Son of Banbridge funeral director Jim Bell pays glowing tribute to late father

A well-respected Co Down funeral director who proudly carried on a family tradition dating back to the 1800s will be laid to rest tomorrow.

Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 5:10 pm
Jim Bell with his son Maurice, who followed in his footsteps both into the funeral business and as an Orangeman. Edward Byrne Photography
Jim Bell with his son Maurice, who followed in his footsteps both into the funeral business and as an Orangeman. Edward Byrne Photography

James Stevenson Bell, known to everyone as Jim, passed away on Sunday at his home in Kensington Avenue, Banbridge at the age of 84.

His son Maurice said his dad’s death has left “a massive hole that will never ever be filled”.

Up until the last few years Jim had still been working at William Bell and Co Funeral Directors, a company that his grandfather had set up in Banbridge in the early 1800s.

Banbridge funeral director Jim Bell who died on Sunday

Maurice said: “My great grandfather (William) started it all off. He started making coffins, known as the Bann Coffin Manufacturing Company.”

The business then became William Bell and Co and passed on to his sons, then grandson Jim, followed by his great grandson Maurice.

Maurice said: “Times change, but there’s always a demand for it.

“A minister once said to my dad, ‘Jim, I was just thinking, if people don’t die you can’t live’.

“My dad said, ‘I’ve heard it put many a way but that’s a new one on me’.”

He added: “I worked side by side with my dad since 1996. It was great.

“He was always there and always full of advice.

“He had a world of knowledge. I always turned to him whenever I was unsure about something and he would have kept me right.

“I would be hoping to carry it on, I’ve three daughters but whether they want to take it on I don’t know. I’ll keep it on for as long as I can.”

Of his father, Maurice said: “I’ll remember him with love and deep affection. He has left a massive hole that will never ever be filled.”

Maurice also followed in his father’s footsteps in the Orange Order: “My dad was in Brague LOL 427 and he was in the Royal Black Institution as well, in Loughbrickland 402.

“He would have marched when health permitted, but he usually drove. He really enjoyed the big days out with the Orange and the Black.”

His son added: “He had a very deep and quiet faith. He went to Bannside Presbyterian in Banbridge.”

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In his death notice Jim was described as “the loved and loving husband of Elizabeth Joyce (Elsie), devoted dad of Maurice and Marion, a much loved father-in-law of Ann and precious Papa of Carly, Katie and Molly”.

His funeral takes place in Bannside Presbyterian Church tomorrow at 1pm followed by a private committal.

His family asked for no flowers, instead suggesting that donations in lieu may be sent to William Bell and Co Funeral Directors, 23 Kenlis Street, Banbridge for Bannside Presbyterian Church funds.

In an interview with the Banbridge Leader in 2012, Jim, then aged 75, reflected on his life as a funeral director, saying: “Understanding and sympathy have to be sincerely felt and expressed, but you do have to find an emotional detachment in order to be professional and help people get through this period.

“I find my faith really carries me through the bad times - particularly when a baby has died or a young person has lost his life in a car accident.”

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