Larne gardening enthusiast who was 'one of life's gentlemen'

Mr Jim McKay was a keen gardener who loved competing in flower and vegetable shows.
Mr Jim McKay was a keen gardener who loved competing in flower and vegetable shows.

James Brian (Jim) McKay, who died suddenly on February 21, was a well-known Larne community member, for whom the term ‘gentleman’ was inadequate, those who attended a service of celebration for his life were told.

Rev. Dr. Colin McClure said in the course of his sermon at the funeral service that clichéd and well-meaning descriptions such as “one of life’s gentlemen” do not do full justice to what is

really meant.

The First Larne Presbyterian Church minister said that “Whenever his friends have described Jim in this and similar ways the intention is clear – but the words are never enough to fully express what is really meant.

“For in community we have recognised in Jim one of those people who provide the stable core and basis of a community.

“Jim is honoured among us as a reliable and dependably supportive contributor to what is good among us,” mourners were told.

Mr. McKay, who lived at Killyglen Road in the town, was born on June 7, 1931 and spent his early years at Station Road in the town with his parents John and Margaret and siblings Elsie, Joan and Renee.

He was educated at Larne and Inver Primary (The Bridge) School, just a short distance from his home, and then progressed to Larne Technical School.

He was employed during his working life at Minnis Fleck building supplies firm in Larne, then Michelin, ICI at Kilroot, Bromac (Ballyclare), and finally the Housing Executive, from which he retired at 65. He continued with summer work at Hanna’s Garden Centre, Larne, for a few years following his retirement and was a keen gardening enthusiast.

In August 1955 he married his wife Anna at St. Cedma’s Parish Church and the couple celebrated 55 years of marriage together, and had two children, June and Brian. Anna passed away in 2010 and Jim devoted himself selflessly to caring for her in her final years.

Reflecting on the fact that Jim McKay had grown up in very different times, Rev. McClure noted that Jim’s first pay packet from Minnis Fleck was the equivalent of £2.50 in modern terms and that most of that had gone to his mother, who gave him back half a crown (2/6) for pocket money.

His life had not been without struggles and difficulties, but he managed to surmount them with his own brand of courage and even humour, Rev. Dr. McClure said.

In the years following the death of his beloved wife he had displayed a remarkable fortitude and resurgence after the emotional and physical drain of caring. It was clear, despite some people’s concerns, that Jim still had much more to give and share in his community.

Rev. McClure used a gardening analogy which was appropriate for one who loved gardening and encouraged many others to do the same; he said there were notable fruits that, when they reach the right moment of ripeness, drop off the tree. That’s the moment when the fruit is at its best.

“Listen to Paul’s gardening talk. The perishable is now imperishable, the weak is now raised in power. The Jim we have known and loved is now fully known and loved by his creator,”

the First Larne clergyman said.

Following the funeral service, interment took place at Larne Cemetery.

Donations in lieu of flowers were encouraged to Chest, Heart and Stroke and funeral arrangements were carried out by Fleming and Cuthbert Funeral Directors, Mill Road, Ballyclare.

Mr. McKay is survived by his daughter June, her husband Brian and daughter Amber, and his son Brian and his children Zoe, Zara and Josh. He was predeceased by his wife Anna and his sister Elsie, who died in South Africa, and he is survived by his sisters Joan and Renee.