THE sudden death of Michael Collins, Chairman of the Downpatrick and County Down Railway, has shocked the district.
Spokesman for the DCDR Robert Gardner said: “Michael had been our chairman for almost ten years. He was a true gentleman, whose friendship and contribution to the railway will never be forgotten. He took ill on Monday and despite emergency heart surgery, passed away in hospital on Wednesday 3 October.”
Michael Collins was born in 1949 and came from a transport background. His grandfather joined Belfast Corporation as a tram conductor before World War I and retired as an inspector in 1947. In the same year his father joined the Northern Ireland Road Transport Board as a driver, became a conductor and later an inspector under the Ulster Transport Authority and Ulsterbus.
Robert said: “In 1967, whilst a student, Michael’s father arranged for him to join the newly formed Ulsterbus as a conductor attached to Smithfield depot in Belfast. Michael returned to this holiday job each summer until 1972.
“He graduated from Queen’s University Belfast in that year with a BA in Geography and Political Science and a post-graduate Diploma in Business Administration, and later achieved an MBA. On graduation he was offered the post of Personal Assistant to Werner Heubeck, Ulsterbus’s charismatic Managing Director.
“After two years in this job, he moved to a management post in the Health Service before eventually taking up a lecturing position in business and management at the College of Business
Studies in Belfast, finally retiring as a Principal Lecturer at the Belfast Institute of Further and Higher Education.
“Since his Ulsterbus days, he retained his interest in transport and was involved with the fledgling railway in Downpatrick from the late 1980s, serving on its board for many years before taking up the position of chairman in 2003 until his death taking a year out in 2007/8. He was hoping to continue in the role for one more year to help see that the two extensions planned for the DCDR were fully in place.”
Robert added: “He was also the Company Secretary of Irish Transport Heritage, which is dedicated to bus preservation, and had recently become involved in the Charles Shiels Charity Houses in Killough.
“On hearing of the sad news, the newly elected board, following last Saturday’s AGM, held a minute’s silence at the Wednesday night meeting, which Mike was hoping to chair, and then adjourned the meeting as a mark of respect.
“Our deepest sympathies to his daughter Aoife, sons Michael and Aodhan and all the family circle, Mike was a valued friend and his vast experience and wise council will be sadly missed by us all.”