Tributes were today paid to an “ordinary yet extraordinary” man who touched the lives of thousands of Wearsiders.
Paul Quinn helped generations of youngsters “get a game of football” after setting up seven teams in the Millfield area – and he also organised the last ever reunion for Coles Cranes.
Tragically, the father-of-one died suddenly last month aged just 69, after suffering a heart attack brought on by severe pneumonia. His wife Dot was at his bedside.
“You can be an ordinary person, but extraordinary as well – and that was Paul. He was an ordinary bloke, doing ordinary things, but what he did was extraordinary too,” she said.
“I never really realised, until his death, just how much he enriched the lives of so many. I’ve been inundated with letters, cards, flowers and phone calls from the people he helped, and whose lives he touched.”
Paul, son of plasterer Neville Quinn and his wife Peggy, was born in October 1946 in Grindon. He moved to Ford Estate, however, as a youngster – and was one of 11 children.
“He went to St Joseph’s primary and senior school, was christened at St Joseph’s, married at St Joseph’s and his funeral was held at St Joseph’s too. His funeral service was absolutely packed,” said Dot.
Paul served an apprenticeship as a baker at Woods the Bakers after leaving school. He later spent a brief period as a bus conductor, before securing work at Coles Cranes in 1967.
“I joined as a battery boy and, after working there as a man and boy, I can safely say it was the best job I ever had. It was just a brilliant place to work,” Paul told the Echo last year.
“The place was unique – it was just like one big, happy family. It wasn’t just a place to work, it was a way of life. Everyone looked after one another, it was a close-knit community.”
Paul met Dot just a few years after starting at Coles, and the couple married in 1971. By the mid-1970s Paul had started his first football team, taking toddler son Mark to matches.
“St Joseph’s School only had one team at the time, so Paul thought it would be nice to give some of the other lads a chance at a game and started his own little team up,” said Dot.
“That stopped after a while but, when Mark was about 10 and playing for Sunderland Boys, Paul realised just how many of Mark’s schoolmates weren’t getting to play in any football games at all.
“Paul wanted everyone to have the chance of a game, so he started up another team. He called them the Raggy Rovers at first, as they didn’t even have their own football strip.”
Rovers proved so popular that Paul started a junior squad and, eventually, ended up with seven teams. They were on to become some of the longest established teams in the Russell Foster League.
In addition to his footballing commitments, Paul was also concert secretary of Sunderland Catholic Club, a committee member at Steel’s Social Club, chairman of St Joseph’s Parish Centre – and even helped out Dot with her duties as Brown Owl at St Joseph’s Brownies.
“He always wanted to do things for people. If there was a good cause that needed supporting, then he would help out,” said Dot.
“And, of course, he also helped organise the recent Coles Cranes reunion. He jokingly called it the Last Supper. No one knew at the time, but it really would be his. I know, through what people have said, and the letters I’ve received, that Paul made an impact on so many people’s lives. But he never wanted a pat on the back for what he did.”
Scores of people attended Paul’s funeral service, with both St Joseph’s Church and the Crematorium “packed to the rafters” with people keen to pay their final respects.
Long-time friend Andy Butler, who met Paul while managing a local junior football team, said: “He left a big impression on me. He was such a great role model for everyone he met.
“He helped so many kids over the years; the kids always came first. It wasn’t about winning trophies for him – it was all about giving kids a game of football and a chance in life.
“Paul was also one of the nicest blokes you could ever meet. Helping people was his passion and he will be very sadly missed by many, many people.”
l Paul is survived by Dot, son Mark, daughter-in-law Mandy and grandson Josh.