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Funeral service to take place today of highly respected retired Omagh hotelier

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Funeral service to take place today of highly respected retired Omagh hotelier thumbnailMr Dai Waterson.

THE funeral takes place today (Wednesday) of one of Omagh's most respected and well-known businessmen who sadly passed away in the early hours of Monday following a period of failing health.

A service of thanksgiving for the life of hotelier Mr Dai Waterson (87), Baronagh House, Omagh, takes place at 1pm today in St Columba's Parish Church, of which the deceased was a life-long faithful member and regular attender. Burial will take place afterwards at Clanabogan Parish Churchyard.

Mr Waterson's death evoked much regret and sadness in the community where he had built up a wealth of friendships throughout his life.

The former banker, coal and timber merchant and sportsman was best known as proprietor of the Royal Arms Hotel in the heart of Omagh which he ran with the devoted support of his wife, Elaine, and in which his son Peter also took on a management role in later years.

The family ran the hotel for four decades during which time it became a thriving business and played host to many important occasions in people's lives before closing its doors in 1999.

Mr Waterson was proud of the fact that the fondly remembered hotel ballroom saw appearances from many big name artistes in the entertainment world down through the years including the likes of Tom Jones, Frank Ifield, Jim Reeves, Englebert Humperdinck and top notch musician Acker Bilk.

Mr Waterson's family hailed from Fermanagh and when they came to Omagh it was to set up as coal and timber merchants, later expanding into the travel business, and later again into the hotel trade.

A young Dai was initially educated at the Model School in Omagh. He then had a brief spell at the Academy before heading off to Coleraine Institute. With the possibility of university looming, he declined, and instead joined the Belfast Bank (now the Danske) where he spent about three years.

His father then informed him that he was thinking of retiring and would he like to run the business. He immediately took up the challenge and so became a coal merchant. At that time all of the deliveries were done by horse and cart.

The company had six horses before eventually getting a lorry on the road. It was after this that he realised that the future of the coal business was limited and so decided to purchase the Royal Arms Hotel for the princely sum in those days of 20,000.

In his younger days Mr Waterson was a keen and talented rugby player and a leading light in the formation of the Omagh Academicals (Accies) Rugby Club - a sport in which he retained a keen interest throughout his life attending international matches as often as possible.

'Saddened'

A spokesperson for Omagh Accies said this week: "We were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of a true Accie. Dai Waterson was our last surviving founder member, a trustee, our first ever captain and a past president. His efforts, along with the other founding members, over many years ensured that we have a club here today where we can enjoy the great game of rugby.

Despite his poor health he continued to be a loyal supporter and it was always a pleasure to see him down at the club on match day."

As a young man he was also a table tennis wizard and could regularly be found at the YMCA taking on all-comers.

Equine sport and the horse world generally was another great interest of Mr Waterson and it was with great pride that he watched his own sons and subsequently their families participate in the show jumping arenas with numerous successes and on various top class animals.

Mr Waterson also reared a number of successful race horses.

A stalwart of Tyrone Farming Society's Omagh Show - particularly in the equestrian field - he was a vice-president and leading member of the equestrian committee as well as being a sponsor.

Regarded as a 'valued friend' of the Society and a long-time supporter of the annual Omagh Show, secretary Edwin Cartwright, said Mr Waterson would be sadly missed.

"The thoughts and prayers of everyone associated with the Society are with the Waterson family at this sad time," he said.

 "Dai had a long association with the show. He served on the committee in a number of roles as well as being a stalwart supporter and valued sponsor. He had an active interest in the equine side of the show. He will be sadly missed."

Mr Waterson was a past president of the Rotary Club of Omagh in 1981-1982 and continued to give the organisation his active support while health allowed. The Royal Arms Hotel also played host to the club's weekly luncheons for many years. Down through the years he was also a member of Omagh Round Table, the 41 Club and Omagh Junior Chamber.

He was also a long-time member of the Masonic Order having held the post of past Worshipful Master of Concord Masonic No 332.

Mr Waterson is survived by his wife Elaine, to whom he was married for 62 years, son Peter and daughters-in-law Gail and Elaine, grandchildren, Richard, Jo-Anne, Georgia and great-grandchild Martha. He is pre-deceased by his sons Robert and Christopher and his brother Robin.

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