and in more recent years at Fenaghy Road, Galgorm, where an array of lightweight equipment and cycling clothing was readily available. Needless to say he was also a superb bicycle mechanic.

Most weekends he would travel in the club’s events vehicle, which in the 1980’s and 1990’s would have been packed with youth section riders, to races all over the Province.

At Provincial level Alan served on the Executive of the Northern Ireland Cycling Federation and was race director of the Easter Tour of the North stage race.

Cycling Ulster has posted a lengthy tribute to Alan on their website, an extract reads "Alan Mark was a key figure in the talks between Cycling Ulster, Cycling Ireland and the NICF and was ready to listen to all sides. Marian Lamb, current Treasurer of Cycling Ulster, was also involved in those talks along with Tommy Lamb, Gordon Parker, Jack Watson and Micheal Concannon. She remembers Alan as one who put the good of cycling above politics. He said to her "I see the young people competing against each other and then coming together afterwards, laughing and talking. That is what sport is all about. As Chairman of the NICF it is my duty to look to the long term future of our young people and give them a future together.” In December 2006, at a special meeting of the NICF, held in the Templeton Hotel, the Northern Ireland Cycling Federation member clubs voted overwhelmingly in support of a major change in direction that will see them amalgamate with Cycling Ulster and thus affiliate to the UCI World governing body via Cycling Ireland for 2007. Alan Mark chaired the meeting, which saw a landslide vote of 29 in favour and 2 against the proposals set out by the negotiating team that had been in discussions with Cycling Ulster in preceding weeks. This was perhaps his greatest achievement.” Concluded Marian Lamb

On a personal level I enjoyed many miles cycling in Alan Mark’s company and also sharing his great love of live music. His favourite artist in recent years was Texan troubadour Tom Russell who was a regular performer at Belfast’s Errigle Inn "Real music club” In Alan’s opinion, Russell’s rendition of the famous Marty Robbins song "El Paso” was the highlight of the show.

Ballymena Road Club extend their sincere sympathy to Alan’s wife Mary, children Carol, Samuel and Joan, son in law Hugh, grandchildren, great grandchildren and the extended family circle.