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Tributes pour in for Elizabeth Nicholson, the MEP's wife who survived ambush by terrorists

By Laurence White

Published 19/05/2015

Elizabeth with her husband Jim on the campaign trail in the Eighties
Elizabeth with her husband Jim on the campaign trail in the Eighties
Elizabeth on the family farm
Elizabeth Nicholson doing the ironing in her kitchen

Tributes have been paid to Elizabeth Nicholson, the first Lady Mayoress of Armagh and wife of long-serving Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson.

Mrs Nicholson, who was aged 70, had been ill for some considerable time.

Her son Sam said: "She is now at peace."

Mrs Nicholson narrowly escaped with her life when her car was ambushed by a republican gun gang in 1987.

Her son Jonathan and daughter Ruth were also in the vehicle at the time.

The RUC and gardai later blamed the attack on a gang led by the so-called Border Fox, Dessie O'Hare, and the intended target was her husband.

The gang held neighbours of the Nicholsons captive while they carried out the ambush. The vehicle was hit several times but none of the occupants were injured.

Jonathan flung himself across his young sister to protect her when the gunfire began.

Sam said: "Fortunately, neither my mum nor my brother or sisters her physically hurt, but the attack left its mark on her mentally."

He described his mum as a typical farmer's wife, who got on with running the farm while her husband's political career prospered.

The couple had seven children, six boys and a girl, and they family helped out on the farm as they got older.

"She stayed in the background most of the time," Sam added.

"However she made her mark when she became the first Lady Mayoress of Armagh after it was granted city status in 1995." Former Ulster Unionist Party leader Sir Reg Empey said Mrs Nicholson had displayed great courage during the 1987 ambush.

"It left a considerable legacy with her but she continued to raise her family and there was great sympathy in the community for her after the ordeal she went through."

He added: "The Nicholson's are a great Ulster Unionist family and her son Sam is now a councillor on the new Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council.

"The family tradition of civic service is now well established."

Mrs Nicholson's funeral takes place today at St Mary's Parish Church, Aghavilly.

She is survived by husband, Jim, sons Samuel, David, Mark, Jonathan, Paul and Matthew and daughter Ruth.

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