Belfast Telegraph

You'll go on in our hearts: Daughter's tribute to GP Paul Conn killed in race accident

Dr Paul Conn, who died last Saturday
Dr Paul Conn, who died last Saturday
Mourners attend the funeral yesterday
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

Hundreds of mourners gathered in Belfast yesterday to pay their respects to a GP who died in a racing car accident last weekend.

Dr Paul Conn (60), from Lisburn, worked in the Ballygomartin Group Practice and a was member of the 500 Motor Racing Club of Ireland for over 20 years.

Witnesses said the married father-of-three died instantly at around 3.30pm last Saturday when his car left the track at Kirkistown race circuit while trying to overtake a car.

Family members and friends of the "visionary GP" paid tribute to his "disarming smile" yesterday, and also heard of his final moments.

His brother-in-law Dermot Neely led the service, having first met him while they studied medicine at Queen's University.

"Nobody expected to be here today, least of all Paul, who wouldn't have expected to be at a funeral or memorial for any of his friends, he was far too young," he said.

He said Dr Conn developed a love of motorsports early on, once hiding a Honda CV200 motorbike at a friends house for six months before his mother found out.

With busy family and work lives, he said the wider family had dreamed of getting to spend more time together in retirement.

"That was not to be, Paul's gone. That retirement is never going to happen," he added.

As a GP, Paul "was a master of little things that matter to people".

"A kind word, a listening ear, a wise counsel. Of course, that disarming smile that we saw in all his pictures," he said.

"Maybe Paul just wasn't cut out for old age.

"He certainly hadn't bought into the cardigan and comfy shoes."

Dr Conn's father Gilbert died last year at the age of 85.

"I'm glad he was spared the anguish of Paul's untimely death," Mr Neely said.

"Mercifully, Paul won't suffer the indignities of old age and terminal illness like his father did during his final days.

"He will also be spared the pain that goes with the inevitable loss of loved ones.

"But the pain is not over for the friends and loved ones that he left behind."

Dr Conn's daughter Amy was applauded after reading out a poem in his memory.

One line read: "We know him so well, we know every thought. You may have departed but will go on in our hearts. Thank you dad, you taught us so well."

Kieran Smyth had known Dr Conn through motor racing for over 20 years.

After winning his first race of the day, he said his friend "was in the zone and enjoying himself with not a care in the world".

Mr Smyth said: "And so he went out for a second time and was in another real race, then something happened and he was gone in the blink of an eye.

"He wouldn't even have known that he was gone.

"We will take comfort from that and talk about it among ourselves.

"We'll discuss it and we'll learn from it in the knowledge that we're not immortal.

"Some of you will wonder how we can even consider going back to Kirkistown and get back into our cars again and drive again.

"That's not an easy thing to answer and every one of us will have a different answer, but in essence our answers will all be the same.

"We have discovered a magic kingdom, we aren't going to get old. We may not be immortal but we will pretend and we will go back.

"So we will put on our magic suits and our superhero helmets, get in our rocket ships and go back out and play.

"As far as we're concerned, the doc will still be with us."

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