UPPER Main Street came to a standstill on Friday for the funeral of well-known and highly respected undertaker, Billy Murray.
Rev Dr Paul Reid of the Old Presbyterian Church of Larne and Kilwaughter described the death of 73-year-old Billy as “the end of an era””.
“How could we ever forget Billy with his top hat and black cane walking at the front of the hearse?
“In every sense of the word he was truly an institution,”” he said.
Dr Reid said the community reacted with disbelief at hearing news of Billy’’s death last Tuesday.
“He was a wonderful and amazing man, one of nature’s true gentlemen.”” he added.
Mourners heard that Billy was born on October 3, 1938, the eldest in a family of six, with two sisters and three brothers and lived in the family home at Upper Waterloo Road. His father Thomas worked hard for his wife Mary and young family in the Aluminium Works, giving them morals and standards that would remain with them the rest of their lives.
Billy attended the Back Road School, where he was an attentive student and excelled at sports. After leaving school at 15, he started work as a loyal and dedicated employee, serving his local community with the late Bob Graham on his milk run, then as a barman in a number of local pubs and in STC until its closure.
After STC closed he began to help his good friends Norman and Beth Ramsey in their family-run undertaking business, EW Ramsey and Son. After Beth’s death he helped to run the business with Norman McClay, Dr Reid said.
“It was more than a job. He served this community. He was able to put people at ease during difficult times of bereavement. Many here today personally witnessed his care and personal touch, taking the weight of responsibility off their shoulders during the loss of a loved one.
“It’s the end of an era and Larne and district has lost a true friend,”” said Dr Reid, who said revealed that, in recent years, Billy had carried out his duties faithfully despite being in poor health himself.
“He had enjoyed good health until seven years ago when he had a heart operation, but since then his health at times has not been good. Even at times when being very ill, such was the man he insisted in attending and conducting funerals.
“So today, as this large turnout, we come to say to Billy: ‘Thank you’,”” said Dr Reid.
He went on to share Billy’’s love for sport, in particular football, darts and golf. In his earlier years he had been a keen goalkeeper and was a passionate supporter of Arsenal, Glentoran and Glasgow Rangers. He was a founder member and trustee of the town’s Rangers Supporters Club.
An accomplished left-handed darts player, Billy was the last ever Larne individual champion on the double board.
He also was fond of music, particularly country and western, and loved attending the Saturday night dances in the church hall and socialising with family and friends.
Dr Reid recalled that Billy was always someone who thought of others and organised a number of fundraising events, including country music nights, in aid of various good causes.
“Many people I know have benefited from his generosity,”” said Dr Reid.
“One thing that meant more to him than anything else was his family and friends. He never married, but thought the world of his family circle. He showed love and affection for his nieces and nephews. There’s a great void in your lives. You have happy and treasured memories, but his inspiration and love lives on in you,”” said Dr Reid.
The clergyman said he had first-hand experience of the good-natured, easy-going manner of Billy Murray.
“”He always enjoyed a joke and was known for the occasional wind -up. Any phone call to me always began with ‘’Hello friend’’ and then ‘’I’’ve a wee funeral for you’’. Today I have lost a friend. A man who was honest, always seeking to help me settle me in to Larne as a new minister,”” said Dr Reid.
“”He will be missed by the entire community of Larne. We are all the richer for knowing him,”” said Dr Reid.