Tributes for NW YMCA legend

The late Herbie Burns (left) of YMCA Londonderry with Norman Cameron in 2009.
The late Herbie Burns (left) of YMCA Londonderry with Norman Cameron in 2009.

Tributes have been paid to the late former President of the Londonderry YMCA, Herbie Burns, who managed to keep the organisation active when its premises at East Wall were destroyed by bombs in the 1970s and was a pioneer of its move to Drumahoe.

The organisation to which he had dedicated so much of his life led the tributes.

In a statement it said: “It was with deep regret that Londonderry YMCA learnt of the passing of our esteemed former President Herbert Burns.

“Herbie, as he was affectionately known, passed away on June 22 following a courageous fight with cancer.

“Herbie was married to Winsome and was a devoted father of Geoffrey, Nigel, Alan and the late Georgina (Sandra), father-in-law of Mark, Carolyn and Claire and a much loved granddad.

“Herbie played a major part in the Londonderry YMCA, being Chairperson from 1966 to 1983 and the President from 1983 to 1985.

“He will be greatly remembered for the role he played in keeping the YMCA active in the 1970s when the East Wall building was destroyed by bombs. His greatest achievement was managing the development of the new facility on a 20 acre site at Drumahoe. “

The local organisation said both it and the city of Londonderry owed a debt to Herbie for all the work he put in over the years.

It statement explained: “YMCA is indebted to the work of Herbie in bringing about the purchase of a prime site, securing the funding and delivering the organisation to where it is today.

“Fittingly, the opening ceremony of the new complex was performed by the President Herbert Burns.

“While acknowledging the debt owed to others, including Walter Wray, Herbie was in no small way responsible for the magnificent building and grounds, which he then declared open.

“The Rev Maurice Bolton (sadly deceased) in later years, expressed his own thanks to Herbie for his words and conviction over the years and paid tribute to his tenacious and long held belief that the Londonderry YMCA would rise again.”

The statement concluded: “Recalling the dark days of the 70s ‘when things had not been so rosy,’ Rev Bolton remembered the timely and inspirational words, which had resounded time and again from Herbie, ‘it’ll come Maurice, it’ll come.’”

“A Service of Thanksgiving was held at Roseyards Presbyterian Church on Wednesday, June 24 followed by interment in the adjoining graveyard.”