Tributes have been paid to the late Caroline Gant, the former chairperson of the Joan Trimble Bursary Awards and a former director of The Impartial Reporter, who “believed intensely in supporting people”.

Caroline (71), late of Summerhill Square, Newcastle upon Tyne, passed away on Friday, June 10, following a short illness.

Paying tribute to her younger sister, Joanna McVey described Caroline as a “passionate” person with a “great sense of humour”, who really valued her family and friendships, and “believed intensely in supporting people”.

“She had a very strong ability to reach out to people, to make them feel comfortable and to entertain and challenge them. She was always interested in people. I think that was one of her great gifts,” said Joanna of her beloved late sister.

Along with their older brother, Nick, Joanna and Caroline grew up in London. Caroline was two years younger than Joanna, and as sisters they were very close.

“Sisters is a very special kind of relationship, so we would have done an awful lot of things together because it was just the two years between us,” said Joanna, recalling how they went to school and music lessons together.

Later, as adults, they enjoyed travelling abroad together.

“We travelled to extremely interesting places. There was always that sense of adventure with her,” said Joanna, adding: “We did so much together and that’s what seems so odd for me now, because you take that for granted.

“We maintained an awful lot in common, even though she was living in England and I was living here in Northern Ireland,” she said.

Throughout her life, Caroline always wanted to learn. “She was always curious and excited to discover new things,” said Joanna, noting that Caroline was “absolutely passionate” about her chosen fields of work, which where mainly within the arts sector.

Caroline lived in London until the late 1980s. During her time working at the BBC in London, she met the love of her life, Anthony Sargent. They later married and together have one daughter, Emily.

From London, Caroline and Anthony moved to Birmingham. During her time there, Caroline worked at the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and also at a museum in the city.

“Her main function at the museum in Birmingham was fundraising. Again, she was very successful with that, because she had the sort of personality that could draw people in,” said Joanna.

In the late 1990s, they moved to Newcastle upon Tyne.

“Caroline fell in love with Newcastle and didn’t move again, except for a period of time from 2015 to a couple of years back when Anthony stepped down from working at the Sage in Gateshead and took a job as the Director of the Luminato Festival in Toronto.”

Caroline was very involved with community life in Newcastle and was one of the founding members of the charitable trust, Friends of Summerhill, which was one of her great passions.

“Then, of course, she was with The Impartial Reporter. She was a director of The Impartial up to 2000, and would have been involved in meetings,” said Joanna, explaining how her sister had a very strong association with the newspaper and knew all of the staff.

Following the passing of their mother, the talented Enniskillen-born musician and composer Joan Trimble, Joanna and Caroline, along with their brother Nick, set up The Joan Trimble Bursary Awards with the Fermanagh Trust, and for many years Caroline held the position of Chairperson.

‘Helping young people’

Lauri McCusker, Director of Fermanagh Trust, paid tribute to Caroline, saying: “Caroline was an active chairperson of the Bursary Awards Scheme, and though living in both Newcastle in England and Canada during these years, was always proactively involved in supporting and overseeing the provision of financial support, helping young people in the county access many wonderful opportunities to develop their creative talents.

“One of Caroline’s wonderful legacies is the fantastic opportunities she helped open to young people from right across County Fermanagh for two decades.

“It was with great sadness we heard of Caroline’s passing, and on behalf of all the Trustees and staff, we send our sincere condolences to Anthony, her daughter Emily, Joanna and Nicholas, and the wider family circle.”

In May, while on holiday in Italy, Caroline took ill, and on her return home, she was admitted to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, where she received surgery to remove a clot from her bowel.

Sadly, the surgery did not resolve the situation and, with further health complications developing, she passed away on Friday, June 10. Before her passing, Joanna and Nick were able to speak to her on the phone one last time.

“It was a great chance just to to say hello, and that I loved her,” said Joanna.

Caroline’s funeral service will take place at the Cathedral Church of St. Nicholas in Newcastle on July 13, with a celebratory evening at the bowling club in Summerhill Square to follow the funeral.