Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Viewpoint: Sense of adventure must prevail

In a humdrum world in which so much of life is wrapped up in red tape and protocol, John Thompson was clearly somebody who was prepared to break free. His lifelong dream had been to sail his yacht across the Atlantic but the adventure, so near to a successful conclusion, has ended in disaster.

Mr Thompson died this week in a hospital in Barbados after receiving a fatal head injury when his boat Avocet was hit by a freak wave. He never regained consciousness and despite the best efforts of doctors he passed away with his family from Bangor at his bedside.

For the Thompson family it is a devastating blow. But as they try to come to terms with their loss they have valiantly set up a charitable trust to enable organ donations to take place at the hospital in which the 54-year-old barrister died.

Because such facilities were not available the family were unable to honour Mr Thompson's wish to donate his organs to others. Some good may yet come out of this tragedy, in that his legacy will be the upgrading of services at the hospital.

To judge from the photographs that have been published of a beaming and bearded John Thompson, he was not your stereotype lawyer. He cuts the image of someone who was up for a challenge and friends have said he had long savoured the prospect of taking on the Atlantic.

Thanks to the marvels of modern communication it was possible for friends and family to follow the progress of Avocet by means of his daily captain's log on the internet. The messages make a poignant read now, but they paint a picture of an optimist blessed with a wry sense of humour.

The world is the poorer for Mr Thompson's passing, but this grim event must not be allowed to suppress the spirit of adventure which still manifests itself in so many people.

Whether it is Hannah Shields from Kilrea scaling Everest or Janet Gray from Hillsborough who resumed her blind water ski-ing career after sustaining terrible injuries, there are still so many ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Their derring-do lifts everyone's horizons and shows just what a dose of determination can achieve.

Day and daily people in Northern Ireland are setting themselves new challenges, both large and small. Everyone needs a goal at which to aim and a dream to pursue.

The rigours of modern life and worries about family, finance or health cannot be allowed to grind us down. Life is there to be lived, and obstacles are there to be overcome.

The tributes show that John Thompson was someone who was widely respected, and he will be mourned by his family and friends, particularly those in the sailing fraternity. But the sense of adventure which he epitomised must survive. Life's boundaries must continue to be pushed back.

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