Master sailor punched well above his weight

DEDICATED ... Maxie Walsh's middle name could have been 'community'. Inset, he was a keen boxer in his youth.
DEDICATED ... Maxie Walsh's middle name could have been 'community'. Inset, he was a keen boxer in his youth.

MAXIE Walsh’s middle name could have been “community.”

The South Tyneside husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather spent much of his life helping others in his beloved Hebburn, the town where he was born, lived and died.

A talented ex-boxer and later coach, a stalwart of the sea cadet movement, a dedicated club man, a Royal British Legion official – Maxie’s passions and interests seemingly knew no end.

But Maxie, of Prendwick Court, Hebburn, who has died at 74, following a brave battle with cancer, was also a dedicated family man, who liked nothing better than to spend time with his wife, Phyllis, 75, his daughters, Carole, Maxine and Jacqui, his son, Stephen, plus his 13 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, to whom he was devoted.

Born and raised in the Collins Lane area of Hebburn, Maxie knew his future wife, Phyllis, whom he married in 1956, from the age of nine.

By trade a plater and foreman in the Swan Hunter yard, his early sporting passion was boxing.

A talented light-heavyweight, Maxie won 49 of his 52 fights, and was dubbed “The Pyrex Champ,” because of the amount of winning crockery he brought home.

His son, Stephen, 45, said: “My dad fought with the Billy Walker stable in Boldon Colliery and was so good that he beat most of the light-heavyweights in the area, and had to eventually take on heavyweights.”

Mr Walsh enjoyed a highly various and fulfilled life, encompassing everything from acting as a Guard Commander for Prince Philip – who congratulated him for what he called “power command” – during a royal visit to Tyneside in 1974, to providing personal security for the rock band The Animals.

But his passion for community life also saw him working for a time as warden of Hebburn Community Centre and as a youth leader for several years.

The Hebburn ex-boxer enjoyed a long association with both Jarrow and Hebburn Sea Cadets.

As a cadet, he piped Lord Louis Mountbatten aboard on three occasions at the Hebburn unit and also coxed three crews to national finals.

His son, Stephen, explained: “As a young chief, he would sail on the Forth in Scotland, in a sailing boat known as a whaler, and he was so skilled that he was eventually asked to take ships’ officers out on the river, becoming known as ‘the whaler sailor’.

“My dad held all kinds of office in the cadet movement, and was called ‘the Brian Clough of the Sea Cadets,’ as though – like Cloughie – he should have been made the cadets’ England manager!”

Serving as everything from a cadet to Lieutenant Commander, Mr Walsh transformed ailing Jarrow Sea Cadets, after taking over in 1970, the unit later being awarded a burgee – the highest honour in the cadet organisation.

Mr Walsh maintained his strong links with the fight game in his later years, serving as chairman and secretary of Tyneside Ex-Boxers’ Association, who presented him with a lifetime achievement award only last month.

Closer to home, Maxie loved attending Hebburn Legion Social Club with his wife, Phyllis, the couple often serenading members with their ‘signature tune,’ Sentimental Journey. Mr Walsh served as club chairman for a time and was also a popular master of ceremonies.

As secretary of the Hebburn branch of the Royal British Legion, Mr Walsh was also one of the prime movers behind the annual poppy appeal.

Although stricken by cancer in his final months, Mr Walsh maintained his dignity to the end.

Mrs Walsh said: “Maxie was never one to complain.

“He hated the idea of anyone being upset because of the way he was, especially his grandchildren.

“We must also thank the wonderful nurses and carers for their tender, loving care.”

Son Stephen added: “My dad was a hands-on community person and he taught me how to be a man.”

A funeral service for Mr Walsh will be held at South Shields Crematorium at 1.30pm tomorrow.

Family and friends will gather afterwards for a celebration of Mr Walsh’s life at Hebburn Legion Social Club, in Mountbatten Avenue, and people are welcome to attend.

Twitter: @terrykelly16