Mr John Savage

THE death took place towards the end of last month of Downpatrick man, John (Jackie) Savage, a dedicated husband, father and grandfather.

Born on February 9, 1948, Jackie was the eldest of Bridget and Patrick Savage’s four children. He grew up in John’s Crescent in Downpatrick, with his brother, Howard, and sisters, Mary and Eileen. He was known as the ‘quiet one’ among his siblings but always took care of them when needed.

Jackie’s first job was a sprayer in the RAF at Ballykelly before he was sent to Bichester in Oxfordshire where he continued to work, spraying the RAF vehicles.

It was during this time in England that his passion for football started as he went along to the local football stadium to watch Oxford United to play on his days off.

Unfortunately this was during the Troubles and Jackie was forced to make a difficult decision. He had to report to the local police station for duty and he was afraid that he would have been thought of as an informer so, fearing for his family and his own safety, he took the decision to leave the career he loved.

Jackie changed career when he got a job as a transport assistant in the local Downshire Hospital. He really enjoyed the social aspect of the job as he met many people delivering food around the wards. Many a lunch break consisted of a cup of tea and a hand of poker.

It was in the Downshire Hospital that he met the love of his life — Kathleen. It was to lead to a marriage of 44 years and the birth of his daughter, Marcella, and son, Paul, and many happy years living in Ballybrannagh.

Jackie changed roles at the Downshire and took up the post of storeman in the kitchen where life got even busier, especially on horse racing festival days when a lot of the workers would gather to hear the commentary of the races blasting out from the radio in the storeroom.

While in the Downshire he became a member of the GMB trade union where he became a wealth of knowledge for his colleagues and he often represented members when issues arose. He often boasted how bosses where there to be fought with but not to be liked. 

But underneath this hard exterior he had a great rapport with many people. 

Being so passionate about the GMB led him to travel to Liverpool many times as the regional secretary for the area and he often volunteered at many of the Save the Downe rallies held throughout the area.

Jackie’s two main hobbies were following Tottenham Hotspur and Down GAA. A memory he often talked about was when Down won the all Ireland in 1991. Jackie and his great friend, Jimmy Fitzpatrick, who was the driver of the famous green minibus that Ardglass GAC owned, left Ardglass on the Saturday morning before the final and didn’t arrive home until the following Tuesday morning as they followed the Down team home on their many stops.

Being a keen sportsman, he also enjoyed travelling to watch Spurs games so much he was heavily involved in setting up the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Club in Downpatrick. But with all his powers of persuasion, he could never manage to sway his son, Paul, away from supporting Liverpool which caused many a heated discussion in the Savage household over the years.

In 2003 Jackie had to retire due to ill health. However, this never stopped him visiting the local Toals Bookmakers and having a wee bet. Although he never got his wish of ‘taking Toals to the cleaners’ he enjoyed his occasional win on the horses or on the Irish Lotto.

In December 2015 Jackie’s daughter, Marcela, gave birth to Ethan, his only grandchild. Jackie adored him and was hopeful his grandson would grow up to be a Spurs supporter. Unfortunately this was not to be as Jackie discovered when once arrived to visit in a Manchester United kit. 

Jackie didn’t mind, as Ethan was always the apple of his eye.

Jackie passed away peacefully on October 23 in the Ulster Hospital after a short battle with lung cancer. 

His month’s mind Mass will be on Sunday, November 26, in St Nicholas’ Church, Ardglass, at 11.30am.