Belfast Telegraph

Ex-Belfast Telegraph man Billy Simpson 'enriched all our lives', mourners told

The funeral of Billy Simpson at Roselawn
The funeral of Billy Simpson at Roselawn
Former Belfast Telegraph colleagues Roy Smyth and Gerry FitzGerald at the service
Billy Simpson
Ivan Little

By Ivan Little

Mourners at the funeral of former Belfast Telegraph journalist Billy Simpson have heard that his humorous Monday column shone a shaft of light into the darkness of Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

Mr Simpson passed away on Friday aged 84.

A service of thanksgiving was held at Roselawn Crematorium yesterday afternoon.

Billy's one-time colleague Billy Graham, who knew him from their early days on the Newtownards Spectator, said his lifelong friend was "deadly quick-witted" and that a duel of words with him would leave only one winner, but there was never any malice.

"When the occasion demanded, Billy put humbug to the sword or took out a bully," said Mr Graham.

"He loved words and instinctively knew how to use them, producing thoughtful and beautifully crafted reports and features, often against the tightest of deadlines.

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Former Belfast Telegraph colleagues Roy Smyth and Gerry FitzGerald at the service

"When in his company, laughter flowed as naturally as the air. He enriched all our lives."

Former Belfast Telegraph editor Martin Lindsay was among the mourners. Also present were friends and ex-colleagues, including Chris Kelly, Mary Kelly, John Hicks, Roy Shepherd, Don McAleer, Roy Smyth, Gerry FitzGerald and Alan Lewis.

Another friend, John Caruth, read a tribute from Billy's niece, Elizabeth, who said her uncle kept all the letters of thanks that he received from readers over the 28 years that he wrote his much-loved column.

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Billy Simpson

Another ex-Telegraph journalist, Keith Baker, read an excerpt from one of Billy's books of Ulster wit. The story dealt with how some people, including Billy's wife, sometimes could not remember the names of friends or everyday items.

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