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Jim Steen: A sporting icon

On Friday past we lost a great friend, a gentleman, a sporting icon, as the local sporting world mourned at the passing of the late Jim Steen, but to everyone who knew him, he was just plain Jimmy.

Someone told me the other day, that they were asked to describe Jimmy Steen, they thought long and hard about that question, then answered they couldn’t, just couldn’t describe Jimmy, and no wonder.

Jimmy Steen was unique, a special wee man, with an assuming persona, he was an individual personality, there were no airs and graces about Jim Steen, he was just indescribable, he was everything to everyone, and much more to his friends. A loving family man, deeply religious, he didn’t care what persuasion you were, or where you came from, he took you as he got you, if he called you his friend you were elected.  

Jimmy loved his football, a great follower of Newry Town and later Newry City FC. For years he was the football club’s Taxi man, GAA or soccer, with his wee maroon Mini bus, Jimmy transported many of the local clubs around, from Drumcashlone FC, to St. Michael ‘s GFC and later Ajax United, Belleek and Newtown Juniors YFC to their many  destinations.  

Newry and Mourne council Chairman Pat McGinn pictured with Jim Steen at a celebration in Newtown Community Centre in 2006.

There is a nice story floating around, one of many that enthralled everyone at his wake in Newtown, that one time while he transported an under-age St Michael’s GFC Newtownhamilton team to a game, and there were no adults with the team on this occasion. And when it was time for the start of the game, Jimmy had to line out the team, knowing very little about the structure of the GAA, but the boys needed a manager, and there was no better man than Jimmy, he didn’t want to let the boys down. Maybe that is the way you could describe Jimmy Steen, try anything once, and let no one down. 

When Ajax were entered into the Carnbane League in 1972/73, it should have been called “Ajax Amsterdam”, called after the great Johann Cryuff team that beat Liverpool in the European Cup in the early 1970’s , but instead the League registered team  as Ajax United instead. 

At that time Jimmy was taxing for another Carnbane team, who were competing in the Mid-Ulster, I believe it to be Drumcashlone, while Ajax were using Peter Murphy’s mini bus Newtownhamilton at the time, but after what was a number of months Jimmy then became their taxi.  

With the club in its early months, a meeting was called and at that first meeting, Jimmy was appointed Treasurer in August 28th 1974, with his wife June as his assistant and his old buddy, and work mate Brenden Burke was appointed Club Chairman. The craic at the club meeting was ninety and rowdy at times.

The old folk would always say “If you haven’t anything good to say about anyone, then just say nothing” Of course it’s east to say “there goes a lovely person, he’s a great fella, a good friend to have, you could trust him with your life, all that drabble. But that was Jimmy Steen in a nutshell, he was all of that, and much much more

Jimmy pictured at the official Opening of Jim Steen Park, Dungormley Estate, Newtownhamilton in 1988

 The person who asked “how do you describe Jim Steen” let’s see. I will have a go at it.

Jim Steen was a true to life gentlemen, a quiet unassuming man, loved talking about football, about Ajax and their players, a loving family man, had a deeply religious belief, but they were  all his. There was no set pattern about Jimmy, he loved life, the simple things, always there when you needed, and well liked and loved by all, and rarely if ever, he never missed an Ajax game in Dungormley. 

It was in 1988, that he received his greatest accolade from Newry and Mourne District Council.  At the opening of the new football field in Dungormley Estate in Newtownhamilton, it had his name up in bold strong letters “Jim Steen Park, officially opened by Council Chairman Eugene Markey who made a special presentation to Jimmy, with local Councillor James Savage in attendance, along with members of both the Carnbane League, and Newry and Mourne District Council present as the “Sign” with his name on it was placed at the entrance to the ground. 

And while there is no more an Ajax United FC, just memories, there is always the name of the late Jimmy Steen to remember.

Examiner Soccer Desk, extend their deepest and heartfelt sympathy to the Steen family on the passing of Jimmy. To his daughter Elaine, not forgetting his beloved wife June, the late infant twins, Evelyn and Edward, son-in-law Geoffrey and grandchildren Callum and Ewan and the entire family circle at this very sad and sombre time.

Jimmy you are gone, but not forgotten, but now you are in a better place, but you leave behind sadness, sorrow, grief, hopes and a bucketful of memories. Rest in peace Jimmy, you are now with your beloved June and the twins. You have done the journey, walked the walk, and fought the good fight, you have gone over the hill.