Former President of Larne Rotary Club and retired Senior Resident Magistrate James Scott Tweed OBE passed away peacefully at Rowandale Residential Home on Monday December 22. His funeral was held on Wednesday December 24 at Cairncastle Presbyterian Church.
James Scott Tweed was born on the August 20 1926, the middle son of Campbell and Lavinia Tweed, on the family farm at Ballycoose. He was preceded by his elder brother Campbell (deceased) and joined by his younger sister Kathleen, who is still alive, and younger brother John, who died in infancy.
James began his schooling locally at Cairncastle Primary School and at the age of eight followed his elder brother as a boarder to Coleraine Academical Institution.
From Coleraine Inst. James went on to undergraduate study at Trinity College, Dublin and graduated there in 1948 with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Legal and Political Science and as a Bachelor of Law (Honours). In 1951 he was awarded his Master of Arts degree from Trinity and commenced his
apprenticeship in the Larne office of the family law firm O’Rorke, McDonald and Tweed which has had a Tweed family connection since 1903. Admitted as a solicitor in 1951, James spent ten years at the firm’s Antrim office and was invited to become a partner in the practice in 1958.
James returned to Larne from the Antrim office as 1959 drew to a close and remained with the firm until he was sworn in as a Resident Magistrate on May 30 1977. James was assigned to Belfast Juvenile Court in January 1979 and was also appointed a Deputy County Court Judge. He specialised in juvenile and domestic proceedings courts and will be remembered as one of the expert minds in this field of law, with one of his most memorable professional achievements being his work developing the new Northern Ireland Children’s Order.
On his retirement in May 1997 James was Senior Resident Magistrate in Belfast, and it was only on retirement that he also relinquished his role as Honorary Secretary of the Resident Magistrates Association, a position which he had held since 1979.
In June 1997, James received an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for his long service to the judiciary in Northern Ireland.
In addition to his work focusing on Northern Ireland, James was appointed as the Northern Ireland representative of the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association in 1982. In 1985 he was elected as a member of its Council, a role which he held until 1991, by which time he had been elected a Vice-President of CMJA with responsibility for co-ordinating the association’s work in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean region. These responsibilities provided opportunities to travel to legal conferences across the Commonwealth where James met many interesting people, including Robert Mugabe, a fact he casually dropped into conversation over dinner a few months ago.
In 1994 James was appointed by the Secretary of State to be a member of the Northern Ireland Criminal Justice Consultative Group and he also served as a member of the Area Child Protection Committee of the Eastern Health and Social Services Board.
Prior to retirement James played an active role in the training of lay magistrates in juvenile court procedures and powers, including serving as Chairman of the Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Committee for the appointment of lay panel members.
While in Dublin James met his wife Audrey McCrum, in 1945. The couple married eight years later, on September 26 1953.
The couple set up their first home at Muckamore Garden village and had four children; sons Alan and Robin and daughters Grace and Jennifer.
They then moved into their family home ‘Lephinmore’ on Branch Road in Drain’s Bay where they lived from 1961 until 2006. They later moved to a
bungalow, also called ‘Lephinmore’ in Croft Heights, Ballygally.
James’ early association with Coleraine Inst. continued up until the age of 80 as he served on and was elected President of the Board of Governors. He also served for many years as Chair of the Board of Governors of Cairncastle Primary School and was instrumental in the school retaining the Cairncastle name when it moved to Ballygally.
James’ love of rugby was also nurtured at Coleraine Inst. where he played at Ravenhill in two Schools’ Cup finals. James then played scrum half for Dublin Universities and was later a past captain and Vice-President of Larne Rugby Club.
James also enjoyed playing tennis and badminton along with Audrey and at his death was still an honorary life member of Muckamore Tennis club. He also enjoyed playing golf with his friends on Saturday mornings at Cairndhu golf Club.
James gave much time to the work of Rotary International and was a committed Rotarian throughout his adult life serving as District Secretary of Rotary International in Ireland for District 116, District Club Chairman from 1970-72, President of Larne Rotary Club in 1972-73 and District Governor of Rotary International in Ireland, District 116 in 1973-74. James also founded Probus in Ireland to assist retired business and professional people in the Larne area.
He was also instrumental in founding the Rotaract Club in Larne to encourage young people to engage with the community and ‘Rotary’ values of service above self.
James followed his elder brother into freemasonry and was worshipful master of the Cairncastle Lodge, recently receiving his 60-year jewel.
His Christian faith was an integral part of his life and he and Audrey were devoted members of Cairncastle Presbyterian Church. James was ordained as an elder on January 27 1963 and helped to lead the congregation as its Clerk of Session for many years as well as being Treasurer for five years. James also served the wider Presbyterian Church in Ireland as a member of the Judicial Commission of the Church and Government Committee, the General Board of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the Moderator’s Advisory Committee.
James was a caring brother, a dad described as ‘absolutely exceptional in so many ways,’ a most special grandfather and loving husband to his beloved Audrey who pre-deceased him in March 2012.
Shortly after his retirement in 1997 James was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease but it did not hold him back until very recently. At his funeral, donations in lieu of flowers were made to the Ballymena branch of Parkinson’s UK.
James had a stellar career, a loving marriage and a wonderful family, a host of philanthropic interests, and a quiet and deep faith which formed the backbone of his life and was seen in everything he did.