Sheffield said farewell to Brendan Ingle today in an emotional service at the city’s cathedral.
Dozens of figures from the boxing world attended, including former world champions Johnny Nelson, Ricky Hatton and Kell Brook and long-serving promoter Frank Warren.
They were joined outside the Cathedral by hundreds of ordinary Sheffielders who came to pay their respects to a man many referred to as a ‘Sheffield hero’.
Tributes to the Irishman, who died last month aged 77, came from his family and those he had worked with in the city over the last 50 years.
After his daughter Bridget read out a poem by Henry Van Dyke, former BBC Radio Sheffield sports presenter Robert Jackson paid tribute to what he called the ‘sheer humanity of the man’.
“He would always find time for the most awkward children and adults in the hope their situation would improve - and it did,” said Robert.
“That is why so many of them are here today. They knew that a kindred spirit would nurture them, bringing discipline and joy into so many lives.”
Keith Darlow from the National Association of Boys’ Clubs said Brendan could mix with both the great and the good - as well as less salubrious characters, of which there were many.
“He broadened horizons for youngsters, many of whom had never been out of Sheffield,” he said.
“Lots of the funding came from Brendan’s own pocket. The rest came from his unique blend of intense persuasion, Irish charisma and downright blarney.”
Keith also thanked Brendan’s wife Alma, saying it was her ‘constant support and long suffering forbearance’ that had made her husband’s achievements possible.
Brendan’s humanitarian work was also praised by Chrissy Meleady from Equalities and Human Rights UK.
She remembered the times he had come to the aid of people in need, buying clothes and shoes for destitute immigrant families and protecting a Muslim grave that had been attacked by racists.
Chrissy also read out a message of condolence from the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, which highlighted his fellow countryman’s ‘great spirit of generosity and compassion’ and told his family they should be ‘very proud’.
The closing sermon was read by Revd Canon Keith Farrow, who described Brendan simply as ‘a man with a great heart’.
“He had truly become a legend in his own lifetime,” he said.
“He always tried to see what a person could be with support and encouragement. No situation was beyond help.
"He had a belief not just to make you a better boxer but to make you a better person. His life and his work will speak for many years to come.”
Sporting city hero left us to rounds of big applause
They came in their hundreds to pay their respects to a Sheffield hero. Men and women, young and old, black and white, they clapped him in and clapped him out.
In between they stood in quiet contemplation of a man who had been taken to the heart of his adopted home city like no other.
Some were too upset to speak, while others revealed they were attending in part on behalf of family member and friends, some of whom were no longer with us.
Others, however, were proud to share their memories of a man who had impacted countless lives in the city he came to call home.
“He was a hero of Sheffield wasn’t he?” said Glenn Skelton from Handsworth.
“He did so much for the community and got kids of the streets.”
Paul Watson said he had come to pay tribute to a ‘marvellous man’.
Paul, who owns the St Vincent’s Boxing Club on Crookesmoor Road in Sheffield, revealed the help Brendan had given him, even going so far as to come down to his gym and speak to the boxers he was training.
“I have known Brendan since I was 10 years old,” he said. “I always kept in touch with him and he would do anything he could for anybody. He would come down to speak to all the little lads at St Vincent’s for me.
“He kept everyone on the straight and narrow - he even helped me get a job!”
Gary Simpson from Hillsborough - who had come to the service with his wife Samantha - described him as a ‘remarkable fella’.
“I never met him but I wish I had. He was a lovely man,” he said.
“Brendan Ingle, John Burkhill and Barbara Wragg. Them sort of people are on a different plane to everyone everyone else. They get off their backsides and do something.”
And Audrey Rose had come with her daughter Nicola Johnson from the Wincobank neighbourhood where Brendan lived for more than 50 years.
“He spoke to everybody and did so much for the community,” said Audrey.
“You talk about Sheffield or Wincobank or St Thomas’ and everybody knows Brendan.
“He never turned anyone away - we absolutely loved him and we are so upset.”