Lives Remembered

Jim McArdle: Character of old Newry who brought smile to face of all he met

WITH a slap on his slender stomach, a broad smile on his face and a wag of his index finger, he would invariably chuckle on meeting.

“Sure you can’t put weight on a thoroughbred.”

Such was Jim McArdle, a man who brought a smile to the face of everyone he met.

Jim was a character. Life simply sprang from him. He seemed to have boundless energy, and he couldn’t wait to tell you his latest joke or story.

Unfortunately Jim laughed so much that he would be in hysterics long before the punchline.

Some say to be truly a Newry person you had to come from either the High Street or Ballybot areas of the town.

Jim was from the former. It was one of the oldest parts of Newry, a town which he loved passionately.

Jim was always a diligent worker.

As a teenager, to help out his family, he was sent to apprentice in his uncle’s coach building firm and learned many skills.

But Jim, like many others of his generation, beckoned to hoot of the horn at Damolly Mill.

Damolly was renowned for its soccer teams and he developed his love for the beautiful game both as a player and manager.

Eventually he would don ‘the black’ of a referee and revelled in being the man in the middle - as many of those he sent off will testify.

Jim graduated from the school of life and whatever changes were thrown at him, he rose to the occasion. If one door closed, Jim forced another open.

With the mill gates shut, he found himself at the shipyard and then Glen Electric where he enjoyed the both the work and the camaraderie.

He had a strong entrepreneurial streak and when it became a requirement to have RTÉ aerials, Jim capitalised on the opportunity.

Ladders strapped to the roof of his small Fiat, aerials packed into the backs seats, he forged a new career (this writer was his teenage apprentice aerial erector).

Without any regard to health and safety, Jim could criss-cross roofs with the agility of a cat.

There is an adage that “one person can make a difference and every person should try”.

For Jim this was a maxim. He was a man who put his deeply-held faith into practice.

He served on the board of the Credit Union and was a Vincentian to his finger tips, helping the most vulnerable in Newry.

He volunteered at the drop of a hat - whether it was with the Legion of Mary, the Benedictine Monastery, the Holy Souls prayer group, as a Eucharistic minister and at the Three Ways Community Centre back in his beloved High Street.

Of course, Jim’s primary focus was his family. His great love was his wife Margaret and their relationship spanned some 60 years.

Jim was devoted to her and she to him. He never wavered in his commitment to love and care for her, especially when he became her main carer.

The other woman in Jim’s life was his daughter Jacqueline. He adored her and celebrated in her achievements and was a proud grandfather and great grandfather.

Jim’s funeral mass in the Dominican Church was held on his 81st birthday, February 16. It is not hard not to imagine him cracking to St Peter: “Wait until you hear this one!”

He is survived by his wife, daughter, granddaughter, great grandchildren and his brothers Eamon and John.

Tom Kelly

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Lives Remembered