Sam McAreavey: Glenavy man was always life and soul of the party
RENOWNED for his sharp wit and sense of humour, Sam McAreavey was a character and a true gentleman.
He was always the life and soul of the party, bursting into song on bus trips, family gatherings or other celebrations.
A real people person with a friendly ear, he made great friends across the community and loved living in Glenavy, Co Antrim.
Born in 1931, Sam grew up in the townland of Aghadalgon and was one of 11 children to Sam and Florence (Brazier), both from the shores of Lough Neagh.
He was proud of his ancestor David McAreavey, who owned and lived on Rams Island on the lough many generations ago.
Sam attended the old Ballymacrickett National School until he was about 12 and worked from a young age on the farm, making potato baskets and picking apples and going to Belfast markets on a horse and cart with his brothers, selling vegetables, apples and poultry.
He was part of a local pipe and drum band and played football with St Joseph’s GAC. He continued to enjoy matches at “The Hill” long after he stopped playing and until recently still attended on his mobility scooter.
Sam served his time in the licensed trade in bars including Hagues in Lisburn and the Co Down Arms in Hillhall, where he made many friends.
He married Moyna Millen from Lisburn in 1964 and they had two children, Deirdre and Patrick (Pat).
He would find great joy in his extended family including son-in-law Noel, daughter-in-law Gill and grandchildren Thomas, Peter, Fionnuala, and her husband Paul, and Ciara and her fiancé Chris.
He had missed his eldest grandson Chris dearly since he died in a car accident in 2010.
Moyna and Sammy lived in Lisburn for 13 years, where he left his mark as a founding member and first chairman of St Patrick's GAC.
In the 1970s he spent time working at the Public Records Office in Belfast restoring documents and very much enjoyed it.
But when the opportunity arose to manage the Chestnut Inn in Glenavy, he moved back to the area where he grew up.
He organised entertainment and supported the local clay pigeon club, hosting its events and being part of civic week festivals.
After this, Sam moved into a colourful career path including bread delivery man, pig drover, cattle de-tagger and portal inspector.
Even after “retirement” he threw himself back into working life at Hicklands Cycles and Denis Wilson’s. Of course, he still did bar work in the Silver Eel and Greenhall as well as helping out with outside licensed events in Glenavy.
He also had his friend Jimmy Walsh build a donkey cart which he used with his children and nephew Eamon for weddings and parades in Lisburn, Crumlin and Glenavy.
He was very proud of the prizes he won at these events. He travelled to donkey derbies across the country where “Fred Rum” competed with his riders Francie Doone and Martin Cardwell.
Fred may not always have been in the mood for running but Sam always enjoyed the craic.
He became involved in later years with Glenavy and District Vintage Club, purchasing a wee grey Fergie TE20 which was his pride and joy.
He also loved attending events in St Clare’s Community Hall and joined their bowling team, developing a cross-community competition. His farewell tea after his funeral was held in the hall.
Sam always loved music, and in his retirement decided to learn the violin. He inspired all of his grandchildren to learn instruments, starting them off by taking them to tin whistle lessons.
He was always out and about in his car, visiting Glenavy numerous times daily, and when a fall put a stop to his driving he took it very badly.
However, a mobility scooter helped turn this around and he was soon frequenting the roads again around Chapel Hill, meeting and greeting all as he liked.
Samuel McAreavey died aged 87 on July 7. He brought great joy to all of those who knew him and will be sorely missed by his friends and extended family.
His month's mind Mass will take place at noon tomorrow at St Joseph’s Church, Glenavy.