Tributes to a man of principle

Former Newcastle United chairman Gordon McKeag has died of a suspected heart attack at the age of 77.

Former Newcastle United chairman Gordon McKeag has died of a suspected heart attack at the age of 77.

While best known for his role at the football club, Mr McKeag was one of Tyneside's most prominent solicitors and a keen sportsman.

The son of local solicitor Alderman William McKeag, he was educated at Durham School and Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he read law.

His university career was interrupted by National Service, but when he qualified as a solicitor he joined the family law firm and was involved in a number of high profile cases.

His legal career saw him take on the position as Icelandic consul in Newcastle, with the country honouring him with the Icelandic Knights' Cross of the Order of the Falcon.

Mr McKeag had been involved with Newcastle United from a very early age, his father being a director of the club.

He was appointed to the club's board in 1972, became vice-chairman in 1987 and then chairman a year later.

Mr McKeag stepped down in December 1990 after a club share issue failed to gain support, paving the way for Sir John Hall's takeover of the club.

Mr McKeag remained involved with football, becoming chairman of the Football League Management Committee and the council of the Football Association, as well as serving on a number of important FA committees.

Yesterday Newcastle United's chief operating officer Russell Cushing said: "Newcastle United pays its respects to Gordon McKeag as a great supporter of the club.

"He was chairman at a turbulent time in the club's history and he will be remembered by many players and staff of his time as somebody with granite principles and the best interests of the club at heart."

Mr McKeag, who died at his home in Jesmond, Newcastle, is survived by his wife Tessa, daughters Claire, Kate and Susie, son William, and five grandchildren.

William McKeag said last night: "He was a powerful intellect but also a great family man who had a very mischievous and clever sense of humour.

"He had very high principles and one of the most attractive things about him was that he treated everyone as an equal.

"He was also a great advocate of Newcastle and the North-East. He always made a point of telling people where he was from and wouldn't have dreamed of living anywhere else.

"He took over the chairmanship at Newcastle at a difficult time and he did what he thought was right. What happened hurt him, I'm sure, but when the time was right, he stepped aside."

Sir John Hall said last night: "We had our differences at one time, but as the years passed I came to recognise his loyalty to Newcastle and the region."

Active all-round sportsman

Gordon McKeag played a key role across a range of sports in the North-East.

As a young man, he was a keen rugby player, representing the Percy Park club on North Tyneside as well as playing for Northumberland.

At squash, he played for Tynemouth and Northumberland, and he also played league cricket, tennis and real tennis.

He played golf at Bamburgh Castle Golf Club, becoming captain of the club in 2002, chairman last year and is also the author of a book on the first 100 years of the club's history.

A member of Jesmond Lawn Tennis Club for more than 40 years - at different times he was also the club's chairman and president - Mr McKeag was also on the council of the Northumberland Lawn Tennis Association and chairman of the Northumberland Veterans' Tennis Association.

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