Harry Leeman - a man who loved sport and his family

One of Harry Leeman's proudest memories was the day he cracked two goals past a legendary namesake '“ the great Northern Ireland and Manchester United goalkeeper Harry Gregg.
Harry Leeman.Harry Leeman.
Harry Leeman.

Of course, that was long before the great hero of the Munich Disaster graced the game at international and Man United level – the two Harrys were playing for opposing youth teams.

The Portadown teenager planted a brace past the big Coleraine lad, who was destined to turn out 210 times for United and 25 times for NI, including the 1958 World Cup Finals (Sweden) where he was voted the best keeper.

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Harry Leeman’s son Mark said, “Dad was a quiet, modest man. But his eyes would light up every time he told that story. He loved his football, and we enjoyed hearing about Harry putting a couple past Harry!”

Harry died in hospital after a short illness, and had found the last two years of his life very difficult after the death of his devoted wife Marise (nee Martin). They married in her home village of Gilford 57 years before she passed away, and were the love of one another’s life

Mark said, “It devastated dad. They were totally devoted to each other, and the sparkle went out of his life.”

As well as Mark, Harry is survived by daughter Kathy, and six grandchildren – Kerrie, Ellen, Nathan, Jordan, Taylor and Bailey.

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Harry Leeman (83) was the only child of James and Mary Leeman of Meadow Lane and was educated at Thomas Street Public Elementary School and at Portadown Tech. His entire working life was as an accountant – with Magee, Todd and Vaughan of Carleton Street, where his colleagues included Arthur Hyde and Bill Morrow.

He remained with the company until they were taken over by Jackson Andrews - the move coincided with Harry being in his mid-60s, and he took the opportunity to retire.

He was highly respected in the profession and in the community, and acted as treasurer for a number of organisations. This was especially true in the Boys Brigade movement which he served in many ways.

He was an officer with 3rd Portadown (St. Mark’s) where drill, gymnastics and the colour party were his fortes. He also filled in as temporary captain on three occasions when the position became vacant, but he didn’t want the post on a permanent basis.

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Said Tommy Hanlon, an icon in St Mark’s BB, “Harry was so committed and dependable – he lived by example. The boys really responded to him. He was always immaculately turned out and personified the BB motto, ‘Sure and Steadfast’.”

Harry also led a group of boys to London for the 1953 Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II when they each received a special BB badge which Harry wore with pride for the rest of his life.

Harry was also a member of 1st Portadown BB Old Boys Association and was treasurer and auditor for both the association and the Portadown and District Boys’ Brigade Battalion.

Snooker at the association was one of his passions. Secretary Stephen Wright said, “He faithfully kept the tables in pristine condition, in the former Institute building in Edward Street, the temporary Annagh premises, and in our current clubrooms situated in Thomas Street Methodist Church suite of halls.

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“Harry also represented the Old Boys’ on the County Armagh Snooker League Committee, where he was highly respected and made many friends.”

He loved sport - especially football and rowing. He played soccer for the YMCA, for several junior teams, from the Portadown Summer and for the Shop Boys, which included Ernie Thornton and Jackie McMahon, both of who died recently.

Harry was also a keen member of Portadown Boat Club, and travelled all over Ireland – Coleraine to Cork, Limerick to Dublin, where they won many regattas, not least their own event on the River Bann.

Most of all, he was a devoted family man. He and Marise had a family caravan in Portrush, and Mark and Kathy – as well as the grandchildren - spent many happy days and weeks at the Carrick Dhu Caravan Park.

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The couple were faithful members of St Mark’s where they attended most Sundays, and Harry was a member of the Bible Class.

The funeral in St Mark’s was conducted by Curate, Rev Keith Marshall, and Bible readings were by daughter Kathy and by extended family member George Haggan. The hymns included the BB anthem ‘Will Your Anchor Hold’.

Donations are to St. Mark’s Boys’ Brigade, c/o Joseph Poots and Sons (Funeral Directors), 42 Bridge Street, Portadown, BT63 5AE.