THE late Albert Irwin Brown (Irwin) died peacefully on Wednesday, January 27. The beloved husband of Winnie, much-loved father of Gordon, Linda, Rosalind and Raymond, was an adored grandfather of nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Irwin was the last surviving member of the Brown family, brother to Edna (Hodgins), Lesley, Muriel (Elliott) and Anna (Bartlett).

Born on March 20, 1926, to parents Albert and Maud Brown, he was brought up on the family farm at Innismore, Derrybrusk, Tamlaght.

His happy childhood was spent playing in an abandoned stately home on the land, Innismore Hall.

He learned to ride his bicycle on its upstairs landing, and recalled how, as a punishment from his brother, he was placed on an ornate fireplace so high he couldn’t get down. It now sits in Florencecourt House.

From Tamlaght Public Elementary School, Irwin entered the Model Primary School, Enniskillen, aged 11, and enjoyed his first woodwork lesson.

He became one of two pupils in his year to win a scholarship to Portora Royal School, enrolling on Saturday, September 2, 1939 – the day before World War II was declared.

He left Portora to take a clerical course at Enniskillen Technical College, and joined the Air Training Corps.

With the Corps, Irwin saw General Eisenhower and American troops gathered in Celtic Park, Enniskillen in 1944.

His training helped him to spot a German reconnaissance aircraft at high altitude, flying over the sea-plane bases in Lower Lough Erne, and allowed him a trip over the Atlantic in a Catalina to practice air-gunnery, shooting at a smoke-float in the sea below. He remembered it as "a noisy business".

Innismore Hall was demolished after the war. The four front portico Corinthian columns were gifted to Portora, in memory of a cousin, Captain W. E. Irwin, who was killed in Burma.

The columns support the main entrance gates to the school – something Irwin was always proud to observe.

In 1948, he met Winnie Johnston at badminton in Enniskillen. He cycled seven miles from Tamlaght to Enniskillen, every Saturday and Sunday to see her.

In later years, the bicycle was upgraded to an Austin 8, and Winnie and Irwin married in 1955.

They bought No. 73, Dublin Road and using his practical woodworking skills, Irwin renovated the house and built a large garage for his tools.

He was very innovative in his approach to rearing his four children, teaching them to cast by casting a fishing line and weight into painted circles on the lawn, making their help during carpentry projects and wallpapering obligatory, and teaching driving skills by placing them behind the wheel of the newly-purchased 20-year-old Morris Minor, with an instruction not to go beyond the gate. The youngest learned aged 10.

Irwin recalled noteworthy events at the Dublin Road, such as the fire that destroyed part of the old Model School, and helping to salvage what was left; the bomb that blew up a Customs and Excise hut close-by, which also cracked an external wall of the house; the Thursday straying cattle episodes, as they were being walked to the mart.

The cattle would detour into his garden, and affect his normally mild- mannered nature.

Irwin's working life began as a clerk in Fermanagh County Council in July, 1943, moving up the ranks as councils merged and expanded.

After he gained his Professional Chartered Secretary qualification in 1962, he became Area Rating Officer for Fermanagh and Tyrone, and in 1981, then Deputy Principal Rates Officer for all of Northern Ireland, which meant a move to Shandon Park in Belfast – a wrench for the family.

He was the Electoral Returning Officer for the District Council Election, and for the NI Assembly Fermanagh and South Tyrone Assembly, using the new proportional representation system for the first time. He claimed those posts helped him to lose half a stone in weight in a week.

Irwin retired in 1985, built another garage, and added a wood-turning lathe to his armoury of equipment.

He spent some of the happiest years of his life producing dolls houses, farm buildings, shops, wooden chairs and tables for his grandchildren and many others.

A bell in the garage, rung by Winnie, announced mealtimes to a woodworker who had lost track of time.

He took great pride in producing a scaled replica of his former home, Innismore Hall. His Belfast neighbours continued to call on his carpentry skills up until recently.

Irwin loved fishing with his family. He built a small rowing boat, with the help of Norman Whittaker, and frequently put to sea at Mullaghmore and on Lough Erne.

Off the coast of Mullaghmore, as his brother-in law, Eric Kells, stood to raise his hat to Lord Mountbatten passing by in his boat, Irwin recalled how he and his son worked hard to stop the boat from capsizing.

Irwin had a remarkable memory. He wrote, edited and published two books. One tells stories of his childhood in Innismore Hall, and the other details his working life in the Civil Service. The Innismore Hall book is in Enniskillen Library.

In recent years, after his family tree was handed to him by his sister, Muriel, Irwin took great interest in genealogy. He corresponded with people from all over the world who had Fermanagh connections, and received help from Fermanagh Gold friends.

Throughout his years in Belfast, Winnie’s two sisters and their families were the backbone of Irwin's social life.

Dorothy Kells and her husband, Eric, in Antrim, and Edith Thompson and her husband, Douglas, in Newtownards, were an enormous source of fun and happiness for both Irwin and Winnie.

Irwin's greatest love was his family. He was exceptionally proud of them all, and interested in their lives.

He updated his communication skills to keep in touch. He had his Facebook page, a Grampa’s WhatsApp group, Face-timed regularly, once he mastered his iPhone, and texted and emailed with ease.

For many years, he described his house as a "short-stay hotel for non-paying guests" as family stopped off en-route to longer trips.

Irwin was admitted to hospital for investigative tests on January 9. Tragically, following contact with Covid-19, he passed away on the morning of January 27. He was buried in Rossorry Parish Church, Enniskillen on January 30.

He leaves behind his heartbroken wife, Winnie, who has lost her husband and companion for 73 years, 66 of which were in marriage, and his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who have lost their intelligent mentor, their quietly dignified and irreplaceable father and grandfather.

Irwin was so aptly described by friends, colleagues and relatives as "an old-school gentleman". He will be sorely missed.