Tributes have been paid to well known Derry man Hugh Kennedy, who passed away on Wednesday.
Hugh (78) worked as a fire-fighter for 32 years after which he became a City Centre Ranger, a post he stayed in for 17 years up until his retirement in October 2017. He was also a long standing volunteer with the NSPCC in Derry.
Mr Kennedy was originally from the Waterside and later moved to Foyle Springs.
In a tribute to him, his colleagues at City Centre Initiative said this week: “As a City Centre Ranger he was the ‘eyes and ears’ of the City Centre, patrolling the city and Derry Walls monument on a daily basis, addressing hazards and providing support.”
NSPCC Northern Ireland said Hugh, who was one of its longest serving volunteers, will be very sadly missed.
Mr Kennedy was the first volunteer recruited to support the NSPCC’s ground-breaking Young Witness Service in the Foyle area when the scheme started in 2001 and he spent 18 years with the charity.
“The Young Witness Service provides support for children and young people going through the difficult experience of providing evidence in court and Hugh carried out his vital role with warmth, humility and humour,” the charity said in a statement yesterday, adding:
“Hugh was thrilled to be chosen as the NSPCC Children’s Services Volunteer of the Year last June, taking his first trip to London with his family to receive the award from the charity’s Patron, Sophie Countess of Wessex and was then awarded the British Empire Medal in the 2019 New Year’s Honours List for ‘Services to the Community and Young People’ which he received at a garden party at Hillsborough Castle in March.”
Speaking in June 2018, Mr Kennedy told how witnessing harrowing scenes at Romanian orphanages later inspired him to volunteer with the NSPCC.
He was speaking after he was honoured for his volunteering with NSPCC Northern Ireland at the charity’s 2018 Childhood Champion Awards which shine a spotlight on the organisation’s unsung heroes.
He said: “I was part of a group of tradesmen as well as nurses and a paediatrician who went out to Romanian orphanages in late 1989.
“We arrived on the same day that Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu [the country’s dictator and his wife] were shot and executed. So we were leaving Northern Ireland and were going into the middle of a revolution. People were still under communist rule. It was the first time that I’d witnessed a situation where children were not being properly looked after.”
When the father-of-three returned home to Derry he decided he wanted to make a difference to young lives and eventually became a volunteer with the NSPCC.