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Big, bold and devoted to God: Ian Paisley's gravestone eulogises his life and ministry but says nothing of politics

By Ivan Little

Published 20/08/2015

The black granite headstone of the Rev Ian Paisley in Ballygowan, Co Down
The black granite headstone of the Rev Ian Paisley in Ballygowan, Co Down
Ian Paisley with his wife Eileen

The black headstone at his final resting place is just like the man himself.

It's big, it's imposing and it's unmissable in the tiny graveyard in Co Down that the Rev Ian Paisley chose for his burial.

As the first anniversary of the former First Minister's death approaches, the huge granite headstone says a lot about how he wanted to be remembered - as an evangelist and "faithful minister of the Gospel".

The headstone stands 4ft tall and 7ft wide but there's no mention on it of his political achievements.

The ex-DUP leader and long-serving North Antrim MP, who passed away on September 12 last year at the age of 88, was buried in a plot on a hillside in the graveyard beside Ballygowan's Free Presbyterian Church.

His funeral was attended only by his relatives and a handful of his trusted friends after his family decided against having a State funeral akin to the one accorded to footballer George Best.

Observers said the family's decision to keep his former allies away from the funeral underlined the divisions between Dr Paisley and members of the political party and the church he founded but which he said forced him out of office towards the end of his life.

The only link on the headstone with Dr Paisley's long and controversial political career is the inclusion on it of the coat of arms he adopted after he was elevated to the House of Lords in 2010.

Alongside the winged lions with trumpets, the words on the coat of arms 'In Bold Proclamation' are a reference to Ian Paisley's fiery style of preaching of the gospel.

At a memorial service in the Ulster Hall last October, his son Ian Paisley jnr joked about the motto.

"Dad could certainly speak out," he said. "You would never hear the words: 'Speak up Ian Paisley.'"

The inscription on the headstone reads: "Paisley: In loving memory of the Rev and Right Honorable (sic) the Lord Bannside Ian Richard Kyle, devoted husband of Eileen, loving father, grandfather and great-grandfather, faithful minister of the Gospel."

It says that Dr Paisley was born on April 6, 1926, but adds that he was born again on May 29, 1932.

That's a reference to his conversion to Christianity at the age of six at a children's meeting run by his mother Isabella.

The headstone says Ian Paisley was "called home" on September 12, 2014. A biblical quotation along the bottom of the headstone is from John 10:11.

It says, "I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep."

Dr Paisley's MP son said he and his family were pleased with the way the headstone looked.

"We just got it put up at the beginning of the month after the ground around the grave had settled," he said.

"I think it looks lovely. It just has his coat of arms on it and a scriptural text. We think it really looks the part."

Dozens of Dr Paisley's former political and church followers have been visiting the grave since his death.

See DebateNI, page 23

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