John Hanna funeral: Lord Trimble pays tribute

John Hanna died in a tractor accident at Ballintoy on Monday
John Hanna died in a tractor accident at Ballintoy on Monday

Former first minister David Trimble was among hundreds of mourners gathered at the funeral of tragic ex-councillor John Hanna on Friday afternoon.

Mr Hanna, who had been a UUP councillor in Banbridge for over two decades until earlier this year, would have been 67 on Saturday.

He died after a tractor accident on Monday afternoon on the Ballinlea Road in Ballintoy, north Antrim.

His funeral was taken by Rev George Little, and the retired minister said Mike Nesbitt, Reg Empey, and a string of other UUP figures had been among those attending the service at St Matthew’s Church of Ireland in Scarva – and that he believes councillors from the DUP and SDLP were also present.

Lord Trimble had spoken during the service to say that Mr Hanna was “one of the unionists who was open to change and would have welcomed everyone”, according to Rev Little.

Two hymns were sung – The Lord Is My Shepherd and There Is A Green Hill Far Away – and Mr Hanna’s body was interred in the churchyard.

“That’s where he was born and bred – in Scarva. And that’s where he’s laid to rest,” said Rev Little.

The church holds 150, and there were at least as many again outside the building; with the total headcount estimated to be up to 400.

“I knew him quite well,” added Rev Little, who noted that Mr Hanna had a strong Christian faith.

“John was a character. You never knew when he was pulling your leg.

“He loved a good debate, and would have argued his point. But at the end of it, he’d have given a bit of a laugh and there was never any ill-feeling. He was a very kind-natured fellow.”

He understands Mr Hanna had an interest in vintage tractors, and that while driving one on Monday it mounted a bank and toppled over.

Because it was an old-style tractor without a cab, he fell off and the vehicle landed on him.