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Brian Courtney: Orchard County apple grower was proud family man and a loyal friend to many

Brian Courtney was incredibly proud of his family. He was proud of their academic achievements, their sporting success and all they had done in their careers.

He and his wife Briege had four children and three beautiful grandchildren and the Courtney home in Annahugh, Co Armagh, was always full of love and craic.

All the children brought their friends to the house over the years. Whether it was a crowd of cousins deconstructing a night out, a bus load of Queen's footballers taking a detour for a bowl of Briege's famous soup and sandwiches, or a gang off the train from Trinity College, Brian and Briege had an open door, the kettle on and the food out.

They first met almost 40 years ago - their first date was after Mass in Stonebridge on the Feast of the Assumption. Brian, from Stonebridge, always said Briege McQuade, from neighbouring Loughgall, was the best looking girl in Co Armagh and they got married in 1980 and set up home halfway between the parishes.

Brian was an apple grower like his father Tommy and also imported fruit, packing them in his yard at Stonebridge and selling them in Smithfield fruit market in Dublin.

He was a great businessman but a man of principles. He was as straight as a die and true to his word.

Away from work and family he loved cars, lorries and motorbikes and was constantly called on to help negotiate deals for friends. In fact, he always seemed to be helping others. He was a great man for picking up people who needed a lift, or standing up for those unable to stand up for themselves. It didn't matter who it was or what problem, he was there.

Sport was also a big part of his life. Brian fought for the Ulster heavyweight title as a young man and supported his children as they boxed and played Gaelic football, including watching with pride as his son Paul won the Sigerson Cup with Queen's in 2007 and lined out for Armagh.

He was a very religious man and a proud pioneer, although he always managed to be the life and soul of any party. A great storyteller, he was by turns counsellor and philosopher as well as wonderful friend.

Brian Courtney died at home on December 23 surrounded by loving relatives. He is sadly missed by his wife Briege, children Mel, Caroline, Paul and Martin, as well as daughters-in-law Roisin and Elaine, grandchildren Conall, Niamh and Ronan and the broader Courtney and McQuade family circle.

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