A love of all things farming, a quiet but focused young man who was looking forward to a “bright future with exciting plans for both his personal life and his farming activities”. Just some of the sentiments mourners heard at the Service of Thanksgiving for the life of Harry Gibson (25), Donaghanie Road, Beragh, which was held in Sixmilecross Presbyterian Church on Wednesday of last week.
Hundreds queued to get into the church to pay their final respects to this much loved, popular young man who died tragically following a farm accident the previous Saturday.
The service was conducted by Rev Norman Smyth, minister of Clogherney and Sixmilecross Presbyterian Churches, while Canon Robert Clarke, rector of Edenderry and Clanabogan Parish Churches, also took part.
The very palpable sense of grief could be felt throughout the community since the news of the tragedy broke. Mourners listened to Mr Smyth as he read the heartfelt and poignant tribute penned by Harry's mother, Susan, who is vice-principal of Omagh High School.
She recalled his arrival four weeks early at Craigavon Area Hospital on Saturday afternoon, January 23, 1993, at 6lbs 11ozs with his twin sister, Charlotte Margaret, arriving 12 minutes later at 5lbs 10ozs.
"From the very start, it was evident that Harry was destined to be a farmer. All Christmas and birthday presents related to farming - tractors, silage trailers, little animals and the like. He had the best equipped toy farm spread out on the attic loft by the age of five and it remains intact even today. Many of his young cousins and friends couldn't wait to get up to play there when they came to visit”.
The mother’s tribute then charted Harry's educational path outlining how it began at Omagh North Nursery School, continued to Omagh County Primary School and Omagh Academy.
"Not naturally fond of school work, Harry did what he had to do to achieve his eight GCSEs and three 'A' levels before becoming a full-time, self-employed farmer at the age of 18. His farm and his animals meant the world to him. He always put the welfare of his livestock first and thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of farming. He didn't mind the long, unsociable hours or the often harsh conditions and stresses of machinery brreakdowns and calamities. Harry didn't work 9 to 5 - his lifestyle was more 5 till 9."
Mrs Gibson's tribute also revealed that Harry had an active lifestyle outside his chosen profession too.
"Outside of farming, Harry played rugby from primary school onwards when he was often the team captain, through to his time in Omagh Academy and probably only went back to do his 'A' levels to get on their rugby tour to Rome. He also played occasionally for Omagh Academicals Rugby Club, but farming commitments on a Saturday morning tended to take priority.
"Attending marts with his beloved grandda Sammy, as he was affectionately referred to, was always an honour for Harry and it was SJ who he credits with teaching him the tricks of the cattle trade at the sale ring in Clogher Mart.
"Harry was a member of Cloughfin LOL 1277 and a member of Seskinore Young Farmers' Club. He participated in many activities and competitions including again rugby, as well as football, silage assessment, stock judging and even drama where he very much played himself as a reluctant schoolboy!
“Harry also participated in the charity tractor runs but of course no tractor run is complete without a glamorous girlfriend beside you in the cab and Harry's beautiful girlfriend, Miss Alison Allen, from Killylea, Co. Armagh, who he met several years ago, fitted the bill very nicely. Alison was to become a permanent companion and soulmate for Harry and he even invested in wellies and a boilersuit for her very early on!
"A more recent investment of an engagement ring during their summer holiday together though not to be officially announced until later this year, signalled their love for and commitment to each other and their plans for a long-term future together.
"Just as Alison has become very much a part of the Gibson family, Harry was equally welcomed into the Allen family and Alison's parents, John and Jackie, and siblings Mark, along with his wife, Megan and Stephanie, along with her boyfriend, Steve, considered Harry as another son and brother.
"Harry was generally a quiet, modest and private person who worked hard to build up his livestock and his farm. At the age of 21 Harry decided himself, much to everyone's surprise, to return to education by enrolling in Loughrey College in Cookstown and he successfully completed a Bachelor of Science Honours in Food Business Management, whilst continuing to farm at home. He graduated in June of this year - in absentia of course! - with the good weather at that busy silage time, Harry had more important farming work to do that day!"
Mrs Gibson outlined how Harry's love of farming extended beyond his own property.
"Harry always worked outside his own farm. In recent years he helped his neighbours, the McFarland’s with milking, silage, slurry and whatever other farming activities they were doing. Harry absolutely loved getting to McFarlands. Harry and his family considered McFarlands to be like going to agricultural college where he learned so much about how things should be done from these excellent farming role models. His family will always be deeply indebted to Cecil, Ida, Brian, Alan, Glenda, David, Rebecca, Amy and James and their wider family circle for the amazing opportunities, advice, support, friendship and craic they allowed Harry to experience and he considered it an absolute privilege to be included in everything that was going on within his second family.
"Harry loved a busy day and was only too happy to prioritise the needs of his neighbours and friends when they needed his assistance. He was their first port of call when they needed an extra hand or just a 'pull out' in a crisis.
"Harry very much considered himself to be the next younger generation farmer in the family and wanted to know all he could from his father Mervyn, and from his uncles, John, Brian and Norman who taught him so much and guided and supported him unconditionally as did his grandda and granny Stevenson who were always providing encouragement, keen to know what Harry was doing and delighted to have his sheep and cattle around them at the manse."
"Harry also benefited enormously from the support, advice, technical expertise and encouragement from Gerry who has become a very important part of the family in recent years and held in very high esteem by Harry," she said.
"Harry had a wide circle of brilliant friends who respected his quiet and private ways and understood his dry wit and quirky sense of humour. His friends appreciated that Harry often didn't say much but when he did what he had to say was always worth listening to.
“Harry lived at home with his mother, Susan and his twin sister, Charlotte. Adding his beautiful girlfriend Alison into the mix when she came to stay, Harry was surrounded by women. They all loved him dearly and had his best interests at heart. They tried to domesticate him a bit in the house, trying to keep him right by telling him what to do, when to do it and how to do it and Harry didn't always pay much heed - he had a mind of his own and his own ways of doing things at home.
"Everyone who knew and loved Harry will miss him very much. He has left us all too soon as a result of a tragic accident on Saturday morning. He had a busy day ahead planned and was looking forward to a bright future with exciting plans for both his personal life and his farming activities. Harry's family and friends are somewhat comforted by the fact that harry did not want to leave them and will always remember him with great pride and joy.
"The Gibson, Stevenson and Allen families wish to thank everyone here today for their attendance and support. They also wish to thank everyone who has assisted them in any way since last Saturday morning including the paramedics, the PSNI, CSI, doctor, undertakers and coroner's office who carried out their duties in a very compassionate way.
"Sincere gratitude must also go to the amazing team of friends and neighbours who just appeared out of nowhere to do whatever needed to be done, both inside the house and outside on the farm. They all turned up to do an amazing job in supporting the family at this extremely difficult and distressing time.
"A very special mention and thanks must go to Noel and Irene Barton for their immediate response on Saturday morning and their ongoing support since. The family will always be indebted to them and no words can ever adequately express how grateful they are."
The late Mr Gibson was interred in the adjoining churchyard. The famly requested no flowers but donations in lieu, if desired, could be directed to Air Ambulance NI c/o JH Anderson & Sons, 60 Main Street, Beragh.