Morton’s enthusiasm for the Club was evident through the late Sixties, where as a supporter he was always involved in projects to improve the facilities at Grosvenor Park. The Club appointed him as their first Commercial Manager in July 1969 to take charge of all fund-raising events.
When the Club was forced to vacate Grosvenor Park in 1971 he was part of the Distillery Board alongside Chairman Harry Caldwell and the other Directors as they negotiated ground-shares with Crusaders and Brantwood during the 1970’s, whilst seeking compensation and searching for a new ground. They visited a variety of potential sites over several years before purchasing the New Grosvenor ground at Ballyskeagh. He helped to secure vital finance and was heavily involved in the transition to the new ground in 1980 and the development of dressing room and social facilities there.
The early 1980’s was a difficult time financially and the Club was kept afloat with contributions from many organisations, individuals and other teams and their supporters. Morton succeeded Harry Caldwell as Club Chairman around 1983 — a role that saw him ever-industrious and enthusiastic for over a dozen years.
Morton was Distillery’s representative on the Irish League and Irish Football Association Committees, eventually serving as Irish League President from 1991 to 1997 — the 7th Distillery member to hold this esteemed office.
By the end of the 1985/86 season a large loan had to be paid back to the bank and as the Club Directors chipped-in, Morton led the way by selling his house. He was totally dedicated to the Club, putting in long-hours and hard work. The new stand at New Grosvenor was completed and opened on 29th July 1986 with a friendly against Linfield. It was aptly named ‘The Morton McKnight Stand’ to acknowledge his service to the Club.
As Distillery’s representative on the Irish League Committee he assisted John Crossan in securing vital government funding for local floodlighting. Distillery were one of the clubs to benefit from this when they installed new floodlights at New Grosvenor in November 1987.
In December 1989 he was instrumental in attracting former Northern Ireland International Billy Hamilton to the position of player-manager which led to a successful time on the pitch. In July 1993 he negotiated a deal with the Northern Ireland Greyhound Racing Company to use the ground and develop a new stand and restaurant. A year later he had overseen upgrading of the floodlight system and enlarged the carparking facilities.
On 14th January 1997 Morton McKnight was replaced as Chairman by Tommy Allen at an Extraordinary General Meeting of shareholders.
After leaving Distillery he joined the Board of Newry Town and became their representative at the IFA. His service on the IFA saw him appointed as a Vice President from 2005 to 2010 and a Life Member. He was also a member of the IFA International Committee in the 1990’s.
Our deepest sympathies go to Morton’s family circle at this difficult tine.
Article by Dawson Simpson (March 22)