Well-known Plough Inn publican Derek Patterson found dead close to his home
TRIBUTES have been paid to Derek Patterson, one of Northern Ireland's most well-known publicans, after his body was found close to his home.
Mr Patterson (53), who ran Hillsborough's family-owned Plough Inn, was found dead in the St John's Road area of the village yesterday afternoon.
Police said last night they are investigating the circumstances surrounding the death.
"A post mortem examination is due to be carried out to establish cause of death. At this time the death is not being treated as suspicious," a spokeswoman said.
The father-of-four was chef and part-owner of the Plough Group of restaurants, which includes Simply Seafood, the Pheasant in Annahilt and the Tannery in Moira, and had a high-profile in the food and drinks industry.
He founded the Hillsborough International Oyster Festival and is credited with developing the area's reputation as a destination for gourmands.
Colin Neill of Hospitality Ulster said he was "a man ahead of his time".
"He really drove the oyster festival at a time when no one was thinking about food provenance and sustainability. He had that vision," he said.
"He knew the industry and the industry knew him and it is a terrible loss to no longer have that driving force.
"Derek was such a character, so well known and so well liked and incredibly well respected. All our thoughts are with his family at this sad time."
Mr Patterson travelled the world for 10 years, learning about food, going to work in Switzerland when he was 17 and returning to his hometown with skills and a new vision for the furture.
Along with his brothers William and Richard, he launched the Vintage Rooms three years ago, offering a lounge bar experience with a spirit and wine library and whiskey cellar with customers able to buy their drinks by-the-bottle and store them in their own locker until their next visit.
A self-confessed "adrenaline freak", when not working in his pubs or with his family, Mr Patterson enjoyed motorcross, horse-riding, skiing and water-skiing.
Former publican and SDLP assembly member for Lagan Valley Pat Catney said it was "devastating" news.
"We have to think about his wife and his children and the wider family as well in the days to come," he said.
"It's a family-run business and a great business and he will be a great loss to the local community.
"Wherever went on locally, Derek was always trying to life the whole place up. It is just a shock. He was someone who worked hard and has a great business and a lovely family as well."
He is survived by his wife Pamela and their children.