Mr Gerard Bryce

GERARD Bryce was a dedicated husband, father and grandfather, and a gifted teacher and sportsman. 

Gerard was born on October 14, 1950, the first child of John and Winnie Bryce. He grew up in Russell Park, a big brother to three sisters, Ann, Morita and Mary, and one brother, Macartan. 

He spent many a summer with his family in Ballyhornan, swimming, running and playing football on the beach, where his father had grown up.

From an early age, Gerard developed a great passion for sport. He had a natural ability and at school threw himself into every activity that was available to him, excelling and becoming a local champion in running, swimming and football. 

When Gerard was 19, he met his beloved wife Colette at a dance, and they married in 1974. They moved to Manchester where Gerard finished his teacher training. Gerard wanted to be a teacher all his life and was over the moon when he qualified and was ready to get into the classroom. 

After Gerard graduated, he and his wife moved back to Downpatrick to be close to both their families. Gerard was appointed to St Patrick’s Boys’ Primary School, where he taught P5 pupils and sports for the whole school for 35 years. 

Having moved back to Downpatrick, Gerard and Colette were delighted to be starting their own family with their first born son, Sean. Not long after their second son Conor was born, they built their dream house at Molly Blaney’s corner in Ballee.

Gerard laboured day and night, with help from his brothers-in-law to bring this dream to life. Their daughter, Carmen, was born there and from the very beginning was the apple of her daddy’s eye. 

Gerard created a beautiful garden where his children, their cousins and friends would play and the whole family could come together to celebrate birthdays and summer parties. He was never happier than when he was in his garden with his family. His garden was a labour of love and family members would remark that it was their own little paradise. 

Gerard loved animals and his children called him Dr Doolittle as birds would even land on his hand to say hello. Gerard was a gentle soul and tended to injured animals that took shelter in his garden. 

Gerard was very proud to be educating young people in Downpatrick and he was admired by his students and colleagues. His children remember that every Christmas, the biggest pile of presents under the tree would always belong to their dad, as his students gave little gifts to say thank you. 

With his lifelong passion and talent for sport, Gerard inspired many a young person to achieve their own goals on the pitch, on the track or in the pool. He coached is pupils in Gaelic football and soccer. Outside of school, he coached at Lecale Swimming Club, of which his own children were members for years. 

In later life, Gerard was also the biggest cheerleader for his children’s sporting achievements and also told them just how proud he was when a marathon was run or a swimming medal won. 

Gerard’s other passion was golf. He made lifelong friends at Downpatrick Golf Club where he was known as ‘GB’ to everyone who knew him there. Gerard’s children remember how proud he was when he won Captain’s Day. His wife Colette’s reaction was “well finally”, as she had won her own Lady Captain’s Day not long before.

Even so, they were all so, so proud of his wonderful achievements. This year, Gerard was teaching his daughter, Carmen, to play golf and she confirmed that the years had given both of them a lot more patience than when she was learning to drive a decade ago.

Following his retirement, Gerard joined the Ballee Bowling Club, along with Colette. Gerard loved to spend summer evenings at the club with his team-mates and, as club captain, organising social gatherings for the club. 

When Gerard retired, his curiosity for learning and trying new things really took off. He took to pottery and painting and his children just couldn’t believe how talented their dad was at these things as well.

His daughter remembers how her dad joked to her that one of his watercolours was by a famous local artist. She believed him and asked him if she could buy it for a fair price. He gave her a very fair price of £20 before finally confessing that he was the real artist and giving her back her money. 

Gerard lost his beloved Colette last year and had the strength to be a guiding star to his grieving children and grandchildren. They grew even closer as a family and took comfort from their grieving in the precious moments together. 

Gerard had a huge appetite for life and for joy. He was a devoted family man, an educator, a tower of strength and a gentle soul. 

He will be missed deeply every single dad by everyone who knew him.  As one of his sisters said on the day of his passing, those who didn’t know Gerard were the unlucky ones, not those who knew him and lost him all too soon.