Canon John Bell

A FORMER long-serving Church of Ireland rector who sadly passed away on Christmas Day has been described as a “real Christian gentleman.”

Canon John Bell, who died at Belfast City Hospital, was a highly respected churchman and someone who was a real encourager to so many in different walks of life.

He was also much respected member of Kilmore and Inch parishes where he had worshipped since in his retirement 20 years ago. But he was someone who never really retired from the ministry, being called upon to fulfil vacancy cover, illness and holiday relief duty to a number of churches, work which gave him great pleasure.

Canon Bell served curacies in St Mark’s in Newtownards and in Willowfield Parish in Belfast before moving to the Ards as rector of Carrowdore and Millisle.

The bulk of his ministry for 28 years was in Holy Trinity Drumbo (Ballylesson) where he combined parochial duties with the chaplaincies of Purdysburn and the YOC.  He later became a Canon of Down Cathedral where he joined worshippers on Thursdays for the Holy Communion service.

The retired clergyman loved people, he was a good listener and so made many friends in the communities where he lived and worked. He played rugby at school and followed the sport avidly on television. However, his passions were gardening, beekeeping and indoor bowling.

Canon Bell was a founder member of Killinchy Beekeepers, later becoming the organisation’s president and, as such, patiently mentored many new beekeepers .

Described as a “real Christian gentleman and a true encourager to so many in different walks of life,” he also had a sense of mischief and fun and will be greatly missed in the community and in his family, especially by his wife, Carole.

The current minister at Holy Trinity, the Rev Mervyn Jamison, said the thoughts and prayers of everyone at the church were with the Bell family. He said Canon Bell was very well thought-of in the parish, adding: “He has been very kind to people of the parish even in retirement.”

A fitting thanksgiving service for Canon Bell’s life took place in Kilmore Parish Church on Friday, December 29, conducted by the rector, the Rev Stephen Smyth, and led by the choirs of Inch and Kilmore.

The service included readings and tributes from his sons, Christopher Stephen and David, and a violin duet from his granddaughters, Rebecca and Hannah. The Farewell in Christ was led by Bishop Harold Millar.

Canon Bell was laid to rest in Drumbo Parish graveyard where the muffled church bells rang a final peal for the former rector.

In addition to his wife, Canon Bell is survived by his sons, Christopher, Stephen and David, and grandchildren Rebecca, Hannah, Casper and Francesca.