OBITUARY: Prominent figure within the bands community praised for Christian witness

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Tributes have been paid to Ballymoney man Willie Rock who was a prominent figure within the bands community in North Antrim as well as a well-known singer and entertainer at Ulster Scots and Loyal Orders events.

He had a long association with bands, being involved with Bellaghy Flute Band, then Dunloy Accordion and latterly in helping to run Cloughmills Accordion.

In a tribute, Dunloy Accordion Band said that he had been “a huge supporter of the accordion band world and had great talent as an accordion player in the North Antrim area,”

Mourners at his funeral heard that when William Rock was just four years old his father died, leaving his mother to bring up nine children on her own. When the Ballymoney man spoke of his mother it was always with appreciation, the funeral service heard.

Rev Kenneth Henderson, conducting the funeral service at Ballyweaney Presbyterian Church, said that when a young man Willie Rock had committed his life to Christ and believed that it was not only important to profess Christ as Lord but to live for him; “When “When Willie sang it was because the Lord had put a new song in his mouth a hymn of praise to his God,” the clergyman said.

Willie Rock was a welder by trade, but worked for Antrim Construction for 23 years In his younger days he had worked for Flemings in Cullybackey, helping to build slurry tankers. He also worked in Ballyclare for Wylie Engineering for a time.

A member of the Orange Order and the Black Institution, he was a familiar figure at gospel missions around the countryside, where in his younger days he often witnessed through his musical ability to play the accordion and sing. He also often looked after a bookstall at the missions.

He spoke reflectively of how much he enjoyed those days and greatly appreciated the love, friendship and partnership of the people who worked with him in those times. One of the things that Ballyweaney members who were Willie’s age and a little younger all talked about was Youth Fellowship at the manse when the minister was Rev Mr Blackstock.

That was, said Rev Henderson, a significant thing in his wife Frances and Willie’s life and in their spiritual life and it was a very special time for them.

Mr Rock was a keen Ulster-Scots supporter, who loved attending agricultural shows and ploughing matches. Photography was also a great hobby with him, whether taking photos at the various events or of the bands with which he was associated.

He also loved to read the Bible, and had read through the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. In his family life there were many happy memories, including of bus trips and holidays, staying in places such as Blackpool, Annalong and Bryansford and further afield. He was a man who loved to talk, who was quick to meet new friends and to socialise.

The service heard that his wife Frances had been by his side since they were married 40 years before, and that son Thomas and daughter Lyndsey were the apple of his eye. Willie Rock passed away peacefully at his home in Ballymoney on May 17 and is survived by his wife Frances, son Thomas and daughter Lyndsay as well as his siblings Betty, Marina, Hazel, Margaret, Roberta, Ann, and Georgie. He was predeceased by his sister Sadie.

Following the funeral service interment took place in the adjacent churchyard.

Donations in lieu of flowers were encouraged to Ballyweaney Presbyterian Church Building Fund and funeral arrangements were carried out by DJM Robinson of Cloughmills.