Belfast Telegraph

Huge turnout at Adrian Ismay funeral for 'a big man with a big heart'

The turnout at Adrian Ismay's funeral reflected the character of the man mourned - big.

"He was a big man with a big heart," his close friend and brother-in-law Ron Abrahams told the hundreds packed inside Woodvale Methodist Church in Belfast and the many more in the adjacent church hall or lining the streets outside.

"If he could help he would, he never distinguished people by religion, race or colour - people were his priority."

The same larger-than-life traits were emphasised by church minister Colin Duncan.

"Izzy was a man of big stature and big personality and a big heart for people and his community," he said.

The picture sketched for the congregation - of a kind-hearted family man who devoted almost all his spare time to community service - was the very antithesis of those who planted the bomb that ultimately killed him.

Of the 250 operations launched by the Community Rescue Service in 2015, Mr Ismay, or Izzy to all who knew him well, was involved in 200 of them.

Mr Duncan recounted one occasion when he had to abandon Christmas dinner with his family to take part in another volunteer search mission.

"It is a mark of his character and personality that when they called he went, and he went without question and if somebody needed help, Izzy was there," said the cleric.

His volunteering extended to the Scouts and St John Ambulance Service.

"His priority was to help others," said Mr Duncan.

Born in Carlisle in Cumbria, Mr Ismay served six years in the Royal Navy, seeing action in the Falklands War on board HMS Minerva and HMS Illustrious.

His final posting in the Navy was in Northern Ireland and that is where he met his future wife Sharon, at a function on board HMS Caroline.

No coincidence the last hymn sung at his funeral used a nautical metaphor to urge steadfastness in troubled times - Will Your Anchor Hold.

The choice of the first hymn - Give Thanks - reflected another of the father of three's great passions: rugby.

It shares the same tune as the anthem of his beloved Ulster Rugby team - "Stand up for the Ulstermen".

Mr Ismay had been due to travel to the Aviva Stadium in Dublin last weekend to see Ireland take on Scotland in the last game of the Six Nations.

He had also been looking forward to a long-planned family holiday in Florida.

His fourth grandchild was on the way and his daughter Tori was soon to be married.

The long-serving prison officer was a "devoted husband, father and grandfather", mourners were told.

Mr Duncan acknowledged his loss had grievously hurt his other family - the Prison Service.

As prison officers gathered outside the church, without uniforms and standing well away from the phalanx of media cameras, the minister noted how difficult it was for them to know their colleague was targeted because of the job he did.

There were lighter moments in the service too.

Mr Abrahams recalled his friend's great sense of fun and the many times they shared together trading stories at the bar.

"He was generous to a fault, was always first to get the round in and usually last man standing," he said, recounting one notable exception at a wedding when "his feet couldn't keep time with his brain and he landed on his backside on the dance floor".

In summing up a life that "touched so many", his friend expressed hope his memory would not fade.

"Someone once said that you die twice - firstly in the physical world and secondly when the last person who remembers you says your name," he said.

"Let us hope and pray that the name of Adrian Thompson Ismay will be remembered and spoken of for a very long time."

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