Tragic farmer who died at wife’s funeral is laid to rest

St Mary's Church in Cushendall. Photo from Google Street Images

St Mary's Church in Cushendall. Photo from Google Street Images

A Co Antrim man who collapsed and died at his wife’s funeral on Wednesday has been buried next to his beloved partner of more than 30 years.

There was standing room only as hundreds of mourners packed out St Mary’s Church in Cushendall this morning to pay their respects to “loving family man” James McAlister.

The well-known local farmer collapsed as he was shaking hands with mourners at the graveside of his wife Kathleen on Wednesday after she had been laid to rest.

Efforts were made to resuscitate him by several mourners, including a first responder defibrillator team.

They were both aged in their 70s.

Rev Luke McWilliams of St Mary’s Church described Mr McAlister as being a “well-liked character” in the Glens of Antrim.

He added: “Every Saturday night, James was a reassuring presence in the church half an hour before Mass began.

“He was well-known for his quick-wit and storytelling skills.

“But most of all he was a much loved family man and the centre of the McAlister family circle.”

Former East Antrim MLA, Oliver McMullan, who knew Mr McAlister for many years, told the News Letter: “James was a very likeable man from a very old and respected family here in the Glens.

“James was very hard working man, but he was a family man first and foremost. He ran a small, successful farm, but also worked in the Rivers Agency for 35 years.

“This has been a tragedy for the family and this is a very close knit community, so there is a real sense of shock.”

Mr McAlister was a lifelong supporter of the Ruairí Óg hurling club in the village, and club chairman Aiden McAteer described him as a “good-hearted man”.