Lives Remembered

Idris McCoy: Man of the soil and water who put family first

LOUGH Neagh is one of Europe’s largest freshwater lakes. Generations of families have grown up along its shoreline.

Fed by the Blackwater and the Bann rivers, those lucky enough to live there regard it as a special place.

One such person was Idris McCoy.

Born and reared on the shores of the mystical lough, he could be said to be a man of both the soil and the water. He spent a lifetime working the land or taking the bounty from Lough Neagh.

Idris was born to John and Eva McCoy in July 1942 and was one of seven children.

The environment was his school and nature was his teacher. He learned to value the simple things in life and the richness of the countryside on his doorstep.

His was a close-knit community where everyone knew each other.

Idris and his family looked past differences in faith or politics and were always ready to lend a sturdy hand to all who needed help.

He was passionate about fishing and it was not surprising that he left school at an early age to join the Eel fisheries in Toomebridge.

He would have caught the whiff of cut diesel from nearby engines and would be refreshed by the wind blowing across the lough.

In Eelworks, Seamus Heaney described the locals: “The men straight backed, standing firm." Idris was one of those men. A man of practicalities and of great faith. Qualities he would have to draw on in the years ahead.

If fishing was second nature to Idris, farming was his second love. When out of fishing season he would work at Bell’s farm.

He loved working on the land. He was a man whose life was guided by the seasons.

Aged just 20, he found the love of his life, Rose Taylor from Moneymore. They fell in love, courted and got married in September 1962.

Over a long and happy marriage spanning nearly 60 years, they had nine children: sons Patrick, Eugene, Stephen, Gary and Vincent, and daughters Lorraine, Martina, Yvonne and Maura.

Idris was a kind and generous soul who gave of his time to help many charities. He provided for his family which he put at the front and centre of his life.

Life changed dramatically for Idris and Rose when one of their sons, Stephen, suffered life-changing injuries in the Kegworth air disaster on January 8 1989.

Idris drew on those reserves of faith and strength to guide his family through the difficult and challenging times ahead. He never flinched from his parental responsibilities.

As a young man, he turned out for his local GAA team, Erin’s Own, Cargin. He was a nifty player and a lifelong club supporter.

In between all his commitments to work and his family, Idris still also found time for his passions of fishing and shooting.

He even managed to fit in coaching young people at the All Saints Boxing Club in Ballymena.

But Idris was above all a family man. He shepherded them through life’s up and downs knowing that he too was being shepherded by his deeply-held Catholic faith and a personal devotion to Padre Pio.

He died aged 78 on May 14 and his funeral took place two days later. Appropriately, his final journey to the Sacred Heart Church, Cargin followed the shoreline which had mapped so much of his life

Idris is survived by his wife Rose, his nine children and his siblings Sean, Eugene, Maura & Edith.

Tom Kelly

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