A special memorial service held in St. Macartin's Cathedral on Sunday reflected on the life of Ivan McBride and was "a fitting tribute," according to Ivan's friend Alec McKeown.
Ivan, a former a popular member of the Skyrockets Showband, died in Tasmania on 10 November, aged 73. He had been unwell for two years. Formerly from the Sligo Road in Enniskillen, he had emigrated 25 years ago to Tasmania with his wife Elizabeth (formerly Bell from Kesh).
Over 200 mourners attended the service which featured a rendition of 'The Old Rugged Cross' by Ivan's friends Alec McKeown, Paul Hopkins and Peter Watson and 'Amazing Grace' by Robert Wilson on accordion. Ivan first played in the 'Robert Wilson and the Rhythm Sparks' band, aged 17, at a dance in Belle Isle hall.
Among the congregation were Ivan's nieces and nephews from Warrington and Fermanagh and many musicians from across Ireland, who fondly remembered Ivan.
Alec, who played alongside Ivan on many occasions with the Skyrockets, Carousel and Country Sunshine, read a tribute to his "true friend" with whom he had kept in contact, despite the distance. "He always wanted to hear the local gossip and reminisce about the old days," Alec said. "His sense of humour never changed and he was always joking with the nurses."
He told the gathering about Ivan's musical career that also included playing with singer Pat McGuigan when he represented Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1968 and with the Trenniers.
"He was very charismatic and versatile," Alec recalls. "His saxophone could have been a smooth as Lester Young or have the raspy sound of rock and roll."
A clip from Father Brian D'Arcy's Radio Ulster programme, recalling his friendship with Ivan, was played during the service. In it, Fr. Brian recalled the pair as children, meeting on Sunday morning; one walking towards the chapel and the other towards the church.
Dean Kenneth Hall explained that his aim was to provide comfort for Ivan's relatives and for the "big music fraternity" which was in attendance. "We gave thanks for the gift of music and how it can be a comfort in times of need. We also gave thanks to God for the life of Ivan McBride."