A man who gave so much to others

JIM McCann was one of the most respected men in Lurgan – a family man, a man who enjoyed and lived life to the full, trusted and loved by all who knew him.

What made Jim extra special was his love for life - his vivaciousness and natural love for giving to others.

Many of you knew him as part of Lough Neagh Lifeboat Rescue Crew, some may have known him from his days – 30 odd years – with the Department of Agriculture and then there are others who would have known him as a barman and doorman at the Beehive Bar and Ashburn hotel.

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There are so many things to write about Jim McCann, you could write a book – however ultimately – he was a family man. A great husband, father and grandfather, son and brother.

First thing anyone says about Jim McCann is: “He’s a great family man.”

He was born on 11 May 1959 to John and Ann McCann, Brown Street, Lurgan. He lived there with his five brothers and two sisters. He started school at the age of four at the Convent of Mercy, Edward Street and St Peter’s before moving to St Paul’s. He then attended Lurgan Technical College.

He had many gifts. He could sing and play guitar and many remember the 1978-1979 production under the direction of Miss Fra Donnelly the wonderful production of Joseph and his Amazing Technicoloured Dream Coat – he shone and his talent for music was obvious.

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He played football for Clan na Gael, and was an active youth leader for many years. It was here he developed his love of hill walking and had an extensive knowledge of mountain ranges throughout Ireland.

Jim loved the outdoors and he knew that getting the young ones outdoors and up mountains and on the lough would give them a better attitude to life. He always thought of others. His passion was for the good of others and his faith in all good people carried him.

That’s why he had a passion for cross-community work and which makes his desire to get the young people out and about and doing things all the more understandable. That fired him on. He knew the value of common sense and nature and being in the fresh air, and his faith in the youth spurred him on.

In his younger days he was a member of Lurgan Road Club. He was a talented mechanic and had a keen interest in all things vintage, restoring old cars and motorcycles.

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He was a talented amateur photographer who had taken photographs from the spires of both St Peter’s and Shankill Parish Church. It was when the scaffolding was up and he, as ever, took the opportunity to preserve the beauty of what he saw. Many family and friends are grateful to Jim for their wedding albums and recording important family occasions.

There have been so many kind comments from those who knew Jim and while they might love and respect him – no one knew him more than his family.

He was a man who just loved and adored his wife, children and grandchild. He was proud of them all and lived his life around them.

He married Jennifer in 1982, they had three girls, Una, Sinead and Aileen. As far as Jim was concerned, there was nothing like them and wee Meabh his granddaughter too. His life revolved around his family and the wonderful holidays they had. The cruises with Jennifer and particularly the last one on the Mediterranean will always be an abiding, beautiful memory.

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Jim was a character, who loved playing a bit of guitar and all who heard him playing loved it. And there are those who will know about “the choir” a group of friends who frequently sang their way around Europe!

Jim was a man who didn’t do things by half. A self-taught guitarist – he took after his dad Johnny, and had the natural ability. He was an avid music fan of all kinds of music. He played as rhythm guitarist in the bands Kent and Kashmere with Hugh Blaney (guitarist), Pete McDermott (guitarist and vocalist), Barry Toland (drumist), Brendan Goff (bass guitarist and keyboards) and Paul McConville (lead guitarist) between 1972 and 1980 playing pop, rock and country music.

Music came from his heart and his love of it. He had played in St Mary’s Accordion Band in Shankill – Weaver’s Row (now Maple Court). Music was in his heart and soul.

And with a wonderful soul, and a very powerful faith, he loved his church and respected others’ faiths. He was a man with deep conscience and wanted to interact with other faiths.

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He was involved with PACT Lurgan, a cross community interdenominational organisation that helped families to meet and share many activities together. He was able to share his love of the outdoors with this group, taking many groups into the mountains and onto the lough.

This is a man who lived life to the full and gave so much to society.

His joined the Department of Agriculture, Drainage Division as an apprentice fitter in 1976, he completed his apprenticeship and continued with lifelong learning throughout his career eventually becoming a plant inspector in the Rivers Agency.

He was a founder member of Lough Neagh Rescue in 1989 and saved the lives of many people since it was established. He spent many a wet wild night on the lough.

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Whether Jim was working in the Ashburn, the Beehive, the Woodville, involved with PACT, taking photographs, on the Lough Neagh Rescue boat, or as a river drainage worker for the Department – he was a man to trust.

The red-haired lad with the smiley face would never have thought twice about helping anyone. No matter who rapped his door or asked for help, he was there.

He will always be remembered as a loving husband and dad and grandfather, brother, son and friend to all who knew him.

The entire family are extremely grateful to wards 9 tower block and 2A Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital for the attentive care given to Jim and his family during his short illness.

Life motivated Jim and he loved life and lived his life to the full and would want all to do the same. What a legacy to leave.