Tributes have been paid to a well-respected Master and Huntsman from County Monaghan who has died from pancreatic cancer at the age of 51. Johnny Vance, a father-of-three, who led the newly formed Scarva House Harriers, passed away following a short illness.

He was the son of Billy Vance, joint-master of the Fermanagh Harriers from 1963 until his death in January 2016, and joined his father in the mastership in 1994. He was highly respected in the border area, and further afield, attending meetings and events across Ireland.

“He was first and foremost a father of three lovely children; Daniel, Arabella and Chloe, he was devoted to them, and his wife Sylvija” said his sister Susan, paying tribute. “He loved his horses, the farm and countryside,” she said.

Continuing the family tradition Johnny was well known on the point-to-point circuit for many years and rode 20 winners during his career. Oldcastle was the venue of one of his most memorable days in the saddle, when he won three of the six races on the day, with Point-to-Point organisers describing him as someone who “endeared himself to everyone whom he met along the way”.

He played a pivotal role in the Fermanagh Harriers, and their Point-to-Point, and took over the reins as huntsman from his father in 2012, explained Susan. “He enjoyed that. He was never happier than when he was messing around on a horse or spending time on the farm trying to fix old machinery and help others” she said.

A short funeral service took place at his home on Friday in which two of his horses led the cortege to Clones Presbyterian graveyard, ridden by the Scarva House Harriers whipper-in Ellen Coyle and field master Daniel Douglas, while his family shouldered his coffin, including son Daniel, siblings Susan, Clare, Andrew, his partner Michael Lyons and cousin John McAdoo.

“We were so relieved it happened when we at least could have people attend the service outdoors. We send our thanks to all our friends, neighbours, relatives and supporters who lined the roads and fields as they did. We also thank Cavan General Hospital and Cavan-Monaghan Palliative Care,” she said.

Vance’s death means the border region is now “mourning the end of an era”, explained Susan, while his loved ones have lost an important part of their family. “We can’t begin to know how much we’ll miss him,” she said. “He was a wonderful big brother,” said Clare, “with a big heart”.