'Man from the Pru' was generous to all
JIM McGonigle joined the Prudential Insurance Company as a district agent in Omagh in 1955, and when he retired almost four decades later he was divisional operations manager for Northern Ireland.
He was good for the Pru and it was good for him and his family.
In the early days he clocked up so many miles in the rural areas around Beragh, Sixmilecross, Seskinore and Fintona that he bought a new VW Beetle annually for 13 years.
He would often contrast his early roles, collecting sixpenny premiums and helping customers fill in farm grant forms, with his final high-level position which entailed managing hundreds of staff and frequent business trips to England.
But although well travelled and possessing an acute business acumen, Jim remained a country man at heart. He had strong faith and always had a keen interest in people and the farming way of life.
Jim was the youngest of four children born to James and Mary McGonigle who came from Donegal to live on a small farm on the side of a beautiful, remote glen in the townland of Fallagh, outside Gortin, Co Tyrone.
He was bright at school and was offered a scholarship to St Columb's College in Derry. However, he was needed on the farm and his parents could not afford for him to board, so he completed formal education at the age of 12.
Jim loved to plough with Molly the mare, and was proud of having scythed over an acre of hay by himself one day at the age of 16.
However the farm was not viable and, with both parents having passed away by the time he was 18, he joined his brother Paddy in Liverpool in search of work.
Jim met Kathleen Mulholland from Newry in the Irish Club and they got engaged on her 21st birthday in 1954. They always intended to raise their family in Ireland, so they came home to get married in Newry Cathedral.
Jim and Kathleen had five children – Tom, Sheena, Dermot, Nuala and Caitriona - and they nurtured close family bonds and values of integrity, honesty and decency.
They moved to Newcastle when Jim was promoted in 1967, and although several promotions followed, he travelled daily so that his family could remain in situ.
Jim was generous to all, wise with advice on careers, investments, house and car purchases.
He loved a “good tight hand of cards”, especially 45 at the Watch House and Mourne Golf Club. Epic games of contract whist during family gatherings taught a lot about how to win, lose and enjoy good company.
He also enjoyed hiking and Sunday forays into the Mournes with his friends Tommy and Eddie.
Jim was highly regarded in the local community, devout and charitable in his work with the Knights of St Columbanus, and had a strong interest in vintage cars, clocks and watches.
He developed Alzheimer's disease about 10 years ago and there were anxious times as it progressed. His sense of location and time became distorted, especially when he set out on the road, intent on getting “home” to Gortin before dark.
Many good friends and neighbours looked out for him and brought him back safely to Tollymore.
Kathleen was also by his side throughout, caring patiently for him at home.
His passing on February 4 was quick and painless: while eating dinner in the kitchen with Kathleen, he simply died in the chair. Although the suddenness was a shock, God was kind at the end.
Jim McGonigle was predeceased by his parents, brother Paddy, sisters Ellen and Kitty and grandson Micheál. He is survived by Kathleen, his five children and 18 grandchildren.