Guard of honour at funeral of Co Tyrone bandsman Derek Walker, 34

Derek Walker
Derek Walker

Roughly 20 pipe band members turned out in uniform to act as a guard of honour at the funeral of a tragic fellow bandsman.

Clad in blue shirts and tartan kilts, the members of Manorcunningham Pipe Band of Co Donegal paid tribute to Derek Walker, who had played with the group.

A farmer, and world championship-winning drummer, Mr Walker died of a heart condition aged 34.

The funeral service was held at Drumquin Presbyterian Church, to the west of Omagh, at 1pm on Friday.

After the service, attended by an estimated 500 mourners, a lone piper led them to the nearby graveyard and played as he was interred.

Rev John Hanson conducted the service, accompanied by Free Presbyterian minister John Morrow (reflecting the fact Mr Walker’s parents belong to that denomination).

He said that Mr Walker had developed his interest in bands since the age of three, when he started drumming on a bucket held around his waist by its handle.

He added that in August 2004 Mr Walker won a drumming award at the World Pipe Band championships with Gortaclare Pipe Band.

It was at the contest he met his future wife, who survives him, along with two children.

Rev Hanson recounted a joke concerning Derek, saying that he did not know which of the two “prizes” from the championships he liked the more.

A farmer, who had started with 20 heifer calves and grew his herd to more than 300 cows, his family said he had suffered pressure due to low milk prices and the discovery of TB in his cattle.

Rev Hanson said Mr Walker had suffered some kind of suspected heart episode about 18 months ago, but had been revived.

On this occasion, his wife had noticed something was wrong when he did not rise to turn the alarm off as usual at 4am, when he normally went to feed cattle.

Rev Hanson said: “It was the biggest [funeral] I’ve seen in Drumquin in my time. I’ve been there eight years...

“That’s a reflection of the high esteem in which he was held, but also the tragedy of a father dying and leaving a wife and two young children.”