Family in loving tribute to father and farmer who was “everything”

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The son of one of the Province’s most well known figures in sheepdog trial circles has paid tribute to him after he passed away suddenly last weekend doing what he loved most - competing.

Co Antrim man David Jonathan Irvine, who would have turned 70 next year, died last Saturday evening (September 7) at sheepdog trials at Carnlough after suffering from heart failure.

His son Harry said that he and his family could only take comfort from the fact that their precious father, who had lived at Loughmourne Road outside Carrickfergus all his life, spent his final hours “laughing and joking” amongst his many friends and peers, who all thought so much of him.

As well as farming sheep and cattle, Jonathan was also during his life employed in Whiteabbey Meats, Harry said.

His passion, however, were sheepdog trials, something that had developed from an early age.

“He was only 11 when he started to have a real interest in them,” Harry revealed.

“He travelled everywhere taking part in the trials - North, South, England, Wales.

“When we went across the water we tied one dog to the front of the car and one to the back and just slept inside it. I went with him everywhere.”

For Jonathan, Harry says, what he enjoyed most about attending the trials was, quite simply, the people.

“He was a people person,” he adds with affection.

Harry says that he understands that the commentator at last Saturday’s event was just about to close the gate in the pen, and his father was around four feet away from the gate when “he just fell backwards.”

He said that the spectators and competitors immediately rushed to help, as well as a first aider who came down and worked on him.

Emergency crews were next to arrive on the scene.

Harry added that Jonathan actually suffered a heart attack at the end of September 2016, and a stroke just the year before that. He also suffered from Crohn’s Disease from an early age, and Parkinson’s Disease for the last decade.

“The only comfort we can take is from the way in which he died,” he said.

“He could have been lying in hospital for six months.

“He just loved getting about and seeing folk, and all those boys were saying that last Saturday he was laughing and joking with them.

“It was just the way he was. As they all said, he loved everybody and everybody loved him.”

He struggles to find the words to sum up his lasting memories of his father before simply stating: “He was everything.

“He was my best friend.”

Harry, a butcher by trade based at Jackson’s in Ballynure, said his father also “doted” on his three-year-old grandson Charlie, and took him everywhere.

Jonathan, the son of the late Samuel and Lena Boyd Irvine, leaves behind his wife Marian, children Harry and Anne, their partners Kathryn and Colin, and grandson Charlie.

A Service of Thanksgiving for his life took place on Thursday past at Loughmourne Presbyterian Church, with interment following in the adjoining cemetery.