‘I thought it was a joke’ – Football club secretary of 50 years on his MBE

·3-min read

A man who has been a stalwart of Northern Irish football for more than half a century has said he thought his MBE was joke.

Fred Magee has worked for local team Harland & Wolff Harriers as club secretary for 50 years, and has been involved with a number of other clubs and the Northern Ireland national side.

When he received news that he was to be included in the New Year Honours list his first thought was that his clubmates were pulling an elaborate prank.

Mr Magee, 82, said when he received his envelope with the words “On Her Majesty’s Service” he assumed one of his friends at the club had photoshopped it.

He told the PA news agency: “We have a couple of guys who are very, very good at doing scans and wee things like that.

“I was looking at the coat of arms and all on it, and I thought, well, how did he do that?

“I still didn’t believe it because, I mean, why the hell would they give that to me?

“The number of people in this country doing a lot more than I did. I’m only looking after a football club. Well, not just my own club. I’ve been involved in all the local associations over the years.

“But I thought, why would they want to do that for me?

“I rang my two daughters and of course they said, ‘Dad, it’ll be right’, and I said, ‘No, I don’t believe it’.”

Mr Magee received the letter around a month ago, but refused to believe it until recently.

Fred Magee
Harland and Wolff Welders Football secretary Fred Magee who has been awarded an MBE for services to association football in east Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

“Up until about a week ago I said ‘this is a scam’,” he said.

“I just can’t take it in. I’m just dreaming, to be honest, I really am.

“I’m sure there’s people more deserving than Fred Magee. But somebody, in their wisdom, decided to put my name forward. I don’t know who or why, but I’m very honoured. I’m over the moon about it.”

With the club moving to a new ground, Mr Magee felt the time was right to move on as club secretary for the east Belfast side, who play in the NIFL Championship.

“Basically, by and large, after 50 years that was me saying, ‘Right, time to sit back and do nothing and watch everybody work’. And that’s what I’m doing,” he said.

“I’m at all the games, I enjoy it immensely. Especially with the new ground, it’s absolutely beautiful.”

In his half-century at the club there have been many highs, but a number of cup successes in recent years stand out.

He said: “In Northern Ireland, the Steel and Sons Cup for intermediate football is the gold riband of football, and we won it twice in the last five or six years before I retired.

“To me that was a really big win. It’s a beautiful cup, it’s run right across about 80 or 90 clubs every year. It’s played on Christmas morning, there’s a lovely crowd at it, a great atmosphere.

“It’s one we dream about. We’ve been in the final three times, won it twice, lost once, unfortunately. So I would say, of all the things I’ve got, they would be very, very high up my list.”

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