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Farmer killed by bull was a ‘sincere, unassuming and hard-working family man’, mourners hear

Thursday, 6 April 2017

HUNDREDS of mourners who attended the funeral of a well-known farmer - who was tragically killed after an incident involving a bull - heard him described as a 'sincere, unassuming and hard-working' family man.

He was Mr John Alexander (Alex) McKinley (75), Botera Road, Omagh, and his death stunned and shocked the local rural community in which he was highly respected.

The esteem in which he was held was marked by the huge attendance at his funeral with the church packed to capacity and many more filling the hall.

The service was conducted by the minister of the church, Rev. Robert Herron, who also gave the address. Four of Mr McKinley's grandchildren -Stephanie, Emma, Kyra and Craig - read lessons during the service.

Said Mr Herron: "We gather in church today to give thanks to God for the life of Alex McKinley, who was born on 28th June 1941. He was the middle child of Robert McKinley and Edna Duff, of Aughaleague.

"As a young boy, Alex was a pupil at Gillygooley Primary School and he left school at 14 years of age to work on the family farm. In 1964, at age of 23, he met his future wife and soulmate at a dance in Blacksessagh Hall. Two years later, Alex and Margaret Hagan were married on March 26, 1966. They began their life together on the farm at Botera that was given to Alex by his father.

"In their early years together Alex and Margaret worked tirelessly to modernise the house and develop the farm. To assist to pay for this work, Alex took a temporary job as a lorry driver with the council. The job was only for two years but in fact it lasted 40 years until Alex retired at the age of 65," said Mr. Herron.

"Driving the bin lorry was a job that suited Alex. He started the day at 6am and was finished shortly after dinner time. This gave him time in the afternoon and evening for his main passion - farming.

"Between 1967 and 1972 the four children were born. During that time, Alex and Margaret not only devoted themselves to their upbringing but they continued to work hard at the farm and they were able to purchase some land to expand it.

 

"Alex became very interested in a specific breed of cattle that was exported to Britain from France in significant numbers in 1960s - the Limousine breed. In 1982, Alex purchased his first cow which was the beginning of his interest in the breed. Over the years, he increased the herd of pedigree Limousine cattle and, at the same time, he won several first places for his stock at local agricultural shows. Alex made very good friends through his interest in cattle breeding.

"I am told it was not unusual to see Alex walk up and down Botera Road with his cattle as he broke them in for the show - bulls on leads and dogs at his feet!," continued Mr Herron.

"Alongside Alex's passion for cattle was his interest in machinery. He spent many hours in his workshop repairing all kinds of machinery which led to the purchase of a round baler in 1992. That was the start of a contracting business through which Alex made many friends within the local farming community.

"I said that Alex retired from the council at the age of 65, but that wasn't the end of his working life. He was now free to devote more time to his farm that he ran in partnership with Trevor and Margaret. He was most content when he was out on the farm with his cattle.

"Alex wasn't a man for big events or social occasions. He wasn't into holidays either. Apart from an odd Sunday at Laghey beach in Donegal, when the children were young, Alex's life consisted of work. If he wasn't working, he didn't know what to do with himself. He relaxation was to plant a vegetable garden; he did that each year until very recently. Even then he didn't stop - on Monday night he was out digging some ground along the side of the lane to plant spuds.

"Alex was a lifetime member of Gillygooley church. He was baptised into the congregation on August 31, 1941. He was a regular attender".

Mr Herron also told those present that Alex was proud of his grandchildren. "He took a great interest in their lives and he found much pleasure in their company and listening to what they were up to".

Continued the minister: "Alex McKinley was a sincere, unassuming and hard-working family man. He believed in fairness for all and would have helped anyone in their hour of need.

"About three years ago, his health started to deteriorate. When he received news that he needed treatment, the prospect of going to Belfast to hospital didn't appeal to him. But with the support of Margaret, the family and friends, he was persuaded to undergo treatment. He never looked back".

 

Continued Mr Herron: Since the tragic events surrounding his death, Alex's words, in a conversation we had several months ago, have haunted me. Over a cup of tea, Alex was sharing with me the challenges faced today by those who work with cattle. We had been talking about someone who had been injured by a cow.

"None of us will ever really know the precise details of Alex's tragic death - we can only put together the pieces as we know them and surmise what happened to him.

And even though we would like things to be different than they are, we cannot change what has happened because it has taken place already. We have no control over past events, including life's tragedies, but we do have some control over how we deal with them, and try to come to terms with them. It may not be easy but if we are to have a future, somehow, we need to reconcile the past with the present.

"The obvious thing that we can do is to support one another through life's painful experiences.

At a time like this, family and community play a very important role.

The family have asked me to convey their deep appreciation for all the support they have received over the last few days".

Mr McKinley is survived by his wife, Margaret, sons, Raymond and Trevor, daughters, Linda and Avril, sisters, Jennnifer, Rosemary and Gertie and brother, Malcolm, and nine grandchildren, as well as in-laws and wider family circle.

Following the funeral service, burial was in Dublin Road cemetery and the funeral arrangements were carried out by RG Adams and Son.

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