Eric Cooke laid to rest in his beloved Killaloo

Fellow umpires formed a guard of honour at Killaloo Parish Church as Eric Cooke was laid to rest on Saturday.

Inside the church, Rev David Slater told mourners that Eric, who passed away on January 8, was the beloved husband of Valerie, loving father of Wendy and Tracey, father-in-law of Daniel, devoted son of Lily, and doting grandfather to Amber, Zach and Max.

Messages written by his daughters, and by his brother Roy, were read out during the service at a packed Killaloo Parish Church, as were two poems selected by his wife.

Eric was remembered for his service to the community, through his work with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, Bridge Accessible Transport and the Gransha Social Club, where mourners were invited for refreshments after the burial in the adjoining graveyard.

His love of cricket and of Manchester United football club were also highlighted during the service, at which Rev Slater described Eric as a man who loved his family, and who loved Killaloo. Until his death, he had been a faithful member of the congregation.

The esteem in which Eric was held within the wider community was evident, and the large number of cricket blazers at the graveside reflected his standing within the sport. There were also messages sent to the family from cricket circles in Barbados, New Zealand, Pakistan and America.

The following tribute was posted on the Cricket Europe website on the day of Eric Cooke’s death and sums up his contribution, and his legacy, to Irish cricket.

“The North West cricket community is united in grief today following the news that former International Umpire Eric Cooke has passed away at Altnagelvin Hospital after a short illness.

Eric was a hugely popular figure within the game here and he was held in high regard the length and breadth of the country.

“In his pomp, there was no better umpire in Ireland and when the likes of the West Indies and Australia came to these shores then, Eric was the man selectors turned to.

Paddy O’Hara stood with him in the first of his 10 Internationals – and the Irish Training Officer was among those to pay tribute to Eric this afternoon.

“‘I regarded him as one of our top International umpires and had the great pleasure of standing with him in his debut match – a three-day first class match against Scotland at Malahide.

“He was a very fine umpire and an excellent ambassador for the N.W.A.C.U.&S and he will be sorely missed’.”

Eric also officiated in Ireland games against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, and completed the domestic finals set when he was appointed to take charge of the Irish Senior Cup final in 2002.

“While he happily accepted the chance to officiate at the top level, Eric much preferred the local circuit.

“Trips to North Fermanagh, Coleraine or Bonds Glen all came alike to him, and he was never shy of staying behind for a few hours to chew the fat afterwards.

“He was also a willing volunteer for our exchange visits to Leinster – five of them in all – so long as I drove and Connie McAllister, Maurice Simpson, Kenny Magee or Jim Finlay was in the back seat.

“Eric saw every umpire as his friend and colleague, and was always happy to share his experience with us less knowledgeable beings.

“Mind you, he also had a wicked sense of humour, which only served to make him even better company.

“On a personal note, I will treasure a locker full of memories – and I don’t know one single person in North West cricket who had anything other than the utmost regard for him.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that Eric’s umpiring career began to tail off as his beautiful grandchildren came into the world.

As a totally devoted husband, father and grandfather, he had his priorities absolutely spot on – and although Robin Glenn and I spent endless hours over the past few years trying to get a coat on him again, he knew what he wanted to do with his time.

“While Eric’s friends and colleagues in the cricket world are stunned and saddened by his loss, however, I can only imagine the heartbreak felt by his loved ones. Our thoughts and prayers are with those he cherished – wife Valerie, daughters Wendy and Tracey, his mother Lily, brother Roy, son-in-law Dan and his precious grandchildren Amber, Zach and Max.

Condolences also to the wider circle of family and friends and in particular to Sidney Cooke who helped keep vigil in the difficult hours.

The North West Cricket Union in particular, and Irish cricket in general has today lost one of its finest.

Rest in Peace, Eric.”