Mr Billy Hamilton

MR Billy Hamilton, who has died at the age of 92, was a much admired and highly respected figure in the Ballynahinch community.

Billy, who passed away in Spa Nursing Home on Saturday, December 9, immersed himself in many aspects of community life. He was a noted sportsman, a bandsman, a man of strong religious faith, a trusted friend and, above all, a loving family man.

Billy was born in 1925, one of seven children to Thomas and Isabella Hamilton, and was raised at the family home on the Drumaness Road. In 1948 he married his wife, Sally, to whom he would be devoted for the rest of his life. The couple were just short of their 70th wedding anniversary.

Billy and Sally were to be blessed with three sons, Billy Jr, Graham and Wilson, four granddaughters and four great grandsons.

Billy started his working life as a clerk with the Ulster Transport Authority. He moved to Northern Ireland Carriers, and later to the South Eastern Education and Library Board where he was an auditor and he worked there up until his retirement. However, he then got the chance to become an auditor with the NI Probation Board and so kept working for another handful of years.

To many people Billy will be best remembered for his sporting exploits. His first love was hockey and he played for many years for the old Montalto team and later Ballynahinch.

In his forties he turned his attention to football and became involved with the newly formed Ballynahinch United club, for which he played for a number of years in the Newcastle League. He was justifiably proud when he played alongside his three sons, although at different stages.

Off the field he was secretary of Ballynahinch United and was the club’s Amateur League representative. In a distinguished record of administrative service, he was elected on to the Amateur League management committee, was a member of the Co Antrim FA and also a life member of the Irish FA.

However, his hockey career wasn’t entirely finished and he went back to playing for Ballynahinch for a few seasons until he finally hung up his boots at the age of 57.

Billy loved music and played the bagpipes with Ballynahinch Pipe Band. He enjoyed dancing and he and Sally were familiar figures at old time dances up until a few years ago. He also enjoyed travelling, particularly to Scotland but also ventured further afield, including Singapore and Australia.

He was also a member of the Loyal institutions and during the Second World War he served in the Home Guard in Ballynahinch.

Billy’s Christian faith was central to his life. Ballynahinch Congregational Church, which he first attended as a young Sunday School boy, was filled to capacity for his funeral service on Monday, December 11.

Among those in attendance were many dignitaries from the football world, including Irish FA president David Martin, Co Antrim FA president Robert Fenton, Amateur League chairman Terence Pateman and Newcastle League chairman Robert Haworth.

In a wide ranging address, the Rev Victor Neill, church minister, paid this tribute to Billy: “To some he was wee Billy, to others he was big Billy, but to all he was a friend.”

The sympathy of the community is extended to his family.