Former Presbyterian moderator Rev Dr Charles McMullen told mourners at Harmony Hill Presbyterian Church that as he sat with David’s wife Daphne, his daughters Victoria and Sarah and sons Richard and Nicholas in recent days, he was deeply touched by so many stories “which underlined how dearly loved he was by them”.
He said: “We talked about his early days in Bangor and those school reports that were not always promising, including one that concluded: ‘There is not the slightest hope of David getting the scholarship next year unless he eradicates this gross carelessness’.
“A further report from his final term at Bangor Grammar School noted that his lively mind could lead him ‘into irrelevance which can be disastrous in examination conditions’.”
The cleric added: “A much more positive spin would suggest his attention to detail, his independence of spirit, his passion once conviction took hold and a willingness to defend what he believed.
“Undeterred by at least some of his reports, David left school and took up employment as a Civil Servant in the Land Registry. A generous release scheme enabled him to begin law studies at The Queen’s University of Belfast, where he took first class honours and was appointed to the Faculty as a lecturer.”
He was particularly proud of winning the McKain medal for jurisprudence, Rev McMullen said.
When Daphne Orr began to study law, she was impressed by David’s first class brain and his excellence as a lecturer, he said. The two became closer around the time of her graduation and were married in Warrenpoint Methodist Church, before heading off on honeymoon to Yugoslavia.
Subsequent summer trips to Europe became incredibly special for the family simply being together, he said. David always packed as many books as possible and they all enjoyed quiet evenings on holiday relaxing together behind their respective books.
After church, on Sundays David prepared the traditional Sunday lunch and then extolled “the burning topic of the day”, leading his family “in animated discussion - or was it simply listening?”
He also had impressive music collections of Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss, Vaughan Williams and Elvis Presley.
In the terrible years of The Troubles, the cleric remembers visiting the family just after David’s election as MP and being “overwhelmed” at the sight of security installations, with Daphne worrying as she waited for him to return home after meetings.
“When David accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1998, his speech was full of humility and self-deprecating humour,” he said. “For example, he commented tongue-in-cheek that if John Hume had a medal, it was important that he would have one too. In a similar spirit of wanting to move the limelight from himself, he highlighted thousands of people who have borne witness in their lives, by carrying out what Wordsworth called ‘those little nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love’.”