This morning we come together as family and friends to remember with thanksgiving the life of Mr Harry McCullough and also to acknowledge the Lord's sovereignty in life and in death.
Harry was born on the 25th October 1925 the second son of Thomas and Mary McCullough and younger brother to his late brother Thomas.
The family home was in Victor Street which was a loving and supportive home. The family belonged to this congregation where Harry and his brother were baptised and brought up through the life of the Church. Harry rarely missed church sitting as he always did in the gallery, along with his friends.
I often joked him that he along the late Eddie Cooper and Stanley Eddie where like the three grumpy old men out of Sesame Street. The only difference was that they were not grumpy old men, until you tried to persuade them to come to the ground floor, then they acted like it was Custer's last stand on the gallery.
After leaving school Harry was apprenticed as a coppersmith in the shipyard. He was to work there until he left in 1984. Harry had fond memories of his many years in the yard and was well remembered and respected by his work mates.
He was to meet the love of his life, Francis Marie Graham, who came from the Cregagh Estate. As love blossomed they were married on the 23rd December 1950 in this congregation, with his brother as his best man. They honeymooned in Portrush before setting up home in My Lady Road.
Harry and Francis enjoyed life together. Sadly for Harry, Francis was to die young, passing away in 1978. He always spoke so fondly of her but the pain of her loss was still with him. It was also around this time he was to lose his father, leaving his mother on her own. Harry, as was his nature, took to caring for his mum, eventually giving up work in 1984 at the age of 59 to become her full time carer.
By this stage Harry had moved to Grove field Place which was to remain his home with stubborn determination until just 18 months ago when he moved to Lime Tree.
He was a dutiful son looking after his mum at home right up until the end. She had a difficult death suffering, as he often said,of Gangrene Poisoning in her leg. For him the constant reminder and comfort was that she was to pass away in his arms as he nursed and comforted her. She was called home on the 9th August 1986.
Harry was by nature a carer. He was a good friend to many and especially to his good friend Jean who together shared many trips and times together. Following her accident he visited her every day in the nursing home until her death.
May I pay tribute to John, Adele, Gary and Claire and the family who have supported Harry particularly during these last years. Harry was a faithful Christmas guest in the home of John for over 30 years. Never giving a yes on first being asked, but he always came and was very much part of the family. He loved the evenings when Gary called after leaving Lewis at football, catching up with the lives of Lewis and Anna and hearing of Lewis' skills on the football field.
Tribute also must be paid to Henry and Joan who also sought to support Harry with his shopping and coming to church and any thing else he needed to do during the day and just being good friends. He enjoyed the visits from Brian Currie who regularly called at the home to see him and also the pastoral visits and practical support from Gordon Kennedy and his wife Betty when she was able. He enjoyed the visits of Norma and indeed many others from the congregation.
All of you made Harry's life the better for your support and love, and I know he appreciated you all.
Harry was known far and wide. Gary even had to telephone a number on the Isle of Man to tell the owner of the guest house Harry stayed at for many years and they instantly remembered him as a lovely wee man.
Everyone who knew him just referred to him as a wee gentleman. His smile, toothless as it was- and that's another story of the false teeth- was always genuine and warm.
He and his late friend along with others made their daily pilgrimage to Bangor: the bus on the Albertbridge road, breakfast in Evans cafe. Then a bus to Donaghadee to the Bow bells for a half lunch. They had a five dinner menu which meant he could have different meal every day. Then a bus back to Belfast.
On one of his excursions out Harry managed to get his arm closed in the door of the bus as he was too busy talking to the driver. The driver had to divert from his route and take him to the Ulster Hospital to be check over as he was bleeding.
Then there were the trips to Forrestside. I usually met him and Billy Rice sitting in the middle of the centre taking their breath ready for the return journey.
Harry loved to be out and about and only when the eyesight became problematic, and also when Billy went off his feet, the journeys stopped. However he still managed to be at church most Sunday mornings and he was fully involved in all of the church life.
He was a member of our Mixed fellowship, a member of the Seniors where he enjoyed his afternoon tea, always two cups. He was part of the Mens meet up and lunch, and was looked after by all the men. When it wasn't possible for him to get out he had his meal sent round or collected by Henry.
During his active days he was a keen Darts player playing for the Cable darts team and was very competitive. He has a variety of shields and cups for the game. One of Harry's favourite darts stories was: What's the highest score that you can get from a single dart. The sensible answer would be 60 triple 20, no his answer was 100 because he said I hit a 100 watt bulb above the dart board. That's Harry.
He also loved the bowls and even when he no longer could see to bowl he was present on a Friday night and he was fussed around by all the ladies and off course he enjoyed his cup of tea and a bun.
We as a church family will miss him much.
Over many years Harry sat under the sound of the Gospel and we talked often about his need of salvation. So it was a great joy one afternoon when I visited his home that he told me it was time for him to trust in the Lord. It was a real privilege for me to pray with him and lead him to the Lord.
As his Pastor over the last 21years I have so much respect and love for Harry, who lived his life to the full, enjoying every moment even through the sad and challenging days.
He was a man of care and generosity. He never missed a family birthday especially the children, and never liked to owe anyone anything. With his meals on a Friday when they were delivered he insisted on them being paid for even though he was told no. On most occasions he was paid up in advance.
So how do we sum up Harry's life. He was a gentle man who had a big heart and spent most of his life caring for others. He was a good friend and a independent man.
Only when it became impossible for him to stay in Grove field Place because of his constant falling that he gave in to moving into a care home. John and Gary found a place in Lime tree, and he loved it from the moment he arrived, and they loved him. May I pay tribute to the care that was given, especially during these last weeks and through the worst of the pandemic.
Today we give thanks for Harry McCullough, son brother uncle, friend and brother in the Lord.
Harry has often been referred to as a gentleman.
Many of you will of heard to a man called David Livingstone. One of the first missionaries to who moved into Central Africa. He was responsible for naming many of the famous landmarks of Africa.
He came from a little village called Blantyre in Scotland where as boy he like Harry learned the truths of scripture. He determined to live his life for God and he saw himself as a doctor helping others. He worked hard and long with a quick mind he managed to obtain a place in Edinburgh medical school where he trained to be a doctor.
A doctor he became, but missionary service came as a call to his life and Africa was his place of service.
He worked in Africa all his life and and died in service only for his body to wrapped and carried for many hindered of miles by those he helped to the nearest port before his body was returned to England and buried in St Paula Cathedral.
However on one occasion on visit to his home college he spoke about his life and service. Physically he had been ravaged by the harsh life of Africa and maleria which had weakened him. However, he spoke with such passion about his Lord and what God was doing that many young men present volunteered to go to Africa and followed in his footsteps
After many years of service he passed away in his mud hut. His old bible was open in front of him, the Passage was Matthew 28 the great commission. He underlined the verse Lo I am with you always even unto the end. In the margin he wrote "the promise of a gentleman never broken."
Today one gentleman our Harry has met the greatest gentleman of them all the Lord Jesus..