Belfast Telegraph

UUP's Robert Overend never bowed to republican threats, say family

By Claire McNeilly

Former Ulster Unionist politician Robert Overend, who died on Sunday aged 86 following a long illness, never allowed numerous republican threats on his life to intimidate him.

Mr Overend's youngest son Nigel - husband of UUP's Sandra Overend - also said his father was a "strong person" who was family-orientated and "very strongly influenced by his church".

The pig farmer, who was from Bellaghy, Co Londonderry, will also be remembered as an influential member of the Vanguard Unionist Progressive Party in the mid-1970s, later joining the United Ulster Unionist Party.

He was a member of Magherafelt District Council and also part of the Constitutional Convention.

During his time in politics Mr Overend and his family were repeatedly targeted by the INLA, with one booby trap bomb attack in 1982 resulting in his son Robert being seriously injured.

Nigel said their dad had survived a number of assassination attempts prior to his retirement.

He said: "The house was blown up twice. He and my other two brothers survived three booby trap devices.

"He came through a lot.

"He was a strong person. He was somebody who was never intimidated and he always kept going at whatever it was he had invested his time in.

"He never bowed down to anything like that."

Mr Overend was a lifelong member of the Orange Order who held a number of positions in the County and Grand Lodge, including deputy grand master.

He was ex-chairman of the British Pig Association and a former National Pharmacy Association board member.

Mr Overend owned Deerpark Pedigree Pigs - a worldwide exporter - and continued to work in the business in partnership with his sons Robert and Nigel and his grandsons in recent years. He had also been breeding pigs since 1958.

He was given a European Award for Agriculture for his contribution to the genetic improvement of pigs in the UK in 1990. Six years later he received an MBE for his devotion to the pig industry.

A week ago he retired from the board of governors at Bellaghy Primary School, which his grandchildren and great grandchildren currently attend, after 48 years.

Nigel said his father became "heavily involved" with any organisations he joined.

"First and foremost he was a very family-orientated person and very strongly influenced by his church," he said.

"He has helped to mould all his children and grandchildren and has helped to instil a strong sense of work ethic in us and always to try and achieve the best we can and walk the straight path."

Mr Overend is survived by his wife Reena and children Robert, Elizabeth, Wesley and Nigel.

His funeral took place yesterday in Ballyscullion Parish Church.

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