Chapter closes on life well lived in helping others in the Larne area

Leslie Hagan.
Leslie Hagan.

Leslie Hagan, who passed away at his home in Cairncastle on February 11, will be remembered in the Larne area for his commitment to charity work both with the Larne Lions Club and in support of his wife Iris and the Larne Support Group for NI Hospice.

Born John Leslie Hagan on 28 April 1933, he was the second son of James and Lily Hagan of Greenbank Farm, Little Ballymena, Ballyclare. He grew up with his older brother Jim, who was six and a half years his senior, and sadly passed away in 1989.

Leslie Hagan.

Leslie Hagan.

Early childhood was spent under the cloud of the war years but the stories he told were of a happy, loving upbringing with his family. An heirloom which he treasured from his childhood was a gunmetal pocket watch which was given to him by Belfast jeweller Sharman D. Neill after he fell in the lane near his home one day. The watch no longer works but was given by him to his grandson Sonny, who wore it at the funeral service in Cairncastle Presbyterian Church in his honour.

Educated at Straidnahanna School and then Ballyclare High School, Leslie left school to work for his uncle John and served his time as an electrician. He obtained a job with Gilmore & Co Electrical before returning to work on the family farm at age 18. On his 21st birthday Leslie set sail for Canada with his friends Bertie Dundee and Roy Hutchinson, using savings of £35 – a journey which took them two weeks. In Toronto and with just £5 left in his pocket, he obtained a job with Wonderbread, delivering bread on a horse and cart in return for a decent wage and all the bread you could eat!

During his time in Toronto he joined a band with Irish Rover Bob Millar, who also got him a job with Thor Washing Machines as an engineer and then driving a 40ft container lorry for Loblaw Grocers.

Four years later in 1958 Leslie returned home for Christmas and never returned to Canada. His subsequent work had a strong agricultural theme to it, with jobs with Hugh Craig’s agricultural shop in Ballyclare, Christie’s Farm Services, Esso Petroleum Company and Andrew Thompson Pig Group. In 1967 Leslie moved to Bibby’s, first buying and selling pigs and then as Pig Product manager. He would stay for over 16 years before retiring in 1984 at the age of 51. In 1987 he came out of retirement to work with Dale Farm in Carrickfergus for a time.

In 1967 Leslie would marry the love of his life, Iris and the couple had two daughters, Deanne and Louise and lived in Ballyclare, Ballycarry and Larne before moving to Drumnagreagh Road, Cairncastle, after he bought a house at an auction without Iris ever having seen it except in an advertisement in the Larne Times.

Leslie worked on making alterations to the property, which was the former Ballygilbert National School and his choice of property also reflected an interest in local history.

His interests included a deep commitment to the principles of Lions International in helping others and he served as a member for many years, including as president of Larne Lions Club. The club looked after Carnfunnock House, which was available to groups across the community and he, Iris and his girls spent much of their summers at the house, the former chalet of Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon, making beds, arranging outings and entertainment for the weekly visitors.

Leslie joined Cairncastle Bowling Club when it was formed, then Larne Bowling and Lawn Tennis Club at Glenarm Road in the town, where he served as honorary secretary for a number of years although it was Iris behind the scenes typing up all his scrawls.

He was a member of Cairndhu Golf Club. In recent years he joined Larne & District Folklore Society as he always had a great interest in local history. Leslie also supported his wife Iris when she became involved in the Larne Support Group for NI Hospice.

In his later years Leslie had a tremendous struggle against illness, which was often not apparent to those who met him. He was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease and then, 11 years ago, with both kidney and prostate cancer. The consultant described him as a miracle man, a title he revelled in and proved to the full with 11 good years in which he was monitored closely – years in which his only grandchild Sonny was enabled to make amazing memories of his dear Papa (or Grumpy as he was lovingly called). In November Sonny turned 11 and his papa was delighted to hear that he was going to Methodist College to continue his education. Sonny also followed in the family footsteps by raising £1,600 for NI Children’s Hospice and the Mae Murray Foundation during a year of challenges in 2017. In July 2018 Leslie collapsed at home and although the prognosis was not good, after eight weeks spent in Antrim Area Hospital, Lisgarel Care Home and Inver House, he returned home under the care of district nurses and carers from Connected Health and Admiral Care Service. He gradually became able to go out again, socialise and even drive. His biggest drawback was the fact that he could not have an operation on his hip which made walking increasingly difficult and painful.

In the very early hours of Monday, February 11 (just after midnight), Leslie took his final peaceful breath in his own bed and with Iris by his side – just as he would have wished.

At the Service of Celebration for Leslie’s life held in Cairncastle Presbyterian Church on February 14, conducted by Rev Colin Morrison, with music by organist Derick Jenkins, a tribute from his daughter Louise on behalf of the family reflected on the number of times he had been described since his death as “a character” who always had a joke and as “a gentleman” who was the sort of person people turned to if they needed help of some sort.

“He taught Deanne and I all the important things in life, especially how to treat people right, doing what you could, when you could; to enjoy ourselves no matter what life threw at us; and, most importantly, how to use a chainsaw, reverse a trailer and mix two-stroke.

“He taught us that giving is so much better than receiving and he, along with Mum, led by example, from the Lion’s Club to the Hospice and everything in between.”

Following the Service of Celebration for Leslie Hagan’s life, the cortege walked from Cairncastle Presbyterian Church to the nearby St. Patrick’s Churchyard for interment.

Mr Hagan is survived by his wife Iris, their daughters Deanne and Louise and grandson Sonny.