Belfast Telegraph

Cushendall mourns as man who died at wife's funeral laid to rest

By Victoria Leonard

Hundreds of mourners have attended the funeral of a farmer who died as his wife was being buried.

James McAlister passed away at his beloved wife Kathleen's graveside. He became unwell while shaking hands with people at St Mary's Church in Cushendall earlier this week.

Despite the efforts of a doctor attending Kathleen's funeral, and a first response team who were on the scene with a defibrillator within minutes, Mr McAlister was pronounced dead.

The rural church was packed yesterday morning, and mourners queued outside to pay their respects to the popular local man.

During the service prayers were said for those who tried to save Mr McAlister's life just two days earlier.

"We wish to commend all those who helped in any way in James's last moments, especially Dr Kane, nurses and first responders," said a relative, Christine. "We are grateful for their care and support."

Fr Luke McWilliams, who led both services, told the congregation that Mr McAlister, known to friends as 'Big Jas,' was a "much-loved family man".

"He was at the centre of the McAlister family circle," Fr McWilliams added.

"He will be mightily missed. He was a well-known man in the Glens, particularly for his quick wit and storytelling skills.

"James had great faith in the Eucharist and in the Rosary, which he said every evening without fail.

"He was a reassuring presence for me at the back of the church, he would arrive half-an-hour before the service began, to say Rosary and make his preparation for Mass."

Fr McWilliams paid tribute to Mr McAlister's devotion to his wife, and his love of GAA.

He had been an employee of the Rivers Agency, retiring 10 years ago to work on his farm.

Former East Antrim MLA Oliver McMullan knows the family well and attended both funerals.

"James's death at Kathleen's funeral was a very sad and shocking event," he said.

"James was a big GAA man in (local club) Ruairi Og, he was involved in that all his life and his whole family are big supporters. It's so sad for the Glens, we have lost one of our more charismatic members."

Mr McAlister is survived by his brothers Dan, John and Alex, nephew John James, niece Marie, sister-in-law Mary and nephew Danny.

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