Byron Seymour: A gentleman of the local game

Byron Seymour

Byron Seymour

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THE local footballing fraternity has been deeply saddened by the death last Thursday (December 27) of one of it’s true gentlemen, Byron Thomas Seymour, aged 57 years.

Byron’s name is largely synonymous with Larne Tech Old Boys FC, although he had a stint as a player at Ballymena United in the early 1970s, and at Larne he managed the Olympic before being appointed as assistant to former Inver Park boss Frankie Parks.

His father Tommy - a former mayor of Larne - was one of Larne Tech’s founding fathers back in 1950, and it was only natural that young Byron would often find himself up at the club when he was still studying at the college.

In 1972 the Tech appointed Sammy Hughes as their new manager and Byron was one of a crop of young players lured by ex-Glentoran legend to the Old Boys, who had just acquired new clubrooms at Antiville Playing Fields.

As a goalkeeper he was a very safe pair of hands. He was reliable as the last line of defence and was the Tech’s number one when they captured their first Amateur League honours, winning the Border Regiment Cup by beating Lisburn Rangers in the final on New Year’s Day 1976.

He helped bring more recognition to the club in the 1985-86 season when he was voted the Amateur League’s Player of the Year. The award was bestowed not only in recognition for his contribution through the years, but also for his heroics for the club when they won something like nine of their last 10 matches to avoid relegation.

One thing perhaps not so widely known, was that Byron enjoyed the occasional game leading the Tech attack, and even scored five goals in one game against Killyleagh Youth Club in 1975.

After his playing career came to an end, he was a natural choice to succeed Billy Bissett as Tech manager in 1991; a role he retained until he left for Larne in the mid-1990s.

After his departure from Inver Park, he spent a lot of his time on the golf course at Cairndhu. However, he was still very much involved with his ‘old boys’ at Larne Tech, as an active vice-president of the Association. As Football Secretary he was instrumental in the club meeting new criteria for intermediate football, not to mention the major redevelopment of the changing facilities and pitch, culminating in the renaming of the ground as Dennis Harvey Park.

He became ill some five years ago, yet, even against the odds, he displayed the same fighting qualities he had shown in his footballing days. For the last few years he was still a very much a familiar face at Larne Tech games, even acting as the club’s self-appointed groundsman, spending hours working away on Dennis Harvey Park.

A few months ago he was among the club members who headed off to Spain for a weekend away. As his condition worsened since then, however, Byron still kept in touch, even issuing instructions from his hospital bed and was delighted to make one final visit to the Tech club before he passed away.

Fellow vice-president Tom Wilson said: “Byron really is irreplaceable, especially with the knowledge he had of amateur football – and he was one of those who became friends with people when he was playing, and that friendship lasted.”

The high esteem in which he was held has been shown by the number of other clubs who had been in touch since his untimely passing. Certainly, on a personal note, I started contacting Byron in the early 1990s when he was manager of the Tech and on some Sundays he had a few aching muscles having had to play the previous day. He was also accommodating during his time at Larne. And then if I ever needed any off-the-field information on the Tech, he was always helpful, and it really was a pleasure talking to him.

We’re all the better off simply because we have known Byron Seymour, and we should be grateful for that. Condolences to his wife Geraldine, son Paul, his wider family circle, and his beloved Larne Tech Old Boys.

Alan Hall