Tributes have been paid to a judo master whose martial arts teachings inspired hundreds, including an Olympic silver medallist.
Michael or ‘Mick’ Heffernan, originally from Ballina in Ireland, passed away at Cliftonville Care Home last week aged 87.
But the judo instructor, who attained his black belt aged 82, lived most of his life in the Parklands area and was among the first to bring the martial art to Northampton.
Working as a labourer in Kings Heath in the aftermath of World War Two, he and a set of colleagues began by practising throwing moves in a makeshift sandpit, wearing Wellington boots and boiler suits under the tutorship of Frank Patching, who had served in Japan during the war.
Mr Patching set up Northampton Judo Club in a room in Silver Street in 1948 and Mick joined soon after.
The man from County Mayo proved to be a natural in the sport, going on to win Midlands and national championships and acting as an instructor at the club until the early 1970s.
One of his protege’s, Stan Clark, said: “Mick was a brilliant tutor, very quiet and he would tell you to practise and practise until you got it right, until it became instinct .
“If you had to think about a move, you were already too slow.”
Mr Clark, now 75 and living in Harpole, joined Northampton Judo Club in 1961 and would go on to teach it in schools for 27 years.
Now retired, he said he owed his career to Mick’s teachings. He said: “I just hope he’s never forgotten. The town owes him a great deal.”