Son to do maracycle in artist’s memory

THE son of Scarva artist John Connery, who passed away last summer after a four-year battle with cancer, will fulfill his father’s ambition to take part in the Ulster Cancer Foundation’s (UCF) annual maracycle.

John, who was told in 2009 that he had just a few years to live after his initial diagnosis of bowel cancer saw the disease spread to his lungs and stomach, vowed to take part in the Belfast-to-Dublin cycle and had even started to train for the event early last year.

Sadly the 54-year-old became too ill to take part and passed away in July 2011. But this summer his son Michael is taking on the challenge in his father’s memory, and in a bid to raise £10,000 for the UCF.

Michael will be joined by his cousins Andrew, Mark and Ashley Holden from Hillsborough. Andrew said he has received a lot of support since deciding to organise a local group to take part in the 220-mile fundraising drive.

“After John passed away I thought to myself ‘I’m going to do this’,” said the 37-year-old. “I told a few people and before I knew it about 15 others had signed up as well. At the minute we are busy trying to get sponsorship as well as training.”

John’s wife Jacqui said John had wanted to do “a few special things” in the past few years while he was still able to travel.

“We managed to have a family holiday with Michael and our daughter Jill in Australia in 2010, which was paradise,” she said. “John was wonderful the whole time we were there, but I can’t look at the photos we took – it’s too painful. It’s still a very painful time.

“In March he was really quite ill but even when he died in July neither of realised his time was up. I’m happy that he didn’t know. Afterwards Michael said he wanted to do the maracycle for his dad.”

Jackie paid tribute to her husband, who she described as a very creative man.

“He was always creating something, even sitting down at night he would be sketching or writing, and said he got his best ideas when he was soaking in the bath.

“His studio is still here just as he left it, though I did put some of his brushes in turps. Even when I get around to clearing it, it will always be known as the ‘studio’ and be a very arty kind of room.

The widow said she had received support for the UCF and people to support the charity in order to help others in similar situations.

“The Ulster Cancer Foundation plays a very important role in supporting people during an enormously difficult time in their lives and I would appeal for everyone to give generously to this cause. I know what it’s like to have your world turned upside down – plus this is another way to remember John.”

John’s story reached a wide audience during 2010 when he wrote a weekly column for the News Letter and he received a special commendation at the Regional Press Awards in London.

Jacqui said, “John found writing about his experiences, his observations and how he felt very therapeutic. It is a great comfort to me to think that he has helped others cope with their illness.”