Eamon McKinney: Armagh roofer was gentleman and friend to many
‘GRIT’ in a person can be difficult to define. We generally associate it with those who display characteristics such as courage, mettle, spirit, fortitude and nerve.
Eamon McKinney possessed grit in abundance.
Born in 1944 in Lislea, three miles outside Armagh city, he had a traumatic introduction to life.
During childbirth, the umbilical cord became tangled around his neck, restricting his breathing. It was initially thought he would not survive and a priest administered the last rites.
But as was to become a pattern throughout his life, Eamon displayed his grit and pulled through.
Growing up on the banks of the River Callan, the young Eamon preferred fishing and getting up to mischief with brothers, cousins and friends than attending school.
This love of fishing remained throughout his life and he was skilled at tying flies of all shapes and colours - a feat all the more remarkable considering a childhood accident had left him blind in his right eye.
As was common enough at the time, Eamon left school in his early teens. He went to work in the mills around Milford, before serving his time as a roofer.
He was extremely skilled, be it slating, tiling or intricate lead work, and worked on many major jobs including St Patrick's Cathedral and St Luke's Hospital in Armagh and Our Lady's Grammar School, Newry.
Eamon frequently shocked workmates by displaying no fear of heights as he skipped across the roof carrying a stack of slates or roll of lead that many would struggle to lift off the ground.
He was always willing to help out a neighbour and on numerous occasions a knock on the door led to him throwing on his coat and heading off to fix a problem. No questions asked.
Eamon met his soulmate, Elizabeth McInteggart, in 1974. They were married two years later and had an unbreakable bond.
Theirs was a special relationship, a simple look from one to the other enough to express all that was needed.
They took great pride in the garden they tended together and visitors to their busy Windmill Hill home were always guaranteed a warm welcome, a sympathetic ear and a bit of craic.
Eamon was proud of his five children, Philip, Susan, Garry, Sean and Beth, and doted on his eight grandchildren.
At the weekend he enjoyed a few pints and over the years threw darts for many local teams.
In recent times, his local was the Toby Jug on Irish Street corner, where he relished playing cards on Saturday nights with his friends. The bets were small but the competition was fierce and so was the slagging.
In true fisherman style, Eamon could tell a good story, adding a touch of gloss to make it more entertaining.
He could also get the craic going with a host of card and coin tricks.
Eamon had a deep faith and despite ailing health, attended Mass in St Malachy’s Church each morning.
A devastating blow was delivered when Elizabeth passed away in July 2018. Eamon had supported her as she bravely battled with cancer for over four years.
He remained strong for his children and attended as many family events as possible. However, the loss left an immense hole and within 10 months, Eamon made his final journey to be reunited with Elizabeth in eternal paradise.
Eamon was a popular person, known far and wide for his warm and engaging way. He was a genuine, humble man who was always true to himself and had no airs or graces. What you saw was what you got.
His loss is felt acutely by his family and many friends in Armagh and beyond who can take comfort in the fact that he was a fine man who was loved and admired by so many.
Eamon McKinney died aged 74 on May 4 2019.
Predeceased by his parents James and Catherine and brother Eugene, he is survived by his siblings John, Malachy, Eileen, Eugene, Cora and Kathleen.