Late cleric loved both church and boys in green, mourners told
The late Canon Edgar Turner was such a dedicated Northern Ireland football supporter that he climbed a back wall at Windsor Park to get into the ground to witness goalkeeper Pat Jennings win his 100th cap in 1983.
The long-time rector of St George's, High Street, Belfast, who was also a Derry City supporter since its formation in 1928, had been delayed at a church meeting and had arrived late at Windsor to find the gates locked, but found his own way of getting in.
The story was told by his friend, the Venerable David Pierpoint, Archdeacon of Dublin, at his funeral in St George's Church which was packed with a large congregation including representatives from church, professional, community and sporting life.
In a moving and often humorous homily, Archdeacon Pierpoint referred to Canon Turner's love for the beautiful game.
"He endeavoured never to miss a Northern Ireland home game. He was recognised as the team's oldest travelling supporter (at 96), even making it to the Faroe Islands last year, and he was already booked for the European finals in France."
Canon Turner's lifelong support of the Northern Ireland team was symbolised by the presence of Patrick Nelson, the Chief Executive of the IFA, who read a lesson.
The order of service booklet featured a picture of Canon Turner wearing his Northern Ireland green jersey and cap. In his tribute, Archdeacon Pierpoint said: "Edgar was not just a man who hung around holy people, and this is evidenced by so many here today who have perhaps little or no faith. He never judged people who didn't believe in God, but he saw God in all people."
The Archdeacon also underlined Mr Turner's precision and loquaciousness.
"Many people know the story of one cleric asking Edgar a question as the Enterprise train pulled out of Belfast, and still listening to his considered response as they arrived in Dublin. Football fans travelling to Slovenia will know this only too well."
Canon Turner's strong support for ecumenism and the NI Mixed Marriage Association to which he was chaplain, was reflected in the wide cross-community congregation, and the Gospel was read by Jesuit priest Fr Tom Layden.
Edgar Turner's comprehensive service to St George's, and the Church of Ireland at large was also underlined by Archdeacon Pierpoint.
"He wasn't just a man with a voice and brain and sociability - he could clean drains, erect precarious scaffolding to fix and change light bulbs, climb on to the roof to fix slates and much more. But above all else, he was a man of devotion and moral character, of self-discipline and prayer."