OBITUARY: An early aide to Paisley, Jack McKee remained councillor for 42 years

Jack McKee marching with LOL69
Jack McKee marching with LOL69

Jack McKee was an aide of Rev Ian Paisley and an early member of the DUP.

He remained a councillor in his home town of Larne for more than four decades until April this year, when he succumbed to the same illness which claimed his father.

Jack McKee from his DUP days

Jack McKee from his DUP days

Born on September 4, 1943, he was the third of six children in a working-class family.

His mother was Ellen (nee Lowes) and his father was Robert, a labourer.

He was a pupil at Larne and Inver Primary School and then later to Greenland Secondary, leaving as soon as he could in his mid-teens.

“He had no interest in school at all,” said his widow Joan. “He was a bit of a free spirit.”

Jack began working for various industrial businesses, including a firm known as BTH (which went on to become FG Wilson).

His interest in politics had been piqued when he saw a television broadcast of Rev Paisley speaking in a debate at the Oxford Union during the 1960s.

Joan recalled the first time that Jack met the firebrand minister was at a rally, when he walked up and introduced himself.

He went on to become Paisley’s electoral agent in Larne, helping run the DUP’s campaign across the area.

He had initially joined a Paisleyite group that was called Ulster Protestant Volunteers.

He was first elected to council in 1973, at the age of 29.

“He always felt that he had a great political cause, but as well as that he worked hard for everyone no matter what their religion, or none,” said Joan.

“Many’s the time after a night shift he’d come and attend appeals and tribunals.”

He also ran an advice centre in the town, which he paid for himself.

For 42 years he represented the Larne Town region, and also served in the Northern Ireland Assembly from 1982 to 1986.

However, he fell out with Rev Paisley after the St Andrew’s Agreement, which paved the way for Sinn Fein to enter government.

The move left him “very hurt”, said his widow.

Instead he joined the TUV, led by Jim Allister, who Joan said had articulated his beliefs in the same way that Rev Paisley had over 40 years earlier.

After suffering ill-health, he retired from engineering firm HG Wilson, aged around 60, having previously run his own fruit-and-veg business for 10 years.

He nonetheless remained a councillor until Larne Borough Council was dissolved to form a new super-council in spring this year.

Although he tried to remain active, his condition deteriorated and he died on October 4 at Antrim Area Hospital. He was 72.

He had been suffering from infective exacerbated pulmonary fibrosis; a lung condition which had also afflicted his father, and something which his widow put down to genetics rather than lifestyle.

Shortly before his death he had been made a Freeman of the Borough of Larne.

Mr Allister said: “Fearless in his defence of unionism and unafraid to often stand alone, it was a great privilege to have him as a TUV councillor.”

An Orangeman and long-time member of Larne Free Presbyterian Church, his funeral was held there on October 7, and he was buried in Larne town cemetery.

He is survived by his widow, son Calvin, daughter Leah, two sisters, two brothers, and six grandchildren.