Tribute to Norman Rea: drum major, bowler and family man

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IT was with great sadness that I learned of the death of my pipe band colleague and friend, Norman Rea, who was born in Ballyclare on October 7, 1928, the eldest of a family of four.

When he left school, Norman went to work in the Bleach Green in Ballyclare, a job he held until the 1960s.

At the Green he met several people connected to Ballyboley Pipe Band and he was invited to learn to be a drummer. When the drum major retired in 1952 Norman, being tall and with good posture, was the obvious replacement.

He attended NIPBA courses and was successful in several local competitions.

He met Larne girl, June Lowe, and they were married in 1954, living at Ballysnod before moving to Craigyhill. Norman and June had three of a family – Lynda, David and Karen – a close-knit family who respected and loved their parents.

With his family grown up, Norman worked at Ballylumford power station as a store man. Carrying out his job diligently, he was highly regarded by his work mates and held in high esteem by his employers.

Norman was now secretary – as well as drum major – of Ballyboley Pipe Band, and it was a position he held (apart from a short break due to work commitments) for over 30 years. The secretary is the main stay of any organisation and Norman excelled. Indeed, the band felt a great loss when he retired in 2008, even though Norman’s heart was still with his beloved Ballyboley and he followed their progress till the end.

Norman liked sport and was a keen supporter of Wolverhampton Wanderers, as well as local football clubs.

He played indoor bowls for the All Saints Church team, and outdoor bowls for Curran, where he was elected president.

A guard of honour comprising bowlers flanked Norman’s coffin in Craigy Hill Presbyterian Church , and a lone Ballyboley piper played his favourite tunes.

Norman was a true gentleman in every way. I feel honoured to have known him and extend my deepest sympathy to his widow and family.