Why I remember Grandad Bill every time I watch an Ice Bucket Challenge

Ice Bucket Challenge or no Ice Bucket Challenge, the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association (IMNDA),  is a charity my family will always support.

In April 2003 my beloved grandfather Bill Rowan passed away after a brave battle with Motor Neurone Disease (MND). Anyone who has ever seen a loved one become diagnosed with, fight and then ultimately succumb to MND will understand just what a horrific ordeal it is.


Bill, top right, standing beside my Nanny Marie Byrne at my First Holy Communion

Yesterday, there was great news here in Ireland that the €1,000,000 mark had been reached in donations to the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association (IMNDA) from increased awareness brought about by the Ice Bucket Challenge.

The IMNDA provided great support to Bill in that there was a bed organised in Harold’s Cross Hospice where he received dignified and compassionate care in the last months of his life. The IMNDA also provided in a very empathetic manner lots of vital information to our family about the disease. They are also helping to fund world class research here in Ireland.

Bill’s quick wit and fighting spirit remained to the very last but unfortunately his body was ravaged by this terrible disease that left him paralysed and unable to speak or swallow.

I like to think that Bill played a big part in influencing my sports writing career, despite the fact I was hell bent on career in science as a teenager when he passed. However, I have a feeling he may have had a word with someone “upstairs” that set me on a most unexpected path to the world of sports journalism!


Bill’s love of “Shels” is part of how we remember him

Although, he worked hard by day as a television licence inspector by night grandad had quite an illustrious part-time career as a comedian (doesn’t it sound like something straight out of a sit-com?). He used to deliver his monologues at the Irish Sports Writers’ dinners. 

This was due to his lifelong love of sport, many of his monologues were influenced by his beloved Shelbourne Football Club. His secret recipe to success in life was “say your prayers and follow Shelbourne!” – and I don’t even think Bill was being tongue in cheek about it!

 One of the most important locations for me work wise in gradually perfecting rugby writing has been Lansdowne Road’s Aviva Stadium. Bill was born in a cottage on Bath Avenue Place in the shadows of the Old Lansdowne Road Stadium. Bizarrely my lovely Nanny Marie, my grandmother on the other side was born on Jones Road right opposite Croke Park. So, I am convinced with both sides of the family connected to such sacred sporting ground, these great stadia would have to play some sort of role in my life!

Bill was a natural showman and I think he would have accepted the Ice Bucket Challenge with great aplomb. He certainly would have taken enormous pleasure in nominating someone involved with Shelbourne’s traditional and fiercest rivals Shamrock Rovers!

The one mercy Bill was granted when it came to MND was that he was in his eighties when he was diagnosed and lived a very full life up until that. Unfortunately many people are stricken much younger. 


Joost van der Westhuizen during his playing days as scrum half for the Springboks and last year at home in South Africa


Springbok great Joost van der Westhuizen is only 43-years-old and his battling this terrible illness. The 1995 Rugby World Cup winner made one of the most poignant Ice Bucket Challenge videos. He nominated the Sprigboks, the Wallabies and the All Blacks:

This video of the Springboks taking up Joost’s challenge is both extremely moving and funny:

Former Wallaby and current Toulon star Drew Mitchell has created one of the more glitzy rugby efforts at an Ice Bucket Challenge:

Scenic Cote d’Azure backdrop – check

One of world rugby’s greatest trophies as an ice bucket – check

A teeny-weeny polka dot bikini – well, sort of!

Our Irish boys also know how to make a serious splash:

Check out the brilliant work being done by IMNDA

If you can make a donation. In Ireland text MND to 50300 to donate €2.

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