Big thank you from

'Mr Darts' passes away

Sam Kirkpatrick with Phil Taylor.THE sudden death this week of Sam Kirkpatrick - a man known far and wide as 'Mr Darts' - has caused sadness well beyond the sporting fraternity.

Sam, who joined the Ulster Star as darts and football correspondent in 1958, devoted much of his life to darts, but had many strings to his bow.

His family shared Sam's love of darts, with wife of 49 years Sally, and daughter Elizabeth, well known in local circles. Both had the honour of playing for Northern Ireland, something of which Sam was extremely proud.

Sam, who threw for the old Horseshoe Inn, now known as the Three Crowns, went on to hold office at the highest level and was the longest serving President of the Northern Ireland Darts Organisation.

This role often saw him travel the world for the major championships and international events, an opportunity which allowed him to make friends with some of the biggest names in the sport.

From the late 70's to the 90's Sam brought over the likes of Jocky Wilson, John Lowe, Eric Bristow and Phil Taylor for exhibitions around the province. He also covered darts for television, radio, the Belfast Telegraph and Darts World magazine.

One of the last players Sam brought to the province was Phil Taylor. "All of the top players had a special affection for Sam. He introduced me to the darts public in Ireland and I have a lot of happy memories of the many exhibition nights we staged," said Phil.

"He had a great love of darts and that was clear to anyone who met him. I knew he had been ill for some time, but I am saddened to hear of his passing."

Locally, Sam was heavily involved in the First Blues League and as press officer, chairman and president at different times he kept the sport to the forefront in our pages each week.

But there were many other sides to Sam. Charity work was close to his heart and for many years he worked tirelessly on the Kirkpatrick Charity Committee.

One man who knows only too well Sam's contribution to charity is Alan Carlisle, who helped for many years on the committee.

"With Sam very much the driving force we raised around �65,000 over the years for several local charities," said Alan. "He made a major contribution in this area, but also to the sport of darts. In recent years ill health took him away from the game and he was sorely missed. His passing really is the end of an era."

His other passion was football, and as a member of the First Lisburn Blues Supporters Club followed Linfield home and away.

Sam was also closely involved in local politics, acting as election agent for many years to Alderman Ivan Davis.

"Sam was a real character and was my election agent from 1977 to 2001, recalled Ivan. "Owing to illness he had to give that role up, but he always took a keen interest in politic, especially in the local scene.

"He was without doubt one of the mainstays of the darts scene in Northern Ireland and along with my fellow councillors I always enjoyed the charity matches he asked us to take part in."

He was also a well known figure in the Loyal Orders, but underpinning everything in Sam's life was his love of family. The untimely death of his son several years ago was a grievous blow, but he found great solace in enjoying watching his grandchildren, and more recently his great grandchildren, grow up.

Although he had been in ill health for the past few years, his death on Monday came unexpectedly.

There was a large turn out for his funeral service on Wednesday and to wife Sally, daughter Elizabeth, son Ivan and entire family circle the Ulster Star sends its deepest sympathy.

Ulster Star