TRIBUTES have been paid to Mr Daniel Thompson, the Portadown solicitor and former South Down coroner who died last week as the result of a swimming accident in Carlingford Lough.
Mr Thompson (63) got into difficulties near the family's holiday home at Greencastle, and despite the determined efforts of local residents of the County Down coastal village to revive him, he was pronounced dead after being taken to Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry.
His wife, Mrs Joan Thompson, wishes to place on record the valiant attempts of brothers Paul and Michael Cunningham and their cousin James Clarke who applied CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) on the shoreline, but could not revive Mr Thompson. And the family also thanks the coastguards, the paramedics, the PSNI and staff of Daisy Hill Hospital. A post mortem was held which stated that death was consistent with drowning.
Mr Thompson, whose family home is at Ardress Cottage, Annaghmore, was awarded the CBE in 1997 for service to health care and to the community. He was born and brought up in Portadown. His original home was at Connaught Park, and he attended Church Street Primary School and Portadown College before moving on to Trinity College, Dublin, where he attained his Masters Degree.
Outside studies at Trinity, he was proud to have been cox to the university's rowing team, a task for which his small frame, his innate intelligence and his 'feel' for sport made him ideal.
After Trinity, he became a solicitor in 1970, working with his father Eric McCrea Thompson in the family firm in Church Street. It was the start of a distinguished professional career - and selfless service to the community - and in 1975 he was elevated to Notary Public.
Having followed in father's footsteps for so many years, Mr Thompson was nothing if not an individualist, and in 1987 he retired as a partner with the company to follow other pursuits, although he retained his ties with the family firm as a consultant for 15 years.
In 1987, he was appointed Her Majesty's Coroner for South Down, in 1991 he was made High Sheriff of Armagh, and in the same year became the county's Deputy Lieutenant. He was coroner for five years, a role which he took extremely seriously, embracing it with diligence and humanity, presiding with distinction through some of the worst days of the Troubles, as well as family tragedies outside the troubles.
Mr Thompson was chairman of the NI Coroners' Association in 1994, its 800th anniversary, and presided over the special celebrations - when the then Lord Chancellor Lord Mackay of Clashfern attended at Hillsborough Castle - with great professionalism and with a sense of humour, for which he was famous.
On top of all this responsibility, he was delighted to work within the health board system, and was appointed chairman of the Southern Health and Social Services Board - and made such a impact that he was head-hunted by the massive Eastern Board which covered the Greater Belfast area, an exacting post which he held for two terms.
Not only did he preside over successful health boards, but he also made the rather closed organisations more open to the press and public, his attitude being that the public paid for, and used the service, and therefore should be kept fully informed.
His interests were wide and varied. He was a trustee of the former Loughgall Tennis Club, chairman of the Natural History and Philosophical Society and a life patron of the RNLI, as well as being chairman of NEXUS. He also had a passionate interest in the Royal Irish Fusilier Museum in Armagh and supported the campaign to preserve its future.
Mr Thompson remained a very active chairman of the DHSS Appeals Tribunal, and had been a member of the Senate of Queen's University and chairman of the Irish Association of Suicidology, among other public duties. A CBE was never more deserved, and in 1997, he travelled to Buckingham Palace with his wife and two sons, to be honoured by the Queen
He was a devoted family man, and as well as his wife Joan and sons Hugo and Rory, he is survived by his sisters Brigid (England) and Catherine (Spain).
A heartfelt tribute was paid to Mr Thompson during the funeral service - at St Mark's Parish Church, Armagh - by his fellow solicitor and close friend Mr James (Kim) Kincade.
Mr Kincade said, "There are no words to adequately described the "wee man", as he was affectionately known. He had a sharp analytical mind, a keen wit, an aversion to needless pomposity, and a genuine desire to help humanity.
"We were great friends and he had genuine love of family, and at gatherings he genuinely made us laugh. The greatness of the man can be measured by his intelligence minus vanity and his family was hugely proud of him."
Mr David Russell, chairman of the Eastern Health and Social Services Board, said,"When he was chairman, Dan Thompson led the way in setting new standards, not only in HSS bodies but in public services throughout Northern Ireland, displaying candour and transparency in decision making."
And Canon John McKegney, who conducted the funeral service in Armagh, commented, "Dan was a small man, yet a giant in the community, with a wide intellect and outlook, and with a razor-sharp mind and a superb sense of humour."
Prayers at the service were conducted by the Very Rev Robert Townley, and burial was at the family plot at Knotty Ash Graveyard in Rostrevor.