There has been widespread sadness and tributes have been paid to Mr. James Breslin (94) of Cornashannel, Lisbellaw, who died on Wednesday April 8 after a short illness.

Born in Drumbaghlin, Maguiresbridge in 1925, James was the youngest of five sons and one daughter of Andrew and Catherine Breslin and sadly lost his mother when he was only three and a half years old. He worked on the family farm after he left St. Mary’s Primary School at 14 and particularly loved ploughing with his favourite horse Kate and repairing the roads.

James would recall many stories from his ploughing days at neighbouring farms as he told that during the war, two thirds of the land had to be put into crop. He and his brothers were occasionally sent to reside with neighbours who needed a help on the land.

When he was 19, James went to Belfast to live with his Aunt Kate and worked on the BBC building, cleaning it up ready for painting and also worked in the shipyards preparing the ground for electric wires. He later went to England as many of his family were over there and worked initially as a barman in ‘The Nags Head’ in North London and prided himself on being able to pour four bottles of beer at once.

There was a lot of rebuilding being done after the war so James began working as a hod carrier on the building sites where he met a generous bricklayer who offered to teach him the trade and he proved to be a willing and able student.

After five years in London, James returned to Maguiresbridge where he later married in 1951 the love of his life Celia McDermott (a Leitrim girl). They enjoyed almost 65 years of marriage before Celia’s death in late 2015.

They had 10 children (baby deceased in1959) and their faith sustained them through this great loss and throughout their lives.

After initially renting, James decided to use his skills and build his own house (1956) in his spare time for his growing family, opening his home to his brother Pat and in later years his mother-in-law Kate.

Also, his day job was working for building firm Pierce in Enniskillen for over 30 yrs.

During this time, he recalled setting out the foundations for the Portora Royal School and working on the repairs of Florence Court Castle for four years after it was gutted by fire in 1955. In evenings and weekends, he continued to build/ renovate houses and hay sheds and examples of his work can be found all around the country.

His immediate family benefitted from his many skills in helping to build/extend their future homes and James could turn his hand to any type of DIY. He loved his work and made many lifelong friends along the way. He found time to enjoy playing football for St. Mary’s GFC and was immensely proud of his medals which he won with the double league/championship winning team in 1958.

In later years, his brickwork skills were put to good use assisting with the building of the current entrance gates to St Mary’s GFC grounds.

James was devoted to his wife and family and was a very expressive and loving man. He was involved in both the church and the community.

In 1975 he was one of the founder members of Lisnaskea Credit Union and in his retirement became the sacristan in St Mary’s chapel where he became good friends with the various priests there. He was particularly proud when his cousin Eamon Martin became Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland.

James himself had great faith and devotion to the church and prayed the rosary daily.

His memories of family history and of the local area and people were to be admired. In the late 90s he and Celia moved into a granny flat next to the family home now occupied by their daughter Dolores, Colin and boys.

Their lives became entwined and having brought up their own family became closely involved in a new young family e.g. babysitting, school runs, helping with building works and bestowing words of wisdom and encouragement.

In return he nestled in the love and care of his extensive family for the rest of his days.

James enjoyed pottering in his workshop using his creative skills to develop little tools to assist in daily living. He loved nothing better than playing snooker, challenging children and grandchildren to a game, but few could match his skills.

This time spent was an opportunity to tell stories of the past and have a catch up and a laugh. He was an avid reader and was well informed of world and local events both past and present. He followed coverage of all GAA games closely and attended local Maguiresbridge matches until recently.

For James and Celia, family was their number one priority, which continued to grow with the arrival of 23 grandchildren and subsequently 24 great grandchildren and they had a great interest in all aspects of their lives. They set a good example to the future generations of the family; in the way they lived their lives.

James had many lovely friends and neighbours and because of the pandemic he was denied the send-off he deserved but his entire family was very touched by, and appreciative of the numbers of friends and neighbours who lined the route on his final journey to his resting place.

He will be remembered as a great husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather and a real gentleman who was generous and kind with an amazing wit and humour and as his good friend Canon Joe Mullin said “the type of man the community was built upon”.

James will be sadly missed by his children, Catherine, Gerard, Celia, Margaret, Dolores, Patricia, Frances, Seamus and Martin, grandchildren, great grandchildren and a large family circle.