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Man dies at graveside during wife's funeral in Northern Ireland

By Claire Williamson

A community has been left in shock after a Co Antrim man died during his wife's funeral.

James McCallister was attending the funeral of his wife Kathleen in Cushendall on Wednesday after she passed away on Monday.

They were both aged in their 70s.

Mr McCallister was shaking hands with people after attending his wife's Requiem Mass at St Mary's Church when he took unwell.

People had been paying their respects when when he collapsed at his wife's graveside.

Fr Luke McWilliams officiated at the service and said they were all in shock. He said that that parishioners tried for a long time to revive Mr McCallister.

He said: "A lot of people were standing around praying and hoping he would recover.

"There was a very big attendance at the funeral of Kathleen and a lot were in attendance when Jimmy died by her graveside."

Fr McWilliams said he knew the family since they had come to the parish and said they were a "very well respected couple" who had a lot of family connections in the area.

He said: "They were very good people, very active parishioners

"It was very sad and very moving. People were very much shocked by it.

"It's very rare for that to happen you don't come across it very often."

Mr McCallister is survived by a number of brothers who were consoling each other on Wednesday night as the remains were brought to the home.

Tributes have been paid to the man who had strong ties with the Ruairí Óg hurling club.

Friend Aidan McAteer who is a former colleague and the chair of the hurling club paid tribute to him as  "good-hearted man".

He said: I've known him all my life since he was a young lad. He became a personal friend and worked with him for a number of years in the rivers agency.

"He was a great character and a great man to work with.

"He was a real good-hearted man and great fun and craic.  The working day never seemed that long with him."

Mr McAteer was at the funeral when the devastating scenes unfolded.

He said: "The whole community is in shock. You can only imagine what the family is feeling.

"You couldn't believe what was happening, his wife had been buried and people were doing their condolences and then he just collapse and that was it.

"The circumstances have just shocked everybody with the way it happened."

He added: "He never took life too seriously and always took time to have a bit of craic.

Former Sinn Fein MLA Oliver McMullan, was also at the funeral and knew the man for many years.

He told the Irish News: "He was very, very well known within the Glens and further afield.

“They were always part of the community and the first to be there if there was anything to be done in the hurling club.

“That's the type of community the Glens is, close knit and it's a devastating blow for the community.”

Mr McCallister's funeral will take place on Friday at St Mary's Church.

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