The First and Deputy First Ministers headed the list of the great and the good who gathered to pay their last respects to distinguished Press photographer John Harrison yesterday.
Mr Harrison died suddenly last Friday, aged only 50, just hours after accompanying the Executive leaders on a trade mission to Washington.
It is understood he had lunch with Mr Robinson in Washington the day before he died, and sat next to Mr McGuinness on the plane home.
The Hillhall Presbyterian Church near Lisburn and its adjoining hall were filled to overflowing as mourners spilled out into the churchyard.
Fellow photographers and media colleagues mixed with models, athletes, PR people, civil servants, councillors, police and friends of Mr Harrison from all walks of life, all of whom knew him well through his years as one of Northern Ireland’s most distinguished and popular snappers.
The media world has been devastated by Mr Harrison’s untimely passing and many of his friends could be seen shaking their heads as they exchanged glances with each other during the ceremony, still unable to take in the fact their popular colleague, who was known as the life and soul of every gathering, was gone.
Other notable people present included DUP ministers Nigel Dodds and Arlene Foster, MP Ian Paisley Jr, SDLP MP Mark Durkan, former Victims Commissioner Mike Nesbitt and his wife Lynda Bryans, and TV presenters Adrian Logan and Jackie Fullerton.
Olympic gold medallist Dame Mary Peters also attended.
She said: “It’s a very sad day and still so hard to believe — it’s awful.”
Former First Minister Ian Paisley was also present and gave a fu
neral oration for Mr Harrison, reflecting that he always thought the photographer would be around to record his own passing.
Rev Paul Jamieson told the congregation that John was one of life’s true gentlemen, who made people feel special, and who was almost without fail cheerful and ready with a quip.
The minister said the photographer had touched the lives of many, many people, as was evident from the huge crowd at his thanksgiving service.
Mr Harrison’s 21-year-old son Peter made a moving address, reflecting on his father’s illustrious career where he had been welcomed in the White House by three different US Presidents.
In conclusion he said simply: “He was my hero. He was my dad.”
Mr Harrison is survived by his parents, his wife Mandy and children Peter, Thomas and Catherine. He was buried in Lisburn’s Blaris New Cemetery.
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