The proud daughter of Clarets great Jimmy McIlroy has described the devoted family man behind the legend.
Anne McIlroy spoke to the Burnley Express about the father who was adored by his children and grandchildren even more than he was by the thousands of Burnley fans who had had the privilege to see him play.
Born in the small village of Lambeg in Northern Ireland, Jimmy made Burnley his home after his glorious playing career had ended, settling in the Rosehill area of town with his Burnley sweetheart Barbara.
The couple had first lived in club ‘digs’ at Rosewood Avenue, before moving a few years later just down the road to Rosehill Avenue, a place they would call home for around 50 years.
Anne and her brother Paul shared many happy memories of their famous dad, and how he doted on his three grandchildren Catherine, Tara and Bethany.
Anne said: “Dad loved Burnley and was more than happy to settle here. He came from a small village in Northern Ireland, and so I think he appreciated the small town warm and friendly feel of Burnley. He loved spending time with his family here.
“Dad went to work for the Burnley Express some years after he retired from football, and he would always finish early on a Friday so he could look after Catherine in the afternoon.
“He loved all his grandchildren and would visit nearby Scott Park with them nearly every day. Thousands of people knew our dad the footballer, but we knew and loved him as a family man.
“My daughter Tara was extremely close to her grandad and he treated her like his daughter. We will all miss him very much.”
Anne recounted tales her great story-teller dad would tell them as children, including a precious and humorous memory of when Burnley Football Club sent officials to his home village to sign him.
“Dad always recounted the tale that he was in the pictures when the Burnley officials came to the family home. One of his sisters cycled to the cinema to tell him. He joked that he pushed her off the bike and cycled home quickly to see them. Dad had a very dry wit and was a great story-teller."
Coming from a poor family, Jimmy had been forced to leave technical college at 14 and take up work as a brickie, at the same firm where famous comic Frank Carson worked as a plasterer.
His talent as a footballer was soon recognised, though, and Jimmy went on to inspire Burnley to become champions of England where he excelled as a creative inside forward.
A bright man, Jimmy also had a creative mind and was able to pursue other artistic interests after hanging up his boots – painting portraits at home and writing for the Burnley Express.
Anne added: “Mum and dad had a ladies and gents outfitters in Colne Road, but it was not really dad’s thing. He was very creative.”
Ever the sportsman, Jimmy enjoyed playing golf at Glen View, Whalley and Clitheroe, and also played cricket for Brooklands Road Methodist Church.
Anne said: “Dad was very placid and easy-going. I don’t ever remember him raising his voice. He wasn’t into money or fame and always said he was lucky to be paid for doing something he loved. I think that’s how everyone should remember him.”