Tributes as radio star Geordie Tuft laid to rest
A phone-in contributor whose wit and country wisdom brought joy to thousands of radio listeners was described by friends as a "real character" as he was laid to rest.
Around 120 close friends and family of the popular Geordie Tuft gathered yesterday to pay their final respects to the Loughbrickland farmer.
Mr Tuft found fame on the airwaves as a regular called to Gerry Anderson's Radio Ulster show, bringing listeners rural advice that swiftly descended into a double act of banter with the late Derry broadcaster.
The body of Geordie (78) was found on March 1 after a fire at his home on Legananny Road.
But mourners attending his funeral learned he actually died after suffering a heart attack.
A family friend said Geordie had been out shopping on March 1 with another friend and when they went back to his house he lit a fire, but was short of firewood.
Geordie asked the friend to go and buy some wood and went upstairs.
While the friend was away the house caught fire.
Geordie was later found upstairs in his bed and a post-mortem confirmed he died of a heart attack.
During yesterday's service in Aghaderg Parish Church in Loughbrickland, attended by Radio Foyle presenter Sean Coyle, Mickey Bradley of The Undertones, and the UUP's Jo-Anne Dobson, mourners heard a tribute from Geordie's son Eddie, who called his dad "a true character".
He said: "Geordie's passions were nature, the countryside and his animals. He had a lot of famous animals including Tiny the dog. Tiny was not a gracious animal, he bit everyone.
"He was always good craic and just couldn't wait for the Gerry Anderson Show during which he always enjoyed a cuppa with a nip of something in it."
Geordie was well-known for his witty contributions to the show and always left listeners in stitches following his impromptu call-ins to Anderson.
Geordie was a farmer and kept animals including Tiny and Billy the goat, although by far the most famous in his yard was Bin Laden the one-eyed donkey.
In fact, Geordie and friend of 20 years Johnny Fee from Tamnamore travelled to many shows across Ireland with their donkey and cart. Johnny held a painting of his friend at the funeral and said he will miss him dearly.
He said: "I could tell you many stories about me, Geordie and the donkey. In fact, the donkey was allowed to enter more pubs in the district than we were.
"My daughter Geraldine painted Geordie and it took three sittings and three bottles of whiskey to get it finished.
"He was a great character. We travelled many places together and his memory will live for a long time with me."
Geordie's ex-wife Susan paid tribute to her former husband of 20 years.
"He really was a character. Although we were divorced for the past 14 years I often heard him offering his words of wisdom to listeners on the radio."
His sister Violet said Geordie was a very caring man.
"We enjoyed lengthy phone calls together and I always enjoyed the chats."
Conducting the service was the Rev Karl Teggarty, who admitted never having met Geordie or heard him on the radio.
He said: "Even though I did not know him I have heard so many stories about Geordie recently that it feels like I knew him.
"None of those stories, incidentally, I can repeat from this pulpit."