WELL-known Banbridge retailing family, the Houstons, said a sad goodbye to a devoted husband, inspirational father and hardworking businessman at the funeral service of Mr Robert Houston on Saturday.

Mr Houston, one of the co-founders of Houston Brothers, died last Thursday aged 85 following a period of illness.

Speaking at the packed funeral service in Scarva Road Presbyterian Church, Mr Houston’s eldest son, John, gave a moving address and paid tribute to a father he described as a gentleman, who was “inspirational, hardworking, honest, caring and kind”.

A man of unwavering faith, Mr Houston senior spent much time helping others, particularly through the Banbridge Lions Club of which he was a former president.

In his spare time, he also enjoyed gardening and John lovingly recalled how he would spend hours “perfecting the stripes” on the lawn of the family home at Bannview Lodge.

“Gallons of petrol were poured into various tractor lawnmowers, as he chased perfection in this regard,” said John. “There wasn’t too much assistance from the rest of the family, but help came in the form of his good friend, John Herron, who has been a great companion to dad through the good times, and especially through these recent, difficult times.”

Recalling the early days when the Houston Brothers brand was just in its infancy, John said his father and uncle Kennedy came to Banbridge “with little more than the shirts on their backs”, but their business relationship lasted over 50 years and their friendship “a lifetime”.

Throughout his life, Mr Houston held many positions in Scarva Road Presbyterian Church and consequently spent many hours at committee meetings.

“Sunday was not a day for frivolities in the Houston house,” said John, “and it was certainly not a day for sport. However, once, while on holiday in Enniskillen, when dad and mum disappeared to church, Denise, Stephen and I took the boat out skiing in glorious sunshine.

“When they returned from church, his three kids were the colour of lobsters, having not only ignored their father’s wishes, but also the obvious need for suncream!”

John said his dad loved his church, his garden, his golf, his work and his family, “but most of all, he loved his wife” whom he first met as a teenager when she came into the store with her father to buy shoes.

He acknowledged the many years of hard work put into the business by both his father and uncle, who unfortunately had recently taken ill and could not attend the funeral service.

Without their endeavour and guidance, the business would not be where it is today and would not have grown into one of the leading department stores of its era, he said.

Mr Houston is survived by his wife Margaret, to whom he was married for 53 years, daughter, Denise and sons, John and Stephen; grandsons and granddaughters, Catherine, Susie, Robert, Clare, Lauren, Sam, Jake, Maddie and Ethan; brother, Kennedy, sister, Ethyl and wider familiy circle.

Donations in lieu of flowers can be sent to Parkinson’s UK, care of William Bell and Co., Funeral Directors, 23 Kenlis Street, Banbridge BT32 3LR.