Belfast Telegraph

Rescue teams pay tribute to volunteer and life-saver Uel

By Donna Deeney

Mourners at the funeral of one of Londonderry's leading rescue volunteers were yesterday urged to be inspired by the life he led saving others.

Members of both Foyle Search and Rescue and the North West Mountain Rescue were among those who joined the family of Uel Hamilton (72) at Kilfennan Presbyterian Church for his funeral service.

The Rev Rob Craig told the congregation how Mr Hamilton founded the North West Mountain Rescue 36 years ago.

He later joined Foyle Search and Rescue and dedicated his life to protecting others.

"I am sure Uel had little notion of what he was beginning when he became one of the founding members of the North West Mountain Rescue Team some 36 years ago," the Rev Craig said.

"Whether it was a farmer whose sheep was at risk or a member of the public, only those of you who have served on such rescue missions with Uel will know how many times he was out there with you, in all kinds of weather and situations. And how many are today grateful for the work of the rescue team?

"As if that wasn't enough Uel was to find fulfilment also in his roles within Foyle Search and Rescue.

"I doubt that, when he began as caretaker some 22 years ago, he had any idea that in June of this year he would receive a special recognition award as their longest-serving volunteer."

Mr Hamilton died on Saturday after a six-year battle with cancer.

Since his passing, many tributes have been paid by current and former volunteers of both sets of volunteers.

The Rev Craig added: "As we remember him today, let's take away this from all our memories.

"Some 36 years ago Uel and others had a vision; I mean very simply that they saw the need and saw how they could try and meet that need.

"They didn't let the difficulties put them off; they were dedicated to the task.

"They started with nothing other than what they had themselves - their own equipment and cars.

"But they had a vision and they grew it," he added

"What better tribute could we pay to Uel than this; that if we see a need and see that we can do something about it, that we act in response to that vision."

The Rev Craig also asked those gathered to look at their own lives.

"At a time of loss and bereavement we can all stop and reflect, as we have looked back over Uel's life and see a pattern," he said.

"I don't know when the call will come again - to the mountains or to the river.

"I do know that those of you who have shared with Uel in rescues and who have inherited his experience and skill will be ready and willing go.

"We see in Uel and his fellow team workers that volunteering is vital.

"Be it for either of these rescue teams, be it 'out in the action' or behind the scenes.

"Or be it in some other way, when you next are asked to do something, when you next are asked to volunteer, do it in memory of Uel."

Following Mr Hamilton's funeral service he was laid to rest at Ballyoan Cemetery.

Belfast Telegraph

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