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Alderman Charles Johnston: Congregation sings mayor's favourite ballad in farewell tribute

The coffin of Carrickfergus mayor Alderman Charles Johnston - who has died at 64 after a long illness - was carried out of the town's Methodist Church with the congregation singing his favourite ballad.

The song was the romantic I Loved Her First by the country group Heartland to which Charles danced with his daughter Charlene at her wedding.

East Antrim MLA David Hilditch was among those to pay tribute to Mr Johnston, a close friend with whom he went to watch Carrick Rangers play.

"He asked that it should be sung as the service ended," Mr Hilditch, a former mayor and chairman of Carrick Rangers, said.

A round of applause in tribute to the DUP politician echoed around Seaview last Saturday when Rangers met Crusaders in an Irish Cup tie. When Rangers won the Steel & Sons Cup at Christmas, the officials and players took the trophy to his hospital bed.

"Everyone at the club and in the town respected this remarkable character," said Mr Hilditch.

"Charlie was in his fourth term as mayor and agreed to take on the post this final time last June even though he was already in poor health. This is a sad time for the borough which he served well for years. He was active in a wide range of organisations including the Orange Order and had been chairman of Greenisland Primary School Board of Governors."

Sheila McClelland, town clerk and chief executive of the council, said Mr Johnston was "revered by many" adding: "It is with particular poignancy that Alderman Johnston was first elected to serve on Carrickfergus Borough Council, in its inaugural year in 1973, culminating in his sad passing only a matter of weeks prior to the expiration of Carrickfergus Borough Council."

Mr Johnston is survived by his wife Patricia, son Samuel and daughter Charlene.

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