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Tribute met with applause as legendary boxing figure BJ Eastwood is laid to rest

The funeral was held on Friday of one of Northern Ireland boxing's "brightest stars" - the legendary promoter and businessman Barney 'BJ' Eastwood.

Mr Eastwood passed away on Monday aged 87 after a short illness.

He is survived by his wife Frances, daughter Fiona, sons Brian, Peter, Adrian, Stephen and Fearghal, and the wider family circle.

Born in Cookstown in 1932, he worked with former world featherweight champion Barry McGuigan.

Their relationship ended in a bitter legal battle following which the boxing promoter was awarded £450,000 in damages.

Mr Eastwood, who also worked with champions Dave McAuley and Paul Hodkinson, founded a chain of betting shops, which he later sold for more than £100m.

He also had a lifelong love of Gaelic football.

In 1948 Mr Eastwood was part of the first Tyrone minor team to win back-to-back All Ireland titles.

Speaking at his funeral on Friday at St Colmcille's Church, Holywood, sports commentator Jim Neilly reflected on some of the unforgettable moments in boxing he shared with his friend but said Mr Eastwood's greatest moment was the day he married Frances.

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Barney Eastwood’s wife Frances and family

Barney Eastwood’s wife Frances and family

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Barney Eastwood’s wife Frances and family

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The coffin is carried from St Colmcille's Church, Holywood, Co Down at the funeral of boxing promoter and bookmaker Barney Eastwood.

The coffin is carried from St Colmcille's Church, Holywood, Co Down at the funeral of boxing promoter and bookmaker Barney Eastwood.

PA

Frances Eastwood wife of Barney  pictured as she arrives at the church

Frances Eastwood wife of Barney pictured as she arrives at the church

Presseye/Stephen Hamilton

Mourners leave following the funeral of boxing promoter and bookmaker Barney Eastwood at St Colmcille's Church, Holywood, Co Down. PA Photo. Picture date: Friday March 13, 2020. See PA story FUNERAL Eastwood. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Mourners leave following the funeral of boxing promoter and bookmaker Barney Eastwood at St Colmcille's Church, Holywood, Co Down. PA Photo. Picture date: Friday March 13, 2020. See PA story FUNERAL Eastwood. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

PA

Former boxer Dave 'Boy' McAuley leaves the church following the funeral of boxing promoter and bookmaker Barney Eastwood at St Colmcille's Church, Holywood, Co Down. PA Photo. Picture date: Friday March 13, 2020. See PA story FUNERAL Eastwood. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Former boxer Dave 'Boy' McAuley leaves the church following the funeral of boxing promoter and bookmaker Barney Eastwood at St Colmcille's Church, Holywood, Co Down. PA Photo. Picture date: Friday March 13, 2020. See PA story FUNERAL Eastwood. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

PA

Barney Eastwood

Barney Eastwood

Frances Eastwood (right) leaves the church following the funeral of her husband, boxing promoter and bookmaker Barney Eastwood, at St Colmcille's Church, Holywood, Co Down. PA Photo. Picture date: Friday March 13, 2020. See PA story FUNERAL Eastwood. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Frances Eastwood (right) leaves the church following the funeral of her husband, boxing promoter and bookmaker Barney Eastwood, at St Colmcille's Church, Holywood, Co Down. PA Photo. Picture date: Friday March 13, 2020. See PA story FUNERAL Eastwood. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

PA

The coffin is carried from St Colmcille's Church, Holywood, Co Down at the funeral of boxing promoter and bookmaker Barney Eastwood. PA Photo. Picture date: Friday March 13, 2020. See PA story FUNERAL Eastwood. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

The coffin is carried from St Colmcille's Church, Holywood, Co Down at the funeral of boxing promoter and bookmaker Barney Eastwood. PA Photo. Picture date: Friday March 13, 2020. See PA story FUNERAL Eastwood. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

PA

Mourners leave following the funeral of boxing promoter and bookmaker Barney Eastwood at St Colmcille's Church, Holywood, Co Down. PA Photo. Picture date: Friday March 13, 2020. See PA story FUNERAL Eastwood. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Mourners leave following the funeral of boxing promoter and bookmaker Barney Eastwood at St Colmcille's Church, Holywood, Co Down. PA Photo. Picture date: Friday March 13, 2020. See PA story FUNERAL Eastwood. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

PA

Dave Boy and Barney Eastwood having a laugh

Dave Boy and Barney Eastwood having a laugh

Boxing trainer John Breen leaves the church following the funeral of boxing promoter and bookmaker Barney Eastwood at St Colmcille's Church, Holywood, Co Down. PA Photo. Picture date: Friday March 13, 2020. See PA story FUNERAL Eastwood. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Boxing trainer John Breen leaves the church following the funeral of boxing promoter and bookmaker Barney Eastwood at St Colmcille's Church, Holywood, Co Down. PA Photo. Picture date: Friday March 13, 2020. See PA story FUNERAL Eastwood. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

PA

Barney Eastwood's wife Frances and family members

Barney Eastwood's wife Frances and family members

Mary Peters arrives for Barney Eastwood's funeral at Colmcille's Church in Holywood, Co Down.  Friday 13th  March 2020

Mary Peters arrives for Barney Eastwood's funeral at Colmcille's Church in Holywood, Co Down. Friday 13th March 2020

Presseye/Stephen Hamilton

Sports Journalist Adrian Logan arrives for Barney Eastwood's funeral at Colmcille's Church in Holywood, Co Down.  Friday 13th  March 2020

Sports Journalist Adrian Logan arrives for Barney Eastwood's funeral at Colmcille's Church in Holywood, Co Down. Friday 13th March 2020

Presseye/Stephen Hamilton

John Campbell arrives for Barney Eastwood's funeral at Colmcille's Church in Holywood, Co Down.  Friday 13th  March 2020

John Campbell arrives for Barney Eastwood's funeral at Colmcille's Church in Holywood, Co Down. Friday 13th March 2020

Presseye/Stephen Hamilton

Eamon McAuley and Neill Sinclair pictured arrive for Barney Eastwood's funeral at Colmcille's Church in Holywood, Co Down.  Friday 13th  March 2020

Eamon McAuley and Neill Sinclair pictured arrive for Barney Eastwood's funeral at Colmcille's Church in Holywood, Co Down. Friday 13th March 2020

Presseye/Stephen Hamilton

Footballing great Gear Armstrong pictured as they arrive at the church for Barney Eastwood's funeral at Colmcille's Church in Holywood, Co Down.  Friday 13th  March 2020

Footballing great Gear Armstrong pictured as they arrive at the church for Barney Eastwood's funeral at Colmcille's Church in Holywood, Co Down. Friday 13th March 2020

Presseye/Stephen Hamilton

Barney Eastwood's Funeral at Colmcille's Church in Holywood, Co Down.  Friday 13th  March 2020

Barney Eastwood's Funeral at Colmcille's Church in Holywood, Co Down. Friday 13th March 2020

Presseye/Stephen Hamilton

Good times: Barney Eastwood celebrates with Barry McGuigan, a boxer he managed in the 1980's

Good times: Barney Eastwood celebrates with Barry McGuigan, a boxer he managed in the 1980's

The coffin is carried from St Colmcille's Church, Holywood, Co Down at the funeral of boxing promoter and bookmaker Barney Eastwood.

"Almost inevitably, either at the Ulster Hall or the King's Hall or further afield, he would seek me out, put his arm around my shoulder and say, 'Well Jimbo, we got away with that one again and now the winners can celebrate and the losers can please themselves'," Mr Neilly told the congregation.

"He had much to celebrate. He was a sportsman, a sports fan, a sports aficionado, a promoter, an entrepreneur, a splendid judge of horse flesh, dog flesh and when it came to boxing, man flesh, a connoisseur of fine art and fine wines, but what he celebrated most was his family.

"He always said that his greatest cause for celebration was the day that he married his beloved Frances.

"Frances, being very astute, would say that it was a very close run thing between the wedding day and the day that he scored four points at Croke Park to help the Tyrone minors win the All-Ireland Championship title.

"She said that the wedding just about got there by a very short head."

Mr Neilly recalled the day Mr Eastwood came to the BBC with a "very modest proposal" to get boxing on the television. "We met more than 40 years ago and there hadn't been much in the way of boxing," he said.

"The 70s was a barren era for boxing here but after the Moscow Olympics in 1980, he had a good look at one or two people whom he thought had potential - Hugh Russell in particular who had a bronze medal, and Barry McGuigan, who should have had a medal.

"He came to the BBC in Northern Ireland with a very modest proposal and said he would start promoting boxing if the BBC would provide the pictures.

"There was a lot of debate about it and one or two people weren't very keen because boxing was a bit 'poo-poo'.

"The then head of programming Cecil Taylor, said yes we'll go for it and that's how the whole thing started."

Mr Neilly also retold a heart-warming story Mr Eastwood's son had shared with him during his final days as his closing remarks were met with a round of applause by the congregation.

"Not that long ago a few of the family were sitting around him in bed and his eyes opened and he eased himself up and unprompted and unrehearsed, for no reason whatsoever, he came out with the immortal line, 'the show must go on'," Mr Neilly said.

"Of course, the show must go on and, of course, the show will go on but it will go on, alas, without one of its brightest stars. Rest in peace."

In a statement earlier this week, Mr Eastwood's family said his passing had brought "great sadness to the family as well as the whole community in Holywood, where he was a very visible resident for the past 50 years".

"All who knew him will miss his remarkable charm," they added.

Mr Eastwood was laid to rest at Redburn Cemetery in Holywood following the service.

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