Belfast Telegraph

Minister Eric Borland who toured Belfast Blitz sites being laid to rest

By Eamon Sweeney

The last remaining Presbyterian clergyman in Ireland to be ordained during the Second World War has died.

Rev Eric Borland passed away on Saturday, aged 101.

He will be laid to rest today.

Raised in Londonderry, Rev Borland was licensed as a minister in his home congregation at Great James Street Presbyterian Church in the city in June 1940.

On the very weekend he entered religious life thousands of soldiers in the British Expeditionary Force were being evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk.

During the Second World War, Rev Borland spent a period at Westbourne Presbyterian Church on the Newtownards Road in Belfast and had the dreadful duty of touring the city's morgues after the Nazis' blitz on the city, which claimed around 900 lives.

Speaking last year, ahead of his 100th birthday, he recalled: "It was a very difficult time, with stiff restrictions in place and half the city evacuated every night. Hundreds of people just left the Newtownards Road and other parts of the city and headed to the hills to avoid the bombs. They watched the raids there, hoping their houses would still be there in the morning.

"I couldn't leave. I had to stay in case the church caught fire. Fortunately, they missed the church but hit the hall, which was destroyed.

"One of my duties was to go around the public mortuaries and see if people belonging to Westbourne were there. It was a very difficult time.

"We lived just a few doors down from the church in Great James Street and all seven of us attended as a family. Home had a big influence on me. Both my parents were good churchgoers and in those days it was expected that church became a part of your life.

"My father, a Donegal man, was in the choir and taught in Sunday school. He was a strong Presbyterian and was asked to be an elder."

The clergyman professed his faith at the age of 14, crediting his family and TS Mooney of the Belfast Savings Bank, who founded the Crusaders in Derry.

The faith of youth was a theme that remained important to Rev Borland.

When asked was there anything of significance that remained a constant in his time in service, he recalled: "Seeing young people make a profession of their faith. It always made me feel very humble that I should be used in this way. But very happy about it too."

In his time as a clergyman Reverend Borland also served in Downpatrick, Bangor, north Belfast and Burnside Church Extension in Portstewart.

He arrived in the seaside town in 1978 and retired whilst in that position in 1983, but was still minister emeritus for the church. Rev Eric Borland will be buried after a service at St John's Church today.

He is survived by his wife of almost 70 years, Muriel, his daughter Lois and son-in-law Nicholas, grandchildren Robert, Heather and Philip and great-grandchildren Daniel and Toby.

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