Two Coleraine Inst Old Boys who played rugby for the school in Japan 25 years ago have joined corporate forces to provide a huge boost to an event being held to celebrate the life of a former teammate.
Ian Coulter, Managing Partner of corporate law firm Tughans, and Michael Nelson, Technical Director of independent engineering consultancy Doran Consulting, were key members of the CAI 1st XV squad which toured in the Far East in 1989, lining up at inside centre and number eight respectively.
But it was Oliver Turkington, also aged 18 at the time, who was widely viewed as the on-field star of the four-game trip.
In 2007, Oliver, from Moira and a boarder at the school, sadly succumbed to synovial sarcoma - a rare form of cancer - after a seven-year battle.
And on Saturday 13 September, his ex-teammates, friends, family members and many others will gather at Coleraine Inst for a special dinner to mark the silver anniversary of the tour and to remember Oliver.
British and Irish Lions legend Willie John McBride has agreed to be principal speaker, with local comedy duo Grimes and McKee acting as co-hosts.
Ian, originally from Ballyclare, and Michael, from Portstewart, have stepped forward on behalf of their firms to provide sponsorship for the charity event.
With the agreement of his family, proceeds from the Oliver Turkington Memorial Dinner will be split between Cancer Research UK and rugby development at Coleraine Inst.
Ian Coulter said: “Oliver was a very close friend of mine. I am very pleased that many of the people who knew him best, together with a growing number of others, have come together to organise this very special evening in his name.
“On behalf of Tughans, I am pleased that we have been able to support the event and the two great causes which will benefit.”
Michael Nelson said: “I was privileged to play alongside Oliver in the back row in Japan.
“The trip was an experience none of us chosen to represent the school are ever likely to forget.
“It is certainly very appropriate that the dinner is being held in Oliver’s memory as he was at the centre of everything we did on and off the field.
“Doran Consulting is only too happy to give its backing to the event, as part of our involvement with a range of different charities.
“I have no doubt that it will be a tremendous occasion.”
Craig Turkington, Oliver’s youngest brother, added: “Ian and Michael were valued friends to Oliver and it is humbling that they have stepped forward to support the memorial dinner in this way.
“A lot of good will come from the evening, not least the money that will benefit the two very worthy causes. Oliver would have been incredibly proud of the efforts being made on his behalf, as is everyone in the family.”
Richard Beggs, the current CAI 1st XV Head Coach who was also a member of the 1989 touring party in Japan, said: “This is more excellent news for the event and tickets are now selling very quickly indeed.
“The money raised towards the development of young rugby talent at the school will serve as a wonderful legacy to one of the best players of his time.
“I look forward to telling the boys about the pride that Oliver showed every time he pulled on the famous maroon CAI jersey.
“He was a role model to many of the younger players in 25 years ago. It is very fitting that, as a result of the dinner, he is about to become a source of inspiration for an entirely new generation in the school.”
Tickets for the Oliver Turkington Memorial Dinner – priced at £45 each - are available from the school office, by calling Diane Armstrong on Tel: 028 7034 4331 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org