Northern Ireland

Hugh Paul: Newcastle Harbour Master devoted life to welfare of others

Hugh Paul served as Newcastle Harbour Master and was a lifeboat volunteer for 65 years
Hugh Paul served as Newcastle Harbour Master and was a lifeboat volunteer for 65 years Hugh Paul served as Newcastle Harbour Master and was a lifeboat volunteer for 65 years

AS the Harbour Master in Newcastle, Co Down, nothing got past Hugh Paul.

From his home on King Street, overlooking the sea, he could track every boat coming in and out and stay alert to any signs of danger.

It was supposed to be a part-time job, just 12 hours a week, but Hugh worked 12 hours a day ensuring the safety of everyone using the water.

Countless people benefited from his friendly advice when launching or tying up their boats or a check if they had not returned when expected.

Some also owe their lives to him, from children wading out and becoming stranded in mud to day-trippers unprepared for changeable weather.

As a dedicated volunteer with the RNLI for 65 years Hugh also took part in countless rescue missions in treacherous conditions, putting aside his own safety to help others.

On top of all that he was president of the local St Vincent de Paul branch, ran minibuses for young people to go swimming in Downpatrick, and brightened the lives of residents of nursing homes and Downshire hospital through concerts and visits.

He was a man of action, the go-to person for people across the community, and he will be sorely missed across Co Down and much further afield.

Hugh had never shirked responsibility, having helped provide for his family from an early age on his father Patrick's small skiff, the Shooting Star.

They fished every day for food, casting nets for herring and mackerel along the south Down coast, and during periods when Patrick was away with the merchant navy Hugh became the man of the house.

At St Mary's boys school he was forever disappearing from class, racing down to the harbour when the boom of the maroon rocket signalled the launch of the lifeboat.

He went on to become a proud member of the all-weather crew, as well as holding the roles of bowman, emergency mechanic and head launcher before becoming boathouse manager for the Newcastle station.

His remarkable dedication over a lifetime was recognised with the awarding of an MBE in 2006.

While the harbour took up most of his spare time, Hugh also had a variety of jobs during his life.

He worked for the local cable factory, his brother-in-law's building company, the Forestry Service and at Kilhorn fish factory in Annalong, where he was foreman for many years.

He was hard-working, straight-talking and treated everyone the same – it didn’t matter who you were, he took you as he found you.

Hugh had a great love of music, both Irish traditional and country music.

He was a gifted dancer in his youth, winning an Ulster title, and there was always be a queue of partners at the dances he cycled to in Newcastle and surrounding towns.

He also enjoyed Gaelic football and soccer and following the fortunes of the Ireland rugby team.

Hugh met Mary Maginn, from Ballymena, while she was holidaying in Newcastle and they wrote to each other for a year before meeting up again the following summer.

They married and settled two doors down from where he grew up, raising seven children.

Hugh was a dedicated family man. When the children were young the family enjoyed walks up the mountain together and playing cards and board games.

He lived in Forge Row for 78 years, but following a fall and with his health failing he moved into Greenvale Nursing Home where he remained until his death on September 16 after a long illness.

A guard of honour by the Newcastle RNLI station crew accompanied the funeral cortege to Our Lady of the Assumption Church in the town.

Predeceased by Mary, his beloved wife of 53 years, he is survived by his children Anne, Patrick, Kieran, Christine, Lucia, Martin and Bernadette, 16 grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and siblings Patsy, Dolores and Willie.