Businessman was an 'inspiration' to many
Published: 16 Aug 2012 13:00
74-year-old, Eric Irvine, had been making his way down to the sawmill he owned, not 200 yards away from his home, when he lost control of the quad bike.
He died later in hospital.
Thousands of mourners gathered at his funeral in Trillick Methodist Church on Sunday to pay their respects to the "family man" who "worked right up until the day that he died".
His son, Alan, who along with his sister Jill, took on the sawmill over 20 years ago, told The Impartial Reporter he was proud of the man he described as his "hero".
"A lot of people came up to me at the funeral on Sunday and told me: 'Your father was an inspiration to me'. That makes me very proud. And just to have had him in our lives is so special. We will never ever forget him. As long as we live on this earth he will always be our dad.
"Everybody believes their father is a hero, but dad was supreme. He was never a defeatist and worked right up until the day that he died. But he wasn't a slave to work either. He was a family man more than anything, and we all enjoyed a close relationship with him.
"He had a happy life and he enjoyed every minute of it. He was a wonderful ray of sunshine to be around. Even the workers here in the mill felt like that about him. The guys here all looked after him. Anything he needed they would have stayed on to do it. He was still the boss around here!"
Mr Irvine, a farmer, founded his family's sawmill, beginning by just cutting timber for people in the local area.
"Different people would bring timber along and he would cut it up for them," Alan explained.
But a pioneer, with determination, foresight and a strong business head, Mr Irvine spent years developing the business and watching it go from strength to strength.
"Dad was always thinking ahead," said Alan, "He was very sharp. Jill and I came into the business later on but we always looked for his input in everything. He was the brains behind it all -- he had a great vision, and that's why he was so successful.
"He has left the business in a very confident position. Times are not easy at the moment, but we have adapted and changed, and a lot of that was down to his practical thinking. He fought to keep everything going."
And it was in this sentiment that the family decided to open the mill again on Monday this week.
"That's what dad would have wanted us to do," said Alan, "He would want us to continue on, and keep going strong."
According to Alan, despite poor health in his latter years, Mr Irvine was determined to continue working in the family business.
"He never turned his back on anything, right up until he passed away. He wasn't in the best health. No body forced him to come to the mill, in fact we always told him to take it easy. But he would be there every day, answering a phone call or working away at something. He took in everything and he worked until his very last day. The night before he died he worked until 8pm at the mill. It made him feel that he had done a day's work. And that's where he was heading that morning. He always told us: 'I'm going to work right up until the last'. And he did just that."
Also paying tribute to his mother, Violet, Alan said she had been a pillar of support to Mr Irvine over the years.
"Mum has always been the backbone," he said, "They always say that behind every good man there is a great woman, and that is definitely mum. There were a lot of hard times too in the past, but the two of them always held their heads up high and worked together as a wee unit. And to their credit they came through times when a lot of others would have just walked away from it all."
Kilskeery Silver Band performed a moving tribute to Mr Irvine, a lifelong member, during the funeral service on Sunday.
A picture slideshow, depicting a much-loved father, husband and friend, was also played in the church.
"There was a very big crowd at the funeral, which was a great comfort to us," said Alan, "Dad had a real gentle nature and he always taught us to deal with people fairly and squarely, which is why he was held in such high regard."
Mr Irvine is survived by his wife, Violet, children, Pamela, Erica, Gordon, Alan and Jill and the wider family circle.