The sudden death of John Caldwell, while on holiday in the West Indies, came as a great shock to his many friends at Eaton Park and the cricket community across the island of Ireland and further afield.
John was a man of substance, determined and principled. He always gave one hundred percent, both on and off the field, and demanded the same of others.
He spent most of his working life as an academic at Queen’s University.
His love of language was evident to anyone who received one of his many letters of thanks or congratulation, and he was aghast, many years ago, to learn that he could no longer “mark down” his post-graduate students for the use of poor grammar!
Even before his long playing career was brought to an end through injury, John was a constant presence on the Ballymena Cricket Committee and he continued to be so right up until his death.
He was proud to represent his club on various committees of the Northern Cricket Union and his obvious abilities were recognised when he was elected Chairman of the NCU for 1996/97 and then President in 2004. In 2015 John was justly recognised with Honorary Life Membership of the NCU.
John also found time to apply his considerable intellect to the post of Chairman of Ballymena Rugby Club in 1999/2000, taking the lead in introducing strategic planning and a restructuring of the committee system. He was also an enthusiastic member of the Tuesday morning ‘Slabbers’ and the Supporters’ Club.
In 2000 John was elected Chairman of the Irish Cricket Union and over the next two years he was the driving force in revolutionising the organisation.
He was the architect of the ICU’s first two strategic plans and in 2002 was instrumental in the appointment of Adrian Birrell as Ireland coach.
The affable South African transformed Ireland into the major force in Associate cricket and he and John remained firm friends even after he returned home to eventually become an assistant coach with the South African team. In 2004 John completed the set when he was elected President of Cricket Ireland.
John Caldwell was a man held in the highest regard by his many friends and colleagues, not only locally but across the cricketing world.
There was never a problem in bringing an Irish President’s XI to Eaton Park to honour the late Tom Greenwood. Nor did Adrian Birrell have to be asked twice to bring an Irish XI to Ballymena to celebrate the 150th anniversary of cricket in Ballymena.
It might be said that cricket was the great love of John’s life but that would be a nonsense.
That accolade could go to only one person, his wife Nan. John and Nan were a loving and devoted couple ever since their undergraduate days at Queen’s University.
Without Nan’s unerring love and support, John would never have been able to achieve all that he did. Our thoughts and prayers are with Nan at this sad and difficult time.
In 1988, following the death of his great friend and mentor, Tom Greenwood, John paid tribute with these words: “His knowledge of the game, his ability in fashioning every facet of its welfare in our club, his wisdom and wise counsel will not be forgotten. Without his guiding hand, cricket will not be the same at Eaton Park for those who knew him well, yet we must strive, as he would have wished, to follow his outstanding and memorable example in the years ahead.”
There could be no more fitting tribute to John Caldwell himself.