Dublin-born Orangeman and long-serving minister was ‘a rock of solidarity’

Rev Gerald Norman Sproule.
Rev Gerald Norman Sproule.

A Dublin-born Orangeman has been described as a “unique character” by one of the Order’s most senior figures.

Anglican minister Gerald ‘Gerry’ Sproule’s funeral was held this week, after his death aged 90.

He began his career in a cigarette factory, going on to minister in Co Fermanagh, Co Down and Co Antrim, and the Orange Order’s Drew Nelson praised his contribution to the community – describing him as being particularly committed to evangelism.

He was born on February 24, 1926, in Coombe Hospital, Dublin, and attended school in the Dublin area.

He served a three year apprenticeship in coach building, carpentry and painting, then worked in WD&HO Wills cigarette factory and later as a salesman for 10 years with National Cash Register Company.

He was ordained for the ministry in 1960 and initially served in Monaghan Parish, then Bellanaleck and Magheracross in Co Fermanagh.

He went on to become rector of St Aidan’s in loyalist Sandy Row, Belfast, and also worked in Annaclone, Co Down, before retiring – aged 69 – in 1994 and moving to Hilden on the outskirts of Lisburn.

He had been a member of LOL1377 in the Dublin and Wicklow District, and also Listullycurran LOL616, and Deputy District Chaplain of Lower Iveagh District No 1.

He was also County Grand Chaplain of Co Down Grand Orange Lodge, and was a senior member of the Royal Black Institution.

At his funeral in Lambeg Parish Church on Monday, Rev Alan Abernethy (Bishop of Connor) described him as “a very faithful servant of Jesus Christ”.

Orange Grand Secretary Mr Nelson said: “Rev Sproule was a unique character and everyone who worked with him has very fond memories – and in particular, of his ability to defuse any potential situation with a witty riposte.”

Among the pieces of wisdom he often repeated was a poem stating that one should be quick to offer someone praise when it is due, rather than waiting until their funeral, concluding that a good man “cannot read his tombstone when he’s dead”.

This poem was read at Rev Sproule’s own funeral.

When it comes to the church and the other organisations to which he belonged, Mr Nelson described him as “a rock of solidarity and a pillar of support”.

He said: “In my opinion, as a Church of Ireland minister Gerry very much recognised the opportunity for evangelism through his membership of organisations outside the church.”

In 2009 he had written to the News Letter, supporting the idea of all main Christian churches working together to “deal with the challenge of an increasingly Godless Britain, so that Christianity will not be as marginalised as it is today”.

He had been living independently until the New Year, when he moved into a nursing home. His health deteriorated and he died on March 18.

His wife Sarah (nee Elliott) predeceased him.

He had a daughter, Jeni, as well as two sons (Andrew and Adrian), and a wider family.