Lives Remembered

Peter McCormick: The definition of a good, gracious and gentle man

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ONE word repeatedly used to describe Peter McCormick is that he was such a gentleman.

He was indeed a gentle soul: compassionate, thoughtful, courteous, softly spoken and authentic.

He had two favourite sayings he liked to repeat, with a knowing smile, on appropriate occasions. “Empty vessels make most noise” and “it costs nothing to be civil”.

In many ways, these principles shaped the way he lived and died. With quiet, unassuming civility.

Peter was born in Belfast in 1936 to William McCormick, a well-known estate agent, and a Swiss mother, Rosemarie. Notably, his grandfather, also William, was the first chairman of The Irish News.

He grew up in Hampton Park, then Malone Park, and idyllic summers were spent frolicking in back gardens or on the beach with his brothers William and Tim and sisters Patricia, Marguerite and Rosemarie.

His formative years were spent boarding at Blackrock College in Dublin. He studied hard – in between playing rugby and avoiding Irish language classes – and his loyalty to school continued throughout his life, being proudly appointed president of the Blackrock College Union in 1988.

After a degree in geology at Queen’s University Belfast and a post-graduate diploma in petroleum engineering at Imperial College in London, Peter embarked on a career that took him all over the world as a geologist, petroleum engineer and consultant.

It was around this time that he met the beautiful and enigmatic Anne Treanor from Newry, who was in Belfast studying domestic science.

Doubtless he won her over with that old-school McCormick charm, shy smile and mild-mannered demeanour. Truth be told, she was also quite smitten when he’d roll up to the front door of her convent college residence in sunglasses, debonair at the wheel of his bright red sports car.

They married in 1962 and were the epitome of bohemian glamour and style, jet-setting around the world. Their adventures took them from the oil fields of Ecuador, Venezuela, Texas, Oklahoma, Kuwait and Brazil through to the urban sophistication of Paris.

 Peter and Anne enjoyed a jet-set lifestyle as a young married couple

After a decade they returned to Belfast and settled into a house they had built in the large back garden of the McCormick family home at Malone Park. It was surrounded by tall pine trees, a sweeping lawn and a fine, shrub-filled rockery.

Peter established himself as a prominent consultant, working for the Northern Ireland government (he launched its Oil & Gas Supplies Branch), the Irish government’s Petroleum Affairs Division and Hughes Tool, among others. He also lectured for many years at Queen’s.

He also threw himself into parenthood with dedication and enthusiasm. As kids, he entertained our friends with magic tricks at parties and spoiled us with thoughtful presents from his work trips abroad. As adults, he became our mentor, our friend and our proudest champion. He also fully embraced his more recent role as Papa to three boisterous grandchildren, Pearce, Ethan and Dean.

Peter believed in being prepared, often painstakingly so. Decisions, large, small and completely inconsequential, were always carefully considered.

He was always a meticulously well-presented gent: proper shirt with a crisp collar and tie knotted firmly at the neck, wool jumpers, comfortable yet respectable corduroy trousers, tweed jacket and polished dress shoes.

Thankfully, any tendency towards excessive fastidiousness was offset by a wonderful sense of humour. He delighted in classic comedies and loved music, with John Denver, Phil Coulter, James Galway and Dean Martin his favourites.

Golf helped pass time on sunny days, but he also enjoyed long, unspoiled walks in the Co Down countryside or along the Lagan towpath, stopping to identify the different types of planes soaring overhead.

Peter adored his wife Anne and was always content to let her light shine brightly, standing unobtrusively to the side with an appreciative but mischievous wink over her shoulder as she held forth.

As their lives slowed down they shared many contented mornings in the family cottage in Rostrevor, taking in the majestic views of Slieve Foy over shared breakfast of boiled eggs, toast, marmalade and tea, while watching the languid boats gliding back and forth across the glassy waters of Carlingford Lough.

They were the perfect complement to each other and enjoyed a busy, fulfilling and companionable married life for 57 years, until Anne sadly passed away in April 2019.

Above all else, Peter was a man of quiet but resolute personal faith. He would rarely pass St Brigid’s in Belfast or St Mary’s in Rostrevor without stopping in, simply to light a candle and say a quick hello, a quick prayer, on his own.

So yes, our Dad, Peter McCormick was, indeed, the definition of a good man, a gracious man, a gentle man.

His was a good, gracious and gentle life, and it was very well lived.

Peter Edward McCormick died aged 84 on July 4. He is survived and sadly missed by his children Barbara and Conor and family circle.

Barbara McCormick

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