Sad farewell to Ernie Hamilton whose hotel was left in ruins by Claudy bombs
Orangemen formed a guard of honour yesterday at the funeral of former Ulster Unionist councillor Ernie Hamilton.
Hundreds of mourners gathered at Upper Cumber Presbyterian Church in Claudy to pay their respects.
Mr Hamilton, who was the owner of the Beaufort Hotel in the village in 1972 when three bombs exploded killing nine people, passed away on Friday at the age of 86.
Church of Ireland minister David McBeth delivered a moving tribute to Mr Hamilton during the service, describing him as "loyal and devoted".
Members of the Orange Order, including Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann, donned their collarettes and formed a guard of honour as Mr Hamilton's remains entered the church.
Mr Hamilton was also a member of the Apprentice Boys of Derry, the Royal Black Preceptory and the Freemasons.
The congregation was led by Mr Hamilton's widow Mary, who is a serving Derry City and Strabane District councillor, and the couple's three daughters and their families.
Also there were the Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Sinn Fein's Maoliosa McHugh, and independent unionist councillor, Maurice Devenney.
Rev McBeth told mourners: "We have come to pay tribute to Ernie Hamilton in all that he did and all that he was.
"Through our tears we can thank God for a life faithfully and generously lived.
"We shall all miss Ernie, especially his wife Mary and his children, Miriam, Eleanor and Heather and the grandchildren and the entire family circle.
"We also celebrate a man who lived a good life, he was a man who was loyal and devoted to his wife and that goes without question."
Rev McBeth said Mr Hamilton was born in 1932, growing up in Donemana as one of 13 children. He met Mary in July 1957 and was immediately smitten by her.
Rev McBeth said: "Ernie and Mary bought the Beaufort in 1971 and moved to live in Claudy but sadly in 1972 as we all know, three car bombs exploded in Claudy and he lost many good friends.
"It was a difficult time in the local community and a few short months later, in December 1972, Ernie lost his youngest brother and best man Ellis, who was shot by the IRA.
"This was a time we hope has long passed and it is a time now when we can move into the future and respect one another's traditions and culture."
Rev McBeth described how Mr Hamilton also made a contribution to local politics.
He said: "Ernie served on the local council for many years including one as Deputy Mayor of Londonderry with Mary's unwavering support and in latter years with her alongside him.
"When he retired from the council, he became a political adviser to Mary and a secretary from his recliner chair."
The minister concluded: "Ernie had many passions in his life but none more than his family, he adored and loved his wife.
"Mary would like to leave us with these words about Ernie: 'Happy, jolly, always content, loved, respected, wherever he went.
"'His life came to a sudden end, he died as he lived - everyone's friend. I have lost my life companion, a life like my own.
"'Only God knows how I'll manage as I journey on alone'."
After the funeral service, Mr Hamilton was laid to rest in Upper Cumber Cemetery.