OVER 30 years ago, the family home of the late John Gowan was piled high with books.

In the dining room, books on everything from theology to church history were "shelved to the ceiling", with the collection growing by the week.

It was at this point that Mr. Gowan felt it would be best to open a bookshop!

Indeed, Gowan Books is perhaps what the late Enniskillen man is best known for;  but he was also renowned far and wide for his faith, and his unrelenting enthusiasm for spreading the word of the gospel.

The news of Mr. Gowan’s peaceful passing at Omagh Hospital last week evoked sadness in the local community. 

He was laid to rest at Erne West Evangelical Church, which he helped found in 1987, when Rev Beatson told mourners of his wide-ranging achievements as a bookseller, preacher, church elder and Orangeman.

"From a young age, John had a great appetite to learn," Rev. Beatson said. "At Portora Royal School his favourite subject was history, and he had a lifelong interest in it. However, he had to leave school at 16 to take on the family farm, due to the death of his father.

"He married Pearl Kelly in 1972 after meeting a few years earlier in the Evangelical Bookshop in Enniskillen. He used to say he was going to Enniskillen mart on a Thursday, but really he was going into the bookshop to see Pearl!"

The couple was blessed with three children, Pearl, Grace and Andrew, and as his family grew, so too did Mr. Gowan’s love for both preaching, writing and reading.

"He farmed for 30 years but his real love was reading," Rev Beatson continued. "Eventually the decision was taken to stop farming and to go into books full-time.

"Gowan Books was born in 1991, and the past 30 years such a blessing for John and his customers.

"He has been able to distribute books around the world, in turn feeding the church and helping it to grow."

Indeed, it is remarkable to think that books from a small farm on the Boho Road, Enniskillen, have ended up across the globe.

Mr. Gowan’s son, Andrew, said his late father delighted in having customers in America, Africa, and other exotic locations.

“Over recent days we have had people contact us from across the world who purchased books from Dad to express their sympathies and to share their sense of loss at his passing,” Mr. Gowan said.

 “Dad had a great many customers in America for example, some of whom would come to Ireland just to visit the shop at Springfield.

“There is also a large collection of books at a Theological College in Africa that came from Dad’s shop.

“Dad considered the bookshop as his way of serving his Saviour, helping people to grow in their love and knowledge of God."

Mr. Gowan added: “Many customers who love books would say what Dad created here was unrivalled anywhere in the British Isles, and even further afield.”

In addition to books, the late Mr. Gowan played an active role in community life, serving as a church elder of Erne West Evangelical Church for 37-years,  and as a committed Orangeman for 65.

Mr. Gowan (Andrew) added that he hopes to ensure that his late father’s expansive stock of books will continue to be used for the benefit of everyone.

“We will be ensuring the many thousand books in stock will be used in the future," he said. 

"We can never do what Dad did - his knowledge of books was remarkable - but we will certainly endeavour to ensure the stock here helps people in growing their faith.

“That would be what Dad would want.”