Former Council chairman dies

THE man behind many of the sporting and leisure facilities in Banbridge district has died. Gilbert Honeyford, who was 87, died in Lurgan Hospital after a prolonged illness. He was married to wife Rita for 62 years.

They have three children, Gillian, Gary and Tim as well as six grandchildren. He’s also survived by his sister Pansy. Gilbert was the last chairman of the Banbridge Urban Council and the first Chief Recreation Officer of its successor, the current District Council.

Amongst his many projects was the conversion of the old railway building at Downshire Road into a modern leisure centre. Parks throughout the area bear his imprint. He promoted the development of Solitude Park as well as similar facilities in Dromore, Scarva, Loughbrickland, Gilford and Katesbridge. Gilbert Honeyford was involved in the creation of the Havelock Park complex as well as many other sports pitches and facilities.

He encouraged sports beyond the mainstream, like archery and weight lifting. In his earlier days he was an active sportsman, playing wing forward for Banbridge Rugby Club and winning an Irish Cup medal with Banbridge Hockey Club. He later served as a committee member for both. The club flag was flown at half mast and a minute’s silence observed before the rugby club’s All Ireland league game against Highfield on Saturday.

Passionate about how sport could benefit the whole community, he was responsible for the formation of the Banbridge District Sports’ Association. For him it all began with the young, so he was a long term chairman of Banbridge Youth Club to which he contributed for 36 years. A founding member of Banbridge Lions Club, he’d also been president of the Ulster Tourist Development Association.

The Bronte Homeland Drive was one of his schemes and he actively promoted the arts. As a Quaker, Gilbert was the treasurer of the Society of Friends Bessbrook meeting and a member of the Board of Governors of Friends School, Lisburn. The funeral took place on Friday from his home at Tullyear Avenue to the Quaker Meeting House in Bessbrook, before interment at Banbridge New Cemetery. Family flowers were placed on the grave and donations in lieu are being sent to William Bell and Co. Funeral Directors, 23 Kenlis Street, Banbridge, BT32 3LR for the Southern Area Hospice.