One of Markethill’s grand old men, George Shepherd, has died on his 90th birthday.
The day before his death, Gentleman George, as he was known, had enjoyed a family gathering at his home but later suffered a fall and passed away in hospital.
The Rev David Irvine told the mourners at his thanksgiving service on Monday past that he had quoted a verse of Scripture to the four generations who gathered at his home – ‘Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers… shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord’.
Jovial George had been his usual humorous, caring self that day, with his family there to celebrate his nine decades. The immediate family is – wife Gertrude, and their sons and daughters Philip, Anne, Paul, Alison; grandchildren Grace, Ruth, Amy, Claire, William, Samantha, Julia, Patrick and Harry; and great-granddaughter Ebonye. He is also survived by brother Henry, sisters Rachel and Olive.
He served the Markethill community in many ways – especially through music, and he was highly respected in the farming world. His main occupation was testing cattle for the Department of Agriculture – and he spent the 10 years leading up to his retirement with N&C of Hamiltonsbawn.
George Shepherd was born on the August 24, 1925, into the family of 10 of Henry and Margaret Shepherd – the entire family was Sarah, Margaret, Rachel, Jean, Olive, George, Robert, Henry and Sam. They lived at Lurganboy.
He attended the Public Elementary School in Markethill until the age of 14, when he went home to help on the farm. He loved farming, which he followed on a part-time basis for most of his life. He sold the last of his cattle last spring. In his 90th year, the interest in farming and determination were still evident, and in the last week he worked at the hay.
Outside work and his family, music was a life-long passion. He was founder member of Hamiltonsbawn Silver Band, playing trombone from 1947-1997 – and he loved to sing.
Mr Irvine, during the funeral address, quoted an interview that George gave to the Portadown Times in January 2013 -“I’ve always loved music. I joined Markethill Presbyterian Church Choir as a boy soprano when I was 12 (he gave it a lifetime of service) and when my voice broke I began singing tenor and later on, bass.
“I joined Portadown Male Voice Choir, along with Charlie Huddleston from Markethill in 1967, sang second tenor then and after that, moved down through the baritones to the bass section. It keeps me young, it keeps me alive.”
In his final year with the male choir, which George left a couple of years ago, he was voted the most admired by his fellow members and given the Bertie Shields Trophy – “I’ve won the Open Golf Championship!” he joked to our reporter as he held aloft the Claret Jug.
Conductor Gordon Speers said, “George was a good and true gentlemen – loved and respected by every member. You couldn’t help but like him. He was so positive and out-going, always praising the efforts of others – never himself. The choir has had many valued members from Markethill over the years, and George was typical of them.”
Mr Irvine said, “He also sang with the Gosford Singers, and served the Lord in Markethill Presbyterian Church through the committee. He was thoroughly reliable and committed to whatever he joined.”
He added that family meant so much to George – he married the former Gertrude Mills on January 24, 1959 and they set up home in Ballymacauley. They had four children, and that the extended family gathered to honour his 90th birthday on the eve of what turned out to be his final hours, was deeply felt all round.
The minister told the family – “It has been evident to me that your dad was special to you. You have described him as, caring, loyal, a friend, and a confidant. I know your hearts are fully of thanksgiving to God for your father.”
Markethill Presbyterian Church was filled and the music included two items by Portadown Male Voice Choir – Eli Jenkins Prayer and Morte Christie, George’s favourite. Burial was in the adjoining cemetery.