It is with great sadness that Cycling Ulster has learned of the death of Morris Foster MBE or ‘Big Mo’ as he was affectionately known. Born in Maghera, Morris moved to Randalstown at an early age and soon became interested in cycling as a result of his father’s involvement in racing.
He first raced in 1954 at the age of of 15 and after joining the Old Bleach Club in Randalstown, he chalked up a number of headline-grabbing successes.
Morris was one of the greats of Irish cycling and dominated the Irish cycling scene in the 1960’s. Perhaps his most momentous win coming in the Bath Road 100 Mile Time Trial, the Blue Riband event of the discipline, in a time of 3-59-38 to become the fourth ever rider and first Irishman, to break the 4 hour barrier. Throughout the decade he represented Ireland at the Olympic Games in Mexico and competed in the World Championships in Belgium and Holland.
In 1966 and 1970 he competed in the Commonwealth Games. In Jamaica the Northern Ireland team had one of their best ever performances in the road race event with Dave Kane finishing 5th and Morris Foster 7th.
Record breaking was another area where Morris excelled, at one stage holding every place-to-place record in Ireland. Some of those records still remain unbroken today.
Retiring from competition in 1972, he moved in to administration and has managed many Northern Ireland and Ireland teams and the Commonwealth Games cycling team from 1978, being promoted to assistant team manager for the whole Northern Ireland squad in 1998, a position he held for many years.
He was a familiar figure at Orangefield track in Belfast where he coached young riders for many years. He circled the track on the derny at a cracking pace expecting riders to keep up.
Morris did not believe in pulling any punches and many a rider had to listen to his direct speaking. At the annual NICF Awards night many a recipient waited anxiously to see what Morris would say as he walked up to receive his trophy –
‘You’ll be a good rider when you stop eating and lose the weight,
‘If you worked a bit harder you could do alright’
However this did not deter people who considered it a privilege when Morris took an interest in them and gave them tips on how to improve.
He was rewarded for a lifetime’s dedication to the sport when he received the MBE from Queen Elizabeth 11 at Buckingham Palace in 2006 at a time when he was the President of the Northern Ireland Cycling Federation and a member of Old Bleach CC which he joined in 1954. He was accompanied to the ceremony in London by his wife Maureen who was a familiar figure by his side throughout his career until her death a few years ago
On behalf of all our members the Executive of Cycling Ulster offer sincere condolences to Morris’s wider family circle as we mourn the death of a legend and a true gentleman. Funeral arrangements will be posted later.
The cortege will leave from his nephew, Hudson`s house, 38a Ballymatoskerty Rd, Randalstown at 3pm this Sunday for a service of thanksgiving at Duneane Presbyterian Church at 3.30, and burial at the adjoining burial ground.
Family flowers only, with donations in lieu to the Belgian Project, C/O Logan`s Funeral Services, 12 The Diamond, Ahoghill, Co Antrim, BT42 1JZ