REVEREND Ken Quinn took a somewhat roundabout route from Belfast to Banbridge - via east Africa.
On Sunday Rev Quinn marked his retirement with a service at Holy Trinity after 37 years with the Seapatrick Parish of Holy Trinity and St Patrick’s, first as a lay reader and then as auxiliary minister.
He shared some of the highlights of his remarkable journey with the Leader.
Before joining the Ministry Rev Quinn was involved with another ministry, working as a civil engineer across east Africa - Kenya and Uganda in particular.
He’s a man with many strings to his bow as he can also claim to have played rugby for CIYMS and Ulster - including a run out against the All-Blacks in 1964.
The 72-year-old was born in Belfast but evacuated to Fermanagh in 1940 to avoid the German blitz before returning to Belfast.
He studied at Queen’s University and then began work for John Graham of Dromore learning his trade as a civil engineer.
On how that took him to east Africa he explained: “When I was a young man I felt a calling to go abroad to help assist in the development of underprivileged countries.
“As a young idealist you think you can go and change Africa, when in fact it’s Africa that changes you.”
Having worked on the construction of the M1 and M2 he was well experienced and applied to the Ministry of Overseas Development and was appointed executive engineer for Uganda - before the start of Idi Amin’s tyranny. Indeed, and purely coincidentally, Ken left Uganda just before Amin’s reign of terror began.
He was 27-years-old and looking after a region the size of Northern Ireland.
He moved to Kenya and worked there for six years with Sir Alexander Gibb and Partner, a London based consultancy: “I was involved in the construction of hundreds of kilometres of roads. I also worked in North Yemen for the World Bank, we were investigating new routes, I spent days in the mountain with the locals on donkey-back.
Rev Quinn went to Africa with his wife Carol and their daughter Julie. They came back with another daughter Lar, born in Kampala, Uganda. They also have a son Simon, born in exotic Banbridge.
“When we came back from Africa we’d looked at settling back here in Lisburn, Lurgan and Portadown,” he said, “One day we just happened to be coming through Banbridge and we said we’d stop and take a wee walk. There was just a great feel about the place, it just felt right for us.”
“The best decision we ever made was to buy a house and settle here. I met Canon Noble Hamilton who took me under his wing.”
Canon Hamilton encouraged Rev Quinn to go for ordination and the two became firm friends: “Probably because of our mutual love of rugby.” Of the other rectors at Seapatrick he also fondly remembered John Scott and his wife Laura: “He was here about 20 years and we got on extremely well, we are lifelong friends.”
Having been commissioned as lay reader in 1975, Rev Quinn was ordained as auxiliary minister at Sepatrick Parish in 1985, one of the first appointments to the new auxiliary role within the Church of Ireland.
During his retirement sermon on Sunday he said he and his wife loved Banbridge and had no intention of leaving the town.”
He went on: “When one passes three score years and ten one tends to look back rather than forward. This is only natural, I suppose. I‘ve have had a wonderful life and have so many people to thank, more people than I could either name or number, known and unknown both here and abroad.
Paying tribute to his wife he said: “Carol’s love, support, encouragement, friendship, constant companionship and tolerance of my idiosyncrasies over almost half a century never cease to amaze me.”