Andrew Wills - A Tribute

21 August 2019
 Road club mourns former Chairman Andrew Wills 

Ballymena Road Club cyclists were very saddened to learn of the sudden death of their fellow club member Andrew Wills last Monday 12th August. His untimely death occurred just twelve days after his 56th birthday, which had taken place on 31st July. 

Andrew had been an active member of the club since 1990, having moved to Parkmore Close, Ballymena from Banbridge following his marriage to Sharon Fullerton in November 1989. 

Andrew first came to my notice in 1980 when he won the silver medal in the Irish National junior road race championships held at Lurgan. Martin Earley was the winner that day on the Lurgan, Gilford, Warringstown circuit. Earley went on to have a highly successful professional career and won individual stages in the 1986 Giro d’Italia and the 1989 tour de France. 

I recall meeting Andrew in the former McGroggan’s ice cream shop on Broughshane Street one winter afternoon in the late 1980’s I commented "you are a long way from Banbridge today” and he informed me "sure I’m going with a Ballymena girl now” It wasn’t long until that Ballymena girl became his wife. Six years later their first son Christopher was born with son number two, Stefan, arriving after another three years. Everyone in BRC at that time knew Christopher and Stefan because they accompanied their dad to nearly all the club’s events. 

One of Andrew’s first Ballymena Road Club race performances came in the McQuigg cup 50 miles time trial on the Ballymoney road, in June 1990. He recorded a time of 2 hours 9 minutes 10 seconds to take third place that night, behind a certain Billy Kerr, who won with 2.6.10. This was an excellent time trial performance for a devout road racer. Andrew also won the H and M Wilson cup road race at Slaght in May 1992, and he was never far away when it came to bunch sprint finishes. 

Andrew will be best remembered by most of the current crop of club members in his role as a timekeeper and finish line judge. He was often seen with a stop watch in one hand and the photo finish camera in the other. Andrew joined the club’s panel of timekeepers in 2006 and received expert tuition from his great friends Billy Jebb and Alan Mark. In fact when Andrew first joined the club committee in 2008 it was in the position of Chairman, a post in which he succeeded Billy Jebb, having been vice Chairman in 2006 and 2007. Andrew held the chair for four seasons from 2008 until 2011 and again in 2013. He was also club secretary in 2017, filling the role in a temporary capacity after it had become vacant. 

Andrew was also an accomplished road race commissaire having successfully completed a Cycling Ulster, two day training course in February 2015. He acted as assistant commissaire on that year’s Tour of the North Easter stage race. Since qualifying he has been a race commissaire on most of Northern Ireland’s premier road race events and also at the Tour of Ulster stage race. Andrew was a stickler for enforcing rules whether it was the club’s Health and Safety policy, child care policy, rules of racing or even tail-light requirements. His strict adherence to the rule book, which one joker reckoned he had swallowed, led him into conflict, at times, with his fellow committee members and club mates. However he always was at pains to point out that everything he did was for the good of the club and the sport. 

In his professional career Andrew was a chartered surveyor and a fellow of the chartered institute of building. Recently he had established a successful consultancy practice. 

Andrew’s funeral, last Thursday, at St Patrick’s Church of Ireland on Castle Street Ballymena had a very large attendance, with family, friends, neighbours, professional colleagues and of course fellow cyclists all present. The service was conducted by the Reverend John McClure, with contributions from soloist Joy Boyd and a reading from Andrew’s brother Eric Monaghan. A lone piper, Ian Burrows, accompanied by drummer Adam McCullough, escorted Andrew’s remains out of the church and again at the graveside. Long-time road club member Hall Booth expertly delivered a humorous and fitting tribute to Andrew. He recalled Andrew’s first club run, after moving to Ballymena, and praised him on his bike handling skills and ability to avoid riding too long, if at all, at the front of the group. Hall concluded by quoting from 2 Timothy 4 verse 7 "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 

All at Ballymena Road Club offer their sincere sympathy to Andrew’s wife Sharon, sons Christopher and Stefan and to the wider family circle.