A Presbyterian minister told mourners at Bea Worton’s funeral today that “as a nation we have failed” her in that she had to leave this life “without seeing justice achieved for her precious son”.
Beatrice Worton BEM, known as Bea, died peacefully in hospital on Friday night at the age of 91 after a short illness.
The latter part of her life was shaped by her battle to secure truth and justice for her son Kenneth, a 24-year-old father-of-two who was one of 10 civilians murdered in a sectarian attack by the IRA at Kingsmills in south Armagh in 1976.
His daughters – Racquel Brush and Suzanne Hinds – who were only three and six when their father was murdered, also attended the funeral yesterday.
The cortege left Bea’s Gosford Gardens home in Markethill and passed through the town until it arrived at First Markethill Presbyterian Church (Upper), which was packed to capacity.
Rev Nigel Reid told mourners: “It is sad – very sad – that Bea has left this earthly scene of life without finding those two final things for her son’s memory Kenneth – truth and justice. And I say that I feel as a nation we have failed Bea that she has had to leave this earthly life without seeing justice achieved for her precious son.”
It is sad - very sad - that Bea has left this earthly scene of life without finding those two final things for her son’s memory Kenneth - truth and justice. And I say that I feel as a nation we have failed Bea that she has had to leave this earthly life without seeing justice achieved for her precious son.Rev Nigel Reid
The great-great-grandmother is survived by her children Jennifer, Jacqueline, Dennis and Colin. Her husband was the late George.
Her son Colin said after the funeral: “I didn’t truly comprehend until today how much she was loved and admired by her friends, neighbours and complete strangers.”
His heart was “broken” recently when their friend and fellow victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer died, he said.
“Now my heart is shattered by the death of my wonderful mother.
“But I have to say, it is only for selfish reasons that my family and I will miss her greatly, as we know she is with her Lord and Saviour and she will not be subjected to any more insulting behaviour.”
The behaviour he referred to included recent anonymous phone calls from republicans taunting her about the murder of her son.
He added: “My mother and Willie will be sure of one thing, they will not have to protest in heaven for truth, justice and equality. Peace perfect peace.”
Family friend Pastor Barrie Halliday paid a brief tribute, telling mourners that when Bea heard recently that Mr Frazer was terminally ill, she was “adamant from then on that she too was going home [to heaven]”.
Both he and Rev Reid paid tribute to her profound Christian faith.
Pastor Halliday said that he first met Bea when they were serving in the UDR. She had been so highly thought of, he said, that the regiment was desperate not to see her go.
He also paid tribute to Alan Kane QC, who represented Bea at the Kingsmills massacre legacy inquest, for attending her funeral.
While she heard some things she had never heard before in the proceedings, Mr Halliday said, “it helped her to deal with it and she was able to shed some tears”.
For the past two decades she was always ready to support any victims events when called on, he said, and was a frequent visitor to the Kingsmills inquest, even up until recently.
He also paid tribute to her legal “showdown” with Newry Mourne and Down District Council, after it named a Newry playground after convicted IRA man Raymond McCreesh.
He was arrested several months after Kingsmills with one of the weapons used in the atrocity. The High Court stayed her action to give the council time to act. It has now put the land up for sale.
Rev Reid said her faith had been “inspiring to me personally”.
She was born in 1927, one of six children, and thought nothing of the fact that she walked across fields barefoot to school near Markethill, he said, yet she always recounted her childhood with a smile.
After WWII she joined the RAF and met her husband George in England in 1948, returning to NI the year after. They had five children and she loved her family deeply, he said, being proud of her 15 grandchildren, 23 great-grandchildren, and five great-great-grandchildren.
“She always had a wonderful appreciation for anything you did for her,” he said.
Bea always thanked him sincerely when he visited her and deeply loved the 23 Psalm, he added.
He praised her life of public service which resulted in her being awarded the British Empire Medal in 1988.
“Often she would share about the pain of losing her son Kenneth. And I say today that Bea did experience the greatest pain that a mother could ever experience in life. And that is losing a son that you loved and cared for and brought into this world at the hands of evil and wrong.”
To use the language used locally, he said, “Bea had made her peace with the Lord”.
And drawing comparisons with how her son had died, he added: “God the Father lost his son at the hands of evil ... so that you and I and Bea and many others could know the joy of having their sins forgiven.”