BROKEN-HEARTED Tony Fitzpatrick walked from the hospital with tears in his eyes, mourning the loss of his six-year-old son Tony Jnr.
Then he looked up into the sky and saw a double rainbow. He took it as a message of hope and love.
The St. Mirren legend came through the ordeal, which would have destroyed lesser men to maintain a fantastic playing career and pen the incredible children’s book; “The Promise, Together Again” which follows the terrific story of Babakoochi Bear.
He said: “Babakoochi was a nickname I gave my son Tony; Tony who took a terrible disease when I moved back to Scotland from playing in Bristol in 1981; within a matter of six weeks Tony had taken very unwell.
It ended up being acute myeloid leukaemia; which is an adult form of the disease in a child. Sadly, Tony passed away two years later when he was six and a half. It was devastating for the family and myself. However; I always thought I would love to create a legacy to him.
I called my daughter Babakoochi; but Tony was hairy like me so I called him Babakoochi Bear”
I spoke to Tony Fitzpatrick beside the mural of Babakoochi bear as he enters the Freedom Forest and Mountains with Sabre as he reunites with his son Theo. It is a real life representation of Tony’s book and vision. It is a story the St. Mirren Scottish Cup winning captain penned following the harrowing loss of his son Tony Jr to cancer at the age of six.
At New Douglas Park, where Hamilton play their home games in the Scottish Premiership –the stunning mural is dedicated to Fitzpatrick’s beautiful but tragic story. Ex-convicts have painted the mural; mostly who were serving life in Barlinnie HM Prison for murder and other serious crimes – looking to reintegrate back to society. This is all down to the partnership of Hamilton chief executive Colin McGowan and Tony Fitzpatrick:
“The mural is incredible” Tony says. “All down to Colin McGowan; a great great man. He does a lot of work for the community. He reflects what Babakoochi is all about; warms people’s hearts. He certainly went into Colin’s heart.”
The day Tony Jr died had an effect on Tony that he hold close to him this day:
He said: “When I was leaving the hospital; and in the sky there was the most stunning rainbow I have ever seen in my life; there was a double rainbow. Every time I looked up at this rainbow I felt a nice peace. I felt that was a sign from Tony.” Tony explains. “That he was fine. Babakoochi Bear, the rainbow and the peace pole which emanating from Tony getting a lot of treatment into his arms and he would walk about in a football kicker so I replaced that stand with the peace pole; which send the message of may peace prevail on earth which everyone wants”
The great message of the “The Promise, Together Again” is for children to read the book and go on a journey with Babakoochi and Sabre as they reunite Sabre with his son – Theo one last time as Babakoochi uses his brilliant gift to walk people through the rainbow. The book deals with bereavement; grief and loss. However, Tony spoke about the book presents these taboo topics in a way for children to understand and talk about.
He said: “Everybody doesn’t like to speak about loss and grief. I don’t like speaking about it to my kids.
It was an opportunity for parents and children to use the book to read to kids so they could maybe discuss the loss of a loved one.”
Tony backed the great charity program that Colin and Hamilton Academicals support – Blameless and how that resonated with the message of his book:
He said: “Blameless focuses on children who have come from unfortunate backgrounds and the message of the book struck Colin. As soon as he seen The Promise, Babakoochi and read the story – and he organised the mural to be done and for the book to be integrated into the gatherings of the charity volunteers”
“Hamilton does incredible work. The kids and the parents; we all have our demons. However, it isn’t the children’s fault and that is why they are blameless. We all can be sucked into alcohol, drugs and gambling. No one is above it. That is life you never know what can happen. The work the club does in creating an area for kids which is called Hope Street. That’s what does it for me; when I lost Tony I would always look into my heart and look for hope.”
Tony’s adulation of Hamilton’s work as well as his own work towards helping people is nothing short of incredible. However; Garry King who is the community outreach manager at New Douglas Park. Garry is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict:
He said: “I echo much of Colin’s viewpoints as they are similar to mine, I come from a recovery background of alcohol and drugs; with trouble with gambling – and I couldn’t control my own life at one point.
Colin and the guys here at the stadium are a great inspiration to me. They gave me a helping hand in my own recovery.”
Garry has become an integral part of the community team at New Douglas Park and values the work done at the stadium as nothing short of groundbreaking:
He said: “The thing we try to do here is value everyone and the community football clubs are a great way for everyone to engage with what is going on at the football stadium.
For example; we took 22 recovering addicts away for a bungee jump and what a fantastic day out it was; all their families were there.”
The work that gets done at New Douglas Park is sensational. Hamilton Academicals strive to be the best on the field; but off it – many clubs could take note. When it comes to community programmes – the Accies are very much top of the league.