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He fought to the very end

Thursday, 2 February 2017

He fought to the very end thumbnailJohn McNally pictured in Sally McNally’s.

RICHHILL came to a standstill as over 2000 people turned out for the funeral of John McNally at St Matthew's Parish Church on Sunday.

It was one of the biggest funerals ever witnessed in the village and John's widow, Lisa says her loving husband would have been overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people who either attended the service or called at the McNally home in recent days.

"John was a people person, he loved to be at the centre of everything - that's the man he was," said Lisa.

"He would have been humbled but also so proud to have so many of his friends turn out to pay tribute to him."

John Alexander McNally passed away on Wednesday January 25, after a courageous battle with cancer. He was just 50 years old. His funeral was conducted by Canon William Adair.

In his younger days John was a talented horse-rider and competed at a high standard in both show jumping and eventing. And when he wasn't riding horses he could be found in either his mother, Flo's bakery or father Jack's butchers.

He was also a talented rugby player, starring for a number of years for Armagh in the back row as well as Portadown College and Stirling University. He later held a number of posts off the field at the Palace Grounds, everything from sponsor to team manager, John McNally could be relied upon to help the club in whichever capacity he could.

He went on to become Chief Executive of Armagh Business Centre but for the past 20 years he was synonymous with the restaurant industry in the Armagh area.

A self-taught chef he ran the Stonebridge Restaurant, elevating the local eatery to one of the most popular in Northern Ireland.

The restaurant has evolved into the Stonebridge Brasserie which today operates just a couple of miles from its original premises.

John also ran Sally McNally's outside Portadown and for a spell did the outside catering at the North West 200. In a fitting tribute at his funeral John's 'chef whites' were draped over his coffin.

John had a big love of cycling and in typical fashion was able to use his passion for the sport to help raise tens of thousands of pounds for charity.

His first major expedition came when he cycled from Benburb to Headingly in England to raise money for a cancer charity.

Following the success of this trip John sat down with his great friends, James Scott and Andy Williamson and came up with a plan to stage a sponsored cycle in the Lake Garda region of Italy. After the 300 mile cycle two years ago an incredible £52,900 was raised for the Children's Cancer Unit and Cancer Fund for Children.

Last year a similar event was held and again John was involved with the planning however when the trip was taking place John's health sadly prevented him from travelling.

"John was one of the most tenacious men I have ever met, if he set his sights on something he would work day and night to make it happen," said Lisa.

"Whether it was organising a party or an event for charity, John was the main instigator, he was at the centre of everything and had a wonderful ability to motivate people around him.

"And he knew so many people, if John couldn't do something you could bet he knew a man who could.

"There were so many parts to his life and he was so well known and loved in each.

"John was also one of the most generous people I have ever met, he was the first person to put his hand in his pocket for a round of drinks and he was the first person to offer help when people needed it."

John attended the Hardy Memorial Primary School before moving to Clounagh Junior High School and then on to Portadown College. His daughters followed the same path through school.

It was at Portadown College where he met Lisa and from there the pair went on to study together at Stirling University.

"We shared so many good times and have been together for so long," said Lisa.

"It was lovely to be at university with John, it certainly made the experience much more enjoyable having him at my side."

John and Lisa were married in 1993 and had two daughters, Emily (22) and Sarah (18). Emily is currently in her final year of university in Edinburgh where she is studying politics while Sarah is at Queen's studying Food Science.

"Our family meant the world to John and there was nothing he wouldn't do to make myself and the girls happy, we have some amazing memories of a loving husband and father," said Lisa.

Lisa and the McNally family have paid tribute to wonderful care John received during his time in Belfast City Hospital.

"I really can't praise the team of nurses enough," said Lisa.

"I slept in the hospital for a fortnight and they really couldn't do enough to make me feel welcome and comfortable while at the same time they were doing an incredibly difficult job with great professionalism.

"The staff at the hospital will hold a special place in my heart forever, I honestly can't thank them enough."

John's brother-in-law, Donald Whiteside also paid tribute to the staff at the City Hospital, saying he was humbled to see the level of care they gave to John.

"John fought until the end and even when he was in hospital he had everyone on their toes, from his friends and family to the staff," said Donald.

"If anyone doesn't believe in angels I can tell them there is a hospital full of them in Belfast, no words can describe what those nurses did for John and when he passed away a picture of a white water lilly was placed on his door so the family could have some privacy.

"When I see a water lilly from now on I will think of John and I will think of the wonderful care he received in Belfast City Hospital."

John is survived by his wife Lisa, daughters Emily and Sarah, his sister Tracy and her husband Donald and son William, his father and mother, Jack and Flo McNally.

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