I remember vividly the first time I met Gerry Burns; it was the mid-1970s and we were both new to our jobs.

After a bomb at Enniskillen Townhall, the new Fermanagh District Council had moved its offices to the Ardhowen building and “Mr Burns” had taken on the role of Chief Executive of a very divided and fractious Council.

I was, as Gerry would often remind me, the young enthusiastic “fair-haired reporter.”

The last time we met was just over a year ago when I called at his home for yet another chat about old times. By now, he wasn’t well himself and was looking after his beloved Moyra who was very ill.

In between those two meetings, I came to know and admire Gerry Burns as a true friend, indeed despite originally coming from Belfast he was a true friend of Fermanagh.

He made a magnificent contribution to our county; whether articulating Fermanagh’s needs to various Secretaries of State who visited the Townhall during direct rule or passionately fighting the case for the old Erne Hospital.

Or indeed, leading from the front in many ways for the betterment of this area.

He was a man of vision, and among his achievements was the building of the Ardhowen Theatre which he believed enhanced the quality of life for people here.

Recently when I praised his role in getting the “theatre by the lakes” up and running, he recalled that somewhere in the building there was a stone, a sort of cornerstone, with the inscription “for the people of Fermanagh.”

This was Gerry Burn’s mantra for public service.

There were difficult times, not least when Gerry escaped injury at the War Memorial the day of the Enniskillen bomb in 1987 and went on to play a leading role in how the community responded.

There were happy times, too, and in recent years we’d arrange to meet in town for tea and a scone and he would reminisce about trips to Bielefeld with Councillors; or the day early on in his career as Clerk when two Councillors squared up to each other!

Gerry Burns had many fine qualities.

He could be tough and uncompromising when it was needed. He was loyal to his staff, he was passionate about his role. He was witty, too, and always engaging company. He was at home with visiting VIPs and ordinary local people alike. He was a man of strong Christian faith.

He was a great family man and in his role there was a tremendous partnership between him and his wife, Moyra, who was incredibly supportive. Her passing last year hit him hard.

Gerry didn’t rest on his laurels when he left the Council; he became Northern Ireland Ombudsman, and Pro Chancellor of Ulster University. When we met, I’d also enjoy hearing his insight into the media in his role as an Irish Times Trust and Board member.

I shall miss our conversations, during which I always learned something and always enjoyed his moments of humour. I owe Gerry Burns a lot; Fermanagh owes Gerry Burns a lot.