Andrew McMaster, who has died aged 92, is believed to have been the last survivor of a team of aircraft engineers and fitters who worked against the clock at Langford Lodge — the American Air Force repair depot on the banks of Lough Neagh during the Second World War.
Andy, as he was known to his friends, was a clerk of works organising repairs.
All kinds of American aircraft were brought by road to Langford Lodge, close to Aldergrove, and a special railway was built from Crumlin to the base.
Andy, who settled in the village of Killead close to Aldergrove RAF station, worked, too, at Nutt’s Corner — another wartime base where American planes were landed to be made operational for the battle ahead. He also worked at Short & Harland during the Belfast Blitz.
When the all-clear came, Mr McMaster was commissioned by the Air Ministry to go abroad to work on contracts in places like Aden and the Maldives in the 1960s.
“Men like Andrew McMaster were vital to the war effort with their expertise and know-how about aircraft,” said Ernie Cromie, aviation historian at the Ulster Aviation Society.
“And today they are a dying breed as time has caught up with them.”
But Andy, who was married to Dorothy, who survives him, for 69 years, always loved being around home, too, which was the family bungalow at Drennan’s Road next to Killead Presbyterian Church.
It was at the Killead church where his funeral service was conducted by his friend and former minister the Rev Derek Weir.
In fact Andy, father of Ian and Wilma and grandfather to Ian’s twins Richard and Paul and to widow Wilma’s daughter Deborah Allison, was a native of Ballycran in Co Down who in his early days rode his bike to his place of employment as a joiner at Glenavy every Monday morning, returning home at the weekend.
He met and fell in love with the young 20-year-old Dorothy Laird, who lived in the Glenavy district, and after their nuptials set up house first of all at Carmavy Road, Killead, before they built their dream home at Drennan’s Road 61 years
“My father didn’t talk a lot about his labours at Langford in those blackout years,” said son Ian. “I only know it was a hectic time in his life.
“There were a lot of fitters, mechanics and engineers who worked there with him and he could indeed be the last of a great bunch of men who did important repair and operational work on that base on the edge of Lough Neagh.
“However, in retirement father loved his garden and he was always sowing seeds. He adored trees, too, and he planted a border of them between our place and neighbouring Killead Presbyterian Church and they are still flourishing there to this day as a testament to his life.”
In his heyday Andy had 70,000 daffodils and 30,000 crocuses in season in his garden and he gave most away to a shop in Antrim so they would be available for people to decorate loved ones’ graves.