18 May 2022

Farewell to a local legend with the passing of Tom Scullion

Former Bellaghy and Derry great was buried on Sunday

Farewell to a local legend with the passing of Tom Scullion

Bellaghy said farewell to a pillar of the community at the weekend with the passing of Tom Scullion.

Tom passed away, at home, last Friday at the age of 81 and was buried after requiem mass on Sunday in his native Bellaghy, where he was a popular figure.

He was the beloved husband of Sheena and loving father of Damian Brian, Ursula (Slattery), Roisin (Woods) and Tomas, father in law to Edel, Siobhan, Pat Slattery, Eoghan Woods and Siobhan.  Tom was a dear brother of Pat, Seamus, Rosemary, Celine, Teresa, Hugh, Michael and Marietta.

Tom was brought up in the townland of Ballyscullion and later went as a boarder to St Columb's Derry, travelling up with Seamus Heaney and returning every weekend.

After teaching in New Row PS in Castledawson, where was a past pupil, he became Principal of St Mary's PS in Bellaghy.

A great family man, Tom and his wife Sheena would often be out walking the roads about the locality, stopping to chat to those they'd meet along the way.

He was a keen golfer and was very active on parish committees, but it was on the field that he wrote himself into history and folklore.

Tom holds a record 12 Derry senior championships, including the club's first of 21 in 1956 and three as captain from 1963 to 1965, mainly from his usual centre-back spot.

Tom's medal collection, with 11 of his Derry championship medals along the top.  He gave his 12th to his oldest grandchild Niall (Pic: The Scullion family)

By the time Bellaghy won their first Ulster title in 1968, in the first year of the competition, Tom had moved to full-forward and scored a goal in their semi-final win over Newry Mitchell's. With Larry Diamond suspended for the final, Tom moved back to centre back for their final win over a star-studded Donegal side St Joseph's that included county stars Pauric McShea and Brian McEniff.

Four years later, Tom won his 12th medal – one he later gave to his oldest grandson Niall – and a second Ulster title, before playing at corner back on the club's first All-Ireland club title.

In an interview for Jack Mahon's book, published in 1997, For Love of Town and Village, Tom spoke about the Tones' greatest hour and took the author on a tour of the parish.

Tom, the club's Assistant Secretary at the time, recalled the morning of the All-Ireland final.

“We had huge support,” he told Mahon. “I remember after the game the great pride in all our supporters' hearts many of them with tears in their eyes, men who had travelled to Croke Park for years never witnessing a Derry triumph.”

Bellaghy were 'saddened' as they paid tribute to Scullion's contribution in their journey through history.

“Tom led a generation of players through one of Bellaghy’s most successful periods on the field,” the club commented.

“He also managed the senior team in 1975. Outside of football he taught in and was principal of St Mary’s PS Bellaghy and an active loyal volunteer within the parish.

“A true gentleman, born-winner and will be sorely missed by all in the parish. Our sympathies go out to his wife Sheena, children and wider Scullion family. Ar dheis go raibh a anam.”

Scullion wasn't just a footballing icon in his own backyard.

In 1958, he carried on his tradition of firsts.  He scored the winning point for Queen's in their Sigerson final replay against three-in-a-row chasing UCD, bringing the coveted trophy to Belfast - and Ulster - for the first time.

Later that year, Tom was part of the Derry panel that won the county's first ever Ulster senior title and reached the All-Ireland final.

In 1987, along with Jim McKeever and Phil Stuart, Tom was part of the management team to lead Derry to the Ulster title.

“Derry GAA are saddened to learn of the death of Tom Scullion, a legend of club and county,” read a tribute.

“A former vice-chairman of Derry GAA, Tom Scullion was revered by all Derry Gaels. Our thoughts and prayers are with Tom's family and friends. Derry has lost a truly great man.”

Tom leaves a legacy behind him - a master in the classroom and on the field. And popular with everyone.

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