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Ken Hawtin – a tribute by Brian Smith

Our good friend Ken Hawtin was a remarkable man who excelled in so many different pursuits in addition
to his considerable academic interests.
To name but a few; athletics, golf, off-shore sailing around the Scottish Islands, hillwalking (including a
trek to Everest Base Camp), market gardening, bridge playing at a very high level, worldwide travelling to
visit family, trips to the four corners of Ireland with his caravanning and campervan friends, and not to
forget his daily target to have completed the day’s crossword before lunchtime!
I’m sure over the next number of days there will be many references to these and other activities which we
weren’t even aware of. I have penned below just a few of the lovely memories shared with Ken.
I first met Ken when I joined NDAC in the early 1980s and had the privilege, and the good luck, of being
welcomed into the NDAC Veteran’s team which included among others Billy Brannigan another great
NDAC stalwart. The team enjoyed great success winning the NI Veterans XC Championships and
achieving a podium finish in the Veterans International XC held at Mallusk.
At that time the Club was based in the old Wooden Pavilion at Broadway. The 10 mile training run on
Monday evenings was to be completed in under 60mins. Ken and Billy were the pacemakers and that
memory of sprinting the last 200m past the golf course to make the target is a memory that has never
faded. Ken had a Commer campervan at that time which he used during the summer holidays to drive the
family to Greece. However at other times of the year, as Mark Weir has already alluded, this was the
NDAC team bus which transported young and old members to races throughout the season. I don’t think it
would be appropriate to admit to the number of runners Ken was able to pack into that small vehicle!
Ken graduated in Classics from Trinity College Dublin and spent his whole teaching career at Belfast
Royal Academy, retiring eventually as Head of Classics. Whilst at BRA he established a school XC team
and he often told us of the lunchtime training runs which he led over Cavehill.
Every Boxing Day from 1963 Ken invited members and past members of the school XC team to come
down to Dufferin Villas and take part in his challenging 8mile run taking in Ballymacormick Road,
through the deep mud to Springwell Road, Lower Balloo Road, Kylestone Road , Orlock and all the way
back to Ballyholme by the coast. During the 1980s Ken very generously extended an invitation to NDAC
senior members to join in the run. It was a wonderful occasion to look forward to every year and not an
insignificant challenge depending on the weather conditions. Ken took the health & safety of participants
very seriously and we received a full course briefing. I can still see him standing in front of his
blackboard which showed all the potential hazards including wind speeds and tide times. The latter of
particular importance because if there was a high tide when you reached the end of Ballymacormick
beach you were probably facing an early bath!! Ken’s extended family marshalled the route and Lynn
provided the most amazing post race hospitality for all involved.
The 8th of January 2003 was the 40th anniversary and the last of the iconic Boxing Day Runs from
Dufferin Villas. NDAC members presented Ken & Lynn with a momento to mark the occasion and
pledged to organise a competition albeit with a different format to be called the Hawtin Shield and to be
held around the Christmas holidays.
The 10th running of that event was held at Crawfordsburn Country Park on 13th January 2024 and
regretfully it was the only occasion because of Ken’s hospitalisation that he and Lynn were unable to be in
attendance to present the Shield.

Ken loved his running and was competitive right up until his 80s setting a M80 Age Category record of
29.49 at Bangor parkrun, a record that stood for over 6yrs until last November.

Ken’s other great sporting love was his golf. He regularly tormented his playing partners Gerry Coy, Pat
O’D and me by insisting in hitting that wee white ball straight up the fairway whilst we, who might have
been able to drive the ball further, inevitably ended up searching for ours in the rough. The accuracy of Ken’s

approach shots to the green were legendary usually followed by a one or two shot putt. When Ken
was on his game we couldn’t compete but the craic was great. Despite his deteriorating health he
continued to play until a year ago.
Ken lived life to the full never wasting a spare minute. He was a true gentleman and loved to hear of the
success achieved by NDAC individuals and teams. He was an inspiration to us all and will be sadly
A Celebration of Ken’s life will be held in Groomsport Parish Church on Monday 29th  January at 2pm.