(26th March 1934 - 25th October 2020)
Today we come together to remember with thanksgiving the life of Robert McCreight Mc Kee, or Roy, as he was better known by us all. We also seek to acknowledge that the Lord is sovereign in life and in death.
Roy was born on the 26th March, 1934, the middle of three children born to Mr & Mrs Mc Kee. Sadly he was predeceased by his older brother Tom. To his surviving beloved sister, May, we extend our deepest sympathy.
The family home was in 12 Upper Frank Street and it was a busy, loving and lively home, where the family was nurtured and encouraged. In those early days Upper Frank Street was very much a community with the church at its heart. While Mrs Mc Kee had been a member of Megain Memorial, she began to attend Mountpottinger, although tradition dictated the children were baptised in Megain. However, from an early age the family were fully involved with the life of Mountpottinger.
Roy, like his brother and sister, attended Mountpottinger Primary School - hence his fine handwriting skills. He was given a sound and rounded education, leaving school at the age of 14. Roy thought he would have the summer to himself, but he had only one week of a break and was then informed that he was to start the very next week as a message boy in Victor’s, the Jaguar garage in Upper Queen Street.
Thus began a lifetime of work and passion for Jaguar cars. He served his time as a mechanic and he eventually became foreman of the garage. He worked with some of the most outstanding drivers for Jaguar, like Stirling Moss and Mike Hawthorne.
He later was asked to take over the running of Mc Mooney’s Garage on the Donegall Road. Here he again gained a reputation for excellence and had many influential customers, from leading surgeons to senior police officers, all of whom enjoyed Roy's open, honest and friendly banter - at least one of them sharing a round of fish suppers with the garage team, along with a cup of tea from a rather grimy garage mug. Roy was generous by nature and many a bill was waived as a favour and some that were owed were never paid. As the motor trade changed Roy took early retirement and enjoyed those retirement years at home with his beloved Tommy.
Roy, on one fortuitous evening, crossed the bridge, accompanying his mate Billy Campbell, to bring home to Ballyclare, Martha Montgomery, Tommy’s sister, who was nursing in Belfast at the time. It was then he met young Thomasina and love blossomed - the rest, they say, is history!
Over the following four years they saved to put over the wedding. They were married on the 5th April, 1960, in Dunamugee Presbyterian Church. After a honeymoon in Dublin, the pair came home to Tommy's family home in Ballyclare, the gate lodge to Ballyclare Cemetery. It was only for a short time. Roy had the motorbike then and travelled from Victor’s in Belfast, to Ballyclare every day.
Sadly Mr Mc Kee senior died in the June following their wedding. Roy heard again the call of the east, this time coming home to his mother’s house, in Upper Frank Street, which by now had May and Jimmy also living there.
Roy and Tommy moved again, this time to a new build in Rathcoole, a lovely new maisonette with under floor heating. However, the call of the east beckoned again and the family moved back to number 35 Upper Frank Street. Roy was content - at least until they moved to Orby Drive and finally to Church Road, but those moves were all OK - they were in the east of the city!
Lesley reminded me that at one time Upper Frank Street had 10 Mc Kee grandchildren in the street. She has fond memories of Roy coming home for lunch, but before heading back to the garage he piled all the kids into the car and drove them round the block, then stopped the car and ordered them out. Those were the days!
The Lord blessed Roy and Tommy with four children: Karen, George, Roy and Peter and then with a whole extended family of Terry, Kim, Angie, Julie; then grandchildren and significant others: Carly, Molly and Jamie, Ashleigh and Frank, David and Jen, Ryan and Rachael, Chrissie, Lauren and Stuart, Jack and Chloe and then of course, those very precious great grandchildren: Ethan, Oliver and Harry, who the last few years have brought so much joy to Roy and Tommy.
In recent years the Saturday afternoon was quite a gathering and Boxing Day lunch was a whole other story.
Roy loved his family and to each of you today, I extend the sympathy and prayers of the whole congregation. To Tommy especially, we assure you of our prayers. Roy often spoke of your love and support and never apologised for taking your hand, even when he didn’t need it to be guided; he just loved you, I think, more each day as the years passed. You have been quite a team. May you know God’s blessing in the coming days.
Together you and Roy have had a great 60 years of married life together and it was lovely for you to be able to celebrate this with the family just a month or two ago.
May I pay tribute to all the family, for the love, support and frequent banter given to Roy and Tommy over these last challenging years.
As a family you have great memories of holidays in the caravan in Cloughey (which was a haven during the troubles); holidays on the Isle of Man and in Donegal - all of which have provided a wealth of stories and great memories of time out in the boat and lots of fun and laughter.
Tommy, you and Roy enjoyed many visits to Kenya, to stay with Martha and Derek and you celebrated your 50th wedding anniversary there, missing, yet again, another of Peter’s significant birthdays - something he frequently moans about. You also both enjoyed your holidays with Winnie and Derek, as part of the Dale Farm pensioners group.
As a dad, Roy was always there for each of you, supporting and encouraging and was always honest with you, in his own particular way. He was your resident mechanic for the many repairs he had to do, especially for some speeders within the family.
He was always a keen supporter of the family’s sporting activities.
He was a past member of the 82nd, passing through the ranks and when his own boys came into the company he supported the football teams, including the Old Boys. He was part of a unique group of men, fondly nicknamed the ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ team. Along with Jim and Norman Branigan and Alan Dowds, he stood along the touch line for almost 15 years, supporting the teams. He was the only man to get a red card from the referee for his abuse of the ref and I’ll not repeat what he said to the ref as he received the card!
He also took the opportunity to watch Ashleigh and Jack play football and was always there with his encouraging words.
He enjoyed his times at the motorbike racing and as a family they toured the circuits.
He was a faithful member of the Mixed Fellowship and when it closed he bowled in Orangefield club, as well as Willowfield club, where he enjoyed the company and banter of the teams. He took some stick when he managed to get the bowl right up against the jack, even though he was almost blind.
Both he and Tommy rarely missed morning worship in the church and he was well regarded by all who knew him in the congregation.
I remember visiting Roy a number of years ago, just when his health began to deteriorate. His advice was, “Don’t let the doctor get a hold of you.” From that point on he had more hospital appointments and tests, but he dealt bravely and stoically with all his conditions and procedures and it was only with the reduced capacity of his health that he had to slow down.
His eyesight was a big challenge to him. Having to give up driving was a great loss, but he enjoyed being driven by Tommy and he rarely complained.
On many occasions, my eyes left me as I came up to the garage and there he was using the electric saw to cut up pallets for the wood burning stove. That was Roy. He never wanted to be a bother, or a burden, to anyone. He never moaned, at least not in front of me. He often said, “What’s the point?” and he got on with life, with the one additional comment that he couldn't do anything without Tommy.
Even up to a few weeks ago he loved his wee walk around Forestside Shopping Centre and then taking a rest on the benches, where he met the world.
I asked you for some words to describe Roy. Generous, loving, supportive, honest and above all a gentleman. Truly, he was a gentleman.
As his pastor these 21 years it has been my privilege to have visited and got to know him. Many an afternoon, or morning, when Tommy was still in her dressing gown, I would call and we would put the world to right. I enjoyed those times and I told him on many occasions that he wasn’t to die before I retired.
God, in His wisdom, had other plans. On Sunday morning, quietly in his sleep, Roy passed from this world. Better memories for you all than a few months ago when he was taken into hospital gasping for breath, thinking that was his last.
He is away from a world of pain and distress. On many occasions we talked about spiritual things and I reminded him of his need of trusting in the Lord Jesus. Today I commend him into the mercy and love of God, as God knows our hearts.
Today we give thanks to God for the life and love of Roy Mc Kee: son, brother husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather and a friend of so many.