Tributes to veteran unionist councillor James Brown

James Brown after receiving his MBE at Buckingham Palace
James Brown after receiving his MBE at Buckingham Palace

Tributes have been paid to a veteran unionist figure who served as mayor of Carrickfergus five times.

James Brown MBE died on Tuesday, after having been ill for some time. It is understood he was aged 68.

He had been a member of the council in the town for about 35 years, and was formerly a leading figure in the UUP in the east Antrim unionist stronghold.

He had served as an independent member in recent times, having left the Ulster Unionists in the 1990s.

East Antrim DUP MLA David Hilditch said: “When I first joined council, Jimmy Brown was one of the leading figures and I learnt from him.

“Though we crossed swords on issues at times, I enjoyed a friendship with him that endured up until his untimely death.”

Stewart Dickson, Alliance Party MLA for East Antrim, said: “I joined the council four years before him in 1977, we often worked together in a pragmatic way to benefit our constituents.

“We did not always see eye to eye politically on many issues, but I can honestly say he had the interests of the Borough of Carrickfergus at heart.”

Mr Brown’s funeral service will take place in Carrickfergus on Friday.

He had been the main advocate in the council chamber for the development of the Carrickfergus waterfront, which centred round converting the old commercial port into a mixed business and residential location.

Reflecting on that period three years ago, Mr Brown said: “One of the biggest meetings I remember was in the late ‘80s around the time of the harbour dispute.

“It was over the whole issue of turning the seafront from a commercial harbour into the marina, and fears that jobs would be lost – although I argued at the time that more jobs would be created with the development of the marina.”

In 2015, at a time when the old Carrickfergus town council was being amalgamated with other councils to form Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, he said: “There is a saying that the history of Carrick is the history of Ulster writ small. I have seen the rich tapestry of life through Carrickfergus Borough Council and I have enjoyed every minute of it.”

A past pupil of Carrickfergus Central Primary School and Carrickfergus Technical College, the former shopkeeper was named in the New Year honours list four years ago and was proud to attend Buckingham Palace to receive an MBE for services to local government.

A committed Christian, in the absence of the council chaplain he would lead prayers before meetings in the town hall.

He was married to Esther, and had two daughters, Alison and Louise.