Finbarr Fleming was a shining example on how to bear a relentless disability. He had suffered from multiple sclerosis (MS) for 31 years, and was an inspiration to all who came into contact with him.
He was famed for his cheery smile and disposition, especially when he was able to move around his ‘adopted’ home of Tandragee in his little motorised buggy – but sadly, in recent years he was virtually confined to the house at Knockview Drive which he shared with wife Liz.
They have two daughters, Sinead and Bronagh, and a son Niall. There are nine grandchildren, with Liz being the former Liz McKillop, one of a highly-respected Tandragee family.
Finbarr was one of the youngest of a Portadown family of 12, his parents being the late Dr Eamon Fleming and Josie Fleming. They were brought up in the same building as the surgery at Church Street, and he is the second of the family to pass away, the first being Fidelma in November past. He is survived by Eciar, Fionnuala, Eithne, Ciaran, Eamonn, Nessa, Aideen, Eimear, Niamh and Fergus.
Finbarr Fleming (62) was educated at the Convent School and St Columba’s in Portadown after which he attended the Christian Brothers in Armagh. He went from there to undergo teacher training in Manchester where he became a firm Manchester City football fan, thoroughly enjoying their success over recent seasons. But, typical of the man, he never gloated as they eclipsed their great rivals across the city.
He returned to Northern Ireland and secured a teaching post in St Patrick’s, Banbridge, his subjects being PE and history. Around that time, he married Liz and they settled in her beloved Tandragee.
As he entered his 30s, MS was diagnosed – an extreme form of the illness – and he never really enjoyed respite as it progressed over the years. But he never let it get the better of him.
During the early years, he played drums in a band that toured the province and also acted as a DJ at various functions – he had a comprehensive collection of LPs of the 60s-80s and he particularly enjoyed music.
And before MS struck, he was a talented sportsman, playing football for Mid-Ulster teams like Borough United and Red Lion, and GAA for Clann na Gael in Lurgan and up to minor Armagh standard.
He used his disability in many positive ways, campaigning for those confined to a wheelchair. For example, he harried the local council (Armagh District) to make Tandragee more disability friendly, with footpath and business access.
And when St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Armagh was in the throes of refurbishment during the 1990s, he became “an uninvited volunteer” to ensure that the architects created total access for the disabled.
His humour and his sense of social commitment never left him, and while his large extended family mourn his passing, they are grateful that Finbarr left behind a legacy of caring and a social conscience that were an example to anyone with whom he came in contact.
Finbarr also produced the parish Bulletin for St James RC Church in Tandragee and it was there that Parish Priest Fr Michael Woods conducted the Requiem Mass.
Fr Woods said, “Finbarr lived in friendship with his Lord and Saviour and bore his 30 years of illness with a positive and serene calmness. Even from his wheelchair, he participated in liturgical life and when I had computer problems, he was the man to call upon.”
He added that the past few months had been particularly difficult for Finbarr, Liz and family and that God’s call was not unexpected.
Committal was at Mullavilly Cemetery.