Austin Hunter: A man who enriched the lives of many

A book of condolences at a service of thanksgiving for Northern Ireland journalist Austin Hunter at Comber Second Presbyterian Church. Photo Niall Carson/PA Wire
A book of condolences at a service of thanksgiving for Northern Ireland journalist Austin Hunter at Comber Second Presbyterian Church. Photo Niall Carson/PA Wire

Austin Hunter was many things to many people, yet it was only much later in his life that he found the role he favoured most – that of grandfather.

His son Simon told mourners in Comber Second Presbyterian Church his family has been “flattened” by his father’s untimely death in Bahrain, but the support they have received will help them rebuild, “brick by brick” as his father would have wanted.

News presenter Rose Neill (left) attends a thanksgiving service at Comber Second Presbyterian Church for former BBC reporter and News Letter editor Austin Hunter who died as a result of a road traffic accident in Bahrain.

Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye.

News presenter Rose Neill (left) attends a thanksgiving service at Comber Second Presbyterian Church for former BBC reporter and News Letter editor Austin Hunter who died as a result of a road traffic accident in Bahrain. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye.

He told those gathered for the funeral: “I know to many of you dad was a friend, a mentor, a confidante, a colleague, a boss, a sounding board, a team-mate, even a taxi driver at the end of the night.

“But to our family he was – in rough order – a son to Billy and Eileen, a brother to Adrian, a husband of 42 years to mum, a brother-in-law to John, Shelia and Lynda, a father to Rachael and I, a father-in-law to Angela and Nick and latterly, perhaps his favourite role of all, he was ‘Ganda’ to Matthew and Heidi.”

He added: “I’ve repeatedly said in recent days it often takes the worst of times to reveal the best in people. And we know we are fortunate to have so many caring people around us.

“On a practical level I have to say a huge thank you to the people of NI-Co, Joe Fleming, Paula Jack, my brother-in-law Nick and uncle John for getting dad home. I don’t think mum, Rachael and myself would have been able to bear the load.

First Minister Arlene Foster and Simon Hamilton at a Thanksgiving service for former BBC journalist and News Letter editor Austin Hunter, at Second Comber Presbyterian Church  in Comber on Monday. 
Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

First Minister Arlene Foster and Simon Hamilton at a Thanksgiving service for former BBC journalist and News Letter editor Austin Hunter, at Second Comber Presbyterian Church in Comber on Monday. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

“We’re all hurting. I never want this feeling of devastation to visit anyone else’s door. We’ve been flattened. But we must rebuild. And the first person to say that would have been dad.

“Every message, every hug, every cup of tea is a little tiny brick. And brick by brick, wall by wall, with your help we will rebuild. It will be tough and there are dark days ahead but with support we will continue to live the life my dad would have wanted. We cling to that.

“Those of you who knew dad well will know there are certain rules you just have to abide by. You keep your chin up, you treat people the way you would like to be treated and you do anything you can for your family and friends.

“He always taught us that the person who opened the door was every bit as important as the one behind the walnut desk. That’s been reflected in the support we have received from absolutely every aspect of dad’s life. I ask that you continue that support for as long as you can because we will need it.”

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt and his wife Lynda Bryans.

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt and his wife Lynda Bryans.

Mr Hunter continued: “We all knew dad had a wonderful career, worked for some fantastic organisations, alongside some extremely talented people. But it was the fact so many tributes mentioned what a good man he was, his big smile, his willingness to help people. Those were the lines we enjoyed, those are the memories we will hold dear.

“To us he was Austin, he was dad, he was Ganda. Happiest on family holidays trawling through outlet malls for yet another pair of bargain Timberland shoes. Or talking cricket for hours on the tours he enjoyed so much. And in recent years he loved nothing better than building Lego with his grandchildren while still in his pyjamas at midday.

“But he was far from perfect. Those that knew him best knew there well-hidden weaknesses. DIY was only attempted once a decade, he was quite simply the worst cook ever to enter a kitchen despite being renowned for his gigantic appetite and I have never seen a grown man so unsteady on a bicycle.”

His son concluded: “Dad, thank you so much being in our lives, thank you for enriching the lives of so many. More than you probably ever knew. We’ll never forget you. And we’ll make sure your grandchildren don’t either.

Lady Sylvia Hermon MP pictured outside the church. 

Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye

Lady Sylvia Hermon MP pictured outside the church. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye

“Dad once told me ‘always leave them wanting more’. He certainly succeeded in that himself.”

Thanks Giving service at Comber Second Presbyterian Church for former BBC reporter and News Letter editor Austin Hunter who died as a result of a road traffic accident in Bahrain last week. 

Former PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland (centre).

Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye.

Thanks Giving service at Comber Second Presbyterian Church for former BBC reporter and News Letter editor Austin Hunter who died as a result of a road traffic accident in Bahrain last week. Former PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland (centre). Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye.

Journalists Ivan Little and Deric Henderson attend Austin Hunter's funeral service. Picture: Press Eye.

Journalists Ivan Little and Deric Henderson attend Austin Hunter's funeral service. Picture: Press Eye.

Mourners at a Thanksgiving service for former BBC journalist and News Letter editor Austin Hunter, at  second Comber Presbyterian Church  in Comber on Monday. 
Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

Mourners at a Thanksgiving service for former BBC journalist and News Letter editor Austin Hunter, at second Comber Presbyterian Church in Comber on Monday. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press