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Mourners recall a lady 'like sunshine' as tragic Maureen Buchanan is laid to rest

By Allan Preston

Published 15/04/2016

Friends and family at the funeral of Maureen Buchanan at Bloomfield Presbyterian Church yesterday
Friends and family at the funeral of Maureen Buchanan at Bloomfield Presbyterian Church yesterday
Friends and family at the funeral of Maureen Buchanan at Bloomfield Presbyterian Church yesterday
Maureen Buchanan

Mourners yesterday celebrated the life of an elderly woman killed in a motorway car crash with tears, laughter and music.

More than 300 people attended the service for Maureen Buchanan (80) at east Belfast's Bloomfield Presbyterian Church, of which she was a lifelong member.

As mourners arrived at the funeral, a brass band played and pictures of the "much-loved mum, nana and friend" were displayed on monitors in the building.

The images, with captions proclaiming Maureen "a good and faithful servant", showed her as a young woman on her wedding day, posing with a bike and singing with the church choir.

Scripture readings were heard from her son Peter and his wife Kate, as well as Mrs Buchanan's son-in-law John Coulter.

Rev Frank Sellar read an affectionate eulogy to Maureen - who died on the M1 last Friday - causing many to laugh at happy memories of the departed.

"If you had the chance, what would you like said about you once you were gone?" he asked.

"'A most wonderful Godly lady' and 'She lived to serve others'. Those are just two of the headlines that have been in the newspapers this past week."

Read more: M1 fatality Maureen Buchanan (80) was a 'gracious, warm and friendly Christian lady'

Maureen, born on May 7, 1935, grew up in a happy house in east Belfast with parents Irene and Sam O'Neill, along with her much-loved brother Albert.

Rev Sellar joked: "Van Morrison was very fortunate to have the O'Neill family as neighbours."

She picked up a lifelong passion for singing from her musical father, with her voice "taking her many places", Rev Sellar said.

"These included Radio Royal on a Sunday night, a prison ship where she sang to the inmates, and the Belfast Girls Singers where in the 1950s she was part of the support act for Petula Clark. As they say, not a lot of people knew that."

Mrs Buchanan never gave up singing and performed with her church choir for nearly 40 years.

At 14 she had her first date with David, who later become her husband. She married him in 1957 and they enjoyed "47 wonderful years together", raising their children Lynn and Peter.

Read more: Death crash car 'forced off road' by other vehicle

In the 1950s, Maureen started her working life as a proofreader for the Belfast Telegraph.

The congregation burst into laughter when Rev Sellar recalled: "She and some of her female colleagues naughtily put a notice in the personal columns, 'Young female brunette seeks male friendship. Meet in Royal Avenue opposite Belfast Telegraph at 6.30pm'. At 6.30pm, all the girls lined up at the window to see who arrived and to see if it was worth the effort."

Messages were read from grandchildren Jonathan and Hollie during the service.

"Nana would always tell me how proud she was of me," read Jonathan's tribute. "She was patient but could still be strict if needs be and, of course, she was always a little posh.

Hollie's tribute read: "Nana was like sunshine - she brightened everyone up and warmth radiated from her."

When she died last Friday, Mrs Buchanan was travelling on the M1 to a weekend in Newry with her friends Margaret Ball, who remains in a critical condition in hospital, Belle Heaney and Rosemary Cowan.

Rev Sellar said a visiting pastor to the church had remarked: "When Maureen died, she was with good Christian friends and on the way to meet with God."

The service was followed shortly afterwards by committal at Redburn Cemetery.

Belfast Telegraph

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